By Maria De La Guardia, design director and brand strategist at Bureau for Good, a design agency that helps nonprofits explain why they matter across digital and print media. For more insights on branding, messaging, strategy, print and web design, sign up to receive Bureau for Good’s once-monthly articles here.
How often do you revisit your nonprofit website with an eye to better engagement? Does it still reflect your mission, purpose, strategic goals, and the ways your audiences use the internet?
“The only constant is change,” saith Heraclitus. Change, for nonprofits, can be both internal and external—from a shift in mission to a change in political or economic winds. Successful nonprofits respond to significant change by reevaluating their strategy—and that includes their online strategy.
Organizations are always changing
In 2017, Race Forward merged with the Center for Social Inclusion to become the nation’s largest research, advocacy and services organization devoted to racial justice. The merger greatly expanded Race Forward’s capacity, number of programs and communication needs.
Race Forward’s digital footprint now includes four main properties, including Colorlines, a daily news site. The Race Forward communications team constantly revisits their strategies in search for more resonant messages and new opportunities for engagement. As communications director Melissa Franqui explains, “Any communications department, not only ours, has to be continuously asking, is the site communicating our mission, our current work, and our values to our intended audiences?”
The environment is always changing
Successful organizations carry out a periodic environmental scan as part of their strategic communications efforts. Have there been demographic, economic, or policy changes that affect your messages and offerings? Do your online efforts reflect those changes?
A few years ago, Hunger Solutions New York (HSNY) targeted service providers as their primary audience. But as smartphone ownership expanded in low-income communities, HSNY saw a shift in site visits. “We found an exponential growth in the use of technology by low-income people,” executive director Linda Bopp says. As the technology landscape changed, the organization’s website needed to adapt. “We are doing more direct service now,” she says. HSNY’s website now also targets individuals looking for hunger-relief services for themselves and their families, and offers content that reflects this shift, such as a SNAP pre-screening tool.
The web is always changing
The responsive revolution roughly six years ago led to massive reinvestment in web development across all sectors. Other changes included the rise of accessibility and privacy legislation.
Similarly, we’ve seen the coming and going of content management systems (CMSs) over the years. As WordPress became more capable, Joomla and Drupal lost market share; their shrinking support communities translated into higher maintenance costs. More recently, security issues surrounding WordPress are prompting some organizations to look at static site generators (SSGs) such as Jekyll and Hugo. And so it goes.
HSNY’s website is an integral part of advancing their mission, and constant reinvestment makes a lot of sense vis-à-vis other priorities, such as hiring new staff. “Websites are a never-ending investment,” Linda says, “we have constant requests from staff to reinvest.” For some years now, they have dedicated line on their budget to website updates—and that amount has kept growing every year.
Race Forward’s merger led the organization to invest in an in-house web team. “We work quickly to create and disseminate content, and look at metrics on our various digital platforms. Having talented people in-house allows us to pivot and move quickly based on our metrics,” Melissa says.
Speaking of metrics, how do you measure your nonprofit site’s performance? Do you use analytics, surveys, testing, interviews? I’d love to hear your approaches for an upcoming article on this topic. Please write me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!