Matthew Pritchett

Front End Engineer. WordPress Developer. Nonprofit Enthusiast

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans. I’m taking the day off to spend time with friends and family in preparation for tomorrow’s national holiday. Enjoy your day off if you can and grill some meat and sip something cold. :)

5 Best Practices for Nonprofit Websites

5 Best Practices for Nonprofit Websites

The web is an increasingly crowded place. Getting your message out in the sea of other website and connecting with potential volunteers and donors is becoming increasingly difficult. That isn’t even counting the other forms of media that fill our eyes each day. While there is no silver bullet to slaying the perfect website dragon, there are several best practices that can make your nonprofit website stand out and speak up.

Best Practices

1. Be Professional

This is huge. There are so many websites out there, even outside the nonprofit world, that are simply ugly. They could have been designed by the founders six-year-old. We aren’t in the 90’s anymore where any old design will do. Today, visitors expect clean design, well written copy and images that aren’t clip art. While great design can be quite expensive, it doesn’t have to be.

Nonprofits on a tight budget can take advantage of things like well coded, well designed templates. While I believe that every professional should be adequately compensated for their time and experience, there are many options and those that will work with agencies and nonprofits to find a solution that will fit within your budget. By choosing a strong design and staying away from outdated ideas, you can use this best practice to leap ahead of a large percentage of the websites out there.

2. State Your Mission Quickly and Clearly

One of the most frustrating things that I often see on the web is that while the design of the website is beautiful, I have no idea what the organization or company does. That full screen video playing in the background is beautiful and trendy, but it doesn’t tell me what you are trying to do in the world.

You want your site’s visitors to know exactly who you are and what you do as quickly as possible. This is more important than your pretty picture or that catchy headline or your latest tweet. So make your site’s structure make sense and present the most important information at the top. You’ll thank me later.

3. Stay Updated

Keeping content, imagery, and events on your website up to date is imperative. No one likes to visit a website trying to find when an event is only to see the last event listed is from eight months ago. If you aren’t going to keep your blog updated, don’t have one. It isn’t worth the negative reaction that you are going to cause.

Another piece of this is that you must have reliable hosting  and keep your software and applications up to date. Keep CMSes like WordPress updated and make sure your web host is installing security patches for server applications. It is your job to make sure both you and your website are following best practices in all areas.

4. Keep It Positive

Don’t be negative. Just don’t do it. While it might seem easy or smart to attack the competition or point out a competitor’s flaws, it ends up making you look pitiful and could bring legal ramifications. Positive, encouraging messages as well as strong relationships with peers in your industry can forge powerful bonds and create new opportunities in the future.

5. Trust is key

In the end, trust is the key ingredient for a great online experience for any visitor. They are only going to interact and communicate if they trust your message, your mission and your voice. So make sure you pay close attention to issues both with security and messaging. Deal with problems immediately and with patience and understanding. Maintain a cool head when interacting with detractors and keep records and logs that can help you track down potential issues.

While there are many more best practices that can help your nonprofit succeed online, this list provides a solid foundation to getting your message heard and your platform established. I’d love to hear what others you have found that have been essential to your success!

Why Your NonProfit Needs A Website

Why Your NonProfit Needs A Website

Your organization, church, nonprofit needs a website. If you don’t already believe that, it is my hope that I can help convince you. In today’s highly competitive market for nonprofits and the finite amount of donation dollars available, those with clear, consistent, strong digital platforms are winning the day.

Take a look at organizations like The Salvation Army. They spend millions every year on a professional website, high end advertising and are constantly looking for ways to improve and streamline their customer and volunteer experience. I know, because I used to work for their agency of record.

But they didn’t start out using one of the largest advertising agencies in the nation or with budgets in the millions. They started with a vision. A mission. A desire to spread their message of hope and help far and wide.

But not everyone has those things.

You don’t have to understand it all, but knowing someone who does helps

They just didn’t understand.

