How to Build a Non Profit Website
Last Updated on April 25, 2022 by James Wilson
No matter what type of non-profit you run, it is important to have an online presence so that you can reach people and get your message out. However, if you have never created a website before, you may be feeling at a bit of a loss. Don’t panic, though, as I am going to take you through how to build a non-profit website in this guide.
Why does your non-profit need a website?
In the current day and age, most for-profit business owners assume that a website is a must-have. However, a lot of non-profits view it as an unnecessary expense. This is not the case. With low-cost website builders available and millions of people to reach online, it really does make sense to establish an online presence.
The truth is, no matter what type of non-profit organisation you run, a website is a must. There are so many benefits associated with establishing yourself online.
Reach a huge number of people
Firstly, let’s state the obvious; you will reach more potential volunteers and acquire more donations. Think about it; way over 4.9 billion people use the web. Just think about all of the opportunities you are potentially missing out on by not having a website in place.
Boost the value of your organization
A website can also help you to boost the organisation’s value. The value of your non-profit will go up in everyone’s eyes; not only your customers, but other enterprises too. You may find it easier to secure finance from the bank, for example, as your site boosts your credibility.
Compete with bigger charities and organizations
Effective websites also give small charities the ability to compete with the big names out there. A stunning website with a solid strategy behind it can ensure you gain attention and are competitive. It also gives you a voice and opens you up to a whole new world of marketing that would not have existed before.
Choose your domain name
Your domain name is the one thing that you will have to live with for a long time. Everything else can be changed easily and quickly, but once you have chosen your domain name and purchased the web address, and once people begin to know what you are called, changing the site name is a hassle you probably won’t want to have to deal with. So getting it right at the beginning is the best idea.
The first thing you need to think about when choosing a domain name is your brand. If you can have a name that matches, then that is great, but if that name is already taken you will have to do some lateral thinking. As long as what you choose is brandable, then it should work well.
But, it also needs to link to what cause you are supporting or what service you are providing in order to be more memorable. Long charity web names are harder to remember than short ones, so you will want to think of something catchy that is also easy to spell. A difficult word will produce frustration and lead your customers to either a 404 page, or, worse, a competitor!
Check out my guide on how to get a free domain name so that you can purchase your charity URL without spending a penny.
Select a good website builder and start building your site
Next, you need a good website builder. I have compared the top 10 website builders in the UK so that you can get a better understanding of the different options that are available to you.
Using a website builder makes a lot of sense because this is a great way for you to keep your costs low. Hiring a professional website developer can cost huge sums of money. With a website builder, you have a fixed monthly cost, so it is a lot more affordable.
The best website builders today will have non-profit and charity templates so that you can choose something that fits your brand best.
Some of the different website builders that I would recommend you check out for your non-profit are as follows:
There is only one place to begin, and this is with Wix. Wix is highly professional but it is easy to use at the same time. The drag-and-drop builder means you can create your website within minutes, and it is easy to see the changes you are making in real-time. There are also more than 500 themes for you to select from, so you should have no trouble finding the perfect theme for your non-profit. Check out my Wix review for more information.
Another option work considering is Site123. This is a great site builder for beginners. If you do not consider yourself very tech-savvy, you should not have much trouble with Site123, I assure you! This is not a drag-and-drop builder of the traditional sense. You can use the pre-existing templates to quickly get up and running. There is a free plan available, but I would always advise going for a paid plan, otherwise, you will have the website builder’s branding on your site. This applies to every free plan, not just the one offered by Site123. Check out my Site123 review for more information.
Weebly is a website builder that offers marketing features and great templates for you to choose from. There is something for everyone on Weebly, and it is pretty easy to get the hang of. In terms of simplicity, Weebly is right up there, which means it is good for some users but lacking for others. It all depends on what you are looking for. Check out my Weebly review for more information.
