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Year in Review: 2017 ServanTek Project Highlights

The Class Project

Over the course of the past year, ServanTek has been working on a variety of projects for both ministry and nonprofit organizations.

One such project is the development of a job portal for ReServe, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes individuals, age 55 and older, to serve both nonprofit and government agencies with their expertise and talent. ReServe connects these individuals with partner organizations through the use of an online job board. Over the course of the past several months, ServanTek has come alongside ReServe to revamp their job board by designing a customized system to streamline their process of connecting the right candidates with the right job opportunities.

Over the summer, ServanTek also worked with Fedcap and the Dixon Center to rebuild the Dixon Center website on a new content management system. The Dixon Center is a nonprofit organization designed to help communities and organizations improve the quality of life for both military families and veterans. Following the migration of their website to a new CMS, ServanTek also provided training for staff members, so they can maintain their site moving forward.

Earlier this year, ServanTek designed a ministry website for theclassproject.org, an initiative involving a group of churches in the state of Washington, who have come together to support their community by adopting local schools. The Class Project website provides resources to churches who are interested in adopting local schools, as well as a database of schools, so site visitors can easily see which schools have already been adopted and those that still need support.

In recent months, ServanTek came alongside Inheritance of Hope to assist with the redesign of inheritanceofhope.org. The new design provides a more visually driven experience for website visitors, while also allowing them to more easily access specific giving opportunities. Throughout 2017, ServanTek has continued to provide website support to a variety of organizations like Fellowship Deaconry in Basking Ridge, NJ, Fedcap in New York, NY, True Disciples in Honduras, Providence Presbyterian Church in Midland, Texas, among others.

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Free Graphic Design Tools from Around the Web

If you are managing a smaller nonprofit organization, you may not have the budget to hire a design agency to help with Facebook ads, website graphics, event invitations, flyers or other marketing pieces. If you're working on these types of projects in-house, even the standard software required to produce them can have a high price tag. Fortunately, there are several online tools that can help you create eye-catching promotional materials for your organization for free! Here are a few online graphic design tools that will help you create some beautiful visuals for a variety of marketing channels:

Piktochart

1. Piktochart.com
Piktochart allows you to create infographics, presentations, posters, reports, and flyers using a variety of free and pro (paid) templates. While there are paid options available in Piktochart, there are plenty of quality design templates offered for free. Piktochart has a user-friendly interface that will allow you to drag and drop design elements, text, colors, maps, charts and more. The only downside with the free version is the file size limit for exporting your work. But if your project does not require large file formats, this could be a good solution for your organization.

Canva

2. Canva.com
Canva.com offers countless design elements, templates, backgrounds, and text designs that are easily customizable to meet your needs. These elements are a mix of free and paid options, but the sheer volume of free, high-quality graphics is impressive. Canva also allows you to download PDFs of your artwork, which is not offered on some other free platforms.

Vectr

3. Vectr.com
While Vectr.com may not have the array of templates and free graphics available from Canva and Piktochart, it is a great solution if you're interested in designing your own vector graphics from scratch. The UI and toolset may be a little more intuitive to those who are familiar with other types of design software. But this free service will allow you to design and export vector graphics, which can be used at any size.

BeFunky

4. BeFunky.com
BeFunky.com offers a variety of free design elements, and it also allows you to choose between using fonts available in their system, or fonts installed on your own computer. While BeFunky only offers one free template for each type of marketing piece, it does allow you to create your own custom designs based on a variety of themes.

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What's Missing from Your Church Website?

What's Missing from Your Church Website?

Do you manage a church website? Whether you're a volunteer webmaster or full-time church staff member, your role is an integral part of keeping members informed and welcoming new guests. In fact, your website is oftentimes the first exposure potential visitors will have to your church. That said, it's a good idea to review your site from time to time, and ensure that members and visitors have all of the information they need. Here are a few important features you'll want to be sure to include on your church website:

Does Your Site Contain a Clearly Defined Mission Statement?
What is the core mission of your church? Are you focused on reaching the lost in your community, growing believers in your area, worship, sending missionaries abroad, offering benevolence to those in need? Most likely, your vision and mission may include several of these areas, and potential visitors will find it helpful to know what's at the heartbeat of your ministry. Furthermore, a statement of beliefs will also help potential visitors to understand if your church aligns with their theology. While some visitors may come without any theological background, others may have a faith background and would want to know your core beliefs and denominational affiliation before attending.

Do You Publish Staff Bios on Your Site?
Let visitors know a little about who you are by offering staff bios with photos. Try to include a little personal info, as well as some information about the role of each staff member. Not only does this help to build trust among site visitors, but it also lets people know who to contact regarding different topics. Direct contact information for each staff member (or a contact form that is submitted directly to each staff member) is also helpful.

Do You Post Audio and/or Video of Your Sermons Online?
If you're not posting sermons online, you're missing out on a great opportunity to reach both visitors and members alike. Offering your sermons online is an effective way to communicate your theology and preaching style to potential guests, while also allowing church members to hear what they missed when they were out of town, or at home with a sick child. While sermon videos are great, audio is also a useful way to share your sermons online.

Are You Consistently Posting Fresh Content about Ministries and Upcoming Events?
With any website, it's important to keep your content fresh and current. However, when it comes to church websites, it's critical to let both your members and visitors know what's happening. Be sure to keep site visitors up to date with what's happening in your different areas of ministry. For example, what sermon series are you working through? What's happening in your children's ministry? What type of youth events are coming up? This type of information not only communicates the when and where for classes and events, but it also communicates the fact that your church provides a safe and vibrant ministry to both children and adults alike.

Are Your Address and Service Times Clearly Displayed on all Pages of Your Website?
This one may seem a little particular, but one of the more frustrating things visitors may encounter when looking for a new church is the inability to find the address on your website. It's a good idea to keep this info in the footer of all pages, so that no matter what content a visitor is seeing, they'll know where you're located in case they decide to come visit.

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Free Wordpress Themes from around the Web: 2017 Edition

I recently received an inquiry regarding the best free Wordpress themes available for nonprofits. Since it's been a while since we've posted about free themes, I thought it would be a good opportunity to mention some newer themes that are both flexible and easy to work with. Many nonprofit webmasters may not have experience with HTML or PHP, but many are quick to learn when it comes to managing content using a CMS like Wordpress. Here are some of the best free options we've found that you can download today to give your nonprofit website a fresh look.

Vantage by SiteOrigin

Vantage by SiteOrigin

After testing many free Wordpress themes, we found that SiteOrigin's Vantage theme provides a great deal of flexibility due to the SiteOrigin page builder plugin. The Vantage theme offers a wide variety of design customizations using the theme customizer, and the page builder can be easily edited without any coding required. Learn more at SiteOrigin.


Hestia by ThemeIsle

Hestia by ThemeIsle

Hestia offers a modern design with a wide range of possibilities available in the site customizer. If you're looking for a straightforward interface, Hestia gives you all the tools you'll need to construct the content of your homepage using the site customizer. Hestia can also be used to easily create a single page site, with the option of turning on and off a variety of content areas with the click of a button. Learn more at ThemeIsle.

 

Astrid by aThemes

Astrid by aThemes
Astrid offers a sleek, responsive design with a large header image and call to action area at the top. Astrid allows you the flexibility of employing the SiteOrigin page builder, with access to specific widgets created for the Astrid theme. Much of the look and feel can be edited in the theme customizer, with the ability to add page sections and widgets using the page builder. Learn more at aThemes.

 

Talon by aThemes

Talon by aThemes
Talon is a responsive theme that offers a clean design with a large image slider at the top of the homepage and the ability to add a wide range of widgets below. Talon also employs the SiteOrigin page builder, and allows you to easily update things like fonts and colors using the theme customizer. Learn more at aThemes.

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5 Ways Your Nonprofit Organization Can Build Trust on the Web

Building Trust on the Web

Whether you're a small, local nonprofit or a nationally recognized brand, it's critical to build trust among those who visit your website. Your online traffic may come from a Google search, a Facebook ad, a YouTube video or a partner link. Given that this may be the very first encounter they have with your organization, it's critical to instill trust in your online audience. Here are a few simple things you can do on your website to instill confidence in those who may be unfamiliar with your organization and/or your cause.

1. Use real photos.
We've mentioned this in previous posts, but it's worth repeating. Oftentimes, people want to see the real people who work for and with your organization. They want to see actual events you've participated in, actual staff members, and in cases where appropriate, they want to see the faces of the people you've helped. When site visitors can picture themselves among those pictured on your website, they may be more apt to get involved. While stock images may be a little easier to attain, they won't inspire the level of confidence that comes from seeing real people engaging in worthwhile causes.  

2. Put your online donors at ease. 
With the sheer number of security breeches we've heard about over the past few years, people may be more apprehensive than ever about entering their credit card data in an online form, especially if they're unfamiliar with your organization. Make sure your donation form is PCI compliant, and you're handling credit card info according to the highest security standards. Also, be sure to include any pertinent security badges that will show donors you're serious about protecting their identities.  

3. Be transparent about how funding is used. 
Offer real-time data about the work you've done, the people you've helped, and the projects you've been a part of. Consider using an infographic to display the breakdown of your funding so users can see how their donations are being used. Your transparency with funding will go a long way to ensure potential donors that their money will be used responsibly. 

4. Consider blogging. 
If you have the resources to keep up with a blog, invest your energy in sharing helpful information and organizational updates online. By publishing a blog, you'll develop an online voice, which will help people identify with who you are and what you're doing. By publishing regular updates about recent events or projects, you'll give your readers a feel for what you're doing on a day to day basis, and they'll get a better understanding of how their money or time would be spent if they chose to donate or volunteer.

5. Be clear about your mission. 
You may think that your mission statement belongs only on the "About Us" page of your site. In actuality, your mission should be woven throughout all pages of your site. Whether your viewers are reading an article on your blog, a notice about an upcoming service project, or a synopsis of a fundraising event, they should be able to clearly identify your mission. This doesn't mean every page of your site needs a word-for-word mission statement for your organization, but it does mean that your mission should be at the core of all of your online communications.

