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Website & Technology

15 Nonprofit Website Best Practices You Need to Know in 2021

Author: Tatiana Morand
March 4, 2020
🕑 15 min read

Are you about to embark on a website refresh for your website?

Or maybe you’re launching a completely new nonprofit website?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

A well-designed and written website can have a powerful impact on amplifying your nonprofit’s message and cause. It’s well worth making sure your nonprofit website includes the latest best practices.

To help you follow along, I put together the top 15 website trends you need to know in 2021. They range from the best practices for website branding, copy, design, navigation, and conversions. I’ve also included a website that’s a stellar example of each best practice.

nonprofit website builder

1. Maintain a Consistent Brand

When was the last time you updated the look of your website? Was it years ago? Does it look old and outdated? If that’s the case your website visitors may think your organization is old and outdated too, or as one frustrated board member described her association website, “just look at it, it’s atrocious.”

In addition to overall look and feel, your website should look consistent. When your style, tone, and structure are uniform, users will know what to expect no matter what page they are on. What’s more, a polished and high-quality brand gives your site and organization credibility.

What goes into creating a well-branded site? Here’s a bit of homework to do before you flesh out your site:

  • If you don’t have one already, create a style guide for your site. A website style guide will include guidance on colors, fonts, types and sizes of images, and use of icons and graphics.
  • Decide on the voice and tone of your website. Will it be friendly but professional? Maybe a bit sassy and encouraging? Possibly urgent and informative? Whatever it is, the voice should be consistent through your site and blog.
  • Decide how you will structure text and visuals, including headings, lists, and short paragraphs. Establish what the hierarchy of information will be, meaning, what the most critical information is, and how to highlight it.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Branding

Need Inspiration?

Acumen’s website branding is on point. All visual elements tie into their sleek logo design. They used their fonts and branded pink and grey liberally and consistently throughout their site. Every page and element reflects their brand.


Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

2. Write Captivating Copy

How you choose to articulate your mission and services will make the difference between a brand new visitor staying on your site to learn more or exiting after a sentence or two.

When it comes to nonprofit website best practices, writing good web copy is more than just telling a compelling story. It’s also structuring text in a way that is easy to read and understand. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you write your website’s copy:

  • Write for your audience. This may be difficult when you have several audiences, ranging from donors, members, clients, and the general public. Take the time to decide which audience is most likely to visit your site to learn more about your organization and write for those people.
  • Simplify your language. If there is any way to rewrite large or highly literary words and phrases, do so. You would be surprised that much of what you want to say can be written in five words or less.
  • Don’t use jargon. Every organization will have language they use that may be well-known in the industry, but very confusing to the average reader. Don’t use acronyms, and consider defining program names that are not intuitive. For example, if you have a Health Insurance Navigator and Facilitated Enrollment program, let readers know you help people find and apply for affordable health insurance. If you are running a capital campaign, let readers know you are raising a significant amount of money for a large project.
  • Break up your text. Make sure to use headings, subheadings, and short sentences. Lists are your friends — they help people scan for information much easier than block text.

Need Inspiration?

The Gates Foundation’s website copy packs a punch. You won’t find the same old jargon and phrasing here. They communicate their work creatively, using phrases like “we are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity.” Reading the Gates Foundation website feels like listening to an inspiring TED Talk.

Gates Foundation

3. Show Your Organization’s Impact

You likely want to shout about your amazing programs and initiatives from the rooftops — but sharing information about your services is not nearly as engaging and effective as showing the impact your organization is having in the world. When planning out your website copy and structure, include stories of impact frequently.

Here are a few ways to show impact on your website.

  • Showcase stories of real people served through your organization.
  • Share compelling case studies, including a specific problem your organization solved. For a great example, check out Care Innovation’s impact page.
  • Quantify your reach. Showcase the number of people’s lives that are better because your organization exists.

Need Inspiration?

Twloha’s website does an incredible job of showing its impact in numbers, and featuring it where it matters most: their homepage.

