How do I get to your nonprofit sans car?

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If I want to come to your nonprofit organization, your NGO, your government office, etc. for a training or a workshop or a special event or for your services, and I will not be driving, will your website tell me how to get there?

Will your website tell me what buses stop nearest to your organization and how far the walk from a bus stop is to your office? Will it tell me where to park my bicycle? Is there a photo of the exterior of your agency, so I'll recognize it easily?

Consider someone (like me) from a one-car family. I use mass transit and my bicycle to get around. I don?t know how your transit system is but in my metropolitan area, getting from A to B is not always an easy thing.

Looking at various nonprofit websites when I'm supposed to have a meeting, I often can't find the street address, and even then, there's no information about mass transit options or bike parking. Yes, I've used a mass transit trip planner, but when you are actually on the bus, routes usually are not announced, bus drivers aren't happy about trying to help you find the right stop, and there are lots of challenges that would have been much more navigable had someone simply informed you.

Gas prices are on the rise yet again, and more people than ever before are looking for alternatives to driving — yes, even in North America. There are also people who cannot afford to buy a car, people who don't have a driver's license, and young people, too young to drive, who want to volunteer at your organization, attend an event, or access your services. If you don't have information to help these people — and that includes me — you are telling these audiences, "we don't want you to come to our organization."

Your organization's website needs to have the following information, and it needs to be oh-so-easy to find:

  • A text-based rendering of your organization's physical address (not just in a graphic).
  • A map that shows your organization's location AND the nearest bus stops; there are online volunteers who would be happy to prepare this graphic for you.
  • Written advice that would be helpful to a bus rider. Is there a landmark you should be looking for when riding the bus to know when your stop is coming? How long of a walk is it from the stop to your office? Is there only one place to cross a particularly busy street that wouldn't be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the area? Ask your current volunteers and clients about this — or create an investigative project for your volunteers to tease out this information.
  • A photo of the exterior of your offices.
  • Information on where a bicycle rider would park (if you don't know, walk outside and start looking; if you don't have a place, GET ONE — see below) and advice on routes if such would be helpful. Perhaps a bike rider would be more comfortable riding on a parallel street rather than a main one — another great investigative project for your volunteers!

There is no excuse for not having this information on your website, unless your organization needs to keep its location private (a domestic violence shelter, for instance). This information is just as important as parking information and your hours of operation and volunteers can help you gather this information. If none of your current volunteers are interested, post it as an opportunity with your local volunteer centre or relevant website.

In addition, remember that in most cities, buses stop running after a certain hour. If your training goes past that time, you are excluding people who would be stranded after the training. If there is no way to change the hours, talk about ways to set up participant car pools.

Encourage volunteers to car pool as well. And brag about all these green living efforts to the board and on your blog!

Note: On the subject of bike parking racks: Cyclists tend to prefer to park very close to their destinations and will lock a bicycle to anything available unless a rack is nearby. Racks should be in public view with high visibility and good lighting. Work with your city to get them installed for your building; they will have rules regarding where racks can go. Bike racks are great projects to fundraise around: identify exactly how much it will cost to buy and install such and involve your volunteers on creating a fundraising campaign to raise the funds needed for installation (what a great sponsorship opportunity!). When you install your new bike rack, take photos, make an announcement, maybe even throw a party! In short — make it a big deal.

This article originally appeared at Jayne's blog and is reprinted with permission.

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