Aspiration eAdvocacy Training - Web Sites

Web Sites For Advocacy and Community Organizing: Basics, Essentials, and Best Practices

This curriculum is targeted at persons in nonprofit organizations who have primary responsibility for their web site content and direction. While there is some technical material, the primary focus is on strategic use of web sites and best practices for web campaigning. The material is modeled to be most relevant to grassroots organizations working in underserved communities.

The two-day training covers the following topic areas:

  • Web Advocacy Overview: What is it?
  • Defining online advocacy goals and mapping strategies to tools
  • Anatomy of an eAdvocacy Web Site
  • Raising money on your Web Site
  • Best practices for "press rooms" and media outreach
  • How to sustain effective organizational, campaign and program Web pages
  • Measuring impact: assessing Web traffic and trends
  • Best practices for privacy and security of Web Site visitors
  • Blogging basics
  • Overview of emerging technologies including cell phone text messaging, "Voice over IP" (VOIP), and Geographic Information Systems.
  • Survey of tools and services used in Web advocacy, organizing, and activism

Training Materials

The following are section-by-section summaries of the training materials.

All materials are distributed under a Creative Commons license: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5.

The slidesets linked below are in PDF format, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

1. Training Overview

The first slide set frames training scope and goals. The intended audience is described, and an agenda overview is provided. Core terminology is defined, including "eOrganizing" and "eAdvocacy", and potential outcomes of successful online advocacy and organizing are enumerated.

This section also emphasizes the non-techincal factors in online advocacy and organizing, and addresses limits of "e" activism and email, considering digital divides and those who are excluded by online strategies. A list of "topics not addressed" is also provided.

2. Web Site Audiences and Goals

This presentation emphasizes the importance of knowing which audiences you are trying to reach, and designing site content that addresses both audience goals and organizational goals. Key topics include understanding your site audience(s) and their goals, understanding your goals for your web site, and understanding your goals for your audiences. Concepts including "click paths", "issue frames" and "information architecture" are introduced and explained.

An interactive exercise lets participants pair off to identify and compare web audiences and goals, and sample audience click paths are reviewed.

3. Anatomy of a Campaign Web Site

This sections starts by reviewing the concept of "information architecture", and emphasizing the need to know what type of web site you are designing. Campaign site "anatomy" is explained and delineated, and essential site destination and key page elements are enumerated.

This section also contrasts "stand-alone" campaign sites and organizational sites with integrated campaign content, and compares different types of site function. Detailed information about content requirements for press rooms, "about" pages, and donation pages is included.

4. Organizational Web Publishing

This presentation emphasizes the human and organizational dynamics in publishing on the web. The range of site content stakeholders is described, along with their interests and needs. Web content publishing is presented as a process that involves all stakeholders, and the need to define a transparent workflow for publishing is emphasized. Other publishing considerations, including "open" content and copyright issues, are also explored.

5. Web Development Process

This section explains the phases of a generalized web development process. In addition, web development is considered in the context of organizational development. Different site publishing models are contrasted, and the lesson finishes with an in-depth exploration of graphic design process.

6. Promoting your web site

These slides emphasize the importance of search engines in driving traffic to your site, and explain search engine optimizations. Trade-offs of web advertising are discussed, and cross-site promotion is explained. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of circulating your URL in the "real world", on flyers, banners and other printed materials.

7. Web Site Traffic Analysis

This presentation addresses the importance of analyzing web site traffic, explaining what information is available and how to interpret it. Tricks for advance tracking are described. Privacy issues are introduced and best privacy practices are recommended. A survey of traffic analysis tools is provided.

8. Web Site Maintenance

Contrasted with the task of web site creation, web site maintenance is described in detail. Both staffing and technical considerations are enumerated. Hosting options are discussed, and essential domain registration practices and issues are presented.

9. Writing For the Web

This section seeks to convey how users "really" read web content, and explains the importance of writing for specific "take-aways" by making text "scannable". The notion of "web site as story telling" is elaborated, including the importance of images. Considerations for low-literacy readers are also addressed.

10. Design Element Best Practices

This presentation enumerates design best practices, and explains what needs to go "above the fold" on different types of pages. Appropriate content and elements for front pages, featured material, "side" links, and footers is described.

At the end of this section, training participants are invited to submit their campaign or organizational URL for real-time critique by the training cohort.

11. Influencing Decision Makers

This section describes options for using online tools to influence decision makers. The range of online tool options in aggregating and conveying public support is explained, and the role of Application Service Providers is delineated. Best practices for online "action" tools are enumerated, and appropriate contexts for online petitions are also discussed. "Letter to the Editor" tools are also covered.

12. Mobilizing for an Event

These slides explain tools used for getting supporters to participate in public gatherings, contrasting the requirements of single-location "convergence" events with "distributed events". Best practices for event pages are described. Different types of distributed events are explained, along with distributed event process. Web coordination features are introduced, and the importance of "report back" support is emphasized.

13. Engaging and Building Community

These slides explain tools useful for various goals in online community building. The trade-offs with discussion forums are considered, and the role of polls and surveys in campaigns is also defined. "Tell a Friend" features are recommended, and the potential and risks of social networking sites are compared.

14. Reaching and Educating Audiences

A range of approaches for reaching and educating intended audiences is described. "Culture Jamming" is defined and illustrated. The power of rich multimedia is contrasted with the associated costs. Also emphasized is the potential of "viral" marketing to spread messages beyond traditional audiences. "Wiki" collaborative tools are also considered.

15. Raising Money on the Web

This section is an introductory overview of web-based fundraising, and includes references to recommended reading for more complete information. Donation page best practices are enumerated, and contrasted with other fundraising tactics. "eCommerce" options and issues are also explained.

16. Blogging Basics

This introduction defines "blog" and "blogging", and describes best practices. "Proper" blog URLs are emphasized, and key concepts, including "blog rolls", "permalinks" and "trackbacks", are explained. The importance of RSS ("Real Simple Syndication") is delineated, and different categories of blogging tools are surveyed.

17. Emerging Technologies

The goal of this section is to get up-and-coming technologies "on radar" with learners in terms of their potential impact on and electronic advocacy and organizing. Basics of cell phone text messaging, often referred to as SMS, are explained. "Voice over Internet" technology and its potential for eAdvocacy are described, as is the value of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in campaigns and advocacy.

We welcome comments, suggestions and any other feedback on all of the above materials. Please address all correspondence to info@aspirationtech.org.