Twloha 2

Read More: The 50 Best Nonprofit Websites To Get You Inspired

4. Provide Clear Calls-To-Action

Your site should always have a next step of engagement — namely, showing readers on your website exactly what you want them to do next. That may be donating, becoming a member, or signing up for an email list.

Whatever it is, your calls to action should be easy to find and easy to act on. Here are a few ways to promote calls-to-action, or CTAs, on your site:

  • Make sure your CTA is prominent and up top. If you want visitors to become a member, make the membership button stand out in the navigation. It should be visible without having to scroll down the page.
  • Take advantage of other real estate on your site other than the navigation, like side bars, and at the end of blog posts.
  • Make the action descriptive and compelling. Instead of “Donate Now”, consider “Save Lives”, or instead of “Sign Up for Our Newsletter”, consider “Join Our Movement”. Make sure the description is accurate and clear, so people know where they will be going when they hit the button.
  • Limit the number of calls-to-action. Choose one or two ways to get involved per page.

Need Inspiration?

Shofco’s website has a particularly clear call-to-action: donate. Its donate button is both in the secondary navigation and the footer, which locks while scrolling, so it’s always visible. In addition to the clear donate buttons, they create more opportunities to give by visually showing three ways to get involved on the homepage.


5. Make Your Site Searchable (Search Engine Optimization)

When people are Googling services you provide, does your website come up? 75% of people don’t scroll past the first page of search results, so if you’re not showing up there for the terms you want to, you’re out of luck.

Creating a search-optimized site is an ongoing process, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming one. Here are a few ways you can improve your site’s SEO.

  • Provide quality content. This is the number one way to improve SEO. All of your webpages and blog posts should include valuable and accurate information that search engines will want to share.
  • Keep your website fresh. If you have a blog or event calendar, don’t let it go stale. Search engines “crawl” for up-to-date content and prioritize websites that regularly provide new content.
  • Do keyword research to learn what people are searching for, and use these keywords in your web copy and in blog posts. Don’t overstuff keywords to where it takes away from good copy, but do keep these kinds of words and phrases in mind while writing website copy. You can use Google Keyword Planner for free to get started!
  • Encourage visits to your website through your other communications channels, like social media, email, and events.

Read More: The Top 8 SEO Tips for Nonprofits Who Want to Rank #1

6. Include a Blog on Your Website

I’d highly recommend adding a blog to your nonprofit website. A blog will bring more traffic to your site (both through SEO as mentioned above and by giving you more content to share via social media and email), provide space to share stories of impact, and can help to establish your organization and staff as thought leaders in your industry.

When writing blog posts, use the same best practices we share in the web copy and SEO sections of this post. Stuck on what kinds of blog posts to write? Here are a few ideas.

  • Champion client or member stories
  • Behind the scenes or in the field stories
  • Feature partner organizations
  • Highlight donors and volunteers
  • Share industry news and insight
  • Share industry resources
  • Summarize research reports your organization may be working on
  • Q&A with your CEO and expert staff

Need Inspiration?

Greenpeace USA’s blog, The Environmentalist, is a go-to source of information on all things environment. They focus on breaking news and provide insight, which makes them an authority in their space. The Environmentalist is an active blog, with posts published every week.

Greenpeace USA

7. Use Compelling Visuals and Media

Now comes the fun part: choosing media for your website! Strong visuals are key to telling your nonprofit’s story and grabbing the attention of new visitors.

Plus, the human brain processes visuals versus text incredibly quickly. It takes a tenth of a second to process visual information, which is 60,000 times faster than the time it takes to process text — meaning including visuals allows you to tell more elaborate stories, more quickly.

There are tons of different kinds of media you can use on your site, including photos, videos, and infographics. Here are a few tips for using visuals effectively.

  • Use the highest quality images and videos. Be sure to resize appropriately as not to slow down your site’s speed (and check out this Foreground article for more information on image size best practices).
  • Less is more. Instead of adding numerous images or videos per page, find a few larger ones that drive home your message. Leave plenty of white space between media and copy to allow content to breathe.
  • Be sure your images and videos are relevant to your nonprofit’s mission and services.
  • If you are using images of real clients, members, or partners, be sure you have explicit permission.

