More and more non-profit organizations are developing websites to help share information about their mission and programs. This involves strategic planning about the best way to present your image and message online. Once your site is up, your organization also has to be ready to keep information current and to maintain consistent outreach activities. If your group is planning a Web site, consider:
1. How does your organization plan to use your site? Is it for marketing your organization, raising funds, providing information, announcing events, attracting volunteers, starting a discussion group, or something else? Answering this question will help you to develop a site that best suits your group’s needs.
2. Who is your group trying to reach? Think strategically about the audience you are trying to target. Are they current or potential clients? Are they donors? Volunteers? A particular group in the community? Tailor your website to speak to that audience.
3. What information do you want to include? Some of the components you can incorporate on your site include: your mission, a list of programs and goals, contact information (staff list, e-mail addresses, mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and directions to your organization), list of special events and dates, organizational history, links to other websites, volunteer opportunities, and press releases.
4. If your NPO wants to engage in online fundraising (and you should!), then carefully consider the following: How will online giving be managed internally? What online forms will you use to gather donor information? How will you ensure security for donor information and credit cards? What offline options will donors have who do not want to give online? Which giving options will be included on the site (ex: planned giving, current campaigns, future projects, etc.)?
Once you’ve decided on your content, speak to a web designer about the “look” of the piece. The impression that you give offline should be carried into your online presence. Your website is an important tool to reinforce your identity, image, and credibility. In addition to text, you can include full-color photography, your logo, and graphic images. Keep the copy simple and include interesting visual images that show the work you are doing in the community and the audiences you serve.
Marketing your site is as important as designing it. There are many ways to promote your website, both online and offline. Most people who visit your site learn about it from printed material, not from looking it up on a search engine.
For offline marketing, add your URL address to business cards, stationery, newsletters, brochures, fax cover sheets, and so on. List your website on any materials that you hand out at conferences, seminars, and workshops. Put it next to your organization’s mailing address and phone number. Send out a card or letter to announce the launch of your site and include an article about it in your newsletter. Send press releases to the local newspapers and to professional publications announcing your website. Make sure that your staff, Board, and volunteers know the site address and can discuss the content.
Online, you can register your home page with Web announce sites, directories, and search engines. Send e-mails to other related websites asking for a link. Send an e-mail to your clients, donors, partner organizations, and volunteers with a link to your URL address. Have staff and board members include this link at the end of the e-mails they send. Announce your site on relevant Internet newsgroups and lists – if you participate in these groups on a regular basis, you will help build an online reputation for your organization.
Another important online marketing strategy for non-profits is to list your organization with Internet charity portals. These websites offer a directory of non-profit organizations. Charity portals include CharityNavigator.com, GreaterGood.com, FreeDonation.com, NetworkForGood.org, 4charity.com, and WorkingForChange. Donors often peruse these sites to help them with their research, so it’s important to keep your listing up to date.
Internet marketing is a never-ending process. It requires a commitment to send out regular e-mails, keep your site information timely and accurate, update your staff on the latest Internet technologies, and learn about other Internet resources that can benefit your staff and clients. There are countless ways to use your website to bring in and send out new information. As you learn more, you can also use your website as a means to recruit volunteers, raise funds for your current campaign, and encourage activism.