Charity Marketing Tech Web

How Charities Can Build Great Non-Profit Websites On WordPress

wordpress website logo
Written by MicroStartups

Every charitable organisation that wants to reach an engaged audience needs a strong website. Your website must be the hub of your outreach programme and content strategy: gathering visitors and donors and moving them towards the action you want them to take. 

WordPress is a great website platform for non-profits, charities, NGOs, social enterprises, community groups, and clubs; mainly because of its price, flexibility, and content management features.

We’re going to cover the whole process of building a charity WordPress site, reviewing the possible goals of a non-profit website, the advantages of using WordPress, how you can create and host your site, what you should focus on, and what kind of presentation you should aim for.

Why you need to invest in your website

When you run a charitable organisation, you face enough challenges as it is, contending with limited funding and an altruistic drive in place of a product or service people can buy. That’s why it’s even more important that you have a strong website.

A strong website will allow you to engage supporters, donors, and partners a lot more quickly and efficiently, and the best websites generate a lot of inbound charity leads through search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing. Your website is your opportunity to make your mark and raise awareness for your cause. Regular blogging can help you build a great email list.

Many smaller charities settle for very basic websites, or simply forgo creating websites altogether — all out of a belief that either manually setting up a website or hiring a web developer would prove too expensive and complicated.

But technology continues to make life easier, and through WordPress, the world’s leading free content management system (CMS), you can quickly and simply create a respectable website for your charity without spending much money.

Are WordPress websites really free?

Nothing worth having in life is totally free, and the same goes for websites. Though WordPress as a CMS is technically free, you will have to pay for:

  • ongoing hosting costs
  • a premium theme (free ones tend to only get you so far)
  • web development support (essential for at least a few initial tweaks)
  • web design (custom imagery and logo)
  • content creation
  • the time it takes to project manage a website build.

Of course, you can also create your own logo for free (we did), but without any design or technical knowledge, you may struggle. Same goes for content creation: writing for the web is a specialist skill that isn’t as easy as it may look.

Realistically, you will need at least a week and probably a few hundred pounds or dollars to get a minimum viable website!

As a charity, you will have access to great deals like free Google Adwords and discounted web hosting. Some charity deals and free resources that might help you cut costs when it comes to the initial stages (more on discounted hosting and marketing deals later):

Logo creator

Website terms and conditions

Lorem ipsum generator

Free to use imagery

The goals of a charity website

Before you think too much about the specifics of building your website though, you need to have a strong understanding of what you’re ultimately seeking to accomplish. A website that isn’t designed to serve a purpose is unlikely to be particularly useful, so every page you provide will need to be built and structured very carefully.

happy charity volunteers

Here are some things your charity website could do: 

      Support discussion about your organisation. If your charity works with a large network of employees, volunteers, and regional organisations, then it might be very valuable to have a place for everyone to assemble and discuss progress.

      Collect one-time or recurring donations. Through setting up a website to accept payments or the creation of direct debits, you can make it much easier for visitors to donate to you — the smoother the process, the more likely people will be to act.

      Sell branded products with donated proceeds. Supporters of charities will often welcome opportunities to show that support however they can, plus selling a product gives a tangible reward that requesting a donation does not.

      Inspire prospective hires or volunteers. Finding and bringing in dedicated staff members and volunteers is the heart of every charity, because the money isn’t there to attract people motivated solely by profit. A website that truly inspires will effectively serve to bolster your ranks over time.

      Publicise the purpose of your charity. Every charity has a unique mission, consisting of the issue it exists to address, the area it operates in, the methods it uses, and the circumstances that gave rise to it. The more attention you can bring to your cause, the more awareness will be spread throughout the online world.

You may want to pursue just one of these goals, or go for all of them — but whatever your intentions, you need to get them figured out at this early stage so you can cater your website development process accordingly.

Planning your website architecture

Thinking about the goals of your website ties nicely into planning the structure of your website and the pages and features you need to include.

Planning a website for the first time can be daunting, but breaking it down into individual pages and features will help. About us, footer, etc

Here are some potential pages and features to think about:

  • About us
  • How to donate
  • Sign up for our email list/Join the community
  • Work for us
  • Contact us
  • Blog/Community news
  • Corporate/Partners
  • Footer

Website collateral and design elements

  • Logo
  • Social media background images (need to match the website)
  • Content
  • Imagery

Photography is a huge consideration. Alongside web copy and data, you’re going to need a bank of photos and imagery.

A word on website buyer personas

Why WordPress is a smart choice for a charity website

All of the top content management systems on the market have their notable strengths — for instance, one system might be particularly fast, while another could have outstanding SEO functionality out of the box. What makes WordPress the sensible choice is that it’s extremely strong in almost every important area: it’s no suprise that it’s the top content management system out there.

