Securing Board Buy-In for Web Design Projects: 3 Tips

This post was contributed by Cornershop Creative.

Nonprofits of all sizes have demonstrated incredible resilience and adaptability in recent months. Chances are, your board played a major role in how your own organization adapted to the chaos of 2020 with new fundraising, marketing, and partnership strategies.

But has your website fallen behind? Is it actively supporting any new strategies you’ve rolled out? Or is it inadvertently blocking the progress you hope to see in 2021?

Just as your board meetings have gone virtual, double-check that every donor-facing aspect of your fundraising and engagement strategies is up to the challenge, too. For many organizations, this means recognizing that their website is out-of-date, is not engaging, or is simply not driving the results needed to stabilize (let alone grow) their impact and reach. This is where web design projects and help from tech professionals come in.

Of course, any number of factors can make a board resistant to taking on new projects, but technology (and web design, specifically) can’t be neglected right now. Your website is how you keep donors engaged and reach new supporters during a time when in-person gatherings aren’t yet fully feasible.

To secure buy-in with your nonprofit’s board, you’ll need to both take a similar approach to how you might discuss other nonprofit consulting services and also strengthen your pitch with web design specifics. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Understand the problem and what it’s costing you.
  • Take an iterative approach to web design updates.
  • Share top examples your own site can emulate.

At Cornershop Creative, we specialize in helping growing organizations maximize the value that their websites can deliver for their missions. And with virtual fundraising and engagement so critical today, web design isn’t just another overhead expense, but rather an important investment in your ability to put those new strategies into action. Let’s dive in.

1. Understand the problem and what it’s costing you.

Before you can take your ideas or concerns regarding your nonprofit’s website to your board, you need to be able to put them into words.

Remember that your board’s job is to both drive your mission forward and ensure responsible long-term stewardship. When pitching web design projects, you’ll need to take a mixed approach, explaining the problem with both qualitative, mission-related appeals and quantitative, data-driven explanations.

Define the specific issue or shortcoming you see in your nonprofit’s website and how it might be best addressed. Web design or consulting projects typically take one of these forms:

  • Visual design overhauls
  • Backend technical improvements
  • Development of new donor-facing features
  • A mix of these three types of projects

Next, tie your website’s issue back to the critical importance of online engagement right now. Are you seeing lower-than-anticipated results from virtual fundraising campaigns and marketing pushes? Has your rollout of virtual events and other tech-centric strategies been less than smooth? How will a stronger website or tech stack directly impact these issues?

Try to estimate the cost of these issues as concretely as you can. For example, you might correlate campaign revenue shortfalls to poor website engagement metrics, like these:

  • Conversion rates – the number of donors who actually complete a donation compared to the total number of visitors to your donation page.
  • Bounce rates on marketing campaign landing pages – the number of visitors who immediately exit away from your site compared to the total number of visitors who arrive on your campaign’s landing page.
  • Qualitative feedback from surveyed donors – actual feedback from donors who interact with your website, quantified into specific insights.

If you’re able to correlate poor campaign performance with poor digital engagement, take a look at your previous campaigns to find broader trends. How did these website engagement metrics look during previous, successful fundraising and marketing campaigns? If there’s a clear trend downward, that’s a strong case that your website could use some attention.

Finally, translate these insights into actual impact on your mission and your ability to pursue it. Here are two examples:

  1. If you’re seeing poor campaign performance and generally poor engagement across your site, the issue might be mobile-responsiveness. Mobile traffic accounted for half of all visits to nonprofit websites in 2019, and users are very likely to click away from websites that don’t work well on mobile devices. Poor mobile performance can significantly impact your ability to reach and engage new and previous donors alike, measurable in traffic volume, bounce rates, and conversions from mobile visitors. An inability to secure support from mobile users is a serious roadblock to driving your mission forward with digital outreach and fundraising campaigns.
  2. If you’re seeing challenges around specific initiatives that your board has been pursuing, consider how your site might be impacting your strategy. Is your board excited to pursue new corporate philanthropy opportunities but hasn’t yet seen any results from your marketing efforts? Take a look at your initiative’s goals (like X% of donations being matched by employers) and whether your website is actively supporting or hindering those goals. If donors want to request matching gifts from their employers but can’t find relevant or helpful information on your site, many will give up.

By clearly understanding the problem you want to address, how to measure it, and what fixing it would mean for your mission and goals, you can make a compelling case for investing in your website. Going through this process now will also be extremely helpful once it’s time to work with your board to develop an RFP (request for proposal) or design brief.

2. Take an iterative approach to web design updates.

This next tip is shorter, but it’s important to keep in mind, especially if your nonprofit has never worked with web design or technology consultants before:

Understand that you won’t necessarily need to go all-in at once with website improvements. Design agencies and consultants can (and should) work with you over time in ways that best suit the scale of your needs.

Unless your website requires a complete overhaul or relaunch, a number of beneficial improvements can be made over time. Common examples include making design and user experience improvements through iterative A/B testing or developing and implementing new website features one at a time.

Your board members should understand that modern, effective websites are not “set-it-and-forget-it” assets. They should be actively improved and refined over time to ensure they’re always aligned with your goals and delivering as much value as possible. Explore the Cornershop guide to website maintenance for a deeper dive into the long-term work that goes into ensuring a site is a dynamic asset rather than an outdated liability.

High-powered boards are made up of individuals who are eager, creative, and adaptable. Potential web design consultants you consider will be no different. Make sure your board understands that top design agencies will be able to serve as long-term partners (rather than one-time vendors), ultimately resulting in a more resilient and relevant website as we continue navigating uncharted waters in 2021.

3. Share top examples your own site can emulate.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so if you’re preparing to pitch a new web design to your board, bring plenty of concrete examples to share. Choose examples of top nonprofit websites that illustrate the specific features or impact you’re hoping to bring to your own site.

Here are a few examples:

When securing board buy-in for a web design project, share examples like this well-designed donation form.

In this example from Canine Companions for Independence, a robust and well-designed donation page is aimed at boosting campaign results and driving more conversions from online donors. The page includes engaging visuals and concise but compelling text. Most importantly, it features intuitive donation options designed to get donors through the process quickly and encourage them to give more.

Gain inspiration and secure board buy-in for a web design project with this standout example from Team4Tech.

We worked with Team4Tech to develop a highly engaging new page that communicates their impact to donors. A responsive, easy-to-update map gives the page a new level of interactivity, and preset sections for updates and blog posts allows the page to automatically showcase new content as it’s published. The result is a highly functional page that makes an excellent impression on visitors and stakeholders.

Share this example of a compelling donation form when securing buy-in for a web design project.

The League of Women Voters needed a way to maximize the value of their incoming data generated by a revamped email strategy. With well-designed email templates and donation forms backed up with custom tracking codes, they saw significant results and kept their data organized from start to finish. The custom data tracking strategy built into their integrated donation pages meant that the appeal would change based on each visitor’s history of previous giving. This helped them raise five times more than in previous email campaigns.

When meeting with your board, bring specific examples to the table that relate to the issue you want to solve on your website. This will not only strengthen your case, but it’ll also simply result in more productive meetings overall.

Your nonprofit’s website has always been a strategic asset for furthering your mission and connecting with donors, but it’s never been more important that your website actively pulls its weight. If you’re seeing disappointing results with new virtual fundraising or marketing tactics or if your website ends up wasting more time than it saves, it might be time for an update.

Use these tips to refine your case as you secure buy-in from your board. With a clearly-defined problem, data to illustrate its impact, and examples to illustrate what’s possible, you’re sure to be on your way to a more effective, modern, and engaging website.

Wild Apricot created this article on securing board buy-in for web design projects.

With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.

Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.


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