SmartCause Digital

Do Fewer Things. And Do Them Really Well.

May 29, 2013

A couple of recent experiences with nonprofit websites have left me feeling very frustrated.

  • One nonprofit organization offered a contact form on their website. I submitted my inquiry. It took that nonprofit SEVENTEEN DAYS to reply to my question... with a canned message.
  • Another nonprofit organization offered a volunteer application form on their website. The very first page of the UNSECURED form requested my SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.

It feels like these nonprofits want to do ALL THE THINGS on their websites.

  • “We’ll put the volunteer application online!”
  • “People will be able to submit their questions through a contact form!”

These nonprofit websites have succeeded in doing many things on their website but they are doing them poorly.

Here’s my advice for nonprofit websites: (And for nonprofits in general. And for small businesses. And even for individuals.) Do fewer things and do they really well.

 

 

DO FEWER THINGS AND DO THEM REALLY WELL.

Crawl before you can walk. Walk before you can run.
By concentrating on doing fewer things and doing them well, you will set up your nonprofit website (or small business or person) for greater success in the future. By doing fewer things, you will be more likely to avoid doing many things poorly, which reflect negatively on your organization.

If you do fewer things and do them really well, you won't...

  • Start a blog... and fill it with press releases or never post to it at all.
  • Set up a Twitter account... and fill it with Facebook reposts or never update it at all.
  • Set up a contact form... and never reply or send severely delayed replies.
  • Collect sensitive information... if you haven’t researched the security implications.

 

 

How to “Do Fewer Things and Do Them Really Well” on Your Nonprofit Website

  • Funnel your resources to features that are mission critical.
  • Ensure that each feature is linked to an overall organizational goal.
  • Assign a staff person to manage the feature.
    • Choose a staff person whose other duties relate to the feature.
    • As part of the staff person’s annual performance review, assess the feature’s performance.
  • Regularly review the feature’s analytics to inform new ideas and new content.
  • At least once a year, review the entire feature to determine if it should continue and whether any changes can be made to improve its effectiveness for your nonprofit.

 

 

How would “Do Fewer Things and Do Them Really Well” have helped the nonprofits mentioned at the beginning of this article?

For the nonprofit with a contact form that no one answers

  • Allocate your resources on only the features that are mission critical.

    The contact form is an important tool for visitors to request more information.

  • Ensure that each feature is linked to an overall organizational goal.

    We have an organizational goal of educating more people about *insert subject*.

  • Assign a staff person to manage the feature.
    • Choose a staff person whose other duties relate to the feature.

      We assigned the communications assistant to be responsible for the contact form. She answers a lot of questions and inquiries from our audiences and has many resource materials prepared.

    • As part of the staff person’s annual performance review, assess the feature’s performance.

      Our communications assistant pulled the analytics from the contact form as part of her report in preparation for her annual review. She was proud that she answered ### questions and that her average turnaround time was ###.

  • Regularly review the feature’s analytics to inform new ideas and new content.

    Our communications assistant noticed that due to the change in law in our state people were confused about *insert subject*. She added a new page to our website with the updated information.

  • At least once a year, review the entire feature to determine if it should continue and whether any changes can be made to improve its effectiveness for your nonprofit.

    We turned the most popular inquiry topics into an “FAQ” page on our website. It’s become the most popular page for visitors coming from search engines!

 

For the nonprofit with an unsecure volunteer application that collects sensitive information

  • Allocate your resources on only the features that are mission critical.

    We want to make the volunteer recruitment process easier by using an online form as the first step.

  • Ensure that each feature is linked to an overall organizational goal

    We need more volunteers to help us deliver our services. We have a goal of recruiting 50 more high-quality volunteers this year.

  • Assign a staff person to manage the feature.
    • Choose a staff person whose other duties relate to the feature.

      We have assigned our volunteer coordinator to decide how we will use the website to recruit new volunteers. She knows that our volunteer application and training process is intimidating to new volunteers. She suggests that we start with a brief form that just collects name, email address and interest areas. She will follow up with volunteers to assess their capacity and interest before moving them further in our long application process.

    • As part of the staff person’s annual performance review, assess the feature’s performance.

      Our volunteer coordinator pulled the analytics from the volunteer interest form as part of her report in preparation for her annual review. She was proud that she converted ### percent of the people who submitted an inquiry into active volunteers!

  • Regularly review the feature’s analytics to inform new ideas and new content.

    Our volunteer coordinator noticed that not many people were using the “interest areas” on the volunteer form, so she replaced it with a “questions” field as a test to see if people would submit questions.

  • At least once a year, review the entire feature to determine if it should continue and whether any changes can be made to improve its effectiveness for your nonprofit.

    Our volunteer coordinator decided to add another, longer volunteer form to the website. She only sends the link to volunteers with whom she’s followed up and who are still interested. She collects some basic work history information, but does not collect any sensitive information because she has heard from volunteers that they prefer other methods for submitting sensitive information.

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About the Author

Yesenia SoteloYesenia Sotelo is a digital skills trainer and web developer.

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