Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

webformatDepending on where you are with your organization, you may or may not already have a web site. If you don’t have one, then it’s time to make that a priority. Web sites are invaluable to the nonprofit organization, and every year it seems there are more and more advantages. At first, sites were a great way to dole out information such as your mission and location. As technology progressed, things got even better. “Donate now” buttons were added so constituents could support good causes. Blogs came along and allowed for actual interaction on sites. Now it seems like the opportunities are practically limitless, with new innovations being added all the time (online registration, information sharing, payment processing, etc.).

Generally speaking, the integration of many of these things leads to the need for a professional web programmer. Ten years ago, a nonprofit was likely to ask a volunteer or somewhat savvy staff member to put together a simple web site. After all, nonprofit professionals are the kings and queens of budget consciousness and do-it-yourself. These days, such sites might hurt an organization, though, as they often look very amateurish. So, what’s a start-up nonprofit to do when the budget for a web presence is zero dollars?

First of all, take another look at the budget and see if you can’t get creative with what you have. Remember that your site is how many people will be introduced to you and what you do, and you want it to look as professional as possible to instill a sense of trust. Your web site is not a place to skimp.

If you absolutely must create your own site, at least as a temporary measure, there are a few design “rules” to keep in mind. Web designers have very specific skills that many of the rest of us don’t, so taking even a few cues from them is one way to make your site something that doesn’t immediately turn visitors off. Here are a few of the most important guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Graphics can be great, but don’t clutter your page up too much. They can also take longer to load, so the more you put on a page, the less likely someone is to wait around for the whole thing to show up.
  • Sans serif fonts generally look better on the computer screen, so choose one of these. If your site’s visitor doesn’t have that font loaded, her or she won’t see it the way you’ve intended, so it is a good idea to stick with some of the more popular fonts.
  • Avoid centering text. It’s harder to read and makes the page look messy.
  • Watch out for other formatting pitfalls, such as using too many variations of a font. Adding bold, italics, and underlining all on the same page, for example, looks quite amateur.
These are just a few very simple places to start, but even following a few tips like this will get you headed in the right direction until you can afford to get a pro to build you a shiny new site. Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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