Tag Archives: nonprofit websites

Don’t Let Moss Grow on Your Nonprofit Website

keyboard image by inhabitat.com

There’s no such thing as being “done” with your website. You can’t check it off your list. If your nonprofit is like most nonprofits, it’s been at least a couple of years since you updated or revamped your website.

But it’s been over three years since Microsoft brought its distinctive tile navigation to smart phones, and already four months since Apple transformed the look of its home screen with ios7. Out went “start” buttons and busy black backgrounds. Things got leaner and cleaner.

Website conventions change and not just to present a fresh aesthetic. They’re designed to make the user experience easier (although many of us don’t appreciate it, at least initially, when we have to think twice about what we’re doing).

An effective website is still a nonprofit’s most effective communications tool. As software advances have put user-friendly tools and templates within the financial and technical reach of all nonprofits, there’s no longer a good excuse to let a website grow moss.

That said, just slapping content into a template does not make for an effective website. It takes answering questions like the following:

1) Who is the website for? And who is it MOST for? (many organizations have volunteers or members and have to weigh whether the website is being used to attract new supporters, or meet the needs of existing constituents)

2) What are the organization’s top three goals that a website can help support?

3) What are the top three actions that we want our top priority audience members to perform easily?

4) What is the most frequently viewed content on the current website that should continue to be easily within reach?

5) What must the website communicate about us through its look and feel, its imagery and tone, to support our brand?

Most nonprofit executive directors or fundraising professionals don’t have a lot of experience with website designs. It’s hard to know where to begin.

Fortunately, Idealware (itself a nonprofit) has just begun a five-part series of webinars called “From Audit to Redesign: the Complete Nonprofit Website Kit.” I think the content is bang-on, and the price tag ($200) should more than pay for itself when you consider what a well-designed website can do for an organization. The first session, “Starting the Audit Process,” was held January 28 but it’s not too late to jump on this moving train. Upcoming on February 11 is “Defining Your Design and Content Strategy.” The third session on February 28 should be a great introduction to the “nitty gritty” of web design and cover best practices for usability and accessibility. The last two sessions get into content management systems (the tool that lets non-technical people easily update content), search engine optimization (so people find you), integration with tools like online donation systems, and an overview of a website development process.

As a former Northwesterner, I love moss. But not on websites. Get moving!

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A Practical Approach to Nonprofit Website Overhaul

Image: Iowaadguy.wordpress.com

I’ve got nonprofit websites on the brain this morning and am passing along information about a great, inexpensive resource to help you improve this critical asset. Idealware, a dot.org that aims to help nonprofits make good decisions about software, has a series of five, live 90-minute webinars coming up that costs only $200. That’s a heckuva deal, and the content looks great.

Websites are on my mind because later today I’ll present my top 10 get-started tips for nonprofit communications and marketing to an independent study group associated with UC Davis’ MBA program. Allan Alday, one of the students, found me through LinkedIn while searching for someone with that expertise.

Overhauling or setting up an effective website is, of course, on my top 10 list. When I met a couple of weeks ago with Amber Stott, the force behind the one-year old California Food Literacy Center, we talked about what communications tools are most effective. “It’s still the website, Facebook and blogging,” Amber said. I agreed.

Idealware’s series is called “From Audit to Redesign: The Complete Nonprofit Website.” The series starts June 4. Even if you can’t make them all – they’re on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Pacific – it would still be worth participating.

Here’s part of the description, but head on over to the page that describes it for more detail. And PS, although this implies that a nonprofit has an existing website, a seminar like this one could be equally helpful in creating a website from scratch.

Over five Tuesdays in June and July, join Idealware as we walk you through Website 101, review best practices for accessibility, mobile-optimized sites, and reinforcing your organization’s online brand. We’ll also take a look at the content management systems (CMS) that can give even your least tech-savvy staff members the tools to update website content themselves. Finally, we’ll talk about how your website content works alongside your email, direct mail, and social media efforts to create your organization’s communications mix.

Takeaways from the course:

  • Define goals for how your website will serve your audience
  • Learn best practices for designing an accessible, usable, and polished website
  • Compare your content management system (CMS) options
  • How to make sure your website shows up well on search engines 
  • Create your organization’s website action plan with next steps and action items for an improvement process

P.S. I just noticed that Idealware posts “Best of the Web” monthly, a round up of articles worth reading. If you’re thinking about social media, technological solutions (e.g. cloud), data, mobile giving, etc., you’ll find some worthwhile articles there.

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Arts Day of Giving Made History! Way to Go Sacramento!

Final Results Arts Day of Giving Give Local NowOn April 29, Sacramento held its first online fundraising blitz and generated $411,907 for ~80 arts-related organizations with programs spread across the region from Davis to Roseville, Placerville and Stockton. Even though another big local news story threatened to eclipse the attention being lavished on the event — the vote of the NBA Committee not to allow the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, posted by the Bee at about 2 p.m. —  Sacramento proved it could multi-task. People tweeted about the Kings while the Arts Day of Giving continued to generate email, Facebook and Twitter traffic.

