Visuals matter. Learn the basics of design for nonprofits.

You are already balancing quite a few job roles. Whether it be in nonprofit communications, development, website management, digital strategy—the list goes on. We get it, you’re not exactly excited about adding “designer” to those responsibilities. But let’s face it, especially if you work for a smaller nonprofit, you’ll likely be in charge of putting together branded materials. Beyond that, design is integral to everything you’re doing. Whether it be to get donors, volunteers or grow general awareness, aesthetics go hand in hand with all your work you do.

We’re not telling you to go back to design school, but we are going to point out a few web design basics that could help you take your nonprofit work to the next level.

These come from Mark Hemeon, the CEO & Founder of Design Inc. His post goes into more depth, but this is what we think you should know.

4 basic rules of graphic design for nonprofits to know

1. Prioritize your message.

Well duh. This seems like a no-brainer. But we sometimes forget it.  As we build out web pages or communications materials, we try to fit so much on the page (as we have a lot to say) that we sometimes forget our overall goals. Once you’ve finished building out content, always take a step back and look at it as if you’ve never seen it before. What’s the first thing you notice? Is the message what you want it to be?

Acumen immediately pulls out their mission statement in a creative way. They also draw your attention to their primary goal with the “donate” CTA. This prioritization carries through the rest of the homepage as your eyes flow to the most important pieces.

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Image source: Top Nonprofits

2. Alignment matters.

If something looks off about a piece you’ve created, it may be as simple as checking the alignment. Be sure to keep it left, right or centrally aligned. Take a look below to understand how much this can impact how you process text:

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Image Source: Slideshare.net

3. Text needs space.

One of the worst moves you can make when laying out type is cramming it all together. Readers will not want to know your nonprofit’s mission statement if it hurts their eyes to take in. If you’re unsure, leave more space than you think you need.

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Image source: Developer.Apple.com

 

4. Color communicates.

A few important notes about color: stick to your brand and don’t forget about legibility.

It’s tempting to go crazy with color, but most of the time, you should stick to your brand guidelines for consistency’s sake. You should also be wary of using it with text. It can get hard to read and look unprofessional.

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Image source: sitepoint

 

Ready to design like a pro? Well, luckily you don’t have to be. Use tools like Canva or get in touch with an agency to either get feedback or purchase a few templates that could be recycled.

If you need help with your designs, contact us at ArcStone. We do a lot of web design and graphic design work with nonprofits and love to make an impact.

Prepping for your new nonprofit website launch? How to get the word out.

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You’ve been stressing about this nonprofit website launch for months. There was so much time, money and energy spent, all in hopes that this website could have a major impact on your nonprofit. But you launched and nothing really seemed to change. In fact, your traffic has gone down!

First off, read about how this dip in traffic is totally normal and there are ways to help you minimize this tendency.

Secondly, it’s likely your frequent visitors have seen your redesign but didn’t have a way to tell you, so take comfort in that.

For the rest of the world, they need to be told about your nonprofit website redesign to take the time to come review it. How do you do this in a tasteful, effective manner?

8 ideas for getting your nonprofit website launch noticed

1. Tell the full story (well, at least most of it)

Launching a website is exciting from your perspective, but that’s because you’ve been part of the story behind why you needed a new site. If you could include your audience in on that narrative, they’ll likely feel more of an emotional pull towards the project. They could sympathize with your prior pains and be relieved to see them alleviated. As they navigate the site, they’ll be more curious about the various features as they see how problems were solved. You can explain this story via an email, blog post, infographic, video or a combination of the above.

2. Start with a soft launch

Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something exclusive. Your nonprofit is the same; gather a list of your biggest donors, most active volunteers and community members. Send out a note introducing your new site, stating that you’d like them to be the first to try it out. Walk them through why you made the strategic changes you did so they can feel like they’re included in they have insider information.

This will get you a good amount of visits right from the start and could make these supporters feel excited to share your site with friends and visit it more frequently.

