There are some certain rules when it comes to non-profit website design.
First of all if you are designer or design company and you want to succeed in this project you must ask a question: who will be responsible for design and development approvals. It definetely can't be the whole organization - it just doesn't work this way when it comes to design. The best option is to pick the guy or gal who is interested in technology and design, and who will be able to hear feedback from website users directly. Then is very important to setup realistic goals for your website, cause it can be not only too expensive to build it, but every additional feature requires time to maintain it and makes the growing process even slower especially in the start.
What is the most important for any website? Visitors, and how to make them find that they looking for! Same with non-profits. And here you need to understand that types of visitors you'll have. Mostly it will be 5 types of visitors:
- Regular visitors – they will come to site from reference/search engines/other websites. Users who don‘t know who you are and what you are doing. You must prepare homepage for them. Rule of thumb is to put "Mission statment" on the top, and make it clear. Also organization background must be clear too – who's standing behind, what is already done, what are nearest goal, long-term-goal, online and offline contacts is very important.
- Volunteers - those who want to donate their time. Website must have section about how they can get involved.
- Beneficiaries – people who will get benefits out of projects on which organization works on.
- Staff – organization members. They will need to have separate area in the website with their own logins. This way they will have opportunity to write the news, put events or manage the comments. Seems to me like content management system (CMS) is a must here.
- Reflect inside of organization;
- Colors has to be related with things written in mission statment;
- Homepage not too busy, long texts is scary for poeple;
- No latest design fashion - non profits don't want spend money on redesigns everytime the new fashion wawe hits. Design must be very simple and plain. They best idea is to create a layout in which content makes the whole design;
- Content is calling in to action - donating/sharing information thru social media.
- Good story telling is the key to success - video makes the best impact here (check the best video of non-profit charitywater.org )
- Newsletter - collecting users data is crucial moment in any organization. Having email addresses of people who are interested in your organization lets you inform about news and events very effectively.
- News/Events/Blog - these elements makes you user come back to your site occasionally, and search engines loves it too.