I taught my course on writing for the web and e-newsletters this week as part of the Duke University certificate program in nonprofit management. I always enjoy seeing the light bulbs go off over people’s heads as we move through the course and they realize that their websites are missing some of the most basic elements. Here are five items that any nonprofit website should have — and you’d be surprised how many organizations are missing at least one.
1) An email newsletter sign-up box. If you send out an email newsletter, make sure your website includes an easy way for people to subscribe to it.
2) Use headlines and subheads on every page. One of the easiest ways to make your website more user friendly is to include headlines and subheads on every page. Headlines tell your visitors what’s there, allowing them to quickly scan the page and decide if it’s worth reading.
3) Registration forms for events. If you hold any kind of event that requires registration or even a simple RSVP, include a registration form. At the most basic level, you can use a “sendmail” or “formmail” program that emails the form’s results to you. More complicated forms can be integrated with shopping carts to collect registration fees.
4) Links to other meaningful sites. Good links build your credibility by showing your visitors that you understand their needs and know your field well enough to direct them to other sites they will find helpful. It’s a rookie mistake to think “but if we include links on our site, people will leave our site, and we want them to stay.” They are going to leave your site anyway! Give them good recommendations on where to go next, and it will increase your stature in their minds.
5) Wish lists. Many nonprofits do a great job educating their visitors about their issues and getting them fired up to help, but then leave them hanging, with no guidance on how they can help or act. Let people know what you need and how they can help. Wish lists can take many forms, from tasks that volunteers could do, to the types of in-kind donations you can use, to menus that outline what various levels of cash donations can pay for.