Discover the three common characteristics of the best nonprofit websites, and the nine things you should focus on to level up your nonprofit’s website.

Best Nonprofit Websites Model

Video Transcript

The best nonprofit websites out there share three key qualities. And once you know what those are, you can use them to level up an existing website if you have one, or if you’re building a new website, it’ll help you build the strongest site possible.

And hopefully you can save some time along the way. 

Now, the cool thing is each of these three qualities also has three supporting components. And once you know what those components are, it essentially serves as a checklist of nine action items that you can use to level up your nonprofit’s website.

Three Qualities of the Best Nonprofit Websites

So I’ll go ahead and share my screen and we can dive into a model for the best nonprofit websites out there.

Quality #1: Traffic

The first quality of building the best nonprofit website you possibly can is traffic. This is awareness for your cause. Obviously, the website doesn’t do any good if no one knows it exists.

So how the heck do you build traffic to your site, right? There are three things that I recommend nonprofits start with when it comes to focusing on building more traffic.

Strong websites drive traffic

How to Grow Website Traffic

The first component of building traffic is getting really clear on your audience. Until you’re really clear on your audience, you’re just going to be relying on luck when it comes to building an amazing site. Really, all the decisions you make with regards to your website should be filtered through the lens of what your audience cares about.

Once you’re clear on your audience, the next step is to clearly define their problems. Now, problems, this is really what problem are they facing that you can help solve:

  • What challenges are they facing? 
  • What can you do to make their life easier? 
  • What brings them to your website in the first place? 

Once you’re really clear on the problem that you’re addressing and how you can help in ways that other organizations can’t, you can really start to speak to the needs of your audience and ultimately drive more traffic.

And the final component of traffic is channels. These are traffic sources. Basically, the way that I think about it is these problems that you just defined here, where does your audience go to find answers to those problems? Those are ultimately going to be the channels that probably drive the most traffic to your site.

Now, this is going to vary by nonprofit and by your audience. So maybe a lot of your visitors are going to turn to search engines. So trying to rank for organic search terms, drive traffic through SEO, maybe run some search ads is going to make sense.

Maybe they turn to social media or other authoritative websites in your vertical. Maybe there are podcasts that speak to their needs, or email newsletters out there.

Really, whatever channels are ultimately going to help you connect the problem that your audience faces with the solutions that you can provide, that’s going to be the highest leverage use of your time initially. So these are the three components of driving traffic to your site.

Quality #2: Conversions

The second quality of the best nonprofit websites out there is conversions. These websites, they move visitors to act. And conversions, they’re just meaningful actions that you’ve defined as being essential to your site, key ways that your visitors can engage.

So it could be things like making a donation, registering for an event, becoming a volunteer or a member, or maybe even reaching out for your services. Whatever’s right for your cause, you’ll define as a conversion. But the bottom line is these are the actions that matter on your website.

So how do you get website visitors to actually take meaningful action on your site? I recommend starting with these three things. 

Strong websites drive conversions

How to Grow Website Conversions

First is the structure of your website. Here we’re talking about the pages that exist, what you name them, how they fit together. The whole goal is to make information as easy for your visitors to find as you possibly can.

So really push yourself to think like your visitor instead of a staff member or a board member. Use the language that they’re going to use and fit your content together in a way that’s going to be intuitive for how they would want to consume content.

The second key component of conversions are what we call paths, conversion paths. They’re essentially the journeys that visitors take on your website from when they land to when they ultimately convert.

And the key is to reduce friction throughout these conversion paths as much as you possibly can. Friction is anything that slows a visitor down. Anything that adds difficulty to the process. So it could be that part of the process is broken or really slow or just confusing. That would all be friction in the process.

So your goal is to eliminate friction and make these conversion paths as clear as you possibly can.

I actually recommend testing your conversion paths on a semi-regular basis. For most organizations, starting with quarterly is going to be sufficient, but just test these out and make sure they’re as easy as they can be.

