How Much Should A Nonprofit Website Cost?

Laura Quinn posted a great piece on the Idealware blog recently about what you get for your money when building a web site. We get questions all the time about how much an organization should budget for a new site, and what you get for each step up. We all know dollars are scarce, and it’s important to be able to make the case for why you should or should not budget a certain amount for your site.

First, let’s talk about the variables which influence the cost of a site:

  • Design — less expensive sites offer little or no graphic design flexibility. Choose a template, a color, and drop in your logo. Moderate sites offer more customized and creative design services, and more expensive sites offer more detailed design, and may present multiple design concepts to choose from.
  • Content Management — license of a CMS is usually included in moderate to higher priced sites. May not be in lower range sites. However, many people who save money here end up paying much more in per hour fees to update or change content on the site down the line. And content is key, so a CMS should be a non-negotiable on your list.
  • Functionality — the more functions you want your site to serve, the more it may cost. However, there are many free or low cost third party widgets you can drop into your site these days to add forms, polls, video, donations, etc. Thus, make sure that the platform will support such things if you plan to go this route.
  • Strategic Consulting — any web site is just a tool to help you achieve your mission and goals. Thus, you should think about what you will need, and how you will use towards these goals. A low cost web site project will be just simple execution of the site. A higher cost project will include more consulting, strategic guidance, recommendations and education throughout the process to help you use the tools more effectively. Some will also offer ongoing availability for such assistance through an annual support contract.
  • Support — a low end site will likely leave you on your own once it’s launched. A higher cost project will offer phone and/or email support should you have tech support questions or need guidance after launch.
  • Hosting — some vendors offer hosting with their site development, and others require you to have the site hosted yourself. Though these costs are often not huge, it’s important to budget for a service that updates their servers regularly, offers 24/7 server monitoring should something go down, automatic and regular back ups, and security features to guard against hacking (there have been a small number of anti-semitic web site hacks in the past few years on synagogue sites that were not well protected).

Finally, when budgeting for such a project, don’t forget to add in the costs for the staff time to create (and/or re-purpose) content and post it on the site, and for managing your broader social media strategy if you have one (Facebook, blogging, etc.). We find this cost is often overlooked in the planning stages, but is critical to get a return on your investment and to use the available tools to their best potential.

The Idealware post offers brief descriptions of what you can expect for $1K, $5K, $15K, $50K and $100K. How did you weigh the costs and benefits to determine your web site design budget?

Video Within Reach

As broadband internet has become the norm, and the value of compelling content online has become key to capturing and retaining user’s attention, online video has become more popular and more powerful. See3 Communications, a fantastic firm headed by Michael Hoffman out of Chicago, has released their Guide to Online Video.

The 7-part entertaining, informative and inspiring Guide is your best introduction to the WHY and HOW of online video for publicizing your organization, increasing momentum for a campaign, and spreading your message virally. Michael serves as your docent through the series of short 1-3 minute videos, each with complementary links and resources. Non-technical and very accessible, Michael teaches you how to be an online storyteller.

Check out the first part in the series below. Then proceed to the full Guide to Online Video on the See 3 site.

1. The World We Live In from See3 Communications on Vimeo.

Search Engine Optimization. Wait, What?

If you do a Google Search with the words Search Engine Optimization” youll see about 34.6 million pages on the subject. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) making sure your website has high visibility with search engines – is a hot topic these days, creating an entire industry of firms specializing in SEO. As I started writing this post I said to myself, “SEO isn’t yet the norm unless there’s an “SEO for Dummies” book published. And after a search, of course there is. (I’m not recommending the book, just using it as a cultural barometer. Also, how meta/odd is it to search for a book on searching?)

There are a few basic things you can do to make sure your synagogue/organization appears near the top of any searches. For detailed information, here’s a fantastic Guide to SEO for Non-Profits. And following is a general overview of 3 key items:

Content Still is King: Google, Yahoo! and MSN (the top 3 search engines) and other search engines send web robots throughout the Internet to index words found on the pages of websites (especially home pages!) in order to better determine the appropriateness of search terms for a particular site. You should take a look at your site and make sure the name of your organization, the location, and keywords (see below) are repeated throughout the site. Obviously, you dont want to go overboard, but, if nothing else, insure that your home page includes text describing your synagogue/organization.

Keywords: In the backend coding of your website is a list of keywords describing your site. Search engines use these key words to determine search rankings. When deciding on these keywords, put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just moved to your area and is looking for something that you provide. What terms would they use? Synagogue Chicago is obvious if you’re a synagogue in Chicago, but what other terms would people use to find you? For more info on keywords and how to choose them, click here. If you are a Darim member, contact [email protected] and we can show you what keywords are currently being used on your site.

