Virtually every nonprofit has a website to promote its message, but some also make use of microsites – smaller satellite websites intended to complement the organization’s greater cause but focused on a specific issue. A microsite can be a powerful tool to promote your nonprofit’s latest campaign, but depending on factors such as its content, identity, and target audience, it may not be the best option.

Answer these five questions to decide if a microsite is the right approach

Will you be reusing content from your main website?

Your microsite will be about a specific issue, but you may already have plenty of content on your primary website devoted to that topic. Your instinct may be to copy-and-paste this material into a new microsite, but the last thing you want to do is have the same content in two places, which causes all kinds of problems, such as maintenance and SEO nightmares. Do your best to C.O.P.E.: Create Once, Publish Everywhere.

If your main site already contains much of the information about your new campaign, consider these two options:

  1. Instead of creating a microsite devoted to this campaign, simply make this a new section of your primary website. As long as your site is powered by a decent content management system, you should be able to collect any relevant content about your campaign and repurpose it in this new section without the need to duplicate it (in the same way that your logo appears on every page but is only generated once). Making your campaign part of your primary website contributes to your main website’s overall value, which can improve your visitor stats while raising awareness for your cause.
  2. Build a microsite, but within your existing content management system. This approach lets you design new templates with a particular appearance and functionality while still leveraging your existing content. If you update some copy in the microsite, it’s updated everywhere.

Do you have enough content to warrant a microsite?

Sometimes nonprofits get trigger-happy with microsites and want every new issue to be presented that way. Just because your nonprofit has a new campaign doesn’t mean that campaign is ready for a microsite.

How much content do you really have to devote to this issue? If only a few pages of material, building a microsite may not be worthwhile. If your campaign simply presents information and doesn’t focus too much on engagement, you may be better off just adding that content to your main website.

How far does your campaign deviate from your organization’s standard identity?

If your campaign needs to have its own visual identity, that’s a good reason to pursue a microsite approach. Will your campaign include associated print collateral? If so, you’ll probably want to ensure that the digital presentation of the campaign aligns with the print work, and that is best achieved with a microsite.

Additionally, a microsite may let you escape from your organization’s typical brand position and experiment with a different tone. This presents more design options for your campaign and can also be a useful creative exercise in general.

What kind of community engagement are you planning?

All nonprofits should engage their communities as much as possible, but will this be particularly important for your new campaign?

  • Do you plan to collect feedback of some kind from your visitors about your campaign issue?
  • Perhaps you’ll include a public blog where visitors can connect with you and other visitors?
  • Maybe you’ll have a form where visitors can upload photos related to the campaign?
  • What about surveys and comment forms?

If you intend to employ features like this in your site to get feedback about your campaign issue, a microsite may be the way to go.

Social media engagement is also important to consider: a microsite with a catchy domain name can be more likely to be shared by your audience than a URL to a page on your primary website, especially in rich media posts that showcase your microsite’s brand along with the domain name. The nonprofit Covenant House, for example, promoted their campaign using the memorable domain

Is your campaign’s target audience different from your primary audience?

Sometimes nonprofits engage in campaigns that stray somewhat from their typical messaging and create campaigns for timely or news-related issues. Sometimes a campaign is so unique that it is targeting a different audience than the nonprofit would otherwise speak to. In this case, it might not be a good idea to connect your campaign material too closely to your primary site, as doing so could appear to dilute your organization’s mandate.

Is a microsite the right approach for your organization right now?

Every nonprofit seeks to attract people to their cause, and a microsite can be an effective way of achieving this. However, a fresh new microsite is not always the best way to promote your message, so when starting a new campaign, consider these questions to determine how closely to integrate your campaign with your other online properties.

Mike Mella

Mike Mella

Web designer, developer, and strategist at Be Like Water
Mike Mella is a skilled Web designer, developer and strategist with a passion for making the Web more beautiful and usable. Mike has been creating websites since 1999 and today works primarily with non-profit organizations and medium-size businesses. Through his company, Be like water, Mike promotes a principle of adaptability helping his clients to stay current on the Web.
Mike Mella
Mike Mella