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Non-profit or Just Not Profiting?

If you run a non-profit, you might be surprised at the changes in landscape that can help you create an online experience that would even surpass secular businesses. The goal, of course, would be to help you develop better affinity and loyalty for your donors and give them a reason to continue supporting your cause – whatever that may be.

One of the big barriers to non-profits or churches taking advantage of many of the new technologies has been the commonly held belief that technology is expensive. Or that there is some sort of ethical barrier to using the same strategies that a secular business might use.

Well, tear down the walls – because if you don’t, they’ll be torn down for you and you’ll be exposed to the harsh realities of failing numbers and loyalty dropping in masses.

If you are a non-profit or not-for-profit organization, you actually may have more of a moral obligation to seek efficient practices than those whose business is entrusted to shareholders. If you are donor-based, you do a disservice to your donor anytime you don’t take advantage of cost-effective developments on the web. Well, enough about that – now on to how you can enjoy successes of best practice and proven strategy with new web technology and developments.

Principle One – Understand your mission and sell out to it.

Everything – from the volunteer core, to the receptionist, to your leadership, to your print pieces, to your website, to your press releases – has to resonate with your message.

Use the elevator test to make sure every single person in the building understands what their mission is. Notice I didn’t say, “Make sure everyone knows the slogan.”

The elevator test is simply to ask each employee to be able to describe what the organization does to someone else in 50 words or less. Then, once they get it down to that, tell them to refine it so that they can talk about your organization in three sentences or less. That way, when they enter an elevator they can talk about what you do and your mission in the time it takes to ride in an elevator from one floor to the next.

Then, take that mission communication and sell everything to make sure it gets communicated appropriately and consistently in everything you do.

Principle Two – Spend money to save money. You need to save money to make more money.

One of the larger challenges of non-profit organizations is the shrinking pool of donation-based constituency. Changing habits in consumer lifestyles and “competing interests” in catastrophe funding has created a remarkable attack on regular donor giving. As a result, the opportunity to solicit from people is becoming less and less as the asks are more and more.

The best way to approach this competition is to invest more in saving money. Allow me to clarify: spend money right now to advance your communication with your donor. Develop a better website, funding operation and strategy; become better at those things and you’ll reduce costs, expenses and overhead later on.

One of the best ways to save money later is by reducing the human capacity needs through better technologies such as content management systems for your websites, automating processes, and developing better, more consistent branding in your marketing collateral.

Principle Three – Close the communication gap.

I can’t tell you how many non-profit websites I’ve visited over the last several years that seem as though they were built in the dark ages. And I am talking about large, well-known organizations. Not the small, mom and pop variety.

If your organization values its donors and desires a strong way to make use of the limited resources that are available, you need to make sure your website speaks well of your mission, your people and your service in the community.

There are several web applications that can be affordable for even the smallest budgets over time, and that help you close the perceived communication gap.

Some ideas:

1. Develop a strong website infrastructure that will grow with your organization at no additional expense. There are a lot of great web designers and programmers out there. Find one that can give you a website built with a strong architecture – a structure that allows you to continue to grow your website without always having to return to them for more expenses and programming.

2. Use your limited human capacity as well as possible through strong technology. Make sure that you have a suitable content management system (CMS) that will allow you to add new content with a few clicks of the mouse…or delete content without having to go through people and money to get it done. This will allow you to organize your business so that everyone can help accomplish the same goal.

3. Provide online giving. All your donor needs is a reason and a way to give online for you to see increases in donations. There are several solutions to help you get there. You can use PayPal. There are several non-profit services that take donations. But there is nothing as good as having a customized donation and online giving page that keeps your donor on your website. It may cost a little more up front, but in the long run your website user will appreciate the trustworthy experience much more and therefore also be more apt to return.

4. Develop brand consistency online. If your website looks poorly constructed or changes to different looks and styles from page to page, you’ll sabotage your own efforts. Don’t spend minimally to recreate a poorly designed site. It is better not to use that money at all and pull down your site.

Better yet, take the time to carefully consider the options available to you through a marketing consultant or web developer, and then make the plunge into the 21st century. Your donors, board of directors and bottom line will appreciate it.

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