Digital Transitions: A Look at Philanthropy.Com

Purple box with title of Chronicle of Philanthropy

This week we have explored various elements of good style, both written and visual, and examined how those elements are or are not reflected in websites associated with our discourse communities. I analyzed the website for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which has a wide following in the philanthropic sector.

Background and Audience

Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine covers.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a print magazine launched in 1988, and the organization behind this publication has both grown and changed over the years. In 2023, the organization became a nonprofit, and it continues to provide news and resources to professionals working on both sides of the philanthropic world—that is, those who give money to and those who raise money for charitable causes. Its audience includes fundraising specialists, foundation staff, and nonprofit board members, among others. While the print magazine is still in production, the website provides extensive additional content. It is free to subscribe to the platform but only a limited number of articles are available without a paid subscription.

Editorial Content

Given its journalistic roots, it is not surprising that the Chronicle feels and reads like a news website. Generally, the articles reflect two styles of writing described by Balzotti in Technical Communication: A Design-Centric Approach. These styles are plain, which is intended to inform the reader, and persuasive, which is aimed at influencing the reader. In the plain category are instructional-type articles that offer tips and approaches on various fundraising topics, such as creative ways to thank donors. Citing strategies from leaders in the nonprofit field, these articles have an authoritative yet accessible tone. While they include some industry terminology, they are mostly jargon free. This approach reflects the need cited by Dr. Lucas to provide content that appeals to both a target audience and a broader segment of readers.

There is also significant content provided through opinion pieces and letters to the editor. With myriad authors, the tone and style of these pieces varies. However, consistency is found in the Chronicle’s guidelines that articles be fact based and jargon free. Collectively, the articles are intended to influence readers to a particular point of view, and such as fall into the persuasive category.  

Multimedia Offerings

Nonprofit professionals make up a significant portion of the Chronicle’s audience, and the website offers information and training to staff at all levels. In addition to articles, this content is delivered through various means, including videos, podcasts, on-demand webinars, and online panel discussions. Some programming is free, but most must be purchased.

Audience Engagement

The Chronicle is active on several social media platforms, but website readers can only engage with the content by emailing the editors or authors. There are no comment sections. Additionally, the site hosts a jobs database to connect employers and applicants.

Design Considerations: Too Much of a Good Thing?

A screen shot of the website's home page
Home page screen shot

I find philanthropy.com user friendly in some areas and a little frustrating in others. On a positive note, the homepage follows certain rules of good web design, including scannable links and an accessible search feature. In addition, the home page and interior pages utilize clear, horizontal navigation and good contrast between the text and the white background. Menu headers and linked text are called out in blue, while the page text is black. Font styles and a single, dark purple accent color are applied consistently and reflect the organization’s well-established branding. To organize content, articles are labeled by category (e.g., “Advice” or “Opinion”) or by topic.

On the downside, the volume of content on the website is somewhat overwhelming. The training content is so extensive that it could occupy its own space, and I wonder if that may be a better approach (similar to how LinkedIn Learning is separate from the main LinkedIn site). While it may be a necessary evil, the extensive advertising is also distracting and often makes the pages look overly busy. Like many websites that have grown over time, the site feels a little disjointed, which is a shame because the content is worthwhile. As the Chronicle continues to move in new directions, hopefully the organization will reimagine the best ways to connect with their varied audiences.

Beth Kennedy

Beth Kennedy

Beth Kennedy has spent more than 25 years in nonprofit communications, helping organizations connect with their supporters. Currently, she is graduate student in Technical and Professional Writing.
North Carolina