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Learn how to improve your nonprofit's online presence.

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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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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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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