What Makes a Good Nonprofit Website?

  • by Shala Graham
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Info. Tone. Tools.

Everywhere you look, advertising agencies, fundraising gurus, and other experts are reminding you that your nonprofit organization has to have a great website to spread your message over the Internet. What they don't usually tell you, however, is what makes a nonprofit website great in the first place.

Because we know how difficult it can be to establish a strong web presence when you don't work with nonprofit websites every day, we would like to offer a handful of tips to help you get started. Here are the three most important ingredients for a nonprofit website:

The right information.

One thing that your website definitely has to do is tell people what you're about, why you're around, and why they should care. In other words, it's absolutely critical that you cover your bases, and cover them in a way that makes it easy for first-time visitors to your nonprofit website to "get" what you're all about in a matter of moments.

Don't simply insert your nonprofit's mission and stop there, however. It's important that the information you present speaks to people, not just at them. So while it's a good idea to have things like facts, statistics, and details, be sure to supplement them with a bit of passion and emotion. No one ever donated money to a charitable organization that didn't seem to care very much about its own cause, so make it very clear that you’re committed to the great work you do.

Beyond that, it's easy to overlook an important detail and make your contact information hard to find. You want donors, members of the media, and other interested parties to be able to reach you with no trouble, so make sure your nonprofit’s contact information is displayed in multiple places.

The right tone.

Finding the right tone for your nonprofit website can be one of the biggest challenges you face throughout the entire design process. That's because you want things to be serious enough for visitors to understand the gravity of the cause or situation your nonprofit is devoted to, but not so heavy that it causes them to click away.

In many situations, the best answer is to provide some statistics or information that lets readers get a sense of why your nonprofit exists, and to maintain a consistently upbeat voice throughout all of your web pages. That way, interested visitors can immediately identify with whatever it is you want to fix in the world, without being so overwhelmed by it that they feel like there isn't anything they can do to make a difference.

Finding that voice is often a matter of trial and error, and the line between stern and positive is going to vary for each individual nonprofit group. No matter what you do, though, make sure you inject a feeling of hope throughout your site; otherwise your pages will feel like they are devoted to reminding people about a lost cause.

The right tools.

So far, we've been looking at what your nonprofit website has to say. It's just as important, though, that it actually gives visitors things to do in order to get involved.

What kinds of things are we talking about? Links for pages where they can donate online, follow your nonprofit through social media profiles, or even view Internet videos and sign up for your newsletter. Each of these is a simple thing to build into a new nonprofit web design, and they can all help you be more effective when it comes to fundraising, getting attention from the media, and finding volunteers.

Messaging is important, but you also have to have the right technical capabilities on your nonprofit website if it's going to be a success. Whether you're thinking about designing one from the ground up, or just making a few changes to what you have, make sure it has the tools you need.

In the end, a great nonprofit website is one that helps you move closer to your organization's goals, and so there are never going to be any hard and fast rules to what you do and don't need to make that happen. Having the right information, tone, and tools is definitely a good start in the right direction, though, so make sure you consider them key ingredients for your next online home.