Get the Most Out of a WordCamp for Your Nonprofit

WordCamps are one- or two-day conferences all about WordPress. They’re one of the best ways to find a WordPress consultant for your nonprofit, plus they’re super affordable and happening all over the world. Put simply, if you have a WordPress website, it’s one of the most affordable and impactful technology professional development opportunities you’ll find.

WordCamp’s are usually for anyone using WordPress, and since nonprofits need all the support they can get, WordCamps are a valuable opportunity for any nonprofit staff or volunteers to learn and even get free help! If you’ve never been to a WordCamp before, this post is all about how to do it right the first time.

Prepare Before You Go

Despite the name, there’s no camping involved with WordCamps, so leave your tent at home! ūüŹē

Start by finding a WordCamp near you. Sign up for the mailing list so you know when tickets go on sale and get all the updates leading up to the event.

Learning is more fun in groups, so see if you can find a few colleagues to go with you. If two people from the same organization can go, you’re doing a great job at lowering your “bus factor”! If you know folks from other nonprofits, this can be a great way to start a group of nonprofit WordPress users who support each other!

The week before the event, review all the talks and select the ones you think look most interesting. Of course, you should go to the sessions that look most interesting and applicable to your work, but don’t be afraid to pick a couple sessions that stretch your knowledge or introduce you to something new. Pro tip: Not all WordCamps will print out a schedule, so having notes ahead of time will be really valuable.

Finally, use this as an opportunity to reflect on your website and your WordPress skills. What problems have you been having with your site? What changes have you struggled to make on your site? Write down a list of questions in preparation to get answers!

During the Event

Get to your WordCamp on time so you don’t miss any sessions. Hopefully your WordCamp will have some coffee and tea to help get you going!

As you go through the day, remain flexible to get the best experience. Here are some specific tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to change your plans and go to a talk that someone highly recommends. The best conferences have moments of serendipitous learning.
  • Take a break if you need it. Some quiet time helps you keep your energy up and digest the knowledge you’ve gained so far.
  • If you leave a talk inspired to put your knowledge to use immediately, find a table and get to work!
  • Stretch your legs and check out the sponsor tables. There’s almost always some good swag, ranging from cute Wapuu stickers to a year of free hosting.
  • Check out the “hallway track” during a slow period. Oftentimes, the most interesting conversations are happening in informal small groups in the hallway. Don’t be afraid to mosey on up to a group and see what they’re talking about!
  • Find the “Help Desk” (name may very). Many WordCamps have a table staffed with experts who desperately want to help you solve your website problems for free. This is free consulting! Put it to good use! If there’s no help desk, just ask people about your question and you’ll probably find someone happy to help.
  • If you’re in need of a new consultant for your site, don’t be shy about it! Get the word out and people will probably recommend the best folks for you to talk to.

The WordPress community is huge, diverse, and almost universally welcoming to new faces as long as you put forth the effort to ask questions and contribute your own knowledge. First timers often can’t believe how friendly and helpful their fellow WordCamp attendees are, and hopefully you’ll feel the same way.

Putting Your New Skills to Work

Once the event is over, push yourself to write down any important new ideas you learned or things you want to change on your website. Those thoughts can fade fast, so you don’t want to let them escape!

Next, give yourself a break and congratulate yourself on surviving an intense conference experience! Brain’s need a chance to recharge.

When your new work week starts, try to block off some time to work on your website and put your new-found skills to work ASAP. If you don’t use new skills, they fade fast. If you went with a friend or colleague, schedule a meeting to debrief what you learned and plan next steps you can hold each other accountable for.

Finally, you’ll hopefully have learned where the nearest WordPress meetup is to you. Consider staying involved in the community so you continue building new skills and giving yourself the space to think about ways to continue improving your nonprofit’s website.

What are your favorite tips to get the most out of conferences?

Image: LexnGer on Flickr

The Best Practice Blog-Driven Newsletter Formula

Nonprofits love their emails newsletters and for good reason! Your email list holds your most committed supporters, and it feels so good to communicate with them!

But does your blog languish at the cost of putting out emails? Does your website feel stale and hasn’t been updated in two months?

Despite the benefits of a good email newsletter, too many nonprofits ignore their websites while pouring all their energy into newsletters. At best, some organizations post PDFs of their newsletters as “blog posts”, despite all the problems with PDFs on nonprofit websites. It doesn’t have to be this way!

If you blog first and share those posts in your newsletter, you get more engagement on your website while still producing a vibrant newsletter. It’s literally twice the results with the same effort.

(If you have WordPress, you have a blog)

You might not think of your website as having a blog or yourself as a blogger. But it does, and you are!

Your “blog” might be labeled “News” or “Announcements” or “Updates”, but whatever you call it, your WordPress website has a page devoted to showing all your Posts‚ÄĒcapital “P” as opposed to “Pages”‚ÄĒin chronological order. That’s a blog!

Some people get turned off by the word “blog”, but don’t let that scare you away. For the purposes of this article at least, “blogging” is just regularly publishing new material to your site about news, events, your impact, media coverage, and whatever else is new and exciting at your organization. If you have the capacity for an email newsletter, you have the capacity to blog.

Infographic: Power your newsletter with blog posts

Now that you’re sure you have a blog, here’s the magic formula:

  1. Post engaging and bite-size articles to your blog.
  2. For each newsletter, pick your best posts (even 2 or 3 is enough!) and link to them in your newsletter.
  3. Add a custom welcome message or something else exclusive to the newsletter. You want to make sure your newsletter subscribers still feel special.

Executed correctly, this format is engaging and primarily assembled with writing you already have!

Diagram: Three blog post snippets in a newsletter link back to the blog posts on your website.The Benefits of Blogging First

 

If you’re not sold yet, making this change comes with all the benefits you get from following blogging best practices.

While many email newsletters are just digital versions of a formerly printed product, blogging is the publication medium of the web. That means it’s more user-friendly, engaging, and future-proof! Plus, doing it this way is simply a best practice among nonprofit professionals.

Start Today!

While it might take a few months to get used to this new workflow, this formula only requires a bit more effort than you already put into your newsletter while powering your blog, social media, and newsletter all at once! That’s a huge win and will surely expand your reach and quality of your communications.

Not sure what to write about? Here are 11 ideas for nonprofit blog posts to get you started!

Once you make the change, you’ll have a hard time ever seeing why you did things the other way around. So stop reading and go get blogging! (And then emailing. ūüėČ)

Write Blog Post, Share Link, Engage Followers

Ever wondered why you should blog? Are you stuck and lacking motivation to write? This post will get you inspired and excited about the possibilities of blogging to support your organization.

One of the newer pages on Nonprofit WP is “Blogging Best Practices.”¬†There is a ton of great info on that page, including tips for blogging frequently, ideas for blog posts, and best practices for crafting the perfect post. But the crown jewel of the page is this diagram showing how you can use your blog to turn passive followers into engaged supporters.

Blog + Social Media = Engagement

Take a look, and then we’ll break it down‚Ķ

Blog posts give you content to generate social media traffic back to your website. Your website houses the important calls to action like sign up, donate, and contact.

 

It’s a tricky little diagram but here’s what’s going on. Start in the middle column:

  1. First, publish interesting content about your nonprofit to your website’s blog.
  2. Next, share links to your blog posts on social media.
    Make sure those posts have good “Meta Descriptions” and “Featured Images” so they generate nice looking link previews!
  3. Instead of reading what’s on your Facebook page or in a Tweet, users visit your site to read your blog post. Make sure it’s worth their time.
  4. Once on your website, users can reach important calls to action like the donate page or a volunteer signup form.

See what you did there? Instead of a user passively reading your email newsletter or watching something on Facebook, they can act on their interest in your cause and become an even bigger supporter of your organization!

So here’s that successful recipe for engagement through blogging one more time:

  1. Post to your blog.
  2. Share your posts on social media.
  3. Drive traffic back to your website.
  4. Use calls to action to generate deeper engagement.

For even more in-depth information about sharing to social media and other ways to promote your blog posts, check out this guide on “How to Promote Blog Posts for Nonprofits” from Wired Impact.

The Right Calls to Action

The best calls to action in a blog post are timely, relevant, and not too pushy.

If you ask for donations in every post, the request loses impact. Urging people to contact their senator at the end of a new staff member profile probably doesn’t make much sense either. Provide a single clear call to action at the end of your blog posts and make sure it relates closely to the content above it. Committed visitors who have actually read (or browsed) the blog post will be much more likely to click the link and support your nonprofit!

