It’s 2016. Smartphones were widely adopted about a decade ago, and have actually been around for much longer than that. If your website hasn’t been overhauled in the last few years, it’s time. In fact, it’s past time. And if it isn’t Responsive, it’s really past time.
Having a website that is only functional in desktop/laptop view is outdated, unfriendly, and essentially unusable for a growing segment of the population. If your non-profit is focused on underserved communities your website is sending the message that you really don’t understand how those communities live, work, gather information, or consume media. Unwittingly, you are further marginalizing the people you seek to serve.
According to the Pew Internet Project, over 68% of U.S. adults own a smartphone. 7% of the total population and 13% of those with a household income under $30,000 are smartphone-dependent. That is, they only have a smartphone and data plan for web browsing. They rely on their mobile devices for e-mail, news and health information, online banking, applying for a job, and accessing social services and government programs. They either cannot afford Broadband Internet (and a laptop) at home, or it is not available in their area.
45% of adults own a tablet. And over 89% of smartphone users surveyed in 2014 reported using their smartphones for browsing the web at least once per week. That is an enormous audience you’re ignoring and alienating with your ancient website.
If you’re a non-profit administrator working with marginalized groups and a limited operating budget, you’re probably feeling pretty down in the dumps right about now. I understand. I just gave you a whole bunch of bad news and raw numbers, and spent a few paragraphs berating you for being out of touch.
The good news is, help is available. And it’s reasonably-priced. Because the Internet is everywhere, and Responsive websites are necessary, products and services exist that are accessible to anyone. You don’t need a five-figure budget, months of planning, or any special web developer skills. You don’t need to know any HTML/CSS (although it certainly helps).
SquareSpace, Wix, and Weebly are all powerful, easy to use web building platforms. And Theme Forest offers thousands of beautiful Responsive themes and templates – including entire categories geared towards the non-profit sector – that are WordPress-supported. Most are under $60 and come with all the documentation you’ll need.
If you’re a 501(c)(3), you don’t even need to pay for web hosting. Free hosting is available through Bluehost. In order to qualify for free hosting, you will first need to sign up at grassroots.org. You should also register with GuideStar, while you’re at it, if you haven’t already. It’s important to be indexed with them, so you are registered and networking with other non-profits, as they can help raise your profile and provide valuable development resources.
If you are really stuck, and don’t even know how to get started, there are resources available to you for free. Grassroots and Nonprofit Ready both offer hundreds of online learning resources including designing and building a website. Finally, if your organization is fortunate to have a few thousand dollars at your disposal, it really is worth it to engage the services of professionals. Beyond a beautiful website, they can help you with things like content strategy, analytics, and donor tracking so you can maximize your fundraising efforts and take your Mission to the next level. The industry leader is Blackbaud, and their reputation is well-earned.
I know this may have been an overwhelming read. But it doesn’t need to be an insurmountable task. Rebuilding a website can be a major project. But like any other project or campaign you’ve designed, you can break it down into parts and take it step by step. The result is worth the effort. There are people and products out there that can help you. Your constituents, volunteers, and donors will thank you.