Net neutrality. What this means for you as a nonprofit (and a general internet user)

Net neutrality is a topic many of us have overlooked. This needs to end now. We’ll explain what this hot button issue is all about and what you can do to prevent the negative impact some big companies are attempting to have on the internet.

If you already understand the impact and are ready to act, join the fight here »

First, what is net neutrality?

Net Neutrality:  the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination – Merriam Webster

Basically, net neutrality ensures that all the content on the internet is available to you on an equal basis. This means that some pieces content won’t be prioritized over others just because bigger companies are paying more. This regulation is what has allowed the Internet to function as it currently does—providing us all with equal opportunity to publish and promote what we want as well as to find it.

Now, what’s happening with net neutrality?

With a new chief at the FCC as well as the ongoing lobbying by big companies like Verizon and Comcast, this regulation is threatened. They want companies to have the ability to pay for higher priorities. They want the chance to make money. And it’s getting close to actually happening.

How does this impact your nonprofit?

Imagine a world where other websites could pay internet service providers so that their site works faster than yours. As TechCrunch put it, removing net neutrality regulations means, “any organization without deep enough pockets to pay an ISP’s ransom will load much slower than those with ties to ISPs” (full article).  It would create yet another space where it’s too expensive for the little man to keep up and money gets you much further ahead.

What can you do?

First, send your note to the FCC, saying you’d like to preserve net neutrality and Title 2. Then spread this message. Make sure your nonprofit knows the impact removing this regulation could have on all of you, your communities and the world at large.

Here are some additional resources to help you understand and share the gravity of this situation:

Join the Battle for the Net

Join the Speak up & sign your name »

3 Website performance metrics your nonprofit may be misunderstanding

As someone trying to get traffic to a nonprofit website, you have to admit it can be thrilling to quickly log in to Google Analytics, look for nice stats and then peace out. On the flip side, you might notice some dips in traffic or high bounce rates and panic, wondering if you need a drastic change in strategy. Either way, the data you’re taking in isn’t telling the full story. In fact, it might be telling you the wrong story.

Before we get into that, if you’re not even checking your website metrics, we need to talk. I know you don’t have a lot of spare time, but numbers matter. If you can understand your site data, you can understand what website content interests users or why they don’t convert on your donate now form. To fully understand how vital these numbers are, read why and how to do more with Google Analytics for nonprofits.

Now, let’s reassess how you’re viewing and interpreting your website performance metrics and how you can ensure you’re taking the right action based on these numbers.

3 website performance metrics to reexamine

Pages per visit

*What is "pages per visit?" The number of pieces of content—or web pages—on your site a user views before exiting the site
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To find this stat, go to the Audience or Behavior tabs

This stat gets marketers excited as it can highlight information regarding the user experience on your site. Some marketers interpret it as users enjoying your content and site flow enough to look at more than one page.

However, it’s not that simple. This could also indicate that people are landing on your site and not finding what they want. They have to click through several pages to get to the volunteer information for which they originally came to the site.

To understand if people are finding and enjoying your content, first come up with a hypothesis. Then use a combination of metrics and tools—such as the User Explorer Report—to see if this hypothesis is supported.

Time on page

*What is "time on page?" The length of time—in minutes—a user spends on a web page before moving to another page on your site or exiting completely.
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To find this stat, go to the Behavior tab

Similar to pages per session, a higher time on site can indicate that people aren’t finding the content they want fast enough.

To better understand this metric, combine it with other stats. For example, bounce rate: if your time on page is high and so is your bounce rate, it could indicate people searched all over the page but left when their search didn’t bring up what they wanted.

Besides that, you can consider the page you’re looking at. You should be able to tell if it’s clean vs. cluttered. If it’s clean and strategically laid out, a corresponding high time on page could very well mean success.

Bounce rate

*What is "bounce rate?" The percentage of visitors that after landing on the web page from an outside source, leave the web page without visiting other site pages. 
website-performance-metrics
To find this stat, look under the Audience or Behavior tabs

A high bounce rate often freaks us out. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t like your content.

For one, it could be Google’s fault. Or rather, the user typed in a search, Google brought up your nonprofit’s content in search results, but when the user came to your site the content wasn’t a fit. Not your fault, just a mismatch between query and result. To help Google avoid this, be picky with the content you put on your site.

A high bounce rate could also indicate that your blog post was what the user wanted, but it didn’t lead them to take action. This isn’t necessarily bad, as they would appreciate you delivered an answer and then return for more later. However, if you want to take advantage of that content, include calls to action or other related content.


