Nonprofit Tech Spotlight #7

It’s the 7th edition of highlighting awesome nonprofits, their leaders, and their use of technology. Today, we get to hear from the founder of a social entrepreneurship that mixes business and nonprofit efforts to help people affected by the sex slave trade. Let me introduce you to Kristen Keen (blog) from Rethreaded (facebook). Check out her organization, her thoughts on life, and how facebook has helped her raise money… enjoy!


Self – Tweet

Passionate, driven, messy, a connector of people, adventurous, visionary.

Organization – Tweet

We are a social entrepreneurship that seeks to give freedom to people affected by the local and global sex trade by offering safe, life giving, sustainable work.

Best Book Ever

I can never remember the names or the authors of the book i read…..The Kite Runner, Pillars of the earth, The diary of May Dodd….I can’t pick just one.

Favorite Mobile App

Square- it lets us take credit cards anywhere we go.

Biggest Work-Related Challenge

Keeping my life organized.

Life Lesson

Have grace for yourself and those around you. Love wins.

Favorite 90′s Show or Movie

Friends and Cosby Show.

How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

Well, once I get over how intimidated I am about using more technology in my work, its amazing how much it helps.  I have a google numberdrop box and google docs all of which I didn’t know about when I first started this business.  And Facebook…it allows us to reach so so so many more people then I ever thought possible. We recently won $1000 grant in a local contest because we had the most votes.  This was because of Facebook.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

Me!!!!  I really am not the biggest fan of computers but once i take the time to learn something new its amazing how much for efficient it makes Rethreaded.

Kristen has given us great options for discussion. Social Entrepreneurships. Sex Trade – awareness, how to fight, and what to do. Life Lessons. Social Media Marketing. An intro into mobile giving with Square (which is a great app, and now Paypal has one too!).  It’s wide open where comments can go, share what you’d like today!

If you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Nonprofit Technology Spotlight #6

It’s the 6th edition of highlighting awesome nonprofits, their leaders, and their use of technology. Today, we get to hear from Ryan Whitman (@Ryanawhitman), founder of Join the Effort (@JointheEffort). Ryan offers great insight into some simple tools that smaller nonprofits may want to explore, offers up his thoughts on life and technology, and answers the all-important Best Of 90′s genre… enjoy!

Self – Tweet
I’m a Christian, above all. I’m an entrepreneur, a visionary, an idealist, organized, & a thinker. I love technology, nature, & food. I hope to change the world!
Organization – Tweet
Join The Effort is a Christ-centered organization on a mission to bring relief, restoration, & freedom to the world.
Best Book Ever
It’s hard for me to pin anything as being “best ever,” but a book I’ve read called The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller was really good.
Favorite Mobile App
Some mobile apps I really like are:
Google Maps for Android - This has helped me out a lot while driving.
Kindle for Android - I like the ability to be able to read a book while out and about. I typically don’t have my kindle device but almost always have my phone. The e-book syncs to Amazon’s servers so I can pick up right where I left off.
SoundHound - This app identifies a song being played by “listening” to it and it’s very impressive.
Biggest Work-Related Challenge

Patience is one. I’m passionate about what I’m doing and am excited to see results but have come (or am coming) to realize that things can take longer to develop than hoped for.

Life Lesson
Find eternal value, or in other words, that which matters. Each of us gets 24 hours in a day. I want to spend every moment on that which is truly & eternally valuable.
Favorite 90′s Show or Movie
Seinfeld, Friends, Dumb & Dumber
How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

We use technology in about every area of our operation. Gmail, Mailchimp, Facebook, & Twitter allow us to reach people across the globe. Stamps.com allows us to print stamps using a personal ink-jet printer. Quickbooks allows us to keep a solid accounting system. Dropbox syncs our files for both remote access and backup. Asana is used as our project & task management software.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

I think what ultimately matters, with regards to business & technology, is efficiency & productivity: Businesses & organizations use technology to become more efficient and productive. It is important for us to utilize technology to improve the impact of our mission, but we must stay tightly connected to the world. Facebook is great for reaching the masses, but it doesn’t replace a one-on-one conversation.

Patience. Waiting for things to develop over time is a definite challenge that a lot of us face. Got tips or tricks for accomplishing this? Also, what do you think about the tech tools that Ryan has suggested as helpful? 

