With the internet becoming an integral part of everyone’s lives, online perception and reputation have taken the centre stage for any business or any organization. In this context, so many studies have been conducted and many more are underway in a quest to understand the trends, interests and the needs of various customer segments.
This data is being used by organizations to implement practices in line with what people want and what can get them more customer attention and recognition. In the nonprofit world too, the internet is transforming the landscape and the non-profit organizations have to work in this direction along with the whole ecosystem, to ensure they build and maintain their online presence and reputation to proceed in their missions.
To understand why NGOs should ensure maintaining a great online reputation, it is important to understand how the donors search about NGOs online. There are millions of NGOs worldwide and although the pie of funds is increasing, the competition for a share in the pie is getting tougher day by day. Aside from the booming internet presence of NGOs, one more factor to consider is the transforming landscape of the general development ecosystem.
The Online NGO Ecosystem and why it matters?
Earlier, there used to be mainly three actors in the ecosystem- government, market and non-government organizations or civil society. With changing times, many new layers have added – comprising of the organizations which are acting as the ‘enablers’ or the linking organizations among these three previous layers.
In the context of the development sector, with the advent of technology and with a newfound understanding of the ‘systems approach’, many organizations enabling a better working of the equilibrium have come into existence. Some examples can be- consulting organizations, technology consulting firms, developmental research firms, partnership organizations, etc. The structure of these varies from country to country and context to context. Key services these organizations typically provide are- due diligence and vetting, consulting, legal, technical and technological, research, impact assessments and even fundraising. Let us now understand why your NGO’s online presence matters.
Who is the target audience? (2 I’s & 2 E’s)
- Institutional donors/ funding organizations:
Whether it is a concept note that you have submitted or a proposal, most of the institutional donors and funding organizations look up your NGO on the internet. The purpose is to ensure credibility, professional and legal status of the applicant organization, and also to have a general view of the organization. Believe it or not, your online presence might be encouraging or turning down many donors as you read this. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the significance of an online reputation.
- Individual Donors:
Many recent reports have shown that more and more people are ‘giving’ online. For those individual donors, the internet is the place to go to find out about reliable organizations doing good work in the sector. With higher disposable household incomes in the developed and developing countries, there has been a spike in giving- owing to the growing propensity and willingness to give. But many more avenues and individuals are yet untapped and untouched because they do not know of trustworthy organizations. Hence, a credible online presence, perhaps vetting of your NGO by enabler organizations or other platforms is pivotal to the boost your NGO needs.
These organizations enable NGOs in doing what they do best- work towards their mission. In a way, they become the audience for your online content. Your donors and even funding organizations seek inputs and vetting from such organizations before placing a bet on your NGO. For example, many corporate entities run employee matching programs these days, to encourage their employees to do good. Under these programs, the company matches the funds donated by the employee to the NGO of their own choice. These corporates need to ensure that the NGO is credible and worthy- so they turn to the experts- these enabler organizations. Some examples of such enabling organizations are Benevity Causes, BigTech, GuideStar, etc.
- Employees and Prospective Applicants
Every NGO strives to have and retain the best of human resources. Believe it or not, applicants look for online reviews and reputation of an organization before applying for a role. So maintaining a good online reputation can even help you in finding the best candidates for your teams.
What you can do to build a good online reputation?
Your website is where your donors will find your first. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for. A couple of quick tips: make your website mobile-friendly as most donors are using their mobile phones to look up websites. Secondly, make it interactive and engaging, and respond to queries with ultra-high-speed. Keep the language light and easy for a layman. Always remember that the nonprofit world is all about storytelling. Engage the audience with the stories from the field, stories in the voices of beneficiaries themselves. Having a uniqueness to your web approach- by adding blogs, videos, pictures will make your work and web-presence stand out from the rest.
- Social Media:
People are increasingly engaging with organizations of their interest in social media. So make your presence known on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others. What you publish on these portals is important to engage with your audience, but what is equally important is what others are saying. Social media is amazing because of its two-way channels and you can make the most of it by having a sound engagement strategy in place.
- Press and Online Reports:
What others say does matter! Donors and even the general public goes to third-party and authentic portals for information about NGOs. Some examples can be the press articles and platforms, online journals and reports as thrown up by the common search engines like Google. You can try proactively to enhance your position on the search pages by ensuring your activity on these kinds of reports. Publish more and good to be seen more.
- Legal and other Compliances:
Many funding organizations, corporate foundations, government bodies, bilateral agencies etc. can accept your status as a non-profit or non-government status for their processes, only if you comply with certain standards like getting registered on portals like Guidestar. For example, in India, such a portal is called NGO Darpan. This portal provides the registered NGOs with a Unique ID, which is mandatory to apply for grants under various schemes of Ministries/Departments/Government Bodies.
- Fundraising and Vetting Platforms:
Platforms like Global Giving, JustGiving, Ketto and many others are becoming increasingly popular for online giving. It is because of the ease of giving they offer to the donors, their processes like vetting and verifying, monitoring and due diligence that is being done by these platforms themselves. Donors love this no-hassle arrangement wherein they can make gifts to the organizations/ causes of their choice easily. Presence on these platforms is also driving the online perception and image of many NGOs. It is high time your NGO benefitted from these easy fundraising avenues, if not enrolled already. One additional benefit these platforms offer is a seamless social media integration. This can aid your social media content work to some extent, while building an online donor community for your NGO.
Some other important considerations:
Though working on building and maintaining a good online reputation seems like a daunting task, it is completely doable. This would need hiring professional staff equipped to do this task. As this investment is bound to pay dearly in the long run, do consider investing in resources- hiring good staff, training and retaining them.
Once your online presence is established, keeping it up to date and maintaining it is also a separate task. Enable and empower your staff to do this by learning from your online journey along the way. The importance of involving the Board or Governing Body of your NGO cannot be emphasized enough. Getting the board ‘on board’ is key to taking the whole organization together and ensuring everyone is on the same page with respect to the future path of the online and overall positioning of your NGO.
And last but not least, always keep your beneficiaries and the mission of your NGO at the centre. It is all that matters and is at the heart of all the amazing work you do!