How a small charity turned a C+ website into “an unequivocal hit”

publication date: Feb 16, 2012
 | 
author/source: Ryann Miller, Kori Brus
Each month the Web 2.0 jury reviews the website of a selected Canadian charity, focusing on its fundraising effectiveness. It's a chance for the charity to receive personal coaching from two experts in online communication and fundraising. To submit your site for review, contact the Editor. This month's candidate is the Missing Children Society of Canada.

Does your website help you raise money online? Take our poll (at right).

Ryann: Hi Kori. This is an interesting case because Fraser Green and I reviewed this site back in July. Here's the link if you want our take on the old site. They've updated their website and are back for another round!

My thoughts:

Fundraising

It's improved. They have a monthly option and phone number to call (though no name). But there's still no way to easily create your own fundraiser for MCSC, which is a shame. There could be a little more heart on these pages, and I'd still like to see some information on where the money goes. I'd also like to see the donate button stand out more to make giving a more obvious way to help.

Engagement

These guys are pretty engaged. They cover their Facebook, Twitter, blog and YouTube bases well. I like their Facebook campaign to encourage people to Like them as their first "I Stop" action. Because public awareness is so critical to this cause, I'm glad to see MCSC leverage social media - I think these guys are smart to leverage the power of social media to reach more people (and young people).

Messaging

Fraser pointed out that they need more video on the site, and while I see some, I agree that they still could use more. I like the About Us page because what they do is so clear and tangible. It's so straightforward that it makes me want to make a donation immediately. I think the donation pages would benefit from a modified list of MCSC's programs to show where the money goes.

Voice

I still think there's room for improvement in the messaging on the site. There's a lack of warmth here. These guys work with law enforcement while conducting front-line, hands-on investigation and search activities, so they're on the ground, deeply involved in search cases. There must be a way to incorporate that urgency and tangible human being connection into the website.

Design

The site is a big improvement. It's easier to look at, navigate around, and get where you want to go.  Way to go, MCSC! You should be proud of yourselves! I really like the homepage - it has all the critical elements (simplicity of design and navigation, mission statement, news feed, important links).

Last time, I said the site could communicate better and gave it a C+. I'm happy to say the site has improved dramatically; I now give it a solid A. Congrats, MCSC, on a hard job well done!

Kori, what do you think?

Kori: Hi Ryann. Fraser Green gave the old site a C grade, and while I didn't see it myself I'll still view it in terms of his critique before adding my own thoughts.

The "old"

Fraser was pretty clear cut in his analysis last time. The firm positives included the use of prominent Missing Persons posters, success stories, a clear, prominent mission, and great information for parents.

On the downside, he criticized the site for limited giving options, a lack of storytelling and emotion, no multimedia and an overbearing use of the colour red.

The "new"

The site clearly carried over the positives with mission, Missing Persons and lots of support information still featured prominently.

Gone are the success stories, but I don't see this as an issue. They can easily bring them back thanks to a new, clean, modular design that also lets them profile new forms of content. Case in point? Check out Nate Hall's iTunes single in support of the cause. You'll even find video deeper in the site. Very nice indeed.

Donation options now include monthly plans, as well phone and mail. I'd like to see a direct button to the donate page, but it's easy enough to get there as is. And the overall engagement factor gets an additional boost by numerous social media options they offer.

Then there's the colour red. As any rider of Toronto's transit system knows, you can easily have too much red. However, Missing Children does it just right. The entire visual experience balances urgency with clarity, and I daresay compassion, in a way that communicates the importance of the cause and makes you feel the need to give.

The site wins on virtually every measure. It's attractive, easy to navigate, full of humanity. I know what they do, why they do it, and why they need my help. I never saw their old site, but the new one is an unequivocal hit. I'm glad to give it the first A grade I've handed out.

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.

Their websites are www.Care2.com and www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to pronounce your web jury judgment on them!


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