Create your content before designing your nonprofit’s website

Form follows function.

That classic principle of design suggests that, in planning your nonprofit’s website, you first figure out what you want it do and say before hiring a web firm to design or redesign it.

Your website should advance your goals and reach the audiences you need to reach to meet those goals.

So figure out who you want your website to reach, the information you want to them to find there, and the actions you want them to take.

As a nonprofit, you likely want to raise awareness of the need you address. You want to  inform donors about your work, the people you serve, and the difference you make in their lives. And you want to engage people who will get involved and support you.

So before you start talking to web firms to design or redesign your website, think about the story your want your site to tell and how you want to organize that story.

Then create the content. It should include a simple narrative that says who you are, how you work, and your impact. Explain the need you address. Talk about the people you serve and how your work helps them improve their lives. Create profiles of your donors and partners. And write short appeals inviting visitors to get involved and support you.

Only then should you hire a web firm. The expertise of design firms typically is web design, not your cause or how most effectively to tell your story. If you ask a web firm to take on the job of writing and organizing what you want to say on your web site, you will add a lot of time and expense to what the firm already will charge just to design the look, feel and technical functions of your website.

Be smart. You know your cause, your goals and your audience better than anyone. Create and organize your own content first, and only then ask a web firm to design a website based on the story you have created and your plan for telling it.

Form follows function. And the function of your website should be rooted in your goals, the audiences you want to reach and the story you want to tell.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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