An organisation without a web presence is like an employee without an office.
Yes, office-less workers can still function and do their jobs. They can still do a lot of great things. However, without a space that they can call their office, a lot of the work may feel fragmented.
An office space serves as an anchor and a base for anyone who wants to do good work. Even if that workspace is just a corner in the lounge room or a spot on the kitchen table. It still helps to have that place to work in.
A web presence for an organisation serves as its online headquarters. Think about it.
Without a web presence, how will people find you if a potential donor, supporter, or volunteer searches for you or your cause online? How will they be able to contact you? How will they know what you need?
According to a study by Nielsen, there was over 17 million users in Australia in 2010 (source: Internet World Stats). That’s over 80% of the population who can possibly find your organisation on the web. Imagine the potential!
With those numbers, the question really isn’t whether or not your organisation needs an online presence. The question should be: What’s the best way to get your organisation online?
So, does your organisation need a website?
When talking about a having web presence, most people just head over to web developers and designers. It’s easy to think that a full-fledged website is the only way to go. After several hours of planning and working on the website, plus the hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars spent, many nonprofits end up with a website that they don’t know what to do with later on. No wonder many organisations find the whole idea daunting!
Truth is, a website is only one option to have an online presence. And, really, it’s not for everyone. Unless you have a good mate who can set one up for you pro bono or at a low cost, chances are, it will cost your organisation a lot of time and money to have one up. And, even when it’s up, it will need some kind of maintenance. Unless you’ve planned the whole maintenance aspect in your website content strategy, this can be a bit of a pain to manage.
Now, what’s the best way to get your organisation online?
There are several ways to have an online presence in today’s strong Internet culture. Here are some things you might want to take in to consideration:
- Website – Yes, I know I’ve already put a bit of a damper on the idea of setting up a website. But, I will have to say that if your organisation can afford to set it up and maintain it, then yes, this is still one of the best ways to have an online presence. But, instead of just heading straight to the “look” of the website (which many people tend to do), some thoughts to consider if your organisation wants a website include: What kind of website do you want? What sort of features and how often will it be maintained? Who will do the maintenance – for technical and for content? Will it be the same person? Will you hire in-house or outsource? What kind of content will you put on the website? The good news is that right now, you don’t need to have a massive website, complete with a full Content Management System (CMS) if your website’s goals are modest. Sites like flavors.me and about.me enable you to create simple sites that can give you a basic web presence.
- Blog – If a website is too daunting, a blog for your nonprofit or charity is another great way to create an online presence. With the many free and inexpensive tools available, you can have one up and running in almost no time. However, like the website though, you do need to consider maintenance and management of the blog. Not to mention, content. The best part of having a blog, though, is that many blogs may be updated through mobile devices (phone or tablet), and even via email. So, adding fresh content can be very simple. Plus, a blog tends to have more of a personal voice, so it’s almost like maintaining a journal for your organisation. It’s a great way to tell your nonprofit’s stories! Some popular blog tools include: Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, and Posterous.
- Directory listing – If a website and a blog are both too overwhelming, then another great way to have an online presence for your organisation is to get a listing in a directory. There are a number of directories available on the web – some are free, and some come with a fee. If they’re charging a fee, make sure you know the directory’s impact. If they can give you access to contacts and resources that will cover your cost for listing, then it could be worth it. Otherwise, find listings where you can get the most value out of.
- Social media platforms – With an ever increasing amount of people using social media, it’s true that many nonprofits will benefit from having a presence in these platforms. However, it does take time to learn how to use and how to maintain them. So, it can be a real challenge to make the most out of them. Do note that even though I love social platforms, it is not the first point of recommendation I have for organisations when it comes to having an online base. Partly because I see social media as more of an outreach rather than a base. However, they are great outreach tools, and so some may prefer to use them as the main online HQ for their organisation. If this is something that you might want to look in to, then consider using either one of the following as your nonprofit or charity’s web base: Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Groups, Google Plus Pages, or Twitter Enhanced Profile Pages.
In future posts, I hope to share more about the different ways to maximise the use of these different online platforms for your organisation or enterprise. If you have questions about these, please ask away. I’d love to hear from you.