Before you welcome the world to do business with your nonprofit, you need to make sure your front door is ready to welcome all visitors.
Doing so doesn’t mean going out and purchasing a wreath, a fancy door mat or a fancy brass knocker. While those are nice amenities, the front door you should be more concerned about is your nonprofit’s website.
The options out there are endless, but no matter what provider you choose, here are things you should consider when you are setting up your first website.
What’s Your Function?
Before you write any copy or start designing a homepage, consider what you want your website to do. What will a visitor do once they get to your page? You don’t need to have all the bells and whistles, but start with what works best for your mission and purpose of your site.
Here are some possible features you could include on your site:
- Event registration
- Blog for content
- Email listserv signup
- Twitter and other social media feeds
- Shopping cart
- Volunteer Information
You don’t have to have all of these, but think about what you want from the site before you start building anything. Even if you don’t need something right away, you want to make sure your platform can handle additions and new features.
What’s Your Message?
Besides doing lots of cool web things, your website should tell your nonprofit’s story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an origin story, but it should convey the impact and importance of the work you’re doing.
Don’t know where to start? Thankfully, storytelling expert Lori Jacobwith has seven tips that can help formulate your story. Don’t rely just on words though. The images you use on your website should also tie in to the overall message and tell your story.
Because you’re a new nonprofit, you might not have a lot of past experiences to rely on or photos to use. Don’t let that stop you from telling your story. Instead talk about why you wanted to start the nonprofit. Tell your story and those of your members and why you formed the organization. Remember, you can always come back and edit your page later, but you have to start strong to help set up your website for success from day one.
Invest in Your Website
Once you have your features and message figured out (or at least for now) you can start looking for a host for your website. You can probably name a few low-cost options off the top of your head, but don’t just go with the cheapest option.
Jay Wilkinson wrote that nonprofits often think about their website costs in the wrong terms.
“When it comes to building a nonprofit website that’s fully functional and engaging, the question should not be, ‘How much does it cost?’ The question should be, ‘What’s the return on the investment? Your website has incredible potential and opportunity to increase donations, decrease expenses and printing costs, and engage with your audience in a meaningful way that connects them even tighter with your organization.”
Do some comparison shopping to make sure that the provider can give you all the features you want and you feel comfortable with the design of the site. Once you get your site set up, you should be sure to set out a welcome mat and welcome the word to meet your nonprofit.