If Google were a nonprofit, what would its website look like? And what could your nonprofit learn from its design? | npENGAGE

If Google were a nonprofit, what would its website look like?

By on Apr 1, 2014


What makes a great nonprofit website?

These days, usability is everything.

Think about it – why do all that hard work to drive traffic to your nonprofit’s website, only to have your visitors leave because they found it difficult to navigate or filled with irrelevant content?  Website abandonment is counterproductive to the work you’re trying to do.

Time is Money

Being respectful of your visitors’ time is important.

The most meaningful information you have to share should be at the forefront with options for next steps. Giving your visitor too many links, too many choices, or too much information divides their attention and detracts from the bare essence of what you are trying to achieve.

You’ve got to make it easy for them.

Google got it Right!

Google. Now, this is a website we all can relate to.

But imagine this..

What if Google were a nonprofit?

Here’s what their homepage could look like:



Let’s compare it to what their homepage looks like today:

Google 2


I’m not suggesting that a nonprofit website should consist of just one element – the donation form or support button – I’m simply illustrating the importance of connecting the purpose of your nonprofit to your website’s user experience to better serve your supporters.

Google’s Purpose

The purpose of Google.com is to have users perform a search.

That is the number one priority, and there’s no question about the action you’re supposed to take when arriving at the site.  While you have the ability to click through links to explore additional services and learn more about the company, there is no mistaking the website’s primary purpose or the action you’re to take when visiting.

What Your Nonprofit Can Learn from Google

The point is that there is tremendous opportunity for nonprofits to adopt similar principles – Design a website experience that delivers on the purpose of your nonprofit. It may sounds easy – but the creation of a simple and usable user experience is one of the hardest things to do.

After all, a nonprofit website is tasked with quite a complex challenge – Reach the visitor’s heart and mind in a way that drives them to support you. You must educate, inform, show, inspire and empower your visitor to truly make a difference.

A Simple Framework

The What > The How > The Results > The Ask

Begin by simplifying what your nonprofit does. Not your mission statement, but rather an elevator pitch – more conversational – something relatable.  Write it down.

Next, in the simplest words, describe how your nonprofit does it.

Then, share the results and accomplishments of your nonprofit’s work.

And finally, tell your audience what they can do to allow you to continue the great work.

For each of these segments, write down how you wish to illustrate each of these elements on your website. Keep this list as short and sweet as possible. There is no right answer because each nonprofit is different, the only rule of thumb is to keep it simple and to the point. The final framework for your homepage would look like this:

Table for Google

You can also create a version of this table for each type of page on your website – Blog, Event Registration, About, etc. The idea is to define the purpose of the page, make that purpose clear to visitors, and give them reason to take action.

At the very minimum, try this technique on your existing homepage as a litmus test to see how you’re doing at present. How many elements can you take away to simplify the content and choices?

The “Results” and “Ask” portions of the framework are a lot more effective if you have the right technology in place. This means effective email signup technology backed by a constituent relationship management system to build meaningful relationships and flexible donation forms. Blackbaud provides a host of software solutions to help nonprofits achieve these higher results.

Nonprofit Websites Done the Google Way

Here are some great examples of nonprofits who’ve partnered with Blackbaud to power their websites and are doing a great job of simplifying the user interface to create a better experience for their visitors.


1. Fueling Innovation 

Beautiful minimalist design that displays the purpose, achievements, proof points and the ask in a very clean and simple manner.  The “what” and “results” phases are called out in text, and the additional content is hidden behind images with attention grabbing “orange plus” links.

Web Design 1


2. Hillside

This cheerful, inviting design and clean navigation across the bottom does a great job of putting the emphasis on supporting Hillside. Also, the incorporation of a slideshow is a unique way to communicate the experience they provide via eye catching imagery.

Web Design 2


3. The Planetary Society

You are greeted with a friendly email sign up opportunity as soon as the site loads, and  it’s not your typical text-only email sign up light box. The site has tons of information but it’s organized very well. The typography and colors give you a sense of the information hierarchy along with bold calls to actions.

Web Design 3


4. Canadian Wildlife Federation

The design is attractive and in-line with the expectations of the audience. They’ve placed a huge focus on the small details such as the circular donate button,the social icons, and the email sign up box. The Twitter and Facebook  widgets do a great job of showcasing recent activity with an invitation to connect right below it.

Web Design 4


5. Ocean Conservancy

This site uses a beautiful lightbox on load but, instead of an email sign up, the call to action here is to donate. The open site design is beautiful, and their slideshow  features clear headlines with important words highlighted and a call to action directly below. The site also features an easy, single-field email sign-up form with social icons showing their strength in numbers. Just below the fold, there are three additional major call to actions to donate, become a member, and download the app. A donate button in the header also stands out nicely against the white background with simple navigation.

Web Design 5

Take a look at your website.

Are you connecting the mission of your nonprofit to the user experience of your website to better serve your supporters and community?


Raheel Gauba was the creative director at Blackbaud. In addition to bringing a wealth of knowledge about creating usable website interfaces and effective visual design, he also has a proven track record of over a decade of strategic planning and execution of successful websites. His core passion lies in the building of online communities using equal parts form and function that allow organizations to attract, engage and retain their audience. During his tenure at Blackbaud, Raheel has led the delivery of more than 400 websites and possesses expert-level knowledge in designing and developing interactive web presences within NetCommunity. Raheel holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science & Mathematics from the University of Toronto, Missiauga, Ontario – Canada.

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