EPISODE 9: Building a website for social impact organisations
Now that you have great communication content, showcase it!
Do I really need a website?
In short, yes. For a social impact organisation, a website is your digital ‘business card’ - a home for all your business information, articles and images. Websites have largely replaced brochures and information packets, which are too cumbersome to distribute (and in the age of Covid, sharing physical items suddenly seems a bit sinister). Plus, websites can be regularly updated with new information and features.
Can social media platforms replace a website?
People aren’t using websites in the same way as they did in the past. Now, there are different communication channels, many of which will drive interactions more than a website. In fact, social media and e-newsletters can be a much more effective way of getting your message out there, sharing content and updates. Why is this? Think about how many websites you actively seek out in a day. Personally, I open my email inbox and social media feeds every day, but only visit a website if the link is featured on one of these platforms, or if I am searching for something specific via Google.
Your website then, should centralise and compliment your social media presence (after all, it’s the place your posts will point to) but it can’t replace them. Also, don’t forget the value of good SEO. If you rank highly on Google’s search engine, you could even get some cold enquiries too (we do!).
Do I need a web developer to build my website?
With platforms like Wix and Squarespace, anyone can create a website. Even I’ve done it, and I’m as technology-inept as they come! A quick Google search and you’ll also find a host of different agencies that will help develop your site. Most are paid for, of course, but we know some great organisations that have managed to get pro-bono website design, too. If you have the budget, I recommend the lovely Gabriella Mikiewicz, graphic design and communication expert who builds beautiful websites at a reasonable rate.
How many pages should your website have?
Websites are very individual. Some organisations will have big-budget sites full of gadgets galore. For others (like yours perhaps) a homepage and a blog might well be enough. Foundation First’s website is short and sweet with one page, a donate page, and blog. The homepage contains all the necessary information, and they use colour blocking to help the audience easily distinguish between sections.
However, if your organisation is running multiple services or projects, I recommend giving each a separate page. Educating the Children’s website is a fantastic example of how to clearly showcase various projects without having a site that feels overwhelming. We also love Helium Art’s website, which has great navigation and an active gallery, news and story section that helps bring their work to life.
What should be on your website?
Throughout the Step change: a roadmap for new fundraisers series, we’ve worked through varied communication pieces which can be reworked to help create content for your new site. But how to structure it? Here are some of the key elements you might want to include:
This is the first page a visitor will see, so it should provide a brief overview of your organisation without bombarding them with details. Also, keep in mind that people are busy, so they may not click onto other pages or even scroll down. Carefully consider what information you communicate on that first screen. It might be the only opportunity you get!
Overview: Concisely introduce your organisation by using the tips from Episode 1: The elevator pitch. Don’t forget to mention where you work!
Impact numbers: Use Episode 6: How to demonstrate your impact to identify a few key numbers that you can share about your organisation.
Donate button: It’s important to choose a platform that is safe and convenient for donors, but do keep in mind that third-party donation platforms will usually charge fees. Want to learn more about options for the donate page? Check out this article published by the Access Group.
Contact information: Share your email or social media channels. To avoid getting spammed by bots, consider writing your email address like this: emailaccount [at] provider [dot] com.
Charity information: Include your registered charity number in the footer (if you have one).
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance: Ensure you’re complying with the data protection regulations in your country. Most website builder platforms offer some support for this and you can find more information here.
While not completely necessary (Jen has only just set hers up!), a blog or news page is a good way to keep your website active, which increases your ranking in the mysterious algorithms of search engines like Google. You can also link your articles in social media or newsletters to drive traffic to your website (and hopefully, to your donate button).
Not sure what to blog about? Start by taking photos and writing brief articles about your organisation’s activities. Regularly recording activities is a good habit for your team, and you can use these articles to look past on previous activities to learn. Opinion pieces about your focus area will get more engagement than descriptions of activities, but do keep in mind that these will attract more controversies than descriptive pieces. While this will increase engagement and traffic, it comes with the risk of angering or your alienating your audience. Ensure your opinion pieces are well-considered, backed by evidence, and something you’re proud to stand by before posting.
About us: Tell the story of your organisation. Why was it established? Does the founder have an interesting or inspirational story?
Staff bios: Who is running the organisation? Share headshots and bios of the team.
Map: Where do you work?
Impact stories: Don’t forget the power of storytelling! Learn how to craft a compelling story in Episode 5: Why stories matter.
Videos or photo slideshow: A picture says a thousand words! Adding photos from the field can help your audience connect with your work. If you have a lot of information to share, why not try using an infographic? (Check out Episode 4 for more details).
Awards or partners logos: Verification is very important, especially in the crowded social impact space, so your audience will be interested in who you are working with or have worked with in the past. Also, most smaller partner organisations will appreciate the shout-out! Frontier Markets does an excellent job showcasing their partners.
Consistent colour scheme: Will give your site a professional look and feel - just like Save a Child have done with the way they’ve coordinated text, images, and blocks with their logo.
Custom illustrations: Photographs are a great way to showcase your work, but adding too many to your website can be ‘too busy’ and might not highlight the key aspects of your work. Pencils of Promise uses a combination of high-resolution photographs and custom illustrations for a clean, minimalist website. Illustrations can also help you colour-coordinate your website.
Contact form: Most website building platforms have a standard contact form. I’ve found that the contact form on my website fills up with spam, so you might want to consider adding CAPTCHA security features to ensure that you only receive responses from humans.
Phew. Looking at the list, it all sounds a bit daunting. Don’t worry. It’s easy to get carried away adding content to your website, but I honestly believe that simple is always best. Most people won’t have time to shift through multiple pages and loads of text. It will be easier for your audience if your website is straightforward, clean, and the key information is highlighted. If you have information that doesn’t seem to fit in the website, consider crafting them into blog articles, which you can organise with tags to make the information more accessible.
A quick warning: Speaking from my experience, a website is never finished! I thought building a website would simply be checking something off my to-do list, but I’ve since discovered that it’s a never-ending process. I regularly update mine with new information and photos, restructure or move icons around to make it more user-friendly, and add more features like a sign-up form for my newsletter. Even if you have someone else build your website, be sure that you’re comfortable making changes because it will save you headaches down the road.
This article was brought to you by Molly & Jen as part of our Step Change series. Click here to find out more.