“Nobody cares about your website,” Gerry McGovern tells business folks: “Your customers couldn’t care less about your new look, your new design or whether your dog has just had kittens.”
So never mind the navel-gazing and self-congratulation, the personal
stories, the excuses for a lack of recent updates, or the announcement
of your new blog design... The primary job of your website is to meet the needs of your "customers," not to blow your own horn.
Focus on your audience: That’s the single most important piece of advice you’ll ever get about publishing a successful website or blog.
Does this advice apply equally to non-profits?
Yes, and no.
When nonprofit organizations build websites they spend loads of
time and money on the design, the functionality and bells and whistles
that are cool and fun to work on. But, in reality, as important as
those things are, they aren’t what tend to make great nonprofit
websites. It’s about the content… ~ frogloop: 10 Best Web Content Practices
You are excited about what your non-profit is doing, about its
programs and services, about what you’re able to accomplish on a
shoestring. Of course you are! So, naturally, you will want to give
regular updates on the practical operations that support your mission. That’s perfectly appropriate, in moderation — in fact, it’s part of being accountable.
Your members, donors and volunteers do need to know how their
contributions are used in furthering your cause, and that could very
well include the costs of a new website design.
And if you’ve redesigned your website, changing how your
members and supporters interact with the site to get the information
they need, or if you’re offering new online services, I see nothing
wrong with letting folks know about it — briefly. Better, however,
would be to make sure that your website navigation does the job for
you. Menu items should be clearly labelled, vital information no more
than a click or two away, and the call to action clear. Good website usability lets you concentrate on crafting your message, instead of wasting words on directing traffic.
But the thing is, any member-based organization has two different audiences to serve — the old
faithfuls, and those who have stumbled upon your non-profit’s website (perhaps by way of the search engines) because they have an interest, to some degree,
in your cause.
Most new website visitors have no idea what your site looked like
before your redesign — nor do they particularly care. They just want the site to work for them right now, on
the first visit. They want to find out what you do, why they should care,
and how they can learn or do more. And you've got no more than a couple of seconds to grab their attention with some compelling content:
The best nonprofit blogs are a mix of true stories about their
organization’s work and its constituents, invitations for readers to
check out other bloggers’ post or news stories about related issues,
organizational news, and editorials on the daily news as it relates to
the organization. ~ Case Foundation: 5 Tips to Start a NonProfit Blog
What’s in it for me?
The old marketing catch-phrase (WIIFM)
holds true for non-profits as much as for businesses. Think about it: If you’re considering a donation to a
cause, which would you prefer to read on the NPO’s blog — “news” of a
updated color scheme for its website, or inspiring feel-good stories of its “hero
Here are some ways that might play out in your blog:
- Accounts about individual donors and what motivated them to give.
- Posts about donors encountering your work, perhaps even authored by the donors.
- Interesting accounts about your work, tied back to the generosity of donors.
- Posts that are calls to action (for donations, volunteers, advocacy, etc.) to help work in progress.
I’ve yet to see a nonprofit blog that does any of these things
consistently. Most are obsessively self-focused posts in which the
organization shines a spotlight on itself day after day. That just
doesn’t stay interesting for very long. ~ Donor Power Blog: How to write a nonprofit blog that will be read
Gerry McGovern’s entertaining but to-the-point “Nobody cares about your website”
is a valuable reminder that your website is simply a tool for delivering
content, and it’s the content itself that must deliver value both to your
constituents and to new website visitors.
Yes, sometimes you may genuinely need to let supporters know what’s
going on behind the scenes of your non-profit’s boardroom or website,
but gauge it carefully... There’s a very fine line between informing a
committed supporter of news from within your organization, and
turning off a potential new supporter with too much inward focus.
How does your organization handle the tricky business of creating
website or newsletter content for that dual audience of new visitors
and long-term members? How do you ensure that your editorial calendar reflects
those differing needs and interests?