The Art of Storytelling through Nonprofit Website Design

We all know a great storyteller when we hear one. They could make everyday chores like grocery shopping or dusting sound like an adventure with their imaginative and carefully-scripted words.

But when we limit storytelling to words on a piece of paper, we limit our organizations. Storytelling can be just as captivating (if not more so) through nonprofit web design. But don’t let us tell you. Let us show you.

If You’ve Got the Images, Flaunt Them

Sometimes the design elements that we choose should be obvious. But being the determined human beings that we are, nobody seems to want to take the easy way out. We’re here to tell you that it’s ok to use the obvious. In fact, please do so!

For example, Ellie Altman is the executive director at Adkin’s Arboretum. She had one of two choices. She could try to describe what it’s like being in the arboretum, or she could put her visitors there with the imagery that she sees every day.

Altman said the imagery played an important role in communicating the story of her organization.

“Because photography translates so well to our mission, the website is able be that effective in communicating what we’re about and what a visit here could mean,” Altman said.

But not every organization is going to have a picturesque mission like preserving nature. Design is also a great tool to utilize when you have something that needs to be conveyed in a shocking or startling manner. For example, Charity Water does a great job at conveying their mission with a simple photo. They could have described a glass of dirty water that people have to drink, but they chose to show us. Could you imagine drinking out of the left glass? Us either.

Tell Your Story with Fewer Words

Firespring CEO Jay Wilkinson identifies design as one of the 5 elements of a perfect nonprofit website.

Wilkinson said that one of the organizations that embodied great design was, or the Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara County, Inc.

“What this website is built to do is to tell the story of the organization. And that’s what good design does,” he said.

“It tells the story so that I instantly identify and understand what the purpose, passion and mission of this organization is,” Wilkinson said.

Thinking Outside the Box

Wilkinson pointed out that not every organization will have an easy time illustrating their mission through design. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to convey what you want to do.

Let’s look at the Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation. They provide scholarships and education and help students pursue careers by helping decrease their financial burden. How on earth would you illustrate that?

It may not be obvious, but they did a great job and made an appealing design.

“I instantly identify and understand what this organization is about,” Wilkinson said.

Be creative, and don’t limit yourself by thinking inside the box. Sometimes what you do won’t be as obvious. So don’t be afraid to brainstorm and try to convey your mission in any way possible through design.

How have you utilized nonprofit web design to tell your organization’s story?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

June 13, 2013

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