Building a Nonprofit Website and Online Presence


Ensuring your organization is taking full advantage of the web can be a daunting task. However, a good nonprofit website and strong online presence is crucial to managing an organization’s reputation and success. Nonprofits can promote their missions and services online using the following resources.

  1. Website. Your nonprofit’s website is the online storefront of your organization. When creating or redesigning your website, you’ll need to consider the following:
    • Budget. Simple websites can be designed by someone with moderate technology and design skills for next to nothing. Alternately, it is not uncommon for companies to spend several or tens of thousands of dollars to have a website built by a professional design firm. If you do opt to hire a professional web designer, be sure to do significant research and interview several firms before contracting one that can meet your needs and budget.
    • Features. Websites can be as simple as a brochure site that provides general information about your organization, or much more interactive and perhaps even linked to an internal database. Different features require a different level of expertise to implement, and will dramatically affect the cost and timeline of your site design. (Resource: How to Make a Good Nonprofit Website)
    • Domain and Hosting. You need to purchase at least one domain name and set up a hosting account in order to have a website on the World Wide Web. In most cases this can be done through one service provider and only takes a few minutes to set up. (Resource: Best Web Hosting Services for 2015)
    • Platform. WordPress is one of the most common web design platforms, but requires some technical knowledge. Wix and Squarespace are some alternatives that are ideal options for beginner designers. (Resource: Build A Better Website With These 7 Services)
    • Responsiveness. Online viewing on mobile devices has increased dramatically in a very short time, therefore it is vitally important your website is mobile-responsive. Not to worry, most designers and platforms are well prepared to provide responsive designs at no additional cost. (Resource: Why Your Nonprofit Should Have a Responsive Website)
    • Content. Content should be brief and concise, and written with your specific audience in mind. A good practice is to utilize images and videos on your site, but be sure to obtain the proper permissions or licenses from the image owners, as well as any individuals within the images, where necessary. (Resource: 10 Tips for Creating Captivating Nonprofit Websites)
    • SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Search Engine Optimization refers to keywords, tags and metadata within your website so browsers like Google and Firefox will find them and push them to the top of search results. Consider your resources and needs, and research effective SEO strategy, to determine how to effectively boost your website’s ranking. (Resource: Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide)
  2. Social Media. A good rule of thumb many nonprofits follow is to maintain a minimum of two social media profiles. Once you’ve established your profiles, research and implement strategies that will optimize activity and followings on each one. There is an abundance of free and low cost tools online that are designed to help manage multiple social media accounts. (Resources: 12 Best Social Media Management ToolsCanva Design Tool, Social Media Optimization)
  1. Blog. In addition to social media, you may choose to maintain a blog to provide more in-depth content and written work to your audience. A blog can exist separately or be embedded within a website, can act as an e-newsletter, and send content to your social media profiles. (Resource: The 18 Best Blogging and Publishing Platforms on the Internet Today)
  1. Email Newsletter. An email newsletter is a great way to engage with your audience more directly, especially if you have important announcements, events or calls to action. Mailing lists can be organized using existing contact lists, and placing signups on your website, blog and social media is a great way to get more subscribers (Resource: Top Email Marketing Software Products)
  1. Analytics and Alerts. While maintaining a diverse online presence is vital for any modern organization, it is important to review available data and analytics to ensure you online strategy is effective and reaching your ideal audience. Additionally, tools like Google Alerts send notifications based on keywords that can help to monitor your organization’s online presence. Resources: Google AnalyticsKloutGoogle Alerts)
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It’s February. Do you know where your strategic plan is?

We’re pleased to bring you this guest blog post from Susan Detwiler of The Detwiler Group.  Susan is a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant.  Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants are an elite group of independent consultants that have been selected by the Standards for Excellence Institute and have received extensive training in using the Standards for Excellence code and program materials for the advancement of their work and the nonprofits and other institutions with whom they work.  To find a Licensed Consultant in your area, check out the online listing of Licensed Consultants. And be sure to follow Susan’s informative blog at


You probably spent time and money developing a strategic plan. Your board voted to approve it. Perhaps a board committee created it; maybe your executive director and senior staff.

Where is it now? That big report sitting on the shelf isn’t going to do your organization any good if it’s not a living document.

When did you last pull out the strategic plan and track your progress toward your goals?  When was the last time the board spent more than 10 minutes discussing that progress?

It’s a lovely plan, but…..

