If your organization needs some guidance on nonprofit website design best practices, read on – we’re sharing some of our favorite tips.
Nonprofits bear the burden of competing in a crowded digital marketplace and creating unforgettable brand experiences that garner attention from donors. However, some nonprofits may not realize how poor website performance may be reducing their visibility.
Given that many nonprofits operate primarily with communication teams and marketing staff who may not be tech-savvy, it’s common to see nonprofit websites become neglected with outdated designs, poor navigation, or other technical issues that cut into donations.
Nonprofit marketing is a game of getting creative with solutions to maximize the available budget and connect with readers. Many nonprofits opt to work with web design agencies that can walk them through the details and help create strategies to garner interest. While nonprofit websites can be built and managed in-house, most find the simplicity and expertise of working with a design partner to be well worth the investment.
Define Your Target Audience
If your first reaction to that statement is “everyone,” full stop. Let’s take a step back.
While it’s tempting to cast a wide net and attempt to get your message in front of as many eyes as possible, this usually isn’t the best approach. Most nonprofit organizations’ websites perform better when they focus on a segmented audience and tailor messages to that market accordingly.
This messaging applies to your website copy, call-to-action (CTA) messaging, email templates, email communications, and any other on-site resources. It also applies to broader website decisions such as navigation. Consider that nonprofit sites that target older, less tech-savvy readers will need a certain level of simplicity and transparency compared to those aimed at younger crowds.
Perform research on your donor demographics as you optimize your nonprofit graphic design and make sure you know to whom you’re speaking.
Find the Right Hosting Service
Web hosting for charities, foundations, and other good causes must balance several important factors:
Affordability over time
Security for donation transaction processing
Help and support options
Potential scalability as you grow
In particular, the balance between cost and security will be an essential element. Many hosting providers offer discounts for nonprofits and other noble causes, so do your research before committing to any long-term plans. It’s also good practice to select a host with 24/7 helpdesk availability to address any technical issues that may appear.
Select a Quality CMS for Your Website
Hosting is all about finding a home for your website, but choosing an ideal content management system (CMS) is another crucial factor. The CMS is the “engine” that keeps the nonprofit’s website and content strategy running. Some of the most popular choices today are WordPress and Drupal, both of which can be built on relatively quickly and support custom-developed features unique to your organization’s needs.
In practical terms, this means that a nonprofit’s marketing team can easily post and update content without any extensive technical know-how. These user-friendly platforms are also easy to integrate with other marketing services, such as Salesforce, MailChimp, HubSpot, or external donation websites like GiveButter, offering a feature-rich user experience that can be managed in-house or through a developer partner.
As an added bonus, these platforms are easy to support by any technical team with experience with WordPress or Drupal, which gives nonprofits flexibility in which web agencies they choose to work with.
Mobile browsing via smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets is the way the world is moving. Nonprofit websites should embrace this and optimize their web design for mobile browsing.
The “reasons why” come down to usability and trust; even if someone wants to view your nonprofit website, few visitors will bother with a glitchy, clunky webpage that doesn’t appear correctly on their device. This drives users away and creates a sense of unprofessionalism. It’s hard enough to get donors to part with their dollars as it is, and when your website is a challenge to use, you’re harming your nonprofit’s brand and missing out on potential donations.
Make sure your web design partner helps you build out a strategy for responsive web design. This type of mobile-first strategy will automatically detect the dimensions of every user’s device and send the correct website layout to his/her screen, ensuring that all site elements appear as they should.
Deploy the Right Calls to Action (CTAs) Across Your Site
CTAs are your website’s primary conversion points. These elements represent a turning point in your marketing funnel where a website visitor expresses interest in continued interaction with your organization. (In marketing parlance, this is the point where a visitor becomes a prospect in your sales funnel.)
Typical CTAs ask for one of several types of engagement:
Donate money directly
Sign up for newsletters or email blasts
RSVP for local events or volunteering opportunities
Request more information through online resources
The type of CTA that works best for your website depends on your target audience and your goals. Many websites ask for money directly (typically nonprofits that cast wider nets), while others attempt to attract interested parties and engage them through more conventional marketing means, usually to foster long-term relationships of greater value than a simple donation.
For example, Wikipedia is well-known for its banners that ask readers for a single or ongoing donation, which makes sense for the website and its users. Visitors of all ages and demographics use Wikipedia, and most aren’t able to get involved with the website directly. Thus, a one-time donation is a viable tactic to bring in funds and let readers go on with their day.
On the other hand, a foundation like Habitat for Humanity thrives on getting visitors involved with local events where they can meet with others and put their skills to practical use. For this organization, a more conventional “sales funnel” approach will yield better results than simply asking for a donation.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Many different websites for nonprofits deploy these strategies and most leverage several in tandem. It’s all about having clear organizational goals for your website, knowing your readers, and trying different outreach methods to keep visitors engaged.
Website Best Practices: A/B Test Site Elements
A/B testing is an optimization process where site owners create two (A and B) versions of a particular webpage or website element, deploy it to users, and gauge reactions to see which is better. Just about anything on your website can be A/B tested:
Design and layouts
In particular, CTAs are a hot topic for A/B testing, as the slightest variation in text or placement can produce big changes to whether users click. The marketing experts at HubSpot found that strategically built CTAs tailored to each user increased CTA engagement by 202%!
Organizations with the available resources should aim to create personalized CTA strategies on their nonprofit website, but even if those resources aren’t available, the takeaway remains the same: The slightest changes to your CTAs can affect the willingness of potential donors to take action. Be aware that A/B testing is an option for improving your website’s revenue generation potential, especially if your site is outdated or underperforming.
Top 10 Nonprofit Websites
Need some nonprofit website design inspiration? The best donate sites to support donations usually share some features in common. We’ve hand-picked 10 examples of foundation websites with great layouts that you can use to spark your creativity.
CH Web Agency offers customized website packages that combine the design and project management skills of an expert team of designers and developers. Get in touch with CH Web Agency today to see if the services offered are what your nonprofit organization is looking for.
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