How to Make a Charity Website

Create a Charity Website You Can Be Proud Of

If you have Googled “how to make a charity website”, it probably means that you are hoping to create your first charity website on your own: perhaps because you don’t think that your charity can afford a professionally-developed website, or it is just good old fashioned curiosity that has brought you to this resource. Whatever it was that got you here, welcome! No doubt, you care deeply about your charity’s mission, so the least we can do here at Dot Org Web Works is to provide you with the broad strokes on how to create your first charity website—you know, so that you don’t make the mistakes many armatures do.

If there is one thing you should walk away with in this tutorial, it is this: Your website is, or should be, the main communication outlet for your charitable nonprofit organization. It is where people will go to learn about your cause or program, to gauge how well it works, as well as to assess if it is a good fit for them. It is your virtual, 24/7, open house event to what it is you do, who you do it for, and how. So, you really need to get your messaging right. 

So, with that said, let’s get started, shall we?

Understanding the Charity “Market”

How to make a charity websiteFirst and foremost, keep in mind that a charity (or other nonprofit) website is in many respects quite different than that of a commercial one.

Specifically,  the commercial (for-profit) website generally targets and speaks to the buyer of the product—the one who is almost always (save for gift cards) the end-user of the product they are buying. So when one is creating a website for the commercial sector, she/he is communicating to one audience: the buyer/user.

Make a charity website

But, that is not the case for the charity website developer.

The charity’s message, however, generally needs to speak to two audiences—sometimes split equally. One message is for the “product buyer” (the donor/funder to the product or service) and the other message is to the “user of the product” (the people in need of your charity’s product or service—often referred to as the client). And, this sort of split-branding can be a challenge.

From this point, it is important to gauge how much of your messaging will be shared between the two target audiences. (For specifics on this, please click here for Nonprofit vs. Profit Websites.)

 

The General Steps in Charity Website Development

Explain who you are and what you do, clearly

Before you start selecting your website platform (e.g.: WordPress, Wix, Joomla), or even before you start collecting website content (articles, images, videos, stories and other media) you will need to step back and consider your line of approach. Ask yourself:

  • How do I wish for others to perceive our charity/nonprofit organization?
  • To whom am I reaching out to?
  • What should be the style/personality of the website?

In other words, you need to brand your website before doing anything else. Otherwise, you’ll lose sight of your website’s mission.

Although a branding session may contain a couple of dozen or more questions (this we do for all of our clients), the key questions would include:

  • In as few words as possible, clearly explain what your charity does.
  • What differentiates your service from your competition?
  • What is the viewing priority? (Donors or clients?)
  • What is your nonprofit organization’s vision?
  • What are the demographics of the viewership?
  • Are you hoping to increase this demographic, or appeal to new ones?

Once the branding, either formal or informal, is at your ready, now it’s time to take off!–you should now be set to plan out (wire-frame) your website.

Planning your Charity Website

Planning your Charity Website

The format for a charitable nonprofit website is not unlike a dynamic brochure, with the content sometimes gleaned from existing organization media. Once this initial phase is completed—that is, you’ve gathered the essential page documents, i.e.: About Us, Contact Us, Giving Options, Programs & Services, to name the most obvious—you will then be able to consider other options. Do you want to stream your Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter accounts? Have featured articles (blog) and a calendar of events? Do you want subscriber/members-only sections? There are many website options for the charity website, with several of them available for you to consider here.

Showcase the “Product” – Demonstrate Success

Few people will want to donate to your charity if you can’t show results. You need to somehow translate how their involvement will bring about a sROI (Social Return on Investment). This can be done in several ways:

  • Images showing positive results. It can be simply people (animals or something else) benefiting from your charity.
  • Client profiles. Showcase a success story with images and before and after history.
  • Value. Impress upon your viewership how their donations will make an impact.
  • Show your results and that you can be trusted via a financials page. And/or, if you are partnered with Network for Good or Charity Navigator, then provide a link to your charity rating.