A plan without discrete steps, a timeline and accountability isn’t a plan. It’s a wish list. Here are a few tips for maintaining your progress, so that 3 years from now you can look back and say, “We did this!”

  • Make sure you have the will to accomplish the plan. This may seem obvious, but it’s often the first pitfall. “It’s a lovely plan, and really, this is what we want to accomplish. But…..we don’t have the money; the time; the people; the skills”…..whatever.  If you truly commit to the plan, then you find the money, the time, the people, the skills. It may not happen immediately, but it will never happen without making that commitment.
  • Make sure that someone is accountable for each step of the plan. They may not be the person who actually, physically does the work, but someone has to be on top of whether it happens or not. Otherwise, everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job.
  • Have those accountable people regularly report to the board. The entire board voted to move ahead with the plan; the entire board should be invested in whether the plan is being accomplished. If you have to report regularly, then you get it done. If it’s not done, then here’s your opportunity to talk about how to get back on track. 

“If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow.”  Phil Crosby

  • Regularly set aside time to discuss the overall progress, not just individual steps. Is the plan still relevant? Do new circumstances warrant changes? No matter how good your plan is, you can’t foresee everything that might happen in the course of three years. The government may cut funding. You may receive a huge bequest. Some new research may come to light.
  • Celebrate the milestones. It took a lot of work to craft the plan. It takes even more work to execute it. Recognize that work and what you accomplish. Tell your stakeholders about your progress. Let these celebrations create momentum to lead you to even higher heights.

Engage your board in keeping the strategic plan a living document. It may sit on a shelf, but it won’t get dusty. You’ll regularly reference it in board meetings, and watch the progress toward your goals. Potential board members will see your commitment, and want to be a part of your growth.

Theodor Herzl wrote,

“If you will it, it is no dream. And if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.

The first step is commitment. If you have the will, you can accomplish the rest.

The post was originally published by the Detwiler Group.  Susan Detwiler is a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant who specializes in strategic planning, governance, board excellence and facilitation. Located in the Mid-Atlantic, she works with agencies across the United States. Have some thoughts to share on this subject?  Get in touch with her at

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Building Families for Children Receives $100,000 from Donor and is Cited for ‘Excellence’


Recent sealholder Building Families for Children announces today the receipt of a $100,000 gift from a private backer of the nearly century-old, faith-based nonprofit. The organization recently earned their accreditation under the Standards for Excellence program.

“This welcomed and generous donation will help us to do God’s work, which is lifting children and their parents out of poverty,” said BFC Executive Director Debbie Marini.

 The donor, who asked to be identified only as a “long-time admirer” of BFC, said, “Building Families has made a real difference for so many children over the years. It’s a wonderful organization and deserves support as it helps even more.”

BFC’s programs include: treatment foster care for traumatized youth; Safe Families For Children which recruits “host parents” to temporarily house and care for a child while their mom or dad deals with homelessness, or some other life crisis; mentoring of young adults aging out of foster care; and other initiatives to support at-risk families.

In December, BFC was awarded the Seal of Excellence from the Standards for Excellence Institute, which is part of Maryland Nonprofits. To earn accreditation, BFC’s programs, management, and financial practices were all subjected to close scrutiny by a jury of its peers.

The donation and Seal of Excellence come as BFC, founded in 1920, prepares for its 100th anniversary with a community-awareness campaign, “Countdown to 100,” which will feature fundraisers and public-service events.  “Countdown to 100” will highlight BFC’s past and offer a vision of its future as an agency that has helped more than 20,000 people while pushing to break the generational cycle of poverty.

About Building Families for Children: Willoughby McCormick, founder of the prominent Baltimore-based spice company that bears his name, helped establish Baptist Children’s Home of Maryland in October 1920. It later became known as Baptist Family and Children Services. A quarter century later, the faith-based organization was renamed Building Families for Children. In 1989, the organization moved its headquarters from Baltimore to Columbia, Maryland, to become more centrally located to its broad service area. Today, Building Families upholds McCormick’s founding beliefs that children do better in a home setting rather than in an institution, and that families are strengthened when embraced by their communities.

For more information on Building Families for Children and “Countdown to 100 Activities”, visit

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Updated Resource on Nonprofit Disclosure: Disclose It!

