If you’d like to set your nonprofit up for success online, you’ll first need to define what success is to you.
Nonprofits come in many different shapes and sizes, so have different goals. These might be one or a mix of things like increased awareness, improving funding via donations or taking on more members. In any case, there are many nonprofit website best practices you should always follow.
DO develop a strong visual identity. Branding is as important for nonprofits as it is for businesses. Your branding is your visual connection to the rest of the world and is what people use to develop their first impressions regarding your values, your competency and how interested they should be in you. Whatever your goals are, bad branding will definitely hold you back.
DON’T hold yourself back with things that don’t work. Bad branding can be overlooked and go unnoticed to those deeply involved in a nonprofit. This can sometimes be because the branding fits your own personal tastes rather than those of your target audience… but many other times I’ve seen that those involved with a nonprofit have placed all their focus and attention into their work “in the field”, whatever their field happens to be, and don’t spend as much time as they should on marketing. On some occasions nonprofits accept free work from amateurs, and despite the very best of intentions, really should be replaced in order to move forward.
DO design a website with an strategy in mind. It’s no good designing a pretty website if that’s all it is, pretty. Everyone appreciates art for art’s sake I’m sure, but a website is a marketing tool and is really supposed to be performing a function related to your organizational goals. For a nonprofit, this is often things like increasing donations, presenting information to media organizations or building up a membership. If the structure of the website isn’t carefully designed to lead visitors towards actions that help meet these goals, the website is pointless.
DON’T use website builders or take a DIY approach. This might be the cheapest way to start off, but it’s not the best way to grow going forward. Unless the website is tailored to your branding, it’s not going to look professional. Unless it’s tailored to your nonprofit’s goals, it’s not going to convert. That’s not to say it can’t be done, it’s just that anyone with the professional skills would probably prefer to use professional tools.
DO prioritize donations or your main source of revenue. Your website should focus on your organization’s goals and those are likely going to revolve around acquiring funding. But even if not, it makes sense to implement a donation strategy. Having a following of small donors means having a steady reliable stream of revenue as well as a team of loyal ambassadors helping your spread the word. Keeping them engaged, and so keeping them donating, is work, but it’s work that pays off in other ways and you should be doing anyway – updates, press releases, cases studies. Donors will essentially be paying for your marketing budget so you can focus on your cause.
DON’T hide your goals and your requests for financial assistance. Don’t be afraid of asking for money. Just be afraid of justifying why you need it. Visitors to your website are not going to be offended by being asked to volunteer a financial contribution, but they might be, or at least just ignore you, if you don’t justify the reasons. You can read more about creating a story flow that leads to a donation in our Donation Strategy Guide, but if you interweave the ability to donate with relevant content you’ll be able to ask for donations without being pushy.
DO engage users with impacts and results. You could be doing the most amazing work the world has ever seen but if it’s not presented correctly then people might think it’s no big deal or just not understand it. As mentioned before, when asking for donations you’ll need to give people reasons to donate, but even if you have another focus for the website – such as building awareness or a membership – you still need to show what you do through the impact you make and results you’ve achieved.
DON’T just explain what you do without a story. Without emotion and empathy it’s difficult for people to take all that much interest. It’s the end result that really grabs people’s attentions. Show what you do, don’t just say it. And show what you do using the results you’ve achieved. Whatever goals your nonprofit has, you’ll need people’s attention to use your website to achieve them.
More ResourcesWebsite Strategy Guide Donation Strategy Guide