When you think of a nonprofit, your imagination may first take you to an organization where volunteers all wear rolled up shirtsleeves, and finding funding for healthcare and education in rural communities are the highest priorities. You may even picture Big Bird.
So where does web design fit in and why is it relevant to a nonprofit? Today, web design can be a best bet for advertising, spreading knowledge and finding people who are ready to give.
Nonprofit web design shouldn't be much different from any other type of web design. The needs are the same: to convey clear messaging, create strong calls to action to convert visitors into donors, and to advertise their wares; be they shoes, books, healthy food or clean water. While design costs may be an issue, there are a few things that every nonprofit can sensibly incorporate into their web design to ensure strong, engaged traffic and promote donations.
1) Share your message with your content
Nonprofits should make their sites a place for people to consult and spend time, not just a placeholder with phone numbers, addresses and board members.
Cook For Your LIFE! is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people eat well through each stage of cancer treatment and promoting healthy healing and habits. Their site has a serious back story, founded by former fashion designer Ann Ogden after two bouts of cancer, but the content and imagery is uplifting and appealing to men and women from all backgrounds.
The message: Cooking healthy through all stages of cancer.
The takeaway: Articles and recipes focused on health, engaging slideshows with colorful photographs of delicious food, as well as cooking classes and videos.
2) Help people help you
Making it easy to donate is probably one of the most important and difficult tasks facing nonprofits in their web design. The trick is to incorporate calls to action within valuable content without losing the message or overwhelming the user. In a study recent of online donors by Edge research, most people surveyed wanted more explicit messaging and direction in terms of what or how to donate.
Sometimes a small change is all that’s needed. In the case of Cook For Your LIFE! a minor change to the site’s donation button was enough to begin driving more traffic to this page.
While many nonprofits are wary of spreading their message too many times and telling too many people, it is important to make it very clear what a donation does for the organization. Spell it out: “You give this, we can do that.” Images are also a great way to clearly represent the movement of funds throughout an organization from donor to program.
Charitywater.org does a great job of this with the visual explanation of their “Pledge Your Birthday” campaign. A step by step process is laid out with images and descriptions:
3) Turn your visitors into ambassadors
Press is a great way to earn publicity, but it can be hard to come by. While it’s important to ensure the site design allows for easy navigation and answers to elementary questions that any journalist may have about your organization, utilizing social media integration for calls to action into the site is a great way to drum up more organic support and followers. Make sure social buttons are visible, not just hidden in the header or footer of the page.
Provide content and images that people can Tweet, Pin, and post to their Facebook timelines. By integrating social media into prominent parts of your website, you provide your followers the opportunity to become ambassadors of your cause, promote ideas and share your content in their social media profiles. An audience of loyal followers, readers and donors can be just as impactful, if not better than traditional press.
4) Content, content, content
Content costs money and time, but starting with good content is just like building a great wardrobe. Once you have the basics, you can mix and match what you have for most any season. With the right web design, you can use the content you have to make the site relevant in seasons of giving and year-round.
A good nonprofit web design should allow for quick re-categorization of content into themes. Cook For Your LIFE! is again a good example of this. They provide articles and recipes for cancer health and they are able to present this information in a themed way during certain times of the year.
Sliders on the main page and slideshows throughout the site allow them to re-package existing content that is relevant to the cause and present it effectively to their target demographic. Click through rates of content in these specialized sliders are significantly stronger than on other parts of the site, even for content which has been hosted on the site for a period of time.
Basic web design concepts for nonprofits - clear messaging, strong calls to action, original content - aren't any different than for other organizations. However, there are unique attributes web designers need to consider when embarking on this type of project. An understanding that the audience visiting an ecommerce website such as Amazon.com will have different intentions than those visiting CityYear.org, is key in building an optimal website.
If you have any tips about web design for nonprofits, we'd love to hear them. Please leave a message below or drop us a Tweet at @BFMweb.