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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Mockups and Templates

Mockups and Templates

Once you've created your sitemap and laid out your wireframes, you're ready to select a template or begin designing mockups. If you have some experience with design and you have access to a developer who can help you convert a mockup into a template or theme for your content management system, you may be able to begin designing a mockup on your own. This is the phase where you can let your creative energies flow, and you can introduce colors, fonts, and images to bring your wireframes to life. If you do not have access to a developer to help you convert a mockup into a template, or you're not comfortable working in Photoshop or similar program to create a page design, it may be a good idea to move directly to selecting a flexible template or theme that will allow you to layout your pages in a way that most closely resembles your wireframes.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when converting your wireframes into beautiful page designs for your site.

1. Consider your color scheme.
Do you already have a logo? If so, you may already have a color pallet in mind. But if you need more options for accent colors or you're starting from scratch without a logo, there are several free online tools that can help you decide on an appropriate color scheme for your site. For example, Pictaculous will allow you to upload a photo to get an idea of the best color pallet to pair with that image. This tool could be particularly helpful if you have a featured image that you'd like your design to revolve around. As long as the photo's color scheme fits in with your overall identity and mission, this tool could help you select the right tones to use throughout your site. Alternatively, sites like Adobe Color CC and Paletton can help you select complimentary colors based on a single color of your choosing.

2. Repurpose design elements for a seamless user experience.
When introducing design elements like button styling, headings, and image styles, consistency is key. Be sure to implement similar styles for features with similar functionality. For instance, if your donate button has a certain color and effect, it's important to keep this consistent throughout all pages of your site. By making your donate button clearly recognizable on all pages, users will notice it with a glance, rather than having to search the page for the word "Donate." Likewise, make sure headings with similar importance share the same font and weight throughout the site. Your users will recognize their importance based on these styling elements and they'll be able to navigate your site with ease.

3. Use appropriate fonts.
Many themes and templates will offer a variety of web fonts for use throughout the site. Oftentimes you can choose a default font to use for your main headings across the board. If you're designing a mockup from scratch, be sure your font selections are from a web font library so they can easily be implemented on your site. Google has a popular web font library available here. If you're not quite sure which font family to use, take a look at this infographic from DesignMantic.com for some ideas. 

What stage are you at in your redesign? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Wireframing

Wireframing

In our last post, we explored the topic of site mapping, the first step in our three-part series on laying the foundation for an effective nonprofit website. Once you've finalized your site map, you're ready to begin the process of wireframing. This is where you'll make decisions about individual page elements and where they should appear on the screen. It's important to remember that even though you'll be working on page layouts, it's not yet time to begin the process of styling these elements. In fact, the most effective wireframes will be devoid of color, images and font selections, like the one pictured here. While your sitemap gives you a good bird's-eye view of the site, your wireframes will provide you with a page-by-page architecture or blueprint, allowing you to consider user interactions on each page.

Wireframe Example

While you might be tempted to skip this step altogether and move on to the look and feel of your website, wireframing is a crucial step in the process for two reasons. First, a wireframe allows you to focus on functionality. Before you make decisions about how anything should look, you'll need to consider the user story, or what users should be able to do once they arrive on your site. Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Do you want them to make a donation? Whatever actions you want them to take will need to be addressed in your wireframes. That said, you'll need to consider where and how to incorporate these functions into your site. You'll also want to use this opportunity to consider what type of priority to give to each of these functions. This can be determined by the placement and size of these features on the page.

Next, a wireframe forces you to consider usability. Without getting caught up in the more subjective discussions about the colors or shading for each element, you'll be able to determine the best placement and priority of specific content or calls to action to direct visitors where you want them to go. Even if you don't have all of your content completed yet, it's a good idea to define what messages will be used and where these will be placed. Once you've defined what you want users to do, you need to consider the most intuitive way to direct them to do it. Maybe that means your donate button should take up a little more real estate. Maybe that means you need to re-think how many fields appear on your newsletter subscription form. Or maybe, you'll want to move some of your content a little lower on the page so the action items are closer to the top of the screen. The key to creating a user-friendly wireframe is to consider the needs of your audience and how to meet these needs in the most intuitive way possible.

Whether you're using a pen and paper or a more sophisticated piece of software to create your wireframes, the goal remains the same. You need to first determine the functions of your website, and then organize and prioritize these elements in the most intuitive way possible. If you're looking for a tool that will allow you to build a wireframe with a web-based application, one great option is pidoco.com. This tool has a minimal monthly fee for a limited number of projects, and it allows you to design and connect countless pages within your project. If you're looking for a tool you can download and use on your computer, Pencil offers the basic functionality you would need to design a wireframe for a simple site. A more comprehensive list of wireframing tools can also be found here.

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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Site Mapping

Site Mapping

Are you considering a website redesign? Perhaps you're just getting your nonprofit organization off the ground and you're starting from scratch. In either case, if you're in the planning stages of building a new site, it's important to lay a foundation that will take into consideration your organizational goals, your engagement with site visitors, and your site's overall user experience. No matter what the size of your organization or the amount of content you intend to publish, this three-part series on structuring an effective nonprofit website will outline the basic steps you need to take to get started.

