Most foundation endowments have tanked by 30% or more over the last six months, and nonprofits are scrambling to replace reduced or eliminated grants. But if you need to panic, blow air into a brownbag on your lunch break. Now is a time for action. The harsh economy offers philanthropy some great opportunities for renewal.
One is to take advantage of new technology and advance your web presence into the 21st century. How do I do this, you ask, when your tech guru’s been laid off and your budget to hire a consultant wouldn’t cover a half hour of time?
You can take a few relatively simple and inexpensive steps that will make you more tech savvy than most grantmakers or nonprofits, even if you’re just starting to master your Outlook calendar .
First of all, give yourself credit for reading this blog. Reading and responding to blogs can help you understand and present new media ideas. Here are some others:
- E-mail signature: I know it’s basic, but if you don’t already, feature a link to your site prominently in your e-mail signature. But it’s best to go beyond this and include a link that relates to your focus area. For example, if you’re a program officer for hunger issues, include a link to a relevant page of your website, and if you’ve written anything about the issue, include a link to this, too.
- Capture names of site visitors: Requesting two simple pieces of information—name and e-mail address –enable you to stay in touch with anyone on your site. It’s really a must if you’re going to heighten your web presence. Make sure a way to sign up is easy to access, (the best way is to feature it prominently on your front page). If no one in your organization knows how, you can purchase a service from AWeber or others that will do it for you for as little as $19/month, much cheaper than 15 minutes with most consultants.
- Get interactive; start and maintain a blog: If your website doesn’t have a blog, offer to start one up. If your website doesn’t have the capability, sign up for a free one on Blogger or Wordpress and include a link from your website to the blog. The bottom line is: organizations need to build relationships with their constituents in this brave new web world. This means giving and receiving feedback. You’ll create a stronger bond with people and gain some new insights on how to be more relevant, particularly if you’re a grantmaker trying to connect with the community. Moreover, this costs you nothing and occupies no more than 60-90 minutes/week.
- Search and comment: Go to sites like Digg or Delicious, or simply go to Google and search for blogs or news and information sites related to your focus area(s). Start reading them. Comment on them. Build relationships with other readers and commenters. Always include a link to your website and a means of contacting you with each post. This gets word out about your organization and offers a means for interested people to find you.
- Write for other organizations in your focus area: For example, if you’re in social justice, contact organizations, like Amnesty International, local community newspapers’ websites, affinity groups, and others doing work like yours. They’ll almost always be pleased to have another contributor (whom they don’t have to pay). This spreads news about your organization to hundreds or thousands of people sharing your same interest. And it costs you nothing. Just be sure a link to your organization and a way to contact you are included with the article/entry you write.
- Publish your e-newsletter regularly: Do so, whether it’s every quarter or every month. The importance isn’t so much in what you say, just that you’re saying something. People come to rely on hearing from you, and you’ll stay on their radar. If you don’t have an e-newsletter, start one. Even if your website doesn’t offer e-newsletter capability, a number of online companies offer services that hold your hand through creating an e-mail, start to finish, that can be set up very quickly and professionally with a minimal time investment and for a cost as low as $15/month. Some examples are: Constant Contact and Vertical Response.
- Fundraising online: If your organization raises money, include a way to donate that is prominent and can be accessed with a click from your front page. If you don’t currently have the capability from your website, contact Paypal or Gooogle Checkout to set one up. Yes, it costs you a percentage of a gift to process the transaction, but these are also gifts you never would’ve had if you haven’t been accepting gifts on the web.
- Register with facebook, linkedin, and others: It’s a free and a very quick way to build relationships for your organization. If your organization isn’t registered, take steps to make sure it is. You can sign up in a snap and onscreen prompts can coach you through completing the profile in a half hour or less.
Build this List
If you have other ideas to include, we’re interested to hear them. Please ad them in the comments below and we can grow the list.