Turning Your 2009 Online Resolutions Into Action
It’s March of 2009 — certainly you haven’t forgotten about your New Year’s resolution already, have you?
Whether it’s exercising, spending more time volunteering or some other personal goal, the first 100 days are critical to your success. You must engage and take action if you desire any level of accomplishment.
The same applies to your organization and the online resolutions you might have set entering the year. If you haven’t taken action to put your ideas and new online concepts into motion just yet, now would be a good time to revisit your organization’s resolutions for 2009. After polling hundreds of nonprofits at the start of the year, we at Convio found that nonprofits have honed in on four main areas that they want to better address online in 2009. Here are some important points to consider as you begin taking action to tackle each of these resolutions.
Resolution No. 1: Make our Web site easier to use and more informative.
The first question you should ask before refreshing your Web site is “What am I trying to achieve?” Do you understand what audience you’re trying to reach? Do you know what you want online visitors to do once you reach them? Online marketing is about connecting with individuals and building strong, lasting relationships with them. By defining your goals first, your organization will be much better positioned to maximize the impact of a newly designed Web site.
Keep in mind that the expectations of constituents have changed in recent years in terms of the online experience they expect with your organization. Their online standards are set by today’s more comprehensive and dynamic sites such as Amazon.com or iTunes. Some simple steps for creating a Web site that is easier to navigate and provides a beneficial user experience include:
- Thinking like a Web site visitor and organizing content according to how and where one would expect to find information;
- Cutting the clutter and providing simple pathways for users to find information;
- Providing clear calls to action;
- Allowing for engagement with supporters, such as taking surveys to create feedback loops or allowing visitors to submit comments on a blog;
- Paying special attention to video, which is quickly becoming the easiest way to communicate short messages; and
- Tailoring content to specific audiences you are trying to reach.
Resolution No. 2: Focus more intently on our supporters and their needs.
Almost all nonprofits understand that constituents do matter. What matters even more, however, is ensuring that your organization understands its constituency at both a macro level and at an individual level.
The best way to start is by asking for input and then listening. Your nonprofit might want to start a constituent advisory panel to solicit feedback, or you can easily seek input through newsletters produced by your organization. Social listening tools such as Google Alerts, Technorati or Tweet Scan also provide a way to better monitor and respond to anything being said about your organization across the Web.
You then should focus on identifying key supporters and interacting with them at an individual level. One way to do this is by creating more detailed user profiles that ultimately will help your group target and segment communications more appropriately. Advanced profiles enable you to better tailor content based on individuals’ preferences and can help your organization significantly increase response rates.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for instance, managed to double its online response rates by communicating to “dog parents” specifically with dog-related messages, while targeting “cat parents” with only cat-related messages. Every organization has its own dog vs. cat analogy.
Resolution No. 3: Empower supporters to help tell our story, raise funds and reach new people.
Your supporters can be your organization’s best evangelists, but first you must equip them with the right online peer-to-peer tools to unleash their true potential. Such applications enable constituents to easily create Web sites and e-mail campaigns through your system, then reach out to and engage their own networks to connect new individuals with your organization.
There are several peer-to-peer solutions available for your organization to utilize. These online tools can enable your donors and supporters to:
- Organize and host small, local events such as hikes, protests, dinners, etc.;
- Create personal fundraising pages for events and send donation appeals to peers;
- Easily create tribute Web sites in memory or honor of a friend or loved one; and
- Post information about your organization wherever they can publish HTML content.
Resolution No. 4: Use social and participatory media to expand our reach.
This resolution is tied closely to No. 3 above since one of the main benefits of social-media tools is to empower supporters to take action and influence others on your organization’s behalf.
Without a doubt, the vast social-media universe can seem overwhelming; a multitude of Web 2.0 tools exists that your organization could potentially use. But don’t let that deter you from beginning to experiment with social-media tools so that you can deliver a new level of value to constituents and your organization. Leveraging social-media technologies such as Facebook or Twitter can help your organization to increase awareness, encourage donations, strengthen community involvement, obtain feedback on how your nonprofit is performing, and extend your organization’s reach into new circles of potential supporters.
Don’t try to do everything at once when it comes to social media. The point is that you should at least try something. What’s most important is that your use of any new social-media tool should align with a larger organizational goal. Which brings us back to our first point in resolution No. 1 — always know what your goal is before trying to launch any kind of new online strategy or program.
In summary, if you haven’t already begun, now is definitely the time to get started on implementing your organization’s 2009 online resolutions. By taking action now to incorporate new approaches to online marketing, your organization stands to reap the benefits well before and well beyond the end of the calendar year.
Blake Groves is an online evangelist for Convio, provider of on-demand constituent relationship management software and services for nonprofit organizations.