I firmly believe your website is the most important communication tool in your toolbox. Why? Because it is often the first thing donors, the community, your clients, and volunteers see before even meeting you. As a millennial, the first thing I do before getting involved with a non-profit is to Google them. If I can’t find you in the search or your website looks out-of-date or I can’t find the information I’m looking for, I move on. Occasionally, I will donate to a cause at an event, but that’s pretty rare.
Despite the importance of having a easy-to-use, informative website, many non-profits do not invest in a high-quality (or even medium-quality) site that achieves your goals. This is partially because there are many myths about websites. Here are just a few:
I can just make a simple website and never touch it again.
It’s surprising to me how many non-profit websites look like they haven’t been updated in months. We all know how little time everyone has and often times, it’s unclear who is even “in-charge” of the website. However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t just create a site and never look at it again. Without new content, you will lose rankings in Google’s search engine – this means that if someone is looking you up, depending on how they search, you may not be the top result. Also, if your website is not regularly updated, it may turn away new donors, volunteers, and clients who think that you’re inactive or don’t need help.
Websites are overhead so I won’t find funding to update it.
For many reasons, websites do qualify as overhead, though overhead is not a bad thing. However, just as with any other marketing or programming expense, you can find ways to show donors that the website is essential to your work. Event-driven organizations need a robust website for event registrations and communicating event details. Other organizations use their websites for programming. For example, museums display digital collections for direct interaction with objects and art. Look for a reason you might need special funding for your website. Are you an emergency relief organization? Perhaps you could share tips on how to prepare for an emergency – this serves a dual-purpose of providing useful content and helping people before they require your services.
Websites are expensive! We can’t afford a professional.
Many non-profits operate on a very limited budget, so I understand this concern. Yes, some websites can cost upwards of $10,000, but a simple, modern website can be less than $1,000 if you don’t have a lot of content. The key in thinking about the expense of a site is to consider the return on investment. If your current site isn’t bringing in donations or fulfilling your goals as an organization, consider how much you could invest now that would eventually provide enough funds or impact to make that initial cost worthwhile.
These are only three myths about non-profit websites, but I’m sure there are more. What else is holding you back from updating (or creating!) a website for your non-profit?