In today’s economy the right website look, feel and user experience is crucial to securing new business. This is especially true for nonprofits. Nonprofits are faced with unique challenges in their efforts to gain PR, new members, donations, sponsors and volunteers that for-profit companies seldom face. Take note of these key factors and you are sure to have a more pleasant buying experience.

Budget

Have one. Your website is a 24/7/365 representative of your organization. “You get what you pay for” rings true here. Often nonprofit directors are tempted to let volunteers handle the development of their entire brand to potential donors and sponsors or they will call around to small one-man shops with one hand while clutching the budget in the other. Fundraise specifically for the website development or find a sponsor to underwrite the cost of the site. In return they receive exposure on the site for a determined amount of time. Not to mention the tax write-off.

Go pro! This is when you need to create an RFP and get it out to respected web development firms in your area. Find firms that develop in a platform that will be easy for your staff to update like Joomla or WordPress. Interview each firm and ask many questions. Ideally your organization will be in a “relationship” with the selected firm for many years and you will want them to be as passionate about your program as you are.

Barter for services. Here is an opportunity to get a professional site developed while controlling the budget. A good firm is happy to barter services for exposure but never ask for a one to one trade. If there is no cash value on the contract you might find the developer places your site in their “low priority” stack. Offer a fair amount of cash and trade and you will both come out ahead.

Design and Functionality

Design concepts. Expect multiple design concepts with clearly different looks. Give them time. 5-10 quality design concepts will take 2-3 weeks. When it comes to design remember this, “A camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.” Assign a 1-2 person team to oversee the design selection and site construction.

Website functionality. Most nonprofits have multiple events in a year and are constantly changing information. It’s important to have a good content management system (CMS). Joomla or WordPress are among the best and are both very user friendly.  Both will allow your staff to easily update the site from any computer. Your specific functionality needs like member areas; payment processing and event calendars will determine the best platform for your organization.

Benefit to Donors, Members and Sponsors

Let’s not forget who is paying the bills here. Be sure to include areas on your site to showcase, promote or thank the companies and people that support your cause. Built in rotating banner manager systems are great tools to help you manage advertising and sponsor areas on your site. These areas can easily be overdone and the purpose of the site can get lost. By rotating the image out it will allow you to feature multiple sponsors in the same area while keep the site design and layout clean. Don’t forget to use areas like this for self-promotions in the rotation as well.

Marketing your Nonprofits

Social media. The design and development was just half the battle.  Now you need to get exposure of your brand and cause to the millions of internet users on multiple search and social platforms. Take advantage of free or nearly free online tools. Build a Facebook page and start engaging your audience. Sign up and build profiles on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedInHootsuite is a helpful tool to manage your social networks in one place. Hootsuite also offers a discounted rate for nonprofits.

Nonprofit freebies. Google for Nonprofits offers free or discounted rates for Google Apps, Free Adwords advertising and Premium YouTube accounts to nonprofits just to name a few.

Running a nonprofit is both challenging and rewarding. Hopefully these suggestions will help you market your organization; gain more donations and most of all help the end recipient of your program or services.

I wish you the best of luck!

Stephen Brown
Managing Partner
Atomic Design & Consulting