How To Create a Nonprofit Website
Creating a website is an important part of connecting with your organization’s supporters - it’s the foundation of your NGO’s online presence. A well-designed and professional website not only increases your fundraising potential and outreach efforts, but conveys trust and credibility, too.
In this article, we provide a seven-step guide on how to design a website for nonprofits, as well as the primary elements to include.
Primary elements of a nonprofit website
Before you begin the process of creating a nonprofit website, look at these examples to understand the necessary features for this type of website. By implementing these strategies and incorporating some or all of the elements listed, your website will easily match the intent of visitors, prompting them to spend more time exploring. Let's take a look at three examples:
01. Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate
This nonprofit website uses a three-page menu bar to anchor its page, allowing visitors to navigate through the site. In addition, bright, eye-catching colors, large font as well as an abundance of whitespace make the content visually appealing and easy to read.
This website also features:
Clear mission statement on the homepage
“The Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate (MAJIC) is a community of individuals and organizations centering racial equity, social justice, and systems change in climate activism.”
Call-to-action (CTA) button prompting visitors to take initiative
Take Action, Learn More, Join Us
Contact information, including links to social media
Reach Out form, plus Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter icons at the footer
Explanation of their work, projects and services - as well as its importance to the community
"The MAJIC family is built out of a network of groups and movements united by the shared vision of sustainable, cooperative, regenerative communities.”
02. The Wood County Humane Society
This nonprofit website illustrates the importance of creating a seamless user experience. They do this by providing multiple entry points to the same page. For example, their menu bar features an About section and their top fold features their mission statement followed by a Read More button that, when clicked, takes visitors to the same page. This is essentially like offering more than one door to the same room.
Other helpful elements on this website include:
Newsletter sign up form
With the CTA “Join our pack”
List of upcoming events
Subpage under Get Involved takes the viewer to a calendar view
Volunteer sign-up form
Intuitively found under Get Involved
Annual reports for the last seven years
Organized under the About page
03. The Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
Another crucial component to a nonprofit website is a well-designed logo that matches the look and tone of your site. CCAP incorporates their logo colors throughout their website to unify their design. In addition, the imagery and sans serif font match perfectly with the political tone of this organization.
They’ve also included:
Blog to share news and relevant content
A feed in the middle of the homepage shows the three most recent articles
Short bio and pictures of key players within the organization
Found under Our Team
Easy-to-locate donation button
The light blue Donate button matches CCAP’s logo color, helping it stand out on the top menu
How to create a nonprofit website
01. Choose a platform
As a nonprofit employee, you likely want to spend your time bettering your community— not necessarily sifting through the variety of website builders on the market. And given your rigid budget, you may be tasked with designing your organization's website yourself. For this common reason, platforms such as Wix offer customizable nonprofit website templates with user-friendly interfaces.
You can create a unique and professional website that incorporates all the necessary features, such as secure donations, volunteer sign up forms and free, unlimited hosting. This spares you from having to spend additional money on external hosting and allows you to save your organization’s funds for directly servicing your community.
It also makes sense to opt for a platform that is build with the highest standards of website security in mind. This means you can build a website, rest assured that your data and that of your site visitors is always protected. No matter how many visitors your site gets, you need to know that your site is always live - reliability and high uptime is crucial to the smooth functioning of your website at all times.
This also includes a site that is optimized for performance - think fast page speed and load times. That way your website is always fully accessible for your cause and organization.
02. Design your layout
This step involves choosing your color palette and planning how visitors will navigate your site. Your website should be visually appealing and easy to navigate, so consider the user experience when designing your layout. Use color and images to make your website aesthetically pleasing and engaging - a primary component of enticing people to continue exploring for longer.
Gather all your website ideas and create a detailed sitemap to act as your guide. This way, you won’t forget any of the essential components, including an easy-to-locate menu bar on each page.
It’s important that visitors can easily jump back to the homepage from wherever they are on your website. A simple way to accomplish this is to include your logo on every header that acts as a button back to your homepage.
03. Create a logo
A logo is an essential visual component that captures the look and feel of your organization. If you don’t have one already, use a logo maker to help design an emblem that perfectly fits your NGO. The feeling, emotion and your overall cause should be conveyed when people see your logo, so choose your colors and image wisely.
