Dusting Off Your Online Clutter
I've been hanging around nonprofit websites quite a bit lately. After all, the dog days of summer are a perfect time to make sure your online presence is shiny and ready for the fall and holiday fundraising season.
It's usually easy to spot updates and changes needed on the homepage since that's what we see first, but of course, that's just the start. So, here's a to-do list for the next four weeks so you head into the post-Labor Day season with your online "face" gleaming like new.
Week 1: Check out the links
Click on every link, both those that take site visitors from one page to another on your website, as well as any that link to other sites. Are any no longer working? Are the ones linked to external sites opening in a new window, not taking people off your website (perhaps never to return)?
Also, look to see if where you are directing people is still current. Sending people to learn about an event that happened a year ago is not helpful, unless it's a photo review or something similar. Make sure all your links are moving site visitors into a deeper relationship with your organization, not leading them into territory best left uncharted.
Week 2: Look at all the photos
Are the photos on your website the very best you have? Are people in them making eye contact as much as possible, and are they cropped properly so they tell a clear story?
Throughout your website, look for places to add photos (when needed) or to update with more current images. Photos can be very memorable, so freshening them up is a small change that can make your website more compelling to repeat visitors.
Week 3: Read the copy
One of the hardest things for many copywriters (in my opinion) is proofreading their own copy. We see what we believe is there — and sometimes that's not what really is on the page. But even if you did all the website writing yourself, enough time has probably lapsed that you will pick up the small typos that spellcheck missed.
In addition to looking for typos, check for factual information that is out-of-date. "We are going to" may need to be changed to "We did." "For five years" may now be six years. Freshen up the details, and when possible write copy so it won't be out-of-date in a few weeks or months.
Week 4: Dissect 'Donate Now'
Go ahead — make an online donation just like you are hoping hundreds … thousands … will do in the next few months. Is it an easy process? Was it quick to get from "Donate Now" to actually giving the gift? If not, now is the time to look into streamlining the process.
Is information on the donation form asked for in a way that seems logical? If you have fixed giving amounts listed, are you showing what that amount can do? Is the online acknowledgment warm and oozing with gratitude, or does it read like an IRS document?
Yes, there's so much more you can — and probably should — do to be sure your website is "holiday-ready." But it's August, so you deserve a break. Try to fit these four things in, and you'll have a head start before the post-Labor Day marathon that leads up to the end-of-year sprint.
But here's one more bit of advice from this old dog — take some time to relax, too. That can be the best preparation for the busy weeks ahead.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.