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Tips for Creating A Non-Profit Website

The purpose of most non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is to raise funds in support of a cause, encourage volunteerism, and educate the public on a specific topic. If these are your goals as well, follow the design guidelines below to ensure your website will help you achieve your mission.

Put Your Purpose Front-and-Center
When someone arrives at your website it shouldn't take more than one or two seconds to determine your organization's purpose. Make it easy by creating a one to two sentence synopsis of your mission and post it prominently on your site.

Be Donor-Friendly
If raising funds is important to your cause, make it simple for people to donate. Your homepage should include one or more direct links to your donation page. These links should be prominent and should stand out from the rest of the content on your page. Also, make your donation form easy to complete. If possible, don't ask require donors to create an account in order to fund your cause.

Be Press-Friendly
When you're a non-profit organization, press coverage is one of the least expensive and most effective ways of advertising your efforts. Creating a press-friendly page will make it easy for the press to find pertinent information about your organization. Include press-ready photos, pre-approved quotes by your organization's representatives, a synopsis of your goals and how you're accomplishing them, and a calendar of your activities. Also, provide the name, email address, and direct phone number of anyone approved to represent your company. Last but not least, make it easy for the press to find this page by including a prominent link to it on your homepage.

Be Volunteer-Friendly
Some people may not have money to donate, but they may have time to lend. For many organizations, that's just as important! If volunteers are a critical component to your success, make it easy for them to get involved. Create a volunteer-specific page that lists all available volunteer opportunities and provides more information on the benefits of getting involved. List relevant contact information for anyone in your organization who regularly works with the volunteers. Remember--volunteer skills come in all shapes and sizes. People may want to donate their expertise in web design, construction, management, hospitality, and more. While you may not list a specific volunteer opportunity that fits their skills, providing contact information for different departments within your organization gives them the option of contacting you directly.

Keep Your Content the Focus
Remember—the purpose of your website is to raise money, encourage volunteers, and educate the public. If you want to accomplish all of this on your website, make sure the content surrounding your mission is the most prominent aspect of your site's design. The artistic direction of your website should complement your content, NOT the other way around. Also, update and supplement your content on a regular basis. This not only encourages repeat visits to your site, but improves your search engine ranking (search engines love fresh content).

Add a News Section or a Blog
Another way to keep your content fresh is to post news articles about your organization, link to external news stories, and maintain a blog. This type of content serves two very important purposes: 1) it provides interesting and new content for regular visitors to your site, and 2) improves your search engine ranking. A resources section that includes links to other valuable websites is another great addition to your site. And don't be hesitate to link to other blogs. These links help other bloggers discover your website, write about it, and link back to you, giving you free advertising and increased search ranking.

Don't Shy Away from Web 2.0
"Web 2.0" is a buzzword that represents the next generation of the web. It's frequently used to refer to new programming styles, social-networking mediums, and off-site interactions with your visitors. How can you take advantage of this new technology? If you haven't already, create your own Twitter® and/or Facebook® accounts (these are two of today's most popular social-networking sites). These sites give you an entirely new and supplemental venue for interacting with potential donors and volunteers. Also consider adding an email subscription field to your website (preferably on the homepage). Regular email updates keep donors, volunteers, and interested individuals informed about your efforts, even when they're not actively engaging with your website.