How to Build a Nonprofit Website That Truly Reflects Your Nonprofit & Its Goals

The Cobbler Has New Shoes: Behind the SmartCause Website Redesign

I spend my days helping nonprofits build new websites or improve the websites they already have. But my own business website wasn’t getting any of the upgrades that it needed.

Over the last couple of weekends, this website finally received the same love and attention that I bring to nonprofit clients’ sites. I love the new!

How can we build a site that truly reflects our business/nonprofit and its goals?


Stop trying to hide

With the old site, I was trying to make SmartCause look more like an agency. Why? Because I thought nonprofits wanted to work with an agency for their website.

But guess what? Nonprofits want to work with whomever will give them the best results. And they want to know the name, face, personality and qualifications of the person with whom they are working.

The old site was also playing down SmartCause’s primary branding color (purple) and playing up some frumpy brown colors.

On the new site, there is no hiding. You see my face, you see purple (and pink!), and you see that we’re not a full agency – but we do amazing work for nonprofits and their websites.

Shine a *huge* spotlight on your organization’s unique qualities!

Maybe you have a unique combination of specialties? Direct services AND advocacy for state-level legislative reform? Highlight that!

Maybe you have a very narrow and unique mission? The only organization advocating for Asian women’s reproductive health in your city? Highlight that!

Maybe you are small but growing in important ways? From 5 to 7 staff this year and 2 new key grants? Highlight that!


Cut the noise

The old SmartCause homepage was guilty of the same crime as so many other homepages: it was trying to say all the things, all at once. And it succeeded at saying… nothing.

The truth is, no one cares about *everything* you’ve ever created. People want to see the most valuable pieces of information – and that’s it.

The new homepage is sleek and trim, and only telling you the most important pieces about SmartCause: what we do, who I am, why we care. That’s it.

Cut out some of your homepage’s content

Leave only content that directly and succinctly answers these questions for website visitors:
“What do you do?”,
“Who are you?”,
and “Why should I care?”


Own your greatness

I work with the best clients! I should have been shouting it from the old website’s rooftops, but instead I was hiding my clients (my favorite part of the work that I do) on one page.

Now you can see my awesome clients’ gorgeous logos on the homepage and at the bottom of other pages. There are also logos for the organizations where I’ve given presentations. As an added personal touch, there are client testimonials sprinkled throughout the site.

Prominently feature testimonials, praise or endorsements from stakeholders

Prominently feature testimonials or success stories from people that have benefited from your nonprofit’s work

Prominently feature press coverage, praise from policy leaders or praise from funders

Or, if you don’t yet have testimonials or praise, ask board members for a quote explaining why they believe so much in your organization and prominently feature their responses


Give people a reason to care

My old site didn’t have a personality. It wasn’t telling the story of why I started SmartCause Digital or how much of a nonprofit digital nerd I really am.

People relate to other people and especially to other people’s stories. So, now you can read all about why SmartCause exists and how I was so confused that I switched my college major 4 times but once I found nonprofit digital, I knew I was home.

Tell your nonprofit’s origin in the form of a story

Include main characters, plot and unique details

Tweak your staff and board bios to include a story about how each person has been affected by your mission or why they believe in your mission


yesenia sotelo

About Yesenia Sotelo

Yesenia Sotelo is a digital skills teacher and web developer.

She elevates ambitious nonprofit professionals by teaching them how to use the technology tools of modern marketing.

Yesenia can teach you how to use website analytics or improve your online marketing results.

Her SmartCause Method for building websites is especially designed for the way nonprofits collaborate, make decisions and grow.

She won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) for her work teaching digital skills to nonprofit professionals.