Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Several years ago, I wanted to take my daughter to see The Frick, a museum in New York City. I used to live in Manhattan and I wanted to share my passion for art and museums with her. Before our trip, I visited the museum’s website. The front page included a date stamped list of four or five upcoming events, including a link to the details highlighting an exhibit I knew she’d love.

Fresh, updated content like that is what gives websites for nonprofits vitality, the fifth required element of a viable nonprofit website.

Simply put, vitality is the perception of fresh content. This means that, when people come to our website, they get the sense our website is constantly evolving—that it’s always being updated. Fortunately we know what the silver bullet for vitality is:

It’s posting content (with a date) on our website’s homepage a minimum of once per week.
Did you know that the average person will decide in less than five seconds if they’re going to click past your homepage and/or bookmark your site? This decision is based almost entirely upon the end user’s perception of the site’s freshness of content. Our brains tell us subconsciously whether or not a website is worth revisiting.

Here’s what I’ve seen happen, however. Some nonprofits will implement a plan where they post dated content on the homepage weekly, but backpedal when their analytics show that only a small percentage of users are clicking on that content. Our beloved go-to geeks may say, “Let’s get rid of the content that nobody is using and focus on what people are clicking on.”

I get that—but it’s not the right approach. Once you remove the dated content and just have static headlines and images, your website will appear that it’s not evolving. Returning visitors will sense that nothing is happening on your site, and eventually overall traffic will decrease. In a user’s brain, a site that doesn’t evolve and change appears to be irrelevant.

The best way to add dated content.
If you want to begin to add content and improve your website’s vitality, where do you start? My recommendation is to create a team blog for your organization—it’s the single most effective way to regularly add new content, important for both vitality and SEO. I’d suggest assembling a team and rotating contributors by asking five or six key staff members to write a new post once a month. Just updating the content on the front page is enough to give visitors the sense that your organization is alive and active, not static and disconnected.

Even if you can’t pull-off a blog, at the very least put together a database of 52 inspirational “thoughts of the week” and have them automatically post every Monday. Even the most novice of web developers can make that happen.

Websites for nonprofits that feel fresh will cover up many other mistakes, and implementing a strategy to increase your site’s vitality has a huge ROI.