Sample Site MapThe first step in building an effective nonprofit website is the creation of a site map. A site map is a flow chart or basic mapping of the pages on your site and how they are connected. This map will show you a hierarchy of your content, while also allowing you to see paths of navigation from one page to the next. Typically, a site map will display your main menu items, and show you how sub-pages will be organized and connected to these main pages or categories. Be sure to consider the key elements and action areas of your site, and how you want to direct users to these areas.

By laying out your website architecture at the outset of your project, you will be able to get a bird's-eye view of the structure of your site, and you'll also be able to ask yourself some good questions about the "why" behind what you're doing.

For example, when reviewing your site map, you may want to consider the following questions:

    • Why are X, Y, and Z, the main level navigation items? Do these categories provide the best structure to organize my content?
    • Does the main page include direct access to the key areas of the site where I want users to navigate most frequently?
    • Are there any sub-navigation items that need to receive a higher priority? Have I allowed for easy access to these pages? Do any of these pages need to be more prominent or directly accessible from the top level navigation?
    • Is the hierarchy of content intuitive for site visitors?
    • Is any of the content redundant?
    • Did I leave anything out that should be included?

If this is your first time developing a site map, the process can be a little overwhelming. Be sure to invest some time to think through and identify your key objectives in building a site. It's easy to get caught up in the look and feel, but your primary goal should always be to drive your audience to action in a way that is user-centered. In order to do this, you'll need a solid site map. Once you've reviewed your site map to make any necessary adjustments, you'll be prepared to move on to your wireframes, which we'll discuss in our next post.

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ServanTek Team Continues to Improve Online Donation Processor

On the ServanTek Blog, we are constantly talking about improving usability for your constituents by making sure your website and online donation form are both responsive and intuitive. At ServanTek, we are regularly making improvements to give our responsive donation processor, to ensure the donation process is easier and more intuitive for both the donors who give and the clients we serve.

In 2015, we introduced a new look and feel to our giving pages, which included a customizable, fully-responsive design. And in 2016, the ServanTek team made additional improvements to the system, which allow donors to donate to multiple funds in a single transaction. Donors who give regularly to a specific charity can now designate a portion of their gifts to be given to a specific fund and the rest to be designated elsewhere. Whether they're setting up gifts from a laptop, tablet, or phone, the process is simple. 

This improvement will be particularly beneficial to nonprofits that raise funds for a variety of campaigns. It allows donors to split both one-time donations, as well as scheduled monthly, quarterly, or annual donations, among a variety of funds, while indicating exactly what amount should be given to each fund. Furthermore, if donors need to edit their gift at any time to increase or decrease amounts given to a specific fund, they can easily do so with the click of a button.

Our advanced tools and algorithms that allow our clients to recover failed transactions are helping nonprofit organizations all around the country collect scheduled gifts that might otherwise be lost using a different online processor.

With so many benefits to our online donation system, we've also had the opportunity in recent months to share it with new nonprofit clients, as well as pastors and church leaders. Is your organization looking for an online donation processor? If so, we offer competitive rates to keep costs down for the nonprofits we serve. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the benefits of our online donation processor, visit payments.servantek.org for more information.

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Free or Discounted Tech Tools for Nonprofits

Free and Discounted Tech Tools

In the spirit of giving, we'd like to share some free and discounted tech resources for nonprofits. Whether you're looking for an email marketing platform, software and licenses for your office, or tech training, there are a variety of resources available to nonprofits at discounted rates.

MailChimp is a great resource for organizations interested in getting their message out through email marketing campaigns. It allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month to up to 2,000 subscribers for free. And if you need to reach more than 2,000 subscribers, you can purchase a plan and receive a 15% non-profit discount. Learn more about MailChimp's non-profit discount here.

Looking for software? Techsoup provides a wide range of donated and discounted software, hardware, and online trainings for nonprofits. Whether you need a server for your office, some training on Microsoft tools, or software for your team, Techsoup may have what you're looking for at significantly reduced prices. In fact, their website advertises that "The average nonprofit saves $12,000 on technology products over the course of its TechSoup membership."

Need some tech advice? Idealware.org provides a wealth of articles and presentations regarding tech decisions for your nonprofit. Their content includes how-to articles, pro and con reviews, tech trends, tips, and more.

If you want to get started with online advertising, Google for Nonprofits offers $10,000 per month in Adwords grants for eligible nonprofits! They also offer a variety of services including email, Google Drive, and YouTube for Nonprofits, among others. Learn more at Google for Nonprofits.

What nonprofit discounts does your organization enjoy? Share with others in the comments below. 

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A Few Helpful Resources to Improve Your Year-End Giving Campaign

We've scoured the web and found several great resources to help you out when approaching your year-end fundraising campaign. Whether you've been planning for months, or you're just getting started now, you can find several helpful tips in the posts below:

1. "6 Fundraising Psychology Hacks You Need to Know" by Allison Gauss This one's a quick read with some insightful thoughts to consider when approaching your donors with a year-end appeal. 

