Strategic Non Profit Website Design & Communication Quiz

1. Identify three of our five principles of good non profit website design and communications: 

a. Consider banner advertising
b. Link relevant content to search-centric promotion
c. Search engine-optimize your site
d. Develop your email communication tools
e. Build Interactivity into your website

2. What are some incentive-based offers for your email signup page? (choose all that apply) 

a. Discount coupons
b. Topical e-newsletters
c. Free downloads
d. Cash rewards
e. Special premiums
f. All of the above

3. What is search-centric content? 

a. Website content that is relevant to web searches
b. Website content that conveys your needs and central passions
c. Website content that shows up in search engine results

4. Which ways below will NOT help you build interactivity on your non profit website? 

a. Prayer Walls
b. Wikis
c. Your best building photographs
d. Forums
e. Games
f. News reports and updates
g. All of the above

5. Which of the following will help you develop your email fundraising and communication tools? 

a. An incentive-based email offer page
b. Implementing an electronic welcome series
c. Developing effective transactional email
d. Learning to use surveys
e. Improving landing page conversion
f. A, B, and E
g. All of the above

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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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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #3 of 5 (Part 2)

Here are more tips for achieving Principle #3: Develop an attractive appearance so you overcome the “not much to look at” criticism.

Practical Tip #6: Plan for growth and avoid complexity.
If your homepage is overdesigned, you won’t have any place to put important updates – and you should update your homepage regularly if you want people coming back. So, don’t get boxed into a restrictive non profit design or develop endlessly complex sub-pages.

Practical Tip #7: Begin with a clean, professional non profit website design for your home page and develop three to four similar sub-page variations that flow from it. Usually a relatively small amount of investment in this area can give you an enormous lift in appearance and professionalism.

Practical Tip #8: Stay relevant.
Make sure your text and images work together to tell your story succinctly and provide relevance to your reader. Have a reason for all images, and make sure they communicate your message whether they’re viewed with or without the text. Likewise, make sure the text tells the same story as the images. You need both to be in harmony with one another to convey your most central messages.

Now let’s look at some contrasting examples of good non profit website design versus poor design. I did a recent Google search on 5-9-09 for “homeless charities in New York” and here’s a sampling of what I found by browsing the results.

Some of the better Non Profit Website Design Examples:
The Hope Program
Eva’s Village (simple but colorful)
My Friend’s Place (simple, above the fold, pictures say it’s about youth)
Robin Hood (clean, colorful, nice flash)
Coalition for the Homeless

Non Profit Website Design Examples Needing Some Help:
Dackk’s Group (looks homespun)
Common Ground (needs an upgrade)

Another Google search on 5-9-09 for “churches in Dallas” produced the following results.

Good Non Profit Website Design Examples:
Watermark Community Church
Dallas Bible Church
DFW Church

Non Profit Design Examples Needing Some Help:
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Lake Dallas Church of Christ
Church of God 

Lastly, here’s a online reference for 25 non profit website design tips for churches:

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #3 of 5 (Part 1)

If you’ve ever gone on a blind date, this worry might be familiar: “What’s this person going to look like?” Someone might sound good on the phone, but it’s a different story if the person shows up looking like he or she just crawled out of a vacuum cleaner! Whether it’s fair or not, first impressions count for a lot—and a non profit website design that looks unprofessional, cluttered, or boring is a tough headache to overcome. It reflects poorly on your entire organization. Hence, our next good website design principle:

Principle #3: Develop an attractive appearance so you overcome the “not much to look at” criticism.

By coordinating the important non profit website design puzzle pieces like copy, graphics, navigation, and organization, you can create a site that is both attractive and memorable.

Example of good first impressions:

Here are some practical non profit website design tips to follow:

Practical Tip #1: Be careful to balance your site ingredients. Too much of any one thing can be bad. Plus, overuse of graphic bells and whistles can cause your site to load slowly if they aren’t optimized and coded appropriately. Speaking of which …

Practical Tip #2: A good rule of thumb to follow is that you have 3 seconds or less to get a visitor’s attention. If your website takes too long to load, people will move on and miss your ministry message.

Practical Tip #3: Stick with what works rather than reinventing the wheel.

Major companies are constantly monitoring the ways people read web pages, go through the checkout process, use site navigation, and so on. You can benefit from this research without having to repeat it yourself. Preview what works for major players like, Google, Yahoo, and others.

One example of this simple principle is that people expect the main site navigation – the area with links to the site’s other major sections – to be located either vertically on the left side or across the top horizontally. Stick with one of these two approaches to site navigation, and visitors will find it easier to interact with your site.

Practical Tip #4: Keep colors to two or three complementary choices.

