5 Best Practices Your Nonprofit Website Needs In 2022
Creating a nonprofit website that is thoughtfully designed is an efficient way to communicate directly to all of your audiences, whether they be existing or prospective community members. You might not have a team of tech savvy masters on your hands, but there are still plenty of ways for you to approach nonprofit website development with a certain degree of confidence.
Nonprofit website building can be a powerful tool for any organization, as long as it is well thought out and has some key ingredients. Here are some of them!
- #1. Define and Anticipate Your Website Needs Carefully
- #2. Choose the CMS Best Suited to Your Nonprofit
- #3. Optimize Your Nonprofit Website for Search Engines
- #4. Facilitate Your Audience’s Journey On Your Website
- #5. Respect Your Nonprofit’s Design Guidelines
#1. Define and Anticipate Your Website Needs Carefully
At the outset of any project, planning is your first step. Before you think through how to choose a domain name, create a clear list of your biggest goals outlining what you wish to achieve by creating a great website. The golden rule here is not to rush the process. If you move hastily, you might overlook an important objective. Take adequate time to think about:
The Target Audience
Before you begin building, ensure you do whatever research is necessary to understand your target audience. The first place to look is within your existing community of donors, members, and volunteers so open up your social media profiles and scroll around. Take a moment to look at the people who like your posts and follow your content. This is an important first step, which is essential to all businesses and organizations and, best of all, can typically be done by your own team!
What are your biggest goals here? Everyone wants to drive organic traffic, but do you have a special interest in creating a larger volunteer base? Maybe you mainly want your website to drive donations with well-placed CTAs and plenty of content showing the impact you have on your community. Whatever it is, get it clearly defined and be sure it is an achievable and measurable goal.
Corinne is taking notes on the objectives she would like to achieve with her website.
Maybe you need a donation page or other dedicated section specifically for people to sign up for a recurring donation (with a donation button) or a monthly subscription. Or, you might be pretty keen on having mini photo slideshows from all of your most recent events in the margins of every page. Imagine the ways you want people to interact with the website, and decide what will be mandatory from there.
Who Will Manage It?
Will you develop your website? Will it be a website team project? An agency? As you choose how this will play out, be sure to think of the longer-term picture so you can make the most responsible decision. If you hire an agency and are unable to make website updates within your team once they are no longer on the payroll, you return to this step all over again. If you choose to manage it alongside a team, create clearly defined methods of open communication amongst them, such as a group chat on a channel you are all familiar with.
Just like anything with a long-term impact on your organization, thinking over decisions like who will build the website, what will be on it, and how it will function will be worth the extra time spent on the front end.
Pro Tip: Anticipate as many possible future needs as you can. While most people expect the financial cost of a build, they tend to overlook the human cost. Unfortunately websites these days do not manage themselves (although we would love it if they did!) Without a clear understanding who will manage the site, and designating a backup in the event the manager decides to take a vacation (this is your subtle reminder to book your next vacation, you deserve it!), the site will get stale and will not help you to achieve your goals as you had hoped.
#2. Choose the CMS Best Suited to Your Nonprofit
There are many solutions to build and manage your nonprofit website. A content management system (CMS) is a system to manage digital content and is particularly useful when there are multiple people involved in the management process.
Your staff should have a firm understanding of how to navigate the CMS you choose. Because websites require regular updates, a lack of understanding will make every change a hassle. The website misses out on valuable functionality if no one can figure out how to fix a misspelled word somewhere. The last thing you want is for a typo to dissuade a prospective member or to cause you to miss out on a potential donation!
Make sure all the different tools you use are able to communicate with each other easily. Your membership and donation software should be completely compatible with the functionality of the website in order to ensure everything can run seamlessly. For example, if you use Springly's CMS, you can insert your membership campaigns into your website in 2 clicks. In addition, all of the member registrations that come through your website will automatically connect to your membership software.
