A strong online presence is crucial for any organization.
Not only is it critical for establishing accessibility and reach, it also lends itself to brand visibility, credibility and increased engagement.
And non-profits are not exempt from recognizing the immense potential of a well-designed and functional website. In fact, it can help serve as the gateway to connect with potential donors, volunteers and beneficiaries, amplifying the impact of your non-profit’s causes.
One of the most rewarding benefits of a great non-profit website is that it can help you clearly and effectively communicate essential information about your organization,” explains Web Insights.
By embracing the power of technology and establishing a strong online presence, non-profit organizations like yours can reach a broader audience, raise awareness about your mission and facilitate seamless communication and engagement with your supporters. A polished online platform will help you to showcase impact, build credibility and efficiently collect donations, ultimately empowering them to make a greater difference in the world.
And here’s a fun fact for you to consider if you’re teetering on the idea of whether or not your non–profit needs a website: According to Fidelity Charitable, 41 per cent of donors have changed their giving due to increased knowledge of non-profit effectiveness.
With that, this guide is here to serve as your comprehensive resource to navigate the intricacies of creating a compelling website for non-profit organizations. Here are a few things we’ll cover:
- Best practices in user-centric design
- Content creation for non-profit websites
- The importance of data analytics
Eager to create a lasting positive change in the world? Let’s go do it together.
How to Design a Non-Profit Website
So, now we know powerful well-designed non-profit websites can be. Next up comes the fun part: creating one that you can be excited about.
But it’s not just about aesthetics. It’s about an intuitive and user-friendly platform that conveys your organization’s values, impact and goals in a compelling manner. A thoughtful and strategic approach is vital to ensure the website not only captures the hearts of visitors, but also inspires them to take action and support the cause.
Step 1: Define Your Website’s Goals and Objectives
Begin by clearly defining the purpose of your website. Determine what you want to achieve with it, whether it’s raising funds, attracting volunteers, raising awareness about your cause, or all of the above.
This will help shape the entire trajectory of your non-profit’s online presence. By establishing a clear purpose for your website, you provide a strong foundation for every aspect of its design, content and functionality.
Clearly defined and measurable website goals are integral to the success of any company,” explains Clear Digital. “It is through these established goals that leadership teams are able to accurately monitor online performance, make informed decisions for the future, and remain agile in their marketing strategies.”
This all goes a long way to making your website a powerful tool to drive meaningful impact. Whether you seek to inspire action through compelling stories, simplify the donation process to increase fundraising, or showcase the life-changing work of your volunteers, having a well-defined purpose will steer your website towards success.
Moreover, this clarity enables you to craft tailored messaging, appealing visuals and user-friendly navigation that resonates with your target audience. Now, be patient, you! We have more on that later.
Step 2: Determine Your Website’s Target Audience
According to Google, great marketing begins and ends with the audience,” explains VirtuoLegance.
Identify who you want to attract to your website. Is it potential donors or volunteers? Are they individuals or organizations? Understanding your target audience will help you tailor your website to their needs and interests.
We promise: determining your target audience doesn’t need to be a tricky task. Let us show you how.
How to Find Your Target Audience
Like numbers? Great! You’ll love this part of the process. Google Analytics (no-profits will love how this tool is free), goes beyond just numbers and paints a pretty decent picture of your audience, revealing valuable insights like their ages, genders, languages, interests, and locations.
Moving forward, conducting surveys and interviews will add a personal touch to your audience research. By reaching out to your current supporters and potential beneficiaries, you’ll gather direct feedback, unveiling their needs and expectations. This step strengthens the bond between your organization and the people you aim to serve.
Completing a competitor analysis is the next key to understanding your landscape better. Don your detective hat and explore other non-profit websites in your field. Uncover the audiences they target and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches.
Now, comes the most enjoyable part of all. Based on the research you’ve gathered, it’s time to give life to your ideal donors and volunteers. Develop fictional representations, complete with demographic information, interests, motivations and challenges. You can even give them a name, if you’re feeling fancy.
By following these steps and embracing the insights you uncover, your non-profit website is on the path to greatness. Understanding your target audience empowers your organization to connect with the hearts and minds of your supporters, fostering a community of change-makers rallying behind your cause.
So, dive into the data, conduct those interviews and play detective. The impact of your efforts will ripple through your website and leave a lasting impression on all those who come across it.
Step 3: Choose a Website Platform
Selecting a website platform (also known as a content management system or “CMS”) is a decision that can have a huge impact on your organization’s online success and resource management.
We don’t wanna stress you out, but choosing the right one requires thinking very carefully about things like ease of use, customization options, security, scalability and cost.
