The Anatomy of an Effective Nonprofit Website: Part 3 – Illustrating Impact

4 min read

If you’ve been following along with our series on the anatomy of an effective nonprofit website, you’re well on your way to building a site that truly works. Here are the four essential elements we’re covering in this series:

  1. A Well-Structured Homepage With Clear Messaging
  2. An Easy Opt-In
  3. Illustration of Impact (read on)
  4. A Way to Donate and/or Get Involved (post coming soon)

While the first two elements are also essentials on for-profit websites, the third element — an illustration of impact — is a requirement unique to the nonprofit and social impact sectors. 

Visitors come to your site for many reasons, but ultimately, they’re all driven by the same basic desire to understand how your organization is changing the world. It’s your job to show them.

Impact Illustration can take many forms. For example, it can happen through:

  • Case studies
  • Success stories
  • Impact reports
  • Videos
  • Data
  • …and many other creative vehicles

Let’s take a look at how a few of the organizations we’ve covered in the past posts in this series choose to illustrate their impact.

BuildOn’s Impact Illustration

BuildOn chooses to illustrate their impact through stories of the young people they impact, told in the first person. For example, in the story above, website visitors learn about Lawrence, a young man who was mugged while in middle school, received support from BuildOn, and eventually became a volunteer with the organization. Rather than telling Lawrence’s story for him, BuildOn asked him to tell it himself, which feels far more authentic and gives a human voice to Lawrence’s lived experience.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Impact Illustration

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation leans heavily on data and statistics to illustrate impact. While stories are leveraged in a few spots, stats like the one seen above are on almost every page of the organization’s site. This may have been done in an effort to counterbalance the organization’s fun, playful brand with hard-hitting data that show how serious the organization is about driving change.

YWCA Impact Illustration

Like the example above, YWCA uses stats to illustrate their impact. However, their web content takes stakeholders a level deeper by connecting each stat to a story or landing page that shows their impact in action.

ACLU’s Impact Illustration

ACLU has taken a less conventional approach to impact illustration, adding an “accomplishments” page to their website that outlines key ACLU civil rights victories over the last nine years. While the page could be more visually engaging and easier to find, it’s hard to argue with their results.

Charity: water’s Impact Illustration

Charity: water is the true master of impact illustration. They combine data with visual multimedia storytelling and their impact illustration never grows stale as more stories are added all the time. I love seeing their number of water projects tick up on their site in real time and feel more and more compelled to give with each video I watch. The pièce de résistance, though, is their interactive “completed projects map,” which you can experience for yourself here

As you can see from these examples, there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to bringing your impact to life on your website. When illustrating your impact, feel free to exercise creativity and make storytelling a priority. There are just a couple of guidelines to keep in mind to make sure you can effectively help your visitors move from understanding your impact to contributing to it:

  1. Make impact front and center. Don’t expect your website visitors to dig to learn how your organization makes an impact. Put teasers for your impact content in a prominent position on your homepage and other key pages of your site. I even advocate for including an impact page in your top navigation.
  2. Understand visitor intent. Who are the key groups of stakeholders that visit your site, and what do you want them to do when they see an illustration of your impact? Sign up to learn more? Donate? Inquire about volunteering? Categorize your impact stories accordingly and make it easy for different types of users to relate to what they’re seeing.
  3. Include a call-to-action. Once you understand who is likely to visit your impact illustrations and what you want them to do once they get there, set up calls-to-action accordingly. Each case study, story or other page of impact illustrating content should have a clear next call-to-action for the visitor that makes it possible for them to take that next desired step with your organization.

How are you illustrating impact on your nonprofit’s website and what questions do you have about how you could do it better? Tell us in the comments. 

Check back soon for the fourth and final post in this series. Until then, check out our Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto to learn more about the role marketing should play at a nonprofit like yours.

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