In the end, we want to point out that these high and low metrics are not equivalent to failure. Be weary of looking at just one metric at a time and always pay attention to context.

For help on setting up your Google Analytics, receiving a monthly report or simply understanding what you see, contact our team of experts at ArcStone.

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & finally understand your mysterious audience

Let’s face it: your nonprofit’s audience can be very mysterious. Sometimes they donate, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re excited to be a part of your work and other times you can’t get their attention. Instead of letting yourself become discouraged, we want to encourage you to talk to your audience. Granted, you can’t sit down with each of them to uncover answers to all your questions, but you can conduct a nonprofit survey.

First, why a nonprofit survey?

Maybe you already believe in the power of this type of interaction, but if you don’t, boy do we have a case for you!

Marketing guru, Kissmetrics, points out how it may be true that you can learn a lot by studying data about users out there, but at the end of the day, you don’t get the answers to one very important piece of the puzzle: the why. Why did or didn’t your donor finish filling out the donation form? Why does or doesn’t your volunteer read your email newsletter?

If you can get the answer to these questions, from real users, you’ll have the information you need to start removing any of the obstacles between your audience and the action they take with your nonprofit. You can edit your website forms, tweak your content strategy and rephrase your copy in ways that resonate with your audience.

What’s just as notable about nonprofit surveys is that by taking the time to ask your audience questions, you go from constantly talking at them to opening up the conversation. In doing so, you demonstrate you care how they feel and what they have to say.

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & get the answers that count

1. Select a tool.

First, check the software you currently use to see if they have an option. You may be surprised that the tool was available to you this whole time. Otherwise, ArcStone has used and been satisfied with Survey Monkey and Google Survey. Capterra wrote up a post on five free survey tools for nonprofits to help uncover additional options.

2. Determine where you’d like to place the survey

We recently had a client come to us to check on the best practices for a short survey they wanted to send out. Note that the answer to this largely depends on context—how long the survey is and to whom you’re asking questions.

For this client, they originally thought sending it out in their newsletter would be best, but we advised against it. Instead, we suggested creating a distinct, simple landing page. This way, the survey would be void of distractions and they could lead to it from other sources besides email.

3. Think about how you will use this data

You don’t want to blindly ask questions before knowing where this data will be used.

For example, if you’re using this data for your yearly nonprofit report, you want to ask questions that will get you concrete numbers rather than open-ended responses. If it’s merely an opportunity to receive feedback on your most recent fundraiser, you can ask questions that give your audience space to reflect. With this, it’s likely you’ll get some unexpected ideas as they answer questions you didn’t even think to ask. Be open to these ideas as they could help expand your nonprofit’s creativity.

Similarly, you’ll want to think about who needs this data. If it’s for your Board of Directors, the language used might look different than if it’s for your web team. With each stakeholder, bring them into the survey development stage so you can ensure you’re asking useful questions in an appropriate way.

5. Choose optimal questions to get you honest, useful responses

Surveys rely on a lot of strategy to get answers you need. You don’t have much time before your audience gets bored or busy so your questions need to count. You’ll want to ask specific ones so that your audience understands what you’re looking to know. SurveyMonkey provides templates with tried-and-true survey questions for donors, volunteers and general organization feedback.

You also should avoid asking leading questions like, “why did you like coming to our gala?” Questions like these assume something about your audience which can both turn them away and provide incorrect data.


In the end, you’ll want to ensure your survey sounds like it’s coming from you. Ask questions you would ask if you were sitting down with each and every survey recipient. As you develop the survey, be patient, ensuring each question will get you the information you need to better serve your nonprofit audience. Need assistance setting your survey up? ArcStone’s happy to help! 

Where should all nonprofit website or marketing projects start?

Looking back before moving forward.

It’s not the most exciting thing to do. However, the results have proven essential to nonprofits as they approach any website project.

Many nonprofits that come to ArcStone for help already have a website. They come to us because their site isn’t doing what they want; it isn’t drawing in donations or volunteers or effectively communicating what they need to say. Knowing this, we look over what they’ve done in the past and attempt to uncover exactly what will make it better in the future. This all is included in what we call a website audit.

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What is a website audit?

First, let’s explain what an audit even entails. Essentially, it’s a look at what causes a good versus bad experience for a user on your website. Then it’s looking at how the site is performing technically. We look for issues, errors and missed opportunities so we can better understand where the site is at and where it could go.

