By John Borst, PP Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

You would think advertisements on Rotary club websites would be a simple matter. Instead, it can often get quite complicated.

There are three main reasons for this:

  1. A philosophical difference among members
  2. The changing nature of small business ownership
  3. A lack of knowledge of the logistics of internet marketing

Philosophical Issue

Strange as it may seem for an organisation, whose members come from the entrepreneurial class many believe that advertising on a club’s website is crass and somehow not a dignified way to present Rotary’s image. Such members would have the hosting and developments costs borne by the administrative portion of a member’s fee.

At the same time, a club will have members who are not happy with paying for a website out of the administrative fee. Such members may not see the value of a website or just want to keep the dues to a minimum for personal reasons.

Making a decision is a matter for the Board of Directors. My club falls in the pro-advertising should pay for the hosting costs and I personally support it.

The Changing nature of Small Business Ownership

The nature of small business ownership is a problem which has accelerated for the past two decades. Today who owns our “local” companies and shops has become increasingly opaque. When we purchase goods in our neighbourhood establishments, they are less often owned by the family down the street and more often owned by another company which in turn is owned by a conglomerate.  In such cases trying to sell an advertisement becomes a tangled affair not worth volunteer time. The return of investment time simply isn’t worth it. I found this out when attempting to gather ads for a club in the Toronto area.

Fortunately, many Rotary Clubs exist in smaller communities where this scenario has not yet happened. This is the case for my Dryden, Ontario club. All of our advertisers are locally owned businesses, even those who are franchisees of national chains. It also helps that some of them are club members.

In fact, one club in the Greater Vancouver Area appears to have made it a condition of membership that the business for which the member works advertises on the site. In that case, it may be the member who pays for the ad instead of the business.

The Logistics of Internet Marketing

The issue of selling ads is a huge topic. Space here provides only a glimpse at the strategies I use. Some of the issues to be decided are:

  1. Cost
  2. Size
  3. Term
  4. Design, who does it, at what cost,
  5. Accounting
  6. Data tracked and reported.

Cost

Few Rotarians or small business owners seem to know anything about the cost of advertising on the web. The key variables are click-through rates* or rates per 10,000 views. I avoid such terms and just use one flat fee. The fee, however, varies with the size and placement of the ad. This is something proprietor’s understand because it mimics newspaper advertising.

In Dryden’s case, I only charge $100 per year for a basic ad. Dryden until this year has only averaged just over 5000 page views per year. I actually, began at only $50.00/yr. but raised it when I discovered that the Click-through rate was way out of proportion to the number of views. If clients had been paying the average Google click-through rate, they would have been paying over $500.00 for the same ad.

In the Vancouver case, the rate was a flat $350.00 per annum a few years ago.

Size

ClubRunner, our Club’s CMS of choice, determines the size which in our case is a width of 175 pixels. A basic ad is 175 x 100 pixels. The height can vary, however. The price increases by $50.00 for each increment of 100 pixels. There is no fee for click-throughs or rate by the number of views.

Term

Dryden’s term is for a year. ClubRunner takes the ad down after 365 days automatically. You can, however, vary the term by days, weeks or months.

Design

Dryden Sponsors 175 x 1000In a small community, like Dryden, one of the lessons I learned was that as the web editor I had to learn to design the ads. Because I wanted to sell the ads, like the newspaper, I charged nothing extra to design the ad. I use Adobe Photoshop to do the design. Of course, I get the approval of the client before posting the ad. This issue is likely to be a barrier for small clubs in rural communities where just maintaining the club website is a challenge.

When a client does not have a website, a PDF is created as a replacement. Click on the Masala Restaurant or Comfort Table Bakery ads at the Dryden site to see examples.

Accounting

Billing and renewals are my nemeses. I was spending so much time managing the website, selling and designing ads that I simply didn’t make renewals and billing a high enough priority.  Fortunately, my club recognised the problem. Now the treasurer has assumed responsibility for billing and renewals.

We also attempt to have one common renewal time for all ads.

Tracking and Reporting

ClubRunner tracks the number of click-throughs for the ads that are inside the advertisement widget. The widget is placed on the left side because we read from left to right and is placed at the top of the home-page. On a story page, it is placed in a column on the right. In the Dryden case, I also have an ad location between the stories. The ad is, in fact, is a story page. Such an ad permits a much bigger 500-pixel x 100-pixel display, so I charge $250.00/ annum. The downside is to keep it between the first and second story I have to move it manually.

At Dryden, the site has eleven ads. They generate $1250.00 annually. The ClubRunner cost is less than that, so we run a profit. ClubRunner also has an option to display the ads in rotation on the homepage or all in a column row. Dryden uses the latter. We have to vary the order manually. The Vancouver area club uses the rotation method.

The Vancouver area Club bulletin has 20 ads which at $350 per ad generates revenue of $7,000 annually.

I also track the number of views or impressions manually. Views are akin to the circulation of a newspaper. You will need a program such as StatCounter or Google Analytics to gather this data.

Conclusion

I hope I have demonstrated that a Rotary club website has the potential to pay for itself.  With some volunteer effort, it can make a profit and reduce administrative costs for all members. First, however, a club should resolve the philosophical differences which may exist over the very idea of advertising. Finally, it can’t be the work of only one person. It needs to be a committee or more accurately a team effort.

 

*A click-through rate is a cost for each time a visitor clicked on the ad and transferred to the client’s website.