Use the questions below to assess whether you're ready to take on more with social media outreach and fundraising. Not there yet? Use the questions as the seed for a strategic online action plan.
So, how does your nonprofit stack up?
- Is your URL guessable? Imagine one of your supporters (we'll call her Sally) describing your organization to a friend or colleague (his name is Bob). Sally paints such an incredible picture of the impact you're making and the value of your programs. Next time Bob hops onto the Internet, he thinks, "Ooh, I want to check out that nonprofit Sally recommended." If Bob types in the name of your organization with a .org at the end, will he find you? Or, do you have dots, dashes and a venerable Morse code situation going on? Make it easy for potential supporters and search engines to find your nonprofit.
- Do you use website design strategically? Notice the inclusion of the word "strategically," and the absence of the word "beautifully." Whether you have a work of art for your homepage or a Spartan site, it needs to be effective. From big donate buttons to compelling language, make your site user-friendly. (Not sure where to start? See the tried and true "4 basic website tweaks" for a few tips.)
- Do you provide relevant content? If homepages could collect dust, would yours be in dire need of a Swiffer? What entices you to keep reading when you're doing your own Web-surfing? Timely, interesting, compelling content. If your cause was mentioned in the news, share it on your website. If your program changed someone's life-a constitutent or volunteer, for instance-share that person's story. The same things that makes marketing and journalism successful will make your website copy sing.
- Can you collect email addresses on your website? Points one through three were ones to mull and consider; this one's a simple yes or no. Have you made it easy, clear and enticing to sign up directly for email communications? (And by "enticing," we mean something other than, "Get Our Newsletter." Make your emails sound exclusive and valuable.) This simple mechanism will make your life easier (hooray, automation!), as well as your supporter's. If you're using an email marketing service like Constant Contact you can quickly create a sign-up form to embed right into your website.
- Can you accept online donations on your website? Regardless of their donation preference, 65 percent of all supporters will check out your website prior to making a donation. While they're in this "open-minded moment" (considering contributing), make it easy for that person to donate right then and there. Web users are no longer shocked at the idea of making online contributions; a shocking discovery, instead, would be not having the ability to donate from your website. (Never fear: Network for Good can help you there, too.)
- Do you tell your story through pictures, videos or podcasts? Remember your writing 101 lessons from high school: When you're writing, show people, don't tell them. The same carries into our nonprofit messaging, and now we have other resources in addition to our words. Make visiting your website and watching your event presentations more exciting and engaging by using visuals and audio. (Note: Put a photo on your homepage-a big one. Consider making it a photo of a face to create a fast-track to engagement.)
- Do you have a blog? Maybe your website is under lock and key, making it difficult to update and keep chocked full of timely information. Blog to the rescue! In addition to its traditional outreach and dialogue-encouraging uses, blogs serve a number of purposes: increase your search engine optimization, improve credibility and improve transparency, to name just a few.
- Do you use email marketing to drive traffic back to your website? When you get your supporters in the habit of visiting your site often, it will deepen the connection they feel with your organization. The more time they're spending on your website, the greater number of times they'll see your call to donate and all that dynamic content you're posting.
- Can people find your website in search engines? That friend of a friend who's searching for your organization online may turn to his trusted search engine of choice to locate you (whether it be Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). Have you done any work to improve your "search engine optimization" (SEO)? There are some brilliant techie folks who have written entire books and training courses about this process, but never fear: A few small tweaks can go a long way. Check out the 4-part SEO series to get your SEO on the right track.
- Do your publish your URL on every communication, both online and offline? Yay - another yes-or-no question to round out the checklist! Are you plastering your URL on everything you type, print, send, email, mail, publish, etc.? Is it on the final slide of every presentation you make? Is it in your email signature? There's no such thing as putting your organization's website in "too many" places.
What's the moral of this checklist's story?
You need to have your website, email marketing and online-fundraising ducks in a row before spending time and resources on social media outreach.