Over my lunch break, I had the pleasure of attending a webinar on the topic of content strategy. I learned a ton and I wanted to share some of the takeaways I thought were especially applicable for non-profits.
Do you have a content strategy? Do you have ideas about how to govern your content? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Sometimes getting smart people to admit they didn’t know something is really hard to do. Our egos and the expectations we think others have of us get in the way. Sometimes, because we get so use to doing something the same way or technology gets us so locked into a process that we just can’t see what we don’t know. For instance, think about phones: we once had a rotary dial that was great for calling people. Then we had touch-tone phones that not only let us call people, but do things we never thought of, like enter a credit card or "press 1" for this department of that department. Now we have phones with touch screens that let us not only call people, but watch video, play games, even check the weather, plus so much more... I admit it - 20 years ago I didn’t know what I did not know. Heck, ask my wife and daughters and they will tell you I still don’t know what I don’t know. But I digress.
For too long, the traditional, legacy donor databases seem to have trapped nonprofits into a similar situation. People dreamed of new, different and better ways of managing constituents and using the data, but without new technology and ideas people didn’t know what they might be able to do. We just didn’t know what we didn’t know.
One thing we do know, your constituent or donor database needs to add value to your organization, not just store data…but have you ever thought about what new ideas and technology can and should be helping you do? Are there things that through no fault of your own, that you just didn’t know about? We worked with some of our clients that are now using Common Ground, our new CRM system and found out that in the nonprofit database world there are plenty. To help you think about it we created a new guide called "Toolbox for the Modern Nonprofit." It's available at www.convio.com/crmguide
While I don’t know who said it, there is an old saying or quote that goes something like this: "never tell a young person something can’t be done, God might have been waiting for someone naïve enough to just go do it." It’s one of my favorite sayings, but I also think that we owe it to our peers in the nonprofit sector to help each other "know what we don’t know" so that we can go do it. The "it" being take constituent relationships to new levels.
See you at SXSW!
You might have already heard by now that the Change the Web Challenge has officially launched and that Joe Soloman and Peter Dietz have also been hosting a Conversation Series on new, relevant topics and tools for nonprofits to inspire innovation and development in the sector.
Today's chat will feature Helen Yuen of the Grameen Foundation, Dave Hart Convio CTO, Corey Pudhorodsky Convio Services Engineer and yours truly as the moderator. We'll be covering the great things nonprofits are doing online through new and open tools - specifically around Convio Open - and providing success stories like those from the Grameen Foundation.
Luckily, the great folks at from Change the Web and Social Actions are using Meebo for the talk, so even if you can't make the live event, you can catch the conversation after it's occurred or access it here below on Connection Cafe!
Hope you can join us to ask questions, share examples & ideas, and in general rock the discussion!
"Open Convio for Nonprofits" is part of the Change the Web Conversation Series, a series of open chats that explore specific technology platforms for good, running concurrent with the Change the Web Challenge.
As a usability consultant, navigation is really the bread and butter of my work. All the user research, the wireframes, the perfectly architected homepages and site designs – well, they don’t mean nothin’ if the navigation doesn’t work. Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix or band-aid I can prescribe that will make it all better. (you really do need to do the research!) I can give you some tips though that may help identify some problems and some iterative changes you can make along the way.
1. Do you follow the 7 plus or minus 2 rule?
This rule is based on the fact that people can really only absorb about 7 (give or take 2) options in a list before they start forgetting the first options they read. So, for your navigation, you should be sure that each group of navigation hovers around 7. That means you should have around 7 main navigation options and that in each section, you should only have around 7 options also. And, just because you asked, this applies to drop-down, or flyout navigation too. I know that this may come as a shock to many, but because of the psychology behind the 7 plus or minus 2 rule, I’m going to go ahead and say that if your main navigation options are named clearly enough, you should not need to display drop-down options. Now, a lot of sites have more pages than this, right? Well, then you may want to consider a tertiary navigation, but remember that it’s also okay to have some pages on your site that are not represented in the navigation. The navigation below is a good example of one that follows the 7 plus or minus 2 rule.
2. Is your main navigation unambiguous?
Try this – take each of the options in your main navigation and say it out loud alongside each of the other options. Do you get confused at all? Do any of the words mean something similar? If they do, think about how you may be able to rename one to make it clearer. Chances are, if it’s ambiguous for you, your users are totally confused. The navigation below is a good example of an unambiguous navigation since each choice is really distinct.