If you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Nonprofit Tech Spotlight #5

It’s the 5th installment of highlighting awesome nonprofits, their leaders, and their use of technology. Today, we get to hear from Elana Ford, Founder and Executive Director at Starting Blocks (Facebook), an organization that is focused on preparing students for life. Beyond reading this highlight, be sure to check out her story. Her quest to help students is a great one… enjoy!

Self – Tweet

Laid back Corporate Warrior in Recovery seeks fellow intellectually curious people for conversation and toddler play dates.

Organization – Tweet

Starting Blocks teaches teens to get hired for jobs and internships that further their career goals.  Be Prepared, Connected and Confident!

Best Book Ever

Elie Wiesel. Night.  (Sorry, not for the lighthearted)

Favorite Mobile App

Does Fruit Ninja Count?  No, seriously…Pandora is my answer.  Now that I’m a mom, I have no time to make playlists or even hear new music.  My perfectly culled Pandora stations can be accessed from anywhere and totally satisfy my music related cravings.

Biggest Work-Related Challenge

Not enough hours in the day.  We are a 100% volunteer-run organization.  Even I don’t expect a stipend this year and now that my day job is Stay at Home Mama, I have to pay to put Baby Girl in day care every time I want to work on Starting Blocks.  I have a million ideas I want to pursue and I am trying to learn how to focus on the actions that will have the most bang and not take on too much.

Life Lesson

I have two and because I have survived a wild animal attack and had a lot of time to think about life lessons, I’m giving myself permission to share them both.  1) Prioritize spending quality time with the people who are precious to you.  Spend time just being together and don’t schedule yourself so tightly that you can’t build meaningful relationships with the people around you.  2) Take time every day to be thankful for the good things in your life.  Don’t take even the smallest thing for granted.  It will make you a happier person and more able to deal with life ebbs and flows.

Favorite 90′s Show or Movie

Friends

How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

Technology helps me stay organized and allows me to easily share information with my dispersed/virtual volunteer base.  If used correctly technology can eliminate issues of version control, which could be fatal to an organization like ours.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

Having grown up with a computer in the home (any one else remember DOS and Word Perfect?), I have always used technology to do things like manage workflows, store and organize data, etc in addition to more mundane tasks such as word processing.  The biggest problem that Starting Blocks has right now is that we have too many different technologies which volunteers must contend with.  Right now, on a regular basis, we must manage: A contact tracking system (Donor Tools), A mass email system, a document management system and an accounting system in addition to the home made spreadsheets we have to manage workflows.  All of these talk to each other to some extent but its not automatic. Small Business is yearning for the App to rule them all or at least much more advanced integration.

Honestly, Fruit Ninja is a fantastic productivity app… meaning, if you are looking to be anti-productive, you should get it! Can you relate to Elana’s Work-Related Challenge? How do you determine what to do in your organization so that you get the most bang for your buck?

If you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Tackling the donation fear factor

Taken from the Donor Tools Blog archive.

Seth Godin’s thought provoking posts have never failed to amaze me and this latest one “Fear of philanthropy (avert your eyes)” is no exception. Without going on about how well put this one was, here is an extract from the post which ends with an important factor for donor management:

Peter Singer is famous for posing a stunningly difficult question, paraphrased as, “If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?” Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There’s really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever… The issues are proximity and attention.

My take is that most people would instantly save the kid, but given the choice, probably wouldn’t take the road by the pond again any time soon. We like to avoid these situations, because these situations make us uncomfortable. Source: Seth’s Blog

 

As Seth points out donors fear doing something about a cause because it makes them uncomfortable. This feeling of discomfort is perhaps the biggest hurdle fundraisers are faced with and it stands right between a potential donor and a donation being made. Consciously making the donor comfortable at every step of the donation and fundraising process can make an impact on how many donation opportunities actually convert into a completed donation. Here are just a few ideas which could bring a tiny bit of direction and comfort to donors during the process most would prefer to avoid:

  • Have a clear message around the cause which highlights that every contribution is appreciated regardless of how much. It makes it ever so slightly more difficult to avoid donating something.
  • Having said that, suggesting amounts can help provide some perspective on following up with an action rather than leaving a donor with another question mark which may have them walk away avoiding it. For example Donate $5, $20, $100, $500 or more can help provide some direction and comfort in the process as compared to not knowing how much to give.
  • Connecting donation amounts to the change they can effect often helps provide some comfort. For example mentioning that a donation of $20 can buy X amount of food for the hungry and provide someone with Y meals.
  • Equating donation amounts to daily spending items the donor can sacrifice for the cause can also help bring some clarity to the decision making. For example sacrificing $50 afternoon at Starbucks, a $100 hair do or $200 concert tickets could help change …

