Charity web at 30

The World Wide Web is 30 today (11 March 2019). Five years ago I used the Wayback Machine to look at trends in charity website design, using British Red Cross as an example. Here is the post, now updated with lessons from 2019.

Is your charity website keeping up with the latest developments in design and functionality?

Starting out – 1998

British Red Cross website 1998

The British Red Cross homepage in 1998 shows that the web standard of logo in top-left was there from the start. The site was very basic, probably hand-coded in html and uploaded via FTP.

  • Brochure-ware content – dense homepage to be read like a book.
  • Email to make a donation.
  • ‘Click here’ links.
  • No images.
  • No search.
  • Approx 10 pages. Only one-level down.
  • Sponsored by Vauxhall.

Increased functionality – 2006

British Red Cross 2006

Fast-forward eight years and the 2006 homepage leads with an appeal. Fundraising and raising awareness is now most important. There is greater awareness of design. More thought about actions and audience.

  • Published using CMS.
  • Images but no coherent design.
  • Site-wide (top) and left-hand navigation.
  • Fundraising prominent – 6/12 ‘Quick Links’ are fundraising. Donate now tab.
  • Search button.
  • Functionality – ‘In my area’.
  • Accessible links.
  • No social media (Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter in 2006).

Integrated digital comms – 2014

British Red Cross website 2014

Another eight years and now the 2014 website still leads with an appeal using a single emotive image. The site is sophisticated offering many opportunities for interaction, transaction, discussion and commerce but also has a presence across many other digital platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Apps, games etc). It feels like digital is now being taken more seriously.

  • Multiple channels (links to six network channels at the bottom of the page).
  • Optimised for mobile / tablet.
  • Many opportunities for interaction.
  • Greater use of video, audio, photos, games to tell a story.
  • Donation button and quick PayPal option on homepage.
  • CMS powered, integration with CRM and other databases.
  • Evolution of ‘in your area’ functionality.
  • Accessibility buttons.

Website in 2019

Red Cross homepage in 2019. 10s full-screen video

Now the 2019 homepage is all about clarity and impact. Previously the homepage would have had to work hard at promoting everything as most people would go to the homepage first. Now sites are so well indexed with people going direct to the pages they are looking for, so the homepage can be devoted to telling a story or running a campaign. The homepage can appeal to hearts and minds rather than acting as a directory.

The currently site uses a full-screen video for the current appeal. It shows 10 seconds of different views from Yemen to tell a story to drive donations.

Below the appeal, the page is segmented into sections with different types of links (UK appeals, get help in a crisis, support, first aid, how we help, shop). These use colour and photos to make it easy to use. This architecture is replicated in the top-level navigation which is now reduced to five options.

  • Images are more powerful, instantly telling a story. Video is centre-stage.
  • Simplified navigation (no more What we do, Where we work etc).
  • Language is shorter and has more impact. Links are 1-3 words. Appeal text is ‘Help give life-saving aid to families in desperate need’. In contrast with ‘Help us continue giving thousands of people vital aid in this desperate situation. Please give what you can today’ from 2014.
  • Donate button on top right-hand side.

Web design in 2019

I have been training people on writing for the web since 2003 – over half of the web’s life – and working on websites since 1996. Many of the old rules still apply (short sentences, headings, meaningful link text etc). But the way we consume information and content online in 2019 means that we now need to be even tighter with our words. Attention spans are shorter and screens are smaller. The language we use needs to be immediate, strong and clear. There is no room for wasteful words on the homepage or in navigation links.

Photographs and images now need to have more impact. They should use strong colours and instantly tell a story. Compare the images used in 2006 / 2014 with the images used now. They use close-ups and are not afraid of sharing an intimate moment, pain or emotion. They are beautiful and difficult to look at.

Homepages generally use a hero image (or in some cases video) which is shown at full-screen. This image has to work very hard to communicate everything you want in that key real estate location. Do you have images that are strong enough to do that? Take a look at the homepages of Crisis, NCT, Brathay Trust, and Bloodwise for examples. (See also Review and improve your use of images.)

Your digital strategy

You don’t need to be the size of British Red Cross to need a clear plan for how your website and wider digital platforms support the goals of your organisation. Technologies and design standards are changing all the time. Just today, Samaritans launched its new website which has a cool features such as a dynamic homepage which changes depending on the time of day.

A digital strategy can help you to persuade trustees to invest in new technology or staff. You may use it to plan your increasing use of social media, create digital services and have a reference for how you’ll deal with a crisis. Or it may help you plan the next 6-12 months, ensuring you are using your resources in the right way and keeping up with your peers.

