8 Nonprofit Website Myths to Help Your Boss and Board Overcome

8 Nonprofit Website Myths

Cost? Time? Other priorities? When you’re ready to advocate for a new website, it should be pretty easy to anticipate a few of the questions and concerns that you’ll hear from your executive director and board of directors. However, communications staff also encounter some persistent website myths and misconceptions that are tough to debunk in the moment, especially when they come from your organization’s top decision makers.

We asked fellow nonprofit marketers on Twitter to weigh in with examples they’ve encountered in the wild. Do any of these questions or sentiments sound familiar?

“Can’t we just email people our brochure when they ask for information?”
via Lauren Girardin

“Will it have an app?”
via Jessie Littlewood

“Why do we need to make it mobile ready? People can just make the screen bigger on their phones with their fingers.”
via Jayne Cravens

And my personal favorite: “Can’t we just have a Facebook page instead?”

Of course, as with any proposal for a new idea or expense, it’s normal to get some pushback and clarifying questions. To move a website project ahead, you’ll need to be an educator, evangelist, and project manager—all rolled into one. It’s a good thing you’re used to wearing lots of hats!

Common Myths & Misconceptions

Before you make the case for a new website, try to anticipate the questions you might get from your boss and board and work them into your pitch where possible. Depending on who you need to get buy-in and approval from at your organization, you could see a wide range of questions and opinions, from the super technical to more of the big picture.

Don’t get caught off guard. Here are eight common myths and misconceptions, along with tips for crafting the perfect response.

“New websites cost too much.”

Yes, websites can be expensive depending on what you need. But there’s a wide range of options out there that come with very different price tags, from DIY website builders to fully custom designs. (Or something in between like our platform.)

If your discussion will be driven largely by cost, be sure to address the cost of inaction, too. A web presence that’s barely functional, difficult to use or that isn’t very professional comes with costs, whether that’s the price of extra (or urgent) website maintenance or the lost opportunities to attract new donors, reach clients and build your mailing list.

“We don’t have the time.”

If you can, outline the web design process and time frame you have in mind. For example, our clients can launch a new site in 6-8 weeks but custom design projects can take 5-6 months or more. Also be sure to describe the ways you plan to make the project manageable for staff, such as the types of support you can expect from an outside vendor.

Lastly, there’s a chance that a new website saves time in other areas of your work, like event and volunteer management or simply getting fewer phone calls at the office. You can point out how the work balances out over time.

“Our constituents don’t really care.”

If you have any website-related stories, this is where some anecdotes about visitor experiences come in handy. Alternatively, maybe your constituents have praised the websites of other organizations for their ease of use or special features. It’s time to share.

Even if you don’t have any specific examples of constituents complaining about an existing website, there’s a good chance your Google Analytics data (like bounce rates and conversion rates) can help tell the story. You can also talk about some of the basic characteristics of a user-friendly website to explain how you could be inadvertently turning away new and existing supporters.

“We can probably do it ourselves.”

This myth is also known as “we can find an intern for that.” Assuming this isn’t the route you want to go, you’ll need to explain why you can’t, in fact, do it yourself—whether because of know-how, internal capacity or other factors. Making a site on your own raises questions about what you’ll have to cut from your workload in order to add it your plate. Even preparing for and supporting an intern or volunteer takes some investment on your part.

Be sure to touch on the skills required to make a website with the features you need, that’s properly branded and establishes credibility. Thinking back to the earlier examples from Twitter, it’s pretty clear (and understandable) that not everyone knows how websites work and are built. Put on that teaching hat.

Learn how to choose the right website company for your nonprofit ›

“There are better places to spend marketing dollars.”

You know that digital marketing is relatively cheap for the amount of reach it can get, especially compared to a direct mail campaign or paid advertising. But there’s a good chance that a non-marketing audience doesn’t have the kind of comparison points that you do.

Rather than talk about which marketing tools are “best,” try framing a new website as a critical and foundational part of all of the work you do to build awareness. Plus, with tools like Google Analytics, you have a much better opportunity to measure website performance versus printed collateral.

If any of your decision-makers fall into the camp of “we don’t need to do marketing at all,” you’ll have a more difficult sell. In this scenario, it’s helpful to talk about the role of communications in reaching your nonprofit’s big picture goals, like finding people to fund essential programs or to advocate for community issues. Sometimes just the word “marketing” can make people feel like they are spending on things that are too slick for the charity sector rather than essential. Consider using other wording like outreach, communications or publicity.

“But we already have a website.”

If your existing website is live…. but not alive… it’s not doing much more than confirming your existence. Many people think of websites as static, virtual brochures rather than tools for engagement and action. (Those folks also tend to view blogs as unnecessary, which really pains us over here at Wired Impact since blogging has so many benefits.)

We’ve seen nonprofits get better results when they create websites that help people accomplish their goals: registering for a program, making a donation or signing up to volunteer. Why not make your website work harder so you have time for other things?

If you find yourself in a conversation about what makes for a “good” website, be mindful of whether or not the people you’re speaking with had a role in creating the site you already have. Then describe what makes for an effective website these days by comparing your data to industry benchmarks (more on this below) and talking about the needs and preferences of your audiences. You can explain that websites are meant to change over time—and the ability to change them is actually a big perk!

“Websites only need to be accessible if you serve _____ people.”

Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that you only need an accessible website if you serve people living with developmental disabilities or if you know a donor or two with vision impairments. The reality is that creating a website that’s user-friendly and accessible to a wide range of abilities allows everyone to enjoy your website more. It’s just good web design.

More to the point, why would you limit the reach of your cause if you don’t have to? Even the folks who don’t need assistive screen readers or captions today might need them a year from now. It’s fantastic customer service, and you’ll build stronger relationships by offering positive and inclusive online experiences.

“We need something with all the bells and whistles.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fortunate to work with a few board members that really love technology. They see the possibilities, want to do the latest thing, and envision “going viral.” Maybe it’s that they want a new site to have an online store or be able to run crowdfunding campaigns. I saved this website myth for last because it’s my favorite to address: “I love your enthusiasm. We‘re not able to tackle that right now given our time/budget. I hope we can revisit it in the future.”

Along similar lines, be careful to pare down expectations that a new website will magically solve all sorts of problems for your organization. Rather than being an end-all solution, try to describe a new website as a tool that can grow and evolve with you as your needs, audiences, and budget change over time.

Battle Website Myths With Data

If you’re leading the charge on a website pitch, there’s a good chance that you have the most knowledge about how a new site can help your organization reach its goals. Sadly, you can’t just copy and paste that understanding into the hearts and minds of your decision-makers.

In a previous post about communicating why you need a new website, we outlined a few pieces of data to collect that describe your website’s performance and put it into context within the larger nonprofit community. (We also included a list of website facts and stats to use in your pitch that will make your life a little easier!)

The process of gathering evidence and benchmarks will help you feel more confident in addressing any questions and website myths you encounter. If all else fails, never hesitate to say, “That’s an interesting point. I’ll have to look into it and get back to you.” And then do.

The path to a new website should be a collaborative one, with a little myth-busting as you go.

What kind of website myths or misconceptions have you heard? Are there any questions that you have a hard time answering? Let’s break them down in the comments.