To succeed online, the first thing your charity needs is an effective website. As the digital face of your organization, your website has to be able to achieve a couple things: deliver useful information, engage visitors, and impart a sense of trustworthiness.
How good your website is depends on the level of talent you can attract or the budget to hire that talent. If you lack both, however, there are still many things you can do yourself to build the fundamental elements of an effective site. Here are what I consider 10 essential things that you can and must do to succeed.
1. Descriptive Content
Content is the cornerstone of your website. It’s the whole reason why you want people to visit; to get more information about you and your cause. It’s not enough to gloss over your organization details. You have to be descriptive about the things you accomplish, and every initiative should be described in full.
2. Separate Landing Pages
Hand-in-hand with content, you need to organize them into separate pages that people can “land” on. This will not only help your site in terms of SEO, but also allow visitors to find the information they are looking for faster. Especially avoid lumping all your content into one page.
3. Navigation Bar
Once you have separate landing pages for your content, you need a navigation bar that will help them find that content. People tend to have short attention spans if they can’t find what they were searching for, so help them by making it easy.
4. Charity or Nonprofit Registration Number
Establishing trust is a crucial part of your website’s purpose. Without trust, visitors won’t believe in your content and certainly will not donate to you. As a registered charity or nonprofit, you should have a publicly available registration number proving you’re a recognized organization with a social mission. This is an instant credibility builder that you need to publicize. Include it on every page of your website (I suggest in the footer). For bonus points, link it to your charity/nonprofit page that shows your registration information. In Canada, that would be the CRA listings site. In the U.S., one place would be Guidestar.
5. Full Contact Info
Using only a contact form gives the impression of being impersonal. List your charity’s full contact details, like phone number, email, and address. This will impart a sense of authenticity and legitimacy in that there’s a physical presence to your organization, and will help establish trust.
6. Clean Visuals
Obviously the more attractive your website looks, the better. At minimum, you need a visual appearance that is clean and simple. If you don’t have budget to hire professional to help you with this, try WordPress. It’s really easy to setup and has tons of free themes. In fact, here’s a couple clean ones you can setup quickly:
7. Donate Page With Substance
When people donate, they want to know where their money is going and what it’s accomplishing. The more clarity and accountability you can provide, the more legitimate you look. Those kinds of nuances develop trust and can help a potential contributor make the decision to give.
8. Explicit URLs
Naming your website pages should be a thoughtful process. Too often I see pages with arbitrary names like “page1.html” or “p4.html”. By giving them explicit meaning, like “donate.html” or “board-of-directors.html” actually describe the content. This is not only useful for viewers, but also better for SEO purposes as well. As an added cherry on top, search results pages will bold any keywords that match the search terms, so try to make your website page name relevant keywords.
9. No Broken Links
Having broken links is an instant credibility killer. If people are looking for information and can’t find it due to a broken link, your usefulness suddenly becomes impacted. It can also give the sense that your website is incomplete and not ready for visitors.
10. Missing Images
Missing images not only look visually poor, but give the impression that your site is not maintained or current. Ensuring that all your images are live is a simple task to do, so don’t forget to do it.
If your charity is missing some of these elements, it’s time to do a little homework and brush up on your website. If you meet these requirements, you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things. Getting a Google Grant is a great place to go next, but setting up a blog, using Analytics, or investing in SEO or SEM will take your charity to the next level.