In my recent blog posts I’ve written several times about how important a great website is to your nonprofit.
I don’t want to belabor the point here, but the reality is that your website is often the first impression people get of your nonprofit. It’s an extension of your mission and how people perceive it. Perhaps most importantly, it’s one of your most vital vehicles for engagement and customer service.
After all, it has the power to convince people to participate or donate (or repel them from it), and it has the power to offer them a seamless, enjoyable experience that makes it easy for them to engage (or frustrating and difficult).
Whether it’s a good or bad experience rests largely on how “good” or “bad” the website is. And yes, those terms are highly subjective. But there are also tons of good resources out there in internetland to help you understand what constitutes current best practices, modern aesthetics, and ease of use.
This list is definitely not exhaustive, but at a minimum here are some things any good arts nonprofit website should have or do:
- Clean, modern looks
- Load quickly
- Simple, intuitive navigation
- Compelling graphics, images, and media used throughout the site but not so much that it clutters the site
- Well-written, concise copy
- Easy-to-find important information
- All functionality throughout the site should be easy and intuitive to use
- Your marketing efforts and strategies should be seamlessly integrated with the site
Again, not exhaustive, but a good place to start. So if you’re looking at this list and your first thought is….
“All of that sounds wonderful, but what small-medium sized nonprofit can afford thousands to spend on a tricked-out website and someone to maintain and update it?”
…then I have good news.
If you need a “Champagne” website on a “Beer” budget, there are some things you can most definitely do to make it happen.
1. Build with WordPress
WordPress is an open source website platform, meaning that anyone can use it for free. Which is great news for you because WordPress is incredibly powerful for easily building gorgeous websites. So much so that over ⅓ of all websites on the internet are built with WordPress. You can spend money on premium themes and plugins to trick out your website but you certainly don’t have to or you could gradually upgrade to premium features as needed, making it the most affordable (and yet still professional) platform out there.
2. Choose the Right Plugins
Plugins are meant for WordPress websites and they are basically pieces of software you install on the main site that add functionality. Seriously, there’s a plugin out there to do literally anything you could ever want. Many amazing plugins are free. Others are paid. Either way you’re guaranteed to find what you need and you don’t have to have any pricey plugins for most websites.
3. Invest time (but not necessarily money) into media
Graphics, pictures, and videos are a must for a good website. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you can tell a story or convey an idea with media rather than text, in most cases you should do just that. But you definitely don’t need to hire a pricey graphic designer to get it done.
Sign up for a free nonprofit account at Canva, which allows you to create or edit graphics and pictures. Plus, they help you out with professional-looking templates and make the whole thing really, really easy.
Also sign up for a free (or super cheap, paid) account at WeVideo. There you can access an easy-to-learn video editing software to help you create pro-looking videos with just enough bells and whistles to make it engaging for viewers, but not so many that you can’t figure out how to use it.
4. Take your time writing and organizing your content
In the web development world we call this “site mapping” and although some find it tedious, it’s one of the most important things you can do to create a great site that visitors enjoy using.
Basically site mapping consists of mapping out which content goes on which pages and exactly how you will structure your navigation menus so that all of that content is really easy to find. There are tons of software programs out there to help you do this, many of them requiring you to pay a fee to use them. But honestly, you could map all of this out on a sheet of paper, spreadsheet, or poster board. Be creative!
The important thing is that you think through what your website visitors need to know and then organize it in a way that is easy to locate and enjoyable to browse through.
5. Think about your marketing objectives and then make your website do the heavy lifting
I truly believe that your website should be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for your organization’s marketing strategy. For instance, include ways for people to sign up for your email list on your website. Make advertising for your upcoming season front and center and then offer a really easy way for people to buy tickets. You can also hook up some free plugins to give your users “push notifications” when you publish new content or create new events, plugins that make donating easy, and yet more plugins to track which marketing efforts are hitting home and which are duds.
My fave marketing plugins are Google Analytics Dashboard, Hellobar, Give, Subscribers, Yoast SEO, PrettyLinks, PixelCaffeine, WordPress Landing Pages, Opt-in Monster, and Click to Tweet. All free!
Those are just my “Top 5” strategies for creating an amazing website or upgrading the one you have so that it actually achieves the things great websites are supposed to do. If you’d like a deeper dive, stay tuned to the blog as I’m always releasing new articles on ways to improve your website (among other things).
You can also email me to be a Beta Tester for my soon-to-be-released ArtsWeb eCourse, where I walk you through the process of DIY’ing a really outstanding website. Beta testers get the eCourse for free in exchange for feedback so you really have nothing to lose!
And, if you still aren’t sure whether or not your current website is up to standard, then I’ve built a little tool to help you out. Click the button below to get your copy of my Website Evaluation ScoreCard.
The ScoreCard gives you a handy way to see where your website scores points (literally) and where it falls short, allowing you to identify areas of improvement and areas where you’re already killing it.
So get a copy, score your website, and then craft a plan to improve or overhaul your site! (If you need a little help, email me! I’m always happy to talk).