Your website matters
As a nonprofit professional, you know that one of the best parts of your job is connecting with people who care about your mission. Whether you’re dedicated to providing mental health care to teens in marginalized communities or working to raise awareness about environmental issues, it’s people who care that help you drive your work forward.
In the past, nonprofits might connect with people by knocking on doors, calling them at home, or setting up booths at community rec centers. Now it’s increasingly common to connect with supporters online, and in particular, on a website dedicated to your organization.
A well-designed, informative, and easy-to-use website can help you build an online community of people who care about your cause. Most nonprofit professionals, however, have little to no web design experience, making it difficult to design a website that is up-to-par.
To help, we’ve curated five tips to help you design a nonprofit website that looks the part and can help you connect with your community:
- Brand your website to your cause
- Optimize your donation page
- Ensure your website is accessible
- Create an engaging blog
- Use a minimalistic design
The easiest way to put these tips into action and get the results you want is to use the right nonprofit content management system (CMS). A CMS built for nonprofits is designed to take the stress out of the website design experience and make it easier for you to bring your vision to life.
Let’s dive in!
1. Brand your website to your cause
According to Morweb’s guide to the best nonprofit websites, “You don’t have to sacrifice quality content for a captivating website.” A captivating website can make your content stand out, making it more useful for connecting with your donors, volunteers, and other supporters. And part of creating a captivating website is branding it properly.
Your brand is everything that makes your nonprofit stand out from the crowd. It’s how people perceive your organization. That includes how you treat your beneficiaries and donors. Or your reputation in your local area. And how you talk about your work, and your organization’s internal culture, among other things.
Branding also has a large visual component to it. Here are some common visual brand elements to keep in mind:
- Colors: Colors can set the mood on your website. For example, a bright orange color will communicate an energetic, playful mood, while a subtle grey might communicate formality and soberness. Carefully consider what colors you’re using on your website and what they might be conveying to your audience.
- Logos: Your nonprofit logo is a unique, shorthand representation of your organization. For example, McDonald’s golden arches serve as a quick visual reminder of the company’s brand and maybe even get you thinking about French fries. Be mindful about where you place your logos on your web pages.
- Typography: Even the typography on your website — from the fonts you choose to the kerning (the space between individual letters) — contribute to your brand. Aim for a sleek, clean look. Sans serif fonts are best for making sure the text is readable on your website.
Be consistent with your branding. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and have a completely different brand online and offline. In fact, you shouldn’t! With branding, consistency is key to signal what your organization is all about and to help people easily remember your nonprofit.
2. Optimize your donation page
Your donation page is arguably one of the most important parts of your nonprofit website. This is where serious supporters go to contribute to your mission, which makes it crucial that you implement effective donation page design tips. While poor design choices can hold donors back from giving, an effective design will turn your page into a useful tool to streamline donations and maximize support for your cause.
Here are three things to prioritize when sprucing up on your donation page:
- Make it quick and easy to fill out. When a supporter decides to contribute to your mission, they want a donation experience that is fast and easy. Don’t bog them down with unnecessary questions or tons of text to read through. Keep the process simple. This will not only help your supporter make their first donation, but will make them more inclined to use your page to give again!
- Offer multiple giving options. Donors like to have options, especially when it comes to making a difference. Offer multiple ways to give to ensure you’re meeting their needs. For example, you might partner with a matching gift software provider to embed a matching gifts database on your donation page, allowing donors to quickly check their eligibility and easily submit match requests to their employer.
- Remind donors why they’re giving. No one wants to feel like an ATM, so design your page to remind your donors that their money is going to a worthy cause. You might include a video of your executive director thanking them for their contribution at the top of the page, or add pictures of beneficiaries to the page. Keep these elements to a minimum so they make an impact but don’t overwhelm your donors.
Once a supporter lands on your donation page, you want them to stick with the process all the way through seeing an automated thank-you message pop up on their screen. As you incorporate these donation page design tips, it might be helpful to ask a staff member or volunteer to test out your donation page and give you feedback on what could be improved.
3. Ensure your website is accessible
Optimizing your website for accessibility is the process of ensuring that people of all abilities can use your website to learn about your mission, sign up for volunteer opportunities, read your blog, and donate. Organizations that overlook website accessibility issues may struggle to retain the support they’ve worked so hard to get for their cause. A lack of accessibility can communicate that you aren’t looking out for all of your supporters.
To make your website more accessible, do the following:
- Ensure all images have alt-text so that supporters using screen readers won’t have gaps in their website navigation experience.
- Pick high contrast colors and easy-to-read fonts.
- Include transcripts of all multimedia elements such as videos and podcasts.
- Use an accessibility widget that allows users to change the website coloring to greyscale, increase the size of text, highlight text, and change font type to sans-serif.
You never know who might be interested in supporting your cause, and the last thing you want to do is exclude someone from accessing the content on your website to learn more about your work and become involved. By taking the time to ensure your website is accessible, you’ll be opening the door to interactions with even more people who are passionate about what you do.
4. Create an engaging blog
Blogging gives you the chance to regularly create fresh content on your website. Plus, your blog can be a tool that helps you build connections with your supporters as you provide updates on your volunteer program, events, fundraising goals, and more.
To create an engaging blog, you’ll need a solid understanding of storytelling. According to Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling, you should use compelling characters, dramatic arcs, conflicts, resolutions, and supporting data to create compelling blog posts that your supporters will want to read.
For example, say you write a blog post spotlighting a dedicated volunteer. You’d want to start by talking about who they are and what their background is. In other words, you would want to establish them as a compelling character. From there, you might lean into the dramatic arc and solution components of storytelling to introduce a challenge that this volunteer has overcome through giving back to the community. You could then demonstrate the impact this volunteer has had by using supporting data, such as the number of hours volunteered.
Humans are drawn to stories, so using these storytelling strategies can make your supporters more inclined to read your blog posts and return to your website again and again to get more!
5. Use a minimalistic design
When you initially learn about nonprofit website design, it can be tempting to want to take all the tips and tricks you’ve curated and apply them to your website all at once. Often, nonprofit professionals end up overdoing it. That’s why our last tip centers on simplicity.
Throughout the design process, remember the importance of a minimalistic design. Your website can still represent your organization’s brand, serve as a donation tool, be accessible, and host an engaging blog all while not being too overwhelming for your visitors.
Here are some ways to ensure your website maintains simplicity and roots your online presence in your mission instead of your design:
- Use white space. White space is simply the term for the space between elements on a web page. Think of it as breathing room. Maintain this breathing room between patches of text, images, and buttons so your website doesn’t feel cluttered and busy.
- Focus on strategic CTA placement. A call to action (CTA) is a phrase, usually written on a button, that encourages a website visitor to do something, whether that be donating or viewing an image gallery. Too many CTAs can be overwhelming, no CTAs can mean losing out on valuable interaction or support. When it comes to CTA placement, choose wisely.
- Use a banner for your header image. A high quality, eye-catching banner image can capture your website visitors’ interest and make your website look professional. Instead of cluttering your website with a collage of images, choose one that communicates the core of your mission and let it do the talking.
When it comes to designing your nonprofit website, remember that less is more. Focus on making your website usable, accessible, and representative of the mission you’re working hard to move forward.
The work you do as a nonprofit professional isn’t easy, especially when it forces you out of your comfort zone, and most nonprofit professionals don’t moonlight as webmasters. But by using a CMS built for nonprofits and implementing these five tips, you can successfully navigate the world of web design and create a website that your team will be excited to use to connect with your supporters. Good luck!
Murad Bushnaq is the Founder and CEO of Morweb. Since its inception in 2014, Murad has acted as Creative Director and Chief Technologist to help nonprofits spread their vision online through engaging design, intuitive software, and strategic communication.