Nonprofit organizations play a critical role in society by providing services, driving social change, and enriching communities. In today’s digital world, having an effective online presence through a website can help nonprofits increase awareness, share their mission, connect with supporters, and raise funds. However, many nonprofits have limited staff resources and tight budgets. This often makes building and maintaining a high-quality website challenging.
Using a user-friendly website builder designed specifically for nonprofits can be an excellent solution. Website builders provide pre-designed templates, drag-and-drop editing features, and built-in tools to streamline website creation without needing advanced technical skills. When used strategically, they enable nonprofits of all sizes to create professional, engaging websites that help further their goals.
This article will provide nonprofit organizations with best practices and expert recommendations on leveraging website builders effectively. It covers key factors to consider when choosing a website builder, tips for customizing the platform to fit your nonprofit’s brand and needs, optimizing the site for target audiences, driving traffic and conversions, and updating content over time. Following these best practices can help nonprofits build a website that bolsters their online presence and supports their mission.
Choosing the Right Website Builder
With the wide range of website builders available today at varying price points, it’s important to choose the right platform for your nonprofit’s specific needs and budget. Here are some key factors to evaluate when selecting a website builder:
Nonprofit Specific Platform: Seek out a website builder that is designed specifically for nonprofits. They provide templates, themes, and features tailored to the needs of mission-driven organizations. Examples include Donorbox and Give Lively.
Cost: Compare pricing models across website builders. Some charge monthly subscriptions, while others allow you to pay annually. Take advantage of any discounted rates for nonprofits. Also confirm what features are included versus only available at premium pricing tiers.
Ease of Use: Assess the overall user experience and learning curve of the website builder. Nonprofits often have limited staff resources to dedicate to website management, so a platform that is intuitive and easy to use is critical.
Design Flexibility: Evaluate how much design customization and branding options are available with the various templates. Nonprofits will want to tailor the look and feel to fit their organization.
Built-in Nonprofit Tools: Determine what nonprofit-specific features come built-in, like donation forms, event listings, volunteer sign-ups, email newsletters, etc. These can simplify website creation.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Since nonprofits rely heavily on online discoverability, the website builder should include SEO best practices such as alt text, metadata, and page speed optimization.
Security: Assess the security measures and compliance standards of the website builder, which are important when accepting donations online. Look for SSL certification and PCI compliance at a minimum.
By evaluating these factors, nonprofit organizations can narrow down their options and select the website builder that best aligns with their budget, needs and goals.
Customizing the Look and Feel
Once a website builder platform is selected, investing time in customizing the design is crucial for nonprofits. An aesthetically pleasing and branded website helps establish credibility, allows your mission to shine, and engages your target audiences. Here are tips for customizing the look:
Colors: Incorporate your nonprofit’s brand colors into the template styling. This helps reinforce brand identity. Ensure proper contrast between background and text colors for readability.
Logo: Upload your nonprofit’s logo and add it to the header of all pages. This boosts brand recognition.
Imagery: Showcase high-quality photos and videos that humanize your mission and connect with visitors emotionally. Be sure to have consent for photos of people.
Fonts: Choose 1-2 fonts that align with your nonprofit’s identity. Combining a serif and sans serif font helps content read smoothly.
Navigation menu: Ensure your main pages and programs have clear navigation links customized to your organizational structure. This aids site usability.
Page layouts: Adapt column widths, content sections, and text styling to fit your brand persona and create visual hierarchy. Use white space effectively.
Favicon: Add a favicon to represent your nonprofit in browser tabs.
Take advantage of any custom CSS options your website builder provides for advanced styling changes. The design touches bring cohesion and reinforce brand identity throughout the site.
Optimizing for Your Audience
Nonprofit websites serve diverse target audiences like donors, volunteers, program partners, policymakers, journalists, and the local community. When customizing your nonprofit site, tailor content and design elements to resonate with each of these visitor groups. Here are some optimization tips:
Calls-to-Action (CTAs): Add visible calls-to-action based on what you want each visitor group to do, such as donate, volunteer, sign up for a newsletter, or get involved.
Key Messaging: Emphasize the nonprofit’s mission, community impact, values, and differentiators that will connect with visitors and inspire them to support your work.
Program Pages: Highlight the nonprofit’s signature programs with dedicated pages that speak to prospective participants and partners. Include photos, testimonials, and calls to get involved.
Staff Bios: Build trust and rapport by introducing your team through short, engaging bios. Include headshots and relevant background.
Storytelling: Share compelling stories that put a human face on the nonprofit’s services, advocacy, and community impact. Stories help visitors emotionally engage.
Localization: Customize messaging, images, and calls-to-action based on geographic target audiences. This helps site visitors feel personally connected to the mission.
SEO Optimizations: Use relevant keywords and optimize page elements like title tags, headers, alt text, and metadata to help different audiences find your site through search engines.
Keeping these optimization tips in mind as you customize your nonprofit website for each target demographic helps ensure your content resonates, educates, inspires action, and ultimately furthers your mission.
