The Lesser Evil: No Website, or Old Website

My friend Aaron Spiegel from the Alban Institutes’s Center for Congregations dug up an interesting commentary on the sins of church websites, “10 Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website,” which he sites here.

The original post was written several years ago, and while some church websites have redeemed themselves, I’ve seen many, many synagogue sites that need serious overhauls. Same goes for any nonprofit.

The important thing to keep in mind is that people make judgments about your organization based on your website. Calendars are extremely useful tools, for instance, but I’d rather see no calendar at all than one that’s outdated by a year. Ignoring your site is worse than having no site at all.

Fast tool for show and tell

Trying to describe what a web design will look like or what we’re about to change with a layout is a challenge over the phone, especially with the limits of technical jargon. The best way to communicate tricky changes is to show them.

I know there are a million collaboration tools like WebEx and Genesys out there (heck, we even set people up with Unyte for webinars), but for a quick show-and-tell, I love Twiddla.

It’s free and lets you mark up websites, graphics, photos or just blank canvases. And there’s no annoying set-up. It’s simply worked for everyone I’ve worked on it with, no matter what archaic machines they have.

Click “Try it now in the sandbox” to see how it works; no need to log in.

3 Solid Articles on Nonprofits 2.0

It’s long been my holding that the nonprofits that stand to gain the most from use of web technologies are the least likely to use them. Here are three pieces I’ve come across lately that encourage nonprofits – secular and faith-based – to step it up, and examine how the field is evolving. Good reading:

  1. Aaron Spiegel, who’s the IT guy and a former congregational rabbi at the Alban Institute, wrote about how synagogues need to use more technology.
  2. Aaron references a great list from Rich Melheim on why churches should be using more technology. Feel free to apply this list to whatever nonprofit you’re working with.
  3. A great article from Giulio Quaggiotto, program officer at the IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and Pierre Guillaume Wielezynski, a member of the World Bank’s Central Web Team. They wrote “Development 2.0: A New Paradigm for the Non-Profit Sector?” for me in my role as editor of FreePint.

Stay tuned, because this is a topic I’ve proposed to The Forward, which should be appearing this fall.

Volunteers and Website Management

Volunteers are a gift to a nonprofit website. The problem is, well, they’re volunteers. You’re counting on them to help out, but you’ve got respect their time and other limitations. A salary is a powerful incentive you can’t use with a volunteer. (Check out 21 Ways Volunteers Can Help with Your Website.)

It’s a chronic limitation for synagogue websites. The webmaster for a New York-based synagogue was talking about this with me the other day. She said, “One of the biggest challenges, of course, is that the site is managed on a fully volunteer basis and there is only so much time I can devote to it.”

We effectively face the same challenge with Talance’s company website – we squeeze in enhancements between other client projects. But knowing that anyone who comes to our website forms judgments on the quality of work we do based on what they see there, we also know it’s vitally important to keep performing upgrades.

My solution is to set up what equates to a project management checklist with a priority number next to each task and put it in a central location. Whenever a team member (including myself) has a bit of free time, we just pick something off the list and do it. Its easier to attack in bite-sized bits, and things do eventually get done.

We have our own project management software we use, but you might look at Google Calendars and Docs and Spreadsheets for hosting a centrally accessible spreadsheet you can use for a tasklist. I think simpler is always better when it comes to tracking a project.