5 Common Nonprofit Website Myths Worth Debunking

Nonprofit Website Myths

Creating a website for your nonprofit can be complicated.  There are a ton of decisions to be made throughout the entire process.  As with any decisions, you’ll be making them based on some preconceived notions.

When it comes to nonprofit websites, there are a few common myths I hear all the time.  I hear them so often I felt compelled to clear them up, right here, right now.  It’s my hope that the following will help you make more informed decisions and ultimately create a stronger site.

1. Your Nonprofit’s Website Shouldn’t Be “Too Nice”

I often hear this myth paired with a goal of boosting online fundraising.  And I definitely get the thinking — if donors don’t think we need their money they’ll take it elsewhere.

But this line of thinking is a bit problematic.

Donors aren’t simply giving to you because you’re the neediest nonprofit out there.  They want to make a difference in the world.  They’re giving to your nonprofit because you’re presenting them the best opportunity to make that difference.  Having a subpar website doesn’t showcase the impact your donors can have.

Need is only half the equation.  Once you’ve established the need, donors want to be confident that you can solve the issue at hand.  Having a substandard website doesn’t instill a whole lot of trust in your abilities to tackle large-scale problems.

Plus there are a ton of huge organizations that raise a whole lot of money through their incredible websites.  Organizations like charity: water and the World Wildlife Fund get a lot of donations and have stellar sites.

Your job isn’t to appear needy.  It’s to inspire your donors to get involved.

For more, check out our article, Having a Bad Website Doesn’t Make Donors Want to Give.

2. You Need an Image Rotator on Your Homepage

This myth has become a lot more prevalent in the last few years.  Again, I totally understand the thinking here.  You have a lot of different elements on your website to highlight and want to show they’re all important.

But the problem is visitors ignore these rotating sliders.

In a study by the Nielsen Norman Group (a leader in website usability research), the vast majority of visitors were unable to complete tasks and answer questions about information presented in a huge homepage rotator.  As the researchers put it, “because it moves, users automatically assume that it might be an advertisement, which makes them more likely to ignore it.”

Sliders also generally contain large images, which typically carry with them large file sizes.  Even if you optimize these for the web, chances are they’ll be some of the largest files on your site.  Loading multiple large files can substantially slow down the load time of your homepage, leading more visitors to leave your website.

Instead of dumping a bunch of content into a slider, pick the absolute most important message a user needs to see when they land on your homepage.  Deliver that content in a simple, elegant way.  Keeping it static will help ensure your most important message isn’t being confused with an ad and ignored.

We’re convinced, and are actually in the process of removing the slider from our own homepage.

If you’d like a bit more, check out http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/.  It’s pretty convincing.  You can also read this great post from Yoast called Our Themes Don’t Have Sliders… Because Sliders Suck.

3. Nothing Should Be More Than Three Clicks Away

I hear this myth pretty frequently.  Again, I understand where it comes from.  You don’t want users to get frustrated while hunting for whatever it is they’re after.

But the “Three Click Rule,” as it’s often called, doesn’t hold up in testing.  It turns out, users don’t get frustrated when they have to click more than three times, as long as they’re finding the information they’re looking for.  Intuitive navigation and meaningful, helpful content matter far more than the number of clicks.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a great post debunking the Three Click Rule on UX Myths.

Instead of counting clicks, make sure your website is easy to navigate and provides your visitors with a great experience.  Ideally you’ll see many of them clicking far more than three times anyway.

4. Your Most Important Pages Need to be Top Level Navigation Items

Sticking with the topic of navigation, I often hear nonprofits adamant that a page needs to be a top level item in their main navigation because it’s so important.  After all, visitors are more likely to click pages that are in the top level navigation.

But this myth is built on a slightly misguided understanding of the point of your website’s navigation.  It’s not simply a place to highlight your most important pages.  Instead, it’s meant to serve as a way to guide your visitors through your content.

Your top level navigation items should be the big buckets that all of your website content falls into.  There are a bunch of other ways to drive traffic to pages (such as search engine optimization, strong calls to action, meaningful linking within your content, email newsletters and social media just to name a few).

Trying to cram all of your important pages into the navigation often leads to it being cluttered and difficult to use.  Navigation that’s confusing and unhelpful quickly leads to unhappy website visitors.

5.  No One Will Read Your Blog

Whenever we talk about driving traffic, we always talk about blogging.  While there are a ton of ways to drive traffic to your site, blogging is right up there as one of the best.  (For more, check out 9 Ways a Blog Can Help Your Nonprofit Website.)

In these conversations with organizations, I often hear the same concern come up time and time again—“No one will want to read what we have to say.”

I can tell you with confidence that’s simply not true.  Think about all the questions a visitor to your website may have.  What is your mission all about?  What difference are you making in the community?  Where can someone find more information on topics related to your mission?  What are ways they can help out?

The list goes on and on.  Instead of thinking of a blog as a way to promote your nonprofit, think of it as a way to address common questions raised by your community.  Tackle those questions or concerns you hear on a regular basis.  You’ll likely be surprised how many people want to hear what you have to say.

Still don’t know what to write about?  Here are 31 Nonprofit Blog Post Ideas to get those topics churning.

Have you heard any of the above myths before?  Has your thinking changed at all?  Or do you have any other common myths you’d like us to tackle in future posts?  Let me know in those comments below.

Image courtesy of John Lester