Every nonprofit organization, irrespective of size or cause, needs a robust online presence to amplify its mission. Your website serves as the virtual front door—allowing donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries to connect with your vision and initiatives. It facilitates fundraising and promotes transparency. More importantly, you can showcase projects and expand outreach to a global audience—ultimately making a more significant impact!
Unfortunately, tight budgets and limited staffing can make a professional website feel elusive. From technical challenges to strategic content curation and user experience design—how can one person know it all?
You don’t have to do it alone! WordPress.com is here to help. Read our complete website-building guide for nonprofits so you can start creating beautiful and functional websites without breaking the bank.
In this article:
- Why Use WordPress for Your Nonprofit Website?
- Understand the Purpose of Your Nonprofit Site
- Setting Up Your Site
- Add Pages and Navigation
- Unique Needs and Considerations for Nonprofit Websites
- Content Must-Haves
- Functional Must-Haves
- Promoting Your Nonprofit Site
- Connecting and Setting Up Analytics for a WordPress Nonprofit Site
Why Use WordPress for Your Nonprofit Website?
WordPress is a unique and powerful website-building platform that gives you the flexibility to create custom designs cost-effectively. 43% of websites on the Internet today are powered by WordPress—including some top brands like Disney, Target, and the New York Times.
Benefits of WordPress for Nonprofit Websites
With thousands of themes and plugins available, WordPress provides a platform that can start simple and grow with your organization. There’s a WordPress feature for everything a nonprofit might need—whether you want to integrate a donation button, create an event calendar, or showcase success stories.
WordPress’s intuitive dashboard ensures even non-technical team members can manage content as required. With the right plugins and strategies, administrators can also make your nonprofit site rank well in search engines, ensuring greater visibility for your cause.
Best of all, our platform offers a range of free and premium options to cater to varied financial capacities without compromising quality.
Choosing WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
At its core, WordPress is an open source software project built and maintained by a community of skilled designers, bloggers, developers, and scientists. It is powered by PHP and MySQL, two of the primary technologies behind most internet applications and websites. If you understand the technical nitty-gritty (or have team members who do so), WordPress.org is for you. It is totally free of cost and offers greater customization and control, but it requires you to handle hosting, security, backups, and other technical details, along with their associated costs.
However, if you want to focus on design and content without worrying about technicality, WordPress.com is the version you should pick. It is a fully managed solution that handles everything from hosting to security. A wide range of free and custom themes are available so you can design a website that meets your budget and operational requirements.
For most nonprofits, especially those just starting or those without dedicated IT teams, WordPress.com is the more convenient choice, offering a balance of customization and managed services.
Choosing your WordPress.com plan
While WordPress.com has various plans, we recommend the following for non-profits.
Premium offers unlimited free and premium themes, built-in newsletter integration for donor email lists, live-chat support with our technical team, and the capabilities to accept payments and run ads – all at a fixed and low monthly cost of less than $10/month.
Our Business plan is suitable for non-profits with a broad national or international reach. For an extra $20/month, the plan offers all Premium features plus access to 50,000+ plugins, design templates, and integrations, unrestricted bandwidth, and global content delivery from 28 locations so your users can experience high-speed content access no matter where they log in from. You also get enhanced website security protection from a web application firewall (WAF) to block malicious activity. You never have to fret about getting too much traffic or paying overage charges.
Choosing the right plan is about assessing your organization’s current needs and growth. Remember, starting small and upgrading as your online presence expands is always possible.
Understand the Purpose of Your Nonprofit Site
Now that you have chosen WordPress, you may be excited to begin. But before creating your nonprofit website online, you must plan the design first. This basically means brainstorming ideas with your main stakeholders and identifying critical features. Think of it as crafting a roadmap for your website, ensuring every element you introduce serves a purpose and propels your mission forward. Consider the following as you plan.
Audience – Who Do You Serve?
Identify the age, gender, location, and other vital characteristics of your primary audience. What are the challenges faced by your audience? How do they prefer to engage with organizations like yours? Is it through reading stories, watching videos, or attending events?
If possible, collect feedback from your existing supporters or beneficiaries. You can use their insights to build a persona—a semi-fictional representation of your ideal website visitor based on actual data. For example, the persona for a food charity could be a female in her mid-thirties who enjoys reading, yoga, community involvement, and sustainable living.
Detailed personas can guide your website’s tone, content, and features. You can craft more resonant messaging if you design the website for the persona instead of a generic audience.
Mission – How Do You Serve Them?
Clearly define what sets your organization apart. Reflect on past accomplishments and the stories that have shaped your journey. List out all the initiatives, projects, and services you provide. How can these be best represented to align with your overarching mission? Why should someone support your cause over others? You can also analyze competitor websites to identify best practices and potential areas of differentiation.
