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Google for Non-Profits

Posted by: on Friday, April 22, 2011

Google has launched the latest version of the Google for Nonprofits program that offers several new benefits.

Instead of applying to each product individually, you can now sign up through one application. If approved, you can access their suite of product offerings designed for not-for-profits, including up to $10,000 a month in advertising on AdWords to reach more donors; free or discounted Apps; and premium features for YouTube and mapping technologies to raise awareness of your cause.

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Minimalist options for non profit website design

Posted by: on Monday, April 18, 2011

It's very common nowadays to hear organizations commenting on the design of non profit websites. A few of the popular comments participants tend to make during usability testing sessions which may send mixed messages to members include “I like a lot of white space” or “I prefer a minimalist design”.

From a user experience point of view, these comments by no means indicate that if you apply the above to your website, site visitors are going to love your website to pieces. Having a lot of white space doesn’t mean being able to navigate around the website easily.

However, it is possible that a well-designed website with a lot of white space:
  • Provides a clear call to action and focus as to what the site visitors can do on that page
  • Reduces visual clutter so that site visitors know where to look at
  • Reduces the cognitive load of site visitors by not bombarding them with information from all directions
Having minimalist design doesn’t ensure good usability of a website. However, it is possible that a minimally design website:
  • Strips information down to the most essential and basic level, making it easier for site visitors to digest website content
  • Also possesses aesthetically pleasing features, hence influencing people’s emotional or affective experiences on the website
    (Note that having an attractive website does not increase its usability, and this topic alone deserves a separate discussion so watch this space)

As such, the next time someone on the board yells “I love white space” or goes on and on about how they worship minimalist design, don’t think it’s going to work for sure.

Make sure the brand’s strategy is fully updated and agreed upon before starting a non profit website redesign. Online surveys and Web analytics data can reveal information about your visitors that was not previously available, and might be tempting to incorporate into your brand’s strategic research.

However, resist the urge to simultaneously update your brand’s strategy and your website. That approach is a recipe for wasted time. A site feature may be added or adjusted, only require a readjustment after further brand tinkering.

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How to Get Your Organization "Green Seal" of Approval

Posted by: on Friday, April 15, 2011

Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Illinois earned a Green Seal certification in February for meeting this program's long list of environmentally-responsible criteria for lodging properties. Before you roll your eyes (I know, all the "green initiatives" out there can get a bit repetitive), consider two major benefits of planning green meetings: increased public relations and decreased costs.

Organizations & Planners who make environmentally and socially sensitive purchasing decisions gain a competitive advantage by appealing to eco-friendly target markets. The subsequent PR and positive recognition are sure to improve any organization's image.

Here are just a few simple ideas to get you started:

  • Recycle supplies from every event.
  • Collect and reuse items (think table numbers, badges, signage, etc.) to slow the depletion of resources and your meeting budget. 
  • Cut back the amount of print collateral. Instead, use double-sided printing when possible or skip paper entirely and stick to PowerPoint presentations. 
  • Switch to 100% online registration and stop using paper registration.

Planning & organizing meetings with some environmentally-friendly twists can actually be both simple and cost-effective. To learn more about Green Seal and its audit process,  go to http://www.greenseal.org

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4 ways to take advantage of Google Alerts

Posted by: on Tuesday, April 5, 2011

As a small business owner, I prefer simple tools. I like having one tool that I can push to the limits over a slew of them that I have to manage. It makes my life a little easier and my processes more streamlined. Which is why I’m a huge fan of using Google Alerts.

4 ways to take advantage of Google AlertsGoogle Alerts lets you set up as many Alerts as you’d like on as many different topics as you’d like. You set what to track, what kinds of content to track (News, Blogs, Video, Groups, or Comprehensive ), how often you want it and they’ll create you a list every day and send it to you via email or RSS.

Google Alerts have always been a super easy way to track conversations, keywords, and your brand but that’s not all they can be used for. I thought I’d break down a few of my favorite ways to use Google Alerts and see if maybe some of them could help you as well.

How Does It Work
Google Alerts sends you an email each time a new page for your chosen term makes it in the top twenty results on Google’s web search. You can also have the alert check Google News and/or Google Groups.

To sign up for a Google Alert, all that you need to do is visit the Google Alerts homepage, enter the search term, type of alert (search Google News, Google Groups, or the web), frequency of emails (daily, as it happens, or weekly), and your email address.

You can set up alerts for as many terms as you like using a Google Account. So why would you want an unlimited amount of alerts? Because as an organization executive or a business owner, you have a lot to keep track of and very limited time to do it.

Here are four ways I use Google Alerts.

