A Web of Options

 This article first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on October 21st, 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

Volunteer Victoria recently had to face a difficult truth. We have been lying to ourselves about how happy we are with our website.

In fairness to old faithful, our website has served us well, behaved admirably, and cost very little in the big scheme of things. But, (and isn’t there always a but) our website isn’t keeping up with the needs of our members, volunteers, and client groups. So, it is time to look at new options, but where do we even start?

The Advanced Solutions International white paper ‘3 Keys to a Smart Website’ suggests that people want an online experience that is more personalized and relevant. They suggest that the secret to success is a mix of: 

Content Management Systems (CMS). CMS provides ways to manage, distribute, and control content, and multiple users can easily access the website to post graphics, text blocks, video, audio, or banners.  CMS  provides for visual consistency and e-commerce functions and back-end databases.

Customer Relationship Management (CMR). CMR allows content stored in  back of house databases and information management systems to be tagged, categorized, and presented to content providers and website users as personalized web content.

Personalized and relevant content and administrative benefits. Website users want to have access to content that is important to them (e.g. the ability to register for a workshop, to pay a membership fee, or make a donation) and non-profits need to find new ways to leverage resources and reduce the duplication of services.

In the ideal model, web users could pick and choose options – update their own records, purchase services, pay online, receive a tax receipt, or provide content and feedback – and always feel like they had personal and meaningful contact.

What would you like to see in a Volunteer Victoria website?

As Volunteer Victoria’s new website is just emerging from the idea stage we invite you to engage with us the old fashioned way – with a call, a visit, or an e-mail.

Your Case for Support – a critical first step

The following is a guest blog post written by Kari Frazer, facilitator of our recent “Planning for Fundraising Success” workshop.  Kari holds the international Certified Fund Raising Executive designation and has been practicing fundraising, marketing and media relations for 24 years.

In my recent Planning for Fundraising Success workshop for Volunteer Victoria I think the pivotal subject was creating the The Case for Support. Many of the 30 people in the room had an ‘aha’ moment when we went to some of their websites and looked for evidence of their priority needs. Many websites had a Canada Helps button that asked for a donation, but very few described a priority need and engaged us in a human story.

The first step we can all make is to describe our priority needs on our websites. Your website is your most important tool for identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of your donors. The creation of all collateral, presentations, grant writing, direct mail and face to face asks can be duplicated from your website information. By sharing the stories and needs so accessibly and with such clarity, all volunteers and staff in the organization naturally become spokespeople and support your fundraising efforts.

Take a look at your website’s home page. Where is your story of an urgent need? Do you have ‘one click’ to a human story about a problem, the solution, the urgency and how the reader could be involved?

One exceptional site to model after is The Girl Effect. The website information and the series of videos cultivate us as well as encourage us to take action. The options to be involved include donating one-time, donating monthly, choosing what specifically to donate for, sharing the video/website with friends, volunteering, advocating, and finding out more information. This one site takes us through the entire The Fundraising Cycle from identifying ourselves and our friends to being cultivated, then solicited and thanked before being identified for another gift.

Our goal is for each priority need to have a human story that appeals to the reader’s heart, head and wallet. When your story describes the current problem or situation, what emotion does it stir? Pride? Fear? Inspiration? Hope? Grief?

You speak to the reader’s ‘head’ when you present a solution to the problem and a logic to why your organization has the history and resources to address the problem.

The reader is now ready to donate and knows that their contribution will make a difference because you have spoken to their ‘wallet’ by describing how each contribution – no matter if it is $25 or $2,500 – will make a difference. The reader is important to solving the problem. Through your organization and this particular project the reader can be a part of something bigger than themselves.

The reader has decided that this is an important need to donate to but what is the urgency? Why should we donate to your project when there are 1,100 charities in Greater Victoria inviting us to support them? Why you and why now? What is your call to action?

Evaluate your own website use the CharityChannels.ca evaluation form or  contact CharityChannels@gmail.com / www.CharityChannels.ca to show you the way.

Stretch Tax Credit & Nonprofit Websites Survey

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter.  Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Stretch Tax Credit for Charitable Giving

Imagine Canada has proposed the Stretch Tax Credit to encourage Canadians to give more and support their communities through charitable contributions. The Stretch Tax Credit would provide a tax incentive by increasing the federal charitable tax credit from 29% to 39% on all new giving over $200. This initiative is certainly well timed, as Canadian charities face significant challenges generated by the current economic environment. The sector needs innovative approaches, such as this, to renew and stimulate sector growth and donor interest. This proposal has received some interest. On December 9th the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance released their report that included a recommendation to implement the proposed Stretch Tax Credit.

Survey of Non-Profit Websites

The Open Web Group recently conducted a survey of 81 Canadian non-profit websites. These included small organizations, as well as large national organizations. They learned that the majority of websites are mature, with 88% having a web presence for more than 2 years and 60% for more than 5 years. However, over 50% of the organizations surveyed spend less than .5 percent of their budget on their site. The web content most commonly includes news updates, staff directories and donations capabilities. The least commonly found items were online calendars, membership capabilities and publicly generated content. The majority of sites (89%) are professionally hosted elsewhere. However, those who host their site internally consistently rate the highest on all metrics. While 42% of the organizations have done major upgrades to their site in the last year, 33% have not done an upgrade in over 2 years. The sites of agencies using professional designers were more likely to be rated excellent across all ratings than agencies that use in-house teams. Access full survey.

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

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