Don't make your website a missing persons bulletin

publication date: May 21, 2012
 | 
author/source: Ryann Miller, Kori Brus
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Kori
: The Kenora and Lake of the Woods Regional Community Foundation "builds and manages endowment funds to support local charities and community priorities." Personally, I find foundation websites one of the most difficult breeds to evaluate because many foundations seem unsure about what they're trying to accomplish. There are two mistakes I see most foundations make online, and KLWRCF is guilty of both:

1.     They have no audience in mind

Is the website targeting potential donors to the foundation or potential grant applicants?

If it's the former, then community members need to see and hear about the things KLWRCF is doing for their local area. They need the foundation to show how it cares for the community so that they know why they should care enough to give.

If it's potential grant recipients, then information on what type of projects and change they support, who should apply and how to apply needs to come forward. They have covered the "how" part with easy-to-find downloads. The other two are both lacking.

2.     They are all about process over people

Here's a confession. My fantasy life would be to have a net worth in the eight- or nine-figure range so that I could spend my days funding amazing projects that create positive change in the world. I can't imagine a more exciting way to spend each and every day, yet most foundation websites feel like they were written by a lawyer during a coffee break.

Yes, KLWRCF is a granting organization. Much of what it does is to manage the grant process, but the reason why people engage with it has everything to do with the changes it creates for the community, and nothing to do with its internal workings.

Design a winner

There are some strong positives here. First and foremost is design. The site centres on a gorgeous picture featuring a Lake of the Woods shorefront. It unequivocally communicates the region where the foundation operates. The rest of the home page layout supports that through clear organization and clean presentation.

What's needed is content that brings the foundation's purpose to life, and demonstrates its leadership in creating a better community for its citizens. There is material to work with: success stories are buried deeper in the site, as is a photo gallery and a YouTube video.

With some care and attention, these materials could be polished, expanded, and brought together in the existing design to present an inspiring face for the foundation. Right now, that face is too often drab, emotionless and unfocused.

I give them a C grade. Ryann?

Ryann: My first impression was that for a regional community foundation, this website is impressive. And it is, from a design perspective. But after a quick glance around, I was unhappy. Where is the heart? Where is the need? Looking around, I'd think they have all the money they require.

This isn't the first organization to have two distinct audiences. And the grant applicants don't need to be wooed; they just need to be told where to find the information they seek. That leaves the other target audience: potential donors. The KLWRCF website ignores these people.

Fundraising

The Donate page is all head, no heart; all bullet points, no links; too much text, no images. I know the Foundation helps people, yet this page has no references to human beings needing help and getting it. Lose the comment about the size of the gift not mattering. It's a nice thought, but I doubt the message it wants to give potential donors is that it sees $10 the same way it sees $10,000.

The Foundation talks about launching an online community, but has no link to it. Please share where some of the money goes. With no information about who gets the money, what it accomplishes, or how any lives have been impacted to date, I won't be inspired enough to give.

Engagement

Thank goodness for the testimonials page, the photo gallery and the events. Otherwise there would be no evidence that people need the foundation's services. Before I heard the three audio clips from people representing the critical services that KLWRCF provides, I didn't know that its money actually helps real people.

I don't think the Foundation needs to be on Facebook or Twitter. But I do think it desperately needs to share stories and show pictures of the programs, the people, the need. Lastly, the virtual donor wall is not a virtual donor wall; it's a list. "Virtual donor wall" implies much more than text on a screen.

Messaging

It's too much head and not enough heart, or Kori, as you say, all about process and not about people. It leaves me uninspired. I'm not excited about making positive change; I feel like I'm waiting in line to get a chore done.

Design

The logo, the colours, the different leaderboard images are all wonderful. But the site needs more images, stories and videos. This website gets a C- from me.

Ryann Miller is director of nonprofit services at Care2, where she helps charities and nonprofits recruit online supporters. She is the former managing director of DonorTrends and was a senior fundraising consultant at HJC New Media.

Kori Brus is philanthropic counsel and marketing specialist at Good Works, where he focuses on nonprofit campaign strategy and online engagement. He's the former communications director of Ecojustice Canada and former community manager for Web of Change.



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