Your nonprofit’s website is one of the most important outreach tools you have at your disposal. It serves as a hub of information where supporters can learn about your mission, get involved, and contribute to your cause. Because of this, your website also heavily influences the rest of your organisation's digital marketing strategy, since all of the other materials you create will be more effective if they tie back to your website.
Balancing quality content and stylistic features when designing your website will help visitors to it have the best possible experience and get the most out of it. In this article, we’ll discuss five great ways to maximize your website’s potential:
- Keep your nonprofit’s mission at the forefront.
- Understand your audience.
- Maintain consistent visual branding.
- Integrate storytelling into your web design.
- Promote your website through your nonprofit’s other marketing channels.
According to Loop, the best nonprofit websites contain content that’s both engaging and informative for supporters, in addition to being easy to navigate and visually appealing. While it’s possible for nonprofits to come up with a great website design in-house, many don’t have the time or resources to take their sites to the next level. Instead, consider partnering with a creative agency that will work with you on website design and answer questions during the process.
1. Keep your nonprofit’s mission at the forefront
Your website can be useful in furthering your nonprofit’s initiatives and bringing in donations, but this will only happen if supporters understand your nonprofit’s mission. Even if their first encounter with your nonprofit comes through another communication channel, like your social media profiles or word of mouth, they’ll likely visit your website for more information before they decide whether to get involved.
In your nonprofit website builder, create an “about” page detailing your mission and vision to ensure it’s transparent and easy to find. But the “About” page is not the only place on your nonprofit’s website to focus on your mission—you can (and should) integrate it into every page of your website. To get started, try the following strategies:
- Add images and videos that highlight the impact of your mission. Photos of volunteers enjoying their work or showing your impact on the people you serve (make sure you ask for their permission first) can help potential supporters to visualise your nonprofit’s work and show interesting ways to get involved.
- Write website copy that is easy to read on a screen. People process text that they read on their computers and mobile devices differently than when they read in print, so they may have trouble wading through large blocks of writing on your website to pull out notable details. Break up the text on your site using short paragraphs and bullet points, and put the most important information above the fold (at the top of a page) so it’s easy to spot.
- Personalise your donation pages and thank-yous. Besides making your online donation process more streamlined for supporters to use, personalised donation content on your website will allow you to restate your mission by letting donors know how their gifts will make a difference.
Keeping your nonprofit’s mission at the forefront of your entire website will ensure that supporters know exactly what you do, in addition to making a stronger argument for why they should donate, volunteer, or otherwise engage with your organisation.
2. Understand your audience
In addition to highlighting your mission, understanding your audience can make your website design much more effective. Once you know exactly who your nonprofit is targeting, you can shape your site to meet their needs.
To begin researching your nonprofit’s audience, follow these three steps:
Determine what demographics your organisation attracts. Some common demographic factors to consider include age, gender, location, education level, wealth, and family status.
Analyse your supporters’ past engagement. Considerations here include the type of involvement each supporter has had with your organisation (donating, volunteering, attending events, etc.), how recently and frequently they’ve engaged, their lifetime value to your organisation, the amount of time they’ve devoted to your nonprofit, and their motivation for involvement.
Segment your supporters. Consider your demographic and engagement data together to create supporter segments, or groups that share similar characteristics across relevant areas. Some examples may include major donors (who are likely wealthy and have a long history with your nonprofit) or volunteers recruited through social media (who are probably young and may have room to grow their engagement over time).
Your website’s homepage and about page will likely need to target your audience broadly. But you can design other pages of your website, like your donation page, lists of volunteer opportunities, or educational resources, to appeal to certain segments of your audience, cultivating engagement further over time.
3. Maintain consistent visual branding
Branding matters for nonprofits because even though your organisation isn’t selling a product or service like most traditional brands, you’re still selling something—your impact. Your nonprofit brand should reflect your mission. Using it consistently across your website and other marketing materials helps supporters to recognize them immediately.
Adding your nonprofit’s branding into your web design will also help you to stand out from similar organisations that potential supporters may come across online. This is especially true of visual branding aspects. When you design your nonprofit’s website include, focus on these visual elements:
- Fonts. Use the same fonts across all pages of your website. To add visual variety, try choosing two brand typefaces: one for headings and one for body text. But know that using more than three fonts may give your site a cluttered look.
