Look, it’s 2023, so we know that, for better or worse, the internet is where we all turn first for information.
It may start with social –
Sarah had a new baby. Blake just got into medical school. The Patels are traveling to Rome this week (doesn’t the coffee look heavenly?). A new tech company is hiring for my role. The Dow moved up a few points. A different billionaire is building a different spaceship. A nonprofit is asking for help with a major community initiative.
– but it ends with a click to a website.
That’s why digital experience is (still) the most essential part of your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. It’s the building that’s always open for visitors, and it’s the first stop when people are considering investing time, energy and money into your organization. Your site is the frontline storyteller, sharing all of the things that matter to your audience and your mission.
But is your website telling a story – or is it an info dump? Is it easy to navigate, or overwhelming? Are you making the most of your content to engage visitors and establish strong virtual connections? Are you ranking on search engines?
A nonprofit set on growth needs a smart website to get there.
We’ve got some ideas on that for ya.
What should a nonprofit website look like?
Before we look at some examples, let’s run through some of the essential elements of good web design.
Tell your story – quickly
The average amount of time spent on web pages across all industries is 54 seconds. That’s why when you’re designing your homepage – and especially your About page – you want to make sure your organization’s mission is as clear as possible at a glance. Clear, unambiguous headlines, photos, and other media will start to tell this story before new visitors even start reading.
Integrate your social media
The more ways for people to follow your organization, the better. Make sure you clearly link to your social media accounts (and from them back to your webpage) to make the experience of going from one to the other as smooth as possible. Another way to smooth that transition is…
Be consistent with branding
Make sure to have consistent logos, fonts, colors, and other design elements across your website and across your various social media platforms. Consistency leads to trust. It reassures your users that you are who you say you are, wherever they encounter you online.
Show people who you work with
Include testimonials from people you’ve helped or organizations who’ve partnered with you in order to bolster your credibility. People are naturally more hesitant to trust online sources, so it’s important to provide sources and evidence that demonstrate who you are and what you do.
Don’t be afraid of negative space
Above all, navigating your website should be clear and intuitive. Sometimes that means more information, but often it means less. Don’t overload your navigation bar with too many options. Don’t pile on text that’ll slow down visitors before they even get to your call-to-action.
Provide multiple ways to engage
Donations are critical, but don’t let the push for donations obscure the other ways visitors can get involved. Encourage users to reach out with questions, sign up for a newsletter, follow you on social media, or sign up to volunteer. Not everyone will be ready to donate right away, but if you have other ways for them to get involved, you’ll be at the front of their mind when they are ready.
Streamline your donation page
Once visitors to your site have clicked on your CTA, make sure they don’t get confused or bogged down on your donation page. Keep things clear and simple. If they’re directed away from your site to a third party, make sure to include elements of your branding to establish consistency.
Examples of exceptional nonprofit web design
Let’s take a look at some instances of high-performing nonprofit websites in order to get a sense of what makes them stand out.
Consider the website for one of our clients, the Tampa Bay nonprofit, Metropolitan Ministries. The homepage is clear and dynamic, incorporating a looped video of volunteers at a food bank. This vividly displays what the organization does – helping poor and at-risk families with food and housing assistance – before you’ve even read a word.
The banner, “Become a Bridge Builder,” evokes a feeling of optimism and provides information about the location. Three large highlighted statistics on the page provide proof of the good the organization does. Two clearly marked, interactive CTAs at the top of the page (“Donate Once” and “Donate Monthly”) encourage visitors to take action right away and even invite the possibility of recurring donations.
Girls Who Code
Another nonprofit page to consider is the website for Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to promoting greater racial and gender diversity in computing and the tech industry. The hero banner for their homepage clearly announces what they do, and it’s accompanied by engaging close-up photos of the people they serve.
The top menu for the site provides clear drop down menus with more information about the organization’s identity, activities, and opportunities to get involved and stay informed. As you scroll down the page, icons and short, carefully worded descriptions explain their programs, show where they’re active around the world, and list the names of prominent organizations they work with in order to build the group’s credibility with new users.
How much should a nonprofit website cost?
So how much does it cost to get a new website? Well, that’s like asking how much it costs to get a new car. It depends on what you need, where you want to go, and how much you’re planning on driving.
Web design is essential, competitive, and technical – which can translate to “pretty expensive,” depending on how complex and sophisticated the site is.
But the truth is that the investment is worth it. That’s because it’s more necessary than ever to make sure certain technical features for your website are optimized, such as page speed and user experience, for Google, for mobile, for individual audience members. Responsiveness, speed, personalization: they’re all critical drivers for a successful site, and they all can require expertise.
For example, your site may have exciting and interesting features, but if they don’t also load quickly, you’re out of luck. 53% of users will leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. These things play an important role in your site’s ranking on Google search results.
Forbes estimates that for small businesses or corporate websites, web design can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $35,000 plus an additional $1,200 to $15,000 a year in maintenance costs.
If you’re attempting to design a site yourself using an online template such as Wix or Squarespace, the price can be relatively low, ranging up to a few hundred dollars per month. (Most site builders will charge recurrent monthly fees.) These sites offer pre-made templates that will do in a pinch if you’re not looking for anything very complicated, though they take time to set up, and you’ll have to make do with relatively limited features if you don’t know how to code.
The real cost of using these sites is the time and effort of setting them up yourself. Services such as HubSpot’s CMS Hub (CMS stands for content management system) allow you to build your site with a drag-and-drop builder, plus they feature ongoing content management functions such as search engine optimization.
Should I hire a nonprofit web design agency?
Depending on the level of functionality and optimization you’re looking for, working with an agency might be your best option. This can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 for a website redesign to upwards of $40,000 – $70,000 for a site with a high page count and advanced custom functionality. For instance, an ecommerce site could have hundreds of pages with unique and complicated features specific to the types of products that company sells.
Working with an agency means that you’ll have a team of seasoned experts evaluating and optimizing everything about your site: SEO, page speed, content, user experience, conversion rate optimization, etc.
Choose a nonprofit web design agency who understands your values
At Big Sea, we value the work of nonprofits. We’ve partnered with lots of nonprofit organizations – ranging from grassroots community programs to cultural organizations to big national brands – in order to expand their reach online through web design and online advertising.