How Nonprofit Web Design Works: An Overview for Beginners

Whenever a potential supporter wants to learn more about your nonprofit’s mission, explore your current campaigns, or give an online gift, the first place they’re going to check is your website. That’s why it’s critical that your nonprofit web design is carefully crafted and aims to meet your audience’s unique needs. The global pandemic has put…

8 minutes read
How Nonprofit Web Design Works: An Overview for Beginners

Whenever a potential supporter wants to learn more about your nonprofit’s mission, explore your current campaigns, or give an online gift, the first place they’re going to check is your website. That’s why it’s critical that your nonprofit web design is carefully crafted and aims to meet your audience’s unique needs.

The global pandemic has put an indefinite pause on many of your organization’s usual in-person donor engagements and fundraising events. Your nonprofit website is more important than ever. Focusing on your virtual fundraising opportunities is key to overcoming the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to charitable giving strategies.

Whether you’re just starting a nonprofit or are simply looking to optimize your current website and fill in any gaps, understanding how nonprofit web design works will only help your organization in the long run.

At Cornershop Creative, we often partner with nonprofit marketing leaders struggling to optimize their websites and maximize all online opportunities. Social distancing guidelines are in place. We understand that nonprofit web design could be either what sustains your nonprofit fundraising during this time or hinders it. In this guide, we’ll be going over the following questions you should ask to ensure that you lay down the necessary foundation for a strong site:

  1. What tools do you need to create your nonprofit website?
  2. What nonprofit web design elements are necessary?
  3. How can you increase engagement with supporters through your nonprofit website?
  4. What’s the importance of web accessibility and nonprofit ADA compliance?

The best nonprofit web design considers its users’ goals and includes key elements. This will ensure a more streamlined and satisfying experience. In order to do this effectively, you need to plan accordingly and invest in the right type of tools to establish your nonprofit’s online presence. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

tools to create nonprofit website

In order to start working on your nonprofit web design, you’re going to need the tools to create the website along with the tools to support your online fundraising efforts. After all, the functions and capabilities you need for your nonprofit website will differ from those of personal blogs or retail sites.

Your nonprofit website needs to both facilitate digital fundraising while meeting the research needs of potential supporters. Determining the most effective tools for your organization’s website depends on your unique circumstances. There are some essential features that all nonprofit websites should have in their arsenal:

1.1 Content management system (CMS)

Your content management system is the tool that helps you create and organize the content on your website. Try to look for one that’s known for ease of use, such as one with drag-and-drop design functionality. At Cornershop, our favorite is WordPress. Not every nonprofit team has an expert coder at their disposal, so an effective but intuitive CMS is a great way to ensure your web design is up to par.

1.2 Online donation tool

Your website is likely where you’ll host your online donation pages with forms where users input their information to quickly and easily contribute! Make sure to find one that enables you to embed the form within your website— sending users to a third-party site can seem untrustworthy and breaks the streamlined process. The forms should be configurable, flexible, easy to replicate for special campaigns, and branded to your organization. In order to safely process payments, look for a donation tool with an integrated PCI-compliant payment processor.

1.3 Event management tool

One of the biggest ways that nonprofits engage their supporters and raise awareness for their cause is through fundraising events. While your in-person events are likely on a pause, many are turning to virtual experiences instead. If you’re planning a virtual fundraising event now or simply know that you’ll host events in the future. An event tool is crucial to handle ticketing, plan the event, and communicate with attendees.

If you are using WordPress as your CMS, do take a look at some of the best event calendar plugins on WordPress.

1.4 Constituent relationship management (CRM) system

Your nonprofit’s CRM is also known as your donor database. All of your fundraising data and donor engagements should be tracked and stored in this one location. Make sure that the other tools your organization uses integrate with each other and with your CRM, ensuring freely flowing data into a centralized location. This includes website metrics from your CMS, background information for donors, and attendee details from any events!

With the right toolkit, you’ll be able to create your website and know that it’s meeting all of your fundraising needs. Move forward with designing your website with confidence.

nonprofit web design

Your nonprofit web design will likely consist of your organization’s branding, media and text content, and structure of the pages. According to this article on the best nonprofit websites, your web design should keep in mind ease of use, convenience, and your site visitors’ goals. This way, your website is laid out in a way that encourages conversions, whether that’s through online donations, event registrations, or something else.

2.1 Consistent branding

Throughout your entire website, you should have consistent branding through color scheme, language, and a logo. This assures users that they can trust any webpage they land on, especially if it’s one that they have to input any sensitive information into.

2.2 Type of content

The type of content your nonprofit puts on your website ultimately depends on the type of organization you are and the audience you cater to. In regard to how you display the content, the general advice is to stay away from large chunks of text and use a good mix of visual media, with both photos and videos.

Visual media is a great way to engage supporters without using a lot of words. With strong graphics, infographics, iconography, and other supplementary images, users will understand volumes about your organization even before they’ve read a single word. If your images don’t speak to your mission, your visitors won’t understand your mission.

