Website Redesign Questions to Ask Nonprofit Staff

When you’re in the planning stage of a website redesign project, it’s important to involve lots of people from your organization. Every nonprofit staff person is a wealth of institutional and experiential knowledge! Your coworkers may rely on your website for important back-office functions or they might interact daily with the people your organization serves online. Hearing these things early in the planning stage will improve the result of any website redesign project!

Collecting feedback from staff serves two key purposes:

  1. Compile information from different perspectives across the full spectrum of your organization.
  2. Generate buy-in for the project by making sure people feel heard and know their needs will be addressed.

These questions will help get that information and start moving your website redesign forward.

[Important Caveat! It’s common for organizations to only collect feedback and ideas for staff and other internal stakeholders. That’s a mistake! It’s critical to learn from real users of your website since you’re building the website for them. As the classic saying goes: “You [and your colleagues] are not your user.” That’s all just a topic for another day…]

The Questions

Once staff have answered these questions, you’ll have

  • valuable information rooted in your organization’s back-office needs,
  • anecdotal stories about the people who use your website, and
  • useful examples successful and ineffective peer websites.

(Most of these questions work with board members too with only minimal modification!)

Your goal is to focus on both the work your organization does and the big-picture needs for the website. Avoid getting too specific with discussions on how things look or exactly how a feature will work during this early planning stage.

  1. Why do we need a website?
  2. How would your job be harder if we didn’t have a website? What are the key ways it supports your day-to-day work?
  3. What questions do you get asked by email, phone, or in person most often? Who are the people asking these questions? Can the website answer (or begin to answer) any of those questions?
  4. What are three websites you wish our site were like? What are the specific ways our site should be similar and different?
  5. What are three websites our site should not be like? What key problems with these sites do we need to avoid?
  6. What are the good things about our website that we should be sure not to lose?
  7. What are the worst parts of our website? How would fixing those things make your job easier?
  8. What decisions made about the last website lead to the need to replace it now? How can we avoid making the same mistakes?

Collecting the Feedback

Once you pick which questions you’ll be asking, you can collect this information in different ways. The right choice for your organization will depend on the number of staff and how you normally communicate with your colleagues. Gather ideas using:

  • Online or paper surveys
  • Emails
  • Interviews
  • Phone calls
  • Video chats
  • Lunch or coffee dates

Finding the right format can be tough, but it’s worth putting a bit of effort into. Find a way to help people feel comfortable and give them the space required to focus on thinking about these questions. If you’re an organization with lots of one-liner emails, that’s not the right format for this activity!

This isn’t the time for focus groups. Make sure you collect this information individually to avoid “groupthink” or arguments over “what the website should do.” It’s much too early to make decisions about the design, features, or content about the new website.

Next Steps

Once you’ve collected everyone’s input, standardize and analyze your findings. Put it all in one place and share your big picture take-aways with everyone. Your goal is to make sure you accurately heard what people said. Sharing this information with everyone is a good transparent practice that helps people understand the wide range of needs and ideas for the future site.

The information you collect, synthesize, and report will be a valuable resource for whoever builds your site (even if that’s you). Immersing yourself in your organization’s needs—not just your ideas about websites—puts you in a perfect place to get started on a your next website that will help you improve people’s lives!

The WordPress Forums Nonprofits Should Know

There are so many places to learn and talk about WordPress, but which are best and most nonprofit-focused?

Whenever you need WordPress advice, make sure to use the right forum depending on the topic of your post. Some forums focus on support while others are more for community or high-level discussions. All of them, will help you get better at using WordPress!

Talk WordPress with Other Nonprofit Staff

As a WordPress user, you’re a member of a huge community of users that can support each other! Hearing from and sharing with other nonprofit staff using WordPress helps you stay up-to-date on trends and not feel alone when your donate button is broken and it’s December 28!

The Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) WordPress Community has a great forum specifically for nonprofit WordPress users and consultants.

If you’re frequently on Facebook, check out the WordPress for Nonprofits group started by the people behind the Give WordPress plugin for donations.

Get WordPress Help

When it comes to getting WordPress help, always start with the forum for the specific theme or plugin giving you trouble.

If you use a free theme or plugin hosted on, those each have support forums linked to from the theme/plugin home page.

If you paid for a theme or plugin, they should have a specific support forum or email address. Going straight to the person who built what’s broken is the fastest route to a fixed site.

Developers writing code for WordPress should make the WordPress StackExchange Q&A site their go-to source for searching for and asking questions about WordPress code.