Take a look at the Charity Digital Code of Practice which was launched at the end of 2018. It aims to help charities increase their impact, develop skills and improve digital sustainability. Zoe Amar recently shared data from the self-assessment tool to show where charities are at with Code.

Whatever the priorities for your website, it is worth investing your time in producing a digital strategy to support its future evolution.

Useful links

If you need in-person help, there are lots of Digital Strategy courses and freelancers / consultants who can support you.

More on the web at 30

Read more about the web at 30:

Look at other examples of how design has evolved via the web design museum.

Google Doodle for the web at 30

Advertisements

Digital round-up – February 2019

Highlights this month: designing comms for young people, housestyle / accessible writing, personas of offline users, February hashtags.

Although it was a short month, February was packed with great comms and good reads. Here’s some you might have missed.

Large beach huts face out to sea at Shoeburyness in Essex

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Family have an argument in their kitchen. Monster with tentacles sits on the table. Still from campaign video.

Twitter takeover of the month: Fight Bladder Cancer took over MADLcharity’s Twitter account for three days to raise awareness and reach a new audience. It would be good to see a Moment of the takeover to preserve the messages and energy from the event, giving the takeover a longer shelf life.

Comms

Screenshot from Dan's blog post - showing stats of YouTube viewing by age

Check your language:

Conferences:

Comms news, tips and examples:

Digital – strategy, design, culture

4 personas from the Good Things Foundation research

Fundraising

People, teams and culture

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss January’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

How to mark your charity’s anniversary

A significant anniversary can be a big milestone for any charity. Surviving and thriving for a year or five or 100 is a big deal. How should you mark this?

Should you do something public? Could you use it to tell a story, reach new people, fundraise, raise your profile or change direction? A significant anniversary can be a good opportunity to talk about your impact and ambitions for the future.

number grid in a playground - close up of 10, 20, 30 etc

Here are two detailed examples of charity anniversaries and the digital comms they have produced to mark the occasion. Plus top tips with more examples to help you think about what you could do to mark your anniversary.

Combat Stress – 100

Combat Street tweet showing a leaflet from their archive

In May, Combat Stress will mark their centenary. With 100 days to go until the big day, they are sharing insights into their work. On Twitter they are creating one thread counting down. Follow #100StoriesIn100Days for a mix of images from their archive, stories and examples of their work today. The stories are also shared on Instagram and Facebook. Their website has a page for the centenary explaining the history of the organisation.

This volume of comms might seem impossible but if you have a rich archive of stories or facts or images, why not package them up to tell a bigger story? Take a look at the digital advent calendars to help think about the challenges of planning and keeping the momentum going over a long period of time.

London’s Air Ambulance – 30

screenshot from LAA website. Red helicopter against blue sky over London.

In January, London’s Air Ambulance celebrated 30 years. On Twitter they got lovely happy birthday messages from Saracens Rugby Club, London Fire Brigade, and others. They have been sharing fundraising and press coverage via #30YearsSavingLives. Prince William was named as a patron of the campaign and films of him flying a helicopter were widely shared and viewed.

This LAA short video shares how the service started and grew from its early years. Their website is prominently promoting the 30th, with pages dedicated to the anniversary including patient stories and the fundraising appeal. They are also trying to reconnect with patients via Facebook.

Of course we haven’t all got the luxury of Prince William or a lovely red helicopter to drive comms. But this campaign boils down to telling the stories of the impact the service has made. #30YearsSavingLives is a powerful and engaging statement.

Other examples and ideas

Show your impact and ambitions:

Be creative:

  • What can you do with your number? Kemp Hospice are turning 50. As well as decorating the windows of their shop windows gold, they have developed golden branding and shared what donations of £50 could do.
  • Get out of the office. Cumbria Foundation’s 20th birthday card was given its own roadshow so that 20 organisations supported by the foundation could sign it.
  • Get a nifty but simple hashtag which will work over the time you are using it. Track its use and join in conversations where you can.
  • An anniversary isn’t always a celebration to shout about. Think about how you can use the event to raise awareness instead. Missing People are 25 this year. Rather than talking about themselves, an art exhibition brings together portraits of missing people.

Use materials from the archive:

NCVO's time line - close up of highlight from 2005, 2011, 2012

  • Can you do something physical if you are celebrating a big anniversary and have people visiting your office? NCVO who are 100 this year have produced an illustrated timeline in the reception of their office.
  • Have you got an iconic building, product or brand that people love? Share behind the scenes stories or images from the archive. The Guggenheim in New York is 60 this year and are sharing highlights.
  • Have famous people been involved in your charity? Can you share details from the archive? For example, Kensington Palace shared this photo of Diana and William’s names written in The Passage’s visitor’s book from 1993.
  • If your organisation has shaped the way people live, let your archive tell the story. For example when NCT was 60, it was covered in a BBC magazine article.

