1- Know your audience

The best non-profit websites have one thing in common, they are clear about who they are trying to reach and their organizational mission is obvious from first glance. Before starting the building or redesign process, ask whether you are building a website that is focused “in” towards your current base or “out” into the wider community? Even if the answer is both, creating a powerful website requires some careful thinking about who you most need to reach right now. With today’s content management systems, it is easy for a website to grow and evolve as your needs change. Don’t get caught trying to make this the “one website to beat them all” only to have it skim the surface and not fully meet the needs of anyone.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Are you trying to get information, news, and events to your current volunteers and participants?
  • Are you trying to show value and engagement to your current donors with future donations as your goal?
  • Are you looking to expand your volunteer and donor base into part of the community that may not already know you?
  •  Are you hoping your website will create better brand recognition in your area, the wider community, or nationally?

Prioritizing the answers to these questions will help you choose layouts or templates more effectively. For example, for increasing volunteer engagement, you may find that a “news-style” homepage is best. On the other hand, for those trying to spread their mission and grow their mailing list, a landing page with nothing but the mission statement, an inspiring image, and a sign up form might be best without the clutter of navigation and sidebars to detract from the goal. Here is a great article Daphne Sidor called Landing Page vs Home Page: When to use each one. Having clear goals for who you trying to reach will allow you to create your best non-profit website.

2- Simplify as much as possible

Creating a contemporary, uncluttered website is required in order to be competitve online. Ask yourself:

  • is the Donate button easily accessible on every page?
  • Is the Newsletter sign up big and easy to fill out on a mobile device?
  • Do my readers know what my organization is about and what we want them to do?

Here is some excellent advice from Characteristics of a Truly Effective Nonprofit Website by Britt Vogel

Clear Calls to Action to Guide Visitors

A visitor searching your website for ways to take action and coming up with nothing should be every nonprofit’s worst nightmare.

Effective websites don’t leave interested people hanging. They tell visitors exactly how to engage with strategically-placed calls to action.

Creating and highlighting opportunities for visitors to take action is vital to increasing overall support. Everything from signing up for your newsletter to sharing a blog post on social media puts them on the path toward becoming a volunteer or donor one day. Make sure your website visitors know the options available to them.

Simple Forms and Processes

Showing people how they can engage is only part of it. Once you’ve shown them what to do, you need to make the action easy for them to complete. There’s nothing worse than clicking on a call to action only to find a confusing, overwhelming, extensive form on the other end of that click.

Effective websites make taking action easy.

Most people don’t want to share every bit of their personal information with your nonprofit, and probably won’t stick around to fill out a super long form. No matter if it’s a newsletter sign up or a donation form, go bare bones on the information you require. Don’t ask for information you aren’t going to use.

In the case of today’s websites, more is not always better. Your audience will often be accessing your website from a mobile device while on the go. Your user may be arriving on an inner page of your website from social media, search, or a link, rather than via the home page. Don’t assume everyone comes in the “font door”. Make sure that all of your pages have simple, easy access to your donate, sign up, or sign in calls to action.

I hope you found these two tips helpful as you begin planning to build or redesign your non-profit website. I plan to continue adding posts to Tips for Creating the Best Non-Profit Website over the next few days. If there are specific topics you would like covered, please leave a comment.

Happy planning!

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