Revised with new information as of
January 6, 2014
Marketing A Web Site:
Suggestions for Nonprofits, NGOs,
& other Mission-Based Organizations
"If you build it, they will come" does not apply to Web sites. Marketing
your Web site is as important as designing it -- how will you get people to
visit your marvelous information if they don't know about it?
You need an ongoing, integrated approach: promoting the web site at a
nonprofit organization, NGO, school or other mission-based organization is
everyone's task, from the person who answers the phone to the
executive director. The more valuable your web site is for your
organization's donors, volunteers, other supporters, potential supporters,
clients and the general public, the more effective your marketing efforts
will be. Also, you don't just want new visitors; you want RETURN visitors.
In reading this, notice that the most effective marketing strategies for
your web site actually don't have as much to spending money as they do
with a mindset that must permeate your organization -- every staff member
must feel ownership in the web site and see exactly how it serves not only
the entire organization, but his or her department or division of work in
People find a web site for a nonprofit organization for a variety of
- a reference to the organization in a news article, in print or online
- a reference to the organization in an email
- a reference to the organization in an online discussion
- a reference and link to the organization on another web site,
including an online social network
like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.
- pre-existing knowledge that the organization has information or a
service they need (they visit the web site expecting to read about such
in complete detail)
- from using certain keywords in a search engine relating to the
mission statement, services, or name of the organization.
They come back to a web site because they find the information they
need, and they know that new information is going to be added to make a
return visit worthwhile. There are a number of ways to prompt people to
return to your site -- more on that in a moment.
Offline marketing of your web site is JUST AS IMPORTANT as online
marketing of your site:
- Add your web site address to all literature and publications
(business cards, letter head, newsletters, fax cover sheets, etc.) right
next to your organization's "snail mail" address and phone number.
- Announce the launch of you site, as well as major changes to your
site (such as the addition of a directory of services, an essay from an
executive director, etc.), in your printed newsletter. Your goal is to
have something in every newsletter that highlights additions or
a resource on your Web site.
- Make sure everyone who answers your organization's main phone line
and email address, and everyone who deals with the public in any way,
shape or form, as well as your Executive Director, marketing staff, fund
raising staff and volunteer manager (and at a mission-based
organization, this is often all the same person) knows how to say the
web site address, and knows what information is available via the Web
site. It is particularly hurtful to an organization if all staff cannot
do this and, instead, stumble over the URL of the site, or can't
describe what's on the site.
- Add the web site address to your organization's main voice mail
- If you write an article for a publication, ask that your
organization's web site address appears with your name or bio at the
beginning or end of the article.
- When talking to the press, remember to mention your web site address.
- Add your web site address within the text of all press releases. For
instance, on a press release announcing a new publication, add a
paragraph that says (if applicable) "This new publication can be
accessed via our Web site at... "
- Your web site address needs to be on all t-shirts, posters, buttons
and other items given to the public. Make the address LARGE and
easy-to-read from a distance! (I cannot believe how many nonprofit event
t-shirts DON'T do this!)
- Put the web site address on all signs for the organization: the sign
in front of the building where you are houses, the banner at trade show,
More than half of a charity's ranking on Web search engines is based on
links outside the organization's site, according Eric Werner, an
interactive marketing specialist at Northridge Interactive, speaking at
the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference, who noted, "Search engines treat
those links like votes." In addition, 22 percent of a web page's ranking
on search engines like Google and Bing
is based on the words in the hyperlink on both the group's own site and
others. These two facts were true 15 years ago and they are true now!
Monitor, if you can (via tracking software, online questionnaires, etc.),
the number and type of people visiting your site, what pages they are
visiting most (other than the home page), what days of the week or month
most people are visiting, what they find most valuable, etc. This can help
you see how successful your marketing efforts are, and where adjustments
need to be made.
- Make sure the name of your organization appears in the TEXT of your
web site, not just within a graphics file. This greatly increases the
possibility of your site being found when someone types your
organization's name into a search engine.
- Make sure the keywords and phrases you want people to use to find
your web site via a search engine appear often in the TEXT of your web
site, not just within a graphics file. Again, this greatly increases the
possibility of your site being found when someone types your
organization's name into a search engine.
- Search for organizations on the web that are similar to yours, and
see what sites link to them. Send an email to the web masters of these
sites that you think should link to your organization as well, and
request what specific page(s) of theirs you would like to be linked
from. The more sites that link to your web site, the greater your
ranking on sites like Google.
