Beyond the technical parts of creating a new site for your organization, developing a communications plan is an important part of getting ready for launch. Make sure that your key audiences are informed and enthusiastic using our new website checklist for nonprofit marketers.
Prepare Helpful Resources
While you’ve been living and breathing the new site, others in your organization may not have been following along quite as closely. Be prepared to answer a wide range of questions about the new site, from design choices to functionality, as you get closer to launch. Even if you feel like you’ve been over-communicating the web design process over the past few weeks and months, the busy nature of nonprofit work means that not everyone has been absorbing the details.
When your launch date is about two weeks out, start preparing talking points about your goals for the new site, design changes (if you’ve updated your style or color palette), new features, the project budget and the web design firm/contractor (if you’re using one). It may also be helpful to gather screenshots of the old and new sites so that you can offer some visual examples.
To get ahead of the inevitable pre-launch panic, we’ve found it helpful to proactively prepare notes on the following topics so that you’re ready to quickly address concerns:
- What happens to everything on the old site? Can I still get there?
- Do we need to update all of the links? Will old links still work?
- How can I learn to use the new site? What resources are available?
- Are we sure that the donation and sign up forms will work?
- Why did we need to spend $______ on a new website? Does it help us reach our goals?
- How did you decide on this style (font, colors, layout)?
- What’s the plan for fixing things that are broken at launch?
- How does the new website make a difference for users, like service recipients and donors?
Even if you don’t use them all now, these notes offer a useful record of the project that you can refer to in the future.
New Website Checklist: Before Launch
The weeks leading up to launch are a crucial time to communicate internally and with those you’d consider to be “insiders” at your organization. All of these audiences should be informed of the launch date and major changes in functionality, style and navigation.
- Provide your staff with basic training materials about the site so that they can find important content and are comfortable getting around. One way to do this is by recording a simple screencast in Keynote or Powerpoint using screenshots of the new site.
- You can also arm employees with talking points about the new site so they can answer questions from donors and the public in-person, on the phone or over email.
Board of Directors
- For many boards, you’ll only need to offer a scaled-down version of the information you send to staff. Using a fact sheet approach, outline your goals, key changes, showcase pages you’re most proud of and include some FAQs.
- If your new site offers special features like a board-only area, give a quick overview and let them know when to expect some training.
- Do you have volunteers, partners, funders or other insiders that you want to feel “in the know” about the upcoming website from a relationship-building perspective?
- A brief message about the launch date, what the organization is most excited about and how it relates to them will do the trick.
New Website Checklist: After Launch
Sorry, your new website isn’t particularly newsworthy. Instead of focusing on a press release to spread the word, you can effectively announce the site to your core audiences in the two weeks following launch.
- First, celebrate! You’ve entered a new chapter of your organization’s identity.
- Second, resend the talking points you prepared and designate someone (maybe you?) as the point person for questions and troubleshooting.
Board of Directors
- Again, celebrate! Your amazing new site is a reflection of their leadership.
- Remind them of key details, including who the point person is for questions (and kudos).
- Mention that you look forward to sharing the site’s performance in upcoming board reports.
- Ask the primary relationship managers to email key partners and announce the new site with a brief explanation of how it will advance your mission.
- Be sure to point out places where the partner is mentioned, like a Partners page.
- If appropriate, encourage them to share the new site with their audiences, too.
Service Recipients and Volunteers
- Does your new website change the way (hopefully for the better!) that program participants and volunteers communicate with you, sign up or take action?
- Get in touch with them as soon as possible through your typical means of communication (like personal phone calls or by email) and walk them through the new process.
- It’s also a great opportunity to say hello and thanks!
- Don’t forget that they love you for your mission, not your marketing. Balance the announcement of your new website by framing it as a tool that helps you do even more good work.
- If you send a regular email newsletter, consider including the announcement there so that it’s not the only story of how you’ve been spending your time and resources.
- You could also announce the new site on your blog, like this example from the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias.
- This is the really fun part! Use a combination of your blog and social media channels to share the news.
- Outline what’s new and how it makes a difference for the user and your cause – and don’t forget to include a visual in your social media content.
- Depending on your goals, consider adding or promoting an incentive to visit the new site, like checking out a new downloadable resource or using a discount code in your store. Check out this awesome example from the Core Knowledge Foundation.
Crafting a communications plan for your website launch helps make sure that no one is left out in the cold during this busy time. Identifying key audiences, proactively providing them with information and then celebrating a new tool that advances your cause should be at the heart of your marketing team’s new website checklist.
Have you seen a nonprofit do a good job announcing a new site? What other communications tasks would you add to a new website checklist? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.