A website that’s easy to navigate, beautifully designed, and well-written will provide a great first impression of your organization, give your supporters a smooth online experience, and even encourage people to donate to your cause.
If you want to make your website stand out, attract new supporters, and keep donors engaged, these eight website tips for nonprofits can help.
1. Focus on your why, then how, then what.
Have you ever heard the expression “People don’t care what you do; they care why you do it”? Many organizations make the mistake of starting their home page content with what they do. But beginning with all the details of what you’re doing to change the world (even though you have a great mission) can overwhelm the viewer, especially if they’re still getting to know you. Research has shown that starting with why you do what you do is much more effective for building support and engaging others.
Your supporters will eventually be interested in what your nonprofit does and how you make things happen, but they primarily care about your why: why your organization exists and why your mission matters. Focusing on your why, then how, then what will help your viewers empathize with you, trust your credibility, and seek out ways to support your mission — through donations, volunteerism, and more.
For example, let’s say you run a service dog training organization like ICAN. Following the why-how-what format for your nonprofit may look something like this:
- Your initial content explains why you do what you do: We’re here to empower children and adults with disabilities while giving inmates the chance to make a positive difference.
- Next, you share how you make your mission happen, or how you’re solving a problem: We work with incarcerated men and women to train service dogs for clients with disabilities, helping each group find purpose and independence.
- Then, your website shows what you do to further your mission: Our monthly fundraisers, campus volunteer opportunities, and meet-and-greets allow our community to get involved with our mission, work with our inmates and clients, and see firsthand how we’re changing lives on both ends of the leash.
2. Share statistics and stories for impact.
When you’re engaging supporters with your website, you’ll want to share quantitative and qualitative proof that your mission is making a difference. In other words, include both statistics and stories (not just one or the other) for the greatest impact. One may appeal to a certain group of visitors more than another, but stories will give your cause a human, empathetic touch, while statistics will help you establish credibility with tangible results.
Providing stories and testimonials is a great way to show that your cause matters, because it’s having a positive impact on the lives of other people. For a service dog handler testimonial, you might use a quote like this on your website: “Training Thunder and watching him succeed — and knowing that I had a small part in helping him establish a connection with someone that will change their life for the better — is so rewarding.” Inspiring stories and testimonials like these, from the people you’re actively helping, might motivate your readers to become part of the solution by donating or volunteering.
Along with stories and testimonials, you should also use concrete numbers to highlight your mission’s success. For example, you might say: “We’ve raised over $250,000 annually at our fall fundraiser, which about 300 people attend each year. 100% of those funds go toward our service dog training program, from purchasing supplies to funding staff salaries.” These statistics show how successful your organization’s fundraising efforts are, as well as where donors can expect their money to go.
3. Include four strategic elements on your home page.
When a current or potential supporter lands on your home page, they should be able to answer the following questions in eight seconds or less:
- What do you do (as a nonprofit)?
- How can you help me (or others)?
- What do I need to do next?
To answer those questions and keep your ideal audience engaged, you’ll need four key elements on your home page:
Your website’s header is anything that appears above the fold (before the reader has to scroll down). The section should look like this:
- Top left corner – This includes your logo to show visitors who you are.
- Top right corner – Place your call-to-action (CTA) button here, telling supporters what they need to do next (donate, contact you, volunteer, etc.).
- Middle of the page – This tells the reader what you do and how you’re solving a problem and helping others.
- Just above the fold – Add another CTA button, both to break up the page and to ask for donations or volunteers again.
If your header information is clear, concise, and on strategy, the reader will likely scroll down to the body of your website. In these sections, you’ll include the following:
- Pain points: Remind the reader that they’re seeking a solution for a certain problem, like homelessness in your community (the problem that organizations like LTHC combat).
- Empathy and authority: Make it clear that you feel the reader’s pain. (“The housing crisis in our community breaks our hearts, too.”) Then, show them you know what you’re doing and have the experience necessary to make a difference. (“We’ve helped hundreds of families and individuals find permanent housing solutions.”)
- Benefits: After empathizing with their pain points, show visitors how you can help people overcome obstacles. Here, you’ll list benefits your clients (and supporters) will enjoy once they work with your nonprofit.
After reading about how your company can help them solve their problems, some readers may be ready to buy into your mission. So, you need to tell them what to do next!
- Steps to Success: Lay out three or four steps the reader must take to become a supporter for your nonprofit. This may be as simple as: 1) Contact us, 2) Subscribe to our email list, and 3) Become a volunteer.
- Call to Action (CTA): After you tell prospects how easy it is to work with you, tell them to take action! This is the very next thing someone should do after they read your website and decide to get involved with your organization. Your CTA might be something like Donate Now, Contact Us, or Become a Volunteer.
The footer houses everything you don’t need in your main navigation (but that someone might actively seek out and scroll down the page to find). That includes:
- Employment applications
- A brief mission statement
- Contact information and hours of operation
- Social media icons
4. Use easy-to-navigate, responsive, accessible web design.
The easier your website is to navigate, the longer readers will stay on your site, and the more likely they’ll be to convert (for a nonprofit audience, that means making a donation, signing up to volunteer, and so on). One way to make your site’s navigation straightforward is to include a sticky menu. This means that your menu will stay at the top of the page as visitors scroll down, so they can always see (and click on) your Donate button or other items in the navigation.
