6 Nonprofit Website Must-Haves for Optimal Engagement
In a digital age, it’s increasingly important for nonprofits to have modern websites that can engage their supporters.
Many donors prefer interacting with the nonprofits they care about online, so having a professional website is essential to building trust and bringing your work to life.
However, designing a beautiful and interesting website is often easier said than done.
Between selecting a website builder, vetting out consultants, deciding on the look and feel, figuring out which elements to include, and much more, nonprofits have a lot of decisions to make before they can achieve the perfect website.
However, no matter how you go about designing your website, there are a few must-haves that every nonprofit website should include to foster optimal donor engagement and conversion, including:
- CRM integration
- Strong branding
- Compelling imagery
- A prominent donation button
- Social sharing features
- Responsive design
In this article, we’ll discuss what each of these elements is and why they’re important to help your organization create the most successful website possible.
1. CRM Integration
Between online donations, membership signups, event registrations, merchandise sales, and more, your organization will likely be conducting a multitude of transactions through your website.
These transactions can provide you with a valuable influx of new donor data. But the challenge lies in the fact that it can be hard to stay on top of collecting a bulk of new data, especially during high volume times like giving days.
If you don’t have a sustainable plan in place for collecting and storing this data, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to leverage it. Seeing as donor data is crucial to building informed stewardship strategies and strengthening donor relationships, you could be missing out on a wealth of valuable recurring givers and fundraising opportunities.
CRM integration simplifies the data collection process significantly.
By integrating your CRM with your website, all of the donor data you receive from webforms will automatically be filtered into new or existing donor profiles.
Not only will integrating save staff time for more meaningful pursuits, but you’ll also reduce your room for error significantly since no data from your website will be handled manually.
Ultimately, integrating with your CRM provides you with multiple benefits: less hassle, more staff hours, and the most accurate and complete set of data possible to inform your fundraising and relationship building.
2. Strong Branding
Your website will be the hub of your organization’s online presence. It’s where donors will come to learn more about your work and mission, seek out engagement opportunities, and ultimately, make online donations!
Your website should be 100% reflective of your nonprofit. Each aspect should be carefully branded to your organization, from the logo and color scheme to the imagery and messaging.
If you’re designing your website with a website builder, your organization should start by creating a style guide that outlines standards for all website features, including:
- Color scheme (stick to 3-4 colors that match your logo).
- The color of hyperlinked text.
- Font (sans serif fonts are the most legible on screens).
- Language (will you take a more formal or casual tone? Are there certain keywords or phrases that should be associated with different topics?)
- Imagery (image sizes, types of images, copyrights, etc.).
Once you have guidelines in order, set them as defaults in your website builder’s theme. That way, all aspects of your website will automatically conform to your brand as you’re designing new pages.
Establishing a cohesive brand is essential to website engagement and conversion.
Since donors will likely be using your website to submit sensitive data (their credit card information, for instance), it’s crucial that your website instills a sense of trust. If donors are dubious of your site in any way, they’ll be far less likely to submit a contribution.
By branding every page of your website to the look and feel of your nonprofit, donors can be assured that they’re interacting with a trusted organization, no matter where they land on your site.
Ultimately, thoughtful branding creates consistency, which will make your donors feel more confident engaging with you through your website.
3. Compelling Imagery
Between email, social media, and surfing the web, people are constantly flooded with information online.
It’s absolutely crucial for your website to be able to capture your donors’ attention and convey what you want to get across quickly and concisely. Having to wade through too much information to get to your message can be a huge deterrent to online engagement.
One of the best ways to ensure your website is eye-catching and to get your message across is by using imagery.
Images have a visceral appeal that can be incredibly compelling to donors, especially when something as emotionally-charged as nonprofit work is involved.
To illustrate this point, let’s take an example. Say you worked for an organization that provided children in underserved communities with access to textbooks and school supplies. Which would you find more impactful?
- An image of a child that the organization has served in the classroom, using the supplies that the nonprofit has provided.
- A long page of text explaining the organization’s mission in general terms.
There’s no competition! An image brings your cause and work to life in a more tangible way, which can be just the push that donors need to start (or continue!) supporting you.
