Four Characteristics of an Effective Nonprofit Website

As meaningful and worthwhile as the work of your nonprofit is, getting people to invest their time money and resources on behalf of your organization’s cause can be an uphill battle. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. vying for a share of charitable donations and volunteer hours.

A well built and designed nonprofit website can provide a centralized way to bring awareness about your cause, can motivate and enroll volunteers and donors, help spread your message to a broader audience and allow you to track the effectiveness of your efforts.

While creating a nonprofit website that successfully accomplishes all these tasks can seem daunting, with some thoughtful planning, a focused UX strategy and the right backend tools, it is possible to have a website that effectively attracts, engages and converts website visitors from indifferent bystanders to advocates for good.


Know What Makes them Tick – Understanding your audience and what motivates them to act is crucial for proper engagement. Tone, style, and timing can make all the difference between a message that falls on deaf ears and one that motivates your user to want to learn more.

Many times, the messages that we think will move someone to act and what in reality will move them to act can be very different. Defining the key characteristics, motivators, challenges of the primary user you wish to engage by doing a user personas exercise can help you create content and navigation that is more targeted and relevant to your audience.

User surveys and focus groups can also be valuable exercises that can uncover important insight about your potential donor or volunteer that can help shape your organization’s communications strategy.

Who You Know – Donors are more likely to give to causes that are close to them. Whether it’s about proximity, life stage or gender, finding ways for your audience to relate to your cause is one of the first steps of engagement. For example, Kanopi worked with the McKesson Foundation’s Giving Comfort program to create an interactive database that would map the location of their community partners that could deliver comfort kits to cancer patients in their area. Knowing that there is a center ready to provide a Comfort Kit to cancer patients in my city of Thousand Oaks, CA inspires me to make a contribution.

Social Media Worthy – Last year’s water bucket challenge which flooded people’s social media feeds with images of drenched adults, children, and teens to bring attention to ALS, showcased the importance of packaging your content in a way that engages and inspires users to share with others through social media channels. The chances of achieving this level of visibility are hard to predict, however, so this is a good example of the value of creativity and out of the box thinking.


Statistics – Less is More – It is tempting to try to shower your audience with data and facts about what may or may not happen unless action is taken but too much information, presented as a string of statistics can take away from the heart of what will move people to act on behalf of your cause.

First Person Stories – The effective use of stories, anecdotes and narratives can go a long way in giving visitors a clear picture of your issue and the impact that their support can have in making a difference. The first person account by Fatima Jibrell, recipient of the Goldman Environmental prize in her blog post about the deterioration of Somalia’s coastal resources due to illegal fishing, hazardous waste dumping, and dynamite and cyanide fishing after years of civil war and lawlessness, helps to humanize a story that might not otherwise appear in the news media.

Say it with Pictures – By the same token, coupled with well-developed videos, photos and other imagery, these first-person accounts can really come to life with the right imagery. In today’s online sphere, where we’re bombarded with dozens if not hundreds of bits of information per day, it is more important than ever to create readily impactful messages.


So your engagement efforts have succeeded in getting the attention of visitors to your site who are now ready to volunteer for an event or make a donation. Whatever action you want your users to take to support your nonprofit’s goals, it should be an easy and smooth process. Anything that requires too many steps or time can drive the user away from your site. There are a variety of modules and plugins to aid in these tasks. Part of our process at Kanopi entails, tailoring modules and practices to fit your organization’s needs to come up with the best possible solution.


Knowing what messages, outreach efforts, and website features are most useful in moving potential donors and volunteers to act may feel to your organization like walking in the dark.  There are a number of tools that can help shed some light on your visitors and the effectiveness of your site’s content and features so you can adapt and fine tune to improve conversion rates:

WebformsDrupal Webforms can help your nonprofit organization collect valuable information about your visitor and generate reports that can sort this information in nearly infinite ways.

Insider Knowledge – While Google Analytics can provide some useful information on traffic volume and most visited pages on your site, you likely want to know exactly who is coming to your site and how they are interacting with your content. Cost effective email marketing platforms such as Sharpspring can be integrated with your site to track user’s interaction with your content, help you identify and reach out to potential donors and volunteers.

Ultimately, a nonprofit website that works as a tool for achieving your organization’s goals requires more than good intentions. Today’s nonprofits must be tech savvy and nimble so they can create an optimal user experience that will transform visitors into advocates for good.

Contact us to help you with your nonprofit website.