A platform that aligns with the unique needs and objectives of your non-profit will not only streamline your website’s development, but also enhance the overall user experience, enabling your organization to better connect with its supporters and beneficiaries.
Here are a few of the more commonly-used website platforms for non-profit organizations you could consider:
WordPress for Non-Profits
WordPress is one of the more popular platforms out there. Here’s why:
For starters, it boasts ease of use, so if you or your team members have little or no technical knowledge, WordPress is a good choice. With this CMS, you can easily create, update and manage your website without the need for extensive technical expertise or hiring a developer.
Further to this is the fact that WordPress is open-source software, which means it is free to use (with caveats, of course). But this essentially means that non-profits like yours can save money on expensive website development costs by using WordPress as your CMS.
As a non-profit, you’ll also love how WordPress offers a vast ecosystem of themes and plugins that allow your non-profit to customize your website’s design and functionality to meet your specific needs. Whether it’s accepting donations, showcasing events, or highlighting your mission, WordPress can adapt to suit your organization’s goals.
Want to do some online fundraising? WordPress integrates seamlessly with popular payment gateways and donation plugins, making it easy for organizations to collect donations securely.
If you need help (hey, you’re going to have some questions now and then!) WordPress has a massive and active user community, which means there are plenty of resources available when you need help.
WordPress is also Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly. It comes with built-in SEO features and supports various plugins that can enhance your website’s visibility in search engines.
Not familiar with what the heck SEO means? Well, let’s put it this way: it’s like giving your website a special superpower to be more visible and attractive to search engines like Google. When people search for something related to your website’s content, you want your nonprofit’s site to show up on the first page of the search results because that’s where most people look.
And finally, if you rely on social media to promote your causes and engage with supporters, WordPress will allow easy integration with social media platforms, making it simple to share content and increase social media visibility.
Many non-profit organizations venturing into the world of websites have opted for Wix as their platform of choice. It’s incredibly easy to use, helping you create a professional website even if you’re not a tech whiz. Choose from a ton of ready-made designs that suit your cause, and with just a few clicks, you’re online, ready to share your mission.
But hold on. Let’s not throw the confetti juuuuuuuussssttttt yet.
For starters, while Wix provides templates and customization options, the level of customization is quite restricted compared to coding a website from scratch. This can result in a less unique design and functionality. There are also scalability concerns to be mindful of. As your non-profit grows and its needs evolve, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find Wix’s features become insufficient to accommodate more complex requirements.
And while we get that most non-profits are on tight budgets, and you may be tempted by Wix’s free plan, your site will be littered with Wix-branded ads. This can make your organization look unprofessional and unpolished. And that’s not the tone you want to set as you go about making our world a better place!
And these drawbacks are just for starters. Here are few other things to be mindful of:
- You’ll face e-commerce limitations: If your non-profit sells merchandise or needs advanced e-commerce features (think things that allow folks to easily make donations online), Wix might not provide the depth of capabilities that dedicated e-commerce platforms offer.
- You’ll deal with SEO limitations: While Wix hands you a flashlight for SEO exploration, it’s not quite as blinding as the high-powered searchlight from specialized SEO platforms. This might lead your non-profit’s website to play a game of hide-and-seek with search engines.
- Data portability is an issue: If you decide to migrate away from Wix in the future, transferring your website’s content and design might be a wee bit tricky.
- Template restrictions hold ya’ back: Using templates on Wix is like picking a snazzy outfit off the rack – it might not fit your non-profit’s quirky personality and special needs perfectly, resulting in a slightly cookie-cutter online vibe.
- Advanced functionality concerns: For non-profits needing highly specialized functionality, integrations, or custom coding, Wix’s pre-built tools might fall short.
- Long-term costs may drag you down: While Wix’s pricing can be budget-friendly initially, long-term costs can add up, especially as non-profits scale and require more advanced features.
- You might not get the help you need, when you need it: Hey, you’re eventually gonna get stuck on something or another whether you like it or not. So know that while Wix offers customer support, the level of assistance might not be as extensive as you’d like it to be. Especially when you’re ready to pull your hair out ‘cause something just isn’t working the way you want it to.
Squarespace for Non-Profits
Alright, let’s talk Squarespace. ‘Cause we know you’re gonna ask about it. With its selection of snazzy templates, even if your coding skills are “pressing random buttons,” you can create a website that’ll make heads turn. It’s got basic SEO tools, you can blog like a pro, and when you hit those, “What did I just do?” moments, Squarespace’s support team can help.
With all this said, you know there’s gonna be a “but”, right?
Much like Wix, non-profits may find that While Squarespace has its positives, it also comes with more than a handful of negatives, which may have an impact on your decision.
