15 Tips to Improve a Non-Profit Website

I know that when it comes to those trying to help others, every dollar of your budget must be used effectively. I have assembled this list of the things that come up in conversations with stake-holders of these nonprofit websites often express. Here are a few tips on making your non-profit organization's website more effective:

  1. Look at the website from the visitor’s perspective.

    Think about what if you were visiting your organization's website for the first time, do you immediately understand what the organization does? Are the calls to actions you want a visitor to follow crystal clear? Are the menus easy to use and focused? Some simple user testing can give you some valuable insight on what users want most. Take a laptop with you to the coffee shop and ask for some feedback. People will usually give you a few minutes of honest, immediate, unbiased, emotional feedback that can help you make future decisions.

  2. Put the most emotionally compelling content up front.

    Put your strong foot forward as they say. You only have a few seconds, maybe half a minute to engage with the website visitor and draw them in before they will move on. If you have a video or photos showing the great work you do with your organization, use them! Imagery is the fastest way you can build emotional connections in a way that is not possible with words alone.

  3. Three clicks and they’re out.

    During content strategy, make everything you want a visitor to do on the website is shallow. The path to your content, volunteer signup and anything important should be no more than three clicks deep. Research indicates that you lose 45% or more of visitors still on the website with each click deeper they have to travel to accomplish a goal or find the content they seek.

  4. Make the website social media friendly.

    With the explosion of social media and sharing of content with user's followers, you don't want to make it difficult for people to post your information to their networks. You should consider including social sharing links on every page of your non-profit organization's website. Encourage the users to share or embed your videos, providing them with easy ways to do so. Also link to your social media profiles in a header or footer so that they can find & follow your organization's social accounts as well.

  5. Newsletter sign-up should be a prominent CTA, and an easy action for visitors to complete.

    If you don’t have a regularly published email newsletter, you should get on it immediately. You can build up your contact lists & maintain relationships by regular meaningful contact with people who have an interest in what your organization does. It’s also really important for driving traffic back to your website & donation drives.

  6. Put Your Content on a Management System!

    If your website is not running on a Content Management System (CMS), the organization is probably having difficulty keeping the content organized! When you move to a CMS, you are developing a website that will grow with your organization. The next step is to put it to good use, by using the built in functionality to help you reuse components to create dynamic pages.

  7. Feature the ‘Donate Now’ button.

    When people are ready to make a donation, they wanted to accomplish the process quickly and easily. Visitors shouldn’t have to think about how to give to your organization, you need to make it very easy & clear. Just putting a Donate Now Button somewhere on your website does not guarantee visitors will use it, but if you don't no one will at all. You should prioritize this in planning & designing your website. To summarize, make it easy for potential donors to support your organization.

  8. Explain What the Organization Does Clearly

    The most important information that people want to know about a nonprofit organization before they make a donation is the mission, what type of work it does and how that work gets done. Non-Profit websites that provided this information in an easy to understand format see an increase in completion of goals and objectives. This information was enough to convince people—if they agreed with their mission—to make a donation.

  9. Don’t hide your address and phone number.

    In this information age, most donors still believe that the best way to build a relationship is showing the people that you’re real. Studies have shown that simply putting a phone number and address builds trust & is often the one piece of verification people are looking for when they browse your website.

  10. Connect your blog.

    A non-profit organization’s blog is an incredible way to share your latest news and create user engagement. Think of your blog as your organization's way to share real-time information about your work &/or share information that is relevant to the work the organization does. Remember that people (and search engines) want regular postings, so make a commitment to regular updates. If you are hosting your blog on a 3rd party platform (ex. Medium), make sure you have clear links from your Website to the blog, and from the Blog to your website.

  11. Build up your internal search function.

    An easy to use search function and sitemap is a great way to help users get to their intended destination quickly. Tools such as Google Analytics can track the terms used by users on the website search to help you see if users are finding what they wanted as well as what they wanted and you didn't have.

  12. Make the website mobile friendly.

    With the explosion of mobile users, you do not want to make it difficult for people to view your website. People will just leave. More and more people are using their mobile device as the primary device to access content online. The numbers don't lie, every organization has seen a huge rise in mobile visitors and when they make the decision to responsive the numbers climb even higher.

  13. Create a homepage that encourages exploration.

    A homepage that is overwhelmed with too much will drive away prospective donors. This page is often the first impression of a nonprofit that a user sees and it should never be created just to have a website. You want to engage perspective donors, entice people to learn more about your mission, and help facilitate the volunteer process. These are your goals, so structure your homepage to optimize for these goals. Remember that less is more, but not enough is just as bad. Get the user to their respective content areas ASAP so that they can find what they came looking for.

  14. Make Volunteer Recruitment Easy.

    If volunteers are how your organization gets things done, then think about how to make it easy to access volunteering opportunities on the website. Do you have a Call to Action to volunteer on your homepage? Is it easy for volunteers to get to the sign-up form or a list of upcoming events from other pages on your website? If not, you may not be reaching your full potential with volunteers. People who would like to help your mission need to be able to find the when, where & how to help very easily so that they can get involved.

  15. Utilize Analytics.

    When it comes to knowing what’s working and what is not, data is the key. Keeping track of important metrics like who visits the website, where they entered the site from, and how long they’re on the website can provide you with some very clear insight into your user actions. Data doesn’t lie, but your need to know what it is saying. The insights it provides are great for informing future decisions about the website and improving the effectiveness of your marketing.