And the final component of conversions is trust. You need your visitors to trust you, both as stewards of their money, obviously when it comes to making donations, but also just trust that you can deliver on the promise that you’re making, that you can have the impact in the world that you’ve claimed that you will.

Now, building trust can show up in a lot of different ways. It definitely shows up in design. You want your website to look legitimate and reflect the work that you all are doing, the professionalism that you bring to the table.

But also, think of the content that you create. The content you put out there, you want it to demonstrate your impact. You can share social proof, like testimonials or quotes from your community. Stories are a great way to build trust. Really, whatever you can do to make sure your visitors understand that you can deliver on the promises that you’re making go a really long way in ultimately driving more conversions through the site.

If you want to dive any deeper on some common conversion rate killers that we’ve seen on nonprofit websites, we also have some of those resources on our website that you can use to assess what’s maybe getting in the way of visitors converting through your site.

All right, so you’re driving traffic, you’re getting conversions. What else do you need? 

Quality #3: Saves Time

The last key feature of the best nonprofit websites out there is they save your team time.

They should make your life easier. They should free you up to spend more time fulfilling your mission. So in our eyes, there are three high leverage ways that your website can ultimately help you save time.

Strong websites save organizations time

How Your Website Can Save You Time

The first is integrations. Basically what this means is your website should connect to other tools that you’re already using. Maybe it’s a donor management system or an email marketing system.

Whatever those tools are, the more they can connect to the website, the less time you’ll spend on manual data entry. You can spend more time on actually doing the work that you need to be doing to help fulfill your mission.

The second is ease of use. The best nonprofit websites out there are easy to use. They’re easy to maintain yourself. They’re easy for you to make edits without having a background in computer science or needing to write code. It should be easy for you to maintain so you can make updates when you need to.

And the final high leverage way that your website can save you time is through automation. We’re talking about automating tasks that right now you’re doing manually. So this could be administrative tasks like collecting information from visitors.

But also could be something like distributing information in a more automated way, thinking of questions right now that you get asked all the time, and then finding ways at scale to deliver those answers. So if automation is done right, it not only saves you time, but also actually provides a better experience for your visitors because it allows you to provide answers or solutions on whatever time schedule is best for them.

So these are the three high leverage ways that the best nonprofit websites are saving nonprofit’s time.

Where Nonprofit Websites Fall Short

All right, so we filled in the three key components of the best nonprofit websites out there. Let’s talk about these overlapping sections for just a moment.

Website Traffic + Conversions

So let’s say you’re getting traffic and conversions, but your website is not saving you time. We’re going to label this inefficient. It’s great you’re getting traffic and conversions, but ultimately it’s costing your team time, and that’s just not going to scale up well. It’s ultimately going to serve as a bottleneck on your ability to fulfill your mission.

Website Traffic + Saves Time

Alternatively, let’s say you’re getting traffic and your website is saving you time, but you’re not getting conversions. We call this hollow traffic because, at the end of the day, this traffic doesn’t help your organization. It doesn’t help fulfill your mission. It doesn’t move you closer to achieving your goals.

Website Conversions + Saves Time

Now, if your website is converting visitors, you’re getting conversions and it’s saving you time but you don’t have traffic, this is what we’re going to call limited reach.

It’s great that visitors are taking action and it’s great that you’re seeing some boost in efficiency, but without traffic, ultimately you’re not helping nearly as many people as you could be. So it really becomes about, how do we scale up? What is working in a way to ultimately attract more of the right people and have the greatest possible impact?

Building the Best Nonprofit Website

Which moves us to the middle here in what we’re going to call a mission mover.

This is really, right here, what we’re shooting for. These are the best nonprofit websites in the world. They are getting traffic, they’re driving conversions, and ultimately they’re helping save nonprofit’s time so they can spend more time and energy focused on fulfilling their mission.

So that’s it. I hope that this model is helpful, both in assessing your current website and hopefully building the best nonprofit website you possibly can in the future. And appreciate you watching. We’ll see you next time.