I had been working with a nonprofit organization as a volunteer for months trying to impress upon them the need for a website. It would help solidify their brand and spread their message of hope to the world. It would allow them to take donations online and communicate digitally with their volunteers and those that wanted to donate.

But all they could see was the cost. Nevermind that I was willing to do the actual design and development for free. I had pursued multiple hosts and showed them lots of options for various levels of service and pricing. But they weren’t willing to invest even a few dollars per month towards something they couldn’t understand the value of.

I partly blame myself as I was not a great salesman. It’s something I’ve worked on a lot since then. I’ve spent hours reading books on and practicing my salesmanship. But the true fault lies in the founder’s lack of vision into how to grow his organization’s platform and reach. While not the only reason, it was part of the reason the organization was forced to fold several years later.

Getting a website up and running these days is unbelievably easier than it was even five years ago. With options like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and hundreds of other options, anyone can do it themselves. But there are also agencies and freelancers across the globe who can help you get up and running with a professional website without having to request an armored car to deliver the money.

The important thing is that you must begin to build your brand in the digital world. It is an incredible platform if you use it wisely. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to consume all your time. But leveraging things like social media, web presence and advertising can be the difference between completing your organization’s mission and wondering where you went wrong.

July Is WordPress NonProfit Month

July Is WordPress NonProfit Month

Let’s face it, there are a lot of really bad nonprofit websites out there. I mean really, really bad. But there are also some great examples of building a platform, a brand and an audience online in order to fulfil a mission and support a cause. That’s why I’m dedicating July as WordPress nonprofit month.

Having been in the nonprofit world for more than seven years as an employee and even a board member, I’ve helped quite a few nonprofits get online and build their brands and support online.

In fact, I love to write about doing just that. The nonprofit world is one that is unlike any other in business. It has such a unique set of challenges, goals, and people that no project is ever the same.

So I’m dedicating July to helping nonprofits specifically. I’m going to write about getting a website setup, how to take donations, how to communicate your mission and much more.

If you have a question or topic that you think needs to be included in our series for Nonprofit Month, tweet at me or send me an email via my contact form. I’d love to hear from you.

It’s been a long while since I posted. This was due to several reasons including a move across country, getting our new home setup, an illness and vacation. Now that things are back to some semblance of normal, I have a dedicated space and time to write each day, so posts should become more frequent.

What Getting Rid of 50% Of My Stuff Is Teaching Me About Building A Business

To prepare for our upcoming move, my family and I got rid of almost half of our stuff. This may seem like we went crazy, but it is leading us to a more fulfilling life and an easier move. But above and beyond that I’m learning a huge lesson in my business.

Getting rid of junk brings clarity

Over the past few years, I’ve tried and (mostly) failed to start several businesses online. Everything from WordPress themes to passive income blogs to niche websites. I even got into dropshipping websites one time. Ugh.

While I can’t say that I’ve had some epiphany or I’m suddenly an online business ninja guru expert, I can say that I am more focused and clear headed about business than I ever have been. I’m reading, studying and listening to those who have succeeded more. I’m working on a few core select businesses.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to say no. Chris Lema is famous for saying no. This simple step has allowed me to clear away all the junk that I was involved in before. It has even helped me to decide to let go of some good opportunities. This has been instrumental in my current growth because it has let me take advantage of great opportunities. Good is the enemy of great.

Getting rid of all of these things in my life that weren’t the best possible opportunities has allowed me to see the things I want to focus on more clearly. I have clarity to make good decisions in my business and to get things done efficiently.

Building a solid business take focus

With this renewed clarity, I’ve been able to focus more on the core tenets of my business and ensure that those are utilized and fed. This has been essential lately as I haven’t had a lot of time to invest in building side businesses with my full time job and preparing to move. So the limited amount of time I’ve been able to invest has had to be laser focused on achieving specific goals.

