How To Create An Effective Non-Profit Website

Promote Your Site | August 29th 2011

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People often refer to the online era as a selfish and cynical era. But seeing how regularly the web is used to fight injustices and motivate people to make a positive change in the world restores your faith in the human spirit. Whether battling world-hunger, saving the environment, protecting animal-rights or assisting people with disabilities – the internet is bringing together those who need help and those who are willing to extend a hand.

Though non-profits and commercial websites share many things in common, non-profit websites are essentially different and require a unique strategy.

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1. Information is Vital

When creating a website for a non-profit organization, clear and elaborate information is key. Before you even start thinking about the site’s layout, make sure you collect texts, images, videos, charts, and any relevant media that will help people understand and identify with your cause. The idea is to mobilize people for action. If people aren’t provided with the proper information they’re less likely to donate their time, money and resources.

Make sure however that your website doesn’t look like an Excel spreadseet. Don’t overburden your visitors with raw data.

2. General Design Guidelines

Don’t use grim colors. Most non-profit organizations deal with subjects that are far from funny or cute but your website should give visitors hope for change. People want to feel that their contribution makes an actual difference. Make sure your design reflects that.

3. Powerful Homepage

Whether or not your visitors will be willing to join your cause depends very much on your website’s homepage. The homepage should be appealing, informative and inspiring.

Together with the default essentials (organization’s title & logo, navigation menu), an effective homepage will have:

  • Images that show the organization’s work.
  • A short description of the organization’s goals.
  • A concise “Call for Action” for visitors, explaining how they can take part / make a difference.
  • If possible, one strong quote that shows the importance of the organization’s work.

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4. Tell A Story

People usually relate better to a personal story they can identify with. Dedicate one of the site’s pages to one such story – it can be a story of a volunteer, a story of a community or story of one individual who was helped by the organization’s work. This story should offer visitors a first-witness account and will personalize your cause.

5. News & Updates

It is highly important to update visitors on  recent activities, media coverage, upcoming events and important developments that are relevant to the cause. It shows that the organization is constantly taking action.

You can do this by creating a ‘News’ section on the site, and also by adding an RSS feed or a Twitter feed to your homepage.

6. How Can They Help?

You need to clearly explain to yourvisitors what they can do to help. Specify every alternative: donations, volunteering, petitions, demonstrations, etc.

In a different page, you can include tips and ideas on how visitors can be part of the cause in their own daily lives. Not everyone can make a donation, but maybe there are very basic things that can make a difference, like using energy-saving light bulbs or drinking fair-trade coffee.

7. Stay Connected

Offer visitors multiple ways to get in touch with you for more information. Add an email address, postal address, phone numbers, as well as links to the organization’s profiles on social networks. Make it as easy as possible for visitors to contact you.

8. Socialize Your Site

You can turn every site visitor to a promoter by adding social sharing tools like “Like”, “Tweet” or “+1” buttons. Each visitor that clicks on one of these buttons exposes their friends and followers to the organization’s work.

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