This is a guest post by Howard Adam Levy, Principal of Red Rooster Group and Founder of The Nonprofit Brand Institute
a branding agency that creates effective brands, websites and marketing
campaigns for nonprofits to increase their visibility, fundraising and
effectiveness.Visit them at http://npbrandit.com/.
Redesigning your website can help donors connect with your mission, build a
stronger community, and inspire people to take action on your issue.
But before plunging ahead with a complete redesign, it’s helpful to do
some planning to ensure that your website accomplishes what you want.
Here are some critical planning steps to ensure success.
1. Determine your Objectives & Metrics
Sure you want to promote services, raise money, or improve membership
rates - but by how much? Establish exactly what it is you want your
website to do for your organization, and you’ll be able to build the
site around those goals. Being as specific as possible in defining the
outcomes you desire will help determine what type of content to focus
on, what type of features to include, and most importantly, what to
monitor for results. For example, if you are looking to attract a larger
volume of smaller donors, then you might set goals for increasing
social media activity, building your email list, and increasing the open
rates on your email newsletters. If you are attracting larger donors,
you might want to track downloads of your annual report or other
information demonstrating your organization’s longer term impact.
Whatever metrics you choose as your dashboard, it’s important to review
it regularly so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t, and then
2. Assess Your Site
You may not love your current website, but you can learn from it. Before
scrapping it to start your new one, check your website metrics to see
what pages people are going to the most. This can tell you about content
people value, or what type of information they may be looking for. An
overall assessment of your current site can tell you what elements might
be worth retaining in the new site. Is your logo professional, are your
organizational colors recognizable, does your content avoid industry
jargon and speak to the audience appropriately? Do you have an archive
of emotionally-appealing images to draw from, is your navigation clear,
do you offer multiple points of engagement for visitors?
3. Determine Your Budget and Resources
When thinking about what it will take to develop a new site, consider
more than just money. For example, staff time spent on trying to write
the copy for the site may be better spent on programs. Before you begin
the site design process, it is important that you determine what the
budget for the project will be and who will create the site and manage
the development process. Consider what content will need to be updated
regularly (and who will do this), what the approval process is for the
website, and when the site is needed. Remember, even if your
organization has web-savvy staff, it is quite possible you will still
need the outsourced help of experts to guide you through the web design
process, if only to keep everyone on task and usher the project through
the approval stages.
4. Identify Your Audience and Their Needs
Your website should revolve around your users, not your organization.
And different people have different needs. Roger may find the advocacy
part of your mission appealing to his sense of justice in the world and
is willing to sign a petition, while Heather may identify with that fact
that you provide support services and will refer a friend. But neither
one may be ready to make a donation. Think about the people you want
visiting your site, what motivates them, and how you can tap into that
motivation to drive them to take action, and the website content and
features that need to get them to do so.
5. Use Your Site Map as Strategic Planning Tool
Your site map helps you to plan the content of your website. Make it
easy for people to find the information they want in the way they would
expect to find out — which, surprise, is not by your organization’s
departments. Your homepage should have easy-to-use navigation to the
other sections of the site. All parts of site should be accessible in as
few clicks as possible.
6. Plan for Growth
At this point, you should be in a good shape to understand what you
want to get out of your website. While you may not be able to afford
everything you need all at once, you can get the site of dreams by doing
it in phases. However, it is important to plan for it so that it
doesn’t cost more in the long-run or even prompt another overhaul. For
example, once you have determined all the features you need, select the
appropriate technology platform that will allow you to add those
features in the future, and a web hosting company that has the services
you need, so that you don’t have to change host companies.
7. Develop Your Content Plan
This is often an area in which nonprofits need the most help.
Compelling copy that conveys key points and leads the visitor though the
site, does not appear by magic. And relying on various program people
to cobble together the copy for you site is not a great strategy. In
order to develop quality content for your site, consider what source
material you have (it may be the heads of your staff), what people in
your organization have relevant information, and who is best suited to
transform it into inspired copy that motivates your donors and site
visitors. If Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big part of your
plan, then start with doing your keyword search at the planning stage
and build the around your keywords — your site will be more effective
than trying to add keywords later.
So, there you have it — the crucial steps to laying a smooth
foundation for your website. With these steps in place, you can let your
creative team explore options that meet these needs, and you’ll know
exactly what you are aiming for.
Howard Adam Levy is Principal of Red Rooster Group, a branding agency
that creates effective brands, websites and marketing campaigns for
nonprofits to increase their visibility, fundraising and effectiveness. www.RedRoosterGroup.com