AIDS Organization’s Site Lacks Passion, Power
For those of you who don’t live in New York City (or haven’t seen a Broadway show recently), Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has a reputation in town for living up to its tagline as “the nation’s leading industry based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization.”
According to the 2006 annual report on the organization’s Web site, BC/EFA’s annual income was just less than $15 million. So our expectations were pretty high as we set out to critique this particular site.
If we had to bet our paychecks, we’d say it was built (and maintained) with one objective: to offer lots of actionable giving choices at the lowest cost to the org-anization. The site’s main navigation options emphasize online donation/action areas (such as event ticketing, auctions and store) with a bit of programmatic content (about BC/EFA, volunteering, etc.). Powering all of this is a hodgepodge of back-end software tools, such as Yahoo! for the store, Convio for donation processing and PatronMail for e-mail. Clicking on some of these links generates entirely new areas in the main navigation, forms that seem unrelated to the site’s overall look and feel, and other surprises that can make it hard to get around or even get back to the homepage (in some cases, you end up leaving the site altogether).
Some of these tools work nicely (especially PatronMail, an e-mail marketing system that specializes in commun-icating with arts and culture constituents), but the mix of them makes the site feel fragmented and unsophisticated. Consolidating into one fully robust content management/constituent relationship system would make life easier and more seamless over at BC/EFA, and create a more reassuring exper-ience for the visitor.
Easier navigation, please
The options for visitors are varied, but what’s lacking is an audience-centric approach to help them find the right content. For example, why not create a section of the site for theater fans and put all the events and related content there? Another section might focus on content for grant-seekers, and another might focus on the organization itself. By structuring it in broader, more audience-oriented terms, the site would feel more streamlined and help people find what they’re looking for faster.
When BC/EFA is ready to redesign its site (an exercise many nonprofits are undertaking every three years or so due to the rapid changes in technology), it should start by asking, “Who are our target audiences, and what do they want from us?” rather than, “What do we want from them?”
For an organization with a strong, highly visible logo, this site’s design drops the ball. Black and red are the dominant colors, which makes it feel heavy and, oddly, somewhat reminiscent of an “adult” Web site. Copy on the homepage is topical, which is great, but the type is too small and varies between all caps, and upper and lower case, which makes it feel hastily executed at best. The homepage is dominated by a large image that rotates, displaying items such as signage with its logo or a snow globe you can buy, rather than images of, say, grantees or meaningful programs in action.
Perhaps the best part of this site is its online annual report, which saved the organization more than $40,000 in design, printing and production costs, according to a staff person we spoke with. Accessible from the home-page, this report is built in straightforward HTML (financials are PDF) and provides all the usual content in a very no-nonsense style. In the future, BC/EFA could enhance this offering by integrating videos and/or audio to better tell the organization’s story and bring its work to life.
There are a few other nice features on the homepage, like the corporate sponsors’ logos at the bottom and clear, actionable buttons at the top, through which we can donate, join the e-mail list, get tickets or shop in the store.
We also did a little snooping around some of the more popular social-networking sites and were pleased to see how popular BC/EFA is on Facebook. The organization’s group boasts more than 6,000 members and has active discussion postings, auction items, pictures and event listings. As Facebook increases its own nonprofit-friendliness with applications like Causes, ChipIn and Change.org, BC/EFA could further engage its Facebook community to take action for the organization (including making a donation).
As an organization with star power, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS should consider leveraging its celebrity connections to put stories and testimonials online (through callouts and, ideally, video). But most of all, what’s missing from this site are some obvious “warm fuzzies.” After all, an emotional connection to the cause is why we — the site’s visitors and would-be donors — will care to support it. This can be achieved through stories that remind us of the importance of fighting AIDS and connect us to this organization in a way that is as inspired and creative as its mission. FS