Category Archives: Announcements

18May/09

Marketing Mondays | Web Tips for Non-Profits

The Lakeland area is thriving with non-profit organizations and clubs (the Chamber’s list of clubs and organizations numbers apporixmately 300).  Such groups often have very unique needs in web development and presence. Smashing Magazine recently posted eight Best Practices for non-profit web design as well as examples of national organizations who implement those practices:

Non profit websites share many of the same best practices as any website. They need to be user friendly, easily navigable, and use appropriate fonts, colors, and other design elements. But often a non profit website needs to offer more than your typical corporate site.

A non profit’s website needs to make it easy to find out more about their cause, to donate money, and to become more involved. It needs to make it easy for media contacts to find the information they need and the contact information of key personnel. And it needs to do all this in a way that’s inviting to the organization’s targeted donors and/or volunteers.

1. Make Your Site Donor-Friendly

Donations are a necessary thing for every non profit organization out there. Your website can be a great place to solicit donations, especially from new donors. It can also make it easier for recurring donors to make additional donations. In either case, you want it to be a simple and straight-forward process for people to give you money.

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There are a few things to keep in mind when creating a donor-friendly site. First, make sure your donation page is prominently linked from your home page. Whether you do this with a special banner or button or simply make it prominent in your regular navigation, donors have to see where to donate before they can do so.

Second, make the actual donation process as painless as possible. Don’t require visitors to set up an account to donate. The donation process shouldn’t be any more complicated than any other online transaction. Other than information required to process their credit card or e-check, don’t require any other information. And use a single-page donation form if possible, with just one confirmation page. There’s less chance that there will be browser or connectivity issues if there’s only a single page to deal with.

2. Make Your Site Media-Friendly

Getting media attention can have a huge impact on a non profit organization. Whether the media attention brings in more donations directly or simply raises the profile of the organization, getting attention from journalists, bloggers, and anyone else with an audience is important.

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Make it easy for journalists to find information about your organization. Include profiles of your board of directors, founder(s), and other key personnel. Make sure you include contact information (email and phone) for each of these key people. Have a downloadable media kit that includes everything your print media kit does.

Offer downloadable images from your site so journalists and bloggers don’t have to contact your and wait for a response. And include press-ready quotes, both from members and directors as well as outsiders. Make it clear that journalists and other organizations may use these items in news coverage without contacting the organization for prior permission.

3. Make Your Site Volunteer-Friendly

Make it easy for visitors to your site to find information on how they can get involved. There are plenty of people out there who might not have the money to make a donation but are still passionate about what your organization is doing.

Whether you provide detailed information about volunteering directly, steps people can take on their own, or just contact information for your volunteer organizer, make sure you don’t overlook this crucial bit of information.

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Providing multiple means of contact makes it easier for volunteers to get in touch, so include an email address, phone number, and a web contact form if you can.

4. Make Sure Your Organization’s Purpose is Immediately Apparent

How many times have you gone to a website and not had a clue what the site was about? This happens all too often. Designers and clients often take for granted what visitors to their site will already know about their organization.

But considering how much information is pushed in bite-size pieces on sites like Twitter and Facebook, there’s no telling how much or how little visitors will know. With some organizations it’s easy enough to figure out what the organization is about just by its name, but for others it’s not so easy.

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Putting an abbreviated mission statement right on the home page is one way to solve this. Another way is to put a prominent link somewhere on the home page that takes visitors to an about page that offers concise, plain-language (not “marketing-ese”) information about what the organization does.

5. Make Sure Your Content Takes Center Stage

Design on any site should be transparent, and especially so on non profit sites. That’s not to say your site can’t have an interesting design, just that the design should revolve around your content and your mission, not the other way around. Take into account the types of information you’ll be providing on the site and the formats that will be used.

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Consider up front how much multi-media elements will be used, and whether they’ll be used on every page or just in special gallery sections. If you plan to post videos and photos on multiple pages, you’ll need to make sure your column widths other elements are complimentary to the kinds of media you want to use.

Make sure your columns are wide enough to accommodate YouTube videos, for example. If they’re not, any time you embed a video (or similar element), your site design will look haphazard (and some of your site content might end up covered up).

