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NetMinistry Web Presence Platform

Why Volunteer Staff Should Not Build Your Nonprofit Website

We hear about it all the time. Because resources are low and what a website truly means for their organizations isn’t clear, nonprofit leaders use volunteer staff, teenagers in high school, or a donor’s resources to help them establish their web presence. It seems like a good deal – the volunteer meets the needs of the nonprofit and the nonprofit avoids investing money and time into a website. But, when you explore the problems associated with doing this, you uncover the true cost of using volunteers to create your worldwide presence.

Volunteers Are Usually Inexperienced at Building a Web Presence

For the most part, we encounter volunteers in nonprofits that have never developed the web presence of any other organization. Leaders charge them with learning software to build the nonprofit’s website, so they do everything they can to rise to the challenge. Even if the volunteer finds something easy to work with, all their work lacks the forethought, planning, and execution of a seasoned professional. The sites follow whatever the current trend the platform they are using dictates if they even manage to finish at all.

The real value of using an outside vendor to help you establish your web presence is being able to leverage their experience and expertise. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can’t simply copy other nonprofit websites and expect to succeed. In fact, most nonprofits are failing to leverage the internet to increase their supporter base and engagement. So, using a vendor who knows what is working and what is not working is key.

Volunteers Disappear at Some Point, Making You Start Over When They Leave

Have you ever had a volunteer start a project and leave without completing it? Many nonprofit organizations come to us with the same story – a volunteer created a website or social media pages, but never finished. Most of the time, their web presence is a hodgepodge of whatever technologies the volunteer knows about without regard for what measurable results it generates.

When the volunteer leaves, the knowledge of whatever they were working on goes away as well. Proficiency in the software they are using vanishes. No one can manage the website, and nobody wants to learn how to. The website sits until the next volunteer tries to take the reins and inevitably restarts the process to go through the cycle all over again.

Volunteers Don’t Usually Understand How to Accomplish Your Goals

Creating an effective web presence takes more than picking a website design template. It takes careful planning as to how your organization’s goals will be accomplished through it. Goals are caught by systems and technologies that must be installed on the site. Those systems are triggered by valuable content that website visitors can take action on. The site must be organized in a way that makes sense to them and leads them to meaningful interactions. A lay volunteer doesn’t usually know how to translate those things properly, most of the time not even knowing what is available to them.

Professionals can take you through the process of properly constructing your entire web presence – from your website to your social media accounts. They understand how to prepare your content and optimize it for the search engines. They know how to leverage social media, paid advertising, and e-mail marketing to boost website traffic. They know the secret to increasing donations through your site. These are skills that take years to perfect and technologies are constantly shifting.

Does that even sound like a job for a volunteer?

Volunteers Don’t Have the Resources to Make Your Web Presence What It Can Be

Once the website is completed, there is so much to do. In fact, developing and designing your website is only the foundation of an effective web presence for your nonprofit organization. From there, content must be constantly updated and advanced. Blogs need to be written and published. Rank reports and traffic logs must be analyzed for opportunities. Constant outreach for your supporters must be done to maintain relationships and to call them to action.

Most volunteers don’t know where to start with all of this. But, seasoned professionals have a repertoire of strategies and tactics designed to help you grow your worldwide presence. They can implement their own technologies as well as third-party tools that produce measurable, sustainable results in an ethical way.

Final Thoughts

It may sound tempting to save money by having a volunteer or donor build your nonprofit website. But, make no mistake, doing so can cost your organization millions in lost opportunities, donations, and relationships. This is why we are in business – to help your nonprofit grow using the experience of working with tens of thousands of nonprofits around the world.

Bonus Action Point: Write your nonprofit’s online goals down. Think about the type of growth you are looking for as an organization. Think about the impact you could have on your community and the world. Think about how much money you need and how important that impact is. Now, picture making a high school student in charge of communicating that to the world. Think about whether or not that makes sense for you.

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