Show your Success

 

Building Your Charity Website

The last major hurdle is to actually build out your website. For those who are not artistically and technically inclined, and who do not have a working understanding of website platforms, this may be at the very least intimidating and time-consuming. Therefore, you will want to choose a very intuitive and user-friendly website platform.

We strongly recommend WordPress. It is the CMS (content management system) of choice for about 60% of all CMS websites (about 30% of all websites), and for a good reason. But you will also need to employ the use of a user-friendly pre-developed website “theme” or other similar website builder. (Please see our website builder page for a quick demonstration.)

Once you’ve gotten these tools in place, you should be ready to build out your site.

But wait…there’s more!

  • You will want to make your website SEO (search engine optimization) friendly by employing the best keyword/search phrases for every page and post within your website. (More on SEO ranking here.)
  • You will need to maintain your website with periodic upkeep.
  • You will need to keep your website relevant with fresh content and up-to-date information.

 

To summarize:

  1. Understand the difference between your charity organization and that of a for-profit business.
  2. Clearly explain who you are and what your charitable nonprofit does. And, why you are a better choice than “the competition”.
  3. Plan out your subject matter, content and user experience in advance.
  4. Showcase your product and demonstrate success.
  5. Develop good, logical, SEO keywords and titles.
  6. Develop fresh and relevant content frequently

 


How Can We Help You Create Your Website?

Creating an effective charity website requires a skill-set like any other profession. This is what we do, and we would love making a difference with you. With your intrinsic knowledge of your nonprofit organization, and our experience at website development for charity organizations, together we could build that website that you’ve envisioned—affordably and within a proper timeline. Let’s talk!

Giving Tuesday 2019

Giving Tuesday 2019

Giving Tuesday 2019 (#GivingTuesday) is on December 3, 2019. So why give it any thought now when it’s not yet Spring? Simple. You now may have the time, before summer.

tips on working remotely

Tips for Working Remotely for your Nonprofit Organization

A Nonprofit Professional’s Advice to Working At Home

For more than 20 years, I’ve worked “remotely” for nonprofit organizations. At first it was termed: “work at home”, which would mean anything from my newly installed workstation in the den/eating area of my 1 bedroom apartment, to one of the three coffee houses anchored at the traffic circle within a two-minute walk from my home. (In no time at all, it would become “work anyplace on earth but the organization’s office”.)

At the AIDS services organization where I was employed as their newly created web marketing person, I was afforded the opportunity to come and go as I pleased, as long as I had met my department head’s expectations. Utilizing a modified, more concentrated, work week, I worked on the organization’s web presence and printed collateral at home three days a week and would go to the office once a week for meetings and to remind my co-workers that I did indeed actually exist. I was in heaven. I no longer had to waste time in cross-city traffic, nor spend anytime whatsoever choosing the proper work attire. “Casual Friday” was every day.

tips on working remotely

 

Working Remotely is Good for All

Over the years, work-at-home has become less of a quirky employment perk and more of a necessity as nonprofit organizations struggle to keep talented staff from seeking employment within the private sector—where pay packages tend to be higher. Many people who work remotely do so because of family necessity or other extenuating circumstances. Or, simply, they are willing to trade more income for a more holistic working life that affords more “me time”. This is usually a win-win situation for both the organization and the employee. That is, if the employee can maintain the necessary discipline and production required to sustain the adapted work environment. It is my hope that my experience will help the reader see some of the lesser known issues and pitfalls working remotely. And since the benefits of working remotely are already well known and celebrated,  I shall dwell on the troublesome part of working remotely and how to compensate for it. But first, the obvious benefits of working remotely:

The Pros

  • Flexibility in real-time work schedule. Your job is usually not 9-5, allowing you to complete your tasks within the gaps of a more nuanced work day.
  • No commutes through traffic. This alone will save you from unproductive, stressful, hours every week.
  • No more runs to the dry cleaners. Wear what you want, even if its pajamas all day long.
  • All the comforts of home. Say adios to eating at Taco Bell because you can’t spare the time for a proper sit-down lunch at a restaurant. Make your own tasty lunches from your own kitchen, play the music you like to hear. Bring your dog to work!

