"Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing." - Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945)
The Importance of NGOs
In today's information-saturated world it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the issues that are challenging our planet: climate change, poverty, hunger, health care, and energy. Often we depend on our governments to provide leadership and promote solutions for these problems, but too often the resources needed to have an impact far outweigh what any one institution can handle. NGOs (Non-Governmental Institutions) and Nonprofit organizations often step in where governments leave off, either providing direct services or advocating on behalf of an issue or constituency for government action or support.
NGOs depend on funding from governments, foundations, and individuals in order to carry out their mission. But how effective are they at connecting with their audience, elicting interest, and funding their work? Simply having a web presence is no longer enough. NGOs must create a compelling story that resonates with its audience, which may include funders, government officials, and the recipients of their services. That story is told through the content (words and images) presented across all of their communication channels, and specifically their websites.
How NGOs Can Connect with Their Audience (Better)
NGOs can communicate more effectively with their audiences by implementing some simple strategies around their website, namely:
- Define your audience
- Develop a simple and effective content strategy
- Monitor results and tweak as necessary
Define Your Audience
Most NGOs have a stated mission that defines who they serve. But it's important to remember that there are potentially other people who are touched by the organization. While an NGO may provide food to people in need, it potentially must also appeal to local and national governments for funds and support, individual and instituational donors, partner organizations, the media, etc.
As it was discussed in "How to Use Personas In Your Projects (Part 3)" taking the time to develop a set of personas will help an organization in many ways: informing its content needs, revealing key words and phrases for SEO efforts, and guiding strategy work.
While we understand that many organizations have limited resources for website development and content creation, personas can have a dramatic influence across many aspects of its public relations operation and are wise investment. Creating personas is an activity that can be undertaken internally, or with the assistance of an outside consultant. It is a step that should not be skipped to ensure that resources for content creation and website development are spent wisely.
Develop a Simple and Effective Content Strategy
If you're an NGO and realize that you need better content, but don't have the internal resources there are a few things you can do to start slow and organically develop your strategy over time. If you're unfamiliar with content strategy then check out this post, "What Is Content Strategy?"
In a recent blog post we talked about a few simple things you can do to begin developing a content strategy that works for your organization like documenting who writes content, what content is needed, who publishes it, and when should it be published?
If your NGO has a marketing or communications person or staff, they should probably be the gateway to what ends up on the website. Give them the authority to edit content before it's published. This helps ensure a consistent voice and message is being presented to your site visitors.
Monitor Results and Tweak as Necessary
Use an analytics package, like Google analytics, to get some stats about your site. If your key pages (e.g. Donate) are getting few hits or have high bounce rates then make small, incremental changes, and test for results . Here are some things to look for when trying to improve a page:
- Is the content appropriate to the audience visting this page? If multiple types of visitors use this page is there content for each of them? Is it written using language they understand?
- Does the page content reflect good SEO strategy? Are they keywords being used appropriately? (If you're unsure about what makes a good SEO strategy then read our series on creating and SEO strategy.)
- Is the page designed in such a way that supports easy reading and skimming of content? Are the key messages easily discernable? Are the most important actions visible and persuasive?
For NGOs to leverage the web to have the greatest impact, it is critical that they connect with the right audience. It begins with a simple message and is spread through the story of its work and commitment to a culture or cause. An effective website can help any NGO tell its story and enlist the support from its audience.
Ron Akanowicz enjoys getting into people’s heads. As an Information Architect and Usability Engineer at CivicActions, it’s his job to size up a project from the user’s perspective. Wearing his IA