Have you put much thought into your nonprofit organization's online presence? Do you even have one?
As part of our ongoing TechSense series, we held a special program on October 20 titled "But What About Our Web Site? Birth, Care and Feeding of Your Nonprofit's Online Presence." The guest speaker was Matt Hodgson of hodgsonConsulting, a full service web technology firm that works with many nonprofits in the DC region.
Matt started the program by asking, "Is there anything you DON'T look for on the Internet?" Those of us in the audience sat there with blank faces, trying to think of something. Finally one clever guy came up with an answer -- "My car keys!" We all laughed, but it really brought the point home. Most of us use the Internet to look for information on practically everything. If it's not on the Internet, we might not find it.
What does this mean for nonprofits? It means that if your organization doesn't have a web site, it probably should. Otherwise, how will people who are interested in your cause find you?
If your organization has never set up a web site before, you might be wondering how to get started. If your organization already has a web site, you may be thinking about giving it a major revamp. One early question to consider is whether you have the staff time and know-how to tackle such a project in-house. If not, you may want to consider hiring an experienced consultant to handle it. For either situation, here are highlights of the process Matt suggests following:
Step 1: The Beginning -- Define Your Web Site Project
- Establish the WHY -- Your web site should support your organization's mission and enhance your existing communication strategy.
- Establish the WHO -- Who is your online audience? Is it different than the audiences you reach using other communication methods?
- Establish the WHAT -- What do you want visitors to do when they get to your site?
Step 2: The Middle -- Design and Development
- Decide who will handle the web design -- an internal or external team?
- Specificity is your friend! Be very specific about what you want. Create a Must-Have List and a Wish List, to help the designer know where there is room for flexibility.
- Set priorities for web site features -- what should be most prominent for visitors to see?
- Think about using a Content Management System (CMS). Some free open-source CMS's mentioned by Matt: CMS Made Simple, Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress. You can find an extensive list of CMS's on Wikipedia.
- Once the initial development phase is completed, test everything again and again. And again!
Step 3: The End -- Care and Feeding
- Content is KING! After you launch your site, review and update content regularly. Ask others (staff, experts, constituents) to provide content on a specific schedule.
- Think about how social media can fit in. What online communities should you join to reach the people you want to reach?
- Monitor and track users' behavior. Which sections of your site get the most use? Which the least?
Step 4: Start Again (You didn't think Step 3: The End was really the end, did you?)
- Evaluate and re-evaluate your web site content to keep it fresh and interesting. Why should people return to your site if it's always the same?
- What is working on your site, and what may need to be changed? Are visitors doing what you want them to do (donate, sign a petition, adopt a pet, etc.)?
For more detail, you can download the slides from Matt's presentation here.
Does your nonprofit have a web site? If so, how is it helping you achieve your mission? We'd love to hear about your experiences -- good and bad -- in the Comments section below.