4 Quick Tips for an Engaging Nonprofit Website | npENGAGE

4 Quick Tips for an Engaging Nonprofit Website

By on Mar 20, 2012


Think back to your college days for a moment…you’re walking across campus, tired from the night before, wondering if you’ll be late to class…and you see someone who catches your eye.  In 3 seconds, you evaluate their overall look:  Clothes, Hair, Smile, Approachability, Confidence and even hygiene.

Then in an instant…

….you decide what to do next.

Do you say hi and open up the conversation?  Or do you avert your eyes and walk on?  If you approach, a combination of their look/feel has brought you in.  If you walk on, something about the initial observation kept you from engaging.

Now that you’ve indulged my nostalgia, think about how this scenario can easily translate into your nonprofit website’s interactions and engagement with your constituents.

As your visitors browse the highly competitive Internet scene, they will choose to engage with websites based on equally subjective, visual and emotional elements as mentioned above.  The way you portray your organization at first glance will determine your visitors’ path to interaction…or lack thereof.

Within 3 seconds of landing on your website, your visitors make a decision.  If your website has done a good job of engaging them with a first impression, they’ll be much more likely to talk to you, give you a chance and get to know the real you, leading to involvement, engagement and ultimately the action you want!

To make a LASTING impression, you have to make a FIRST impression. “…the colors, the layout and the presentation of headings are all evaluated before any content is actually absorbed” –Jason Gross from Smashing Magazine writes. Your website’s design communicates your organization to the world, and should consider the same care that a person would consider when looking for a mate.

Here are 4 Tips for Creating an Engaging Nonprofit Website:

  1. Include engaging, actionable imagery:  eye contact, emotion and calls to action are key in the imagery you select for your homepage. Creating that emotional connection will encourage a user to linger long enough to give them the chance to learn more.
  2. Make content scan-able with headings and links that resonate with your audience.  Reading paragraphs is only likely on a blog (thanks for reading J) not on a website’s  homepage…keep homepage content easy to use and save the novel for those who click to it.
  3. Share your mission visually: Try the 5-second test on your site – Choose 10 people who aren’t engaged with your organization.  Show them your website’s homepage for 5 seconds, then ask a series of questions about your organization;  what you do, who you serve.  Are they correct?  If not…refocus.
  4. Prioritize Content:  Your website is a tool that is meant to mobilize your audience…make every pixel count.  If the content doesn’t work directly towards your mission, leave it out.  Simplification and purposeful, prioritized content are the keys to engagement.

So, nonprofits, it’s time to shower, shave and invite website users to get to know you…Entice them, but also show that you have more to offer than just a pretty face!

Download the Nonprofit web design white paper if you’d like to learn about all 10 tips for creating an engaging nonprofit website.


Kelley Jarrett has built her professional career around a combined passion for creating compelling marketing strategies and helping nonprofits achieve optimal mission impact. Prior to her current role as head of marketing for Blackbaud Nonprofit Solutions, Kelley served in many service-oriented positions at Blackbaud as a solutions consultant, solutions engineer, and in customer success leadership, learning first-hand of the challenges and opportunities nonprofits face, and helping to create solutions for success. Kelley enjoys balancing her home life, living near the beach in Charleston, SC as a wife and mother to 2 independent girls, with her passion for social good, both at Blackbaud and as a Board Director of Palmetto Goodwill.

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