Getting Your Website Started
Your website is your online home base. When people are searching for information about your group, your website is what they’re most likely to find—so you want to make sure it boosts your on the ground organizing. You can do that by setting the right goals and designing your website to meet those goals.
Websites can be used to:
- Build your email list. If you are building your email list, having a signup form on your website can help.
- Take online donations. If you are fundraising, having a website can be helpful to build credibility with donors and give them all the information they need to make a contribution.
- Build credibility with the media. If media is a key part of your strategy, having a website can help reporters see all your information, including contact information, and makes you seem more credible. (Your decision-maker will notice, too.)
- Educate people on your issue. Your website is a place where you control the message about your issue and can tell your story to help people learn more.
Before you get started
Have a goal.
Like everything you do in organizing, you need to have a goal that defines your strategy, and designing a website is no different. Consider why you are building a website. What do you need your website to do to make your organizing more powerful?
Your goals should shape what you put on your website, and where you put it. Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. For example, if you’re trying to get as many signatures as possible on your petition before you deliver it to your target, then a link to sign your petition should be front and center.
Be honest about time.
The time it takes to maintain a website can vary, depending on what features you include. Think about who in your group can dedicate time to maintaining the website. Then figure out how much time it will take to maintain your website — for example, do you have a calendar that needs to be updated weekly? Make sure that your answers match up. If you can’t spend a lot of time maintaining your website, it’s best not to have something like a blog or a calendar that can quickly get outdated.
Groups we’ve worked with have reported that setting up a website, including design, writing and organizing data, takes longer than expected. Make sure this is a good investment of your time before getting started.
Core Elements of Website Design
- Have a strategic design. What do you want people to do? Put it front and center. You might want people to sign up for your email list so they will get updates right to their inbox or sign on to your petition. Whatever it is, make sure it’s in the most prominent location so it can’t be missed.
- Link to your social media accounts. Add buttons so that people can find you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of your other accounts, and make it easy for them to click the link and follow you.
- Use compelling photos with people in them. Make sure your photos tell your story. Using your own photos is better than using stock photos.
- Keep it simple. Keep in mind that your website is not supposed to be a library of every document, image and story for your whole group. Keep your text short. Focus in on the most important things you want people to do, and don’t try to pack too much into one page.
You don’t need to list your personal email and phone number on your website! Set up an email address and Google Voice number for your group. You can set these up to forward to your personal account if you choose.
Here’s an example of a homepage for a group whose primary goal is to build their email list. It’s simple, with short text and and uncluttered design—including having only four pages (About Us, Our Campaigns, Get Involved, and Contact Us). The place to subscribe to their email address is front and center, since that is the primary goal. Links to social media are at the bottom of the page.
Build your own website
Domain Registration and Hosting.
These two steps are where you claim a domain, such as www.communityactionworks.org, and host it, or make it visible on the internet. There are many sites you can use to register a domain, and it’s important that you register your domain yourself instead of letting a third party register it for you. This ensures that you alone have the rights to the domain. You can register a domain and sign up for hosting at sites like name.com or bluehost.com.
Designing Your Website.
There are many sites you can use to build your own website, and there’s a range of price options you can select from. If you’ve never built a website before, check out Weebly and Wix. These sites are some of the most user-friendly options available to get started.
Still have questions? Get help now!