The Cons

  • Working by yourself isn’t for everyone and can be a major adjustment. Not having co-workers around, for example, may limit your social life, as well as minimize your potential to learn and apply new ideas and techniques that better your work performance.
  • A new set of distractions. If you are a parent with a child at home part or all the time, you will be challenged to maintain your focus on the paid job at hand.
  • Self motivation/discipline. With no one looking over your shoulder, and fun day-time opportunities at your door, maintaining your strong work ethic will be challenged.
  • Lack of proper tools and an ergonomic work environment. You may not have the laser printer, photo copier, software, and other office tools at hand like you do at the office. Also, the office is more likely to have set you up in a proper desk and chair that will help stave off carpal tunnel syndrome, and/or neck and back problems.

 

How to Maintain Your Alertness and Work Ethic Away from the Organization’s Office

Is your website performing?Be it at your makeshift at-home office, which can be anything from a dedicated room that mirrors the office you are forgoing at the organization, or the squat table and beanbag seat clustered near the opening into your bamboo hut on a beach in Bali you are currently calling “home”, you need a proper working environment to get the job done.

Sure, working from the local coffee house or your kitchen’s counter can suffice in a pinch when the task is simple and not requiring a lot of focus and thought, but trying to conduct your business this way regularly is both unwise and unproductive. You need a place that isn’t a vortex of distraction, be it from ambient noises, to the lure of multi-tasking non-work activities into your work time. You need to respect your working environment just like you would expect co-workers to leave you alone during focus time at the office.

Disciplining Yourself Within Your New, Alternative, Work Environment

You would think that staying focused on the job you are getting paid to do would be the hardest part of working at home. That’s not always the case. In addition to maintaining self-governance, you will need to be mindful to:

  • Not over working. Just because you have a brainstorm at 11PM and your office doubles as a bedroom, does not mean you should take your laptop out of sleep mode and start outlining project plans when you should be slipping into a well deserved slumber. Respect your “office hours”, be them 9-5 or 5-9. You will need to define and maintain a division between work and personal time. (Your spouse/partner will certainly appreciate it.)
  • Avoid at-home distractions, and too much multi-tasking. Studies have proven, time and again, that constant multi-tasking does not achieve better results in the long run. Stay disciplined to your task at hand. Complete it, and move on to the next in your own good pace and flow. Tell the kids to hold off on any non-urgent discussions until your scheduled “break time”.
  • Be hyper punctual. Just because you don’t have to punch a clock does not mean you are not obliged to maintain schedules and appointments. Don’t sleep in every morning just because you can. If you have a 10AM conference call scheduled, don’t be fumbling for your headset while testing your Skype connection at 9:59. And if it’s a video conference, be mindful of your appearance and environment: hair combed, pants on, and non-distracting backdrop.
  • Keeping “office hours”. A lot of nonprofit professionals are either working part-time, as volunteers, or they are accustomed to spending a day or more working remotely. Therefore, it is important to maintain predictable office hours. You will want your supervisors, staff, or board members to feel comfortable contacting you during those times when you are working remotely. In other words, people should not feel as if they are intruding—as if they were calling you at home—when you are working at home.

Optimize your Working Environment

I’m considered a digital nomad: a person who works remotely—but on an elevated level. But maintaining a separate office space/room, with all of the proper furniture and office peripherals, is generally not afforded to me. But this does not mean that I don’t take time to create a choice work place or maintain an ergonomically comfortable working space—or that I don’t keep my tools (software) up to date. If my apartment/flat (hut) does not have a proper working space, I create it. Not only do I want a visually pleasing work space, I need it to be a healthy one.