Read More: The 22 Features Every Top Nonprofit Website Has

Need Inspiration?

Rotary International’s website is chock-full of vibrant visuals and media. It includes a large and compelling video banner showcasing their work on its homepage. Its site does an incredible job of integrating photos and graphics.

Rotary International

8. Create A User-Friendly Navigation

Here’s a quick test you can do to see how easy your website is to use. Find someone who’s never been to your website before and ask them to sign up for a membership. Watch to see if it takes them more than three clicks.

If it does, that’s a problem, because many visitors will quit searching a website if they can’t find what they’re looking for after just a few clicks.

The last thing you want is for a user to be lost on your site, unable to find the information they’re looking for. Some users will discover your site through a page that is not your homepage, so every page should be easy to navigate from.

  • Make your navigation options clear. Avoid using jargon or abbreviations, and make sure they’re intuitive. That means, don’t label a Contact Us page “Partner With Us”.
  • Use standard navigation titles that users expect. Most visitors will want to visit an “About” and “Contact” page when visiting a site for the first time.
  • Don’t overcrowd your navigation with too many options. Start with broad topics, and use a drop menu if needed.
  • Logically organize your navigation. This can take time if you have a wide range of services, but it’s well worth it to keep visitors on your site.

Need Inspiration?

Public Health Solutions provide a wide range of services, including community programs, research, and serving as a master contractor of government funding. It’s not easy to organize so many different arms of work! They have managed to keep their navigation simple and clear, so no matter what information a visitor may need, they will find it.

Public Health Solutions

Read More: The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nonprofit CMS

9. Make Donating Online Easy

Of all your website goals, we bet increasing online donations is at the top. We live in an increasingly fast-paced world. If someone can buy clothes straight from their Instagram, they’re going to expect donating to be just as smooth and seamless.

There are some ways that you can ensure your online donation process is as easy as possible.

  • Make your donation page easy to find. This is an important call-to-action, so make it very visible in your navigation and homepage.
  • Make your donation form simple. You may want to take this opportunity to capture information like mailing addresses and phone numbers, but the last thing you want is for donors to get annoyed while trying to make a quick donation. Ask for the minimum that you need, which is likely a name, email address, payment info, and donation amount. You can make that last field even more straightforward by giving a few options by a click of a box.
  • Keep the donation process on your site. People may become suspicious of being directed to a new page. Fortunately, most donation platforms will allow you to brand the donation page to blend with the rest of your site seamlessly. Be sure the platform you choose includes this feature.

Read More: 6 Steps to Create a Donation Website for Your Nonprofit + 10 Great Examples

Need Inspiration?

Giving does not get simpler than Charity:Water’s donate page. Giving is done right on their site without directing to a different platform. They ask for just the most essential information to process a donation and make choosing an amount and one time gift versus monthly a breeze.

Charity Water

Read More: 12 Donation Website Templates + Examples to Inspire You

10. Simplify Your Forms

Your donation page is not the only place you’re collecting information. You may also be asking for email subscribers, membership enrollment, or event registry. The simpler it is to complete a form, the more likely people will follow-through. In addition to asking for as little information as possible, here are a few more tips from UX Collective to make forms simple.

  • Instead of providing a drop-down menu of options, use buttons.
  • Make forms one column, which is a more logical way to read.
  • Don’t put in filler text in the fields, which may lead to incorrect information being entered.
  • Error notification should make clear where the error is so that it can be easily fixed.
  • Group the information you are requesting logically.
  • Include a follow-up message or page to let users know their information went through successfully.

Need Inspiration?

The Macau Design Biennial website hosts a design competition, so it includes plenty of forms. The forms are not only designed simply and straightforward, but filling them out is an interactive experience. Who said forms can’t be fun?

Macau Design Biennialnonprofit website builder

11. Link Internally

A significant website best practice is internal linking, which means linking a page with related content from within your website. You may link to the donate page from your blog, or a specific service page from your mission page. Internal linking helps with user navigation and overall experience on your site. It will also boost page views and time spent on your website, which ultimately improves your site’s SEO.

