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Guidelines to a better website for your nonprofit

Is your website serving or hurting your mission?

For a mission to succeed and have larger impact, field work is not enough: it needs a community of supporting people and donors. To find out if you are reaching your audience, you need to start by asking yourselves these two questions:

  • What would the potential donor, partner, or volunteer find if they were to search for your organization online?
  • Would the available information on your website encourage them to take action and collaborate with you?

There are other questions to be tackled afterwards, such as usability, accessibility, mobile and touch, user experience, brand compatibility and interface, as well as search engine optimization. In this post however, we will be focusing on the site’s content and architecture to make sure that they adequately convey the organization’s impact on its community.

We’ve looked at a number of successful nonprofits, such as Charity:Water, Acumen Fund, Splash, Invisible Children, Blood:Water, and others for examples of websites that support the organization’s mission and solicit people to make donations and stay faithful to its cause.

If you are looking to assess your organization’s website or are considering a revamp, here are seven guidelines to take into consideration:

  1. Define your communication goals and target audience
  2. Clearly express what you do and why
  3. Show your impact
  4. Be clear on how people can volunteer with you
  5. Show people where, how, and why they should donate
  6. Keep your content and communication alive
  7. Make yourself accessible

1. Define your communication goals and target audience

Before you start building or rebuilding your website, your online communication strategy starts with thinking of your target audience and defining the real value that you want to offer them. The most common goals usually are:

  • Spread awareness about your cause
  • Share stories and impact
  • Promote upcoming campaigns and projects
  • Foster volunteerism and engage volunteers
  • Raise funds and encourage donations

2. Clearly express what you do and why

Not everyone knows about your work and motivations. Your website can help in this area. Here is what you need to consider:

  • Write a clear, concise, and visible explanation of your mission. One sentence, at the center of Splash’s homepage, clearly expresses that its mission is to provide kids with access to clean water.  
  • Highlight your approach and services with friendly words and visuals, explaining what you offer and why it matters. Blood:Water simplifies their ecosystem, approach, strategy and work in a clear timeline-style infographic.
  • Make sure important information is not more than 3 clicks away. The navigation should be easy to use allowing visitors to intuitively find what they are seeking.

3. Show your impact

Do people know about the impact you’ve achieved and the people you’ve helped? Volunteers and donors not only want to find out what you aim to do but also if you can actually do it. Proof of previous success is crucial to build trust in your team’s capabilities. Visualize your impact to grab your audience’s attention. As the human brain processes visuals faster, it is more likely to remember visual content than information in text. Coupled with your impact in numbers, feel free to also publish your financials: sharing how much money you received and how you spent it significantly enhances transparency and builds trust.

4. Be clear on how people can volunteer with you

Donations are not the only way to engage people around your cause. While not everyone can help with money, many would love to offer their time and skills. Make it easy for them to know how they can get involved.

Acumen does a great job informing people about the different ways they could help in changing how the world tackles poverty. Most importantly, they are all listed in one place, right on their homepage.

Additionally, don’t forget to clearly explain how a volunteer’s time and skills will impact the community and cause.

5. Show people where, how, and why they should donate

Day in day out, online fundraising is becoming more and more important. However, not all organizations pull it off well. In addition to volunteering, donating is one of the two primary calls to action on the site.

Here are two tips to keep an eye out for:

  • Don’t hide the donate button: make sure it is visible to visitors anywhere [relevant] on the website. Have you heard of Kony 2012? Check out the website of the organization behind this huge campaign, and see if there’s anywhere you can go where you can’t find the donate button!
  • If you prefer to be selective, make sure to display the donate button near or after information that triggers a call to action: near your mission, next to moving stories, and on the page where you illustrate your impact. You can also get creative like with this interactive interface by Blood:Water that links specific donation amounts to corresponding solutions and impact.

6. Keep your content and communication alive

Fresh and unique content will help search engines find you and improve your ranking; it will also build deep connections with your supporters who will be compelled to take action for your cause.

New content can be shared directly on the website as well as through complementary tools and channels including your blog, newsletter, and social media profiles.

Besides keeping visitors and supporters informed of your latest achievements and most recent projects, here are a few ideas of topics to share:

  • A story of someone whose life has been improved because of your organization’s activities
  • An interview or a story featuring one of the organization’s volunteers who would share their experience and the impact of their contributions
  • Before and after pictures of a community that was impacted by your work

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling. All nonprofits have stories to tell, and the more people can connect with an organization, the more they are willing to help. Keep your content and communication alive

Fresh and unique content will help search engines find you and improve your ranking; it will also build deep connections with your supporters who will be compelled to take action for your cause.

7. Make yourself accessible

In addition to communicating your impact and results, knowing who the people behind those results are is a crucial factor in building trust. Your website should make it easy to find out who you are and how people can reach you.

Be sure to include the names of the key personnel to get in touch with, as well as email addresses, phone numbers, and a physical address for people who would like to pay you a visit.

Once these seven points have been tackled, your website’s main architecture should be in place and you would be ready to move on to implementation. Depending on your priorities and your budget, this may range from finding the right online tools for a template-based site, to creating a fully custom-designed and developed portal.

Now that you’ve read these suggestions, will your website get a revamp? Let us know in the comments below!

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