Educate Your Visitors (and Google)

Similar to call to action links, make sure you’re cross-linking from your posts to relevant web pages. Mention a program with it’s own page? Link to it! Discussing an important policy proposal? Link to your position paper. Mentioning a staff person? Link to their bio.

While these links may not drive engagement in the moment, they allow users to learn more about your organization and follow their interests through your site. A website visitor may need repeated exposures before taking a big step up in activity with you, so be patient and keep them interested.

As a bonus, linking from blog posts to other relevant information on your site helps search engines better understand who you are and what you do. In the future, this means people interested in your cause are more likely to find your nonprofit in search results!

Owning Your Content

WordPress lets you “own your content”, because it lives in a database on a hosting plan you have access to. It’s also easy‚ÄĒrelatively speaking‚ÄĒto export that data into a new system should the need arise.

Tons of nonprofits post to Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram that only lives on those sites. By posting first to your blog, you know that if a social media site loses active users or reduces access to your followers‚ÄĒcough-FACE-hack-BOOK-wheeze-#%$@!‚ÄĒyou still have the information safely stored on your website.


Blogs are powerful communication tools for reporting on your work and sharing your impact with your most committed followers. When fully optimized, a blog can become an engagement tool itself, bringing your social users closer to your organization where they can help you make the world a better place!

The WordPress Recipe for NonprofitWP.org

Do you ever pull up a website and wonder if it’s WordPress? Even if it is WordPress, it can be hard to know exactly how a site’s assembled. So let’s take a look at how Nonprofit WP itself was written and built!

As long as you understand the building blocks of WordPress, you will have no problem following along.

Hosting

NonprofitWP.org is hosted on SiteGround, my favorite affordable recommended host for nonprofit organizations.

It includes a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate to enable HTTPS for security and HTTP/2 for speed. Finally, with PHP7 enabled and the SG Optimizer plugin for enabling custom caching, the site loads¬†really fast.

For additional security and speed, the site runs on Sucuri’s security firewall¬†which actively¬†protects against and monitors for hacking attempts.

Content

Everything about this site derives from the content. When I was first planning Nonprofit WP, I thought about the audience I wanted to target: nonprofit’s using WordPress. More specifically, I wrote for people¬†trying to make a DIY WordPress site.

I then thought about my experiences with that audience and the type of information they needed to know. That list turned into an outline for the site. Over an intense month or so, I devoted lots of time to writing the first pages of the site and revising each one multiple times. When I felt like I had enough information composed to help my target audience‚ÄĒeven though there are pages I’ve added since‚ÄĒI launched the site.

Importantly, as I wrote, I sought a consistent style and focused on writing each page for someone that is at a specific step in the website-building process. Following best practices for writing for the web, pages are long but well-organized and use highly-readable formatting. That linear style helped determine the design…

Theme

This site uses a default WordPress theme: Twenty Fifteen! You can view a demo of the theme (this WordPress.com demo is better than the one hosted from where you actually download the theme).

I chose Twenty Fifteen primarily for it’s navigation¬†menu that runs down the left side of the page on large screens. While “old fashioned” in a way, the linear organization¬†and available space¬†reads like a table of contents, perfect for such a content-heavy site!

To give the theme a bit of interest, the site¬†theme was customized using a “child theme.”¬†A few custom colors plus some fancy CSS to allow for an icon with each menu item is just about all that gives this site it’s¬†approachable and user-friendly design.

Plugins

This site uses quite a few plugins for features big and small. They’re divided below based on¬†a few broad categories of need with short descriptions for each.

Content Administration

There are quite a few plugins I use to make it easier to write, display, and manage my content.

Technical Administration Features

A number of plugins add behind-the-scenes features to WordPress that strengthen, fix, or adjust technical issues.

Site Maintenance

A few plugins make it easy to maintain the site.

Front-Facing Features

  • Gravity Forms and it’s Stripe Add-on run all the forms, including the donation form which can take credit cards.
  • WCAG 2.0 form fields for Gravity Forms fixes multiple accessibility problems with Gravity Forms.
  • Jetpack‘s free version has lots of great small features like a nice commenting form, like and share buttons, a spell checker, and the blog’s email subscriptions (and more!).

Look at Examples but Make Your Site Yours

There is no¬†list of plugins every site must use. There is no one theme that all nonprofits can use. It’s valuable to view example sites, but make sure that you plan your website carefully and only use the plugins you need.

Ask Questions in the Comments?

See anything on the site and wonder how it got made? Ask in the comments!

6 Achievable Nonprofit Website Tasks for the New Year (Start With One!)

The new year is a great time to evaluate the state of your website and figure out how to make it better. But we all know that plenty of resolutions don’t get the followup they need. So instead of a New Year’s website resolution, pick one or two of these tasks and¬†get started right now!

Since the goal is to get you moving forward on a concrete task, you don’t even need to read this whole post! Just pick the task that sounds the most interesting or useful and get to work!


Do a Content Audit

A content audit is the process of reviewing your entire site and assessing each piece of content individually to make sure it still serves your site visitors. It’s common to combine a content audit with a website redesign, but I think they work better separately. More-frequent content audits mean future website redesigns go more smoothly and your website will be consistently higher-quality for your visitors!

Whether it’s in a custom spreadsheet you set up or with a¬†plugin like Content Audit, this is one of the best tasks you can do on your site.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go through your site’s Pages¬†one by one.
  2. For each page, mark or list it as a meaningful status you can act on. I like to use the statuses Good, Minor Revisions, Major Revisions, Archive, and Merge with‚Ķ. Then I’ll make a short note for each page about what should change.
  3. If more than one person writes content for the site, also assign the Page to the person who will work on any revisions.

Once you’ve gone through the entire¬†site, you will have learned a lot about the state of your site. Schedule the time to work on these pages throughout January and finish before February.

Quick Audit

If this sounds like too much, use your Jetpack Statistics or Google Analytics to identify your top 5, 10, or 20 pages. Then follow the steps above for that more limited set of pages.

Similarly, if you’ve managed to audit your whole site but aren’t sure where to start, let the site visitor stats determine which small part of the revision process to start on. Improving one high-traffic page is much more valuable that improving multiple low-traffic ones.


Clean Up Your Plugins & Themes

This one’s a little bit faster than the content audit.

Plugin Cleanup

While there’s no such thing as too many plugins, you never want to have plugins or themes that you’re not using installed on your site. These can slow down your site, clutter the admin,¬†leave open a security hole, or force you to make unnecessary updates.

First, go to the Plugins page of the admin, and review each one. Do you know what it’s used for? Do you still need it? You may need to do a bit of research and contact your web developer or other staff, but figure out which plugins you don’t need and remove them from the site.

Once done, you’ll get a good reminder of how your site works¬†and you’ll probably get some ideas for future projects (see below!).

[Fun fact: I just did this for NonprofitWP.org. With a bit of work to tweak a few things with my theme, I removed three plugins!]

Theme Cleanup

For themes, you really only need the theme your site is using. Delete all other themes from the Appearance > Themes screen in the admin. That’s it!¬†ūüôā

EXCEPTION: Child Themes

If your site is built using a “child theme”, then you’ll need two themes on your site, the active child theme and it’s parent theme. You can tell if you have a child theme by opening up your active theme details in Appearance > Themes and then looking for this:

Notice: "This is a child theme of Twenty Fifteen."
The notice in the Theme Details panel saying whether it is a child theme of a parent.

If you see that notice, delete all themes except the active [child] theme and its parent theme.


Streamline Your Forms

Do you want more people to fill in forms on your site? Do you want to get better information from them? Streamlining your forms will probably lead to both outcomes over time!

If you’re using one of our recommended WordPress forms plugins, you’ll be able to easily improve the forms used to collect information from visitors.

Here’s what to do for each form:

  1. Review your 5 most recent submissions and ask yourself these questions:
    1. What questions don’t receive enough or accurate information?
      1. Do certain optional fields get consistently skipped?
    2. Most important: Can I tell someone how I use every piece of information I collect?
  2. Once you’re more familiar with the reality of your form submissions, do the following for the form:
    1. Make as few fields required as possible. These are the fields you couldn’t do without. An easy example: The email field for an email newsletter form. It won’t work without it!
    2. Remove as many optional fields as possible. For example:¬†Do you really need that person’s ZIP code?
    3. Remove as many options from checkboxes, radio buttons, and select menus as possible.
    4. Clarify each field name and, if needed, description. If you’re not getting good data, you’re probably mis-labeling your field or¬†not being specific enough. Consider providing an example answer or sentence starter for free-form questions.
    5. Rearrange form fields to increase commitment to finishing. For example: If working on a donation form, have people select their donation amount first. This builds momentum and gets questions that require active thinking out of the way earlier, letting users finish a form more or less on autopilot.

A streamlined form will be less-confusing for visitors and faster to fill out. That will increase the likelihood of people filling out your form and of you getting good data when they do!

Further reading on streamlining form design: Design Better Forms
Further reading with real-life example: KISSing Your Web Forms


Establish a Relationship with a Consultant

Even if you didn’t use a consultant to build your site, it’s good to know who you’ll turn to when‚ÄĒnot if‚ÄĒyou face a website emergency or project outside your own technical abilities. A few phone calls, a visit to a meetup, or a strategic referral from a colleague is usually all it takes.

Once you’ve found someone willing to work with you, find a way to bring them on board with a small project. Maybe that’s signing up for their annual maintenance plan, doing a small project together (see below!), or having them performing a site audit with strategic recommendations for future improvements.

When your donation form or email newsletter signup form¬†isn’t working, you don’t want to¬†panic and working with the first person you can find. (“Well our Development Director’s nephew is great with an iPad!”)

Even if you have a consultant already, you need to make sure they’ll make time to help you when you need it most. Take a moment to get back in touch and thank them for their support.

Put in a bit of time and money now, and you will feel immense relief at the moment you need it most!


Do a Small Project

Too often, website work is an all-or-nothing endeavor for organizations. You get your budget together, you sink a huge amount of effort into planning, and then you make one big push to get the new site live.

But if your site is a year¬†old or more, I bet there’s a pain point you’ve identified or a “Phase II” project that’s yet to happen.¬†If we’re being honest, there was probably something not quite right immediately after launch too.

Take some time to think about one incremental improvement to your site that will make it better. A smart project here and there can extend the life of your site and make it more useful to your visitors.

With the year starting, plan now for a great new addition to your site and figure out what it will take‚ÄĒtime-, budget-, and¬†planning-wise‚ÄĒto get it up and running.


Make a Blogging Content Calendar for the Year

Content calendars are a great may to make sure your blog stays updated all year.¬†They’re usually built around major events, donation drives,¬†programmatic campaigns, and unscheduled¬†important news as it arises. (If you don’t have many obvious events, maybe you work in some blogging seasons¬†too!)

There are lots of great templates out there, or you can get fancy and use a plugin like Edit Flow¬†to manage it right in your WordPress dashboard. Find a good format for you‚ÄĒI think it’s hard to beat a good spreadsheet!‚ÄĒand get¬†to planning!

  1. Start by making a list of key events and dates you’ll need to post on and leading up to.
  2. Then make a list of less time-sensitive topics you can blog about to fill in the gaps. One easy idea: Do a fun social media roundup with the best posts about your cause from you and your supporters!
  3. Finally, get these all down into a spreadsheet with due dates, staff writing assignments, and any other notes you’ll need to start writing immediately when a blog post deadline looms.

Now you’re ready to blog up a storm in 2017! ūüďĚūüĆ©‚ėļ

Content calendars help you think ahead leading to better-written posts and an easier time getting usable web content from your colleagues!


Remember Why You Picked WordPress. Incremental Changes to Your Website Are Good!

The whole point of using WordPress is to allow you and fellow staff members or volunteers to easily update your website. If you’ve already done the work to get a site up, take full advantage of that flexibility and control! This month, focus on a single task like the ones suggested here and just get it done. You should feel good about giving your visitors a better experience and simultaneously supporting your organization’s work more.

I always tell my clients that websites are never done. They’re more like a garden that needs tending.¬†So put your digital green thumb to use, and make your site even better to support your organization and achieve your mission!

Looking for More

If you want more ideas, check out similar suggestions from our Spring Cleaning and Spring Cleaning Followup!


Let me know what task you chose and how it went!