6. Make Sure Your Website is Consistent with Your Other Promotional Materials

Your logo should use the same logo and colors as your other promotional materials. Maintaining a consistent brand throughout your organization greatly increases your chances of being recognized in passing. Your website doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) match your print promotional materials exactly, but echoing the look and feel of those materials increases brand identity.

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Make sure the content is consistent, too. Proofread and copyedit your website content just as you do your print materials. While it’s easier to change content on a website, it still gives a negative impression if your site is riddled with errors and inaccuracies.

7. Know Your Site’s Purpose Up Front

The leaders of your organization (or whoever is in charge of the organization’s website) should make a list of what the goals for the site are before starting the design process. Is the site primarily to allow existing members to stay updated? Is it to solicit donations? Is it to get new volunteers or members? Is it to raise awareness in general?

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Whatever your purpose is, knowing it and communicating it to your designer going into the design process will save headaches and delays down the road. Make sure everyone is on board with the same vision, too, so you don’t have to make unnecessary changes down the road, which saves both time and money.

8. Include a News Section or Blog

Including a blog or news section has a couple of big advantages for non profit sites. First, it gives people a reason to come back to your site. If you offer news about your organization and your cause, people who are interested in either will come back on a regular basis (or subscribe via RSS). This keeps your site visible and makes it more likely they’ll become more involved in the future (or stay involved if they are already).

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Second, blogs and news sites are often quoted by other blogs and news sites. This increases the exposure for your site and will likely bring you more traffic.

Third, constantly-updated content increases your search engine visibility. This makes it easier for people actively looking for information related to your organization to find your site.

If you are on the staff or board of a local non-profit, take a minute to compare your organization’s website against these standards, then contact your web designer if you see room for improvement.

16May/09

BusinessPrep Attendees Learn to Market With Proven Techniques

IMG_0224 On May 14, 24 Chamber members gathered at Webster University in downtown Lakeland to learn more about developing and amending marketing plans for all businesses. Speaker Terry Litterst, a 30-year veteran business consultant and marketing expert, shared real-life examples of marketing plans and successes in action. Attendees learned about organization, customer service and time management and how those factors make up a positive and progressive marketing plan for businesses of all sizes and scopes.

As a bonus, everyone was treated with omelettes and breakfast goodies from Chef Paulie’s Cafe & Catering!

Many thanks to those that helped make the morning meeting a success!

15May/09

Advisory from the Florida Retail Federation

Governor Charlie Crist issued Executive Order 09-114 on May 14.  This Executive Order declares a State of Emergency due to drought conditions and wildfires in Florida.  This declaration applies to the entire state and will be in effect for sixty (60) days unless extended.

State of Emergency pricing laws are in effect. Florida law states in s. 501.160: “Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, it is unlawful and a violation of s. 501.204 for a person or her or his agent or employee to rent or sell or offer to rent or sell at an unconscionable price within the area for which the state of emergency is declared, any essential commodity including, but not limited to, supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.”

Please be mindful of these laws as you conduct business for the duration of the declared State of Emergency.  If you have any questions, please contact Samantha Hunter Padgett at 850-222-4082.

15May/09

Rep. Seth McKeel’s Response to The Ledger’s Offshore Exploration Series

I’d like to thank the Ledger for devoting two days of editorials to the subject of energy exploration and production in Florida’s waters as well as the issue of energy independence in the United States, and what Florida’s potential role should be.

Before speaking to the subject of your editorial, it is important for readers to understand what is and is not in House Memorial 21 which I sponsored, and House Bill 1219 which seems to be the main subject of your two part series. The legislation I sponsored urges Congress to support the expiration of the moratorium on the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in federal waters surrounding Florida. House Bill 1219, sponsored by Representative Van Zant, deals with the exploration and production of these resources in state waters. Though I support both efforts, your editorial was ambiguous regarding distinction between the two.

First, House Bill 1219 would not have opened coastal waters to drilling upon passage. It simply would have directed the statewide elected members of the Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, to receive and consider applications for oil and natural gas exploration. Proposals would be considered by the Cabinet on a case-by-case basis, and even if an application is denied, the $1 million application fee is kept by the state. Additionally, the Cabinet would set the rules by which any exploration or production of energy is carried out. While your editorial board favored including specific equipment and methods for energy extraction in law, I believe we have wisely left the adjustments to ever-improving technological advances to the Cabinet process, which is better equipped to act and change quickly.

