Web Watch: Seedco
This month we’re looking at seedco.org, the Web site of Seedco, a national nonprofit that creates new and sustainable economic opportunities for low-income Americans. We anticipated a site that reflects the organization’s principles of community, progress and results. What we found was one that offers solid information about the organization itself, but lacks some of the more compelling aspects of online engagement that inspire a donor to invest.
Let’s look at Seedco’s homepage from a donor’s point of view. Sections labeled “About Seedco,” “Our Work” and “Our Partners” offer a topline view of the organization, with its main program areas (workforce development, asset building, business assistance and community finance) highlighted along the bottom. There’s a map of the United States with stars that display city locations and link to specific pages of Seedco’s local offices, a listing of recent headlines from Seedco’s media hits, and content titled “What’s New” that isn’t really (it highlights what appear to be older publications, with no real news).
Finally, on the right, we get a taste of Seedco’s personality through a smallish image of a client and a video about the organization. As first-time visitors and would-be donors, we gained a high-level overview of the organization’s work areas, locations and core publications, but very little that sparks an emotional connection. It all sounds impressive, but where are the stories about people and impact? And where’s the “Donate Now” button? It seems we’ll have to work hard to make a donation.
The 2006 Annual Report (downloadable as a PDF from the homepage) includes “Success Stories,” which offer more inspiration and personal connection. There are other stories on the site, too — if you’re willing to dig for them. Why not push this content up to the top of the homepage to make it more accessible? Perhaps using pictures or videos of the people in the communities served?
Seedco might extend the shelf life and value of important publications through a more interactive approach — a direction more and more organizations are adopting. For example, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation offers a great example of an interactive annual report. Rather than simply offering a downloadable PDF or even a Web-based version of the same content in its printed publication, the Knight Foundation takes it a few steps further. Visitors to its online annual report can:
* see stories of the organization’s impact;
* comment on the content;
* apply for support;
* examine financial information, including 990s;
* access previous reports; and
* e-mail the report to a friend.
Seedco’s relatively robust Press Room offers contact information for an actual staff person (a must if an organization wants to use its site to build relationships with members of the media), along with press releases from the past five years, success stories, bios of spokespeople, videos, photos and event information. But what if a donor wants to stay informed about newsworthy moments without coming back? How do we get on Seedco’s e-mail list? We’d like to see a “get our newsletter” button on every page, backed up by monthly, content-rich e-mails for subscribers.
Seedco offers a lot of good information throughout its Web site. To help visitors process it, the organization might consider a more Web-friendly approach to copy, such as using shorter paragraphs, headlines and subheads, and bullets. Most visitors will scan rather than read content word for word, so pushing the big ideas up to the top would help, too. (Check out Big Duck’s free podcast on this topic.)
We also found a lot of places where Seedco falls into the treacherous “jargon trap.” (See more on this topic here.) Visitors to Seedco’s site should be inspired, not confused or bored. Using industry terms might appeal to professionals and major funding institutions, but individuals connect to language that is familiar and reflective of their feelings and values.
In summary, Seedco’s Web site will be helpful for program partners, the media and other professionals. But it has yet to create a site that engages and inspires individuals — especially donors — to get involved, stay connected and take action. FS
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).