Images source: Warren Camp Design

3. Get the whole nonprofit involved

It’s not just your communications team’s job to get this site out there. It affects your entire nonprofit, so everyone should take part. To make it easier for them, give them ideas. Encourage them to share it on their social networks, via their emails, during their phone calls with donors / volunteers / the community, and in their email signatures. The last idea could look something like this:

Chloe Mark
Digital Marketing Strategist
ArcStone
P.S. Our website is launched!! We can’t wait to see its impact on our cause. Take a look at the transformation [link to website here]

4. Give something away

So all these ideas are great, but sometimes people need a little extra incentive. This could include tickets to an upcoming event, a free item donated by a local business, free nonprofit merchandise or a free resource like a webinar. In order to win, have them come to a landing page on your new site and fill out their contact info. Here’s some advice on how to request donations for nonprofit giveaways »

5. Never neglect the opportunity to talk about your nonprofit website launch

It may get tiring to constantly bring up your new website launch at all your meetings and during phone calls, but in doing so, we promise it makes a difference. When people hear someone talk about a project that has tangible results, they are more likely to check it out. People like to see others excited about their work.


Best of luck with your redesign! We hope these ideas help you to see an increase in traffic right after your launch. If you need help with post-website launch SEO, social media strategy, Google Analytics setup or the like, contact ArcStone »

Nonprofit website design costs: How can you determine your redesign budget?

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Before you’ve started the project, determining the scope of your nonprofit website design and how much you’ll need covered by grants can prove difficult, if not impossible. To alleviate some of this burden, ArcStone’s Head of Sales, Jenna, answered some common questions below. Read through them to help you understand what all might go into your website and what hidden costs you should note before diving in.

*Warning: Jenna has tried to provide a lot of detail, but in the end, you’ll want to talk to an agency or your developer/design team to understand what the true cost will be. This post will help you understand how to begin thinking through your budget and what questions to ask.

How much does a redesign cost?

The fluctuation of cost is due to a combination of factors. You’ll want to know:

  • Experience level of provider
  • Size of website
  • Cost of provider or agency
  • Approach (custom vs. template, etc.)

Here are some general prices Jenna estimated below:

  • Off the shelf template, no expert help (Squarespace, WordPress, etc.): FREE – $500
  • Freelancer website (template or custom): $500 – $10,000
  • Pre-built template w/customizations: $1,000 – 12,000
  • Custom website w/CMS: $5,000 – $100,000+ *most fall between $10k-50k
  • Custom website with a custom CMS: $25,000 – $100,000+

You’ll also want to think about whether or not you’ll need marketing work, ongoing support or hosting services. Always ask your partner or employee if they can cover all the bases you need.

What other factors can influence your website redesign budget?

There are quite a few aspects Jenna runs into when setting up a client with the appropriate budget. The four questions below often surprise clients so you’ll want to ask them now rather than run into them later.

1) What is the number of unique page templates your site will need?

Most websites have at least 3 unique page layouts that better accommodate different content and audience types, rather than having just one standard page.

For example a nonprofit would likely need page templates such as:

  • Home
  • General interior (our mission, history, etc.)
  • Donor payment
  • Volunteer signup
  • How to get help
  • Events
  • Blog listing
  • Blog detail
  • Contact

It seems like quite a few right? It’s tempting to say you don’t need these all, but each type of content necessitates additional wireframing, design, development and content time – meaning more time and money. Better to be realistic now than to add these on later.

2) Do you need something custom or off the shelf?

Jenna uses this fitting example: when redesigning your kitchen you can either choose a custom cabinet or one that is mass produced. This is the same in regards to the functionality needed for your website. Sometimes there are plugins or systems that can handle what you need, while other times you need a custom solution. Jenna noted that people often assume their needs can be met with a pre-built solution, but this is not always the case. Then when a nonprofit needs something custom, they forget about the time it takes to research, install and configure something pre-built.

  • Plugin purchase and configuration: Free – $2000
  • Individual custom features: $200 – $10,000 (each)

3) How will you handle content?

It’s fairly standard to see nonprofits cut content production and implementation from their budget. They assume they can at least do that part on their own. However, it becomes really challenging and time-consuming. In the end, they ask the agency to takeover, which costs them more than they anticipated. Jenna highly recommends budgeting extra for any redesign and never assume you should re-use existing content.

A few common content budget items during a redesign that you should consider are:

  • Content Audit
  • Content Strategy
  • Production and Governance Plan
  • Content Creation – copywriting, photography, video production, graphics, etc.
  • Content Migration – automating the migration of a WordPress blog, for example
  • Content Entry
  • Content Formatting & Optimization

She also recommends getting this done as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the agency is done with their work. Focus on this from the get-go so you and your employees can better plan for it.

  • Most content budgets for a website redesign: $1,000 – $20,000

4) Time is money

Though experienced agencies often cost more, they typically have well-defined processes which can save you time and money in the long run. They will be more efficient throughout and more equipped for handling any mishaps.

