Create a Charity Website You Can Be Proud Of
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, and 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.
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. With that said, let’s get started.
Understanding the 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 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
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.
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!