Kristi Porter is the founder of Signify and she believes in using her skills, talents, and influence to do good wherever she can. As a self-described #WordNerd, she's often assisting nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission in their marketing and communication communications efforts, primarily through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting.
We see a lot of problems with organizations and how their websites exist. But the great thing is there's lots of ways we can, simple ways we can fix them. Here are 10 common mistakes and how to fix them.
Mistake number one: Clutter, Clutter, Clutter! Tell us about that.
I think the difficulty here is that we're so passionate about our causes. And so nonprofits have so much to say, right? It's hard to condense it into just a few sentences because you want people to care about things as much as you do. The problem is people just don't read your entire website they don't want to see a lot of text. it's about what you want to communicate, but also knowing you can't communicate everything. Of course, also about how can you lay it out in the best way possible.
Using headers and small paragraphs rather than large blocks of texts.
You can't say everything. So hone in on your deepest messages. And what if somebody just looked at your website for a few minutes? Then what do they need to know?
You want someone to be able to say, “Hey, I just saw this website about this amazing cause, here's who they are and what they do.” And you should be able to communicate that very quickly and then give them other ways to go deeper for more information, whether that's other pages on your website or your blog or an in-person conversation, but try not to overwhelm them so that they will actually stick around.
Can you talk a little bit about the role of understanding and knowing who your audience is? Because we can't talk to everyone on our websites. We can't assume that we're going to be everything to everyone. So who should we be talking to?
It's a problem if I ask you who your audience is and you say everyone or women or men, or millennials or something like that. Because the truth is you can't attract everybody.
One of the other things I love encouraging organizations to do is if they're having trouble letting go of content to look at their analytics. If you think that people are looking at all the information on your website, verify that, don't assume, look at the numbers and what their actions show they are interested in knowing about.
Mistake number two is relying solely on design. So often we see organizations come up with this great design for their site without thinking about what words go there. I think that's the wrong order. Tell us about not just what comes first, but how we think about copywriting within our website.
The truth is they're both important. You can't skimp on either one. And I'm not saying you have to shell out big bucks for either one, but you have to address both of those needs in some way. So if you have amazing photography and beautiful design that's great, but you must have substance to back that up.
And the same thing, if you have somebody who writes on your staff that's a really great communicator through the written word, then you probably place a lot of emphases there. Again, great. But you have to be able to visually back that up as well because it takes both of the images and words to persuade people to take action.
Also, just because you're a great writer doesn't also mean that you can communicate for the web. Maybe you're great at communicating in blogs or in speeches, but you also again have to be able to communicate very clearly and concisely and persuasively through the words you use and then have images to back that up.
That design and your branding isn't just one thing or another. It's the entire package and how that fits together.
Let's talk about mistake number three. The organizations often make, which is not connecting the right social media accounts.
This one is I think it's such a quick win. It's a simple fix, but a lot of us will have websites up for years, but maybe you added Instagram just a year or two ago, or maybe you're no longer active on Twitter.
You don't need all the things or social media accounts, you just need to dig in in a few places. But let's connect active social media to your website so you don't have to do everything, but what you do and what you're active on, make sure those are connected.
Either people will find you through your website and want to connect with you on social media or the opposite way round and they need to figure out how best to stay in touch with you.
Let's talk about hiding your humanity. How are we doing that? How are organizations hiding their humanity?
I want to know who's leading the cause or the organization because it builds trust. I want to know that my money is safe with somebody that there are actually people working behind the scenes. And of course, we want to know who in the end is benefiting from the dollars donated. But we give to people initially as well as causes. So make sure you're not hiding your humanity and show off your staff. If you're doing a short bio then let them say why they're excited to be there.
So make sure you're talking about the people running the organization as well as the benefits to the end-user because it all works together. And you know, if I'm going to a prospective donor meeting, then I want to know who I'm sitting down across the table with as well.
Mistake number five is no thoughtful opt-in. So can we talk a little bit at first about what an opt-in is because sometimes we need to clarify that for our non-techie audience and why it's important and then how we're doing it wrong.
So an opt-in also called a lead magnet and it’s something you're going to exchange for somebody's email address. So many nonprofits just say, sign up for our newsletter. And unless I’ve already bought in, I'm going to hold onto my email address and protect that. It’s much harder these days to collect email addresses.
An opt-in or lead magnet is an easier way to build your email list. You want to give people something in exchange for their email address
Mistake number six is you made it all about you.
I think this is a little counterintuitive for nonprofits and social enterprises who are already advocating on the behalf of a cause. So it may feel like, well we don't just talk about ourselves, we're talking about the people that benefit from us. And that's certainly true, but people really need to see themselves on your website. I also want you to draw me into the experience as well. And it should be communicated that you need me to be a part of it. Talk to them as individuals reading the website rather than just me going to a website and reading all about you.
Mistake number seven is your blog is a little blah. Tell us about what people's blogs look like and feel like and how we can fix that.
Most often what I see is somebody thought it would be ideal to have a blog and that was three years ago and that's the last date stamp. And it's hard keeping up with content marketing.
First of all, you don't have to have a blog. But if you do have a blog, then spruce it up. Also, remove the publish dates from your blog if you’re not creating new content often.
Blogs are a great way to share more content than you could put on your website. So they're going deeper into your mission, deeper into your backstory. Some things that people would be interested in if they came to your website, but there's no other place to put it. And you don't want to overwhelm the few pages you already have.
Then, when you do write a blog post, make sure you're promoting it, get it out everywhere that you can let people know you've got some new content to talk about.
And also give people a call to action. Make sure you're always giving people something to do. They shouldn't just read the blog post and go, okay, that was great and then move on with their lives. There should be a clear next step for them to take to be able to interact with you on some level.
Mistake number eight is you sound like everyone else, and we've talked about this a little bit in different ways, but you are framing it around your USP or unique selling position.
It goes back to what, in marketing, we call a USP or unique selling proposition. What makes you different from everybody else? You know, if somebody came to you and said, why do you do what you do? Then be able to answer that quickly. How are you different?
Be able to really clearly identify what makes you different is really the thing that people are going to latch onto. Is it what you do? Is it why you do it? Is it how you operate? Do you have a certain process that is unique to you? Maybe it's when you began, did you start your movement? Were you at the forefront of it or maybe who it's involved or specifically where you work if it's if you're one of the only organizations in the area that does what you do?
Mistake number nine is We're Using Jargon or Insider Language.
We're all looking to communicate with just the easiest way possible and making people understand what it is from the get-go and not having them think too hard about it. I would say unless you're only trying to attract people that use that vernacular or even when I used the term social enterprise is a relatively new model for business and a term not all people understand. So I try and say it multiple ways on my website so that if you're reading it, you know how to identify yourself with me.
It's really easy to understand plain language. You never want somebody to think too hard about what you have to say or if they're a part of your community.
Okay, we're ending this with a bang. You've changed but your website didn't. Oh my goodness. How many organizations have websites that are like 10 or more years old and they're not reflective of the work or the personality of the organization anymore?
Can I, let's say, you know, even I understand for a lot of people thinking of overhauling your website is a huge undertaking. So maybe break it into chunks where, for example, one of my clients, they're tackling one page at a time and so, you know, over the course of the next year they'll have a new website,
Sometimes it's not even just a website overhaul and changing your entire mission or pivoting to a new focus. Sometimes it's just those little initiatives that need to be addressed on there.
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The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano