5 Usability Secrets to Design a Nonprofit Organization’s Website

5 Usability Secrets to Design a Nonprofit Organization’s Website

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. Abraham Lincoln

Organizations working in the interest of underprivileged, calamity struck, war ravaged, marginalized sections of the society or endangered bird/animal species, et al., don’t always find it easy to garner support on the web. However, a good website can be an asset in disseminating the cause and raise funds.

A 2009 report by Dr. Jakob Neilson talked about a desirable prototype for Nonprofit websites.

Right from making people aware of the cause to making them believe in it, there are a plethora of things a website needs to do. Here we go over a few musts that should be considered before designing a Nonprofit website.

1) Turn the Purpose of your website into an Advantage!

Before you start scouting for a visually commanding web design, easy navigation, text, and layout, think of that one thing your website stands for and use it to your advantage.

For example, juxtaposing an effective message alongside some original pictures of the people who’d benefit from the charity can be one way of doing it.

Cards from Africa - employment handcrafting greeting cards

The effort should be focused at making every part of the site talk to the donors in the earnest. Open up about your mission, talk about what you have envisioned through your design.

It’s imperative to generate a human interest.

And establishing it remains incomplete until it’s supported by real pictures of the affected individuals. Site like Wiser Girls.org strikes a great balance between pictures and relevant textual content.

Wiser - Women's Institute of Secondary Education and Research

2)Be transparent about every dollar (‘$$’) spent

After introducing yourself up front, tell the donors how your organization uses donations and contributions. The Superstorm Sandy that wreaked havoc in October 2012 saw a lot many websites coming forward to raise charity, out of which some turned out to be fraudulent. Subsequently, the American Institute of Philanthropy came up with a word of advice and offered a list of top rated websites that could be contacted to donate. It had the likes of American Red Cross, CARE, Operation USA, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Internationaletc. Operation USA, for instance places a banner on the right-hand side of its homepage saying- Give and it gets there (circled in the the picture below).

Operation USA is an International Relief Agency

It also has a projects section, that lists their current and past initiatives. Similarly, Habitat for Humanity International, on its Asia Pacific donate page offers you to take a pick between Where the Need is Greatest and Help A Family In A Specific Country. This leaves the choice with the donor, offering a greater transparency as to where their money is being channeled.

But, Kiva‘s approach is a cut above the rest. It lists people’s pictures along with their exact needs. You can simply select whoever you prefer to help right on the homepage.

A non-profit organization connecting online lenders to entrepreneurs

3)Statistics, Donate Now, Join, Media Centre, Subscribe & Social media

Giving your audience an encouraging statistic can greatly work in your favor. For example the site Sponsor Lee, working for disabled kids, places the raised amount and the ‘target’ amount, alongside each other.

Likewise, having a Support Us or Donate Now tab on nearly every page will convey the urgency of donating. The site World Concern.org has an unmissable Donate now button on every page.

Sponsor Lee to run the London Marathon for Action for Kids

Letting people Sign up for your subscriptions is another great way to engage them.

Also, appropriate engagement with journalists/media personnel shouldn’t be ignored. Create a Media Centre section, and place a Press kit in it for download.

Social media icons will also help you to directly connect with your audience.

But, go for a strategic placement of all these buttons, don’t let either of them interfere with each other’s presence.

4) Aim for the website Visitor’s heart: Be Honest!

Let the tone/voice on your website be the closest reflection of your beliefs. Red.org is a great example that talks to you about how it plans to make a difference.

The site War Child hits the chord with visitors by engrossing them with the story of a child forced to pick up weapons. There are few, but nonetheless powerful words on the home page, that absorb you without an ado, compelling you to know more.

War Child - Charity for Children affected by War

If you’re dealing with real lives, why not start with narrating a story?

The only thing that stands between the affected people and the donation, is your website. It can either open the floodgates of support or make the donors leave. Your content should at least encourage the audience to browse through your complete site.

See that your design is built around the content and not the other way around. List down the information you’d like to display. Figure out the multi-media elements, pictures, banners, videos, etc., you want to make use of. Try to chart out a strategic combination of all the elements so your site creates the greatest impact, after all you’re making the design for the end user.

5) Offer self-assessment & Maintain constant Interaction.

Tell people how far you’ve come. Put across the accomplishments, efforts your organization has taken, give an account of the lives you’ve touched, etc.

The site Charity water has an Annual Report section where they share their progress.

charity: water - non-profit organization bringing Clean Drinking Water for Developing Countries

Spreading knowledge of the work you’re doing will also prompt your audience to offer suggestions. This can be a way to promote interaction with your visitors.

Another way to increase interaction is to have a News/Events or a Blog section. Showcasing News related to the cause, will make people get back, bookmark or subscribe to your site. Amnesty International has a News section that gathers reports from across the world, and so does Malaria No more.

The website Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a blog section, so visitors are encouraged to spend some substantial time on the site.

Final Thoughts

Remember, just because your organization is Nonprofit in nature, it’s no less a brand. Consider- WWF, Amnesty International, American Red Cross; they are some of the biggest brands among charity organizations.

Do everything that’s needed to earn a donor’s trust. Individuals, looking at tax exemptions are always advised to go for legitimate charitable organizations.

Back in 2011 the American Institute of Philanthropy, awarded ‘F’ grades to a host of dubious organizations that donors should beware of.

A genuine online presence is indispensable for taking the cause to the next level. All you got to do is let your website bare its souls, be the voice of those who’ve lost a part of themselves!