For starters, while Squarespace provides templates that can be customized, the extent of customization might be limited compared to other platforms or custom-built websites like WordPress. And your non-profit is unique, right? So it deserves to shine.
Like Wix, you’ll also find that Squarespace has limited scalability. So if your non-profit grows over time, you may require more complex features…but there’s no guarantee that you’re gonna get ‘em. Custom functionalities, membership systems, complex donation forms and advanced integrations could be challenging to implement within the platform’s limitations.
And let’s talk about the money. If your non-profit accepts donations online (FYI, it should), you might encounter limitations. Other platforms like WordPress offer more robust solutions for handling online transactions.
When it comes to SEO flexibility, Squarespace does offer basic features, but some advanced SEO tactics and optimization options might not be as easily achievable compared to other platforms or custom-built websites. This could impact your non-profit’s online visibility. No good when you want to get the word out about what your organization does, right?
Here are some other things to be mindful of if you’re considering Squarespace:
- Data Portability: If you decide to migrate away from Squarespace in the future, you might encounter difficulties in transferring your content and data to another platform.
- Limited Third-Party Integrations: Squarespace does offer some integrations, but compared to other platforms or custom-built solutions, the range of available integrations might be more limited.
Also good to know: When you’re using a platform like Squarespace, you’re essentially renting space on their servers. This means you might have less control over your website’s hosting, data and potential changes to the platform’s policies that could affect your non-profit in the long run.
Alas, if you’re trying to make your non-profit shine online, picking the right website setup is a big deal. You’ve gotta think about stuff like how easy it is to use, how much you can make it your own, how safe it is, and if it can grow with you without breaking the bank. Your website platform needs to match what your non-profit wants to do and needs, so it’s easy to build and gets folks interested.
When it’s all said and done, make sure your choice matches up with what your non-profit wants to do and think about the future. That’s how you’ll end up with a website that really helps your organization do its thing.
Key Features of a Successful Non-Profit Website
Your non-profit’s mission is important, right?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to attract donors, engage volunteers, raise awareness (or all three), all non-profit websites have some key features in common that help make them successful. In this section, we’ll break them down.
With so many interactions taking place online, a solid website is a must-have for non-profit organizations,” explains Forbes. “A well-designed website allows visitors to connect with and understand your mission.”
A big part of this? Implementing user-friendly navigation. ‘Cause it’s just not enough to have information on a site. Your visitors need to be able to find it.
We cover this topic more in this blog, but since you’re already here, we’ll review the basics.
User-Friendly Navigation and User-First Design for Non-Profit Websites
User-friendly navigation is like the GPS of your website. It’s all about creating a clear and intuitive roadmap for your visitors to explore your website without getting lost in the digital wilderness.
A good user experience is easy and enjoyable, while a bad user experience is complicated, confusing and frustrating,” explains the UX Design Institute.
Imagine for a sec that you’re guiding someone through a grocery store. You want them to effortlessly find the ingredients they’re interested in without any frustration. (Because finding all the stuff and things for Sunday night’s roast dinner can already be tricky enough, am I right?). On a website, this means having a well-organized menu structure that logically categorizes your content.
When visitors can easily locate what they’re looking for, whether it’s information about your cause, donation options, or volunteer opportunities, they’re more likely to stay engaged and satisfied.
User-first design kinda has the same idea. It’s all about putting your website visitors’ comfort and needs front and centre.
This approach revolves around creating a digital experience that feels tailored to the user, anticipating their expectations and preferences. It’s like crafting a website that speaks their language and understands their goals.
User-first design considers factors like page loading speed, mobile responsiveness and easy-to-read content. User-first design can help make sure visitors stick around, explore further, and even take the actions you want them to, like donating or subscribing to your updates.
In essence, user-friendly navigation and user-first design are all about making your website a pleasant and efficient destination for your visitors. When these principles are in play, you’re not just building a website, you’re crafting an experience that resonates with your audience and helps your non-profit thrive online.
|Colour||The Psychology Behind It|
Fun fact: 46 per cent of consumers prefer when businesses use blue on their websites, making it the top colour preference amongst website visitors.
But this isn’t all when it comes to design. Just as important is ensuring that your website aligns with your non-profit’s branding, using consistent colours, fonts and imagery. When we’re launching a website for a client, it’s non uncommon to see our team of designers deliberate for hours on this kind of stuff!
Here’s why: Colours aren’t just splashes on a screen. They’re mood-setters, conveying emotions and values without saying a word.
Think colour psychology isn’t a real thing? Think again. According to colorlib, 62 per cent to 90 per cent of initial impressions are based on colour alone!
