The internet holds a lot of potential for non-profits to get their message out, build an audience and raise money.
Using the web to tell stories about helping people in need can be very effective for a non-profit organisation looking for new avenues to generate income and build support in other ways such as a volunteer base.
Some large charities and non-profits have made good use of this opportunity with in-house teams who are savvy to the evolving nature of social media and content marketing.
For smaller organisations it’s also possible to access the same expertise and create a web presence every bit as strong as their larger counterparts.
Helpers asking for help
When TADTas approached me, they had a website with a design and layout that needed updating. They also wanted to accept donations online, and place greater emphasis on their need for sponsorship and volunteers.
TADTas (Technical Aids for the Disabled, Tasmania) began in 1990 as a group of skilled volunteers wanting to make everyday life easier for people with disabilities and who couldn’t afford high-priced specialist equipment, or with needs that couldn’t easily be met by existing solutions.
The basics we take for granted
Think of all of the activities that make up your day. All of the simple steps you take to get started and out of the door. From turning on the tap to make your morning coffee, to preparing breakfast and reading the news (online or a printed newspaper).
So many of these small activities we do on autopilot and it’s not easy to bring them to mind like this. It’s even harder when turning this mental exercise to your kids’ activities. Young kids have so much energy that they will often switch from one thing to another at lightning speed.
But if you’ve ever had an injury that limited the use of a hand, arm or a leg you would understand how many basic tasks suddenly become difficult or impossible to carry out. It’s very hard to make dinner if you can’t grip the handle of a knife or a saucepan.
For someone with a long-term disability, limited function of this kind can lead to a loss of independence.
Help with the essentials of modern life
TADTas works on making these basic activities accessible. The volunteers use their skills in carpentry, metalwork, mechanics and related areas to create or modify utensils and equipment, making them easier to use.
Independence for kids is another major focus. TADTas has done much work modifying bicycles to allow children with disabilities to ride. Walking frames have been customised so that they can easily be used on beaches and in parks, allowing kids with limited mobility a greater opportunity for outdoor play.
When I first met with some of the TADTas directors, I was inspired by this group of intelligent, altruistic people, successful in their own fields and committed to taking the time to help others. They were also very friendly, welcoming and open to my ideas for improving their web presence.
I concentrated on creating a site which was easy to read, easy to navigate and which clearly outlined the role of TADTas and its needs. I also wanted to make the best possible use of photos and videos collected by TADTas to tell its stories about helping people and families.
Easy to read meant three things. The website needed a clean, simple layout with a large type size and fonts that read well on screens. It had to be accessible for screen readers for the visually impaired. And I chose to use a responsive layout that allowed the pages to be easily viewed on any screen size from mobiles to large desktop monitors.
Ease of navigation means that people can find the information that they’re seeking, without taking too many steps and without the need to hunt for clues on how to get to the right page. Getting this right is a key part of content strategy for the web.
I began by looking at what TADTas wanted most from the new website: to encourage donations and other support, and to raise awareness of their services among families of disabled Tasmanians.
The front page displays a clear description of what TADTas does, with a prominent ‘Contact TADTas today’ button. A ‘Donate’ button in the menu bar uses a contrasting purple colour and a heart icon to draw attention.
Working with what’s available
I wanted to use a high quality photograph as a feature on the front page, showing a person whose life had been transformed by the work of TADTas. The photo supplied by TADTas had limitations in terms of clarity and resolution. However the clients were very attached to the photo, which shows a young girl who was helped by the organisation around 20 years ago.
This revealed a strong connection between TADTas members and the people they assist. I was keen for this to come through on their website, because I saw it as an asset to the organisation. I redesigned the featured area above the fold on the front page to display the photo at a smaller size, and styled it to look very clearly like the happy family memory that it is.
Encouraging people to donate
The ‘Donate’ button appears in the menu bar on every page, and takes site users to the Donation page. Donations are made via Paypal which is an introductory payment gateway for a non-profit the size of TADTas. Donations often come through the Freedom Wheels program (which modifies bikes for children with disabilities), and a second donation form was added to the Freedom Wheels page for visitors with a specific interest in that section of the website.
For content strategy, I ensured that existing content (from the previous website) was distributed for easy flow and, where grouped together, there was a logical continuation from one piece of information to the next. A section was added for news and for TADTas to feature selected projects. Using WordPress as a content management system means that the clients can add stories and updates easily themselves.
Even more successful in this regard has been Facebook page which I created to expand opportunities for people to discover TADTas. Facebook works well so far for the organisation to make updates and gain positive feedback from followers.
It’s worth visiting the TADTas Facebook page to see the connections that TADTas has built with the people they assist.
Updates like this reveal genuine warmth and charm.
Working with TADTas was a positive experience for several reasons. Initially they were referred to me by a person who knew my work, and so their confidence in my services was high. They had been through the experience of getting a website made some years earlier, and had learned some valuable things from that process.
It is good when the opportunity arises to work with clients who have gained insight into the website creation process from past experiences.
Not least of all, they are great people whose enthusiasm and professionalism have made them a pleasure to work with. I have been fortunate to work again since with TADTas Executive Director Paul Duncombe, creating a website for his professional activities.