It’s no secret that these days the bulk of your nonprofit’s supporters engage with your cause online. For many, the digital world is the only place they interact with your organization.
While the latter scenario might sound extreme, the fact remains that if your nonprofit organization or association wants to get noticed, your website has to be built to impress.
After all, when you give your supporters an attractive, interactive online home, they’ll have all the tools they need to meaningfully engage with your cause (both online and offline).
However, if you let your web presence fall by the wayside, that can spell disaster for your nonprofit organization in the long term.
Check out our amazing website must-haves for optimal engagement. Your nonprofit website should feature:
- Custom design.
- Easy site editing.
- Social media integration.
- Fundraising capabilities.
- Exclusive access.
Whether you’re a traditional charity, a philanthropic association, or another up-and-coming organization, your website needs to be engaging if you want to make an impact with the right people online.
Let’s dive into these essential features your nonprofit website must have to encourage user engagement!
1. Custom design
When you visit a company’s website, what’s the first thing you notice?
Maybe it’s the imagery the site uses to promote its products or the graphic design aesthetic of the site’s layout. It might even be how user-friendly (or not) the site is to navigate.
The bottom line? When you interact with a business online, the way their website looks makes a real impression. If a website looks outdated, bland, or uninviting, that can be a big turnoff and keep visitors from further interacting with that company.
The same is true in the world of nonprofit organizations and associations. The most common element you’ll see in the best nonprofit websites is a functional, attractive design.
However, because the vast majority of nonprofit professionals aren’t web design experts, this can mean that many nonprofits settle for bare-boned websites that can turn potential supporters away before they’ve engaged at all.
Luckily, there’s a way your nonprofit can design a website without the hassle of careful coding or the investment of hiring a developer. Instead of all that, try using a nonprofit content management system.
Content management systems (CMS) come in all shapes and sizes, but they help organizations like yours to design custom websites that capture your audience’s attention.
And when your team chooses a CMS designed specifically for nonprofits? You can trust that you’ll have all the tools to speak to your supporters and engage with them online in a way that’s just right for your cause.
Bonus! If your team is ready to learn more about nonprofit CMS platforms, check out Morweb’s guide the best nonprofit CMS features to look for. Find out what web design tools you need (and what tools you can skip) with this helpful list.
2. Easy site editing
Another important factor to consider when designing your nonprofit’s website is how easy it is to edit.
You’ll primarily make changes to your site during the design and implementation phase. However, to keep your site up-to-date and functioning smoothly, your team will also need to have tools on hand to tweak and change your site’s structure, content, and layout as needed.
Many nonprofit organizations and associations forget this fact during the design process until the website is complete and they actually need to make changes. That’s when they request more training, or contact the web designer only to learn that “it just doesn’t do that.”
This trickles down to organizations not being able to communicate their vision effectively because it’s difficult to regularly update their website. This can lead to websites that quickly become outdated and fail as an engagement tool for supporters. If a nonprofit’s website makes it harder (and not easier) to engage with your cause, it’s not really doing its job.
When your nonprofit designs its next website, choose a CMS platform that makes editing a breeze. Look for features like:
- Drag-and-drop editing. This enables your team to drag modules or elements into the spots you want them to appear on your web pages right before your eyes.
- Live editing. One of the hassles of designing a website from scratch is not seeing your work develop in real time. Choose a CMS with live editing so you can see the impact your edits make.
- Coding-free web design. Chances are, your nonprofit isn’t staffed by web developers. Pick a CMS that doesn’t require coding expertise so your team can focus on what really matters: creating a thoughtful, engaging online home for your cause.
Think of it this way: you don’t want to be stuck with a website that can’t grow with your cause. Partner with a nonprofit CMS platform that understands the needs of organizations like yours and gives your team tools to manage your web presence independently.
3. Social media integration
With all this talk of your nonprofit’s website, you might be wondering: where does social media fit in all this?
