Digital Nonprofit Strategy: Is Web Design Accessibility Vital?

Anne Stefanyk • Jun 04, 2021

Your nonprofit likely uses an arsenal of tech and online tools to reach and engage your supporters. The way you use these solutions to develop marketing content, increase fundraising, and improve donor relationships is called your nonprofit digital strategy. 

The tools and channels that nonprofits most often use for their digital strategy include:

  • Online fundraising solution – This is the tool that accepts online gifts from your supporters. This should accurately capture donor data, take in financial information, and process gifts securely. 
  • Email/text communications – This tool enables you to market new events and reach out to supporters. 
  • Social media platforms – These networks have proven to be one of the best ways to connect with supporters on a more casual and consistent basis. And, because of the shareability factor, these platforms are also channels that can help you reach new prospects. 
  • Nonprofit website – This is the centralized hub for all of your organization’s online engagements. It’s likely the first place supporters look to find out more and give to your cause. 

You also need to consider how your nonprofit supporters are engaging with all the platforms listed above. Are they able to see your website homepage on both their mobile devices and desktop? If they have a visual color impairment, can they still successfully complete an online donation?

These concerns and more can be addressed when you prioritize web design accessibility!

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What Is Web Accessibility?

What Is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility describes an internet that is usable for anyone regardless of location, device, language, or ability. This means that people of a diverse range of hearing, movement, and sight can go further than just browsing the internet but actually engage and contribute to it. 

This is an increasingly important topic, especially as we spend more time using the internet to connect with others, conduct work and online commerce, and learn new things. If you want to improve your nonprofit’s digital strategy, you need to prioritize the accessibility of the content you create. Otherwise, you’re turning potential supporters away.

For instance, let’s use your website as an example. As soon as people land on your homepage, it’s likely that they’re seeking specific information. They’ll be looking for your donation form, event calendar, or other popular pages. If your website isn’t accessible, you’re turning away a breadth of viable donors just because they don’t have the right device or have a disability preventing them from fully engaging with your site. 

To summarize, nonprofit web accessibility brings these major benefits:

  • A more inclusive culture for your nonprofit organization.
  • A user-friendly experience for those who engage with your online content.
  • Minimized loss of website visitors, social media followers, and other digital engagement metrics.
  • Increased mobile usability so that people can engage with your organization conveniently, using any device.
  • Improved ranking in search engine results, allowing your nonprofit to be more accessible when users search for it. 

To ensure baseline accessibility, your nonprofit digital strategy needs to be easy to use for everyone and maintain regulatory compliance. Regulatory compliance means that nonprofits need to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

What is ADA and WCAG?

What is ADA and WCAG?

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to protect individuals with disabilities. The ADA applies to any organization with more than 15 employees or those with any “public accommodations.” If your organization fits these guidelines, it’s critical that you ensure you’re ADA compliant. 

This means accessibility isn’t just a “nice-to-have” feature of your digital strategy — you must comply with accessibility standards. Failing to do so may even lead to legal consequences.

To ensure ADA compliance, it’s recommended to look to the WCAG, a set of usability standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium

The WCAG currently has three levels of compliance — A, AA, and AAA. Basically, each level represents a different benchmark of accessibility. A represents the bare minimum, AA is the accepted industry standard, and reaching AAA is seen as going above and beyond with accessibility. 

To learn more about the WCAG and these different levels, Kanopi has a great article on demystifying accessibility and compliance.

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What Are The Web Design Steps You Should Take To Increase Accessibility?

What Are The Web Design Steps You Should Take To Increase Accessibility?

Now, how exactly does your nonprofit design impact accessibility? Let’s look over the WCAG’s core principles of accessible design, labeled with the acronym POUR:

  • Perceivable information and intuitive user interface
  • Operable UI (user interface) and navigation
  • Understandable information and UI
  • Robust content and reliable interpretation

As you can see, user experience (UX) plays a giant part in accessibility, so when you’re designing or updating your website, UX should be a top priority. The best nonprofit sites are created by those who put themselves in the shoes of their supporters.

Here are some common steps you might take to optimize your organization’s digital content:

  • Make sure that all non-text content (images, videos, or audio files) are accompanied by a text alternative or caption.
  • Don’t convey important information with purely sensory characteristics (such as sound and images).
  • Embed your donation form into your website to streamline the online giving process for users. The easier it is to complete the form, the more gifts you’ll see. Check out iATS Payments’ best practices guide for more donation page tips.
  • Avoid flashy elements or bright lights to protect those who are seizure-prone.
  • Ensure that all of your digital content is optimized for mobile use. This includes graphics, emails, website pages, donation forms, and more. 

If you think that improving your digital content will take a little longer than a few tweaks, you might want to partner with a professional. They can get to know your mission better, understand your organization’s goals and help you develop a strategy using key tools. This way, your nonprofit is set up for success and growth with an effective framework in place. 

Wrapping Up

Design accessibility is imperative to your organization’s digital strategy, especially if you want to reach as many supporters as you can and develop truly meaningful and valuable relationships. This is the recipe for a successful nonprofit organization. Use the tips above for guidance and don’t be afraid to check in with a tech consultant if you have more questions.