In today’s world, most people are going to Google an organization before they support it. Your chapters are no different. Potential members, donors and supporters are going to search for chapter websites. Most visitors will stick around for fewer than 15 seconds if you don’t capture their attention. You want to make sure this first impression counts.
Earlier in our Chapter Rescue series, we looked at what could happen as the result of financial mismanagement and neglect. The same negligence applied to a chapter website can create new risks for your chapters. No website (or a bad website) can mean missed opportunities and look unprofessional.
Threats to a Chapter Website
Think about all of the people who may visit a chapter’s website: prospective members, existing members, university leaders, sponsors, local press, donors, and the public. That’s a lot of potential eyes on a chapter site. Are they seeing a true reflection of the chapter or a neglected mess?
Time is the biggest threat to a chapter website. Chapter leaders are being pulled in multiple directions, making their time to spend on website management scarce. There are no IT or digital marketing experts on hand to update the site, remove old information, fix broken links or refresh content. In addition, chapter website challenges could include:
- Security gaps
- A lack of SEO optimization
- Outdated branding
- Poor functionality
- Uncompelling content
Response to Chapter Website Dilemmas
A prospective member notifies you that they attempted to visit their local chapter’s website but landed on a “You have entered an unknown web address” message instead. Most likely, the chapter didn’t renew their web domain and now it’s expired.
Fingers crossed that a URL seller hasn’t snagged the domain from the chapter and you can attempt to recover it. Some sellers will ask for a large sum of cash for turning over domains. Chapters should act quickly once they discover their domain has expired to avoid this problem.
For cases of poor security and content, triage the situation. What needs to be addressed immediately and either fixed, updated or removed? If necessary, recommend that the chapter contract a professional to ensure the website is secure, speedy, SEO and mobile friendly.
Website Hosting Approaches
Website hosting is the backbone of website management. Having a purposeful approach to website hosting can prevent common website dilemmas and clear-up confusion on chapter responsibilities. Let’s review a few options:
Chapters can design and manage their own websites, as long as they adhere to policy and branding requirements. You can still provide resources like subsidized technology, budget assistance, or consulting services.
National oversees the management of chapter websites. The extra administrative responsibility may require additional staffing.
Have a mandated website platform to ensure compliance with branding and website standards. Platforms can still allow for chapter personalization while giving National control over the essentials. If your organization is already working with a content management system, check to see if they have this functionality readily available.
Preventing a Chapter Website Disaster
If your approach includes chapter involvement, provide them with training and resources for a successful chapter website. The younger generations are assumed to be digitally savvy, but website management can fall outside of the realm of chapter leader’s knowledge.
Share training resources in your chapter leader hub or portal. Include website how-to or quick-start guides. Provide website templates and requirement checklists that chapters or vendors must use to build their website.
Ask chapters to complete a checklist annually. Have line items that address safe storage, software credential management, domain registration information, software subscription status, etc.
Have chapters rate themselves on how they are meeting best practice standards. Themes could include their check signing policy and website mobile responsiveness. Prompt chapters to review all aspects of their website – functionality, security, speed, responsiveness, SEO and branding.
Offer an annual website audit as a chapter consulting service or encourage them to budget for one. Review the website functionality and content to make recommendations for improvement.
Keeping processes like website management tight will help minimize challenges for chapters and National. In the next post in our Chapter Rescue series, we shift gears to people and challenges that arise when working with chapter leaders.