Friday, October 21, 2011

Lesson 1: Why Build a Website

Website Designer & Instructor
Gordon Welling
At a recent workshop that I hosted on building club websites, the group discussed the merits of running a club website.  Here goes ... advantages of a club website include:
  • Visibility:  For years we have heard that we are "the best kept secret in town" ... now people have an online venue to learn more about what an Optimist club does in their local community.  When trying to recruit new members, or raise funds, or get the word out about a community service project; the ability to offer the website link to the public is invaluable.
  • Credibility:  Almost any serious not-for-profit organization has a web presence.  In fact, as more people turn to the internet as their primary source of information, organizations are expanding their online presence from a website to a news blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, etc.  A web presence (even if it is just a website) adds that public credibility to your club.
  • Community Based ... Community Focused: Most parent organizations also have a web presence ... the challenge is that my neighbour is more likely to learn about what our local club provides in our local community from a community focused website.
  • Current Information Source for Members:  In this age of rapid information transfer, a club website can accomplish that faster than physical mail and club bulletins at a much lower cost.  A combination of a website and club email notices will usually get the information to members before it becomes dated.
  • Online Resources for Members:  A club website can offer a valuable bank of online resources like club bulletins, brochures, public notices, forms, and letterhead (the list goes on and on).
  • Lowest Cost for Broadest Reach:  A club website is the most cost effective venue to advertise club activities and keep that information always available.  Print media may have a wider, more-instant reach, but it is usually expensive to utilize and it's value diminishes rapidly ... ask yourself how long you retain your local newspaper.  And now that viral social media like Facebook and Twitter are available, it is possible to out-reach printed media.
  • Helps us Compete:  Websites offer a 24/7 information source ... a well designed and composed website helps clubs 'compete' for the shrinking pool of volunteers and funds to support our club projects and activities.
I urge you to not fall into a trap ... that belief that a website can replace other forms of information distribution.  A service club should not put all their public-facing presence in a website at the expense of other, more traditional media. 

The volunteers that we seek and the funds that we want to raise will not be available exclusively through the internet. 

It be-hooves us to use the media that has the best possible chance of success to reach our desired target market.  We need to make diversified use of all available information media that our clubs can reasonably afford and gain access to.  A club website should be considered an important information tool along with the use of word of mouth, print media, radio, and television.

Lesson Challenge:

Sit down with a few club members who would be interested in building a club website and brainstorm out the reasons and benefits for creating a club website.  So what different ideas and benefits did you come up with?

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