When is the last time you clicked on a pop-up on a website? Was it to download a free compensation report? Did you sign up for a newsletter full of useful resources and information? Was it to get access to cool software? Whatever it was, chances are that you clicked a well-worded call-to-action to get it.

A call-to-action (also known as a CTA) is a targeted message designed to get a visitor/viewer/follower to engage in a very specific way with your content. This can include donating, signing up to volunteer, setting up a fundraiser, purchasing merchandise, adopting an animal, etc.

When you have a really well written CTA, they just work. You get increased engagement and traffic along with improved support and interest. When it isn’t well written, well, its just annoying.

So how do you write an amazing CTA? Here are a few things you can do to increase their engagement.


The Problem Your Visitor Needs Solving

In the for-profit world, businesses use CTA’s to sell a product. Download this software to become more productive. Sign up for our service to make your life easier. They understand the problem that the visitor has and have created a solution to that problem. They present the problem in a way that resonates with the visitor and then the solution immediately after.

So, what is the problem a potential donor faces?

The visitor has a problem with the current state of the thing they care about. Homelessness is too high in their city. Education in inner city schools is grossly underfunded. The rainforest is being destroyed by deforestation. The organization offers a solution to that problem. It supports the homeless, improves education or replants the rainforest.

What You Need To Do: Identify the visitors’ problem and then state it back to them in a concise and emotional way.

Example: Lets save the rainforest for the next generation to enjoy. We can protect it together.

Example: Homelessness doesn’t have to be a part of our community. Change a life today.

Example: Education is a right, not a privilege. Help level the playing field in our community.


deserves a





People In Our


Need Help.


Let’s Give

“Em A Hand


Isn’t This Worth Saving?

Help Protect Our National Parks.

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The More Specific The CTA, The Better

What is so powerful about a CTA is that it tells someone exactly what to do and what they will get in return in a concise manner. There is no ambiguity. Donate, Volunteer, Buy, etc. It lets them know exactly what they need to do and how to do it.

While you can have multiple actions in one call, the best ones have only one. So, instead of saying “we are looking for cash donations, clothing donations and volunteers” in one CTA, split them into 3 different ones and target those CTAs based on information you have collected from visitors. For example, send a volunteer sign up CTA to anyone on your email list who has expressed interest in doing so. To learn more about how to identify what your visitors are interested in, take the 14 Day Donor List Challenge to learn about donor avatars.

What You Need To Do: Choose one specific thing that you want the visitor do. Then create a specific CTA that gets them to do that.


Time Is Running Out, Act Now

By putting a time-frame on the CTA, visitors not only know what to do, but also when. Using urgent words like “today” or “now” is clear and helps guide them toward action. Why wait to make a difference if you can make that impact right now?

What You Need To Do: Demonstrate urgency in the CTA. Use a word like “today” or “now” to be as clear as possible.


There’s No Risk, Nothing To Lose

The final component of a CTA is showing that there is as little risk as possible on the visitors’ end. This again requires that you know your visitors and what drives them. If you are selling something, let them know that you offer a refund in case they do not like the product. If you are asking for an online donation, let them know that their payment information is backed by a trusted and familiar service (like PayPal.) This little bit can mean the difference between a visitor completing a CTA or losing them.

Some great ways to decrease risk are:

  • Only collecting information that is necessary
  • Showing that your payment processor is secure
  • Noting that you will not send spam or sell their information if you collect email
  • Offering a refund if you are selling something

What You Need To Do: Determine how you will reduce the visitors’ risk and, if necessary, demonstrate it on the CTA.


What Next?

These four tips are important, but they are only a part of the donor stewardship process.

To learn the complete process of building a list of donors, take the 14 Day Donor List Challenge where we cover identifying your donor avatars, finding them in real life, creating content that engages them, and collecting their information. We cover CTA’s as well!

Build Your Donor List, No Matter Where You Are In The Process

Brandon Reed

Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib

Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.

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