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10 Great Nonprofit Websites

As a firm one of our focuses is on building websites for charities and non-profits.  In an effort to find some inspiration, we recently looked through the sites of   Forbes list of 200 Largest U.S. Charities. We picked our favorites based on web design and how well we think they communicated the mission of their nonprofit organization. It was interesting to see the difference between the marketing needs of humanitarian groups and those of other charity groups. World Wildlife Fund, for example, used powerful photography to solicit sympathies, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art utilized a streamlined art showcase to represent the sophisticated museum style.

Following you will find ten great sites we came across.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Placing the photo near the action toolbar on the right is a smart way to draw attention to where nonprofits want it most. They also do a great job of making the donation tab stand out.


American Museum of Natural History

Vibrant photography in the slider beautifully shows the museum’s various concentrations.


American Red Cross

One large emotional photo and a call to help makes this site appealing and direct.


Art Institute Chicago

Using the artwork as a background for the entire site and the stacking of the toolbar tabs gives this a very contemporary feel — a feel true to the museum itself.


Food for the Hungry

Their black and white design is crisp, and their use of relevant photography that matches the color of their logo is a nice touch.


Direct Relief

The site has little going on besides a vivid, compelling image and a donate button, which is not a bad thing at all.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is another example of an art museum doing a great job of incorporating elements of the museum’s style into its site.


Robin Hood

The grey and white with lime green accents looks good, but it also suggests a break from the norm, much like the organization’s mission statement.


Teach for America

They present easy navigation and great photography.



World Wildlife Fund

They not only had high quality photography, but their choice of images was especially powerful. The picture itself is a call to action.



Barack and Beyoncé

Snap7Over on the Huffington Post a few weeks ago Patrick Ruffini declared 2012 the Groupon Election.  Patrick’s basic premise is that due to campaigns’ increasingly sophisticated use of analytics, email asks and online promotions have come to resemble those run by companies such as Groupon.   The long winded campaign updates of 2008 have been replaced by  the “flash sales at the campaign store, sweepstakes, and urgent deadlines”  of 2012.  I think Patrick is dead on, and would encourage you to read his full piece

The slew of sweepstakes being run by the Obama campaign are the most obvious example of the trend Patrick identifies.  The concept is pretty simple.  Supporters are asked either to give for the chance to win a meeting with Obama and/or a celebrity supporter.  A deadline is set.  Emails are sent out.  A winner is announced.  Money is counted.

This tactic is obviously working, as the Obama campaign keeps going back to this particular well.  So far sweepstakes have been run with Bill Clinton,  George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z.  In addition to the celebrity-oriented stuff, the campaign has also run periodic chances to win a dinner with President Obama himself.  The Romney campaign is using the exact same tactic. Just today they launched an “On Board with Mitt” sweepstakes where supporters can enter to win a flight on the campaign plane. 

I’ve catalogued the various sweepstakes I’m aware of at the end of this email.  I’m positive I’ve missed some.

I have mixed feelings about the “Groupon Election” and these various sweepstakes.

As someone who works in the online communication field, I find what the campaigns are doing in 2012 exciting and smart. These promotions work, and I would be stupid not to incorporate some “Groupon Election” tactics into my own work.

As a citizen that is increasingly frustrated by politics and politicians, I find the development a bit depressing.  The appeals I’m getting in my inbox from all sides feel increasingly superficial and small. 

I think all the 2012 political campaigns could learn a bit from charity: water, whose September Campaign manages to use the same basic tactics while not neglecting a key ingredient: inspiration.


Five Great Donation Page Designs

If you ask most non-profits, charities and political campaigns what the number one priority for their online program is, the majority of them will tell you it is to raise money online.  Yet at the same time, most of these same organizations will admit to spending very little time thinking through the layout and design of their online donation pages.  Despite being one of the most important pages on any website, the design of the donation page is usually treated as an afterthought.

There are many reasons for this.  Many groups use pre-built forms provided by third-party donations platforms, so opportunities for customization are limited.  Organizations that do have the resources to develop custom designs often exhaust their energy on sexier design challenges such as the homepage.  The donation form is treated as something that can be sort of thrown in at the end as opposed to something that needs to be planned and designed.

As a result you see lots of huge organizations with boring, utilitarian donation pages like this and this and this.

I think this is an opportunity missed.

A compelling, easy-to-use donation page can dramatically increase your conversion rate, and this can have a big impact on your bottom line.    Just do the match.

Say you are raising $10,000 a month online, with 20% of the people who visit your donation page making a donation.  If you can up your conversion rate to 30% and the average donation stays the same, you’ll raise $15,000 a month instead of $10,000.  It can add up.

In an effort to provide some inspiration, following are five well designed donation pages that I would guess enjoy very good conversion rates.


How to Track Email Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics

Having used Google Analytics since 2005, I can make a few definitive statements about the program:

  • It is an awesome, powerful tool.  There is a reason 50% of all sites use it.
  • It has a baffling user interface.   Some of its best features are hidden and hard to use.

One of the most useful tools in Analytics is the Campaign feature, which allows you to measure how much traffic is being driven by your email and social marketing efforts. 

While this seems like a really basic thing, in my experience most casual Analytics users aren’t aware of the feature, and don’t use it as a result.  Following is a quick explanation showing how to set up a campaign in Google Analytics manually, using a bulk email as an example.


10 Great Hotel Websites

At the Brick Factory, we respect good-looking websites of many kinds. It’s interesting to see how the purpose of the website changes the design of the site. Newspaper and magazine sites are very text-heavy. The college sites we mentioned on our blog a couple of months ago do a great job of displaying the identity of the school, showcasing the research their school has done, and incorporating other elements of school spirit that would be compelling for prospective students. Hotel sites seek to represent the sort of experience a person would have when staying there. These days, hotels rely more on their web presence than a travel agent’s recommendation to attract guests to their hotel. A website can make or break a booking for a hotel.

After reviewing the list of best hotels according to US News and World Report as well as Travel and Leisure, we identified ten of our favorites. These sites were simple enough to navigate but involved enough to grab one’s attention. They also did a great job of using photography to create an appealing advertisement of their accommodations.


Shutters on the Beach


Sukho Thai




Four Seasons


Les Crayeres


St. Regis




The Little Nell


Sea Island


The Plaza


Trump Hotel