When it comes to images, keep in mind that the original graphics taken or created by someone involved in your organization are the most impactful. Plus, using original images will also help you avoid copyright and usage issues.
Additionally, images should either have an emotional appeal or informational value (such as an infographic explaining the problem you’re trying to address).
Ultimately, using images helps your website capture your donors’ attention and helps you get important information across instantly, making your website more compelling to supporters.
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4. A Prominent Donation Button
If you’re using your website to process online donations (and we certainly hope that you are!), a prominent donation button is an absolute must-have on your website.
That’s because the key to maximizing conversion during the donation process it to make giving as convenient as possible. In simpler terms, if donating is short and sweet, donors are more likely to follow through with their contributions.
And, of course, the first step to an intuitive donation experience is ensuring that donors know exactly where to go to begin the donation process. If they can’t find your donation form in the first place, there’s no way that they’re going to complete their donations!
To make sure your donation button is easily spottable from all pages, it’s best to include it in the top navigation bar on your website. Of course, you should include it on all relevant pages, too!
Additionally, feature your button in a standout color and use clear language so that there’s never any confusion around where a donor can go to support you.
Ultimately, including your donation button in your top navigation and throughout other prominent spots on your website will create an intuitive donation experience that leads to more online contributions.
Bonus: Awareness is only the first step to conversion. Read O8’s article on what makes a stellar landing page.
5. Social Sharing Features
Your online fundraising strategy may center around your website, but it doesn’t just end there. Your nonprofit should also be connecting with supporters through other online channels.
If your nonprofit engages supporters through social media, you should definitely include social sharing elements on your website.
By doing so, supporters can share your content on their social media pages (usually Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but often other sites, too) with just the click of a button!
The benefits of incorporating social sharing features into your website are threefold:
- It maintains consistency. If you’re taking a multi-channel approach to your online fundraising and stewardship (as you should be), it’s important to integrate all channels to create a directed and cohesive strategy. Doing so ensures that your message is consistent across all channels, which as we already discussed, is crucial to building trust and maintaining credibility with supporters.
- It helps you spread your reach. If sharing their donations and other content from your site with their networks is as easy as clicking a button, more donors will be inclined to do it. Including social sharing buttons can be an effective and organic way for your organization to reach new donors.
- It’s another point of engagement. Your donors have various preferences, and some may prefer to engage with you on social media over your website. By integrating the two channels, you can reach more of your donors’ preferences and provide them with another opportunity to connect with your organization.
Ultimately, including social sharing buttons on your website makes it easier for you to create a cohesive, multi-channel fundraising strategy, expands your online reach, and keeps current donors engaged by meeting them where they like to be.
Bonus: Is your nonprofit just getting started with social media? Learn how to create an effective social media strategy in a few simple steps.
6. Responsive Design
It’s now the case that more people surf the web from their smartphones or tablets than they do from laptops or desktops.
Mobile is the present and the future of communication, and in order to stay current, your organization must cater your fundraising and stewardship strategies to mobile.
As far as your website goes, that means using a responsive design framework.
A website that’s built with responsive design will automatically adjust itself to fit the confines of a mobile device. That means:
- Your website will look equally as professional on a mobile device as it does on a computer.
- Supporters will easily be able to interact with your website. They won’t have to pinch, scroll, zoom, or manipulate their screens in any way to read your content, fill out online forms, or complete other actions.
In other words, a responsive design makes engaging with your website a whole lot easier for mobile donors.
If your website is difficult to navigate on a phone, you could be missing out on valuable contributions and engagement opportunities with a majority of your supporters.
Ultimately, using responsive design ensures that all donors will have a positive experience interacting with your website, no matter which device they approach it from.
Nonprofit Website Must-Haves
These are just a few of the most important nonprofit website must-haves. Including them on your site should set you up for success when it comes to engaging your donors and maximizing your online donations.
For even more web design best practices, check out these tips from Neon!
Jeff Gordy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Z2 Systems, Inc., the makers of NeonCRM for nonprofits. Jeff has been working with his team for the last 12 years on building the optimal fundraising, CRM database, and marketing solution for nonprofits. Before starting the company, Jeff worked for the Kidney Cancer Association and knew that nonprofits needed better software solutions to help with their many challenges.