At some point in your web design career, you’ll probably have the opportunity to build a website for a church or nonprofit organization. In this post, we offer a few tips and considerations before you embark on your next project.
This post is based on the webinar Building Websites for Churches and Nonprofits by the Nathan Ingram over at iThemes Training.
Before You Say Yes: Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Working with Churches and Nonprofits
With any client, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of undertaking their new website. Working with churches and nonprofits brings a unique set of rewards and challenges.
The Cons of Working with Churches and Nonprofits
- They will rarely be high-paying clients. While some churches and nonprofits may have a lot of money to spend, most will we working on limited budgets.
- They frequently do not have a marketing department. Not only will you be building the website, you may also end up having to assist them in helping shape their branding and messaging.
- The often do not have a clear vision of the role of the website in their organization. They may know that they need a website, but they may not be sure how the website integrates with their identity and purpose.
- They may not have a tech savvy staff. Most churches and nonprofits don’t have a dedicated IT department. Usually staff members are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.
For all of these reasons, the job may end up being a lot larger than you anticipated.
The Pros of Working with Churches and Nonprofits
- Helping churches and nonprofits with their website is personally rewarding. It’s a good thing to build a site for an organization that is furthering a cause that you believe in.
- Churches and nonprofits are great portfolio builders. If you’re just starting out, you may actually want to reach out to churches and nonprofits to get some experience and start building your portfolio.
- Leaders in these organizations are often well-networked and can be your biggest cheerleaders. Most nonprofits have to actively fundraise, so they will have great connections in the community.
- These organizations typically have a board of directors who are often local business leaders. Board members are often well-connected to other businesses and are likely to have businesses of their own.
A Checklist for Church and Nonprofit Website Consultations
At your first meeting with the organization about their website, you’ll want to come prepared. Here is a basic checklist of questions you’ll want to ask so you’ll save time and headaches as the project progresses.
- What is the organization about? What is your mission statement? What is your “elevator pitch”?
- What is the purpose for the website?
- Who is the audience for your website and what do you want them to do?
- Do you have branding? Colors? A logo?
- Do you have one location or multiple locations?
- Do you want the ability to publish news on the website?
- Will you want to feature your key leaders on the web site? Will these individuals want their own blog?
- Will you raise funds online? What will you use for payment processing? Do you want to offer recurring donations?
- Do you want to be able to sell fundraising items in an online store?
- Do you have regular events? Will you want to have online registration for events? Will you need to sell tickets?
- Do you need a private area for members, board or employees? What will this area contain?
- Do you regularly create audio or video content? Will you want to create a podcast using this media?
- Do you regularly take pictures of your work and events?
- Do you have an email newsletter? What does it usually contain? How is it currently being used?
- Do you use social media? What kind of content is being published there?
For more questions to help with project preparation and scope, be sure to check out our other post 65 Questions to Ask During Your Next Client Meeting.
The Church and Nonprofit WordPress Website Toolkit
Below are some suggestions on how to implement common features that most churches and nonprofits will want on their websites. We’ve recommended a few specific plugins as solutions, but as always, when it comes to WordPress, there are usually multiple options.
- Create a “Locations” custom post type with Pods
- Render the information on the website using Loopbuddy
- Add a Google Map generated from the address
- See the webinar Applied LoopBuddy Two for more instructions
Creating a Staff Directory
- Create a “Staff” custom post type with Pods
- Render the information on the website using Loopbuddy
- See the webinar Applied LoopBuddy One for instructions
Custom Blogs for Leaders
- Easier but not necessarily better option – Give each leader a WordPress category under posts, then use the category page to display just that leader’s posts
- Harder but probably better in the long run option – Create a custom post type for each leader’s blog using Pods and restrict access by user to the specific custom post types using Advanced Access Manager
Paypal is an excellent option for nonprofit fundraising because they get a special rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction for qualified nonprofits.
- iThemes Exchange makes taking donations easy. Using the Customer Pricing and/or Recurring Payments add-ons, you can set up products with a customer-defined pricing field and an option to make the gift a one-time or recurring donation. Processing payments via PayPal standard comes free with Exchange, too.
- Add a “goal thermometer” like this one.
- WordPress Events Manager is a flexible solution for displaying events and even processing paid and non-paid bookings online.
- If you need to sell actual tickets or need better attendee management, consider Event Espresso.
- For an overview of other calendar options, check out the webinar The Great WordPress Calendar Review.
A Members-Only Area
- Simplest Option – Set up a Password Protected page in WordPress and disseminate the single password to those who need access.
- For even more flexibility and features – use the iThemes Exchange Membership Add-on. This add-on allows you to add dripped content, protected pages and recurring payments and much more.
- Create an Amazon S3 account for the organization to store their audio files. You definitely don’t want to store audio (or video) files in the media library of the WordPress site.
- Use Blubrry PowerPress to set up podcasting.
- Include podcast submissions to Apple in your proposal. Just make sure you don’t guarantee their submissions will be approved and be aware of the added workload this will add to your plate.
- Use built-in WordPress Galleries – Teach them how to use WordPress Galleries in their posts and pages. You could also integrate a lightbox like Foobox with social sharing. You might also want to use the Imsanity plugin to resize uploads of ginormous images.
- Use Flikr – Consider using Flikr for easy uploading and management by multiple people. You can then integrate Flikr to WordPress with plugins like WordPress Flickr Embed, PowerPress or Justified Image Grid.
- Integrate NextGen Gallery – Just note is has a slightly complicated set up and usage and requires training.
Social Media Broadcasting
Use the Social Plugin from Crowd Favorite to easily enable or automate broadcast of published posts to Facebook and Twitter
Suggestions for Pricing Work for Churches and Nonprofits
- Never ever work for free. Free websites will be the most expensive websites you’ll ever do. An organization that gets a website for free won’t value your time. Even if they just pay $100, they still need to invest in the project. Encourage them to fund the website, just like they would any other project that serves as a community outreach tool. Just remember, do not work for free.
- Prepare to discount. Nonprofit and church project pricing will usually be heavily discounted, maybe even up to 50% off.
- State your normal price in the proposal. It’s always a good idea to make your clients aware of your normal pricing so they value the work you’re doing and the discount they’re getting on their website. It may also be a good idea to ask them to keep the discounted price confidential. You may also want to add an explanation that “you’re receiving this discount because of the work you do for _____,” with a reminder that the discounted rate does effect normal (or speedier) timelines and turnaround dates.
- Always include a service contract in the proposal. Always. Why? Because you’re going to be hearing from them for support and maintenance needs. It’s a good idea to get some type of monthly recurring payment plan worked out in advance.
- Include 30 minutes a month consulting time in the service contract. This is more for you than for them. Keep them happy and pleased with their website and their experience with you, so they can continue to be your biggest cheerleader.
- Maximize the tax advantages. You should definitely talk to your accountant on this, but you can usually write off physical costs like hosting, plugin/theme purchases, mileage to meetings, etc. for nonprofits.
10 Best Practices for Church and Nonprofit Websites
- Be sure the purpose and calls to action are well defined. Make sure you’ve clarified and confirmed these with the leaders of the organization, so everyone is in agreement.
- Clearly define the purpose of the organization. One of the most common mistakes church and nonprofit websites make is assuming people already know who they are and what they do.
- Employ great photography and videos wherever possible. Help connect website visitors to the people behind the organization.
- Make online donation a simple process. Cart Abandonment also exists in the nonprofit and donation sphere of ecommerce. Is the process too difficult? Remember to keep it simple.
- Work with one person only. Limit the people that can call you and request changes.
- Make the site easy to manage and hard to break. Remember nonprofits often don’t have a tech-savvy staff.
- Allow only trained and trustworthy people to edit the website. Make sure you emphasize to the leaders of the organization that it’s important to have someone that can competently represent the organization.
- Schedule adequate time for training, with additional checkups at set intervals. Include in the cost of your proposal a 6-month or 1-year checkup, because you’re they’re going to need it.
- Make promotion part of the price. Don’t give the nonprofit a discount if they aren’t willing to give you credit for the website. Make sure they include you in the website launch announcement or include your info in the footer of the website. Put it in the contract.
- Be very, very, very careful about doing a website for your own church or for an organization you’re already a part of. Just remember client relationships can always be complicated, so remember to keep healthy boundaries.
Have anything to add? What have you learned?
What have you learned in building websites for churches and nonprofits? Feel free to share your advice and what you’ve learned.