How do you get started with the development process? Well, the idea is to sit down and start by looking in. Have a handful of internal conversations where you discuss what you really need. The objective is to figure out what you need, not what you want.
A lot of organizations will say, “Well, we want social networking and we want people to set up profiles and we want people to talk to each other.” I believe that’s always a nice to have and it may be a want, but is that what you really need? This involves you having internal meetings with your stakeholders. Talk to your people, talk to the different departments–whether it be a program department, development department, marketing department or your executive director.
Then, really start to hone in on what it is that you need to reach your goals. Are you looking for donations, because you do not have donations? Are you looking for advocacy and maybe there is a way that you can get an advocacy section on your site? What you want to do is put together a Blue Sky Document. It does not have to be a 500-page document, but it should be more than just five or six bullet points so that everybody who gets it has enough information to either answer all of your questions or think of great questions to ask you.
By putting together this document, it allows you to compare apples to apples. If you just go out to people and say, “Hey, we need a new website and we want this, we want that” and you are not clear on your objectives, then what is going to happen is you are going to get proposals from five or six different firms and the budgets are going to range from $5,000 to half a million because people do not know exactly what you want.
So again, look internally, have these discussions and figure out what it is that you really need. Then, you want to get a short list of firms. You really do not want to go more than three to five firms, because if everybody is going to turn in a 30-page proposal (or even a 20-page proposal), it is a lot of bedtime reading. So, really get your list down short.