I’ve begun creating manageable to-do lists of short term goals with specific tasks like:

  • Write a post on XXX today and schedule for ____.
  • Install ____ plugin and configure.
  • Email so and so a short reminder that I need X by Y.

These kind of short, to the point, and actionable to dos have led to a huge increase in getting things done that have measurable impact on business and growth. While focus isn’t going to make you millions, it will help to take your hard work and invest it wisely.

So what can you get rid of mentally or physically to help you focus?

 

How To Find The Right Fundraising Plugin

How To Find The Right Fundraising Plugin

There are lots of different  donation and fundraising plugins out there. But what should you look for in a fundraising plugin? Let’s take a look at what some of the top choices have to offer.

First, we want to set the things we’re looking for in a fundraising plugin. Our choice will be processing payments through a form, so we have several items to cover.

  • Security – we want to make sure that those who give us money know that they are doing so in a safe and secure environment from end to end.
  • Flexibility – we want the fundraising plugin we choose to offer the ability to do multiple campaigns, partner with different payment processors and work with different plugins to give us lots of functionality.
  • Display – We want each campaign and our donation form to be beautiful. While this isn’t absolutely necessary, a form that is well designed and has a great user interface is more likely to bring in more donations.

These are the criteria that I have when looking for a fundraising plugin. You may have a lot more criteria depending on your situation. But at the base level, I believe these will get you to a good place. Initially, I wanted to recommend several plugins and grade them based on this list. However, after several hours of research, I didn’t find enough plugins that passed my inspection to write-up. That is a sad thing considering WordPress has thousands and thousands of plugins in the official repo and thousands more elsewhere.

Know of a good plugin for fundraising campaigns? I’d love to review it! Hit me up on Twitter or my contact page.

 

The One Step To Building A Business You Can't Ignore

The One Step To Building A Business You Can’t Ignore

Building a business is hard. Building a successful business is even harder. But there’s something that almost everyone misses even though it is completely obvious. To build a business, you have to actually build something.

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching Syed Balkhi give a great talk on business  and our desire for excellence on the live stream of LoopConf.

[aesop_video align=”center” src=”youtube” id=”TwX2u3Uwozg” loop=”off” autoplay=”off” controls=”off” viewstart=”off” viewend=”off”]

There is a key hidden in this.  It’s something that I struggle with on a daily business. Currently, I’ve got four different ideas in the building stage. I’ve done the brainstorming. I’ve done the research. I’ve even started to build out content, sites, and code. But between the different projects, they are ALL languishing in a half done state. 

For those trying to start a business, ideas can abound. Motivation to get started can be huge. But the follow through is tough. Yet, THAT is what gets you to owning a business. That is what gets you across the finish line. The course your building? The membership site? The theme? The plugin? That’s the foundation of your new business. That’s the business that could provide a home for someone who doesn’t have one, like Pippin Williamson’s business. It could allow you to stay home with your family and help raise kids who don’t have one, like Jesse Peterson.

What if finishing the product you have the idea for right now changes your life? What if it allows you to travel like you’ve always wanted? Stay home? Help others? If you don’t finish it, you’ll never know. So sit down and write those last few posts. Finish up that section of code. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make it good and push it. Publish. Show the world.

How To Build A Simple Fundraising Site – Part 3

Building a fundraising site for your organization to take donations or raise funds doesn’t have to be a huge pain. While there are many solutions for this and other web services, this is just one approach that can get you online and ready to take donations. Take this simple approach and have something up quickly.

In part one, I blogged about the need for a good domain and  a solid web host for your site. Next, I wrote about installing WordPress and configuring both the settings and installing a good theme. This time, we’ll look at some basic plugins to install as well as configure the donation or fundraising part of your site.

Start with these plugins on your fundraising site

While there are thousands and thousands of plugins I could recommend to you for your site and there are many that I would, this tutorial is about getting a fundraising site up quickly. The improvements and extra functionality can come later. Here is a short list of plugins that I would include in order to get your site secured, indexed by search engines and more.

