Structuring charity or non profit sites
On a voluntary basis, I joined Tanzanian Development Trust (www.tanzdevtrust.org) as Treasurer in 2010.
Since 1975 TDT has channeled donations from its parent, Britain Tanzania Society, to development projects in Tanzania. It has also worked successfully with a number of other charities and trusts which share its vision, funding or contributing to projects suggested and overseen by TDT.
Here I examine some of the actions we are taking to enhance our web presence. A strategic review in 2011 highlighted the need to broaden our funding, and to attract donors from outside our ‘traditional’ sources. Younger fund raisers, without a natural connection to the trust, did not seem to be ‘finding’ us. An easy litmus test is given by the thousands of sponsored climbers each year on Kilimanjaro: why did relatively few donate to a charity so clearly dedicated to good works locally?
However, we needed to be realistic about costs and resources, and take into account the entirely voluntary nature of TDT. Our thoughts turned naturally to the Web, as a low-cost means to engage with a mass audience. I have taken on responsibility for the development of our Facebook page, and delivering enhancements of our web site, in particular ensuring a flow of new content to the front page. I have been developing this post over time, sharing some of the lessons I learn through this process; I hope that others might find the information useful.
Our first step was a ‘no-brainer’: we needed to experiment with social media. Our brainstorming identified this as a means of tapping a younger audience. But as I explain in another post (click here), the demographics of social media have developed, with average ages climbing, and the fastest growth in numbers among ‘silver surfers’. Thus there is a varied and huge audience out there (Facebook says more than 50% of its 750 million active users log in on any given day! Also, I have read that 1 of every 8 minutes spent on the Internet, is spent on Facebook); the question is, how to engage it?
Charity fundraising site JustGiving has a page of hints on fund raising. Among other things, it tells us that 15% of all visits to JustGiving resulting in donations, come from Facebook. Also among its hints, was a quotation which seems to me to describe fund raising via social media in a nutshell: “Fundraising is a story. You have to tell that story, to a group of people who will be interested, interact and support you.”
In developing our facebook page, we have always kept both parts of this quotation in mind: it has to tell a story, and we have to develop a constituency of friends interested in our activities, and Tanzania as a whole. A visit to our page (you can click on the image alongside) should show that we have been putting in place the basis for a much greater dialogue with interested parties, which we intend will result in greater recognition of our ‘brand’ and ultimately in more people fund raising on our behalf.
We have also opened a twitter account (@tanzdevtrust), but this is used mainly at present to channel Facebook posts to the website.
Since it was set up a few years ago, our web site (www.tanzdevtrust.org) had been maintained admirably by our Chairman, with information on the way we work, projects funded, and on Tanzania as a whole. However, we now realised that it would need some significant tweaks to be used as a fund-raising tool.
We researched a number of ‘best practice’ guidelines for a fund-raising site. However, resourcing constraints mean that changes in our web site will be more evolutionary than revolutionary, at least until our committee is joined by a communications/website manager, which we are currently looking for (could it be you?).
Here are a number of the ‘best practice’ bullet points. Some we do at present, some we shall be addressing. Others may need impetus from a new communications manager.
- The front page should exhibit a short explanation of the missions or goals of the organisation. Plus easily found navigation to longer mission statements, services or actions. An easily identifiable and memorable tag line, or slogan, is a good way to solidify the brand. (On the whole we did this already, in particular our USP that all money donated goes to projects being well expressed and understood).
- Visitors should see IMMEDIATELY how to become involved or donate to your mission or cause. There should be a ‘call to action’, including an immediate way to help. This could be in the form of ‘bite-sized pieces’ (eg ‘Â£10 buys a….’), via selected project(s), or perhaps via some e-commerce feature.
- UTILISE SOCIAL MEDIA to encourage member activity and bring new members or donors to your site. Aim for a CONSISTENT look and message across media. Google and other search engines place surprisingly great store by social media. (Well, we have made steps in this direction.)
- And when utilising social media, don’t always be too earnest: constantly banging away on your need for more funds is likely to be a turn-off. Leaven it with more entertaining and interesting stories, which are more likely to be read, and MUCH more likely to be shared outside your existing circle of ‘Likes’ or friends.
- Use fantastic photos and impactful videos! User-friendly technology nowadays makes this so much easier, and we all know about a picture painting a thousand words! Creating an album on Facebook is very easy and the results can be very attractive and informative. The resulting album can be viewed on Facebook, and can be linked to directly from your site. Here’s an example. Oh, and by the way, the idea that Facebook claims copyright of your images is an urban myth. However, they do reserve the right to use them, including versions that have been shared (making it difficult for you to erase all trace of them), so be sure that you are comfortable with these terms:
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition: For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
- Be PUBLICLY THANKFUL to those who support as volunteers or financial contributors. Thanking those who are helping goals to be reached or activities to be successful encourages more engagement from visitors. Social media complements the web site by giving a very direct way to do this.
- A â€˜latest newsâ€™ or â€˜blogâ€™ section with current and active content will encourage repeat visitors to the site. Again, search engines like blogs because they present regular new content. (I have made the front page have a more ‘blog-like’ feel, though it’s not actually a blog structure – probably it should be).
- Have a general contact form for visitors to get in touch.
- There should be a news media or press release section to help promote and encourage media outlets to spread your message. (We haven’t done this – will probably need to await a communications officer).
In late-2012, we can report progress. In the financial year 2011/12 we have had more sponsored Kilimanjaro climbs as in the whole of the previous four years – maybe coincidental, but providing additional news flow to leverage. A generic Google search for ‘Tanzania charity’ now produces two references to TDT and its parent BTS on page 1. Average daily hits on the web site are up by over a third. Our Facebook family is growing steadily, and has now passed 150. Our last two financial years have both been records in terms of project spend. These last two things are not really linked, but the momentum is certainly there…