A Great Idea for Nonprofit Bloggers: Seasons

I just read a great post called “Publishing Regularly” by¬†Andrew Woods.¬†Nonprofits can take a lot from Andrew’s ideas about how to blog regularly:

Work fluctuates, commitments change, and sometimes ‚Äď people need a break from time to time. Instead, consider a different strategy ‚Äď publishing in seasons.

The idea of a blogging season is pretty simple: let your blog’s content fluctuate with alternating periods of posting and not posting. This isn’t any different from what many TV shows and podcasts have done for years.

To be clear:¬†The idea isn’t an excuse to not write on your blog. Rather, the idea is to make blogging more sustainable, interesting, and fun!

Blogging Seasons Help Sustain Blogs

You don’t want your organization’s last blog post to be from September 2012, but it’s hard to publish every month or every week. This is where¬†the idea of “seasons” can help. When deciding how to use them,¬†take advantage of their¬†flexibility and align them with your¬†organization:

There are two factors about a season ‚Äď the length of the season, and the publishing frequency during the season. The off-season time is equally important, as it helps set your audience expectations. If you publish your blog content in seasons, you can also plan for downtime during the gaps. The gaps between seasons becomes valuable time. The gaps provide you with time to focus on other priorities, while giving you time to plan your content for the next season.

There are then lots of examples of how you could do this:

  • Post weekly for 10 weeks and then take 2 off.
  • Post monthly for 5 months then take 1 off.
  • Post twice-weekly for a 8 weeks, then take 4¬†weeks off.

Since these seasons are time-driven, use a calendar to¬†plan out topics, authoring¬†responsibilities, and reminders to¬†publish. These so-called “editorial calendars” are a crucial tool for any organization that expects to maintain a blog on their website regardless of whether it¬†posts in seasons or not.

Ideas for Blogging Seasons

Blogging seasons for nonprofits can vary and adapt as necessary. Here are some ideas:

  • Use blogging seasons to build toward important events for your nonprofit.¬†If you participate in an annual giving day,¬†post a month’s worth of posts in the lead-up to the day highlighting ways the money gets used.
  • Focus on natural seasons that align with your constituents’ lives. For education nonprofits, the school year, spring break, and summer break all offer natural divisions of time that could align with a blog.
  • Key off important news in the world. An environmental organization might¬†schedule a blog season following the passage of an important bill or a high-profile environmental disaster.
  • Do something silly or unexpected.¬†It’s important for writers and audiences to not always be so serious!¬†Post the funniest stories from your organization’s work or compare each program or project you do to a movie or Harry Potter character. Get creative in a way your audience will appreciate!
  • Align with your¬†organization’s internal needs and work.¬†If you do annual staff evaluations, have staff publicly share their proudest moment from the year and something they hope to improve next year. If you’re in a strategic planning year, a season could focus on alternate visions¬†of your organization 10, 20, or 50 years in the future!
  • Play with format. Blog posts can be¬†anything you can post on a website and that may interest your audience. Try photo essays, quick video field stories,¬†or poetry. And of course, don’t forget how easy it is to include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more with WordPress!

Benefits for You, Your Nonprofit, and Your Blog

Blogging seasons can have lots of benefits:

  • Give authors a break to avoid burn out
  • Encourage more creativity and diversity among post content and types
  • Spin-off¬†easy-to-write content like round-ups, reflections, and blogging season introductions
  • Make it easier for lots of staff members to contribute website content given the focus on a tightly defined topic
  • Improve¬†coordination between your blog and social media
  • Give audiences something refreshing and future content to look forward to

All of the above should help keep visitors engaged and produce valuable (and probably search engine-friendly!) content for your website.

A Simple Idea. What Will You Do With It?

Hopefully the gears of your mind are spinning and you’re excited by the possibilities Andrew’s idea presents!¬†Posting in seasons to your blog can make it easier to maintain in the long term and keep things fresh for everyone involved.

Got a great idea for a blogging season for your organization? Share what you do and what some seasons might be for your nonprofit!


Photo c/o tanakawho on Flickr.

Make a Social Timeline on Your Nonprofit’s WordPress Blog Without Storify

or: How I Learned to Stop Using Embed Codes and Love Embedding Videos, Tweets, and More!

It can be hard to continually write good content for a website or blog. One effective-yet-underutilized type of content is curated social media posts.

You¬†might have¬†seen these¬†on other websites before. They’ll be a series of well-chosen¬†tweets, Facebook posts, and other social content¬†used to tell a story or present different viewpoints on an issue. These can be your posts, other peoples’, or a combination of the two. Done well,¬†the whole is greater than the¬†sum of its parts.

These “social timelines” are often built with Storify.¬†Storify allows site owners to embed stories on blogs, but here’s a huge¬†secret: in most cases, you don’t need Storify to make a social timeline on your WordPress blog!

WordPress Embeds

WordPress has an amazing feature that lets you embed lots of social media sites directly in the WordPress editor simply by pasting the social post’s URL onto its own line. So if you post this in the WordPress editor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h5mwoTwDBk

You’ll get this:

I’ll wait for you to finish watching ūüėä‚Ķ

What Sites Can I Embed with WordPress?

There are a few sites that sadly aren’t embeddable right now like Pinterest and LinkedIn, but most sites you’d want to embed are supported. I bet there are even a few sites you didn’t know you wanted to embed until just now!

  • Social
    • Facebook
    • Twitter (Including Timelines and Moments)
    • Instagram
    • Tumblr
  • Video
    • YouTube
    • Vimeo
    • Vine
  • Audio
    • SoundCloud
    • Spotify
  • Documents
    • Slideshare
    • Issuu
    • Scribd
  • And More!
    • Kickstarter
    • Meetup.com
    • WordPress!¬†Yup. Any recent WordPress site should be embeddable!

That’s not even the whole list! Here’s the list of supported “oEmbed Providers” as of March 2017.

Getting the Right URL

For each site, make sure you get the URL of the specific thing you want to embed. Sometimes that can be a little tricky.

  • For Facebook and Twitter, click the time/date of the post to go to the right page.
  • In Spotify, you “Copy Song Link” from the song’s menu.
  • For WordPress sites, just make sure you’re looking at a “single” page and not the Blog or other multi-post page.

Example of a WordPress Social Media Story

To give¬†an idea of why I think this is so awesome, I thought an example would be useful. Here’s a quick story I threw together about my dog!

I’ve embedded content from my business’s WordPress site, Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram!


In November 2015, I got my first dog! His name is Neko. He’s named after one of my favorite singers, Neko Case. (Yes, our boy dog is named after a woman whose name means “cat” in Japanese!)

Neko Case happens to sing a lot about animals. [Spotify embed]

Neko had a rather unfortunate run in with a dog just after we got him. [Instagram embed]

 

It took him a while to get used to the bandages! [Instagram again!]

 

But he recovered like a champ and is back to walking these days! [Instagram video! (made with the Boomerang app)]

 


What Will Your First WordPress Social Story Be?

The possibilities are nearly endless. You could do a roundup of your Tweets from the past month, catalog social media reactions to an event you put on, or just share your favorite cat pictures!

Ask questions or share tips from past successes and failures in the comments!

It’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day! Here are 4 Things You Can Improve On Your Site Today.

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)! Did you know that the actions you take on your website can impact whether and how everyone can easily use your website‚ÄĒor even use it at all!

“The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities.”

How can you make sure your site is more accessible for¬†people using it? Here’s a list of some things you can do¬†today!

1. Use Alt Text

Every time you upload an image to your WordPress Media Library, fill out the “Alt Text” field. This helps people with vision impairment or browsers that can’t or don’t load images, know what the images on your site are. WebAIM has a great article that goes in-depth on using alt text.

And Don’t¬†Put Text In Images

If you do have text in images (like in a slideshow), you¬†must include that text in the “Alt Text” field. Whenever possible, avoid text in images at all and make it real text that you type into WordPress. This makes your site more accessible¬†and better for search engines!

2. Use Headings

This article has already used two headings (“1. Use Alt Text”) and (“2. Use Headings”). These help all people quickly understand the structure of your page and find the information they’re looking for.

To make headings in WordPress, look for the menu on the left in the second row of buttons in your text editor. Use “Heading 2” for your main page sections and “Heading 3” for subsections of those main sections.

3. Avoid Autoplay & Animated GIFs

Autoplaying videos and sliders makes pages distracting for everyone and impossible to use for people who struggle with focusing. Give people full control to only have things move and play sound on a page when they want them to.

