Spending thousands of dollars on charity websites may not always be possible, but, at the same time, a proper website can be a major asset and income generator for the organization. Determining how much to invest in a website can be tricky, especially for charitable organizations who are often under intense scrutiny by board members, funding sources, and the public. The organization must carefully analyze its budget and the amount of money it can justifiably put out for a new or revised site versus the benefits the site will garner. Additionally, the size and complexity of an organization will dictate the scale of the website it will need. Over the past several years, websites have become significantly more important to charitable organizations. Websites for charitable organizations should do three things:
- Effectively communicate the mission
- Solicit donations (monetary and other)
- Inform, educate, and recruit volunteers
When planning for a new site, the charity’s web team must carefully weigh the investment versus return of the site they choose to build. A site that is a lower cost up front may be good for the budget short term, but if the site is flawed it could cause major problems down the road. If you have a choice between spending five or ten thousand on a site that is difficult to navigate and has a low success rate of converting visitors to donors or volunteers vs a site that costs $25,000 initially but is easy to navigate and successfully converts a high percentage of site visitors into donors and/or volunteers, clearly the latter is the better value for the charity in the long run. (If you’re in need of a simple calculator to help determine what your site can do for you let us know.) When planning for a site, the following components should be considered:
- What subjects need to be covered on the site:
- About the organization
- Contact page
- How many pages the site will need to cover the subjects required
- How you will process donations through the page
- Do you want the site to contain interactive elements
- Whether the site will need audio/video capability
Communicate the Mission
First and foremost, charity websites need to communicate its mission. The entire mission statement should be present on the homepage and, if possible, every page, perhaps as a header or footer. Testimonials are also an excellent way to effectively get your point across. People who have benefited first hand from your services are some of the best resources at your disposal.
Solicit donations (monetary and other)
This is where the size and design of your website becomes vitally important. The site should clearly state what you are requesting donations for and where the donor’s money will go. If your organization has an annual report, posting the report on your site will show donors exactly how your organization has operated in years past, which will make them feel more comfortable that their donations will be handled properly. Make sure the user can easily donate to your cause. The fewer steps it takes for them to donate, the better. The more steps that a donor has to go through to give you money, the less likely the donor will be to finish out the process. Investing a little more on the front end can make this function much simpler and user friendly for the donors.
Inform, educate, and recruit volunteers
Describe in detail what you need volunteers for, what is expected of them, and what kind of a time commitment they will have when volunteering for your organization. Again, using testimonials from existing volunteers will be extremely helpful. Utilizing a form on your site that allows potential volunteers to apply immediately will likely boost your numbers of potential volunteers, since they will be able to fill out the application right after they have read all the stories about how wonderful your organization is.
Make sure that your site is engaging and easy to navigate. The easier you make it for visitors to your site to help you, the more likely they will be to follow through.
If you find that your requirements are way outside of your budget, you can always break the development into stages to mitigate the cost. Some web developers will also donate their time and work to charities. (You may also apply for our gift-in-kind program.) Additionally, donors, volunteers, and board members may have experience in creating charity websites, so they can be a valuable resource.
Your organization will also want to invest in a site that has the ability to easily grow when the agency grows. If you spend a smaller amount of money on a site that will be obsolete in three years and need to be completely rebuilt, is that really preferable to spending more money up front on a site that has the capability to be updated and last for five to ten years? Your answer to that should be no, investing a little more up front will save you in the long run.
Planning ahead and utilizing a variety of resources will ensure you get the most back for your buck when you build a new site. If you’re organization is in need of some free resource to help begin this planning, simply contact us and let us know!
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