No matter what industry you’re in, having an engaging, professional website is essential.
For nonprofits, your website is often the first brush a potential donor, volunteer, supporter, or future employee will have with your organization. In order to connect with them from the beginning, you’ll need to design a site that’s appealing and usable.
You might think that designing the perfect website is easier said than done, but surprisingly, elevating your web presence doesn’t have to be a puzzle. In fact, here are 5 simple strategies that you can implement today to reinvigorate your web design with no added stress:
- Use your website to highlight your mission.
- Work with a web consultant.
- Streamline your site’s user experience.
- Keep mobile users in mind.
- Provide next steps for your site’s visitors.
While these tips will primarily be geared toward nonprofits, savvy organizations of any kind can keep our best practices in mind when rethinking their own website strategy.
Now, let’s get started creating your dream website!
1. Use your website to highlight your mission.
Whether you’re a nonprofit or not, a good website should serve as the hub for all things related to your brand.
Especially when you’re utilizing many forms of communication (including email, various social media platforms, and direct mailings), it’s important to centralize the most important information about your organization and showcase your mission in a unified way.
Your website can—and should—do that!
Here are our favorite ways to put your organization’s purpose at the forefront of your website:
- Highlight your culture and personality. Use your website’s Team page to promote your company culture by including personable (brief) staff bios, photos, and videos that show off your team’s dedication as well as your personalities. When visitors can easily connect with your team, they’ll immediately feel more connected to your cause, too.
- Streamline your “About” page. One of the most important pages on your site, your “About” page houses your organization’s mission statement, background, and other important details. To make this information more digestible (and attractive), break up your page with subheadings, multimedia elements, and quotes from key stakeholders.
- Show, don’t tell! This familiar adage should be at the front of your mind as you put together your website. Take advantage of high-quality photos, short videos, and infographics to communicate your message in an effective way. While text is important, the more visual and interactive your site, the more likely users are to stay on the page.
For nonprofits, effective branding all comes back to the mission you’re promoting. When you put together a website that clearly communicates your cause, users will instantly understand the core of your organization and feel confident making a donation, sharing your page with friends, or signing up to volunteer.
Plus, when your site has a clear focus, you’ll make it easier on yourself to promote job opportunities at your organization when the time comes!
Applicants who find your website will have an easier time understanding what your nonprofit is all about, meaning you’ll have an easier time attracting candidates with similar goals and values.
2. Work with a web consultant.
While easy-to-use content management systems have streamlined the web design process significantly, the fact of the matter remains that in order to design an expert website, your best bet is to work with web experts.
By enlisting the help of a nonprofit web consultant, your team will be able to breathe easy knowing that you have professional web developers on hand to take on the heavy lifting (i.e., all the programming, coding, and other technical aspects of website building).
But that’s not all that a web consultant can do! In addition to actually building out the architecture of your site, the right web consultant can also help your organization manage other important elements such as:
- Online strategy. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to enhance your web presence, a consultant can help your organization determine how your website fits into your general strategy. They’ll understand that your website shouldn’t exist in a vacuum; it should help you achieve your overall fundraising, engagement, and outreach goals.
- Content and data migration. If you’re switching from one content management system to another, a web consultant can ensure you don’t lose any important data or content along the way. Just make sure to find a firm that’s well-versed in whatever platforms you’re using (e.g., Drupal, WordPress, or Blackbaud CMS).
- Website maintenance. It's not enough to simply build an expertly-designed website; you'll also need the support on hand to regularly conduct website maintenance to ensure your site continues to serve your community well. Find a firm that offers regular site maintenance as a core service.
Web development agencies can offer a variety of services and specialties, so it’s important that nonprofits find consultants who understand their specific goals and needs.
Nonprofits need to work with a partner who understands their website objectives as well as other important factors, such as the types of software that will work in conjunction with their site.
To learn more about the role that a consultant can play in migrating content and other types of data before a website launch, check out this post from the nonprofit consultants at DNL OmniMedia!
3. Streamline your site’s user experience.
No matter how well-intentioned your website, if you don’t follow through in making the site fully functional and easy-to-use, visitors will flee faster than you can blink!
With that in mind, now that you have some insight into first steps for laying out your website strategy on the whole, let’s dive into some concrete must-haves and must-avoids for the actual design of your site.
We recommend keeping these do’s and don’t’s in mind when you’re creating your site:
- Do include user-friendly navigation. A simple top navigation bar should appear on every page of your site, except for your donation page. Keep the tabs simple, with titles no longer than 4 words (such as “About Us,” “Our Team,” “Get Involved,” etc).