- Colours. Most brands pick a few main colours, although there’s no limit to how many you can use as long as they’re consistent. Keep in mind that colour psychology heavily influences branding—for example, red is often associated with passion and strength, while blue is associated with trust and professionalism. So, pick colours that represent what you want your audience to think about your organisation.
- Logo. Design a noticeable logo using your brand fonts and colours. To make it memorable for your audience, put it in the same spot on each page of your website.
- Images and videos. Any photos or graphics you use on your website will be most effective if they appeal to your audience and are relevant to your organisation’s mission. For example, instead of using generic stock images, take your own photos of your projects and programs so that your audience can see exactly what they’ll be supporting when they engage with your nonprofit.
A best practice in web design to ensure consistency is to create a living brand guide detailing what each of these elements are and how your nonprofit uses them. This guide will serve as a reference point for everyone inside and outside of your organisation who may work on your website, and you’ll be able to update it over time.
4. Integrate storytelling into your web design
While visual branding piques supporters’ interest when they visit your nonprofit’s website, engaging donors online becomes even more effective when you use your site to tell stories. Storytelling creates a more memorable experience for supporters, since people are much more likely to remember stories than facts alone. Also, stories engage their emotions to create a deeper connection with your mission.
Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling suggests these tips as a starting point for your stories:
- Choose a compelling main character. In the past, many nonprofits tended to make a donor the main character of their story, but this strategy is outdated. Instead, featuring someone who your nonprofit’s services have impacted is more likely to inspire action from your audience as they’ll be able to associate your mission with a face and name. For example, an animal shelter might tell a story about a dog who their volunteers cared for and matched with an adoptive family.
- Write a beginning, middle, and end. You may be tempted to jump straight to the end of your story to explain the resolution and ask your audience to take action. But the beginning and middle of your story are essential to establish your characters, explain the problem you want to highlight, and show how your nonprofit has worked to solve it.
- Support stories with images and data. Adding photos or graphics allows website visitors to engage with your story visually in addition to reading it. Also, including concrete statistics will demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact in a real way that supporters are more likely to remember if they encounter them in the context of a story.
- Include a call to action. Consider exactly what you want your readers to do after they read your story—donate to a specific campaign, sign up for a particular volunteer opportunity, attend an upcoming event, etc.—and conclude your story with that ask.
Storytelling can be a valuable tool for your nonprofit to build relationships with your supporters, spread awareness of your mission, and inspire engagement. Since your organisation's website provides lots of space to incorporate text, visuals, links, and calls to action, it’s one of the best communication channels that you can leverage to tell stories.
5. Promote your website through your nonprofit’s other marketing channels
When designed well, your nonprofit’s website becomes the main information hub for your organisation. But you can also communicate that information to your supporters through marketing channels more suited to outreach.
Another feature of your nonprofit’s website that makes it so useful is that you can easily integrate it into all your marketing materials, including:
- Email outreach. Include links to relevant sections of your website as you mention them in your emails. For example, if you send an email about an upcoming event at your organisation, add a link to the online registration form as a call to action at the end of your message.
- Social media. Since social media is best for communicating concise ideas, you could introduce an initiative or campaign in a tweet or post caption and add a link to your website where supporters can go for more information.
- Direct mail. Just because direct mail is a print communication channel doesn’t mean it can’t tie back to your website! At the end of your message, include an easy-to-type URL or QR code so that supporters can visit related pages on your website, like your donation page.
Essentially, you’ll want to use other marketing channels to make supporters aware of your nonprofit’s work, then direct them to your website to learn more and take action.
Your nonprofit’s website is one of the most valuable tools that you can leverage to connect with all your supporters in a variety of ways. Following these five tips will help your organisation make the most of every opportunity that your website has to offer. Also, remember that if you need help implementing any of these strategies or have any questions, you can always partner with a creative design agency for all your website-related needs.
Special thanks to Ryan Felix, co-founder of Loop for this expert advice. Ryan brings Design for Social Good who brings a strong intuition and insight to create bold, creative & impactful websites. Ryan has led design studios in Toronto and New York using his knowledge of Human Centred Design to increase meaningful conversions and design enjoyable web experiences.