Website Ideas for Non-Profit Organizations

We love it when clients take the pro-active approach and want to increase the use of their websites. After all, this is what a website should be – always informative, always useful! As a website is always evolving, it is always fruitful to meet clients once in a while to discuss ways to improve a website.

Last night, we met with Dr Vejay and Dr Patrick, both committee members of PMPS (Penang Private Medical Practitioners’ Society) after work as they wanted to brainstorm and discuss ideas for their website. The PMPS is Malaysia’s oldest medical society as it was founded in 1932!

Besides commercial or business websites, we also service non-profit organisations and societies such as PMPS, Penang Bar Committee, Penang Diocese and Kedah Perlis Bar Committee (as well as sponsor non-profit charity organisations such as Habitat for Humanity, Kuching chapter, Malaysian Mensa Penang chapter, Green Crusaders and by the end of this year, as a website lead and sponsor for the Pixel Project which aims to raise funds for Women’s Aid Organisation). Web sponsorship – partial or full – is part of our Redbox Community Programme where we give back to the community by using the expertise and skills that we have.

What’s interesting is this – no matter if you’re in business or doing charitable work, your website needs to serve the interests and needs of your target audience. Most people think that charities don’t need to push themselves as hard as businesses.

Wrong.

Charities and non-profit organisations need to do even more because you are essentially fighting for eyeballs (a.k.a attention) and money (you want them to contribute to your cause).

How do you continually keep your donors interested with open cheque books?

How do you get your society members to know more about what’s happening in the group?

How do you get them to visit the website to be informed?

What’s the pull factor?

What makes one group a success and another a failure?

What are the limitations of a non-profit organisation?

Which areas of the website do you open to the public and which do you allow members-only access?

What is important for your group?

Why do you even have a website for the society/group?

What information is crucial for members so they won’t be left out?

What is prohibited by the group or their professional body? (This applies to medical professionals and the legal profession especially in Malaysia where blatant advertising is strictly prohibited.)

All these questions make it challenging and tricky when you run a website for societies and non-profit organisations.

Based on our experience, each non-profit client is unique in their needs and wants. But there are similiarities too between a non-commercial group and a business entity.

Ideas for Your Non-Profit Website

If you are running a non-profit organisation or a charity home website, here are some ideas for you:

1. Define your goals clearly for the website.

If you are raising money for a special cause, this will be your main goal. So your website should be geared toward getting people to know about your cause and getting them to donate. Can you have more than 1 goal for your website? Of course. But those goals come as secondary goals. Besides raising money for your event, you would like people to learn more about domestic violence. So information and links would help. Or say you want to have a helpline for victims of domestic violence, you can also put this on the website. Defining your main goal and secondary goal(s) help you create a better website for your target audience. You know what you are after and you know what you need to make those goals happen.

2. Decide which areas are accessible.

Unless your group or society has no hard and fast rules about who can access what information, you may need to decide which parts of the website will be private (only members can access) and public (open to everyone who surfs by). Why is this important, you may ask? As members pay their dues, there are certain privileges and benefits which should be accorded to members only. For instance, certain sections of your forum could be open to the public but most sections should be members-only access. Exclusivity always works in attracting more members!

3. Show and tell well.

Sure you want people to support your cause. Sure you want people to be generous and whip out their wallets and donate precious money to your organisation. But how can they do that if they don’t know nuts about what you do and what you intend to do with the money? So we always say, show and tell. Show and tell sounds simple but it involves a lot of brainwork. What can you tell? What information should your sympathetic, generous donors know about your work and cause? As everyone seems to have a charitable cause around some corner, how different are you from the rest of them?

I remembered getting a flyer from a local hospital recently – it asked me to make a donation to their heart patients fund, most of whom are children with heart conditions. It showed a photo of a sweet baby-faced girl of no more than seven. I didn’t know if she was a real person or just a model for the flyer. (Later I was told that she was a fortunate recipient of the heart patients’ fund). I suggested to the hospital people that it would make me pay more attention if the content of the flyer explained that this girl was a real patient, how she might have died if no one donated to the fund for her surgery and what her story was! Real stories tug heart-strings and I would like mine tugged if I were to make a donation!

Habitat for Humanity (Kuching chapter) does it really well. They chronicle the homes they’ve built for the poor with a fantastic background of each home recipient. This not only gives volunteers and donors who help build the home a deep sense of satisfaction and immense pride but it also gives potential donors and potential volunteers a sense of the exact meaningful contribution – seeing a physical house take shape, seeing how grateful the families are and how exciting it is to help someone in dire need.

So think about the society or organisation that you belong to. How can you help improve your online presence a.k.a the society website? What else can you do to help make it vibrant, bring focus to your cause and increase your reach? And if you have a successful website, please share your experience.

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