- Don’t forget to brand each page. To appear professional (and trustworthy), you should include consistent branding on each page of your site. Pick a simple color palette, no more than 3 fonts, and a professional logo that represents your organization.
- Do integrate your website with your CRM. To make data capture easy, you should make sure your website can communicate with your constituent (or customer) relationship management software. That way, any time a user signs up for more information, registers for an event, or makes a donation, their information will flow into your database seamlessly.
- Don’t cram in too many elements. Less is always more when it comes to web design. If you want your users to stay on your site longer, take a simple approach. Keep text blocks short, only include multimedia that adds value, and resist the urge to go overboard with design elements.
Of course, these are just a few examples of how you can design a site that’s easily navigable and simple for users.
When in doubt, test out your website yourself. Have multiple members of your team, a test pool of supporters, or your board try out the site.
If you still have questions or concerns, don't forget that your website consultant is there to help. They can aid your team in identifying design red flags and coming up with a plan of action to improve your site's user experience before it negatively affects your online engagement strategy.
4. Keep mobile users in mind.
These days, it seems like everybody is using their smartphones 24/7. That being the case, you’ll be missing a major opportunity if you don’t tailor your web design to meet a mobile audience.
Engaging mobile site visitors isn’t much different than engaging desktop users, but there are a few key factors you should keep in mind to make sure your site looks just as good on a small screen as it does a large one.
Most web design firms or site-builders will automatically optimize your content for mobile to some extent, but these tips will help you go above and beyond to ensure a smooth experience on any screen:
- Use a vertical layout. Users shouldn’t have to pinch at their screens or drag your page back and forth to see all of the content on your site. A vertical layout will ensure they can scroll through without missing anything.
- Choose large, easy-to-read fonts. Don’t make your supporters strain their eyes! Select a font size that reads easily on even the smallest phone screen and keep paragraphs short with ample line height.
- Keep the design simple. While an intricate design might impress desktop users, mobile readers will likely become frustrated if they can’t get to the content they need because of too many elements blocking their view.
If your desktop website is particularly complex, you can always work with your web development team to design a unique mobile-friendly version that strips away some of the more sophisticated elements in favor of a streamlined, scrollable view.
Don’t forget to keep your donation or registration forms in mind when mobile optimizing, too. Mobile donations (including gifts made through text to donate services) are becoming increasingly popular, so you should make sure that smartphone and tablet users can quickly and conveniently make a gift on their favorite devices.
5. Provide a clear call-to-action for your site’s visitors.
You’ve designed a stellar site that your supporters love. They’ve checked out your homepage, learned all about your mission, and even met your team, so…now what?
Providing tangible next steps for your website’s visitors guarantees that you don’t miss out on a chance to secure a donation, event or volunteer registration, or email newsletter sign-up.
Your next steps will depend entirely upon your organization’s website objectives, so you’ll have to determine those goals before proceeding. Once you know what you’d like to achieve through your site, follow through with these tips in mind:
- Prominently feature your donation button. For nonprofits, winning donations is typically the primary purpose of a website. To accomplish that goal, include brightly colored donation buttons on every page as well as in your navigation bar.
- Include a Ways to Get Involved page. Show supporters all the ways they can have an impact on one centralized page. Promote upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, membership information, matching gift programs, or any other options for involvement.
- Include a social sharing option. Let your site’s visitors market your mission for you by including a social sharing widget on your website. That way, supporters can quickly direct their online networks to your website via email, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
- Highlight your employment or volunteer opportunities. If expanding your organization is a priority, make sure your website visitors are well aware! Place a link to your Careers or Volunteer Opportunities page in your top navigation bar and on your Ways to Get Involved page.
A quick once-over of your website might be a user’s first interaction with your brand, but it should never be their last.
Whether you’re encouraging visitors to donate, volunteer, share your mission, apply for an open position, or simply learn more about your cause, placing calls-to-action throughout your site will help keep visitors involved with your nonprofit after they click off your site—and hopefully, keep them coming back in the future!
With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to a stronger online presence without any of the hassle.
If you’re a nonprofit looking for a way to holistically manage your website in conjunction with other online marketing and fundraising efforts, consider Blackbaud’s Luminate Online Marketing suite!
To learn the basics of how this powerful product can impact your online strategy, check out the guide to Luminate Online from DNL OmniMedia.
Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together, DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues.