Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part Two - Your Entire Website

Photo by mcclouds via flickr

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part One - Your Home Page

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part Three - Your Donation Page

Last week I wrote about how to create a welcoming and audience-centered home page for your website. Now, I would like to show you how to make the rest of your web pages welcoming.

The key is to create pages that are easy to navigate, easy on the eyes (no clutter), and contain compelling content with a clear message and call to action.

Make sure your website has a consistent look on every page and is consistent with the rest of your communication material (both online and print). For example your logo is always in the same place, you stick to a few colors, and you use the same easy-to-read font.  

Update your content frequently and make sure you don't have any outdated information on your site. In addition, all your links must work!  Have someone check them on a regular basis. You could lose potential donors or volunteers if they end up on a page with a broken link.

Most likely, you already have a website with some of the sections I will highlight below, so now is a good time to check if your pages are welcoming and audience-centered. This is also a good time to make sure that what you are including is relevant and if there is something important that you are leaving out. Use analytics to figure out how often people are visiting your pages.

All Pages
Include a photo on all your pages. If you can use pictures of the people you serve, that would be the most compelling. Stick to one or two photos per page, so it doesn't look cluttered.

Put a Donate Now button on all your pages in a way that's prominent, but not tacky. You should also include a navigation bar, social media icons, a newsletter sign up box, and a search feature on all your pages, so your readers don't have to go back to the home page.  

About Us
The About Us section may be the next place your visitors travel after coming to your home page, and it may be viewed by people who aren't familiar with your work, so make it captivating. Include your mission, vision, a brief history, and recent accomplishments. You could include a description of your programs and services in this section or create a separate section for that. Be sure your narrative is compelling, but brief. Show how you are making a difference in the community.

Put a staff and board list in this section (include pictures so your audience can put a face to a name), along with contact information, mailing address, hours of operations, directions, and anything else that would be relevant here.

Donation Page
Your donation page should contain a short call to action that emphasizes how the donation will make a difference. Make sure the page is easy to navigate and the donation form is painless. Include options for mailing in donations and contributing in other ways, such as planned giving or in-kind donations. Show appreciation and include a list of donors on your website. Make sure you get their permission first. For corporate and foundation donors, consider displaying their logos.  I'll write more about donating online in my next post.

Get Involved
Here is an opportunity to reach out to the community. Write a compelling call to action to interest people in volunteering or contacting their legislators about an issue related to your cause. If you are recruiting volunteers, you are most likely engaging with people who either found you through a web search or responded to a volunteer request (e.g. on Idealist) and may not know you. It's important to make a good impression. Again, if there is a form to fill out, make sure it's user-friendly. 

A blog is another great way to reach out. Choose topics you think your audience will be interested in. Promote your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter and encourage two-way communication.

If you have an upcoming event, put a link on your home page that will lead to this page. Include a short description that will entice your visitor to attend your event. If they can register or pay online, make that easy. Be sure your event page stays current.

In this section, include press coverage about your organization, past issues of your newsletter, and press releases. If you get press coverage, post that on social media to bring people back to your website. You can do the same each time you send out your newsletter. Keep this up-to-date and don't include newsletters and press releases over a year old.

Photo Gallery
Since you won't have a lot of room on each page for photos, create a separate photo gallery. Action shots, such as children engaged in an activity, are best. 

Annual Report
Include your most recent annual report, if you have one. Otherwise include a list of recent accomplishments.

These are just a few of the sections you might have on your website.  Just keep remembering that your website needs to be welcoming and audience-centered.

Website Resources

Monday, March 19, 2012

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part One - Your Home Page

Photo by VerrdeSamVerdeSam

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part Two - Your Entire Website

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part Three - Your Donation Page

How You Can Create A Welcoming Website - Part Four - Writing For The Web

Even with the advent of social media, websites are still one of the first places people go to in order to get information. That's why your nonprofit organization needs one that's welcoming and audience-centered.

What is one of the first things you do before you have people over to your home? You get rid of clutter. Make sure your website's home page is clutter-free and easy to read (actually,all your pages need to be this way.) Pictures and graphics are great, but go easy with these. You don't want to overwhelm your visitors. 

That doesn't mean you shouldn't include pictures on your home page. Put up a few engaging photos of people that can tell the story of what your organization does. Include your logo and tagline or mission statement, too. You can add more information on your About Us page.

Different people will be visiting your website for different reasons. Some folks will know you well, and others might be visiting for the first time. Either way, your home page needs to be audience-centered with up-to-date information on events and whatever else you want to highlight. In this day of instant information, you can't have content that's outdated.

You don't want to include too much information on your home page, because you have other pages people can visit. What you do include needs to pique your visitor's interest, so they will want to click on your links to find out more. Think of your home page as an entryway.

Engage your visitor by offering them the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on social media. Conversely, when you are communicating via social media, invite people back your website by including links in your tweets and status updates.

Your home page should include a Donate Now button that leads to a user-friendly donation page (I'll write more about this in a future post). If you are recruiting volunteers, post a captivating message, such as Make a difference today and volunteer at our food bank.

Make sure you have a navigation bar that's easy to use and good titles, so your audience will want to visit your other web pages. You can also include a search button. And, all your links must work!

Use a white background with black type, a simple easy-to-read font (such as Ariel or Georgia), and short paragraphs (more on writing for the web later). 

The key is to create a welcoming home page, which will entice your visitors to stick around and check out some of your other pages. In part two, I'll write about how to make the rest of your website welcoming.

Resources for Creating a Great Home Page

General Website Resources 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's All About Your Donors

Image by worldlywonderworks via Flickr 

Most nonprofit organizations rely on fundraising for a good portion of their revenue. They spend a lot of time strategizing and working on sending out appeals,and then it kind of stops. 

Of course,these aspects of fundraising are important, but you need to spend just as much time on donor relations, because it's all about your donors

Thank your donors right away
Every single donor, no matter how much they have given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you letter mailed to them. Thank you letters should be sent out no later than 48 hours after you have received a donation. This shouldn't be hard to do. Carve out some time each day you get a donation and send out your thank you letters.

Send out a great thank you letter
Spend as much time creating your thank you letters as you do your annual appeal. Make sure your thank you letters are addressed to a person and not Dear Friend. Instead of the usual,Thank you for your donation of $50....., get creative.  Try something like -
---You are amazing. Your generous donation of $50 will provide Sarah and her brother Michael with brand new coats this winter. Thank you so much.---

This lets your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlights what your organization is doing with their donation. 

You can also invite donors to sign up for your newsletter, visit your website, or call if they have any questions. Whatever you do, don't ask for another donation in your thank you letter.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, you could mention that. 

In addition, make sure all the letters are hand signed. Again, this shouldn't take your Executive Director too long if you are generating thank you letters on a regular basis, as opposed to letting a huge pile of them accumulate.

If possible, consider sending out handwritten notes, but if you can't do that, send a great printed letter. Here are some examples.

Take an extra step and make thank you calls
Making thank you calls to your donors is a great extra step. This is something your board can do.  Here is more information on getting your board to make thank you calls.
Donors really appreciate thank you calls and it's a good way to engage your board.

Show appreciation all year round
You don't want your communication with your donors to end after you send out the thank you letter. Communicate often, between once a week and once a month, sending out messages in which you are not asking for money. A newsletter is a great way to do this. Make sure your newsletter is donor-centered and focus on success stories that demonstrate how you are making a difference with your donors' contributions. For example, I used to work for a mentoring organization and we would feature a different mentor/mentee match each month in our newsletter. 

Another good way to show appreciation to your donors is to hold an open house at your organization. Offer tours so your donors can see the inner workings of your organization. Make your open house informal and fun,and provide food. Have a brief program that might include a video/power point presentation or a few words from a client. If cost is an issue, you could have food donated.

If you can't have a gathering at your organization, consider asking a restaurant donate space and some food. Either way, highlight your accomplishments and be sure to thank your donors for have all they have done. Even if your donors don't come to your open house, they will appreciate the invitation.

Remember, it's all about your donors. If you treat them well, they'll treat you well the next time you send out your annual appeal.