SWC Blog

Three Questions to Ask Any Web Designer Before You Hire Them for a Nonprofit Project

Shala Graham – Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One of the great ironies of the world is that there are literally thousands of companies you could work with to design your next nonprofit website…and yet, very few of them make for a good choice.

The reason why is simple: although putting pixels onto a page, or adding text to a template, is straightforward enough from a technical point of view, turning those actions into an effective tool for fundraising and increasing your public profile is a different matter altogether. To put it another way, it isn't enough to simply have a nonprofit website designed for you—you need something that stands out in the crowd and can help your organization reach its goals.

That differentiation takes us back to the original issue, which is that you have to have the right nonprofit web design team on your side. Because most design firms and creative teams focus on businesses that sell products, not positive change, it's important that you approach the process the right way and ask the right questions.

Here are three things you definitely want to know as you get started and talk to potential candidates:

Have you worked with nonprofits before?

There isn't any set guideline as to how much nonprofit experience is enough. Obviously, you should prefer a creative agency that focuses solely on nonprofits and charitable groups, or at least one that has lots of case studies to show that it's an area they are comfortable working within.

The biggest reason for this isn't just that terminology is different, but that the goals of your organization differ greatly than those of small and medium-sized businesses, as well. You don't have inventories to move or quotas to hit, but you do still need to have bottom line objectives that have to be met if your nonprofit is to keep growing, or even keep its doors open at all.

An experienced, nonprofit web design team is going to understand this and be able to ask the right questions—not to mention give you the right input—to establish a strong web presence that helps you meet these goals in a way that works for nonprofits.

What comes after our website launch?

One thing that often comes as a surprise to those who don't work in the nonprofit web design and public relations industry is that the hardest work on a nonprofit website comes after you launch it, not before.

That's because, in this day and age, having a website for your charitable organization doesn't accomplish much. You still have to promote it, get people to find it, and turn it into an Internet destination where people can find information about upcoming events, sign up for your newsletter, donate money, learn more about your cause, and so on.

The right nonprofit web design team will have taken these considerations into account before they lay out a single page, and will combine your new website with a plan for making the most of it. Given the sizable investment—both in time and money—that it takes to launch a new nonprofit website, you don't want to entrust the project to someone who can’t create a plan to help you succeed once it's ready to go live.

How will those activities help us raise money and awareness?

As important as those activities are, they should build towards a set of cohesive, concrete, and easily-measurable goals. For instance, you should be going into the nonprofit web design process with some expectations about future fundraising, mailing list growth, higher attendance at events, increased media attention, and so on. Your design team also needs to understand and have a vision for how this website will help you build your brand and deliver on your mission. Before your organization even starts looking for a web designer, you'll need to be able to come to the table with you brand clearly defined. If your brand is not clearly in place, check out our article about why every organization should define their brand values.

Be wary of any company that isn't able to tie your nonprofit web design project, or even the marketing and promotional activities, with some sort of hard target. The reality of today's world is that even the most established nonprofit organizations have to keep one eye on the bottom line, and your group likely can't afford to make a sizable investment in a new website and online marketing plan that ultimately goes nowhere.

Will asking these three questions ultimately guarantee that you'll pick the right web design firm for your new nonprofit website? Probably not, but they'll give you a good starting point to work with and help you to narrow down the candidates to serious contenders right away.

Or, if you have more questions about the nonprofit web design process, why not call our expert team to get the answers you need right away?

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About the Author: Shala W. Graham is the Principal and Creative Director of SW Creatives. With a background in web and graphic design, Shala is also certified as a branding expert. Her experience covers a wide gamut of services from designing campaigns to front-end web development. Shala conducts workshops around branding principles and effective websites, while also volunteering her time to mentor other young creative entrepreneurs.

Share your thoughts or ask a question!

SW Creatives designed a beautiful, creative, and accessible website for the Jordan Scholarship Fund. Shala and her team were timely, responsive, and patient. We enjoyed working with them and could not be more pleased with the results. We give SW Creatives our highest recommendation.

— Angela Jordan Davis
Board Member
The Artishia and Frederick Jordan Scholarship Fund

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