Anne Stefanyk October 9th, 2020

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing Your Nonprofit Website

You already know the value of your nonprofit website. Your website serves as the touchpoint for most online engagements and centralizes all relevant information about your organization and mission. 

With COVID-19 pushing many to remote work and with in-person interactions on pause, fundraising has become a challenge for many nonprofits. Your nonprofit website is more important now than ever before, serving as the focal point of many of your current engagements. 

As of July 2020, 4.57 billion people are active internet users, and online fundraising rates only increase year by year. Keeping this in mind, a well-designed website can definitely help your nonprofit take advantage of key opportunities and sustain fundraising during this time. 

Unfortunately, from the way you organize website content to the tools you depend on, there are tons of mistakes you can inadvertently make. In order to best prepare you, this article will walk you through the top pitfalls to avoid when designing your nonprofit website:

  1. Confusing navigation
  2. Unorganized or lengthy donation form
  3. Hidden or missing organization mission statement and goals
  4. Overemphasis on donations
  5. Mobile unfriendliness

The right website will last your nonprofit a long time and be the catalyst to increased online fundraising. Ready to learn more? Let’s begin.

1. Confusing navigation

As soon as someone enters your website, they should know exactly where to go to answer their immediate need. They want to learn more about your organization? They click on your easy-to-access Mission Page button. They want to make an online gift? They make their way to your online donation form through clearly displayed calls-to-action (CTA).

However, with confusing navigation, users won’t be able to perform the tasks that they want. In fact, a website user’s attention span lies somewhere around eight seconds. If they can’t find your online donation page due to an unorganized menu, they might just leave. An easily navigable website is a key element that contributes to your website’s user experience

What does good navigation look like for a website? Consider the following elements:

  • Easily accessible menu with sections divided by audience (volunteers, new supporters, donors, event registrants)
  • A clearly displayed CTA for making an online donation
  • Menu links to popular landing pages like Mission Statement, About Us, Past Accomplishments, Event Calendar, Blog Roll, etc.

Don’t drive users away before they can even explore your website. An easily navigable website will only increase supporter satisfaction and build their relationship with your organization.

2. Unorganized or lengthy donation form

One of the most important processes and engagements on your nonprofit website is online giving. A well-designed online donation page can be the decider between whether a gift is made or the user exits the page thinking it’s not worth it.

Often, the reason why people don’t complete a donation, even if they are genuinely interested and passionate about the cause, is because the donation form is too complicated or takes too long. Think about it—have you ever gone online shopping and filled up your cart to only abandon it because filling out the order details took too long? 

An unorganized or lengthy donation form does the opposite of streamlining the giving process, and instead impedes it and risks turning away the supporter for good. In order to optimize your own online donation form, make sure you include these design elements:

  • Embedded form within website. Don’t send supporters to a third-party page!
  • Suggested donation amounts along with impact. This might even encourage users to give a little more when they know exactly how it’ll help.
  • Minimal questions only asking what’s required. Make sure you can customize your form so that you collect only the information that you need.
  • Integrated payment process. Having the payment form within your donation page ensures that the giving process is smooth and interrupted. Make sure your payment tool is PCI compliant!

Filling out your online donation form should be a quick and easy process. Use the design elements above to ensure you’re not missing out on any key opportunities!

3. Hidden or missing organization information

While your nonprofit website is there to help facilitate your online engagements, it should also serve as a resource for your supporters. After all, your nonprofit website is likely the first place supporters look when they want to learn more about your cause, make an online gift, or register for an event.

When considering the content of your nonprofit website, you have to consider the different types of people who might be visiting it. For instance, many website developers outline user personas to help them best design their site. According to this article on UX personas, “A persona is a tool you can use to create sales and marketing materials that have a specific target user in mind, rather than a generic one.”

In simplest terms, the people who visit your website can likely be divided into potential supporters and current supporters. From there, you can brainstorm the information that those two groups might seek. For example:

  • Potential supporters likely want to learn more about your organization, explore past accomplishments and current impact, and become familiar with recent campaigns and efforts. It’s crucial that your nonprofit website includes dedicated pages and content to meet these needs, like a Mission Statement page, an event calendar, highlights of current accomplishments, and articles on past campaigns. 
  • Current supporters already know about your organization but probably are curious about upcoming events and opportunities, key staff member contact details, and additional ways to get involved. 

The specific user personas that frequent your nonprofit website will depend on your unique organization. Think of who those groups might be and ensure that your website isn’t missing any critical information to serve their needs.

4. Overemphasis on donations

As you’re developing (or updating) your website, don’t make the mistake of thinking your website is only good for increasing gifts. While encouraging donations is a crucial part of your nonprofit website, there are many other engagement opportunities that you should emphasize.

Make sure your website is not only increasing online gift conversions, but also facilitating the following engagements:

  • Fundraising events. Make sure that your event calendar is clearly accessible so that users may explore it. Maybe even create an entire section on your homepage to introduce an upcoming event.
  • Volunteer opportunities. If your organization often deals with volunteers, make sure you have a dedicated page to explain your program and how supporters can get involved. This page should also speak to the volunteer program’s past success and current impact on the mission. Including fun photos of volunteers in action is also a great idea. 
  • Email or text engagements. Your nonprofit website is the perfect place to start engaging with your supporters through email or text. Embed communication forms within your website so that supporters can opt-in if they’re interested.
  • Social media connections. Many nonprofit websites advertise various social feeds to encourage engagement on a different platform. Social media is an effective way to interact with supporters on a closer level and even provides a way for them to meet each other. 

Even without online donations, your nonprofit website is the host to many of your important supporter engagements. Make sure you’re not missing out on any of them!

5. Mobile unfriendliness

With over 61% of all Google searches coming from a mobile device, having a responsive nonprofit website is crucial for your organization’s online success.

Make sure that each page on your website is not only beautiful and easily navigable on a desktop screen, but also on a smartphone or tablet. You don’t want to drive away those users just because your website looks funky on their device. 

Having a mobile-optimized website also ensures that supporters can engage with your nonprofit wherever and whenever. This way they can easily browse your accomplishments (and even make a gift) while they’re commuting on a bus or waiting in line. 

To ensure that your nonprofit website is mobile-friendly, consider the following design tips:

  • Focus on simple designs
  • Make sure your CMS is responsive on all devices
  • Avoid large blocks of text
  • Optimize image size depending on the screen size used

For an easy way to check if your website is mobile-friendly, use the inspect tool when you right-click on a desktop computer. This can show you what your website might look like on a smaller screen and if you have to adjust any design elements.


Your nonprofit website is an increasingly valuable tool, especially in our current circumstances. If anything, its importance will only grow as we continue to spend more and more of our time online. Ensuring you avoid these key mistakes will be integral to your nonprofit’s online success and overall fundraising efforts. Good luck!


Author; Anne Stefanyk
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Anne Stefanyk

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions. Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.

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