publication date: Oct 21, 2011
author/source: Fraser Green, Kori Brus
Kori Brus joins Fraser Green each month to review 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 on online
communication and fundraising. Submit your site for review.
This month's candidate is the Friends of Hospice Ottawa.
Hi Kori -
I hope you're ready for a tough one! I found this site really hard to judge
because on the one hand I believe deeply in this cause - yet on the other hand,
I think there's so much more that this site could do.
So, having admitted my anguish, let me get started. Here's
what I like:
The second sentence on the home page tells me what
this organization believes! I love that! I want to know what charities stand
for - and most of us don't say explicitly what beliefs drive us to take on the
missions we do.
On the About
Us page, I think they do a very good job of telling me what their commitments
and priorities are. Again, this is important to donors and prospects. Tell me
what's important to you. If it's important to me too, I'll give!
I like the Resources
page. If I was facing the end of a loved one's life, I think I'd find it
helpful and comforting to know that I have access to this information.
The look is very dated and text-heavy. In this
case I think it's a positive. The organization absolutely feels very
grass-roots and down-to-basics. No slick marketing or glossy finish to these folks.
They're all about the content. And most donors - like me - want content over
As I turn from compliments to constructive criticism, I have
one overall observation to make. This site is much stronger on the program side
than it is on the fundraising and marketing side. I'm a huge believer that
successful charities today must be equally strong at both to succeed. This site
needs a marketing makeover!
The cause here is loved ones in their last weeks
of life. It's about saying goodbye, healing wounds and finding peace. This is
stuff of the spirit - as deep as it gets in the human journey. I don't see
Tell me stories! This site could be chock full
of stories. Stories about patients and their families. Stories about volunteers
and donors. Stories by staff members and visiting clergy.
Just about all of the content on this site is
expressed in the impersonal third person. If I were to rewrite this site from
scratch, I'd try to make between half and two-thirds of the content be from
someone. In the first person. Real. Personal. Emotive.
Last but not least, the site doesn't tell me
what the Friends have done with past donations or describe the difference that
those donations have made. Plus, the site doesn't tell me what they need the
money for now. Tell me why you need my money. What will it buy? How will that
help? I think this is critically important.
I suspect the Friends of Hospice Ottawa runs on a shoestring
budget and has limited people resources to devote to their web site. But I wish
they could find a way to make marketing themselves online a higher priority.
There's a lot of good work that could be done here.
All in all Kori, I'll give the site a C-minus rating. How
- we're seeing a lot of the same things, but I'm going to be softer than you
This might be the most forgiving review I ever write,
because I think this group is just super. My impression was of an organization
with a tight budget and tremendous heart - so much heart that it's managing to
spill past the tremendous limits of an outdated website.
But with that huge caveat in mind, the site needs some work.
Here's a top level take.
The fundraising message is clear and up front. The donate
button is present and visible, and it links to a clean Beanstream gift
processing page. I'd prefer they didn't have the United Way plug front and
centre. That space should be for the Friends. Also, they can help the donate
button with a cleaner version of their logo and by shortening the text below
Further into the site, the Donate
page is hampered by technology but features simple, clear
and values-driven language. I'd like to see the list of giving options cut way
back. Focus and clarity will lead to better response.
Their Twitter feed and blog are listed on their home page,
and the blog features some great stories. Let's get those on the site!
They're also highlighting their events, and making volunteer
opportunities available. I'd like them to investigate integrating the blog onto
the home page and use it to highlight their events, stories and
They're warm, value-driven and spirited throughout. On each
page I have a clear idea of who they are and what they are saying. They answer
the "why" question throughout. They need to bring in more individuals and make
their voices more prominent.
Further to what I said above, they're a bit too third-person
institutional in their voice. But again, they've still managed to express their
vision and values. They even have some testimonials hidden around the site.
With a bit more focus, they could bring these elements forward and highlight
the perspectives of individuals both inside and outside their
The site itself is their top challenge. The opening splash
page grabbed my attention immediately, but the rest is suffering from outdated
design and technology. It's a barrier that makes updating content and storytelling
harder than it needs to be. I'd love to see them go through a Web redesign that
could empower the good things that they're doing.
Perhaps there's an agency looking to sponsor a charity
partner. As it stands now I'll give them a C+ - not for the site itself, but
for the sincerity they're communicating despite all
Fraser Green is chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that teaches
charities how to tell their stories with more passion, emotion and soul. He
specializes in donor listening and coaching charities on how to meet their
donors' expectations, wants and needs.
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 also former community manager for Web of Change.
Their website is www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to
pronounce your web jury judgment on them!