Keep your requests appropriate: if you find a web page that links to
services in a specific geographic area for parents, for instance,
don't ask for a link from that page unless your organization provides
services in that specific geographic area for parents! Also, do
NOT ask for link exchanges; that puts you into the position of
linking to any organization that links to you, and perhaps you don't
want to link to just any organization. Instead, in your request for a
link, explain why it would be appropriate to
link to your site, based on to whom the site links to already.
If you are going to link to their web site as well, do not make such a
link conditional on their linking to you, and create the link before
you ask for such yourself.
- List your URL address in every email signature on every email your
staff sends, and require staff to post the web site address within any
post they make to any online fora.
- Announce the web site on appropriate online discussion group
(however, please remember your netiquette and don't announce it on
online discussion groups that in no way relate to your organization).
Any search engine can help you find appropriate online discussion
- Encourage your staff to regularly
participate in relevant online discussion groups to offer relevant
answers to queries; this activity will build a reputation for your
organization and its Web site as a valuable resource. Don't just post
announcements about yourself and your organization; be a member of the
online community and help others out. It will greatly increase your
organization's reputation and visibility -- and, if you include your web
address in every post you make, will drive more traffic to your site. More
advice here about online communities.
- Ask your volunteers to link to your web site via their own personal
web sites and profiles on Online Social
Networking sites like LinkedIn
or MySpace (with some cautions to keep
- When you've made a major change or addition to your site (a
homeless shelter adds all of the data of its printed service directory
to its Web site, for instance), send out a press release and post on appropriate
newsgroups and lists. You may even want to do a special mailing
to your clientele, if they will find the information particularly
Keep Visitors Coming Back
Don't just market to new visitors; market to return visitors as well!
There are a number of ways to do this:
The key to successful Internet marketing is to accept that it is a
never-ending, integrated process. New web sites and online discussion groups
emerge and disappear regularly. You need to track with regular searches new
sites with whom to link and new lists on which to announce your organization
and its service. To market efficiently and effectively online your entire
staff has to immerse itself, at least to some degree, in using the Internet
regularly as part of their work.
- Update your web site at least once a month!
- Make sure ALL departments are using the web site to communicate. Not
just the marketing staff but, also, your volunteer manager, anyone who
works with clients, your fund-raising staff, etc.
- Have a place on the home page for announcements, upcoming events,
links to blog updates, etc., so that a visitor to the home page can
immediately see what's new.
- Create a subscription-based email
newsletter to promote updates to your web site.
Other marketing resources:
Other resources from other web sites:
- Promoting Your Nonprofit Online
Advice that goes well beyond just Web sites -- it talks about email,
online communities, podcasts, webcasts, and more.
- Don't Just Ask for Money!
Something much more should happen if someone clicks on your web site's
"Help Us" link than a message that asks only for money.
- Mission-Based Groups Need Use
the Web to Show Accountability
There has never been a better time for mission-based organizations to
use technology to show their transparency and credibility, and to teach
the media and general public about the resources needed to address
critical human and environmental needs.
- Handling Online Criticism
Online criticism of a nonprofit organization, even by its own
supporters, is inevitable. How a nonprofit organization handles online
criticism speaks volumes about that organization, for weeks, months, and
maybe even years to come. There's no way to avoid it, but there are ways
to address criticism that can help an organization to be perceived as
even more trustworthy and worth supporting.
- Is Your Staff "Walking the Talk"
Re: Your Organization's Online Activities?
Mission-based organizations use the Internet in all sorts of ways to
interact with the public, or with staff and volunteers abroad: for
instance, online discussion groups, an intranet where staff and
volunteers can share profiles about themselves and updates about their
work with each other, or an online service that is promoted as central
to the organization's mission and identity. But is your staff showing
leadership in using these online tools? If your organization is to use
technology successfully, all staff must embrace it. Here are tips on how
to encourage that.
- Online culture and online community
This section of my site provides many ideas and resources on how to work
with others online, in language that's easy to understand for those
considering or just getting started in using online technologies with
volunteers, donors and other supporters.
- What are good blog topics for
The word "blog" is short for "web log", and means keeping a journal or
diary online. Blogging is NOT a new concept -- people have been doing it
long before it had a snazzy media label. The appeal of blogging for an
online audience is that it's more personal and less formal than other
information on a web site. Readers who want to connect with an
organization on a more personal level, or who are more intensely
interested in an organization than the perhaps general public as a
whole, love blogs. Blogs can come from your Executive Director, other
staff members, volunteers, and even those you serve. Content options are
many, and this list reviews some of
- For Nonprofits Considering Their
Why It's Worth Exploring, and Content Considerations
I present my first podcast about... podcasts (transcript included).
Specifically, I talk about how podcasts can be used by nonprofits, and
just how easy it is to do.
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