Wed, December 18 2013

Redesigning your website? Read this.

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

Last week I shared several ways to get your nonprofit’s website ready for year-end fundraising. Hopefully you’ve been able to put at least a few of these tips into practice. If a website redesign is on your to-do list for 2014, these elements should be top of mind. Of course, there is a lot more to consider when taking on a major website project. 

To help you understand the process, the folks at Wired Impact have created a nifty infographic that summarizes the key steps in designing your nonprofit website. Check it out below and post a comment to share what’s on your website wish list for the coming year.

Nonprofit Website Design Process Infographic from Wired Impact

(Can’t see the infographic?
Visit Wired Impact to download the full image.)

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Fri, December 13 2013

Is your website broken?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Websites and web usability •

As part of Network for Good’s Fundraising Fundamentals premium training, I am reviewing a lot of nonprofit websites to offer feedback and suggestions for improvement. While most of these sites are not “broken” in the technical sense, many of them are broken when we look at them through a fundraising lens. Without clear paths to donate to your cause, your website is working against your fundraising efforts. This is especially dangerous in December when donors are making more gifts online than in any other month.

Whether or not your donors give online through your website, many will be visiting your nonprofit’s website to learn more about your organization. This month, your nonprofit home page should be all about year-end fundraising. You need to make sure your online presence gives prospective donors a fast and easy way to find out more about your programs, understand where the money goes, and (of course) DONATE.

So, in these last few critical weeks of the year, give your site a once over to see if it’s broken in the fundraising sense. Want to make it better? Here are some fast fundraising fixes for getting more donations this December:

Keep it big, bold, and above the fold.
This is what all good donate buttons should strive to be. Your buttons should stand out and be large enough to find and click within a few seconds of landing on your website.  It should look like a button and give donors a visual cue that it is clickable.

Miriam’s Kitchen has a nicely-placed, large donate button that is obviously clickable and stands out from the rest of their page:

Miriam's Kitchen Home Page

Take donors directly to your form.
When donors click on your donate button, don’t take them on the scenic route. Send them directly to your form and make sure that it is optimized for giving. Your page should make the donation process simple and rewarding. (Make sure your donation page is ready for prime time with these tips.)

Offer more than one path to give.
Include multiple donate links on your home page (and other key pages) that go straight to your donation form. Use a combination of buttons, text links, and headlines to appeal to all types of visitors. Generally, more links mean more traffic to your donation page.

Best Friends Animal Society offers three ways for people to immediately give right from their home page:

Best Friends Animal Society Home Page


Make your donation page only one click away.
Along the same lines, visitors should never be more than one click away from your donation page at all times. Keep the option to give visible and easily accessible no matter where a visitor is on your site.

Use consistent language for buttons and links.
Be explicit and don’t make donors wonder what you’re asking them to do. Focus on one of the following words: Give, Donate, or Contribute—and stick to that one word throughout the donation process. Asking people to join is problematic unless membership is truly the core of your organization. Asking people to support you is largely meaningless to most users and does not signify giving.

Use a home page takeover.
Also known as a lightbox, splash screen, pop-up, or even “homepage hijack.” Whatever name you prefer, this is a special version of your home page that has a sole purpose of generating donations. A year-end takeover should be bold and clear and offer no more than three options: donate now, learn more, and click to the usual home page. Some organizations have had success in making the splash screen the actual donation form. These types of takeovers should go up at least for the last week of the year.

Here’s a wonderful example from Habitat for Humanity New York City:

Habitat for Humanity NYC Home Page

Don’t have the option to add a lightbox to your website this month? There are other easy ways to make your home page focused on fundraising. N Street Village‘s home page is a great example of how to incorporate this same idea into your existing website design.

N Street Village Home Page

(For more on how you can incorporate lightboxes into your year-end website plans, Pamela Grow has some advice and Mandy O’Neill of Connected Nonprofit shares how and why lightboxes work.)

Show where the money goes.
If you don’t have it already, create a simple “Why Donate” page and provide links to this page from your “About Us” section, home page, and donation form. On this page, include easy-to-understand pie charts and clear descriptions of where your money comes from and where it goes. Add links to your full financials and your annual report.  Use reader-friendly language that a donor can quickly scan and understand in under 30 seconds. No jargon or complicated (read: boring) copy that makes donors’ eyes glaze over.

Highlight your endorsements.
Testimonials, ratings, and seals of approval are all powerful cues that tell potential donors that yours is an organization that they can trust, because others are willing to speak on your behalf. Showcase these on your home page, your donation page, as well as your “Why Donate” page.

Don’t forget about mobile.
With a high number of people reading email on mobile devices, the key landing pages of your website, and your donation forms, need to be mobile friendly and easy to use on smartphones. Keeping things uncluttered and focused on one clear call to action will help. (Find out how to make your nonprofit’s website mobile friendly with these simple tweaks.)

Taking care of these website must-haves will help your organization make the most of its year-end campaign. Happy Fundraising!

For more tips on making your nonprofit website the best it can be, download our free ebook:  How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Website.

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Wed, August 28 2013

10 Amazing Nonprofit Websites

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

A few weeks ago I shared tips for assessing whether or not a visitor would consider your nonprofit’s website open for business. This week, I wanted to share some examples of nonprofits who are getting it right.

