I care, I care – but I need more before I give

publication date: Sep 16, 2011
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author/source: Fraser Green, Kori Brus
Kori Brus  joins Fraser Green to review the website of a selected Canadian charity, focusing on its fundraising effectiveness, while Ryann Miller takes a short-term leave. It's a chance for the charity to receive personal coaching from two experts on online communication and fundraising. To submit your site for review, contact the editor.

This month's candidate is the English-language site of the Montreal Assault Prevention Centre

Fraser: Hi, Kori. Welcome to the web site jury!

This month's site works on a cause that I'm passionate about. I grew up experiencing bullying and domestic violence firsthand. To this day, I feel incredibly protective of those who are vulnerable - and those who are victims. So, as someone who already cares about the issue, does this site persuade me to move from caring about the cause to making a donation to the organization?

I'm afraid my answer is "Not yet."

Site builds credibility but not emotion

But let's start with the positives. There are a number of things I like very much about this site:
  • The layout is clean and bright. I like the photo of the boy in the top corner. I like the prominent "smiley face" donation button. I like the hand-printed font used in the headers. This site looks good to me.
  • I like the description of the programs. It makes me feel like this is an organization that knows its business.
  • I like the resource page that gives lots of contact information for other organizations (like hospitals, shelters and legal aid). This is unselfish and noble.  Good on them!
  • I love it that they ask for success stories on the contact page!
And now for my constructive criticism:
  • Tell me stories! One story about a bully in a schoolyard can be more powerful than the statistic that 70,000 children have been to workshops.
  • Show some emotion! This cause (violent exploitation of the weak) is absolutely loaded with fear and anger. These emotions should reach out and grab me by the throat!
  • Everything on this site is written in the third person. I'd like to see a lot of the content come from real people in the first person. I want to know who they are, why they care and what they do. (Hint: it's easier to join a tribe when you know some of its members!)
  • I don't know why organizations insist on boasting about their 25th anniversary. I honestly don't think donors care that much about institutional birthdays. Donors care about solving problems and generating results!
  • Speaking of results, show me some real ones! The fact that thousands of people have attended workshops is one thing. What did they do with what they learned? This is what really matters. Tell me the story of a kid who stopped a bully dead in his tracks on the schoolyard. Tell me the story of the woman who fought off an attacker in a dimly lit parking garage. That stuff makes it real!
Potential remains undeveloped

All in all Kori, I think this site has real potential. But so far, they seem to be hiding their light under a bushel basket. With real people, real emotions, real stories and real results, I believe that this could become a truly superb site.

But for now, I'm going to have to give it a C-minus rating.

What do you think?

Kori: Thanks, Fraser. Following Ryann's act is going to be a tall order. I'm glad I'm a tall guy! Let's get through this first one without rocking the boat or running straight into the rocks. This site does a few things very nicely, but has huge challenges in other areas.

Fundraising

As you said, the fundraising message is positioned well and is virtually the first thing you see. The message bubble comes straight from a human face that you can connect with the cause, and it's charmingly warm thanks to good placement, design, and a pale yellow colour that perfectly complements the site's blue tones.

The problem? It's not a button! After being drawn straight to the donate message you're left searching for a way to donate. The button is way down at the very bottom of the page below the screen break. If you don't find it there, you'll probably do what I did and click on the donor tab. The next page clearly says "Make a donation" in bold attractive script, but again no button. You have to scroll past the page break once again to find the nondescript plain text link.

The CanadaHelps hosted donate page is clean and clear. No problems. However, the page lists two funds - in French only - with no descriptions. As a visitor to the English site I have little idea what my money would support.

 Engagement

Here I think the site design makes some good strides. I love the way programs are highlighted with the post-it note images on the right hand side. The event calendars on the program pages are both clear.

However, that effectiveness is diluted by poor...

Messaging

The home page messaging is too indirect, too impersonal, and needs more focus. As a new visitor, I don't know what is wanted of me or how I can help.

As you said, they tell you about the number of people in the various programs, but I don't get a strong message about why those programs are important. Who's been helped? How has violence disappeared from their lives? How have children gone forward into brighter futures?

Stories are the key here. Talking to children currently enrolled in programs probably isn't an option. But they can talk to staff, or perhaps young adults who had their lives changed as children, thanks to their programs. Maybe they're now donors, maybe volunteers. Or they could simply be living healthy and happy lives. I'd love to hear about this.

Voice

Overall the voice is institutional but they gain great warmth through the handwritten design touches. They just need some personal storytelling folded in. That will help them get much clearer in the home page messaging as well.   

The site

I like the overall design. The colours are attractive and the basic layout works. It's clean and positive. I also like the way it brings a touch of personal warmth and human connection through the use of handwritten script - challenging for a prevention organization where confidentiality and privacy are significant concerns. The navigation is effective. They could use an "About" tab.

I would give them a C. The good news? Their problems can be fixed with some writing help and very minor site tweaks, mainly to address the donate button problem. With a bit of love this site can easily jump to a high B.

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!

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