This is the second to last post in a series of articles on the topic of digital marketing for nonprofits and creating the perfect nonprofit website. In the first four articles, we discussed creating mission pages, impact pages, volunteer pages, and the all-important donate page. In this fifth post, our next to last article in this series, we will discuss creating the perfect nonprofit website home page.
There is a good reason why we create our home page AFTER creating the other essential website pages. Our nonprofit home page is just a short summary of all the other pages of our site, displayed in distinct and concise sections, that quickly and efficiently moves our visitor through all that we do on one single page.
If you’ve developed all the other pages and content as suggested in the first four articles of this series, you don't actually need any new content to create your home page. Here, you’ll just spend time organizing the information in a way that makes the most sense for your organization.
Combined with a few contextually relevant images and well-placed calls to action, your home page will be an informative and effective entry way for supporters to learn more about and get involved with your nonprofit.
Creating a Nonprofit Website Home Page
This will likely be the page of your site that gets the most traffic. This is the page that loads when your main domain is typed in the url bar of an internet browser. It’s typically the main page that people will share on social networks, and the go to link when supporters mention you to friends and family.
Your home page should load quickly on all devices and be organized in such a way that it moves people logically, and efficiently from top to bottom. The most important information you want to convey comes first, at the top of your site. You place calls to action throughout your homepage that move visitors to pages where they can submit information to you, like volunteer pages, advocacy campaign pages, and, of course, your fundraising pages.
For your home page, you should consider adding the following features:
Home Page Header and Hero
This intro section will be the first thing people see when your page loads. It’s sometimes called “above the fold.” This is a term borrowed from the newspaper industry to describe the feature content that is shown on the top half of the cover page above the fold of the newspaper which wraps below and tucks underneath out of view. This is usually the only part of the paper visible on newsstands and, based on the strength of the content above the fold, can determine whether the paper has strong sales or sits unread.
Your website works in a similar manner. Your viewers will decide, based on the homepage hero and header, whether they stick around to read more or close the page and move on to another site.
For the home page header, you’ll start off with a menu that provides links to important parts of your site; namely the pages you learned about earlier in this article. A header can also be sticky, which means it follows the user and sticks to the top of the web browser window as he scrolls through the page.
Underneath the header, add some defining text against a high-resolution image. That image should be well optimized and we’ll cover that in more detail in the web speed section below. The heading text should be a catchy theme, mission statement, or something that will pique interest and encourage further reading.
Photos in groups have a positive psychological effect on viewers. It lends credibility to your organization and says you are likable enough for other people to be around you. Try to include pictures of the people you serve or images of people at your company actually doing the good work you do. Health-based organizations may run into privacy issues posting pics of members. Nonprofits that help protect women from abuse may not want to feature their members either, for obvious reasons. Whatever you deem appropriate, try to use real images before stock. If you must use stock, make sure it’s contextually relevant and represents your organization and the work it performs.
Here is an example of a few great nonprofit homepage headers and hero images:
TheCureStartsNow.org uses a sticky header that follows the reader down the page so the menu is accessible at all times. They also use a high-resolution image of a superhero kid and DIPG Warrior.
Impact/Justice uses a beautiful, historic image with a bold header and button that contrasts the black and white image behind it. They also use a sticky header which shrinks to a compact menu when scrolling.
Summary of Top Issues or Programs
After the header and hero we like to include a summary of the important issues your organization is working on or its specific programs. This is one of the main reasons people will visit your site so give them what they want quickly. Summarize each issue, impact statement, or program with a short sentence and then provide a link or button to the main impact overview page or an individual page for each impact point.
TheCureStartsNow.org shows their programs with a few circular images, short text intro, and big buttons. They also have a map where you can find and join a chapter close to home.
If your organization has a dozen or more programs you will not be able to fit them all on the home page. Choose a few of the most important ones. If that’s not possible, don’t feature any on the home page at all - just include a section that links off to your overall programs page where the viewer can then choose which one to focus on.
Tobacco-Free Kids has a few key programs they feature on their home page, and one of them even acts as a call-to-action.
A section on your impact is vital to your home page since it will be getting the majority of your traffic. We know that framing fundraising appeals with your organizational impact can raise donations up to 5x as much. Displaying impact figures, statistics, or infographics on your home page can help engage readers right away and encourage them to visit additional pages on your website.
