Each month the team from Good Works reviews the website of a selected Canadian charity,
focusing on its fundraising effectiveness. It's a chance for the charity to
receive personal coaching from two experts in online communication and
fundraising. To submit your site for review, contact the eNEWS editor, Janet Gadeski.
This month's candidate is the Community Foundation of Whistler.
know what it's like in Toronto, Kori, but here in Ottawa we have a sprinkling
of snow on the ground and I can see my breath more often than not. My thoughts
are turning from long hot days at the cottage, to cool crisp days on my skis.
And, speaking of skiing, there's no better place to hang out this month than on
the website of the Community Foundation
Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of community foundations. My
grandfather was a founder of Community
Foundations of Canada
, and my mother is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Ottawa
. I guess
you could say that my admiration for their work is genetic. So, as someone
interested in the cause and wanting to find out how I could help, I jumped into
the website with two feet.
Lead with stories
First off, CFOW seems to have some great stories to tell. They're
a little hidden within sub-pages of the site, and they're a little academic,
but they have lots of potential. Stories are what motivate people to take
action, so I'd love to see these stories pulled onto other pages throughout the
site and infused with more emotional and inspirational language.
In fact, knowing a little more about community foundations
than the average person, I'd be willing to bet there's a great founder's story
to tell. And I'd love to read it! I'd also love to read first-person stories from
some of CFOW's grant recipients and volunteers.
The home page has all the right elements: photos,
information on what CFOW does, a donate button and lots of navigation options.
It could go further though: the donate button should be more vivid and should
occupy prime real estate at the top right corner of the page.
Pumping up the home
The description of what CFOW does could be more compelling
and emotional (by using "you" for example, as in "we're your
community"). Photos could be larger and more compelling (real
people looking out at the viewer). Contact information should be included in
the footer (address, email and phone number), and the social media buttons
should be brought up above the fold.
Some of the elements included on the front page could be
pulled into all pages of the website: the donate button; the social media
buttons; and the contact information in the footer.
Focus on just two
ways to give
The "make a donation" page has lots of great information on
it, but perhaps a bit too much. Why not focus on two ways to give: immediate
gifts and bequests (I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of donations
come in under those two headings), then use sub-pages to talk about some of the
other ways of giving. Also, the Foundation should focus more on why
and less on how
. Motivate and inspire ... that should be CFOW's mantra.
Give the website visitors lots of reasons to come back: make
the page dynamic. You can do this by adding a blog, or adding a news feed (with
dates and headlines so folks can quickly see what they've missed since the last
time they visited).
All in all, the basics are in place and all the right
information is there. With a little work making the information more digestible
and compelling, CFOW ought to see a much higher level of online engagement.
I'll give it a C.
P.S. With so many community foundations out there, I'd
suggest CFOW might want to steal some best practices from the websites of
welcome to Web Jury 2.0. It's getting colder in TO but so far we've still been
seeing some sunshine. I can live with that.
The Whistler Community Foundation feels like a bit of a homecoming
for me. Being a west coast boy, I know that area far too well. Let's see what I
can say about their online presence...
They get full points for leading with a fundraising message.
There is a donate button and a campaign pitch front and centre. I'm also a fan
of Canadahelps.ca and the great work they do bringing online giving
capabilities to a host of Canadian charities.
The main challenge here is that there is little else besides
the fundraising graphics on the home page to offer context and reasons why I
should be making a gift. Likewise, the Make a Donation page gives a lot of information
on ways of giving, but spends too little time showing why my gift is crucial.
Using their home page real estate to build a fuller case for
support - showing where money goes, who and what it helps, and why my support
is needed - would add a lot of strength to their web fundraising.
Kudos for bringing in Facebook integration to support the
SHARE Whistler campaign. Direct engagement for a community foundation can be a
challenge, so it's worth spending a bit of time getting creative with ways to
bring donors into closer contact with the work being funded.
Annual online surveys of funding interests, driven through
social media and a space in their website for comments could be one idea.
Likewise, presenting success stories directly from the causes being helped
would help bridge the gap. Right now, there are success stories but they're
deeper in the site and written in third person institutional. Pictures and
individual voices would be a good first addition.
Related to engagement, community foundations also face a big
challenge with messaging. Much of the language here is third person, internally
focused, and a bit bland. That unfortunately extends from the CFOW mission
statement all the way through. "Achievements" are a particularly good (or bad)
example. Every bullet is a monetary or numeric result.
The foundation can't own the projects it funds, since they
belong to other organizations and individuals, but they can do a great deal to
show what those projects are and why they are important. This is an absolute
Not to beat the same drum, but I mostly summed this up in
engagement and messaging. The foundation is creating impact throughout the
community from the health of local forests to opportunities for outdoor
engagement, and helping create solutions for mental health challenges. I'd love
to hear some passionate testimonials about this work, and the difference it's
made in the Whistler community.
Overall the site is quite dated. This is less a problem than
is the content. Tightening up the main navigation into four to six clear focus
areas, making a stronger case for why my donation matters, and bringing in the
voices of some of the hundreds (or thousands) of people they have directly
helped would create life and verve.
I'm a definite fan of their work and focus, but overall I'll
need to place the site in the mid C range, with credit for being focused and
defined. Now it needs to show me a human heart.Leah Eustace is principal and managing partner with Good Works. A "fundraiser's fundraiser" with a wide background in
charitable fund development, she's worked with clients including the Canadian
Red Cross, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, CARE Canada and the UN Refugee
Agency Canada on social media, direct marketing, donor research and legacy
marketing. She's president of the Ottawa Chapter of AFP and a member of AHP,
NTEN, the CMA and CAGP.
Kori Brus is
philanthropic counsel and marketing specialist at Good Works, where he focuses on nonprofit
campaign strategy and online engagement. He's the former communications
director of Ecojustice Canada
and also former community manager for Web
Their website is www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to
pronounce your web jury judgment on them!