Strategic Web Communication Principle #4: Interactivity

Build interactivity into your website to improve your non profit marketing.

To keep people coming back to your site, you’ll need more than just good design. You need a hard-working site, and you must update it regularly. Many of today’s most successful websites are interactive, meaning they allow people to participate in the content in some way.  The best example is Wikipedia, where up to 7,000 volunteer contributors update and monitor the encyclopedia daily to ensure accuracy and prevent abuse.

Many other sites develop interactivity by providing games people can play. An extreme example of this is Second Life, where you participate in a virtual world online:

http://secondlife.com/

An example more relevant to not for profit organizations might be a Prayer Wall, such as the Prayer Walls at Presidential Prayer Team that we’ve discussed, or the Prayer Walls at Gregory Dickow Ministries. This online initiative provides effective internet marketing, a way to interact with your members, while also retaining relevance with your ministry site objectives. At GDM, each Prayer Wall is sent an email thanking them for their participation and welcoming them to the broader GDM ministry through their electronic Welcome Series.

Other interactivity vehicles such as chat rooms, forums, contests, blogs, libraries, photo sharing, and wikis can get people coming back to your site – building a community of people interested in your topics and endeavors.

If you’d like some help to establish a ministry Prayer Wall on your website, or improve your non profit marketing, contact Pathmaker Marketing today for assistance in getting started.

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Strategic Web Communication Principle #1 of 5

Find your ministry niche that can be transferred online.

As non profit fund raising professionals, Pathmaker Marketing often starts by asking our clients, “What is unique about your ministry or non profit organization that separates you from the rest?” Isolate that area of differentiation and then determine the ways you might convey that uniqueness online. One idea for accomplishing this objective is to think about the ways you already provide ministry:

* Do you have a radio show? Then place your radio broadcasts online in MP3 format.
* Do you preach sermons? Then have your messages converted into MP3 format and upload them online for people to hear 24/7.
* Do you have a television ministry? Then convert your TV programs into QuickTime or Windows Media file formats for online viewing. You can even upload your shows to YouTube or other online video portals.
* Do you have a drama ministry you can videotape? Then do the same.
* Are you a prolific writer? Then consider:
* Publishing your books online as e-books or using print-on-demand processing.
* Developing white papers on subjects of expertise for you.
* Creating an online library replete with articles on various topics of relevance to your audience.
* Starting a blog.

The key here is to isolate what ministries or services you provide offline, particularly those that are especially unique, and then determine if you can provide or enhance them through non profit marketing online. Here are some examples of the way this has worked in real life.

www.hearandplay.com

Here is a great example of transferring an offline service online. In this example, the business owner used to provide personal piano lessons. However, he was limited in the number of lessons he could give weekly-until he wrestled with the question, “How can I give piano lessons online to expand my business?” Once he resolved that question, he began experiencing a growth spurt in his business. Now he currently reaches more students and provides more lessons by marketing online, than he ever could have through private lessons. 

www.oneplace.com

Here is a different example. OnePlace.com offers a service to ministries with radio programs. Through their site, you can publish your radio program online, and then link to it from your website. By doing it this way, you eliminate some of the technical challenges of publishing audio on your own site, and you also partner with numerous other broadcasting ministries that help drive traffic to the site. This is a good example of finding a niche in the non profit marketing arena.

www.whitsend.org

Here is an example of a children’s ministry that enhanced its services online. Focus on the Family does a children’s radio program called Adventures in Odyssey, and one of the characters, Mr. Whit, owns an inn. As a play on words, the official website of Adventures in Odyssey is Whit’s End. When Focus on the Family placed Whit’s End online, instead of just the radio programs, they took it a step further by adding games, podcasts, and other interactive features that make the site of interest to children and their parents. Because the program airs on a regular schedule, people are constantly coming back to the site to interact with Whit’s End. I’s also a good example of non profit marketing.

www.Mysecret.tv

In this case, the church involved is based in Edmund, Oklahoma, and has been recognized as one of the most innovative churches in America. Their website, www.Lifechurch.tv, is worth a review for many reasons. But one of the niftiest things I liked was the innovative way they have provided for people to confess their secrets online in anonymity at www.mysecret.tv. This is a great example of finding a niche in non profit marketing and transferring that ministry online.

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Five Principles of Strategic Website Communication

In my next series of blog entries, I’m going to give you five principles that will propel your ministry forward in the area of strategic online communications and non profit marketing. In the last series, we learned how good non profit website website design will save you numerous headaches while enhancing your ministry and expanding its outreach. This next series of posts assumes that we’re starting with a well-designed website, and extends the subject further to how to implement the process of good website communication and non profit marketing.

