The importance of your nonprofit website can’t be overstated. It is your online home base, your 24/7 digital presence, and in today’s internet-driven age, it is where people go to find your programs and services. It is also where donors and stakeholders go to research your mission and vision, and where community members check out opportunities to become involved.
With that being said, it is alarming that many nonprofits don’t prioritize their websites. They are visually unappealing and not optimized for mobile use, program information is difficult to find, and the pathway to make online donations can be nonexistent.
In this post we’ll address the above concerns and list 7 features you need to build a great nonprofit website and help you reach your goals.
1. Clear overview of your mission
Your nonprofit website should have a clear and concise way to communicate your purpose. While this needs to reflect your mission, you do not need to copy and past your mission statement onto the homepage. What you do need is a summary statement that tells visitors what your organization is all about. This should be clear and easy to find so that first time visitors are quickly able to identify your purpose and the space that you work in.
Your site should also include the full version of your mission statement, vision statement, and values in the About section of your website. This is important for donors, granting organizations, and others who may need to review these items as part of their gifting policies.
2. Visually appealing design
The look and feel of your website is important in helping convey emotions and building trust with users. The images you use, the fonts you select, and the colours of your brand all help tell the story of your organization. The style of your site should reflect your brand and values.
Images can be difficult for nonprofits as we can’t always use real photos of our clients – it sometimes just isn’t appropriate to ask. But taking the time to find the right images can mean the difference in people understanding the work you do or finding your stock photos to be cheesy and turning them off. Stock photos can look real, and they do not need to feel contrived. Look for images that are representative of your clientele and the work you do.
Colours and fonts should be taken from your brand guidelines (assuming you have that for use). It may not be possible to find exact fonts ready for web use, but look for examples that fit your look and feel. Consistency is important in branding, so ensure your design reflects your offline presence.
3. Being technically sound and quick matters
Yes, you have a nonprofit organization, but that isn’t an excuse for a poorly functioning website. People today have a standard of how a website should operate. Like business sites, a nonprofit website needs to be responsive (mobile and desktop friendly), be secured by SSL, and they need to load relatively quickly.
Most of these can be handled by setting your website up properly when it is being built. Solid hosting looks after site speed and security, and any new site today should be responsive out of the box. If you have a dated site that loads slowly and doesn’t perform properly on mobile it may be time to look at creating a new website.
4. Highlight ways that people can get involved
Make it easy for people to get involved with your organization by prominently featuring them on your website. If an organization has volunteer, fundraising, and other opportunities, we’ll typically create a Get Involved section for the website and list it in the main header of the site so it is easy to find.
Make the effort to build out each section fully. Saying you have volunteer opportunities isn’t enough to engage people. Specifically, list out each volunteer job with a description of the activities required, timeframes, and any special information, and don’t forget to list the contact details or have a form to complete to make it easy for people to apply.
Likewise, fundraising events, third party events, and any other upcoming ways to participate need their own sections. The more detailed you are and the more questions you answer upfront will lessen any outstanding concerns and make it more likely for people to take action.
5. Make donations easy
This one is obvious, but not always executed properly: Make it easy for people to give you money online.
From a bright donation button in the header of your site, to clear buttons to lead to the donation page throughout, it is imperative that you make this clear. There is nothing more awkward than a donor calling your reception saying they can’t find the way to make a donation online and having to explain how to find the forms on your website.
Building trust on the website also ensures that people will follow through with their intent to donate. Having an SSL certificate is key, and so are clear forms that ask the right questions and look “trustworthy”. Using software programs like Keela or Canada Helps will go a long way in ensuring people are comfortable with putting their credit card information into your forms.
6. Showcase your programs and services
People should be able to easily find information about your programs and how to get involved. Include an overview of what you do, as well as specific details such as contact information, program dates and locations, eligibility requirements, etc. If you have online registration forms, make sure they’re prominently featured and easy to use.
Your programs and services should be listed as a menu item in your header, with sub-sections and specific program pages laid out below. You’ll need to decide if it is best to list all programs on one page, or if you need to have a separate page for each individual program. Typically we’ll lean towards a page per program as this makes it easier to share online and can be easier for users when they visit the page.
7. Have new and updates
For nonprofit organizations, communicating with your stakeholders is ongoing work. Your supporters, volunteers, community members, politicians, and people with general information can all come to your website to see what you have been up to. While we focus on engaging with our clients first, having a clear news or blog section where you can tell more about the work you do is a good practice. Updates, news, opinions, events, and stories about your work are all appropriate to host on your website.
Wrapping it up
Your website is your online face of your organization. Putting your best foot forward with every interaction starts with having a site that communicates who you are, is easy for your visitors to use, and highlights the programs and opportunities for involvement.
By having these 7 features on your website, you can ensure that it’s an effective tool for promoting your nonprofit organization and achieving your goals. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of your nonprofit website.