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What Makes a Good Non-Profit Website?

Lori Halley 23 August 2010 6 comments

A lively LinkedIn discussion was kicked off when Elizabeth Watkin, program coordinator at Africa Carbon Credit Exchange,asked, “What makes a good non-profit website?

What do you like to see on a charity/non-profit/NGO website and what do you dislike? Would a website encourage you to donate or get involved? If you have been inspired by a particular website, can you pass on the link?

Among the participants in the discussion is David Berg, who has been researching the fundraising and communications aspects of Dutch charities since 2005. He points to five “fundamental mistakes” most commonly made by those non-profit websites:

  1. They talk about themselves, and what they do, instead of also involving the 'visitor' in what difference they can make.

  2. Way too much information. It's like charities are afraid that the visitor will not find what he is looking for. They have trouble trusting the visitor to use the 'internal' google search to find the information.

  3. In most cases the only way to contribute was a monthly payment or a one time gift. Many visitors are not yet prepared to give, they just want to experience and browse. Charities should provide forms of interactions like 'polls, quizzes/tests, competitions' and also share stories of donors who decided to donate and experience firsthand the results of the charity.

  4. Visitors are not invited to participate. A side from a poll now and then, visitors are not invited to join the monthly customer panel. This panel will be the eyes and ears of the charity on what the needs and desires are from their potential donors.

  5. No integration of social media networks whatsoever...

Charities still think that the visitor will come to them. With the rise and popularity of social media, charities need to be where their visitor is and involve them in what they are doing.

If you’re a member of the LinkedIn group Non Profit Network – MojaLink, do take a few minutes to read through the nineteen responses posted to date here. If not, here’s a really quick round-up of the highlights – and I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments!

  • Defining the purpose of a nonprofit website is key. Is it to attract donations, or is it to provide information to the individuals and groups seeking your services?

  • Who will use it, why do they use it, what do you want them to do on it, how can design make this easy?

  • Make key information easy to find. If website visitors want to get more detailed info, give them the opportunity, but don't make every visitor wade through the details.

  • Make it easy to donate. The website should have a clear path to the call for action.

  • What content can you provide that is so compelling that it will bring back your target audience over and over again?

  • Stories of success and testimonies from people who have benefited from your organization's work are a quick way to relate what you do [but] these have to be done well.... Make it good or don't do it.

  • List your staff members (or key administrative staff, for larger organizations) and your board of directors with their professional affiliations. Potential funding sources will want to know these key players.

  • Don’t neglect your analytics: Measure how the website is doing with number of visitors, how long the visitors stay on the site, where they exit, and whether they execute what you want them to execute while there.

To this short list, I’d add the importance of making your website content accessible both to search engines (so you can be found in the first place), and to audiences of differing abilities, to maximize your potential audience and better serve a broad online community.

What’s working for your organization’s website? What non-profit websites can you point out as inspiring examples?

Related posts:

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 23 August 2010 at 8:31 PM


  • Non-Profit Websites by Cozality said:

    Tuesday, 24 August 2010 at 8:27 AM

    This is a pretty good list! Also, don't forget to make it super easy to use; the nonprofit website needs to be easy for visitors to navigate and easy for your non-technical personnel to keep up-to-date.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 24 August 2010 at 9:03 AM

    "Easy to navigate" - absolutely, Coz! Check out some of the usability/accessibility links for more info there. As for "easy for your non-technical personnel to keep up-to-date"... yes, that's vital, and it has to be easy for them to use and maintain your membership and donor records, too, as well as the website/blog. In fact, that's what Wild Apricot is designed to do. :-)

  • Non-Profit Websites by Cozality said:

    Wednesday, 25 August 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Just going through the Wild Apricot tour, lol... didn't realize we're in the same business! Well, great blog Rebecca. Lots of useful information for nonprofits! :-)


  • Gayle Thorsen said:

    Wednesday, 25 August 2010 at 5:41 PM

    My free ebook "Best Practices in Nonprofit Website Design" is more than a year old now, and things move fast, but it still covers a lot of ground. http://impactmax.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/ebook6.pdf

  • Pablo Edwards said:

    Wednesday, 25 August 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Great recommendations I am sending this to a few friends who run non-profits.

  • Shoshanna said:

    Saturday, 28 August 2010 at 10:53 PM


    Some things I did not see mentioned and that are crucial:

    Keep the site updated and current. DONT have news from January in October! Dont have an appeal from Sept in January!

    If you have events, place them prominently, and remove them when they are over!

    Use images(real if possible) to show your story and those you help.

    Whenever possible, use the simplist terms to define yourselves, no one is looking for a dissertation on the causes of poverty, illness or abuse. People are smart, they know that- use your limited space to tell people what makes your work with the cause unique in the great big world on non profits. In other words- Why You?

    Thanks for the discussion~


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