2. This Year-End Fundraising Infographic by MobileCause contains some important facts as well as some great tips to consider when making your end-of-the-year ask.

3. "My Top Five Tips for a Profitable Year-End Campaign" by Gail Perry  
Gail Perry outlines some very practical steps to keep in mind when working on a year-end fundraising campaign.

4. "Comprehensive Guide to Year-End Giving" by Causevox  
This in-depth guide covers every aspect the campaign from figuring out your actual need, to planning, to marketing, and more. It offers a wealth of information that is well worth the read.

5. "10 Year-End Giving Statistics Every Fundraiser Should Know" by Andrew Dain
This post is not so much instructive as it is informative. It provides some interesting facts about how donors behave with regard to year-end appeals, as well as how your fellow nonprofit marketers approach the ask. 

6. "8 Ways to Make the Most of Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign" by Caryn Stein This post offers some great tips about the placement of Donate buttons and simple changes you can make to ensure the Donation process is simple and accessible to donors. 

Have you found other resources you've found helpful on this topic? Let us know in the comments below.

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Four Things You're Not Doing That Are Hurting Your Online Presence

Have you ever thought about whether or not your nonprofit has a quality online presence? Here are four things you may not be in the habit of doing right now, which could be hurting your online presence in the long run. 
 
1. Not regularly adding fresh content
When was the last time you added new content to your site? If it's been over a month, your content may be getting stale. Potential donors are far more likely to make a donation if they can see tangible results of the work you're doing to benefit your cause. Encourage your donors to give by showing them just how far their money is going. Not only is it important to keep your constituents well-informed of the happenings within your organization, but it's also important to add fresh content to improve your SEO. By regularly adding new updates to your site, you're telling the search engines that you're still relevant.  
 
2. Not keeping your CMS up to date
Keeping your CMS up-to-date is an important security measure for any website. If you're not keeping your CMS current, you could be opening yourself up to security vulnerabilities. You can learn more about the benefits of updating your content management system here.
 
3. Not taking the time to regularly review the online giving experience
Whether you've been accepting online donations for years or just a few short months, it's important to regularly reevaluate the process to ensure a smooth experience for all donors. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you walk through the process on your site:
  • Is it obvious where how to donate from any page of our website?
  • Is the giving form straight forward? Is all of the information we're collecting necessary to request of all donors? Or am I taking unnecessary information that could be cumbersome for the donor?
  • Is the giving process fast? Does the form load quickly? Do subsequent pages (receipt or thank you pages) load quickly?
  • Does it work just as easily from a mobile device? This question is critical. We need to begin anticipating that a good portion of donors will be visiting from a smart phone.  
4. Not publishing the results/impact of fundraising efforts
Have you ever been guilty of requesting funds for a specific event or goal, without letting your donors know whether you reached the goal or how you used the funds? When donors give toward a goal, it brings a sense of satisfaction to see that the goal was achieved. Furthermore, if donors contribute to a goal and they see that the fundraising is not reaching the target, they may be more likely to share it with others to help you reach your goal. Consider adding a funding thermometer for specific campaigns to ensure donors can see your progress and understand the impact of their contribution. 
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Is it Really Critical to Update my CMS?

After paying a sizable up-front cost to have your website built, you may be wondering if it's really necessary to install regular CMS updates as they become available. Many nonprofit professionals mistakenly assume that websites are a one-time expense, when in reality, they should become a line item in your organization's annual budget. So why is it so critical to update your CMS? Here are the top reasons to regularly update your content management system.

1. Security
The first and most important reason to keep your CMS up to date is to protect your site from security vulnerabilities. While you may think your site is too small to be a target for hackers, there is still reason for concern if your CMS is not current. According to opensourcecms.com, more than 4 million websites are currently powered by Wordpress, while more than 600,000 are powered by Joomla. Judging by these statistics, even though your website may not be the most popular one out there, the CMS running it could be well known by hackers. Furthermore, because Wordpress and Joomla are open source systems, the code that powers them can be viewed by anyone, allowing hackers to study the code and look for loopholes. If your website is running an outdated version of your CMS, hackers will be able to find your site and target its vulnerabilities. In order to find and remove these vulnerabilities, open source developers release security patches in new releases.

2. Bug Fixes
While open source content management systems are heavily tested before they're released to the public, there is always the possibility that bugs can be overlooked. If a bug is introduced in a given version of the CMS, subsequent releases will often include a fix.

3. Performance and Feature Enhancements
As CMS developers constantly seek ways to make their software faster and more efficient, subsequent releases of the software will often include performance enhancements. Likewise, CMS updates can also include features that were previously unavailable. Many times, upon completing an update, you'll notice subtle differences in the user interface that make the overall system more intuitive and easy to use.

While it is critical to keep your site up to date, it's also possible that updating the CMS can cause conflicts with outdated plugins and components. If you need assistance with a Wordpress or Joomla update, feel free to drop us a line on our contact form. Our team would be happy to help.

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What's in a Logo?

What's in a Logo?