Next, Squarespace is another website builder that I rate highly, and you can check out my Squarespace review for full information on this platform. This is another drag-and-drop site builder, and I must admit that it is very enjoyable to use. You can really customize your website well if you go for Squarespace, and that is the main selling point for me. You get access to more than 600 Google fonts, as well as over 1000 Typekit fonts. This merely scratches the surface. You certainly won’t end up with a generic website that looks the same as the rest.
Finally, I would also recommend that you check out Jimdo. Again, you can read my Jimdo review in full to find out more about this platform. There are two options when creating a website on Jimdo. The first is Jimdo Creator, which puts control and creativity in your hands. The second option is Jimdo Dolphin, which uses ADI technology so that the process of making a website is basically done for you. You answer some questions, a website is created, and then you can tweak it if you wish to do so.
Choose a good website host
You also need to make sure that you have a good website host. A web host is essentially a place where all of your website files live. It is the home of your website, so to speak! Now, some website builders and domain services come with web hosting. However, you may prefer to choose a different web host, as you may prefer a faster service with better security. You can take a look at my hosting reviews to get a better understanding of the different options that are available.
Some of my favourite hosting platforms are as follows:
Founded in 2004, Hostinger is one of the best options to consider if you are looking for an affordable host. The servers are fast and you get a good amount of storage. Other benefits include unlimited bandwidth, Google Ads credit, and a free email. You can read my Hostinger review for more information about this web host.
Next, we have one of the oldest web hosting companies around, and this is BlueHost, which was established back in 1996. BlueHost is certainly one of the fastest hosts available today. They also provide excellent support, which is available 24/7. You can contact a customer representative view live chat, email, or telephone. If you would like to find out more, simply read my BlueHost review for more information.
If you have not quite found the ideal web host for you yet, HostGator is another worthy contender. Again, you can read my HostGator review for more in-depth information. There are a number of different plans available, yet the Baby Plan is the most popular. With this, you will get unlimited bandwidth and storage, as well as unlimited email, shared SSL, unlimited FTP accounts, unlimited MySQL databases, and instant backups.
Make sure your non-profit website is responsive
‘Responsive web design’ is an approach that is extremely important. This type of web design is centered on providing the user with an optimal viewing experience. Irrespective of whether the user is viewing your website on a smartphone, PC, or tablet – easy navigation and enjoyable viewing is a must.
When you consider that most people use their smartphones to browse the web, it is not hard to see why your non-profit website must function effectively on a smaller device.
What are the benefits of launching a responsively driven website?
- Increase your reach – One of the main benefits associated with this approach is that you will increase your reach to those who use the Internet on their mobile phones and tablets. This is particularly important when you consider the fact that the popularity of both devices is soaring at present.
- Improved SEO – SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization, will improve if you opt for this type of web design. Why? Well, because you only have to create one website, this means you only need to optimize the content or build links for one site. In addition to this, your URL structure will be consistent for all devices. This will increase your ranking and consequently improve your visibility on search engines.
- Cost efficiency – This point is pretty self-explanatory. It costs a lot less to build and maintain one website than it does to create multiple versions suited to each device – which is what you would be likely to do if you did not opt for a responsive web design.
- Increase interest and donations – This is arguably the most important point of them all. Problems with viewing and navigation are one of the main reasons for a high bounce rate. If an individual encounters problems whilst they are browsing on your website they are likely to abandon their viewing. Responsive web design decreases the chances of this occurring dramatically.
What makes a successful responsive website design?
There are a lot of key components that go into creating a successful responsive website design. Optimizing your images is one of the most important things. Images are one of the biggest issues related to slow page loading.
You should also enable compression. This reduces the number of bytes a page is sending across the network by compressing all of your resources.
Unnecessary page elements must be excluded and you have to pick your hosting solution with great care as well.
Make sure your website is clear
Clarity is the essence of effective website building. It doesn’t matter what your website is supporting: if it isn’t clear and simple to find the information a potential customer wants, they’ll go away.
So, ask yourself; what aspects of your website are most critical? Most importantly, you need to make an impression on your audience with a strong and clear message. What are you offering and why are you better than your competitors? So, where does your money go? What cause are you helping? Why should people trust you with their donations?
