Tom Latchford: The step-by-step evolution from a brochure website to social web success

The chief executive of Raising IT, a company that provides websites and social media tools to charities in the UK, writes about how charities can improve their online presence

Tom Latchford
Tom Latchford

Your website is the heart of your charity’s brand. More people will experience your charity through your website than any other medium. Even the majority of stone-age cheque book bearers make their donation decision after browsing your website. Many charities are still behind the times with using web and social media to cut costs and increase income, so here is a three-step guide to energising your e-engagement. 

Step 1: move beyond a brochure website

At the very least your website should be a reflection of everything you do offline, online. But with this you are just a brochure website. Many charity websites are just an external projection of an internal infrastructure.

This type of website, crowded with content, is often the result of different people in the organisation clamouring for their place on the home page. This is the 'Christmas tree' website, where lots of sparkly things are hung up to catch people’s eyes, but the site ends up meaning nothing to nobody.

To reset this we need to start building a website by thinking of the emotional journey of supporters and how to motivate them to continue clicking to deliver value to the charity or themselves.

Step 2: capitalising on your connections

We must accept the death of the 'donate now' button. All those charities that thought the cure to online fundraising was a shiny red 'donate now' button on the home page now know life isn’t that easy. Through a process of segmentation and supporter journeys through a rich-media website, we can begin to make online fundraising work.

However, we need to fulfill the beginning-to-end supporter journey within the site, so that all the functions of your charity can be fulfilled through the website, whether it is volunteering, petitioning, shopping, doing a direct debit or donating to an appeal. For example, someone clicks on a tweet, comes to the site, sees a video of someone finishing last year’s running event and recommends they come, there is a clear call to action to buy a ticket, to pay, and then their online fundraising page is launched. There should be no barriers to sustaining seamless steps, and also streamlining processes that previously sucked up staff time.

Step 3: true collaboration and an online community

The shift to a social website occurs when you stop interacting with individuals, and create collective action. When you stop seeing the value of a contact in your database as the sum of their donations, and start seeing them as the sum of their networks. When we stop thinking the end of the supporter journey is their action, and start focusing on getting them to become advocates. There are now ways of embedding your website into the social web. The first step is social sign-in – getting people to sign-up to your website to take action using their Facebook or Twitter account. Then ensuring that there is a compelling reason and easy tools for them to convince their connections to do what they have just done.

Tom Latchford is chief executive of Raising IT, a company that provides websites and social media tools to charities in the UK

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