A community website allows people to gather, interact and share.
It can be your book club, a discussion forum to improve your neighborhood, your husbands’ local football team. Community websites are not necessarily for local clubs. Businesses can create special customer communities to develop better customer-business relationships.
Community websites have one thing in common; they serve the community. Muhammad Ali used to say:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.“
Are you thinking about creating a website for your local community? Let’s get started.
Define your organization and your mission first.
What is your mission and why should others benefit from you and your services?
Note down precisely what your idea for your community is and how they can benefit from your idea. By providing a support service or creating a local mission, you invite the people of your community to gather and introduce themselves to others.
Benefiting from a service is great; providing the beneficiary a means to reciprocate is better. Give your people a reason to join.
What community are you in?
Think about your reach and the size of the community you can bring together. It will need a different approach if you are living in a small village and like to help the elderly as opposed to working in a tough suburb in a big city trying to create an after-school sport club for teenagers.
If you are a local firm providing goods or services, you may want to reflect on how a customer community can help you in optimizing what you do. Ultimately, this will help you to get to know your customers better and strengthen your brand.
Virtual only or not? A poetry club that exchanges thoughts, quotes and perhaps provides the occasional online class, can exist purely online. The website is the main stage. For living communities, the online presence is just a communication tool, not a place to meet.
What are your goals in the long run?
How much you want your community to grow is reflected by the purpose you define for it. A local football club known on the municipal level will have limited members. After all, a football team is never bigger than 11 players and their replacements.
However, if you take people outside the community that can become local partners; such as the church, health services and recreational facilities into account, your community quickly becomes bigger. This will help you, especially if you are planning to fundraise. Plan early to work together with publishers, politicians, and even influencers to build your connections.
Think about where else you can make your idea and mission public, such as social media. Depending on the community size you want to reach with your website, you need to look at other applications to keep connected with your community beyond your website. Consider chat apps like a Whatsapp Group for small community sizes below 50 participants, or platforms for discussion forums like Reddit or Facebook for larger memberships.
Timing is everything
It makes a difference if your website represents a one time event where a group of people or an individual is presenting a fundraising idea over 6-12 months, or if your site supports a local sports club that is expected to last longer than just a season with potential co-existing partners.
Define early on if your community site will be long-term or if the project will be short-lived, as this will make budgeting and allocation of potential staff and external help more effective.
Goals & Budget
Budget and fundraising
Luckily, with working from home on your PC, building a community website will not be expensive. With Webnode, you can start and run your project for free! Consider a host with tailored Premium Plans that account for all budgets. Webnode’s plans come with a free domain for the first year with the Mini, Standard, and Pro Package.
You do not want to invest hours in creating your website and worry about the looks. Consider a website builder that is easy to follow and intuitive.
Budget website builders, will take the weight off your shoulders so that you can allocate your costs and time wisely.
What if I have no budget?
There are ways to create a community website on almost no budget. You only need to invest in volunteers and your name. A minimum requirement to make your community site trustworthy and professional looking is:
Maintaining your domain name
Your domain name is essential for making it easier for those who are looking for you to find you in search engine results.
A contact email linked to your domain is a useful option, as it will make you look more professional and will give you more credibility. With Webnode, you can get a .com domain for only 14.90 EUR per year and have email accounts included, depending on the Premium Plans.
Get supported from the start
If you plan a charity website, flirt with the idea of getting sponsored by Webnode. Providing that your charitable intentions are clearly communicated on your website, Webnode will consider supporting the project with a free Premium Package for one year.
As charities survive on private donations, alternative ways to get funded are donations and crowd-funding. Let your community support you from the start with subscriptions to a monthly donorship program or one-time financial support with crowd-funding services like Patreon.
If your idea is related to sport and recreation, and you know your community likes to move, consider charity miles as your funding model. The app allows anyone to donate money to their favorite charity each mile they progress.