  1. Tracking Keywords
    This is how most of us use Google Alerts. By creating Alerts based around your most important keywords, you’re able to find new information about topics you’ve told Google you’re interested in. Doing this can help give you food for blog entries, guest articles, newsletters and help you stay better informed overall. Keeping on top of what’s happening in your industry will help you make better decisions in your business and alert you to new products or strategies that can help you do things smarter. Using Google Alerts to track relevant information is great.

    The problem with tracking broad keywords is that Google often finds information that’s not as relevant as you’d like. To help cure this a bit, you can use advanced search operators to help you filter out bad results. For example, if you are an Architecture Historians organization interested in what's being said on the topic, you could have set up an alert for [Architecture + Historians]. This would make sure that you only received architecture historians articles, instead of everything being published about the architecture. In the same way, [Architecture -historians] would omit any mention of Architecture where the term [historians] was present, while [Architecture OR historians] would show mentions where at least one term was included. It’s all about making your results more relevant.
     
  2. Track yourself
    It goes without saying, if it’s important to know what people are saying about your competitors and about your industry, it would stand to reason that it’s important to know what people are saying about you.

    I have Google Alerts on both my name ("Antoine Dupont") and my businesses name ("Admin eSolutions"). I know that they go hand in hand and if one is getting slandered you better bet it will hurt the other. By receiving alerts, you can be on top of anything negative relating to you or your organization, and hopefully nip any problem in the bud before it grows too large.

    On the flip side, there’s nothing better than receiving an alert where someone praises your organization. Those are the types of things that you want to make sure are on the PR page of your website.
     
  3. Track your competition
    Every non profit organization or business has a competitor. More likely, you have several direct competitors and several more indirect competitors. While regularly checking out their websites is an important part of the process, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. A competitor's non profit website is very much crafted to the image that they want to portray to their customers.

    This is great if you want to know what their latest event is or their last blog, but it isn’t likely to feature a negative review in last Sunday’s newspaper.

    That’s where Google Alerts comes in. By simply setting up a News, Groups, and search alert for each of your competitors, you will know what other people are saying about your competition, both good and bad.
      
  4. Keep Up To Date on Your Industry
    Equally as important as what people are saying about your competition is what people are saying about your industry in general. If there’s a negative PR swing against your industry, and you just happen to run non profit websites in that same industry , you will probably be affected.
      
    By receiving alerts on important key words related to your industry, you can be on top of any sudden changes and react accordingly. By the time your competition realizes what’s happening they will be scrambling to catch up to you.
What other things do you intend on tracking?
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How easy are you making it for people to do business with you?

Posted by: on Friday, March 25, 2011

It may seem obvious to organizations that currently provide street and e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information on their website, that if you want to make it easyfor people to do business with you, you have to give them multiple ways to reach you or ask for more information.

Surprisingly, a great number of non profit organizations & businesses still make it difficult for their visitors and customers to find contact information on their sites or provide just one or two options.

Here are few tips to help you with this:

  • Have as many options as possible for contacting you. Some people like to pick up the phone, others will prefer sending an email, you may even have someone that will want to send you their request via fax. Provide them all.
     
  • An 800 number might be a good idea if you do business with out of state prospect. This could help you if they prefer calling and talking to a human being and they are out of state
      
  • A "Contact Us" form is good but provide additional options beyond the basic First, Last & Comments fields. Based on your organization or business model, offer checkboxes or drop down selections to help your prospect narrow down their inquiry, i.e. I need some of this, this & this. It helps people pre-qualify themselves with easy checkbox so they don't have to type so much in the comments box.
     
  • Other forms such as "Ask a question" or "Request more information or a brochure". Some people may not want to talk to anyone....yet. All I want to know is (fill in the blank). They are either very busy or shy and don't want to be called, they just want an answer to their question. If you have that form available, then those people will use it and you will gain from it.
     
  • The staff page or team page needs to include pictures, period! People want to relate to others. A surprising conclusion from two separate A/B tests: putting human photos on a website increases conversion rates by as much as double. Scientific research backs this up, saying that we are subconsciously attracted to images with people. Look, I know you may not like how you look on photos, you believe you should look more like Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lopez and so do I, get over it, you are beautiful just the way you are and put up a photo of you on your site, people want to see you.
  • Make a donation should be so easy to find and to complete that your grandma could do it without asking for help. If Grandma can complete the transaction and says at the end "that was easy" then you nailed it. Also, the donation button on the home page should be so self evident that a blind man could tell you where it is. Upper right hand corner of your home page could be a good spot for it. Button color: Along with its other A/B tests, conversion rate was increased by 34% on some test site, simply by changing the color of the sign-up button from green to red!

Remember, it's all about making it easy for people to take action!

What do you find most annoying on websites when you are looking for something?

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