How to plan a nonprofit website redesign

Figuring out how to plan a nonprofit website redesign can be a daunting undertaking. Today’s post in the will walk you through the steps to take from start to finish to ensure you’re making the most of your investment.

How to plan a nonprofit website redesign from start to finish

At its highest level, there are three main phases to tackling your organization’s website redesign. If you’ve been following along with these posts, congratulations–you’re already well on your way to completing the first step: planning.

Step 1: Planning the redesign

The very first part of planning your website redesign is evaluating whether it’s really time for a redesign. This evaluation includes an objective look at your resources. Sometimes in the nonprofit world, just because something isn’t working for you doesn’t mean you have the time and money to blow it up and start from scratch.

How do you know if you have the budget for a redesign?

It depends on quite a few factors.

For example: the degree of complexity and customization you need, how much of the work of project management and content production you can produce in-house, and the timeline you’re working on. As you’ll find if you Google, “How much does a website redesign cost?” you can land anywhere from  $500 (or less!) to $50,000.

While $500 sounds like a steal, that price point gets you just as far as a hosting plan and a premium theme, usually, and comes with a lot of internal costs (Who will write content? Find photos? Manage the project?) and potential pitfalls (How will you know your site is secure and compliant with privacy laws? Who can you call if something goes wrong?)

A nice sentiment. But you probably don’t have time to learn right now, do you?
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

That doesn’t mean you must pay a full-service agency to serve you up a soup-to-nuts website. In many cases, you can get a great new website with the help of a skilled freelancer or consultant, or find an agency that specializes in working with small businesses and nonprofits to just fill in the gaps.

A word on volunteer nonprofit website redesigns

I’d caution most nonprofits to steer clear of volunteer-run website redesigns, unless it’s in the context of an organized, quality-controlled environment like GiveCamp.

This isn’t to dump on generous and well-meaning volunteers. But from a client standpoint, consider what would happen if things aren’t working. (From personal experience: It’s not great.)

They might have to prioritize paid work above the volunteer project, which means your deadlines fly by with nothing to show for it.

Or, you don’t really like what they’re producing…but how much can you push back when that work is free?

In my opinion (and experience), the built-in accountability when you’re paying someone for an agreed-upon set of deliverables is well worth the money.

So, where do you find a good partner?

Three words: Work your network.

Do you know anyone who has recently been through a website redesign? Ask if they had a good experience and get referrals. Take a look at some peer websites you like–often they’ll have information about website design or hosting in the footer of their site.

Here’s another tip: We consultants and freelancers know each other. The gig economy can work to your benefit.

If you’ve recently hired someone to write content or design something, ask if they can handle the project or if they know someone who can. Often, we’ll either make a referral to someone we trust enough with our own reputation, or we can sub-contract, provide value through add-on services and manage the project for you.


Step 2: Design and development

Depending on who you hire and for what services, the actual design process will vary and is often directed by the person or team you hire. For that reason, I’m not going to get too deep into this topic.

But, if you’re reading this, it probably means you’re managing the project to some degree. In that case, I have a handy checklist for you to map out the project so you don’t miss anything important.


Step 3: Launching your nonprofit’s new website

Launching your new website can feel like an exciting milestone when you first undertake the project. But I’ve seen more than one organization feel so run through the ringer during the redesign process that going live almost feels like an afterthought.

I know the feeling. You’re tired. You just want it over. But if you don’t put some thought into launching, you lose out on valuable momentum and potential ROI. So instead of waiting until you’re proofreading the last page to figure out your launch, start planning sooner.

have a happy launch
Your launch can be joyful if you plan ahead.
Photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash.

You can build excitement for your launch and make it a real celebration if you build a launch plan into your project. There are two major considerations:

One, how will you know when you’re really ready to launch?

Websites are dynamic. Consequently, there will always and forever be room for improvements and updates. But as they say, “Done is better than perfect.” At some point, it’s time to show off your hard work. How will you know when you get to that point?

There are some minimum thresholds you’ll want to set in terms of completed content pages and functionality. Be sure to map those deliverables out with your team (or yourself).

Consider also your organization’s calendar. Are there any events, milestones or anniversaries that would make sense to align your launch with? Be sure the aforementioned to-do list jives with your timeline.

Maybe you want to soft-launch to your marketing advisory board, a focus group of your organization’s clients and staff, or your Board of Directors.

Hey. I can see you cringing. Hear me out, though.

This can be risky, because you may hear a cacophony of ideas that are way too late or way out of the scope of your timeline and budget, but you also might get some really valuable insights about what is confusing or hard to find or doesn’t stand out the way you hoped.

Choose your advisors carefully, brief them ahead of time with what type of feedback you’re looking for, listen with an open mind, and reap the rewards of your vulnerability.

If nothing else, I’ll bet they’ll help you find a mortifying typo, like when you miss the “l” in “public.” You’ll be eternally grateful, even if you have to suffer through hearing their suggestion that “background music would be really nice.”

Two, when you are ready, how will you go about the launch?

As you’re preparing for your launch, consider building out a launch campaign that will let your supporters in on the good news.

Here are a few ideas:

  • An internal email to all staff and personal emails to your partners/network asking them to share
  • Email signature template for all staff with a line announcing the new site and a link.
  • Work your e-newsletter. You could even segment donors, volunteers or other highly engaged groups to let them get a “first look.”
  • Schedule social media and update social profiles.
  • Highlight key features/pages in blog posts.
  • Tie your launch to an event, anniversary or milestone

There you have it, friends! I hope this post has helped you understand how to plan a nonprofit website redesign.

This is the final update in my five-post series on website management for small nonprofit teams. Whether you’re facing down the prospect of a major redesign or just trying to make what you have work better for your mission, I can help.

If you’d like to schedule a free consultation to talk about your organization’s home on the web, get in touch.

About the Author Reanna

I'm a freelance writer, part-time farmer, full-time mom of two and sometimes blogger. I like craft beer, low-key DIY projects and reading advice columns.

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