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Archive for the ‘Web Technology’ Category

Grassroots.org, www.grassroots.org, a nonprofit technology organization, and SEO.com, www.seo.com, a consulting company in Lehi, Utah, are offering free two-hour telephone consultations to help nonprofit organizations improve their visibility on Internet search-engine listing. For more information: Go to www.grassroots.org.

Why bother improving your online web presence? Because a recent study by Harris Interactive and Mindshare Interactive Campaigns found that nearly 40 percent of people who support nonprofit organizations either as a donor, volunteer, or advocate report that they consult online sources of charity information before making donations. You can read the study’s findings: here.

That’s why!

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 9, 2007

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trash1It seems that every nonprofit imaginable has a website. The dirty little secret is that most are horrible! Most should be assigned to the trash. Absolute failures to connect and communicate.

Here’s my take on the top reasons for these failures and some thoughts on improvement.

  1. The Dead Site: Sorry but it’s true; you’re the only one who doesn’t know it. Sadly, this is the majority of nonprofit sites. These are the “tombstone websites” – nothing more than a poor version of an electronic brochure. Grab your visitors. Speak to their values, visions, hopes and dreams. If you don’t have the time or minimum resources to develop and regularly update a site, you’re better off taking it down until you can adequately support it.
  2. The No Purpose Site: What do you want your visitor to do? Identify next step actions — maybe, sign up for a newsletter?, become part of your advocacy campaign?, download a great resource? Have friends that aren’t familiar with your organization honestly review your site. Ask them to find the answer to some questions about your group. Examples could include: where are we physically located?, what is your organization’s mission?, what are your recent achievements?, how could them become involved? Pay attention to how easy it is to navigate your site (don’t talk!). Make notes on the ease or difficulty in finding these answers. This feedback is invaluable. Make changes based on what you learned.
  3. The No Follow-up Site: The primary purpose of any website is to get visitors to return! And that’s only going to happen if there’s a reason to do so. If you haven’t identified your web audiences, then you aren’t ready for the web. Every audience will have different and often multiple reasons to become engaged. And don’t think that you are going to raise much money on your site. Unless you are a nationally recognized organization responding to a compelling crisis (e.g. Katrina, Tsunami, etc.), people are not going to donate through your site for a while, and maybe never. Begin a discussion; give them a reason to return, start a relationship.

Need help redeveloping a site that rocks? Let us help. See your services, here.

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Many people collaborate on projects via e-mail. But e-mail threads can be cumbersome, attached documents can get lost, and who has the latest version anyway? Wikis solve all that by allowing everyone who has access to a page to read and change it. Check out this 3-minute video explanation provided by BNet here.

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What’s a Blog? Blogs are websites that take the form of online journals, updated frequently with running commentary on one or many topics. And they are on of the easiest way to provide regularly updated information to your constituents. Because blog creation process is simpler than website creation or print design and production, blogs enable nonprofits to easily publish a stream of constantly updated, linked content. And search engines love fresh content.

Start a conversation! Give your organization a “voice.”
Most blogs are directed towards external audiences and cover alerts, news clips, human interest stories and volunteers. What’s very distinct to blogs is the personal voice in which these stories are told.

Common blog features include:

  • Brief entries running one-three paragraphs in length.
  • One or more columns on the page, with new content added to the largest column.
  • Sidebars linking to other blogs, previous posts or other comments.
  • Updates added at the top of the blog, so that entries read in reverse chronological order. This approach makes it easy for readers to find the most recent content.
  • Lots of links within blog entries (to other blogs, websites, and articles in your e-newsletter, as well as audio and video files). Some blog entries also feature photos.
  • Frequent updates, with updating schedules from several times daily to two-three times each week.

Here are a few examples of nonprofit blogs:

How to put a blog to work for your organization.

