Your nonprofit’s website is the most valuable marketing tool you have at your disposal. It serves as a hub of information about your organization’s mission and impact, as well as the main location where supporters can donate and get involved. Your organization can also interface directly with supporters through your website in several ways, like responding to contact forms, acknowledging blog comments, and publicly recognizing donors.
Having an engaging, informative website is also important when you consider that those who encounter your nonprofit through other channels will likely visit your website to find out more. While emails, direct mail, social media, flyers, and word-of-mouth marketing are all effective for spreading awareness, you can only fit so much information into each piece of content you create for these channels. On your website, though, the possibilities are endless.
To get the most out of your nonprofit’s website, you’ll need to design it for your target audience. But that target audience is likely more complex than you’d initially think. In this guide, we’ll answer key questions about identifying and tailoring content for your website’s audience, including:
- What groups of people are included in your website audience?
- How do you learn more about your audience?
- How do you design your website with your audience in mind?
Every nonprofit has different needs and goals, so you’ll want to evaluate the suggestions in this article to determine which ones will be most effective for you. Then, use those strategies to design your website with your audience in mind. If you need help getting started or have questions along the way, you can always reach out to a nonprofit web design agency to collaborate on all your audience-related needs.
What groups of people are included in your audience?
Most brands focus on promoting their products or services primarily to consumers. Nonprofits differ from these other brands in that they have to sell and promote their mission instead of a product or service. They also need to address many more groups of people in order to make an impact.
Some of the potential groups visiting your nonprofit’s website for information about your organization include (but are not limited to):
- Current and prospective donors. A well-crafted website is important for your nonprofit’s financial success. Donors will read about your mission on your About page and see the ways your organization has made an impact to decide whether to contribute. They can then navigate to your donation page to make that gift directly through your site.
- Volunteers. Volunteers will interact with your website similarly to donors in that they’ll use the information you provide to decide if they want to devote their time to your organization. Some volunteers may overlap with the donor group, and you might convert others into donors in the future. But it’s often useful to consider volunteers as a separate group for some web design decisions, like when you’re adding volunteer registration forms to your site.
- Board members. Having access to engagement data from your website in addition to the site itself will help them make informed decisions. Board members are typically donors to the nonprofits they serve, so they may also choose to give online.
- Individuals your nonprofit serves. When someone first benefits from your organization’s work, they may visit your website to see the other impacts you’ve made. If they send their story to your nonprofit and you post it on your website, they’ll likely share it with others in their social circles to spread the word about your organization.
- Sponsors. If you host an event and ask businesses to sponsor it, they’ll look at your website to decide whether they want to support your efforts. They’ll evaluate this based on how your organization’s values line up with theirs and what sponsors you’ve gotten for past events.
- Policymakers. Especially if your nonprofit participates in any advocacy efforts, community leaders and lawmakers will likely use your website to discover why you’re passionate about certain issues and whether your organization is a reliable source of information on those topics.
For most nonprofits, there is a need to appeal to the general public through your website. But Loop’s guide to nonprofit web design best practices suggests prioritizing more specific audiences in order to hone your design strategies and get the most out of your resources.
How do you learn more about your audience?
When your nonprofit goes about trying to understand your audience, you’ll likely start by reviewing the data you’ve collected on your supporters, outreach strategies, and initiatives. Donors and volunteers will likely be the easiest groups to access direct data on through your CRM because that software can produce reports using the information it stores. But you can use other analytics sources to make inferences about your other audiences.
To learn more about your audience, start by following four basic steps:
1. Determine what demographics you attract.
Demographics, or population statistics, are the most basic starting point for discovering information about your audience. Some common demographic factors to consider include:
- Education level
- Relationship/family status
These factors give you a general idea of which population groups interact with your nonprofit, specifically your website. You can collect some of this information from event registration records, online donation forms, membership profiles, and other resources. Then, you can store all of this data in your nonprofit CRM to refer back to over time.
2. Analyze past engagement statistics for supporters.
You’ll likely want to start with the donor and volunteer groups in figuring out how and why each audience visits your website. That way, you can determine which supporters have the highest lifetime value for your organization and who will be most likely to contribute again. Engagement data will help you to understand your supporters in this way, especially the following factors:
- Type of involvement, or whether they tend to donate, volunteer, or attend events most often.
- Recency and frequency of engagement, so you can prioritize supporters currently involved with your organization and interact with it often.
- Amount of involvement, which can refer to the total time a supporter has spent volunteering and attending events or the total financial contributions they’ve made to your nonprofit.
- Motivation for engagement, because knowing why supporters tend to get involved with your nonprofit (a personal connection to your mission, confidence in your ability to make an impact, the fact that they enjoy your events and volunteer opportunities more than those of other organizations, or for other reasons) will influence the content you create for your website.
Engagement statistics are part of a type of data known as psychographics, which relates to the emotional and behavioral characteristics of your audience. What psychographic information is most important will vary depending on each group that your organization targets.
3. Segment supporters and create sample personas.
Next, combine the demographic and engagement data that you’ve collected to create supporter segments or groups that share similar characteristics and may interact with your website in particular ways. For example, you might have a segment of older recurring donors who always download and print your annual report. Or, you could have a group of millennial supporters who use your site to register for the volunteer opportunities and events they see on social media.
For each segment, create a sample persona detailing the common demographic and psychographic characteristics that supporters belonging to that group share. Add these personas to your nonprofit brand guide so that anyone working on your website can reference them at any time. When you create new content, you might refer back to a persona to ensure the content matches the general interests of your targeted supporter segment.
4. Consider the psychographic profiles of your other audiences.
Many nonprofits focus their supporter profiles on those who directly contribute to the nonprofit—usually donors and volunteers. But there are other prospective supporters who you can build relationships with through your website to support your organization’s mission. These audiences could become donors in the future or support your nonprofit in other ways.
For your website audience members who don’t currently fall into the categories of donors or volunteers, you might need to dig a little deeper to access psychographic information about them. But putting in that extra effort will help you to consider their specific needs as they relate to your website and add an audience profile for each group to your brand guide.
Some resources you may find helpful in this process include:
- Board meeting records.
- Success stories sent in by beneficiaries.
- Feedback surveys from past event sponsors.
- Responses to any advocacy campaigns you’ve run.
Once you’ve reached a point in your audience research where you feel like you have a good understanding of each of them, you may develop additional segments and personas to represent these groups. You can then incorporate their viewpoints and interests into your web design as well.
How do you design your website with your audience in mind?
Audience-driven web design will not only fit into your nonprofit’s overall branding strategy but also shape the general feel of your website content. Some best practices for designing your website to meet your audience’s needs include:
- Maintaining consistent visual branding. Use the same color scheme and typefaces across every page of your website. Make sure that all the images you include also point back to your mission in a way that your audiences will be receptive to.
- Writing engaging website copy. People tend to skim content more on a screen than on paper, so break up text on your website with headings and bullet points to help your audience quickly identify the most important information.
- Testing your navigation and accessibility. Check the back end of your website to ensure that all users can interact with your website effectively, no matter what type of electronic device or assistive technology they may use.
- Keeping your designs simple but memorable. Top Nonprofits’ compilation of nonprofit graphic design tips suggests balancing simplicity with creativity as you design your website. This helps make your designs stand out and stick in audience members’ minds.
Once your website design is up to speed, you can add links—especially to your About page and your donation page—to other marketing materials through email embeds, social media post captions, and QR codes on printed materials to expand your site’s reach.
Many important audiences influence your nonprofit’s ability to make an impact, and you’ll want your website design to appeal to each of them. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to having a nonprofit website that any and all audiences find engaging and informative.