A growing number of companies are utilizing the Internet to enhance the profitability and market share of their business - but the Internet can also be a powerful medium to increase exposure and further the goals of non-profit organizations. No matter the size or type of NPO you are involved with - advocacy, arts, civic, cultural, education, or health and human services, a web presence can become a vital part of your organization's growth.
When it comes to web design, non-profit organizations often face special challenges not always shared by their for-profit counterparts.
NPOs almost universally require a dynamic site that can be updated by staff or volunteers with events and messages. Many organizations will need to be accept financial contributions through their site. And a large number of NPOs simply do not have the budget for a custom website with a large number of features.
In summary – if you are an established organization with a fair web design budget, seek out a professional firm with experience in non-profit web design and expertise in areas such as content management, search engine marketing, and accessibility.
Learn about content management systems. Be sure to talk to potential web design providers about a content management system that will allow your organization to keep your content fresh and current without requiring a constant payout for website updates. Find some examples of NPO sites that are always featuring fresh content, ask them what solution they are using, and use such sites as guidelines as you talk to potential designers.
Popular open source systems include Joomla and Wordpress. PICNet, a popular provider of non-profit web design services, specializes in development around the Joomla platform. Tri-Cities Commerce Group and 109 Creative are other full service design firms which heavily emphasize open source solutions.
Set up online fundraising. If your organization wants to accept online contributions, be sure to choose a designer with experience integrating payment processors and custom websites. PayPal is a common, trusted payment gateway which can be easily integrated into any type of site. Network For Good is a fundraising solution tailored to the needs of non-profit organizations.
Use free solutions to reduce project cost. If you are part of a small NPO on a limited budget, take a look at free, open source website solutions like Wordpress or Joomla. These platforms provide the foundation for a site, and professional grade Wordpress and Joomla templates can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of many designers.
Additionally, you can seek out designers in your area and ask about reduced cost or free work in exchange for a link on your new site. Some designers, especially those trying to build a portfolio, will be very willing to work with an NPO out of consideration for the publicity it will bring them, or even simply out of appreciation for your cause. You'll likely need help installing and customizing these systems, but they will provide a strong foundation for a web designer to work with, and in doing so, can sharply reduce development time and cost.
Charity Focus connects NPOs and volunteers, many in the tech field, who can offer assistance to organizations with low web design budgets.