How Much Should A Nonprofit Website Cost?

Laura Quinn posted a great piece on the Idealware blog recently about what you get for your money when building a web site. We get questions all the time about how much an organization should budget for a new site, and what you get for each step up. We all know dollars are scarce, and it’s important to be able to make the case for why you should or should not budget a certain amount for your site.

First, let’s talk about the variables which influence the cost of a site:

  • Design — less expensive sites offer little or no graphic design flexibility. Choose a template, a color, and drop in your logo. Moderate sites offer more customized and creative design services, and more expensive sites offer more detailed design, and may present multiple design concepts to choose from.
  • Content Management — license of a CMS is usually included in moderate to higher priced sites. May not be in lower range sites. However, many people who save money here end up paying much more in per hour fees to update or change content on the site down the line. And content is key, so a CMS should be a non-negotiable on your list.
  • Functionality — the more functions you want your site to serve, the more it may cost. However, there are many free or low cost third party widgets you can drop into your site these days to add forms, polls, video, donations, etc. Thus, make sure that the platform will support such things if you plan to go this route.
  • Strategic Consulting — any web site is just a tool to help you achieve your mission and goals. Thus, you should think about what you will need, and how you will use towards these goals. A low cost web site project will be just simple execution of the site. A higher cost project will include more consulting, strategic guidance, recommendations and education throughout the process to help you use the tools more effectively. Some will also offer ongoing availability for such assistance through an annual support contract.
  • Support — a low end site will likely leave you on your own once it’s launched. A higher cost project will offer phone and/or email support should you have tech support questions or need guidance after launch.
  • Hosting — some vendors offer hosting with their site development, and others require you to have the site hosted yourself. Though these costs are often not huge, it’s important to budget for a service that updates their servers regularly, offers 24/7 server monitoring should something go down, automatic and regular back ups, and security features to guard against hacking (there have been a small number of anti-semitic web site hacks in the past few years on synagogue sites that were not well protected).

Finally, when budgeting for such a project, don’t forget to add in the costs for the staff time to create (and/or re-purpose) content and post it on the site, and for managing your broader social media strategy if you have one (Facebook, blogging, etc.). We find this cost is often overlooked in the planning stages, but is critical to get a return on your investment and to use the available tools to their best potential.

The Idealware post offers brief descriptions of what you can expect for $1K, $5K, $15K, $50K and $100K. How did you weigh the costs and benefits to determine your web site design budget?

Video Within Reach

As broadband internet has become the norm, and the value of compelling content online has become key to capturing and retaining user’s attention, online video has become more popular and more powerful. See3 Communications, a fantastic firm headed by Michael Hoffman out of Chicago, has released their Guide to Online Video.

The 7-part entertaining, informative and inspiring Guide is your best introduction to the WHY and HOW of online video for publicizing your organization, increasing momentum for a campaign, and spreading your message virally. Michael serves as your docent through the series of short 1-3 minute videos, each with complementary links and resources. Non-technical and very accessible, Michael teaches you how to be an online storyteller.

Check out the first part in the series below. Then proceed to the full Guide to Online Video on the See 3 site.

1. The World We Live In from See3 Communications on Vimeo.

Search Engine Optimization. Wait, What?

If you do a Google Search with the words Search Engine Optimization” youll see about 34.6 million pages on the subject. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) making sure your website has high visibility with search engines – is a hot topic these days, creating an entire industry of firms specializing in SEO. As I started writing this post I said to myself, “SEO isn’t yet the norm unless there’s an “SEO for Dummies” book published. And after a search, of course there is. (I’m not recommending the book, just using it as a cultural barometer. Also, how meta/odd is it to search for a book on searching?)

There are a few basic things you can do to make sure your synagogue/organization appears near the top of any searches. For detailed information, here’s a fantastic Guide to SEO for Non-Profits. And following is a general overview of 3 key items:

Content Still is King: Google, Yahoo! and MSN (the top 3 search engines) and other search engines send web robots throughout the Internet to index words found on the pages of websites (especially home pages!) in order to better determine the appropriateness of search terms for a particular site. You should take a look at your site and make sure the name of your organization, the location, and keywords (see below) are repeated throughout the site. Obviously, you dont want to go overboard, but, if nothing else, insure that your home page includes text describing your synagogue/organization.

Keywords: In the backend coding of your website is a list of keywords describing your site. Search engines use these key words to determine search rankings. When deciding on these keywords, put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just moved to your area and is looking for something that you provide. What terms would they use? Synagogue Chicago is obvious if you’re a synagogue in Chicago, but what other terms would people use to find you? For more info on keywords and how to choose them, click here. If you are a Darim member, contact [email protected] and we can show you what keywords are currently being used on your site.