  • Ergonomics 101. If the table that you have is higher than 26in/65cm tall, then you may need to correct the height issue so that you don’t feel strain on your body—especially to your wrists.
    • If you find that you are experiencing pain in your arm and neck, you might want to replace your mouse with a trackball.
    • Get a good chair. Your kitchen chair is no better for your body ergonomically than the kitchen table which is too tall for long-term keyboard work. Spend a little money on a good steno or desk chair with adjustable seat height and arms. This may be the best office investment you will make.
  • Take time to exercise. Stretch your hands, arms and legs often. Go for a bike ride or run when time permits (which may save you the cost of a gym membership).
  • Keep your tools updated. Buy or subscribe to the software and computer applications you need. Whatever your nonprofit profession is, you need to have those tools at your ready:
    • from the ubiquitous computer software, like Office 365, to Raiser’s Edge. Plus, you may need additional applications to interface well with your co-workers.
    • but, you may not need to keep a laser printer, copy machine, or scanner on premises. Know where your local out-put service centers are and their hours of availability, and you should be fine.
  • Maintain easy and reliable means of communications. You should have email, telephone (just keeping a mobile phone is fine these says), Skype (or “Skype to Phone”) account, Messenger and a conference call service.
  • You don’t need to work alone, all the time. If you have neighbors or local associates that are also working remotely, you may wish to organize shared working space and/or days to create a balance between work-at-home and a traditional office environment. For digital nomads, there are “co-shared offices” and other similar shared working spaces that take working remotely to a whole new level.
  • Be responsible. Not just reliable—that’s a given. But, keep a back-up of your files and equipment. Remember, you need to keep back-ups of your work files for safe keeping. This can be done using a good cloud service, or via a backup drive. But also, you will want to have a backup computer in case your primary one is in need of repair.

 

Working remotely is a great way to live. I know that I can’t imagine ever working any other way. It simply takes a little more self-discipline than you may normally be used to, and you will have to be able to take care of “office emergencies” since you are not likely to have an IT person at your beck and call. Be sure to take enough time for yourself, but make sure that you are doing your job as expected, or better!—just as if you were down the hall from your co-workers.

 


Richard Hamel is the founder of Dot Org Web Works and the co-author of The Nu Nomad: Location Independent Living.

free website maintenance offer

Free Website Maintenance Offer for Nonprofit Organizations

For a limited time only, Dot Org Web Works will provide your qualifying nonprofit organization with three months of our Quick Fix website maintenance/upkeep plan when you select DOWW to make-over your current website, or develop your first website!*

Giving Tuesday 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018 Reward Miles Giving

Turn Unused Reward Miles Points into Donations

Giving Tuesday 2018 (#GivingTuesday) just came out with a new guide: “How to Donate Unused reward Miles Points!” This guide outlines the donation process while including the airline miles charities accept to help readers consider where their miles can be used to change someone’s life.

Nearly one-third of credit card users will fail to use their rewards miles, and those who do may not even realize their unused miles are needed as charitable donations. For example, the Make-A-Wish foundation will need 2.8 billion airline miles this year to grant the travel wishes of every terminally ill child.

 

#GivingTuesday groups charities into sections, such as military, youth and environmental, and provide which airline miles they accept to help readers consider where they can donate their unused miles.

>> Click here for more info on this.

>> Click here for more on #GivingTuesday

website security for nonprofits

Google Wants Your Nonprofit Website to be Secure

Google Has Marked All HTTP websites as “not secure” in their Chrome Browsers this Month

According to Google, staring in July 2018, in their next browser release (Chrome 68), a website that is not secure–does not have an SSL certificate integrated into it (thus producing the prefix “HTTPS” instead of the usual “HTTP”), will get a “not secure” message at the lead of the URL. In other words, they will be warning your website visitors that your website is not secure. That is, if you have not already taken the corrective measures.

The obvious main 2 questions on website owners’ mind are: “What’s HTTPS”? And, “My site does not collect user information or conducts financial transactions. Why should I care?”

HTTPS simply tells the user that your website is secured via an encryption that protects the channel between your website and their browser. It assures them that a middle entity can’t tamper with the traffic or spy on your activity. As The Verge interprets this: “Without that encryption, someone with access to your router or ISP could intercept information sent to websites or inject malware into otherwise legitimate pages.”

And you should care because with recent website privacy concerns spreading across the globe like virtual black plague (think: Facebook), people are a little timid these days. And for a default notice to appear on their browser that the nonprofit website they are visiting is “not secure” may give them pause to continue—especially to the online donations page, even though the form and entered data on that page is secured via the portal’s service provider. Basically, folks are a bit jittery and they need to feel reassured.

