Sunday, June 01, 2008

How Your Nonprofit's Website Can Increase the Grants Your Organization Raises

Like a business card, a website reflects its nonprofit and gives information, but it does more. While your business card is as static as the next time you're going to print more - a website can be updated, redesigned, rebuilt, or added to.

Nonprofits, like any other business, have either had a website for X number of years (if they can afford to) or have done what they can (free options such as blogs, social networking, listing your organization on donation portals, etc. are great). Getting onto the web requires knowledge (what options exist on the web, today; what can we do with limited resources; who do we hire to help us create what we need; who can tell us what works and what doesn't, etc.). As I've argued, in this blog before, grassroots organizations are hit the hardest - they have the fewest resources and yet need to grow in order to achieve their goals.

As grant writers, it is important to know 'what information do we give on our website?'. Why? Any presence on the web is yet another marketing opportunity for a nonprofit, if nothing else; and marketing opportunities create new donors, new board members, new volunteers, new partners in work, etc. Grant donors look at our websites, just as other users do.

There are questions as to what is effective and what is not working, (e.g. social networking has existed, arguably since list serves began ten years ago; and no one has really figured out how to make money off of social networking). The best way to determine if your organization is spending money wisely on your web presence (if it costs your organization money) is to track results and costs; and conduct cost/benefit ratio studies in regular intervals (e.g. every fiscal quarter, etc.) and see if your web goals are being met or are showing signs of beginning to get met.

Having said that, we do know that websites are viable presences for nonprofits. They're great information and referral tools, they are wonderful at disseminating information, and as I said - they're marketing opportunities. On the fundraising side of operations; they can increase volunteers, donors, accept donations, provide online shopping or affiliate link revenue, and disseminate information (e.g. achieve marketing goals, etc.).

Marketing and grant writing are highly linked. Excellent marketing is without a doubt one of the most productive and effective methods to increase your organization's fundraising revenue. It takes time (e.g. from the beginning/launch of a researched, planned out, and professional marketing campaign it can take months or even a year to begin to reap the benefits - but they do come, when done well, and they typically do not dissipate if your organization simply maintains its marketing work). If your board of directors each share that they volunteer with your organization and why they do, each time they meet new colleagues or friends; they are marketing. If your organization launches a public service message or advertises your programs - your group is partly marketing. All of this (and other 'outward facing' modes of communication to the community, at large) is marketing and should be integrated to send the same message, reach the intended target populations, and should take all aspects of your organization's work into account (e.g. programs, fundraising, recruiting excellent talent (volunteers and staff), etc.); and not just be aimed at "getting your name out there". Websites do that but that isn't all your organization needs from its site.

When a grant donor receives your organization's grant proposal (application), if they are interested in granting to your group, but aren't familiar with it - they will very likely go to your website. As a grant writer, there are a few resources, etc. that you will want to work with your tech manager to be sure are there:

10. Your organization's name, mission statement, and a short positive sentence about your group's successes, achievements, and track record should be front and center and easy to see.

9. It should not be difficult for anyone using your site to locate your organization's contact information. Make sure this is easy to locate (e.g. put it in the footer of each web page and on a 'contact us' page of its own).

8. Remember that the fastest growing age group in this country is the Baby Boomer generation (e.g. born during World War II). It is very wise to include a widget or tool onto your website that allows any user to increase the font size, if they need to. Don't make it tough for anyone interested in your organization to learn more about it, volunteer with it, or donate to it!

7. Have a section or at least a web page devoted to your organization's fundraising (which includes grant writing) and call it something like "How We Spend Our Money" or "Fiscal Information". Provide the user with your organization's: most recent 990 tax return, most recent independent professional financial audit, a breakdown of where your organization spends its money and include "Overhead" (e.g. Programs, Direct Services, Fundraising, Administration, etc.). Provide the most recent service (or product) statistics - show what donors' money is doing. Organizations who are transparent (meaning they provide potential donors or volunteers, or anyone with their financials, etc. and demonstrate that they are managing their resources, are planning growth, and are viable/sustainable, etc.).

6. Create many places on any given web page that allows the user to donate. Create "How To Donate" or "Donate Here", tabs or buttons and place them in the site menu, also in the footer, also in the header, and in the middle of appropriate pages. Make sure it is clear where anyone could click on your site to give. Do not just place one button in one place on your site. Repeat this formula for volunteer sign up, too.

5. Have a page devoted to staff and board members, and do not simply list names under departments. Share each person's credentials, professional experience relevant to your mission, and list where each board member either works, or retired from. Connections are very helpful in raising grants.

4. Do not overwhelm the web user. Offer all kinds of information (how to get your organization's assistance, how to donate, how to reach your group) without turning people off from the web pages themselves. Use a professional graphic designer if need be. It is worth the investment.

3. Clearly state in more than one place how a viewer can follow up with your organization (on everything from your services/products, to volunteering with your organization, etc.) AND be sure that it is going to actually work for them and your staff/volunteers. Really give some thought to this. It is staggering how many website users try to reach an organization, per the directions on the site, and never hear back - that is poor customer service and the name of the game, here, is to increase your organization's effectiveness and transparency (to raise good grant money).

2. Be honest on your site. Be honest in everything you disseminate about your organization.

1. Follow up on your site's effectiveness for all goals associated with it (for all departments). Provide users with surveys, or email your constituents and ask 'have you used our site', 'if you have what did you like', 'what did you dislike', 'what could we improve', 'what was missing', etc.

Marketing, websites, and grant writing are tied together. Be proactive and follow through and your group's web presence will pay off.

10 comments:

Javier You Turn Project said...

This was a great article. Do you have any tips on finding free online advertising for non profit organizations?

We are trying to promote this non-profit online and any help would be awesome.

You can visit them here:
You Turn Project Life Skills

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Javier,
Hello and thank you for reading, and commenting. I'm glad that the post helped.

You could post your website with Idealist.org, Facebook, or with online donation portals such as: Missionfish.org, and others I mention above. Be warned; they will take a percentage of donations received through their site (which may be fair - depending on how much).

Also, post your website on your county's website if they post local organizations, your Chamber of Commerce if you're members, etc.

Just think about where your potential donors/volunteers, and clients are on the web and investigate how you can either get your site there or in a similar listing.

Good luck!
Arlene

The Unknown Scribbler said...

Your tips are great. We are trying to get a grant just to establish a website

The Unknown Scribbler said...

Your website and tips are great. We are trying to get a grant just to establish a website.

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear The Unknown Scribbler,
Hello! Thank you for reading, your kind comment, and for posting.

I understand! On Seeking Grant Money Today I have more than once really lamented the seemingly growing digital divide between grassroots nonprofits, in particular (!), and foundations and other funding entities. There is too much assumption that "most" nonprofits have an online presence, or even have regular easy access to the web.

Having said that, there are many foundations who fund technology, marketing, general expense, operational expense, (an unrestricted grant), etc. Many foundations know about the digital divide and it concerns them enough to be proactive, in this need, and donate to it.

Research The Foundation Center's grants database (very comprehensive and current) for free, at a nearby public library. Go to http://foundationcenter.org and research under Cooperating Collections which public library near you has the database (or Collection). Conduct many different searches for the various possible funding programs, projects, as I suggest, above.

Good luck!
Arlene

one less hungry guy in new orleans said...

This was a great article they probably could use some extra help down here in new orleans theres this this great cause,
JTRA) is a charitable Organization/food bank that is going above and beyond it's duty to help the citizens in the New Orleans and surrounding area's, and I would like you to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and take a look at some of the great work their doing.
The site is located at:
http://www.jtra.org/index.htm


WHAT THEY DO - THE NUMBERS: JTRA' s Kitchen serves hot lunches to the community free of charge since they are still trying to rebuild , and get their homes , and lives together.

In 2007 JTRA distributed 4.187 million pounds of food.

We distributed groceries to 252,194 families for a total 517,800 individuals.

We cooked and served 127,181 hot meals in 2007.

J Cannon said...

Excellent Article, very informative to the public. I have just developed a new Online Auction Website and have managed a few hundred backlinks, PR2 ranking and a very small handfull of members, but im not making thousands to afford huge advertising campaigns to boost the traffic or SEO rankings yet.

Where would people like me go to seek people who offer grants for small businesses to try help expand them into a large established business?

Many Thanks...

Your-Bid.com - The Online Auction Marketplace
http://www.your-bid.com

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear J. Cannon,
Hello, thanks for reading, and for commenting. There aren't many legitimate grants for businesses. Occassionally they are offered by municipalities because there's a need in the local community but they aren't usually much money. Read my post, "Are There Grants For Individuals" at: http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2006/10/are-there-grants-for-individual.html
for more information. Good luck in your work! Arlene

Rachael Quirby said...

Hi, I came across this string and was hoping you might be able to answer some questions. My site had been contacted by a non-profit about running an online campaign which they claimed we could write off of our company's taxes. There can be a monetary value assigned to the campaign as we could sell the space to another advertiser but it is somewhat ambiguous. Any information or details you could share about how to do it would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear Rachael,
You are very wise to be leery of such an out of the blue - end your tax burden offer! I do not know who this organization is and I do not know the details about this organization, but I highly recommend that you do the following:

1. Never donate to any organization claiming to be a nonprofit without first getting their official IRS 501(c)(3) tax ID number (which authorizes that donations are tax deductible, when donated to them). Be sure to check into the organization's legitimacy with the IRS.

2. Check with the State attorney general's website or office, where this organization resides. Many states, today, to protect donors list all actual nonprofits based in their state and what percentage of their donations raised they spend on their cause (or mission statement). The current professional standard, in the U.S., is a nonprofit should be spending at least 75% of the money it raises (e.g. every dollar raised) on it's programs to benefit its cause.

3. Research this organization online simply doing a search. Look for any press or others commenting on perhaps a shady experience with them, or maybe they're notorious for offering scams; perhaps the same one that your company was offered.

Finally, I would listen to your gut. Obviously many legitimate nonprofits raise honest money that is mostly spent on their cause. In these tough times, nonprofits are having to innovate, too; which isn't necessarily creating scams!

No nonprofit can effectively, honestly complete remove a company's tax liability for a given fiscal year - especially if they don't know what your company's is. It sounds too good to be true and may be.

Thanks for reading/commenting. Good luck! Arlene