Your homepage is the best tool you’ve got to create an engaging image of your charity and, as such, you should pay close attention to it. It needs to be eye-catching whilst delivering an accurate representation of your non-profit.
Some of the worst websites you see every day contain all the information they need to, but it’s so cluttered that no one sticks around to find what they’re looking for.
After a clear message, another critical element is clarity of navigation throughout your website. The best websites are intuitive, anticipating where their visitors will want to go next. Without a basic structure that makes sense, your potential supporters won’t bother trying to find what they’re looking for.
Look for a website design builder that offers good support
Earlier, I mentioned some of my favourite website builders, and before you select one, I always recommend you check out the support that is offered. While many may believe that web design begins and ends with receiving a commission to build a website and finishing the website, that should never be the case.
Web design/development is never a process that just finishes – it’s an ongoing process that involves support and re-building when necessary.
So, you need to make sure that the web builder is going to offer you proper web support. Good support doesn’t just consist of dealing with problems when they arise; it’s also about making the most of reporting and analytics so you can make sure your website is helping drive desired results.
Non-profits have so much to deal with, so it can be easy to fall behind when it comes to the best web design practice. Good support isn’t just responsive in the face of emergencies; it’s an ongoing line of communication.
Market your non-profit effectively
Marketing your non-profit brand always begins with choosing the right brand name, otherwise, you could end up going through an extensive process, which Google only makes more difficult. As mentioned earlier, you need to choose a domain name with care. Make sure it is catchy, contains your keywords, and is easy to remember. Don’t knock off another company either!
Did you know that having a blog on your website can increase traffic to your site by boosting search engine optimisation? Fresh content is how Google thrives, and the more new content you put on your website, the higher you’ll find yourself in the rankings.
A blog is the easiest way to ensure that you have new daily, weekly, or monthly information on your site – and using outbound links (as well as backlinks to your own content) will boost you even more. But, it’s not just about the search engines.
As any web design expert will tell you, having a blog is a great way to develop relationships between you and your potential and current supporters. It offers them an insight into how you work, allows them to comment and get involved, and blog posts are ideal for sharing on social media, which gets your name out there and pushes it further than it might otherwise be able to go.
If your blog is full of helpful, interesting information, then that’s where people will visit first, and each person who visits the blog is a potential supporter of your cause.
Manage your online content with a CMS
Content is imperative for non-profits, as it helps you to reach new people, explain your cause, and gather momentum. However, it can be difficult to manage your online content, which is why a CMS is highly recommended.
What is a CMS?
CMS, which stands for Content Management System, is a term used to describe an application that enables various users with different permission levels to take advantage of capabilities regarding the management of content and information or data related to a website project.
Content management system integration has become a pivotal part of web development, which isn’t surprising when you consider the imperative role content plays online today.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the demand for content management systems in the present day. This has come about by a change in the way that websites are developed. Initially, developers would create a website by using an FTP program to generate pages on their local computers. They would move the files to their server, which then made them available via the site. The process would be started again whenever alterations were needed. However, things have become a lot more efficient in recent times.
Issues came about when websites went beyond the conventional brochure-ware designs, and started to delve into live communities, fresh material, and dynamic content. Websites needed to be updated every day, and the previous process did not allow for it. Now, the automatic updating of content through RSS feeds and the ability for different people to add content is imperative. This is why a CMS is now a vital tool for all web developers.
Reasons why non-profits need to use content management systems
Now you know how the demand for CMS came about, so let’s take a look at the benefits of content management systems in further detail below.
Manage your marketing campaign under one roof
The best content management systems give you the ability to manage your online marketing strategy via one dashboard. Most systems have numerous tools for SEO, blogging, social media marketing, and email marketing. You can also use these systems to store member information, collect donations and fees, and generate event registration forms.
A complete overhaul won’t be required when re-designing your website
Another benefit of CMS is the fact that the content is going to be separate from the design of your website. This means that you can change the look of your website with ease. You simply lift off the old design and replace it with a new one. Your content will not be impacted.