Too many colors look tacky, and too few look unprofessional. Using varied shades of a limited but appealing color palette will create the appearance of more colors while keeping them from clashing.

Practical Tip #5: Choose fonts carefully.

The range of fonts that will display properly online in text is limited, so stick with the tried-and-true ones like Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Courier, Geneva and Georgia.

Implement these  practical tips to improve your non profit website design exponentially.

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Measuring Success in Non Profit Website Design

It isn’t enough to have a nice website. Your decisions about content management and non profit website design need to be based on measurable results rather than guesswork. Decisions based on what you like or you think your non profit website visitors will like can often lead you down the wrong path. So how do you measure success?

The answer is conversion rates. When you invest money in a website and the methods you use to bring traffic to it, your return on investment (ROI) is a conversion from visitor to subscribers (new email addresses), sales, donations, etc. Your non profit website design and content need to be based on careful analytics and informed decisions.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your conversation rate.

  1. Reduce clicks. The more clicks you place between a visitor on the action you want them to take, the more chances you take of losing them.
  2. Eavesdrop. Watch where your visitors go, what they do, and what they don’t do. In many cases, your website host offers analytics that will allow you to see where your visitors go on your site. A good starting point is Google Analytics — it’ll help you analyze what pages are attracting visitors, keeping them there long enough to read the messages you’ve presented, and enticing them to fill out your forms or click through to donation pages. You’ll want to know from where visitors are leaving the site, and you’ll want to know how many people abandon your shopping cart in the middle of making a donation.
  3. Analyze. Once you have the right analytics installed on your site, and you’re effectively using linking codes that tell you where your visitors come from, you can make an Excel spreadsheet that shows what promotions are bringing people to the site and the percentage of those visitors who are converting. This will help you determine what promotional methods are working the best and which pages are doing the best at converting.
  4. Study and tweak. Learn as much as you can about the behaviors of people who convert and what caused them to convert, along with people who didn’t convert. Tweak your website design and content until your conversion rates get to where you think they should be. Be sure to make small changes and then study for about a week so you know what changes made a difference. If you make too many changes all at the same time, you’ll never know which ones were the right ones.

Good non profit website design is not only about making a site look good or sound appealing to you. It’s about conversion rates. If you follow the tips above, you can carefully track what works and what doesn’t so you can make more informed decisions, not only about your site, but also about where and how you promote your site.

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Five Overarching Principles for Non Profit Website Design

During this week’s blog posts, I’m going to introduce you to five overarching principles and many practical tips for developing and maintaining a website with exceptional website design that maximizes your ministry outreach for non profit marketing and fund raising. That’s a whole lot better than the alternative, which would be a website that gives you innumerable headaches.

Migraine headaches.  I know from experience that those are really lousy to live with. My wife, Carmel, will celebrate 22 years of marriage this coming September.  Those have been two really good decades together.  We’ve had our share of challenges too though.

For example, ever since Carmel gave birth to our first child, Caitlyn, nearly 15 years ago, she has suffered with headaches: low-grade everyday annoying headaches you keep 100 tab bottles of Excedrin around the house to deal with… to life-stopping, head-pounding, full-blown migraine headaches you get needle shots of Toradol to deal with, but always feel helpless and hopeless around.

For years, she has endured the pain. When they were small ones, they made our lives miserable. But when they were big ones they brought everything to an immediate, grinding standstill.

I confess I’ve never felt more helpless than when Carmel would experience migraine headaches – she would have to retreat to the darkest room in the house, huddled up in pain, begging for the elimination of any noise, nauseated, while I watched her suffer in pain and distress, wondering “What could I do?” or “What should I do?”

Thank goodness for exceptional doctors like Dr. Merle Diamond at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, who also suffers from migraines, and was immediately compassionate toward Carmel, when we finally entered her offices after attempting for years to get help from numerous other sources.

Over time, Dr. Merle helped Carmel gain control of this debilitating problem, and established a reasonable ability to manage and control her headaches.

To do that, it meant new routines — managing her diet, avoiding a stress-filled lifestyle, exercising regularly, and finally, just learning to deal with the genetic makeup she had acquired in life that made headache predisposed.

Headaches.  Some of us suffer from them physically. Some of us some suffer from them emotionally. Some of us suffer from them professionally – all too often, through our websites.

Which brings me back to my subject material – Non Profit Website Design.

So let’s follow along with headaches as our backdrop for covering this subject. In a nutshell for today’s post, learning the basics of good website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach and increasing its online fund raising.

Let me repeat that so you can write it down:

Learning the basics of good non profit website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach. and increasing its online fund raising.

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