4 Common mistakes Small Nonprofits make on their Website 1

Lize De Clercq at the Salesian Brigade in Malta - July 2013This summer, I have been auditing the online presence of 10 Maltese voluntary organizations and I’m now in the middle of drafting the reports.

This post explains 4 of the most common mistakes I encountered on the websites of these small nonprofits:

1. Adopting an organization-centered mentality

AAM_homeGMost organizations put their site together from the point of view of an insider. They structure the website according to how they see the organization internally [1]. This often results in content that is either irrelevant or not interesting for the audiences that visit their website.

Examples are:

  • a list with names & roles of committee members
  • the organization’s statutes
  • events that happened years ago

2. Not addressing the needs of the audiences

A good site successfully addresses the needs of two parties: the organization and the audience. Out of those two, the audience is boss [2].

ILS_home_GMost organizations do not exactly know which are the different audience groups they’d like to communicate with. They also don’t know what their audiences want when they come to visit their website.

As a result, their websites fail to address basic audience needs, such as:

  • quickly understanding what the organization is about
  • learning about the impact the organization has on the communities it serves
  • figuring out how to help

3. Not prioritizing desired responses

Lots of websites also fail to address the needs of their organization. This happens mostly because they haven’t listed what they want their visitors to learn or to do once they’re on their site. They’ve launched their website without defining core messages or desired responses, such as [3]:

  • MC_home_G“We want visitors to become aware of a certain issue”
  • “We want to recruit volunteers”
  • “We want  people to subscribe for our email list”
  • “We want to raise money through online donations”

When they do define clear objectives, they don’t establish what has to be emphasized or prioritized. This results in messy layouts with no clear focus, and audiences simply don’t know where to look.

That’s why it is important to understand that the design process can only succeed when core messages and prioritized desired responses dictate design decisions. [2]

4. Bad or inconsistent navigation

End users should easily find their way around on a website – it shouldn’t feel like resolving a puzzle. But most of the websites I’ve audited show symptoms of bad navigation, such as [2]:

  • Salesian Brigadenavigation labels that are confusing, ambiguous or unclear
  • an excess of main navigation items
  • sections that go too many levels deeps
  • content pages hat are listed in the navigation under several sections
  • content pages or entire sections that appear nowhere on the navigation
  • inconsistent navigation, such as a mismatch between the main navigation drop-down menus, the sidebar navigation and the section landing pages
  • not having helpful navigation tools such as a search tool, a site map or wayfinding cues such as clearly marked parent sections and breadcrumbs


[1] 5 Required Elements When Building Websites for Nonprofits: #1 Structure by Jay Wilkinson
[2] Nonprofit Website Assessment Guide by Bureau of Good
[3] How to Make Your Website Awesome in Seven Weeks by John Haydon

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One comment on “4 Common mistakes Small Nonprofits make on their Website

  1. Reply Christopher Barbara May 19,2014 7:45 pm

    From the advices I had form Ms. Lize I ended up to have this website http://www.diabetesmalta.org result. I think thanks to Lize we moved to professionalism.
    Thanks Lize

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