What makes a good charity website?

What makes a good charity website? Learn some best practices around charity web development from Framework Digital.
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Visitors are impatient and are becoming more so, regardless of if the site is for a charity or a business. When users navigate to a charity’s website, they come with a purpose – they need to find where to go quickly.

To ensure this is the case, a good charity’s website needs to have a clear vision of what it wants to say and what it wants the user to do. This means that the experience is focused and tailored to that user and ideally ending in the user completing an appropriate call to action.

Failure to have a clear vision with an instant impact message for the user is a risk to the organisation. It risks:

· Losing potential donors – Real, immediate financial impact

· Losing potential supporters – Sign ups to newsletters and potential future donors

· Losing potential partners – Potential commercial sponsorship or ongoing donors

What this means is that not having a good quality charity website is a real risk that not many organisations can afford to make if it is to survive and grow.



A good charity website ensures thought out preparation is being carried out before a supplier has even been appointed. This means that when reaching out to suppliers, the organisation can explain their requirements effectively and establish which supplier will best meet their needs. Important things to consider:

· Project Manager – A good charity website project will consider having a project manager to oversee the process from beginning to end. The value of having a single point of contact for all parties (organisation and

supplier) is huge as it helps facilitate timely content, clear communication and answering questions throughout the process. The project manager will communicate effectively between organisation and supplier, organise meetings and follow up where necessary with agreed action points. Not having an appointed project manager could significantly extend the timeline of a project and create confusion and delays.

· Brief – The brief doesn’t have to be pages and pages; it can be simple, and bullet pointed. The purpose of the brief is to quickly show the requirements and aims for the project. Using this, suppliers can quickly and easily assess how they can help and follow up with questions where necessary. A good supplier may even assist with refining the brief.

· KPIs – Once a project manager has been appointed and a brief stating what the project will consist of, having some Key Performance Indicators to measure the success of the project is important to establish:

o What criteria needs to be met for the organisation to conder a successful project

o What requirement the supplier needs to demonstrate they can meet before agreeing to the project

o What the project is working towards for all parties



Accessibility should be at the forefront for every website at every stage of development.

But it is especially important for charities and even more so for those who deal with users who may have accessibility requirements when navigating a website.

Websites now are required to meet a set of minimum standards around accessibility when being built. This means that these standards should be considered at the very beginning of the process when planning to build a new website or develop and existing one. Not only is it good to show the organisation is considerate to their users, but it also means that you are speaking to an audience that would otherwise not be reachable due to limitations imposed upon that audience.

Think: In a world of websites that may be difficult to navigate for some users, what would the impact be for a person with accessibility requirements that can easily navigate a charities website? They may feel more likely to donate, sign up or contribute to your cause.


Who It’s For

Charities usually are very good at knowing how to talk about:

· Their background

· Their purpose or cause

· Their impact

· Their achievements

But what’s important to realise is that in fact the website isn’t about the organisation. It’s about the people using it.

Everything from the navigation to the layout, the copy, the images and more should be catered to the user and their experience.

The focus should be on the existing and potential supporters of the charities and the entire experience should encourage them to donate, to sign up to be a member or to complete the relevant call to action for that type of user.



There is always the temptation to add as much information as can possibly fit into the website, whether relevant or not. Adding copy that acts as filler may pads out the page, but it brings very little value to the organisation or the user. Good charity websites are very careful about what information is presented to the user and how it is presented to them.

A good practice for charity websites is to review their copy regularly and ensure that it is presented:

· To a specific user group

· In the specific area of the website

· For a specific purpose

For example, on a Contact Us page, there shouldn’t be a paragraph about the surrounding area or how long the organisation has been based there. The user doesn’t need to know the organisation history in this section, just key information such as:

· The address

· Contact details (phone number, email)

· Contact form

· Any other relevant calls to action.

Lean, simple, and straightforward for the user.

Where more information needs to be delivered to the user, consider bite size chunks rather than long paragraphs. Separate copy with relevant images to keep the user engaged.

