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4 steps for starting a nonprofit organization website

December 12, 2021
A team of four people gathers around a table with a laptop and papers to start a nonprofit organization website.

Your nonprofit organization’s website is a key part of your digital communication strategy. Websites are a central hub for sharing information about your cause, providing details about getting involved, and collecting donations. By setting up a user-friendly website, you can encourage new and existing supporters to engage with your organization.

When creating your website, keep your supporters in mind throughout the entire process. What do you want them to be able to accomplish on your website? What are they likely looking for when they visit your site? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can move on to the first step: choosing your website domain name.

1. Register a domain name.

Your website’s domain name influences visitors’ first impressions of your nonprofit before they even navigate to your homepage. A good domain name will help donors remember your organization’s cause and increase the likelihood that they will visit your website again. 

Here are a few tips to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Make it straightforward and relevant. Choose a domain name that clearly communicates your brand and purpose. Visitors should read your domain name and immediately get a sense of what cause your organization supports. Be sure to choose a name that is easy to pronounce and spell to increase memorability and encourage supporters to talk about your organization.
  • Make it unique and brandable. Create a name that differentiates you from other nonprofits in your space. This name should include unique terms like the name of your organization, a cornerstone program, or an initiative.
  • Choose the right top-level domain. Simply put, top-level domains (TLD) are anything that follows the last period in a URL. The TLD “.com” is extremely common, but there are TLDs specifically for nonprofits. Using one of the trusted nonprofit TLDs such as “.org,” “.ngo,” and “.ong” can give your site more credibility in the nonprofit sector. Although the “.org” TLD is open for anyone to use, you may need to verify that your organization is a nonprofit with the registration service.

Once you choose a domain name, you’ll need to register it with a domain registration service. When you register your domain name, you pay to reserve that domain for your organization’s website for a set period of time. To avoid losing access to your domain name, renew the name before it expires at the end of each billing period.

2. Develop content for your organization’s website.

Once people navigate to your site, your goal should be to keep them there and guide them to take a desired action like registering for an event or donating. The best way to motivate users to stay on your website is to create engaging content. 

Try adding many different types of content to your organization's website, including blog posts, details about donation opportunities, photos from a volunteer event, or a timeline of your organization’s history. 

When developing content, think about who your audience is and what they want to learn or do on your website. For instance, if they are young people navigating there from a viral social media post, you may want to add a dynamic, visual breakdown of your cause so they can quickly learn more.

3. Decide how you will build your website. 

How you build your website will depend on factors like your organization’s budget, goals for the website, and the scope of the project. 

These are the two most common routes nonprofits take when designing a website:

  • Using a DIY approach. There are many services online that allow you to create your own website for free or at a low cost. This option is great for organizations with a limited budget or a straightforward, simple vision for their website. Keep in mind that these services typically use a set of templates, so your website will not be as personalized as custom-built sites.
  • Hiring a web developer or web design service. A professional web developer or web design team has the expertise required to execute more complicated websites. These websites can accommodate fully custom, complex web design elements that will make the site stand out. For example, if you want to integrate various software solutions into your website, you may need assistance from a developer.

Before deciding how you will develop your website, make sure to establish your website’s goals and purpose. Create a list of features you can’t go without, outline a budget with some wiggle room, and thoroughly research website builders and developers before choosing one. 

4. Set up a donation collection method.

Keep in mind that many supporters will visit your website in search of a quick way to donate to your organization.

These tips can help you raise more through your organization’s website:

  • Create clear calls to action that lead visitors to your donation page.
  • Add donation buttons or links to your website’s homepage. 
  • Use a donation form that captures each donor’s name and other contact information.
  • Promote online giving on other marketing channels to drive website traffic.
  • Use case studies and personal appeals to lead users to your donation page.

After you receive these donations, you’ll need a way to manage the influx of donor data you receive. Look for an online donation tool with a donor management system like Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good), that can store, track, and report data points like donor records or average gift size. Over time, this information can help you build stronger relationships with donors by tailoring your outreach to their unique backgrounds, interests, and motivations for giving.

In summary

Once you have your organization’s website up and running, keep in mind that the site should be viewed as an ever-evolving tool and hub of information. Be sure to take the time to evaluate (and re-evaluate) how you can keep your site fresh, relevant, and impactful.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing