Things to Consider When Building a Nonprofit Website From Scratch

In our previous post, we shared some tips for knowing when to redesign a nonprofit website. But what if your nonprofit organization doesn’t have any website at all yet, or you decide the best option is to totally start over and create a website from scratch? Building an all new website is a massive undertaking, especially for a nonprofit that is likely already strapped for resources. Here are some things to consider, and tips to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Decide How To Build Website

A good place to start is figuring out how exactly the website will be built out. There are several ways websites can be built, and it is good to have an understanding of those various methods, including:

  • Using a website builder, such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. These website builders allow you to create a website without having to do manual code editing. They let you easily create nice websites at a reasonable price without having to hire a web designer.
  • Designing from a template. Many website builders come with an array of prebuilt templates that allow you to find a look and web page structure you like, and populate it with your organization’s information.
  • Hiring a web developer. This option is a lot more hands on, and a good web developer will take the time to really understand your organization’s vision and bring it to life. In addition, a good web designer will be able to create a website that is very unique to your organization, which can help differentiate it.

Decide What Will Be Most Cost Effective

Once you have an understanding of the various ways that your organization’s website could be built from scratch, the discussion will probably begin to center around which option will be the most cost effective. Many people will instinctively think that using a website builder will be much cheaper, as they often require a small monthly cost. Squarespace is currently charging $18 per month when billed annually, for example. But there are a lot of hidden costs that can come from using a website builder, especially the cost of the amount of time that employees will have to spend building the website and making any necessary changes to it. Before jumping into using a website builder, it is important to take some time to really factor out what those hidden costs could be.

Beyond that, you should consider what the potential cost of not hiring a web developer could be. While hiring a web developer is certainly going to be a higher initial investment, hiring someone that takes time to understand your needs and goals, and creates a unique, compelling website can really make the money spent go a long way. It often proves to be an investment that pays off in the long run, as the website will serve as a strong employee for the organization, drawing visitors in and inciting them to take action. This may be harder to achieve when tasking employees that already have a lot on their plate with creating the website.

Understand the Steps Involved in the Process

Whether you decide to use a website builder or hire a web developer, there are some common steps that all nonprofit organizations should include in the process of building a website from scratch, including:

  • Preliminary conversations, in which the team gathers to discuss high-level questions, such as who you’re trying to reach with the website and what actions you want them to take. This will also be the time to decide whether to build the website in-house or hire a developer. This is the discovery (we call it project roadmapping) phase of the branding, design, and development process and methodology.
  • Content planning. In web redesigns, this stage often involves creating an inventory of existing content, but when building a website from scratch, all the content may also need to be created from scratch. A lot of planning will have to go into drafting the copy for all the webpages as well as content for additional resources, like blog posts, reports, and more. Learn more about a content marketing audit.
  • Development. This stage of the process is when the website is actually built out, and it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Learn more about web development services.
  • Testing. This stage is extremely important, as it involves various tests to ensure the website is running smoothly, including testing the functionality, the overall user experience, and the security.
  • Launch and ongoing promotion and development. The website launch is a great opportunity to really promote the organization, but the promotion and development efforts should not stop there. Be sure to continuously monitor the website to ensure it is running smoothly and meeting the organization’s needs. Learn more about the process of continual improvement.

Building a nonprofit website from scratch can be a daunting process, but having a website that clearly expresses the organization’s mission and incites visitors to take action is absolutely crucial. A thoughtful investment of time, effort, and a little bit of money will likely be one of the best investments your nonprofit organization makes.


Leah, an Professional marketer and social impact creative consultant

Leah Bury is a Philadelphia-based marketeting manager and writer who is passionate about various social justice issues, to say the very least. She’s worked in a variety of organizations, from an education technology startup to a nonprofit venture philanthropy fund, and heads Coding For Causes where she is actively assisting in spreading equity and community education on a City-wide scale. She likes to hike, travel, read, and enjoys music festivals.