One Word: Streamline
Recently, my colleagues at Big Duck and I met with Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3, a firm using video, audio and photography to help nonprofits create deeper relationships.
“The Web is a dynamic place,” he told us, “but many organizations still build sites as if they were brochures.”
He went on to describe a future in which video and audio — not static HTML — will be the primary content on nonprofit Web sites. With politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announcing their presidential candidacies in online videos, I think Michael might be on to something.
The Web site I’m looking at this month is interested in leveraging media, too. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF.net) uses media aggressively to engage visitors on its home page. Clips featuring former President Jimmy Carter and a segment from “NBC Nightly News” are featured prominently above the fold, along with a quote by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (R.-Calif.), excerpts from several prominent newspapers, and some very grim photographs of sick and injured kids helped by the organization.
Visitors to the site can read more than a dozen program-related news stories, sponsor runners for a fundraiser and buy DVDs from the home page, too.
While it’s great that the organization has video, it might be presented better. Right now, the video opens up in a blank page using QuickTime, but free programs such as VideoEgg can, for instance, embed the video presentation within the content of the site, instead. Using a program like VideoEgg would make it easy for others to copy the HTML needed to stream PCRF’s videos from their sites or blogs. PCRF also could get more mileage out of its videos by posting them on distribution networks such as YouTube and DoGooderTV. (I noticed only two PCRF videos on YouTube.)
More is less?
My high-school art teacher used to proclaim, “less is more.” The folks at PCRF seem to have the opposite philosophy. They’ve invested in posting content (a whole lot of content), rather than creating information architecture or design that’s user-driven. There are 17 (yep — 17!) items in the main navigation structure on the home page, of which about half are program-specific. Content that typically would go in an About Us area for most organizations is broken out in detail here. The Child Sponsorship Program area of the site might receive more traffic (and, probably, more donations) if it were renamed, “Children you can help today.” Similarly, a less acronym-y Web address might help, too.
PCRF could do a better job of tooting its own horn and demonstrating its credibility, which might attract more donors online. For example, a quick search of PCRF in the blogosphere finds that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is awarding the organization its Compassion in Service Award. Also, according to PCRF’s page in Wikipedia (the second search result for the organization on Google and Yahoo!), PCRF counts former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Richard Gere and Hunter “Patch” Adams among its supporters and has received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator the past few years.
Key to generating more support (and donations) for any organization these days is a solid e-mail-accessible audience that receives good care and feeding (i.e., regular, compelling, valuable content). PCRF might have an e-mail or newsletter list, but I couldn’t easily find it or sign up.
The organization has some useful fundraising tools that are most accessible from the home page, like a PDF of its annual report and a statement about its financial value. As I move around, only the Donate Now link at the very bottom of the page remains one click away. How about a nice button at the top of every page, instead?
Online donations are securely processed through PayPal, or CashU (PayPal’s equivalent in the Middle East). Donors also can make a wire transfer or a sign up for a monthly debit. While the choices are nicely varied, they all are presented in a fairly unsophisticated way.
In fact, if there was only one word of advice I could give PCRF, it would be “streamline.”
With its credible third-party endorsements and impressive programmatic work, PCRF likely would see a jump in online and offline support if it relaunched its site with more focused, professional information arch-
itecture and design.
Sarah Durham is founder and principal of Big Duck. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.