Also keep in mind, when it comes to timeline, we’ve found the more tight schedule we stay on, the better the project goes. Keeping a consistent momentum keeps people focused on both sides and can help decrease the cost of project management. Keep in mind something like 6-12 weeks.


We hope this helps you plan out your redesign project and avoid any surprise costs. As a nonprofit, we know you don’t have the time or money to deal with that, and with all the good you’re doing, you shouldn’t have to take on anything more!

If you are thinking about a redesign, check out our 25+ website redesign resources or contact ArcStone’s team today.

Tackling nonprofit web design projects, with some help from local experts

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Website redesigns are a huge undertaking, especially for nonprofits who have very specific (and often tight) budgets and not a minute of spare time. ArcStone has been focusing on nonprofit web design for a few years now, so we’re family with situations where decision makers are challenged beyond their original expectations. How can you prep so you are ready for what your website project may throw your way?

We think you should attend a happy hour.

Hear us out. Minneapolis web design, content and development experts are getting together this upcoming week to talk through the challenges of a website redesign. These folks include ArcStone’s CEO David Carnes as a moderator of the panel discussion and representatives from three Minneapolis web design agencies – ArcStone, Brandpoint and fjorge.

The panelist are:

This discussion may include:

  • Where to start your website redesign
  • What goals to keep in mind
  • Tricks for staying under budget
  • Ideas for managing your team
  • Aspects you may be forgetting
  • Whatever questions you and other guests ask!

This is all happening Tuesday, June 6th, 3:30pm-6pm at the Shindig Event Space.

  • 3:30-4:30PM: Registration & Social Hour
  • 4:30-5:30PM: Panel Discussion moderated by David
  • 5:30-6:00PM: Questions & Wrap Up

Besides the amazing knowledge you’ll gain by listening to the experience of others, you will also receive a free drink ticket and delicious apps. Sign up here. Cheers to a successful redesign!

Where should all nonprofit website or marketing projects start?

Looking back before moving forward.

It’s not the most exciting thing to do. However, the results have proven essential to nonprofits as they approach any website project.

Many nonprofits that come to ArcStone for help already have a website. They come to us because their site isn’t doing what they want; it isn’t drawing in donations or volunteers or effectively communicating what they need to say. Knowing this, we look over what they’ve done in the past and attempt to uncover exactly what will make it better in the future. This all is included in what we call a website audit.

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What is a website audit?

First, let’s explain what an audit even entails. Essentially, it’s a look at what causes a good versus bad experience for a user on your website. Then it’s looking at how the site is performing technically. We look for issues, errors and missed opportunities so we can better understand where the site is at and where it could go.

What’s covered in a nonprofit site audit?

These very from client to client, based on need, but this is an overview of what all we typically review.

  • Google Analytics (GA) accessibility: Is anyone at your nonprofit reviewing your analytics? How easy is it for them to get to the data that matters to your organization specifically?
  • GA setup and implementation: Is your account set up properly? What tags are you using? Understand some of the basics on Analytics »
  • GA data quality and additions: If it is set up, what’s being tracked within your account? What information do you need to see that you aren’t? Learn about filters and conversions »
  • Metadata: Is your site using metadata? Does it follow best practices?
  • Responsiveness / mobile-friendly design: Is the site responsive? How many users are using mobile devices and is it working for them? More on mobile sites »
  • Site indexing and crawlability: Is your site being indexed and crawled?
  • Site errors: Are there any errors on your site?
  • Site speed: How does your site function in terms of speed? Discover how slow site speed negatively impact SEO »
  • Schema implementation: Do you have schema implemented?
  • Internal linking: Are there links set up within your site?
  • Manual actions from Google: Do you have any manual actions or violations?

So before you dive right in to a redesign, be sure to ask yourself some of these questions. Nonprofits have tight budgets, and you need to be sure you have a solid plan for tackling your biggest priorities efficiently. With an audit, it’ll become far clearer what these are.

If you’re interested in learning more about ArcStone’s website audit services, please contact us.

Not ready for a new nonprofit website design? Start with a landing page instead

Not many nonprofits have the budget for a full-on website redesign, at least not until a lot of grant writing has been done. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for any site tweaks, if prioritized above other expenses. This post highlights the necessity of quality landing pages and why they might be more worth their weight in gold than other digital marketing moves.

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Here’s how we know.

