Web Presence on a Penny

| January 18, 2011

It’s not surprising that non-profits have revolutionized web design and social media. Since they run on volunteers and donations, it was only a matter of time before they integrated good web design principles with interactive social media tools (and let’s not forget social media is changing nonprofits, too). Some of my favorite web sites are those of nonprofits, because of their ability to flawlessly combine usability, accessibility, and conciseness.

Unfortunately, not all nonprofits have the means to create such intricate, modern web sites. Limited often by finances, time, and skill, a lot of smaller nonprofit organizations struggle to keep up with their larger counterparts’ technological advances. What many fail to realize, though, is that effective web presence doesn’t have to cost so much, take so much time, or produce so many headaches.

There’s a secret I’d like to share with you regarding how your nonprofit can establish a web presence for a penny: College Campuses = Free Labor.

Students in study fields related to web development, design, marketing, technical writing, etc. are all fighting for opportunities to harness the skills they’re learning in the classroom. I know, because I was one of them. Luckily, I was able to perform 150 hours of internship work with Polk County Humane Society, where I was able to build a website in Notepad++, work with the FBML applications on Facebook, establish a Twitter account for the organization, create paper advertisements, and write an employee guide for working with the organization’s various websites.

Oh yeah, and all of this was done for free.

Yes, it seems crazy to think a student like me would be excited to tell you I did all of this for free. But, in today’s economy, employers are becoming more and more picky in their hiring practices. Employees, therefore, need all of the experience they can get to better market themselves.

So, contact the local university (more specifically, a related department in that university), asking for potential interns. If you market the “job” in the right way, give the intern a little bit of creative freedom, and show kindness, you’d be surprised how much interest you will receive.

Maybe your nonprofit isn’t located near a college campus** and/or recruiting a student’s help isn’t your thing. That’s okay; there are other ways to save. Recruit good volunteers, and then use them! Assign them specifically to the role of web coordinator, so they can focus their attention on establishing your organization’s web presence. In the process, remember the greatest trait of social media…it’s free! Research all of the social media sites out there and make an informed decision on which sites you’d like to focus your attention. Spreading yourself too thin across too many sites will likely only hurt your organization’s presence in the long run. Instead, put forth a concentrated effort to create, maintain, and utilize a few sources of social media. Worried about the design of your social media site? Let Google be your friend! There are any number of templates and tutorials out there for Blogger, WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter templates. Use them!

What tips do you have for establishing a web presence on a budget?

**With web design, and even some forms of marketing and technical writing, the intern can perform all of the work hours away (thanks to the World Wide Web).

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