Organizing Your Site With a Sales Mindset

As we see more and more Catholic school sites here at Catholic School Web Design, we are starting to see a pattern emerge: having a section called “Development” in the navigation.

This strikes us as odd for a few reasons (which we’ll get into below), but after trying to get into the thought process behind having a development section on your website, it does make some sense. People may be looking for information on the development of the school, or development ventures in general.

These development sections usually look like the rest of the site’s template, which links to things like the Annual Fund, the current capital campaign, and even some fundraising events. We’ve even seen sections for alumni put in there.

So there is a reason that all of these schools are putting their development stuff in a “Development” section of their website: logically, it makes some sense. It’s not completely off the wall. However, we think it’s a bad idea, and one that is indicative of a larger problem for a lot of Catholic school site’s organization.

Remember, You and Your Website Are In Sales

Of the billions of people employed around the world, most of them are busy right now trying to figure out how to sell something. As any administrative member of a Catholic school involved in the creation or maintenance of your school’s website, you are now part of that group. You are selling your school – the vision, the education, the brand.

You are selling it to prospective students and parents, but let’s focus on development right now. The development department is selling the school to potential donors and philanthropists. They need to give money to keep your school going and growing, and most potential donors need to be sold on why they should give. Talk to anyone who has worked in advancement or development and knows what they are doing and they will tell you the same thing – it’s a sales job.

Organize with a Sales Mindset

So when is the last time you went on Apple.com and saw “Sales” at the top of their navigation? The logic behind that would be that if people want to get information on what Apple sells, they can go there. But we’re forgetting one piece of the puzzle – selling things to people is hard. They don’t just flock to you – you need to draw them in.

That’s why Apple.com is full of images of nice things you can buy – what their products do, how they look, and how they will make your life better. The experience of their website is crafted to sell you on the idea of Apple. The sales information is enticing, exciting, and entertaining.

Take a look at the organization of your Catholic high school website with the above mindset. Suddenly, things that once seemed logical seem difficult to navigate and ineffective. If I am a potential donor, where do I find the vision of the school for the future? Am I going to slog through endless pages with plain paragraphs of text? That would be death to a potential sale of something on the internet.

Example Reorganization: Development Section

Having a new mindset is all well and good, but it isn’t effective until we get down to actually reorganizing the site. Let’s go back to our example from the beginning of the article – the “Development” section – and see what we can do there. We would…

  • Create a new section for development and design/name it differently. We could call it “Growing for the Future” or something along those lines – maybe something more in tune with the message of the school. Something enticing and new, though.
  • Put a badge or picture of something that says “development” on the home page (that doesn’t literally say “Development”). Maybe a drawing of a future building or something similarly visionary.
  • Fill our “Growing for the Future” section with materials, pictures, and videos (if available) on the grand vision for the future of our school. It doesn’t have to be buildings. It could be academic achievement.
  • Add a designed link to our separately branded Annual Fund in the “Growing for the Future” section. If there is a capital campaign going on, add that too.
  • Create separate sections for our Annual Fund and capital campaign sections that are not in the same template as the rest of the school’s website.
  • Create a branded online giving form for the Annual Fund.
  • Create a separate online giving form for the capital campaign.
  • Make sure there is an online donation button on each page that looks different than the rest of the buttons or links. Link it to whichever donation page is more important right now. If it’s a capital campaign push, brand the button as the capital campaign.
  • Move events to the event calendar where they belong. If you must put a mention of them in your “Growing for the Future” section, add a sub link called “Special Events” and outline your development events, with a link to the main school calendar.
  • Create a separate section called “Development Office” and put it in the footer or under “About Us” or “Departments” (whichever makes more sense). Use this space for information on your development team and other backdoor stuff.

Phew! There we go. The basic steps we’d undertake to overhaul an ineffective development section of a website and turn it into something that sells the school.

Obviously this can’t be done for every section of the school, but the larger point is to the make sure you are looking at your site from a sales perspective, and the choices you have to make will become clearer.