Calls to action on charity websites

Calls to action arrow

This post explores how good calls to action make your charity website work harder for you. Start by asking yourself ‘what would it look like for my website to perform better?' Most of the time the answers will come in the form of some very specific goals.

More activity

A charity objective, like positively impacting a particular set of beneficiaries will typically require a series of smaller actions to occur on your website. These might include:

  • Increased donations
  • Increased volunteering
  • Increased job applications (good ones)
  • Increased newsletter sign-ups

It goes without saying that success for any organisation comes from doing a whole bunch of complex and interrelated stuff really well, while remaining aligned to a greater mission.

One of those smaller things to get right on your website is your ‘calls to action’. If your website does not primarily provoke some sort of action, you are much less likely to achieve your larger objectives.

What is a call to action?

Calls to action are your main tool to direct the journey of people using your website. And the way to get the best out of them is to use them specifically and strategically. A few examples:

Macmillan Cancer Support

Note the question, use of icon and bold, informative solution.


Amnesty International

A very succinct and easy way to gather monetary support.



A broader approach pushing varied ways to get involved. They present the user with a very specific question “What will you do?” And focus users on how they are involved in the solution.



Not bashful about hammering home one consistent call to action.


Attention span

Certain people coming to your website look for specific things. These kind of users want a clear well structured navigation system. They know what they want and want to find it quick.

Other people will be less focussed and open to distraction. These less-focussed people are the targets of your calls to action., read, click, read, click, click....

Strong calls to action can capture the rhythm and momentum of the less-focussed website user. They’re interested in you, but not sure where it’s going. Grab them and take them with you to where you want to go. This is one reason why it is important to look at your whole site map when planning the positioning of your calls to action.

You should also always remember that many of your visitors may find you through a search engine and the landing page (the page a user hits first) will therefore not always be the homepage.

How to get it right

To get it right, follow these simple steps:

  1. Decide what your calls to action are and how to prioritise them.

  2. Make your calls to action stand out visually.

  3. Give them context (don’t make them stand out too much). Don’t undermine your users intelligence. Even though you are distracting them down your own path they still need to be inspired by content or have their curiosity piqued. 

  4. Keep them consistent. This helps with multi-page user journeys. Users are often happy to be led along sensible paths. There is nothing worse than waving your cursor around a webpage trying to figure out what to click on.

  5. Use active verbs (like ‘subscribe’, ‘follow’, ‘get involved’, ‘share your story’).

Making your website work better

By creating and implementing specific calls to action on your website, through buttons or signposts, you can measure the results of the journey.

Google analytics allows you to track a user journey via page tracking which shows the specific page journey where a user has come from and where they have gone. Having a specific action also means an end result that is either successful or not. Do users continue to browse endlessly or come to point where a goal is met? A good analytics plan will help to sharpen up your thinking as you shape the structure of your website. Read this guide for more on that.

Update: this post was originally published in April 2011 and has been revamped and updated to the current version.
4 April 2016
Andy Pearson