A client, Hunger Solutions, was seeking to drive attention to their campaign, Minnesota Food Helpline. They had spent time and effort developing a form and landing page and coupled that with promotion via social media and AdWords. Even with all of this effort, they weren’t seeing the results they thought they could.

When they came to ArcStone we decided the best use of their budget was not in promotional techniques or content marketing, but instead a completely redesigned landing page.

The priorities of this design included:

  • Simplify the language and remove much of the text. We wanted all the users’ attention to go to the call to action.
  • Change the call to action to a very specific direction. It was, “do I qualify for SNAP?” and we switched it to a more active phrase, including a verb, “find out if you qualify for SNAP.”
  • Remove distractions. We took all the unnecessary navigation items and really only kept the link to submit the form.
  • Provide insight through imagery. Although icons aren’t always a bad idea, we noticed they weren’t doing much to inform the user what their action would do.

A few of the results:

  • An increase in conversions of 178% the month after the redesign.
  • 3x as many calls to their helpline.

Where can your nonprofit start when it comes to its site design & landing pages?

1. Talk with your development team and nail down your most important priorities.

For Hunger Solutions, it was helping those in need find their helpline.

Maybe it’s driving donations for a campaign or getting more volunteers at your event. Whatever it may be, try your best to ensure your landing page focuses on a specific audience. If this is keyed into, you’ll better be able to redesign the layout and rewrite the copy with them in mind, making it more likely you’ll capture their interest.

2. Find examples from other similar nonprofits and determine what you do and don’t like.

For example, I admired the landing page below, as it is beautiful and gets right to the point:

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Image source: Leadpages

This works well as they state exactly what they want you to do at the get-go. The main information is kept at the top with an elegant design. If the donors want to learn more about where their money is going (which they often do) they can easily look below on how this helps reach the nonprofit’s goal.

3. Audit your current design. Whether you conduct this audit yourself or have an agency’s help, ask questions such as:

  • If you were a new visitor to the page, is it clear what your organization is trying to do?
  • How specific is your call to action? Is it easily found by a new user?
  • How is the page performing currently? Where would you like this conversion rate to be?
  • What’s the bounce rate? Learn about what might be the cause of a high bounce rate here »

We hope this encourages you to take a close look at what we believe is one of the best investments. By having a well thought out landing page, your nonprofit can better achieve its goal: getting people the information they need to make the world a better place.

Nonprofit web accessibility – a recap from experts.

You already understand the value of investing in a quality website. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t understand the value in ensuring their website is accessible. For many nonprofits, (whether they know it or not) it is already mandatory and for the rest, it soon will be.

According to FMJ Law, “if your organization receives federal financial assistance such as grants or loans, it is also subject to section 504.” Just a reminder, Section 504 entails no one can be discriminated against based on a disability. This also means any major activities an organization has must be adapted so that all people can participate. Learn more with this breakdown of the law

When it comes to your website, this means it needs to be navigable for people with disabilities.

To understand more on what this means for you, we held an event, “The Human, Design, and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” last March and have since, gathered the presentations. Here’s what we have.

Web Accessibility Resource Center

View the full video of the event from our recording on Facebook Live.

Presentations from our panelists

Accessible 360 helped us understand the definition of web accessibility, why it matters, and what to do about it.

Download presentation here.

Download presentation here

ArcStone Accessibility Content

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More links and resources:

An offer from our team

Want to know if your site is accessible and get some help if it isn’t?

Contact our team for a free consultation »

The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility [Event]

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ArcStone’s throwing an event later this month and would like you to come!

The event, “The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility” covers some of the common questions about web accessibility.

  • What does web accessibility really mean?
  • What’s it like to use a screen reader to browse the web?
  • How should a nonprofit or business approach web accessibility?
  • What are the risks for my organization if our site is not accessible?

We have big plans for this discussion!  First we’ll aim for a better understanding of web accessibility in general. We’ll hope to gain new perspectives on the challenges and frustrations for those who can’t access sites they want to visit. And we’ll learn about concrete steps you can take to insure that your site will work for everyone.

Already convinced? Register for the event here.

While access to websites for everyone has always been critical, we’ve noticed that more than ever before, nonprofits and businesses have questions about what accessibility means and are now more committed to having a web presence that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.

“The Human, Design and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” event will feature three unique perspectives. This includes full-time assistive technology instructor from Vision Loss Resources, accessibility experts from Accessible360 and two employment attorneys specializing in this area from Fafinski, Mark & Johnson. These two lawyers have experience handling web accessibility litigation and how it pertains to employment law and nonprofits.

