Website design have some factors that are true no matter who you are designing for, but designing for a non-profit differs slightly. It’s very important for anyone designing for a non-profit that they understand the differences and best practices to create the most effective website possible. I have complied 10 easy tips that all website designers should consider when designing for a non-profit. It’s also a great resource for any non-profit looking to update their site or get a whole new site entirely.
1. Understand the Mission. Every non-profit has a mission and it’s so important for a designer to CLEARLY understand the companies mission. This will set the overall tone of the website (and branding) for the non-profit. It will also help clearly identify your target audience. A common misconception is that a non-profit is targeting everybody. It is true you want to reach as many people as possible but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have to focus on the demographic that will bring you the best results. As a design element the companies mission should be clearly displayed on the home page: Who they are and who they help. Don’t bury the mission of the organization on sub pages.
2. Donate! Non-profit organizations depend on donations to keep their organization going. Designers are responsible to leave no guess work on how someone can donate money. It should be the second most prominent element on the page (second to the name and their mission). A great way to ensure donations is to make a sure a way to donate is clearly displayed on every page. Use bold colors or interesting typography to make sure it stands out and doesn’t get lost with other elements on the page. Also talk to the non-profit about making donation as simple as possible. One option may mean simplifying the forms-the easier the process is the more likely people are to participate in the donation process.
3. Images can be a powerful tool. Choosing the right images for any site can be a challenge but with a non-profit it is essential to solidify your message. A non-profit site should never use stock photography! This is a great way to visually tell a story of the people you help. Use pictures of real people and real situations. Combine portraits with short testimonials can be a very strong way to reach people. Use high quality images and make sure to express that these are real people that have benefitted from your organization.
4. Tell a story. Tell as many stories in your content as possible. If you are designer express how important this is to the organization and use them as frequent as possible. People want to hear not only what your organization does but how they have helped the community. Don’t only use this in the “about us” page but on as many pages as possible. Use testimonial quotes as a design element. Blogs are also a great way to incorporate stories into your content. If you are thinking about adding a blog to your site make sure you plan on adding content on a regular basis. Large gaps in articles can actually deter your audience. Many organizations feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a blog but keep in mind your posts don’t have to be a long article. They can be as simple as thanking volunteers and donors. FUN FACTS: 55% of businesses with blogs see more visitors to their websites and blog reading peaks around 10AM!
5. Call to action. Besides having a donate call to action clearly displayed you also want people to know of other opportunities for them to help. Have either a “volunteer” or “how you can help” call to action displayed very clearly. This should also be available no matter what page you are on. Include photos of current staff and volunteers as well. It also helps to be very specific to the opportunities available and what is expected of volunteers.
6. Use social media. Social media can be a huge help to any non-profit. It gives you a chance to interact with potential donors and it’s a free way to market your organization. Social media can be overwhelming at first. I keep a schedule to help me maintain our social media presence. The most effective social media outlets for non-profits are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Make sure your social media icons are clearly displayed on the home page. TIP: Simply change the color of the icons to match your overall branding. You may even want your designer to create custom icons that further represent your organization. FUN FACT: 55% of those who engage with nonprofits via social media have been inspired to take further action.
7. Tweet! Twitter allows you a great way to connect to other organizations in your area and allows you to directly interact with your audience. Make sure to maintain a constant presence. Frequently interact with your audience. Respond to all inquiries and messages. TWEET IDEAS: Any media coverage you have had, upcoming events, articles about topics related to your organization and thank you’s to donors and sponsors. FUN FACT: 47% of Americans learn about causes via social media and online channels.
8. Facebook. Like Twitter, Facebook is a great way to keep connected with your audience. It’s also a great way to share meaningful content. You can easily share photos from events and tag people in the images so they are more likely to share the page. You can also easily create a Facebook event to reach even more people. If you are in social media overload and don’t want to maintain a YouTube channel Facebook can act as a great way to share video. TIP: don’t neglect the design of your Facebook page. The overall branding should match your other marketing materials. Use the cover photo as a valuable piece of real estate. Although you can not directly add a call to action you can use it for facts, short testimonials and eye-catching imagery. FUN FACTS: One out of every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. Facebook interaction is 30% higher than average on Sundays.
9. Read all about it. If your organization has a newsletter it would be a great idea to incorporate it into an e-newsletter. Make subscription to this as easy as possible and have it clearly displayed on your home page. Also have a news or events section on your website is a valuable addition to your web page. As a web designer you might even want to include a live news feed on the home page. TIP: Have a custom email subscription icon created. Incorporate your company logo or imagery to enhance your brand identity. Consider creating a mascot or character to draw further attention to your news or newsletter.
10. Mobile. Have a site that is optimized for mobile is one of the most important things a non-profit can do to ensure it’s reaching it’s audience. When creating your site for mobile DO NOT and try to recreate the entire website. Pick the MOST important information and utilize it in your mobile version. Why is mobile so important to an organization? 80% of web traffic will leave if your website isn’t optimized for mobile and more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online. FUN FACT: 4.8 billion people now own mobile phones. Just 4.2 billion own a toothbrush.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Was this article helpful? Do you have any suggestions when designing for non-profits? Do you have any questions on designing for non-profit or need help with your non-profit site? Drop us a line we would love to hear from you!