Nonprofit Website Best Practices

Nonprofit Website Best Practices

Nonprofit Website Best Practices.

Before start building Web site for not for profit website you need to ask questions like: Who is your audience?
What are they looking for?
Who is your audience?
What are they looking for?
and several others…

Are the visitors to your Web site in search of information, entertainment, involvement or are they there to make a purchase or donation?
This is an essential question to answer so you can cater and hone your content to the type of visitors the site will attract.
Put yourself in their shoes and brainstorm the types of questions they will be looking for your site to answer.

Information Clarity
Now that you have defined your audience, how are you going to organize the information in way that is easy for them to obtain? Have clear and effective calls to action on every page – if you offer online donation, can you easily see the donate button on every page?
Create short and scannable pages. If you need to present a lot of information, start off at a 10,000 ft. view and let them drill down.  Make sure to include subheadings and lists to help the reader scan through to the information they’re searching for – Internet users don’t like reading large blocks of text.

Tell a Story
Storytelling is such an amazing way to get your message across. Make sure that it’s stressing the impact that your organization has made. In this way, you are using the voices and words of the those you’re impacting.  Some pretty clear examples of storytelling that are out in the world right now is According to their site, “Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.” After a quick tour of their site, you quickly see that each entrepreneur has a story and how your micro-investment will be put to good use.


1. Make Your Site Donor-Friendly

Donations are a necessary thing for every non profit organization out there. Your website can be a great place to solicit donations, especially from new donors. It can also make it easier for recurring donors to make additional donations. In either case, you want it to be a simple and straight-forward process for people to give you money.


2. Make Your Site Media-Friendly

Getting media attention can have a huge impact on a non profit organization. Whether the media attention brings in more donations directly or simply raises the profile of the organization, getting attention from journalists, bloggers, and anyone else with an audience is important.

3. Make Your Site Volunteer-Friendly

Make it easy for visitors to your site to find information on how they can get involved. There are plenty of people out there who might not have the money to make a donation but are still passionate about what your organization is doing.

Whether you provide detailed information about volunteering directly, steps people can take on their own, or just contact information for your volunteer organizer, make sure you don’t overlook this crucial bit of information.

4. Make Sure Your Organization’s Purpose is Immediately Apparent

How many times have you gone to a website and not had a clue what the site was about? This happens all too often. Designers and clients often take for granted what visitors to their site will already know about their organization.

But considering how much information is pushed in bite-size pieces on sites like Twitter and Facebook, there’s no telling how much or how little visitors will know. With some organizations it’s easy enough to figure out what the organization is about just by its name, but for others it’s not so easy.

5. Make Sure Your Content Takes Center Stage

Design on any site should be transparent, and especially so on non profit sites. That’s not to say your site can’t have an interesting design, just that the design should revolve around your content and your mission, not the other way around. Take into account the types of information you’ll be providing on the site and the formats that will be used.

6. Make Sure Your Website is Consistent with Your Other Promotional Materials

Your logo should use the same logo and colors as your other promotional materials. Maintaining a consistent brand throughout your organization greatly increases your chances of being recognized in passing. Your website doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) match your print promotional materials exactly, but echoing the look and feel of those materials increases brand identity.

7. Know Your Site’s Purpose Up Front

The leaders of your organization (or whoever is in charge of the organization’s website) should make a list of what the goals for the site are before starting the design process. Is the site primarily to allow existing members to stay updated? Is it to solicit donations? Is it to get new volunteers or members? Is it to raise awareness in general?

8. Include a News Section or Blog

Including a blog or news section has a couple of big advantages for non profit sites. First, it gives people a reason to come back to your site. If you offer news about your organization and your cause, people who are interested in either will come back on a regular basis (or subscribe via RSS). This keeps your site visible and makes it more likely they’ll become more involved in the future (or stay involved if they are already).

Second, blogs and news sites are often quoted by other blogs and news sites. This increases the exposure for your site and will likely bring you more traffic.

Third, constantly-updated content increases your search engine visibility. This makes it easier for people actively looking for information related to your organization to find your site.

Social Media Case Studies

Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation

Sometimes, the best way to understand the potential of social media and Web. 2.0 is by seeing how other nonprofits and foundations have used them.

I’ve collected some examples here to inspire you. I’ll keep adding to this list as I find other good examples. If you have an organization you’d like me to include, please leave a comment here.

Women’s Foundation of California: YouTube, Facebook, MySpace

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: YouTube, Twitter, 2 blogs

Knight Foundation: Facebook, Twitter, flickr, video, vlogs

MacArthur Foundation: Second Life

The Daniels Fund: Facebook

The Case Foundation: Facebook, email, Web sites

Lumina Foundation: Camino a la Universidad

Goodwill, Washington D.C.: Blog, online store through EBAY and online auction

American Red Cross: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, flickr, blogs

National Wildlife Federation: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, flickr

The Humane Society: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, flickr

American Cancer Society: New online community, SharingHope.TV

Meals on Wheels: Blogs, YouTube, Twitter

Amnesty International: Coordinated social media campaign

Wittenberg University: Witt Nation publicity campaign, YouTube, Twitter, Ning

Spring Arbor University: Branding/recruitment, a Web site for student and faculty bloggers to talk about life on campus

Rhode Island School of Design: President  John Maeda is an exceptional Tweeter.

Brooklyn Museum: Crowd-curated exhibition

Indianapolis Msueum of Art: YouTube, iTunes, flickr, blog

Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center: MySpace

Witness: Video and other online technologies

United Nations World Food programme: Videos, vlogs, Wall of Hunger fundraising

Save Darfur Coalition: Facebook. Twitter, blogs

Charity: Water: Twitter (2009 Twestival)

Save the Arts in Ottawa: YouTube Neighborhood online forums

South Mountain Community College: Ning

Bioneers: Ning

Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership: Wiki for conference planning

Alzheimer Society of Ontario: Wiki to replace one-way intranet