Weave Your Web Wisely
Weave Your Web Wisely
FS Advisor: Oct. 11, 2005
By Sarah Durham and Ali Kiselis
Who knew the success of a nonprofit and that of a spider hang on a common thread? A spider’s life, much like a nonprofit’s campaign, relies heavily on the strength of their Web and how well it integrates into their environment. An intricate Web design takes careful planning and resources, but it can pay off time after time as an effective means to attract and retain visitors. And while we don’t want to spin this comparison too far, our eight-legged friends raise an important fundraising reminder: When you wisely weave your organization’s Web site into a campaign, there’s a better chance of making donors stick.
The range of content provided by a nonprofit’s Web site makes it an effective cultivation and stewardship tool. It must be dynamic, have depth and, most importantly, open up two-way communication with the visitor. When people use the site to get or share information, they’re much more likely to respond to an annual or other appeal. But how do you get them there in the first place?
Tip: Tickle Them
Like a spider’s highly structured web, campaigns are strongest when they integrate all of the resources at your organization’s disposal. Many organizations call it “channel integration” when print, Web and spoken communications support each other. For instance, e-mail is a great “tickler.” Before a campaign’s official kick-off, an e-mail from your executive director or a board member that is concise, articulate and on-message can be a great way to create campaign momentum and steer people to your Web site or get them to take a second look at your direct-mail appeal.
Middletown, Ohio-based Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization that works to improve the quality of life and long-term outlook for individuals affected by Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophy, is a great example of an organization that maintains two-way communication with its constituents by wisely weaving its Web into an integrated annual fundraising, advocacy and programs campaigns.
PPMD’s 2005 campaign, 365 Days of Willing, invites constituents to participate in monthly “I WILL” activities. Because PPMD incorporates the “I WILL” theme into direct mail, its annual conference and more, the campaign is in everything its donors touch. Visit www.parentprojectmd.org to see 365 Days of Willing in action.
For PPMD, the Web becomes a terrific advocacy center as well as a place for people to make donations. Its site features a blog written by the executive director and a message board with a variety of topic threads. PPMD’s site captures a wealth of information critical to building constituent profiles and measuring campaign results.
Tip: Track Your Traffic
Many organizations track basic monthly Web traffic, but could you do more with that data? Put your next campaign to the test and track how people are getting to your site. For example, if you send out an e-mail tickler, provide people with a direct link, such as www.yourorganization.org/campaign, to see if people pay enough attention to use that link or simply go to your home page and navigate their way through the site.
Sticky site, stickier donors
Once donors and prospects make it to your Web site, take advantage of the opportunity to capture information about them. For instance, visitor number 5,334 might go to your Web site because he saw your URL on your annual appeal letter. His original plan is to make a donation and leave, but he stays for a while because your Web site is so dynamic and engaging. He signs up for your newsletter, or he hops onto your message board to check out the topics. He takes a quick online survey or registers for a contest. Or maybe he even buys something from your online store. This is when visitor number 5,334 becomes Mr. James Smith: age 50, with two kids, living in Massachusetts and an active volunteer with a local social service agency.
Today’s campaigns must follow the lead of the spider. Weaving a tight Web is critical to their success. When nonprofits do the same and weave Web access into other campaign-related materials, there’s a better chance of making donors stick.
Sarah Durham is principal and founder of Big Duck Studio, a NYC-based communications firm that exclusively works with nonprofits. Ali Kiselis is public relations manager. Both are frequent contributors to FS Advisor and can be reached at email@example.com.