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TheCommich says – enjoy!

(Non)Profiting from your Online Presence

Filipinos like asking for help, and giving it. By dint of our special relationship with Mother Nature (2 super typhoons, an earthquake and a volcanic eruption, anyone?), our woefully inept government, and our general 3rd World-ness, we find ourselves often reduced to begging.

Of course, we are not the biggest beggars in this world (Tibet, Bangladesh and the entire continent of Africa can lay claim to that dubious honor before we do). But I think the time has come for us to move beyond the chain email/group text/Facebook status message asking for donations, blood, prayers and canned goods, and into the realm of sophisticated begging – otherwise known as online fundraising.

 I’m sure most readers will know that this is not exactly the crazy Internet idea du jour – many a newlywed has enrolled in Honeyfund.com, which allows people to donate cash to a couple’s honeymoon instead of re-gifting the fondue set that they got at their wedding 30 years ago. And Barack Obama would arguably not be in his nice new house on Pennsylvania Ave. if not for the micro-donations of millions of Americans longing for Hope.

Non-profit organizations especially should embrace online giving – not just because it’s the modern thing to do at the dawn of a new decade, but because it is the best and easiest way to tap donors from outside your impoverished country. Not everyone will have the burning desire to pack a box full of clothes and pay $120 to ship it to Manila (only to land in some DSWD warehouse to moulder til such time that certain government officials see fit to dole it to their cronies… but that’s another blog post). But, with 3 clicks of a button, anyone can feel good about giving their $5, $10 or $20 to your cause. Better still, by receiving hard cash you can buy local products and employ local workers – truly spreading the wealth, as opposed to redistributing someone’s castoffs.

How does the Non-Profit start to profit for others? The first and most obvious step is to have a kick-ass website. Nobody in this age of Internet scams wants to donate money to a site that looks like it was built by a 10 year old (even if the non-profit benefits 10 year olds). A modern, polished and professional site lends instant credibility to any organization and makes people want to be a part of it.

“But how do I know if my site is modern, polished and professional?” asks the aspiring do-gooder. Herewith, thecommich outlines what makes a non-profit look gooood online:

Modern is, like, sooo not yesterday.

It seems to me that many Non Profit Org heads seem to think of “modern” as “having a website.” Newsflash, peeps: your grandchild has a website. The cafe down your street has a website. And if their sites look better than yours does, then maybe all the funding you’re not getting is going to them.

There’s a reason people bandy about the term Web 2.0 – the “2” denotes that it has moved on to a newer, better version. Today’s websites are expected to be fully interactive, allowing people to be participants rather than just readers of content.

By “interactive” I don’t mean “lets people comment on the pretty pictures” or “anyone can sign up for the newsletter.” Interactivity means that people can join your organization easily with an application they don’t need to print out. Your members can sign up for committees, volunteer for events, pay for registration, and post their own pictures of past activities online. Your donors can give online. Can your site do all that? Then read on. Can it not? Do thecommich a favor, call your favorite web programmer, set an appointment – and THEN read on.

Polished

So you bit the bullet and invested in an interactive site. What now? Now you make sure that the design is up to par.

Design people always say they have a hard time dealing with clients, because most clients don’t get the importance of design. I get that. In the same way you may not realize how important the cut of your pants is until you bend over and expose your plumber’s crack, you may gloss over your website design as being extraneous. “Hmph,” says the Non Believer, “Designers charge so much. I just want the functionality. Besides if I spend money on design, the donors might think I’m doing well and not donate.”

Would you send your son out on his first day of school with one shoe, no shirt and a skirt? Because, anyway he’s smart, and he can function with just one shoe if he hops. And that skirt covers his privates, so who needs pants?

Really?

If you’ve spent your time and effort in trying to help others, then start that charity at home and invest in a design that shows people who you are and what you believe in. Just like your poor, skirted son, what you present to the world in color, font and design will allow people to judge whether or not you are a good investment of their money.

Don’t make your website background color black if your organization is about “uplifting others.” Don’t use red on everything if your mission is to promote peace. And for the Lord’s sake, make sure the type is readable – it’s amazing how many people go for 8-pt font online even if they would be cussing to high heavens if they had to read a paper article with letters that size.

For those who don’t like “Don’ts,” here are some Do’s:

Do create a website outline before you work with the designer. A good outline means good information organization. The sooner your readers get the 411 on the good you’re doing, the sooner those fingers go to the “Donate Now” button.

When you’re done with your outline, ask several people to look it through. A flow of information that looks good to you could be complete gibberish to someone else. You’re aiming for the easiest, Lowest Common Denominator user experience here.

Do use tabs for main pages, and buttons for action items. Example of things that go on a tab: “Upcoming Events,” “Beneficiaries,” “About Us.” Example of things that go on a button: “Join Us,” “Register for this Event,” “Donate Now”

Do make use of pictures and place them liberally on all pages of your website – especially ones of successful events, fundraisers, or beneficiaries. As your addiction to Facebook denotes, nothing keeps people engaged better than seeing pictures smiling, happy people. It also shows that you are not a one-person loony org.

Professional

Professionalism lies in the details. Everyone shakes hands when meeting new people; the professional shakes firmly, looks you in the eye and smiles to boot. A website is much the same.  Did someone donate? Your site should thank them automatically via a donation message, followed by an email (this serves 2 purposes: it allows you to keep their contact info, AND it allows the user to have proof of donation for taxes). You should also have monthly updates to your email recipients on what your organization is up to. How else are they going to keep donating if you don’t give them a cause to root for?

A professional website also makes everything as easy as possible for its users. Donations should be as easy as 3 clicks:

Click 1 – The Donate Button. Make it easy for them by suggesting increments. BarackObama.com
uses increments of $5 to get donations. Don’t forget he raised almost $35 Million like that… in a single week.

Click 2 – Payment Method and Verification. Online donations usually come as credit card charges, which will require the user’s name and home address on top of the card information. You can add a field for email addresses, but don’t get all fancy and ask them how they heard about your org, what the best time to contact them is, or if they want to get your newsletter. Keep it simple.

Click 3 – Make Payment. As soon as the user presses this button, say THANK YOU. End of story.

There is a bonus 4th click if the donation is for a time-sensitive cause or something that is really on fire – and this is only for you smart people who listened to me in the beginning and got themselves an interactive site:

Click 4 – Share with your friends. Welcome to 2.0. This click should allow you to enter either email addresses or usernames of friends (if you have incorporated Facebook Connect on your site, which you totally should). They will then be directed to the page that explains the cause and (hopefully, if you’ve been listening) a nice big “Donate Now” button at the end of it.

Questions? Comments? Ask thecommich. Otherwise I think we’re good here! Good luck and may the force be with you.

3 Comments

  1. sarah
    December 31, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alena

    http://grantfoundation.net

  2. Media
    December 31, 2009

    Well written! I should start my website soon… Not for donation but for my prtfolio. Keep it up Mich!

  3. Michelle Valeriano
    January 1, 2010

    Thank you Sarah/Alena :) I'm glad you're enjoying it. Let me know if there are any particular topics you'd like me to tackle.