3. Is your main navigation representative of your entire site?
Identify the key goals that users would have when they visit your site. Maybe they want to learn about your organization, read the latest news about you, take action on an issue, or make a donation. Whatever those key goals are, make sure your navigation provides clear ways for users to access each of those goals. There are two types of navigation below, both from the same site, that provide options that are representative of an entire site. This particular schema uses an informational, or topical navigation along with an action-oriented navigation to provide a wide array of choices.
4. Does your navigation pass the navigation stress test?
The navigation stress test is all about seeing if your navigation does its job of getting users around the site. Your navigation should tell users where they at any point, where they’ve been and where they can go. This test provides an easy way for you to check and see if your navigation is successful in doing these things. You can read all about the navigation stress test here. (Thanks to Keith Instone for the link) The navigation schema below shows how you can provide visual cues to users about where they are on your site through your navigation. First, you'll see the breadcrumb navigation that many sites offer as a way to see the path the user has taken on the site. Then, you'll see the left navigation from the same site that also highlights the section and page the user is on.
Asking yourself these 4 questions is a good starting point to getting your navigation in strong, working order, but remember that it's also important to get feedback from your users when making changes to your site too. It can be as simple as sitting down and having conversations with a few of them or as complex as running a card sort test or a usability process test. Let me know in the comments how you've made changes to your navigation over time and what successes you've seen as a result.
Recently, Thomas Gensemer who led online communications for the Obama campaign said nonprofit email newsletters are “a waste of time and effort and should be ditched”. He instead urged organizations to send “short, personalized emails to supporters giving clear instructions for participation”. For the Obama Campaign, “fundraising and participation tactics included sending regular, short emails to supporters asking recipients to do one thing that day. Each email also told the supporter what their action would accomplish and what would happen next.” He went on to say “Email newsletters don't get read, yet they take more effort to prepare than a 250-word email”. He concluded, "email is still a killer application, but only when used properly."
Anyone who helps raise $500m online is worth listening to, but in this case I beg to differ. While I concur that email messages should be as brief as possible and that it’s important that supporters see the impact of their contributions and actions, the notion that every email should ask a supporter to do something that day is in my opinion incongruent with maximizing donor lifetime value. Political campaigns are short lived and maximizing participation during the campaign cycle is critical. In contrast, nonprofits rely on building long-term donor relationships. As such, they should adopt a much more stewardship centered email strategy, regularly sharing stories about the impact of their work, interspersed with calls to action/ fundraising asks at the appropriate frequency. In fact, the ground breaking “Wired Wealthy” research into the online habits and preferences of mid-level and major-donors shows that many of your donors would indeed react negatively to Mr. Gensemer’s recommendations.
For many charities major and planned gifts represent a significant part of total contributions. Major gifts are generally preceded by ten continuous previous smaller contributions over a number of years. Planned gifts are typically given by people who have had multi-decade relationships with a charity. Without a long-term communications orientation, you risk alienating your future major and planned giving donors. As we learned in the research, the Wired Wealthy, major donors are increasingly online and assess where to direct their contributions based upon how they are engaged online. Communication preferences vary, but so-called “relationship seekers”, a segment representing 29% of the donors are pretty avid readers of nonprofit newsletters – 42% of them reporting that they read 75% of more of the charity email newsletters they receive. To quote a relationship seeker, “I do get lots of emails from all these organizations and if it’s got interesting content about their work, I’m happy to get them. You pick and choose.”
Many nonprofit newsletters are unfortunately poorly executed. Far too many send organizational updates versus writing inspirational content. In the Wired Wealthy research, only 8% agreed strongly that they charity emails they received are generally well written and inspiring. This is not to say that nonprofit newsletters as a category are a bad strategy. There are many nonprofits who are utilizing the email newsletter as an effective donor relationship strategy. Conservation International is a great example. Their high quality emails present donors with vivid accounts of their work, share successes, and place a significant emphasis on thanking donors. They invest in writing high quality content that is always donor centered. They will from time to time ask donors to take action – in their case, make a gift, but those requests are far outnumbered by high quality stewardship and compelling informational updates.
So to Mr. Gensemer, I say, let’s not kill nonprofit email newsletters as a category. Let’s instead invest in building more donor centered and inspirational communications. Let’s not sacrifice the development of long-term donor relationships by over whelming them with actions and requests today.
*The screenshot on the right is a great example of a successful, well-made newsletter by Conservation International.
*The screenshot on the right is a great example of a successful, well-made newsletter by Conservation International.
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