Today, there are approximately 1.8 million nonprofits operating in the United States. This means there are a wide variety of organizations seeking to make a difference in sectors ranging from promoting local arts initiatives to finding cures for diseases that affect countries across the globe. This number of nonprofits also means that it can be a challenge for any one organization to stand out and build a base of support.
However, expectations for how a nonprofit website looks and operates evolved over the years. Modern nonprofit websites must be professional, eye-catching, and user-friendly to represent their organizations in a positive light. DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit website design emphasizes the amount of time and resources required for creating a website, from outlining initial parameters to designing content and finally going live.
As part of your first step to designing a website, explore other nonprofits’ websites to analyze what they are doing well and how their website design strategies can be adapted for your organization. To help your research, here are four top nonprofit websites and what your organization can learn from them:
- National Partnership for Women & Families
- Mustard Seed Communities
- Better Buying
- North Shore Animal League America
Each section in this article will discuss one of the top nonprofit website’s most notable features, how they create a positive experience for visitors, and what other organizations can learn from them.
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit devoted to improving the lives of women and families by promoting equality for all women. They run initiatives focused on health justice, economic justice, and congressional relations. As such, their website needs to account for these various projects with a streamlined front-end user experience and an efficient back-end user interface.
Specifically, the National Partnership website stands out due to the following features:
- Intuitive advocacy tools. Visitors can immediately join one of the National Partnership’s advocacy campaigns by visiting their “Take Action” page. There, visitors can view ongoing campaigns and how much support each has received. By clicking on an advocacy campaign, visitors are brought to a page with a more detailed campaign description and an advocacy form that will automatically identify their representatives. The page also provides a completed template message that visitors can customize as they please.
- Comprehensive blog content. The National Partnership has over 500 articles hosted on their blog. By posting high-value content regularly, the National Partnership maintains strong relationships with supporters, presents their organization as a thought-leader in their space, and demonstrates to search engines that their website is active and valuable.
- Inspiring donation form. The National Partnership’s donation page is hosted on a separate URL from their main website. However, the page retains consistent branding, color, and other graphic design elements so that most visitors are unlikely to notice. Specifically, along with brand colors, the donation page features a description about what a donation means and an inspiring quote from Michelle Obama to emphasize the importance of the National Partnership’s work.
Overall, the National Partnership’s website is a strong example of how large nonprofits can create multifaceted websites without sacrificing user-friendliness.
The National Partnership’s website covers a wide range of topics, all while presenting a unified, branded interface. When designing your own website, consider partnering with a nonprofit marketing or web design consultant to plan how your core brand elements can be applied to each of your website’s pages.
Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) aims to provide support to children and adults with disabilities in Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Their mission is to provide lifelong care for some of the most vulnerable members of society, and their website helps volunteers learn how to get involved in that mission.
A few notable features from MSC’s website include:
- User-friendly navigation. Upon first visiting MSC’s website, visitors can explore via either the top navigation menu or jump straight to the topics they’re most interested in by clicking on one of the various calls-to-action on the homepage.
- Robust volunteer features. MSC allows volunteers to join a mission trip. These trips obviously require extensive planning, and MSC’s website makes it easy for visitors to learn about the different types of missions, get their questions about missions answered, and see when the next available mission is.
- Wide range of visuals. To demonstrate the importance of their work, MSC’s website features a wide variety of photos. Visitors are even invited to see more by browsing the photo gallery or learning about the pictured beneficiaries by exploring the “Meet the Residents” page.
MSC’s website also is transparent, using an accountability widget in their footer to share that 88% of donations go directly to supporting their mission.
Nonprofits can apply MSC’s approach to volunteer information to their own websites. Consider if your nonprofit’s website can benefit from including interactive calendars, volunteer stories, and an extensive volunteer FAQ. When planning what features to include on your website, work with a consultant to determine how they will impact your timeline and budget.
Better Buying is a nonprofit dedicated to improving factory working conditions and practices to protect workers and the environment. Their website presents information on their various services, how to get involved, and a variety of resources to let visitors know more about the complex world of supply chains and factory management.
Their website has several notable features, such as:
- Valuable downloadable resources. Better Buying uses the data they compile on factories to assemble thorough index reports every year. These reports provide deep dives into specific industries and contain more information than could be reasonably presented on a single website. To share these reports with visitors, Better Buying offers them to visitors as free downloadable resources, demonstrating Better Buying’s position as an industry leader to a wider audience.
- Multiple language options. Better Buying has an international audience, and their website gives visitors the ability to translate the site into their native languages. Visitors can press the translate easy-to-find but non-obtrusive translate button in the lower left hand corner, select the flag that represents their language, and explore Better Buying’s site in their preferred language.
- Simplified design. Nonprofit websites don’t need to be overly complex to have engaging content. Rather, simplified designs, like Better Buying’s, can help a nonprofit’s most engaging content stand out due to minimizing distractions.
Better Buying’s website shows how appealing to your website’s audience by using inclusive language options and valuable resources can help build a more diverse and engaged audience.
While they appear simple, minimalist websites can actually be challenging to design. If your nonprofit is interested in pursuing a similar style of design, consider partnering with a professional web design consulting firm.
North Shore Animal League America (NSALA) is one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in the United States. Donors have several options for how they can support NSALA, from sponsoring a pet or hosting a birthday fundraiser to donating their car or stock holdings.
Of course, most donors will likely choose to make straightforward contributions through NSALA’s donation page. Here are a few elements of their donation form that make it an exceptionally effective fundraising tool:
- Monthly and one-time donation tracks. When choosing how to give, visitors have the option to switch between the monthly and one-time donation tracks. This allows them to compare the suggested donation amounts for each option, which may persuade some supporters to become monthly donors due to its lower amounts.
- Meaningful imagery. The right-hand column of the donation page consists of an image of a dog and cat seemingly holding each other’s paws and a description of how donations can help animals like the ones depicted in the photo. This imagery serves as a last reminder for donors about why their support matters, encouraging them to see their donation through to completion.
- Gift options. Supporters interested in giving on someone else’s behalf have the option to do so easily. They can select the checkbox and will then be prompted to choose one of a variety of cute eCards, write their personal message, and enter the email address of the intended recipient.
Asking for donations can be difficult, but a strong donation page like NSALA’s can make the request easier.
NSALA’s fundraising pages are built using several Blackbaud products, including Luminate Online and Raiser’s Edge. However, their website is constructed in such a way that front-end users will be unaware they are interacting with multiple fundraising tools. If your nonprofit intends to incorporate multiple fundraising tools into your website, consider how they will work together to create a cohesive experience for visitors.
Your nonprofit’s website should represent your organization and create a positive experience for visitors through its branding, navigation, and overall functionality. When redesigning your website, consider what elements of top nonprofit websites would work well on your website and how you can best incorporate them.
About the Author: Carl Diesing
Carl Diesing, Managing Director – 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. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.