"If you build it, they will come" does not apply to Web sites. How will
you get people to visit your marvelous online information if they don't
know about it?
One simple way to drive people to your site that too many organizations
don't do: as noted elsewhere, the full
name of your organization needs to be on your home page and on your
"about us" page, even if the name of your organization is incorporated
in your logo. The full name of your agency should appear somewhere
on your home page, as text, so that your web site can be found by search
engines, and therefore shows up when someone uses a search engine to
find your organization.
Your location and keywords are also important to have, as text, on your
home page and your "about us" page. For instance, if you are an animal
shelter in Forest Grove, Oregon, or Washington County, Oregon, you want
people looking for an animal shelter in that city or county in Oregon to
be able to find you, via a search engine such as Google. But they can't
if you don't have these words on at least your home page and "about us"
page: Forest Grove, Washington County, Oregon, animal,
shelter, dogs, cats, strays, adoption,
Ensuring that you have your organization's full name, the acronym your
organization uses, and appropriate keywords on your web site helps with
search engine optimization (SEO). Updating content frequently also helps
with SEO, because it keeps search engines crawling back. Adding relevant
keywords to a web page's title
tag and meta description, will also improve SEO.
In addition, you need an ongoing, integrated approach to market your
web site and get more visitors: promoting the web site at a nonprofit
organization, NGO, school or other mission-based organization is everyone's
task, from the person who answers the phone to the executive director.
The more valuable your web site is for your organization's donors,
volunteers, other supporters, potential supporters, clients and the
general public, the more effective your marketing efforts will be.
Also, you don't just want new visitors; you want RETURN visitors.
In reading this advice, notice that the most effective marketing
strategies for your web site actually don't have as much to spending
money as they do with a mindset that must permeate your organization
-- every staff member must feel ownership in the web site and see
exactly how it serves not only the entire organization, but his or her
department or division of work in particular.
People find a web site for a nonprofit organization for a variety of
- a reference to the organization in a news article, in print or
- a reference to the organization in an email
- a reference to the organization in an online discussion
- a reference and link to the organization on another web site,
including an online social network
like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
- pre-existing knowledge that the organization has information or a
service they need (they visit the web site expecting to read about
such in complete detail)
- from using certain keywords in a search engine relating to the
mission statement, services, or name of the organization.
Offline marketing of your web site is JUST AS IMPORTANT as online
marketing of your site:
- Add your web site address to all literature and publications
(business cards, letter head, newsletters, fax cover sheets, etc.)
right next to your organization's "snail mail" address and phone
- Announce major changes to your site (such as the addition of a
directory of services, an essay from an executive director, etc.),
in your printed newsletter. Your goal is to have something in every
newsletter that highlights additions or a resource on your Web site.
- Make sure everyone who answers your organization's main phone
line and email address, and everyone who deals with the public in
any way, shape or form, as well as your Executive Director,
marketing staff, fund raising staff and volunteer manager (and at a
mission-based organization, this is often all the same person) knows
how to say the web site address, and knows what information is
available via the Web site. It is particularly hurtful to an
organization if all staff cannot do this and, instead, stumble over
the URL of the site, or can't describe what's on the site.
- Add the web site address to your organization's main voice mail
- If you write an article for a publication, ask that your
organization's web site address appears with your name or bio at the
beginning or end of the article.
- When talking to the press, remember to mention your web site
- Add your web site address within the text of all press releases.
For instance, on a press release announcing a new publication, add a
paragraph that says (if applicable) "This new publication can be
accessed via our Web site at... "
- Your web site address needs to be on all t-shirts, posters,
buttons and other items given to the public. Make the address LARGE
and easy-to-read from a distance! (I cannot believe how many
nonprofit event t-shirts DON'T do this!)
- Put the web site address on all signs for the organization: the
sign in front of the building where you are houses, the banner at
trade show, etc.
More than half of a charity's ranking on Web search engines is based
on links outside the organization's site, according Eric Werner, an
interactive marketing specialist at Northridge Interactive, speaking
at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference, who noted, "Search
engines treat those links like votes." In addition, 22 percent of a
web page's ranking on search engines like Google
and Bing is based on the words in
the hyperlink on both the group's own site and others. These two facts
are as true now as they were when they were made. Therefore:
Monitor, if you can (via tracking software, online questionnaires,
etc.), the number and type of people visiting your site, what pages they
are visiting most (other than the home page), what days of the week or
month most people are visiting, what they find most valuable, etc. This
can help you see how successful your marketing efforts are, and where
adjustments need to be made.
- Make sure the full name of your organization appears in the TEXT
of your web site, not just within a graphics file, and not just on
your "about us" page. This greatly improves your organization's
search engine optimization, increasing the possibility of your site
being found when someone types your organization's name into a
- Make sure the keywords and phrases you want people to use to find
your web site via a search engine appear often in the TEXT of your
web site, not just within a graphics file. Again, this greatly
improves your organization's search engine optimization, increasing
the possibility of your site being found when someone types your
organization's name into a search engine.
- Search for organizations on the web that are similar to yours,
and see what web sites link to them. Send an email to the web
masters of these sites that you think should link to your
organization as well, and request what specific page(s) of theirs
you would like to be linked from. The more sites that link to your
web site, the greater your ranking on sites like Google.
