We live in the Information Age and it would be impossible for a nonprofit to be successful without an online presence. The internet is the best place for nonprofits to get the word out across the miles for the good work that they do. A nonprofit website is the hub where they can educate people about their cause, notify them of important events, seek and collect donations, and gain membership.
Most nonprofit organizations have a moving story to tell about why they got started. Whether it’s a narrative, audio recording or video recording, the nonprofit’s website is the perfect place to tell that story. In addition to the nonprofit’s website, there are plenty of social media outlets where nonprofits can continue to spread the word.
Every word that nonprofits put on the internet is subject to misinterpretation by others. A misworded statement, a meme that’s in poor taste and emotional commenters are just a few of the risks that accompany managing online content. Online risks can significantly affect a company’s reputation.
One of a board director’s responsibilities is to address risk. They can address risks by mitigating them, eliminating them or transferring them. A BoardEffect board management system will prevent many security risks during the course of board collaborations. Purchasing insurance is a way to transfer risks for board activities, including protecting the nonprofit’s reputation due to covered loss that occur because of internet activity.
Focus Your Online Presence
Your online presence gives your audience the first impression of your nonprofit. So, why not make it great? Invest some money in creating a professional brand and logo. Carry them with consistency throughout your website, social media pages and other marketing media.
The key to focusing your online presence is to know your target audience and invest your efforts where they are. Don’t make the mistake of spreading yourself too thinly. You don’t have to be everywhere on the web to be effective. There are many outlets to experiment with: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, websites, microsites and more. If your website is the most productive, it’s wise to focus on search engine optimization (SEO).
Consider how much time your staff or volunteers must spend on managing your nonprofit’s online presence. How many platforms can you successfully manage? Do you have a designated person who can manage content, answer inquiries and handle comments? Do you have to spend time dealing with spam or inappropriate, insensitive remarks? It’s prudent to try to get the most bang for your buck, but don’t make the mistake of getting in over your head. Maximize your online presence as well as you can. If content appears on your sites that could put your reputation at risk, you’ll want to be sure to catch the smoldering embers before they turn into a full-blown fire.
What do your analytics say about where your target audience is most active? Google has a tool called Google Alerts that will notify you when anyone is talking about your nonprofit on the web. Place your efforts where you will get the most return on your investment. You can always put the remaining online promotional strategies on your long-term plan.
Monitor Your Web Presence at Least Daily
If at all possible considering the number of volunteers that you have, assign a designated person to manage and monitor all your web content on a daily basis. This person should be someone who has the necessary technical expertise to spot problems and to mitigate them right away. This person also needs to have adequate time to dedicate to the task. It’s even better if you have a backup person. The designated person should be sure to check on all social media feeds, reviews, comments and direct messages for problematic activity and to ensure that the sites are working properly.
Engage Your Followers
One way to help protect your online reputation is to engage your followers. The more people that you get to follow your cause, the more willing they’ll be to share the good work with others. The more loyal followers you have, the better your online reputation will be.
Engagement entails more than putting content online. To engage your followers, you want to give them quality content, listen to their comments and respond appropriately. Ask your designated web monitor to create a rubric that identifies responses that are negative, positive or neutral, or those that fall into specific categories. You can then use content to address common concerns, head off problems before they come to your attention and make note of any particular topics of interest.
Nonprofits can also use the internet to address common concerns and acknowledge and thank donors, which is another way to help improve your nonprofit’s online reputation.
As diligent as you might be in monitoring your nonprofit’s reputation online, you’re bound to get an occasional whiner or instigator. Keep your cool when dealing with rude or inappropriate posters. It’s always okay to set the record straight as long as you are polite and professional. It’s best to take your problem offline if you can. Avoid engaging negatively with dissatisfied commenters and never get involved with a volley of negative comments. If your site is up long enough, you’ll also probably get an occasional rogue troublemaker. Delete those comments if possible and, if not, just ignore them. If you’re working on your reputation, you’ll have plenty of positivity to overcome the few negative commenters.
Social media outlets are continuing to evolve and to keep your nonprofit’s reputation strong, you’ll have to keep up with the times. It’s best to regularly review your online engagement strategy and make some adjustments as the internet and social media change. Also, be cognizant that your nonprofit is bound to change at times, and you’ll want to keep your sites updated accordingly. Having outdated content is also something that could negatively affect your online reputation.
A strategic digital marketing presence is an activity that leads nonprofits to success and sustainability. It gives you the advantage of reaching volunteers, donors, members and other important stakeholders. As with most opportunities, digital marketing also presents risks. The best way to manage reputational risk is to actively manage and monitor your nonprofit’s online presence on a daily basis and to have a plan to address minor problems before they get blown out of proportion.