The majority of nonprofits have an organizational website, and many have had the same website for years. One of the primary problems with outdated websites is that they were built before the new Web 2.0 standards became commonplace. Older websites have a look and feel of a book, with a menu to choose a page in a certain category. There is little viewer interactivity and generally these sites do nothing more than display an organization’s mission, history, board and staff, although these are still important features to show potential funders. In attempts to catch up with current e-commerce trends, some sites will contain donation buttons to entice viewers to donate to the organization’s cause. Others will have an e-newsletter signup form to begin the process of communicating with potential new members or donors, and gathering a database of email addresses.
Web 2.0 standards became commonplace in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specification, but rather to cumulative changes in the ways software developers and end-users engage. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them.
Nonprofits in 2011 have limited funds and overtaxed staff, which puts constraints on plans to upgrade older websites to Web 2.0, or to make even slight additions which could greatly enhance fundraising capabilities. However, with the recent wave of “off the shelf” open-source software solutions, a current Web 2.0 presentation can be achieved at an average of 500% less than ten years ago, and also be easily manageable by current staff, as opposed to requiring a webmaster to make every small change in content. Content Management System (CMS) website software which is affordable and robust includes WordPress, Joomla, Mambo and Magento and others. All are database driven and content can be changed through an administration panel easily by staff after initial training. Pre-designed templates for these software products, that already incorporate Web 2.0 standards for user interaction, can be purchased and installed cheaply, whereupon issues like menu bar order, placement of content and visuals can be easily manipulated for optimal promotional impact with users.
Website design overall should follow five essential rules:
- Branding – should communicate the identity and personality of the organization.
- Mission – should educate visitors about the nonprofit’s charity and mission.
- Explain – layout should clearly direct visitors to donate or purchase through a catalog.
- Presentation – clearly display services offered, how donations will be used.
Essentials – customer service, hours of operation, contact information, newsletter signups.
More in our next entry…