It’s all about keeping someone’s focus on the cause at hand and prompting for a ‘defined’ action in the form of a donation request. It’s about how to bring even a little bit of comfort to an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

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Nonprofit Tech Spotlight #4

It’s our 4th installment of highlighting awesome nonprofits, their leaders, and their use of technology. Today, we get to hear from Adrienne Pierce (@AdriennePeirce) who works at minne✱, a Minnesota nonprofit that is focused on bringing together the tech and entrepreneur community. Their work is cool, very cool. You should check it out.  Here’s Adrienne’s thoughts on work, life, technology, and the all important 90′s entertainment genre… enjoy!

Self – Tweet

Planner, organizer, beginner programmer, mechanical engineer, MS Paint artist, WordPress power user, volunteer coordinator.

Organization – Tweet

minne✱ brings together the Minnesota tech community by creating awesome demo and conference events.

Best Book Ever

Oh geez. I’m going to have to say Grapes of Wrath. If I was trying to represent the minne✱ community, I might go with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

Favorite Mobile App

The Eventbrite check-in app. It’s so well made that any volunteer can jump in with no training and be checking in dozens and dozens of event attendees right away. When you are trying to get 900 people through the door to your conference, this one’s a lifesaver.

Biggest Work-Related Challenge

As an organization, we are just getting to a point where we can’t do it all ourselves. Luckily, the tech community here in Minnesota is happy to help out and donate a whole bunch of hours doing everything from ordering t-shirts to building event software. It’s not easy to give up control, but we’re getting better at it.

Life Lesson

Change doesn’t get easier if you wait. There is no better time. If you want to try something new or switch careers or move somewhere or anything, just do it right now.

Favorite 90′s Show or Movie

Hmmmmm. Fargo (despite the terrible Minnesota accents) or maybe Edward Scissorhands.

How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

Since we are a non-profit serving and led by tech folks, we use a lot of technology. Basecamp for project management, a wiki for the community information (http://wiki.minnestar.org/wiki/Main_Page), a custom conference session tool to help with room assignment and display to attendees (http://sessions.minnestar.org/), Mailchimp for emails, etc. And, of course, DonorTools to manage all of our interaction with the people who make it all possible- our donors.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

We’re all tech enthusiasts, so we are at risk of trying too many tools, or using more technology than we need to solve a problem. I’m not sure that’s a problem, but it might become one as we bring on more volunteers.

Adrienne mentions a struggle we all have – giving up control and relying on others to help us accomplish the tasks we need to get done. This is scary… and often necessary. Any tips for doing this successfully?

Lastly, were you as shocked as I was that people in Minn. don’t sound like the actors in Fargo?!?! :-)

If you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Nonprofit Tech Spotlight #3

Welcome to our third installment of highlighting nonprofit laborers and their use of technology. This week we get to hear from a fantastic organization that has a unique approach of using engineers and partnerships to accomplish great work.  Rebecca Ward from Engineers in Action (EIA Facebook) shares her story with us below… enjoy!

Self – Tweet

Roadway Engineer, Volunteer extraordinaire, Sister, Friend, Traveler, Dog lover.

Organization – Tweet

Engineers in Action is the in-country partner every non-profit or mission team dreams of. We combine the power of partnership, sustainability, and engineering to provide basic infrastructure to rural Bolivia. Visit engineersinaction.org

Best Book Ever

Favorite novels are the Harry Potter series! Favorite non-fiction would be Field Guide to Environmental Engineering for Development Workers – very useful for all of us that do lots of international development work.

Favorite Mobile App

Hands down it would be Skype! Next up would be Groupon or Livingsocial – I’m always up for a good deal.

Biggest Work-Related Challenge

It’s always been a challenge to juggle multiple projects, multiple clients, and multiple co-workers and keep them all happy! It’s one day at a time, or even one breath at a time. Thankfully the end result of a successful project makes it all worth it!

Life Lesson

No matter how busy you get, it’s important to maintain and grow relationships with the family and friends that love you. They are the ones that pick you up when you are down and celebrate life’s joys with you.

Favorite 90′s Show or Movie

I always loved to watch Friends and Frasier. Both shows made me laugh and I love how nerdy the Crane men were.

