Your nonprofit’s website has the potential to help you get the word out about your mission, showcase the impact your organization is making, secure donations, encourage volunteering, promote events, and more.
However, your nonprofit’s website will only be as effective as its reach. And you could be unintentionally isolating part of your target audience with one big mistake: Not making your website accessible to everyone.
Web accessibility is essential for ensuring people of all abilities can visit your website and interact with your content and resources. But from a broader perspective, accessibility helps your nonprofit promote equal access to information, avoid discrimination, and even comply with legal requirements.
In short, the most effective nonprofit websites prioritize accessibility not just because it helps get more results for their causes but also because it’s the right thing to do.
In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about web accessibility and how you can design or optimize your own website with accessibility best practices in mind. Let’s begin.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the degree to which a website is usable and available to as many people as possible. Of course, this accounts for people with permanent disabilities, but also people experiencing temporary impairments. Here are some examples of both permanent disabilities and temporary impairments:
- Visual impairments, whether from blindness, color blindness, or even losing a pair of glasses
- Motor impairments, which could be due to a stroke, cerebral palsy, or exhaustion
- Hearing impairments, like deafness, hyperacusis, or being in a quiet room and wanting to watch a short video
- Cognitive impairments, which could be ASD, developmental disabilities, or distractions in the room
You won’t be able to predict the needs of every single person who visits your nonprofit’s website, so it’s important to anticipate all possible accessibility needs by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The WCAG provides an extensive breakdown of everything that goes into web accessibility. But these are the overarching guidelines to keep in mind:
- Perceivable: Your content should be easy for users to see and hear, and should also be understandable when presented in different ways, like through assistive technologies.
- Operable: Your website should be easy to navigate and use, and all functionality should be available to people using just keyboards to navigate through.
- Understandable: Text should be easy to read, instructions should be clear, and mistakes (such as misspelling a word on a donation form) should be avoidable and correctable.
- Robust: Your website should be compatible with current and future user tools, meaning you should practice accessibility best practices now and continue to do so as you maintain your site down the line.
All of these guidelines translate into practical design best practices that can help your website be as accessible to everyone as possible (more on these below!).
In addition to remaining mindful of the WCAG, your nonprofit should understand that having an accessible website is becoming increasingly important as courts have begun to recognize websites as public accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that in addition to opening up your site to more people, web accessibility can also help protect your organization from legal liability.
As you adopt web accessibility best practices into your website design and maintenance efforts, communicate the importance of accessibility to your employees so that everyone is on the same page and can do their part to ensure everyone can benefit from your nonprofit’s online hub.
10 Tips for Making Your Website More Accessible
As you come to understand why web accessibility matters, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to ensure that your website is up to par so that everyone who uses it can learn your nonprofit’s story and be inspired to take action.
Here are ten tips to get you started:
- Ensure your website has a responsive design. This means your website should be easy to use and read on different-sized screens. Ensure that your load speed is low and that text and images resize properly on different devices.
- Add alternative text (alt text) to all images. Alt text is a short sentence added to an image’s HTML code. It allows individuals with visual impairments to understand images on a web page. Keep your alt text descriptive and short (125 characters or less is best practice), and make sure not to include additional details that a visual audience would not see, such as the photographer credit (that belongs in the caption).
- Maintain logical organization of your content. According to Cornershop Creative’s roundup of nonprofit web design best practices, this means you should use headings to illustrate the hierarchy of information on each page. For instance, this means having one H1 at the top of a page, followed by subsections labeled with H2s and smaller subsections labeled with H3s. You should also organize your web pages logically on your navigation menu.
- Ensure your website is navigable by keyboard. Not everyone will be able to use a mouse when using your website. Ensure keyboard accessibility by testing it yourself!
- When adding links, ensure your anchor text is descriptive. Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a hyperlink. Make your anchor text clear so that when people click on your links, they have a good idea of where the link will be taking them. For example, instead of using generic anchor text like, “Click Here,” go for something like, “Send One Of Our eCards.”
- Add transcripts and captions to multimedia elements. Maybe your nonprofit likes to share videos or podcast episodes on its website. But how accessible are those multimedia elements? Ensure that all videos have accompanying captioning and a transcript, and provide a transcript for any podcast episodes.
- Make sure your text and visuals have a strong contrast ratio. Remember that all of your content should be perceivable and understandable. The colors you use on your website should contrast enough that they’re easy to understand. This means foregoing a neon yellow background and bright pink text for something like a light blue background and black text. The font size and style used will also affect contrast. Aim for sans serif fonts and a font size of at least 16px.
- Optimize your forms for accessibility. If you want to boost online donations, event registrations, or volunteer program sign-ups, you’ll need accessible forms. Ensure that your forms are short and simple to use and the instruction text on your forms stays visible even after a user starts typing.
- Offer an accessibility widget or tool on your website. Some website builders will allow you to include an accessibility or widget tool on your website that lets visitors take their user experience into their own hands. These tools empower people to adjust text size, change the color scheme to grayscale, and more.
- Seek feedback from your audience. Once you’ve implemented accessibility best practices on your website, seek feedback on your efforts. Start by asking your staff members to test out the site, and then consider surveying supporters you have a strong relationship with to get their thoughts. Keep making improvements based on their insights.
To take your website’s accessibility to the next level, consider working with a nonprofit web design company. According to Cornershop Creative, the right company can help you design the structure and informational architecture of your website and help you maintain it over time—all while keeping your accessibility goals in mind. This can save your team a lot of time and headspace and ensure that your website offers a first-rate user experience to everyone who comes across it.
Having a fully accessible nonprofit website isn’t something that will happen overnight, just like how your organization can’t cram for fundraising results.
However, as you do your best to understand the WCAG guidelines and take the necessary steps to make your website more accessible over time (working with web design professionals if necessary), you’ll see that you’re making a difference in opening up your website to a larger swath of your community. Consequently, you’ll see more results for your mission and gain a reputation as an organization that cares about the people who support it. You can do this!
About the Author
Self-described as a “non-profit junkie,” Sarah has dedicated her career to serving the needs of the non-profit sector. Her project management experience spans a variety of non-profit management disciplines including strategic planning, community engagement, capacity building, fundraising and research. She has worked both in and for the non-profit sector at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and the consulting firms The Lee Institute and The Curtis Group. With her ever expanding non-profit tool belt, Sarah joined Cornershop Creative to tap into her techie, creative side, while developing meaningful partnerships with her clients to help them more effectively achieve their goals.