When it comes to your nonprofit, your website is at the center of your online presence. It’s where people learn in-depth about your mission, where people can contact you about services, sign up to volunteer, and donate. Your nonprofit’s Facebook and Instagram accounts direct people to your website. Your brochures, billboards, radio ads, skywriting – whatever advertising method your nonprofit employs – it all directs people to your website.
With all arrows pointing to your website, it brings up the question – is your nonprofit’s website good enough?
Here are three tips to help make sure your organization’s website is spotlight ready:
1. You don’t need a lot of words, you just need your words to mean a lot.
Although it might seem logical to give prime real estate to your nonprofit’s full backstory and mission statement on website’s home page so it’s front and center for everyone to see, it might actually be driving people to leave your website.
The average person spends less than 15 seconds looking at a website before they decide to stop reading and leave. That means, you have a short window to catch – and keep – website visitors’ attention.
You can do that by using less text. It might seem counterintuitive, but by using just a few sentences to let visitors know what your organization is all about it will actually help ward off boredom, confusion and keep them scrolling to find out more.
You don’t need a lot of words, you just need your words to mean a lot.
If people are overwhelmed by the amount of information they see, especially on your homepage, they are less likely to stick around and read it. It’s like trying to give someone a sip of water from a fire hose – it just doesn’t work.
Find two or three successful businesses or nonprofits that you want to emulate – you like their style and you want your website to resemble theirs. Use their websites as a guide and inspiration for layout and content. Most importantly, work to get the most important details about your nonprofit into less than five sentences on your homepage.
Example: Feeding America was ranked #2 on Forbes America’s Top Charities 2019 list and is on the receiving end of about $2.8 billion in private donations annually. The organization’s website pulls double duty – providing resources for people in need, and information for donors – using a few, but impactful words.
It’s important to remember – what’s the purpose of your website? Is it a resource for donors, or is it for the people you serve? If you have two websites – one for each audience – be sure to keep that purpose in mind. Build your donor website for your donors, and your service website for the people you serve. If you have only have one website, follow the Feeding America example and make each resource as clear and easy to find and use as possible.
Example: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is one of the biggest nonprofits out there. It costs $2.3 million dollars a day to run the hospital – needless to say, they know what they’re doing in terms of marketing and fundraising. The website is simple, with their mission spelled out as clearly and in as few words as possible.
If you have longer stories or important details that might be important to your donors, you can absolutely include it – just give it its own separate page away from the homepage where people can read it if they are interested.
2. Use Pictures
Charity Water is a fantastic example of the power of pictures. Pictures not only interrupt long paragraphs of text which can be monotonous to the eye, they also help website visitors imagine the people your nonprofit helps.
If your nonprofit can’t use actual photos of the people you serve, try using realistic stock photos that look like the people you serve. Canva.com has a massive, library of high quality images free to use for registered nonprofits. Unsplash.com and Pexels.com are free image libraries you can access without signing up.
3. Keep Design in Mind
You don’t have to be a professional website designer to follow a few key rules. Whether you’re using a pre-made website template or designing the whole thing on your own, remember to keep things clean and simple.
Avoid funky fonts. Keep your font choices conservative – Open Sans or Roboto are examples of clean, professional-looking, and easy to read typefaces that will help you tell the story of your nonprofit without distracting readers.
Keep colors simple. By choosing a simple color palate for your website, you allow your pictures to pop and your logo to stand out. A few color blocks spread out around your website will help to break up repetition and help guide visitors to look at important parts of your website, but never underestimate the power of a neutral grey or white background. The Queen of Farmhouse Style herself, Joanna Gaines, provides wonderful examples of this beautiful simplicity here.
Check it out on your mobile device. More and more, people are relying on smartphones and tablets to do their internet surfing. Most website templates are optimized so they still look good on smaller screens, but that isn’t always the case with do-it-yourself website design. Check out your website on your phone and make sure everything looks the way you want it to, so your mobile visitors aren’t getting short changed when looking at your website.
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