This is how you can optimize links on your site.

  • Be descriptive in the link. Don’t just write “click here”, instead write “become a member”.
  • Make sure the link description is clear and accurate so users know exactly where they are going when they click on it.
  • Make sure you’re linking relevant and logical pages. You wouldn’t direct someone to a donate page who wants to make an appointment for the services you provide — it makes more sense to link to your contact page.
  • Use buttons instead of linking through text. It will highlight the link, and it is easier to click on when using mobile.

Need Inspiration?

When visitors are browsing through God’s Love We Deliver’s website, they are frequently directed to more pages and resources throughout the site. Their links are logical, and help tell the story of their mission and vast number of services for those living with HIV.

God's Love We DeliverGod's Love We Deliver 2

12. Make Sure Your Website Is Accessible

Having an accessible website means that it’s user-friendly for people with disabilities. If your site is not accessible, you’re likely turning away potential members, donors, partners, and clients. Here are a few ways to optimize your website for those with visual, audio, or physical impairments.

  • All images should have alt text, which describes the picture.
  • If you have videos on your site, make sure they have captions.
  • Write descriptive web links so that the users understand where they are being directed to.
  • Use text outside of images so that text readers can pick them up.

Need Inspiration?

A lot of accessible design isn’t easy to see on first glance since it involves behind-the-scenes work like alt text, but there are a few things that you can pick up on first glance. For example, the Cram Foundation website uses bright colours with a lot of contrast as well as large font sizes to make it easy to read.

Cram Foundation

13. Be Sure Your Website Is Responsive

Are people coming to your site, but not staying very long? If that’s the case, one likely cause is that your website isn’t where your visitors are — on their mobile devices.

Your nonprofit website should look fantastic no matter what device (desktop, tablet, smartphone) or browser (Chrome, Explorer, Safari) your users use.Updating your website to be mobile-friendly can keep people on your website longer, because they’ll have an easier time accessing information and signing up for events and even a membership.

So, when you’re choosing a website builder, be sure that responsive sites are the main feature. Here are a few more responsive nonprofit website best practices:

  • Test your site on all device types and browsers to see how it looks.
  • Pay close attention to how your header and navigation look on mobile and tablet. Even using a responsive website builder, the position of text and images may look wonky on smaller devices.
  • Use buttons for links as much as possible, which is much easier to click on when browsing on mobile.

(PS: All WildApricot’s website templates are fully responsive! If you want to try it for yourself, start a free 60-day trial today.)

Need Inspiration?

While the information is the same on Aging Ahead’s website on desktop, tablet, and phone, the design responds perfectly per device. The site is easy to navigate, no matter what you are reading it on.

Aging Ahead

Image source:

14. Include Other Ways to Connect

While your nonprofit website is your most important digital platform, you still want to share your other communications platforms, especially since social media and email are the second and third most effective fundraising and communications channels.

Global NGO Technology Report

Here are simple ways to connect your social media channels.

  • Put social media icons and email sign-up form in your footer.
  • Create a “Get involved” our “Join the community” page that encourages people to follow you on social media and subscribe to your email list.
  • Prompt people to follow your channels on blog posts and other resources on your website.

Need Inspiration?

The Human Rights Watch has a strong social media presence. Not only can you find links to all their social media channels on their footer, you can sign up to join their email list right from the footer without leaving the homepage.

Human Rights Watch

15. Invest in Website Security

Cybercrime is on the rise — don’t fall victim to it! Now more than ever, your website must be secure. This is especially true if you’re collecting donor and member information. Take the time to safeguard your website through these actions.

  • Make sure you choose a quality website hosting service. This is not the area to go the cheapest route.
  • Be sure your donation processing system is safe and secure.
  • Keep your website up-to-date to ensure you are using the most recent security features.
  • Each staff who accesses the backend of your site should have their own log-in.

A solid nonprofit website will provide a mighty homebase for your digital communications and goals. These website best practises will set you up to create and maintain an engaging website that will motivate users to act.

What are your favourite nonprofit websites? Let us know in the comments!

Additional Resources:

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!