For example, many environmental conservation nonprofits incorporate shades of green, like Sierra Club. In this case, the same shade of green is also featured throughout Sierra Club’s website to match their overall tone and persona. Be sure that the colors on your website match your logo colors and are kept consistent throughout each page to ensure continuity and visual appeal.
04. Incorporate the right content
User experience design, also known as UX design, is the process of designing an accessible and simple to navigate website. The layout should be logical and provide effortless flow. This means finding a balance between navigation, imagery and text— one shouldn’t overwhelm or take away from the other. Once you’ve built your website structure, you can start filling it in with content and imagery.
All text should be written in an easily skimmable font and color, and use images to break up large paragraphs. In addition, don’t forget to incorporate white space — areas without any text or images at all. This helps balance the components on a page and keeps them from feeling overcrowded.
05. Establish a domain name
Your website’s domain name should be unique and memorable and most likely will include the name of your organization. You’ll also need to decide which domain extension you want to follow your URL, such as .com or .org. While 54% of all websites worldwide use .com, NGOs primarily use .org to convey to the public that they are indeed a nonprofit organization.
A personalized domain is essential because it will improve your website’s credibility to both the public and to search engines. People who are interested in donating their money or time to a cause they believe in want to know the organization is legitimate — and a strong domain name helps convey this.
To show the difference between strong and weak domains, let’s use an imaginary organization called Association for Better Mental Health as an example. They’ve come up with the following domain name options:
Using one full word followed by the first letters of the remaining words can be confusing and appears a bit jumbled to potential visitors, like we see in the first example. Spelling out the entire name of the NGO makes the domain far too long, which can be seen in the second option. In general, NGOs with longer names are better off using an acronym in its domain to keep it short and easy to remember. In this example, the third domain name is the strongest because it follows this model and utilizes the .org domain extension.
06. Optimize for SEO
Before you make your site live, set it up for success. A key component is ensuring search engines know the value of your website — and that means incorporating SEO strategies, AKA search engine optimization, throughout your content.
Optimizing for SEO is a multifaceted process that requires incorporating the right keywords and valuable, up-to-date content throughout your site. That way, when people search for keywords related to your organization, your website will appear on the search engine results page (SERP). Keywords refer to words or phrases that people commonly search for on Google and, therefore, will be strategic to include in your website content. Choosing primary keywords using a free or paid SEO tool is a great place to start.
For example, a nonprofit whose mission is feeding homeless people in Detroit, MI could consider some of the following keywords:
Soup kitchens in Detroit
Volunteer in Detroit soup kitchen
Feeding the homeless near me
Feeding the homeless
Once you’ve gathered a list of relevant keywords, use an SEO tool to compare search volumes, which refers to how many people search for a keyword in a month. This will help determine which ones will be most strategic to include on your website.
If you’re new to this process, you can get started by taking advantage of an SEO tool like Wix SEO to get a personalized plan for your website. This free solution guides you through each step and will help you get your website ranking on Google by:
Helping you determining which keywords to use
Providing tips on how to best structure your content
Showing you how to best incorporate SEO titles and meta descriptions
Integrating with Google Search Console
However, depending on your website goals, it may be worth investing in an advanced SEO tool, such as Ahrefs or SEMRush. Both of these programs provide detailed analytics and capabilities to take your SEO to the next level, including:
In-depth keyword analysis
Comparison of keyword ranking on Google
Backlink profiles of your competitors
View your best performing pages
Don’t forget about managing your off-page SEO, either, including social media and mentions in the form of backlinks from other websites.
07. Make your site is mobile friendly
As of April 2021, over 50% of all internet use comes from cell phones and tablets. This prompted Google to implement mobile-first indexing, a process in which website ranking is predominantly determined on how sites appear on mobile devices, not on desktop computers or laptops.
Therefore, a user-friendly and readable mobile nonprofit website is just as crucial, if not more so, than your desktop version. It’s important to make sure that you invest in mobile website design to provide an easy-to-navigate experience for those viewing your site on smaller screens. Choose a website builder that includes a fully-optimized, built-in mobile version with every template option, like Wix.
You can also take advantage of the following tips to help optimize your organization’s mobile web design:
Use large, easy to read text and buttons
Utilize a hamburger menu (the three horizontal lines indicating a sidebar menu) with limited page options
Adjust images so they better fit a smaller screen
Use suitable background colors or patterns that don’t overwhelm the screen
Incorporate simple animation
Include a Back to top button at the bottom of the page
By Talia Cohen
Small Business Expert and Marketing Blogger