Donations are key for every charity, and in the 21st century accepting donations online is just as important. Accepting online donations isn't always that straight forward though, as there are considerable security implications that have to be considered, and different organisations that have to be involved such as banks and payment processing providers.
For small charities there are too many hurdles involved in setting everything up from scratch, which is where services such as Just Giving and Virgin Money Giving are ideal. While there are some setup charges, and limited customisation and integration options, these services allow you to take donations without worrying about the technicalities.
The next step up is to make use of a service such as PayPal as this service is relatively low cost, yet still allows a good amount of flexibility and integration options. Registered charities get large discounts on the payment processing fees through PayPal and there are no standing fees for their standard service. PayPal allows even smaller charities the ability to create flexible and complex payment integration facilities if they are prepared to put the effort into website development work.
The final step for most charities is to move to their own Internet merchant account, with a payment service provider. In some cases these may be provided by the same company. Any bank can provide the Internet merchant account however there can be some hurdles with applications, especially for small or new charities. You then also need the facilities of a payment service provider to handle the payments. Many of these services out the payment pages for you, to handle much of the security aspects, however some allow closer integration. Services such as SagePay, WorldPay and Secure Trading are well known in this area.
Adept are experienced in designing and building websites for charities, both straight forward sites and complex bespoke solutions. Our team of experts are fully versed in developing and running such websites through many years (and decades in some cases) of experience. For advice or to discuss an upcoming project you are considering please get in touch on 01263 734198.
The benefits of social media for any organisation are often discussed at great length, which in turn encourages more organisations to feel they need to be doing it. This applies as much, if not more so to charities, who see social media as a way to increase support and exposure while decreasing marketing costs.
If you have the time and resources to devote to social media you can see great rewards. Facebook and Twitter are used by many organisations to effectively market to their supporters and potential supporters.
Before you jump straight in, here are some things to consider:
What are your competitors doing?
Every organisation, even charities should be able to identify competitors, or other organisations who market to a similar audience. Look at what social media platforms they are using and what sort of response they get to their content.
Which platform is right for you?
Everyone jumps on Facebook and Twitter, which are the most popular social media networks at the moment, but are these tools appropriate for the type of communications you want to have. Consider whether email marketing or a forum/message board would be more suitable.
Who is your target audience?
You need to have an audience in mind for you social media efforts. Think about how you are going to attract this audience, and whether they are an appropriate demographic for the platforms you have in mind. (For example, Twitter is widely used by younger people, but not so much by older people, who are you marketing to?)
Have a plan?
Effective use of social media doesn’t just happen. Someone in your charity needs to be in charge of monitoring and maintaining pages and posting content to keep your users engaged. Consider how often you want to post, what content your charity has that is appropriate and who actually has the time to do all this.
How will you measure success?
Often simple metrics like “Number of followers on Twitter” are seen as good measurements of success, but does this really fall in line with your charities goals. Having followers or members on a social media platform means nothing if they don’t engage with you, or take action that actually supports your charity such as making a donation or getting involved with an event.
Don’t be scared! Social media is difficult to get right, but easy to get started with, and you’ll learn as you go along. If you have the time available to make social media a priority you can make effective use of the tools available.
If you’d like to discuss social media in more depth give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss your options with you, and help you to develop a suitable social media plan.
1. Keep your software up-to-date
This is especially important if you are using an open source CMS, but is equally important with any software. If new releases of your CMS are available, they probably contain security fixes for new vulnerabilities. If you aren’t up-to-date, someone may try to hack your website.
Don’t just think about your CMS though, are you also using a blog or any plug-ins? These also need to be kept updated, as these are often the cause of security issues. Bespoke code written by inexperienced developers can often be the cause of major security holes that you are completely unaware of until they become a major embarrassment.
2. Your security is only as strong as your password
Avoid using real/dictionary words as a password. Try to include numbers or non-alphabet characters in your passwords where possible.