Animated GIFs are also usually on “autoplay.” I love and recommend the WP GIF Player plugin¬†to allow people to play animated GIFs rather than having them always on and looping.

4. Provide Transcripts

If you’ve got audio or video files on your site, do everything you can to provide transcripts and/or closed-captioning. This is one of the most clear-cut cases where not having a transcript means some of your users‚ÄĒthose who are hearing impaired‚ÄĒare excluded from accessing a part of your site.

Accessibility Makes the Web Better For Everyone!

A transcript lets a deaf person access a podcast, but it also lets anyone search the transcript, read along with the podcast for comprehension, or read the transcript because the speakers don’t work on their laptop.

Autoplaying things mean some people can’t read anything on your site since the video is too distracting, but nearly everyone has lower comprehension of what they read if there are flashy, scrolly, blinky, moving things on the screen.

Web accessibility is a huge field with lots of techniques and considerations to think through, but you should always be working toward making your site more accessible, even if you only start with a few baby steps.

Take 10 minutes today to write some alt text, turn off autoplay, or write a transcript for your short promo video! The web will be a better place for your efforts!

Bonus: See a Screen Reader in Action

Ever wonder how someone with no vision can use a computer? Here are two great, short videos showing how one person uses his laptop and phone!

Spring Cleaning Your Website!

Just like you spring clean your house,¬†every nonprofit website needs some attention every now and then to keep your site healthy. Given that it’s almost May, it’s time to get to it!

Plugins & Themes

If you’re a website administrator, head on over to Plugins > Installed¬†Plugins and Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin.

Read through the description of each¬†plugin and make sure you still need it.¬†Delete plugins that you don’t use and are deactivated, and see if you can deactivate any plugins you don’t need anymore.

For themes, delete all themes except the one you’re using. I used to leave one backup theme, but I don’t even do that anymore.

Why prune your plugins and themes? There are a few reasons:

  1. Some security issues in plugins and themes can still be used even if the plugin or theme is not active!
  2. While hosting space is cheap (usually “unlimited”), there’s no need to store extra files you won’t need and can easily download again. Worse yet, that extra code can bloat your backup files (see below!)
  3. Fewer themes & plugins means fewer updates to manage!
  4. You should know what powers your site and always aim to keep your site lean and efficient. Using fewer plugins might speed up your site, reduce clutter in your admin, and provide one less source for a potential problem in the future.

Check Your Backups

Assuming you have automated backups‚ÄĒyou¬†do have automated backups, right?‚ÄĒgo to where they are stored and make sure that they are current and working as expected. If you have the technical ability, try to actually restore one on a test site to ensure these backups actually work! You get bonus points for saving a copy to your local hard drive as a backup-backup-backup.

Test Your Forms

Where I live in Seattle, GiveBig is coming up soon. No matter what, imagine your donation form hasn’t been working for who knows how long and you don’t know how many donations you’ve lost.¬†That would be terrible! Try making a quick test donation on your site to ensure it works. (Feeling panicky?¬†This post isn’t going anywhere.)

This is also always a good reminder to you of what your site visitors go through when trying to make a donation. Could it be better? Make sure you get automated receipts and thank you messages!

Besides your donation form, test your contact form, newsletter signup form and any other forms to make sure they work and create any notification emails you expect. If those forms are connected to other services or databases like MailChimp or Salesforce, make sure your test submissions accurately import into those as well.

Audit Your Content

A website is never “done.” If you haven’t reviewed your site in a while, it’s likely that something is out of date. Is your Staff page showing¬†all current members with accurate emails? Has one of your¬†programs shifted focus?¬†Have you accomplished something major and not shared it with your website visitors yet?

Click through your site, edit what’s out of date, and make a list of what you need to add or significantly revise. Remember though that just because something isn’t current doesn’t mean you should delete it.

No Excuses!

I guarantee that an hour of reviewing your site will make it better! That’s something to take pride in! So¬†close this window, log in to your¬†website, and get clicking!


Update!¬†It’s May 9, 2016 and I just posted a followup to this with some great recommendations from members of the Nonprofit Technology Network about even more spring cleaning tasks for your website. (And they¬†really think you should do a content audit too!)