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Downes Murray International News

Your website: wart or winner?

What has your website done for you lately? Are visitors landing and quickly leaving – or are they captivated by your content, signing up for news and showing their support by donating online? Marisol Gutierrez sifts through the ingredients of winning websites.

It’s true: the Internet has become our go-to place for information about every-thing – from news, reviews, tips and travel, to learning, inspiration and research. It follows then, that a charity’s website is frequently the first stop on the supporter journey. Whether this is a captivating experience, or exercise in frustration, can influence someone’s decision to engage with your organisation more meaningfully – or make a hasty retreat.

So, how can you tell if your site is dressed for success and walks your cause’s talk? Let’s start with a scan of the most common mistakes we see. Some of the usual suspects include:

  • Confusing navigation.
  • Too many menu buttons.
  • Outdated news.
  • Text that’s too long, too technical or too difficult to read.
  • Not mobile-responsive.
  • A lack of calls to action such as ‘subscribe to our newsletter’.
  • Broken links.
  • The donate button is not prominent on every page.
If any of those website warts can be found on your site, fix what you can immediately.

Now let’s consider what makes for a winning website. For instant inspiration, you can check out the 20 best non-profit websites identified by TopNonprofits ( Stunning sites like these share some common features, such as:

  • Mobile-responsive design.
  • Clear messaging and good writing.
  • Long home pages: scrolling down the page without having to click.
  • Fewer menu options from the primary navigation page.
  • Good photos, infographics and graphics.

Perhaps most importantly, great websites (non-profit or not) are designed from a visitor’s point of view. This is why, if you’re about to dive into a website redesign, it’s important to set aside personal preferences (and the opinions of everyone else from the secretary to the CEO) to ensure that your site architecture is keenly visitor/donor-focused.

Even the most gorgeous site is no good if its functionality is not user-friendly. Great sites are easy to navigate; clicking from one page to another is a smooth journey – and you don’t feel lost in a tangled web of wilderness.


This need for a seamless transition applies equally to donate pages. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of clicks to conclude an online donation process. Make sure this is set up to be safe, speedy and satisfying – and of course, an immediate thank you for all donations is non-negotiable.

Forego the temptation to ask your prospective donor for too many details. If you want someone to abandon the entire donation or newsletter sign-up process, present dozens of fields all begging to be filled in. Ask for only essential information and keep it simple.

Look at your website critically and ask:
  • Is our mission clear to visitors?
  • Do we show the impact of our work?
  • Is news current?
  • Is there a call to action on every page?
  • Are there links to our social media channels?
  • Do our photos tell stories; show proof of our work?
  • Is our copy compelling?
  • Is our site POPI*-compliant?
  • Is it quick and easy to donate?
  • Do donors receive an immediate thank you?
  • Can visitors sign up for newsletters?

If your website measures up, well done– and continue to keep your content fresh, engaging and sharply aligned to your mission. But if your site needs anything from a little to a whole lot of attention, get the right help to ensure that your website works hard – and works smart – to fulfil your communication and fundraising needs.

* Protection of Personal Information Act.

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