How to stop your website project from being derailed before it begins

 

There are certain stories that I hear time and again from not-for-profit employees, that make me wish I’d kept a tally from the beginning. There should be a loyalty card that gets me a free coffee for every 10th time I hear it.  The story goes like this …

 

“I have a friend”

 

“I put a business case to the Board to request funds to do a new/better/up-to-date/more member-centric/more customer-centric/etc website. I reviewed our current system, highlighted our priorities, assessed potential providers, and presented a plan to move forward. Then one of the Board members said ‘I have a friend that creates websites, s/he will be able to do it for you. Talk to them.’ What should I do?”

 

Sound familiar?

 

Sure, there will be times that the friend is an expert on the exact kind of technology you need. (I haven’t heard of this actually happening yet, but it would have to happen at least once, right?)

 

So, in an effort to help out, I’ve asked our own go-to guy, Calum McGonigle from Converge Design, to come up with a list of questions we could ask straight away to give us the information we need to diplomatically extricate ourselves from what could be at best an uncomfortable conversation, and at worst an expensive use of scarce time and money.

 

Here we have a list of questions, the answers you should expect, and the answers that tell you to run, don’t walk. Ask your Board member to run these past their friend. Here goes…

 

Question:

What is your job?

The answer you want:

I build websites for clients.

The answer you don’t want:

I work as an IT manager and look after servers and the network. I built a website last year and do the content updates on my company’s website every few months.

 

Question:

How big is your team?

The answer you want:

At least 2 or 3 people.

The answer you don’t want:

It’s just me. I work on these projects in the evenings, around my full-time job.

 

Question:

What software do you recommend for membership organizations?

The answer you want:

You would expect them to name an integrated Association Management System that handles email, websites CMS, events, donations, membership payment and renewals. WordPress straight out of the box is not suitable for member organisations.

The answer you don’t want:

I am not sure about this. I will have to do some research. I think WordPress has some membership plugins.

 

Question:

What sorts of websites do you build?

The answer you want:

We build websites for membership organisations, charities, associations and/or other not-for-profit organisations – here are links to a few you can visit. (Look for references to organisations that would have similar needs to your own.)

The answer you don’t want:

All sorts. No specific types. We take any work that comes in. We do a lot of small business websites.

 

Question:

In what ways do your websites benefit organisations like mine?

The answer you want:

The answers here should be about saving time (automating manual paper based processes), increasing member engagement and attracting new members (by clearing showing value and having clear calls to actions for joining / engaging).

The answer you don’t want:

It gives them a website which they can update easily. (Yes, you need this, but it shouldn’t be the key driver.)

 

Question:

In your experience, what are the typical problems that organisations like mine have with their websites / databases / CRM technology?

The answer you want:

One is paper based or manual processes that take a lot of admin time i.e. events registrations or processing renewals or other payments. Another is having a variety of software systems that do not “talk” to each other i.e. Mailchimp for email newsletters, a WordPress website and an Excel spreadsheet of members. Often, it’s that an organisation previously invested in a specialised system but they can’t get it to do what they want – perhaps the person who set it up and knew it intimately no longer works there, and no one else has received training.

The answer you don’t want:

Associations are just like any business. They all need a modern looking website.

 

Question:

How much do you charge?

The answer you want:

As a guide, I’d charge between $8k and $25k for most small to medium association websites. This would cover website, online events registration, events calendar, member database, member payments, blog or news, email newsletter templates. Some projects are larger or smaller. It all comes down to exactly what the client wants and needs. We try and be as flexible as much as possible.

The answer you don’t want:

We don’t really have a system for charging. What is your budget? We can build a template site for a couple of thousand dollars. That should suit most people.

 

Question:

How do you usually work with clients? Or how do clients usually work with you?

The answer you want:

We have a defined process we work through with all our Association and other not-for-profit clients to make sure they get the best possible solution that solves their problems and ensures the project runs on time and meets budget. First, we do a thorough scoping / discovery exercise, then we provide a quote. We have found that this helps us discover all the problems that the client has with their current website. It makes for a smoother project rather than discovering problems half way through a project. When the project starts, we use a project management system and involve the client in every step of the project. We have a very collaborative approach to working with our clients.

The answer you don’t want:

We usually have a quick chat on the phone and then send the client a quote. If they accept the quote we build the site and give it to the client.

 

Question:

Who are some of your clients?

The answer you want:

We have a range of members based not-for-profits and associations as clients.

The answer you don’t want:

I have done a website for my wife’s business but have not worked with an association or other member based organisation before.

 

 

If you have any questions you’d like to add, drop us a line at info@smsonline.net.au and we’ll find answers in a future enewsletter.

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Strategic Membership Solutions (SMS)

PO Box 1400, COOPAROO DC QLD 4151 AUSTRALIA

Telephone: 1300 852 303  Facsimile: +61 7 3319 6385

Email: info@smsonline.net.au

 

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