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Inbound Marketing For Non-Profits: Insights For Room To Read

I’m a fan of “Room To Read”, a non-profit whose mission is to provide educational opportunities to children around the world by building libraries and creating/distributing children’s books.  It’s a fantastic cause.

I took some time to see if I could come up with some ways to improve the Room To Read website.  First off, I ran the site through Website Grader (almost always my first step), to see what kind of easy things it could catch.  They got a great grade (97.5/100).  Full report here: http://websitegrader.com/site/roomtoread.org.  Overall, they’re doing a great job with inbound marketing (on a relative basis).  If you’re a non-profit organization, there’s a lot to learn from them — particularly on the social media front.

Before I get to my list of suggestions, a quick offer for you:  If you have creative ideas for how Room To Read can connect to more people and further it’s cause, please share them in the comments.  I’ll pick the best one to receive a free copy of the Inbound Marketing book

So, on to some other suggestions

Ways To Improve The RoomToRead.org Website

1. Logo at the top is a little fuzzy and the text next to it (“World Change Starts With Educated Children”) could be larger and more legible without taking any more vertical real estate.

2. Going to the main RoomToRead.org website redirects to a URL like this: http://www.roomtoread.org/Page.aspx?pid=183 (that’s kind of ugly and unnecessary).  When going to the main URL, you want the URL to remain the same (www.roomtoread.org).  This is useful both from an SEO perspective, and from a user perspective.

3. Top level navigation is clean and simple. 

4.  Nice, clear call to action “Donate” button on the top.

5. All the site URLs do not contain keywords and instead have a query string parameter (i.e. pid=yyy) instead. Ugly.  It would be nice to be able to clean-up the URLs replace the query parameter with targeted keywords.  Most modern content management systems support this.

6. The content on the site requires a bit of an advanced education (as reported by Website Grader).  I think a lot of the language on the site can be simplified and resonate better with a larger audience.  Given the global audience, I think it's even more important to make the content simpler.

7. The “Our Impact” widget in the right margin of the about page is cool.  People love data and this puts provides a nice concrete “here’s what we do” message.  One way to make this better would be to have the information update automatically.  Though they likely don’t have (and don’t need to have) sophisitcated software systems to figure out the real-time data, they could simply approximate because they know (on average) how the data changes.  For example, since there are 3 books distributed every minute, it might help to have the “Books Distributed” number “uptick” every 20 seconds, instead of sitting at a flat “6 million”.  Though the 6 million number is impressive, it might be more effective to see that number changing (even if it’s a small change).

8. Room To Read is doing very well on twitter with over 342,000 followers.  That’s exceptional!  Particularly impressive given that the account wasn’t created until August 11, 2009.  They even have a “verified” account (which increases trust and credibility).  Normally, I’d have said that they need to tweet a bit more (they only have about 200 tweets), but given the account is so new, that’s understandable.  Oh, and their custom twitter background is perfect for the cause.  Carries the branding well.  I’m amazed at how many organizations still use the default twitter background.

9. Room to Read has an existing Facebook fan page that is doing well.  Bonus points for getting precisely the right customized URL (http://www.facebook.com/roomtoread).  They have over 3,700 fans (not bad). 

10. They have a blog, but it’s a bit strange the way they’ve set it up.  The blog is directly accessible here: http://blog.roomtoread.org/room-to-read/ (and that’s the URL that shows up in Google), but the link to the blog from the main site “embeds” the blog content into a frame on the main site.  This is a bad idea.  I think I know why they did it (to be able to “wrap” the main site navigation around the blog more easily), but it’s still not the right thing to do.  Instead, they should just do a clean link to blog.roomtoread.org.  Much better from a user perspective.

11. While we’re on the topic of the blog, the main blog URL should be http://blog.roomtoread.org (there’s no value to adding the sub-folder). 

So, that’s some of the small stuff.  The *big* opportunity here (which is the case for many non-profits) is to do work on some remarkable content.  Their blog is good, and shares many stories (with photos) of their great work around the world.  But, it can go so much further.  In order to attract massives of *new* people into their cause, they need to create some truly remarkable content.  Content that people will share and spread.  Content that people will link to. 

One quick idea that might do really well: In infographic that shows relevant information about the work that they do (example: if you stacked up all the books that Room to Read has distributed, how high would the stack be)?  Or, a visual that shows literacy rates, number of libraries compared to other things (like the number of movie theatres in Wisconsin).  Just thinking out loud.

So, what are you ideas?  Please share them in the comments and win a free copy of the inbound marketing book.

Help Great Causes Get Found With Inbound Marketing

Recently, I co-authored a book called "Inbound Marketing" with Brian Halligan.  It's a practical guide on how to "get found" in Google, social media and blogs.  It argues against classical "outbound" methods like direct mail, telemarketing, spam and other marketing unpleasantness (what Seth Godin calls "interruption marketing"). The book has done remarkably well and has already helped thousands of organizations. 

Though inbound marketing works wonderfully for businesses I think it can work even better for non-profit organizations.  The reason is that causes should spread much more easilySo, I thought it might be useful to spread the idea of inbound marketing to non-profits everywhere.  

I was inspired a bit (OK, a lot) by Seth Godin.  He may not even remember doing this particular podcast for non-profits, but I've listened to the whole thing three times.   If you have anything to do with non-profits, you should listen to it.  I'm not even a philanthropist (I'm a geek entrepreneur), and I was riveted.

How You Can Help Great Causes Get Found

1.  Buy the book on Amazon.  Heck, buy 10.  100% of the profits generated from sales on this site will be donated to help great causes "get found".

2.  Tweet this.  Are you a twitter fanatic?  Then, help spread the word by tweeting something like this.  "Help great causes get found with inbound markting http://getfound.org".  I'll even make it super easy for you, just click here and we'll do most of the hard work.

3.  Blog about this effort.  Your links to this site help it rank better in Google and in turn get found by more people (this is one of the things we talk about in the book).  That'll drive more tweets, more donations and more inbound marketing goodneess.  It's a great big virtuous loop.

4.  Submit your ideas.  Tell us how you would help spread the concept of inbound marketing even further and wider.  We'll profile the best submissions on the site and maybe even engage you to help some of these worthy causes kick-start their efforts.

So, basically, we want to use inbound marketing techniques to help promote the idea of inbound marketing for non-profits and use all the profits to help non-profits with their inbound marketing efforts.  Clever, right?

Oh, and if you know of a great non-profit that you think should get a free copy of the book, just leave a comment below.  We'll pick lucky winners every day this week.

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