[Guest Post] 4 Things You Can Do With a CMS Made for Nonprofits

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[Guest Post] 4 Things You Can Do With a CMS Made for Nonprofits

The past year and a half hasn’t been easy for any nonprofit, but you’ve likely learned to adapt to the less-than-optimal circumstances imposed by COVID-19. You may have hosted successful fundraisers during the pandemic, figured out how to offer volunteer opportunities online, or started a recurring giving program to help pull in consistent revenue. 

Through all of these different initiatives, you’ve likely relied on your nonprofit website to represent your cause online and get the word out about events, fundraisers, and updates on your operations. But is your content management system (CMS) allowing you to make the most out of your website? 

Often nonprofits don’t know there are website builder options out there created just for them. Instead they make do with a generic CMS like WordPress or Ghost, which in reality can be tricky to use for those without any web design experience. Plus, generic website builders like these don’t offer the features your organization needs to optimize your online presence. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through four things a nonprofit CMS can empower you to do: 

  1. Customize your website to your brand. 
  2. Easily share impact stories across your online platforms. 
  3. Accept donations on your website. 
  4. Use SEO tools to help supporters find your cause. 

Are you ready to learn how to take the stress out of web design for your nonprofit? Let’s get started! 

  1. Customize your website to your brand. 

Your nonprofit has a brand, whether you’ve worked deliberately to build it up or let it develop organically. Your brand is essentially everything that helps the public recognize your nonprofit and its mission. This includes how you talk about your mission, the values that you stand for, and the way you treat your supporters and beneficiaries. 

However, there are also visual elements to your brand that you have to consider, especially when designing or redesigning your organization’s website. These include:

  • Logos
  • Color schemes 
  • Typography
  • Graphic design and photography

With a nonprofit CMS, you can customize the design of your website to reflect your brand. By doing so, your current supporters will know they’re in the right place when they navigate to your website, and prospective supporters will remember your organization for making a great first impression online. 

The important thing to remember when working to brand your website is to ensure everything is consistent across the site and the rest of your operations. You don’t want your virtual volunteer training manual, for example, to look completely different from your donation page. Here are some of the most important reasons why you should take the time to go through your website with a fine-toothed comb and make sure everything is consistent: 

  1. When your branding is consistent, it will signal to your supporters that you’re a trustworthy organization. Branding consistency helps you gain rapport with your supporters. People are wary of websites that don’t seem connected to the organization they represent. You can provide your supporters peace of mind by being consistent. 
  1. Consistent branding will help your organization appear more professional and organized. When all of your operations and online tools like your website and social media are branded the same way, all of the facets of your organization will look like they’re on the same page, giving you professionalism points with everyone who lands on your site. 
  1. As your organization grows, consistent branding will give your different programs and branches a unified voice. You cannot predict the projects your organization will create down the road.  But wherever the future may take you, a clear and consistent brand will tether all of your initiatives together. This will not only make it easier to market your growing organization, but it will help you to remember your core values and mission when venturing into new projects.

How you brand your website has big repercussions for the public’s perception of your organization. Don’t let the opportunity to brand your website get away from you. Instead, use a nonprofit CMS to seamlessly incorporate your brand across your website. 

  1. Easily share impact stories across your online platforms. 

One of the most important things you can do with your nonprofit website is to share the impact your donors, volunteers, and staff members are having on your cause. Sharing stories of the work you’re doing allows you to show your supporters what they’re making possible through their contributions of time and monetary gifts.

There are three great ways to share impact stories through your website: 

  • Blogs: Blogging involves sharing stories in the form of written articles that are often paired with striking visual elements. When setting up your website’s blog, be sure to also plan a regular blogging schedule and posts on a variety of topics, like upcoming fundraising events or your volunteers of the month. In order to get your supporters to frequent your blog, you need to provide fresh and engaging content on a regular basis. You can also highlight new blog posts in your weekly or monthly newsletter so that dedicated readers never miss a new article! 
  • Social media live feeds: The right nonprofit CMS will be able to help you integrate your website with social media in a variety of ways, like through a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram live feed you can have right on your homepage. A live feed can serve as a showcase of the stories you’re sharing on your social media profiles. Plus, you’ll encourage back-and-forth traffic between your website and social profiles and social sharing. 
  • A supporter spotlight page: Show your supporters how much you appreciate their efforts by dedicating a section of your website to their impact on your organization. A robust CMS will allow you to easily share photo reels, videos, written testimonials, and a host of other multimedia elements on your site. This page will make a profound impact on your donors and volunteers, increasing their engagement and inspiring them to continue supporting an organization that is so thankful and responsive to their efforts.

