Smashing Magazine recently posted a useful article titled, “Non Profit Website Design: Examples and Best Practices” which contains a lot of great info. I would quibble slightly with their order of importance for these best practices.
I would also add up front: Make Your Site User Friendly and Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly. But these should just go without saying for any and every website. Integrated With Social Media is also important for most non profits, to varying degrees.
What follows is my edit of the original article: most of the material is theirs (mine is added in [square brackets]), and their ranking order is in (parentheses).
1. (7.) Know Your Site’s Purpose Up Front
The leaders of your organization (or whoever is in charge of the organization’s website) should make a list of what the goals for the site are before starting the design process. Whatever your purpose is, knowing it and communicating it to your designer [before] going into the design process will save headaches and delays down the road.
2. (5.) Make Sure Your Content Takes Center Stage
Take into account the types of information you’ll be providing on the site and the formats that will be used. Make sure your columns are wide enough to accommodate YouTube videos, for example. [Strategic content is a great way to "show, don't tell" about your organization's mission, team, and personality.]
3. (8.) Include a News Section or Blog
First, it gives people a reason to come back to your site.
Second, blogs and news sites are often quoted by other blogs and news sites. This increases the exposure for your site and will likely bring you more traffic.
Third, constantly-updated content increases your search engine visibility.
4. (not included) Make Your Site Client-Friendly
[If your organization is about helping people and if your site will be used to attract "clients," your home page and supporting pages should include language that speaks directly to potential clients, and does so in a respectful way.]
5. (2.) Make Your Site Media-Friendly
Make it easy for journalists to find information about your organization. Offer downloadable images from your site so journalists and bloggers don’t have to contact your and wait for a response. And include press-ready quotes, both from members and directors as well as outsiders.
6 & 7 (1. & 3.) [Depending on whether donations or volunteers are more critical to the success of your mission.]
Make Your Site Donor-Friendly
First, make sure your donation page is prominently linked from your home page.
Second, make the actual donation process as painless as possible.
Make Your Site Volunteer-Friendly
Make it easy for visitors to your site to find information on how they can get involved. Include an email address, phone number, and a web contact form if you can.
8. (6.) Make Sure Your Website is Consistent with Your Other Promotional Materials
Your website doesn’t have to match your print promotional materials exactly, but echoing the look and feel of those materials increases brand identity.
9. (4.) Make Sure Your Organization’s Purpose is Immediately Apparent
Putting an abbreviated mission statement right on the home page is one way to solve this. Another way is to put a prominent link somewhere on the home page that takes visitors to an about page that offers concise, plain-language (not “marketing-ese”) information about what the organization does. [I only made this one last because I'm working on the assumption that most people who visit your website will already have some basic knowledge of who you are and what you do. If that isn't the case, then I would rank this item second or third.]
I also edited the article down to make for a quicker read. Want more info? Read the original article.
photo credit: Johan Larsson via photopin cc