Your Best Face Forward: How to Avoid the Most Common Non-Profit Website Mistakes

If you’re a website designer, social media hawk or just a tuned in, living-on-line techie, chances are you’ve heard of and subscribe to the old adage that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Indeed, with the Internet now funneling so much information into our brains on a daily basis it’s easy to get lost in the cacophony of the web and the short attention spans it’s created.


For non-profits this is especially true: so many worthwhile organizations have to fight for recognition and, of course, monetary and time-and-talent support. And that fight should begin at that most holy of public spaces: your website. Does it grab people’s attention immediately? Does it feature a strong call-to-action element? Is the information presented in a clear and concise manner highlighting your goals? Is it easy for visitors to donate money online or contact your group for more information? These are all questions that every non-profit staff should be able to answer.

So is your website up to snuff? Check out these common mistakes and get them corrected before the year-end rush of donations ensues.

  • Is your contact information easy to find? It may sound antiquated given the virtual world we live in, but lots of people still want to pick up the phone, drop by your offices or mail in a donation. So be sure all these important elements are easy to locate on the site—preferably on the home page—and not simply tucked away in a contact form on an inner page.
  • Your non-profit exists to make a difference, but do visitors to your website understand it quickly? Make sure the pertinent details of your mission are clearly visible and your goals front and center. Don’t be afraid to set your organization apart from others by telling visitors how you’re different, and let those visitors know exactly how their money will help.
  • Nothing is more off-putting then a website filled with stale news, old statistics and dead links—it gives visitors the impression that you don’t have the time or the resources to keep it updated and therefore aren’t serious enough about being successful. So dedicate a set portion of time each work or each day to share the latest news, create links to relevant material and, ideally, craft an engaging blog.
  • A poor navigation scheme and lack of mobile friendliness is one of the most common mistakes made. Remember that you have a very short window of time to grab a visitor’s attention, and if the experience of moving around the site is clunky and difficult—or if the site doesn’t render correctly on a tablet or smartphone—people are more likely to get frustrated and move on. So put yourself in a potential donor’s shoes and make sure it’s easy to find the information they want to find.
  • Once people are hooked on your cause, be absolutely sure it’s as easy as possible to make an on-line donation. Put the “donate now” button in multiple and obvious places on every page, and if you have a third-party platform handling the donations test it often to make sure it’s working well.
  • Whether you’re a fan or not, social media is here to stay. So always include links to your various channels–Facebook, Twitter etc.—that allow you and your supporters to stay in touch. Remember, those links are a main mode of communication, and not tending to them risks damaging your non-profit’s public persona. Likewise consider having an e-newsletter available for those who want to subscribe, and make the sign-up process for it easy to complete.

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