10 Best Practices When Designing a Not-for-Profit Website
February 7, 2024
web design melbourne
Not-for-profits come in all shapes and sizes, as do not-for-profit websites. One thing they all have in common however is a shared goal to inspire, inform, and leave a lasting impression. Considering 68% of not-for-profits surveyed had redesigned their website within the last three years, it shouldn't be surprising that a strong digital presence is fundamental to NFP success in 2024. A beautifully designed and well written website is a powerful tool for a not-for-profit, so it's important to get it right!
Unlike other brand websites, NFPs aren't looking to turn visitors into customers or clients, but advocates for your cause. That's why web design for not-for-profits is both tactically and strategically different to any other type of site.
Here we will share the 10 best practices you should follow when designing a website for your not-for-profit in 2024 that we've learnt while working with many amazing NFP organisations.
Not-for-Profit Web Design Essentials
Your visitors need to know how to get involved with your organisation. Whether you want your visitors to donate, volunteer, subscribe to a newsletter, or collaborate with your not-for-profit they need to know exactly how and where to do such action. A clear call-to-action is a crucial aspect of a NFP website and should be carefully considered in the web design stage of your project.
An effective CTA should be:
- A priority on the page; front and centre!
- All over your website, for example at the end of blog posts and every page
- Clear with concise language, such as 'Donate now', 'Join us', 'Subscribe'
- Most of all, focussed! Decided on one or two CTAs and use these on your site, users will get confused if they're asked to donate, sign up to a mailing list, volunteer, and contribute. Instead, focus on the actions that are most important.
A great example of a clear call-to-action is United Nation Innovation Network, first of all your eye is drawn to the 'Join Us' CTA. It's clear what UNIN want users to interact with the second they land on site.
Showcase Your Organisation and Impact
What's the first thing you share when people ask about your not-for-profit? Your mission and impact of course! The web design style you choose should align with your organisation's values and build a perfect foundation for you to share your impact.
Users visit not-for-profit websites to get to know more, so offer it to them! Arguably, focussing on the impact your not-for-profit has had is some of the most engaging content you can put on your website. Tell real stories of changes your NFP has made, goals you have for the future and what the visitor can do to help.
Responsive Web Design
A responsive website is a necessity no matter what kind of site you're making, however imperative for not-for-profits. In 2024 people can access the web on lots of different devices; laptops, computers, tablets, phones, even fridges! A responsive website that has unparalleled UX on every single device is a real strength to any not-for-profit organisation.
Skilled web design agencies will be able to develop and design websites that can respond to many different screen sizes and ensure that every visitor gets a memorable experience on your not-for-profit website. Furthermore, Google continues to prioritise mobile searches, meaning a responsive website is more likely to rank highly on Google's results page.
Social Media Linking
Social media is bigger than ever before and constantly growing. By having clear social media links on your website you encourage visitors to continue their journey with you on other platforms. Clear access to social media accounts is crucial in not-for-profit web design.
Social media platforms also thrive off sharing, by moving your website visitors to your socials you encourage them to share your content and spread the word to an even larger audience. Whether you choose to follow trends, inform, or interact with your audience through social media your presence will not go unnoticed if clearly linked through your website. Easy ways to implement social media linking on your website include:
- Social media icons on your home page
- Encouraging users to follow you on blog posts
- Clearly marked channels on your contact page
A Not-for-Profit Blog
A blog or insights page is a must for NFP websites and this should be in your web design strategy from day one. As discussed with The Royal Society Victoria in a recent interview, a website is a necessity for NFPs to share news and updates relevant to their cause that would otherwise go unnoticed by the press. If you don't have a blog you're missing out on an opportunity to educate your audience and build a relationship with visitors.
"If you're not online, you're not visible," said Scott Reddiex, Director of Engagement for The Royal Society of Victoria, and he couldn't be more correct.
A top tip for NFP web design is using all available features of the internet, from an on-site blog to social media to online publications. A well optimised digital eco-system is critical when trying to grow your not-for-profit organisation. An added benefit of an on-site blog or insights page is the search engine optimisation advantages. Optimising your content for Google and other search engines can get your not-for-profit website more visible on search engine result pages and increase your online authority.
