We talk to a lot of nonprofits, all doing different things to make the world a bit better.  No two organizations are exactly alike, nor is their approach when it comes to using the web.  But whenever we’re discussing building a new site, we always ask this one question:

What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

On the surface this may seem like an odd question to focus on when creating a website.  But it may be a bit surprising how often giving this question some thought can inform your decisions when it comes to your new site.

I think discussing a few common answers we hear on a regular basis could prove useful.

“We need more donations from individuals”

This is a major challenge we hear all the time.  Perhaps an organization is over-reliant on a few major donors or corporate sponsors.  More individual giving not only helps boost overall fundraising now, but also provides a strong foundation for future giving.

How your website can help

Your website can help you gain more donations from individuals in a bunch of ways.  Here are a few:

  • Accept donations online (obviously)
  • Make visitors more likely to donate by outlining the various ways someone can give to your organization, including financial donations, in-kind giving, stock, planned giving, etc.
  • Showcase how you use donations to build trust and establish an emotional connection
  • Highlight the impact your nonprofit has and make potential donors want to be a part of it

“Our reach is too limited”

Another challenge we hear is really centered on increased awareness.  Many nonprofits are known within their local community.  But perhaps their focus is national or international.  Or maybe their local reach is more limited than they’d like it to be.

How your website can help

Your website can be one of the best tools around when it comes to broadening your reach.  It can literally be connecting you with people interested in your mission 24/7.

Here are a few ways your site can help expand your reach:

  • Drive increased unbranded search traffic (those interested in your mission but not looking for your organization by name)
  • Provide helpful information that’s likely to be shared on social media or linked to from other websites
  • Make it easy to download and share your resources with others

“People don’t understand what we do”

Many nonprofits do a ton of things.  Clearly articulating your mission and all of your related services can be a daunting task.  We commonly see older websites that were great when the organization was a bit simpler, but as the nonprofit has grown it’s become a bit unruly and tough to navigate.  Tangled sites only make it harder for visitors to figure out what exactly it is you do.

How your website can help

Your website can be a huge help when it comes to clearly explaining what you do.  Here are some ways to consider:

  • Provide a simple, concise explanation of your mission that’s easy to find
  • Outline your services without using jargon, explaining not only what you offer but why it matters and how it helps your community
  • Ensure your navigation is easy to use, allowing visitors to intuitively find the information they’re seeking
  • Show photos, videos, infographics or illustrations to help provide further clarity of important ideas
  • Make it easy for people to reach out if they’re looking for additional info

“We don’t have enough recurring support”

We often hear organizations talk about the difficulty of retaining supporters year after year.  It’s hard to find supporters in the first place, making it even more important to maintain relationships with those supporters you already have.

How your website can help

Your site can help your nonprofit maintain relationships with your supporters in a variety of ways:

  • Make it easy for interested visitors to connect on social media or sign up for your newsletter
  • Provide a strong post-donation experience, giving supporters a way to further connect with your organization
  • Segment your email list so you can send targeted messages to past donors and volunteers to reengage them with your nonprofit

“We don’t have enough hours in the day”

Most nonprofits can relate to this claim.  There’s no shortage of good that needs doing.  And there simply isn’t enough time in the day to do it all.

How your website can help

Your website won’t miraculously add hours to your workweek, but here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

  • Utilize a content management system that allows you to easily update and manage your site (which not only saves time, but also keeps you from pulling your hair out)
  • Integrate with other systems (such as a donor management tool, event system or email newsletter provider) whenever possible to avoid the need to manually enter data

Some of these challenges may resonate with you.  Or you may have your own unique difficulties.  But no matter what your challenges are, identify them before diving headfirst into building a new nonprofit website.  Your site has the potential to make a big difference in addressing some of your most pressing issues.

Have you used your website to address major organizational challenges?  Or do you wish you would’ve done so?  Do you have any major organizational issues you think a website could potentially help address?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer