Volunteer Website Designer
Click. Scroll. Click. Click. And back.
We surf the pages of the web without much thought, especially when they're
designed well. In fact, the better a website is designed, the less we think
about its design.
Yet well-designed websites are essential to the success of businesses.
And nonprofit organizations aren't any different.
However, many nonprofits can't afford to hire website designers. So they
turn to volunteers to build and improve their websites pro bono (for free).
"Most charities are computer illiterate," says Toe Kyi. He's the volunteer
manager for an organization that matches computer-savvy volunteers with charities
needing computer help. Designing websites is not the job of charities, he
says. Providing social services, helping people -- that's their job. But still,
everyone needs a website.
Volunteer web designers bring websites and pages to life, guiding our clicking
and information finding. Volunteers may build websites from scratch, or redesign
sites to look more professional. They may add graphics, photographs and animation,
post new content, or add features like blogs, calendars and picture albums.
Cathy Khoury is volunteer webmaster for a nonprofit called In Their Shoes.
She says volunteer web designers should have a basic understanding of HTML
and CSS. HTML is the computer language used to create web documents. CSS is
a style sheet language used to style web pages written in HTML and other markup
Khoury gained her web design knowledge through online tutorials and Google
forums. Web designer Cindy Morrow suggests buying a book on basic web design
and HTML, or taking a web design course. Most web volunteers can work remotely
- from the comforts of their home. But there are other benefits to volunteering.
"A lot want to add to their portfolio," says Megan McDonald. She's the
recruitment coordinator for Taproot Foundation, which matches volunteers with
nonprofits that need professional services. "A lot of people like to network,"
she adds. "If they're thinking of switching to the nonprofit sector, they
get a taste of what that's like."
When a few friends founded a nonprofit called In Their Shoes, Cathy Khoury
agreed to build the website. In Their Shoes works with adolescents to raise
awareness of poverty and conflict, locally and globally.
"I've always liked the idea of international development and education,"
says Khoury. She's taking a graduate degree in communication studies.
With two brothers into IT and computer coding, Khoury picked up the basics
of website design. She rounded out her skill set with information from Google
forums and websites like HTMLdog.com.
It took two months to build the website. Now the nonprofit's webmaster,
Khoury spends up to three hours per week maintaining the site.
Khoury already has her hands full as a full-time student. But she enjoys
her volunteer work. She's gaining knowledge of international development,
a field she may pursue when she graduates.
"I like the whole awareness idea," she adds. "And I think the Internet
is the best place to bring awareness."
David Martinez is the interactive art director for his own web design and
development company in Long Beach, California. In addition to his paid gigs,
he has offered pro bono work to charities.
"If I had all the money in the world, I'd just do these [charitable] sites
all the time," he says. "They're super fulfilling.... It's a huge help to
the people that need it."
Martinez improved the website for the Elizabeth Lulu Scholarship Foundation,
a charity that helps children with cystic fibrosis go to college. Since the
redesign, the charity's donations have increased.
It's important for web designers to communicate with clients and understand
their needs, says Martinez. Also, designers need to understand what resources
the nonprofit has in-house. For students, it can be overwhelming to create
an entire website, he explains. So for instance, if a charity already employs
someone versed in HTML or Photoshop, a volunteer could bring the writing or
photography to the website.
Pro bono work can be a great way to add to a portfolio, and the skills
gained look great on a resume, adds Martinez. "Also it's a reflection of me
and what I was willing to do," he says.
Cindy Morrow was organizing an art auction for a charity in California
when she realized they didn't have a website.
She had been working in the animation industry at the time. Creating the
website for the charity was her entry into web design.
She has since designed the website for The Living Love Foundation Inc.,
which uses the arts to help young children. Morrow created a homepage for
the foundation, and embedded a blog that the staff can update themselves.
She added a picture album of events and fundraisers.
The website design also incorporated some broader goals. "They really wanted
to be able to provide more information to people," she says. "[The existing
website] lacked creative design. They wanted it to look a little bit more
Morrow enjoys the impact she can have by creating websites. "I like the
creativity behind it, connected to the immediate purpose that it serves,"
she says. "I can design something that potentially many people can see right
Taking photographs and editing them is like therapy for Sandra Fabria.
So it's no wonder she finds her photo stylist volunteer job rewarding.
As the photo stylist manager for Yes! International's website and online
magazine, Fabria is responsible for the nonprofit's photography. She oversees
the other volunteer photo stylists. They e-mail their photos to her, and Fabria
screens their photos. She makes sure the photos are high resolution, and crops
and resizes them as needed.
Fabria works full time as an analyst for an investment group. Still she
manages to volunteer two to three hours per day for the organization, which
helps youth at risk. "It's like a second job," she admits.
But Fabria enjoys the feeling of volunteering. "I don't have money to give,"
she says. "But I can give my talent. This is one way of sharing my wealth
How to Get Involved
Search for website designer, webmaster and other web-related volunteer
postings. Or contact Taproot Foundation or Grassroots.org. These organizations
match web designers with nonprofits needing website design. Many web-related
jobs can be done virtually, so you don't necessarily need to find a local
Web designer David Martinez suggests building a site and indicating that
you want to do pro bono work. He says you'd be surprised at how many requests
you get. Martinez built a site himself and stated that he was willing to take
on pro bono work. He received about two requests per week from a wide variety
Matches volunteer web designers with nonprofits across North
Connects professionals, including web designers, with nonprofits
in seven cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington
and Los Angeles. Volunteers must live in one of these cities.
Find volunteer opportunities across the United States
Find volunteer listings in your area. Or check the "Search for
Virtual Opportunities" box to find opportunities - virtually anywhere!
Read website design tips from Grantastic Designs
More Design Tips
Read tips for effective website design from Smart Webby
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