Web Design, Programming, and Business

How to Help Nonprofits

As a small business owner, there are many ways that you can help nonprofit organizations including offering your services, hosting a volunteer day, encouraging your employees to donate or attend events, donating equipment, increasing awareness, and direct donations. 

As a web designer, you have additional ways to give back that are unique to your industry. Some ideas include offering your design services, redesigning or making updates to a nonprofit’s website, providing marketing services, helping a nonprofit get set up with Google for Nonprofits, providing free consultation, sharing or promoting on social media, and hosting workshops.

Some Real-World Examples of Giving Back

Not everyone is immersed in technology, so I personally Creative Good Benefit Auctionlike to give back in ways where my knowledge and expertise can help the organization directly or to save them money. With my company, we give away a free website to a nonprofit each year with our “Give Back” campaign and we have a lower nonprofit rate for all nonprofit organizations that we work with. 

From 2016 through 2019 we organized and hosted a live auction where local businesses could bid on the creative services of local professionals and all proceeds went to a deserving nonprofit. Although we’re no longer doing this, the event raised over $25k for local charities. You can find out more about the auction at the Creative Good Auction website where we share how our sponsors and creative professionals came together to make a difference.

Perhaps my favorite example though, is the Computer Repair Fair that we created while I was the president of an IT professional club in college. Each semester, with the help of my advisor (and dear friend) Rob Anson, our club spent an entire Saturday fixing computers for free. We would start at 7am in the morning with a line of folks waiting with their broken desktop or laptop computers and we then would spend all day fixing those computers, usually into the wee hours of the night. With a signup sheet that limited the number to 100 computers, the list would fill up within hours after announcing each year’s event. We’d get pizza and Mountain Dew donated (because that’s what computer geeks thrive on) and we even had the local news come by twice to do a story on us. We held that event for 4 years, helping mainly college professors and nonprofits, and perfectly demonstrating how to give back with your expertise and have fun while doing it.

Reasons to Help Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations have a vital role in our communities. They are usually created with a genuine desire to make our society better by folks with a real passion to make a difference. They fill the gap between the governmental social programs and what business can provide. Nonprofits can include homeless shelters and food banks but also public radio stations or advocacy groups focused on promoting change or awareness to an issue.

When you give or help a charity, it just feels good to know that you’re making a positive difference. However, there are several other benefits as well. If it’s a local nonprofit, you will help build the local community which has a compounding effect, as those affected may also give back, creating an overall better community. You also help promote the local economy. When you donate your time or volunteer, you’ll get to know that nonprofit and then share their cause, promoting others to also help. Lastly, you’ll promote your own brand as others see what kind of person or company you are.

How Small Businesses Can Help Nonprofits

As a small business owner, there are a lot of ways to give back. I’ve covered most of them here, but you may have other creative ideas.

  • Volunteer: Host a volunteer day! Nonprofits are always looking for help with fundraisers, events, and more. As a small business owner, you can encourage your team to spend a couple of hours or the whole day helping those in need. It doesn’t have to to be during office hours, you could volunteer on the weekend.
  • Encourage nonprofit event attendance: Similarly, you can encourage your employees to attend nonprofit events like auctions, galas, fundraisers and more. As you lead by example, your teammates will likely join you. You’ll have a fun time with people you know and help raise money and awareness for a good cause.
  • Match your employee’s donations: Set a company fundraising goal for your company and match donations. When your employees see your commitment to the nonprofit, it’ll spur them to donate more.
  • Rewards Programs: Many credit cards, websites, and companies offer give back campaigns or will donate to causes when you make purchases. Do you shop on Amazon? 0.5% of all your eligible purchases go to a charity of your choice. Several credit cards like the Charity Charge World Mastercard offer 1% cash back to nonprofits or schools.  Just by making regular purchases, you can help a charity of your choice! If you’re interested in signing up for one of these credit cards, visit WiseBread’s guide to the Best Credit Cards that Give Back to Charity. Banks like Aspiration will donate 10% of their company earnings to charitable activities. There a plenty of other companies that give back as well when you choose to shop with them.
  • Create a nonprofit resources page: By building a page on your company’s website, you give your employees and your customers an easy way to see how they can make a difference in your community. Many folks will give their time or money for a good cause if the information is easy to find.
  • Donate old electronics and furniture: If you’re not using that old computer or that old desk, offer it to a nonprofit organization. With a limited budget, charities often go without useful office equipment. Since you were going to get rid of it anyways, let someone else use it!
  • Build Awareness: Nonprofits often lack a marketing budget so every time you post on Facebook about it, or share your volunteer experience with friends, or write an editorial to your local paper, you gaining valuable exposure for that nonprofit.
  • Direct Donations: If you can afford it, you may opt for the easiest way to give back. Just open your wallet, pull out one of your cards and make a donation! Note: if you’re using one of the “giving back” credit cards, you’ll be giving a a little bit extra!

Unique Ways Web Designers Can Help Nonprofits

You or your company may have technical skills that would uniquely help nonprofits. From the perspective of a web designer, here are a few ideas. 

  • Google for Nonprofits: Did you know that Google offers their entire G Suite to Nonprofits for FREE? I’m constantly surprised at how many nonprofits don’t use this valuable productivity suite that includes company branded email, office suite, calendar, and more – all for free! 501.3c organizations get as many user accounts (ex jane@yournonprofit.org) as they need and they even get a $10,000 Google ad campaign budget, every month. That way a nonprofit can get as many text ads as they want to show up along Google searches. Even though this is an amazing free service, it does require a little setup and technical know-how so many nonprofits aren’t signed up. This is where you can offer your services!
  • Redesign their website: There are many nonprofits that either don’t have a website, or are getting by with a dated, slow site that doesn’t adequately tell their story or inspire. Offer to build them a website, either with SquareSpace or with WordPress, that’ll boost traffic to their site, boost their image, and increase their engagement (and donations). You could also offer to build portions of their website.
  • Offer your design services: Nonprofit organizations are always in need of professional design services from brochures to business cards to event posters to banners. Give them a call or visit and see what they are in need of most.
  • Provide marketing services: Offer to write guest blog posts for their website, put together their social media plan, optimize their website for speed or SEO, or promote through other marketing strategies. You could also set up a CRM or mailing list campaign.
  • Shoot some video: Video is usually expensive so if you’re willing to shoot video and edit for free, or at a discount, I’m sure you’ll be met with some excitement. Videos that explain the mission of the charity, their successes, or announce upcoming events are all great topics to display on their website and on their YouTube channel.
  • Social Media & editorials: As a web design company, I’m sure you have your own blog and engage on social media. Mention nonprofits and let people know why they should care too!
  • Workshops: As a web professional, you have technical skills that could help a lot of nonprofits. Hold a workshop, free or discounted for nonprofits, that will teach them valuable skills that they can use within their organization.

Which nonprofits should we help?

I can’t tell you which nonprofit or charity to help since that’s a personal choice but make sure that it’s something that you feel passionate about. That passion will drive your efforts to make a more impactful change. 

For me, my criteria is simple: 

  • The nonprofit helps those who are in need, who can’t help themselves.
  • The nonprofit is reputable and organized.
  • I can help in a way that promotes the local creative community.

My criteria is centered on making a difference leveraging my expertise but I prefer to not work with unorganized nonprofits.  

You’ll have your own criteria. 

Now what?

I hope that this article gives you some ideas and inspires you to go out there and make a difference. Or, simply to donate. Either way, in advance, I thank you for being that difference.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

About the author

Aaron Day

Professionally building websites since 2002, I've worked at Microsoft, multiple agencies, and a few web design businesses of my own, including White Whale Web, a Boise-based web development agency. Previously, I was an owner of Thrive Web Designs from 2015 to 2022. I've taught classes, run design groups and even ran a benefit auction for 4 years in my free time. I love sharing and giving back to the web/creative community.

By Aaron Day
Web Design, Programming, and Business

Meet Aaron Day

Professionally building websites since 2002, I've worked at Microsoft, multiple agencies, and a few web design businesses of my own, including White Whale Web, a Boise-based web development agency. Previously, I was an owner of Thrive Web Designs from 2015 to 2022. I've taught classes, run design groups and even ran a benefit auction for 4 years in my free time. I love sharing and giving back to the web/creative community.

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