Local Communities

Beside connecting with other nonprofit staff, you may want to connect with other local users of WordPress. There are over 400,000 members of WordPress Meetups around the world, so go see if there’s a meetup near you! Many meetups will have message boards or Slack teams (a popular chat service) that can offer additional support and camaraderie when you’re not there in person

Finally, look for a WordCamp conference near you. WordCamps are extremely valuable and affordable professional development where you can connect with other users.

Something for Everyone

Whether you need technical support or just to rant about a nasty comment on your blog, online WordPress communities can help keep you sane and constantly improving your site.

Convinced and ready to join? Here’s the full list of recommendations:

The Building Blocks of WordPress

Of the three recent additions to this site, the WordPress 101 for Nonprofits page is probably the most exciting.

Why? It’s a great overview of the entire site for new users, but it also has the first Nonprofit WP infographic to help readers really grasp the component parts of WordPress.

The Building Blocks of WordPress: Five interlocking blocks from the top show the theme for design, plugins for features, media files stored on the server, the database with text content and settings, and WordPress "core" files powering the whole site.

Let’s quickly go through each piece of the WordPress tower from bottom-to-top to really understand it.

Know that like most things on this site, this graphic focuses on “self-hosted” WordPress and not For those unfamiliar with the difference, here’s our explainer.

WordPress Core

The “core” files of WordPress are what make everything else work. You can download them for free on and install on your website host.

WordPress is often described as a solid foundation for a website, and this graphic takes that description literally! It’s a foundation because nothing works without it and also because it allows you build a million variations of different designs and website features based on your needs.


The second part of a standard WordPress site installation is the database. While everyone who installs WordPress has the same “core” files, the information stored in the database is what makes the site yours. The database contains all the settings and information on your site. That means things like:

  • Your website’s timezone
  • Your username, email, password (securely encrypted!), and preferred administrative color scheme
  • The title, body field, excerpt, and publication date of your very first blog post
  • The title, caption, and alternative text for your images (Speaking of which…)


Just like each person’s database contains information that’s unique to their site, WordPress supports uploading many common types of image, video, audio, and document files for use on your website. Every file you upload, ends up in the “Media Library where it’s stored for future use.

  • Need a logo on your website? Upload it to the Media Library.
  • Putting your Annual Report PDF on the website? It goes to the Media Library!
  • Love the awesome infographic in the post? It’s in the Media Library of!

WordPress makes it easy to upload files, but make sure you keep them organized to get the most from them.


The plugins “block” actually represents a layer of lots of little blocks. Plugins are what add features to your site any time you need it to do anything that WordPress “core” can’t do on its own.

  • What to add a donation form to your website? You might use the Give plugin.
  • Are your website’s search results not good enough? SearchWP is great for that.
  • Want to add custom documentation right in the WordPress admin? WP Help works great.

There are thousands of free WordPress plugins as well as lots of good paid ones. Just make sure you carefully vet each plugin before installing it and see if there’s a recommended plugin for your need before searching yourself.


The theme of your website is the very top block since it determines how the website looks. The words you enter into the database are just little bits of data, but the theme tells them where to go (along with images), the font and font size, and how they change when viewed on a phone as compared to a desktop computer.

Unlike plugins, a site only has one theme since a website only has one design. In many ways, the theme you choose is one of the most important decisions you make, so don’t miss the guide on how to choose a theme and the list of recommended themes.

When it comes to building a website with WordPress, you need to build the most solid tower for your nonprofit so it supports your mission and activities as you try to improve the world! WordPress is a great choice for many organizations because how you put the pieces together is up to you.

2016 Nonprofit Benchmarks Report from NTEN & M+R

Ever wonder how your nonprofit compares to others when it comes to emails, online donations, and other digital activities?

Benchmarks X Report CoverTo learn about these important nonprofit sector trends, I always turn to the NTEN & M+R Benchmarks report to learn about trends in nonprofit websites and technology.

This year’s report—the 10th edition—is worth reading in full and doesn’t disappoint.

A few findings that caught my eye:

  • Nonprofits sent more fundraising and advocacy emails while increasing their list sizes but saw a lower response rate to these emails.
  • Nonprofits are sending fewer email newsletters in the past.
  • “Wildlife/Animal Welfare” organizations have the highest social media engagement rates but “Environmental” organizations had the lowest donation page conversion rates.
  • Organizations surveyed posted 1.3 Facebook posts per day and 3.8 tweets per day.

