Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Every day in your office, there are signs of life. People are chatting, answering phones, working on their computers, volunteers may be coming and going—if a supporter stopped by to make a donation, he’d be able to see that your nonprofit is getting things accomplished.

Let’s say that same person decides to donate to your profit online. Would he see signs of life there too, or would he see a ghost town? If you’ve had the same content on your homepage for the past few years, you could be giving the impression that nothing’s going on.

Your website is your nonprofit's central nervous system. It’s the core center of your brand; everything you do should point back to or be reflected on your site. And the last impression you want to give is that no one’s home.

This is where vitality comes in: I define it as “the perception of fresh content.”

When people come to your website, you want them to get the sense that your website is active—that people are visiting, things are evolving, content is being updated and good things are happening. Fortunately there is a silver bullet for achieving vitality on websites for nonprofits:

Posting dated content on your website’s homepage a minimum of once per week.

Did you know that the average person will decide in less than five seconds to either click past your homepage or bookmark your site? This decision is based almost entirely upon the user’s perception of how fresh your website’s content is.

Here’s what happens, though. Some organizations will decide to post dated content on the homepage weekly, but then backpedal when their analytics show that only a small percentage of people are clicking on that content. And so they stop updating, believing that it’s either a waste of time or not useful.

I understand that reaction, but you have to look beyond your analytics. Once you remove the dated content and just have static headlines and images, your website will appear stagnant. Returning visitors will sense this, they’ll get the idea that your organization is not very active, and eventually overall traffic will decrease. In a user’s brain, a site that doesn’t evolve and change appears to be irrelevant.

A good practice is to post dated content to your homepage a minimum of once per week. And I say “dated” because content that’s shown in sequence gives users the perception that you’re always updating your entire website. It makes a person think, “Wow, things are happening around here. This organization must be on the ball and getting stuff done.”

Creating that vitality, that impression of activity, is crucial in helping visitors see that your nonprofit is relevant and making an impact.