The Nonprofit Website
Any organization, be it for profit or nonprofit, has a marketing, branding, communications, fundraising and volunteer reaching tool of previously unparalleled significance and effectiveness: The Website. Internet users, potential volunteers, activists or even donors to your cause, will visit a charity’s website for any number of reasons. Some are seeking contact information for your entity, others might be looking to volunteer, or to learn more about your case and mission, or even simply donate money to your programs. Regardless of their particular reasons for visiting your organization’s website, I recommend you consider the following to increase the likelihood of their leaving a donation, signing up to volunteer, or simply getting involved in any meaningful way. Because forming a New Mexico nonprofit is simply the beginning.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your website accurately represents the personality and spirit of your organization. Your website is not just a digital business card anymore. Style is important and consistency in presentation and theme will go a long way in convincing the public that you are both legitimate and worth supporting with either time or money. Color schemes, graphic design, photograph selection and even word choice all bear on the presentation and message of your charity and its website. Always bear your audience in mind when publishing anything to your website. Organizations that fight for improved educational standards should not have a lot of typos in their documentation. Likewise, those that serve the elderly community should not publish in very small type-fonts. What your organization does matters, but who your organization serves matters more.
Secondly, contact information should be simple, visible and everywhere in your webpages. You may wish to provide a simple mission statement, in line with the advice of the preceding paragraph, but additionally, you should include basic physical and mailing addresses, telephone numbers, fax numbers if applicable, and even email addresses for further questions. Furthermore, you may consider including a staff/employees biography page. This page should of course be sensitive to the privacy concerns of all involved, but such pages certainly add a personal feel to your website and indicate to the visitors that this is a human organization run by people just like them, with similar goals and opinions about the cause or mission as stated. Be wary though, of posting direct email addresses and phone numbers for staff members as this drastically increases the likelihood of “spamming”.
Social Media is clearly one of the buzz words of our day. FaceBook pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn networking and anything related to Google (Places pages, local listings, etc.) can have a clear and profound positive effect upon your charity’s web traffic and overall interaction with the public. It is this type of direct interaction that the modern public seeks from any website business, as well as nonprofit organizations. To those who are not familiar with these marketing platforms: Become So.
And finally, the last, and both most important and most difficult piece of advice: Always be providing helpful, interesting, current and pointed content. The best nonprofit and even for profit websites seek to provide (for free) information that the visitor might not be able to locate or utilize elsewhere. Common examples of such necessary content would be updates about the current and future activities of your organization, links to scholarly and other related articles on the web, blog articles and specific discussions can be highlighted, stories from volunteers or service recipients, and so on are all vital to the success of your organization and its website. Occasionally you may elect to send out mass mailings or emailings about issues particular to your organization and mission. If you do so, it is important that your website clearly provide follow up information about that issue for those who respond to the mailing/emailing. It is less important that the articles or content be long and detailed than it be often, digestible and fresh. Blogs are usually the best format for such content as the readers can interact with the writer, organization and even other readers in the comments sections. Please don’t kid yourself, this aspect takes a lot of time and effort. It may sound easy to write one or two articles or stories about your entity every day, but the best websites around are those that do this consistently over long periods of time.
This is certainly not an easy or quick process I’m recommending, but it will have direct and measurable results for you and your nonprofit organization. Taking these ideas further, you may wish to consider offering regular email or regular mail newsletters or alerts, or even having a virtual grand opening when you launch your new or updated website. The main point to remember is that your website is tool that constantly needs refining and updating. Creating a wonderful webpage and then ignoring it for even as little as a few weeks, does your organization more damage than good because an outdated website can turn away to very visitors you’re seeking to attract.
And last, but certainly not least, your website simply must make it easy for visitors to donate money, resources or time to your cause. Internal linking to your donations page is vital and sadly often overlooked by new nonprofit organizations. Every page, not just your homepage, should have tabs or links to the “support” “donate” “how you can help” –type pages where your visitors can give or promise support to your cause. It should not take the visitor any time or effort to give to your organization.
Now certainly there is a lot more to creating and maintaining a successful nonprofit website, but if you can keep these basic ideas in mind you will have more success than most of your competitors (and yes other nonprofits are your competitors, both for donations dollars and volunteer hours). Everything that your organization prints, publishes, distributes, or otherwise makes available to the public should have your organization’s website information clearly printed on it, period. Remember, your website is no longer just a digital business card, but rather an interactive portal where the public can learn about, exchange ideas with, and hopefully support with donations of time and money.