  • Quickly summarize and point to other articles on the web that are relevant to your audience.
  • Include audiences (or selected audiences) in conversation on critical topics.
  • Invite experts in your field or issue area to contribute as guest bloggers.
  • Get timely information out without tech staff or web designers. You can even do “real-time” reporting from a conference, field visit or legislative session.
  • Cross-promote and re-use all the content you create for your website, print magazines and e-newsletter.

Get up and running quickly and for free.
There are a number of blog services that are free and can get you up and running in about 15 minutes. These include:

A great book on blogging is: Publish & Prospect: Blogging for Your Business by DL Byron & Steve Brodback.

Need some help think though a nonprofit blog and setting it up. Why not contact us? Here’s our email address.

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email1Email has become one of the most important means of communication today. And, it will grow in use in the future. However, with the ease and inexpensive nature of email has also come some misuses.

Check out these recommendations to improve your messages:

  1. Your own email address says a lot about you. If you are in nonprofit work, your name should definitely be associated with your organization (e.g. bfreeman@hospice.org). Not only does this build credibility, it also functions as a filtering device for many. If readers don’t recognize the email sender or feel that the organization isn’t legitimate they may never read your message.
  2. Avoid using all capital letters. Online, that’s considered yelling. It’s also harder to read. You don’t want to antagonize anyone by writing something perceived as offensive, especially when you can easily avoid it.
  3. Use both upper and lower case letters. Some folks go to the other extreme and use only small letters. They usually say that it’s easier to type that way. It may be easier, but is not standardized English. Readers often perceive these messages as childlike.
  4. Follow the basic grammar rules. You can even find online help from online services.
  5. Spelling counts, too. Many email-writing systems, such as the one from AOL, have built in spell checkers. Use them. But remember they won’t catch words that are correct but misused. Always carefully reread your text.
  6. Be brief. On the Internet, less is always more.
  7. Follow up on important messages. Call or write another message to make sure that an important message gets through. Although email is probably more reliable than snail mail, mistakes still happen. There is no guarantee that your message made it to the intended person.
  8. When responding to a previous message include the pertinent parts of the previous message so that the person who you are responding to knows what you’re talking about. It’s not fun to receive a message a week later, saying something like, “I agree with you.” The reader probably won’t remember what was said in the first place.
  9. Smileys are nice but don’t use them. Smileys, those appealing little icons that people use like 🙂 to show emotion, are cute but not understood by everyone. Unless you’re sure that the reader knows what they mean avoid them.
  10. When you write a message, start with the person’s name or use the customary salutation, Dear John. You may be sending email to an account that is read by more than one person. Always specify to whom the message is being sent.
  11. Use a signature. In addition to your name you can supply a link to your Web site and add a brief mention of your organization or service.
  12. Although you can use HTML to send fancy looking messages, you never know how they will look at the other end. The best way to send email is by using plain text. It doesn’t look as good, but everyone can read it. If you make each line no more than about 60 characters, it will also look neat.
  13. Remember to send the message. Sometimes we start something and put it off. Don’t forget to actually click on “send”.
  14. Respond to email quickly. When folks send you something, they usually expect an answer the same day.

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Need a consistent and inexpensive way to get your fundraising message out? e-Newsletters are an answer.

Every year, Karen Frost from CKUA Radio is tasked with meeting new people, drawing in more donations, and literally keeping her listener-supported radio station – herself included – afloat. Not an easy job when methods of communication are limiting, marketing budgets are tight, and donors watch closely how every penny is spent.

In the last six months, though, Frost’s fundraising efforts for CKUA Radio have been completely liberated, thanks to a relatively new trend in communicating with donors: the e-newsletter.

“It looks great, it’s inexpensive, and it allows me to communicate much more frequently with our supporters,” says Frost. Those who want to print out a printer-friendly version complete with graphics can do so, or they can email the Web version to a friend. “The e-newsletter extends the footprint of our Web Site.”

