Can You Build a Charity Website With Squarespace?
Money is always tight in a charity or non-profit organisation, so building your own website is the perfect opportunity to save on your marketing. Website builders such as Squarespace are far easier to find your way around than Wordpress if you've never created a website before.
Can Squarespace really make your charity or non-profit look credible, professional and worthy of support? Absolutely.
Here's a quick guide to what Squarespace can and can't do when it comes to charity websites, along with some charity website tips.
Look Credible & Professional
If you want anyone to donate time or money to your cause, they have to believe in you. It's essential to present a professional image to the world, especially when it comes to your website. Personally I find this is more easily done with Squarespace than with Wordpress, where free templates with jazzy homepages abound, but the rest of the site is harder for an amateur to make look good.
The best Squarespace templates for a charity website are Impact and Mentor. They already have many of the features you need built in
Template tip: If you're not super confident with Squarespace choose a template then stick to it as best you can, making only minor changes to the fonts and colours. If you need to replicate an entire website design Squarespace can handle it, but you might need professional help.
Communicate Your Mission
Most Squarespace templates are already set up to display a mission/message/vision front and centre on the homepage. Declaring your mission upfront makes your site immediately relevant to the people it most resonates with — your potential supporters. Don't have a mission or a message? Then why does your organisation exist?
Mission tips: Make your mission simple to understand and something any reasonable person would agree with. For example, if you are a community group that improves local playgrounds, a message to the effect of "Providing a safe place to play outside for every child in town" would work well because, let's face it, who can't see the importance of that?
The image accompanying your main message needs to visually represent your charity's impact. This means the end goal, not the journey; the new playground, not the old, broken one. For this example, a high quality image of kids playing on a playground, smiling at the camera would be perfect.
Bonus imagery tip: Images of people whose eyes meet the camera attract the most attention.
Build Empathy And Support
The people who are personally affected by your cause already care deeply about it. Those who have no personal experience of it need a little prompting if they are to connect with the work you do.
So how do you help people to care? You inspire them with images, case studies and impact stories. You tell them exactly how your work changes the lives of the people you work with.
Impact stories tips: Find the people who've got the most out of working with your organisation then send them an email asking for help with your new website. Provide some questions for them to answer about how they came to work with your organisation, what happened, and — most importantly — how the work of your organisation made them feel. Very few people will choose to donate via your website if they can't see the emotional impact of what you do.
Make It Easy To Donate
Here Squarespace really excels. Donations are can be fully integrated into Squarespace websites, something which is known to increase successful donation rates when compared to sending people somewhere else to make a donation. Payments can be accepted via Stripe (which accepts most credit and debit cards) or by PayPal if you have a PayPal for Business account.
If there are other ways to donate such as giving time or equipment, make it clear how to do this.
Donation tips: Sprinkle donation buttons throughout your content, particularly near impact stories and pages about the services you offer. Squarespace allows you to suggest different donation amounts, so relate them directly to the content on the page. Taking the playground example, a small donation might pay to hire a hall for a committee meeting, whereas incrementally larger donations could pay to refurbish and buy specific pieces of equipment.
List Upcoming Events
Squarespace has a built-in events calendar so you can highlight fundraising, awareness-raising and/or educational events.
Events tips: Even if your event isn't a fundraiser, add donation links and encourage people to contribute towards the cost of putting on the event.
Share News And Updates
Squarespace integrates with Mailchimp, which means you can ask people to sign up to your newsletter directly from your website in a fully GDPR-compliant way. Your newsletter is the place to update subscribers on your progress towards funding goals, completed projects and research objectives, helping people to see the impact their support is having on your organisation.
Newsletter tips: Make your subscribers look forward to your newsletter by sharing not only news and events from your organisation, but also content from other organisations that's relevant to your mission. Going back to the play area example, you could share a success story from a similar community group, even if they're in a completely different area. Or you could share the latest research on how outdoor play improve outcomes for low-income children, to reinforce your own message and mission.
Bonus newsletter tip: Sparking feelings in your readers (good or bad!) will make your newsletter stand out, so share both happy news and the kind of stories that makes people feel angry or sad.
Allow People To Share Your Content
Squarespace, like almost any other website creation system, allows your website visitors to share your blog posts and content.
Content tips: Whenever you create written or video content, ask yourself why anyone would share it on (for example) Facebook or Twitter. Does it solve a problem? Does it contain surprising statistics? Does it help someone to demonstrate how much they care about your cause, like a badge or a banner of support? If you can't imagine someone sharing the content, think about how you might improve it.
And now for the not-so-good news:
Allow Supporters to Add Fundraising Activity To The Site
Larger charity sites sometimes have a way for supporters to add their own fundraising activities directly to the website. This unfortunately isn't possible with Squarespace so JustGiving will have to do.
If you have successfully integrated JustGiving into a charity website, I'd love for you to share the URL in the comments.
Automatically Show a Fundraising Total
There isn't currently a fancy widget that will total up donations to a specific cause or project and show how close you are to the goal. That's not to say this isn't available using a third-party integration, I just don't know about it yet.
If you have a solution to this one, please do share it in the comments.
How Big A Charity Website Can Squarespace Build?
As long as you have a Squarespace business account there is no limit to the number of pages you can have on your site. There are some file size limits in place to stop people using Squarespace as a cheap storage, but these limits shouldn't prevent you from adding almost anything you need to your website.
I recently built a site for a research organisation in Oxford, UK that has six blogs, including impact stories, book reviews, audio clips, videos and more. The impact stories, content and imagery enabled the site to almost pay for itself in donations within a few weeks of launch. Check out the site here.
Of course, some organisations need more complex features than Squarespace can provide, which is where you'll find you have to engage a web developer to do the building for you.
A Squarespace website designer based in Oxford, UK, I'm on a mission to turn uninspiring, unloved websites into interesting, relevant experiences that show instantly what you offer and why people need you in their lives. More info.