8 Things that Make a Good Nonprofit Website

Meet the needs of those who come to you online for help, to understand how to support your cause and to get informed

By Nick Gehring, Senior Web Developer

In 1994, there were fewer than than 3,000 websites. Twenty years later, at the end of 2014, that number surpassed 1 billion and has continued to grow. While websites serve multiple purposes for multiple companies and organizations, there are some things that have to be in place within a website to make it good.

From a nonprofit perspective, here are some specific areas you must take into consideration in order to meet the needs of all the people who come to you online for help, to understand how to support your cause and to get informed.

8 Tips For Your Nonprofit Site

1. You must help people achieve their objectives efficiently when they visit your site. You need to make sure you have menu options that are clear. But, whatever you do, don’t have too many of them. Most organizations need more than three to four to ensure they can provide the right paths for site visitors. But if you have nine to 10, you have gone too far and need to scale back, which means you will need to organize your pathways differently.

2. Don’t fall into a visual trap. In web design today, there is a lot of focus on large photos that sometimes take up the entire screen when you open the website. A visual aspect that immediately resonates with site visitors is a good thing, but it is not why they came. Use visuals to create a dramatic entrance into your website, but make sure people very quickly can start working on their objectives. They need an effective, easy-to-understand menu and a header bar that tells them where they are at all times in their site experience.

3. While objectives differ from one person to another, your organization has two very important objectives for each site visitor.

No. 1: Make sure your site visitor can meet his or her expectation, and No. 2: Make sure you capture who they are.

This often is accomplished through opportunities to register for a special section of the website, sign up for an e-newsletter, or participate in a survey or online quiz, etc. Don’t treat this like an afterthought, because capturing basic information about the people who actively are coming to your site is a great return on investment.

phoneWith that said, don’t rush to “registration,” as this often can be a challenge for many people who feel that they are not getting their expectations met before you are asking something from them. It’s similar to the feeling where you call into an in-bound 800-number and it asks you eight things before even finding out why you are calling. Don’t create that same experience.

Make sure the opportunities to sign up are not hidden due to poor placement on the homepage or buried elsewhere in the site. This should be clear and on the homepage (in addition to all the other pages).

4. Speaking of prominence, the days of not wanting a “Donate Now” button on your website hopefully are long gone, but, please, make the button big, red and very visible. Today’s consumers understand that fundraising is a required part of any nonprofit’s existence. I’m making this item a short topic because I’m really hoping this is no longer a real “tip” for most people.

5. Understand the primary reasons people come to your site. The reason this is important is to ensure that you create a balanced approach to your homepage. You should never expect to answer everyone’s issues on the homepage, but they need to see their issues represented.

Make sure your design includes the ability to cover multiple topics, issues and opportunities at a glance without feeling too busy or like a complex news site.

Make sure your design includes the ability to cover multiple topics, issues and opportunities at a glance without feeling too busy or like a complex news site.

6. Do not forget that many people are engaged across multiple channels—especially on social and other digital channels. Make sure you have provided an easy way for someone to A) share your site via the various channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.), and B) find you in other channels, such as YouTube. For nonprofits especially, your causes often come alive through videos. Make sure you highlight these videos on your site, while still providing a connection to your video channels.

7. Is it important for an organization to show credibility through seals and badges from charity watchdogs? While I always believe website real estate is extremely valuable, as long as you are not taking up a large amount of space with these insignias, this falls into the “it can’t hurt” category. Just know that it often does not “help”—meaning, the difference between displaying them versus not displaying them is very little when measured by engagement, donations, site time, etc.

8. Make sure your website is responsive. With mobile experiences taking over desktop experiences, if your website does not respond well on smartphones and tablets, this is a big problem. This is something that often can be done very easily, but you must take care of it.

Go on your own website and see how it stacks up.