Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Summer - Give Your Website a Quick Facelift

The summer is a good time to get to those things that have been put off during the busier times of the year and for nonprofits it is the time to do some prep work before the Fall fundraising season. One thing that you might do now is give your website a facelift. Here is some great straightforward advice from Firespring. Firespring is a marketing company serving small businesses and nonprofits. In partnership with 17 nonprofits they conducted this survey of 468 constituents to learn what they want from a nonprofit website. This is not a large scale study but the results do ring true and I’d like to share them with you.

Firespring has made an engaging two minute video summarizing the results and you can also download the two page report.  Get both here.

Here are the highlights – as always you get my commentary with it:

1. Concise and Compelling Content - Content about your programs and services, future goals, and how donations are spent ranked highest in interest.

2. Attention Grabbing Design – 91% mentioned the appeal of photos. This is an area that almost all small nonprofits I work with can improve in. All too often they sparse out pictures like they were gold coins or think a picture of a building without any people is okay.  If your picture causes furrowed brows rather than a smile, its the wrong one.

3. User-Friendly Navigation – Being able to easily navigate your website is really important. People came for a reason and they want to quickly be able to find out how to get to whatever they were looking for. Firespring recommends three points of navigation. 89% of respondents said that a site search is useful. This may be really easy for your webmaster to add. If you don’t already have one ask for it. This blog is on – a free platform. The site search is just a free app that is a couple clicks away from being on the website. Depending on the platform you’re using this may be true for you too.

4. Useful Functionality – Having functionality that visitors expect today sends a message that your website is worth visiting. This is a good step in building a relationship online with your supporters. Functionality appreciated by the respondents included the ability to register for an event, sign up for an eNewsletter, and register to volunteer. There are both easy and more sophisticated ways to implement these features. Start by discussing them with your webmaster to find out how easily it can be done.

5. Strong Vitality – Not enough can be said about how important it is to update your website frequently. It doesn’t have to be a major overhaul – just fresh updates. 66% of respondents said that in order for content to be relevant your website must be updated at least once a week. How about posting a program picture of the week. Make sure you call it “a picture of the week” and post it on the same day every week. This type of thing causes people to visit on a regular basis. Making frequent updates to your website also increases your position in search – and that can be important.

If you are redesigning your website these are important ideas to incorporate. If you are not redesigning your website there is lots here you can do with your existing website. Do not wait for some future redesign – get busy today. Here is what you can do today:

1. Fresh new content about your programs
2. Photos – with people in them!!!!
3. Add a Where Your Donations Go page today
4. Ask your webmaster if s/he can easily add a site search
5. Ask your webmaster if s/he can easily add a eNewsletter sign-up.
6. Commit to updating something once a week on the website.

Thanks for bringing this study to my attention to Jocelyn Harmon at the Marketing for Nonprofits blog and @GuidestarUSA for tweeting about it.

You can see the companion piece to this article at the Nonprofit Capacity Building blog at  Read Understanding Your Website from a Visitor’s Perspective  now.