Fonts? They’re more than letters. They’re your organization’s tone of voice in typography. A playful font might say “We’re approachable!”, while a sleek, minimal one might whisper, “We mean business!” Your fonts should speak the language your supporters understand.
And finally, imagery. Think of it as your visual storybook. Photos, graphics and illustrations paint a vivid picture of your mission, transporting visitors into the world you’re changing. Whether it’s a snapshot of a community project or a heartwarming image of a volunteer in action, your imagery should be like a magnet, drawing visitors into your cause.
Hey! There’s more: We’d encourage you to take the time to find a good website designer. It can really make or break the success of your website!
Conversion Copywriting for Non-Profit Websites
Just as critical as the design, however, is the content that goes into it. Clear and compelling content can go a long way towards captivating your audience’s attention and conveying your non-profit’s mission with impact.
In the world of marketing and advertising, copywriting holds immense power,” explains this Medium article.
Just like a captivating story, well-crafted content can resonate deeply with your visitors, inspiring them to connect emotionally and engage actively with your cause.
Words have the power to paint vivid pictures in the minds of your audience,” explains Katrina Geenevasen, 1dea Conversion Copywriter. “When your content tells a story that sparks emotion, you invite your visitors to become part of your narrative, forging a bond that transforms them from passive observers into enthusiastic champions of your cause.”
Yup. In this case, you wanna make ’em need a box of tissues!
Whether you’re sharing inspiring success stories, explaining your initiatives, or calling for support, clear and compelling content is the driving force that turns casual visitors into dedicated supporters.
Here are five ways you can leverage content for your own non-profit website to make a big impact:
- Provide informative articles, guides and resources related to your cause. This positions your non-profit as an authority and helps visitors understand the issues you’re addressing.
- Numbers matter. So it’s important to regularly update your audience with reports showcasing the impact of your initiatives. Use data, visuals and personal stories to demonstrate the change you’re making.
- …But so do stories. Highlight the stories of dedicated volunteers to show the real people behind your organization and inspire others to join your efforts. You could also showcase testimonials from individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by your non-profit. Personal stories add authenticity and emotional connection!
- Include FAQs and guides. Potential donors are gonna have questions. And it’s your job to have the answers. Try to anticipate common questions your audience might have and provide comprehensive answers.
- Don’t forget about Calls-to-Action (CTAs): Craft content that encourages specific actions, such as signing petitions, attending events, or participating in campaigns. Clearly outline how visitors can contribute.
In the end, just remember this: non-profit copywriting is built on relationships. And relationships are central to the non-profit sector. “The sector relies on the cultivation of powerful and persuasive relationships that generate trust, loyalty, charitable action – and yes, revenue,” explains Karina Barker, a Toronto-based copywriting expert.
So, crafting compelling and authentic copy isn’t just about slapping some words on a page and calling it a day. Nope. It’s about forging connections that resonate with the hearts of your audience. Each sentence you write is an opportunity to build a bridge of understanding, empathy and shared purpose. Every word you choose can spark a spark of inspiration or ignite the flame of action.
Just as you nurture relationships with your supporters, volunteers, and beneficiaries, your words nurture the connection between your non-profit’s mission and those who believe in it. So, as you sit down to write, remember that your copy is the thread that weaves the tapestry of trust and impact in the world of non-profits.
Wait, there’s more! Get the scoop on all things professional copywriting here.
Monitoring Analytics Can Help Take Your Non-Profit Website Even Further
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know.
You don’t have the time to crunch numbers. To dive into the analytics. To assess, measure and dissect every data point that comes your way. We get it! You’re on a mission, and spending hours lost in spreadsheets isn’t exactly high on your list of to-dos.
But here’s the thing: while you’re out there changing the world, those numbers are quietly whispering secrets about what’s working, what’s not and where your impact is hitting the bullseye.
So use them to your advantage.
Use website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to track the performance of your website. This tool will allow you to analyze user behavior, traffic sources and conversion rates to optimize your website’s impact.
If you have no idea what we’re talking about, don’t proceed full tilt into panic mode. This Google Academy course, “Google Analytics for Beginners”, outlines all the steps you need to take to effectively dive deep into all those numbers with ease.
Let’s Wrap Up
Whether you’re just beginning your journey in the world of non-profit website creation or looking to fine-tune your existing online platform, know this: the digital realm holds immense potential. Your website can be more than a mere online presence. It can be a dynamic force that propels your mission forward, captivating hearts, driving change and making a genuine impact on the world.
Let this guide be your compass, your toolkit and your inspiration as you craft a website that truly stands for your cause.