The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states that all nonprofits “must be aware of and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.”  Of course, nonprofit disclosure laws are among the important laws with which all nonprofits should comply.  Each year, we update Disclose It!:  A Charitable Nonprofit’s Guide to Disclosure Requirements to keep members of the Standards for Excellence community up-to-date on this important area in nonprofit management.  Main updates include:

  • The latest numbers for the value of a low cost article and insubstantial benefits provided by the IRS
  • Updates to weblinks in the resources section

In addition to information on federal nonprofit disclosure requirements, this indispensable resource includes information about registration disclosure for charitable solicitation in every state that has their own additional requirements.
Here’s an excerpt from Disclose It to give you a sneak peak!

Disclose To Donors How Much Of Their Contributions Are Deductible
Does your organization hold a special event where dinner or entertainment is provided? Do you give contributors a subscription to a magazine or promotional merchandise (a mug, book, etc.)? Do you provide donors with membership benefits in return for a contribution? If so, your organization needs to be familiar with the IRS rules that apply when donors receive something in exchange for their contribution. You should know the following:

  • The IRS presumes that donations are not tax-deductible — The IRS requires taxpayers to prove that the amount they pay exceeds the fair market value of the food, entertainment, merchandise, or other goods and/or services that the donor receives. You should NOT state in solicitation materials, catalogs, or tickets that the donor’s payment is tax-deductible if the donor is receiving something of value in exchange for the contribution.
  • The IRS is clamping down on organizations which do not follow the disclosure requirements — A law enacted by Congress in 1993 establishes strict rules governing the sale of tickets for special events, the sale of auction items, and other situations where the donor is receiving something of value in return for his/her donation. After years of advising charities that they should tell donors that some portion of the ticket price is not tax deductible, and years of frustration in watching frequent and flagrant violations of this rule, the IRS is clamping down.

VIOLATIONS: The penalties for violating these requirements can be severe. A charity
may be assessed a penalty of $10 per contribution, up to a maximum of $5,000 per
fundraising event.

Standards for Excellence Institute members, Licensed Consultants and Replication Partners can download this updated nonprofit disclosure resource from the Standards for Excellence website (login required). If you would like to become a member of the Institute to gain access to this document, as well as other benefits and resources, you may join online or contact Susan Larsen at 443-438-2323 or for more details.

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Congratulations To Our Latest Organizations!


The Standards for Excellence Institute would like to congratulate several organizations who recently earned or renewed their accreditation under the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector:

We would also like to congratulate the following organizations who completed the Standards Basics and Standards Basics Enhanced recognition programs

Basics Enhanced

Find a Standards for Excellence accredited or recognized nonprofit near you by visiting our nonprofit directory.

Interested in seeking recognition or accreditation for your nonprofit? Learn how to apply.

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Carry the Code: Introducing the New FREE Standards for Excellence Mobile App

The Standards for Excellence Institute is thrilled to announce the launch of our new FREE mobile app! The app’s main feature is its one-click access to the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. Now anyone can reference the code in a board meeting, in the field, at a fundraiser, or anywhere on the go!
Download Now!

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The app offers quick access to resources on the new Standards for Excellence website such as learning opportunities and information about our consultants and partners. Organizations participating in the accreditation and recognition programs can also access the online application system from the app.
The Standards for Excellence mobile app is available for free download on the Google Play and Apple App Stores. Or, scan the image to instantly download the Standards for Excellence app to your device.
app qr

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2016 National Nonprofit Leadership Conference

Together we can accomplish more for the people and communities we serve. Join fellow nonprofit leaders from across the country for three incredible days of learning, networking, and capacity building designed to  inspire, engage, and catalyse change.
View the agenda here.

Who Should Attend:

  • CEOs, COOs and CFOs
  • Board Members
  • Executive Directors
  • Senior Staff – Finance Directors, Development Directors, Program Managers, Volunteer Managers, Technology Directors, and Fundraising Chairs
  • Nonprofit Consultants

The first of its kind, the Nonprofit Leadership Conference is a collaboration between the Center for Nonprofit Advancement in DC, Maryland Nonprofits, the Standards for Excellence Institute, and many more nonprofit state associations.

Register Here

Wednesday, April 20 – Friday, April 22, 2016
Sheraton’s Tyson Hotel
8661 Leesburg Pike,
Tysons, VA 22128

Parking is free for attendees.

Discounted Prices (Register by April 6, 2016)
Standards for Excellence Institute Members: $499
Center for Nonprofit Advancement Member: $499
Non-Members: $799

(After April 6, 2016)
Standards for Excellence Institute Members: $599
Center for Nonprofit Advancement Members: $599
Non-Members: $899

Register Here

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