If you’re looking to improve your website, you’re not alone. According to Captivate and Engage coauthors, Jay Wilkinson and Randy Hawthorne, nonprofits relaunch their websites about every two years. This is due to several factors.
Are “go-to geeks” the answer?
Primarily, nonprofits hire website designers whom the authors affectionately call “go-to-geeks.” These professionals are tech-savvy but the authors argue that a great site is more about mission, vision and cause more than about technology. “No programmer can manufacture those components,” explain Wilkinson and Hawthorne.
The doing-more-with-less fallacy
Another reason why nonprofits find themselves in a constant state of website revision is the “fallacy of doing more with less.” This is based on the idea that you should make decisions based on cost rather than value. “Get as much as you can for as little as possible.” Unfortunately, this philosophy contributes to a very short shelf life for your website.
Look at ROI and mission before you leap
When we asked Jay and Randy about preliminary considerations before you launch a website, they had the following answer that touched more on the fallacy mentioned above. We also asked about one of their primary recommendations: connecting the website to the mission. Read on.
CausePlanet: What is your advice for nonprofits that want to make the initial investment to build a website the right way? What are the preliminary considerations?
Wilkinson and Hawthorne: First and foremost, don’t fall into the “we have to do more with less” trap by focusing entirely on the cost of the website. Way more important than cost is the return on investment, or ROI. A nonprofit could spend $50,000 on a website and double its money by increasing contributions or spend $500 and get nothing in return except for a bland site with a few photos and its mission statement.
Which one “costs” more for the nonprofit? Fortunately for everyone, great nonprofit websites with gargantuan ROIs don’t have to cost $50,000. We recommend finding a provider that specializes specifically in working with nonprofits. It has probably already built the functionality that you’ll need—meaning it’s not starting from scratch. Then, know what you want. Take the time to seek out other nonprofit websites to cite as examples. It’s the single best way for a developer to know how best to please you.
CausePlanet: You stress the importance of getting in touch with your mission, vision and values before engaging in the business of enlisting technological help. Have you seen any of your clients do this successfully and what did that look like?
Wilkinson and Hawthorne: Yes. We see it all the time. Every web developer worth her salt will tell you that when the leadership team for the nonprofit is involved in providing direction for the website, the product always comes out better. The closer someone is to the heart of the organization, the more insight and guidance she can give.Nonprofits find themselves in a constant state of website revision because of the ‘fallacy of doing…
A great example of this is the Groundwater Foundation at Groundwater.org. The President, Jane Griffin, is involved in every aspect of the website. As a result, the purpose and mission of the organization is deeply embedded into the site’s DNA. You can’t visit the website without gaining a sense of its mission.
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Image credits: Groundwater.org, NonprofitHub Press