Does your nonprofit organization have an established and easily recognizable logo? If not, it may be time to consider what type of logo would best represent your brand. In our last post, we addressed the topic of effective branding for nonprofits. While branding encompasses far more than your organization's logo, your logo should certainly be central to all branding efforts. So what's in a great logo? Here are a few key qualities of effective logo design:

1. Effective logos are simple.
When creating a graphic that will be used to identify your organization and in effect, your cause, it needs to be both simple and versatile. A simple design will be easily understood at first glance, and it will be quickly recognizable at any size. If your logo is cluttered with unnecessary elements and effects, it may be difficult to decipher when shrunk down to a smaller size. If you have a sketch or mockup in mind, consider what it would look like on a billboard as well as on a business card. Is it easily recognizable in both applications?

It's also important to test your logo out in black and white as well as the inverse, using a white version of your logo against a dark background. The inverse will allow you to see how your logo could look on a variety of applications where the background may not always be white, while a black and white version will help you determine if your logo will be just as effective on photocopies and flyers.

2. Effective logos are timeless.
If your logo is going to withstand the test of time, you'll need to steer clear of trendy design fads that come and go. While your design needs to be relevant to today's audience, you should also think about how well it will be received 10, 20 or even 30 years from now. With no way of knowing exactly which design trends will be popular down the road, it's a good idea to stick with a classic typeface instead of using a decorative font.

3. Effective logos use appropriate fonts and colors.
When it comes to fonts and color, you'll want to consider the implications of each. Typefaces can be strong and firm or dainty and whimsical, and colors can communicate a variety of moods and ideas. For example, if you look around, you'll notice that blue is often used to depict corporate logos, while green is often used by environmentally friendly companies or organizations. The color red often communicates power and energy, while yellow suggests optimism. If you look at typefaces, you'll notice they can evoke emotion too. For example, serif fonts are often used in the names of law offices, communicating seriousness, longevity and sophistication, while script fonts represent elegance, and are often seen on invitations to weddings or other formal events.

4. Effective logos are well researched.
In order to come up with the best logo possible for your organization, it's important to do your homework. You'll want to start out by learning everything there is to know about your cause as well as the ideals of your organization. Think about your brand and how you could best represent it from a graphical perspective. By looking around at photos and logos of other similar organizations and causes, you can learn more about the work that's being done with respect to your cause, and you can gather some inspiration regarding your design.

5. Effective logos are unique.
Once you've looked around at similar organizations and causes, and you have a firm grasp of your own organization's vision and goals, you're ready to start designing. While it's a good idea to look around for inspiration, your logo needs to be just as unique as your organization. So be sure to let your creativity flow, and design something that is uniquely yours. 

How about your organization? Do you have a strong logo and branding strategy? Have you recently come up with something new? Let us know in the comments below.

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Four Steps to Create an Effective Nonprofit Brand

How to Create a Successful Nonprofit Brand

Have you ever considered what your brand says about your nonprofit organization? Is it identifiable? Is it effective? When thinking about your nonprofit's brand, it's important to realize that a brand encompasses so much more than a logo and graphic design. It is your identity as an organization. It's what comes to mind when people hear your name, and it's the personality behind all of your communications. Have you effectively branded your organization? Follow these four steps to ensure your branding is successful.

Step 1: Define Your Brand.
This may seem obvious, but it's the most critical step in the process. If you were to identify your nonprofit brand in two or three sentences, what would you say? What information would you include? Your brand goes beyond what you do, and states who you are. Think of your brand as a person. How would you describe him or her? What type of emotion do you aim to elicit in your audience when they hear your brand name, or when they think of your organization? Once you can clearly define the identity of your organization, it becomes much easier to promote this identity among your constituents.

Step 2: Aim For Consistency
Whether you're creating a post for your blog, or sending out an email newsletter, consistency is key in all of your channels of communication. Mixed messages can at best create confusion among your audience and at worst, cause them to question your credibility. Not only do you want to be consistent in the messages you send and the content you promote, but you also want to be consistent in your use of color, images, and typography. As important as it is to create a consistent look among your online and offline communications, it's even more important to be sure your messages carry the same tone of voice. You may have several writers who contribute to the content you create, but their voices should all match the personality communicated in your brand. Finally, it's important to consistently communicate your overall mission. Every piece of content you create should draw readers back to your ultimate mission and show them how you're accomplishing it.

Step 3: Establish Written Guidelines
As your organization grows, and more and more people become involved with the dissemination of your content, it's important to have a set of written guidelines as to how your branding should be used. For example, when is it appropriate to use an inverse logo? When is it appropriate to use a serif or sans serif font? What should headings look like in a typical newsletter? By streamlining your design and making sure all of your publications adhere to the same look, you can promote recognition among your constituents.

Step 4: Be Relatable and Engaging.
When thinking about the voice behind your brand, it's important to review your messages - whether they're shared through a written post, a video, an image, or a tweet - to ensure the message is both engaging and relatable for your constituents. In other words, make sure the content you're creating is content that readers or viewers would want to share. If you are passionate about your mission, your enthusiasm will oftentimes come across in the way you present stories about that mission. Be sure all of your communications present an equal level of enthusiasm, that will cause followers to take notice and choose to share.

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Why Choose an Open Source CMS?

