Is Your Nonprofit Website Credible?

  • by Ryan Phillips
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If you’re like most nonprofit leaders, you focus more on serving your constituents in the real world than you do on your website. But you could be missing opportunities to reach and engage your audience. A well designed website works as hard as you do—gathering donations, networking, organizing volunteers, and advocating for your cause.

You should start thinking of your website as a valuable member of your team. Any good member of your team is successful by their ability to establish and build relationships. And the foundation of any good relationship is trust.

You wouldn’t work with someone who seems untrustworthy, and the same goes for the audience of your website. In order for your website to engage and motivate your audience, it has to be trustworthy. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a website?

Trustworthy Visuals

People judge trustworthiness online in much the same way they judge it offline. Do I know the company? Are they familiar? Did someone I trust recommend the site to me? Does it look and feel right?

A study done by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab found that nearly half of online consumers assessed credibility based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, font size, and color schemes.

Dr. Brent Coker, who studies the impact of websites on human behavior, puts it a little more bluntly, “As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behavior and inclinations translate to our online existence.”

If that isn’t enough to convince you to carefully consider the look and feel of your website, another study performed showed people reliably and consistently rated the visual appeal of websites after seeing the home page in just 1/20th of a second. That is not a lot of time to convince people to trust you and stick around.

Trustworthy Content

At some point you will hear the phrase, “Content is King,” and in most cases that is true. Do not ignore your content in service to the visual appeal of your website. Aesthetics and content are not mutually exclusive. Your site can be beautiful, but if it doesn’t have trustworthy content, it isn’t of use to you or your audience.

There is a consensus that having a few of the following markers quickly establish credibility:

  1. Consistent and easily visible contact information on every page (or at least available);
  2. Photos and bios of employees, staff, and/or board members;
  3. Testimonials from staff, partners, and/or constituents; and
  4. Consistently updated content in the form of news, announcements, and/or blog posts

However, it is important to make sure that all your content is updated and accurate. It won’t help people trust you if your list of staff includes members who are no longer involved or contact information that is outdated. Having organized and updated content shows your audience that engaging with your nonprofit is worth their time.

Putting it All Together

Now it’s time to really take a look at your own website and objectively evaluate its trustworthiness. Does the look and feel of your website match the tone of your organization? Does it serve to enhance and organize your website’s content or does it get in the way?

What about your content? Is it accurate? Can your viewers quickly and accurately find information about who you are, what you do, and get in touch?

Making sure your nonprofit website is credible will go a long way in insuring your website is a valuable team member, working in service to you (rather than against). If you have any questions or concerns about your nonprofit website, consult professionals. That is what we are here for.

Further Reading