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Learn how to improve your nonprofit's online presence.

Free Graphic Design Tools from Around the Web

If you are managing a smaller nonprofit organization, you may not have the budget to hire a design agency to help with Facebook ads, website graphics, event invitations, flyers or other marketing pieces. If you're working on these types of projects in-house, even the standard software required to produce them can have a high price tag. Fortunately, there are several online tools that can help you create eye-catching promotional materials for your organization for free! Here are a few online graphic design tools that will help you create some beautiful visuals for a variety of marketing channels:

Piktochart

1. Piktochart.com
Piktochart allows you to create infographics, presentations, posters, reports, and flyers using a variety of free and pro (paid) templates. While there are paid options available in Piktochart, there are plenty of quality design templates offered for free. Piktochart has a user-friendly interface that will allow you to drag and drop design elements, text, colors, maps, charts and more. The only downside with the free version is the file size limit for exporting your work. But if your project does not require large file formats, this could be a good solution for your organization.

Canva

2. Canva.com
Canva.com offers countless design elements, templates, backgrounds, and text designs that are easily customizable to meet your needs. These elements are a mix of free and paid options, but the sheer volume of free, high-quality graphics is impressive. Canva also allows you to download PDFs of your artwork, which is not offered on some other free platforms.

Vectr

3. Vectr.com
While Vectr.com may not have the array of templates and free graphics available from Canva and Piktochart, it is a great solution if you're interested in designing your own vector graphics from scratch. The UI and toolset may be a little more intuitive to those who are familiar with other types of design software. But this free service will allow you to design and export vector graphics, which can be used at any size.

BeFunky

4. BeFunky.com
BeFunky.com offers a variety of free design elements, and it also allows you to choose between using fonts available in their system, or fonts installed on your own computer. While BeFunky only offers one free template for each type of marketing piece, it does allow you to create your own custom designs based on a variety of themes.

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What's Missing from Your Church Website?

What's Missing from Your Church Website?

Do you manage a church website? Whether you're a volunteer webmaster or full-time church staff member, your role is an integral part of keeping members informed and welcoming new guests. In fact, your website is oftentimes the first exposure potential visitors will have to your church. That said, it's a good idea to review your site from time to time, and ensure that members and visitors have all of the information they need. Here are a few important features you'll want to be sure to include on your church website:

Does Your Site Contain a Clearly Defined Mission Statement?
What is the core mission of your church? Are you focused on reaching the lost in your community, growing believers in your area, worship, sending missionaries abroad, offering benevolence to those in need? Most likely, your vision and mission may include several of these areas, and potential visitors will find it helpful to know what's at the heartbeat of your ministry. Furthermore, a statement of beliefs will also help potential visitors to understand if your church aligns with their theology. While some visitors may come without any theological background, others may have a faith background and would want to know your core beliefs and denominational affiliation before attending.

Do You Publish Staff Bios on Your Site?
Let visitors know a little about who you are by offering staff bios with photos. Try to include a little personal info, as well as some information about the role of each staff member. Not only does this help to build trust among site visitors, but it also lets people know who to contact regarding different topics. Direct contact information for each staff member (or a contact form that is submitted directly to each staff member) is also helpful.

Do You Post Audio and/or Video of Your Sermons Online?
If you're not posting sermons online, you're missing out on a great opportunity to reach both visitors and members alike. Offering your sermons online is an effective way to communicate your theology and preaching style to potential guests, while also allowing church members to hear what they missed when they were out of town, or at home with a sick child. While sermon videos are great, audio is also a useful way to share your sermons online.

Are You Consistently Posting Fresh Content about Ministries and Upcoming Events?
With any website, it's important to keep your content fresh and current. However, when it comes to church websites, it's critical to let both your members and visitors know what's happening. Be sure to keep site visitors up to date with what's happening in your different areas of ministry. For example, what sermon series are you working through? What's happening in your children's ministry? What type of youth events are coming up? This type of information not only communicates the when and where for classes and events, but it also communicates the fact that your church provides a safe and vibrant ministry to both children and adults alike.

Are Your Address and Service Times Clearly Displayed on all Pages of Your Website?
This one may seem a little particular, but one of the more frustrating things visitors may encounter when looking for a new church is the inability to find the address on your website. It's a good idea to keep this info in the footer of all pages, so that no matter what content a visitor is seeing, they'll know where you're located in case they decide to come visit.

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Free Wordpress Themes from around the Web: 2017 Edition

I recently received an inquiry regarding the best free Wordpress themes available for nonprofits. Since it's been a while since we've posted about free themes, I thought it would be a good opportunity to mention some newer themes that are both flexible and easy to work with. Many nonprofit webmasters may not have experience with HTML or PHP, but many are quick to learn when it comes to managing content using a CMS like Wordpress. Here are some of the best free options we've found that you can download today to give your nonprofit website a fresh look.

Vantage by SiteOrigin

Vantage by SiteOrigin

After testing many free Wordpress themes, we found that SiteOrigin's Vantage theme provides a great deal of flexibility due to the SiteOrigin page builder plugin. The Vantage theme offers a wide variety of design customizations using the theme customizer, and the page builder can be easily edited without any coding required. Learn more at SiteOrigin.


Hestia by ThemeIsle

Hestia by ThemeIsle

Hestia offers a modern design with a wide range of possibilities available in the site customizer. If you're looking for a straightforward interface, Hestia gives you all the tools you'll need to construct the content of your homepage using the site customizer. Hestia can also be used to easily create a single page site, with the option of turning on and off a variety of content areas with the click of a button. Learn more at ThemeIsle.