Reasons to Choose an Open Source CMS

As an organization that develops systems on both open source content management systems as well as custom-built platforms, we fully understand the benefits of both options. While custom-built systems have many benefits for complex projects, open source content management systems can be incredibly beneficial and cost effective for nonprofit organizations. Here are a few good reasons to consider an open source platform for your organization's next web project:

1. Our website is mainly used for fundraising, education and information about upcoming events.
If your organization is anything like many nonprofits who use an online presence to communicate with their constituents, you probably have a few key goals in mind: fundraising, education, and event promotions and management. Depending on the complexity of your event management system, all of these features can handled easily and effectively with an open source CMS like Joomla or Wordpress. Both of these platforms offer modules and plugins that assist with event management, and the base installation can easily point donors to your fundraising pages, while also providing a simple solution for creating and managing content.

2. We are concerned about cost.
At ServanTek, we fully understand the budgeting constraints of nonprofit organizations. But we don't believe you should have to sacrifice quality because of costs. In fact, open source systems like Wordpress and Joomla are free to download and install on your web host, and you will have your pick of developers and pricing since these platforms are so widely used. At ServanTek, we offer training packages to help you get your open source CMS up and running, while letting you have creative control of the process. We will provide as much or as little assistance as you need to get your site up and running according to your specifications.

3. We want several of our employees to be involved with the website.
Another key benefit to an open source content management system is the availability of information and training. If you have several people at your organization who will be responsible for creating content on your site, it may be difficult for one person to answer everyone's questions about every aspect of content creation in a timely fashion. With open source systems, this information is not limited to a sole individual at your nonprofit. Instead, your employees can find the answers to frequently asked questions by performing a simple Google or YouTube search. Since it's not a proprietary system, there are countless individuals creating readily available training content on the web, which can easily be found in a quick search.

4. We don't want to be tied down to any one outside firm to help with the development and management of our site.
If you're looking for a long-term solution for your organization's website, without a long-term commitment to any one developer or firm, open source platforms can provide the best solution. Since there are countless Joomla and Wordpress developers available, you don't have to lock yourself into a long-term agreement with an individual web developer or marketing firm. With an open source system, you will have more options regarding who can work on your site, as well as the price you'll pay for these services. Whereas with a proprietary CMS, you'd be tied to the developer of that particular system, an open source solution will allow you to work with a wide range of developers as you build out your content and add new features to your site.

How about you? Are you using an open source CMS for your nonprofit? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Blog (Part 2)

How to Create an Effective Blog

In our last post on creating an effective nonprofit blog, we talked about focusing on the quality of your content. Once you've crafted some engaging content and you've carved out your unique voice on the web, there are a few other considerations that will improve the overall experience for your readers.

One area deserving of attention is the layout and design of your blog. When considering your blog design, it's important to keep your ultimate goal in mind. For example, what do you want users to do after reading your posts? Do you want them to share them in their social networks to spread the word about your organization? Do you want readers to subscribe to your blog to create a solid base of loyal followers? Perhaps your goal is to drive them to other parts of your site to encourage volunteerism or online donations. Whatever the goal, it's important to keep this in the forefront of your mind when deciding on your layout. This may require using arrows or graphics to draw attention to your calls to action. It may also require rethinking the placement of your widgets or modules to ensure your calls to action are strategically placed on the page.

In addition to considering the placement of elements on the page, it's also important to think about some basic design principles to ensure your blog is visually appealing. If your blog is used as a communication tool for your organization, it's important to ensure the overall look of the blog matches that of your organization's website. When it comes to colors, consider your organization's branding, as well as how you use color throughout your website. Stick to a color pallet that matches your branding and enhances your content, rather than one that would be overpowering or distracting to your audience. When thinking about colors, keep it simple and consistent.

In addition to layout and design, you'll also want to consider a few key elements for each blog post. For example, each post should include an accurate and intriguing headline, social sharing icons, as well as an image or graphic illustrating your topic. Your headline is oftentimes what will convince your readers to continue reading your post, or cause them to head back to Google to look for something else. While it's important to grab their attention, it's also important to accurately represent your content. You're not trying to bait your readers, but rather, let them know in a few words why your post is worth reading. Social sharing icons are also important to encourage readers to spread the word about your content, and a good graphic can help grab your reader's attention even before reading your headline.

Finally, be sure to check the mobile view of your blog to ensure your content is easy to read, and your calls to action are prominent. So how are you doing with your nonprofit blog? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Blog (Part I)

How to Create an Effective Blog

The key ingredient to any blog is quality content. So before considering design features, commenting, or social sharing, it's important to begin with an audit of your content. If you're new to blogging, take a look at our posts on content marketing and website personas to get an idea of what you want to communicate and who your audience will be. If you've already begun blogging, or if you've been at it for a while, take a look at your most recent posts and ask yourself the following questions.

First, is your message directed toward the appropriate audience? In a previous post on the ServanTek blog, we shared some ideas on how to think about your website personas and how to direct your message toward the appropriate readers. The fact of the matter is that your message is not going to resonate with all people, in all places, at all times. That would be impossible. But your content should be written in such a way that it resonates with the specific users who would be most likely to take an interest in your cause.