What’s covered in a nonprofit site audit?

These very from client to client, based on need, but this is an overview of what all we typically review.

  • Google Analytics (GA) accessibility: Is anyone at your nonprofit reviewing your analytics? How easy is it for them to get to the data that matters to your organization specifically?
  • GA setup and implementation: Is your account set up properly? What tags are you using? Understand some of the basics on Analytics »
  • GA data quality and additions: If it is set up, what’s being tracked within your account? What information do you need to see that you aren’t? Learn about filters and conversions »
  • Metadata: Is your site using metadata? Does it follow best practices?
  • Responsiveness / mobile-friendly design: Is the site responsive? How many users are using mobile devices and is it working for them? More on mobile sites »
  • Site indexing and crawlability: Is your site being indexed and crawled?
  • Site errors: Are there any errors on your site?
  • Site speed: How does your site function in terms of speed? Discover how slow site speed negatively impact SEO »
  • Schema implementation: Do you have schema implemented?
  • Internal linking: Are there links set up within your site?
  • Manual actions from Google: Do you have any manual actions or violations?

So before you dive right in to a redesign, be sure to ask yourself some of these questions. Nonprofits have tight budgets, and you need to be sure you have a solid plan for tackling your biggest priorities efficiently. With an audit, it’ll become far clearer what these are.

If you’re interested in learning more about ArcStone’s website audit services, please contact us.

Nonprofit web accessibility – a recap from experts.

You already understand the value of investing in a quality website. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t understand the value in ensuring their website is accessible. For many nonprofits, (whether they know it or not) it is already mandatory and for the rest, it soon will be.

According to FMJ Law, “if your organization receives federal financial assistance such as grants or loans, it is also subject to section 504.” Just a reminder, Section 504 entails no one can be discriminated against based on a disability. This also means any major activities an organization has must be adapted so that all people can participate. Learn more with this breakdown of the law

When it comes to your website, this means it needs to be navigable for people with disabilities.

To understand more on what this means for you, we held an event, “The Human, Design, and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” last March and have since, gathered the presentations. Here’s what we have.

Web Accessibility Resource Center

View the full video of the event from our recording on Facebook Live.

Presentations from our panelists

Accessible 360 helped us understand the definition of web accessibility, why it matters, and what to do about it.

Download presentation here.

Download presentation here

ArcStone Accessibility Content

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More links and resources:

An offer from our team

Want to know if your site is accessible and get some help if it isn’t?

Contact our team for a free consultation »

The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility [Event]

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ArcStone’s throwing an event later this month and would like you to come!

The event, “The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility” covers some of the common questions about web accessibility.

  • What does web accessibility really mean?
  • What’s it like to use a screen reader to browse the web?
  • How should a nonprofit or business approach web accessibility?
  • What are the risks for my organization if our site is not accessible?

We have big plans for this discussion!  First we’ll aim for a better understanding of web accessibility in general. We’ll hope to gain new perspectives on the challenges and frustrations for those who can’t access sites they want to visit. And we’ll learn about concrete steps you can take to insure that your site will work for everyone.

Already convinced? Register for the event here.

While access to websites for everyone has always been critical, we’ve noticed that more than ever before, nonprofits and businesses have questions about what accessibility means and are now more committed to having a web presence that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.

“The Human, Design and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” event will feature three unique perspectives. This includes full-time assistive technology instructor from Vision Loss Resources, accessibility experts from Accessible360 and two employment attorneys specializing in this area from Fafinski, Mark & Johnson. These two lawyers have experience handling web accessibility litigation and how it pertains to employment law and nonprofits.

We hope you can join us for an afternoon of mutual learning, food and refreshments.

When:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3:00 – 5:00pm

Where:

ArcStone

2836 Lyndale Avenue South

Suite 132

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Excited to have you join us! Register for the event here.

Free graphic design software: Create with Canva for Nonprofits

For two years in my marketing role at ArcStone, I have used Canva almost daily. With the combination of free stock images and Canva, I create rock solid graphics for free in less than 20 minutes. Currently I use the free version of Canva as we already pay for the expensive Adobe suite. However, I have to admit, there are several times I’m jealous of the paid version features. The free version gives me all I need, but the paid version has features that could automate much of my design work.

Then I found out, it’s free for nonprofits!!! And I had to encourage you to take advantage of it.

