Not for Profit

5 Tips BEFORE you start a not-for-profit website project

5 Tips BEFORE you start a not-for-profit website project

More than ever, not for profit and charity organisations are looking to get good value for money when commissioning digital services like website design and web content. Public Impact thinks creatively about how client and agency can work together to deliver better web design, more effective websites and deliver measurable return on investment.

Before you start stop and think about what you are trying to achieve. These are our top five tips.

1. Prioritise the biggest challenge

NGO’s and other third sector bodies do lots of different things: advocacy, fundraising, providing services, giving information – you name it. Focussing on the elements that can have the biggest impact online is the key to using the web to maximum effect.

When funds are limited it is important to demonstrate the effectiveness of the website. To demonstrate a valuable return on investment it pays to do the most important thing really well – so prioritise. In doing so remember it is the visitors to the site, not necessarily your own staff who are the most important people to consider. Once you have shown that you can save money, improve donations, retain members more effectively then you’ll be able to justify other areas of work.

So start by looking at your current web stats to get a good idea of where your visitors are heading then consider a full external audit of your site

2. Know your audience

You need to be on receive. Most organisations can tell you something about their audience – their supporters, customers, donors and members. But just because your audience had particular views and profiles that doesn’t mean they will always be the same. The online world changes rapidly and a deeper engagement with your visitors will pay dividends and the insights you gain from audience research will help you to create an effective website and avoid some costly mistakes.

The most effective research will be quick and easy for the user and highly informative for you. It doesn’t need to be expensive but you will almost certainly benefit from professional help.

Your research should give you a series of profiles. It’s good to phrase these as fictional characters with personalities and character traits. These ‘personas’ give a human face to your audience abstract and help you communicate within the organisation with whom your site is seeking to communicate.

3. Too many bells and whistles are just noise

There are some excellent, freely available technical solutions out there to meet the needs of your users. It is easy to get carried away and employ too many. Remember your priorities. Identify the function that will be most useful to most people – perhaps it’s finding the nearest service to them, perhaps it is about the availability of a course of a facilitator. Make sure it is something that adds value to your site rather than detracting by producing useless or incomprehensible information.

4. Go open source

Open Source software (freely licenced in the public domain) can deliver quality and cost-effective solutions. If an agency isn’t offering you an open source solution, at least as an option, find someone who will. There are large supporting markets in Open Source web tools which mean you are not hostage to proprietary systems or rising upgrade licence fees.

There are many easy to use Content Management Systems (CMS) and their adoption by in-house teams can be smooth. But the right choice for your organisation is important – that depends on the nature of your site, your web traffic and your objectives. Make sure you get the right advice about the right Open Source tools for the job to rule out avoidable and expensive mistakes later


5. Get to know internal stakeholders

The biggest risk to a project running to time and on budget is often the failure to ensure that internal stakeholders are onside.

Understanding this right at the beginning produces results at the business end of the project. To dispense with the stage of project planning that achieves stakeholder buy-in, including at the most senior level is a false economy. When a genuine consensus is achieved on a project it makes a massive difference to the likely success.

Workshop engagement sessions for internal stakeholders at the start of the project are a proven method of delivering the inclusive leadership without which success is all the harder to achieve.

Posted by John Howarth in Not for Profit, Web & Digital, 0 comments
Return on Rebranding Investment for Charities and Not-for-Profit

Return on Rebranding Investment for Charities and Not-for-Profit

Downturns or flat economic times are not great times for charities. Conventionally, tough times are not thought of as good times to spent hard-won cash on refreshing the brand.

But through the recession a surprising number of high profile charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, the Parkinson’s UK and Cancer Research UK to name a few; have invested in renaming, refreshing or updating their brands.

When the economy is slow charity begins at home: fewer people give and those who do give less. Charities have a choice: retrench or try something different in an effort to improve income. One key factor always remains, however; the clearer sponsors, supporters and sympathisers are about what the organisation delivers, its aims, its values, its practical work, the easier it is to engage them in the organisation’s work and secure financial contributions. This is the bench mark against which a not-for-profit brand should be measured: does it provide clarity and help explain the mission.