Never use a word that is on your website as a password, bots will scan your site and try them when they try to crack your password. Simply replacing one or two characters with numbers will merely slow a bot down a little, especially if you do the obvious (eg password to pa55w0rd). Longer passwords are much more secure against brute force attacks than shorter ones, 9 characters or more is best.
And finally, it shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but I can tell you from experience with clients it is, never use “password” as your password!
3. Keep your password secret and change your password regularly
If you are in any doubt that someone might know your password, change it straight away. When an employee leaves your organisation make sure you reset any passwords they had access to or cancel their named accounts. Even if you parted on good terms, make sure you do this for good measure.
4. Use anti-virus
A virus on your computer can track everything you type and report it back to a hacker. Make sure you don’t get infected by having a good antivirus program installed at all times, and keep it up to date.
5. If you can’t do it well yourself, rely on a professional
While it can be tempting to try to save money by managing the hosting of your website yourself, or managing your own blog or CMS updates, it can often be much more complex than you imagine. Do you take regular backups? Do these include your databases? Do you know where to get updates from for the 20 plugins your CMS has? Do you have the ability to restore your website if something does go wrong?
If you aren’t confident you have the necessary knowledge to keep your website safe, rely on the services of a professional. Your website development company should be able to provide these services to you. This is certainly worth the small extra investment; you’ll wish you did when something goes wrong!
At Adept, we ensure our clients are always up to date with the latest version of the SmartWeb CMS, including all the latest updates and security features. This service is included in our hosting service at no extra cost. We take security seriously, and enforce the use of secure passwords wherever possible, and thoroughly check the work we produce before launch to ensure that as many avenues as possible are covered. For more information on any of these services please contact us on 01263 734198.
For most charities, your website is often the first thing visitors will see of your organisation. Not only does your website want to portray a positive image of your charity it is essential that it matches your other promotional materials so that visitors recognise your charity.
While this applies to simple things like your logo and colour schemes, there are also many other aspects that effect your recognisability. Consistent photo styles, image styles and fonts are also important as these all help to portray a sense of a professional organisation.
This consistency in design is often lost when a specialist website developer is brought in to create the website, who doesn’t have the backing of trained design staff. By mixing our team of creative designers with our experienced development team, Adept ensure that the impact of your brand isn't lost when taken online.
As a charity, maximising your websites visitors giving is an important function of your website. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing giving as purely financial by making your single donation facility easy to find without letting visitors know clearly how else they can support you.
Some visitors are going to be looking to make a single donation to your charity, where others are going to be prepared to support you on a regular basis. Other visitors may not be in a position to support you financially but still have many other ways they can contribute to your cause, perhaps by fundraising for you or giving their time. Or maybe they wouldn’t make a donation but would purchase an ethical gift or use a paid e-card facility.
Taking some of the principles often used by e-commerce websites, charities can help to increase their response and level of support. Cross selling, and clearly showing other options can help visitors find the information or method of response they are looking for.
One often forgotten page is the ‘Thank You’ page that someone is taken to once they have completed an action. It is easy just to think of this page as somewhere to put generic text, “Thank you for your support…” but this page can be put to much better use introducing other ways a visitors might like to get involved. Visitors who have already chosen to support you in one way are much more likely to be prepared to further support you if you give them good opportunities.
Adept would like to wish all our clients a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
2012 is going to be an exciting year at Adept as the company continues to grow and move into new markets, with some big announcements along the way. Watch this space for more...
So you’ve started using social media? Started a Twitter feed or a Facebook page? That’s a great start. The next question we often hear is “Can I put it on my homepage?”.
Showing your visitors that you are on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook from your website is a good idea, but how it is appropriate to do this very much depends on how you use the networks. (Also, if you haven’t updated Facebook in 6 months, maybe that link to it on your website is doing more harm than good!)
The two common routes chosen are just linking to the pages via an icon or text link, or integrating a feed into the page.
Having a Facebook or Twitter icon is appropriate for most charities who actively use these tools. The links don’t need to be too obvious unless you are running a specific campaign, a link or icon in the footer of your site is normally just right.
