Lowering the Cost of a Nonprofit Website Redesign When Money is Tight

Many nonprofit organizations are putting their plans on hold during the pandemic, from events and summer programs to fundraising appeals and volunteer recruitment. The same goes for non-essential expenditures as income forecasts fall and budgets shrink. While digital marketing is more critical than ever, chances are that big price tag projects like a nonprofit website redesign are on the chopping block.

If you’ve been dreaming about a new site, the realization that the redesign might be delayed can be frustrating. When you’ve finally gotten the internal buy-in and budget you need to get started, hitting the pause button risks that decision-makers (or funders) change their minds in the future.

At the same time, pausing your website redesign means that you’ll have to carry on with an existing site that’s not serving your needs and goals. There’s a real opportunity cost to doing nothing. 

So what option are you left with?

Now’s the time to keep your nonprofit website design plans in motion. Scale back a full overhaul by finding a middle ground between DIY website builders and custom agency work. It is possible to solve some of your most pressing website problems by adjusting the level of customization.

Problem Solving With a Nonprofit Website Redesign

Website redesign cost is determined by the features and functionality you want included in the new site and how tailored they are to your specific needs. Maybe you want a really modern style that you saw on another website. (Beware the downsides of web design inspiration.) Or you’re hoping to use a proprietary service. These are things that all add up pretty quickly.

If you need to start cutting things from your redesign project to make it work for a smaller budget, it’s a good idea to circle back to your must-haves and nice-to-haves. You can use our list of nonprofit website considerations to get started. It could also be helpful to have a discussion with other team members to work through some basic website redesign questions and stay aligned on the problems you want to solve with a new site.

Foundational Pieces

The good news is that there are a lot of challenges that can be solved without paying through the nose! The key is focusing on foundational parts of great nonprofit web design: 

  • Solid website structure
  • User-friendly look and feel
  • Well-thought-out content strategy
  • Smooth processes for people to take action
  • Back end interface that gives you control

Cutting Costs Without Losing Momentum

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. I’ve put together a list of common website problems that can be solved without spending a fortune on custom design and features. In many cases, it’s a matter of investing the time to think about your website visitor’s experience to make sure that they can accomplish their goals with little friction.

Problem: The website is hard to navigate and find what you need.

If your nonprofit offers a ton of programs or resources, it’s easy to overwhelm visitors with options and multiple pathways to the same information. While good design can help guide people, the more essential task is reworking your website structure so that users can get around on their own.

It’s something that you can definitely work on in-house (get our free guide to website structures!) or collaborate with a professional. We’ve seen time and time again that it’s helpful for organizations to get an outside perspective.

Another supporting feature is adding on-site search functionality for your visitors if it’s not there already. Learn more about internal search and third-party options for adding it to your website.

Problem: It’s challenging to keep website visitors engaged.

I often hear that organizations have a tough time communicating what they do and who they are with their websites. Luckily, there’s a lot that you can do with how website content is written and formatted to make it more user-friendly. And it doesn’t have anything to do with needing a state of the art website. 

As you rethink your website structure, it’s the perfect time to come up with a plan for each page on your site, including the goal for the page, the audience, and the information you need to include to tie them both together. Working on your content takes time, but it’s otherwise “free.”

Problem: The online donation process is too clunky.

Sure, it might be cool to offer a special peer-to-peer fundraising tool on your website. Or give supporters a ton of options for making a donation. But if you need to reduce the cost of a website redesign, this is a good place to focus on getting the basics right.

Evaluate your existing online donation process to learn where you can make it easier for people to make a gift. While a full website makeover could make your Donate page look nicer, which in turn builds a little trust, it’s not the only way to motivate people to give. Sometimes all you need is a simple, professional-looking form that keeps people securely on your site.

Problem: You haven’t integrated the site with essential tools.

Whether it’s donation data that needs to go into your database or email addresses that need to be loaded into your email marketing service, integrating your website with other tools can save a ton of time and help eliminate errors. 

A lot of organizations will put off integration work, like syncing custom donation form fields with Salesforce, until they are ready for a new website. If you’re willing to forgo really complicated integrations (which can be expensive and require custom design and programming), it’s worth making some incremental improvements now that get your systems talking to each other at a basic level.

Problem: Your current site design isn’t responsive or mobile-friendly.

There’s really not an easy or inexpensive way to transition an older website into one that’s responsive and mobile-friendly. You might as well start over. But, that said, you don’t need to build a fully custom website to meet this best practice.

Many website builders and platforms offer modern, responsive designs these days. Using one as the base for your new site can give you a good jumping-off point for further customization. Wired Impact has taken this approach with our design options, or you could explore working with a web designer to modify an existing responsive theme on a website builder like Squarespace.

Problem: It isn’t accessible to a range of visitor abilities.

Much like creating a mobile-friendly website, there are a lot of accessibility guidelines that aren’t a simple fix on the front end of your existing site. Instead, they are rooted in your website’s code and would take a lot of expertise to update to the latest standards.

However, if creating an accessible website is a priority for your organization, there are many ways you can work on accessibility with your page text and multimedia as well as overall website color choices. Combined with a more responsive design, you’ll be able to make significant progress until you’re able to make a bigger investment here.

Problem: The site is difficult for your nonprofit to manage in-house.

Maybe you inherited an old site that no one remembers how to use. Perhaps it was made on a complicated or outdated service that takes forever to make changes or that you need a vendor to manage. A website redesign is a good opportunity to try something new and move to a more familiar and well-supported platform like WordPress or Drupal.

I’m happy to tell you that it’s still possible to make the switch without investing in expensive, custom web design. A good example of this is WordPress, which you can use through a nonprofit website service like ours or self-hosting. Either option will get you a lower price tag than a new custom-designed site, and you’ll still get the benefits of a user-friendly interface.

Choosing Between Custom Design and a More Templated Option

If you’ve been hoping for a complete overhaul of your nonprofit website, it’s understandable that the idea of scaling your project back is a little disappointing. At this stage, there are really two directions that could be a good fit: a more templated approach or waiting until your budget can cover the cost of custom design.

(There’s also the DIY website builder approach, but it’s not as likely to be a good fit if you were already leaning toward something more professional.)

Why Choose Template-Based Web Design?

Having transitioned our services away from custom nonprofit web design, we obviously think there are quite a few perks to a more templated approach that relies on a selection of design options with built-in features. But is it a good fit for your project? Depending on what you’re looking for, using a template-based approach typically means:

  • A less unique look and feel, but a design that generally matches your brand
  • Quicker time to launch a new website since you’re not starting from scratch
  • Less risk of your design and features breaking over time as the site is updated
  • Lower cost of building and maintaining your site over time, with the potential to break up the cost on a recurring payment schedule

When is Custom Web Design the Best Choice?

All that said, there are some circumstances where we’d still recommend that nonprofits explore working with an agency or designer on a custom redesign project:

  • The available design options don’t meet your needs or preferences.
  • You need critical features that aren’t offered or otherwise wouldn’t work the way you want.
  • You’re not able to integrate third-party tools in the way you need, especially customization which means a programmer has to build integrations from scratch.

Keep Moving Forward

We’re big proponents of building your dream website. But even if you don’t have the budget to do everything right now, it is possible to make significant improvements so that you don’t get stuck with an underperforming site for months and years to come. From adjusting your current site to exploring a middle-ground, templated approach, we hope you’ll continue to value your web presence and use it to advance your mission, even in the lean times.

Have your nonprofit website redesign plans been disrupted this year? How are you planning to adjust course with your digital marketing plans? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.