We hope you can join us for an afternoon of mutual learning, food and refreshments.

When:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3:00 – 5:00pm

Where:

ArcStone

2836 Lyndale Avenue South

Suite 132

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Excited to have you join us! Register for the event here.

Free graphic design software: Create with Canva for Nonprofits

For two years in my marketing role at ArcStone, I have used Canva almost daily. With the combination of free stock images and Canva, I create rock solid graphics for free in less than 20 minutes. Currently I use the free version of Canva as we already pay for the expensive Adobe suite. However, I have to admit, there are several times I’m jealous of the paid version features. The free version gives me all I need, but the paid version has features that could automate much of my design work.

Then I found out, it’s free for nonprofits!!! And I had to encourage you to take advantage of it.

Canva for Nonprofits Features

There’s so much available to you registered nonprofits, it’s crazy. Take a look:

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The ones a nonprofit could definitely benefit from include:

  • Infographic templates
  • Social media headers
  • Newsletter layouts
  • Email invitations (for volunteers and donors)
  • Graph and diagram generators

Free Design Templates

With “document types” you get access 8,000+ templates to start your design out. If you’ve been considering amping up the aesthetics of your social media, website or blog, now you have a way to do so without costing you anything but a few minutes.

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Free Photo Editing Online

Rather than downloading a photo, opening up Photoshop, and then plugging the image into your design, you can do it all within Canva. They also have their own photo library which is pretty extensive.

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Image source: Canva for Nonprofits

Free Graph Generator

Nonprofits have a lot of reporting to do and drawing out graphs by hand can take forever. Right in Canva you can plugin a graph, chart or diagram.

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Examples of nonprofits using Canva

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Amnesty International

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Fistula Foundation

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Muscular Dystrophy

How much money you save using Canva

Canva isn’t an expensive tool, but it can add up if used across a team. It’s $12.95 per month per user, so if just you, a coworker and an intern are using it, it’d be close to $500 per year. Besides that, the cost of a designer on staff or even outsourcing some of these designs is in the thousands.

In short: Canva is gifting nonprofits big time.

How to get Canva for free

Convinced this tool is going to benefit your team? All you need to do is set up an account here, then go over to their application page. Fill out their form and submit a document to prove your a 501c(3) status.

Good luck with all your designing! For more app and tool reviews, follow the ArcStone blog.

How much does your nonprofit lose with your outdated website?

Many think of a nonprofit website design as an expense that would eat up too much of a tight budget. However, as we’ve seen with several of ArcStone’s nonprofit clients, the cost of not redesigning a site can actually be higher. How can you tell if your nonprofit falls into this camp? Our digital strategist Jenna wrote out four factors to assess and we wanted to share them with your nonprofit.

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4 questions to ask in determining the value of a nonprofit website redesign.

1. Are you missing out on signups and donations due to your poor site experience?

It goes without saying that an old, hard-to-use website leaves a bad first impression. People may interpret your website as a reflection of your organization.

Beyond just the negative impression, it could negatively impact the amount of visitors who read more about your organization or sign up for an event. Moreover, if your forms aren’t user-friendly or mobile, people may drop off before completing a donation.

What’s encouraging is that small site tweaks can go a long way: “Nielsen’s research has shown that fixing even minor usability problems can increase donations by 10%” (The Balance).

2. Are you missing out on visitors due to your outdated site?

With a poor website design, not only will people leave your site, they might not get there in the first place. Google takes into account your site structure and user experience in determining your search rankings. If your site hasn’t been edited in years, all your efforts to get people to your site aren’t paying off as they could.

3. Has your AdWords campaign suffered?

If you’re one of the wise nonprofits using your free AdWords money (learn more if you’re not!), but your site is out of date, you’re losing money. A poor site can negatively impact the effectiveness of your ads. Google ranks it lower and your conversion rates go down.

4. Does your organization spend hours on tasks that could be automated?

We’ve ran into several nonprofits that spend countless hours each week on processes that could be automated.

For example, one such nonprofit had never automated their volunteer sign-up process. They spent much of their time coordinating followup. This lead to not only confusion and missed opportunities, but also time that could be spent elsewhere.

Learn more about how a simple form plugin like Gravity Forms has automated the volunteer sign-up process.

Curious about the cost of a website design for your nonprofit? Send us a note »

We also have an ebook to help you see what’s involved in a redesign.

Download for free »