Reciprocal links: how many other sites link to your site? Some search engines use the number of sites linking to your site as a method for ranking your site. We recommend to clients that they beef up their local links section by contacting local and national organizations to seek reciprocal links (some folks call it a link exchange). It helps both sites increase their rankings, and of course, it provides good content on your site by providing your visitors with great content and a comprehensive list of resources. For an example of how one of Darims clients used their Local Links section in order to increase both service to their members and their Google rankings, click here: Your list doesnt have to be that extensive, but it provides a starting point for ideas.

For more information on SEO, Deborah Finn wrote a guide and published it on her blog, which is targeted specifically to the non-profit sector.

Modeling the “Whole Internet” Strategy

RedWriteWeb, one of the most popular blogs on web technology news, is running a series of posts this week on how religious organizations are using technology. Today they focused on the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, pluralistic research and training institute that trains and ordains rabbis as well as runs high schools in Jerusalem, among other things.

As their work attracts and serves a very diverse (and worldwide) audience, so too must their online strategy. Beyond information about the organization and programs via their web site, the Institute incorporates extensive video and slide sharing throughout the site to share their value and make their work (and their extraordinary teachers) come alive. Further, they are developing a Facebook strategy, working their Wikipedia entries, venturing into podcasting, blogging, using video-based distance learning, and experimenting with Twitter.

Alan Abbey, the organization’s web site manager, is turning theory into practice, experimenting, and measuring his success. More than dabbling in this and that, he is creating an internet strategy for his organization, and is implementing the multiple facets of that strategy. Alan knows that the age of focusing only on your web site ended in 2007, and he’s integrating multiple tools and approaches. He understands it may take time for each venture to get rooted and attract and audience. And for his audience to mature and start to use these tools as well. And perhaps, in the coming year or two, he’ll weed his garden and pursue a smaller number of approaches that have the greatest returns for his mission. Or maybe he’ll find great success in all of his approaches. Learn about his work at ReadWriteWeb. And check out the other religion postings this week too.

Further reading:

  • Andrea Useem writes about religious life and web 2.0 on the Religion Writer blog.
  • offers wisdom on using online video for non profit causes on their blog, See What’s Out There.
  • Short video tutorials on a number of social media tools, such as social bookmarking, Twitter and others from Common Craft.

And Speaking of Engagement

There are many different ways to participate in online communities.

In a previous posting here on JewPointO, Lisa discussed the book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. The authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define a groundswell as:

[a] social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional intuitions like corporations.

Li and Bernoff illustrate different types of online participation based on their Social Technographics Profile which groups people according to their social activities with others and their technology behaviors. They use a ladder metaphor:

Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield
Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield

Ross Mayfield offers a related perspective regarding online participation through his Power Law of Participation. He notes:

The vast majority of users [will] not have a high level of engagement with a given group, and most tend to be free riders upon community value. But patterns have emerged where low threshold participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement provides a different form of collaborative intelligence.

flickr credit: Ross Mayfield
Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield

Upon reflection, I suspect that the way people engage is probably multidimensional rather than a linear trajectory: people most likely locate themselves on multiple rungs or points on a graph at any given moment depending on interests, time, motivation, and the particular resource. And it is worth noting that face to face participation has its own challenges its just harder to measure online social presence.

Interested in understanding more about people who view themselves as non-public participants? Take a look at a post I wrote on TechStew, Lurking as An Online Activity Lurking as Identity.

If you are happy to just read JewPoint0, thats great! If you want to experiment with commenting on the blog, please do! If you are new to this kind of activity, consider JewPoint0 a safe space to try it out. We welcome your comments and suggestions!

Heres how to contribute your comments to JewPoint0:

  • Find a post or comment to which you would like to add your two shekels.
  • At the top of the post, beneath the title and next to the byline, you will see a hyperlink to comments.
  • Click on the link. This will open bring you to a page on which you can post your comments.
  • Type in your name, include your email address (it wont be made public), and if you like, include a link to your website or blog. Then comment away.
  • Dont forget to hit Submit Comment.

Its that easy!

Market your Website – Easy and Free

Some ideas on how to promote your website; they don’t cost a thing!

  • Is your website URL ( printed on each staff member’s business cards?
  • How about adding the website name as a clickable link in each staff member’s (and volunteer’s!) email signature? We see a lot of signatures with the address and phone number, but not a link to the website.
  • Is the website URL printed on your stationery? How about any marketing collateral; brochures, flyers, etc.?
  • Have you contacted local Jewish organizations and proposed reciprocal links? Create a section on your site for Local Links, list other Jewish organizations, and ask them to do the same. Here’s a great example of that:

Do you have other ideas? What have you done to market the website? Comments are welcome!

Web 2.0 Strategy in Jerusalem: Tachlis 2 Point Oh!