How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

Having staff working in Bolivia and in Tulsa we love to use Dropbox and Skype to keep the communication and file-sharing as open as possible.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

Sometimes the internet just doesn’t work or our staff might be in too rural of a location. With no internet it is hard to communicate! Thankfully most of our work is providing basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation which doesn’t require cutting-edge technology.

Rebecca, mentions a struggle we all have – juggling the different aspects (and many hats) of nonprofit work. How do you handle this challenge? Also, anybody up for reading the “Field Guide to Environmental Engineering for Development Workers?” Sounds like light reading. :-)  

And if you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Creating and Managing Your Blog (Part 2)

An earlier post suggested that great blogs are kind of like fortune cookies. They compliment your organization, know your readers, offer hope, educate, advise, and have fun. Sound enticing? Sure it does, but how do you keep up with the demand of generating new posts?

So if great blogs are kind of like fortune cookies, then it naturally follows, that you ought to have a consistent production of posts. No one wants the same message, lotto numbers, or advice every time they open up those delicious manila-colored cookies. Nor do they want to see the same 1 or 2 posts on your blog every time they visit your site.

Here are some tips for sticking with your blog so that your audience will have something new to read each time they crack open your site.

Make a Schedule

The best way to make sure you have fresh content is to make it a to-do item on your calendar. Whether it’s multiple times a week, or multiple times a month, you need a plan and you have to stick with it. You need to create a regular flow of forcing yourself to write. This is the only way to guarantee that you will have consistent production.

Addendum A – Hate structure? I get it. How about this, think of your scheduled blogging days as training wheels. Once you feel that you don’t need them anymore, just take them off. Utilize the structure until is isn’t necessary.
Addendum B – Are you afraid that forced posting may not be very artistic, brilliant, or life-changing? Charles Wesley, perhaps you’ve heard of him, had some pretty famous hymns like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “And Can it Be,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and a few others. Actually, he wrote more than 5500 hymns.

As you wield your blogging craft, some posts will be brilliant, some will be relevant, and there’s a chance that some may not be remembered in a few hundred years. That’s okay. Blog because you are passionate about your nonprofit, church, or ministry.You have no way of knowing which posts will resonate with the masses.

Content Creation Tips

So you have a schedule, but what do you write about? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Write on what you know. That will make life a whole lot easier.
  • Feed your mind.
    • Read, Listen, and Watch what others are saying in your industry (and in your community) and use that as a launching point for a new post. For example, this article was inspired by a fantastic piece from the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas (see post here).
    • Beyond technical reading, what are you reading for fun? Hunger Games, News Stories, Star Wars, Sports Stories, etc. can inspire intriguing parallels to your work and influence your future posts.
    • Just as important, are you having fun? Life inspires posts. If you have no life, posts will be hard to come by.
  • Give yourself something easy to produce on a regular basis.
    • Nonprofits may consider a regular post featuring a “Meet the” Staff, Board Member, Volunteer, or Client.
    • A regular statistics blog may be a great way to highlight the latest trends in your ministry or organization.
    • Perhaps you should even consider having a guest-blogger write occasional articles for you.
  • Recycle and extend previous posts.
    • Not every post has to be a new invention. You may want to republish an old post with slight modifications.
    • Another easy way to create new content, is to extend an earlier article. For example, after writing It’s time to build YOUR website, I was later inspired to extend that article with Building Your Website (Part 2).

Tools that Help

If you’re a small nonprofit, church, or ministry, great blogging may seem intimidating. Here are the tools that I use to help with regular post production.

  • Google Reader - The easiest way to aggregate all of your favorite blogs and news outlets into one place. This is one way that I “feed my mind.”
  • Evernote - Have you heard of this free software? It’s amazing. You can use the software to sync notes, memos, tasks, etc on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. I use Evernote for just about everything, but as it relates to blogging, I keep a running list of  future post ideas. And since inspiration can happen anywhere, it’s nice to be able to jot something down with whatever technology is in front of me and have it sync with everything else.
  • Google Docs - I love Google Docs because it allows me to tinker with posts (again, from anywhere) before I’m ready to publish them. It’s also easy to share these posts with friends or colleagues to get feedback on an article before it goes live.
Blogging can be a great way to engage your donors, volunteers, church members, and others. However, a crucial piece to that engagement is consistent posting. To accomplish this, consider making a schedule for new postings (until the training wheels can come off), find easy ways to discover content, and utilize some simple tech tools to make the job a whole lot easier. These simple guidelines can help set you on the right track for great blogging.

If you’re a blogger already, what sort of tools do you use to make life easier? What inspires your content?