Build and thank supporters:

Document:

  • Archive and look back. If you are celebrating a significant anniversary over a whole year, document events and share a review at the end. People might still be new to your news or if they were very involved, want to re-live achievements. The Fire Fighters Charity celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2018 and produced a review of the best bits including impressive fundraising activities.

Should you mark an anniversary?

Think about your audience. Do they care that you are 10 or 25 or 75? What might make them care? Do you have a story or hook to make your anniversary engaging?

Think about the practicalities too:

  • Do you have the capacity (time / funds / energy) to mark an anniversary?
  • Will celebrating improve or reduce team morale?
  • When was the last time you did this? Celebrating 30 might not mean so much if you made a fuss of your 25th.
  • What might you lose by doing nothing?
  • Will your comms be over the year if it is a big anniversary (say 100 or 150), in the run up to a particular day, or just one day?
  • Will you run comms across all your channels or limit to one where it fits your audience best?

New charities

If you are a new organisation, getting to an anniversary is a big deal. Celebrating years 1-5 with the people who have helped you get there can give everyone a boost. It can also be a hook to show your impact and reach a wider audience.

For example Little Village recently celebrated its 3rd birthday saying ‘we’ve made it through the critical first 1000 days of life’. They released new figures showing how demand for their service is increasing and the many different ways they have supported families to date, along with an appeal to raise £10,000.

Conclusions

These examples show that there are lots of different ways to mark an anniversary.

Planning and implementation of anniversary activities and comms can take up a lot of time and may only lead to low engagement.

But if you have a meaningful hook to share your impact, fundraise or tell a story and the anniversary is a special one, then go for it. Get creative. And don’t forget the cake.

screenshot from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Corpus Christi, cake celebrating 25 years

Your tips

Have you worked on a charity anniversary or seen any interesting or unusual anniversary comms? Did supporters get involved in the activity? How much time did anniversary planning take? Was it worth it?

I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments.

See also

With thanks to Gemma Pettman who suggested I write about this topic.

Can I help you?

Please get in touch if I can help you. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection or help develop your digital strategy.

Digital round-up – January 2019

Highlights this month: January#, towels for owls, H-O-M-E, digital trends to avoid / embrace, how to declutter your digital footprint.

Things feel a little gloomy at the moment. So switch the news off and catch up with some creative charity content and recent good reads you might have missed.

a pile of colourful bird whistle toys

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Dogs Trust tweet with almost 500 likes. Image: smiling dog. Text says 'Good dog!!! #NationalComplimentDay'

Shelter's tweet showing a still from the Bros doc. Matt Goss says: i think the words H-O-M-E are so important, because they personlify the words home'. Shelter tweeted ' true though'

It can be difficult to remember all the good stuff from last year. Take a look back in these review from 2018:

Coming soon….

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Fundraising

Fluffy owl wrapped in a towel, being held by volunteer. Close up.

Still think you can’t ask for donations on Twitter? Be authentic / fun like these examples:

See also:

People

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss the last round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – November 2018

Highlights this month: #YouMadeItHappen, #GivingTuesday, Christmas campaigns, Charity Digital Code launched.

November is always a rich time for content with Giving Tuesday and Christmas appeals. This month it was also the first ever #YouMadeItHappen day. It was great to see so many large and small charities joining in by thanking their supporters and sharing detail of the impact they had made.

children's self portraits hanging in a classroom

How to use this round-up: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Or, even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Christmas campaigns:

Cute dog. A dog is for life not just for Christmas.

Need more Christmas? See UK Fundraising’s collection of Christmas ads and my top 5 charity digital advent calendars.

Giving Tuesday:

Also this month:

screenshot of video shared by Age UK of older lady standing next to runners in a race. She holds out her arm to get high fives from friendly runners.

Did you join in with #YouMadeItHappen day? The hashtag reached 5.4m people. Here are some highlights of YMIH 2018.

Twitter takeover of the month: Scope for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Comms

Mind tweet showing video of Erther McVey arguing for Universal Credit in the House of Commons.

Don’t forget to book your ticket for the Social Media Exchange in February.

Digital – strategy, design, culture

'Join the conversation about the #CharityDigitalCode'

Following the consultation period, the Charity Digital Code has now officially launched. Do have a look if you haven’t already.