2.3 Structure of your website components

The structure of your website components also plays an important role in effective website design. After all, a website that’s cluttered with too many elements might be overwhelming for the user and cause them to click away or “bounce” from the site. Your website’s layout also contributes to its navigability. It shouldn’t be hard for supporters or interested parties to find the information they’re looking for. If it takes more than 20 seconds, people often find it’s not worth it and move on.

The best way to organize your website’s content is with a clear and accessible navigation menu. This can either run throughout the header or side of your website and should stay present throughout the various pages. Your navigation menu should host the most popular website pages, providing your visitors with quick and easy access to what they likely seek the most.

For instance, your menu should direct visitors to the following pages:

  • Mission Statement page
  • About Us page
  • Homepage
  • Event Calendar/Registration page
  • Join/Email Subscription page
  • Online Donation page
  • Connections to social media
  • Contact Us page

Your nonprofit web design can either guide your supporters for making a gift or be the reason why they don’t. Ensure you effectively employ these crucial design elements and keep these best practices in mind to capture as many donations and engage new supporters as possible.

increase nonprofit engagement

According to Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics page, online giving is a trend that has been growing for some time. Just in the past year, online giving has grown 12.1%. Focusing on increasing these opportunities will only set you up for success. But how exactly can your nonprofit web design increase online engagement with supporters?

While your nonprofit website is a great tool to introduce your organization to supporters, it can also be used to set up the foundation for future engagement. This can be done by incorporating site elements that incentivize support or by leveraging key data for communication down the line.

Consider the following engagement strategies you can incorporate:

3.1 Incorporate calls-to-action (CTAs)

CTAs are buttons, links, or even appeals in plain text that help guide supporters to take a target action. For example, many nonprofits include CTAs linking to fundraising pages in their email newsletters and blog posts. This encourages readers to quickly give if they feel inspired. CTAs are a fundamental tool that leverages that moment of inspiration to give (or other ways to support) and provides supporters a quick and easy way to do so. With CTAs, you can help to facilitate that user’s initial giving journey.

3.2 Create targeted forms where supporters can opt-in to be a part of a subscription email list.

Oftentimes, someone exploring your website stumbles upon something that really resonates with them. This is the moment to provide them with ways to communicate with your organization on the topic in the future. By embedding customized subscription forms within various web pages, you give users the opportunity to keep up their engagement with you. For instance, embed this type of form into your events calendar to create an email list catering to event announcements and updates.

3.3 Leverage data from other fundraising tools.

It’s crucial that your tools are integrated and seamlessly work together. This way, you’ll have a centralized resource of supporter data you can use to communicate with them in the future. For instance, data is taken from your online donation and event registration forms on your website. This can be used to determine contact information and personalize your marketing content. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than those without.

Your website design can be used as a key tool to foster supporter engagement and continue those important relationships. Further, your design can encourage site visitors to input information that can further optimize those engagements.

nonprofit web design

Web accessibility describes the idea that the internet’s content is usable for all, no matter individuals’ disabilities, languages, location, device.

This is important to ensure fairness and equality to internet users and to increase web traffic for your nonprofit organization.

When websites or applications don’t consider web accessibility, this can create barriers and unintentionally exclude some of your important supporters. For example, let’s say your website relies heavily on the use of images or videos. Without alternative text, those with a visual impairment may have trouble engaging with your content.

To ensure that your nonprofit website is designed with accessibility in mind, you need intuitive and smart design as well as regulatory compliance. Regulatory compliance describes the steps that organizations need to take to comply with official legislation and policies. In particular, nonprofits need to be aware of the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA).

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Currently, the ADA applies to any organization with 15 or more employees or are “public accommodations.” According to the 2019 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, some organizations’ websites (including nonprofits) are considered public accommodations and will violate the ADA if they are not accessible to those with visual, auditory, and other disabilities.

This means that for your nonprofit if you don’t prioritize web accessibility, this could result in legal consequences.

There are some quick ways you can tweak your website to meet the principles of accessible design:

  • Make sure you include a text alternative for any non-text content, like images, video, and audio.
  • Ensure that your website, especially your online donation and event registration forms, can be used on any size device. Mobile-friendly websites are critical now, as mobile giving and text fundraising become more popular.
  • Provide clear page titles and label entry fields.
  • Avoid flashy elements and bright lights to protect those that are seizure-prone.

Include clear CTAs and an easily navigable menu to promote the website user experience and convenience.

Taking the steps above can ensure that your website is accessible to all and regulatory compliant. For more in-depth help specific to your nonprofit website, working with a consultant is your best bet.


Your nonprofit web design is crucial to ensure you spread the word of your mission and promote your fundraising efforts. With a global pandemic keeping most of us indoors, these online engagements are more important than ever! Make sure you keep your supporters’ needs in mind and ensure accessibility to all. Good luck!

About the Author

With 15 years’ experience, Ira Horowitz is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations. Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategic goals for online communications.

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