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You only have seven seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention. To make those seven seconds count, you have to think critically about web design. Design isn’t about eye candy. It’s about problem solving.

Anthony D’Arco and Katie Price of Design BIG Dreams of Downers Grove, Ill., presented web design and social media tips to attendees at the National Catholic Development Conference annual event last month in Grapevine, Texas. Price began with some myths about nonprofits’ online space, and why they’re wrong:

  • Myth: It’s ok if my website is out of date. The truth: Three-quarters of millennials are turned off by out-of date websites. In a competitive funding atmosphere, funders are checking you out, and their first port of call is your website, so you have to make a good impression.
  • Myth: My story can’t be told in an email. The truth: It can and must, and should be linked back to your website.
  • Myth: We don’t need to be on social media. The truth: You don’t have to be on every platform, but you do need to be on social media to talk to your donors where they already are.
  • Myth: We are not afraid of change, we just don’t want it. The truth: If you’re not changing, you’re decaying.
  • Myth: we don’t need technology for our organization to grow. The truth: Technology alleviates some of your staff’s burden, streamlines communications and can reach people you haven’t been able to reach before.

Many nonprofits’ number one problem, according to Price, is ignoring the obvious audience. “Young people want to make small donations more frequently,” she said. If you have no website, or don’t have an accessible, intuitive website, “they don’t have access to giving to your organization. It isn’t easy for them.”

You’ll have to keep your website updated. Not only does it keep users coming back for more, frequent updates help with search engine rankings. D’Arco said for religious organizations, one of the easiest ways to keep content fresh is to add a new Bible verse to your home page every day.

Making your donate button prominent is a good first step, but you’ll need to describe why web users should donate to your organization. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What are the challenges you’re encountering that donors can specifically help with. Above all, make sure your donation page is not hosted off-site. It should be fully integrated with your website. Don’t make donors leave your page to donate. “People prefer interacting with individuals more than brands,” said Price. Staff bios and volunteer spotlights can put a human face to your organization, she said.

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.