Reciprocal links: how many other sites link to your site? Some search engines use the number of sites linking to your site as a method for ranking your site. We recommend to clients that they beef up their local links section by contacting local and national organizations to seek reciprocal links (some folks call it a link exchange). It helps both sites increase their rankings, and of course, it provides good content on your site by providing your visitors with great content and a comprehensive list of resources. For an example of how one of Darims clients used their Local Links section in order to increase both service to their members and their Google rankings, click here: Your list doesnt have to be that extensive, but it provides a starting point for ideas.

For more information on SEO, Deborah Finn wrote a guide and published it on her blog, which is targeted specifically to the non-profit sector.

The Skinny on Microsites

Flickr photo credit: <a href=
Flickr photo credit: dawnzy58

Lets say your organization already has a website, but you have a project that needs some extra attention. It might be a capital campaign, a special event, a call for action, volunteering opportunities, a new publication, or a resource that is just aching to stand out from your general site. Consider the use of microsites, online sites that supplement an organizations primary web presence. Microsites highlight a product or service associated with an organization and is usually accessed at its own unique web address

Microsites became popular in the marketing community to tout new products and to house extensive marketing campaigns. Nonprofits and social service organizations are using microsites to engage with their communities in powerful ways.

Consider, for example, Temple Sinai in Oakland, California. The synagogue uses microsites for its capital campaign, and for its big Spring Fling fundraiser. As you can see, general information is available for both events on the primary site with additional, more focused details available on the customized microsites:

Primary site: Temple Sinai Expansion Project
Microsite: Temple Sinais Campus Expansion Project

Primary site: Spring Fling Fundraiser
Microsite: Temple Sinai Spring Fling March Madness

Potential benefits of a microsite:

  • Provides more specific information about a product, service, or opportunity than is found at your organizations primary site
  • Targets niche audiences who might otherwise not get noticed on your primary site
  • Opportunities to create and embed niche content, including multimedia and other digital storytelling techniques
  • Specific departments of an organization can own the site and respond quickly to changes and visitor feedback
  • Use of keywords facilitates better search engine rankings
  • Easier for visitors to bookmark that specific website rather than a particular page on the primary site

Here’s another reason for entertaining microsites: Is your organization thinking about upping the ante with your website, but isnt quite ready to make the leap? A microsite might be one way to minimize perceived risks and gain valuable feedback by using it to implement incremental changes as you refine your vision and further develop your organizations web strategy.

Learn More:

The Micro-Site Isnt Dead. (Its Just Not Useful) from LogicEmotion
Microsites are Becoming a Macro Idea
from Direct

Preparing for Successful Technology Change

Adding a new technology to your organization’s toolbox is not as easy as it might initially seem. In addition to research and making a decision about which tool and vendor to select, the project management often takes more skill, time and focus that one assumes. Furthermore, management of a technology project really is quite different than other projects, so making sure you’ve got the right person on the task can make an important difference.

Implementing the technology in your organization isn’t like flicking a light switch. In his book Managing Transitions, William Bridges discusses how change is situational, but transition is psychological. It’s not just enough to launch a new web site — all stakeholders (staff, board, members, volunteers, etc.) need to move through the transition to maintain and use the new tool smoothly and effectively. Bridges gives many suggestions about how to do this, and recently Dahna Goldstein from PhilanTech has offered her own useful insights and advise on the NTEN blog:

“In our personal lives, we tend not to like change, particularly changes over which we feel we have no control. The same is true in organizational changes.

People may be concerned about how a new technology will affect their jobs or day-to-day work life, or may be worried about their ability to learn the new technology. The most important element in mitigating anxiety related to organizational changes is to understand that it exists.

Anxiety can also be mitigated through good communication, involvement and empowerment, creating opportunities for feedback, and allowing people to voice their anxiety in a safe way so that they know that the anxiety they feel about an impending change is understandable, normal, and manageable.”

She expands on the following points:

  • Set a clear direction from the top.
  • Tie tech changes to mission.
  • Communicate early and often.
  • Involve and empower staff.
  • Tech changes need champions and influencers.
  • Recognize that change causes anxiety, and work to mitigate it.

Check out her post to learn more. What have been your tricks to manage successful implementation of new tools? What have been the challenges? What have you learned?

Tip: Adding a PowerPoint slideshow to your site

Do you have a large PowerPoint presentation you’d like to share with your website visitors? SlideShare makes it easy to do so! Your visitors can easily view the entire slideshow (maximum file size of 50mb) just as you see it on your computer.

The presentation on your website looks great; rather than load PDFs that require someone to click a link and then wait for the PDF to load, the slideshow immediately presents the first page of your presentation. This graphical presentation will attract more viewers and is also a way to break up some text on your page. Click here to see an example of a PowerPoint presentation from the Darim Demo Site.

Here are the basic “How To’s” for Darim websites: load your PowerPoint Presentation onto SlideShare. You can choose to make it public or private, but be sure to Edit Your Profile and select “Allow Embedding Outside SlideShare”. You then copy the code they provide and paste that into the Source section in the Darim Admin.

If you’d like more information on how to load a SlideShare/PowerPoint presentation onto your Darim website, email: [email protected].