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Create a Community around your Cause
Linda K. Beeman

January, 2012

Aurora Grants’ firmly believes that a nonprofit’s website is its most important development tool, we decided to start off 2012 by recommending that you take a fresh look at your own website – from a philanthropist’s viewpoint*. While doing so, consider two items that could make a tremendous impact on your online donations this year:

(1) How easily is your website found by someone who is interested in your mission?
(2) Do you offer your website visitors an interactive way to join a community of like-minded individuals?

First, imagine what key words a person might use to locate your organization, and do a search yourself. Does your website come up? How far into the text on your home page do those key words appear? What other possible key words might a person employ? Think about your mission, whom you serve, how you serve them, program milestones, and your ultimate vision. For example, if your nonprofit provides middle schools with edible gardens, your key words would include the categories of Agriculture, Education, Health, and Nutrition, as well as terms such as: fruit, vegetables, plant, fresh produce, organic soil, green, natural, market, sustainable, curriculum, students, youth, harvest, meal planning, community garden, gardening activity, etc.

If you do not currently have a list of key words for your organization, think about developing one; then test your website and all of your communications against it, inserting them as needed. You will also find this list helpful for research into foundations and corporations that fund programs in your area, as well as other nonprofits with similar missions for potential partnerships or collaborations. Key words should be updated as new concepts emerge in your field, and the new words incorporated on your website to keep it current. (For more information on key words, see below.)

Second, how do you create a community around your mission? One way to do this is by hosting a page on Facebook (see Houston Tidelanders Chorus), or by posting Tweets on your website (see Pup Squad Animal Rescue). To go one step further, introduce a way for visitors to interact with your website directly. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Rather than creating a blog yourself, think about which blogs, online publications, research sites, books and/or foundations that YOU refer to, in order to keep up-to-date and energized. Add a page to your website with links to these resources, and include a Comments section for visitors to share their views on what they’ve read. Be sure to monitor the conversation – you may even come up with new program ideas!

Visuals that are updated on a regular basis, although a bit more labor intensive, can keep visitors coming back to your website. What about video snippets from rehearsals, or weekly interviews with clients, where appropriate? Does your program lend itself to installing a webcam, such as the Rhino Barn at the Houston Zoo? Look for something unique about your nonprofit that engages people. By providing a platform for interaction, you not only advance your nonprofit’s credibility as a hub for current ideas, but you will connect individuals to your cause on a more personal level.

There is no substitute for watching rhinos in real-time!

Resources:
*For an in-depth look at modern philanthropy, we recommend the book Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.

Linda Beeman will be speaking on the use of key words at the Executive Service Corps of Houston (ESCH) on January 11, and at the ‘Ask The Experts’ Conference on February 28, 2012. For more details see ‘Speaking Engagements’, listed under the ‘Nonprofit Blog’ tab of this website.



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