The event was a big darned deal for a number of reasons:

Looking at the experience of other cities that have deployed similar technology, it also successfully demonstrated how much more opportunity we have. I’ll blog some thoughts soon about where we might go from here.

The Technology

There’s no doubt about it: many people want charitable giving to be dead easy. But technology costs money. Even if you acquire off-the-shelf technology, as our local organizers did, it takes a ton of time to wrestle a project like this to the ground. The software has to be modified, and nonprofits have to agree to participate and create profiles, all of which takes more time. Susan Frazier of Give Local Now credited the Sacramento Region Community Foundation with contributing resources – time and money – to build the engine of Arts Day of Giving. No doubt the collaboration with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and For Arts Sake made a difference, too.

Give2Max home pageBut the results seem to be worth it for communities taking advantage of this new approach. In 2011, I blogged about Give2Max Day in the Washington DC area, which raised over $2 million in a 24 hour period from nearly 18,000 donors. Online giving blitzkriegs are picking up steam with events in places as far flung as Seattle (Big Give upcoming event on May 15), North Texas (Get Up and Give! which raised over $14 million from almost 28,000 donors) and Columbus, OH (The Big Give raised $8.5 million from over 10,000 donors).

Arts Day of Giving home page with categoriesI decided to test the technology by making several small donations. Dead easy indeed. If you knew which organization you wanted to donate to, you used the handy search field. But what if you didn’t know and wanted to “shop” for an object of your affections? The brain trust behind Arts Day of Giving created easily-digestible categories of arts organizations from arts education to dance, music, arts education, visual art, media and more. In each of those categories, you might see as many as a dozen nonprofits. You could click on a profile and learn more about them; seeing them in a consistent, complete framework made it a cakewalk.

Philanthrophile tweet stream #ArtsDayofGivingAs you can tell from my tweet stream, I made a series of seven rapid-fire small donations between 8:05 and 8:28 p.m. At the bottom of my first purchase screen was a link to allow me to select another charity. When I selected one, all I had to do was re-enter my credit card. Within seconds, I had an email receipt in my inbox.

The reason I tweeted my donation (which I normally wouldn’t) was to help charities vie for a social media prize worth $1,000. They had to be mentioned on a public post or tweet along with the hashtag #ArtsDayofGiving.

Who benefited most?

The Leaderboard (which is still visible) allowed charities and donors to see exactly who was winning the donation race. Sacramento Ballet received almost $50,000.

My informal visual survey of the Twitter stream during the 24 hour event revealed that Sac Ballet was the most active. They may have done a bang up job of promoting the event to their members in advance of April 29, but I suspect that the event brought them new supporters, largely through Twitter. And this is strange: Sac Ballet doesn’t promote its Twitter “handle” on its website and doesn’t seem to have a Facebook page. My advance prediction was that the Crocker Art Museum would raise the most funds because of its highly public profile. After all, it’s a place — and a place has the advantage when it comes to building relationships. Drop in anytime! But the Crocker also has a big social media footprint with nearly 18,000 likes on Facebook and almost 1,000 followers on Twitter.

But in some ways I think the biggest winners were organizations with lower profiles. The technology provided them with a way to raise visibility that they never could have achieved on their own. Case in point: @DDSOorg noticed me tweeting and sent me a message thanking me for supporting the Arts Day of Giving. I looked at their Twitter profile where they turned out to be the Developmental Disabilities Service Organization which “champions the creativity & potential within the hearts & minds of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities using innovative strategies.” Then I looked them up on the Give Local Now event homepage. Then I gave.

Another surprising winner was the Sacramento Mandarins, a drum and bugle corps, which raised $16,000 from 78 donors.

Inquiring minds want to know

Twitter traffic Arts Day of GivingAn event like this leaves me salivating with more questions than answers:

  • Did Twitter have the most impact on traffic to the event page?
  • What happened to traffic on nonprofits’ own websites during the event?
  • Did landing pages like the one on Capitol Public Radio convert traffic to Give Local Now visits?
  • Did nonprofits mostly find new donors, as has been the case in other cities? Or did they see old friends come back in a new way?
  • What were nonprofit’s best practices (IMHO) on Twitter during the event?
  • Why weren’t more individuals engaged (as opposed to organizational tweeters)? There were a few voices out there but some of the most active social media adherents (some of whom work for public relations agencies) didn’t seem to be involved.
  • Where was United Way? In some other cities they seem to have been involved in giving events like this one.

Tomorrow (I hope): Opportunity knocks! How this online giving technology could become an even better thing for Sacramento nonprofits? (And I might throw in a little about the risks – like rising administrative fees,  wearing out the market with fundraising contests, or failing to let people know what happened with their donations, a leading reason that people don’t give.)

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