Along with an easy-to-use navigation, you’ll also want to focus on responsive web design when creating your site. This means a page’s images and text layouts will adjust from a larger desktop screen to fit a smaller phone or tablet screen (and vice versa). Google now ranks responsive websites higher for people searching on a smartphone; that group now accounts for 46% of all online searches in the U.S., so having a responsive site is pretty important! When you use responsive design, you’ll help more supporters find you online, contact you wherever they are, and even donate from their phones.
Furthermore, your web design should be ADA accessible, which means that anyone with auditory, cognitive, visual, or other disabilities can use your website. Creating an inclusive website is not only an ethical and helpful thing to do, but it can also improve your online fundraising efforts as more people can access your donation page. Here are a few ways you can make your website accessible:
- Include alt text for all images in case they don’t load.
- Use high-quality images, as well as videos that load quickly.
- Don’t put text on images, as this can be hard to read.
- Use the right color contrast (a web designer can help you determine this).
5. Add a blog, a newsletter signup form, and social links.
Creating quality blog content is a great way to build trust with your supporters and readers (not to mention boosting your SEO rankings to get in front of more potential donors). This content can go in-depth to help people stay informed about your mission-related activities throughout the year and find additional educational materials. Some posts you might include on your blog are:
- Testimonials from staff or volunteers
- News updates specific to your cause/industry
- Sponsorship announcements
- Impact stories from those you’ve helped
- And more
You’ll also want to include a form on your website where supporters can subscribe to your newsletter and engage with your nonprofit. Whether you send out a weekly, monthly, or quarterly email to your followers, you can use a newsletter to build trust and transparency with your readers. When supporters can easily opt into your newsletter from the website, they can also receive regular updates on your mission and enjoy another way to learn more, donate, or sign up to volunteer.
Another great way to engage your supporters is by adding social media links to your website, specifically in the footer. Then, viewers can access your social media platforms from any page of your website, giving them the chance to follow your organization; get real-time updates on what you’re doing; and engage with your nonprofit through likes, comments, and shares. Make sure you include these social links in your newsletters and blogs, too!
6. Add a clear CTA button to every page.
Most visitors will land on your home page first, but others may be directed to your About Us content, a blog, or another page. That’s why it’s important to have a visible call-to-action (CTA) button on every page so people can easily donate, contact you, or sign up to volunteer — no matter where they are on your website. The content for this button can be short and sweet; Donate, Volunteer, and Contact Us are great examples of wording that asks people to engage with your cause. When it comes to the button design, just make sure you’re using a color that pops on the page (although it can still be a color that’s within your brand guidelines).
It may be helpful to include content just above, or next to, the CTA button that reminds the reader why you do what you do. If your CTA is Donate Now, you can reiterate why you’re asking for contributions — for example, to support your operations so you can continue providing shelter for people in a housing crisis. For a Volunteer CTA, you could briefly share how the hundreds of volunteers who work with you have experienced firsthand the joy your clients feel when they’re able to find permanent housing.
In addition to clear, eye-catching CTAs (and compelling, action-driving content) throughout your site, you should also add CTA links in the main menu. These will guide visitors who already know about your organization and are ready to donate, volunteer, or contact you.
7. Be transparent with your financial information.
Donors naturally want to make sure their money is going to the right place. And it can be scary for some supporters to give online if they’re worried about secure payment portals, or if they don’t know exactly how your nonprofit will distribute their funds.
Including annual reports, 990 forms, and 501(c)3 documentation shows that you’re open with your organization’s financials, so donors can rely on you to use their money responsibly. It’s also valuable to share exactly how you’ll use donations — for example, to provide permanent housing, buy supplies for a family in need, or train a service dog. When people know their contributions are directly supporting a mission they believe in, they’ll be more inclined to donate to your cause.
Plus, a well-designed donation page with a safe and confidential credit card collection method — and a CAPTCHA test or “I’m not a robot” checkbox for good measure — can give your supporters peace of mind. These elements add another layer of security to your site, which makes viewers a lot more likely to donate online.
8. Make it easy for supporters to contact you.
Once you’ve explained to visitors why your nonprofit exists, how you’re helping others, and what you’re doing to further your mission, you’ll want to make it as simple for them as possible to reach you with any questions they might have.
Your contact information should be easy to find throughout your website. The footer is a great place for this info, next to your social media links. Then, no matter which page a supporter visits, he or she can learn how to contact you just by viewing the footer. Having your email address, phone number, and physical address visible also shows that you’re an authentic organization that 1) actually exists and 2) actually wants people to contact them!
If you’d rather not include your nonprofit’s email address directly on the website (to avoid the potential of spam), you can write “Email Us” and hyperlink that text to your email. Alternatively, you can include a form on your Contact Us page (along with your physical address and phone number) that supporters can fill out with their name, email, and question. Then, when they submit the form, it will go to your inbox.
With these website tips for nonprofits, you’ll be able to show people why your organization matters, share inspiring stories, help visitors get in touch with you, and call them to action!
Engaging your supporters with a strategic website doesn’t happen overnight — and as a nonprofit leader, you probably don’t have the spare time to create your own. A web design agency can help you grow your organization with a beautiful, easy-to-navigate site while saving you time and working within your budget.
Our proven marketing protocol helps companies and nonprofits make more money, free up time, and plan an effective strategy.
Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small businesses. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, visit our website and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.