Website content. Even the most seasoned of development directors shiver at the sound of the word. We at Elevation are here to break down the myth of “scary content” and instead talk about all the good that it can do for your nonprofit’s website. Your nonprofit website content is your digital personality and making sure that it represents you and all the awesome work that you do is essential. So here it is, our must have tips.
Before you even get to content creation you have to think about who it is that you are writing for. Every good author knows that you are writing for a particular reader and website content is no different. These user groups are defined in something we call a UX consultation. UX (user experience) is another important part of nonprofit website design but we just don’t have time to break it all down now. Essentially in the UX consultation you will define your sites user groups, specific identities of the types of visitors that will be browsing your website. By fleshing out these user groups you will have a detailed persona to write for making the rest of it a piece of cake.
Voice, Tone and Style
We will be taking a quick trip to middle school English for this point. Voice is the personality behind your nonprofit’s content. It remains consistent throughout whatever it is that you write or create for your website. Your tone, like spoken tone, is how your content changes depending on who it is targeted for. For example, I would address a major donor differently than I would a one-time volunteer. Your website should reflect these subtle changes in tone. Finally style is the equally important (though slightly more technical) grammar rules that your organization follows.
Things like oxford comma usage and capitalization choices that will apply to any written communication at your organization apply here. We recommend putting together a brand and style guide for best outcomes.
Written Content Structure
Scannability is key. When browsing on the web no one wants to read a giant block of text. Using headers and subheaders to break up text as well as having short sentences and paragraphs will help your users along. In addition, putting your most important information first is key. Your users aren’t going to scan all of your text just to find the information they are looking for hidden in sub paragraph three. Again, make it easy for them!
Use Different Mediums
Content is not only written. Video and image content are also essential for the engagement factor. We suggest investing in an “about us” video (a high-quality, professional-made video). This sort of content is sure to engage your supporters and get them excited about giving.
When it comes to that image to text balance, you always want to lean towards “show more, tell less”. On the web we respond more to visuals than we do heavy blocks of text. Keeping this in mind will lead to a more engaging experience for your users.
Can someone else tell it better?
If someone else can tell your story better than you can, let them. For example, don’t tell yours users about people that you helped, let those people tell them. We are driven by emotion and these emotions are more authentic coming straight from the source. Check out this video created by Pedal Revolution, a nonprofit bike shop located in San Francisco. This is a great example of both a high quality video and of someone telling their own story!
What else is engaging?
Other things that keep your users with you are keeping it consistent by using your mission and values for inspiration the whole time. Coming back to what it is you are working towards will keep your content relatable and coherent.
You know what’s engaging? Success and in the form of numbers. Your potential supporters want to be involved with an organization that is getting stuff done. Including the number of individuals helped, program success numbers and even hours dedicated to work are all fantastic ways to tell your users “yes, we are real and we are really good at what we do.”
Use CTAs (calls-to-action) throughout your site. These are buttons that move your user throughout your site and say things like “learn more about impact here” or “donate now”. Including CTAs ensures that your user will know what’s expected of them and help them navigate your site.
Finally, we just wanted to leave you with some general “writing for the web” tips!
- Always use the active voice. Passive voice tends to be stuffy and doesn’t read well on the web
- Say bye to jargon. Every industry is guilty of using it and the nonprofit sphere is no exception. Staying away from jargon that your users don’t understand will keep them more engaged.
- Bring down the reading level. You want to be hovering around 9th grade when it comes to your written content. Yes, your users are more educated than this, yes it can seem counterintuitive, but no, they don’t want a course on your vocab knowledge.
- Proofread, proofread and proofread. Catching errors is something that’s hard to do when you are editing on your site. Doing it beforehand and having others check it out is essential. There is nothing that will make users click out of your site faster than an embarrassing spelling mistake.
We hope that you are all ready to start creating seriously awesome content for your nonprofit websites. If you have any questions, comments, concerns or just want to chat please reach out to us at Elevation! We love talking anything related to nonprofit web design, and just talking in general.
Emma Wolfe is the Communications and Partnerships Manager at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency. Emma has been involved in the nonprofit world for years working at multiple NGOs located both in the United States and abroad. Her experience ranges from refugee occupation counseling to empowerment programs for youth in West Africa. When she isn’t traveling Emma loves doing yoga and trying new food.
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