On July 19th, I conducted the workshop “Building & Sustaining an Online Presence” at Valletta, Malta. In front of an audience of about 45 representatives of the Maltese NGO & voluntary sector, I showcased a range of tips on how nonprofits can improve their website strategy.
1. Choose a CMS technology
Make sure your website is built with a Content Management System (CMS), as these programs contain an interface that permits you to modify the content yourselves. Modern and widely used CMS systems are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Those programs can be downloaded for free, but need to be installed on a hosting service.
While most CMS systems offer different design templates are available for free, you will need the help of a web developer to configure them into the website you want. But once this original configuration & design is done, the CMS will allow you to add content to your website without the help of any “gatekeeper”.
2. Don’t make a website for yourselves
Most nonprofits start off their website by putting all kinds of stuff about themselves that is at hand (statutes, history, names & roles of the committee members, etc..). This kind of information isn’t very interesting nor useful for the people that will be visiting your website.
3. Segment your audiences & list their needs
Before building a website, it is very important to ask yourselves the questions:
- Who are the people that will be visiting our website?
- What do they need from our website?
- How can we satisfy these needs through our website in the most efficient & compelling way?
4. Make people understand within 3 seconds what your organization is about
Use images and a headline to quickly explain what the aims of your organization are. People usually don’t look at a website for more than 3 seconds, so if you want to grab their attention you need to make them understand fast what’s in it for them.
As for the structure of your website, the navigation should be designed to be fast & simple, and no piece of content should ever be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage. Make it easy for people to subscribe to your newsletter and offer fabulous, compelling content that is genuinely interesting and relevant, written in a way people will click on it and take action. People aren’t interested in general stuff, so give them details or specific facets of the stories around your organization, or let them have a look behind the curtains.
5. Offer relevant & compelling information
If your nonprofit is offering services, make sure these are well described and easy to access from the home page.
Apart from your services, publish information that gives a solution or can help to overcome the problems of your end users or members.
As for testimonials of beneficiaries, make sure these are easy identifiable to your peer beneficiaries and contain a picture of the person telling the story.
6. Be practical in giving information on membership & activities
If your organization is organizing activities or events, ensure people can find back easily all information on dates, location, description, target group, sign up etc. Include an event calendar if you always have lots of activities going on.
The same counts for the information on how to become a member. People want to know what’s in it for them and want the membership subscription to be painless.
7. Give a concrete description of volunteer tasks
If your organization needs volunteers, you should be as specific and concrete as possible about the tasks, committment and requirements around your volunteer positions. Don’t just talk about the benefits volunteers can bring to your organization, also explain what’s in it for them.
You can even go as far as describing the volunteer positions as you would do for paid job positions, so people know the full details of the tasks and self-select themselves as being an appropriate candidate for a certain volunteer position.
8. Make it easy for people to donate
If you want your website to become a tool for online donations, you should offer a full description of the ways people can donate through your organization.
Offer a clear online donation form that has different donation options people can flag and contains different ways to pay online.
9. Show the impact your donors will make/made
Wherever you can, link the donation you’re asking for with a concrete description of the impact it will make.
On your website, include a bunch of stories of the impact funders made through their donations.