publication date: May 21, 2012
author/source: Ryann Miller, Kori Brus
: The Kenora
and Lake of the Woods Regional Community Foundation
"builds and manages
endowment funds to support local charities and community priorities."
Personally, I find foundation websites one of the most difficult breeds to
evaluate because many foundations seem unsure about what they're trying to
accomplish. There are two mistakes I see most foundations make online, and
KLWRCF is guilty of both:
1. They have no audience in mind
Is the website targeting potential donors to the foundation
or potential grant applicants?
If it's the former, then community members need to see and
hear about the things KLWRCF is doing for their local area. They need the
foundation to show how it cares for the community so that they know why they
should care enough to give.
If it's potential grant recipients, then information on what
type of projects and change they support, who should apply and how to apply
needs to come forward. They have covered the "how" part with easy-to-find
downloads. The other two are both lacking.
2. They are all about process over people
Here's a confession. My fantasy life would be to have a net
worth in the eight- or nine-figure range so that I could spend my days funding
amazing projects that create positive change in the world. I can't imagine a
more exciting way to spend each and every day, yet most foundation websites
feel like they were written by a lawyer during a coffee break.
Yes, KLWRCF is a granting organization. Much of what it does
is to manage the grant process, but the reason why
people engage with it has everything to do with the changes it
creates for the community, and nothing to do with its internal workings.
Design a winner
There are some strong positives here. First and foremost is
design. The site centres on a gorgeous picture featuring a Lake of the Woods
shorefront. It unequivocally communicates the region where the foundation operates.
The rest of the home page layout supports that through clear organization and
What's needed is content that brings the foundation's purpose
to life, and demonstrates its leadership in creating a better community for its
citizens. There is material to work with: success stories are buried deeper in
the site, as is a photo gallery and a YouTube video.
With some care and attention, these materials could be
polished, expanded, and brought together in the existing design to present an
inspiring face for the foundation. Right now, that face is too often drab,
emotionless and unfocused.
I give them a C grade. Ryann?
My first impression was that for a
regional community foundation, this website is impressive. And it is, from a
design perspective. But after a quick glance around, I was unhappy. Where is
the heart? Where is the need? Looking around, I'd think they have all the money
This isn't the first organization to have two distinct
audiences. And the grant applicants don't need to be wooed; they just need to
be told where to find the information they seek. That leaves the other target
audience: potential donors. The KLWRCF website ignores these people.
The Donate page is all head, no heart; all bullet points, no
links; too much text, no images. I know the Foundation helps people, yet this
page has no references to human beings needing help and getting it. Lose the
comment about the size of the gift not mattering. It's a nice thought, but I
doubt the message it wants to give potential donors is that it sees $10 the
same way it sees $10,000.
The Foundation talks about launching an online community,
but has no link to it. Please share where some of the money goes. With no
information about who gets the money, what it accomplishes, or how any lives
have been impacted to date, I won't be inspired enough to give.
Thank goodness for the testimonials page, the photo gallery
and the events. Otherwise there would be no evidence that people need the foundation's
services. Before I heard the three audio clips from people representing the
critical services that KLWRCF provides, I didn't know that its money actually
helps real people.
I don't think the Foundation needs to be on Facebook or
Twitter. But I do think it desperately needs to share stories and show pictures
of the programs, the people, the need. Lastly, the virtual donor wall is not a
virtual donor wall; it's a list. "Virtual donor wall" implies much more than
text on a screen.
It's too much head and not enough heart, or Kori, as you
say, all about process and not about people. It leaves me uninspired. I'm not
excited about making positive change; I feel like I'm waiting in line to get a
The logo, the colours, the different leaderboard images are
all wonderful. But the site needs more images, stories and videos. This website
gets a C- from me.
Ryann Miller is director of nonprofit services at Care2,
where she helps charities and nonprofits recruit online supporters. She is the
former managing director of DonorTrends and was a senior fundraising consultant
at HJC New Media.
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 former community manager for Web of