How to write a great charity website

Your goal: Using your website to INSPIRE your supporters

A great charity website does not just describe your charity – it inspires your supporters.

It makes your current and potential volunteers, donors, fundraisers, partner organisations and beneficiaries FEEL GOOD about engaging with your charity. It makes them WANT to get involved.

To empower your charity to deliver a truly excellent service to your beneficiaries, the words on your site should embody all of these core principles of effective marketing.

Social proof

Whether we realise it, we are much influenced by hearing about other people’s choices.

This is why testimonials and case studies are so powerful, including those from your volunteers, donors and partner organisations

YES: ‘Our volunteers often report back on what a great time they had with us’
NOT: ‘Volunteering with us can be a positive experience’

YES: ‘3,000 people have already signed our petition’
NOT: ‘We have set up a petition’

YES: ‘People concerned about [animals/children/nature] often set up regular donations’
NOT: ‘We have a form for regular donations’

“Since 1942, Oxfam campaigners have gone all out to end poverty, pushing for action on inequality, tax dodging, climate change and more.”


“’You can’t improve on perfection. I had the time of my life.’ Cycle Challenge participant”

Help for Heroes

“’Volunteering gives you a wonderful sense of achievement. You feel you are doing your part for charity, and putting your skills and time to good use.’ Ellie, shop volunteer”

Save the Children

“The Appeal just wouldn’t work without the support of so many people and we are very grateful.”

Salvation Army

Warm ‘you’ language

Address your reader directly, using warm human language:

YES: ‘Your donation can make a difference’
NOT: ‘We really appreciate all donations’

“Your donation could make the difference between waking up on Christmas morning in a hostel or in a home.”



Short and sweet; plain English

Online, short sentences and paragraphs work best.  Simple grammar is easier to read than sentences that are convoluted, verbose, use abstract grammar or include lots of jargon:

YES: ‘We love waving dogs off to their forever homes’
NOT: ‘Our network of regional operational teams are proud of our strong service delivery record in rehoming the stray animal population’

“Love animals / Hate cruelty“


Benefits vs. features – it’s all about THEM, not you

The language of your website should focus on your readers. It should speak TO your audiences, rather than ABOUT the charity.

And it should tell them why THEY will feel great if they engage with your charity.

YES: ‘Your donation can give a homeless person a warm bed for the night’
NOT: ‘We run a homeless shelter’

Yes, a charity does provide benefits to its supporters!

Rest assured that your volunteers, donors, corporate partners, etc, DO stand to benefit from engaging with your charity. Otherwise, why would they bother?

If you were a company selling a product, the benefit you’re offering might be pretty obvious:

  • Makeup: ‘Feel beautiful, with a youthful glow’
  • Double glazing: ‘Enjoy a cosy and secure home’

But your supports definitely DO receive benefits by getting involved with your charity::

• A donor: ‘Feel like you can make a difference to global hunger’
• A fundraiser: ‘Have fun and do good at the same time’
• A volunteer: ‘Use your spare time to do something that feels meaningful’
• A partner charity: ‘Maximise your charity’s impact by joining forces’
• A corporate partner: ‘Show the human face of your company’
• A beneficiary: ‘Feel warm and safe tonight’

“Will you help show your love for animals?“


“You can change someone’s life today”

Help for Heroes


Structure your menus around them, not you

Organise your site so that each type of visitor (a potential volunteer, a potential corporate partner, etc), are quickly directed to everything they’re looking for, in one place.  Don’t organise it primarily to reflect the different strands of what your charity does.

Make your menus about them, not you.

YES: Navigation and menus organised around ‘Volunteer,’ ‘Donate,’ ‘Adpot a dog,’ etc
NOT: Navigation and menus organised around ‘Our outreach work,’ ‘Our community projects,’ ‘Our team,’ etc

Questions, problems & solutions

To help keep the spotlight on your reader, ask them about problem of theirs, that you can solve. This makes a good ‘hook’ for their attention.

In a charity context, their problem will be something like ‘I want to make a difference and help with X’ or ‘I’m not sure how best to help fix problem Y.’

“How will you be part of the generation to end extreme poverty?”


Engagement, the marketing funnel and Calls to Action

Your reader’s engagement starts with reading at least a few words on your site. As their engagement grows, they might:

• click through and read another page
• feel moved share a page of your site with their friends
• follow your charity on Facebook
• donate
• volunteer

A core marketing goal is to encourage them further into this ‘marketing funnel’. To nudge them along a path of ever-increasing engagement.

Once someone is reading your website, it’s vital to include Calls to Action which explicitly encourage further engagement – “Donate now,” “Read more,” “Volunteer today.”

“Spare a little time and make a huge difference in your community by volunteering for us”

Salvation Army

“Run, bake, tweet, give, shop, speak out, even sky dive”


“Share your story #cancerRightNow”

Cancer Research UK

“Get involved“ “Shop online“



Emphasise agency and togetherness

Apathy is the enemy of engagement.

