How to Get Buy-In and Funding For Your Nonprofit’s Website Redesign

This is the second post in our new series on how to execute a redesign for your website.  If you missed our first post on when the timing is right for you to consider getting a redesign, you can read that here.

If you work with a nonprofit and think it’s time to redesign your website, you will probably need to get approval from several groups and stakeholders. Plan ahead to avoid wasting time and increase your chances of everything going smoothly. AnnieCannons has worked with a number of nonprofits to redesign their websites; here are some suggestions to streamline the process.

Before you begin: create a project proposal.

Before you jump in and excitedly tell your stakeholders about your big idea, take some time to gather ideas and crunch the numbers. Presenting everything as a well-thought out and a nicely presented proposal will carry your excitement and ideas much further. 

  • Include what a new website will do for your organization, what it will fix, and the kind of opportunities it will allow once the changes are made. We recommend attaching the website redesign to a major organizational milestone or event, like a fundraiser. The board might provide more support if they think the project can improve a fundraising initiative.
  • Consider whether you have budget for initial design work (expect $1000-$5000 for most nonprofits’ marketing sites). Especially for more complex sites, you may be able to obtain finished designs that you can show donors to make it easier for them to say “yes” to funding your project.
  • Include a budget with your proposal.  Costs for a typical website redesign can be broken down by an estimated percentage of cost per phase, though all estimates in software are necessarily fluid. If you engage with a professional to determine their estimate in one area you can extrapolate the rest. Note: this is not an exact science but is helpful for benchmarking and gaining approval:
    • Discovery & Planning
      • 10%
    • Design
      • 20%
    • Development
      • 60%
    • Testing
      • 5%
    • Content
      • 5%
  • Pad your initial budget by at least 30%. There is generally more to setting up a website than you think, especially if you need to work with a designer. You should generally expect to pay hourly, so many rounds of comment and revision with designers can add up (to avoid this, see our “Planning” section below). Also, you’ll need to consider related ongoing costs, like monthly or annual hosting fees, domain registrations and renewals, photo license fees, etc. 
  • If you’re not sure of what you want your site to do, add extra budget padding. We often see organizations change their mind about what they want once they it on paper or on the web – even down to the fonts they THOUGHT they liked. Make sure you have enough funds reserved to get you all the way to what you want – or make sure you are prepared to trim your expectations to create a solid site that is simpler than what you may have imagined.  

Bringing it up: engage stakeholders & get approval.

Now that you have your ideas clearly spelled out, you can move forward and present your proposal to your organization. There may be some pushback, but the more prepared you are the easier it will be!

  • Share the proposal with your manager and get their buy in first. Continue to go up the chain and across the organization until the Executive Director is on board. Since a quality website will be a material budget line-item for most organizations, reminder your ED that a Site upgrade will improve all marketing and development initiatives, too.
  • Make sure all the key decision makers on your team are sold on the proposal not only to build a website, but on what the goal of the website will be. This makes it easier to get team approvals through the design and development process.  Being clear on what you want to accomplish and why you want to accomplish it will also help limit expected costs.
  • Identify who the “approver” is for your team. Designers and developers need to have someone who can say “yes, this is right” or “no, this has to change” at various points in the process. It’s better to agree with your whole team who that person will be in advance, or who else the one project driver needs to check with to move the process forward.
  • When you approve a budget, make sure your team is clear on whether it is a “do not exceed,” or strictly limited pool of funds versus a budget target that you can cross for good reason.  Communicate this to your developers early and often.

If there’s a large number of people who need to be convinced, you may find your enthusiasm waning. Keep on track by focusing on the purpose and goals of the redesign and try not to get hung up on the details just yet. 

The fun part: gather messaging & branding.

Great, you have the go-ahead! Now you are ready to work on your messaging and branding. It’s time to collaborate with your team to gather all the pieces you will need, seeking the highest possible quality.

  • As much as 80% of a successful website redesign is driven by the quality of your prep work on things like verbiage, imagery, and brand. 
  • Before you contact a developer or designer, develop crisp mission and vision statements, clear descriptions of programs and services, and confident ideas that are ready for visuals. Remember that designing a website and making general branding and copywriting choices are different. For larger budgets, you can work with a branding consultant or copywriter to hone your content before you provide it to a web designer.  Whether you build this content with just you team or you hire outside consultants, do this before you start a web designer. Seemingly small things like length of titles and number of words in a section can change designer outputs substantially. For this reason, finalizing copy early will usually save you web designer fees.
  • Identify any images required or desired for use on your website, any logos or trademarks, etc. – and make sure the files you have for these “assets” are as high-resolution as possible. It’s easier to make files smaller or lower-resolution, but pretty impossible to make them higher-resolution. Having these elements ready before you meet with anyone will lower costs and keep your timeline steady. A designer can help you with what you don’t have, but they will bill you for that help. Be upfront with your web developer and/or designer about what you have and what you need when you get an estimate. This will keep your costs limited to time spent actually working for you, rather than telling you what work you need to do for yourself. 
  • If you don’t yet have a logo you want to use, the cheapest paid options for this are around $300. In both logos and graphic design, you get what you pay for, so if your budget is limited you might want to seek a volunteer and see them actually finish your design before you start your website – just be sure to set expectations with the volunteer in advance, or you could find yourself waiting a very long time for the promised logo.  (Pro Tip: ask your logo designers for versions of your logo in all of the most common file types, including SVG, PNG, and JPG, in both full color and black and white versions). For higher-cost logo designers, you should get a whole “style guide” that would include fonts, colors, and other branding items. Expect one to three rounds of revision, minimum, to reach something your whole team likes.  
  • We often see nonprofits get bogged down in the “goal” or “brand” phase of this process, so if your team is circling and not coming to definite answers, assign someone to assemble what you already have in terms of newsletters, flyers, events, case studies, pitch decks, or from grant language and identify what has resonated most with your donors in the past.

If you don’t have a logo, branding, or visuals, you should look into having a contractor or agency create them for you before you kick off development. They are among the first things a website developer will ask for.

You are not ready to start engaging a developer if you:

  • Can’t completely describe your mission in one line.
  • Don’t have any idea what you want visitors to take away from your site. 
  • Don’t have clear goals for the website.
  • Don’t yet know what actions you want users to take on the site.
  • Are on a super tight execution timeline but don’t have completed messaging or branding.
  • Have both a small budget and no idea where to start (BUT a small budget is okay if you have a very clear idea of what needs to be built).

It can be a challenge to get everyone on board for redesigning a website, but a thoughtful strategy will definitely take you far. AnnieCannons specializes in building and redesigning nonprofit websites and would love to help!  Drop us a line anytime and we can walk you through how to get a new website up within your budget.

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