Next, put yourself in your readers' shoes. Do you find the information in your blog helpful? Are you providing your readers with something of value? If you're new to blogging, take some time to consider what type of content your users would find most helpful. What type of information are they looking for? What do they need to know? If readers find value in the information you're providing, they'll come back for more. Or better yet, they'll subscribe to receive your updates in their inbox. If your information is not valuable to them, they'll keep surfing the web until they find information that will both capture their attention and provide value to them.

Once you've determined that your content has significant value to your readers, it's important to consider whether or not your information is actionable. Perhaps your primary objective is to raise awareness about your cause or a social issue surrounding your cause. Are you providing your readers with content that will not only raise awareness, but spur them on toward action? This is not to say that every post needs to conclude with a specific call to action, but the information you provide your readers should encourage them to put that information to good use. Whether you're educating your readers on the dangers of texting while driving, or you're sharing an inspirational story of volunteerism, be sure to consider what type of response you hope to generate from your readers, and ask yourself whether or not your content would draw such a response.

Finally, review the writing style of your posts. Is it conversational? Does it flow? Sometimes it helps to read a post aloud to yourself to better understand how it will come across to your readers. What about punctuation? Has someone edited your post to be sure it's free of typos or grammatical errors? As the writer, you may not be able to catch all of your own mistakes. When possible, have a coworker look it over and fine tune it before publishing. 

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Facebook launches new website for nonprofits

Facebook for Nonprofits

If your nonprofit has yet to delve into the world of Facebook, what better time than now? Just yesterday, Facebook released a new website to give nonprofits all of the help they need to get started.

With information on everything from setting up a Facebook page to creating ad campaigns, the Facebook for Nonprofits website will give you step by step instructions on how to raise both awareness and funds for your organization. In addition to practical tips and instructions regarding the use of their platform, this new website also provides several success stories to give you real life examples of how the social network has benefited various nonprofits. To learn more, visit https://nonprofits.fb.com.

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7 Critical Questions to ask a Potential Website Designer Before Hiring

7 Questions

Is your nonprofit organization looking for a new website? Before you enter into an agreement with a web designer, you'll obviously want to take a look at his or her online portfolio to be sure the site that you envision will be feasible based on the designer's sample work. Once you've decided the designer or firm could be a good fit, be sure to ask these seven critical questions up front to ensure a smooth development experience. 

 
1. What is your process?
Before investing a great deal of time, money and energy in revamping your website, it's important to understand the overall process involved. For example, what are the first steps, and what content do you need to supply? What are the turnaround times for this designer to create a design and build it out? What does the approval process look like? How many rounds of revisions will be included before additional charges will be incurred?
 
2. How long will it take?
Be sure to get a time commitment at the outset of the project so your can ensure you have the correct expectations as far as the overall timeline is concerned. If there is a specific date on which you need the site to be live in order to unveil the launch at an upcoming event, it's a good idea to discuss this with a potential designer before you begin the project in order to ensure the deadline is feasible, and you're both on the same page.  
 
3. What types of additional fees would I incur?
When it comes to websites, there are a couple fees that go along with the design of any site, namely website hosting and a domain registration. Website hosting is typically a monthly or annual fee which provides you with server space to store your site. A domain registration is typically an annual fee of $10-$15, which allows you to register and own the domain name of your choice. While some designers include these costs in a website package, others require you to purchase your own hosting and domain name. Either way, you'll want to be sure your designer can help walk you through this process. 

4. Will the domain be in my name? Who owns the site when complete?
You should always have ownership of your domain as well as your completed website. Be sure this is stated clearly in the contract before agreeing to purchase services from a designer or firm. If you ever decide to move to a new website in the future, the process will be much smoother if you have direct access to the DNS controls for your domain. DNS controls allow you to determine where the domain points. 
 
5. Does the cost include training so I can manage the site in the future?
Thinking about website maintenance and upkeep in the future is a critical consideration, especially for nonprofits. If your budget is limited, you'll want to be sure you will not need outside assistance to make everyday changes to keep your content current.   
 
6. Do you offer support in the future if something goes wrong, gets hacked or needs to be updated?
It's important to understand what the anticipated costs will be should something go wrong in the future. While the appropriate security measures should always be taken at the outset, content management systems often require updates to provide ongoing security. No website project is a one-time expense, so it's important to budget for these types of scenarios in the future. That said, it's important to get a good idea upfront concerning what the anticipated costs could be in the future.  
 
7. Do you offer SEO services?
Some web design companies will offer SEO within their website packages, while others will do basic SEO preparation, but do not offer it as a service. Still others do nothing to help with SEO at all. It's important to find out what services are available from your designer, and what services you would need to purchase elsewhere. Since SEO is an ongoing process, it's also a good idea to understand if you will receive any SEO services beyond the initial setup of the site. If not, can ongoing SEO support be purchased after the initial setup is complete? Finally, if your current site is doing really well in the SERPs, you'll also want to discuss with your designer what measures will be take to ensure your reputation in the SERPs will be maintained when the new site is built.
 
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