Emphasise that the reader CAN make a difference, if they engage with your charity.

“Together, rebuilding lives”

Help for Heroes

“Help Syria’s children“

Save the Children

“We can’t do it without you”



Positive marketing

Fear-based marketing is common – consider the advertisements for wrinkle creams that suggest that you have wrinkles that you can’t even see yet!

And there’s plenty of guilt-based marketing too – consider the photos of suffering animals that are not uncommon in animal charity advertisements.

But how congruent is it for your charity to present your beneficiaries as pitiful?

A more ethical approach is positive marketing. Inspire your audiences about the difference that you and they can make, together.

Smiling faces – “Let’s beat cancer sooner”

Cancer Research UK


“Together we can give nature the home it needs.”



Keep them on your site

You want to encourage them to stay on your site, reading about your charity, rather than clicking away.

Include plenty of links to other pages of your website (‘internal links’). As someone is coming to the bottom of each page, guide them towards another page of your site.

External links (links to other people’s websites) can be good for SEO (see below), but make sure you format the links so that they open in a new tab. You don’t want someone to click a link on your page, and move completely away from your site.

Promote sharing and clicking

Use engaging titles and images.

When someone sees your page on social media, unless the title and image draw them in, they’ll probably never click through to see any more.

For social media, title and image are king!


SEO is Search Engine Optimisation, ie doing what you can to help your site come higher up in Google searches.

Google’s search algorithms are constantly evolving. If you try and ‘write for SEO’ then you’ll probably be outsmarted pretty fast.

The best approach? Write content that will be engaging for real human beings to read. This is ultimately what Google is trying to find.

But also:

• Use subheadings
• Use easy-to-read language
• Use links to good quality external websites, to show that your site is engaged in the wider conversation
• Consider creating pages (for example blog posts) which each target specific a ‘key word’ (a Google search term such as ‘help the homeless in South London’) in the title and a few times in the content


Telling your reader that something is scarce, makes it more attractive.

YES: ‘Volunteering at our shelter is so popular that we may not be able to offer you a spot’
NOT: ‘We’ll consider your application’

Each page is a landing page

A reader could arrive at ANY page of your site. They’re highly unlikely to arrive tidily at your home page, and then work through your menu structure one page at a time.  Having arrived, they may leave again without seeing anything other than that single page where they arrived – their landing page.

So, each page needs to include all the really key messages you want to give.  Each page needs to be a self-contained landing page.

For example., include a Call to Action at the bottom of every page, encouraging volunteering etc (and of course link these through to other pages where the reader can find more detail). And make sure every page has a ‘donate’ link.

Obviously repetition across your site is usually bad. You want to cover something in one area of your website, and then link back to it rather than repeat yourself, and end up with two places where you will need to update the same material. That’s what hyperlinks are for, after all.

BUT, a little repetition may be beneficial, if it helps make sure each page can stand on its own two feet.

Tell stories

Tell stories, rather than listing facts.

YES: ‘When [Bill and Jane Smith] started [our charity] at their kitchen table, back in 1982, little did they realise that…’
NOT: ‘We were incorporated as a registered charity in 1982’

“At the beginning of the 20th century, two sisters had a vision to achieve and protect the rights of children. Almost 100 years later, that vision continues to guide all our work.”

Save the Children

“The Swinging Sixties are the stuff of legend. But while some never had it so good, three million people were living in slums. Shelter was born out of the belief that this appalling injustice must be put right.”



Explain the ‘why’

And within your story, explain the ‘why.’  Passion and enthusiasm are contagious and charismatic.

WHY are you and your team doing what you are doing?  Why does the charity exist?

When your site explains what makes YOU passionate about your mission, your reader gets a kind of contact passion.  They feel inspired.

Explaining your ‘why’ is more powerful than your ‘what’ or your ‘how.’

And stay on brand

Find a voice that captures the spirit of your charity, and stick with it.

“We won’t live with poverty” – Determined, action-oriented, no beating about the bush


“Start your search for a perfectly unique pet today” – Supportive, sweet, tugging at your heart strings



Putting this all into practice

So! How does your charity’s website stack up? Do its words embody these core marketing principles?

You might want to go back and look again at all the YES/NO examples above.  Each pair is talking about the same thing, but with a difference in wording which can seem subtle.

This is what makes the difference though if you want to create a high-impact site that really connects with your supporters, and inspires them to action in support of your charity’s mission.

Do make sure your website really maximises your charity’s impact!  It should be working hard, to bring in donations, volunteers, corporate relationships, and goodwill in all shapes and sizes.

If you’d like some help, get in touch today.

About Jessica Kennedy

Authored by Jessica Kennedy, the Marketing Chihuahua. Jessica writes text for the websites of small businesses and charities, and provides coaching in blogging and social media. She really enjoys helping people and organisations express themselves fluently online, in painless and practical ways.