We’re often asked about the importance of a non profit website when Facebook and other social media sites are so popular. Facebook continues to become a more “self-contained” media. Communication on Messenger replaces the need to have someone email you. Video and Facebook Live replaces links to YouTube. So why have a website at all?
Last week Facebook announced a big change to its newsfeed algorithm which means business pages will reach fewer and fewer people. Although we love the ease of reaching people through Facebook, we've warned businesses of relying soley on the social media giant for this exact reason.
But don’t panic. Just be realistic. Facebook is a tool you do not own. Your website you can own. You can determine what information people see, how you collect contact information and how long your articles are.
When you are ready to create your church or ministry website, or you are ready for a website redesign, how do you choose the right company to develop your site?
Every church and ministry has different objectives. What are yours for this year? What about the next five years? List out everything you’d like a website to do over the next 1-5 years. Common activities include:
- Promote activities
- Take registration for events
- Accept donations/tithes
- Accept payments for event registration
- Collect contact information
- House blogs or videos
- Be searchable
- Include images of staff
- Show up well in search results
- Easy to update yourself
In addition to developing your site, most web developers will host your website and sometimes your email on their servers. Consider not just the initial cost of the site but the ongoing maintenance. What does hosting include? Will your site be secure? What happens in case of a data breach? Will updates be applied regularly?
As I mentioned above with Facebook, some website developers actually take ownership of your site. While you may be able to purchase the domain name from them, if you ever choose to move your site to a new host, you’ll lose all the content they created for you. Some companies copyright their content so can not copy and past the old content for use in a new site. We like Wordpress sites because they can be moved from one host to another. Sites developed on a specific developer’s platform can not be moved.
Also look at the total lifetime cost of ownership. Some companies charge low up-front fees with higher monthly costs. Unless you intend to undergo a website redesign every year, it might be less expensive and less time consuming to pay more up front with lower monthly hosting fees.
You have colleagues in ministry who also have websites. Look at their sites. Ask them how well the site functions, how easy it is to update, who they used to develop it and what they would do differently. If they recommend the company they used, you can put it on your list of potential developers.
Local vs Niche
No doubt your local community has a slew of website developers in all price ranges. We’re a big proponent of shopping local. You can build strong relationships and more consistent account managers on a local level. Plus you can meet in person with your account manager if needed. On the down side, they may not have a lot of experience developing sites for ministries. Ask a lot of questions and make sure you are comfortable with their knowledge of your ministry and needs before hiring.
Niche developers have tried and true SEO practices targeted at your audience. They’ve developed enough websites in your niche they know what works and what doesn’t. They also tend to have processes in place to move the site along at regular intervals. While they tend to experience more account manager turnover than some local developers, their processes should make it easy for a new account manager to know where the former one left off. The change in account managers can cause delays. You may also notice several websites using the same wording, images and design, which makes your site less custom and more cookie cutter.
The technical aspect of a developer is so very important, but equally important is the belief system of the developer of websites for churches. A developer whose staff loves and supports your work will write passionately about your work. Niche developers for churches and ministries will often have a statement of faith on their website. You will also be able to tell from conversations with the developers whether or not they truly believe in what you are doing.
Website redesigns take time. A lot of time. Developers should respond to your questions in a timely and consistent manner. They should provide you with a website project timeline. Your developer will be the most attentive during the proposal process, so if you notice unanswered emails or a lag in communication consider it a warning of things to come. A lag in communication can mean several things. Most developers will agree to answer emails or return calls in one or two business days. Some will use project management software where you can submit requests and keep up with progress.
A lot of people can build websites. With a little time you can build a nice site for your church or ministry on DIY sites like WIX or even WordPress. For start up ministries these sites provide great opportunities for a nice site without a huge price tag. For larger organizations, it pays to have someone develop the site for you. The security of paying for a host who updates your site as needed saves you time and worry. You can take advantage of their knowledge of site design, functionality and even ADA compliance to present a more professional site for your organization. In the end, you do often get what you pay for.
One of the reasons we like Wordpress sites is because they offer easy updates you can do yourself once the site is developed. And most developers will make minor updates to the site for you as part of your hosting agreement.
Your non profit marketing plan centers around getting information to your donors, members and constituents. Your website plays a big part in that plan. Make sure you find the right developer to create a website to serve your church or ministry for years to come. To discuss your church or ministry goals and how a website can help you reach those goals, click below to schedule a call with us.