While non-profit websites follow many of the same principles as any other good website (relevant content, user-friendly design and navigation, etc.), there are a number of other considerations and best practices for organizations planning out a new website.
We organized our list of 15 guidelines (or best practices) into 4 different groups. We’ll cover one per week in this 4-part series. The four groups are:
- Plan for the needs of your target audiences
- Organize your website’s content and design
- Foster a community
- Ensure a reliable behind-the-scenes setup
Plan for the needs of your target audiences
Most non-profit websites are visited by users who represent different types of audiences – from potential donors to members of the press or media. Unfortunately, one of the most frequently overlooked factors when planning a new website is identifying the specific needs and goals of each audience group.
(a) Make it extremely simple for donors to give you money
Donors play an important role for all non-profits, so you want to make your website makes it as easy as possible for them to donate. There are a few things to keep in mind here. For example, make sure your donations page is prominently visible or linked from your homepage and through other important areas of the website.
Additionally, the actual donation process should be straightforward and painless. Minimize the number of pages the donor has to go through to complete the transaction and the amount of information they have to share. While it is very common to send a potential donor to transaction processors such as PayPal, if possible you want to complete the entire process on your website. This also makes it that much easier to continue interacting with the visitor and encourage further activity as well as well as social media sharing.
(b) Recognize and thank your sponsors
While similar to donors, corporate sponsors have slightly different needs. Potential corporate sponsors often require more information about the organization, such as its past success and reach, and legal classification. You don’t have to post all of this information online, but you do want to make sure your website gives potential sponsors enough information to encourage them to initiate a conversation with you.
Corporate sponsors often also look for more recognition that individual donors. Sponsor recognition can include strategically including their logos in prominent places and make sure their contributions are noted in the website’s content. Your website does not need to become an advertising billboard for your sponsors – but there are still ways to thank them publicly through your website.
(c) Include clearly visible information and opportunities for volunteers & supporters to get involved
Volunteers and Supporters are often the largest group of visitors to a non-profit’s website. Your website should make it very easy for them to find out the latest information about your organization, as well as ways to get involved. Make sure the website describes all the avenues through which individuals can get involved, including prominently placed registration forms.
It is also common for your donors and corporate sponsors to also volunteer at your event or support it in non-monetary ways. Sharing the latest information also helps them clearly see your non-profit as being an active organization.
(d) Assemble information for media & press
As your non-profit grows, members of the media and press will often refer to your website to learn more about you. Having all the information they need easily accessible online in a Media/Press Kit also makes the entire process easier and more streamlined. Some of the content media and press are often looking for include:
- Your organization’s key activities and accomplishments
- Downloadable images and logos in different resolutions
- Press-ready quotes
- Bios and photographs of key members of the organization
- Relevant industry metrics
By thinking about the needs of each audience group separately, you can avoid accidentally building a website that only caters to certain audiences and accidentally misses an opportunity. When planning out the content for each page, look at it from the viewpoint of the different audiences and decide if the page meets their specific needs (if it is relevant to them). Also remember – thinking about the needs of each target group separately also does not mean you need to split your website into different mini-websites, it just means you ensure each of them has been addressed.