Crash Course: Aligning Websites With Your Nonprofit's Brand
Nonprofit branding is more than just the colors and logo you choose; it’s the image, story, or feeling that supporters immediately think of when they see your nonprofit’s name. Your branding strategy impacts how your supporters engage with your services and your mission, and your website is among the most important places where this brand should be reflected.
As soon as someone arrives on your site, they should have a clear understanding of your nonprofit’s mission, programming, and the community that you serve.
Ensuring that your website aligns with your nonprofit’s brand is critical not only for making impressions and building relationships but also for fundraising. After all, we’ve been living through a massive shift towards reliance on online giving, which has increased a whopping 60% since 2017—if your website or brand hasn’t been significantly updated in recent years, you’re likely missing opportunities to make a stronger impression and drive revenue.
So how can you better align your website with your brand? To get you started, this crash course will review the following tips:
- Define your nonprofit's mission and audience
- Take advantage of storytelling
- Use consistent visual branding
- Have a clear, focused content strategy
- Meet with a nonprofit tech consultant
With clear branding strategies across your web pages, content, and marketing materials, yours can rank among the best nonprofit websites, a true asset that drives impact for your mission. Let’s dive in.
1. Define your nonprofit's mission and audience
Before you make any drastic changes to your website, you first need to define your nonprofit’s mission and target audience. Doing so will allow you to take a step back and identify the core ideas and principles that your website should follow to create compelling branded design and content.
Nonprofits establish their mission statements when they’re founded. However, now that you have a little more fundraising and donor engagement experience under your belt, your mission might have shifted to reflect your nonprofit’s growth and current direction. Mission shift can happen naturally and isn’t inherently bad if changes are intentional, but what should be avoided is failing to update your mission statement and brand to accurately reflect those changes.
With your marketing team and other key leaders in your organizations, you should:
- Review your mission statement—are these ideas and goals still accurate?
- Ask each of your team members what the nonprofit means to them.
- Reach out to major donors, board members, and other stakeholders for their input.
After solidifying your nonprofit’s mission, take the time to understand your target audience. Who are you currently reaching? How has your audience grown or changed? Are there other groups of donors and supporters who you want to reach but currently don’t? Target your marketing strategies to align with your audience goals and begin donor relationships with a strong foundation.
To identify your current core audience, look at your nonprofit database and constituent relationship management (CRM) system. Check to see who is already actively supporting your organization. Create a few personas of your donors at different average giving levels, including information like age, interests, lifestyle, motivations, and more. All of this will help define your target audience, allowing your nonprofit to build a brand identity based on your supporters.
2. Use consistent visual branding
When you begin updating your nonprofit brand strategy, you’ll likely first think of its visual components. Details like your homepage’s color scheme, the style of graphics and photos you choose, and your organization’s logo are all elements you have to consider.
Keeping up consistent visual branding is crucial, especially for a nonprofit’s website. Not only does this provide your visitors with a seamless user experience, but it also assures them that the content they're navigating through and engaging with is, in fact, yours.
This consistency builds trust and recognition, essential for long-term relationships with donors, and it’s especially critical for your high-impact web pages. Your online donation page, event registration forms, e-commerce storefront, and any other pages that ask users to input sensitive information should give visitors no reason to doubt your website’s validity.
These are also likely to be your most popular landing pages. If your branding is jumbled or not immediately recognizable as yours, you’ll see increased abandonment rates (and therefore decreased conversion rates). It takes just 50 milliseconds for visitors to get an impression of a page’s visuals—make sure those moments are helping rather than holding you back by paying extra attention to these important pages.
Consistent visual branding throughout your website also establishes what your nonprofit’s other marketing content should look like. The same branding visuals and techniques should be used for all materials, whether it’s in your nonprofit’s newsletters, event ads, donor appreciation cards, or social media posts.
3. Take advantage of storytelling
Successful nonprofit branding should not only conjure a specific image in your audience’s minds, but it should also appeal to their emotions. This is where nonprofit storytelling comes in.
