You are a small nonprofit. Your website feels outdated. Cluttered. Not reflecting who you are. Something needs to be done.

But here is the dilemma. You don’t have a big budget to hire someone. So, what do you do? It shouldn’t be that hard. Right? You can create a free website for your nonprofit with Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress. The templates are ready to use. Really nice designs. Just plug and publish. It can’t be that hard. Others do it too. Done in a day. Let’s do this. Yay.

Before you jump right in, please consider the three golden rules of building a successful nonprofit website.

#1: Creating a New Website Is Not about Creating a Website

Why do you think Starbucks opened a coffee shop? For people to hang out? For you to read its mission statement? Would you go to Starbucks if you couldn’t get your favourite “Starbucks Trenta iced coffee, 12 pumps [sugar-free] vanilla, 12 pumps [sugar-free] hazelnut, 12 pumps [sugar-free] caramel, 5 pumps skinny mocha, a splash of soy, coffee to the star on the siren’s head, ice, double-blended!”?

Starbucks opened coffee shops to sell coffee. It’s the company’s distribution method.
The same applies to your website. I’ve been working with nonprofit leaders for over 10 years, and I can tell you that you don’t just build a website because you have fun doing it. Your website is a tool. It needs to do something for you. It needs to work like a well-oiled machine. Your website should be an employee doing its job 24/7. That is, it should be connecting with your donors, sending out thank-you emails, and accepting donations. Ideally, your website should be your HUB. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s essential for your nonprofit organization. No question here. Everything you do online and offline should lead to your website.

But what then?

Starbucks wants to sell coffee and upsell for snacks and the newest mug. But what do you want your “coffee shop” to do? Fundraise? Educate about your cause? This is the first question you need to answer before you start building a free website for your nonprofit..

The next questions would be: How do you do that? What is the typical user behaviour? How can you get people to donate to your cause? What is the journey of a typical donor? What do you want them to learn and do on your website? Can you capture their contact information? Would it make sense to “follow” them through re-marketing on social media?

Before you create your website, you need to create a blueprint that outlines the right strategy for your success.

#2: It’s Not about You

Your website is NOT about you. It’s not? No.

Here is the secret: Your website is for the people you want to reach.
Oh, right. I knew that. Of course, it is.

But here is the issue: In order for your website to reach the people you want to reach, you need to know who they are, what they think, what their concerns are, what their dreams are, and what is keeping them up at night.

Really? Yes. Why?

Because regular black coffee doesn’t do it. Starbucks knows that.

You want and need to be that little voice in your supporter’s or client’s head that knows exactly what is going in their life.

And the only way to find out what goes on in their mind is to get to know them.

Find out what they care about.

Are they conscious about the environment? Do they care about homelessness in your community? Do they want to make a difference but are not sure if their $50 donation could even make an impact? Once you get to know them, you can connect with those issues and relate them to what you do. And you can answer their donors’ biggest questions.

That’s the secret.

Write about your cause in a way that connects with their concerns, hopes, and dreams. Not with what you think is important.

Now, back to the website. Designing a free website for your nonprofit with Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress and creating a content strategy for your website are two different pairs of shoes. You need to get your strategy and content straight first, or marketing on your website might be a waste of time. Once you have mastered that, then you can start thinking about the design. Connect with pain points and problems first. Only then can you provide your solution.

#3: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I know that I don’t know enough about accounting. And I don’t like bookkeeping. That’s why we have an accountant and a bookkeeper. They make my life easier—I know that.

Do I know how they do it? No. And I don’t need to. A year ago, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as automating your receipt submission. I thought this was so cool. But I am kind of suspicious that this was just the tip of the iceberg that I got excited about.

Our kids don’t know what they don’t know. “Don’t touch the frying pan. It was just on the oven.” It’s obvious. Isn’t it? We know that. Do they?

You lose your Google search results if you don’t have your 301 redirects in place when creating your new website. Obvious, right? “It’s as easy as putting this .php code into your public_html folder in your hosting.”

Here is the thing: There are always things we don’t know. The digital world is changing every day. The key is to know what results you want. And then figuring out how to achieve those results and determining if it’s worth it to invest money and get help. Would you spend an extra $5,000 if you got $10,000 donations in return?
Maybe you need someone to help you figure out the strategy, maybe you need someone to do the design. Maybe you need someone to help you develop a donor engagement strategy. Whatever it might be.

Designing a new website for your nonprofit organization is not just about designing it. It’s about creating an experience for the visitor. It’s about connecting the visitor to your cause. It’s about engaging the people who visit your website—making them want to support you and creating more impact on the cause they’re concerned about.

Before you start building a new website, make sure you keep these three golden rules in mind:

Determine what you want your website to do, understand that your new nonprofit website isn’t about you, and remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. And it’s OK to ask for help if you need it.

If you don’t know where to start or you have questions, don’t hesitate to book a strategy call with Kerstin.

About the Author

Kerstin Heuer is a nonprofit marketing consultant and founder of Non-Profit Today. Since 2008 she has used the trifecta of branding, marketing, and design to help nonprofits communicate the heart of their organization, connect with their audiences, and achieve their missions. With over 25 years of industry experience and lessons learned from work on 500+ nonprofit projects, Kerstin is skilled in collaborating with NPOs to make sure they have a clear message and the traction they need to spread it. Connect with her on Linkedin or email her at: kerstin@nonprofit.today.

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