So, what does it take to make one’s website a “secured website”?

It’s rather easy these days to add an SSL certificate to your site. You just need to purchase one from your hosting service (some plans will provide it for free) and then have your webmaster configure it to your site. You can also choose to do it yourself. Just check out this step-by-step tutorial from wpbeginner.com.

Increasing your SEO through Storytelling

Increasing SEO through Storytelling

There may be no better instrument for your fundraising tool box than the delivery of a good story. More specifically, a client story/profile: one that will both captivates the human drama that is the reason for your charitable nonprofit organization’s existence, and that will also showcase the giving opportunity. And then, afterwards, the results: the “product” of one’s investment into the organization. What’s more, such stories/profiles help your SEO.

Giving Tuesday 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018

Are you ready for #GivingTuesday 2018?

Giving Tuesday 2018 (#GivingTuesday) is on November 27, 2018. So why give it any thought now when June is just around the corner?

If your organization has participated in Giving Tuesday in the past, then indeed this call to action may be a bit early. But, if you haven’t participated in the past, now may be the best time to chart your path and get a jump on the competition.

First Step: Join

The good people at Giving Tuesday have made it easy for organizations to get registered and started. Simply go to https://www.givingtuesday.org/organizations and sign-up via their online form. (Note: you must be a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to qualify for the Giving Tuesday program.)

Second Step: Set Goals and Timeline

  • How much do you hope to raise?
  • How will those funds be used?
  • What might be the giver-experience? (E.g.: “You’ll feel proud to have helped dozen’s of hungry people have groceries in winter.”)
  • The Giving Tuesday Tool Kit provides a handy timeline for you to adapt for your needs.

Third Step: Begin your Outreach

Just download GivingTuesday’s Tool Kit  for ideas, messaging and media tips. Suggestions include:

  • Setting creative call-to-actions for your supporters and community.
  • That you promote early so that everyone who wishes to participate has adequate time to do so: on your website, your social network channels, place of worship, and even flyers for local business to pin up.
    • Collaborate/network with other groups in your community.
    • Send out press releases (a sample is provided).
    • Email blast your supporters (a sample email is provided).
    • Request a “Mayoral Proclamation” for GT.

Giving Tuesday 2018 also offers the following resources:

 

About Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving Day (which is a U.S. holiday) as a sort of balance (or, perhaps, balm) to the manic (if not materialistic) “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” which precedes Giving Tuesday.

Right after Thanksgiving, and well before Christmas, is considered the best time of year for fundraising. It’s a small window actually, but with the power of Giving Tuesday, your donation opportunity will certainly rise. It’s just a great way of celebrating the true spirit of the Holidays: philanthropy through community.

2017 Numbers to Note:

  • 150+ countries
  • More than $300 million raised online
  • More than 2.5 million online gifts
  • $120.40 mean online gift

Learn more about Giving Tuesday by visiting: www.givingtuesday.org

Nonprofit versus For-profit Websites

Nonprofit Versus For-profit Websites

When a website, be it nonprofit or for-profit, is well thought out and branded, it will have a far better chance to exude the entity’s product and, or, mission instantly, than a website that is not. Moreover, it not only should appeal to the viewer’s sensibilities, but be very user-friendly. In other words, the “user experience” (UE/UX) is vital for any website to compete in today’s WWW marketplace.

As for the website’s primary reason for being (most will think it’s always about revenue generation) this is where the two  entities start to deviate.

For commercial endeavors, the main goal is nearly always to make money. That’s a given. But for the nonprofit, the answer is a bit more complicated.

For the nonprofit, success is not calculated in terms of mere profit (though raising money is certainly a major priority if it wishes to survive) but rather how well it fulfills its overall mission. Therefore, the product, be it a widget or a social service, somehow has to be sold to someone and revenue generated.

Where the Split Occurs

The for-profit website targets the buyer of the product—who is almost always (save for gift cards) the end-user of the product. So when you are creating your website for the commercial sector, you are communicating to one audience: the buyer/user.