Charities that take the plunge to modernise, rebrand or refresh and have done so effectively have seen an increase in donations and corporate funders. Macmillan’s rebrand cost £120,000 on the back of which they pulled themselves to eighth in awareness among UK NGOs. Annual income rose from £97.7m in 2005 to £118m in 2009. The 8% real terms increase in income was accompanied by a doubling of the number helped and advised by Macmillan. Rebranding effectively can give the organisation new impetus, restating the purpose, placing its work in an up-to-date context and resulting in the body being taken more seriously by institutional funders and public bodies.

It’s not just the mega-charities that can benefit from a professionally executed re-brand. With a new CEO in place regional domestic abuse charity BWA first revisited their core values and set brand agency Public Impact the brief of updating and refreshing the organisation. Central to the task was changing dated perceptions. Funders and policy makers didn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of BWA’s service offer. The brief required a brand that put that right, emphasised the positive outcomes achieved for clients, matched the values and provided a platform for clearly communicate the extent of the service and the innovative partnerships in which BWA is engaged.

BWA’s aims and values process required the projection of the organisation as: welcoming and empowering, non-judgemental, offering places of safety; building trust, equality and raising awareness. Public Impact’s Creative Director, Jane Coney, sums up the rebrand as a change of tone to one of hope and optimism.

“Domestic abuse organisations like BWA offer the prospect of a new start for their clients. It is an opportunity for survivors of domestic abuse to move toward a more hopeful prospect. The brand needed to be about solutions not problems, hope not despair”, says Jane.

“As well as reflecting the values and projecting optimism we set out to create a BWA brand identity that would reach potential clients across traditional and digital media. The diverse, positive colour palette facilitates the future development of sub-brands, works well online and it has the visual impact to break through the noise as an effective platform for advocacy. It’s fresh, it’s modern but most importantly its use of illustrations is warm, welcoming and hopeful.”

BWA, has now secured medium term contracts to provide specialist refuge services to a number of key local authorities and continues to support a 6,000 call per year helpline, support and behavioural change programmes. Like many forward-looking third sector organisations, it reshapes itself and will continue to evolve. The brand now has the capacity to move with it.

Rebranding is often characterised as an expensive luxury – and sometimes agencies are their own worst enemy. Beware of agencies touting change that casts aside the value of an existing brand for the sake of fashion. Rebranding or refreshing an identity should build on solid foundations where they exist and need not be a huge outlay. A charity and with a coherent design and a strategic approach to rolling out the new brand can produce a return on investment within the first year.

Posted by John Howarth in Brand, Not for Profit, 0 comments
6 Actions to get donation on Not for Profit and charity websites

6 Actions to get donation on Not for Profit and charity websites

Improving and maintaining a donation income stream is an important part of any NGO or charitable organisation’s website. You would think so, wouldn’t you? But some not for profit bodies are better at using their websites to build their donor base than others.

What does best practice – and just good old common sense – tell us? To get donations we have to encourage donations, focus on answering potential-donors’ top questions and streamlining the donation process. Let’s start with the absolute essentials.

  1. Explain what you do – and keep it simple

Say what you do in clear, simple language. This might seem obvious, but many not for profit and charity websites do not clearly communicate in a clear concise manner. They can fail to say what the organisation does, how and why it is done.

Studies have demonstrated that websites that make the role of the organisation easy to understand have an advantage over those where goals and objectives are ambiguous. Explaining what you do in simple terms, without in-house or ‘right on’ jargon will be enough to encourage people who agree with the basic aims of the organisation to make a donation

  1. Tell people how their money will help

People are more cynical than they used to be. Not without good reason they want to know how their money will be put to good use. So tell people where their money will go and, again,  keep it simple. Tell people what the amount you would like them to donate will achieve – be it £5, £10 or £50.

There’s nothing new about this, but it works, so use it – and again keep it simple – use real number, not percentages. Stick to manageable, affordable amounts. Use examples that are as close as possible to the core purpose of the organisation.

  1. Endorsements are powerful

Your reputation is important to potential doners. People want to know about the impact you make and that you are a legitimate organisation. In this the words of others provide more that your own assertions. Potential donors will pay particular attention to:

  • name recognition
  • media reports of the organisation’s impact
  • high profile endorsements
  • testimonials of ‘real people’
  • number of years in operation

Not for profit or charitable organisations may have endorsements, case studies and recommendations on their website, but not always in the right context. They need to be visible and easily accessible in the context of a person considering a donation

Some of the most powerful endorsements are those from friends and family members. Testimonials and friends’ recommendations encourage users to act. Can form an important part of future campaigns – so be sure that the donor is encouraged to become an endorser.

