OK Today’s Byte is really long – but I’ve tried to break it up with a Q & A format. I think the Byte will be of greatest interest to nonprofit organizations that have web sites.
Last week I gave a presentation on online ads and sponsorship at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference. I gave the presentation with my friend and fellow search engine junky, David Erickson. (David posted the presentation on his site http://www.e-strategyblog.com/2006/10/online_ads_spon.html.)
A couple of question came up during the presentation and I thought I would answer them here:
Do you have a sample link policy for folks who might link to my site?
You can’t really stop anyone from linking to you. A “link” is an address and addresses cannot be copyrighted. Copyright becomes an issue when someone copies your content and posts it on their page.
The Texas Department of Information Resources does a good job of outlining the links they encourage and “links” they don’t allow (http://www.dir.state.tx.us/standards/link_policy.htm). The bottom stuff gets into government stuff – but the top paragraphs are pretty useful.
The March of Dimes has a pretty strict policy (that requires linkers to agree before linking) but it does allow folks to use their graphic for a link.
Do you have a sample link policy to help us decide which links to include on our site?
Above all else, you want to make sure that your links are helpful to your visitors.
The Educator’s Reference Desk (http://www.eduref.org/linkpolicy.shtml) has a nice link policy that I think actually helps you decide what to include.
First Gov for Kids (http://www.kids.gov/linkpolicy.htm) does a good job explaining their criteria to potential link requesters.
Minnesota Revenue (http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/taxes/home_con/link_policy.shtml) has a more business-like policy.
Do you have a sample sponsor policy?
We were talking about seeking sponsors for web site; in short people who might be rewarded for a donation with a link or banner link on your nonprofit web site. On the one hand it’s nice to get money; on the other hand some sponsors might have goals or reputations that conflict with your own. As I did the research I realized (and remembered from my days in service-learning) that this issue is much larger than the web. If you want a scan of all of the issues, do a search on “nonprofits taking tobacco money”.
For the Byte I can only say that I’d start by looking at the link policy (using resources above) and if someone didn’t make the cut without a “donation” then I’d have to think long and hard about adding them just for the money. Or it would have to be a lot of money. Ask yourself, is it a site that your visitors would find of value and would you be proud to be associated with them?
Do you have to report revenue generated from online ads (such as through a program such as Google Adsense https://www.google.com/adsense/)?
I talked to my accountant and he said, yes. He also said ask a lawyer – but I looked online instead. NonprofitExpert.com (http://www.nonprofitexpert.com/income.htm) had a nice article on earned income or unrelated business income. It doesn’t address online ads specifically, but I think it addresses the issue.