Canva for Nonprofits Features

There’s so much available to you registered nonprofits, it’s crazy. Take a look:

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The ones a nonprofit could definitely benefit from include:

  • Infographic templates
  • Social media headers
  • Newsletter layouts
  • Email invitations (for volunteers and donors)
  • Graph and diagram generators

Free Design Templates

With “document types” you get access 8,000+ templates to start your design out. If you’ve been considering amping up the aesthetics of your social media, website or blog, now you have a way to do so without costing you anything but a few minutes.

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Free Photo Editing Online

Rather than downloading a photo, opening up Photoshop, and then plugging the image into your design, you can do it all within Canva. They also have their own photo library which is pretty extensive.

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Image source: Canva for Nonprofits

Free Graph Generator

Nonprofits have a lot of reporting to do and drawing out graphs by hand can take forever. Right in Canva you can plugin a graph, chart or diagram.

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Examples of nonprofits using Canva

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Amnesty International

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Fistula Foundation

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Muscular Dystrophy

How much money you save using Canva

Canva isn’t an expensive tool, but it can add up if used across a team. It’s $12.95 per month per user, so if just you, a coworker and an intern are using it, it’d be close to $500 per year. Besides that, the cost of a designer on staff or even outsourcing some of these designs is in the thousands.

In short: Canva is gifting nonprofits big time.

How to get Canva for free

Convinced this tool is going to benefit your team? All you need to do is set up an account here, then go over to their application page. Fill out their form and submit a document to prove your a 501c(3) status.

Good luck with all your designing! For more app and tool reviews, follow the ArcStone blog.

How much does your nonprofit lose with your outdated website?

Many think of a nonprofit website design as an expense that would eat up too much of a tight budget. However, as we’ve seen with several of ArcStone’s nonprofit clients, the cost of not redesigning a site can actually be higher. How can you tell if your nonprofit falls into this camp? Our digital strategist Jenna wrote out four factors to assess and we wanted to share them with your nonprofit.

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4 questions to ask in determining the value of a nonprofit website redesign.

1. Are you missing out on signups and donations due to your poor site experience?

It goes without saying that an old, hard-to-use website leaves a bad first impression. People may interpret your website as a reflection of your organization.

Beyond just the negative impression, it could negatively impact the amount of visitors who read more about your organization or sign up for an event. Moreover, if your forms aren’t user-friendly or mobile, people may drop off before completing a donation.

What’s encouraging is that small site tweaks can go a long way: “Nielsen’s research has shown that fixing even minor usability problems can increase donations by 10%” (The Balance).

2. Are you missing out on visitors due to your outdated site?

With a poor website design, not only will people leave your site, they might not get there in the first place. Google takes into account your site structure and user experience in determining your search rankings. If your site hasn’t been edited in years, all your efforts to get people to your site aren’t paying off as they could.

3. Has your AdWords campaign suffered?

If you’re one of the wise nonprofits using your free AdWords money (learn more if you’re not!), but your site is out of date, you’re losing money. A poor site can negatively impact the effectiveness of your ads. Google ranks it lower and your conversion rates go down.

4. Does your organization spend hours on tasks that could be automated?

We’ve ran into several nonprofits that spend countless hours each week on processes that could be automated.

For example, one such nonprofit had never automated their volunteer sign-up process. They spent much of their time coordinating followup. This lead to not only confusion and missed opportunities, but also time that could be spent elsewhere.

Learn more about how a simple form plugin like Gravity Forms has automated the volunteer sign-up process.

Curious about the cost of a website design for your nonprofit? Send us a note »

We also have an ebook to help you see what’s involved in a redesign.

Download for free »

Google for Nonprofits – Free tools your nonprofit shouldn’t miss

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It can be thrilling to click through on all the “2017 predictions” or “what to do this New Year” headlines, but hold off for a minute! Before you do so, did you take a look at what Google has offered your nonprofit? Google just took a step back to recap 3 ways they sought to help nonprofits in 2016, which could show you free tools of which your nonprofit has yet to take advantage.

First, a compliment from Google:

2016 was a year where you continued your work to change the world; to bring the world a little closer to finding common ground amongst peace, progress, and innovation.

Now, to the free tools your nonprofit may have missed –

1. “Introducing new donation tool on YouTube benefiting nonprofits

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Google’s new donation tool, donation cards. Image source: Google blog

In short, Google points out how almost one-third of all internet users are on YouTube. That’s why Google’s nonprofit-exclusive tool “donation cards” have tremendous potential.

