One of Sputnik’s not-for-profit clients recently asked me to participate in a workshop, run by them, about their website. Alarm bells went off when I read the structure (and they fact that for some reason digital was being considered in-situ) and despite voicing my concerns, it went ahead. They were extremely bullish about the possibilities. Fifteen employees were pulled together from different departments, and for an entire day all of us sat around a large table musing about how the web was going to change their organisation.
Everyone put in their two cents, and then we used the old sticker routine of marking which ideas we liked the best by placing a colourful dot next to our preferred paths.
Nothing much ended up resulting from the workshop. Just because every department in your organisation is a stakeholder in your site doesn’t mean that they should be involved in the day-to-day strategy of creating a website.
In fact, it’s better to have as few people as possible involved in the development of a strategy. Effective ideas are rarely enacted through endless committee meetings; or if they are, by the time they are made reality they are diluted and distorted beyond recognition. You need an efficient, bold, focused team to be leaders in your organisation.
So how do you choose who should be involved? Try and limit it to two people, three at a stretch. Many organisations that try to have a smaller team leading digital struggle to work out who these people should be. The answer to that depends on why you have a website.
One department that should not control the vision for the website is your IT section. IT is a conduit to the outcomes that you want to achieve. Your outcomes are not IT related outcomes, they are business outcomes.
Technology should be invisible and play no part in determining how you use the web. Good technology should be a given. This will probably upset your IT people, especially as we all know how sensitive they are. But this is a discussion that needs to take place.
A lot of nonprofits separate their fundraising from their marketing functions, and then try to do the same online. I don’t believe that the web is a good place for “last mile fundraising” (actually gaining donations), but it is a brilliant channel to market your brand and make it top of mind.
Typically there is a tussle over whether the home page should be focussed on soliciting donations or simply conveying your marketing message. The truth is that your website needs to be focused on why people will connect with your cause, not why they should donate. These are two different things.
By way of consequence, if people connect with your brand they will end up donating. Yet so many people put these two elements on the same level. Plastering your website with “how to donate” makes no sense; it should be focused on why.
So given this theory, who owns the website? It should not be the fundraising team, though their voice should be heard on the site. It definitely should not be your IT people. It should be your marketing department, and it needs buy in from the key visionary in your organisation.
The web is a channel for brand extension as well as being functional, but unless your message is spot on, all your time and money invested in transactional outcomes will be wasted. The marketing department becomes the hub for your online activities, and all the services and functions are the spokes.