For various reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about non-profit websites that really work. Here are nine that I think are getting it right and some quick reasons why they’re so effective.
Amnesty International USA: Sign Up, Donate, Act
From an engagement and design perspective, Amnesty International USA’s site is the best thing going in the non-profit sector right now. Too often, when visitors come to a non-profit site they don’t receive any direction on what they’re supposed to do or where they’re supposed to go — but not here. Here it’s pretty clear Amnesty wants you to sign up, donate and act. And they provide a clean, immediate design and arresting photography that compel users to take action. The three calls to action are integrated fully into the design and consistent throughout the site in the top navigation and on the right-hand sidebars of every internal page.
This site is awesome and I’ve written more about it here.
It Gets Better Project: Watch Our Videos
Again, this is about telling the user straight away what you want them to do and smacking them in the face with an opportunity to do it. Because It Gets Better is a campaign site, it’s all about watching videos and sharing them, rather than a more traditional donate or sign up ask. The top third of the page is given over to the videos, which are organized in a way that allows for “infinite scrolling” and searching. Users are served up a new selection of videos every time they hit the site and a smattering of celebrities and unexpected voices — like those from Major League Baseball players — keep the user engaged and looking for more.
World Vision and World Vision Act:s: You Know Who We Are
Of course, sometimes it’s not enough to tell visitors what you want them to do. Sometimes you need to tell them who you are. World Vision and its campaign site World Vision Act:s do a great job in this category. The World Vision homepage has a nice clean design with an upper-third right-hand callout that says exactly, “Who We Are” and “Who We Serve.” Photos and calls-to-action reinforce that message clearly as does a well-organized and — importantly — not overwhelming news well. Clicking through to a news story, there’s a great right-hand side-bar feature that not only lists recent stories, but serves up share buttons making the site instantly social.
World Vision Act:s, the organization’s campaign site, does a great job incorporating social as well, baking Facebook and Twitter widgets straight into the homepage. But what makes this site so impressive is that it knows its target audience and speaks to it. The target audience? Gen Y Christians. One look at Act:s tells you that immediately.
Invisible Children: This Video Will Make You Cry and Smile and then Cry Again
Invisible Children is a non-profit born out of a documentary film project, so it’s no surprise they have great video. But, man do they have great video. I’ve watched there video selections time and again and there isn’t a single one that doesn’t make me choke up. Of course, the subject matter — children being taken and forced into a rebel army — is a heart-wrencing subject matter, but the video work on the site makes the most of the subject by keeping things short, punchy, quick cutting and immediate. The videos here are gorgeous and arresting. But most importantly they were made for the web.
Care: White Space and the Call to Action
The current care site is a massive redesign of the charity’s old site and offers a refreshing take for anyone looking for some non-profit best practices. The design is cleaned with lots of literal white space and highlights three main call-to-action areas above the fold. This site is all about getting visitors to click and donate — from the placement of the CTAs, to the photography and art. The site cleverly presents third-party validation in a news well under the main hero box featuring stores from CNN, NBC Nightly News, and CBS News. The one misstep on this site is their social integration, which isn’t nearly heavy enough and it’s “Follow” call-out relies on old clipart social icons and — even worse — the wet floor look.
charity:water: The Gold Standard
Everyone in the non-profit world is chasing charity:water it seems. Forget the fact that its total revenue is a fraction of what the world’s biggest charities make — we are all chasing them because they are hip, cool, of the moment and they are setting the standard for what it means to have a modern digital presence. I’ve written extensively about charity:water in the past, so I’m not going to belabor the point of their awesomeness, but here are the highlights: Above the fold, there’s a clear, compelling hero splash that alternates high-quality content with compelling calls-to-action. There are two persistent CTAs highlighted in blue: my charity:water (personal fundraising) and “Get Our Latest News” (give us your email).
Below the fold, compelling graphics and short, linked text provide further calls-to-action and a compelling case for why visitors should act. What charity:water gets right more than any other organization is letting visuals tell the story — from video to graphics — and using very few words. The web, after all, is a visual medium.Their “Why Water” page, for instance, is the best piece of content I’ve seen a non-profit put on the web.
SpeedMatters.org: Informing on an Esoteric Subject
The SpeedMatters site isn’t setting the world on fire when it comes to design. The site is straight forward and relies pretty heavily on some not-so-great clipart in the banner. However, what the site lacks in design it more than makes up for in information and stickiness. SpeedMatters needs to present and explain an esoteric subject (universal broadband) in a quick and compelling way, and make its users care. So how does it do it? First it lays out some very brief principles to get the visitor’s feet wet and then it appeals to their competitive nature by presenting state-by-state comparisons of high-speed access through a SpeedTest widget that also captures email addresses — very clever. The site also presents opportunities for those who do have an in-depth knowledge of high-speed data issues through downloadable reports and an up-to-date blog.
Defenders of Wildlife: Take Action
Defenders is another group that recently redesign their site with effective results. The site presents a tiled approach with a large call-to-action at the top of the page and a mix of CTAs and editorial content. But the majority of the tiles are given over to CTAs, giving the visitor a sense that they can get involved in several campaigns right now. Defenders also has a nice engagement box in the upper-right-hand corner of the site where users can join the email list, social networks and follow short cuts to giving opportunities. Overall, this is a nice homepage with lots of engagement points.
Greenpeace: The Campaign’s the Thing
The more I look at the Greenpeace site, the more I like it. Greenpeace is known for their campaign work and that’s what gets the highlighted treatment here in a big, bold and beautiful hero splash. Because these are campaigns, almost all of them include calls-to-action. But they don’t leave it to the campaign splashes to bring people in — a strong right-hand sidebar includes email sign-up, donate today and a Facebook call-outs. The center news well is clean, well organized and sortable — even if the images aren’t all that compelling. The bottom-third of the page is given over to navigation that I wonder if anyone ever sees, but I’m guessing as long as visitors are hitting the hero banner and the engagement opportunities, Greenpeace is happy.