Your funding model interconnects with the community you are part of. A local club will consider membership contributions as a major source of income. On the other hand, a community linked to activities in schools can potentially request financial support from the government. Take this relationship into account when you plan financial support.
Budget for your goals
With an online store, you can change the products you sell every season and refresh your business. With a blog, you can incorporate changes easily as you need; you have flexibility in changing your purpose. With a charity or community website, the purpose is non-negotiable and your goals are definite.
It is paramount that you accommodate your budgeting according to the short and long-term goals of your mission and ideas you have for your community. Always think about the purpose and what it can bring to the community and who your community is.
If your community site supplements your Facebook page, the money and time budget considerably differs from a project that offers seminars or online classes.
With your goals defined and your budgeting plan laid out, it is time to get creative.
Choose your design
Chose an engaging template for your site, where you can easily layout your mission and services to your community. At Webnode, professional designers have created templates for every topic. You can adjust all our templates to enhance your individuality.
Contemplate all elements when choosing your template. If you like pages with a large logo or a big header image on your main page, select the template according to those criteria.
If your company is registered as a non-profit, it makes sense to register a .org domain to clarify immediately to your audience who you are.
The domain extension brings your purpose across, but also your name. Imagine that your domain name can include a keyword of your mission. Be careful not to be too general by naming your site, e.g. “help-fundraising-for-orphanage“. Be specific. For example, the name can be “help-kingston-orphans“.
Remember, a .org domain is a favorable asset, but your name should draw attention as well.
Define who is in charge
With your budget and goals in mind, decide who will help you with your project and with your website building and maintenance.
You can assign co-workers to a website project in website builders. Webnode defines two roles by differentiating administration and editing. You do not have to do all the maintenance alone, let companions and colleagues help you.
Think of creating a community website and ultimately creating a lasting community like running a company. Run your community like a business by allocating stakeholders. The community manager can become the COO, while the person responsible for raising money can be the CFO. You can appoint a PR person or marketing person to act as your spokesperson. External associates can become affiliates.
At this point, it comes in handy to create individual contact profiles and email accounts for all your colleagues in the organization in order to facilitate communication. They are all in it together.
Security& legal aspects
All websites run on a secure HTTPS data transmission protocol nowadays. Webnode automatically updates the SSL certificates for your website. All form data is securely stored and website statistics are entirely anonymized.
Data security is covered in fundraising apps. Donor perfect and mobile cause automatically protect your donors’ credit card data, avoiding a possible data breach.
In case a blog is running parallel as a form of a press release and images derived from different sources, do not forget to cite and acknowledge the sources with links.
An imprint will provide all legal information about an organization and contact details. Seeking appropriate advice if including an imprint is mandatory. In countries such as Germany, an imprint is obligatory for anyone offering service online. Therefore, this is also applicable for foreign websites targeting German visitors.
Be aware that internal revenue services are entitled to check on your financial activities if you are a registered non-profit organization or exempt from paying taxes. It is wise to keep your balance checked by a bookkeeper or accountant and be more transparent about your spendings on your website to avoid any complaints.
Content of your specific pages
To display your mission clearly and quickly, utilize the structure of your website pages and the power of your main page to bring your message across. Disclose your ideas right away and concisely.
Your first page needs to say it all. Visitors who come across your community will decide on the spot to become members or not. Include a call for action that could lead to a contact form, a social media feed to know more, or a membership registration and/or a donation form depending on your mission and goal.
Remember from our web design article not to overload the content.
Similar to a company page, a community website should provide a contact page. This way people know who you and your staff are. They can ask questions, or request to participate and connect through other channels you are active on.
Be open to discussions
A link to a discussion forum lets new and existing members receive answers to their questions and exchange ideas. With Webnode, you can embed discussion forums as widgets via the HTML function. There are plenty of choices beyond Hyvor and Disqus.
Do you offer courses, organize events, or hold online classes?