Once you’ve set up these tools through your nonprofit’s CMS, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how you’re telling stories. Here are some storytelling tips so you can convey the impact your supporters are having on your work: 

  1. Find the human element. People like to read stories about other people, and it is often through stories that we recognize the humanity in others and feel impressed to enact positive change. Try telling stories about individuals. For example, if your nonprofit focuses on rescuing animals, you might share the story of an adopter who saved the life of a family of dogs. Or, if you’re interested in recruiting more volunteers, you might share the story of a volunteer who’s been helping your organization from its beginning. 
  1. Choose a strong visual. Pictures help capture emotion, especially where words can’t. For blog and social media posts, make sure you’re choosing pictures that convey strong emotions. We suggest you skip the generic stock photo and take pictures at your next volunteer training or donor thank-you luncheon. Capture real people doing real things. 
  1. Use descriptive language. Descriptive language is key when you want to make a story come to life. For example, say your nonprofit is focused on cleaning up community parks. Take the time to describe the litter scattered throughout the park and the work it takes to get it back in order. Then, when you describe the trees, foliage, birds, and squirrels in the clean park, your readers will be able to picture how much of a difference your organization makes. 

Sharing the impact your organization and supporters have on whatever cause you’re pushing forward is essential to engaging your website visitors. Make sure to tell stories that will catch the eye and capture the heart! 

  1. Accept donations on your website.

Donations are essential to the success of your organization, but without the right website builder, your organization might not be set up to pull in all the donations you need to keep your operations running. 

With a nonprofit-specific CMS you’ll have access to customizable donation form templates that can optimize the way you process and receive gifts. Some platforms even provide templates that come mobile-ready so you can be prepared for busy donors on the go.

For professional best practices to improve your own donation form and page, check out these donation page design tips from Morweb

  • Brand your donation form to match the rest of your website. As discussed above, consistent branding is key in boosting trust with your supporters. And your donation form is one place on your website where you certainly can’t afford to lose your supporters’ trust. Make sure you clearly display your logo!
  • Include multiple ways to give. Donors like to have options when it comes to giving your organization a gift. For example, recurring gifts and corporate philanthropy programs are two common methods of alternative giving that will expand donors’ payments beyond a simple one-time donation. Matching gifts are an especially effective way of increasing donors’ gifts without too much convincing. By integrating a matching gifts database in your donation form, donors can see if their employers will match their gifts without any extra payment on their part. Check out 360MatchPro’s list of matching gift companies to find the right provider for your organization. 
  • Keep it simple. Once a donor gets to your donation form, they want to complete their gift quickly. Provide a convenient, fast, and easy experience by keeping your donation form simple. Only ask for necessary information, like contact information and payment details. If you do decide to ask for further information, make sure to mark which fields on the form are optional and which are required. 

To round out the donation experience, you’ll also need a solid plan in place for thanking your donors. With the right CMS, you’ll be able to automatically send thank-you messages once a donation is completed. Don’t forget to follow up a little later with a more personalized thank-you letter. This will leave a positive impression on your donor and likely keep them coming back to your online donation page to give again and again. 

  1. Use SEO tools to help supporters find your cause. 

If a prospective donor were to type the name of your nonprofit into Google, would they be able to find your website easily? 

This is what search engine optimization (SEO) asks you to consider. 

SEO is the practice of working to make your website and its content rank higher on search engines like Google. To rank higher, you have to prepare your website to be crawled by search engines, which then use algorithms to determine where your website and its pages will fall when someone searches terms related to your organization. 

Much of SEO involves using keywords that are directly related to the content on your website. For example, if you’re looking to increase traffic to a page you’ve created about crowdfunding, a few of the keywords might be: 

  • Crowdfunding
  • Crowdfunding definition
  • Crowdfunding campaigns
  • Crowdfunding ideas 
  • Crowdfunding platforms 

When you use keywords in your content and take care of other SEO basics, you’ll be found quicker and more often on Google. But SEO can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re new to both web design and SEO work. Luckily, nonprofit website builders can help you take care of SEO basics, such as: 

  • Meta titles: A meta title is exactly what it sounds like—a title that identifies the topic of your webpage. Meta titles are displayed on search engine results pages, and are usually what we skim when deciding what to click on in the results page. To write an effective meta title, include a keyword and keep the title to 60 characters or less so the entire title will display on the search results page. 
  • Meta descriptions: The meta description for a page is a short description that gives the gist of the page. To make sure the entire description displays on the search engine results page, make sure it is 160 characters or less. Try to include relevant details and keywords in the meta description. 
  • Custom URLs: Custom URLs are important for helping direct traffic to your page. They can help both people and search engines determine what your page is all about. Custom URLs look better if they are short and include a keyword. Long URLs often look messy. For example, if you want to make your website the central hub of your Giving Tuesday campaign, your URL could be something like yournonprofit.com/nonprofit-giving-tuesday-campaign-2021. 

It’s easy to fall into the SEO rabbithole and start to prioritize search engines over real people. But remember when designing your website and writing content for it that your focus should be on your supporters and prospective supporters. Create content and resources that help them engage with your organization first and foremost, and then work on SEO. 

The Gist 

As a nonprofit professional, you’re likely not a web design expert. Luckily, you don’t have to give yourself heartburn trying to design a great website on a generic CMS. With a CMS meant for nonprofits, you can easily make your website match your brand, share stories of impact, accept donations, and improve your SEO. 

As you consider which CMS is right for you, look for the features that will help you deliver the content and tools your supporters need from you the most. Best of luck!

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