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Web-design for non-profit organizations

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 by Servage

Most designers think designing sites for non-profits and charities is different from sites for commercial purposes, since we aren’t selling anything or because we don’t have typical customers. In fact, web designers need to take the same approach as we do for other business websites. So let’s dive into non-profit website design.

Differences & Similarities

In non-profit web design, the same principles apply as we have in commercial website designs. If you think charity websites don’t have anything to sell, that would be inaccurate. For instance, a charity organization running a literacy program has to show the importance of literacy in the region where it operates, plus present the low level of literacy within the particular community or among groups they are targeting.

Therefore, the design aspects will follow the same principles that you apply to sell a commercial product. You should prepare a layout, which places the textual and multimedia content, including any images and videos. Like a commercial site, there will also be some sort of transactions that take place, like collecting funds from the visitors and converting them into prospective donors. Payment gateway integration is therefore a must in such cases. The approach will likely differ a bit here since the motivation factors are not not the same as they are for the visitors to a commercial site.

Tough Targets

At first glance, this seems challenging, but not as much as we may think. As humans are social animals, we have inherent desire to help others if we can. Therefore, our website design approach must be geared toward stirring these inherent calls and guide visitors properly to become donors and hopefully keep them participating in charities for the long term. Now, the real challenge for a non-profit website designer is a resources crunch, be it funds, human resources or tools. The designer has to select the development platform which costs the least and implements things quickly. In such cases, selection of an open source is perhaps the best one.

Unlike commercial websites, the charity sites have to depict transparency and should have clearly defined goals upfront on the home page, or on any landing pages according to the charity’s purposes. Your design approach must initially clarify three things:

  • Who you are helping
  • How will you help them
  • How your visitor can help you to do that.


Once you successfully clarify these items, you have to concentrate on the conversion. Conversion? Yes! You have to draw your website visitors in, to help accomplish the charity’s goals, like collecting money, inspiring visitors to donate their time or other resources. This may seem difficult, but not impossible. As stated earlier, humans have inherent desire to help others and by doing so, we place ourselves in a better place. As some hunger for social dignity, they generally want to see themselves better in the eyes of others. In order to receive social recognition, these people participate actively in charities and want their names to appear on the walls of charities or displayed on their websites.

If you are smart designer, you can place these motivation factors in your site design and encourage visitors to contribute at their best level. You can place the names of the donors on the website in a particular section and integrate CMS to have this update content regularly. Additionally, you can put the expressions, experiences, and feelings of the people who already participated or are currently participating. This will inspire others, plus create a trust in your activities and in the greater cause.

Finally, don’t forget user experiences as it has the same importance as a commercial website. It is also true that some charity clients tend to be more demanding than a commercial client; so, don’t do anything for free. At least consider charging a nominal fee that they can afford.

References & more reading

How to design for non-profits

Example website 1

Example website 2

Example website 3


Web-design for non-profit organizations, 3.8 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
Categories: Guides & Tutorials


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