No matter how perfect your website’s current design is, you’ll need to update it at some point in the near future. Regularly updating your nonprofit’s website is part of running a website, but sometimes nonprofits aren’t sure what they should be updating.
In addition to WordPress’s routine system updates, you should take the time for routine cleanup and content updates to ensure your website remains both relevant and secure. No matter how much your supporters believe in your mission, they need to see that your nonprofit is active before they contribute either their time or money.
For major updates or website overhauls, don’t be afraid to reach out to a nonprofit web design consultant. However, for more minor and routine changes, you could very well handle your nonprofit website maintenance yourself! To help you get started, this guide will explore three core components of updating your website:
For each section, we’ll first go over why the step is important, then we’ll get into best practices you can apply to your own website. Have a goal in mind as you update your website—what do you want your update to achieve? These tips are structured to both suggest goals and then to give you advice on how to achieve them. Ready? Let’s dive in.
An active website represents a healthy nonprofit. If you want to engage supporters, you’ll need to show them that your nonprofit is conducting engaging work. Websites that have their most recent news or blog posts dated months (or sometimes years!) back can make it look like your nonprofit is no longer operational and can cause supporters to worry their donations will not be put to good use.
Regularly adding new content, archiving old content, and removing outdated content will also reduce clutter on your website. Outdated links and information, especially, can create a confusing website that might scare away visitors who will see a lack of fresh content as a sign that your organization isn’t well maintained.
Consistent activity also shows search engines that your website is worth interacting with, causing them to rank your website higher on their search results pages. Regularly posting new, valuable content appeals to search algorithm criteria, which can then drive more organic traffic to your website over time.
The obvious answer to creating an active website is to regularly add new content. The obvious question, then, is what kind of content should you add to your website?
Creating valuable content that your supporters will engage with takes creativity and time that your team might not always have. Fortunately, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel by adding new pages to your website every time you want to update your content. While you should feel free to experiment, a few common methods nonprofits have adopted for showing regular activity are:
In addition to these practices, update other features of your website such as images, spotlights, and mission progress statements as new information comes in. For example, switch out the photos in your homepage’s image carousel after an event or major program completion to show your donors having fun or your volunteers in action.
If your website isn’t maintained, you’ll run into performance issues, unhygienic data, and security vulnerabilities. Poorly maintained websites can create a bad experience for users who can see performance issues such as long loading times and broken media as reasons to exit out of the page.
According to AccuData’s guide to data hygiene, 12% of your revenue can be lost due to unclean data. Unclean data can appear naturally over time from non-standardized data collection forms, entry errors, and unsynced storage systems. Common data hygiene and site organization problems such as duplicate images can lead to long load times, while the collection of unusable data can severely impact your reporting capabilities.
Worse yet, a security breach can put both your nonprofit and your donors’ information at risk. WordPress and other web building tools often create updates specifically to combat new vulnerabilities, and failing to update in a timely manner can leave your website at risk to attacks. Even if you’re able to mitigate the damage of a data breach, it’s likely you’ll lose your donors’ trust and their contributions along with it.
Your maintenance should be regularly conducted and always completed after a major WordPress update (which you shouldn’t wait to install!). Run through your website as if you were a user by navigating to your most important pages, testing links, interacting with content, and filling out forms. Prioritize pages such as your donation form to make sure visitors never experience interruptions with vital content.
Here’s a more thorough breakdown of elements to consider as you plan your routine maintenance:
You don’t need to be a tech expert to make sure your website is running smoothly. A basic understanding of WordPress should help you account for most errors you’ll encounter on a regular maintenance checkup. However, if you do find an issue beyond your knowledge level, reach out to a tech expert or other resource rather than risk breaking your website.
Sometimes your website needs an update or overhaul that’s more time-consuming or complicated than your team can manage. For example, complete redesigns or persistent coding errors require time and energy to sort through that your team could better spend on fundraising or completing your mission.
In addition to providing assistance for complex tasks, web consultants are also an invaluable source of information and guidance. A nonprofit consultant with years of experience working with organizations similar to yours already knows the pitfalls and opportunities that await you as you update your website and can point them out to you along the way.
While investing in the right tech consultant is absolutely worth the cost, your nonprofit does have a limited budget and will need to make strategic business deals in order to be sustainable. Choosing the wrong consultant can set your nonprofit back both in time and money and may result in your website going in a different direction than what you envisioned. The best way to mitigate this risk is to very clearly define your needs and goals before reaching out to candidates. With a clear sense of exactly what you do and don’t need, you’ll avoid investing in services that aren’t directly related to your immediate tech concerns.
Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit consultants outlines a few key points to consider and discuss with potential partners:
Before approaching a consultant, be sure to know what you want your consultant to work on and what your budget for their services is. Your plans may change as you investigate your problems, but coming into a consultation meeting with a limited understanding of your own needs won’t be very helpful for either you or your consulting firm.
WordPress is a popular choice for nonprofits for a reason. Its ease-of-use and customizability allow nonprofits to build creative, well-designed websites. However, your website needs regular maintenance to succeed, so don’t let updates fall by the wayside.
As you update your nonprofit’s website, keep in mind what you want your website to accomplish. Along with being one of your most useful tools for providing information and engaging supporters, your website represents your nonprofit. Branding, design choices, and making sure you’re presenting a healthy, functional website will encourage further supporter interaction and financial support. Supporters will feel safe donating, will check back regularly to read updates on your mission, and will enjoy the high quality content they know they can expect from your website.
Author: Ira Horowitz
With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.