Why, When, & How to Conduct a Website Optimization Project

As a nonprofit leader, you already know exactly how important your website is— especially in this modern fundraising era. Your nonprofit website is likely the first place a prospective donor will look to learn more about your mission, the hub of all of your online engagements, and the place where supporters make a gift. But is your nonprofit website doing all it can for your organization and mission?

If you don’t take the time to maintain and optimize your nonprofit site, you risk both your online fundraising and donor engagement efforts. That is why, whether you haven’t updated your website in a while or you’ve outgrown your original build, you might need a website optimization project.

A website optimization project takes a top-down view of your site to ensure that all online processes work correctly, elevate your site in search engine rankings, improve the user experience, and better position your site to further your organization’s mission. But how do you know why and when you need one? And when you do, how do you get started?
 

Why should you conduct a website optimization project?

As the website maintenance and development professionals from Kanopi say, “Similarly to taking your car in for maintenance checks to keep it safe to drive and in good condition, your nonprofit website needs regular maintenance to ensure it’s meeting users’ needs and helping you advance your mission.”

In particular, optimizing your website brings the additional benefits:

  • Improved user experience (UX). As soon as someone lands on your site, it shouldn’t be hard for them to find the information they’re looking for. When you prioritize your website’s UX, you ensure that supporters stay on your site and use its services.

  • Updated and fully functioning plugins or modules. If your CMS uses plugins or modules, those must be updated along with your core system. By doing so, you avoid any site-functioning issues.

  • More website traffic. As soon as someone enters a site that looks outdated, they’ll probably exit, thinking that it's not active anymore. But, if your website is working in peak condition and effectively meets your audience’s needs, it’s way more likely that people will visit it and stay on your site for longer.

  • Better search engine optimization (SEO). SEO impacts where your website ranks on search engine results pages. However, SEO standards change frequently, and updating your website ensures you’re consistently performing well.

  • In line with top industry trends. Similar to SEO, the modern fundraising landscape is also in a metamorphosis. Just in this past year, with a global pandemic and the pivot to virtual fundraising, nonprofits had to rethink their donor engagement and website strategies. With a website optimization project, you can update your systems to adhere to current trends and best practices.

As you can see, if you want to set your nonprofit organization up for success and lay the foundation for future fundraising, you must ensure that your website is properly maintained and optimized.
 

When should you conduct a website optimization project?

Now that you know exactly how an optimized website can benefit and further your nonprofit mission, you must determine when you should actually take the steps to conduct a full overhaul project.

To help decide if your nonprofit website needs improvement, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your site up to accessibility standards? We recommend reviewing these website content accessibility guidelines.

  • Are your donation page and other high-traffic pages easy to find?

  • Is your navigation intuitive to use?

  • Do you use a mix of text, images, video, and quotes?

  • Is your blog content up to date?

  • Is your fundraising calendar up to date?

  • Is your website optimized for mobile use? Test it out using this free Google tool.

  • Does your website reflect relevant current events and trends?

  • Are your CMS, plugins, and modules all updated and secure?

  • Do you have clear calls-to-action (CTAs) in place for driving supporters to complete your target actions?

  • Is your page load speed under five seconds?

  • Are all of your links, pages, images, and other media content all working?

  • Are all your forms working and formatted properly?

If you answered no to any of these questions, that’s a good indication your website could use some maintenance and upkeep.

 

How can you conduct a website optimization project?

Now that you know you want to conduct a website optimization project, it’s time to get the gears rolling.

While you can partner with a nonprofit technology consultant for more in-depth help, it is possible to do this on your own. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Complete a nonprofit website audit. This is an in-depth review of how your site is currently performing. The results can reveal gaps in your CMS and determine the exact areas your website needs improvement.

  2. List out those current website gaps and opportunities. To supplement this list, you might look to your CRM database. Take note of any specific website engagements that are falling short, like your online giving rate.

  3. Layout the steps for your website optimization plan. First, you’ll need to rank different action items by priority. This includes determining the resources needed, the number of staff members needed, and how long it will take to complete. Don’t forget to also list out the tools you need to invest in and how you’ll use them.

  4. Take a continuous improvement approach. While at times website optimization projects are much-needed, they’re not meant to be used frequently. They are resource and time-exhaustive, and they also require your website to take a hiatus while updating. Instead, make small tweaks when needed and consistently check in to see what can be done.

As mentioned previously, you might want to partner with a nonprofit technology consultant, especially if your initial nonprofit site audit showed that a lot of maintenance is needed. In particular, a consultant can help with website building and development, strategy development, site support, and staff augmentation.

 

Whether you want to revitalize your online giving strategy or you just know that your site needs an upgrade, a full website optimization project could be the answer. Hopefully, we answered some of your most pressing questions and put you in the right direction for success! Remember, while a full project may be needed, it’s often more recommended to take a continuous improvement approach and consistently review your site performance. Good luck!

 

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Anne Stefanyk is Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, where she helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.

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