Basically, donation cards allow you to donate directly from your YouTube video to your organization. Also, with zero processing fees (it’s on Google).

Similarly awesome, other YouTube channels can use their video to raise money and directly donate to a nonprofit of their choice. And that nonprofit would receive 100% of the money donated.

Find out more in this video by Google:

Get started with donation cards:

It doesn’t stop there. They also get your nonprofit started with an outreach toolkit. If you know of a YouTube channel that would be willing to support your nonprofit, point them to this help page for using and managing donation cards.

2. From LA to Tokyo: YouTube Spaces opens production studios to nonprofits free of charge

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YouTube Spaces. Image source: Google blog

Google recognizes that though YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofits, many nonprofits don’t have the resources to create a high quality video. Now, YouTube for Nonprofits is providing state-of-the-art production spaces all around the world for FREE to qualitifying nonprofits, called YouTube Spaces. Beyond that, they created a community that will help nonprofits learn the necessary skills for using this equipment – YouTube Creator Academy.

Learn about the deets and qualifications here »

3. “Unlocking your nonprofit’s data insights: Linking Ad Grants and Google Analytics”

Many nonprofits miss out on what might be the best free resource from Google: Google Ad Grants. Read more about getting your $10,000 from Google with our experts here before you learn what more this free money can do below.

If you are using your Google Ad Grant, you may have ran into a common predicament: How can you determine if your Ad Grant is causing increased conversions and actions vs. if it’s something else?

Well for starters, you can watch a three minute video.

The link between Google Analytics & AdWords will help you:

  • “Track website performance data
  • Import Goals & Transactions into AdWords
  • View website engagement data in AdWords
  • Create remarketing lists
  • View AdWords data in Google Analytics account”

Learn more about how this works in Google’s post »

4. “Four ways to keep your nonprofit safe & secure online”

In 2016, Google for Nonprofits partnered with Google’s User Advocacy Group to share 4 tips for keeping your nonprofit safe and secure online. Rather than just providing you with a ton of free resources (which is pretty amazing in itself) they tell you how to use them in a secure manner.

There tips in a nutshell?

1. Secure your passwords

2. Take the security checkup

3. Understand privacy settings

4. Switch between personal and business accounts


Now continue on with your work to change the world! Just be sure to get your much-deserved free help from your Google friends.

Get your lower-budget audience involved on Giving Tuesday

As a nonprofit, of course you want donations on Giving Tuesday, and a lot of your attention goes towards that. However, according to the independent sector, the financial value of a volunteer working in the U.S. is $23.07 per hour. Moreover, volunteers are twice as likely to donate as non-volunteers (GiveGab Blog). This goes to show, it’s a financially-sound investment to find ways to get people involved without their cash. Mashable posted “How to make an impact on Giving Tuesday when you’re strapped for cash” by Katie Dupere, and we thought we’d share some of her ideas.

What can you encourage your audience to do on Giving Tuesday, besides donate?

1. Make actual plans to volunteer

Encourage your audience to make concrete plans to volunteer. Rather than just saying they’ll do it eventually, they can take a pledge on Giving Tuesday to volunteer that month or volunteer on they day itself.

Resources: Giving Tuesday’s website, VolunteerMatch, or Mashable’s post on how to find volunteer opportunities online.

2. Offer their skills

If you’re like many nonprofits, you are likely understaffed, leaving you with a need for volunteers specialized in marketing, design or finances. Even an upcoming event with a talented knitter or singer could be beneficial. Encourage people to donate their skills over their dollar.

3. Create their own fundraiser page

One of the reasons nonprofit charity:water is a four-star nonprofit on Charity Navigator is largely due to their ability to have people fundraise for them. Anyone with a Facebook page can do this. Teach them how with Facebook’s help.

4. Try out an easy tech hack

VocaliDTab for a Cause, and Freerice are all tools that can help an internet user raise money over time. They can simply browse the web and still help fundraiser for your nonprofit.

5. Speak up for your cause

Maybe the current reader of your nonprofit’s content doesn’t have any cash to spare, but it’s likely they know at least one person who does. This one person might not know about your charity, even if it’s a cause they could get behind. Encourage your audience to simply retweet or share your message. Challenge them to retweet your #GivingTuesday post.

Check out how the U.N. Foundation is challenging their users to get involved on social media.


As you navigate Giving Season and Giving Tuesday, don’t forget the folks who would love to help, but don’t see the many ways in which they can give.