CMS facilitates collaboration
It is widely agreed that enhanced collaboration is vital for non-profit efficiency nowadays, and CMS helps you to achieve this. You can facilitate the collaborative efforts of your staff in regards to the creation, edit, and approval of content before it is published. You can also include a workflow engine.
Fresh content will improve your search engine visibility
Of course, one of the most crucial reasons to invest in CMS is because you will be able to produce regular, fresh content with ease. From news pieces to expert commentary and tips, you will be able to cover it all. If you update your content frequently, you will perform better on search engine results, and you will appear more active to your customers.
My main tips for an effective non-profit website
I hope you now feel more comfortable about the steps you need to take if you are wondering how to build a non-profit website. But before I round up, I will give you some helpful tips on how to create an effective non-profit website:
- Use inspiration – There is only one place to begin, and this is by taking a look at other websites. This does not mean that you should simply copy what others are doing. However, if you take a look at the non-profit and charity websites that are out there at the moment, you will get a feel for what works and what does not. You will get a feel for what you like and what you don’t.
- Find a good website builder – Your website is only going to be as good as the software that you have used to create it. If you are raising money, you will want a website builder that makes it easy to get donations. There are then other website builders that are better suited to sites that are not designed for online donations but are purely there for information purposes.
- Add value – A good website is one that adds value. For example, let’s say that you are trying to raise money for children with learning difficulties. Why not provide insight into learning difficulties? With permission, you could add videos of the children to give insight.
- Do test your website – Another important part of the process when it comes to creating any website, not just a non-profit website, is to test it. You want to make sure that it works correctly before it goes live. You should also enlist the help of friends and family members who you can trust to give an honest opinion. You can use their feedback to find out not only if the website looks good, but also if it is something that they enjoyed using and if they knew exactly what to do and where to go when they landed on your website. Ease of navigation is pivotal.
- Don’t overcomplicate things – Minimalism is the way forward. Less is more when it comes to website design.
- Don’t use common stock images – Stock photographs have their place in website design and they can be very useful. However, when it comes to charity causes, authenticity is so important. If you use stock images that are displayed all over the web, you are only going to dilute your brand and reduce the effectiveness of what you are trying to achieve. Whenever you can, it is a good idea to use original photographs. If this is not possible, take the time to source stock photographs from underused sources. It may even be worth paying for photographs so that you can make sure they are less commonly used.
- Make sure your website is responsive – Last but not least, it is pivotal to make sure that your website is responsive. In the current day and age, most people access the Internet via their mobile phones. If they cannot view your website correctly, it is going to cause them to leave your site and look elsewhere, which is the last thing you want. Instead, you need to make sure that your website functions fully and looks great on a smaller screen. You will also need to tweak your SEO strategy to suit mobile as well.
Final words on how to build a non-profit website
I hope that you have found this guide helpful on how to build a non-profit website. You may feel quite overwhelmed by the process. However, if you follow the step by step process mentioned above, you should end up with an effective and impactful website that helps you to reach followers for your cause.
FAQ about how to build a non-profit website
I often get asked questions about how to build a non-profit website, so below, I will answer some of the most common ones to give you a better understanding:
How much does it cost to build a site for a non-profit?
The cost depends on how you go about building your non-profit website. If you use one of the website builders mentioned above, you will pay a monthly fee. However, if you pay for a professional to build your website, you can pay anywhere from $500 to $50,000, or in some cases, even more!
How do you create an amazing non-profit website?
Here are some of my tips for creating an amazing non-profit website:
- Link your website to your social media profiles
- Make your site responsive
- Incorporate visual storytelling
- Make it easy to recruit volunteers
- Make your website donor-friendly
- Use content to attract supports
- Make your mission clear and apparent
What should a non-profit website include?
Some of the most important elements of a non-profit website include the likes of financial transparency, responsive design, individual staff pages, social media links, and a streamlined donation page.