Is your site marked “not secure”?

Google has been chatting about the importance of secure websites for a few months. With a market share of 86.28% among leading search engines*, when Google speaks, we should pay attention.

And, as promised by Google, their message is no longer background chatter. Since the start of summer, it’s being broadcasted loud and clear with an ⓘ. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) sites are now flagged as “not secure” in Google Chrome search results.

The consequences

A nonprofit seeking donations, members and volunteers may see a hit in their online activity when their website is flagged with this warning:


You should not enter any sensitive information on this site (for example, passwords or credit cards), because it could be stolen by attackers.

That’s scary language. I know I’m going to back away from the keyboard and making an online donation when I see that warning. Will your informed donors react the same? Charity Watch lists 9 pointers to look for in making certain online donations are safe. Number four on their list, highlighted in red, is “give safely” and advises potential donors to look for an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) URL.

SSL certificate

Your web hosting company or website developer can help you with the steps of obtaining an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, along with activating and installing it. This digital certificate provides authentication for your website and encrypts data while it is being transmitted. Expect an annual fee for the certificate. When the ⓘ becomes a green padlock next to the URL, you will know the website has been deemed secure by Google.

Beyond the padlock, additional security tips


Don’t let the padlock lull you into a false sense of security. It’s only covering data as it is transmitted. You will still need to have a firewall in place to prevent unauthorized access to your web server. Also, make it standard practice to create secure passwords. Use a service to monitor for malware to protect data from online threats. Update software when notified as the updates often include security patches. And, don’t allow visitors to your site to upload files as that can open the door for problems. If necessary, use a SFTP or SSH method instead.

Finally, one more tip… As external websites are certain to update their security, double check that this doesn’t result in any broken links on your site when referencing resources outside your organization.

These are just a few tips for protecting your business and donor data from the bad guys. What tips do you have to share?

Susan Mertz is a Content Specialist at M&C. She specializes in website development, search engine optimization and enhancing user experience. 


What's in a story?

We’re reminded regularly of the importance of stories. They can be attention-getting ... can resonate with readers ... can make, or hammer home a point ... 

But what constitutes a good story? And, how do you tell it? In thinking of how I approach this, there seem to be three distinct steps. 

1) Begin at the end.

What’s your point? What’s the moral of the story … the conclusion you want the listener or reader to reach … the next step you hope they will take?

As a fundraiser, this may seem obvious: the ask. But I’d argue for a much broader perspective, that of donor development. For your ask to succeed, you must first establish a mutual understanding of the need and the urgency to fill that need.

While an organization may want to raise money to refurbish a historically significant artifact – such as a vintage airplane,  for example – the first task may be to establish or reinforce that this item does have significance.

A hunger relief agency might want to reinforce the importance of nutritional balance or the impact of hunger on a child’s ability to learn. A social services agency might need to establish the costs of not taking action. And so on.  

2) Make it real.

Every story has characters & conflict. You create the characters for your reader and describe the conflict they endure as you move (with them) toward the goal you've established. 

There are many forms in which “heroes” and “villains” can interact. Citizen soldiers come together to defend freedom against the forces of fascism. An innocent child is rescued from horrendous disease. A creative and committed researcher makes groundbreaking discovery.

How can you personify this movement in a way that provides both rational and emotional support? 

3) So what?

There’s a difference between significance and relevance … and establishing the former doesn’t guarantee the latter.

Sure, saving this historical artifact can preserve history. But it can also serve as tribute to the values that history represents (the men and women who risked their all). Perhaps it can even help convey the lessons learned and thus carry those values forward (daring and resolve, even in the face of overwhelming odds) . 

Even more importantly, consider with whom you are talking and what role they may play in this story. How do you involved the reader and and make them a part of the hero’s journey? Do they experience a similar dilemma? Can they help resolve the conflict?

While I said at the outset there are three distinct steps, these are not always well-delineated.  In fact, you must weave them together seamlessly for your story to work. This is seldom a linear process and may move forward in fits and starts. 

In many cases, I may open the story with an attention-getting nugget or two, step back to establish context and set direction, and then periodically bring in additional details to help keep the reader moving in the desired direction. 

What story-telling "tricks" seem to work well for you? 

Trendwatch: Digital Informs Print Design

As a copywriter by trade, I've come to accept that we live in a world of brevity. Yes, I know "a picture is worth a thousand words." Got it!

In digital, fewer words and more visual interest reign supreme. Think Pinterest.  

One thing that's happening, however, is that the visual emphasis isn't stopping at digital. The way individuals consume content has been upended dramatically. 

A good example is in the recent Advancing Philanthropy Magazine ... Here's the Table of Contents. It looks like a webpage with buttons!


The interior spread takes another spin on readability, with intriguing callouts or summaries throughout. 

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What do you think? What will print design look like in two years?