Websites have been around for decades evolving from a simple online brochure format to a space where the broader community can engage with the organization. There is no denying a charity’s website has become one of, if not the most important communication tool to engage stakeholders, donors and the public-at-large.
A well executed website should be an essential part of your organization’s strategies to build a culture of trust and transparency and stakeholder engagement. So, why are many charities failing to take advantage of the full power of their website to provide more access to information?
Maintaining a fluid, robust website that answers questions of its audience creates greater transparency and engagement between the organization and the donor.
Over the course of the past year I have visited websites as part of my own research and professional curiosity. What became evident to me is that charities can do more to leverage their websites to provide the public with information about social impact, operations, governance and financial health.
Highlighted below are 5 common areas I suggest charities focus on to ensure their website has robust content and promotes a culture a transparency.
Program & Impact. Keep your stories and program information fresh, up to date and relevant. Your stories should demonstrate what social impact is being made and where donations are directed, while helping build a culture of transparency throughout your organization. There is no limit to how many stories you should share, so post often across your site to demonstrate that your organization is committed to reporting openly. The charities who spend more time in this area tend to engage more Millennials and are able to grow their base of volunteers.
Donation and Engagement Options. This is an area which I have found a mixed result in quality and quantity, both in ease of access and the options available to contribute. It is expected that the popularity of digital driven donations will continue to rise so having an online donor strategy is imperative. It’s been my experience that organizations whose websites make it easy to donate, provide clear options and have immediate donor recognition tactics built-in tend to experience more effective online campaigns and greater financial success.
Board of Director Profile. Director profiles are important for building trust and confidence in the governance of the organization. Far too often I find websites with outdated board listings, blank photo placeholders and limited information about individual board members. Simple headshots and corporate titles can be bolstered with profiles that tell a personal short story and share the connect the individual has with the social cause.
Executive Management Profile. Similarly to the Board of Director profiles, management can better connect with donors and key potential stakeholders by sharing more themselves. Creating profiles to aid in building a relationship with the individual user is important in building a culture of transparency, philanthropy and community. Again, building out from the basic headshot and corporate title can reinforce the executive’s values, purpose and connection to the cause.
Audited Financial Statements. Posting your most current Audited Financial Statements along with a minimum of the past two years demonstrates a desire to be transparent to donors and any potential contributor to your charity. As I review websites for research purposes I am often struck by how challenging it is to find this information online, if at all. Dedicating a webpage for Statements, Annual Reports, Impact Reports and other key governance materials responds to the interests audience(s) and would go a long way in demonstrating trust and transparency.
Most charities and nonprofits recognize the importance of communicating the organization’s activities and impact, however there is always room to strengthen the relationship between charity and donor. Maintaining a fluid, robust website that answers questions of its audience creates greater transparency and engagement between the organization and the donor and support the end goal – grow charity support and social impact.
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Author, Keith D Publicover is a Toronto based Charity Impact and NonProfit Management Consultant with more than 30 years in the Sector. He owns/operates the social enterprise – Resolute Clothing Co which raises financial resources from products sold to support vulnerable youth.