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You Can Do Better Than Cosmetic Improvements

You Can Do Better Than Cosmetic Improvements

July 14, 2022   |   Communications Strategy, Identity, Web

You know this scenario: a nonprofit is awarded a small grant to make improvements to, say, their website. It’s not enough money to build the ideal site for the organization, yet too much money just to make cosmetic improvements to their current set up. This was the Art Effect’s situation when they asked me about improvements to their website.

To the best of my memory they said: “We can’t afford the site we’d like, but we can plan for that in three-to-five years.”

The Art Effect is a rapidly growing organization, filling a critical need in the Mid-Hudson Valley by preparing youth for careers in the arts, both through apprenticeship programs, and through portfolio development for secondary education (a program that has helped its students get tens of millions of dollars in scholarship offers).

Full disclosure, I am their board president at the time of writing this (and will be through 2022), so I am particularly attuned to organizational need, and in a position to say: we can do better than cosmetic improvements.

At the time, the website was something that had been put together quickly to reflect the changes taking place following a merger of two nonprofits into The Art Effect. It did a good job of explaining the organization and listing its programs, but The Art Effect is now an organization that reaches around 1,700 students a year. They need a platform that can handle things like class registration, event registration, student portfolios, donations, student profile management by both parents and teachers, etc.

We worked with The Art Effect to develop a realistic strategy, one that defined what their website needed to do. We then performed extensive research across a variety of platforms, from Salesforce to customized sites built from WordPress’s database to get an understanding of offerings, compatibility, ongoing support, and cost.

Art Effect Website design

Parent Portal for student management at The Art Effect.

Partnering with Megaphone in Brooklyn, we helped to create a website that substantially increased staff capacity by automating data and distributing it as needed. For every time certain data appears (eg class information) on the website (eg catalog, registration, student profile, teacher portal), it only needs to be entered into the database once. If the entry is edited, those edits appear throughout the website.

In another example of efficiencies, any user account created on the site has the mobility to change class. A student can become an alum, can become a parent, can become a teacher, can become a donor. This creates seamless channels for audience management on both the education and fundraising sides of the organization. These changes are made with a single click, or automatically depending upon transaction type.

The Art Effect is a rapidly growing organization. Anything that increases their capacity, increases their advantage. The same goes for having professional, easy user-experience for their audience. When parents can manage five children at once, when alumni can reference their online portfolio as needed, indefinitely, and when donors can manage their own profiles, everybody wins – not in three-to-five years, but today.