by: Lenny Esposito
The evolvement of the Web from those basic grey pages when I first started writing HTML in 1995 to the bright, multimedia format we see today is nothing short of amazing. In fact, because good Web pages have become so attractive and create such a buzz, nonprofits increasingly understand the need to be represented online.
Unfortunately, many nonprofits make a crucial mistake right at this juncture. They see that most Web pages are text and pictures, and they assume they should develop an electronic version of what they would normally send to their print house. Thus, their Web site becomes an online substitution for their paper brochures.
Not only is this a huge misunderstanding of the purpose of the Internet (people get on the Web to do stuff), but it fails to take into account the most critical aspect of any nonprofit – the reason they exist at all. Nonprofits are neglecting their mission when they go online!
Your mission as a nonprofit is the single most important aspect of your organization. It's why the organization was created in the first place. Therefore, if you are entering a global communications medium such as the Internet, why would you want to confine your web site to only an "About Us" brochure or a donation reply device? Wouldn't it be better to capitalize on the power of the Internet to advance the objective of the nonprofit as well?
In other words, make sure your Web site in some way participates in your agency's primary services or activities. If you're a relief agency, list places and times you will be having a food distribution. If you're a missionary organization, make sure that you have materials available online for missionaries to use in their efforts. If you're an Arts organization, have teaching materials available to help expose youngsters to the wider world of the Arts. Most corporate executives will tell you that any project approved in the boardroom or the president's office is first measured against how well it fulfills on the corporate mission statement. Nonprofits should be just as discerning, if not more so. Your Web site project will be more justified if you can demonstrate that it serves multiple purposes, including serving your clientele.
Now, doing this has an added benefit: potential donors who visit your site will see that you are about more than just getting money. They will see your nonprofit in action doing something that they care about, and they will be more likely to donate because of it.
So when your nonprofit gets ready to embark on an Internet strategy, make sure that an integral piece of your Web design includes your mission. It will benefit your project, your constituency, and your bottom line.
If you would like to find out more about optimizing your Web site presence, contact Genesis Integrated Technologies at firstname.lastname@example.org.