Designing a Nonprofit Website that Looks the Part: 7 Tips

Designing a Nonprofit Website that Looks the Part: 7 Tips

Your nonprofit’s website can be the best online asset your mission has. When you have a dynamic and well-designed website, you can easily market your mission, connect with supporters, and inform the public about your work. 

The difficulty, however, lies in creating a great website (or revamping your current one to be fully optimized). The typical nonprofit professional only wears their web designer hat every now and then, making it difficult to know where to start when your website needs a full-blown makeover. 

Luckily, designing an effective nonprofit website doesn’t have to be impossible. All you need is an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) and some design tips, such as:

  1. Use a website builder that’s made for nonprofits.
  2. Brand your website to your cause. 
  3. Remember SEO best practices. 
  4. Design your donation page with donors in mind.  
  5. Leverage a blog to connect with your community.  
  6. Add event landing pages. 
  7. Connect to your social media profiles. 

As you use these tips to optimize your nonprofit’s website, remember to take your audience’s needs into account and adjust your design strategy accordingly. Let’s jump in!

  1. Use a website builder that’s made for nonprofits. 

A website builder, also known as a CMS, is simply the software that you use to create digital content. Your CMS is like the command center of your nonprofit website, where you write blog posts, tinker with the look of your homepage, add media to your site, and more.

There are a number of website builders out there that you’ve probably heard of, including: 

  • WordPress
  • HubSpot
  • Wix 
  • Ghost
  • Squarespace 
  • Drupal 
  • Joomla 

Each of these website builders has different strengths, but none of them are catered specifically to nonprofits. According to Morweb’s guide to the best website builders for nonprofits, these generic solutions often lack the features your nonprofit needs to thrive and grow. As you shop for your CMS, be sure to look at website builders built for nonprofits so you can take full advantage of features that will help you fundraise, run your programs, and convert more people to your cause. 

  1. Brand your website to your cause.

Your brand is everything that helps your organization stand out from other nonprofits. This includes intangible things such as your mission, how you treat your employees and volunteers, and the emotional tone of your work. But it also includes visual brand elements, like your logo, color scheme, typography, and even the types of visuals you use. 

Image: Morweb-Paybee-Designing a Nonprofit Website That Looks the Part_branding

When designing your website, use your visual brand to your advantage. If your nonprofit’s mission is well-represented by a color or a tagline, using those elements on your website will send strong messages about your work (and your level of professionalism and consistency) to your online audience.

A word of caution about branding: Don’t overdo it. Once you get the hang of using your nonprofit website builder and identify the visual brand elements at your disposal, it can be easy to overload your website, resulting in an overwhelming design. Keeping it simple, however, will pay off as your visitors can focus on your mission and learn about how they can support you. 

  1. Remember SEO best practices. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of preparing your website and its pages to be crawled and indexed by search engines. Essentially this means that a search engine (like Google) will examine your site and decide where to place it on a results page. Clearly, top spots are what you want to shoot for, as they’re more readily seen and clicked on by search engine users. But to aim for top spots, you have to prepare your website accordingly. 

Here are three SEO best practices to implement when designing your site: 

  • Target specific keywords with your website content. The phrases or words that internet users type into a search engine are called keywords, so including keywords on your web pages will be crucial in helping you rank highly on the right search engine results pages. An online tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz can help you identify the keywords you should target when creating content by sharing metrics like monthly traffic. 
  • Use meta tags. Meta tags are the HTML elements that help a search engine understand what a web page is all about. Two of these include a meta title and a meta description. A meta title should be short (ideally 60 characters or less) and describe what the purpose of the page is. For example, the meta title for this article is “Designing a Nonprofit Website that Looks the Part: 7 Tips.” The meta description is an excerpt or short synopsis of what the page is about. Keep your meta descriptions to 160 characters or less so they display correctly on the search engine results page. 
  • Focus on inbound linking. Inbound links or backlinks are links to your website from other websites. When high-quality websites link to your website frequently, it’s like they’re giving you a vote of confidence, which signals to a search engine that your page is high-quality and should be ranked higher on the results page. Work with other organizations to develop effective content-swapping practices, like guest blogging, to obtain these inbound links. 

SEO is important for your nonprofit’s online presence, because it’s what helps donors, volunteers, and potential employees find your website! In other words, SEO can be an important part of a nonprofit “business” plan. Keep learning about and improving your SEO strategies so you can increase your nonprofit’s reach. 