  1. Have a big red button ready

It may seem the most obvious thing – but if you don’t ask you won’t get!

Not all websites have a clear donate call to action on the home or landing pages – they should have. But the donation call to action should be obvious on every page of the website. While research can tell you the most obvious triggers for donation, there can be a ‘long tail’ too – so when you push a user’s buttons they need a button to click. Again, keep it simple; use clear, concise words, especially when asking for money. Donateand Donate Now are immediately understood by users.

  1. An easy donation process

Once a potential donor has clicked the big red button the battle isn’t over. Complex registration processes are off putting and can mean that the donation is never completed. Keeping the donation process as streamlined as possible will increase the odds of getting users to complete the process. The fewer steps the better. Take care over the design of forms to ensure they are easy to use and, if you use a third party donation site, choose the ones that are simple, which users are most likely to have heard of and that allow a choice over registering to return.

  1. Capture interest and ask for more

The best websites enable supporters and donors to engage easily. When someone donates or is interested in donating it should be possible for them easily to register their interest. Modern inbound marketing technology can enable you to take sympathisers on a journey with your organisation giving you the opportunity to win further commitment, advocacy action or membership.

An Easy-To-Use Website and a Fast Donation Process Can Increase Donations

The impact of your website can’t be under-estimated. Getting the basics right makes a big difference. plain language, keeping it simple and easy to use means your site is more likely to turn traffic into the cash you need to be more effective.

Posted by John Howarth in Not for Profit, 0 comments
Not for profit & charity websites: get more donations and volunteers

Not for profit & charity websites: get more donations and volunteers

Good clear content is the key to getting donations.

To start with the obvious: the third sector: not-for-profit (NfP), charity, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are different from commercial organisations. So are their .org websites. They generally don’t and mostly can’t present the clear value proposition that’s the key for commercial websites. Transactions take place because you want something they have and you’ll pay money to get it. For not-for-profit it’s different.

Non-profits must define and communicate their value proposition to attract volunteers and online donations.

Present Your Information Clearly

Your information has a value. It serves a purpose; part of your mission. The people who read it or download it want to use it.

Openness is key to securing donations. Finding the right information about an organisation helps validate trustworthiness and is the key to gaining more donations. To reach the potential of online fundraising and to extend the reach of advocacy not-for-profit sites must address the problem dogging too many web sites: poor content. Donors want clear concise information upfront.

Giving money

It’s harder to persuade people to give moneyaway than it is to spend money. Studies show e-commerce for NfP sites falls badly behind commercial websites for usability. Commercial organisations have learned that on-line buyers are creatures of habit who don’t like change. E-commerce for NfP sites needs to be simple recognised step-by-step process with which users are familiar as it mimics their commercial on-line interactions.

Giving stuff

Users can have a much more difficult time making a non-monetary contribution to a not for profit organisation on the web than they have giving cash. Giving physical items is a non-standard online transaction, so users can’t rely on a pattern they have experienced.

If users are asked to do something new on the web, the site needs to make it easy with simple step-by-step guides.


Donors are great, regular donors are really great but volunteers can be the people who win new donors and help the charity or NGO get results. On-line advocacy has taken off in recent years and the key is again to make taking action easy.

Simple, direct links to information on taking action from the homepage and any relevant pages are essential. Providing simple information about how to get involved, including how and where to help and upcoming events all matter – but the biggest deal of all is capturing the potential volunteer’s name and email.

NfP sites need to offer a fairly simple form for volunteering with clear calls to action and easy contact forms. Of course it all amounts to nothing unless it is followed up.


The Holy Grail for many third sector bodies is taking the individual contact on a journey from interest to donation, to supporting action, to membership. Not every NfP is a membership organisation, but those who are will want to engage potential members from information capture on their site and establish a dialogue – through email and invitation to participate.

Good NfP sites make joining easy, following the rules of e-commerce and remembering that those that don’t ask, don’t get – so the big ‘join now’ button matters, as does the ‘value proposition’ of what those who join the organisation get for their subscription.

Social Media

People don’t use Facebook to research the third sector to seek out places to donate.

It’s ‘horses for courses’ Social media is a channel of winning engagement and is great for offering advocacy opportunities. Content should draw the reader in and pull traffic to the NfP website where users expect to find the information on mission, values and the essential, easy ways of giving.

Posted by John Howarth in Not for Profit, 0 comments