Add a Call to Action – Now!

Organizations are so passive when it comes to their websites, but you want to be just the opposite. When you want something, ask for it. Otherwise you’ll never get it. Opt for active urgent language. Rather than, “Our Newsletter,” change your text to “Get our newsletter now.”

Minor change, major results.

Here are some sample calls to action you can put on your website now. Each should be a link or a button – something that will let your visitors complete the action.

  1. Donate now!
  2. Sign up for our newsletter
  3. Take a tour
  4. Sign up for free
  5. Be a volunteer
  6. Read the buzz
  7. Register immediately
  8. Try it
  9. Give us feedback
  10. Support us
  11. Help us today

Why It’s OK to Talk Money Early

Everybody’s strapped for cash these days, but budgets vary widely. Some non-profits are run out of a basement and have a budget of exactly zero, and others are housed in city high-rises and have budgets in the millions. They all need websites.

Any given day at Talance, someone from either camp may call with a new web communications project. Before we know how we can best help whoever is on the other end of the phone, we need to know how much money they have to put into the project. Some people simply can’t afford the kind of work they want done.

Many people are hesitant to reveal how much they can pay for a project, but be prepared to at least have a ballpark prepared during the first phone call. Buying a website isn’t like buying a car – hiding the amount you have doesn’t help with negotiation. Web developers need to know if your budget matches the work you want done. We tell our potential clients what they can or can’t expect – even when that means the work you need does is less than you expected.

We’re really there to help you figure out what you need, and if we don’t know how much you can afford, we don’t know how to start helping you.

Four Useful Links on Social Media, Fonts, Nonprofit Marketing

What we’re reading this week:

10 Examples of E-newsletter Footers and Headers with Social Links
While working on a redesign of his newsletter, Ben, a blogger for e-newsletter service MailChimp, collected standards and best practices. Here’s what he found.

How To Split Up the US
A very cool visualization that represents how relationships develop across geographical boundaries in 210 million public Facebook profiles. It helps understand how your social network forms and travels.

Measuring Type
“A selection of the most commonly used typefaces were compared for how economical they are with the amount of ink which they use at the same point size. Large scale renditions of the typefaces were drawn out with ballpoint pens, allowing the remaining ink levels to display the ink efficiency of each typeface.”

Articles on Nonprofit Marketing and Communications
Long list of helpful articles on how non-profiters can market. Via kylacromer on Twitter.

10 Harmful Website Myths

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[Photo credit: unicorn by Totally Severe, on Flickr]

Conventional wisdom counts with building websites. Some techniques are proven and really will make your life easier and bring more traffic to your site. But there’s plenty of misinformation out there too. Watch out for these easy-to-fall-for myths.

1. Building a website is easy.

There’s “easy,” and then there’s “easy.” True, there are tools that can make managing a website easier, but that doesn’t mean going through the process of creating a site is a walk in the park. Successful sites contain heavy forethought and attention to detail, which never comes without hard work. Technical prowess aside, be prepared to sweat a little when it comes to planning and maintenance.

2. Fancier websites are better.

Everybody likes glitz, but it’s not always better. A four-page brochure can be infinitely better than a wham-bam Flash affair with movies and sophisticated animations. Before you put a bell or whistle on your site, make sure it has a good reason to be there.

3. Accessibility doesn’t matter.

It matters if you’re a potential member, volunteer or donor and can’t see the website. It matters if you’re looking at a website on your cell phone. It matters if you’re a web crawler from a search engine looking to catalog the site.

4. You can cut corners by copying the text and format of successful websites.

Plagiarism aside, you won’t gain anything by creating a copy of someone else’s site. You might find inspiration from some of their features, but successful sites should be built from the ground up. Otherwise, they won’t be unique enough to meet your goals.

5. Mission statements should be front and center.

I get the idea behind mission statements, but most of them are loaded with double-talk and jargon that mean nothing to the average website visitor. Include a link to your mission statement, if you must, but devote your website to the most important thing your visitors should be seeing.

6. The key to SEO is submitting to search engines.

You won’t see much of a bump in search engine rankings if you limit your SEO (search engine optimization) to this single move. SEO is a multi-step process that never really ends.

7. You never need to check your website in different browsers.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to web browsing, but IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari (and the other guys too) go through changes over time, and so does your website. It’s a good idea to periodically see how your site works (or doesn’t work) in browsers besides the one you’re used to.