You can also use this space to put a very concise version of your mission statement. You’ve already developed your about page and mission statement by this point. Use that material as a starting point and make it as short as possible for display on the home page.
The Cure Starts Now does this with a GIANT dollar figure just about their fundraising call-to-action:
Pressley Ridge does this with a single impact statement and a nice graphic:
The League of Women Voters shows their impact and progress with statistics and a graphic that is contextually relevant to their mission: empowering voters and defending democracy.
The LWV homepage is a very effective page overall. It loads quickly, gives the reader big boxes and buttons to click on, and uses space very efficiently. They don't waste space with long blocks of text or exposition. Instead, they use contextually relevant graphics, statistics, and smart calls-to-action. It is a fantastic example of a nonprofit/advocacy website homepage.
Meet the Team
Another section we like to see on nonprofit website designs is a place where the reader can learn more about the organization and its team members. This makes your organization more familiar and personalizes your story for the reader.
Again, you’ll just be adding a short paragraph or two that summarizes the team overall - your philosophy, the type of people that work there, or your organization’s overall world view. Then link off to your “About” page or mission statement page.
You can also link off to pages about the staff, leadership, or board like Ms. Foundation For Women.
If the reader's attention was piqued at the top of the page they'll scroll down, see your pictures, peruse the programs, and maybe view some biographical information on your team. Now it’s time to show your audience a pointed call to action that will spark them to engage and maybe give you some information you need to communicate with them later.
Resist the temptation to put calls to action too high on the homepage. Readers need time to understand your nonprofit and what it does before they’re going to commit to volunteering or spending they’re hard-earned money on a donation.
Your main call to action should fit thematically with your site, but stand out enough so that it demands attention. This can be done with images that are contextually relevant to the action you are soliciting. Dollar bills and money symbols are okay for donation appeals, but a picture of the people you serve (while you are serving them) is better. A stock image of a volunteer wearing a shirt that reads “volunteer” is okay, but an image of an actual volunteer at an actual event is better.
Generally, it’s a good idea to make your call-to-action a singular request - just a donation, or just a volunteer appeal. But you have a little more latitude on your home page, where people are looking for that general overview of your organization, and you can get away with a multi-option call to action here.
Kids In Need of Defense does this nicely by offering a few ways to get involved in their organization. Whether you want to donate, volunteer, signup to receive more information, or help them fundraise there’s an opportunity there for everyone.
Remember, the number of action-takers you get will be inversely proportional to the number of things you ask them to do or the amount of information you ask them to give. Forms should ask for a minimal amount of info. You’ll have an opportunity to follow up with them later in your relationship and fill-in missing data. Don’t ask for 19 different points of contact information the first time you meet them.
We close out the home page (and every page of the site) with a footer. It’s standard practice here to put a copy of your logo, a quick access menu to important links, social icons, a physical address, and any legal or financial disclosures your campaign may be required to display. Some choose to add IRS/tax notices, others add copyright information. Advocacy campaigns may be required to display a financial statement disclosing who paid for the site.
Results.org has all those elements plus a newsletter signup that repeats on every page of their site. In case their calls-to-action above don't grab the reader, the footer is there to give them one more bite at the apple!
A nonprofit website homepage is generally the page that will get the most attention on your site, but it's still structured as a simple restatement of the other important pages like your mission page, impact page, program pages, volunteer pages, and donate pages.
The first four articles of this series walk you through how to create those other pages step by step. Do those first, and then revisit your home page.
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website About / Mission Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Impact / Program Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Volunteer / Take Action Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Fundraising / Donate Page
There's just one more article in this series, and in it we'll be discussing some additional considerations for your website and nonprofit digital marketing, like integrating nonprofit CRMs, website speed, and software like peer-to-peer events and advocacy tools.
At Salsa, we love sharing creative websites from our nonprofit community. Take a moment and share this article with a friend or family member or colleague you think can benefit from its lessons. When you do, share a link to your own website and tag Salsa on Facebook so we can amplify your message and help bring more traffic to your site!
Good luck and happy designing.
Articles in the Nonprofit Website Design Series:
- Part 1: About Pages & Mission Pages
- Part 2: Impact Pages & Program Pages
- Part 3: Volunteer and Take Action Pages
- Part 4: Fundraising and Donate Pages
- Part 5: Homepages
- Part 6: Integrating Your Nonprofit Website with Other Tools