Organizations know the importance of being present on the web – but are you big, little, professional, grass-roots, technologically- advanced, technologically- challenged or misunderstood? More importantly are you offering a static brochure or an interactive experience that encourages people to come back again and again?
On your website, you provide your mission, leadership and staff, organizational history and contact information – what else do you need? After all, you’re a nonprofit. You probably don’t have changing inventory or constant updates which clients, members or donors need to see on a regular basis. So you create (or have someone develop) a basic site. All is well in the world. Except that once someone has been to your site – they have no reason to come back unless they need a phone number or an address. You have left their thoughts until you actively contact them again or they need you.
Now imagine that your donors, your members as well as everyone who is interested in your mission voluntarily visit your site once a week or once a month. Would that benefit the organization or more importantly improve your bottom line with minimal effort?
Newsletters vs Blogs
There are currently two main ways to connect with people and encourage traffic on your site: an electronic newsletter and/or a blog. (The blog or weblog is a series of articles that are presented in reverse chronological order.)
Both offer unique ways to reach out to your audience but each one has specific benefits. Which one will work for you? Only you can decide, but keep in mind that like every aspect of the Internet, this is a question that should be revisited again and again.
Is it too presumptuous to write about a newsletter in a newsletter? Don’t answer that. The benefits are:
- You can offer interesting and informative content to a wide range of people. We smile every time we see a few more names of people whom we do not recognize who have joined our network because we know that we are offering something that people value enough to entrust us with their contact information.
- You are provided contact information. How and why you use it is up to you – as long as you use it responsibly.
- You can choose how often people are reminded of your services. Each organization has to find the delicate balance between informing and annoying.
- It provides a structure and schedule to ensure articles get written and delivered.
- It can look and feel like your website.
- Providing portions of the articles with links to your site gets visitors on your site and potentially checking out what else is going on in your organization.
- Newsletter software like Constant Contact allows you to create a newsletter template and just fill in the blanks.
What are the pros and cons of a blog?
- It can look like almost any other site -with the right designers in charge.
- It allows frequent updates with less technical knowledge.
- It is a medium that provides and encourages readers’ comments. This interactive aspect is one of the reasons people keep coming back. Whether they are interested in your new article on “the educational benefits of keeping twins in the same class” or the ensuing discussion, there is a fresh aspect continually added to your blog.
- It allows readers to sign up without giving out personal data via an RSS feed or a blog subscription service like FeedBlitz.
- The RSS feed also allows people to find out immediately when you post something new.
- Blogging is faster. A newsletter requires a set amount of articles to be done in a set amount of time. With a blog, you can spend ten minutes writing your thoughts on the latest sermon given by your clergy, post your observations along with a link to a copy of the sermon and wait for feedback. In other words, you don’t need to create 3 more articles to accompany it before you send it out into the world.
- It’s much less expensive to create. Perhaps it is because the functionality of the blog is pre-determined, or maybe it is less expensive because there are few basic platforms from which blogs are created, but ask a few designers and they will tell you – blogs just don’t cost as much to create.
No matter how you slice it, you need to be able to create interesting and informative content if you want people to visit your site again and again. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a day a week writing for your newsletter or blog. Many organizations such as yours already have content waiting to be shared with their network.
Does your Executive Director give speeches? Does your Development Director send updates to major donors? Are there weekly sermons? All of these hold limitless potential for discussion and feedback via postings or newsletters.
These ideas are not intended to overwhelm you with the scope. Instead, we hope you realize that once you are set up to run these types of marketing efforts you will reach a much larger audience. Whether you gain new clients, new members or new donors depends upon what you offer, but it is worth determining what you are hoping to achieve and how you can do it with the least possible effort. And that will strengthen your overall marketing and development mix.