Nowadays, having a website for your nonprofit is non-negotiable. You need your own internet outpost, a place where both committed supporters and curious website visitors can go to learn about your mission and contribute to your cause.
Luckily, designing a nonprofit website is easier than you may think. Whether you’re working with a designer or taking a DIY route with a user-friendly website builder, there are hundreds of tools at your fingertips that can help you establish a distinct look and identity for your nonprofit online.
But to make your website a truly effective tool for your community of supporters, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing more than just making your site look good. Your site will need substance, too—educational information and useful resources that make it possible for your supporters to take action and help you move your mission forward.
To help, we’ve compiled this short guide walking through three strategies for creating a truly effective nonprofit website:
- Make your mission the star.
- Focus on your donation page.
- Make your site accessible to people of all abilities.
As you explore these strategies, keep in mind what you know about your nonprofit’s target audience. Picture how you can tailor-fit these strategies to their needs and expectations so that your site becomes a resource that they can use on a regular basis to engage with your cause.
1. Make your mission the star.
No nonprofit organization wants a website visitor to leave their site wondering, “What does that nonprofit even do?”
But sometimes nonprofit professionals (especially if you’re new to the world of web design) can get so caught up in the website construction process that they forget to fully center their site on what matters most—their organization’s mission.
Remember, your website is a tool for connecting your organization with prospective supporters. So everything you do to create your website should be done with that purpose in mind. Here are a few ideas for how you can make your mission the star of your site:
- Add an “About Us” or “Our Mission” page. These types of pages give you the chance to clearly explain your mission and its importance. Keep the copy straightforward so it’s easily digestible, explain where the need for your mission stems from, what you’re doing to drive your mission forward, and your vision for when your mission is fulfilled. For a great example of how to write about your mission, check out Live Out Loud’s “About Us” page.
- Tie the visual look of your site to your mission. How your site looks should be reminiscent of what your nonprofit works toward. For example, if your nonprofit is fighting to end heart disease, you might leverage a graphic design strategy that includes images of hearts and the colors pink and red. Research shows that this strategy works because images move us more than words alone. So, using design elements that connect to your mission will help leave a lasting impact on your audience.
- Feature prominent calls-to-action (CTAs) across your site. CTAs are simple statements that encourage people to complete a task, and they’re often accompanied by clickable buttons on websites. Adding CTAs to your various web pages can help refocus your visitors on your mission. For example, if a visitor is browsing your events calendar, they might see a CTA button that says “Help us combat climate change by donating now,” serving as a reminder of what your organization is all about.
2. Focus on your donation page.
An effective and visible nonprofit website will feature a number of useful resources, like a blog, volunteer training materials, or events pages. But the most important resource your website will host is undoubtedly your donation page.
After all, fundraising dollars fuel your nonprofit’s ability to move your mission forward, and you need a donation tool that’s ready to receive your supporters’ contributions on a 24/7, 365 basis. So, if you only have time to thoroughly optimize one resource on your nonprofit’s website, make sure to focus your attention on your donation page.
Here are a few ways you can make your donation page an easy-to-use tool for your donors:
- Ensure the look and feel of your donation page matches the branding on the rest of your website. In other words, avoid letting your donation page look like it’s hosted on a third-party site, even if it is. Consistent branding will make your page look more trustworthy and professional to your supporters, and reassure them that the information they input will be secure.
- Only ask for essential information. Donors don’t want to spend all day answering questions, and if you ask too many, they’ll wonder why you need so much information and might lose interest in donating. Just ask for the basics—contact information and payment details. If you do want to gather more information about your donors, mark additional questions as optional, or provide a link to a separate survey.
- Include plenty of white space. A dense-looking form can feel overwhelming to donors and can be tricky to read. Include plenty of white space on your form to give each question or response field its own breathing room.
- Include guide text above the form fields. Each form field should include helper text so supporters know what to put in the box, such as Email Address and Phone Number. In some forms, this guide text only appears dimly inside the box and disappears when a visitor begins typing. Make sure to put guide text above the form field as well so that it stays in place and is visible to screen readers. This helps make your form more user-friendly and accessible.
Beyond these basics, you can take your donation page to the next level by offering your supporters multiple ways to donate. For example, you could offer the option to make a one-time gift a recurring donation, or provide suggested giving amounts.
You can also add a matching gift database to your donation form, empowering donors to find out whether or not their employers offer donation matching. This is an easy way for donors to give more without reaching back into their wallets, and not many people know about it! In fact, according to Double the Donation, an estimated $4-7 billion dollars in matching gifts is left on the table every year. Don’t let your nonprofit lose out on this great source of funding!
3. Make your site accessible to people of all abilities.
According to Cornershop Creative, to make your nonprofit website one of the best out there, it should be a resource that can be used by anyone, including people with disabilities. Optimizing for accessibility isn’t just important for expanding your nonprofit’s community, either. Nonprofit websites are increasingly being considered “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning that nonprofits may face legal action if their sites aren’t usable by individuals with disabilities.
Here are a few ways you can make your site more accessible:
- Add alt-text to all images. Alt-text is used by tools like screen readers to explain what an image is to a website visitor who can’t see the image. This should be one short, descriptive sentence that explains what the image is and its relevance to the rest of the content on the page.
- Provide transcripts or captioning on multimedia elements. This is especially important for website visitors who are hearing impaired. Provide comprehensive transcripts or captioning for videos, audio clips, and podcasts.
- Use easy-to-read fonts. No one wants to decipher the copy on your website letter-by-letter. Use legible fonts to get your messages across. Sans-serif fonts that are sized 14px and above are generally the most readable!
- Use design elements with a high contrast ratio. A high contrast ratio also enhances your site’s readability, so skip jarring and hard-to-see colors like neon pink against purple and opt for something easier on the eyes, like black text on a white background.
Web accessibility also takes into account the devices users are on when they’re exploring your site. Ensure that your website is optimized for mobile devices so that visitors can easily read and interact with your content whether they’re viewing it on a phone, tablet, or computer.
To learn more about web accessibility, review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created by the World Wide Web Consortium.
Your nonprofit’s website can play a lot of roles in your work, serving as a marketing tool, a donation platform, and an educational resource. This is why it’s so important to approach the design process with deliberation and the ability to look past great aesthetics to what matters most—your mission and how your supporters engage with it.
Use these three strategies to begin creating an effective nonprofit website. You can also rely on the help of experts, working with a nonprofit web design company to bring your vision to life!