Jewlicious, PresenTense and others are putting on a valuable conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 called Tachlis 2 Point Oh! to demonstrate how to get the most out of Web 2.0 tools. Panelists are the who’s who of Jewish 2.0, including Ricky Ben-David, Aharon Horwitz of PresenTense, Ahuvah Berger on social networking, and David Abitbol from Jewlicious on blogging.

Get all the details here.

In Jerusalem next week? Don’t miss it! Did you go? We’d love to hear what you learned.

What We Can Learn From How Google Is Introducing Chrome

Google Chrome Comic

Google is introducing a new web browser, Chrome.

Knowing that people seek, access and absorb information in many different ways, they have offered many different points of entry for learning about the browser. The most important part of their campaign is how they are inviting us inside to understand the process, not just selling their product.

Through cartoons, video, and text (blogging), they are telling the story of why and how they developed a revolutionary new offering. And it’s powerful. As a user/reader/watcher you are invited inside the process and the story — and invited to become part of the story by actually using Chrome.

In addition to these storytelling offerings, Google also has produced videos to introduce you to the features of the browser – a “how to” guide.

So… What can we learn from this?

First, “how to” may be necessary but it is not sufficient. Logistics are only part of the story, and the personal connection (even to a developer in another state from another generation who is using words that sound Greek to you) is critically important to feeling engaged. American Jewish World Service has done a great job of this with their videos developed with See3 to show the real experience of real people who are involved with AJWS. Donors, volunteers, staff all have powerful and important stories to tell.

Megillat Esther, by JT Waldman
Megillat Esther, by JT Waldman

Second, visuals, and especially video, offers more momentum than plain text. While I would be hard pressed to READ the whole story, I’m delighted to watch a few minutes of video. JT Waldman transformed Megillat Esther into a comic book (it’s kosher!) which has engaged young (and old) in a text that they otherwise might not have ever studied. (BTW, he’s now working on the Tagged Tanakh project — way cool.)

There are many circumstances when we have a hard time capturing the attention of our audiences for important things. The congregational meeting, for example. Introducing a new staff person or board chair. Showing the added value of the new classrooms that are under construction to fuel the final stages of a capital campaign. Sharing the impact of participating in a mitzvah day. Orienting new families to the traditions and customs of your congregation.

What do you learn from these various approaches? How do you see it applying to you work? Got something to share? Tell us!

See below to hear the Chrome Story for yourself:

Be On Top of Your High Holy Day Web Site Game

While congregations spend a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for the community to walk in the doors for the High Holy Days, it’s important to remember that your web site is a critical destination for members, prospects and the community at large at this time of year. Think creatively and carefully about how you can deepen the holiday experience, serve your members and strengthen relationships. While the logistics of the season may seem obvious to you, making sure you’re offering clear and easy to find information can be more valuable to your members than you might think. Consider:

  • Basic info like times and locations, with links to or an image of Google Maps or Mapquest;
  • Parking information, restrictions, suggestions;
  • Opportunities to increase comfort, such as a downloadable definition of terms, transliteration and translation of common greetings for the holidays, and brief tutorials on traditions, like the symbolism of apples and honey;
  • Support for self-guided reflection — though many people may not attend selichot services in person, how might you provide questions to catalyze pre-Rosh Hashanah reflection? Could be a question per day on the home page, or one per day emailed from the Rabbi;
  • Provide links to additional opportunities like sign ups for adult education classes, and resources or to deepen members’ experience;
  • Provide background information and any logistical details that might be helpful to the community at large and neighbors who live or work near the congregation

Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington has made great use of their home page with quick links to more info, a few reflective questions, and an invitation (note: not an announcement, but an invitation) to join selichot services

How are you using your site this high holy day season? What would you add to the checklist above?

What is “marketing” and “communications”?

While many people think the word “marketing” refers to trying to sell something, it’s really much more beautiful than that. We can look at the Jewish community in 2 different ways. Commonly, we see institutions which are trying to get people to become members, attend events, and make donations. Through a different lens we see groups of people with common interests, needs and locations coming together to form communities. And as these communities grow, they need some structure to support their activities.

The mistake we make in thinking about marketing and communications is that we put the institution first, when we should be putting the individual, and the community needs first. It is a subtle but important difference. The exciting thing about “web 2.0” — both the technology tools and the culture evolving with it– is that it brings us back to the centrality of the community over the institution.

Our Learning Network session tomorrow for Darim member congregations is a first step in examining this shift. “Communications” are more than a standard issue bulletin and the phone tree. Communications today is about weaving together the community. It’s as much about listening and responding as it is about hawking your wares. If you are a member can can’t attend our session you can find useful resources and an archive of the webinar in Dirah. If you’re not yet a member of Darim you can learn more on our website.

Coming soon – some reading recommendations for rethinking your assumptions about marketing and communications. Stay tuned.