Reaching Donors and Volunteers in Our Nanosecond Culture

Author: Jack Martin

At a recent executive education course held at the Kellogg School of Management, instructors Rich Howard and Liz Honack asked a group of nonprofit marketing and development professionals to raise their hands if their organizations did not have web sites. Surprisingly, a few hands shot up throughout the room. To some, it may come as a shock that any organization, whether non- or for-profit, would not have a web site.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits have limited operational funds and as a result see web sites as a luxury. However, as the next generation of potential donors seek out organizations that reflect their interests and values, it is vital that each nonprofit organization has a web site that engages this emerging group of philanthropists. We live in what Honack and Howard call a “nanosecond culture.” With the proliferation of PDAs, iPhones, etc., the younger generation has become accustomed to having information readily available at their fingertips. This is why for nonprofit web sites, the emphasis is on functionality and ease of use.

Providing people with the ability to donate online is one obvious way to break down the barrier between your organization and busy tech-savvy donors. However, this isn’t enough to convince your audience that they should give their hard-earned money and time to your particular group. Organizational transparency has become increasingly important since 9/11, when rogue charity organizations popped up all over the internet and conned people into donating to their “cause.” A nonprofit web site should have clear and readily-available information about its history, governance, and financial structure. Having links to your nonprofit partners can also add legitimacy to your organization as well as improve your search engine ranking.

Finally, if yours is an organization that relies on the help of volunteers, it is important to provide people with volunteer event information and a simple way to sign up for particular projects. Many nonprofit sites have calendars that outline volunteer opportunities months in advance, some of which also provide links to upload events into calendar applications such as Outlook and Google. Actively keeping information up to date and engaging with potential donors online requires a web site that can be updated quickly and efficiently by internal staff. This is where obtaining customized content management tools can save staff both time and money while serving the community at the same time.