Driving Traffic to the Site
An excellent website is only effective if people can find it. Nonprofits should leverage a mix of strategies to drive traffic to their newly created site. Here are some best practices:
Leverage Email Lists: Send emails announcing the new website to your email list subscribers and prompt them to explore it. Offer a compelling reason to visit, like seeing new photos or upcoming events.
Social Media: Promote the website across your nonprofit’s social media channels. Share previews of the new design and highlights of key information pages tailored to each platform’s audience.
Newsletters: Announce and highlight the new website in upcoming email newsletters. Provide an incentive for current readers to visit, like finding a new program feature.
Media Contacts: Let media contacts and supporters in your network know about the updated website and encourage them to share it. Make it easy with quick sample posts.
Google Search: Use Google webmaster tools to submit your new website to Google’s index. Create and verify a Google My Business listing.
Update Listings: Ensure your nonprofit’s updated web address is listed properly on key directories like VolunteerMatch, Idealist.org, and any relevant coalitions.
Outreach Emails: Personally reach out to partner organizations, funders, referral sources, and other stakeholders inviting them to explore the new website.
Paid Ads: Consider investing even a small budget into targeted Facebook, Instagram, or Google ads to introduce the updated website to new audiences.
Website Credits: Add a “Website design by XYZ Website Builder” credit on the Footer menu to showcase how you built an affordable site.
Consistently driving qualified traffic takes work, but implementing these best practices helps nonprofit websites reach and engage their target audiences.
Converting Visitors to Take Action
A key goal of nonprofit websites is driving visitors to take action, whether it be donating, signing up to volunteer, registering for an event, or spreading the word. Here are best practices for converting website visitors:
Donation Form: Make donating easy by having a simple and secure online donation form built directly into the website. Allow one-time or recurring monthly donations.
Calls-to-Action: Include clear calls-to-action across all pages tailored to what you want visitors to do – “Donate Now”, “Sign Up to Volunteer”, etc.
Social Sharing: Add social media share buttons and graphics encouraging visitors to share your content to help expand reach.
Email Sign-Up: Use opt-in boxes to gather email addresses for your newsletter list to build ongoing engagement. Offer a small incentive like a free toolkit.
Events Calendar: Feature an events calendar prominently highlighting upcoming activities for visitors to directly register and get involved.
Volunteer Portal: Build ways for visitors to explore volunteer opportunities and submit interest forms right on your website.
Testimonials: Sprinkle authentic stories and testimonials throughout your site about how visitors can make an impact and help further the mission.
Trust Symbols: Install trust indicators like security seals and certifications so visitors feel confident engaging with your nonprofit.
Speed: Optimize page load speed so visitors don’t lose patience waiting for your site to load. This improves conversions.
Analytics: Use Google Analytics to track key conversion metrics and optimize pages over time to increase desired actions.
Optimizing your nonprofit website to actively drive conversions takes strategic planning but pays dividends by boosting donor numbers, volunteerism, event participation, and overall support of your mission.
Updating Content and New Features Over Time
Websites require ongoing maintenance as information changes and new features are added. For resource-constrained nonprofits, it’s smart to have a website management plan to sustain the site over the long run. Here are some upkeep best practices:
Designate Website Manager(s): Have 1-2 staff members officially responsible for assigned areas of website upkeep based on their roles and skills.
Governance: Develop and document website policies, processes, permissions, and protocols to streamline management activities in alignment with your nonprofit’s standards.
Content Calendar: Plan out a quarterly content calendar to schedule needed website updates like new program highlights, upcoming events, donor features, news posts, etc.
Make Common Updates Easy: Ensure new blog posts, news articles, events, and other frequently updated elements can be published directly by designated staff through an intuitive content management system.
Watch for Broken Links: Use online tools like Xenu Link Sleuth to periodically scan for and fix any broken links on the website. Don’t let them undermine credibility.
Keep Software Updated: Use automated updates for plugins, themes, and other website software to maintain performance and close security gaps as technology improves.
Backups: Schedule regular website backups through your website host so content can be restored in emergencies. Also manually back up downloads, images, and databases.
Review Analytics: Revisit site analytics dashboards periodically to identify new opportunities for growth. Look at popular pages, referral sources, and conversions.
Refresh Design Elements: Rejuvenate the look and feel of the website every 2-3 years with updated color schemes, fonts, photos, icons, and layouts.
By dedicating resources to keeping your nonprofit website updated over time, you ensure it remains an accurate, functional, and strategic asset furthering your mission.
For resource-constrained nonprofits, leveraging an affordable and easy-to-use website builder can make an overwhelming process of creating and managing a website much more achievable. Strategically customizing the platform with nonprofit best practices in mind allows organizations to reap significant benefits. With a professional online presence, nonprofits can increase their reach, drive engagement, accept donations, manage volunteers, promote events, and advance their mission. Investing in website creation and maintenance pays valuable dividends. Nonprofits owe it to their organization and communities to tell their story and share their purpose as widely as possible through an exceptional website.