In a nutshell, my key lesson for today is this: a strategic online communication plan will strengthen existing donor relationships while building new ones to enhance your ministry and expand its outreach. To repeat: A strategic non profit marketing plan will strengthen existing donor relationships while building new ones to enhance your ministry and expand its outreach.

What this means is that your website can perform double duty in the arena of online communication. First, it can strengthen the relationships you already have within your ministry – members, parishioners, clients, customers, etc. Second, your website can also be an extraordinary non profit marketing tool for finding and developing new donor relationships. I call that prospecting. In my experience with ministries, though, I have found that most organizations are short-sighted in this very important area.  

Let’s think of prospecting in terms of a highway billboard. For the most part, billboards just sit there, conveying a message and hoping people notice them. A billboard provides information, but it has no relationship with you. It definitely doesn’t know the names of the people who travel by it on the highway everyday. A billboard is similar to a website that isn’t working hard to achieve your online communication objectives. It may look nice — even convey a nifty message – but it fails to be “hard-working” if it doesn’t develop relationships with online visitors.  

Many good-looking websites are launched and even adequately promoted. If you’re fortunate, yours might be seen by thousands of people passing by on the Internet. But if the site doesn’t capture their attention and engage them in dialogue, most of those surfers will move on to other sites, without any strategic, long-term value to you.

It’s also similar to a church. Why would any pastor be content to know that thousands of people drive by your church every Sunday? Wouldn’t we rather have them inside our church, experiencing worship, hearing the Word, and enjoying fellowship with others?

Don’t misunderstand me—your website needs to both look good and convey a solid message. But it also must be designed to interact with your site visitors and develop a pattern of communicating with them. This is how you will be able to use the web to expand your outreach     and enlarge your ministry.

I hope this introduction has gotten you excited about developing your website to proactively engage visitors in relationships that will translate into ministry growth. In my next post, we’ll begin with the first of the five principles of strategic Web communication and non profit marketing.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #4 of 5 (Part 2)

A couple more tips and some examples of Principle #4: Develop a hard-working site to avoid the problems of a non profit design that’s all looks and no brains.

Practical Tip #3: Have your critical info appear above the fold so readers don’t have to scroll down to find it.  This is a key feature of good non profit website design.

Practical Tip #4: Have a good database for holding names and critical information about visitors – typically called “the back end.” One of the most important and overlooked aspects of generating leads is having a way for people to tell others about your site, so: Add “tell a friend” functionality to improve your non profit marketing.

If the object of your site is to sell products, is your eCommerce easy to use and fully functional? Make sure all products have a photo and one sentence description. Make sure you have a good shopping cart system, with a straightforward checkout process (no nine-step checkout routines) and test it often to ensure that nothing has broken down, so you lower your shopping cart abandonment rates.

If your site is designed to generate memberships, does it accomplish that purpose well? It’s similar to name generation in terms of convincing people to fill out a form, but if you want people to become members, your site also needs to have a feeling of community. Even though it would be nice if Christians will automatically want to interact with you because of your wonderful outreach, they won’t. They need to know what’s in it for them, and visiting your site has to be easy and fun if you want them to come back.

Practical Tip #5: Install a Prayer Wall onto your site that members can update the wall with prayer requests for general issues or items specific to your ministry. Let the content be uploaded automatically, but monitor it in case you need to remove anything inappropriate.
Prayer Walls can be great non profit marketing and ministry tools.

Good examples of a Prayer Wall:
Presidential Prayer Team
Gregory Dickow Ministries
National Prayer Campaign

If you need help to pull this off contact Pathmaker for more details.

Here are some examples of hard-working websites:
Presidential Prayer Team
(Good effort at offering member benefits in exchange for name and email data. Thank You page offers a Welcome Kit in exchange for full address, phone)
Grand Canyon University
(Gets leads by convincing you to sign up and providing the means all on one screen)
eHarmony
(Excellent job of using the right images and simple text to get people to use a form and register)
The Villages at Country Club
(Real Estate site design to generate visitor leads into the showroom)

Pathmaker Marketing can help ensure that your web site is working as hard as possible. Contact us anytime for an evaluation of your non profit website design, email fundraising, or non profit marketing.

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Good Nonprofit Website Design Principle #4 of 5 (Part 1)

Have you ever gone out with someone who was a knockout in appearance, but 15 minutes later you discovered his or her vocabulary was limited to grunts or giggles? Many non profit website designs are like that too – they look great, but they have no non profit marketing substance. And that’s a major headache!

Principle #4: Develop a hard-working site to avoid the problems of a website that’s all looks and no brains.

Here are some practical suggestions for creating a hard-working website that facilitates online fundraising, non profit marketing, asset accumulation and more:

Practical Tip #1: Develop an incentive-based opt-in landing page to encourage people to sign up for your ministry e-newsletter. For example, a well-crafted non profit website design will take into account the critical functionality needed in order to achieve your original objectives.  It’s not just about looks, but about smarts as well.