Identifying your mission will help you create a website wireframe—a basic blueprint showing elements’ placement on a page without detailed design attributes. You can also plan your site’s user journey by identifying a logical flow of information, clear calls to action, and page navigation. At this stage, you want to determine:
- The names and content of your service pages
- The functionality you need, such as an online store, appointment booking, donation buttons, or gift registries.
- Ways you can monetize your site—advertisements, blogs, sponsored pages, or premium content accessible by paid users and login functionality.
- Data you want to capture, such as donor, beneficiary, sponsor, or general site visitor.
Goals – What Do You Want to Achieve With Your Site?
A pivotal goal for many nonprofits is to secure donations. How can your site be optimized to make the donation process seamless and compelling? You may also have several secondary goals, such as:
- Educate and inform a broader audience about your cause and its importance.
- Foster deeper connections by encouraging visitors to participate in discussions, events, or volunteer opportunities.
- Cultivate a digital community where like-minded individuals can connect, share, and collaborate.
Thinking about goals can help you design your main website elements—the homepage, site header, footer, and menu bar. By understanding and outlining these foundational elements, you can confidently make subsequent design and content decisions.
Setting Up Your Site
With a website design plan in place, you are now ready to work out the details. Let’s start with the basics.
Choose your domain name
Your domain name is the name visitors type in their browsers to access your site. <example-non-profit.com> They work together but are two distinct things. Think of your domain name as a location or address on a map and your website as your home where you store your content.
You can find and choose domain names here. You typically have to pay a small annual fee to reserve the name and ensure no one else claims or copies it. WordPress domain names come with built-in SSL certificates, so your site visitors see a lock icon on their browsers when they visit your site. The lock icon inspires trust and encourages them to perform financial transactions knowing that you will secure their confidential information.
Choose your theme
Now for the fun part! You have to start by picking a theme for your website.
A WordPress theme is a collection of files (templates and stylesheets) that determine the appearance and design of a WordPress-powered website. Themes provide much more than basic styling—they also offer control over the visual presentation of the site’s content and the user experience. You can install and activate them with just a few clicks and customize them as needed.
Your WordPress theme brings your design to life. We have a range of themes specially made to meet the requirements of nonprofits. For example:
Cultivate is a theme that supports community building and cause-driven organizations with features like earning memberships, taking donations, collecting emails, sharing news, and more.
Stratford is a theme supporting all educational initiatives with a youthful and vibrant design and effective navigation options.
Yuna is a versatile, easy-to-use theme with a modern look and feel. It has a clean, positive vibe with endless options to customize the theme for your cause. It includes dozens of beautifully designed block patterns, typography, headers, footers, and color options that you can mix and match to bring almost any idea to life.
Choose your plugins
WordPress plugins are modular extensions that add specific functionality to a WordPress website. They enhance or extend the capabilities of your site from small additions like social media buttons to large, complex features like e-commerce systems. They enable website owners to add a wide range of functionalities without knowing how to code. With a Business plan or higher, you can enable any of the thousands of available plugins on your WordPress.com website. Some plugin examples for nonprofit charities include:
- Donorbox is a powerful and secure donation management plugin for WordPress.
- Wired Impact Volunteer Management is a simple, free way to keep track of your nonprofit’s volunteers and opportunities.
- Event Tickets and Registration is a plugin that lets you sell tickets and collect RSVPs to events directly from your website.
While plugins add a lot of beneficial functionality, it is important to remember that adding too many may negatively impact a website’s performance and loading times. Besides, not all plugins are compatible with all themes or other plugins. It’s essential to test plugins to ensure there aren’t any conflicts. It’s always a good idea to be mindful of the number and quality of plugins being used on your website.
Add Pages and Navigation
Your basic site structure is ready once you have your theme and plugins in place. If you compare building your website to building a house, you now have a solid building with all the electronics, plumbing, and structure done. It is now time to start adding in the details!
Each page on your website serves as a room with a specific purpose. Here are the primary “rooms” or pages you should consider adding:
This is the front door to your website. It should communicate who you are and what you do at a glance. Make it visually appealing with slider images, videos, icons, and clear messaging. You do not want large blocks of text on this page. Include a clear call-to-action, like “Donate Now” or “Learn More About Our Mission.”
This is where you delve deeper into your organization’s history, vision, mission, and values. Use engaging visuals and compelling stories to depict the journey and impact of your nonprofit. Make sure to come across as personable but professional. The story isn’t about you but what you can do for your reader.
Make this process as seamless as possible. List out donation options (one-time, recurring, in someone’s honor, etc.), include varied payment methods, and ensure the transaction is secure. Always thank donors after they contribute and consider integrating stories or visuals that show the direct impact of their generosity.
