Challenges, critiques, and approaches of the Not-For-Profit sectors in Australia while tackling the global coronavirus pandemic.
Challenges towards Not-For-Profit Sector during COVID-19 crisis:
The Not-For-Profit sector has been under a great deal of stress since September 2019. First, we had the extreme droughts, and later there were severe bushfires and floods. Now, coronavirus has put a lot of strain on the NPF sector, pushing some organisations to their limit.
In this challenging time, volunteers are most definitely a key ally for the NFP sectors in Australia. Unfortunately, staying at home because of the pandemic has reduced volunteers’ availability.
Also, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the economy, as many people are jobless and unemployed right now. That is why; people are looking towards Not-For-Profit sector and government for assistance across the board. It’s an opportunity for NFPs to shine and provide their helping hands to those who need it.
While increased funding may allow NFPs to offer more services to people, you may also find yourself under very challenging circumstances. The role of technology and digital platforms are now more essential than ever to ensure everyone’s needs and demands.
Approaches of people within Locked down areas for the Not-For-Profit sector:
With the absence of a vaccine, staying at home is the only solution for us right now to fight against COVID-19. During this time, people that need help are trying to reach Not-For-Profits over their websites using various devices. There are many queries in peoples’ minds regards the Not-For-Profit sectors and their activities.
On March 26 alone, 2.3 million people have logged into the MyGov website. The situation is the same with non-profits in Australia. That is why many Australians are experiencing slow browsing and downtime because of this heavy traffic while accessing this website. Due to these barriers, many Australians are having difficulty accessing information and contacting NPF organisations.
Some cut-through is required here, using existing web-based solutions to solve these challenges. It’s not all smooth sailing though, as challenges present themselves which many of you may not have thought about. In this article, we break down some of the digital challenges NFPs are facing during this time and what can be done about them.
Problems faced by Not-For-Profits websites while tackling COVID-19:
Being isolated in a lockdown situation, we’ve had some time to prepare a useful list of tools for which you may find helpful.
We have found out that most Not-for-profit websites in Australia have one or more of the following issues on their sites:
- Websites are running slow – something you may relate to.
- Servers are unreliable and delivering information too slowly – the foundations of your digital presence are shaky, and it’s a real dilemma.
- There is a lot of outdated information, and it will take a lot of time to update – a junkyard of old documents is gathering dust in the corner of your public digital space. Or even worse, your latest blog post was from 2016!
- Too many plugins and irrelevant data usually bloat the website – This causes slow page load times and security issues.
- The website is not easy to update. So, communicating with people on coronavirus or for anything else that matter is difficult.
- A lot of websites aren’t looking fabulous, interactive, and user-friendly, causing people to lose interest. It is due time for an update.
- Your website is not ranked on Google and doesn’t come up for anything you search for – despite extensive information available. This is because the website is not search engine optimised.
- FAQs are not enough – you’re being bombarded with phone calls and emails about things that people could figure out from your website.
- You’re pretty clear on the issues but, to upgrade the website in a limited budget – we all face problems as funds are insufficient.
- The appearance of issues when you don’t know how to solve the problem – your expertise is in supporting a specific cause, but when it comes to digital strategy, you have no idea where to start.
- Many NFP websites need a better software system, which can help in the distribution of funds to the COVID-19 affected.
Here we’ll address these issues in order of priority to mitigate the challenges and help communities under distress.
Tips for NFP websites to enhance their online functionality for better interaction:
Amid the current socio-economic environment, here are the top tips for Not-For-Profit websites to strengthen communication with people during the COVID-19 crisis.
Make the necessary changes to improve response time and speed:
We are having a hard time indeed. Affected communities may be suffering stress and anxiety for many reasons. Consequently, there are many people trying to reach NFPs through the web. This is resulting in high traffic for web hosting providers, and slowing down the speed of access to websites – many of which may be slow on a good day anyway.
Therefore, the response and loading times of your Not-For-Profit website play a vital role in addressing the audience you’re working for. For a sensitive situation like this, slow speed is a concerning issue. Four of the more common reasons your website could be running slow are as follows:
Poor Server Performance:
There should be no compromise on the quality of web hosting when it comes to hosting an important website such as NFP. If you prefer low priced hosting, this will reflect in your service level and quality that may not be immediately noticeable to your team.
