Maybe you started your very own nonprofit or established a new chapter of a larger organization; either way, your hard work isn’t done just yet. Now, it’s time to get up and running online. The place to start? Your website.
Your nonprofit’s website is the back-bone to your marketing efforts and the initial point of contact for your organization. It leaves that all-important first impression about who you are, what you stand for, and your overall mission.
Therefore, having a well-designed website can make all the difference for your organization’s success. It can help you recruit supporters, volunteers, and donors, as well as share your intentions to champion change in the world.
In order to make sure your website is the best it can be, your organization should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Start with the right Content Management System (CMS).
- Pick the right website template.
- Optimize your content.
- Start writing your blog.
- Consider add-ons.
This guide is a great launch pad for your research, but be sure it doesn’t end here. We recommend checking out some examples of the best nonprofit websites to help style your site. After conducting this research, you’ll be ready to jump into the creation process.
To start building the perfect website for your nonprofit, start with the best CMS for your organization. The CMS world may seem wide and unruly because there are so many different types for different organizations.
So, how do you choose the one best one for you? Make sure you have the CMS features you need by choosing one that is tailor-made for nonprofit organizations.
This tailored system should have features such as:
- Live editing tools. Live editing tools enable you to see your work in real-time. Instead of storting through complicated back-end text and code or working in Photoshop, you can simply click on different elements on your page to edit right there! This is perfect for making your nonprofit’s website as visually appealing as possible from the front-end of the site.
- Cloud-based management tools. This means your management can be streamlined through your website. Instead of balancing a bunch of different systems, you can accomplish your management needs right there through your website.
- Drag-and-drop templates. Pre-designed elements make it easy to format and design your page without worrying about typing new HTML or CSS code.
To find out what else to look for in a CMS, launch your research with Morweb’s article on nonprofit CMS features. The right CMS is the foundation of an effective website for any organization, but is especially important for nonprofits. Not only are you trying to promote your organization, you have a bigger mission to share with the world!
No matter which CMS you choose, you’ll likely start with a template to design your website. We recommend starting with one of these templates, especially when the ones offered through your CMS are customizable.
Choose the right template for your organization by conducting ample research, taking into consideration the following steps:
- Start your research with top nonprofit website templates.
- Make a list of the specific features your nonprofit needs from its website.
- Cross reference your top choices of templates with those offering these features, or see if an add-on will suffice.
- Consider the future. Make sure your website’s template will be able to expand as your nonprofit does.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect template for your nonprofit, it’s time to customize! Think like a designer when you begin customizing your template. By this, we mean choose your words wisely depending on your audience, keep your philanthropic mission in mind, and convey your brand values.
Write your website to appeal to your target audience. Are you a local nonprofit looking to serve your immediate community? Or a chapter of a larger organization? Establishing your personal identity and target audiences will create a tone of voice for the reader on your site. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What is the main goal of the website? What are secondary goals?
- What type of users will visit my website and what key pieces of information are most important to them?
- How do I want the public to perceive my organization?
When it comes to establishing your visual brand on your website, be sure to use the two to three established colors your organization has decided on. Then, include your organization's logo on the site as well as other images and elements that make your organization unique.
Once you have your site up and running, you’ll want it to be found easily by your target audience. Generally, the best way to assist in this process is to make sure your content is easily found on search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a term used to describe the process of ensuring the content on your website is seen by internet users through search engines like Google.
Make sure the CMS and templates you’ve chosen will enable you to adjust the features necessary to make your site appealing for SEO. Some of these features include:
- Meta title editors allow you to adjust the page title that will populate on search engines like Google.
- Customizable meta descriptions give a snippet describing what each page of your website is about.
- Targeted meta keywords signal to search engines what the content is about and what words, when typed into Google, should cause the article to rank highly.
- Customizable URLs further target your content to the right keyword searchers.
SEO is a great marketing step to make sure your website is seen by the community, and further, by your targeted audience.
One of the most powerful tools at your disposal on your website is your blog. Establish a writing style you can use for this multi-purpose tool.
Your blog is a perfect platform for the creation of educational content related to your mission, announcements about organizational benchmarks achieved, and even as a part of your stewardship strategy.
Use your blog to help drive support through your volunteers, donors, and new site visitors. Begin writing your blog and use your CMS tools to maximize its effectiveness. Key blogging tools you should look for include:
- An intuitive blog editor should make it easy to tailor your blog to your target audience and targeted keywords.
- Pre-scheduled blog posts give you the ability to write and edit ahead of time, then publish them at times that will maximize the engagement.
- Post previews allow you to see posts before they go live. You never want to post something without having some idea of how the formatting will look in real-time.
Your blog has the ability to be educational as well as appeal to the empathetic nature of people. Be sure to include descriptive images to drive this empathy in your readers.
To make sure your CMS will offer the necessary blogging tools your organization needs, read up on which platform to choose with a top listing article, such as Double the Donation’s top 11 nonprofit website design companies.
Starting with the best CMS will provide you with the necessary features for your site, but don’t be afraid of using other add-ons to further customize the site for your needs. If your CMS doesn’t offer add-ons, it will be difficult to grow your site with your organization.
CMS modules make it easy to add different features when you need them. These add-ons are used for all sorts of things, including:
- eCommerce. Set up an online store to support your fundraising efforts. You may decide that selling online merchandise such as t-shirts, personalized mugs, or calendars, will support your fundraising and marketing strategy.
- Member directories to help keep your supporters engaged with one another. If you have a membership program, this is also a great opportunity for members to connect with one another.
- Private pages that can be password-protected for supporters and members. Private pages are a great option if you need to segment access to pages for members, volunteers, etc.
Add-ons are a great tool for expanding opportunities you offer through your organization’s website. It can help you expand your fundraising efforts to make them more effective as well as improve your membership and support efforts.
Even if you don’t need these add-ons right at this moment, consider the future. You may find you need something later on, and it will be a huge time-saver if it’s already available through your CMS instead of having to download annoying plugins or switch your website builder altogether.
This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.