When it comes to job descriptions, nonprofit staff members are all too familiar with the phrase “other duties as assigned.” And more often than not, someone that’s already juggling marketing odds and ends also finds themselves in charge of website maintenance.
If you’ve ever thought, “How in the heck do nonprofits keep their websites updated?”, then this post is for you! We know that it’s a struggle to get the recommended maintenance tasks done, especially when the site looks fine on the surface. But we’ve also seen that websites start to slowly dip in performance and usefulness once regular updates and management go by the wayside.
Your website’s return on investment is really only as good as the time you put in to keep it fresh and running smoothly.
4 Areas of Website Maintenance
A website has a lot of moving and changing pieces, and making the effort to regularly update your website can seem like an endless and thankless task. The bad news is that maintenance is an ongoing task that lasts the entire lifetime of your website. But the fantastic news is that ongoing website upkeep means at least one group of people is really thankful: your visitors. Especially the visitors that you want to actually do something through your website.
In a lot of ways, your nonprofit’s website is the front line for customer (supporter) service. You want your site to be just as welcoming, informed and helpful as someone manning the front desk or serving as the tour guide for your organization. Along these lines, I like to think of maintenance as falling into four simple categories of service:
- Does everything look like it’s supposed to?
- Are we giving people the right information?
- Could anything be working better?
- Do we offer a safe and stable experience?
Let’s dive into each of these areas and explore the related maintenance tasks.
Does everything look like it’s supposed to?
- Make sure your photos look OK and are appropriately sized. (Try Canva.)
- Verify that your page layouts work for various screen sizes. (Resize your browser window as an easy way to mimic different displays.)
- Check for typos and consistent text formatting.
- Do a branding and style audit.
Are we giving people the right information?
- Update program/service pages with the latest offerings.
- Make sure you’re promoting the right calls to action.
- Review the accuracy of information on your homepage and top landing pages.
- Verify that you offer the latest versions of linked documents.
- Check time-limited content like events to remove ones that have passed.
- Keep your blog updated on a regular schedule and moderate comments.
- Replace impact and financial information with the most recent files/numbers.
Could anything be working better?
- Verify that your online forms are working and formatted properly.
- Run a site crawl to check for broken links. (We like a free tool called Xenu.)
- Set up 301 redirects for URLs that are broken or have changed, like when moving or deleting pages.
- Check your site speed to see if pages are loading slowly. (Try Pingdom.)
- Test your site’s accessibility for all users. (WAVE is a free checker.)
- Review your Google Analytics account to assess performance. (Get our Analytics dashboards!)
Do we offer a safe and stable experience?
- Run regular backups of your entire site.
- Make sure you have a reliable website hosting service.
- Check the status of your domain ownership and renewals.
- Implement the latest security updates.
- Update software or plugins to the latest versions.
- Verify that your integrations are synced up as expected.
Ask For Help
As you can see, some maintenance tasks require more technical skills than others, like setting up redirects for broken links or running backups. It’s OK if you need to work with a professional or learn a few new things before you dive in. Just don’t forget to budget time and money for maintenance according to your nonprofit’s in-house capabilities.
If you’re already working with a web developer, they should be able to help you check on errors and keep your website up to date. (Refer to our list of things to ask a web developer about before your website launches.) A good website host will also assist with security, updates and backups.
How Often Are We Talking?
You don’t have to worry about working through every task each time you sit down to do website maintenance. Some tasks are a higher priority than others, especially the ones for things that are used frequently (forms), change often (volunteer opportunities) or are crucial to your site being online in general (domains).
Here’s an overview of a basic maintenance schedule, which you can get in a convenient checklist form below!
Run a backup to save everything that’s happening on your site, respond to blog comments, and visit your website at least once on desktop and mobile to look around. If you have a busy site with lots of form submissions, consider backing up daily.
Keep your platform, plugins and security up to date, deal with broken links and redirects, and make necessary content updates like publishing a blog post and removing past events. You should also verify that Google Analytics is tracking properly.
Every 6 Months
Dive into website performance by checking load speed, running a browser test, making sure integrations are working, and doing an Analytics review to see progress toward your goals. Audit your files and images and check on content for your important pages.
Now’s the time to benchmark last year’s performance and set new goals. Conduct a full Analytics review, run an accessibility check, and review your paid services and renewals. And change the dates in your content to a new year!
Snag Our Website Maintenance Checklist
For our nonprofit friends struggling with website upkeep, we have a manageable action plan crafted with you in mind. Download our checklist of maintenance tasks broken out across the year, including special tips for strategic planning. There's also a version just for our clients!
Tips for Getting It Done
Trust me, we’re all looking for ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to do website maintenance. In addition to building your website right from the start, consider these tips for making the tasks more manageable, especially when you’re on a small team:
- When your site is new, keep track of the changes you’d like to make overtime in a website improvement plan.
- Pre-schedule personal in-service time each month to do maintenance.
- Use a well-supported platform for your website (such as WordPress) so it’s easy to find information, learn about updates and hire help if needed.
- Don’t invest in workarounds for too long, adding layers of band-aids instead of fixing issues.
- Use free and easy tools when you can, like site checkers and Google Analytics, to find problems quickly and painlessly.
To save time, you could also consider working with a partner or website service like Wired Impact to help with all or part of your maintenance needs. Our website service has all-inclusive pricing when it comes to things like security, hosting and support so that clients can stay focused on their missions instead.
No matter the path you take to better maintenance, you’ll get more value out of your website with regular updates and care. You’re also less likely to deal with website emergencies or missed opportunities because mistakes went on for far too long without anyone noticing. Get started on a schedule that works for you and enjoy the well-earned benefits.
What parts of website maintenance do you struggle to keep up with? Any tips for people that are dealing with a site that’s been neglected? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.