8. Design is design.

The person who designed your business cards might be a web designer too, but probably not. Designers specialize in print or web, because each craft applies different principles. Designers want work, though, so some over-promise and deliver websites that don’t make sense.

9. Usability isn’t necessary.

If no one knows how to use your website, they won’t use it. ‘Nuff said.

10. I need a webmaster to update the site.

Webmasters are nice to have, because they can handle updates and field questions. But if you assign responsibility wisely and have a website that’s easy to update, a webmaster isn’t necessary.

February 2010 Newsletter: Digging for Gold Issue

[This little gem is the e-mail newsletter our subscribers just received. Want a slice of this for yourself? Sign up now.]

Digging for Website Gold

Too many people think the best content they have to offer on their websites are event listings. Sure, those are helpful, but you almost certainly have something better you’re already producing that you can use to make your website a better resource. Here are some ideas to help you dig up hidden content:

Newsletter. It may be printed, or an e-newsletter you’re sending out via a third-party service, but chances are someone has written articles that can be used somewhere on your website.

Sermons. Congregations we work with are always producing some kind of spiritual thoughts worth sharing, including sermons and prayers.

Employee reports. Most companies have regular staff meetings where employees give status reports, and many of these reports center around special events and campaigns.

E-mail. Everybody writes e-mails, and some of the stuff you send out must be applicable to the people who visit your website. Look through your sent messages for treasures.

Training. Many organizations have manuals stacked on office bookshelves that contain useful information. Translate that online, and it can be more accessible to the people who need to see it.

Think creatively about where you look for content, and your website will be a richer place.

Top Blogs from Mass Mentoring

Mass MentorsThis is a guest post from some of our favorite clients: Lauren Dean, Manager of Communications & Public Awareness, and Allison Smith, Highland Street Ambassador of Mentoring, at Mass Mentoring Partnership. We asked Lauren what blogs she turns to regularly for help running her job at a major non-profit.

Top 5 Blogs

1. Nonprofit Tech 2.0
Bookmark this on your favorites right now. Every non-profit interested in using social media or actively using it should be reading this blog that is dedicated to “helping nonprofit organizations utilize the Internet as a tool for social change.” Its creator, Heather Mansfield, is the owner of DIOSNA|Communications and has over 15 years of non-profit fundraising and online community organizing experience. She brings it all to her blog, introducing new social media tools beyond the normal Facebook and Twitter, and thinks outside the box with fresh ideas to spice up your non-profit’s Web presence.

2. Beth’s Blog
I really enjoy good and informative graphs, therefore I read Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media. Beth Kanter is a tour de force when it comes to social media, having written on the subject extensively, and it is no wonder why she was named one of Business Week’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media.” After being introduced to her blog early on last year, it has been a mainstay on my top visited Web sites.

3. Something for the Ladies
Every day needs to have a good soundtrack. On the days when I am bored with my Ipod I turn to “Something For the Ladies” for music. It is a great showcase of music that I wouldn’t necessarily hear if not for this blog. And since I am a lady, it is seemingly appropriate.

4. Mashable
These people are Web gurus! Really. The site neatly packages Web 2.0 and social media news for your consumption – a quick rundown of today’s posts on the home page include business deals, free offers, job postings, trends, and commentary. Whew! Best of all, this well-rounded collection of posts is aimed at every social media audience imaginable, whether you’re an early adopter or enthusiast; business person or non-profit worker; marketer or engineer.

5. Kath Eats Real Food
OK, so this is not work-related. But this food blog mesmerizes me! Kath lost 31 pounds through transforming her eating habits and adapting more exercise, and her blog is dedicated to her daily consumption and activities…and she takes some pretty good pictures of her food. I like it because she is such a varied, healthy eater and the blog gives me new ideas of foods I should try. While she might eat healthier than most people, she also eats rather normally – the girl likes her snacks! She’s on her way to becoming a registered dietitian because of her new-found appreciation for healthfulness, as well as a desire to help others.

Based in Boston, Mass Mentoring Partnership is the only statewide organization solely dedicated to strategically expanding quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts. As the umbrella organization for more than 165 mentoring programs across the state, we provide them with training, technical assistance, networking, advocacy, recruitment support and resources. Read more on the Mass Mentoring blog.

February Birthday Treat

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[Photo credit: 10 by Phae, on Flickr]

It’s the second month of our 10th year anniversary bash, and we’ve just kicked off a new deal. From now until February 28, get 10% off anything.

Yup, anything.

This one only lasts for a month. Click here and start saving. Hurry!