Image courtesy of Creative Commons

This is a tough question to answer.

Asking what an advocacy website should cost is like asking what a new car should cost without knowing if you want a Honda or a Tesla.

So I’ll start by breaking down the major cost drivers. Then I’ll make some assumptions so we can get to a budget range:

Who’s building the site? Are you hiring a strategy firm that will manage the web development shop or are you hiring a web developer directly? I’d recommend the latter. In most cases, hiring a firm to manage the process for you adds another layer of cost. But if you’re building a large campaign and/or you have a short timeline, paying that additional cost is probably worth it.

Who’s writing the copy? Are you going to provide the copy or do you need a vendor to write it? If you can’t provide final copy, my recommendation would be to at least write a first draft and then have your partner edit. Having a vendor draft copy from scratch gets pricey.

How many pages will the site have? The more pages that need to be designed and laid out, the more money you’ll need to spend. Most issue sites are small, usually 1-3 pages.

What will people do when they get to the site? This is another way of asking the different interactive features the site will need to include. Most issue advocacy sites are looking to encourage the user to take a simple action like providing an email address or sending legislator email. In these cases, the site will need to incorporate a basic MailChimp form or a form from the organization’s advocacy CRM platform.

What’s your preferred development platform? You want to pick a platform that:

  • Has a decent-sized community of developers.
  • Makes integrating advocacy/CRM tools easy.
  • Has some standard design themes.
  • Is easy to change and update without the help of a developer.

 Think seriously about options like WordPress or NationBuilder.

How many design options? Design and layout are the most critical strategic decisions for the site. Given the few seconds someone will be on the page, they need to quickly understand your issue to take the desired action. It’s best to invest in developing two design directions. Though it adds cost, it’s worth it to make sure you carefully consider the best way to motivate action.

Assuming you pick a platform that includes some standard design templates, that should help reduce the overall design time vs. coming up with a completely custom design.

What are the design components? Designs usually include some combination of an organization’s existing assets (like pictures and video) as well as stock photos and graphics that, for the most part, are pretty affordable. Custom-designed graphics definitely drive-up the cost.

How many rounds of revision? This is the most significant driver that is most often overlooked. For copy (if needed) and design, the more back-and-forth you need with your partners, the more expensive the site will be. Try to keep it to no more than 2-3 rounds. You want to make sure you invest enough time to get everything right without overdoing it. The perfect can definitely become the enemy of the good here.

What’s your timeline? If you can provide a 4-5 week timeline, you should be fine. Anything short of that is likely going to be a rush job. In that case, expect to pay a premium.

 Let’s compile our assumptions before we figure a final cost range:

  • You hire the web development firm directly
  • You develop your own copy
  • Your site will have three pages
  • The site will include a form to email your legislator
  • The site will be built on WordPress
  • You will create two different design directions
  • The site will include a combination of existing assets and stock photos
  • You will go through two rounds of revision on your chosen design
  • You have four weeks to complete the project

This site should cost you $4,000-$6,000.

Remember, the majority of advocacy interactions are going to happen via email, social and mobile, not your website. Make your website good, for sure, but don’t overspend. You need to invest elsewhere to build strong relationships.

Did I miss anything? Let me know at