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Keeping Non-Profit Websites Beautiful: Updated Content Management Systems

Guest post by Thomas Swanson

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I’m not sure how to tweak this old saw to make it express the importance of replacing outmoded Content Management Systems for Non-Profits with Web 2.0 solutions…but the analogy is there. To use another slightly cheesy metaphor: if your non-profit is still fiddling around with graphics and updates on a static HTML or ‘brochure-style’ site, you may be polishing the brass on the Titanic. That ship has sailed.

The economic downturn and the slow crawl to recovery has been a galvanizing and sometimes frightening time for most of the Non-Profits that I’ve talked to in the past few years. Private contributions tend to decrease as personal incomes take a hit, government funding gets cut, and endowments get soaked as the market jackknifes. On the other hand, downturns can concentrate talent, passion and commitment just as they tend to force innovation.

During this last downturn there has been a kind of revolution in Content Management Systems that has been especially critical for Non-Profits and small businesses. This shift in the way that websites are managed has been about putting the power to control a company’s web-presence into the hands of regular managers and employees—not just tech-guys and web-contractors.

As envelope-stuffing and e-mail blasts become less effective as stand-alone strategies for Non-Profits to solicit contributions, SEO and fluid, easy-to-use, easy-to-update websites become more important.

How does this CMS transformation work in laymen’s terms?

Try to imagine the difference between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ models of page and content organization as being like the difference between a collection of numerous Microsoft Word Documents and a single Microsoft Excel Document.

If minor thematic or informational changes need to be made in your collection of Microsoft Word documents, you’ll need to change them one by one.

You might have to hire someone to do this. Either that, or you’re likely facing an organizational nightmare that’s going to suck hours out of your work week and take a toll on your energy and morale.

If you change one cell in an Excel document on the other hand, the corresponding changes that need to be made happen automatically. By rough analogy, this is the way that Web 2.0 works for you.

Non-profits are an important part of our culture and they enhance the quality of life in our communities. Part of our job is to make it easy for you to make life a little better. A new CMS for your website is likely to be a part of that process as our century speeds up.

Thomas Swanson is Content-Manager & SEO Consultant at SmallBox Web Design

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