I finally gave up on finding any information online about nearby senior centers for my neighbor. There was next to no information online, and certainly no websites.
I then looked for senior centers in the next county and found wonderful sites for each of the several centers with photos of volunteers, activities, and facilities. My neighbor started going to one that was just over our county line and really not too far away. Our city's senior centers were out of luck.
A website for a nonprofit or a government organization is a given by now. You simply do not exist if you are not findable online. People (of all ages) search for what they want online.
However, some nonprofits think that if they just put up a static site, that will be enough. But, in truth, those may be worse than not having one. A website should be living, dynamic and energetic. It should reflect your organization's personality and mission through great photos, copy, and design.
There are three reasons so many nonprofit websites lack any spark, and they don't have anything to do with bells and whistles such as flash, videos, or social media:
- Outdated information. Consider the message you send if your website has not been touched in months. Fresh, lively content should be added at least weekly. New photos should be mixed in at least every couple of months. Blogs should be updated at least twice a week and more if possible.
A blog is the easiest way to keep a website fresh. But many nonprofits just don't have the time or staffing to keep up a blog. And, really, a blog that is not tended to is really a turn off to anyone coming across it.
There are other ways to refresh a website that are easier. Provide a feature area on the home page for a short article and photo of something new at your nonprofit. Preview an upcoming event; update your fundraising campaign; tell a heart warming story of a client helped; or give a profile of a long-time donor. These can all be slotted in at regular intervals while the bulk of your site stays basically the same.
- Insufficient contact information. Just because people find you on the Internet doesn't mean that they might not want to talk with you or email you. Do not - I repeat - do not provide a contact form for someone to fill out. These are cold and impersonal and are often abandoned midway through. Provide a contact list of real people and tell the viewer who can help with what.
I like to see photos and an invitation to email. For instance, there could be a photo of the development person and an email link inviting people to inquire about donating or a concern they have about a donation already made. A photo of the volunteer coordinator and an email link will help draw in potential volunteers and reassure current ones. It goes without saying that these emails must be responded to promptly. Provide phone numbers too as many people prefer to call.
- Tired or amateur design. Websites are worth good design. You may have started with something done by a staff member or a volunteer, but, as soon as you can, hire a professional web designer to give you great color, readability, a clean layout, easy-to-use navigation system, and a simple content management system that makes it easy for staff to update the site.
Throw in a snappy logo and tag line that befits the sparkling personality of your organization and/or the gravity of your mission. Design is not that expensive any more, and there are lots of good designers at the mid-point price levels. It will be the best investment you ever made.