If you want to better align your nonprofit website with your brand, storytelling elements tie them together in emotionally resonant ways. Frequently sharing your impact, answering donor questions, collecting testimonials, and remaining transparent about data and facts can all help support your nonprofit’s story and help your organization stand out in your community.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
- Talk to community members that your organization serves to receive some first-hand accounts. Anecdotes from your constituents put a human face on your cause, allowing donors to understand the impact their support has on real people.
- While reading a story can be powerful, adding the right visual elements takes it to another level. Incorporate multimedia like photos and videos to help with your storytelling. Take photos of people your organization has helped (with their permission!) to help craft an emotional narrative with an identifiable, relatable main character.
- Use real data to back up your claims. Compile reports taken from your nonprofit CRM to relay the hard facts and showcase your organization’s true impact in your annual report, cases for support, and other regular publications.
Remember to position your donors near the center of this story—they not only want to hear about the good work you do but how their support helps to drive it forward. A compelling narrative throughline can be the perfect way to encourage more recurring donations!
4. Have a clear, focused content strategy
Your consistent visual identity and storytelling strategies need to fit into an overarching content strategy for your website. This strategy should lay out guidelines for how you’ll approach maintaining web pages and creating new ones. It should cover these essentials:
- Style and messaging. Does your nonprofit have a brand guide that explains the tone and specific words you prefer to use when discussing your work?
- Visual layout. What should different types of content on your site, like event pages, blog posts, and program pages, look like? How will they be structured, and what specific elements will they include to reinforce your brand?
- Schedule or cadence. How often will you create new content for your blog? Or how early prior to an event will you create a page promoting it?
- Organization. How will your site be organized? What are the most important pages to include on your running navigation bar? Where will different types of content be nested as they’re created?
Answering these questions and establishing a clear content strategy can significantly strengthen your website. In terms of brand alignment, this kind of organized approach creates consistency and recognition, making it easier to build relationships with supporters every time they visit. In other words, as you work to build a well-branded site and fill it with engaging content, a content strategy ensures that your hard work will have the intended impact over time.
From a technical perspective, taking this kind of organized approach brings other wide-ranging benefits. A tidy site full of categorized, easy-to-navigate pages improves the user experience and helps your domain rank higher on search engines. Together, these benefits can increase user engagement and conversions. Plus, having a clear understanding of what you’re publishing and when makes it much easier to track your digital performance and make improvements.
This is one area where having the right content management system is especially helpful. Popular platforms like WordPress and Drupal make it easy to keep your website organized and operating (and looking) its best.
5. Meet with a nonprofit technology consultant
If you’re seeking to make bigger-scale changes to your digital brand and strategy, partnering with a nonprofit tech consultant can be the right step to bring your website to the next level.
Nonprofit technology consultants can help with many aspects of your digital engagements and operations. Specifically, they can work with you to flesh out the right technical elements and tools to support your nonprofit’s mission and better connect your supporters with your brand.
Look for a nonprofit tech consulting agency that specializes in website development and design to ensure that you’re getting as much valuable advice as possible. The right consultant will work closely with your team to not only provide that advice but also to set up your website and organization for long-term success.
If you go this route, remember that choosing the right consultant is a time-consuming but critical process. Be mindful of your budget, your needs, and whether the consultant has worked on similar projects before. For more concrete steps and advice, head on over to Kanopi’s guide to finding a nonprofit technology consultant.
Having a clear and impactful branding strategy can do wonders for your nonprofit’s mission. Many of us can likely recognize the pink ribbon symbol instantaneously as the fight against breast cancer. This immediate association isn’t just beneficial for attracting new supporters, but it also encourages current ones to keep engaging with the organization.
If you want to leverage your nonprofit’s brand more effectively, start with your website. Use the above tips to get started, and don’t be afraid to turn to professional help if needed.
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems and empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew. You can find her here: