Creating Credibility & Culture: Part IV Website vs. Facebook

Why your nonprofit needs a website and not just a Facebook page

You can have the most awesome nonprofit or business in the world, but in this day and age, you need that awesomeness to be reflected online. And by online, I don’t just mean social media or a mediocre URL.

Do you still have a website that was created in the early millennium? You know the one that I am talking about. It is crammed with information in small font and looks more like a brochure than a website. I see this a lot, especially with nonprofits. Instead of communicating a unique mission, skill set, or storyline, beneficiaries are given a standard impersonal message.

They find themselves led through a maze of Error 401 pages and outdated events. Completely devoid of the services and projects that they offer, presented in a color scheme bound to give the browser a headache.

“Well, Holly, I don’t have a full-time web designer and I would rather focus on my projects than IT work,” you might say.

The reality is, a full-time website designer may not be necessary. For simplicity’s sake, perhaps it would be better to have a landing page instead of a full-blown website. Either way, in the modern-day, more and more of your potential clients and donors will be finding your projects online. If your website doesn’t reflect your branding, many of these important people will get turned off and hit the dreaded X button. I have seen this happen a lot.

One nonprofit I was working with, posted pictures of the founder’s wife on their social media pages and websites. That may have been okay if she was the face of the company or a prior beneficiary, but none of the above were true. While it was nice that the founder wanted to showcase his wife’s glamour shots on the Internet, it did nothing to communicate the mission of the organization, nor her contribution, and was confusing for most viewers.

Another common mistake that can hurt a nonprofit’s online representation is outdated events on websites. I know you want to highlight all of the work that went into your events, but those events are better stored as blog entries. That way, it is still on your website and available via a website search, but it isn’t the first thing that pops up when looking at the event section. If you do have an events page, you should only highlight upcoming or recent events from within the past month or two.

Before we get into the perks of social media, let’s examine why the good ole’ website is still relevant. Yes, you still need to have one. I know a lot of people are only using Facebook pages nowadays, thinking that websites are outdated and all that they need is social media, but this is a very unwise perspective. Why?

The Five Main Reasons your Organization Needs a Website and not just a Facebook Page

#1) Your organization will own the website, whereas social media can change or shut down at any moment.

Just look at how often Facebook changes its algorithms or how quickly social media trends can change. Remember Myspace? The tiny amount of the population that still remembers Myspace may shudder just thinking about it (that’s right, it was an ancient social media outlet that went hip and hip with the dinosaur of dial-up Internet).

The reality is, you can lose all of your followers overnight when things change on social media. The same fan that liked every picture you posted last month may not even be alerted when you post this month. That is why collecting email addresses from your website is so important. You may think that it is better to have followers than emails, but with how things change on social media, you may just lose the attention of loyal fans overnight.

You can’t really blame the social media industry for finding ways to make paid boosts and ads a norm, or even a requirement, for your posts to get seen. As a platform, it’s “free”, so they must make their money somewhere, just don’t let them charge you for a fan base you’ve already created. Collect e-mails. Let’s also not forgot that a huge humanity trend right now, is to turn off social media updates on phones.

More and more, we are realizing that getting alerts about someone liking an Instagram post or selling an item on a Facebook group is a huge distraction rather than an urgent notice. Your website will not be subjected to this time of frantic change and can be a tool to gather email addresses so you can target people at-will and not in the ‘hopes’ that they see it on their crowded news feed.

#2) A website creates credibility for your organization.

If you visit a website, there is a certain level of credibility associated with it. This contrasts with organizations that only launch a Facebook page. I do believe your organization should also have a Facebook page, as social media is a marketing tool, but it should not be your organization’s home base. Facebook pages are too informal and people will easily get distracted when they see their sidebar continually populating with news, having messages pop up, or getting seduced by snappy advertisements. Your website will create a credibility factor of professionalism and focus.

#3) Your website will communicate your branding more efficiently.

It is hard to communicate the brand and culture of your organization purely through a Facebook page. Sure, you can have your logo as the profile picture and have a funky header, but the layout and design are Facebook’s template. It is hard to communicate what you do and who you are when you operate in the constraints of a platform that is NOT set up to be a website.

A website is like visiting someone’s house and can communicate what you are all about and what you offer, with an aesthetic and tone that truly represents your organization. It’s the difference between walking into a cookie-cutter showroom and an intentionally curated space.

“When you combine your email list with the power of social media, you have a one-two punch that will accelerate your email list growth.” ~ Chris Syme

#4) Your donation/fundraising campaign can be hosted on your website.

Sure, Facebook and other social media platforms are trying to catch up, but it is much easier to launch a money-raising campaign from your website – even if the call to action button clicks over to another platform. The beauty of your website is that you can have everything grounded in one place.

For example, you may have a page on your website about an upcoming event. Your “Click to register” button may go to Eventbrite for the registration process. So why not just give people the Eventbrite link? You could, but chances are it is probably a long URL and it’s easier to say, ‘Just go to my page, to register’. From there, have the registration button on the front page of your website then linking to the other registration platform.

Like it or not, an umbrella website for all of your information holds more credibility, even if it transfers to another platform. Not to mention, it gives viewers easy access to more information about your organization that they can refer back to at any time. Another example is having a crowdfunding campaign that links to Kickstarter. It is still a good idea to direct people to your website, with a link that clicks to the Kickstarter campaign. Of course, you’ll want to leverage the audience platform on Kickstarter, but your focus should always be letting people know about your website and more about your brand and culture.

#5) You can collect emails through your website by offering value.

Although we talked about this concept a little bit, I want to really drive home the tool of having lead generation pages (called landing pages) that are specific pages with only one call to action. They usually offer a type of free e-product in exchange for the visitor’s email address. That way you are offering value in exchange for someone’s contact information.

This can prove to be very valuable – especially for nonprofits – as you are building a base of people that you can ask for future donations, volunteers, or other calls to action that support your mission. For example, a sports nonprofit could have a landing page that has the top ten soccer drills in a PDF.

It could say, ‘Click here for the Top 10 Soccer Drills to 10x Your Game”. When a browser clicks on the link, they enter their email to get the short report. Boom! Your organization just gave value and got a potential customer or client. It is pretty cool.

A lot of on-line businesses have understood this concept and utilize this approach. You, yourself, have likely signed up for a slew of reports, free videos, templates, and so on; you got something that you found beneficial and are now likely receiving subsequent emails from those businesses. If you hadn’t noticed, we even do that here at Grant Writing & Funding!

The thing is, most nonprofits don’t look at what they can give. They view their website as a tool for how they can get beneficiaries or donations. This is a major flaw. If you give something of value and continue to communicate value in emails (to the people who gave you their precious email addresses), then eventually they won’t mind if you ask for support once in a while. They will even want to support you since they have gotten so much value from you.

On social media, this kind of communication is not possible as updates are continually populating your feed and there isn’t a clear landing page to communicate value or to easily deliver free PDFs, video how-tos, and other e-products all in one organized place.

Now you know why your organization needs an easy-to-follow website and not just a Facebook page. To recap:

The Five Main Reasons your Organization Needs a Website and not just a Facebook Page:

#1) Your organization will own the website, whereas social media can change or shut down at any moment.
#2) A website creates credibility for your organization.
#3) Your website will communicate your branding more efficiently.
#4) Your donation/fundraising campaign can be hosted on your website.
#5) You can collect emails through your website by offering value.

Next time we will look at different types of websites, how to communicate your brand, and what you should not do on your website.

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