You've probably heard the common adage “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” This is true in multiple aspects of life, from a first date to a job interview to meeting a new neighbor for the first time. Humans tend to form snap judgments, and although we can change those sentiments over time, you never forget the first impression.
That’s why it’s so important to optimize your nonprofit website’s homepage. Your homepage is your way of introducing your organization and its mission to prospective new supporters. If it presents a poor first impression, you risk losing out on valuable support.
In this post, we’ll review the top tips for designing your website homepage to act as an effective engagement tool and ensure you nail the first impression. As you create the page, you should:
- Make your donation button stand out.
- Use consistent branding.
- Reduce the page’s load speed.
- Ensure your mission is front and center.
- Improve the page’s accessibility.
- Keep it simple.
With the advanced features offered by most content management systems nowadays, you can likely implement these tips on your own, even if you don’t have an in-house web design expert. However, to ensure your homepage and your website as a whole are optimized for engaging supporters, you may want to partner with a nonprofit technology consultant.
These specialists have the experience and knowledge to not only design an aesthetically pleasing website homepage, but also one that’s an effective driver of nonprofit-specific activities such as donating and advocacy. With that in mind, let’s dive in!
1. Make your donation button stand out.
As a nonprofit, one of your most important ongoing activities is fundraising. A steady funding stream is what keeps your organization going and allows you to continue offering your important programs, projects, or services.
And while one-off or seasonal fundraising campaigns and events are certainly important, one of your steadiest sources of incoming fundraising is your donation page. By embedding your donation page into your website, you create a long-term digital fundraising hub for your nonprofit. As such, your website’s homepage must be optimized for driving these donations and guiding users towards your donation page.
One way to use your homepage to encourage giving from the get-go is to feature a prominent donation button. Your donation button should be:
- Easy to find within milliseconds of landing on your homepage. Place the button in a highly visible spot, such as the top right corner of your homepage.
- Designed with colors that pop against the background. Make sure there’s sufficient contrast between the button and the page background, as well as the button and the text on the button. This helps the button stand out and catch visitors’ attention.
- Compelling and attention-grabbing. Your button can simply say “Donate Now,” but you can also mix it up with motivational words like “Join the Fight!” or “Give Today.”
For example, check out how Pen America’s homepage features a prominent donation button that stands out in eye-catching red:
Remember, you can include multiple calls to action on your homepage besides just those for donating. Consider including a call to action for volunteering and advocacy efforts as well. These are all effective ways to engage audience members in your nonprofit’s efforts, even if they can’t donate at the moment.
2. Use consistent branding.
Your organization’s brand is more than the combination of colors, fonts, logo variations, and graphic design elements you choose. It’s the intangible feeling supporters get from seeing these design elements work in harmony, coupled with the unique personality and tone of your organization.
Your website homepage should immediately evoke brand recognition in visitors through the consistent, cohesive use of your brand elements.
According to Re:Charity’s web design best practices guide, using consistent branding offers the following benefits:
- Reduces distractions. Have you ever visited a website with brand elements that were just all over the place? If you’ve seen a homepage with five different fonts and a wide range of colors, you know it can be quite overwhelming and discordant. Alternatively, by standardizing your branding across your homepage, you create a seamless, visually pleasing experience for visitors.
- Enhances your online presence. You can reinforce your brand recognition by using the same design elements across all of your online communications, from your website to your email and social media. Therefore, no matter where supporters encounter your organization, they’ll be able to recognize your unique branding.
- Fosters trust. A uniform brand appearance helps build trust in your audience members. This is especially important when collecting online donations. When supporters see that you have the same branding on your homepage and donation form, they’ll be reassured that their gifts are going to the right place.
Your brand is what your nonprofit supporters will picture when they think of your organization. Ensure your brand elements are well-represented on your homepage to promote unity and cohesion across your website.
3. Reduce the page’s load speed.
The recommended page load time for website pages is a mere two seconds. If your website’s homepage loads any slower, you’ll start losing visitors at a rapid pace.
To avoid losing visitors just as they’ve clicked on your site, there are a few strategies you can use to reduce your homepage load speed:
- Compress your images to reduce their load time.
- Reduce the number of code-heavy elements on your page.