These are just a few nuggets of information from the report, but it’s important to read the full report, holistically consider your organization when looking at the metrics, and subscribe to their email list so you learn about future years’ reports.

More Suggestions for Website Spring Cleaning

I asked the amazing WordPress Community of Practice (CoP) at NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) what I missed in my last post about Spring Cleaning Your Website and got some great suggestions!

In the original post, I recommended you do the following at least once a year:

  • Prune plugins and themes
  • Check that your scheduled backups are running and can be restored
  • Test your forms (particularly if they get you money!)
  • Audit your content

Here are some other things to do or check on.

Data Pulled Into Your Website

Lots of websites grab information from Facebook, Twitter, CRMs, calendars, and more to provide valuable information to their visitors. But sometimes things can go awry. Gordon shared the following story:

We have a lovely one that pulls from our google calendar of public events and loads it into a web page for events of the day. This page shows up on monitors throughout our facility. Imagine my surprise when one of our custodial crew inquired if we were really going to have lunches all day long? He showed me the monitor which was indeed showing the next upcoming event as a whole screen full of lunches.

If you’ve got data coming into your website, don’t just assume it’s working as you’d expect!

“Dedupe” your Media Library

Jason had the great suggestion to review your Media Library and remove duplicate images. This gives you multiple benefits:

That can keep the overall backup size of the website down, and just makes it easier to manage.

If you do delete images, make sure that you check your site for broken images and fix any that you removed.

…And don’t let it happen again!

I’ve seen lots of sites with 5 versions of a logo or two copies of every single portfolio item. This often happens because people don’t accurately give their images Titles so they can’t search for images! Every time you upload a photo, give it a useful descriptive title (that future you would search for) and appropriate alternative text for people and computers that can’t see the image.

Password Check

Jason was on a roll and also made another great suggestion: confirm that you know who your web host and domain registrar and can log in to each account. You rarely need these until you really need these, so find the information when you’re not in a panic.

Seriously, Audit Your Content

And the most popular suggestion? Really make sure to audit your content!

I loved how Dan framed this with excellent examples:

We all do our best to keep our plugins, core, etc. up to date, and that’s a good thing. But a good, healthy content audit can’t be beat as far as user experience goes.

How many times do you see a website that says (c) 2014…. Or something along those lines. Uhg.

How many times do we go to a ‘In the Press’ page and see the latest entry from 2012….


Peter followed up, pointing out the importance of broken links and how a content audit really requires a human touch:

If something technical goes wrong with your website, you can usually tell right away, but outdated content can be easily overlooked. And check all outgoing links! Broken links are even more easily overlooked, because you wouldn’t know they’re broken unless you check them.

Schedule the Next One

Peter earned the conclusion with the reminder of the importance of your content audit and website spring cleaning:

I know this is obvious, but it’s incredible how fast a year (or more) can go by, so add a reminder to your calendar and be religious about it.

That’s it. Now go do it! (And add it to your calendar for next year too!)

Idealware’s New WordPress Plugins Report

Idealware has established itself as one of the go-to sources for recommendations on nonprofit technology. That’s why I was excited to hear when they began researching for their guide to WordPress plugins for nonprofits.

As a member of the NTEN community, I submitted my own thoughts and recommendations for plugins to the researchers along with other consultants and nonprofit staff who use WordPress. (I was excited then to see that they chose to recommend one of my plugins Feature a Page Widget for use by nonprofits.)

Not Just Plugins

The resulting report includes good information on WordPress plugins, but also similar information to the pages for working with a consultant and before you get started. They also include a great checklist for nonprofits to complete as they prepare to make a DIY WordPress website.

I appreciate their honest take for nonprofits considering making their own WordPress sites:

But success often depends on tolerance for trial-and error, and the ability to devote the time to learning the system—which means, many nonprofits that do try to set up a WordPress site on their own will run into problems.

Hundreds of nonprofits have successfully built their own sites, but those that succeed must work broken features, weird designs, and devote considerable staff (or volunteer) time to the project.

More Nonprofit Plugin Options

On this site’s Recommended WordPress Plugins for Nonprofits page, I wanted to recommend the best one or two plugins so you don’t have to sort through the dozens of other options. If you find the recommendations on this site lacking, however, the slightly broader list of plugins for backups, events, CRM integration, security, and more in the new Idealware report will serve you well.

I highly recommend it.

Download “The Landscape of WordPress for Nonprofits: A Report on the Current Marketplace for Plugins” on

Image: CC BY 2.0, @emme-dk on Flickr