Written by Maia Freudenberger, Projet Jeune Leader, Madagascar
When trying to create our website, I first went through CatchaFire.org, an online volunteering system, to find a volunteer to build our website for us. The remote volunteer we were matched with wanted to build our website using WordPress.com. However, I quickly realised it was not going to be the right platform for us – it was too text-focused and didn’t allow for the creativity we needed to showcase our work.
I researched low-cost website-development programmes. From this, I found that the Wix.com platform was one of the most highly recommended and used – for instance, the INGO Days for Girls uses it for its website. We first tried out the free version and I was very happy to go through their different templates and see that they were customisable to our brand. Then we started using the paid version (gaining access to even more cool templates) and purchased a domain name. The great thing about Wix.com is that it is compatible with many other programmes and there are very clear videos on how to do all of this yourself.
We ended up with a website that is youthful, informative, and can show off our great visuals and pictures. It’s nice to be able to know how to update our own site and make changes as and when we require them, rather than relying on technical specialists that may not be as close to the ground as we are. It gives us a solid foundation to grow our website as our organisation grows.
When you don’t have a full-time staff member committed to communications, you need to make sure that whatever you put on your website is not time-bound. I’ve realised that it takes a lot of time to make changes on the website, so we focus on putting up information that will remain relevant for the long-term. Having a blog is a better way to publish updates about your programme without the massive time requirements needed to update the core website.
There are a lot of free, user-friendly website-builder programmes for people who lack the advanced technical skills in website design. There’s a lot to be said for doing some research on your own and giving it a try before you pay a contractor to do it for you.
When creating a website, try to remember some of those important communication skills:
When creating many of our visuals and reports we use paid versions of the following two programmes and find them to very helpful! lucidpress.com and canva.com
Websites aren’t the answer to all of your communications goals, but a website is an important vehicle for enabling others – especially important external players, such as donors, populations you serve, future job applicants – to see and understand your work from a distance. It should help others understand why your work is needed, how your organisation operates and the work that you do, and what impact you are having.
1) The organisation’s mission.
2) Location and overview of beneficiaries.
3) The work the organisation does and any specific issues/problems you are currently working on.
4) Contact details are essential!
5) Clear and engaging visuals and pictures, simple navigation and concise text are must-haves for any website.
Websites can serve as fundraising tools, advocacy resources, partnership-building platforms, testaments to accountable practices, and much more. You can include those invaluable and unique people, tools and processes that you really want to show off as well as the results you’ve achieved. The site can also show what donors and partners have invested in your work. You can include simple infographics or dashboards on your website that allow readers to quickly process how many different people you are reaching and with what interventions.
Sections with results and outcomes can be the most powerful – whether they are quotes from your beneficiaries, results of programme evaluations, or annual reports – organisations and projects that are able to highlight why their approach works in an accessible way can be very successful.
After co-founding Projet Jeune Leader at the age of 21, Maia is now Executive Director of the organisation, which provides a comprehensive sexuality education programme in public middle schools in Madagascar. Maia has awards from Youth Action Net (2016 Laureate Global Fellow), 120 under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders (2017 Winner), and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (2018 Sommer Scholar) for her work with Projet Jeune Leader. Visit projetjeuneleader.org and fadimbolana.info for more information.