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Designing a nonprofit website: 7 standout tips + examples

August 11, 2020
This man is looking at his computer screen and designing his nonprofit's website.

Your website is essential to your nonprofit organization’s success. When potential supporters first discover your nonprofit, they’ll likely go to your website to learn more about your purpose and impact. More than that, it’s a key tool to engage your current supporters, promote volunteer opportunities, register event participants, and drive donations.

To make the most of your nonprofit website, you’ll need it to stand out from the crowd. Start designing a nonprofit website that leaves a lasting impression with these seven tips.

1. Center your purpose

Your organization’s purpose is at the heart of everything you do, so it should also be at the heart of your website. Feature your cause prominently on your site’s homepage, and create a dedicated about page where supporters can learn everything they need to know about your organization’s work before getting involved.

Additionally, make sure your purpose is clear on every page of your website. Including a variety of photos, videos, case studies, infographics, and other media that reflect your cause reminds donors why your organization is worth supporting, no matter where they are on your website. 

To look at an example, the Humane Society makes their purpose clear from the second supporters land on their website and includes media that points back to their cause on a variety of pages, like this “How You Can Help” page.

This screenshot is from The Humane Society’s “How You Can Help” page on their nonprofit website, which makes the organization’s purpose clear.

2. Keep your branding consistent

You’re probably familiar with the term “branding” as it relates to the way for-profit companies market their products and services. But branding is just as important for nonprofits. Even though you aren’t selling a product in the traditional sense, you’re still selling something just as valuable: your impact. Branding allows supporters to recognize your organization immediately and makes your marketing materials—especially your website—more memorable.

When you design your website, make sure to include these key branding elements:

  • A simple but memorable logo
  • Specific font choices, color palettes, and image styles
  • A distinctive voice in your messages that reflects how you want supporters to perceive your organization

Your brand will be more recognizable if you keep it consistent across every page of your website and in your other marketing materials. Create a digital brand guide (there are examples available online from nonprofits like the Boy Scouts of America and charity: water) so that anyone who works on your website has a reference for how to represent your brand.

3. Focus on your donation page

Your website is also a valuable fundraising tool. Make it easy for your supporters to donate online by:

  • Limiting the number of form fields on your donation page
  • Offering suggested donation amounts and the ability to set up recurring contributions
  • Ensuring your payment processing is secure
  • Linking to your donation form on every page of your website

Breast Cancer Action uses all of these strategies to create a user-friendly donation form. Their site menu also contains a large “Donate Now!” button so supporters can access the form no matter where they are on the website.

This is a screenshot of Breast Cancer Action’s online donation form, which is a user-friendly, well-designed aspect of their nonprofit website.

4. Offer multiple engagement opportunities

In addition to driving donations, your website can help supporters engage with your nonprofit in other ways. Feature a variety of opportunities to get involved, such as:

The more your nonprofit relies on these forms of engagement to make an impact, the more prominently you’ll want to feature them. For example, the advocacy organization Save the Children Action Network has a “Sign Up” button in the top corner of their website next to the “Donate” button as well as a whole menu category titled “Act Now” to encourage supporters to get involved.

This screenshot shows the “Act Now” tab on the Save the Children Action Network’s nonprofit website, which provides five different ways to take action.

5. Incorporate interactive media

You’ve likely heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and it’s especially true in web design. Using engaging visuals on your website can help supporters understand your organization’s purpose and inspire them to get involved.

To take your web design to the next level, include not only still images but also other interactive media such as videos, clickable maps, and image carousels, like the example below from WWF Canada’s Living Planet Technology Hub.

This screenshot is of WWF Canada’s interactive carousels within their nonprofit website’s engaging design.

Interactive elements prompt supporters to spend more time exploring your website, which makes them more likely to take action. They also leave a longer-lasting impression than text or still images alone.

6. Optimize for mobile

Keep in mind that many of your supporters will access your website on their phones or tablets rather than with a computer. More than 60% of internet users view websites on mobile devices, and that number is only expected to grow in the coming years.

Optimize your website for mobile using these strategies:

  • Use a website builder with a responsive design framework, meaning it automatically resizes content based on the size of the screen.
  • Keep page layouts vertical to reduce the need for scrolling.
  • Ensure fonts are at least 16px in size and buttons are large enough that users can easily tap them on a touch screen.

When you finish creating your site, test its usability on a phone, tablet, and desktop computer. Then, make adjustments to ensure the best possible user experience on every device.

7. Connect your website to your other marketing materials

Your website is the core of your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. However, marketing across multiple platforms will help you spread the word about your organization more effectively. Get supporters’ attention with other marketing materials, then direct them to your website to learn more and take action.

Include links back to your website in both digital and print communications, such as:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media posts
  • Direct mail
  • Fundraising flyers

Also, make sure supporters who have questions or concerns can contact your organization through your website by using a contact form, emailing you, or following a link to your social media. Your website’s footer is a good place to put this information for easy access on every page, like the Environmental Working Group has done in this example.

This screenshot is of the contact information in the footer of the Environmental Working Group’s nonprofit website, linking the site to their email and social media.

Prioritize your nonprofit's website design

Your nonprofit’s website touches many essential operations at your organization, from fundraising to attracting new supporters to building lasting relationships. Design your website to reflect your organization’s purpose, then use your other marketing materials to direct supporters to the site to learn more and take action.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing