How to Cut Your Nonprofit's Website Management Time in Half
Many nonprofit staff members complain about how much time they spend on their website.
It’s a timesuck.
Unfortunately, you can’t just stop managing your website. It’s generally the homebase for your organization’s communications. It’s how you get the word out, make announcements, share important information, and in many cases, run your programs.
But, every hour spent updating and managing your website is an hour that you can’t spend working with constituents, raising funds, or planning events. Although your organization’s website can be a critical component to your outreach and marketing strategy, simple maintenance and management often takes up a disproportionate amount of time.
At the end of the day, how much time you spend managing your website has no effect on the results you achieve. Website management is definitely one of the times when you should strive to work smarter not harder.
There are some great ways that your organization can minimize time spent managing and administering your website, while still providing all of the relevant services and information your constituents need.
1. Choose The Right CMS
Almost every modern website is managed by a content management system (CMS), which makes it easier to manage and update than the old-school, hard-coded websites that once ruled the web. (If your site isn’t running a CMS, you’re way overdue for an upgrade.)
This is the starting point for almost every time-sucking task that goes into website management.
Choosing the right CMS—one which offers the features and functionality you need in order to manage your website quickly and effectively—is one of the most important aspects of your entire process. Not only is the CMS a critical piece of software that will be at the center of your organization, but the CMS you choose will dictate which types of widgets, plugins, extensions, and other utilities you can use on your website.
Unfortunately, many organizations simply choose what’s popular or what’s easiest to set up. That upfront convenience can end up costing thousands of dollars per year in extra time and work.
We’re huge advocates of open-source platforms. In particular, Drupal.
While it’s not the simplest CMS on the market, its functionality and extensibility make it a fantastic choice for many nonprofits. Organizations that we work with are often amazed to find out that many of the tasks that took hours on their old site can be done in minutes with a proper Drupal setup, or automated entirely.
It’s also important to choose a CMS that can grow with your organization and their website. It’s smart to invest in incremental improvements and upgrades to your website over time (rather than doing a massive overhaul every few years). So it’s imperative to have a CMS that is flexible enough to accommodate those continuous improvements.
2. Use Smart Tools and Technology
One of the biggest timesucks when it comes to managing websites is just lack of tools and technology.
If you’ve put in the work to properly plan and setup your website, there are likely many tools and pieces of technology that you can use to radically reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to perform common tasks on your website.
In particular, you can automate regular updates like managing an event calendar, publishing seasonal content, or rotating spotlight features.
As an example, having an extension or plugin that automates your event calendar will save you tons of time and effort spent manually updating and managing that calendar every week or month to post new events.
The extent to which you are able to integrate these kinds of tools and technology is largely dictated by the CMS or framework that you choose for your website from the outset. But, some features and functionality may be able to be retrofitted onto your existing site even if it wasn’t designed to accommodate such tools.
3. Automate Simple Tasks
Outside of just updating your website, much of your time on web management probably involves works that happens outside of your website. Sending emails, posting events to social media, and other time-consuming tasks usually accompany the act of updating your actual site.
You can save yourself a ton of headache by using third-party applications to automate some of these simple and repetitive tasks.
Try using some of these tools:
IFTTT (If This, Then That) - Simple automation tool that can take updates from one platform and post them via another
Hootsuite - Social media management tool, allows you to schedule and automate posts
Mailchimp - Email marketing tool, now offers some basic automation even for free users
Zapier - Automatically integrates key actions from popular apps
Going beyond just normal automation, many of these tools have an API and you can build custom integrations from your website (CMS) that triggers specific activity. Like, posting to Facebook every time you create a new event on your website or even creating a series of tweets that will go out at set intervals leading up to the event.
Even simple tools can be used to perform various, complex tasks automatically and save you tons of time.
4. Plan For the Future
When building a website or doing updates to your website, look to the future to anticipate what features and functionality will be important and identify potential roadblocks or problem processes that will arise along the way.
You can often tell when you don’t have a system in place because you’ll have an idea for what you want to accomplish but will have a hard time articulating exactly how you’ll accomplish it. Or you’ll set up a specific process, like promotion cadence for new blog posts, and feel uneasy about how you will be able to manage that cadence. This is a red flag that you should investigate ways to improve your process or use technology to reduce the amount of work it takes to accomplish your goals.
Each year, when your organization is planning and setting goals for the upcoming 12 months, you should look for ways to align your website and technology stack with those goals.
5. Invest In Improvements to Your Website
One of the most important aspects of managing and maintaining your website is to treat your site as a continuous project rather than a one-time investment.
Many organizations—both for-profit and nonprofit—make the mistake of making their website a single, huge project that costs thousands of dollars and is built or updated once every 5+ years.
It’s no secret that this is a terrible way to manage your technology strategy. As time goes on, your website’s functionality will deteriorate and will no longer meet your needs. Your team will need to continuously spend more time and effort to compensate for the outdated tools and technology.
Then, when things get really bad, your organization will be forced to frantically try to find the budget to completely overhaul your website.
It’s like buying a car and not expecting to do any routine maintenance. It may be cheaper in the short run, but you’ll end up spending way more money buying new cars every time your neglected one blows up.
Instead, set aside part of your yearly budget for ongoing website maintenance and upgrades.
Then, identify key barriers that are taking up time or preventing your website from serving the purpose that you need it to. Invest that money in making those upgrades and changes to your website before they become a major choke point for your organization.
Although this may seem like a big investment, it will save you tons of money in wasted time and effort spent on website management, your website will be relevant and functional for a much longer period of time, and major website renovations won’t be such a massive, looming expense that happens every few years.
6. Focus on Collaboration Between Everyone Working on the Website
Last, but certainly not least, there are the people and processes that surround your technology. This aspect cannot be ignored. Without clear guidelines and processes in place, updating the website can quickly devolve into a free-for-all kind of chaos, chock full of wasted time and effort.
Your organization should create and codify a clear system for managing, prioritizing, and working on your website. There should be clear directives as to who will own which portions of the website and who will be the point person for each of the systems involved (e.g., who owns the CMS? Who performs maintenance in the CRM?)
Coordinating website work through email can take up an enormous amount of time. So, your team should look for tools like online project management software in order to set clear responsibilities and priorities as well as providing accountability and transparency.
Together, all of these tools and processes can help you cut the time you spend managing your website in half—or more.
But, more importantly, it will help you create more value from your website. You’ll be able to more efficiently provide the information and resources your constituents need while focusing your time other tasks that help you serve the community.
One key takeaway is to consider your website and technology as an evolving machine rather than a static entity. Invest in its maintenance, improvement, and upgrades.
It’s one of the smartest investments you can make in your organization.