Implementing a booking calendar will make it easy for newbies to sign up. Embed a wide choice of alternatives to the Google Calendar into your website so your people can make reservations or book appointments.
Feedback & community stories
Give your community members a voice and spread their message by placing their stories and reviews on a separate page as part of a community site’s portfolio, blog, or testimonial section.
If you are frequently active on social media with daily or weekly posts, keep in mind to include a feed. It will inform people about your ongoing achievements and plans much quicker than maintaining a blog and will promote your community.
Are you selling some goods for charity, like handmade items from the disabled of your community; or some nerdy shirts representing your local programming prodigies? Open an online store! Webnode templates allow opening and closing a store at any time.
Donation forms and fundraising widgets, are an obvious ingredient if you wish to raise money for your community. In addition to the aforementioned Donor Perfect and Mobile Cause, there are many other fundraising applications available, such as Gofundme and more. Make sure that the widget embeds as an HTML-Code and that the data integration is secure.
Mention your sponsors and partners by acknowledging them on a designated page of your site. Introduce them briefly by adding images, a logo, and a short description.
Check all your pages. Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. Can they find the information easily? Is everything clear and concise? Are all links up to date and working?
Apart from these major ingredients for your perfect community website, let us highlight some more.
Useful widgets and functions
Depending on your community, you can include member registration to restricted pages to your site.
Engage your community by letting them participate in occasional quizzes or games. Running a survey will help you understand your community better and build a stronger relationship between you, as the organizer, and the community. Surveys and quizzes make your site interactive. They provide feedback about your community or a specific event that you hosted. Include external services, such as Survio or Elfsight, or add a simple form to your pages.
Contemplating reaching out to your people via a newsletter as well? There is more than Mailchimp to help you spread your words.
Sound of tone – feel good vibe
A voice represents a company its ideas and products, it embodies the brand. The tone shapes the voice to a specific audience and context. Let your community website speak. Depending on your mission, a community website needs to be upbeat and keep a feel-good vibe.
Be careful with delicate subjects. A community that helps those who experience violence at home or are bullied in school needs to have a sensitive approach and may not thrive by displaying provocative images. Adapt your tone accordingly. Be positive and hopeful.
Finding your tone
There are fun excises that can help you define your tone. Try these 3:
- Write down everything you want to be and what you do not want to end up being. For example: be kind, but not obedient.
- Create a table listing your top qualities and evaluate them on a scale from 1-10; a 10 being strong and 1 being weak, e.g. proactive 8, generous 7, witty 5
- Write a few example sentences and decide, if you sound overall positive or negative, action-orientated or passive, gain- or loss-framing. An example: Original Coke has 35g sugar. Original Coke will refresh you with 65% of the good stuff. The remaining 35% is for your brain.
It can never hurt to minimize the “glass half-full” mentality.
If you are not a one-man show, agree with your colleagues on your tone to provide consistency throughout all departments and maintain this tone in all communications.
Once you define your tone, ensure clarity. Stick to short sentences and limit the text content on each page. 53% of potential donors leave a website that does not clearly communicate their message and intentions. A defined tone and voice will give you consistency, enhance what you stand for, and reach the right people to help your community.
When unhealthy dependencies are created between the donor and beneficiary, charity becomes toxic. The hurricane disaster of Haiti in 2016 was not the only event where donations went missing and left people poor. There is extensive literature for those who wish to go deeper into this topic.
Take people’s skepticism away and increase their willingness to contribute to your project financially by being open and transparent. Disclose clearly where donations go by providing graphs and frequent updates on your website. You can be creative and document progress with photos or a short story.
Know your community, and people you like to reach, inside-out to be able to think beyond a charitable act and its knock-on effects. Remember when you selected what you thought was the perfect birthday present for your best friend, but the reaction was only a weak awkward smile? This is where it went wrong, you thought about yourself.
With these essentials to build your community website, you are well equipped to start your mission. If you still wondering how to create a website check the step-by-step guide.