According to a recent Foundation Center survey of 11,000 U.S. foundations, only 29% report having a website. When you consider that the 1,000 top U.S. foundations account for nearly two-thirds of annual giving, it’s a little easier to understand why this disparity exists.
But what are the costs of this disparity? Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center wrote a recent blog entry that examines those costs and challenges assumptions that are holding back many foundations from being online.
Smith’s post got me thinking. What are the most compelling arguments for small foundations to make the leap onto the web?
Transparency helps create public trust. Discretion, born out of modesty or a desire for privacy, can be misconstrued by the public as secrecy. In the age of social media, businesses have learned the hard way that the best strategy to control your story is to be the one telling it. Having a website can help get ahead of misunderstandings about what your foundation funds and why, and it can be a key component in upholding the principle of transparency, described in MCF’s Principles for Minnesota Grantmakers.
Clear guidelines enable nonprofits to screen themselves out. Applying for a grant requires a big investment of time and resources for a nonprofit. When foundations have clearly articulated guidelines that are easily accessible 24/7 on the internet, nonprofits can assess for themselves whether they’re good candidates for grant opportunities, saving both sides time and money.
Maintaining a website yourself is easier — and cheaper — than ever. Gone are the days when you needed a full-time webmaster to maintain a website. Grantmakers looking to administer sites themselves have many low-cost and no-cost options that are built on systems that allow individuals with no experience with code to create and maintain their own sites.
The decision to go online can be difficult, particularly for family foundations who want to maintain a sense of privacy. But as information becomes ubiquitous in the age of web 2.0, the importance of telling your own story about your foundation’s giving will become more and more apparent. This fact, coupled with affordable, easy-to-use technology, means the “too small” excuse is quickly losing its relevance.
Join the Conversation: Has your foundation actively made the choice to get on or stay off the web? If so, why did you come to that decision? Do you think, as Smith does, that having a website is inevitable for small foundations?
– Cary Lenore Walski, MCF web communications associate