Think: Don’t write what the organisation wants to say, write what the organisation wants their users to know


Graphical Elements

Having impactful, striking, and engaging images and videos is essential to a great charity website. They can help really show the user how important the cause is and make the user understand more about how they can help.

It is essential that the images and/or videos that are selected for the website are relevant to the cause. For example, a cause that is helping people of retirement age should not prominently display only young people throughout. As obvious as this sounds, this can happen quite often, especially if stock images are used.

Where possible, try and use real world images and videos for the website (from events or workshops, for example). While stock images and videos can be effective when used correctly, content from real events or experiences can show the reality of the charity and cause and have the biggest impact. With stock images and videos, you can also run the risk of having duplicated content from other websites if it is a commonly used asset.


Calls To Action

Ultimately, the reason charities want to attract users to their website is to take action. Whether it is to donate one off or regularly, to sign up as a member or to take other action, a good charity website needs to have well signposted, clear calls to action.

At the same time, this call to action needs to bring value to the organisation. For example, a charity that works with people who have accessibility requirements can’t just have a call to action to sign up to a newsletter. What benefit does that bring to the charity? How will the user feel like they are making a difference for doing so?

It is not enough to simply have a call to action somewhere on the site. A good website puts real thought and effort into making it as easy as possible for the intended audience member to get directly to the desired call to action.

Let’s say that a charity has more than 1 audience to cater for. In this example we will say 2 and these 2 different audiences each have their own different call to action.

This means that the website needs to quickly guide each user group to their call to action.

In this example, the audiences are:

Member of public – Call to action = Make donation

Potential Corporate Donor – Call to action = Complete contact form

The content and layout of the website needs to cater for each of these audiences and send them easily to different calls to action on the website.

While this isn’t always an easy task, taking the time to really think about each audience or user group’s journey can make a huge difference in the experience and results.


Consider all platforms and devices

When creating or developing a website, a great charity website considers all platforms and devices. More than 50% of users will visit websites on their

mobile or tablet device, so ignoring these users is essentially dismissing more than half of your potential audience.

Consider the users journey on each device and platform during development to ensure all users get the best possible experience and can navigate to their relevant call to action seamlessly


Seamless Donation Process

Whether you want your users to make a one-off donation or sign up to regular, ongoing donations, the experience needs to be simple, fast and impactful.

Where possible, removing any barriers that stand between the user and donating is essential.

However, sometimes the process is dictated by outside factors such as budget or chosen platform.

For example, a charity website’s ideal scenario might be that a user clicks a Donate Now call to action button on the website taking them to a dedicated donation page. This would then give some suggested donations buttons (3 is a good number) and a choose your own amount button. Clicking on any of these would start the process of donating to the cause without ever navigating away from the site, and once the transaction is complete a receipt and thank you email will be sent to the user.

Quick, easy, predictable.

Where restrictions are imposed upon a project, allowances have to be made.

If a payment system takes the project over budget, then consider setting up a PayPal account and embed the code into the site. It isn’t as professional or as customer friendly as the previous example, but the user can still donate towards the cause via a recognisable, safe payment method.

If the platform that has been chosen for certain elements, such as contact forms for example, then work within the parameters of that platform but make sure everything else around it is as clean and as intuitive as possible to offset any slight inconvenience caused by the platform’s restrictions.



Previously, having a simple information website with 5-10 pages may have been enough to attract and engage users. But as mentioned at the beginning of this piece, users are impatient and becoming even more so. Users need to be engaged, active, and feel like what they are doing has an impact.



Make it functional – Add some functionality to the website.

Whatever form this takes, it should help with processes and/or should have functionality where users can go and complete and activity (book an event, sign up for an event for example). But the functionality needs to not be just an activity for activities sake but needs to bring real value to the user and/or the organisation.

There are several factors and reasons why a charity website may not be able to address all the elements that have been raised here. But discussing them within the organisation at the early planning stages of the project means it gives the website a significantly better chance of being a great experience for the organisation and the user.


If you would like to learn more about charity websites and how we can help, please do get in contact.

 Call Mike on 01296 769369

or email mike@frameworkdigital.co.uk



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