Pro Tip: It is important for nonprofits to avoid using several tools to manage their daily tasks. Look for "all-in one" tools (like Springly, which offers free websites for nonprofits!) instead, allowing you to handle several tasks in one place. Your teams will have an easier time adopting them, it saves time and resources, and it prevents the possibility of some features never being used. Surprisingly, this happens more often than not, meaning most people have software programs that are not being used to their full potential.
#3. Optimize Your Nonprofit Website for Search Engines
Once you have answered the question of what a nonprofit website should include, pay attention to how to plan website structure and the flow of elements to relay that information in the best way possible. This includes the readability of the font, the speed at which your pages are loading, and the fluidity of the page navigation. It can also be incredibly important to make sure it is mobile-friendly, so you can reach all audiences. Any transactional pages (i.e., donations, memberships, or ticket sales) should be high on your priority list since they may be among the most frequently visited pages.
The hierarchy of information and semantics of your website is as equally important as the layout. Ensure you emphasize the most important content and ensure you proofread each title and paragraph carefully. Yes, we know that sounds a given; however, when you have personally read something repeatedly during creation, your eyes can deceive you (trust us when we say this happens to us all the time). Pull in a member of your team and have them view with fresh eyes. Make tweaks wherever necessary and ensure everything is aligned with the tonality you wish to use with your audience. Keep a style guide handy for your communication and make sure your team understands it.
Matt wants to make sure his website ranks highly on search engines!
Relevant links that take visitors from one page to another are good search engine optimization (SEO) practices and help you be more visible on search engines, like Google. As an added bonus, they also help you to display your expertise in the field. Include your links in appropriate places, keep navigation simple, and be sure they lead to sources that bring value to your audience.
Pro Tip: Sticking only to your website and internal pages might limit you in terms of keyword optimization, so we recommend creating a blog or a news section. When done properly, this can boost your viewability significantly. This also gives you a new opportunity to showcase your expertise and passion for your mission with images, stories, and unique content. There are plenty of software options to help you identify valuable keywords, or let an expert do it for you.
#4. Facilitate Your Audience’s Journey On Your Website
With simple and intuitive navigation, from the top navigation on your homepage on down, you can help your supporters move about the different features of the site with ease. Place one call-to-action and do so carefully. Write in a straightforward manner (per Readable, 85% of the public will be able to successfully read your content if written at the 8th-grade level or lower) and make sure each page leads them to other relevant information.
Explore your website with a carefree attitude. Not only should you get feedback from real users, but do your best to have an objective eye in your review. Imagine that you are an average internet user. Pretend you stumble across the page out of the blue as you were scrolling on Instagram. Rate your own experience, and make any necessary structural changes.
Creative yet simple CTAs can be a great way to drive traffic and keep things easy for users. Create clear links to the pages that allow users to create memberships, register for events, and opt-in to your newsletter. If you offer a monthly subscription, include that in your navigation design. Essentially, if you need to funnel attention towards it, make sure it is clickable and accessible.
#5. Respect Your Nonprofit’s Design Guidelines
Try not to forget the fact that your nonprofit website is simply another channel of communication. It has to be consistent with the rest of your brand representation online. If your audience has a picture in their minds of what your logo looks like, they might also remember the smiling faces they saw last time they scrolled through your website. Recognition is imperative to average internet users becoming supporters, so hold steady on your tonality and designs.
Placing visuals and videos mindfully throughout your website can help you to transmit the emotions you wish to convey to your audience. Images and GIFSs can help to lock in the attention of your viewers. You can use photos to tell a story, which is always a quick way to tap into their awareness that much more. Ultimately, adhere to the structure you outlined in the initial stages of the project, and it should be smooth sailing!
Communication with your various audiences can be streamlined through effective website design. Even organizations without a swarm of tech-savvy developers can be up to the challenge if they utilize the right approach. Taking the time to understand your audience and objectives is step one. Once you understand what you are trying to achieve, determine who will support (and how), and then you can start creating optimized content that will hit the mark. Stick to your design guidelines, make your site easy to navigate, and your website will work wonders!
Springly is trusted by over 20,000 nonprofits to help them run their organizations on a daily basis. Try it, test it, love it with a 14-day free trial!