Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who Comes Next?

Updater Must Update Itself Before Checking for..."The Adobe Updater must update itself before checking for Updates"
by kk+ via Flickr
One of the biggest problems small nonprofits have is a lack of succession.

Each staffer and volunteer has his or her own way of doing things and when that person leaves, there's always a period of adjustment. Sometimes the area under adjustment never quite recovers.

Websites are the Perfect Example

A lot of small nonprofits have domains hosted as an in-kind by a community ISP, but the ISP doesn't generally contribute web design or maintenance, so the NP has to depend on their already over-burdened staff or volunteers. If they're lucky, it's staff. Some staff are better than others with tech and design, but at least the tools are in-house and the site may not be pretty, but at least it's up to date.

Volunteers Come and Go

As with donors, many volunteers move, die, or change their focus over time. This is why volunteer maintenance of your website can be difficult. What software is being used to update the site? Is it proprietary like Dreamweaver or GoLive (which require purchase and knowledge) or is it open source like Drupal or Joomla (but still require knowledge)? Is it readily accessible or on someone's home computer? Is the volunteer able to respond fairly quickly or does it take days or even weeks for changes? What happens if the volunteer is injured or has a family emergency?

If you're a small nonprofit, these are all questions that ought to be addressed, but often aren't because there was never a really adequate way to do so. Until now.

Use Social Media to Stay in Touch

Build a community using Ning. Create a Tumblr presence. Use Friendfeed and Twitter and and Flickr. Create your blog using WordPress or TypePad or Blogger. Using these social media you can keep your message updated and out there, your community informed and involved, without worry since they're all available online. Even though WordPress requires a desktop client, it's free.

Get Rid of Our Website?

Not necessarily. But only keep on it the things that change very infrequently, and add a section with your social networking links (which won't change, even if the volunteers do). Grab a Flickr widget and let it run a slideshow of your most recent event pics.

If you start using Google Docs, you can even add links to documents you want to share.

Save Yourself, Staff, and Community Aggravation

When I started at one nonprofit, the biggest sigh of relief came after I first updated the website. Not just from the staff, but from the board and the community. The lack of current information - a situation that had dragged on for weeks - had been making them all crazy. After I left, I volunteered a few hours for a while to get the new person up to speed so that crazy-making situation wouldn't happen again. Yet it may someday because they got a redesign and the new site was created in Joomla.

Very small nonprofits can't afford this type of turmoil. Avoid it by minimizing the need for updates on the site and maximizing your use of social media.
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