5 Elements to a Successful Nonprofit Website

  • by Ryan Phillips
  • 0
  • 0

Your nonprofit website is a powerful tool that should be used effectively. It isn't just a repository for information or a nice thing to have just because "everyone is on the web." I've said it before and I'll say it again, a well designed website should work as hard as you do: gathering donations, networking, organizing volunteers, and advocating for your cause. It should engage, motivate, and inspire action. From our expertise in crafting smart, effective, and beautiful nonprofit websites, we've come up with five areas to consider for a highly successful nonprofit website.

1. Give a Good First Impression

Don’t assume anyone knows about your organization. Can a visitor to your website quickly identify who you are or what you do? A study conducted found that web designers and web users alike agreed that a website appeared incomplete or less credible if the website did not provide information about who they are, what they did, and a way to contact them. This seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many websites out there do not provide one or all of these.

If you do nothing else, put your unique selling proposition (USP) front and center. It is what sets you apart from other nonprofits and makes it easy for visitors to identify your nonprofit mission as well as understand the value you provide. However, keep in mind that the web is a fast paced environment and your visitors are likely to be easily distracted. Keep this short and simple. You can always add a link from which users can find more information about your nonprofit.

2. Easy and Straight Forward Navigation

Every website planning process should involve thinking through site navigation and organization. After all, it is how your website users get to know you, access information, and engage with your mission.

I often come across nonprofit websites that have many and unorganized navigation items. Cut the clutter and be direct. Priority should be given to pages or information that is most used by your users. The goal of every good website is to identify what your users need when they visit your website and aim to get them there as fast as possible—meaning the least amount of steps and/or distractions.

It is never too late to consider the navigation and organization of your website. Designers and developers call this “information architecture.” A good place to start is with analytics. If your website has analytic software installed, you can use the information gathered to identify which pages are visited the most often and work from there.

You should also give strong consideration to what your navigation items are called. Don’t use esoteric terms or in-house jargon. It is better to be succinct and clear. Use action words such as “Join,” “Learn,” or “Volunteer.”

3. Clear Calls-to-Action

So you have an engaging and concise USP and an organized and easily navigable website. You enticed your visitors to stay, now give them something to do! Make sure your audience is motivated to take action by providing them with direct, clear calls-to-action. Just as with your website navigation, use active language such as “give,” “contact,” or “sign-up” rather than “donations,” “information,” or “newsletters.” Motivate your users by using compelling language that shows how their taking action impacts your mission. Don’t be afraid to show some personality!

For example, instead of asking for a monetary amount, consider asking them to “connect five families with clean drinking water.” This gives an example of how a donor’s gift will make a direct impact and helps them feel more involved.

4. Compelling and Engaging Imagery

Chances are, if you like a stock image, so do many other nonprofit leaders. You have probably seen the same images over and over again on nonprofit websites that have completely different missions! The impulse is good—photos engage users and resonate with people in a way that text cannot. But generic imagery can erode the trust you’ve been building with your audience thus far.

Whenever possible (and budgets allow) use images of real people being served by your work or photos of your members engaging with your community. Those nonprofit websites that really wow you do so by using imagery that speaks to their mission, or demonstrates need. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Using high impact imagery can speak to your audience in (much deeper) ways than your website copy can and compel them to become a part of your mission.

5. Fresh Content

Nonprofit websites are the most likely to contain new content when they first launch (or re-launch), after which updates become infrequent or stop altogether. Most nonprofits lack the time or manpower to keep up with the website. After all, it is the service work off-line that gets priority. But a great nonprofit website needs to be regularly maintained with fresh content in order to motivate your audience to action as well as keep them coming back for more. Updated content also has the potential to reach new or potential members, volunteers, or donors.

Whether you post news articles, blog posts, or regularly share stories and photos, keep a dedicated schedule to update your website. Frequently showcasing your efforts on and off-line also shows you are active and keeps up the motivation for others to engage with your nonprofit. Stale content makes your nonprofit look inactive, or worse, defunct. Keeping your site updated is well worth the time and effort, and in the end makes your workload lighter.

Putting it Together

It is likely that your nonprofit website is more successful in some of these areas and less successful in others. Evaluate your nonprofit website objectively. Set some time aside with your creative or communications team to brainstorm what you could be doing better in these areas. Tackle one area at a time to make it less burdensome. Smart nonprofits make adjustments over time—especially to content and social profile—to ensure that things are going the way they should, and that their most important marketing tool is doing its job.

If you don't have a creative staff, call us or Email us for a free consultation about your website needs. We'd love to be a creative partner in your nonprofit vision!

View original eNewsletter.