Posted by Jay Wilkinson

I’m sure you’re like most people—before you write a check to a nonprofit, you want to make sure the organization is credible. That’s a no-brainer, right? Nobody wants to give money away if they’re not sure that it’s going to be used responsibly.

And nowadays if you want to verify the credibility of a particular organization, it’s probably safe to say that you go right to the web.

So, what do you do if that organization isn’t there? Or perhaps even worse, what if you find them, and their website looks like something a staff member’s 14-year-old nephew designed in his basement during reruns of the The Simpsons?

For most people, both those scenarios would raise an immediate red flag. In this digital age, people assume that if you are a credible organization, not only are you online, but you also have a nonprofit website that’s polished, professional and engaging.

Of course, that wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Think back to the early 2000s—at that point, simply having a nonprofit website was enough to establish credibility. For example, when companies like Doritos or Pepsi would spend millions of dollars on airtime for Super Bowl ads, they’d use a few seconds of 30-second spot to post their domain name. A shot of “”was enough to say, “Look at us—we’re so professional we have a website!”

Today, the bar is higher, obviously. Not only do people expect you to have a website, but it better be a good one if you want to establish credibility. Have you seen all the internet clutter? There are thousands upon thousands of sites that are poorly designed, difficult to navigate, offer limited functionality, and some that literally hurt your eyes to view for longer than three seconds. Flash technology is great, but believe me, you can have too much of a good thing.

So, what’s the take home? You need a website, yes. But that’s not enough. Your site itself needs to say, “We’re credible.” It should be professional. Attractive.  Intuitive. Engaging. These are qualities that will get a potential donor to stop and stay for a while and, in the end, deem you checkbook-worthy.

I know that you may be concerned about how donors might feel if your looks more like a Cadillac than a Kia. You don’t want them to think you’re spending all their bucks on building your site and other “unnecessary” technology.

Let me reassure you—research indicates that’s not what they’re thinking. Perhaps that was the case in the early days of the internet, but certainly not today. Regardless of your fundraising efforts, it’s crucial that your organization has a professional and credible online presence.

Remember the saying from the movie, Field of Dreams—“If you build it, they will come?” Well, that’s only partially true—you can build a site, and you can drive people to it. But if your site doesn’t say, “We’re credible,” they won’t stay. And that would be a waste of your donors’ dollars.