At Cantilever we love working with non-profits, because it is energizing to be a part of making the world a better place through our work.
We sometimes get approached by non-profit clients who are not getting good results from an outdated old website, and are ready to start over, but don’t know how to approach the process.
If you are in that kind of situation, we’ve created a 3-part blog for how you can navigate towards a successful outcome.
Part 1 - Getting Started
Create a Working Group & Grant Them Control
No matter how great your process, if things are controlled collectively it will be really hard to get to good outcomes.
Cantilever recommends that your organization appoint a working group of at most five people who are the ones who make decisions about the website, including which vendor to choose, etc.
The working group should interact with the rest of the org to agree on specific purposes for the website and a clear definition of success.
Once that is agreed upon, the org should hold the working group accountable for those outcomes but should not interfere with the tactical decisions they make.
It’s very important to have alignment about how donors, board members and leadership see the website project. It‘s common for a project to get derailed by a well-meaning board member who makes a request late in the process, or by an influential donor’s feedback.
Critical is early definition on how responsive the working group must be to the concerns of these factions, and how much they will have the ability to say “no.” If they don’t have the ability to say “no” then it’s important to align on exactly what the requirements of each of those groups are so that the working group does not waste time exploring other options.
With strong influences whose approval is an absolute must, We would recommend just putting a representative of that faction in the working group.
For example if the website needs the blessing of a specific donor above all, the non-profit can ask someone from their team to participate in the working group, or an internal person who works frequently with them and can represent their interests.
Defining the purpose
Your website should have a clear reason for existing and specific outcomes that you count on it to generate. The value of the potential outcomes should guide your budget for money and internal resources you are willing to dedicate to it.
A website should be an investment with positive return on investment, not a cost.
At the outset, when the working group meets with stakeholders the natural focus will be on features and not on outcomes. This makes sense since people will have cool ideas for the site that come from things they have seen and admired. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a document of this kind of inspiration.
However, we would encourage you to dig deeper towards the core purpose that people are hoping to accomplish through such features. For example, someone may say "it would be amazing to have an interactive map with all of our partners," and indeed that would be cool.
But what will it do? Attract more partners? Raise attention for existing ones? Establish your credibility? How can you measure that? What level of result would be considered a success?
To define those core outcomes we recommend using the form of a "user story", ex. "The public should be able to see and understand the org’s global impact so that they can get motivated to participate in making the world a better place" or "Organizational partners should be able to post updates directly to the site so they can reach a broader global audience than they could on their own."
These should be connected to a measurable result, such as "small-dollar gift volume increases by at least 20% per year."
There could be dozens of really good, impactful user stories/results you can come up with. We would recommend collecting them all in a single location and then triaging/categorizing to sift out what the top three are. You may want to combine some so that you can end up with a top three that is really incredible. The threshold should be that if you accomplish the top three and nothing else, the site will be worth it.
Ready for more? Click here to read or Bookmark Part 2 “Aligning Your Content and Your Team.”
And of course, if you’d like our help, you can always Get Started on a Free Consultation from Cantilever.