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Nonprofit Website Best Practices: 10 Ways to Make Your Investment Count

11 min read
November 30, 2023
Alex Huntsberger
nonprofit websites

Gone are the days when a nonprofit could put up any old website for their organization and check that task off their to-do list. As more and more of our lives move online, nonprofits need an optimized, well-designed website in order to stand out and engage donors—and to justify the expense of maintaining one!

In this article, we’ll catalog ten nonprofit website best practices your organization can use to maximize your investment.

A Better Website is Worth the Money

Your website serves as a digital hub for your organization. In today’s ever-expanding online world, that’s important.

Many website services promise quick and easy setup free of any long-term planning or custom coding, and—while that may sound alluring—it can cause certain roadblocks in the future that prevent you from scaling your online presence.

Here’s a great way to avoid those roadblocks: Choose a nonprofit-specific service like Neon Websites that incorporates nonprofit website best practices into their products from the ground up. While these services are usually a little more expensive than a lower-end website option, the results will more than justify the added investment. 

Nonprofit Website Best Practices

Here are ten nonprofit website best practices that come standard with Neon Websites—and that your nonprofit should employ with your website regardless of which service you use to build it.

1. Build a Website That Can Grow With You 

Like any good investment, a nonprofit website should be built with longevity in mind. Think of it like buying a car: If you go with the least expensive option, chances are you’ll be sinking a lot of money into quick fixes and repairs.

The truth is that most inexpensive, lower-end website options are designed to support e-commerce sites, even if they’re listed as having “nonprofit options.” Trying to tailor these sites to support your organization can require custom coding, reconfiguration, and quite a few support tickets. 

As your organization grows, you’ll probably want to move to an option that connects directly with a donor database. It’s better to start with an option that can support that growth from the beginning rather than having to deal with the mess of trying to transition to a new website after the fact. 

Neon Websites is a product designed specifically for nonprofits. It comes with a wide range of sector-specific templates for nonprofits of all types, and its easy drag-and-drop editing capabilities mean your team can easily build out your site as your organization grows. All the while, your website will seamlessly integrate with your Neon CRM donor database, saving your team boatloads of time and effort. If you want to learn more about how your nonprofit’s site is stacking up, take our (short, simple) Website Optimization Assessment! And, for more information on how you can upgrade your site, check out our Website Optimization Action Plan.

2. Build Donor Trust With Consistent Branding

If you’re like 88% of consumers, chances are you do at least a little bit of research before making a purchase decision. Others do, too! Whether they’re buying or donating online, people want to be sure that their money is being used for its intended purpose. A consistent, well-designed nonprofit website can showcase your credibility and inspire confidence in potential donors.

A website designed specifically for your nonprofit can ensure that your branding is used consistently throughout the site and on every page it includes. Your site’s architecture will continuously reinforce the legitimacy of your organization through text, photos, testimonials, and logos.

It’s also important to take your donation form into consideration. The website option you choose should be able to seamlessly house your forms. If not, you could be missing out on valuable donations: On average, branded forms receive 7x more than their non-branded counterparts. This is the same for other forms, too, including membership forms, online stores, and even volunteer interest forms.

Neon Websites offers a host of dynamic, responsive design options and widgets that teams can use to create a positive user experience. Its integration with Neon CRM’s optimized donation forms will mean that your supporters won’t skip a beat when they decide it’s time to give.

3. Make Your Site Discoverable Through SEO

Search engines use search engine optimization (SEO) to determine which pages appear at the top of search listings. You can use a number of on-page SEO strategies to boost your site’s rankings, but any technical issues on your site will make it hard for you to reach the top.

Technical SEO increases search visibility through a series of website and server optimizations. Your site map, data structure, and server security all play an important role in how search engines index your site and assess its relevance to various search topics.

If you choose a website builder that doesn’t include these optimizations, your page rank can suffer, meaning fewer people come across your site naturally. Studies have shown that the top-ranking page in Google gets 33% of all search traffic, and from there, the percentages dip significantly.

Neon Websites comes with nonprofit website best practices—including these technical SEO ones—built in. Our sites are optimized for mobile devices, lightning-fast page loads, HTTPS encryption, and more. If you want to learn more about the technical side of SEO optimization, check out the article below:

4. Increase Engagement with Website Personalization

There are a lot of elements that a very basic website provider won’t offer you, and one of the big ones is the ability to personalize your user’s experiences. Website personalization involves using data from a user’s past visits to tailor their experience on your nonprofit’s site, and it’s a great way to deliver unique and memorable experiences! Website personalization can take many forms. It might mean serving up a blog post or news update that’s similar to one that a user previously viewed, as NRDC did in the example below.

Nonprofit website best practices include website personalization, such as showing related blogs as shown in this image.
At the end of each blog post, NRDC displays similar blogs the reader may be interested in.

It can also mean using location data to show users events or volunteer opportunities that are happening in their area. It can even include creating specific experiences on certain days, which can help excite potential donors in the lead-up to a campaign launch or an event like GivingTuesday. 

Creating personalized experiences will boost user engagement on your website and begin building deeper relationships between you and your constituents. Neon Websites has a whole host of features that support personalization and other nonprofit website best practices, including a robust suite of analytics that can help your nonprofit better understand your supporters.