The home pages in the slideshow below are great nonprofit examples because they focus on getting their message across quickly and clearly, while offering clear paths for donations and further engagement. Remember: having a great nonprofit website isn’t about the flashiest design or the most cutting-edge technology, it’s about whether or not you can immediately communicate your message to a visitor and inspire them to act. These examples all include:

Clean, uncluttered design
Clear navigation and calls to action
Prominent donation button
Compelling image of a person or animal impacted by the organization’s work
Easy ways to engage visitors with email and social media

View on Slideshare for full screen + notes.

Kudos to Side by Side Kids, Miriam’s Kitchen, Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, CASA of Travis County, The Aslan Project, Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland, Pro Mujer, Diablo Regional Arts Association, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Autism Community Network for being wonderful examples for other nonprofits to follow!


What are your favorite examples of nonprofit website excellence?

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Wed, August 14 2013

Is your nonprofit website open for business?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

Make this the sign you're showing to donors.

Is your nonprofit website sending the right message to potential donors? Year-end fundraising season will be here before you know it. Now is the time to clear away the cobwebs and roll out the welcome mat for prospective donors, volunteers, and those who may benefit from your work. If you haven’t updated your site in a while, you might give donors the impression that your organization is no longer active.

Worried your site may say “move along” instead of “come on in”? Here are the top issues that can scare visitors away from your nonprofit website (and how to fix them).

Broken links

They’re not just aggravating and confusing for your website visitors, broken links can also be a big red flag for search engines like Google. Having internal links that don’t work or that don’t point to real content can affect how your site shows up in search.

How to fix it: Most website platforms and content management systems have reporting that will show you the top pages that are returning an error. Taking a close look at your Google Analytics can help as well. Do some internal testing on your website to make sure all of your links are taking visitors where they should.


Stale content

Do you still have information about your “upcoming event” on your home page even though the “upcoming event” took place several months ago? Is the last post on your nonprofit’s blog from 2012? This is a surefire sign that no one in your organization is actually looking at your website. To your visitors, it says: we gave up.

How to fix it: Make it someone’s responsibility to frequently review your website and do regular housekeeping. If you have a news feed or blog that shows up on your home page, make sure you’re adding new content frequently. If you don’t have a plan to add new items, remove these feeds from your pages.


Dated design

This one is somewhat subjective, but there are certain hallmarks of an outdated web design: crazy animations, hard to read text (usually light text on dark background, or a veritable rainbow of font colors), randomly-placed images, to name a few. Geocities is dead. It’s time for your nonprofit website to move on to better things.

How to fix it:   A complete makeover would be nice, but if that’s not in the cards, focus on fixing the most egregious cosmetic issues within your current design and platform. Start with your key pages and branch out from there. Make it easy to read and remove anything that makes your site look like this.


No contact information

The lights may be on, but without obvious and current contact information, is anyone really home? Your contact details give people an easy way to ask questions and find out more, plus openly listing this information on your website is a sign of trust and transparency.

How to fix it: Add your physical address, phone number, and a way to email you to the footer of your website. Place clear links to your “Contact Us” page within your site’s global navigation.


No clear way to donate

This is the first thing I look for when I am asked to review an organization’s website, and it’s amazing how many nonprofits still don’t have a prominently placed donation button on every page of their website. Without a clear and highly visible way to donate, you’re effectively telling donors: we don’t need your money.

How to fix it: Make your donate button big, bold, and above the fold of your website. Make sure your donate button actually says “Donate Now”, “Donate”, or “Give”. Fuzzy language won’t cut it here.


Slow to load

One Mississippi, two Mississippi … by three Mississippi your website better be finished loading, or most visitors will simply leave. It may not be fair, but people are impatient. They have better things to do than to wait for your carousel of images or Flash presentation to load.

How to fix it: Start by confirming there are no technical problems with your website’s platform or hosting service. Then, take a hard look at your website’s key pages and see how you can streamline them by removing extraneous images, code, or other files that are bogging down your site. A reputable web developer can also provide suggestions for other improvements that can speed up your site. (Bonus: Decluttering your site will have a positive effect on potential donors, making it easy for them to figure out what it is you do and why they should care.)


Not mobile friendly

When your nonprofit website is difficult to load (or completely dead) on a mobile device, you may as well not exist for that smartphone user. 56% of US adults are smartphone users, and they’re becoming more and more likely to read your emails and social media outreach on a mobile device. If your links take them to a site that’s non-functional on their phone, you’ve missed out on another opportunity to connect.

How to fix it: You don’t need a complete overhaul to make your website more mobile friendly. Focus on a handful of key pages (think: home page, donation page, contact page, any other pages you point to regularly from emails or social media) and improve them with these 8 tips for making your nonprofit website mobile friendly. (Bonus: Most mobile-friendly website tweaks will improve usability overall.)

What are your biggest website challenges? Have you made a recent change to your site that’s made a big difference? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sun, June 23 2013

How to read this blog

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

Love reading this blog? Don’t miss out!

For those of you reading this blog via Google Reader: Google Reader will be retired on July 1, 2013, which means you won’t be able to read your blog and news feeds through the Google Reader service after that date. We love our readers and want to make sure you stay in touch!

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