Avoid Web Site Stagnation
If you worked in corporate America before you decided to help make the world a better place, you probably experienced the Internet revolution of the ’90s first-hand. If so, you probably chuckle today over the sweat you and your colleagues poured into those first basic Web sites: “Should the navigation go on the top? Left? Right? Where can I find a 13-year-old who can program this thing?”
It’s hard to imagine that early Internet powerhouses such as Amazon.com were founded as recently as 1994. Overnight, it became apparent that an online presence was essential to seem credible in the corporate sector.
As a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits, we’ve found that mission-driven organizations, by and large, have arrived at the Internet party more than fashionably late. Today, I chuckle recalling meetings during which board and staff members at mid-size and large organizations insisted, “Our donors won’t ever be online” as recently as a few years ago. Even those who built sites in the late ’90s rarely built or budgeted for something more dynamic than a static site — essentially a bare-bones online brochure — until a few years ago. Most of the small to mid-size nonprofits I’ve spoken with say they built their first Web sites sometime between 1998 and 2003.
But as I’m sure you’ve found, the Web is no longer an “I’ll get to that later” item on a nonprofit’s agenda. These days, surveys reveal that significant numbers of direct-mail respondents will visit your site before making a gift, and board members even point out typos on obscure Web pages. Even the most die-hard, abacus-using Luddites in your organization admit that more and more Americans use the Internet every day, and that your Web site may play an influential role in a donor’s or client’s relationship to your organization.
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).