Updating your web presence for COVID-19

website update hal-gatewood

(Image: Hal Gatewood)

The COVID-19 outbreak is taking its toll on nonprofit organizations around the world. From canceled fundraisers to stay-at-home regulations that prevent volunteers from helping, many nonprofits are wondering what steps they can take to remain relevant and continue to connect with supporters and potential supporters. 

This means that your digital presence is more important than ever before.

Although it may sometimes feel as though the world has stopped, technology makes it possible for us to connect with one another via the internet. In fact, some health officials have replaced the phrase “social distancing” with “physical distancing” to emphasize that we are, in fact, still socializing and connecting via Zoom and other online cloud-based meeting platforms. 

With so many people working remotely and sheltering in place, more people than ever are searching the internet. They’re free to use their personal computer, so they’re no longer restricted by firewalls blocking them from social media sites, etc. That means they can do Google searches to their heart’s content, and visit your website and social media sites as much as they want. 

While many people are concerned about their finances due to the uncertainty of the times, people have proven over and over again that they can be counted on to help in a crisis. 

Increased internet access and usage combined with the human desire to help can mean big benefits for nonprofits with a stellar digital presence. Here are a few ways to adapt your web site to the times.

Focus on fresh content. Use the opportunity to tell your story. If applicable, let visitors know ways in which your organization is helping people cope with the situation. 

Update your website header, not just your homepage. Google ranks pages, not sites. If a person is searching for your organization, they’re likely to be directed to an interior page on your site, not your homepage. 

Add an alert bar that sits above the navigation bar. An alert bar is a great, practical tool for drawing attention to a crucial issue. If you’re providing special services or operating an emergency COVID-19 fund, this is the best way to convey that information. Use action-oriented language such as “follow updates to see how we’re helping the community.”

Continue updating your site with non-COVID-19 information. Although COVID-19 and related topics are dominating everyone’s attention, Google continues to crawl the web and update its rankings. It’s important to continue to drive your mission.

Tell the world (or your community) you’re open for business, and how you’re operating. With schools and many businesses closed, it’s understandable that supporters may be confused about what’s going on with your organization. Clearly communicate whether you’re open, have reduced hours, or otherwise modified your service delivery with a brief, friendly announcement that’s easily digestible, calm, and reassuring. You can put this on your homepage, but keep in mind that not all visitors to your site will land there, so make sure it’s easily linked to from anywhere on your site, with plenty of signposts to make it easy to find. The design of any signpost should be simple, clear, and not too lengthy. Unless red is a color associated with your brand, you should probably avoid it – it may look too much like a warning sign. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Pop-up messages. They’re easily installed without having to change your page design. However, they can be jarring and annoying to some visitors. This approach is useful as a quick, temporary fix.
  • Add a link in your menu. A more suitable temporary approach may be to add a menu link. Make sure it can be easily found, doesn’t distract from other services, and doesn’t make your menu too cluttered.
  • Banners. Placing a banner on each page allows you to summarize your message in a few reassuring words. You can then link to your announcement in full for those wishing to know more.

If you don’t already have one, this may also be an excellent opportunity to consider using a Google Ad Grant, a program that allocates $10,000 each month in credit-based advertising grants to qualifying 501c3 organizations. A Google Ad Grants-certified professional organization like ours can show you how to use this program to expand the reach of your website and mission.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, eventually, things will stabilize. People will once again come together to volunteer for a good cause or attend a fundraising event. In the meantime, remember that people generally want to help in times of need. We’re actually hard-wired biologically to give: There is scientific evidence proving that reward centers in our brain activate when we behave altruistically. Make sure your digital presence does a good job connecting with them.

Donna-Marie King is SEO content writer at Nonprofit Megaphone, an organization focused on helping nonprofits maximize the value of the Google Ad Grant.

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