The Top 8 Elements a Nonprofit Website Needs – A Crash Course
Updated: Jan 27
Every business needs a website, and a nonprofit is no exception. Your web presence is vastly important when gaining support and with so many easy-to-build website platforms like Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace, there is no reason why your organization can’t have an amazing online home. While your homepage is the first thing people see, there are other elements of your website that may be just as important, if not more so, when it comes to garnering support. Keep reading to see what eight elements we find to be critical when establishing a website for your nonprofit.
1. Visually Appealing and Branded Pages
You will undoubtedly want your website to be visually welcoming and this can be accomplished with modern design elements; easy to read, high contrast fonts; and plenty of great photos with which your visitors can engage.
Each page on your site should include your branded colors, your logo, and your tagline. Your format should be clean and readable, preferably from left to right, which is the direction that the eye naturally travels when reading. All the most important info should be at the top, or “Above the Fold” so the viewer does not have to scroll to see it, and your donate button should stay stationary at the top regardless of scrolling. Your fonts should be simple, clear, and accessible. Say goodbye to the light purple script font and please no Comic Sans. Instead choose black or dark grey Helvetica, Arial, or something similar, which is easy to see and read, even for someone who might be color blind.
When choosing photos, it is not necessary for the photos to be professional, even candid event photos can work well, as long as they are high resolution and engaging. Generally, you can expect viewers to exhibit a better response when you display photos of people. While photos of your own are preferable, there are several online resources to look for photos if needed. Sites such as Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay, are great resources for free photos that are not terribly obvious stock photos and do not require attribution.
2. A Security Certificate
During my past time at a nonprofit, we unfortunately didn’t realize that our SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate had expired until multiple potential donors called us in the middle of a large campaign to let us know that they didn’t feel safe giving on our website due to our site not being secure. It was embarrassing and we will never know how many donations we might have missed out on due to this simple oversight. I remain grateful to those who reached out to voice their concern which allowed us to quickly remedy the situation and it is a mistake I will certainly never make again.
What is an SSL Certificate and how did they know that ours had expired?
In layman terms an SSL is a certificate that says the website is legitimate and additionally allows for the encryption of data such as credit card numbers as they pass from your site to the processor, making it difficult for bad actors to intercept private information during transmission. ( To learn more about SSL Certificates visit Norton).
Not only does Google penalize you in searches for not having a secure site, but they go further by displaying the words “Not Secure” by your URL, this notes that your site is not up to Google’s security standards and how donors realized our certificate was expired.
Seeing the term “Not Secure” does not inspire the confidence that you need your donors to have when giving online so please ensure that you have this important certificate. There are several vendors to choose from when purchasing this certificate and it can range in price depending on your website. GoDaddy is a trustworthy provider with great customer service and a good place to start your in-depth research on SSL Certificates.
3. A Mobile Friendly Site
The 2020 M+R Benchmark report asserts that 50% of visitors to nonprofit websites are on a mobile device, an 11% increase from 2018. What this statistic shows is that it is more important than ever to ensure that your website easily loads on a smartphone, that it is easy to navigate on this sort of device, that it looks great, and that your most important information – ahem, your Call to Action and donate button are visible to a mobile user without requiring them to scroll.
Simply put, having a site that is optimized for mobile devices leads to more engagement and more donations for your organization. Most platforms such as Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace offer you the ability when setting up or editing your site to preview your content on mobile as well as desktop so that you can make necessary adjustments.
4. A Quick Load Time and Easy Navigation
Load time and navigation potentially have the biggest impact on how long a visitor stays on your website. Great content and beautiful photos are inconsequential if no one can see them due to slow loading times. Essentially a visitor’s first impression is how quickly your site loads. Tech Soup asserts that while most nonprofit websites take 14 to 19 seconds to load, the average user will leave your site after 3 seconds if it hasn’t loaded. Fixes for this include reducing image sizes, utilizing caching, or upgrading your hosting.
Ideally, a visitor should be able to easily navigate through your website and find what they are looking for from any page they end up on. To help ease navigation, be selective about what earns a spot in your primary menu and be succinct. Other information can be included in drop-down menus or vertical menus but keep your top-line information pertinent and clean.
5. An Easy Way to Give Securely
When it comes to donating, the easier the better. Provide visitors with a large donate button in a contrasting color, that remains stationary, locked at the top, and allows them to give securely and quickly without scrolling. Consider providing a PayPal option so that a donor can skip the step of digging out a credit card and ensure that any form can be filled out with ease on both desktop and mobile. If you provide several options to give, for example, monthly giving or programmatic giving, you might find it necessary to have a separate donate page. This page can provide a great way to make your case for each giving program but you will want to ensure that it is easy to navigate on desktop and mobile and that the forms are easy to use regardless of device.
6. A Blog
A blog is a great way to keep your supporters up to date on your mission and behind-the-scenes happenings at your organization, however, it also serves another very important function and that is it boosts your SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, your blog can tell search engines more about who you are and help people find you easier according to the topics you are writing about. The benefits of a blog do not stop there though, blogs provide your supporters with fresh content and a reason to consistently visit your website along with providing you with content to share on your social media platforms.
So, what do you write about and how often?
Two or more posts a week are ideal and content can range from sharing relevant statistics to interviews with volunteers or staff, to personal stories from those you have helped through your mission. The options are really limited only to your creativity and capacity.
7. A Killer About Us Page
In short, this is your chance to tell your story. It should include your mission statement and serve as the “why” you exist. Give the compelling statistics that show why there was a need for your organization and show the progress that your nonprofit has made in solving the problem. You might want to talk about the continued need for your services and discuss how support for your mission is still crucial. From this page, you may want to include links to your board and staff profiles as well as your financials or any reports you may have that make a case for support or provide transparency. While every page should be carefully crafted, this is potentially the most important page on your site and the one that deserves the most careful thought as it is likely to be the page anyone unfamiliar with your organization clicks first.
8. Social Media Links
Social media is one of your most powerful marketing tools, especially if you have a small marketing budget, and it’s important that your supporters can easily find you there. However, there is another reason that you want to be sure you link your social accounts to your website, it improves your ranking with Google. That’s right! Linking those accounts helps to show Google that you are relevant to user searches. It is preferable to have the social buttons linked to the appropriate profiles and located consistently at the top or bottom of each page.
Additionally, so that you don’t drive traffic from your website, adjust your settings so that any click-throughs to your social media open in a new window. This provides a better user experience and keeps your visitor ultimately where you want them to be, on your website.
Creating a website can be a daunting task that takes plenty of research and consistent maintenance, but it is one of the most valuable assets that any organization can have. If you are just getting started, we recommend further research into SEO and keyword research, mobile optimization, and user experience.
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