- Clean up your code by eliminating any unnecessary characters or spaces.
Reducing load speed can have a positive ripple effect on several key performance indicators, such as site visitors’ average time on the page and conversion rates. The faster your homepage loads, the more time visitors have to spend browsing it and maybe even deciding to donate.
4. Ensure your mission is front and center.
All of your efforts to make your website’s homepage more appealing won’t mean a thing if visitors can’t get an accurate sense of what your organization does. If visitors can’t see any compelling reasons why your organization is important, they won’t be inclined to browse your other pages, let alone submit a donation.
Use the homepage to centralize your mission and ensure no one leaves your site without a thorough understanding of what your nonprofit’s mission is, why it’s important, and how you work to achieve it. Convey your mission using:
- Images: Choose a handful of images that display your nonprofit’s mission in action. For instance, you might use a photo of volunteers working with community members to build a house, or a family adopting a new dog from your shelter. Be sure to use real photos, not stock images. Real photos give website visitors the sense that your organization is genuine and trustworthy.
- Short videos: Videos tend to be a more engaging media format, and your website’s homepage is a great place to include a short clip. You can embed a video that explains your organization’s mission, with facts and statistics about your issue area. You can also include brief interviews or testimonials with your staff members, volunteers, and constituents.
- Text: You don’t want to overload your homepage with a bunch of text. Make the most of your audience’s limited attention by choosing intentional, compelling phrases and buzzwords. Include your organization’s tagline, if you have one, and a brief mission statement in a prominent place on your homepage.
For instance, check out how the homepage for the nonprofit Bookshare Kenya succinctly promotes its mission:
In just a few sentences, visitors can immediately grasp the purpose of the organization, the population it serves, and the specific service it provides. Be similarly concise, clear, and engaging when wording your own mission statements and calls to action to ensure that readers don't bounce off of your website only a few moments after clicking in.
5. Improve the page’s accessibility.
Your website homepage should be completely accessible to all visitors, no matter their device, age, or ability. Designing your homepage to be accessible means you can open your website up to the widest range of visitors possible.
Kanopi’s guide to top nonprofit websites includes tips for making your website homepage accessible, including:
- Ensure your page is mobile-friendly. The majority of your website visitors will likely access your nonprofit’s site using their mobile devices. If your homepage isn’t mobile-optimized, you risk alienating a large chunk of your audience. Make your homepage mobile-friendly by ensuring that your page loads correctly in the mobile view and correcting any formatting errors.
- Accommodate users with accessibility limitations. There are plenty of ways to make your site more accessible to users of all ability levels. For instance, make sure you include alternative text for images and videos, follow color contrast standards, and use a hierarchical page structure to help with easy navigation.
- Code fixes and debugging. A broken page or faulty links can quickly frustrate any user attempting to navigate your website. Run frequent link checking assessments to identify any broken links or pages on your platform and catch these problems before users have a chance to run into them.
Incorporating accessibility best practices enhances the experience of viewing your website homepage for all visitors. You can download a free resource such as Google’s Lighthouse extension to assess the accessibility of your page and receive suggestions for improvement.
6. Keep it simple.
When it comes to your nonprofit’s website homepage, keep one guiding principle in mind: less is more. Don’t sacrifice streamlined, engaging user experience (UX) for complex or flashy graphic design elements.
Optimize your homepage design with these best practices:
- Make your navigation menu simple and ensure visitors know exactly how to move to different parts of your site.
- Use plenty of white space to break up elements and create a good flow.
- Ensure the most important information on the page appears “above the fold,” or at the top of the page before visitors scroll.
- Use a straightforward website theme that isn’t too avant-garde.
A simple, streamlined design keeps the focus where it belongs: on your nonprofit’s mission. Your audience members don’t expect your site to be a hallmark of innovative design. As long as it helps facilitate a positive user experience, your homepage will be an effective driver of engagement.
Hopefully, these tips have sparked your creativity and got you thinking about how you can optimize your nonprofit’s homepage to engage visitors. Remember, if you feel like you need more guidance or a more advanced website refresh, consider partnering with a nonprofit website design company. These firms can assist with not only a homepage redesign but can also take a closer look at every aspect of your website to ensure it’s optimized to its fullest potential.
By Anne Stefanyk
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.