This should provide various ways for visitors to get in touch – email, phone number, a contact form, and possibly your organization’s physical address. Ensure you also include links to your social media profiles.
A dynamic space to share updates, success stories, upcoming events, and other relevant content. Regular blog posts can keep your audience engaged and improve your SEO. We talk more about this later in the article.
Your website’s menu is like the signage inside a building, guiding visitors to different sections. Most themes will have primary and secondary menu locations, usually at the top or footer of the site. Here’s how to set it up.
- Go to your WordPress website dashboard, then navigate to Appearance > Menus.
- Create a new menu and add the pages you’ve just created.
- Arrange them in the order you want them to appear, typically with the Homepage first.
- Save the menu and assign it to the locations suitable for your theme.
Header and Footer
The header and footer are like the ceiling and floor of your house, ever-present and framing your content.
The header is prime real estate, as it is visible on top of every page. Incorporate your logo, tagline, and the primary navigation menu. Some themes may allow for a banner image or call-to-action buttons in the header.
Unique Needs and Considerations for Nonprofit Websites
Now that your basic website is ready, it is time to customize. You can change font, colors, and style, but more is needed! Nonprofit organizations serve crucial societal roles, and your website should effectively reflect your mission and cater to your unique operational needs. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of what every nonprofit should consider when customizing their website.
Your nonprofit website’s content should inspire trust, touch emotions, and motivate generosity. Some ideas:
Clear Mission Statement
The heartbeat of your organization should echo throughout your site. An articulated mission statement ensures visitors instantly grasp your organization’s core purpose.
Stories of Impact
Transcend numbers by sharing heartfelt testimonials, powerful stories, and engaging case studies that bring your mission to life.
Showcase the dedicated souls powering your mission, lending a personal touch and emphasizing organizational integrity. Remember to highlight board members and their leadership experience to inspire trust further.
Partners and Sponsors
Shine a spotlight on your invaluable collaborators, which can also inspire future partnerships.
Facilitate community action through intuitive and persuasive call-to-action prompts for donations, volunteering, and event involvement.
Equip your audience with curated resources that augment your mission and provide genuine value. This could be blogs, newsletters, magazines, ebooks, podcasts, or other video content you regularly create.
Apart from good content, your site must have the functionality needed to drive change, increase revenue, and grow your project. Consider adding the following.
Streamlining the giving process is essential. Multiple donation options like one-time, recurring, or give-a-gift allow donors flexibility in how they contribute. Varied payment methods like PayPal, credit cards, and cryptocurrency broaden your fund base.
Be transparent and offer clarity on how each donation is utilized. Bolster trust by openly displaying and allowing users to download annual reports, financial breakdowns, and details that underline your organization’s credibility.
Clearly present how passionate individuals can get involved, what’s required of them, and what they stand to gain. Make volunteer sign-up easy and use plugins to integrate functionality like sending automatic reminders to volunteers before events.
Monthly or annual retainer members provide a steady revenue stream for improved outreach. Create a member portal for regular donors and visitors. Lay out the perks of becoming an official member and simplify the joining process.
Keep your community informed and engaged with an interactive calendar spotlighting key events and activities. Strengthen your bond with supporters by keeping them in the loop with regular newsletters.
Social Media Integration
Amplify your reach and foster community spirit with integrated social platforms and feeds. Your website can showcase content from other assets like YouTube, Instagram, and Spotify all in one place.
Monetize branded merchandise or relevant products, turning them into additional fundraising streams. You may also consider tying up with local businesses and selling relevant items donated by them.
Champion inclusivity by ensuring your website is navigable and usable for all, including those with disabilities.
Promoting Your Nonprofit Site
Your non-profit website is ready! Whether you had a big launch party or quietly rolled it out—don’t be surprised if no one shows up initially. Building your website is just the first step. It takes more planning and marketing effort to drive traffic to the site. Here are effective strategies to increase website engagement.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimizing websites to improve their visibility in search engine results pages. The goal is to attract more organic (non-paid) traffic by ranking higher for specific keywords or phrases relevant to the website’s content. A higher ranking in search engines generally leads to more visibility, clicks, and potential engagement or conversions.
The first step is identifying keywords relevant to your nonprofit’s mission, activities, and audience. Tools like Google Keyword Planner show you a range of keywords and related metrics for specific ideas. Prioritize keywords that have a good search volume but less competition.
You must then use the keywords repeatedly but meaningfully in your page content, page headers, and image descriptions. WordPress.com is SEO-friendly from the start. But you can also choose to install one of several high-quality SEO plugins, like Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack, and SEOPress, to enhance your optimization efforts
You can also try the following to increase organic (un-paid) traffic.
Earn backlinks – links from other sites pointing back to your site – from authoritative sites in your niche. Guest posting, collaborations, and partnerships can be great ways to achieve this.
