The design and development of a website intended to raise awareness can be a real challenge. Here we offer the key steps to an effective awarness campaign.
Create a Nonprofit Website You Can Be Proud Of
If you have Googled “how to create a nonprofit 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 charitable nonprofit can afford a professionally-developed website or just good old fashioned curiosity 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 first-timers do. If there is one thing you should walk away from within this tutorial, it is this:
Your website is or should be the primary communication outlet for your charitable nonprofit organization. It is where people will learn about, become aware of, your cause or program; gauge how well it works, and assess if it is a good fit for them. It is your virtual, 24/7, open house event to what you do, who you do it for, and how.
Therefore, it is in your organization’s best interest to get your messaging right.
And with that said, let’s get started, shall we?
Understanding the Nonprofit/Charity “Market”
First 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.
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 for 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 (wireframe) your website.
Planning your Charity Website
The format for a charitable nonprofit website is not so different from that of 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 specific 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? What about client profiles? 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.
Building Your Charitable Nonprofit 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 64% of all CMS websites (about 38% 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 got 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 regularly maintain your website with periodic upkeep.
- You will need to keep your website relevant with fresh content and up-to-date information.
- Understand the difference between your charity organization and that of a for-profit business.
- Clearly explain who you are and what your charitable nonprofit does. And, why you are a better choice than “the competition”.
- Plan out your subject matter, content and user experience in advance.
- Showcase your product and demonstrate success.
- Develop good, logical, SEO keywords and titles.
- 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 to make 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—affordable and within a proper timeline. Let’s talk!
A Nonprofit Professional’s Advice to Working At Home
Author’s note: This is a reposting of an earlier article. I felt it is especially relevant now with COVID-19 making nonprofit professionals work 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.
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 (e.g.: having no choice because of pandemic 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:
- 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!
- 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
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.
Nonprofit Branding through Keyword Strategy for Your Nonprofit Website
I want to show you a quick and easy way to narrow down your branding options for your nonprofit website. From that, you will then have a better handle on which keywords to employ and emphasis within a given page in your website. This way people will actually find you and the specific services or opportunities you offer when they search Google.
If your first question is “Why does my organization and website need a brand?” then you should read: The Value of Corporate Branding for Nonprofits. (It’s the difference between people supporting the Girl Scouts, and not supporting nature kids.)
For example. Let’s say that you are running a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless. For you to create your brand, or how one would differentiate your organization from another homeless services organization, you will need to create a mission statement and brand identity. These are usually derived from:
- area or region of services (e.g.: Southern California, Portland, New York, Texas)
- what differentiates your services from your competition? (example: We provide emergency services for homeless women and children.)
- how do you offer superior value to your clients (example: We offer free legal advice to the homeless.)
- what three words comes to mind when you think of your organization’s brand or mission? (e.g.: secure, caring, non-judgmental)
- how would you like to see your organization perceived (examples: Well respected, edgy, brutally honest, spiritual.)
Once you have a grasp on your brand identity, you then need to have your website not only reflect that identity, but have Google understand your services and brand so that they (via a complex algorithm) may list you accordingly via probable search keywords.
Usually the most difficult part of SEO is trying to gauge what is, not only the most intuitive keyword phrase to use, but which keywords that are actually searched in Google and other search engines.
Using some of the above information, let’s assume that your nonprofit organization provides free legal services to homeless women and families in Los Angeles.
So, if you were to search “homeless services” (and you were online in the greater Los Angeles area when doing so) there would be about 151 million results (pages that would somehow relate to those keywords). But for actual people Googling homeless services, that would result in a search volume of about 150,000 searches per month.* That is an impressive amount of searches per month, but most of those search inquiries would have little to do with your organization’s core services and brand. (The net casted was too wide of a search.)
However, if you were to search “legal services for homeless”, you would see 70 million results, but with 0 per month search volume for that keyword phrase. So even though it’s a very intuitive keyword phrase, one that reflects your brand, it unfortunately isn’t being Googled: people are not entering that specific keyword phrase.
However, with your Keywords Everywhere tool, you will see some recommended keyword phrases that are showing a monthly volume that may directly relate to your services and brand. Such as:
- legal aid services – (with 2,900/mn search volume)
- legal clinic for the homeless – (with 30/mn search volume)
So, of these two recommendations, which would be the best for you?
If you selected the first, because it had a much higher search volume (at nearly 3000 per month) then you would most likely fall through the cracks of all the other web pages that are vying for that keyword phrase. Why do I believe this? Well, by how much one is willing to pay to get their web page on top of the search results using that specific keyword phrase. It has a rather high search term value.
One very good indicator of a search term value, and thereby its competition, is Google AdWords “CPC”, cost-per-click, listing. (Although this is only a reference, unless you are taking advantage of Google’s free AdWords program for nonprofits, it is still a very valuable tool for anyone trying to gauge the keyword competition value.) This CPC value is conveniently listed next to the search volume within your Keywords Everywhere tool results. This shows that others are bidding to be placed on the top results as much as $4.56 per click—which may translate to your listing showing at past page 5 of Google Search results or further. (Since few people will bother to go past the second page of results, your listing is essentially nonexistent.) But if you go with the second keyword phrase, you will see that the CPC for legal clinic for the homeless is $0.00. So, this just may work out for you. No one is bidding on the search term, which means that if you apply the correct SEO terms and branding to your web page, you have a good shot at placing on page 1 of Google Search results. Sure, 30 is less than 2900, but getting half of 30 is better than none of 2900.
There are other ways to see if others are competing with your intended keyword phrase, such as searching your keywords within quotes, i.e.: “legal clinic for the homeless” and searching for pages using this phrase as their page title, i.e.: intitle: “legal clinic for the homeless”
From there, it is just a matter of applying basic SEO (search engine optimization) practices.
How Can We Help You With Your SEO and Keywords?
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!
* To identify actual monthly search volume on a keyword phrase entered in Google Search, you will need to use the Keywords Everywhere tool that works in your browser.
Dot Org Web Works, the intelligent way to get your cause and services noticed is to use website design professionals who are also nonprofit professionals.