Starting a nonprofit?  Or, considering a re-branding?  You'll need to build a new website.

Whether you're lucky enough to be able to work with a professional web developer, or are jumping in and attempting to do it all yourself, there are a number of things to consider first:

Know who you are

Before you can create a digital rendering of your organization, you need to have a clear idea of what you look like.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is it that your organization really does?

  • Where does it fit in the marketplace?

  • What is the true cost (or savings) of your product/service to society?

  • What do you do to get attention? (Newsletters, press, fundraisers, social media, etc.)

  • Who are you selling to? (Your clients, volunteers, donors, board, etc.)

  • What words/adjectives best describe your organization?

Define yourself

As your primary marketing tool, your website needs to be the best example of your brand.  So, before you can build your site, you need to define what your brand is:

  • Choose your colors. Keep it to two or three.

  • Think about shapes. Are you a serious organization, or more playful? It could mean the difference between whether you want to incorporate rigid boxes or smooth circles into your site... or boxes with rounded edges.

  • Choose your fonts. Serif or sans-serif? Generally, serifs are considered more "formal" and harder to read on the web.  Try to keep it to two fonts max, one for headers and one for the body.  An additional font can be used in the logo.

  • Using images. Using your own images is ideal, however there are plenty of great stock photos out there as well.  Most important around image use? Be authentic.


Even if you are not actually building the site yourself, chances are you or someone on your team will be managing and updating it.  So, choose your layout and configuration wisely.  Keep it simple, and keep it clean!

  • Choose a website CMS (content management system) to build your site in, such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.  (My personal recommendation is WordPress; that's what this site is built in!)

  • Choose a theme. You can pay someone to build you a custom theme, or you can buy one pre-built, and totally customizable with your colors, fonts, and images.  Check out for some really great options for WordPress.

  • Build a wire frame of what your site will look like. Identify the different sections you want to see on your website, and the sub-pages that you want under each of them.

  • Write your copy. Identify 10 key words associated with your organization, and try to incorporate them as much as possible throughout the actual content of your site.  This will help your SEO (search engine optimization).

  • Get acquainted with your CMS and build your site! Check (paid) or YouTube (free) for tutorials if you get stuck.


At the end of the day, we're all salespeople, and our website is a tool that we use to sell our products/services.

  • Give search engines what they're looking for. Search engines look at page titles, meta tags, image titles, and hyperlinks.  Use descriptive text for hyperlinks instead of "learn more" or "click here."  Use key words in page titles, headers and throughout content. Link to partners and have them link back to you—if you link to sites with better traffic than yours, that's helpful to your SEO.  If they link back, that's even more helpful.  Ask your donors to link to your site!

  • Look up your Google page rank.  Get the Google toolbar on your browser if you use Internet Explorer, or use another website such PRChecker. A 4 or higher is generally considered very good.

  • Google Analytics – own your account, and check it often (weekly at least).  Configure Google Analytics to send weekly emails to you.

  • Online Promotional Strategy – Find the best mediums to drive relevant traffic to your site (Facebook, Constant Contact, YouTube, Yelp, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkeIn, Google+). Choose carefully—upkeep of these accounts requires time, and is not easily outsourced.

  • Use an editorial calendar to schedule posts and updates.

This information was sourced from a training on website strategy hosted by OneOC and facilitated by Mark Raymond, of Luminys, which provides website building, hosting, and management to small businesses and nonprofits.

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