After all, social media platforms are by far the most popular websites in the world, and your nonprofit’s supporters already spend hours on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram every day.
For many nonprofits, focusing on their social media presence has taken precedence over their main website. With social media sites, you don’t have to worry about extensive web design, building, or editing: the platforms make this easy for your team.
However, while social media sites do a lot of things well, they’re still very limited in their functionality. For example, you can’t include an events calendar on your Twitter profile, or embed a donation form on Instagram.
For true functionality, you need a fully-capable nonprofit website. That being said, social media should still have a place in your online home. In fact, your site should feature full social media integrations to really maximize its engagement potential.
There are a number of ways your nonprofit’s website can integrate with social media:
- You can embed your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed onto your website in order to keep your visitors up to date with your latest posts.
- You can add social media buttons to the running footer of your website to encourage users to check out your different social media accounts.
- You can include social sharing prompts at the bottom of your blog posts to encourage readers to spread your latest content far and wide.
If your team wants to make the most of your online engagement potential, don’t think of focusing on social media and designing a great website as an either/or decision.
In fact, your nonprofit’s online home can coexist with a robust social media presence when you implement the right integrations.
4. Fundraising capabilities
It’s no surprise that a major factor in your website’s effectiveness is its fundraising capabilities.
The whole reason why your organization wants to better engage its supporters online is to steer them toward giving opportunities. If there’s no way to give on your website, you could be losing out on a lot of potential fundraising revenue.
However, these days online fundraising is easier than ever, especially when your nonprofit has a fully-loaded nonprofit CMS on hand.
As you revamp your nonprofit’s website, you need to keep in mind some of these essential fundraising features to include in your online home:
- Custom giving forms. Instead of linking out to a generic, unfamiliar giving form, choose a CMS that allows your team to design a completely custom form that matches your nonprofit’s logo and branding seamlessly.
- Donation form embedding. On that note, make your giving forms a natural element of your website by partnering with a CMS platform that lets you embed forms right on your web pages.
- Donate buttons. Steer users toward donating from anywhere on your site with customizable ‘donate’ buttons. All supporters need to do is click the call-to-action and they’ll be sent right to your donation page.
Our top web design tip? When your supporters can donate easily whenever they feel inspired, your website is doing its job as an engagement tool. Even better, your community will be more excited about returning to give to your site again and again.
5. Exclusive access
Finally, let’s consider an important aspect of engagement we haven’t yet touched on: exclusivity.
While you want your organization’s website to be as inclusive as possible to new potential donors, there are still some good reasons why you might not want everyone to engage with your website in the same way.
Perhaps you want to share sensitive information with a selective group of members. Or, you might want to limit access to certain pages to your higher-ranking volunteers.
The fact of the matter is that to truly optimize your website’s engagement potential, you may need to consider ways to share access and information appropriately.
With a powerful nonprofits website builder, you can implement strategies to curate access to certain areas of your site. For example, your team might set up password protection of select pages and only grant access to select supporters.
Another way to keep parts of your website private is to set up an exclusive intranet portal. This way, your website can remain fully functional to general users while certain supporters can effectively engage with your site on this private portal.
Your team may need to share sensitive information over the web, and there’s no better place to do so than your website. Make sure you have the right tools in hand to carefully manage this private data by choosing a nonprofit CMS that takes your cause’s privacy seriously.
Ready to design your nonprofit’s website with a company that values security? Check out Double the Donation’s top nonprofit web design companies to find a partner who can balance function with privacy.
Designing an effective nonprofit website can be truly challenging. However, with these tips your team is sure to create an engaging online home for your supporters!
Murad Bushnaq, Founder and CEO of Morad Media and Morweb, is a man of many hats. Since its inception in 2004, Murad has acted as Creative Director, Technologist and creative problem solver. He is dedicated to helping nonprofits and associations to grow their online presence with Morweb, a robust website platform and content management system.