resources to help impart our ideas and promote our mission, activities, and programs

NWRA Fundraising Webinar for Friends

 

NWRA Fundraising Flyer
Click image to go to registration form.

Date: May 12 or May 14, 2020 (two sessions to choose from)
Presented by: Courtney Lewis, NWRA Director of Development

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is sponsoring a webinar exclusively for refuge Friends groups to discuss various fundraising strategies in response to the effects of COVID-19.

The topics of discussion are: Fundraising during COVID-19; Fundraising Events; Foundations, Individual Donors, and Major Donors. If time permits, we will have questions at the end.

Go to the online form to choose the date and time for the session you wish to attend. Connection information will be sent to you the day before the webinar.

“In fifty minutes, Courtney conveyed more useful, practical information on effective fundraising than I’ve heard in sessions many times that long.”  —Mike Baldwin, Ding Darling Wildlife Society

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Websites Are Like Gardens: 18 easy maintenance tasks during social distancing

Image of garden and shovel

The other day I was out in my garden pulling weeds and tending to the soil so that my soon-to-be-planted vegetables and flowers will flourish. Just like gardens, your website also needs regular attention. And, since you are all adhering to social distancing measures (right?), now is a great time to spruce up your virtual information garden.

More people are staying home and accessing the internet so, it’s likely they are also visiting your website more. Here is a hit list of easy tasks you could accomplish right now to make your website more inviting to your virtual visitors. Just do one or two a day and, before you know it, you’ll be done!

CONTENT

  1. Check each page for accuracy, grammar, and typos. Remove or update outdated information.
  2. Update your mission and vision page so that it reflects your current practices.
  3. If you are collecting and storing personal information or analytics from your visitors, which pretty much every site does (think cookies, donors, and members), you should have an up-to-date privacy policy explaining how you collect, use, and store visitor information. And, require everyone who has access to your data adheres to the policy. See this example of a simple privacy policy.
  4. Check for broken links and fix or remove them. Use this easy online tool to help you find them.
  5. Test and update your site navigation (menus, footers, sidebars, widgets, etc.) and improve where necessary. Make it easy for visitors to find information on your site. How do they look on mobile devices? How about in different browsers?
  6. Update your staff and board information and resolve to keep it updated whenever changes occur.

DESIGN

  1. Add unique page titles to each of your webpages.
    Why are page titles important? Page titles are metadata elements used by search engines, browsers, and accessibility tools to read and understand what your webpage is about. Title tags are used in three key places: (1) search engine results pages, (2) web browsers, and (3) social networks.
    NOTE: Metadata is “data about data.” That clears it right up, eh? Basically, it is information that is about other data. So, a page title is information about a webpage, it is not the actual content displayed on the page.
  2. Add a “Contact Us” page that uses a form for visitors to submit. Make it easy for your visitors to contact you or subscribe to your communications. It is a best practice to use a web form to collect visitor inquiries rather than posting an email address in clear text. Email addresses posted on a website are easily harvested by spam robots and used for disreputable purposes. Adding a contact form varies by platform. Check your platform help for specifics. Contact forms vs email address.
  3. Design your site using a uniform look and feel. Don’t be a “Frankensite.” Choose a color palette and stick with it throughout your site. Use the same font types and sizes throughout your entire site. Two font types are best, but no more than 3 font types should be used, ever! Use heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) for various page and paragraph headings. For example, when including a title for a paragraph, do not insert normal-styled text and make it bold. Apply a heading style instead.
    Why? Headings help visitors read and understand the structure of your site. This is especially important for accessibility. Also, search engines use these heading tags to recognize key words and to understand what your site is about–this will improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
  4. Review your call to action buttons and links (e.g., Donate, Join, Take Action) to ensure they are prominent on your main page and available from every page. Don’t forget to check how they look on multiple devices—desktops, tablets, phones.
  5. Add a search box to your site and ensure it displays on every page. Having an effective search box helps visitors find what they are looking for on your site.
  6. Include appropriate ties to your social media sites. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content to their social media.
  7. If you are using WordPress, keep your plugins current and delete any plugins that are not being used on your site. Outdated and unused plugins can be a security risk and may also crash your site.

ACCESSIBILITY

  1. Make sure you have good color contrast between background colors and text. Use this online color contrast validator to check your site. This is important for meeting accessibility standards.
  2. Review all your images and add missing ALT text tags.
    What is ALT text and why is it important? The primary purpose is to provide an alternative description of images for your visitors who are sight-impaired or otherwise unable to visually identify an image. It also applies to situations where visitors are using screen readers or a web browser that blocks the display of images. ALT tags also provide better context and descriptions to search engines to help index images properly.
  3. Is your site using a responsive design? A responsive website is a design that allows your website to adapt to the size of any screen it is being viewed on. Test how your website looks in different browsers and on different devices, such as, desktops, tablets, and phones; adjust as needed. Use this online tool to find out if your web site is mobile friendly.
  4. Repurpose documents, such as PDFs and Word documents, to an HTML-based webpage or blog post that is readable within your site. Anything that is meant to be viewed onscreen and not printed should be in an HTML webpage. There are many reasons for avoiding posting PDFs on your website. PDFs and other document formats frequently take people away from your webpage and are difficult to navigate, especially on mobile devices or for people with disabilities. Your annual report that is long and printable is an example of when you would post a link to a PDF file. Items such as directions to your refuge or a list of volunteer opportunities should be posted as an HTML webpage.

NOW KEEP IT GOING

  1. And last, make a schedule of regular maintenance tasks for the year! These can be organized by timeframe, for example, do XYZ monthly, do ABC quarterly and so on.
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It’s Time for a Hug (and Some Work)

bears-hugging

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the transition to a new administration and what it might mean for the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is clear to me that our national discussion about the value of public lands will be as important as ever. I know there are hopeful signs, and I agree with those who say we don’t need to hit the panic button yet. Still, the wise women in my family always said “Expect the best, but plan for the worst.” So, what can we Friends do to make sure we can participate in that national dialogue and be as strong as we can be in case we are called upon to defend our refuges? Here is my list. I’d be glad to know what Friends around the country are thinking or working on.

Hug a member of your Refuge staff. Some federal employees may be quite worried – for themselves, their families, and the refuges they love so well. The expected hiring freeze has many moving around these last few weeks. New leaders are coming to fill those top jobs. Let’s make sure we show our staff how much we appreciate all that they do and stand for. Tell them that you will be there to support the refuge, that you will always be in communication, and always working for the values you share. At a recent gathering of the USFWS directorate here in Florida, we were able to hold a reception and include Friends from nine different refuges. I know it made these leaders feel better, seeing that we were with them, and it helped strengthen our bonds of friendship.

Strengthen your organization. If you are not operating at full capacity, now is the time to get organized. Learn about nonprofit legal requirements and best practices in governance and organizational development and start taking steps to improve. Find your state affiliate of the National Council of Nonprofits, a local nonprofit resource center, or a consultant, and get their assistance. Find the treasure trove of great resources in CORFA’s Resource Center. Think through what kinds of skills and talents you need on your board and recruit people, orient them, and integrate them into the existing team.

Develop contingency plans. During the government shut down of 2014, the Friends of Ottawa NWR found that we were unable to get to our computers, files, lists, phone messages, mail,and more. Everything related to the running of our organization was at the refuge, and we were prohibited from going there. Other groups have experienced the sudden departure of a treasurer or web master and all the related passwords were lost. In the electronic age there is no excuse for that. If your records and operating systems are not cloud-based, set that up and make sure multiple board members can access everything from home. Set up a post office box in town and start shifting your incoming mail to it. Recycle the telephone answering machine and invest in voicemail.

Make sure you are communicating with members. Your members may be even more interested than usual in knowing what is happening and how they can help. Do your best to gather all forms of contact information from members, donors, supporters, visitors to the refuge, anyone you can. Make sure you have a good contact management system. Send out electronic newsletters. Get people used to seeing you in their inbox. Get on the mailing lists of some of the other Friends groups and see how they are doing it. There are some Friends volunteers out there who are doing super inspiring and creative things with electronic media.

Build outreach efforts. In addition to beefing up our websites and social media efforts, this is an excellent time to begin seeking opportunities to present information about our refuges and their friends in schools, libraries, churches, civic organizations, and service clubs. Invite community leaders to the refuge and give them a great tour. Set up a media day and invite all the reporters. Provide them with information and make sure they know how to contact you if they have further questions.

I have other ideas that are more specifically related to advocacy and lobbying, so watch for those next week. Meanwhile, I will be working locally to make sure we have as much in place as we can if the time comes when we really have to be on the hustings. If that time doesn’t come – great! Our organizations will be stronger and able to accomplish even more. Thanks for listening. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this offline or on.

Cathy Allen is a nonprofit organizational development consultant in Florida who is also a passionate lover of wildlife refuges.  A former president at Friends of Ottawa NWR (Ohio), she currently serves on the board at Friends of the Carr Refuge.

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