Nonprofit 411: Tips for Designing or Re-Designing Your Non-Profit Website

By Ginger Kroll, Account Manager, Muse Intermedia

Ginger-KrollOver the years Muse Intermedia has designed, redesigned and maintained hundreds of websites. In the past year we’ve worked on a number of large scale non-profit website redesigns and in doing so, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks from what we’ve learned throughout the varying processes.  Whether you’re starting from scratch or investing in a redesign, here is our list of things to consider when taking your non-profit into the digital age.

Be Accessible

It’s extremely important that your site be accessible. When researching potential agencies look for ones that start their design process at the mobile level and build from there. You’ll want to ensure that your non-profit site has the ability to quickly connect with millions of people and that means being mobile ready and at the tip of your visitor’s fingertips.

Content Content Content

Besides just engaging potential supporters online, content helps people find you when they search online. It’s essential that your company make itself a center of user-friendly content and that means utilizing social media and blog posts. Depending on your platform, encourage your readers to provide content for your site by leaving comments on your blog or Facebook page. Doing this can get a regular flow of content from your supporters and add a unique dynamic to your site.

Make it Visual

A picture is worth a thousand words – which makes the imagery you place on your website extremely important.  Make sure you have the images you need to fill the pages of your site and keep your visitors visually stimulated. It’s important that the images you select not only tell a story, but are brand relevant and high quality (i.e. large, high resolution images always work best.) And as we mentioned above, make sure the images you select will work on all devices – accessibility is key!

Don’t forget the important stuff

What financially drives your non-profit? Whether it’s fundraisers, annual galas, or festivals, highlighting your non-profit’s events plays a crucial part in the design of your site. It’s important that your organization make an inventory of what you currently use and what you would like to use, so that your design team can make sure they select the right tools for your site. Ask your design team for examples of custom event pages, calendars and blogposts they’ve used to highlight their client’s events. Make sure to discuss specific needs with your design team so that they can decide on how best to approach your site.

The Most Important Lesson of All

Find a design team that supports you and your organization’s mission. Make sure they spend time getting to know you so that they can understand who you are and what tools you need to be successful. Searching for the right agency can be daunting – make sure you find one that communicates clearly and the result will be fewer surprises and a beautiful, functional, website.

Senate Proposed Employer Assessment, A Step Forward:

Yesterday, the Senate Ways & Means Committee released its FY18 budget proposal. Included in this proposal was authorization for the administration to pursue either the employer health care assessment or an increase in the existing employer medical assistance contribution (EMAC), a fund to subsidize health care to low-income residents of the Commonwealth.

The proposal put forward by the Senate Ways & Means Committee is a positive step forward and will allow continued opportunities for dialogue on this important issue. MNN has been meeting with leaders in the administration and legislature on this complicated issue and will continue to remain engaged as conversations around these two proposals go forward.

As for the two options included in the Senate Ways & Means budget, the administration would have until August 1st to choose between the employer assessment or an increase to EMAC. If the administration went with the employer assessment, it would apply to employers with 25 or more employees that don’t offer adequate health plans and the administration would have the option to exclude certain classes of employers including nonprofits. The administration would need to consider many factors before setting the amount of the assessment including: (1) the number of employees; (2) whether employees are part-time or full-time; (3) whether employees have access to health insurance through a parent, spouse, veteran’s or Medicare; and (4) how much the employer contributes towards the employer-sponsored health care plan. If the administration instead went with the EMAC proposal, it could raise the current $51 per employee EMAC, an existing assessment that applies to employers with six or more employees.

Similar to the final House budget, the Senate proposal lowered the revenue target of the assessment ($180 million as opposed to the $300 million proposed by the administration). The Senate proposal also delays implementation to January 2018 and includes language sunsetting either proposal two years after the effective date.

Nonprofit 411: Tips for Lobbying your Legislators

By Stefanie Coxe, Principal, Nexus Werx LLC

Most non-profit leaders I train to lobby feel overwhelmed at the prospect of asking their lawmakers to secure a budget earmark or to advocate for legislation that would benefit their organization. There’s a lot of relationship-building and other work to do ahead of meeting with them, but if you’re already well-known to your state representative and state senator, this is the Anatomy of the Ask:

First, do your homework. Is your representative the lead sponsor of the line-item you’re pushing? Is she on the record in the newspaper opposing the bill you’re meeting on? Make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by unexpectedly meeting with the opposition or embarrassing yourself by asking her to support something she’s a well-known champion of.

Next, get on their schedule. During the budget and other busy times, State Legislators will generally be in “the building” (the State House) Tues-Thursday and in-district Monday and Friday. Call to confirm the meeting and, for pity’s sake, if you’re running late, call and let them know. (They, on the other hand have de facto permission to be as late as they want.) Don’t be afraid to meet with an aide if they cancel last minute (it happens all the time). They can be your biggest advocates!

Have your swag ready to go. In politics, we call this a “one pager.” And I do mean one. Politicians and their aides get mountains of requests and usually don’t have the time or manpower to read through long reports. Trust me, if they want more, they’ll ask for it. Things to include:

  • Program name, line-item/bill number
  • If you’re asking them to co-sponsor something, don’t forget to name the lead sponsor (and their aide, and the amendment number)! And while you’re at it, include your name and contact info!
  • Bill/funding history of your ask
  • Information about who and how many people who will be impacted (preferably people in their district), how it will work, and a little more meat on the bones. Still one page front and back, though.

Perfect your elevator speech. If your legislator doesn’t understand what you want in less than five minutes, chances are your request isn’t going far. Keep it high level. Tell them what the program/bill is, what problem it’s fixing (or what gain it’s creating), why it’s important to his/her district, and if it’s funding, how it will be sustained. After you’ve done that you can engage in a back and forth discussing the granular details.

Finally, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. A week or two after your meeting, make a pleasant call to their aide asking if their boss has had a chance to consider your request or take action they promised in the meeting.

If they agree to help, thank them. Thank their aide. Thank them publicly, if possible. Thank them, because it’s a thankless job and everyone appreciates being valued.

For more information, visit: http://www.nexuswerx.com/learn-to-lobby.html

Nonprofit 411: Non-Profit Employee Classification Checklist

By Paul Holtzman, Partner, Krokidas & Bluestein

As a non-profit organization, there are many considerations to account for in the way you supervise, retain, PaulHoltzmanand compensate your workforce. From classification of employment status to compensation practices, mismanagement of personnel can be damaging for any organization and the risk is only exacerbated for nonprofits. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the murky waters between volunteers, interns and independent contractors, so that you can ensure that you are adhering to applicable laws and classifying personnel in an accurate and legal way.

They may be a volunteer if…

  • The worker does not receive or expect to receive benefits from their work
  • The activity constitutes less than a full-time occupation
  • Regular employees are not displaced by the volunteer
  • The individual is acting without having been pressured or coerced
  • The services are not the same type as those performed by employees of the organization

They may be an intern if…

  • Their activity is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for their benefit
  • The individual does not displace regular employees
  • There is no immediate advantage derived by your organization from the intern’s activities
  • There is a mutual understanding that the intern is not entitled to wages for their time spent; and that they are not necessarily entitled to a job

They may be an independent contractor if…

  • The individual is free from control and direction of the organization, both by design and in fact
  • The service they provide is performed outside the usual course of business of your organization
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in their work for your organization