The Small Charities Coalition challenged Zoe Amar to explain it in three post-it notes. And in Charity Digital News she shares 7 things you can do in 30 minutes a day.

The Code advocates digital skills across staff and the board. This helpful infographic produced by Zoe Amar, Ellie Hale, Sally Dyson and Janet Thorne asks Do you need a digital trustee?

Also this month:

Fundraising

JustTextGiving to close in March next year. Are you ready? (See also Figure for text donation plummets by £86m and donr announces text giving service.)

Movember's contactless fundraising badges

People and organisations

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss October’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital advent calendars – 2018

Here are some highlights from this year’s digital advent calendars from charities and cultural organisations. It is great to see so many organisations joining in in creative and impactful ways and using different channels.

shop window dressed for Christmas with toys and a tree lit up (at night)

Here are my top five calendars (in no particular order) from this year. Which is your favourite?

Top five

screenshot from video: homemade cardboard stage with cut outs recreate a scene from 80s classic Christmas film Gremlins

1. The Family Holiday Association’s Christmas Advent-ures are recreating classic Christmas films in cardboard form. Each day is released across their social channels and links to the full calendar on their website. Each film has a question, and at the end the answers will spell a word. One lucky person will win a hamper.

It’s not getting much interaction so far which is a shame. Watch and enjoy snippets from the Snowman, Elf, Frozen, Gremlins and others.

screenshot of instagram calendar from Motivation showing young boy smiling in his wheelchair

2. International development charity, Motivation who provide wheelchairs are using Instagram for their calendar. On 1 December they shared a video of a 3D printer creating customised equipment.

Follow for stories about their work.

Cats Protection - super super cute kitten kicks off day 1

3. The annual Cats Protection calendar – #CatventCalendar – is getting good engagement. With super cute images of the cats in their care it’s not surprising.

Their local branches are joining in too. The Trafford branch is sharing tips and pictures each day in a thread on Twitter and on Facebook using the hashtag. The Cherwell branch is also using the hashtag and sharing stories of cats from their year. This is Angus McPussPuss.

Tweet sharing Daryl's story: "A Porchlight Christmas calendar: what we’ve been doing this year thanks to your support. We helped Daryl when he had given up hope. “Everybody but Porchlight turned their backs on me.”"

4. Kent-based homelessness charity Porchlight are using their calendar to share the impact they have made over the year.

They are using strong pictures, a consistent layout and the hashtag #LastChristmasHomeless.

Orkeny Library tweet launching their calendar - 'we might do one or none'

5. Orkney Library are re-sharing some of their favourite tweets (of their own) from the last 11 months. These simple recycled tweets are getting lots of likes second time.

Follow along using #OrkneyLibraryAdvent2018 for some classic Orkney humour.

And a highly commended…

Here’s a special mention for Doncaster Council for their 12 days of local business featuring local shop owners singing in one handy thread. Much more engaging than some of the recycling tips or Christmas cheer efforts from other councils.

More calendars

The full Wakelet of digital advent calendars 2018 contains lots more examples from this year. Themes include festive cheer, stories and messages, fundraising and promotions, volunteering and promoting other organisations, articles from the collection and reviews of the year.

Here is a Twitter list so you can follow along. The best time of day to look at it is in the morning which is when the new day is revealed.

See also #MuseumAdvent and #VolunteeringAdvent.

Seen any others? Let me know and I’ll add them.

Join in

It’s not too late to join in. Last year a few charities did a 12 days of Christmas run-down.
See Nonprofit digital advent calendars – a round-up of tips and examples.

>>See also: Be a good Secret Santa.

Be a good Secret Santa

It’s that time of year again. Rather than spending money on plastic tat / novelty socks, why not use some or all of your Secret Santa in a more impactful way? Here are a few examples of charities running Secret Santa sized fundraising campaigns and other ideas for doing good within your budget.

smiling windup snowman toy on a cafe counter surrounded by cakes

Christmas campaigns

Secret Santa gifts

Christmas cheer

Why not pool your funds and do something bigger as a team?

There are countless fundraising appeals, Christmas jumper days and local food bank collections you could instead donate to in the name of your Secret Santa.

Action Man style elf - text says 'This year, leave Relf on the shelf'

Leave Relf on the shelf and give a gift that matters say International Rescue Committee in this fab video.

What are you doing?

  • Do you do Secret Santa in your team? Any tips?
  • Is your charity doing an interesting appeal?

Please share in the comments.

See also: charity digital advent calendars – tips and examples from 2017