The nonprofit, however, generally speaks to two audiences—usually split equally. One message is for the product buyer (the donor of the product or service) and the other message is to the user of the product (the people in need of the product or service—the client). And, this sort of split-branding can be a challenge.

In both instances, the product needs to be well promoted as necessary to the buyer, as well as of good value—be it a widget for oneself, or critical service to another. For the for-profit, this singular focus makes creating the web presence rather streamlined.

But what about the nonprofit’s end user—the client. Their user experience will not be buyer’s satisfaction or even return on social investment (ROsI), but on when, where, and how to obtain the product/service and how quickly they can access it. (Which, by the way, is also import to the buyer/funder who considers overall user experience for clients as a reasonable ROsI.)

ROsI

The ROsI does not stop at the product/service level for the funder, or even how well the website is offering equal space for donor and client. The funder tends to look at multiple factors:

  • Desktop/laptop viewing first: Can they view the website well on their desktop/laptop as well as mobile device? (Since donors tend to use desktops/laptops more than mobile devices when considering their involvement in an organization, adequate content is key.)
  • Is the website engaging, without a look of wastefulness? I.E., too flashy and overly trendy?
  • How are the clients (recipients of their intended support) perceived? Will certain content direction (images and descriptions) turn-off the donor—or, perhaps, the client? (For the donor, often times the pitch is showing the worst-case scenario, where when you’re addressing the client, optimism and non-judgment is key.)
  • What is the call to action other than the donation request? The sign-up form or invitation to an event allows the donor to feel like a bigger part of the organization’s community than just another income stream.
  • How has the website prioritized their giving, be it donations or volunteering time.

Access

As for the client, their priorities may be:

  • Mobile device first: Is the website mobile-device friendly (“responsive”)? According to a Pew study, 50-75% of homeless and low-income people only have access to a mobile device, be it smart phone or tablet. Considering this, the website should be designed with desktop in mind for the donors, and in responsive format for clients—which requires a judicial approach to the paring down content, along with format tweaks, for best view on mobile devices.
  • How intuitive is it to locate the product/service? Are dates and times clearly stated? Are schedules, directions and maps provided?
  • What are the limitations and “need to know” messages?

Special Content for the Nonprofit

There are pages and applications that are geared more for the nonprofit than the for-profit:

  • Client programs/services
  • HIPPA or other statement of privacy
  • Financial disclosure
  • Volunteer program and forms
  • Board of directors page
  • Access to departmental staff
  • Robust About Us / History page(s)
  • Achievements and/or profiles
  • Membership/subscription
  • Dynamic social networking center-point
  • Calendar
  • Donation options page (from one-time donations to planned/estate giving)
  • A very user-friendly “back end” so that in-house staff and/or volunteers can make updates and new pages without the need to have a dedicated webmaster.

In a nutshell, the user experience differs between nonprofit and for-profit websites, and we get that. Dot Org Web Works stand out from other website developers because we only work for the charitable nonprofit sector.

>> Contact Us Here for more information.

Google goes mobile-first

Google Searches Now Prioritize Mobile over Desktop

Google announced on March 26, 2018, that after 18 months of planning and experimentation, the godfather of web searches will start migrating sites that follow best practices (best SEO configuration) to mobile-first indexing.

What had been, up to now, a practice of crawling and ranking content typically used in the desktop’s version of a website’s content, which sometimes caused issues since a mobile version of a page can be quite different, will instead focus on the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking.

Best practices for dynamic serving and separate URLs (short version)

If your site has separate desktop and mobile content, which means you have a dynamic serving or separate URLs (or m-dot) site, make sure you follow the best practices below to prepare for mobile-first indexing:

  • Your mobile site should contain the same content as your desktop site. If your mobile site has less content than your desktop site, you should consider updating your mobile site so that its primary content is equivalent with your desktop site. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Structured data should be present on both versions of your site. Make sure URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions are updated to the mobile URLs. If you use Data Highlighter to provide structured data, regularly check the Data Highlighter dashboard for extraction errors.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. Make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of your site.

For more information on this, read the Google Press Release.