Trends in Nonprofit Website Design

I’ve recently been doing some research on nonprofit website trends for the Open Society Foundations’ Health Media Initiative and I thought I’d share them here:

  1. The Human Face: We engage with causes because we care about our fellow human beings. The face reminds us of that human element of the cause and reminds us to care.  The anti-poverty organization ActionAid shows vivid photos of the people they help and Housing Works homepage is composed primarily of photos and quotes of people living with HIV and AIDS that receive their services.
  2. Showing Results: Either quantitatively or through description, the site should show visitors the impact the organization is making. Avaaz has a counter on their homepage showing the number of global members of their petition site. Greenpeace USA shows the number of emails its members sent to lobby for protections from mercury poisoning and its homepage graphics highlight both successes and calls the action.
  3. Calls to Action:  The site must give the visitor an opportunity to engage with the cause beyond a simple donation.  Some actions are symbolic, like the photos of the NOH8 campaign, but others, like the The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, also tell visitors how they can become involved in clinical trials.
  4. The 50 Word Rule: As the first trend indicates, we are becoming an increasingly visual society.  This also applies to web site design.  Effective homepage are very low on text, and a limit of 50 words or less is a good goal.  Though this may seem low, the ONE campaign against extreme poverty and preventable diseases has only 26 words on its homepage “above the fold” (before one scrolls down).
  5. Getting Social:  Using social media is not new, but nonprofits are getting increasingly creative in how they incorporate social media.  ONE shows photos of their Facebook supporters on their homepage while Housing Works highlights a Twitter matching fund-drive.

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