5. Be People-Centered

Nonprofit websites have a host of opportunities to feature people prominently and even more reasons to do so. Various studies have found that visuals with human faces draw more engagement online (such as this one, where human faces attract more attention on Twitter). Humans tend to respond to images of fellow humans.

Images are an important part of keeping online visitors on your website—91% of consumers prefer visual content to written content, and the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text!

This means you should include visual content on your nonprofit website—and lots of it. Include stunning heartwarming images of the work you do on the page where you share your impact numbers. Make sure your “About” page includes photos of your organization’s leadership and staff so people can see who’s behind the work. And where you can (ethically and safely) feature the faces of people your organization has served, show their faces and tell their stories.

Example from nonprofit site of one of the nonprofit website best practices: using people-centered imagery to show impact
Example from nonprofit site of one of the nonprofit website best practices: using people-centered imagery to show impact

Paani Project’s website is a great example of using high-quality, people-centered imagery to illustrate impact.

6. Utilize User-Centric Design

We just covered the importance of making your website pretty, but it’s crucial that your aesthetically pleasing website with high-quality images is also usable.

How long does it take to find your donation page and process a donation? Is your website easy to navigate? Does a visitor have to scroll for a long time to find key information about your organization? Is your website design accessible for individuals with disabilities? How does your website look on mobile devices? Does your website take a long time to load?

Make user-centric design a priority. Great user experience (UX) in your nonprofit website design is the difference between a potential donor who navigates your website quickly and easily and a potential donor who exits after 15 seconds out of frustration. Your website should make engaging with your organization a breeze, including clear calls-to-action (CTAs) that guide website visitors toward the next steps you want them to take (more on that in the next section!).

7. Make Next Steps Easy to Find

None of your nonprofit’s website visitors should have to search long and hard to learn how to donate, volunteer, or take any other essential next step.

Website design plays a critical role in how people engage with your organization. If the link to your donation page is buried in your website footer, for example, a lot of potential donors could miss it. Or if someone has to go four pages deep in your website navigation menu before they get to the volunteer sign-up form, that’s a barrier to engagement.

From your donate button to your newsletter sign-up form, a website visitor’s next steps should stand out. Make yours easy to recognize and act upon!

Nonprofit website best practices include making next steps easy to find, such as having a "Donate" button in a contrasting color as the nonprofit shown has done
Nonprofit website best practices include making next steps easy to find, such as having a "Donate" button in a contrasting color as the nonprofit shown has done

Nuru International’s “Donate” button stands out on their website because it’s a contrasting color.

8. Display a Central, Clear Mission Statement

When someone views your website homepage, can they immediately tell what you do? A clear mission statement featured in a central location on your website ensures that your overall purpose is evident right away.

Clearly conveying your nonprofit’s mission is one of your website’s main jobs. You want to let website visitors know what your organization stands for and the impact you make in the world. If you haven’t crafted a solid mission statement yet, check out this article—it’ll guide you through each step!

Displaying a clear mission statement is a nonprofit website best practice. This nonprofit put theirs over a high-quality hero image
Displaying a clear mission statement is a nonprofit website best practice. This nonprofit put theirs over a high-quality hero image

Untold’s mission statement is front and center at the very top of their homepage.

9. Build a Focused Navigation

If you’re wondering how many pages your nonprofit website should have, the answer is … probably fewer than you think! One important way to make your website user-friendly and easy to navigate is to only include the must-have web pages.

Different organizations may need different kinds of information on their sites, but most nonprofit websites feature the following pages in their structure:

  • About: Expands on your mission and the details of your work.
  • Impact: Describes your programs or approach and shares data behind what you’ve been able to accomplish.
  • Donation: Features your optimized donation form and a compelling ask that encourages people to donate.
  • Team: Shares information about and photos of your organization’s staff.
  • Financials: Contains documents or another type of breakdown of your revenue, expenses, tax filings, financial growth, etc.
  • Contact: Tells website visitors how to get in touch (typically with a contact form, office address, and mailing address).

Narrow down the most essential pages and add as few pages to your website as possible to communicate the most important information. Ensure that your homepage doesn’t contain too many sections, which can cause visitors to scroll for a long time to find the information they seek.

And—perhaps most importantly—don’t create a new page to house information that an existing page could include. For example, many nonprofits include their Board of Directors on their Team page.

10. Show Transparency in Numbers

Transparency builds trust. When you openly display both impact numbers and financial numbers on your website, you’re establishing trust with all site visitors, including current supporters and potential donors alike.

This not only shows where the money is going and the difference donations make, but it also signals that your organization takes transparency and stewardship seriously. Highlight your annual reports, financial statements, and other details that show how monetary gifts are used and the impact they have.

With Neon Websites, Best Practices Come Standard

Investing in a robust website for your nonprofit can feel like a huge commitment, but it’s one of the best investments you can make for the future of your organization. The best way to maximize that investment is by choosing a service where the nonprofit website best practices included in this article are standard. 

Neon Websites is a nonprofit web design solution that pairs industry-leading expertise with easy-to-use features that let organizations like yours create unique experiences online. If you’re interested in elevating your organization’s online presence, we’d love to help you grow your mission.  

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