Small Nonprofit Goes Big Online
There’s been a lot of buzz in the nonprofit sector about creating dynamic Web sites that engage audiences in exciting ways. In some cases, nonprofits are encouraging user-generated content. Web 2.0 has been moving and shaking the nonprofit world lately, too.
All of this begs the question: If your organization is operating on a relatively small budget or with a small staff, how can you engage your audiences without overextending limited organizational resources?
This column will focus on an organization with a “little org that could” approach to online interaction: the Kidney Cancer Association, which according to Guidestar, had approximately $2.5 million dollars worth of revenue in 2006 and a staff of four full-time folks.
At first glance, the KCA site suggests that it’s a large organization with robust resources by virtue of the many ways you can engage online. For instance, the homepage offers “Quick Links” to KCA’s national conference, a research project survey, tools that help you start a support group or launch a fundraiser, and translations into Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese, not to mention video and podcast resources.
But as you poke around, you’ll find a series of hints that KCA really is a small organization. We were impressed with the “live chat” function that allowed us to chat online in real time with a KCA staff person almost immediately.
From what we can gather, our chat was actually with KCA’s director of development, who provided excellent, brief responses driving us to use its hotline number or visit key publications on the site — talk about access! The executive director even is listed as the webmaster.
So how does it do it?
It does that, largely, by plugging in a series of third-party software tools. If you watch the URL as you move though the site, you’ll see you’re frequently entering other secure servers and sites such as Z2Systems, Capwiz, Qualityoflifesurvey.net, kcachat.org and yellowbrickmall.com, to name just a few. If KCA has figured out how to get all of these separate software tools (and their databases) to talk with each other, it deserves a blue ribbon. If not, it’s likely constituents have to keep track of multiple passwords and profiles, and receive communications for, say, action alerts that look and feel different than they do for, say, the confirmation that they’ve registered for the conference online.
Sarah Durham is president of Big Duck, a New York City-based branding, marketing and fundraising firm for nonprofits. She serves on the boards of the National Brain Tumor Society and the New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).