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Nonprofit Tech Spotlight #2

Welcome to our second ever spotlight on nonprofit laborers and their use of technology. Still in it’s guinea pig stage, we continue by reaching out to Campus Minister Jeff Ferguson (@fergusonline) from RUF at Winthrop University.  Dive into this post to see his favorite mobile apps (and perhaps one you need to try!), his thoughts on the usage and limitations of technology, his take on entertainment from the 1990′s, and more… enjoy! (hopefully)

Self – Tweet

In my mind, I’m laughing my head off.

Organization – Tweet

RUF: Reaching students for Christ; Equipping them to Serve.

Best Book Ever

The Lord of the Rings: So good you can’t contain it in just one book.

Honorable Mentions: A Tale of Two Cities. Ender’s Game. Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash. The Little Red Caboose

Favorite Mobile App

For me, Mobile Apps are like potato chips… I can’t have just one.

Instagram for fun.

Instapaper for information.

Expensify for work.

1Password for security.

Evernote for organization.

Jetpack Joyride for… well, you know.

Biggest Work-Related Challenge

Consistently, my biggest ministry challenge is trusting God to bless the ordinary work of ministry instead of trying to fix everything myself. I hate going to the doctor because I always tell myself that I can just fight through whatever I’ve got. Recently, a debilitating pain in my left shoulder finally forced me to go get help. Apparently, the muscle that connects my neck and shoulder blade had become so knotted up, I would need to see a physical therapist for several weeks to retrain the muscle to relax properly. It was great! The PT taught me all kinds of stretches to keep that muscle from knotting up again. The problem is, I feel so great and these stretches take so long that it is easy to trust myself and not the word of my PT. I’m altogether too prone to neglect these ordinary, boring stretches and think I’m fine the way I am.

Campus ministry is a lot like that sometimes. God calls us to this long, slow, prayerful, patient sort of pastoring that lives out the Gospel in word and deed among the students and faculty on campus. But sometimes, it is all too easy to look around and think that I know what needs to be done better than the Lord Jesus does. It is easy to be tempted to put something together that is big and exciting and will “totally” change the whole campus. But the Word of God calls us to rely on less “spectacular” means, trusting the Holy Spirit to work through the church, the Gospel message, the prayers of God’s people, and our incarnational relationships with others.

Life Lesson

Playing LEGOs with the kids is more important than any email.

Favorite 90′s Show or Movie

I’m totally a child of the 80′s: Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, The Cosby Show, Airwolf, Knight Rider, Aliens…. The list goes on. How can you possibly think about any other decade? But the 90′s weren’t a total loss, thanks to The Shawshank Redemption.

How are you harnessing technology to simplify work

The Cloud is maturing. I can sit down at any terminal at home, work, or on the road, any mobile device (iPad, iPhone, etc) and have access to ALL of my work and keep it in sync. I am not tied to an office anymore. I can finish a sermon between meetings with students at a coffee shop, fix a campus minister’s technical problem by logging into his computer through my iPad, or submit a reimbursement request right after a business lunch. My work is simplified because I’m spending less time figuring out how to get to the office to get things done and am just getting them done wherever.

What problems exist (if any) with the blending of technology and your work

The flip side of the benefit of technology: If work can be anywhere, you might be tempted to work everywhere. We need margins and boundaries in life to keep from being pulled away from the personal relationships that matter the most: family, friends, the church, and the Lord.

Can you relate with Jeff? Is it true that the 90′s was mostly a loss?!?! Drop your notes below. And if you want to be a future spotlight, hop over to the about section to contact us.

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Creating and Managing Your Blog

Blogging isn’t for everyone, but for those who are committed to the effort of creating one and sticking with it, here’s how Chinese food has impacted my thoughts on the practice.

I love Chinese food. Especially fortune cookies. The words of wisdom, the lottery numbers, the help learning Mandarin Chinese – it all makes for a wonderful experience.

Which leads me to the point of this article. Blogs are to organizations, what fortune cookies are to a Chinese dinner.

Is your blog a fortune cookie?

Does your blog complement your organization? Does it add to the experience  and encourage people to come back? Think about the goals, mission, and vision of the organization and ask yourself if the blog is helping reach those ends.

Know your readers

Who are the people you want coming to your website on a consistent basis? What are their needs, wants, and desires? Chances are your readers will be very similar to you. So write for yourself and the others in your organization and you’ll effectively reach the readers you want.

This the beauty of a fortune cookie. It seems to know exactly who we are and what we need to hear.

