How to Make a Charity Website

Create a Charity Website You Can Be Proud Of

Your website is, or will be, the main communication outlet for your nonprofit charitable organization. It is where people will go to learn about your cause or program, how well it works, and if it is a good fit for them. It is your virtual, 24/7, open house event to what it is you do and do it for. So, you need to get it done right.

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 (but, you may be surprised at how much we can do for you for so little), 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. With that said, let’s get started.

Understanding the Charity “Market”

How to make a charity websiteFirst and foremost, keep in mind that a charity (or other nonprofit) website is in some 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 (the beneficiary of charity) profiles. Showcase a success story with images and before and after history.
  • Impress upon your viewers 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.

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!

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.

SEO for 2018

8 Important SEO Applications for 2018

Unless you are completely new to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you know that there are some fundamental SEO applications that should be employed within your website. And as time goes by, more and more SEO tricks come into play.  At a minimum, however, you will want to know and include the real essentials, such as:

  • Know your keywords. Before doing anything, you’ll need to identify your major keywords/key phrases, and sync your site with Google.
  • Strong ‘Meta Titles’. Make sure that your keywords are prioritized in the (SEO) title of your page/post. (It’s your primary branding opportunity for that page or post.)
  • Strong ‘Meta Descriptions’. Here too you will want to maximize your keywords when you describe your page/post.
  • Use the H1 header. Don’t forget to select the “h1” size for the (visible) header of your page/post.
  • Use your keywords throughout each page. Judiciously re-used and populated your major keywords throughout the page/post.

However, as stated above, that is just the minimum you should be doing to optimize your search engine results. If you want to float closer to the top of the rankings, you’ll have to work your SEO opportunities a bit more (because, no doubt, the competition is).

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “This sounds like a lot of work. And, besides, the experts hackers out there who work for larger organizations have a lock on it all.”

The answer is: not true.

Many of these applications are not all that hard to accomplish with a bit of effort. (But if you’re not up to it, we can certainly help.) Also, one of the more comforting aspects of SEO is knowing that, for lack of a better explanation, Google pretty much favors the little guy. They continuously monitor their listings for “black hat” programmers (scammers and tricksters) and are really looking out for honest, modest sized, websites. And… Google loves nonprofits! If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be giving qualifying nonprofits free AdWord accounts. And when all is said and done, good, organic, listings are really just a matter of knowing your brand and (honestly) promoting your site using your established keywords in as much original content as possible.

Now for some really great SEO tricks. (Okay, not really “tricks”. More like, “Important SEO applications.”)

  1. Make sure that your pages and post are branded to the content. Moreover, keep in mind that search engines reward “SMEs” (subject-matter experts), so that the more you blog with your own original content (not duplicated), the better the SEO reward. In other words, “content is still king”; do more of it! If you are blogging and are providing unique, necessary, content that is branded to your site, it is the nectar that attracts the birds. Here’s why: Search engines prioritize and place value on how many visitors are interested in your specific content, as well how often the visitors have shared (via a link) your content within their networks. And the longer a visitor visits a specific page of your website, the better it is: it demonstrates the value (if not quality) and search engines will take note of that. Consequently, however, when a person visits only for a few seconds and leaves (“bounce”) that does not work in your favor. Nor does copying someone else’s content and pasting it into your site. (Please see “Don’t-dos” at the bottom of this article.)
  2. Strive for more website traffic, and optimize. Not only are you rewarded when you have more website traffic, but how old your site is and how optimized (how quickly your site loads) it is. To achieve this you need to be mindful of image sizes, the placement of your JavaScripts, and a few other odds-and-ends.( Google has a great free tool to speed check your pages.)
  3. Maximize linking opportunities (“link juice”). SEO likes pages with plenty of useful links. Whenever possible, also add “title” and “alt” tags to your images and hyperlinks. And, don’t be so pedestrian  about your link label. For example: Instead of labeling a link that goes to your organization’s services as simply “services”, it should be something closer to your keyword/search term, like: “info on homeless health care services” (with title tags). More specifically, instead of your (HTML) link looking like this: <a href=”http://website.org/services/homeless-services/”> services</a>, it should read like this:
    <a title=”information on homeless health care services” href=”http://website.org/services/homeless-services/”>info on homeless healthcare services</a>. Though maximizing your link juice may be cumbersome as Main Menu items, these kind of “anchor links” are valuable and can be used in the footer link or within the body of texts easily and effectively.
  4. Your permalinks should be reflective of keywords. If you have a post on, for example, where to get free socks in January, your page permalink should be: website.org/get-free-socks-january, and not: website.org/blog/archives/123.
  5. Inbound links are Awesome: Also called “backlinks”, these are other sites linking to your site. And the higher that website’s page ranking the better. (I.e.: NYTimes.com would be better than, Mikes-Tiny-Blog.com.) In other words, if a media outlet mentions your organization and, preferably, provides a link to your site, that is gold.
  6. Integrate Google Maps to your Contact Us page. Needless to say, Google loves it when you use their products. Simply add a Google Map to your site and get yet another SEO bump.
  7. Make Social Media showcase your brand. You should monitor your brand mentions within your Facebook page and other social media outlets. Positive comments and reviews are crucial. And, don’t forget to link your site to your own social media channels.
  8. Hook up with Google for Nonprofits, and get yourself a FREE Google AdWords account. Qualifying nonprofit organizations can receive $10,000 in AdWords via Google for Nonprofits.

As a bonus to the above important SEO “to-dos”, here are a few… “don’t-dos”.

  • Article Sharing: Don’t copy and paste other website’s content, even with permission.
  • Don’t buy a bunch of URLs and have them point to your one site.
  • Don’t duplicate your website and try to pass it off as another.
  • Don’t share an IP address (especially if it’s sharing with bad content).
  • Don’t use Flash and/or other graphic text.
  • Avoid deep page content because the crawlers like content closest to the surface of your website root. Example: home/helping/donations/online-giving/sustaining-members/gold-level.
  • Too many links listed (saturating a page with links that are really redundant or pointing to superfluous content). Also, linking back from a child pages to a parent page when not really necessary is generally frowned upon.
  • Irrelevant content or outbound links: if you are a domestic violence shelter for women, don’t have pages and/or links to automotive carburetor parts.

 

Certainly these techniques take time to implement, but do try to focus on some of the key ones. Alternatively, you can get on a website maintenance plan that may keep an eye out on your SEO opportunities.

website maintenance pricing plans

New for 2018: Monthly Website Maintenance Plans

We’ve recently added monthly service plans for website maintenance. These plans will help ensure that your website maintains updated and competitive. The client (designated contact person) gets a weekly “check in” call to see what’s new and should be shared with the viewers, posts are written and pages updated quickly, and the WordPress environment is checked over and updated as needed.

The rationale is this: when a budgeted amount of time per week/month is set aside for the development and upkeep of the website, performed by a website pro who has your back, then the client is more inclined to re-prioritize the website. (Because money has already been allocated, and they’re getting help.) From this, a more dynamic and utilized web presence is sure to follow quickly. (And, naturally, the organization’s staff is more freed-up for other important tasks.)

What’s more, the organization garners a special discounted rate! All within a monthly payment plan that will maintain the lower rate even when over the allotted time.


>> Please click here for details on the plans.