 

Astrid by aThemes

Astrid by aThemes
Astrid offers a sleek, responsive design with a large header image and call to action area at the top. Astrid allows you the flexibility of employing the SiteOrigin page builder, with access to specific widgets created for the Astrid theme. Much of the look and feel can be edited in the theme customizer, with the ability to add page sections and widgets using the page builder. Learn more at aThemes.

 

Talon by aThemes

Talon by aThemes
Talon is a responsive theme that offers a clean design with a large image slider at the top of the homepage and the ability to add a wide range of widgets below. Talon also employs the SiteOrigin page builder, and allows you to easily update things like fonts and colors using the theme customizer. Learn more at aThemes.

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5 Ways Your Nonprofit Organization Can Build Trust on the Web

Building Trust on the Web

Whether you're a small, local nonprofit or a nationally recognized brand, it's critical to build trust among those who visit your website. Your online traffic may come from a Google search, a Facebook ad, a YouTube video or a partner link. Given that this may be the very first encounter they have with your organization, it's critical to instill trust in your online audience. Here are a few simple things you can do on your website to instill confidence in those who may be unfamiliar with your organization and/or your cause.

1. Use real photos.
We've mentioned this in previous posts, but it's worth repeating. Oftentimes, people want to see the real people who work for and with your organization. They want to see actual events you've participated in, actual staff members, and in cases where appropriate, they want to see the faces of the people you've helped. When site visitors can picture themselves among those pictured on your website, they may be more apt to get involved. While stock images may be a little easier to attain, they won't inspire the level of confidence that comes from seeing real people engaging in worthwhile causes.  

2. Put your online donors at ease. 
With the sheer number of security breeches we've heard about over the past few years, people may be more apprehensive than ever about entering their credit card data in an online form, especially if they're unfamiliar with your organization. Make sure your donation form is PCI compliant, and you're handling credit card info according to the highest security standards. Also, be sure to include any pertinent security badges that will show donors you're serious about protecting their identities.  

3. Be transparent about how funding is used. 
Offer real-time data about the work you've done, the people you've helped, and the projects you've been a part of. Consider using an infographic to display the breakdown of your funding so users can see how their donations are being used. Your transparency with funding will go a long way to ensure potential donors that their money will be used responsibly. 

4. Consider blogging. 
If you have the resources to keep up with a blog, invest your energy in sharing helpful information and organizational updates online. By publishing a blog, you'll develop an online voice, which will help people identify with who you are and what you're doing. By publishing regular updates about recent events or projects, you'll give your readers a feel for what you're doing on a day to day basis, and they'll get a better understanding of how their money or time would be spent if they chose to donate or volunteer.

5. Be clear about your mission. 
You may think that your mission statement belongs only on the "About Us" page of your site. In actuality, your mission should be woven throughout all pages of your site. Whether your viewers are reading an article on your blog, a notice about an upcoming service project, or a synopsis of a fundraising event, they should be able to clearly identify your mission. This doesn't mean every page of your site needs a word-for-word mission statement for your organization, but it does mean that your mission should be at the core of all of your online communications.

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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Mockups and Templates

Mockups and Templates

Once you've created your sitemap and laid out your wireframes, you're ready to select a template or begin designing mockups. If you have some experience with design and you have access to a developer who can help you convert a mockup into a template or theme for your content management system, you may be able to begin designing a mockup on your own. This is the phase where you can let your creative energies flow, and you can introduce colors, fonts, and images to bring your wireframes to life. If you do not have access to a developer to help you convert a mockup into a template, or you're not comfortable working in Photoshop or similar program to create a page design, it may be a good idea to move directly to selecting a flexible template or theme that will allow you to layout your pages in a way that most closely resembles your wireframes.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when converting your wireframes into beautiful page designs for your site.

1. Consider your color scheme.
Do you already have a logo? If so, you may already have a color pallet in mind. But if you need more options for accent colors or you're starting from scratch without a logo, there are several free online tools that can help you decide on an appropriate color scheme for your site. For example, Pictaculous will allow you to upload a photo to get an idea of the best color pallet to pair with that image. This tool could be particularly helpful if you have a featured image that you'd like your design to revolve around. As long as the photo's color scheme fits in with your overall identity and mission, this tool could help you select the right tones to use throughout your site. Alternatively, sites like Adobe Color CC and Paletton can help you select complimentary colors based on a single color of your choosing.

2. Repurpose design elements for a seamless user experience.
When introducing design elements like button styling, headings, and image styles, consistency is key. Be sure to implement similar styles for features with similar functionality. For instance, if your donate button has a certain color and effect, it's important to keep this consistent throughout all pages of your site. By making your donate button clearly recognizable on all pages, users will notice it with a glance, rather than having to search the page for the word "Donate." Likewise, make sure headings with similar importance share the same font and weight throughout the site. Your users will recognize their importance based on these styling elements and they'll be able to navigate your site with ease.

3. Use appropriate fonts.
Many themes and templates will offer a variety of web fonts for use throughout the site. Oftentimes you can choose a default font to use for your main headings across the board. If you're designing a mockup from scratch, be sure your font selections are from a web font library so they can easily be implemented on your site. Google has a popular web font library available here. If you're not quite sure which font family to use, take a look at this infographic from DesignMantic.com for some ideas. 

What stage are you at in your redesign? Let us know in the comments below. 

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