Keep your requests appropriate: if you find a web page that
links to services in a specific geographic area for parents, for
instance, don't ask for a link from that page unless your
organization provides services in that specific geographic area
for parents! Also, do NOT ask for link exchanges; that
puts you into the position of linking to any organization that
links to you, and perhaps you don't want to link to just any
organization. Instead, in your request for a link, explain
why it would be appropriate to link to your site, based on
to whom the site links to already. If you are going to link to
their web site as well, do not make such a link conditional on
their linking to you, and create the link before you ask
for such yourself.
- List your URL address in every email signature on every email
your staff sends, and require staff to post the web site address
within any post they make to any online fora.
- On any post on Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter or any other social
media platform, always link to the appropriate page on your web site
that relates to the content you are posting. Postings on GooglePlus
will include your Google search engine optimization.
- Announce the web site on appropriate online discussion
groups (however, please remember your netiquette and don't announce
it on online discussion groups that in no way relate to your
organization). Any search engine can help you find appropriate
online discussion groups.
- Encourage your staff to
regularly participate in relevant online discussion groups to
offer relevant answers to queries; this activity will build a
reputation for your organization and its Web site as a valuable
resource. Don't just post announcements about yourself and your
organization; be a member of the online community and help others
out. It will greatly increase your organization's reputation and
visibility -- and, if you include your web address in every post you
make, will drive more traffic to your site. More
advice here about online communities.
- Ask your volunteers to link to your web site via their own
personal web sites and profiles on Online
Social Networking sites like LinkedIn
or Facebook (with some cautions to
keep in mind).
- When you've made a major change or addition to your site
(a homeless shelter adds all of the data of its printed service
directory to its Web site, for instance), send out a press release
and post on appropriate groups and lists. You may even want
to do a special mailing to your clientele, if they will find the
information particularly valuable.
Keep Visitors Coming Back
Don't just market to new visitors; market to return visitors as
well! There are a number of ways to do this:
The key to successful Internet marketing is to accept that it is a
never-ending, integrated process. New web sites and online discussion
groups emerge and disappear regularly. You need to track with regular
searches new sites with whom to link and new lists on which to announce
your organization and its service. To market efficiently and effectively
online your entire staff has to immerse itself, at least to some degree,
in using the Internet regularly as part of their work.
- Update your web site at least once a month!
- Make sure ALL departments are using the web site to communicate.
Not just the marketing staff but, also, your volunteer manager,
anyone who works with clients, your fund-raising staff, etc.
- Have a place on the home page for announcements, upcoming events,
links to blog updates, etc., so that a visitor to the home page can
immediately see what's new.
- Create a subscription-based email
newsletter to promote updates to your web site.
Other marketing resources:
Other resources from other web sites:
- Promoting Your Nonprofit
Advice that goes well beyond just Web sites -- it talks about email,
online communities, podcasts, webcasts, and more.
- Don't Just Ask for Money!
Something much more should happen if someone clicks on your web
site's "Help Us" link than a message that asks only for money.
- Mission-Based Groups Need
Use the Web to Show Accountability
There has never been a better time for mission-based organizations
to use technology to show their transparency and credibility, and to
teach the media and general public about the resources needed to
address critical human and environmental needs.
- Handling Online Criticism
Online criticism of a nonprofit organization, even by its own
supporters, is inevitable. How a nonprofit organization handles
online criticism speaks volumes about that organization, for weeks,
months, and maybe even years to come. There's no way to avoid it,
but there are ways to address criticism that can help an
organization to be perceived as even more trustworthy and worth
- Is Your Staff "Walking the
Talk" Re: Your Organization's Online Activities?
Mission-based organizations use the Internet in all sorts of ways to
interact with the public, or with staff and volunteers abroad: for
instance, online discussion groups, an intranet where staff and
volunteers can share profiles about themselves and updates about
their work with each other, or an online service that is promoted as
central to the organization's mission and identity. But is your
staff showing leadership in using these online tools? If your
organization is to use technology successfully, all staff must
embrace it. Here are tips on how to encourage that.
- Online culture and online
This section of my site provides many ideas and resources on how to
work with others online, in language that's easy to understand for
those considering or just getting started in using online
technologies with volunteers, donors and other supporters.
- What are good blog topics
for mission-based organizations?
The word "blog" is short for "web log", and means keeping a journal
or diary online. Blogging is NOT a new concept -- people have been
doing it long before it had a snazzy media label. The appeal of
blogging for an online audience is that it's more personal and less
formal than other information on a web site. Readers who want to
connect with an organization on a more personal level, or who are
more intensely interested in an organization than the perhaps
general public as a whole, love blogs. Blogs can come from your
Executive Director, other staff members, volunteers, and even those
you serve. Content options are many, and this list
reviews some of your options.
- For Nonprofits Considering
Their Own Podcasts:
Why It's Worth Exploring, and Content Considerations
I present my first podcast about... podcasts (transcript included).
Specifically, I talk about how podcasts can be used by nonprofits,
and just how easy it is to do.
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