Jetpack by Automattic – Jetpack is a featured filled plugin with individually activated modules that will do things like add social sharing to your site while also providing brute force protection. It’s the first plugin I activate on many sites and provides millions of users with tons of functionality. While it occasionally faces issues, the support team behind the plugin is top of the line and offers great email support.

WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast – This plugin is also one that I install on most of my sites. It is a staple of the WordPress plugin community and has one of the largest install bases of any plugin. It provides not only the ability to add SEO descriptions, titles, and focus words but then also checks each post and page to make sure you are writing in a way that will help get your site indexed and ranked for your keywords.

Adding the fundraising functionality to our site

By now, you have a simple, but functional website with a custom domain and solid hosting. All that is left is to add the donation and fundraising functionality. To do this, we’re going to utilize a relatively new plugin called Give. According to the website, Give is,

[aesop_quote parallax=”on” cite=”GiveWP.com” type=”pull” quote=”The most flexible, robust, and easy to use WordPress plugin for accepting donations directly on your website. Upon activation, Give provides you with powerful features geared towards helping your Cause.” size=”1″ align=”center” height=”auto” text=”#101010″ background=”#222222″ width=”100%”]

With its easy install process, quick donation form creation and growing add on base, its a great option for getting our donation or fundraising site up quickly.

First, we’ll need to get the plugin installed. This plugin is part of the wordpress.org plugin repository. That means we can click Plugins, then Add New and then search for “Give.” This should populate the plugin desired which you can see below. Click “Install Now” and wait for the plugin to install. Activate the plugin.

[aesop_image imgwidth=”100%” img=”http://matthewrpritchett.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Screen-Shot-2015-05-07-at-12.32.01-PM.png” alt=”Give Plugin” align=”center” lightbox=”off” captionposition=”left”]

 

Next we’ll create a donation form and add it to our donation page. You’ll notice that a Donations menu item has been added to your WordPress admin menu. Hover over this and click “Add Form.”

Give your form a title. Next, you can have either a fix amount for donations or donation levels. You can also allow people to set a custom amount for donations. You can then choose whether or not to display content along with your form. In most situation you can simply type the content onto the page you add the form shortcode. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to ignore the rest of the options, but they offer lots of ways to customize your forms and donation settings.

Next we need to grab the shortcode from the sidebar. Once you have this copied, simply click “Publish” and your form is ready to use. Create a new page or edit a page that you’ve already created and place the shortcode into the content editor. Publish or update the page and your form will appear on that page immediately.

The last remaining item is to setup your donation payment gateway. Give, by default comes with Paypal Standard integration. This means that you can use PayPal to accept debit and credit cards but that visitors will be taken off your site for the payment. Give also offers paid add-ons that allow Stripe and other gateways to be integrated.

How To Build A Simple Fundraising Site – Part 2

Previously, we chose a domain and setup hosting for our site. Now, we’re going to focus on doing some basic setup for our WordPress site and choosing a theme to create the layout and look of our site.

WordPress comes pretty well setup out of the box, but there are a few settings that can help us achieve greater results. We’ll go over these below. Additionally, WordPress uses themes to style and create layout for your site. While your content stays the same, choosing different themes changes how you content looks and is laid out.

Choosing a theme is an important step in the process as it sets the tone for your site. We will focus on choosing a theme that shows off the mission of our organization while providing a solid base in terms of code quality, design aesthetic and portability in case we choose to move to a different theme in the future or hire a developer to create a custom theme.

Setting up WordPress to maximize your efforts

Out of the box, WordPress comes with an assortment of settings preconfigured for the general use case. But we are focusing our efforts on providing a means to raise funds and spread brand awareness for a nonprofit organization, not running a blog or creating a portfolio site. So we need to do a little maintenance to give us the most return on our efforts.

First, I recommend changing the permalinks to “pretty permalinks” or telling WordPress to use human readable URLs rather than page id numbers. You can set permalinks by hovering over Settings in the WordPress Dashboard menu and clicking “Permalinks.”

