I can't tell you how many times I've heard nonprofits say, "Well, we do have a website, but it sucks." You can do better than that, no matter how small your nonprofit may be, if you focus on the most important elements first. Here's the 10-point checklist I use to give the home page of a nonprofit website a quick evaluation.
1. Does the Domain Name Make Sense? I prefer whole words if they are relatively short, but acronyms are OK too. For example, the Environmental Defense Fund can be found at edf.org, and environmentaldefense.org redirects to edf.org. (Unfortunately, environmentaldefensefund.org produced a page not found error, even through EDF does own that domain.) Note that their domain name is not some difficult-to-recall abbreviation like envdef.org. Those are the worst. It should be as easy to guess and remember as possible.
2. Do I Know Where I Am? Can I tell after the briefest glance whose website I'm on? Are your logo and name right at the top? If your organization works only locally or regionally, it's also important that we quickly see exactly where you are. Include your city and state in a prominent location. This will help site visitors who may easily mistake you for a similar organization in a different area. For example, I live in Davidson County, NC but there is also a Davidson County, TN which includes Nashville. Nonprofits with "Davidson County" in their names should be very clear and upfront on their home pages about which state they are in.
3. Is There a Clear Path to Answers or Actions Visitors are Most Likely Seeking? Why would someone be coming to your website? What questions do they have or what would they want to do there? Again, within just a few seconds, can see where I need to click to get those answers and take those actions?
4. Does the Home Page Include Images? The web is a visual place and even if you use stock photography, images are a must for your homepage.
5. Can I Donate Online Easily from the Home Page? Don't hide that Donate Now button away where we have to look for it. Make it very easy to find and keep the amount of information you request to a minimum as supporters fill out that online form.
6. Are You Capturing Email Addresses? The best way to turn a first-time website visitor into a long-term supporter is to start a conservation. To do that, you have to know who they are. Make signing up for your email newsletter incredibly easy and obvious. Or offer a free download that requires registration.
7. Are People Featured? Every nonprofit, even those focused on saving whales, needs to have people pictures and stories on its website. Donors write checks to support the work of people trying to save the whales, not to the whales themselves. Whale pictures are fine, but also feature your donors, volunteers, staff, partners, clients, and other people on your website doing the work they love on behalf of your cause.
8. Are There Stories on the Need or Successes? Mission statements are usually tough to understand. Stories draw people in and really explain what it is you do. Tell short little stories on your home page to demonstrate the need for your organization and to highlight your accomplishments. Link from the home page to longer examples.
9. Is It Easy to Contact Staff? Before a donor writes a big check, they'll probably want to talk to you. If someone is interested in partnering with your organization, they'll want to know which staff person they should call to discuss a project. Don't make it hard to identify who's doing what. If you don't want to include staff email addresses on your web page because of spam concerns, do include a contact form and the phone numbers of key staff. A full staff directory is ideal.
10. Are Your Google Keywords on Target? What do you think your site is about? You want your website to come up in Google when searchers type in which words? Compare this list to what Google actually thinks your site is about using the free keyword tool. Select the "website content" button and then enter your home page URL.
How does your website fare against this checklist? Does it need a little work? Check out the weekly webinar schedule to find upcoming courses to help you improve your nonprofit website.
~ Kivi Leroux Miller, Your Nonprofit Marketing Guide