5 Mistakes Nonprofit Websites Make

Steve MacLaughlin - 08.17.2009

The first website went up 18 years ago this month. Websites have done a lot of growing up since those early days, but there are still a lot of common mistakes that nonprofits make online.

I'll be covering several do's and don'ts at NetWits Summer Camp. Until then, here is a list of five mistakes nonprofit websites make:

Hidden Donate Button

I sometimes wonder if nonprofits are playing a game of hide and seek with their websites. Where do I click to donate? Is that it? Is it over here? Maybe this is it — Nope! While your nonprofit may not put online fundraising on the top of your list of website goals — it probably isn't at the bottom either. Is it easy to find where and how to give online? Don't get cute with names. Keep it simple and make it visible.

Organization by Org Chart

Many websites resemble complicated structures that look like something from the HR department. This is because many sites are designed by a committee and they often use the hierarchy of the organization as the framework for the website. Doing so might be useful if you actually work at the nonprofit, but it doesn't help your website's visitors. Make sure you include visitor friendly navigation and visual cues. 

Death by Scroll

The content on your website should not read like some epic tome. Eyeballs move fast, attention is short, and patience is in short supply when it comes to your website's visitors. When writing for the Web, think Hemingway, not Faulkner. Keep it short. Keep it focused. Keep it interactive. If you have lengthy content items, then link to them but don't make them the star of the main pages.

The NASCAR Effect

This is what happens when you put so many images, logos, buttons, and widgets on the homepage that it resembles the advertising on the side of a stock car. When everything is competing for attention on the page, then the most important things get lost in the clutter. What are the top three tasks or takeaways you want visitors to have from your homepage? If they aren't obvious in seconds, then you've made a mistake. 

Content Rot

The only thing worse than no content is out of date content. You can use certain tricks like showing only the month instead of the entire date, but eventually the content will start to rot. Build a calendar that outlines your website's publishing schedule and don't let it go too long before adding fresh new items. And at least once a year you should review all the content and clean it up, archive it, or throw it out.


Sign up for the "Websites Demystified" session at NetWits Summer Camp to learn about more online do's and don'ts.


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