I'm in love with the Ottawa Food Bank

publication date: Aug 16, 2011
author/source: Fraser Green
Every month, Ryann Miller and Fraser Green review the website of a selected Canadian charity, focusing on its fundraising effectiveness. (Ryann Miller is on vacation this month.) It's a chance for the charity to receive personal coaching from two experts on online communication and fundraising.

Fraser: This month, we've been asked to look at the site of the Ottawa Food Bank. I've spent some time on this site - and I think I'm falling in love!!

Now I don't look at sites from an online giving point of view. Rather, I look at them through the eyes of a potential donor who is using the site to decide whether or not to make a first gift. As you well know, most prospective donors today have a look at a charity's website before they make that all-important first gift.

My question when I check out a new site is simply "does it motivate me to give?"

Long list of great features

There's just so much about this site that I think is great:
  • I love the disposable dinner plates with the magic marker notes on the home page. It's so simple. So imaginative. Within a couple of seconds, those plates had me thinking "I like these guys." Brilliant.
  • There's a menu across the top of the home screen with a tab called "face of hunger." When I clicked on it, I came across stories of food bank users - like the 30-year-old woman with MS who can't afford groceries on her disability pension. This makes the cause - and the food bank - very human to me.
  • I'm a big values and beliefs guy. On the "get help" page, there's a section called "don't go hungry." It reads in part, "we're committed to the ideal that no one in this region should ever have to struggle with hunger." There it is. The core of the onion (no pun intended). I love it when an organization tells me the principle(s) that guide and direct what they do.
  • There's just so much great stuff on this site. A map of the city that shows me where I can drop off food. I can organize a "bring your lunch money" day at work where we bring our own lunch and donate what we would have spent at a restaurant. And they even have a baby supply cupboard that helps with formula, baby food and diapers.
  • This site makes many ways of giving so easy. They even have a decent planned giving page with a photo and testimonial of a bequest donor.
  • Last but not least, I just think this site looks great. It's simple. It's clean. There's lots of great information - yet there's lots of space. It doesn't feel crowded or cluttered. Somebody at the Ottawa Food Bank knows what they're doing! (Whoever he or she is, a raise is definitely in order!)

Still room for growt

Now, let me (try to) turn to some criticisms:
  • I'd like the site to turn up the emotional pitch. They imply pain and suffering - but they don't take me there. A site like this should be able to make me feel hungry and alone. They don't seem to want to go there - and I think they should. 
  • I would like some more visuals. I'd like to see photos of people and food together. I think some video would make a great addition to the site.
  • I'm not a fan of clubs and societies in general. I think the header that reads "Join our monthly giving club" is kind of lame. How about "hunger knows no season" or "hunger doesn't just happen at Christmas"? I think there's a more powerful way to communicate this message.

All in all, I've just been swept up by this site. It looks great. It's full of great programs and great ways to give. It's easy to read and easy to navigate. This site makes the organization look absolutely first-rate.

So, let me go back to my rating criteria. I look at a site from the perspective of someone who's thinking of making a first gift. From that point of view, I'm happy to award the first A+ since we began this monthly series.

I'd like to talk more about this - but I've got to go dig up my VISA number!

To submit your site for review, contact the Editor.

Fraser Green is chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that teaches charities how to tell their stories with more passion, emotion and soul. He specializes in donor listening and coaching charities on how to meet their donors' expectations, wants and needs.

Fraser's website is www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to pronounce your web jury judgment on him!

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