Offer hope

Most of the fortune cookies I’ve read (and trust me, there’s been a lot of them) are hopeful in nature. Write content that is uplifting, encouraging, and inspiring. Everything you write should be seasoned with the passion you have for your cause.

Educate

I follow a lot of blogs. Too many really. But I do so because I’m looking to learn things. And while not everyone may be interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, we all are hungry for truth and wisdom. Good blogs challenge people to think and satisfy the appetite of the mind.

Advise

Okay, honest moment here. I don’t really follow the advice of a fortune cookie, but I’m anxious to see what it says each and every time. I come to blogs for the same reason. I come expecting opinions that will help me think critically about my own values, ideas, and plans. I come to be challenged and to be advised.

As a blogger, you should humbly offer your advice. Just make sure you are willing to humbly accept feedback.

Have fun

The goals of your organization are likely very serious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Kind of like fortune cookies. They aren’t necessary, really, but they make for a wonderful and fun conversation amongst friends.

In all seriousness, your blog should be the perfect complement to your meal, ehh… website.

Could you imagine if the local take-out started shrink wrapping Boston-Creme Donuts and included them with your Lo Mein? Talk about some serious confusion (am I at Dunkin Donuts or Happy Dragon Take-out?).  What are some of your thoughts on the best (and worst) blogging practices?

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Building Your Website (Part 2)

While a previous post explains that content is the most important aspect of your site, this post provides general framework for creating that content.

Real people are coming to your site

Your site will be visited by real people with real reasons for exploring your content. You may be staring at a computer as you create the site, and people may be staring at a computer when they visit, but it’s still a conversation between two people. Our website copy, layout, and content should reflect this fact.

You need to determine why

People come to your site for a reason. Figure out why, then build your content around it. Some people want to meet you, some want to know you better, and some want to engage with you. Remember that you will have a blended readership (hopefully) of first-time and repeat visitors. Determine their reasons for coming, and then build your content with that in mind.

Your home page should be an introduction

Your website’s home page should be similar to making an introduction in the real world. At networking events, it’s called an elevator pitch. At a first date, it’s briefly sharing who you are. At your website, it’s virtually sharing with the world who you are and what you offer.

From your home page, friends should be able to recognize you at once and pick up the conversation where they last left-off. As for new acquaintances, they should be able to quickly determine if they’d like to have a deeper conversation with you.

Which brings up another point. Unlike print media, digital media should follow the tactic long practiced by artful engagers. Don’t write a novel on your home page that people have to read through top-down and left to right. Utilize short introductions, allowing the conversation to unfold naturally where interest is bridged. Your website guests will bounce from tab to tab, pursuing what interests them most.

Similarly, your visitor should be able to access all of your important information within 2 clicks. Don’t make your visitor play the 20-questions-game just to figure out how to contact you. Put important information within easy reach.

Your visitors need to know you

So back to these visitors. When they come to your site, they need to see the real you. Your content, your pictures, and your copy should reflect who you are. No one sends in a substitute version of themselves on a first date, neither should you portray yourself as someone you’re not on your website.

The goal is to convey the culture of your organization. You can do this by sharing real pictures (and avoiding clipart), using videos that share your story, and taking advantage of podcasting software for people to hear testimonies, sermons, and interviews (one we particularly like can be found here). Offering multiple ways for people to communicate and connect with you on their terms (such as contact forms, email addresses, phone numbers, physical locations, calendar events, etc), is also a great way to enable your visitors to get to know you.

Your followers need to engage you

If the first date went well, you’ll probably want to find other ways to meet and engage again. The same is true for your website’s repeat visitors. You should continue to update your site with fresh content and offer multiple ways for connecting. You might include the following options:

  • Calendar – Creating and sharing opportunities to meet
  • Blog - Information about the latest news and interests of your organization
  • Online Giving – Can you think of a better way to engage? Utilize something like PayPal and Donor Tools to capture and organize your online donations
  • Social Media – If you have Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, promote it
  • Contact – Communication on their terms – contact forms, email addresses, phone numbers, physical locations, etc

Conclusion

Content is the most important aspect of your site. Naturally, having guidelines to help you determine what sort of content to include is extremely valuable. Whether you are building a brand new website, or polishing an old one, make sure to remember that real people are coming to your site. Your new and repeat visitors want to know you, engage with you, and follow you. What other types of guidelines should you follow for creating a site? Or, if it would be more fun, can you give an example of a horrible site?

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