The Ledger’s editorial also makes note that this proposal appeared in the last ten days of session, as though the question of energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has been taking place under the cover of darkness, or that my colleagues and I supported this proposal out of fear of reprisal from the Speaker Designate, Dean Cannon. This particular proposal may have been heard late in the Legislative Session, but the underlying issues of energy security, environmental protection, and economic development are anything but new. In fact, I have filed legislation dealing with offshore exploration each of the three years I have served in the Legislature. And neither Dean Cannon nor I made the electricity in Lakeland or nearly half of the homes in Florida run on natural gas. Nor did we put the oil reserves our country relies on in the Middle East or at the whim of Hugo Chavez. The need for this source of energy is not a secret to homeowners and electric rate-payers, nor is that need going to decrease in the foreseeable future.

Floridians want to know what their state government is doing to promote energy independence, new jobs, and economic development. I fail to see what “distraction” the exploration for energy in our waters poses to the development of alternative sources. The legislation directed portions of any royalties derived from energy production for just that purpose, but that is not all. Money will also be set aside to help fund Florida Forever Land Acquisition, Beach Restoration and Nourishment, Environmental Science education, and even direct funds to local governments. If no energy is produced, then we have lost nothing. However, if energy is extracted from our waters, the gains to our economy and the ability to fund Florida’s budget priorities could be enormous.

Your editorial board has said, “The longer that coastal drilling is under consideration, the farther Florida will be from energy independence.” I couldn’t disagree more. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own fact.” Saying that coastal exploration and production of energy cannot help promote independence does not make it so, and trying to eliminate one of the tools that can be used to reach that independence flies in the face of good sense. Floridians expect more than nay saying and bumper sticker campaigns – they expect solutions.

Wild swings in natural gas prices have hurt the residents of Lakeland and scores of other Floridians. And our state will soon be 50 percent dependent on natural gas for electricity – even if we ultimately get to 20% renewable energy in the future. I cannot in good conscience sit idly by while electricity ratepayers are left to the volatility of the market. Will the production of natural gas from our waters solve all of our problems? Probably not, but with energy exploration in our own waters, Floridians make the rules and receive the benefits. We can choose to play a part in controlling our own destiny. While other states like Texas and Louisiana use royalties for funding education and other programs, our prohibition prevents any financial benefit to Floridians. Why should Florida be the only Gulf Coast state not benefiting from its available energy resources?

I support the research and development of alternative energy sources, but a comprehensive energy strategy is just that – comprehensive. Ignoring sources of energy in our own backyard is short-sighted. Times and technologies have changed. Energy exploration is now safer, cheaper, and most importantly, cleaner than ever before. Waiting for unemployment to rise, the current recession to worsen, or the price of oil and natural gas to skyrocket again is not a prudent strategy for dealing with our energy and budgetary needs. Continuing the ban only serves to inhibit our ability to lessen our reliance on foreign energy sources, fund important priorities in our state’s budget, and create new well-paying jobs for Floridians.

Representative Seth McKeel

Florida House District 63


12May/09

Fox 13 | “Fox on your Block” Live From Lakeland Friday Morning

The Chamber, in cooperation with the City of Lakeland is excited that we will have Fox 13 producing a live morning show with Russell Rhodes and Charley Blecher from Lakeland’s very own Munn Park on Friday, May 15th. The crew from Fox will start setting up at 3:30 AM that day.

The morning show will feature Lakeland as their “Fox on Your Block” segment with the morning weather, and features that will be aired live on the hour starting at 5 a.m.  If you tune-in at 7 AM you will see Charley Belcher visit Explorations 5.  Anne Furr and Jerry Herring will be featured on a segment, along with downtown merchants and restaurants. Also the City’s very our own special collections librarian, Kevin Logan, pre-taped a historical segment.

We would like to give a special thanks to Director of Communications at the City, Kevin Cook, for helping coordinate this great project.