Nonprofit organizations often overlook the value of online directory listings to attract new donors and to give them authority on the internet. I have had clients talk to us about building a website for their nonprofit before they have taken the basic step of adding their business to Google My Business (GMB) https://business.google.com/. Your Google business listing is as important, if not more important, than your website! Here’s why:
- Google draws from itself before it draws from outside itself. A robust strategy to post to and update your GMB profile is critical for your company getting found in the midst of all the noise on the internet
- Google is the most authoritative site on the internet right now. Without a GMB listing, search engines will not take your website very seriously.
Then you need to build listings throughout the internet on authoritative sites. The more places your site is linked to, the more traffic will find its way to your pages. The more traffic that comes your way, the more effective fundraising tool your site becomes. Without some basic business listings, your nonprofit will be really difficult to find online – even if you have a terrific website!
Directory Listings are a Great Way for your Business to be Found Online
The digital marketplace is crowded and you need to take advantage of every opportunity to get found! Joining a business listing site is like displaying your business card on a billboard. It will help to expand your reach to a wider audience. Local business listings help potential customers find you who would not otherwise do so. Best of all, you can do this work yourself and many sites are free!
Here is a sample list of directories that exist for non-profits:
Gathers and publicizes information about nonprofit organizations. FREE – REQUIRES REGISTRATION
- Charity Navigator
Evaluates charities in the United States.
A Directory of over 77,000 nonprofits and volunteer organizations worldwide.
- BBB Charity Reports Index
Profiles of charities/nonprofits, including financials and contact information.
Some Directory Listings are Free. Some Aren’t.
The benefit of using directory listings is that it heightens your visibility among those people who typically rely on those pages for referrals. Nonprofits are given increased credibility when they are rewarded high marks by organizations like Thrivent Financial (https://www.thrivent.com/), Excellence in Giving (https://excellenceingiving.com/), GuideStar (https://www.guidestar.org/), and Canada Gives (https://www.canadagives.ca/). These listing can also help your business get noticed if it is in a niche industry.
There are free listing services online like Google My Business, that every small business should take advantage of. We cannot emphasize it enough that you don’t do anything else until you’ve listed your business with Google! There are some listing services pages like Yelp, Alignable, and Next Door that offer free accounts. Social media platforms, especially Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/) and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/) rank well in search results and opening a business page on a platform like Facebook can also help your business to get found online.
Here’s When to Pay for a Directory Listing
You start paying when that platform can put you in front of your target audience more effectively. Paying for a chamber of commerce membership and establishing a listing on their website is really effective for a charity with a large local support base. Crisis pregnancy centers, food pantries, homeless outreach organizations and even churches are especially helped by local listings in chamber of commerce directories.
I once had a company contact our small business division. They make specialty brackets for pro audio system installations. A listing in the local chamber of commerce probably would not help them, but a listing in a pro-audio service directory would be valuable and worth paying for.
Similarly, if your non-profit works in an international niche (like an organization involved in global relief efforts), then local listings may not be very helpful. However, if you enlist the help of local volunteers and donors, then paying for and participating in the local chamber of commerce could be really beneficial.
What about BNI (Business Networking International) for Charities?
BNI stands for Business Networking International. It is an international organization that networks local businesses as well as charities together. There is a BNI chapter in nearly every medium to large city in the US.
BNI often extends a free membership to one charity per chapter. City-wide, community oriented charities like homeless outreaches, food pantries and woman’s shelters could really benefit from BNI. In our experience, churches are not usually a great fit for BNI. The other businesses in the BNI chapter will often favor the chapter’s charity when it comes to giveaways, year-end donations, and various seasonal events like coat-drives.
It requires showing up to a meeting every week and so it is expected that a representative from your nonprofit shows up on a weekly basis and fully participates. It is a major time commitment.
When it’s Time to Give Up and Get It Done for You
We believe that your nonprofit’s website is the lifeblood of your organization, but potential donors and volunteers need to be able to find it easily in order for it to be effective. But if you want to truly be successful, you can’t just have a site.
- First you need a site that you that emphasizes key leaders that donors connect to, stories of changed lives, and a vision for a better future.
- Then, your nonprofit website needs to rank in Google and other search engines, so that people can find you when they’re ready to donate or volunteer. The SEO process begins with citations or directory listings.
Citations (directory listings) are all the different places on the internet where people have listed your organization: directories, business listings, and more. The more places your nonprofit is listed, the more traffic will be driven to your site and the more authoritative your site will be on the internet. It is vitally important that your company name, address, and contact information are consistent on all these sites.
However finding and creating dozens (if not hundreds) of directory listing and then maintaining all those listings can be a bit of a headache. If you’re looking to boost your non-profit’s search engine optimization, we recommend hiring a company that specializes in these services.
- Hire Bright Local. Brite Local will list your non-profit in dozens of directories for a couple of hundred dollars. It is a service they currently call a “citation builder.” https://www.brightlocal.com/
- Hire a credible SEO company. As part of an SEO package, a credible SEO company will be maintaining and increasing for directory listings (citations). They will also post to your GMB. They will also be working on optimizing your website.
Citation Building is only a Part of an Overall SEO Strategy
Citation building is an important part of an SEO strategy, but it is only scratching the surface by itself. In today’s market, all companies need a good SEO person, but full-time employees with these specialties are expensive and beyond the budget of many non-profits. So, it makes sense to hire a contractor for these services.
Many of you reading this post are wanting to try the DIY approach for SEO. We will give you the basic tools throughout this book to get it done. Others will need to know the basics so they are be informed enough to hire and manage a professional.
If you hire a pro, expect to pay a good SEO company a significant monthly retainer to perform these services, but whatever they charge you will be a lot less than hiring a full-time employee! A group like the local chamber or BNI is a good place to find a credible SEO company. Of course, my company offers those services. you can schedule a time to chat with us about it here: https://staffordnonprofit.com/contact/. If you don’t have a good company, Bright Local also offers some basic SEO services that can get you started.