September 20, 2017
 
Five Essentials for a Nonprofit Homepage

By Stephen Germino

Stephen Germino
Whether you are redesigning your website or just auditing it, the homepage of your nonprofit site has some different requirements than its for-profit counterparts. The best practices listed here speak to what’s important in the nonprofit world and what users need from your site.

After examining scores of nonprofit sites over the years, it’s clear that some best practices have been established. These conventions are not absolute, but are highly recommended. The following information should appear “above the fold”— meaning in the viewable part of the screen without having to scroll down. These “essentials” are in addition to the standard branding, navigation, and copy that comprise your homepage.
  1. A clear descriptor — Don’t assume the user knows what your organization is all about. Explicitly tell them. Ideally, create a phrase or tagline that offers a simple, yet clear description of the organization. For example, “Providing compassionate healthcare to Grove County” (a hospital), “Shaping the future one mind at a time” (a school), or “Feeding 10,000 families in Central Massachusetts” (food pantry). This does not need to appear right beneath your logo, but should be very prominent.

  2. Donate button — Make it as easy as possible for people to give. A “donate” or “make a gift” button should be placed prominently. If it is not part of the standard navigation, then it should be part of the persistent navigation or just easy to find. Online giving is soaring. It’s faster, cheaper, and easier for the donor. Further, it will be the preferred method of giving within a decade. Jump on board and reap the benefits.

  3. Volunteer button — Not all nonprofits are volunteer-driven, but if yours is then you can appreciate the importance of recruiting them and communicating with them regularly. Volunteers, right next to donations, are many organizations’ most valuable resource. Treat them that way by making information easy to find.

  4. Financials — All nonprofits are in the business of selling trust first. National scandals have made the public wary at times and competition for charitable dollars is getting more intense. Today there are organizations like charitywatch.com and charitynavigator.com that scrutinize nonprofits’ fiscal practices to help philanthropists make informed decisions about giving. You can help yourself by being transparent with your financials or even linking to these sites if they are providing a favorable review of your organization. Be forthcoming with your most recent form 990, annual report, or audited financials. Don’t hide this information. Placing this information on the home page delivers a message of fiscal transparency and responsibility.

  5. News — Publicizing your good works. The news and stories about your organization are an indication of donor dollars at work. In the nonprofit world, often stories are your “product.” Stories engage people and begin the cultivation process in hope that some day these users will donate their time, talent, and treasure to the organization. Make sure you allot homepage real estate for event photos or news briefs.
This may seem like a lot to fit into the top half of the page, but it can be done. It may mean a redesign of the homepage, or manipulating a column, or modifying your navigation bar. But a sharp, user-friendly homepage will pay dividends quickly.

Stephen Germino is the Director of Business Development at Neptune Web, a full-service web development agency that provides consulting and web design and development services to nonprofits. Call him at 617 628-2300 or email sgermino@neptuneweb.com.

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