If your organization is now preparing to create a website, you need to consider the following eight points.
If you already have one, you still need to give them consideration, since your website, just as all aspects of your business, needs to be re-evaluated on a regular basis.
Observe that there is no consideration of whether you need a website. There are few reasons for a nonprofit organization not to have one. It’s so much a fixture of the present age that its absence is noticeable and disconcerting.
Here are the eight questions to consider:
1) Who is your audience? If you say everyone, you might just as well say no one. You can’t be all things to all people. Now if you refine it to “everyone right here in River City,” you might have a point, assuming that you’re an organization that does want to reach everyone locally. You need to ask this question of each press release, too, and it’s likely somewhat different for each event or activity or announcement you have. Perhaps your website is a cumulation of the answers for the various releases.
2) What does your group offer to each audience segment? If it’s for your “client base,” the website will have a different type of information than if it’s for potential benefactors. If it’s for both, then each needs a different part of the website as a base. The same is the case if there are a dozen audiences.
3) Can each audience segment find what it needs? Organization is critical. Even though a website is so much more customizable than, say, a book, many fail to make it simple to find what the visitor wants. Don’t fill the home page with so much junk that nothing can be found. Make navigation clear and simple. If you have a web page about donations, have a tab labeled clearly and simply “donations.” Make the hierarchy logical. Have someone who doesn’t know your organization critique the website and search for various things that each audience segment might want.
4) What is of supreme importance right now? If you’re having an event, the home page should clearly direct visitors to all the pertinent information. Event information should be front and center, whether it’s a link or a reprinting of the press release. Yes, that means you may have to change it on a regular basis.
5) Is content king? I will say this over and over, and if I don’t, I certainly mean to. One the internet, content has to be king. Make sure that as much information as possible (all well organized, of course) about your organization and its activities, etc., is on your website. No, this won’t be accomplished on day one and maybe not even during year one. But have a plan to get onto the website everything you can about the Everytown Dogooders Club. And follow through with that plan. And re-evaluate annually what else can fill out the site. Not only will the search engines love your website, but the visitors will spend more time there and be more apt to pay attention to your group.
6) Is there a clear call to action? It’s sort of silly to go the extent of building a website and not telling visitors what it’s all about. Do you want contribution? Do you want volunteers? Do you want everyone praying for world peace? Then say so! Lead visitors to the form or the button or the phone number or whatever. Make it extremely easy for them. Make the PayPal “donate” button big and obvious and on several pages. If you want people to leave their stock portfolio to your organization, tell them everything they need to know about the process. And ask for the “sale.”
7) Is the contact information clear and complete? If they want to make a contribution, whom do they contact? Is it the same person they would call or e-mail if they want to volunteer? If yes, say so. If no, say that, too. Be abundantly clear and complete with your contact information. This isn’t a secret society, is it?
8) What is your mission? In simple language, please, as if you were describing the organization to your eight-year-old. So many organizations leave out their mission or couch it in such nebulous language that it could be either the U.N. or a darts team from the local pub. If content is king, then clarity is at least crown prince.
Carefully plan your website. Several perspectives are best during that planning, but have one person ultimately responsible for making it cohesive. Have outsiders check it out after it’s up, asking them for honesty. Re-evaluate regularly. A good website can be a priceless contributor to your organization, but frankly, a poor one can be just as much a detriment.