Let’s run through some of its many advantages:

      It’s totally free and open source. You’ll obviously want as much of your organisation’s funding to go towards helping people as opposed to developing and maintaining a website. With WordPress, all you need is hosting — the platform is 100% free.

      There are so many plugins available. Because WordPress is so incredibly popular, there’s a massive range of plugins available for it, both free and paid. Whether you want to add a social media feed or tweak your donation options, there’ll be a plugin to help. You can use a plugin like Charitable to start accepting donations on any WordPress site.

      It’s massively configurable. Being an open platform with access to a vast set of themes and frameworks, WordPress is incredibly versatile — you can even convert your WordPress site to a charity store through WooCommerce.

      WordPress development is cheap. In the event that you do need a site change that you can’t handle in-house, you won’t find it hard to get hold of an affordable developer. Places like Upwork are flooded with capable WordPress developers and UpWork protects you (the buyer) with secure messaging and payments.

      It’s adequately secure. Because it’s open source and relies heavily on plugins, WordPress will never achieve industry-leading levels of security, but if you keep everything updated properly, it is on par with the security of other top platforms. Website security is actually something that’s worth not skimping on, as per this WordPress security guide.

It certainly isn’t the case that other platforms are wholly unfit and you could use a totally different CMS to great effect — platforms such as Wix or Squarespace are entirely viable. However, there’s nothing they offer that can make them more appealing for a typical charity than WordPress, so there’s no real reason to go with them.

Registering a good non-profit site domain

Your web domain will be the web address of your website — the seed of the URL that needs to be entered or clicked to reach it. It’s worth spending some time getting it right. What do I mean by getting it right? Well, in ideal circumstances, your domain will be all of the following:

      As short as possible. The longer your domain is, the less convenient it will be to type (or tell people about). It may not be tremendously common for people to manually enter URLs, but it can happen, and you want it to be simple.

      Easy to remember. A domain name that consists of recognisable words and minimal symbols is vastly preferable to a confusing string of letters and numbers. For instance, “examplecharity” is easy to remember, while “ex-cha_official” is definitely not.

      Indicative of your business. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t always done! Taking the example we just used, having “example.com” as the domain name wouldn’t be great because it wouldn’t be recognisable as a charity to someone unfamiliar with the organisation. Using “examplecharity.org” would be much better, including “charity” and an extension (.org) exclusively reserved for non-profits. 

Try searching for appropriate domain names using GoDaddy’s .org domain search. Once you find something that meets the above criteria (and isn’t overly expensive), buy it — assuming your charity is fairly stable, be sure to get the domain for several years at a minimum so you won’t need to worry about the registration status in the near future.

Securing some high-quality website hosting

With your domain name secured, you’ll need to arrange some hosting for your WordPress site. Since your web host will be responsible for making your website accessible to visitors, it’s very important to choose it carefully — having poor hosting can lead to your website going down at frustrating times, producing a lot of errors, and/or being problematically slow.

There are plenty of good hosts out there, thankfully, and which one you should pick will depend on your specific needs, e.g. how many visitors you’ll need to serve, what kind of media you’ll be providing, and how integral the website will be to your overall donation efforts. Some are even free for charitable use. Here are some hosts you should consider:

      Kualo

      This WordPress-compatible hosting company not only offers free lifetime use to charities and 24/7 support but is also fully powered by renewable energies, making Kualo a superb choice to help you get established online. 

      Eco Hosting

      Another hosting company that supports renewable energy, Eco Hosting offers carbon neutral web hosting with no charge for charities, though it does require you to include a banner linking back to their site. 

      SiteGround

      This provider doesn’t offer free hosting, but it does have affordable packages catered for non-profits, and SiteGround hosting is among the highest-rated in the world for WordPress sites. If you can afford it, it may be worth it.

https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/215769478-Non-profit-discounthttps://kb.asmallorange.com/customer/portal/articles/1603354-our-charitable-non-profit-discount

Every one of these site hosts has an in-built system for creating a WordPress site, so whichever one you choose, you can follow a simple process to get a site off the ground extremely quickly. Once your basic site has been created, you can start adjusting it to suit your goals, starting with the design.

Charity WordPress themes

Something that makes WordPress so accessible is its enormous range of charity-friendly website themes: there are countless charity-focused themes out there to choose from. Using a WordPress theme is often as simple as selecting one you like, installing it with one click, and activating it with another — if you find a paid theme you like, you’ll obviously need to purchase it first.

By starting out with a great WordPress theme, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and effort, and you’ll still be able to give your website a unique style by making some alterations. You can change fonts, colours, layouts, images, icons — pretty much anything you can find the time and inclination to experiment with.

