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Are you putting your best face forward online?

October 31, 2012

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A strong online presence is critical to communicating your mission and raising money. So if your not-for-profit’s website lacks such features as an online donation function and has out-of-date content, it may be sending the wrong message — if visitors can even find it. Online search engines typically push infrequently updated sites to the bottom of search results.

If you haven’t done so recently, perform a critical assessment and make sure your site is informative, functional and appealing.

Cater to your audience

Certain features are essential for every nonprofit website, starting with a financial transaction interface for donations, membership dues or sponsorships. Make this function easy to find with a prominent button on your home page, and ensure that the payment process is simple and safe.

Keep other major constituencies in mind as well. Dedicate a page to volunteer opportunities, providing contact information for those interested in donating their time and talents. Make it easy for members of the media to find information about your nonprofit by offering, for example, a downloadable media kit and high-resolution photos of your leadership team.

Content rules

Content is king on the Web, so ensure yours is current, accurate and engaging. If you primarily use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to update your supporters, include links or feeds to those accounts on your home page. To encourage visitors to return to your website, link to popular RSS readers and enable supporters to sign up for your e-newsletter and other digital communications.

Although most not-for-profit websites err on the side of providing too little information, be careful about providing too much. For example, if a profit-making venture unrelated to your core charitable mission takes up the majority of your site, it could raise red flags with the IRS.

Instead, focus on your mission and programs, and help visitors understand why they should care and how they can help or participate. By regularly publishing event notices, features, testimonials and opinion pieces about issues and current events, you’ll cultivate readers and get the right kind of attention.

Question of cost

A site update — or even a re- design — doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If your site is relatively small and static, one of your volunteers may be up to the task. But if your current site or redesign plans are more sophisticated, hire a professional with not-for-profit experience. Organizations such as Grassroots.org and VolunteerMatch may be able to help you find free or reduced-fee design and technology services.

For more information contact Matt Brackman at mbrackman[email protected]

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a Clark Schaefer Hackett professional. Clark Schaefer Hackett will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.

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