  1. Design your donation page with donors in mind. 

Your donation page is arguably the most important part of your nonprofit website. According to Blackbaud’s roundup of 2020 online giving trends, 12.9% of all donations given in 2020 were made online, the highest percentage of online giving ever seen. Clearly, online donations are becoming increasingly important for nonprofits, which is why you should prioritize your online donation page design when revamping your website.  

Image: Morweb-Paybee-Designing a Nonprofit Website That Looks the Part_donation-page

Here are some of our top tips for designing your donation page to be the best it can be: 

  • Brand your donation page so it’s consistent with the rest of your website and the giving experience feels directly related to your cause. 
  • Optimize your donation page for mobile users so your supporters can give on the go. 
  • Provide multiple giving options, like the chance to opt into a monthly giving program or use a matching gift database to double the impact of a donation. 
  • Use a clean, minimalistic design with a lot of white space so your donors don’t get overwhelmed and abandon their plan to give. 

When you work on your donation page, be sure to consider how you want the donor journey to go for your supporters. Ask a volunteer or staff member to test out your donation page and give you feedback on how easy it was to use and how it made them feel about your organization. Even informal feedback like this can give you useful ideas for improving your giving form in the future. 

  1. Leverage a blog to connect with your community. 

Search engines and your supporters like to see new content on a consistent basis. Fresh content shows search engines that your organization is active  and keeps supporters in the loop on all the great work your team is doing. One of the best tools for supplying fresh updates and information to your community and showing search engines that you create valuable content on the reg is a blog. 

You can use your nonprofit’s blog to report to the community on your organization’s major initiatives, fundraising goals, or use of grant money. You can also use it to connect with your community by spotlighting dedicated volunteers and donors, or to share your beneficiaries’ stories to inspire people to act. 

Here are a few strategies for writing effective blog posts, according to Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit blogs:

  • Decide on a goal for your blog, like posting consistently every week or sharing a donor spotlight once a month. 
  • Create a content strategy that defines the tone you will use, the topics you will write about, and how you will engage your audience with your writing. 
  • Create effective content by keeping paragraphs short, including calls-to-action, and adding visuals. 
  • Market your blog via email and social media to amplify your nonprofit’s online voice and get people reading!

Remember that for your blog to be an asset to your online presence, you need to post regularly. We suggest creating a content calendar so you can plan out your individual posts well in advance and have some time to edit them before posting. 

  1. Add event landing pages. 

Events are a great way to engage your supporters and get the word out about your work. But you have to get people on your guest list before you can do these things. That’s where event landing pages come in handy. 

Image: Morweb-Paybee-Designing a Nonprofit Website That Looks the Part_event-landing-page

An event landing page is a web page dedicated solely to an event. This is where your supporters will find information such as the date, time, and format (virtual, hybrid, or in-person) of the event and register for it. 

A dedicated event landing page is excellent for sharing on social media and directing supporters with questions to, as it can serve as an all-in-one resource for all questions about your upcoming event. Plus, your supporters won’t have to dig through your website for information about the event. They can simply type in the dedicated URL or navigate to the page through your main menu. 

  1. Connect to your social media profiles. 

Whether you want your supporters reading and sharing your blog posts or using your online fundraising platform regularly, you’ll need the help of social media. Creating a healthy flow of traffic between your social media profiles and your website will help you engage your supporters with all of your online content, from announcements on your homepage to the most recent post you’ve shared on Instagram.  

With the right CMS, you’ll be able to easily add social media icons to your posts and pages and even feature a live Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram feed to show website visitors that you’ve been active in the social media space. Along with these tools, make sure you also include some calls-to-action that encourage your supporters to follow, like, and share!

The Gist 

Well-executed nonprofit website design is essential for organizations who want to be found online, keep the public informed about their work, and drive traffic to their online donation tools. With these tips and an easy-to-use nonprofit-specific CMS, you’ll be able to design a website for your nonprofit that has the professional look and easy functionality you need to gain support and continue making a positive impact. Good luck! 

Nonprofit Tips
Murad Bushnaq

Murad Bushnaq is the Founder and CEO of Morweb. Since its inception in 2014, Murad has acted as Creative Director and Chief Technologist to help nonprofits spread their vision online through engaging design, intuitive software and strategic communication.