Five Things to Avoid on your Non-Profit Website

Imagine learning about a new non-profit start up that holds a mission near and dear to your heart. Excited with the prospect of learning more, you visit their website with the intention of donating money and your time or talent, only to find that there’s little to no information about the organization’s goals, how donations are used, who is running it or even how to contact them for more information.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common in the non-profit sector. And although there are lots of missed elements that can deter potential donors and volunteers from aiding your cause, these top five are found most often on organization’s websites.


1. Having an Unclear Mission Statement
Your mission statement should be the first thing people read, and as such should be written in clear, concise language and presented front and center on the homepage and on repeated on interior pages. Some hallmarks of a good mission statement are this: it should be written in the same sort of language your constituents use; should be emotionally stirring; and is specific and actionable. Want to know if your mission statement is effective? It should sound good when read aloud.

2. No Obvious and Convenient “Donate” Button
This is a constant bane for many donors, as having to go hunting through a non-profit’s website searching for a way to give money is an absolute turn-off. So have your “donate now” button in a clear place on your home page and, although it may seem obvious, have the button appear in the brightest color possible so it can’t be overlooked by visitors to your site.

3. Lack of Financial Transparency
Non-profit industry insiders are constantly stressing the importance of being open and honest with potential donors. And as such, their recommendations regarding website information is comprehensive. Don’t be afraid to post your 990 tax returns (they’re already public information for those who know how to find them online); post any and all audits (this will show donors that your finances are in order and you’ve passed governmental inspection); post the activity of your board (such as minutes from meetings and a summary of actions taken and decisions made); and list all your board members full names and affiliations—people are more likely to aid a non-profit if they recognize like-minded individuals already involved in the mission.

4. Not Having a Blog
Along the same lines as promoting financial transparency, having a blog can be a crucial element to your site. Treat it as the main outlet for communicating information to your audience and donor base, especially as related to funding campaigns, special events, recent monetary donations received, corporate and business partnerships initiated, staff and board changes and even “wish list” requests for the donation of anything from office supplies to manpower for cleaning or moving.

5. Insufficient Contact Information
Successful non-profits are all about communication, and making it difficult or impossible for donors and volunteers to contact you directly can spell doom from the beginning. For instance, providing only one general email address gives many visitors to a site the impression that their requests for more information will likely be ignored or a response will take an inordinate amount of time to be received. So be sure every staff and board member has, at the very least, an email address listed on the site. And if board members are uncomfortable with this, create a “catch-all” email address by which incoming messages are forwarded directly to each and every one of them.

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