Dedicated resources are very important for Not-For-Profit organisations when your mission is to become the voice of or to large numbers of people. That is why, while choosing a web host, don’t pinch pennies – the cost of quality hosting is minuscule in comparison to your current annual budget.
Choose one by reputation and experience, a host that knows how to allocate the right amount of power to your website to make it run reliably.
High traffic can slow down your service:
The higher the traffic your website gets, the more likely it is to slow down. It’s like going to a supermarket that is short-staffed. This causes a lot of stress on the service levels. The server tries its best to handle all the queries but fails under pressure.
This is why you must carefully consider the service provider you choose for your website, optimise content delivery, and streamline your site design. These changes will together contribute to the improvement of overall speed.
Full-Size Images Can Contribute to the Problems:
High-quality images are essential for a great website. When you have powerful content and powerful imagery, it will make a great impression. We’re visual creatures and will often stay on a website when the visuals are inspiring. But adding images without optimising them can slow down a particular website.
High-definition images need a good amount of bandwidth to load quickly, which leads to slow web-speed. But, there is an easy fix. Resizing your photographs is all it takes to improve speed by making simple height and width, format, and quality adjustments.
Update your Content Management System (CMS):
CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc. should be updated to improve performance and security. So, if you find any notification to upgrade the CMS or any related plugin, update it.
Security solutions for your Not-For-Profit website:
A number of industries are shut down worldwide temporarily, causing severe issues of unemployment. During times like these, malicious hackers also try to exploit others for their personal gains. Not-For-Profit websites are highly vulnerable to hackers because of the sensitive information they have. This information they deliver is critical for the population, NFP sectors, and the government.
If your website is attacked, you may be in a position where you can’t serve valuable information to your website’s visitors.
Below are six key things you can do to safeguard your Not-For-Profit website:
1. Maintain and update all software
Hackers are always in search of loopholes and target security flaws in websites. It is crucial to have all scripts and platforms installed up-to-date. Keep your plugins and themes updated as most of them have security patches on a regular basis.
2. Strong passwords are Very Important
Hackers have sophisticated software that can crack easy passwords. In order to protect your website against the sort of attack, called brute-forcing, don’t use common passwords that are so obvious or simple.
Your password should combine uppercase, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Moreover, passwords should be at least eight characters long. Maintain this plan of action throughout your organisation.
3. Use Encryption Techniques
Use encryption techniques like SSL/TLS encryption. It allows secure transmission of sensitive information like credit/debit card numbers, social security numbers, and login credentials. Information that is encrypted seems meaningless to any third party who tries to intercept it.
4. Choose a secure Web Hosting Company
Highly responsive and secure Firewalls should defend host servers. Check if your hosting provider offers services like Cloud-Native SAAS based Web Application Firewall and Intrusion Prevention System.
5. Keep Your Website Clean and Back up Data
Delete any unnecessary files, databases, or applications from your website that are no longer in use. Also, backup your NFP website regularly. Good hosting providers will offer backup services, but as data is an asset, you should have a backup plan of your own.
6. Schedule Security Scans and Audits
Regularly perform website security scans to check for vulnerabilities. Web security scans should also be executed after any change to your website. Many free and paid tools are available on the Internet that you can use to measure the security level of your Not-For-Profit website.
7. Hire an expert to audit your web security.
This will give you an in-depth review and analysis of the vulnerabilities on your NFP website, which are not identifiable by the automated tools. Security Audits are also vital for your NFP websites.
Modern and Responsive Web Design for Better User Experience:
Not-For-Profit sectors must have simple, agile, modern, and easy-to-understand website visuals. A website with all these properties will help visitors understand the ultimate aim of potential volunteers and donors. The NFP that has earned public trust is the most successful not-for-profit organisation.
For the best results, it is very important to have an interactive website that portrays your message, has all the facilities that are needed, and an average person with the lowest level of knowledge can understand it.
An up-to-date and responsive website is also fast and highly valuable to the people because of its agility. If your website doesn’t work correctly on phones or tablets, it’s probably time for an update.
Look for errors and make your Not-For-Profit website error-free and integrate custom-made plugins that you need for your website, according to the changing patterns of acquiring data and charity.
Adopt Content Management System Software that Feels Comfortable:
Adopt the Content Management System (CMS) that you think is more understandable and easy for you to use. Research several CMS platforms because the CMS software that a website lives on can considerably impact the Not-For-Profit organisation’s ability to succeed. Following are the properties you should check while deciding the one you need:
Ease of use – Make sure you are comfortable making changes within the CMS tool you have chosen.
User and permissions system – It must have an option to set a different level and domains of permissions for the teams working on the CMS for maintaining your content, plugins, and marketing strategies.
Intregration – It should integrate well with the rest of your tools.
Search Engine Optimisation is the Key to Growing Your Voice and Generate Funds for your Not-For-Profit Organisations:
Your Not-For-Profit website stands out of the crowd with marketing strategies and the appropriate SEO planning. Most people around the world, prefer to look for their queries on the first page of Google only. Very few of them go beyond that.
Hire an expert who can create a better search engine optimised NFP website. Your investment will pay off in no time. SEO does help you place in the top pages of search engines, and that is why it is the key to implement a strategy.
Apply for Google Ad Grant for Not-For-Profit Organisations:
Did you know that Google Ad Grant offers your not-for-profit website a grant of USD 10,000 a month for Google advertising? Follow the instruction they have mentioned on their website to find out more. Google has given a highly valuable opportunity to the Not-For-Profits. We know how difficult and expensive advertising campaigns are. For this reason, you should make the most of your grant.
Optimise your website. Make a strategy for it that how you will utilise the grant properly to grow your voice and get noticed among the audience that needs your service.
You can hire dedicated staff for marketing or shake hands with a company that knows how to utilise it properly to get noticed among your audience, volunteers, and donors.
Frequently Ask Questions (FAQs) are necessary for better user experience for Not-For-Profit Websites:
There are certain typical questions that most of the audience needs to know about. For example, How to get a membership as a volunteer? Where will my donation be used? How NFP manages donations? – And many more.
Brainstorm for the queries you expect that most people will ask about. Try to answer as many questions related to COVID-19 as possible. This will result in three positive outcomes; First, the people will find the answer without contacting you and can be directed to the right platform or section of your website. Second, your website will not get too much load as it does when many people are posting their queries in the contact us form. Last, you can address issues of the people in a better and faster manner.
What if searching Content within your Not-For-Profit website is difficult?
Searching content within the website is one of the biggest problems of many websites. While updating your website, always keep your data organised and use the best search tools available.
Interactive search tools can extract information intelligently and provide suggestions if the keywords used are misspelt. Even though big search-engines have a limitation, if data is arranged and maintained properly, then it won’t be a problem at all.
By using an interactive searching tool and organising your information, your audience will not get frustrated and will have a better user experience. Moreover, it will help someone at the end of the day.
Make an Interactive Not-For-Profit Website with Limited Budget:
One of the biggest obstructions of many NFP organisations is a limited budget. Managing your limited budget is important because many not-for-profits want to spend their money where it makes the biggest impact. They often prefer to spend most of it on the actual good work they are doing.
WordPress is by far the best tool for not-for-profits to start with while building a website. It provides a cost-effective platform to build and run your website. WordPress has many plugins and premium web themes that can be modified by the help of professionals, available to help Not-For-Profits. So if you are planning to have an interactive website in a limited budget, start with a good hosting plan. Many hosting companies offer free 1-click installation of WordPress, making it an easy option.
Help in the distribution of funds to those affected by COVID-19:
COVID-19 has made many people jobless in Australia already. If you are a Not-For-Profit Organisation owner, optimise your NFP website with a comprehensive plan to help those people who are jobless and highly vulnerable to this COVID-19 lockdown situation.
Gain data on the people who are impacted by COVID-19. Create a mechanism for transferring donations online in the accounts of our fellow Australians that are impacted in this lockdown, in collaboration with the Government
Share the response with your donors, as this will create the environment of trust on you and triggers the instinct of helping others. Educate people using your website and social media platforms by creating relevant content in the context of COVID-19. Properly utilise Google Ad Grant service to let people know that you are ready to serve them.
This pandemic is a global issue. With such great assistances available, this is absolutely the best time for not-for-profit organisations to show leadership and achieve great results. We need to stay united and help each other eradicate this pandemic completely.
Improving your website will help with spreading your message and communicating your ideas clearly. This results in increased confidence from your website’s visitors.