Guest blog by Kayleigh Alexandra

Websites come in all different shapes and sizes, and two of the most common types of websites are commercial and nonprofit.

Commercial websites are targeted towards making money in some way. When it comes to nonprofits, however, things are a bit different. They usually need to make money in the form of donations, but they also need to provide information and resources.

So how should a nonprofit website differ from other websites? Here are some of the most important differences.

Focus on Two Audiences

A standard commercial website will focus on one audience: customers. But a nonprofit website will often have two: donors and service users.

Donors are the people who access the website and donate money to the cause, while service users are the people who actually use the services provided by the nonprofit.

There is also a potential third category. When a nonprofit runs like a business selling products, it will need to target customers in the same way as a standard website. But for the sake of argument, we will focus on two.

The nonprofit must communicate with both audiences and provide them with the messages and the information they need. It needs to target the people donating so that the product can be provided in the first place, as well as the people in need of the product or service.

The end user will want to know how they can access the product or service, where they can get it, and how they can use it.

You’ll have to make sure your branding is spot on. This form of split-branding can be difficult to accomplish successfully, but it is essential to get the right mix.

Use Genuine Images

A nonprofit will have to make very careful use of images when depicting the people who use the products or services provided.

How will they be perceived? They will need to be shown in a way that attracts donors by showing both their plights and their success stories, all without appearing judgmental.

It’s important to use real photos that tell stories of real people. There is no room here for anything less than genuine. People are looking for legitimacy, and donors want to see exactly what they are putting their money towards. Stock photography is incredibly useful in general, but not in this specific case — avoid it entirely.

The images could show the volunteers, the people behind the nonprofit, the success stories, those in need and other elements to establish a connection.

Make Sure the Audience Trusts You

You need to be trustworthy. This is true with any website, but it is especially important for a nonprofit.

You need donors to trust you enough to donate, and they should be left in no doubt about the good work you will do with their money. But people accessing the website to use your product or service should also feel that they will find a non-judgmental perspective and can thus trust you enough to approach you in the first place.

A lot of this comes down to things already mentioned, such as images, but it also includes the website itself. It’s essential to have a good design that works well, provides fast-loading pages, and is easy to navigate.

You should also take a mobile-first approach. Many users of the product or service you provide are more likely to access the mobile version than use a desktop computer. Your website should therefore be easy to use on any device. And while it should also be attractive, the focus is always on ease of use. Overall, it needs to come across as warm, welcoming and friendly.

This is particularly important to keep in mind if you have acquired an existing website and you want to change the branding to differentiate it from the existing brand. Give it a revamp by focusing on the above areas to put your stamp on it and make sure you get your message across effectively.

Use Informative Content

While many commercial websites will need informative content in the form of blog posts and guides, it’s a bit different for a nonprofit. You will need to put a lot of focus on information, ensuring all the essential info is there for both donors and clients.

Provide lots of details about your programs, services, financial disclosure, your volunteers, where donations go, how they are used, the people who work there, and the board of directors. You should also provide maps and information on how to access the product to make it easy for your clients.

Incorporate Different CTAs

Because you are targeting different audiences, you will often need to use different calls to action (CTAs).

For your donors, encourage them to get involved by donating money or joining your membership program. For your clients, encourage them to seek you out and contact you for support to find out about how you can help them.

For both, you should follow best practices for CTAs. Make it very easy to act — using a large button saying ‘Donate’ is a good start, and don’t hide it away where it won’t be found.

Don’t confuse things. Both audiences should be able to act quickly and effortlessly in a couple of clicks.

Make It Affordable to Run

Nonprofits need to save money wherever they can. They can do this by getting people like web designers to provide assistance at reduced rates, or even for free.

But think long-term. Use a platform for your website that is not only cost-effective but also easy to use by the people in-house. WordPress is a great example.

In that kind of CMS (content management system), you can access, update and edit content without any specialist knowledge, so you can take over the running of your website without the need to rely on anyone else — ultimately making it more affordable.

Keep These Key Differences in Mind

When you are launching a nonprofit website, or taking over from another website and re-branding, these are all important differences to keep in mind.

Nonprofits have different goals and audiences from those of standard commercial websites. To ensure your nonprofit is as successful as it can be, make sure it targets all its users carefully, gets its message across, and is easy for everyone to access and use.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site that donates all of its web revenue to charities supporting startups, entrepreneurs, and other worthy causes. Check out the blog for your latest dose of growth hacking news. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.