These days, an organization needs a fabulous website. It goes without saying: an attractive website communicates legitimacy, attention to detail, and professionalism. In the voluntourism industry, often a company’s website is the only impression that company makes. Many voluntourism companies don’t have physical offices. They don’t have a storefront. All of their business, from finding travelers to booking trips, is done online.
This makes the website perhaps the single most important piece of advertising the company has. It’s about the whole package: attractive visuals, inspirational content, readability, and access to resources. The first impression means everything: if a prospective volunteer is underwhelmed by a voluntour company website, the chances are slim that they will stick around. There are so many voluntour organizations out there. A few clicks and volunteers will be auditioning the next site. Make your strengths center stage, for example, if you’re eco friendly, put that in bold letters on your home page.
Like it or not, we are a very visually oriented people. We judge quickly and our judgment is harsh. I can’t claim to be above this type of flash opinion-forming: if I’m looking for an organization to support with my time, my energy, and my money, I’m looking for something great. I want to see the organization paying attention to their image, both on their website and on social networks. I want to know right off the bat that they’re dedicated to cultivating a reputation. If they don’t care about my opinion, they’re less likely to care about the opinions of the people in the communities in which they work. At least, that is the impression a lackluster website inspires.
Content, as the marketing experts say, is king. As I mentioned in my last post, incorporating narratives from previous volunteers is always a good idea, provided their narratives are mostly positive. Some negativity is okay: it demonstrates your honesty and willingness to learn from mistakes. Just be careful to address any negative comments with a response.
Make it as easy as possible for volunteers to sign up for new information. Often, prospective volunteers will visit many sites during their research. If you can get them to register with an email address, you can follow up with additional information. This makes it much more likely that they’ll remember you, and re-visit your site to learn more.
Focusing on the cause is a good first step. I’m willing to overlook a problematic website if the cause speaks to me. Include a lot of information about how your organization got started, who you are helping, and your mission. Ultimately, volunteers are in it for the work. So make the work your focus and you’re likely to hold a volunteer’s attention.