Powerful stories could be better used

publication date: Jul 15, 2011
 | 
author/source: Ryann Miller, Fraser Green
Every month, Ryann Miller and Fraser Green 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. This month's site is Missing Children Society of Canada.

Fraser: Hi Ryann. I hope you and baby Julian are enjoying your first summer together!

This month, we've been asked to look at the site of the Missing Children Society of Canada. I've spent some time on this site - and I think I have mixed feelings about it.

Now as you know, I don't look at sites from an online giving point of view. Rather, I look at them through the eyes of a potential donor who is using the site to decide whether or not to make a first gift. My question is simply, "does this site motivate me to give?"

Getting the mission right

This site has some definite positives in my opinion:

  • I like the missing children posters right up top on the home page. This brings the mission to life in a vivid way.
  • I also like the "success stories" tab located right below the posters I've just mentioned. When I click on the tab, I get a menu of ten stories about children who've been found and reunited with their anxious parents. I always preach about showing results - and these guys have done it nicely!
  • I love it that the organization's vision, mission and guiding principles are clearly and compellingly laid out for me. I'm blown away at some of the really big charities that don't bother to do this. I think it's critically important.
  • This site is chock full of great information for parents - including how to keep your kids safe from abduction and what to do if your child does go missing. The information is clear and action-oriented. This tells me the organization does real work that matters.
Boosting the viewing, giving tools

There are however a few areas that I wasn't as crazy about:

  • I don't know about you Ryann, but I'm just not crazy about all that use of vivid red on the site - include red type in the headers. My eyes just don't like it much.
  • I understand that resources are limited - but this site screams at me that video should be used as well as photos. Show me one or two one-minute clips of a mom with found child on her lap. In tears of gratitude. Telling me how grateful she is to the Society - and its donors - for finding her child. Now that would be amazing!
  • I was happy to see the "Donate Now" button in a prominent spot on the home page. But when I clicked on it, I found it pretty one-dimensional - only encouraging one-time, online gifts via credit card. I didn't see monthly giving anywhere - nor did I see anything about legacy giving.  I think these folks might well make more money by working on their "donate" page.
  • Finally - and this is a big one for me - I think that storytelling and emotion have been under-used on this site. I appreciate that this is a careful balance with an organization like this one - but having said that, I'd encourage them to turn up the emotional volume.

All in all Ryann, I'll give this site B minus.  For the first time, I'll actually split my grade into two parts. On the mission and program side, I think it deserves an A. As a marketing and fundraising tool, I'd have to give it a C.

That's enough from me. You're the new mom. What's your take?

Ryann: Well Fraser, this site definitely hit a raw spot for me as a new mom. I hope no one I know ever needs their services, but I'm thankful they exist and are working on the frontlines for searching families.

Fundraising

If I were judging the fundraising alone, the Missing Children Society of Canada website would get a C. They need to tell a more compelling story on all donation-related pages, explain succinctly where the money goes, offer a name/phone number/email address of someone to help with donations, and offer more ways to give. There's nothing wrong with what they currently have, but it can be better.

One last thing - offer personal fundraising through the site, so that individuals can raise money themselves for MCSC. I bet the communities of people affected by a missing child would appreciate a channel to get involved in that way.

Engagement

They do a decent job of engagement, including a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a blog and a news feature on the site. The nature of this organization lends itself to social media, so I'd expect that all those channels are employed to help in the search for missing kids, as well as for public awareness campaigns.

Because social media is popular with young people, it seems like a fantastic tool for MCSC to use to reach this demographic and educate them about staying safe.

Messaging

The MCSC site does an adequate job of relaying the relevant information on progams and purpose, but it doesn't have any real warmth. Are parents/guardians the primary users of this site? Is the messaging geared towards them? Considering the highly emotional nature of the work that MCSC does, I think the messaging on this site could be less "handshake" and more "hug," so to speak. It wouldn't detract from the work that is done, and it would set a tone of support for site users.

Voice

As noted above, I think some thought should go into who the primary site user is and what they need. Then MCSC can cultivate the voice of this site accordingly. I definitely think it could be warmer.

Design

The site itself is adequate, but seems aged. And a small, but important thing: the leaderboard (the banner at the top of every page) should be clickable back to the homepage.

As Fraser says, the red is bit hard on the eyes. We understand the significance, but they could use softer colours with red as a highlighting colour, not the only colour on the site. There other ways to show the urgency of the issue. 

Some time spent on the goals and objectives of the site would go a long way and help address the challenges and issues that this site faces. One main issue is the lack of ways to get involved, specifically personal fundraising. As well, the site needs to be freshened up.

As a new mom, I appreciate the purpose of the organization and its programs. But I think it can communicate what it does, and appeal for donations, better than it does now. I give this site a C+.

MCSC marketing and communications coordinator Becky Scheer says, "The comments and suggestions they made are quite helpful and timely since we're working on the new site as we speak. . . . we are currently revising our website and applying their insights."

To submit your site for review, contact janet@hilborn.com.

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.

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.

Ryann's web site is www.Care2.com and Fraser's is www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to pronounce your web jury judgment on them!


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