Website Design Tips For NonProfit Organizations




Good morning, internet fans. Ryan Perry here, Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday. It is Cinco de Mayo, therefore, it is Internet Marketing Thursday, and I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center in Petaluma. Good morning, Virginie?

Virginie Dorn: Happy Cinco de Mayo, to you. Buenos dias.

RP: Buenos dias. I don’t know how you say ‘buenas dias’ in Hawaiian ’cause you were in Hawaii last week. I was in Cabo San Lucas last week, and that’s why we were not here in front of our screens.

VD: Yeah, aloha.

RP: Aloha, there you go. That works. I still feel like being on aloha or Cinco de Mayo time, let me tell you. I just got in. Yesterday was my first full day, so I’m still catching up on things. Today though is Internet Marketing Thursday. We’re both stateside and we want to talk about non-profits, and really how to maximize the real estate, that is a non-profit website, to go after those donation dollars ’cause really for a non-profit, it’s really about minimizing expenses and maximizing the donation dollars and a website from a digital marketing point is kinda the foundation for a non-profit. That really speaks volumes to, I think, all their other online marketing efforts from a design point of view, but also from a, “How much money can we actually bring in?” is going to be greatly impacted by the message, the look, the feel of the website.

VD: Indeed, and what I’ve found out over the years is non-profit organizations, somehow still don’t take their website as seriously as companies do, and then they wonder why over time they are losing their market share, not getting as much donation. It is because some nonprofits have totally harnessed the power of the internet because if done well, your web marketing efforts, including your website, can really help you grow your organization, find more donors, but also spread your message and take the organization to a new level of success. So again, that website is about 24/7 foundation then all nonprofit organizations have to take a serious look at, especially when it’s time for them to redesign it.

RP: Yeah, and from your point of view, you’re speaking from experience. You’ve worked with a number of nonprofits of varying sizes. What I think is interesting and kinda what I was thinking this morning before we went live on the air is that, nonprofits typically are built out of passion. Somebody doesn’t just say, “You know, I want to start a business. Let me start a non-profit and we’ll feed kids or save the animals.” whatever it might be. Non-profits are typically built out of passion. And one of the things that you mentioned is that sometimes web design, database management marketing are these foreign concepts because people are really leading with their heart, and they just want to help and make a difference in the world. And a lot of times, marketing design… While it does lead from the heart, it also… You need to be able to design it conceptually. There needs to be some business sense behind it, and I think that’s kind of where the disconnect is with non-profits. So, it’s really important to work with somebody who understands how a non-profit makes money, and how to convey their message in a business-like sense.

VD: Oh man, you said it really well. That’s the issue of nonprofit organizations is that disconnect ’cause they’re so passionate and people who feel very strongly about the cause they support, and then they don’t understand that the website is a tool again you need to harness. It all starts with a message and also their audience. Before you even start a new website development for your organization, you really have to understand what you’re trying to target. For a lot of people, it’s going to be donors. It’s going to be people they’re going to help. It could be also partners. So, you have to define who are your target audience for your websites and then build the website accordingly. So, donation is hugely important for the organization, you need to make sure it has a great focus on the site.

VD: The second thing to really clearly understand before you start the design is your message. What is your message? What do you do? What is your mission? And in addition to that, what is your vision for the future for the organization? Where do you want it to be in one year, five years, ten years from now? Because you want that marketing tool, that new website to totally help you reach those goals. But if you don’t know what your goals are, you’re really designing totally blind. So, that’s why I always say it’s important to get a web designer that has done websites for non-profit organizations so that they can nurture you and your team from A to Z, all the way till the end of the completion and provide you a website that is going to accomplish all those goals.

RP: Yeah, and one of the things that we’re talking about before the show is that it’s really about when you’re coming up with that initial design, one of the things that you talked about is: How does it make people feel when they actually see the website? You talked about inspiration, sadness, hope, all of that can be conveyed by the type of colors you use, the font, obviously the wording, the text that’s on the page, and of course, images and video are huge these days for websites.

VD: Yes, and so now that you have the message and your audience, so again, let’s start with design, what do you want your visitors to feel when they first arrive to your website for the first time? And many instances it’s sadness and hope. So you show the problem but you also give the visitors a sense of hope then through the organization, changes can happen for the better. And again… But encourage both volunteers and donors to participate in your organization and help it move it forward. Again, understand what the message… Or not the message, the feeling you want… And we mention colors. Of course you have a color scheme for your brand but sometimes adding maybe softer color to compliment your existing branding can help make it more approachable. Sometimes we use rounded corners that tend to soften this look of a webpage. Even shadowing all those little design elements are very important that make a website not look as corporate and as sterile as it typically can be, because again we are looking at a flat screen, it’s totally digital, there is no 3D, there is no depth, there’s no smell, there is no eye contact. You want to use the subtle design element to make it more approachable especially when you’re a not for profit organization.

RP: Yeah and I like one of the things that you said that I thought was really important was that it’s not just about the donors but also about the volunteers. If they can feel good about the message, it’s one thing to know the person and personally be part of the organization and go “wow this is a great organization” but for them to share information through social media, to share the website. They want to be able to stand behind the website also, so a well designed website is going to help the volunteers a] feel really good about what they’re doing and then b] wanting to share that information which again is going to help with generating more donor dollars.

VD: Yes. You want your webpages to go viral. One good way to do it is through powerful images and photographs and graphics. Now there’s different types of photos that are important in the design, of course what you do. So if you’re the SPCA you’re going to focus on the face of the dogs and the cats and all the rescue animals. If you… Let’s say feed the poor in Africa, you want a bunch of kids holding plates full of good rice and protein, whatever it might be. But also photograph of what you do, but also photograph of volunteers and donors because you want the visitors that are there to support your cause to feel like, “Oh that could be me.” They could be vaccinating children overseas or… “Oh I could be donating at the next event and make a difference.” It’s not just what you do and who you help it’s also who is going to help you. Make sure you don’t forget them so they can emotionally and digitally connect with the photos and then share it on their social media account therefore spreading the good words about what you do.

RP: Alright. Alright! That is all great information. Once we get past the actual design elements we know that we want to talk about the pain. What is the solution. We’ve got the colors down. What’s kind of the next thing we need to worry about as far as the design or the build out of the website?

VD: Well the function ID is as important as the design. You want it to work well. You want it to display well on smartphones and tablets, so that’s responsive design. All website by now should be responsive to mobile devices. But also it should be… The site match should be laid out very clearly and by this I mean if you’re interested in grabbing more donors. You want to get the donor as quickly as possible and as easily as possible to the donation page. If you’re looking for volunteers, you want those people to get as quickly as possible to the sign up form perhaps for the next event. So again you have to find an easy way to through functionality to get them where they need to be and where they want to be.

VD: That way you have a very successful and powerful website. If you accept donation there are also lots of third party merchants accounts that are specializing in non-profit organization where people can setup a plan. Where they can say, “I want to donate $10” a month and put it on a recurring billing. So all of these functionality you should be discussing with your web designer before you even start and that person if they have the experience should be able to give you a bunch of different options for you to consider. Some are free, some have a monthly fee included. Base on your budget and what your looking to do with the site you can make your decision accordingly. So that would be for the functionality.

RP: Okay. I think one of the really important things here is… You see this in business a lot. Especially smaller businesses and I would imagine in non-profits also is that, we get the, “Oh well my son” or “My friends’ friend is the one who built the website”. Without the understanding and the knowledge and the experience of understanding who the audience is, what works and what doesn’t work, what tools are available, you may be saving some money upfront but if you’re going to keep that website, and that’s one of the big conversation I have with my clients is, “Look, how long are you going to do this?” May be a website design, may be a marketing plan, may it be social media is, “Are you going to use this content for a year? Three years? Five years?” And you know, a website should last you three to five years as long as technology doesn’t completely change on us. Like it likes to. So make that investment now because it’s going to pay for itself over the years. And versus, “Oh well my friends’ son’s daughter’s cousin’s nephew knows how to build websites ’cause they’re going to the JC and they’re taking a class on HTML right now.”

VD: That happens a lot. Yeah, it happens a lot with nonprofit organization. There is always a volunteer and did some HTML coding in high school and… Sometimes if you’re lucky they end up with a pretty website but it’s lacking the power of a message. It’s lacking the functionality and it’s just doesn’t render the desired results. It’s like “Oh, my website is very pretty. Nobody can find it. Visitors don’t stay on it very long.” Or is it because this person is a volunteer and unless they own a web design company they just miss the mark. So again, it happens all the time with non-profit organization and they’ll say, “12 months ago we had Joe Smo do our website for free sometimes and it’s just not working. It doesn’t work on certain tablets.” All kinds of difficulties and then they end up in our office and we can fix it for them of course.

VD: So that’s for again, design function ID. The last item to remember is optimization and that’s your ranking. How high in the ranking of search engines are you going to be found? And somehow non-profit organizations don’t think is that important to them. They’ll think, “Oh, people can find us with our organization name.” Yeah, but those people already know you. We are looking to reach out to the masses they know nothing about your organization. They don’t even know you exist but nonetheless are very interested in supporting you either financially or for their time and if you’re not found on Google, or Yahoo, or all those big major search engines, you’re missing the mark and leaving a big part of the market share on the table.

RP: Yeah, I think even from beyond SEO optimization and creating not just visibility on Google and Yahoo but it’s also the social media side of it. Making sure and that’s where I said earlier is that your website really is the foundation because any messaging that you do, may it be SEO, may it be social media, post cards where you’re actually printing information, you should have your web address on there. Basically everything should go back to your website because that’s the funnel where like Virginie said, if you’re building a website and it’s done correctly understanding who your audience is, it makes it easy for them to make donations. It makes it easy for people who want to sign up and become volunteers to be able to do that. That’s all in that functionality of that website and so if you have great visibility and great social media but your website doesn’t function correctly or it’s not designed right, you’re just… You’re going to have a lot of the visitors but not a lot of follow through or conversion.

VD: In other words, non-profit organization need to look at their website just like for profit companies do. They need to take it very seriously. If they’re that passionate about their cause and what they’re trained to do around the world, they need to really pause and get the right team to help them. The right design team and marketer because again, that can make a whole difference in their efforts. I mean imagine if you could double your donation dollars, what could you do with your organization? How many more people or animals or whatever it is you do, you could be helping? And so there’s nothing wrong in having a successful website for a non-profit. But again, it’s just to convey a message to every non-profit organization I meet with then it’s that important to them and their longevity theory.

RP: Yeah, and I love the fact that you said that it’s okay to have a nice website and from the outside looking in, it also adds more credibility. Something to think about. If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to get back to you right away. You can also reach Virginie directly through the Business Website Center website and Virginie, your number is 707-794-9999. Four nines at the end.

RP: 707-794-9999. People, if you have a specific question that you want to ask Virginie, that’s going to be the best way to get a hold of her at this time. With that it’s the end of the show. I’ll be stateside, you’ll be stateside next week. We’ll be here in front of the computers again with some additional great information about digital marketing. Virginie, any last comments?

VD: No, thank you for plugging Ryan and have a great rest of your week.

RP: Alright, will do, you too. Everybody take care and we’ll see you next week.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

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