If your nonprofit operates in specific locations, you can also consider optimizing for local search. This includes creating or claiming a Google My Business listing and gathering positive reviews.
Engage on Social Media
While social signals aren’t a direct ranking factor, there’s a correlation between popular content on social media and search engine ranking. Active participation on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram keeps your cause top-of-mind and fosters a digital community. Promote your content, engage with followers, and encourage sharing.
Utilize Google Grants
As a nonprofit, you may be eligible for Google Ad Grants, which offer free advertising on Google Ads. While this is technically not SEO, it is still a cost-effective option for nonprofits to increase visibility and drive traffic.
Other Marketing Ideas
High-quality content amplifies your mission, increases keyword density, and improves search rankings.
- Share stories of the individuals or communities you’ve impacted, updates about your projects, and insights about your cause.
- Create touching documentaries, interviews with beneficiaries, or behind-the-scenes clips of your initiatives.
- Publish infographics with data related to your cause, showing the problems you’re tackling and your progress.
- You can also start a podcast series discussing issues your non-profit addresses, interviewing experts, or sharing success stories.
- Remember to backlink your website when publishing content on other channels.
You can also promote your website through other traditional and digital marketing methods. For example, you can try the following.
Send monthly or quarterly updates showcasing your recent projects, upcoming events, and success stories. Design specific email campaigns around fundraising drives, emphasizing the impact of donations. Customize your emails based on the audience. For example, volunteers might receive different emails than donors. Always backlink to your website in every email campaign.
You can always harness traditional media channels to raise awareness about your website. For example, whenever you have a significant event or milestone, issue a press release to local newspapers, TV stations, and radio channels that includes your website details. Partner with local media houses to get features or interviews about your work and mention your website name several times during the interview
Host online webinars and workshops discussing issues related to your cause, sharing your work, or training volunteers. Consider virtual walkathons, auctions, or concerts, especially if physical events aren’t feasible. Organize or participate in local community events, setting up booths to educate attendees about your cause. Always share event tickets or flyers with website backlinks to promote your site.
Recruit and train passionate individuals to become ambassadors for your cause, spreading the word in their communities. Encourage supporters to bring friends or family to events, donate, or volunteer, possibly offering some form of recognition or reward.
Connecting and Setting Up Analytics for a WordPress Nonprofit Site
Congratulation! Finally, your website is pulling in some donations and showing up in some search results. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels. The digital landscape is incredibly competitive, and you can be pushed out of search faster than you imagine. Continuous improvement is the only way to stay relevant.
It is essential to understand your audience’s behavior and how they interact with your website. Analytics tools provide invaluable insights that can help you refine your strategies, improve user experience, and enhance the impact of your site. Let’s dive into setting up some of the most popular analytics tools for a WordPress nonprofit site.
Google Analytics offers a comprehensive view of your website’s traffic, user behavior, and other vital metrics.
- Head to the Google Analytics website and sign up for a Google Analytics Account.
- Once registered, create a new property for your nonprofit site.
- You’ll be provided with a unique tracking code.
- If you have a Premium or Business plan at WordPress.com, you can enable Google Analytics with just a simple setting. Follow these instructions to enable it.
- Once set up, data will start flowing into your Google Analytics dashboard.
- Check for metrics like user demographics, page views, bounce rate, and more.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console gives insights into your website’s search performance and potential issues affecting visibility on Google search.
- Navigate to the Google Search Console website and sign up or log in with your Google account.
- Enter your nonprofit site’s URL and click ‘Add Property.’
- Verify site ownership by using the HTML tag method.
- Copy the tag and paste it into your website’s ‘Head’ section.
Plugins, like Insert Headers and Footers, can help you with this. After verification, data will start to populate your dashboard. You can check for metrics like search queries, total clicks, and impressions here. It will also notify you of any site errors or indexing issues.
Jetpack Stats offers a more straightforward approach to analytics, integrated directly into your WordPress dashboard. All WordPress.com sites include built-in analytics called Jetpack Stats.
Now, you’ll see a new ‘Stats’ tab on your WordPress dashboard. Click on it to view insights like daily views, top posts, and referral sources.
Building a non-profit website can seem like a mammoth undertaking. You must first plan your design, and then choose the right tools to create, promote, and monitor the website.
While the learning curve is steep, you don’t have to do it alone! WordPress.com themes and plugins can help you add all design, functionality, SEO, and analytics capabilities your website requires. All you need to do is start with a WordPress.com plan and a domain name.
Then experiment with different themes and add functionality one plugin at a time. Once you have a basic working website, roll it out and monitor usage. Keep improving design based on user and stakeholder feedback.
Your WordPress website will help your nonprofit grow, and your WordPress.com account will always be able to grow with you!
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