Non Profit Website Design Musts

Whether you currently have a website or not, it might be time for you to begin to think through some important non profit website design rules. Here are a few that can help.

Design – it isn’t about you. 
Your non profit website design should cater to what your visitors like, not you. Here are some things to avoid.

  • Blinking or scrolling text, animated GIF’s and auto-loading sound do more than distract your visitors … they cause people quickly to click away from your site. If you’re slyly looking at a non profit website from a small cubicle next to your boss, do you want sound blaring what you’re up to? Neither does anyone else. As for blinking text and banners, they’re just plain annoying and scream, “I don’t really care what you like … this is fun for me to design!”
  • Pop ups are so annoying that most browsers block them. Many people click away from non profit websites because they thought internal links weren’t working when the only problem was that their browsers were blocking pop-ups of your on profit’s vital information.
  • Large file sizes in images. They make non profit website pages load slowly, and people will only stick around for about three seconds to let photos load. Re-size large images to the exact size specified in the design, and optimize them for the web to get file size down. Also, avoid using background images, since that makes it difficult to read in addition to making your non profit website load slowly.
  • Long lines of text that go on forever. Lines of text should be no more than 600 pixels wide. Break it up with optimized images, bold text and sub-heads.
  • Small text. If you have to squint to read a non profit website, you’ll lose visitors. Make the text at least 10 to 12 points large (that’s Size 2 or 3 in HTML). Many people who give to non profits are older, and they simply can’t read anything smaller.
  • Avoid all caps. They’re difficult to read, and today words in all caps are considered yelling. Do you want a non profit website yelling at you?


Ease of use – make it easy to find your content. Put as much time into thinking about how to organize your site as you did thinking about your non profit website design. Visitors need to be able to see easily what your non profit has to offer, get to it and navigate to other portions of the site without getting lost, confused or annoyed. If you make people click too many times to get to your non profit’s unbelievably great offer, you’ll lose them before they ever see it. Be sure to put a link back to your non profit’s home page on every page, along with main site navigation that is easy to find and more understandable than cute.

Copywriting – less is best. Writing tight, succinct copy for your non profit website can be a challenge. If you can’t do it, hire someone else who can. You need to say everything that needs to be said in no more than a couple of screens of text at a time. In these days of busy schedules and information overload, people won’t read more. To keep your copy interesting, use active voice, and write to about the sixth to eight grade level.  (The contrasting point would be to write extensive copy about any subject that you are attempting to establish your credibility as an expert).

Interactivity – involve your visitors. Games involve people quite well, but for non profit website design, your form of interactivity might be to get users to give you information about themselves. Offer them something for free (such as a newsletter or a white paper) in exchange for their contact information. People often will get scared off if you ask for too much (it’s kind of like offering a marriage proposal with the first handshake).  You can try asking for the first name and email address in exchange for downloading something they would find useful (such as a free message from your non profit’s CEO). On the thank you page, you could ask them for more information in exchange for receiving something free in the mail (such as your CEO’s new book).

Technology – use it to facilitate meaningful conversation. Capture email addresses. Learn people’s likes and interests by the way they browse your site and the appeals to which they respond. Offer online polls to get opinions (and learn what visitors like and what interests them). Offer a way for your non profit website visitors to forward your information to a friend (often called viral marketing). Include a calendar of your non profit’s upcoming events. Allow visitors to submit testimonials or prayers. But don’t use technology in your non profit website design just because you like the bells and whistles. That’s quick way to spend a lot of money for no return. Make sure all of the technology you use on your non profit website contributes to your brand.

Content – make it useful. There’s no use in making a website look good if the content turns people off and causes them to click away. Good content is something that your target audience wants or needs. In Non Profit Marketing 101, we learned that we must find a problem and solve it. That is what your website content needs to do. Your non profit has a niche, and the content needs to appeal to people to want to give to a non profit in that niche. Don’t use content that you think is useful – make sure your readers think it’s useful.

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