Your nonprofit’s website is essential to the success of your work. A high-quality website runs all day, every day to inspire, activate, and rally your online audience for you. But just because you have a functioning website doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Just like you need to train the perfect employee, you also need to build the ideal site.
So sit back, relax and scroll. Today, we are talking all things web design.
The Why: Nonprofit Web Design
Signs and Symptoms
There are a lot of signals that your site is due for an upgrade.
One tell-tale sign is that your nonprofit’s site isn’t mobile-friendly. More than half the world’s population uses a smartphone, and if your website doesn’t reflect that statistic, then it’s high time for a reboot.
Other indications that it’s time for change include poor UX, a high bounce rate or an overall outdated design.
Any of these signs could mean that your online audience isn’t getting the optimal experience, which could negatively impact their view of your nonprofit and may result in fewer donations.
It’s an Investment, Not an Expense
If you want your nonprofit website to be your best employee, it should be well-designed and filled with quality content. From there, your site will work long days, nights and weekends establishing your credibility and expanding your reach by presenting potential donors, volunteers, board members and the general public with information about who you are, what you do, and why they should care.
In fact, your website provides the education and inspiration your supporters need to get involved as donors, volunteers, fundraisers, and advocates for your cause.
When approaching the design process, it’s important to brainstorm internally with other staff members and key volunteers before taking your search to a third-party.
Content and Users
What Content Does Your Nonprofit Have?
One of the most important things we can tell you is that content drives design. Without great content, your nonprofit’s website is an empty shell.
First, let’s address the common misconception that all website content is written. While there are always written components to nonprofit websites such as articles, blogs, and client stories, other forms of content can also dictate design choices. In fact, we recommend using as much visual content as possible!
If your nonprofit has a treasure chest of high-quality images and videos, use them. If you don’t, now’s the time to start compiling compelling visual content that will attract website viewers and tell your nonprofit’s story. Don’t worry, it’s not too hard. Start by taking pictures and snapping quick videos at events and programming (client permitting, of course).
Whatever your chosen content medium is, take time to assess it for quality. That blurry image you snapped on your iPhone at the last gala should not go on your site. Instead, spend the cash on a professional, or get a tech-savvy intern to snap pics.
In the end, those visuals will inspire more supporters, ultimately activating them to give a donation or get involved in some other capacity. It’s worth the money and the effort to do this correctly.
Who is Your User?
Another aspect to consider is user experience. In fact, user experience should dictate every aspect of your site.
Approach your new site through the lens of your user. How old are they? Why are they visiting your site? What information do they need to remain engaged? Are you trying to attract more millennial donors?
Designers and developers are experts, but they cannot read your mind and don’t know your nonprofit’s audience like you do. It’s better to have answers to these questions ahead of time so you can help guide them in creating the site that suits your unique needs.
Nonprofit Web Design
What Do You Want?
Assessing your nonprofit’s needs is essential if you want to build the best site possible.
Start the process by listing the features you need. Do you require a home page with social media integration? What about a secure donation page for everyday donations? How many content or informational pages do you need to give readers adequate inspiration? If you can’t quite pinpoint the technical terms for these items, try writing down your general needs and specifying where the site needs to come in to help.
Now, it’s time for research. Make lists of nonprofit websites that you like and dislike, including features they have that you are interested in for your own. Also, research current trends and styles to ensure that your site will be modern and generate traffic and interest.
Keep in mind that some patterns and large nonprofit sites may be out of your budget. But looking ahead before you get started will help you stay realistic about what is attainable for your organization.
Paying for Your Nonprofit’s Website
Here comes the hard part: the bill.
There are many different ways your nonprofit can raise money to pay for its website. From crowdfunding and soliciting donations from your board and major donors to event fundraising, peer-to-peer campaigns, and corporate sponsorships, you most certainly have options.
If you are interested in learning about more fundraising options, check out this downloadable guide that features information on how to fund your nonprofit’s website.
Timeframe and Search
Set realistic goals concerning what your nonprofit can accomplish in that period. We suggest setting SMART goals for your nonprofit to make sure you remain focused. Also, stay on track with the goals set by your design company, and be honest when your nonprofit isn’t able to keep up, as this may impact the launch date.
Money is tight in the nonprofit world, and you want the best bang for your buck. We understand this, which is why Elevation offers a one for one match grant program where we match every dollar your nonprofit puts toward its website with one of our own!
Visit our portfolio to check out some of the sites we have designed for nonprofits across the United States to help them engage and rally their supporters. There are a ton of great options out there, so do your research to compare pricing and quality while keeping your specific needs in mind!
Emma Wolfe is the Content Marketing Growth Manager at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency.
Emma has been involved in the nonprofit world for years working at multiple NGOs located both in the United States and abroad. Her experience ranges from refugee occupation counseling to empowerment programs for youth in West Africa. When she isn’t traveling Emma loves doing yoga and trying new food.