Website design for nonprofits: The drive to action


Wouldn’t we like to save the majestic, Great Northern Forest; home to the mighty Siberian Tiger, Mountain Hare and Woodpeckers amongst millions of other species?

Would it not please us to provide sustenance for children in the third world, empower them in the struggle against poverty?

Wouldn’t we like to ensure that our oceans are protected from overfishing, oil and gas drilling, mining?

One or the other of the social causes may resonate with us. That however, does not ensure that we will act on that instinct.

The nonprofits themselves need to do their bit to get noticed and garner necessary support and funding. After all, the number of organizations jostling for attention is large and growing each day; while the global economy and resources are under pressure.

How would you, as a ‘nonprofit’ then ensure that your mission gets the necessary support and resources?

Some of the nonprofits have been able to build a successful brand and engage with the evangelists using an effective online strategy. One such example is Charity:Water. Launched nearly 30 years ago, by Scott Harrison, ‘the NGO dedicated to drilling wells in impoverished communities around the globe has raised more than $100m, garnered 313,000 likes on facebook  and nabbed scores of celebrity endorsements and corporate sponsors’, as per this article.

Having an attractive, well planned website is central to brand building; important to capture attention of your target audience and draw them in. It is the hallowed doorway to your world, it needs to make an impression and create recall. Says Ryan Erksine, ‘An uncared-for brand turns consumers away in frustration. But an all-star brand can attract leads, expand your reach, increase brand awareness, and ultimately boost sales’, in this article.

The website has to meet ‘strategic objectives’ and align with the overall digital strategy.

Once users have made it to the homepage, it is up to clever layout, navigational aids and effective storytelling to lead your audience to navigate and click at the desired spots. Be it support and advocacy, contribution of time or financial resources, a superior user experience is essential to ensure active engagement and positive action.

Here are a few tips on effective website design for nonprofits.

  • Understand your target audience. Age, internet usage patterns, occupation, favourite brands, hobbies and popularly visited websites are useful bits of information to build and position the website correctly.
  • Bowl them out with a clear, persuasive story. Talk about the people and causes you support and build your story around it. Videos and presentations are great tools to tell a story. Check out this snippet from acumen or this video explaining what UNICEF is trying to achieve.
  • Give them the context to your existence, the story of your birth pains and the evolution thereafter.
  • Explain the lay of the land, i.e. how does it all happen; the activities, and events. Video footage or pictures of recent events would be helpful. If you collaborate with certain partners, that information will be useful.
  • Make it authentic and actionable. Explain what you’re expecting from your audience and how they can get involved. Supporters could sign-up for volunteer activity, become a fund raiser, make a donation, or join as an active voice/ advocate on various issues.

   Small acts of commitment are important to the journey. Your website needs to provide the necessary transparency and confidence to the audience it is speaking to. Even when asking for a donation, explain how the donation will be used. This is how acumen explains it.

  • Inspire your volunteers. Meaningful engagement to the organizations’ mission and core values help create evangelical communities that go much further than a simple contribution of time or money.
  • Showcase the people who make it happen. These include the core team, trustees, the fund raisers, campaign managers, volunteers and any celebrities endorsing the cause.
  • Build a blog. Having a blog that provides high quality information, write-ups, industry updates or research creates definite interest and pulls your audience in for more. Keep the content fresh and topical.
  • Finally, it is important to measure website statistics and make improvements where possible. Metrics such as no. of likes, no. of followers, visitations, % conversion, page depth and repeat visitations can provide ideas for redesign of the website.

With some of this in place, nonprofits could go on create a bigger presence, ensure long term success with social change and provide sustainable progress.


© Anu Maakan 2016

(Disclaimer: all views published here are the personal views of the author and do not represent those of any organization).


Author: Anu Maakan

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read this page. I'm a change specialist, business blogger and art enthusiast. I'm focussed on topics such as corporate governance, compliance & control, metrics, performance management, human capital, financial regulation, leadership. Find me on twitter @AnuGolden, Or email

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