Many charities choose to integrate a Twitter feed (or RSS feed from another platform) directly into their homepage. The homepage of your website is vitally important to the effective navigation of your website, so space here is definitely at a premium. If your Twitter feed is regularly updated and your tweets provide relevant information not found elsewhere, or show how much “buzz” you are creating, then this may be appropriate. If your tweets are really just links to content on your website such as news articles, it may be more appropriate to have something else on your homepage instead, as Twitter may not be the best way to present this content.
If you do choose to integrate your social feeds into your website, remember that you do need to keep them up to date. If you are trying to show the buzz you are creating and your feed hasn’t been updated for a month, it can look really bad and do more harm than good. Also remember if the feed is of user generated content you lose some control of the content of your website so it will be necessary to carefully monitor that this isn’t used for abusive purposes.
In order to maximise the effectiveness of any website, it is essential for charities to keep their website easy to use. Simple and clear navigation is of the utmost importance, without it no-one will find the pages of your website beyond your homepage.
Attention spans online are rapidly reducing, visitors want to be able to find the information they want quickly and move onto their next task. If any process takes too long or is too complicated, people will be put off.
As a charity the key activities you want people to complete such as making a donation or completing a response form should be as straight forward as possible. That means it is essential to keep the number of fields as low as possible, make it clear what you want people to fill in, and make validation effective. Long processes can be split into multiple steps to stop them looking too daunting to improve the conversion rate of your website.
Today’s post continues our popular series of posts on search engine optimisation you can do yourself. If you haven’t already check out our “Beginners Guide to SEO – Part One” and “Beginners Guide to SEO – Part Two”.
You should already be filling in the ALT tag (otherwise known as an image description) for all images on your site, but it is worthwhile remembering that this is an ideal place to include relevant keywords. Remember don’t try too hard though, it could look like you are trying to trick the search engines.
If you aren’t using ALT tags at all, why not? You could get your charity into trouble under the disabilities discrimination act if you don’t keep your website accessible.
This used to be a key point in SEO, however the value is no longer anywhere near as important as the major search engines don’t use this content for ranking.
The meta description however is often used on the Google search results pages, instead of the automatically generated snippet of information. This can help entice visitors to click on your page in the search results. Try to make the meta description of each page unique to that page and its content.
Remember, Google makes the words that the user searched for bold in the title and description, which draws more attention to them. Getting these keywords into the description helps your page to stand out. Make sure it is readable though, and not just a list of keywords!
While search engines are starting to get better at this, don’t expect them to understand text that is in a Flash file or an image. Text should be written on a web page as standard HTML text with CSS styling to make sure the search engine can read it. Make sure text is marked up correctly in the HTML, so headings are in heading tags, body copy in paragraph tags etc, that way the search engines can understand the hierarchy of your content.
If you have to use an image, there are CSS replacement techniques the more advanced user may be able to use.
Following on from our previous post “Beginners Guide to SEO – Part One” today we will continue to explore things your charity can do to improve its SEO.
Content is only really valuable if it is unique. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copying and pasting content, for example manufacturers stock descriptions of products. If your webpages look just like another one somewhere on the internet, Google may not choose to list your page, and even if it does, it probably won’t get the same ranking as unique content would get you.
When writing articles or descriptions for other websites, try to make this unique rather than copying and pasting something from your charities ‘about us’ page.
Each page of your site needs a core message or theme. Taking this further, develop themes that run through sections of your charities website, with similar key phrases in the content. Internal linking between pages where appropriate can help to bring relevant content together.
Find excuses to add content to your website, like a latest news page. Up-to-date content has lots of SEO value. This should be easy for charities, as you’ll always have a new story of how you’ve helped someone, and this sort of content helps to engage supporters.
The number of links pointing to your charities website is still a very important factor for SEO. As a general rule the more links the better, however some links are more valuable than others.
Links don’t have to go to your homepage; links directly to internal pages or news articles are also good. It can often be easier to get these sorts of links than more general links.
Not particularly useful links:
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