5 Ways to Ask for Pro Bono Website Support

Are you a budget-strapped nonprofit organization? Has COVID-19 reduced your operating income? No matter. Nonprofits always need support for their causes.

Here are some tips to getting pro bono marketing services from website designers and developers – as well as other service providers.

  1. Connection
    Identify a service provider who has a strong affinity for you, your services, and/or your community. The stronger the connection, the more likely they are to help. For example, homelessness in our region is an important issue to me, so I try to provide pro bono services and consulting when I’m available.
  2. Goals
    Clearly define the volunteer role. This may include an overview of the situation, organizational challenges, scope of work, measurable goals, and realistic deadlines. Tasks should be flexible enough to allow the volunteer to shape the role to their specific skills and interests. Allow the volunteer to propose solutions to problems. As they say, you get what you pay for – so be prepared to change your plans.
  3. Respect
    Choose an appropriate time or season to ask for help. Be respectful of the service provider’s other projects and work deadlines. Send your request in writing. This gives the volunteer sufficient time to plan and prepare for your project. If you later choose to move in a different direction, or find someone else to work on the project – be sure to extend gratitude for the volunteer’s time.
  4. Authority
    Give the web volunteer the appropriate authority to complete the tasks. This may include login credentials to your domain registrar, domain web host, Google account, and other third-party tools related to your website. Do not micro-manage their duties. Allow the project goals to define success.
  5. Recognition
    Recognize and thank the volunteer for their contributions. This could be a shout-out in your newsletter or at an organizational event. I once met an experienced photographer who donated hundreds of hours to a small nonprofit who forgot to recognize her efforts during a high profile ceremony featuring her images. She no longer volunteers for the organization. You would be amazed what some volunteers will do for a simple t-shirt. Ask Carole Baskin.


5 Tips for Picking WordPress Plugins

How do you pick the perfect WordPress Plugin for your website?

There are over 55,000 Plugins in the official WordPress open source repository. And that does not include the tens of thousands of paid commercial Plugins available in the marketplace.

Here are 5 Tips to Pick a Plugin

  1. Open Source Software Plugins must adhere to a strict set of guidelines, including a GPL-compatible license. These guidelines include privacy, security and other requirements to help protect your site. And all Plugin code is vetted as part of this process.
  2. Active Installations
    Generally, the more installations have been downloaded and activated – the more likely the Plugin is reliable. More activations means more user testing across a wide variety of installations.
  3. Plugin Developer(s)
    A developer who has released multiple Plugins is another sign of confidence because that person likely has more WordPress experience. A team of Plugin contributors can also be a sign of well-tested code quality. For example, I generally trust most Plugins supported by Automattic, WordPress core contributors.
  4. Reviews
    A Plugin with a high volume of quality reviews is a testament to its effectiveness.
  5. Testing and Technical Discovery
    When evaluating Plugins, I often compare the file download size because performance is as important to me as rich features. By comparison, a similarly functioning Plugin with a significantly larger size can be an indication of code bloat and possible issues, including performance or security.

5 Reasons to Avoid Paid Commercial WordPress Themes

Not everyone has the resources for a custom WordPress Theme. And that’s ok. Template Themes are available to fill those needs. But there’s a huge disparity in code quality between template themes. Since 2010, I’ve had the (mis)fortune to help many clients manage their paid commercial Themes.

Here are 5 reasons you may want to reconsider using a third-party paid commercial theme.

  1. Usability
    Now, some clients do find commercial themes easy to manage and edit. However, in my experience, most clients find the editing process cumbersome. I recall a Seattle nonprofit client who was unable to edit their own homepage because their Theme had too many confusing Theme Customizer options. Other Themes require you to learn various third-party editing tools, like Visual Composer or Elementor, which can take hours to learn and days to master.
  2. Performance
    Due to the feature bloat inherit with most commercial themes, page load speed is often subpar – well over the benchmark 2 – 3 second load time. I’ve seen page sizes exceed 10 Mb with almost 200 web server requests (e.g. CSS files + fonts + images + javascript) – when 40 – 60 is ideal for an optimized database-driven website.
  3. Portability
    Commercial Themes often bundle lots of features – like content sliders, e-commerce, fonts, icons, and more. You should generally rely on your Theme for visual layout and styles; and rely on Plugins for features. When features are integrated into a Theme, content may not easily port over to a new Theme, if and when you decide to switch.
  4. Security
    Security consistently ranks last among client priorities. Until your site is hacked and goes offline. The stability of any WordPress site strongly depends on the choice of Theme and Plugins. themes are vetted by a volunteer Theme Review Team that ensures themes in the official WordPress repository conform to certain coding standards.
  5. Accessibility
    Most people don’t think about inclusion when they manage their own web project. But most premium themes do not follow to accessibility guidelines, much less comply with WCAG AA standards required for organizations that must meet federal ADA regulations.