“We just need to add a few things to our website and link them from the main menu,” said the chair of the outreach and communications committee.

I looked at the website. I started counting. They already had 51 items on their main menu.

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the menu was 10 pages long?

I have. I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble deciding between fries and onion rings, let alone between all the things on a menu that long. It takes me 20 minutes just to look it all over.

Then I begin to wonder. How could the chef possibly be prepared to cook any of these hundreds of items at the drop of a hat? How fresh could the ingredients be on the items that only get ordered once every couple months?

My wife and I were once in such a restaurant. My wife ordered the Moussaka.

“Oh,” the waitress said, “that’s a wonderful choice. It was fresh made yesterday!”

What’s on Your Nonprofit Website’s Menu?

As I began to click on the 51 items on my prospective client’s website menu, I began to find many of the same problems restaurants with large menus have.

Not just some, but most of the items offered on those links were years out of date.

Other items, like the list of board members, were front and center, while “Helpful Resources” were buried in a submenu near the end of the selections. Think about it! That’s like putting a list of the restaurant’s stockholders on the first page of the menu and saving the specials for the small print on the bottom of the back page!

The Nonprofit Website Menu Challenge

I completely understand how nonprofit website menus end up this way. So often any time a board member, committee chairperson or program director gets an idea for something, they want it on the website, and they want it NOW!

But the challenge for you, as the person in charge of the website, is to make sure only the freshest, most important items, the “specials”, are front and center on the menu, where your website guests will find them quickly and easily.

Step 1. Count the Items

Take a look at your nonprofit organization’s website for a moment. I want you to count the number of links on your main menu right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. How many did you count? More than 5? More than 10? More than 20?

How long did it take you to count them? Now, consider that the average time a user spends on a website page is less than 15 seconds. How many of those items do you think will register with your average visitor?

So, now figure, how many items do you have to eliminate in order to get it down to where someone can read the menu in under 15 seconds?

Step 2. Click on Each Item

Now, click on each item as if you were visiting your website for the first time. Where does it take you? Is the information there fresh? If not, take it off the menu.

Yes, it’s going to be hard. That item was once someone’s pet project. But be ruthless! Every click on that link is a visitor ordering moussaka that comes with green and purple refridgerator mold growing on the edges! Would you stay at a restaurant like that? Or would you get up and leave?

That’s what I thought.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Whoever wanted that item on the menu is going to be upset that it’s gone.

How you handle that is up to you, of course. But may I suggest that having an open discussion about it usually proves the most constructive route:

  1. Take a screenshot (Windows: use your PrtScr button, then paste the clipboard contents into a new Paint file. Mac: Cmd-Shift-4.) of the contents.
  2. Show the person responsible for that content piece the screenshot. Point out where the mold is growing, and ask them whether they’d rather cook up a fresh version or take it off the menu. Explain that the old content is driving away website visitors and hurting their mission.

Step 3. Make sure that your “Specials” are on the front

That means that all those links to your board members and the pdf of your bylaws and your privacy policy page can go into the small print in the footer. Basically, anything that comes from “legal” (or the board member who’s a lawyer).

Like the footnote you sometimes see on the back page of the restaurant menu where “legal” says they have to let you know the risks of eating your steak rare.

Less Is More

3 or 4 great menu choices beats 51 flavors of ice cream with 42 growing fuzzy ice in the tub. Every time!

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