Monday, May 17, 2010
Get ready. This is a rant. I look at at least 10 new nonprofit websites each day for work. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised but mostly I'm dismayed by the state of nonprofit websites.
We've got to do better folks. Here's why. NO ONE (Well, almost no one) is going to give you a donation online without first visiting your website. In fact the majority of online donations in 2008 ($15 billion) came in via nonprofit websites.
I KNOW you want some of this cash! Unfortunately, you're not going to get it because here are 6 reasons your website sucks.
1. You have NO pictures on your site or the pictures you do have are bad, stock photos of people who everyone knows are not part of your organization. There is no excuse for this. Go to Flickr.com or iStockphoto and buy or borrow some new beautiful photos. (Just be sure to give proper attribution.) Better yet, give some cameras to the people you serve and ask them to take video and photos for you.
2. You have WAY TOO MUCH text on your site. People DON'T READ websites. (Actually, people don't read period but this is a topic for another blog post.) Use short phrases and choice words to describe your work, especially on your home page. DO NOT include a "Letter from your Executive Director," unless, he or she is famous! Instead, consider doing a 3 minute podcast or video so people can hear what your organization is all about. Keep it short and sweet and make it good!
3. I can't find your "Subscribe" button. News flash! I'm not going to donate to your organization unless you ask me to. This is why email marketing is key to your online fundraising success. However, I may give you my email address to learn more. THIS is the most important "ask" you can make on your site. Invite me to engage with your organization by subscribing to your e-newsletter, so that you can CULTIVATE me into a new donor over time. PLEASE put your e-newsletter subscribe button front and central. Don't have an e-newsletter? Start one!
4. You are still using Flash and this means it takes way too much time for your your site to load. I'm busy and I'm not interested in your "clever" intro. Just take me to the meat of your site.
5. This is corollary to point 4. Your website is old and by old, I mean built on an outdated template. This is BAD for your branding. It is an automatic flag that you are not web savvy. Unfortunately, this perception may also translate to what you do, i.e. make me feel like your mission/theory of change is out of date. There is no excuse for using old, cheesy website templates. Contract with a student at a local university studying web design and development and PAY him/her to build you a new website on Wordpress or another blogging software. You will update your look; you'll also make it easier for everyone on staff to update your website on the fly. Blogging software is super easy to use.
6. Your content is out of date. This is a no-brainer. Don't serve up news items from 2008 on your homepage, even if your Executive Director was quoted in The New York Times. Archive them somewhere else on your site. I want to know what you've been up to lately, as in - this year!
I don't have the heart to show you bad websites. Besides, you know who you are! :) So, here are some example of good websites. Note: These are not brand name charities with tons of money. (Sorry you'll have to stop using lack of money as an excuse for your bad website.)
Your website is your window to the world. Care for it. Make it beautiful, clean, functional, and clear. You only get one chance to impress!
Pilgrim Africa - This is a beautiful site. I'm drawn in by the photos. Notice that the photos take up almost all of the real estate that is "above the fold." This is good design.
Architecture for Humanity - This site is really easy to navigate and I love the tone. Note that the e-newsletter sign-up box is at the top of the page on EVERY page of their site.
Push for Peace Corps - I like the use of BIG fonts on this site. And, the logo is great. It helps me visualize the organization's goal, i.e. to get more funding for Peace Corps.
Got any examples of great websites from smaller, less well-known nonprofits? Please share them in the comments.