When I say smarts, I’m referring in part to how well your site converts your visitors into usable assets, such as lists, leads, gifts, or sales.  These are the names and addresses, both email and snail mail, of people who want to hear from you, buy your products, or support your ministry through gifts, both today and tomorrow.

Believe me, if you send email fundraising letters to people who don’t want to hear from you, you’ve got big headaches in store.  So ideally, everyone you deal with is someone who has opted in to receive something from you online: your e-newsletter, free information, non profit marketing re: your products, etc. 

Practical Tip #2: Develop an electronic welcome series via an auto-responder email system that immediately sends your leads the information they requested.

If your site is intended to generate leads, does it fully function in that capacity? If so, it should allow people to interact with you by signing up for an offer—a newsletter or something else of value to them (not to you, to them). Your well-crafted non profit website design will have easy-to-use and convincing pages that persuade people to give you their contact information and allow them to do it easily. 

Follow up your email reply with a Welcome Kit offer – a packet of information about your ministry sent through snail mail. Typical Pathmaker Marketing clients experience a 63% conversion rate of enrollment into the Welcome Kit offer after just prior having signed up for email offers. Once your welcome Kits are sent out, have someone follow up with a telephone call as the last step of an efficient lead follow-up system.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #1 of 5

As promised in my last post, I’ll be giving you a series of five principles that will help you avoid major non profit website design headaches. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Principle #1: Clarify your objectives to avoid conflicting voices.

If you don’t know what you’d like your website to accomplish, it may end up with conflicting messages and voices. These conflicting voices can lead to standstill, gridlock, and internal strife as your ministry strives to fulfill its mission. Webmasters are often pulled in numerous directions for no apparent reason on unreasonable timetables. Clarifying your objectives will eliminate these headaches and enable your team to form a crystal-clear perspective on why you want to have a web site. In order to accomplish Principle #1, you need to be able to answer the question…

What is the Primary Objective of Your Website?

It’s entirely possible that you may have multiple objectives. If that’s the case, rank them in order of priority so that you understand which ones are the most important to achieve.

Practical Tip #1: If you have more than one website objective, reduce your list to your top two to three goals and prioritize them. Focus on accomplishing your top priorities first, then progress to other subordinate objectives.

Practical Tip #2: Record your website objectives on paper so that if there are any changes in your website personnel, your new staffers will know the original thinking behind your site.

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Five Overarching Principles for Non Profit Website Design

During this week’s blog posts, I’m going to introduce you to five overarching principles and many practical tips for developing and maintaining a website with exceptional website design that maximizes your ministry outreach for non profit marketing and fund raising. That’s a whole lot better than the alternative, which would be a website that gives you innumerable headaches.

Migraine headaches.  I know from experience that those are really lousy to live with. My wife, Carmel, will celebrate 22 years of marriage this coming September.  Those have been two really good decades together.  We’ve had our share of challenges too though.

For example, ever since Carmel gave birth to our first child, Caitlyn, nearly 15 years ago, she has suffered with headaches: low-grade everyday annoying headaches you keep 100 tab bottles of Excedrin around the house to deal with… to life-stopping, head-pounding, full-blown migraine headaches you get needle shots of Toradol to deal with, but always feel helpless and hopeless around.

For years, she has endured the pain. When they were small ones, they made our lives miserable. But when they were big ones they brought everything to an immediate, grinding standstill.

I confess I’ve never felt more helpless than when Carmel would experience migraine headaches – she would have to retreat to the darkest room in the house, huddled up in pain, begging for the elimination of any noise, nauseated, while I watched her suffer in pain and distress, wondering “What could I do?” or “What should I do?”

Thank goodness for exceptional doctors like Dr. Merle Diamond at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, who also suffers from migraines, and was immediately compassionate toward Carmel, when we finally entered her offices after attempting for years to get help from numerous other sources.

Over time, Dr. Merle helped Carmel gain control of this debilitating problem, and established a reasonable ability to manage and control her headaches.

To do that, it meant new routines — managing her diet, avoiding a stress-filled lifestyle, exercising regularly, and finally, just learning to deal with the genetic makeup she had acquired in life that made headache predisposed.

Headaches.  Some of us suffer from them physically. Some of us some suffer from them emotionally. Some of us suffer from them professionally – all too often, through our websites.

Which brings me back to my subject material – Non Profit Website Design.

So let’s follow along with headaches as our backdrop for covering this subject. In a nutshell for today’s post, learning the basics of good website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach and increasing its online fund raising.

Let me repeat that so you can write it down:

Learning the basics of good non profit website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach. and increasing its online fund raising.

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