[aesop_image lightbox=”off” captionposition=”left” align=”center” imgwidth=”800px” img=”http://matthewrpritchett.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Screen-Shot-2015-05-05-at-2.36.54-PM.png”]

While any of the options listed will work, I recommend choosing “Post Name.” This will set all of your pages and posts to use their title as the URL structure. If you are planning on having a blog that you post to very often, you might use “Month and Name” instead as this can prevent problems with duplicate post names and can prevent issues with site speed when you have thousands of posts.

Secondly, I recommend taking a look at the Settings page and setting things like your site title and description to match that of your organization. You can also take this chance to change the timezone to match your locale. It bears saying that going through all the Settings panels and knowing what each one features and defaults to is always a good idea so that you begin to understand WordPress as a software.

Choosing a theme for your fundraising site

Themes can be a polarizing topic in the WordPress community. There are so many styles, so many opinions and so many way to go about things that you’ll find differing opinions everywhere. However, for our purposes, we simply need something simple, clean and well-coded. WordPress offers a wide variety of free and paid (premium) theme options from a wide variety of online sources.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to choose a theme from our friends over at churchthemes.net. These guys know what they are doing. The themes handcrafted by these guys are beautiful and coded to the highest standards. They currently offer two themes, Shepherd and Uplifted. We’ll choose Shepherd for our fundraising site.

Simply fill out the registration form after clicking the Download button. Once you register the download starts automatically. Then go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Appearance.” Click “Add New” and then “Upload Theme.” Once there, you can upload the zip file that you downloaded and activate the theme. You now have a fundraising site with a beautiful theme installed!

Next time, we’ll install some plugins and setup the site to take donations. As always, if you have questions, let me know in the comments. If this was helpful, please share!

How To Build a Simple Fundraising Site – Part 1

Building a fundraising site for your organization to take donations or raise funds doesn’t have to be a huge pain. While there are many solutions for this and other web services, this is just one approach that can get you online and ready to take donations. Take this simple approach and have something up quickly.

Pick a domain

Your domain is the address for your website. You want something short, easy to remember, and easy to spell. For example, if you organization’s name is We Help People, you would want to try to get wehelppeople.org, .com or something similar.

[aesop_image lightbox=”off” captionposition=”left” align=”center” alt=”How To Build A Fundraising Site – Part 1″ imgwidth=”800px” img=”http://matthewrpritchett.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Screen-Shot-2015-05-04-at-4.22.37-PM.png”]

There are lots of tools available to help you find and register a domain name. Here are a few of my favorites:

It is extremely important to take some time to think through your domain. You want something that directly relates to your organization, but you also want something that provides for things like brand building, search engine optimization and is easy to remember and type.

Choose a Hosting Provider

Hosting is where we will point your domain to and where your files will actually live. This is an important part of the process as it sets the pace for your online activity. Hosting is normally a monthly or yearly subscription fee. There are lots of options ranging from a shared space on a server for a few dollars per month to dedicated server racks inside mammoth facilities for hundreds or thousands of dollars per month. On top of that there are things like managed hosting options that give you a bit more support on things like security and software updates. You may have a dedicated professional or team who can do those kind of things and want a bit more flexible solution. All of these are options that you can choose from.

My guess is that you are looking for something that is low maintenance for a low cost. I recommend several providers and have written about them in the past. They are all solid providers who have strong reputations and service. I use each of them to host several sites and find value in each of them for different things. There are several options in this space that offer just the right amount of management and cost efficiency.

WP Engine

Flywheel

These two hosts will take care of your WordPress updates, security, and server maintenance. These three benefits alone can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

One of the other nice things about these hosts is that because they are WordPress specific, there is no need to install WordPress on the servers, which can be somewhat complicated for someone who doesn’t web development experience.

In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about setting up your initial WordPress settings and choosing a theme. If this article has helped you, please share on social media!

 

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