“Omnes viae Romam ducunt!”

The famous expression “All roads lead to Rome” means that all paths or activities lead to the center of things. This was literally true in the days of the Roman Empire, when all the empire’s roads radiated out from the capital city. The Roman Empire’s excellent road system radiated from the capital like the spokes of a wheel. This metaphor has inspired how we look at non-profit websites within the marketing, fundraising and communications mix. Here are just a handful of questions that clients ask us all the time!

If I have a successful Facebook page, do I still need a website?

While Facebook continues to grow in leaps and bounds, an organization still needs a website to be home base for all online communications. In a well-planned strategy, your website visitors should be invited to your Facebook page and Facebook fans should point back to the website. It’s a two-way street. What’s important to remember is to not publish the same content in both places. Your website should be a more formal area for sharing information about the organization, while your Facebook page can be more casual and more personal. Casual does not mean sloppy – even Facebook needs to be designed according to your strategy.

We’ve recently updated our website. Can we now give up on print material to save money?

With so much talk about social media and the web, many organizations are considering dropping print communications altogether. However, a recent study done by Épisode Inc. shows that most donors still prefer direct mail. Online donations are increasing every day, but they haven’t yet become a viable replacement for direct mail. It’s important to consider the environment, it’s important to consider budget, but it’s also important to consider the ways in which your audience prefers to be communicated with.

Why is email marketing so important, and how does it drive traffic to my website?

According to the same study of philanthropic tendencies, after direct mail and websites, email is donors’ preferred channel for information about organizations they care about. Email communications should be carefully planned as part of the overall digital strategy, keeping in mind frequency, valuable content (updates) and incentives (compelling reasons to give or get involved). Effective emails are short and point to the website for more information. This allows the organization to track the number of clicks and better understand their audience’s interests. It is particularly helpful if the articles from the newsletter are also found on the organization’s website or blog. This provides valuable content to the website and increases the search engine ranking. Keep in mind that email marketing is not at all like direct marketing. Messages have to be tailored to the online reader, who typically wants to get more information in less time. Using compelling imagery and infographics will help sell your ideas and increase engagement.

A website is a big investment. How do we convince our Board of Directors that it’s worth the money and how do we measure our return on investment?

As with any investment, getting board approval for a website or website makeover involves proper documentation and argumentation. It should be taken as seriously as the other investments the organization is looking to make. Donors and stakeholders are increasingly judging organizations solely by the quality and content of their websites. Therefore, return on investment is not only measured by how many online donations are received, but depends on what the organization’s objectives were in the first place. Depending on your objectives, there are many ways to measure the return on investment: click through rates will be more relevant for an organization trying to raise awareness, while donation statistics are more useful for comparing revenue streams between online and offline sources.

How long does it take to build a website?

Websites can take anywhere from under six weeks to over six months to build. Much depends on the functionality required, how much content is provided by the organization and how quickly they provide feedback throughout the development phase.  This infographic illustrates just how much work goes into building a website. If any steps are overlooked or rushed, results will suffer. It’s equally important to recognize that the client and developer have equal parts to play in the development of the website. An organization cannot simply hire someone to build their site and say “Call me when it’s done.”

A-Website-Designed-Infographic-English

How does social media tie back to my website, and vice-versa?

Non-profit organizations are realizing the importance of being on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin but fear how much time needs to be invested in order to get results. We recommend taking a look at your current activities that are not yielding enough positive results, and reallocating some that time to social media initiatives. If you don’t, your competition will get there first and you’ll have to fight even harder for attention. Most people still don’t give directly through social media, but it will drive traffic back to your site. Your social media strategy should be designed to attract attention, build loyalty and drive online donations, sign up volunteers, and/or increase sponsorship, depending on your goals. Social media is not about ROI (return on investment), it’s about ROE (return on effort).

What’s in store for 2014?

  • It’s not about you: It’s about your audience. Take a step back and ask yourself what would you want to see on your website if you didn’t have intimate knowledge about the organization already. Far too many non-profits publish information that is of little interest to their target audience. Do surveys; hire a professional communications team to help direct your message; the content is King!
  • Simplicity: clean grids, with the user experience in mind at all times.
  • Responsive design: sites that load nicely on tablets and mobile devices.
  • Long scroll: Long scroll pages allow users to scan your content quickly for the piece of information they need without jumping from section to section.
  • Less stock photos: photos are a trust indicator for users. As such, the overuse of stock photography feels like spam. Visitors get a generic feeling instead of feeling connected to your organization. Give considerable thought to how and when you use stock photos.
  • Be original: don’t copy the neighbours. Look to your own mission, vision and values and build a website that reflects those key messages.