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How to Develop an Online Presence for Your Nonprofit

Posted Sep 08, 2020 01:20 PM
Our growing reliance on the Internet means developing an online presence has quickly become a substantial part of an effective marketing strategy. Your nonprofit's website is the foundation of your organization’s entire online presence. While you may have social media accounts and external site referrals, all of this outreach stems from your website.

Your nonprofit’s website is often the first stop anyone makes when researching your cause and determining how they can get involved. It houses important information surrounding your programs and opportunities for supporter involvement (such as volunteering, donating, and becoming a member). Overall, a strong nonprofit website can play a role in amplifying donations, garnering a larger supporter base, and spreading awareness of your mission.

As the central piece of your web strategy, you’ll need to do everything possible to ensure your website reaches its full potential. To help, we’ve compiled a list of easy tips for optimizing your nonprofit’s website without help from a professional web developer:

  1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
  2. Incorporate search engine optimization best practices
  3. Implement security measures

Before diving into these tips, take a look at Morweb’s list of best nonprofit websites. You’ll get a sense of what these best practices look like in action, which may inspire your nonprofit’s website design. Ready to create the most engaging website possible? Let’s get started.

1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

Elements that make websites eye-catching and engaging like images, forms, and buttons may look great on a desktop computer. However, they might not translate well on mobile devices. These components may not resize correctly, making it difficult for smartphone users to interact with your content. Overall, this makes for a poor mobile user experience and can lead to page abandonment when users get frustrated.

With a content management system (CMS) that offers automatic mobile-responsiveness, you won’t have to worry about developing multiple versions of your website for different devices. When choosing your CMS and creating your nonprofit’s website, you’ll want to make sure the following are mobile-friendly:

  • Forms. Any forms (e.g. your volunteer application, donation page, and event forms) should scale for mobile. Otherwise, visitors may have to zoom in and out or rotate their devices to fill out the form on a smaller screen.
  • Pop-ups. Pop-ups can be frustrating for mobile users if they can’t locate the close button due to it being off-screen. It’s best to avoid pop-ups altogether, but if you do include them, check that they resize for smaller devices.
  • Images. When you take the time to select compelling images, you want as many visitors as possible to see them. Make sure your images adjust for different screen sizes. Otherwise, your mobile users will be overwhelmed with large images that fill their entire screen and distract them from other, more important content.
  • Buttons. Buttons are calls-to-action that encourage visitors to act once they’re inspired. These buttons let users know exactly what steps to take next. When used strategically, they can play a major role in your mobile fundraising and shouldn’t be cut simply because the screen is smaller.

Don’t let all your hard work designing your nonprofit’s website go to waste. Instead, make sure all elements adjust to fit any size screen. Remember, a CMS with automatic responsiveness will streamline this process, so you can spend less time optimizing each element and more time developing engaging content.

2. Incorporate search engine optimization best practices

To get in front of more prospects, your website needs to be searchable online, and the best way to accomplish this is by implementing search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. If you have some experience in web design, you’ve likely heard this term but might not know exactly what it is or how to implement it.

In short, SEO is the process of improving your nonprofit’s website to help it prominently rank on popular search engines like Google. This directly impacts your nonprofit website’s performance by boosting the quantity and quality of web traffic. However, effective SEO involves more than making a few minor adjustments. Rather, you’ll need to engrain best practices in your approach across your entire website.

SEO is a major part of any well-rounded digital strategy. So that you make the most of this opportunity, let’s take a look at a few best practices:

  • Minimize page load time. Google recommends a load time of 3 seconds or less. You can reduce your page load speed by compressing images and minimizing the number of elements on the page (such as excessive coding and unnecessary characters). Not only is page speed a Google ranking factor, but quicker load times also lead to lower bounce rates, particularly with mobile users. In fact, as page load time goes from one to ten seconds, the probability of a mobile user bouncing increases by 123%.
  • Add alternative text to images. Alternative text, or alt-text for short, is a short phrase or sentence that describes an image’s appearance or purpose on a web page. This text will be displayed in the event that an image is unable to load. Put simply, alt-text tells search engines what your page is about, so it can deliver your content to the right audiences. It also helps for visitors using screen reader technology.
  • Customize your meta descriptions. A meta description is a brief summary of a page’s content and purpose. This is what search engines display in search results to tell users what your page is about. A well-written meta description can persuade the right audience to click through to your content if it appears to include the information they’re searching for.

Good SEO involves several moving parts. These three options will serve as a great starting point, but you’ll need to continue your research if you want to fully maximize your organization’s visibility online. By doing so, you’ll boost traffic and connect with the right audience, so you can make progress toward your conversion goals.

3. Implement security measures

If you expect visitors to have an interactive experience, you’ll want to reassure them that their data is protected, even if they’re simply exploring your website for the first time. Whether they’re making a donation or registering for your virtual events, the moment they sense something is off, they’ll likely abandon the process altogether.

When a supporter enters their private information such as a home address or credit card information, they’re indicating that they trust your team and perceive your cause as worthy of support. If your nonprofit’s website experiences a data breach or passes payment information over an unsecured server, you’ll likely lose that trust and support altogether, even when it’s entirely unintentional.

To protect supporters’ information to the best of your abilities, implement these extra security procedures:

  • Ensure your donation form is PCI compliant. Invest in a PCI-compliant payment processor so that it encrypts your donors’ payment information when they donate. What this means is that an intercepting attacker would only see random characters instead of credit card details. To explore effective nonprofit donation processing further, learn more with this helpful guide.
  • Maintain your HTTPS status. This acronym stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure” and is an encrypted version of HTTP, which is the main protocol for transferring data online. HTTPS encrypts the communication between your browser and server so that hackers cannot intercept the information.
  • Set requirements for passwords. This is particularly important in association website design and for other member-based organizations that offer private intranets where members store their data. Consider setting requirements such as using at least 8 characters, numbers, symbols, and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Use authentication for sign-ins. Authentication is a security process that verifies each user’s identity as they log in. Put simply, a user enters their login credentials, which are then sent to the authentication server where they’re compared with all user credentials on file. This ensures unauthorized users can’t access donors’ and members’ accounts on your website. To learn about this security measure in-depth, explore Swoop’s user authentication guide.

In short, taking extra security precautions is essential for organizations that hold personal information of their members, staff, and donors online. If visitors feel as though they can’t trust you, you’ll likely miss out on support and donations. Do all you can to maintain high security standards so that all of the data you collect remains protected.

The Gist

Developing an online presence for your nonprofit isn’t as difficult as it may seem at first glance. Remember, your CMS will take a lot of the guesswork out of the development process, so you can focus on optimizing your strategies.

Start by making sure each web page is mobile-friendly, optimized for search engines, and backed by extra security measures. Then, venture out to other best practices, so you’ll maximize your nonprofit website’s potential. In no time, you’ll engage current supporters, connect with new prospects, and reach your online fundraising goals.

About the Author

Murad Bushnaq is the Founder and CEO of Morweb. Since its inception in 2014, Murad has acted as Creative Director and Chief Technologist to help nonprofits spread their vision online through engaging design, intuitive software and strategic communication.