10-Point Checklist for Nonprofit Websites

 

I recently read in a Google study that there is a 30% increase in donation-related searches from August to September, which means that donors start researching for the holiday gifting season early! And donors are using digital sources for their research. When asked what sources donors use to understand an organization’s impact, 88% said the nonprofit’s website, making it the number one source of information they rely on.

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It’s impossible to ignore the fact that your website is your nonprofit’s number one most valuable communication tool.

We have compiled a list of basic questions to help you evaluate your nonprofit website to help you understand if you are getting the most out of this resource, or if you are potentially leaving money on the table because your site just isn’t up to par. Use this list as an opportunity to identify some elements of your website that you may want to edit before the year-end giving season is upon us.


1. Is your name and a brief explanation of what you do immediately obvious?

People want to know at a quick glance what website they are on, so your organization logo should be prominently displayed at the top. And they say that you only have 5-7 seconds to grab your reader’s attention on your homepage before they lose interest and leave, so having a very clear, concise, one-sentence statement on your homepage is very important. Don’t make them go to your about page or navigate through your program pages to understand who you are and what you are all about, because if you don’t grab your readers attention on the homepage, chances are they won’t make it that far anyway.

Here are a couple examples from website homepages  we created for our clients.

This is from the Colorado Bright Beginnings homepage:

Colorado Bright Beginnings Website

Here is an example from a site we are currently working on for ICAPO:

ICAPO Website

 

2. Is there a clear navigation path to answers or actions your audience is most likely looking for?

Ask yourself why someone would be visiting your website. What questions would they be asking? What actions do they want to take? Is it obvious, from the homepage, where to click to get the answers or take action? All primary answers and actions should be less than three clicks away.

The important distinction here is that many organizations tend to think only about what information they want people to know, or what actions they want them to take. This question is designed to get you to think about your viewer first, which will make your website much more effective overall.


3. Is it easy to understand your impact?

Many times organizations get so wrapped up in explaining WHAT they do, that they forget to tell the story of WHY it matters. The reality is that supporters want to understand your impact even more than they want to know the nitty-gritty details of each program.

The Google study reports that when it came to deciding whether they were going to donate, 81% said impact was the most important factor.

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We recommend to our clients that they include an “Impact” page on the website. Now, this doesn’t mean that the page needs to be titled “Impact.” The title can change based on what makes the most sense for your organization. What goes on this page will depend on your specific organization as well, but some ideas for content include:

  • Short overview
  • Brief impact video
  • Success stories using real images of real people
  • Infographics of key statistics and numbers
  • Call to action to donate

Our favorite example of a very well done “Impact” page is from charity: water. It’s titled “Why Water?

At the top of the page you’ll see a video titled “Water Changes Everything.” This 3-minute video explains the problem that charity: water is working to solve, how they do it, and why it matters. It’s simple and engaging.

Charity Water

 

In scrolling down the page, they further explain “Why Water?” and start by explaining the impact on health and sanitation:

Charity Water

 

The impact on women and children:

Charity Water

 

The impact on economies and communities:

Charity Water

 

Then they talk you through their solution in the form of a likely scenario of a water project. And my favorite part? They make it personal by using the word “you.”

Charity Water

 

They follow that up with some compelling statistics represented in a visual way:

Charity Water

 

And end with a call to action – donate:

Charity Water

 

Including a page like this can answer many questions that prospective donors, volunteers, and participants may have about your organization and your work.


4. Is there a face that supporters can connect with?

As human beings, we naturally connect with other people. It’s easier to create an emotional connection with your supporters when they can see the faces of the people they would be helping with their donation.

It’s most compelling to use real people with real success stories, but if that’s not possible for our organization, it’s possible to use stock photography to create that human connection. Just select the stock photography very carefully.


5. Do you clearly state that you are a nonprofit?

You may be thinking “duh”, but I can’t tell you how many nonprofit websites I’ve seen that miss this obvious piece of information. I think this happens because when internal staff are responsible for writing the content, they live and breathe their nonprofit status everyday, so it doesn’t occur to them to tell people that they are a nonprofit. The reality is that you are missing an opportunity if you don’t spell it out. People may mistake you for a government or private organization.


6. Is it easy to donate from the homepage?

Don’t make viewers go searching for your donate button. It’s best to make it easy to donate from any page within the website, so we often times recommend including the donate button in the header so it’s in the same place on every page.


7. Is your donate page onsite, well branded and easy-to-use?

According to the Network For Good Digital Giving Index, branded giving pages raised 6 times more dollars than generic giving pages. Let that soak in a minute… 6 times!

Screen Shot_branded giving page

Furthermore, when comparing 2012 to 2013, donations were down -8% for generic giving pages, and up 3% for branded giving pages. And generic giving pages received 20%-30% smaller average gifts than on branding giving pages.

Now, those are some impressive statistics!

So what is the difference between a branded giving page and a generic one? A branded donation page is one that looks and feels like it’s part of the rest of your website. This helps your donor feel more comfortable when giving, because they trust they are in the right place.

On the other hand, a generic donation page may still have your logo on it, but little else. Or it may be a donation page from a third-party site which means your viewer has to leave your website in order to actually donate. This is a jarring transition for your donor that makes them question if they are in the right place and if they should trust it.

It’s also best practices to keep the form simple. Don’t make them fill out more information than you really need.


8. Is your site mobile friendly?

It’s best practice now to have a website that is coded to be responsive for tablets and mobile devices.  According to a Google study, 1 in 4 used mobile to discover nonprofits they were not previously aware of. Plus, 25% completed donations on mobile devices.

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9. Are you capturing email addresses?

The best way to turn a first-time website visitor into a long-time supporter is to start a conversation and build a relationship with them. In order to do that, you need to know who they are and have permission to contact them. So make signing up for your eNewsletter simple and easy to find.


10. Is it easy to contact staff?

Chances are that before writing a big check or proposing a potential partnership, your viewer will want to connect with someone at the organization over the phone or in-person. Make sure it’s easy to find out who does what at the organization. We don’t recommend listing everyone’s email addresses, but have a contact form and list phone numbers for key staff.


How did you do?

How does your website fair after going through this list? Does it need some work? Contact us for a free one-hour consultation, and let’s chat about how we can help you.

Jami Fassett

Jami Fassett

I am a brand strategist passionate about using my time, talent and 12 years of experience to help people and communities. That is why I started Up and Up Creative, to help nonprofits use the power of branding to reach more people, raise more money and do more good.

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