Write Compelling Copy
On top of a visually stunning website, content is king! A website can look amazing, but if the information isn't there and isn't written in a captivating manner, your visitors will become bored. Creating compelling copy for your shiny new not-for-profit blog is the next daunting task. You're probably thinking; 'what do I write about?', 'how do I write a blog?', 'how often?!'.
But there's no need to panic.
Writing copy for your NFP website and blog doesn't need to be difficult; use your passion to drive the writing process. Visitors to a website can tell instantly if the person behind the copy is informed and passionate about the cause, so speaking from your experience is the best way to go.
Create a style guide that matches your organisations tone, whether it be casual, informative, or humorous - you want you website to be a reflection of what visitors can expect from your NFP. Then you can take it from there, whether you publish think pieces, interviews, or infographics; a clear style is a powerful feature and builds rapport with visitors.
After you've decided on your style you need to prioritise the information you want to get across to your visitors. Key points should be communicated clearly without too much waffle. For visitors to gain an eager desire to learn more you need to hit them in the face with the facts. Getting your organisation's message across shouldn't be too difficult once you've built your brand voice; go ahead and start writing!
Find out more about writing for your not-for-profit website from the NFP copy experts.
Top-rate Content Management System (CMS)
Good not-for-profit web design leads to a nice looking website; great not-for-profit web design looks stunning and functions even better.
You don't want maintaining your website to become a chore, with overly complex systems and features that you don't know how to use after the web design agency has handed the site over to you. At emd:digital we use Webflow to develop our websites, where we can create custom content management systems (CMS) for not-for-profits to easily maintain their websites. After all, a website isn't going to last long if you don't have the ability to update it yourself.
Accessibility is key for NFP websites. You're attempting to reach a large pool of people, so by not having an accessible website you cut your potential audience in half! Only 22% of nonprofits have websites designed for those with visual and hearing disabilities; so by implementing features to allow for people with different accessibility needs to access your site you become a leader in your sector!
Simple and Minimal Design
It's easy to get excited by the hundreds of awesome websites out there with cool and trendy features that make your eyes pop out of your head. From cool interactive elements to futuristic 3D animations, web design really can do it all in 2024. While these features do have their place in not-for-profit web design it's important not to do too much. The web design should align with your organisation's brand and not distract from CTAs and your mission.
Interactivity is incredibly popular in web design and can add another level to your not-for-profit website to make it memorable to visitors. A few cool features alongside a minimalistic design create the perfect design for a not-for-profit website. Simple and minimal designs are popular throughout the not-for-profit web design space because it doesn't distract from the information you're trying to convey, but this doesn't mean boring!
Not-for-profit web design is so different to any other type of web design because it's key to find the balance between innovative UI/UX and getting your message across. Minimalist design is both eye-catching, but also the creative use of white space means visitors can focus on what's important, your mission.
Top-notch Optimisation and SEO
By now you've got an awesome website in mind, that's accessible, responsive, and most of all, impactful. So what's next? Now you need to get people to see it. Search engine optimisation is the key to getting eyes on your amazing, new NFP website. Many of the best practices we've already listed will have a positive impact on your search engine ranking, such as your well written blog. On top of this to boost your NFP to the number one spot on Google you can ensure that your website:
- Has a great interlinking structure; make sure you're inputting links throughout your website linking to other pages where relevant.
- Doesn't over do it on keywords; focus on 1-4 keywords per page and make sure not to cannibalise your pages by using the same keywords on too many at one time.
- Gets great backlinks; by guest-posting or offering comments in news articles your website can gain top-quality backlinks that will help you get those top spots on Google.
There are many SEO agencies that specialise in not-for-profit optimisation, ensure that the technical aspects of SEO don't distract from your organisation's mission. Well optimised not-for-profit websites will get the attention of search engines and increase your reach without the need for paid ads.
Ready to get designing?
Great! Follow these best practices to get your not-for-profit website bringing in new donors and advocates with just the click of a mouse.
We have experience working with many different types of not-for-profits, including charities, NDIS, government, and more. Most recently, United Nations, The Royal Society Victoria, and Endometriosis DIT; each with their own individual needs and features. Getting a team of specialists on board is a sure-fire way to get your NFP website standing out from the crowd.