Frost, a firm believer in the Pyramid (or 5 I’s) of Giving by James M. Greenfield, tells how the e-newsletter addresses every element that’s so critical to successful fundraising:

  1. Identification: The e-newsletter arrives by email–directly to those customers who have pledged in the past and to new ones who give permission to receive the newsletter. The communication is immediately recognizable as CKUA’s and is so consistent with the look and feel of our Web Site that visitors feel like they’re right at the station with us.
  2. Information: Before discovering the e-newsletter, one mail-out each year–the one required by law to distribute donor receipts–wiped out the entire donor relations budget. Through the e-newsletter, Frost can now send monthly information that is current, responsive and timely. By adding an unlimited number of Web links that go straight to her Web Site, she’s already seen increased communications in the form of basic queries and comments.
  3. Interest: More frequent information increases interest. The newsletter helps Frost educate, inform, and intrigue. She varies the content to meet the interests of a variety of listeners. She can even measure interest in specific topics by seeing (in the backend of the e-newsletter system) exactly what sections of the newsletter her readers care most about.
  4. Involvement: Frost polls her supporters, invites their participation in surveys and encourages them to contact the station at any time. Increased involvement means increased retention.
  5. Investment: Greater involvement usually means greater investment. And the e-newsletter makes giving easier–an online donation form is only a click away! (Thirty-five percent of CKUA’s donors gave online last year!)

One big challenge since the e-newsletter, says Frost, is getting the word out that huge donor dollars aren’t required to fund our e-newsletter. “The perception is that technology-based advertising costs a lot,” she says, “but this just is not the case.”

In fact, the e-newsletter is costing about one-tenth of CKUA’s previous efforts. The biggest cost is getting the template designed, but once it’s there, it’s done. It costs every time Frost sends out another issue, but it’s minimal compared to postage.

What’s the biggest reason the e-newsletter has been such a success? Donor-Centered Fundraising, says Frost, “Penelope Burk says ‘Fundraising is not the art of asking but the art of communication that includes asking.'”

For Frost, the key to a successful fundraising campaign will always be finding the right tool to communicate that very sensitive appeal for dollars.

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When you are trying to raise money online from your members, visitors, or other constituents, keep these ten tips in mind:

  1. Ask for money for special projects or other hot items, not for general support – and set a deadline. It’s generally easier to raise money for something specific with a deadline than for institutional support. “Your gift of $25, $50, $100 – whatever you can afford – will help us get these families through the holiday season.” If the gift is tax deductible, say so.
  2. Ask as many people as you can (without spamming). The more people you ask, the more gifts you’ll get. If you don’t have a big list, see if other organizations will send your message out to their members for you. In every email, use a “tell-a-friend” feature to make it easy for people to pass along the fundraising appeal.
  3. Make the “Ask” the main message in your email. While you may be sending a regular monthly e-newsletter and/or activist alerts to the people on your list, when you want money, don’t bury the Ask in a longer message with other items – it won’t get enough attention.
  4. Make sure recipients know (and like) the sender of your email. In the “From” line, use a celebrity or your President or Chair if that makes sense, or just use the name of your organization.
  5. In the “Subject” line, make sure it’s clear why you’re writing – and don’t be deceptive.
  6. Keep the copy short and punchy, and give people links to the donation page within a few lines of the top. Repeat it every paragraph or so. (Some people get the idea and just want to click to the donation form.)
  7. Make sure the content of all your messages – fundraising, informational, activist – is interesting and useful to readers, not just to staff and board. Track clickthroughs, so you know what gets read, and send email surveys from time to time.
  8. “Ask” everywhere you can – on your Web site, in your emails, in the “signature” at the bottom of your email messages, and offline too.
  9. Build your list. Via every channel – meetings, events, parties, at the workplace, in your emails, and on your sites – ask people for their email addresses, so you can build your list. Put an email signup form on every Web page, and include a link at the bottom of every email.
  10. Test all components; To: and Subject: lines and various “Ask” amounts. Email makes it easy, quick, and cheap to test different messages.

Good luck.

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