You can browse charity themes directly from the WordPress site, or peruse a much broader collection of non-profit themes from ThemeForest. This Charity WP theme has over a thousand installs and almost all its reviews are 5-stars.

Tips for choosing a charity WordPress theme & making it your own

  • Don’t pay too much attention to the often-dummied content (known as ‘lorem ipsum’). What you’re looking for more than anything is the general layout elements — do you like the panel shapes? What about the animations? Since those things are the hardest to change, they matter the most when you’re narrowing down your options.
  • Look at the number of installs and reviews. Try to find a relevant case study or a ‘live site’ you can visit to gauge the theme’s versatility.
  • Check out the support and theme developers: are they offering to keep up with theme updates?
  • Once you’ve found a theme that works for you, install it, and start going through the settings (and the support documentation) to make whatever changes you need.
  • Images are going to be important, so remember to use high-quality photos and logos, and put some time into your copy — you can either task someone in your charity will doing the writing, or get someone in to help out (there may be a copywriter willing to work for free or a reduced rate for a good cause).

Using plugins built for ecommerce or charity

With your website live and designed to your liking, it may already have everything you need, but it’s worth taking a look at the array of free or paid plugins for WordPress to see if there are any available functions that could significantly support your efforts. Plugins can address technical issues, help you write strong content, or add handy new features to your site.

Certain plugins are recommended for all WordPress sites, such as Yoast SEO (great for search engine visibility) or WP Super Cache (great for boosting speed) — and then there’s WooCommerce, which is a fantastic option if you have any interest in offering products. 

Beyond those, though, there are some plugins specific to charities, such as the following: 

      Give

      There are numerous plugins on the market for enabling donation features, but none is as slick or fully-featured as Give. Completely free in its standard version, it is funded through paid add-ons that enable further features, so you can pay for only the features you’re going to use.

      WooCommerce Donation

      If you choose to turn your charity site into a charity store, you can continue taking donations through this plugin. When someone visits their cart, you can present a donation button beneath the products, getting the best of both worlds.

      Donation Content Locker

      If you want to drive more donations but you don’t have any products to sell, you can offer content instead — but how do you monetise it? This plugin lets you create a paywall on your site to make selected content accessible only to those who have donated.

There are many more great plugins out there, though, so it’s always worth spending some time doing some further investigation and taking recommendations. Bolstered by any useful plugins you can find, you should be able to polish off a more-than-serviceable WordPress charity site that looks great and works well without costing a fortune.

Working with freelancers and agencies

Do I need a web designer? Even a great theme might need some tweaks, or maybe it might take someone two hours to do something you’d take weeks to figure out how to do.

Your website build timeline

Planning is key to launching a great website.

It might seem a bit much to create a spreadsheet, but you will probably need it.

Creating a website strategy

Your website is part of your charity’s overall digital strategy, but it will also have an impact on offline success too.

Website as part of the spoke – JustGiving and FB pages

What is your charity mission statement? You probably have a great one (or even a few). Make sure your website clearly states this. Imagine that you’re speaking to a roomful of strangers, and you need to convince them that your cause matters.

SEO

Email marketing

Blogging/content management

Social proof

Customer journey

Event calendar

Press partnerships

Donation page – via Ebay, Paypal, etc – integration with all platforms

Testimonials

Videos

Backend – a platform can be a big part

User funnel

What are you trying to get? Multiple funnels:

Content and copywriting

This is a whole subset

CRMs

Salesforce has one https://www.salesforce.org/nonprofit/power-of-us/

Data

Website data – gathering this can be essential for moulding your funnel and website value proposition.

Adwords

Adwords guidelines for charities

Picking keywords for your charity website

Charity social media marketing tips

Website automation

Continuing to improve

At this point, you should be in a solid position. You’ll have figured out your website’s purpose, registered a good domain, found appropriate hosting, picked a charity theme, and installed any useful plugins. But that doesn’t mean you’re totally done, because you should never stop trying to improve your website.

Over time, keep an eye on changing design standards and user preferences, and make changes accordingly. And be sure to listen to feedback from all your visitors, particularly your volunteers, staff, and donors — if they tell you something they don’t like about the site, you should make an effort to change it. The better your website gets, the more it will support you in raising money and awareness. Good luck!

 

https://www.google.com/intl/en-GB/nonprofits/

https://colorlib.com/wp/wordpress-themes-for-non-profit-charity-organizations/

https://athemes.com/collections/best-non-profit-wordpress-themes/#

https://www.templatemonster.com/category/charity-wordpress-themes/

 

About the author

MicroStartups

A team of writers and marketers, MicroStartups was founded to inspire the entrepreneurial and business community to give back. We believe in business growth through giving and supporting the local community.

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