Simon Fairway is up to something across the pond: He is coordinating a digital makeover of South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau, a “voluntary organisation and registered charity set up to help voluntary and community organisations get the resources they need.”  The digital makeover project will focus on SYFAB and come to “grips with their organisational challenges, and dreaming up some innovative but appropriate digital solutions for a few of them.”

SYFAB was chosen from many nominations to the Charity Technology Trust because of their pattern of innovation and openness to new technologies.  They also have a staff of 12, making them comparable to many nonprofits.

Here are some of the first areas identified by Simon and the team working on the Digital Makeover.  (Take a look at the SYFAB website and the blog as reference for the below options.)

1.  Introducing Google Analytics to the website to get a stronger understanding of the volume and demographic of site visitors and the most useful content for service users.

I think this is a great way to begin identifying and learning about core usage of the website.  Many organizations are surprised by patterns that emerge and pages that are popular, as often the view of the organization’s website by staff is very different by users.  Some things that I would look for are

2. Adding an RSS feed to the website’s funding news page, so that regular visitors can be informed of updates to the website.

I think adding RSS is a must; the news page (which is the home page with the current site configuration) as well as the training and IT Project sections (you want RSS wherever content will change and people will want to know about it!).  The blog is in wordpress and automatically has RSS.

3. Establishing a regular email newsletter, initially with events and training information. In the longer term this could provide an alternative to the funding newsletter or members’ case studies.

The email newsletter is a great transition step from mailing hard copies towards only electronic materials.  SYFAB probably has the email addresses of nearly all the members already, but it is still a good idea to send out an email to everyone explaining that an email newsletter will begin next week (or whenever) and will be distributed from info@syfab.org.uk (as an example) so they can be sure the email address is in their contact list (some spam filters will block messages sent to many people unless they are in the contact list), and to reply if they do not want to be automatically added to the distribution list (an opt-out).

4. Migrating the feedback process on-line to make it more efficient as a whole, and providing an opportunity to provide feedback directly to funders.

By migrating feedback to an online process, especially one that is shared/stored and public, you really can serve more people by doing less work!  People that have a similar situation or question can review what has already been answered instead of starting the question/investigation process over.  Creating a learning center (like Tech Soup) or forum-type approach to the question-investigation-answer process, you can relieve yourself of having to duplicate research/work but also allow for other members to jump in and contirubte their experiences and knowledge to make even better responses.

I would like to see this have two parts: one side is for the funder investigation and process, the other is for case studies and success stories.  I think it is important for a collaborative approach in finding information and researching options, but it is also really important that case studies be public and searchable, as well as include feedback/commenting just like the learning center side.

5. Offering multimedia content through the website.

I hate to see any organization adopt new technologies that aren’t appropriate for the specific goals and projects.  That isn’t to say that multimedia options aren’t applicable to SYFAB, but I don’t want SYFAB to feel obligated to grab at cool, new things.

The most valuable and directly applicable avenue for multimedia in the SYFAB site, that I see, is:

  • Record (either video or just audio) main presentations at events
  • Create a video or audio instead of a text blog entry, like a quick tip on searching for funders, or a commonly misunderstood issue dispelled, etc.
  • When compelling case stories are submitted (see #4), interviews be recorded with a representative from the organization and posted in the learning forum and on the blog

6. Re-establish the blog as an informal counterweight to the website that welcomes contributions from SYFAB’s service users.

In the Issues and Priorities document available in Simon’s initial post, it says, “Danny freely admits that if the blog is to succeed, it needs find its niche alongside the website.” This is very true!

You have a few ways of doing this, and the first is to prominently display the blog/link on the website, and vice versa.  It is also helpful to textually link to the blog when discussing something that is mentioned on the blog, etc. (linking textually means you link the words in a setence, opposed to a graphic, etc.).  The blog, if it is going to be the counterweight to the website, should be updated often, at least as often as the website is updated, which is weekly.  If finding content is the issue (though I assume finding time is the issue), you have many resources for digging up content; my favorites include:

  • subscribe to industry RSS feeds, and report on news
  • watch/subscribe to RSS feeds of social bookmarking sites (like del.icio.us) to see sites and stories that others are discovering in your field
  • share something you or your organization learned
  • interview someone from the office/organization
  • ask for feedback or experiences about a certain topic related to the organization’s work or field

As far as the blog goes, there is very little that is social about it, except that commenting is enabled.  Any other social media adopted by the organization, should be displayed on the blog: ie, if you have a Facebook, Myspace, Ning, or other social network presence, the logo and link should be included; if you have a Twitter, Pownce, Utterz, or other microblogging tool, it should be included; if you have a presence on YouTube, Bebo, Blip TV, or other media sharing sites, it should be included; etc.  There are also widgets you can create using tools like Sprout Builder that ramp up your social media feel.  You can also use widgets from tools like MyBlogLog or Twitter that show recent activity.  WordPress (which you are using for the blog currently) has a number of widgets you can enable to show recent activity as well, like comments, posts, etc.

7.  Optimise the site for search engines.

This, like adding RSS, is a great first level step to advancing any organization’s website.

8. Development of online training opportunities and provision of interactive online resources to help organisations develop their fundraising skills and knowledge.

It would be wonderful to do either live or archived online trainings in the form of a webinar or a screencast.  You can look at tools like SlideShare as well.  Connecting these with the learning forums and case studies would be a great way to add context and user stories.  The multimedia options (#5) are a great way to begin providing some online resources as well.

Follow along with the updates on Simon’s blog on NetSquared here:  http://www.netsquared.org/blog/simonfairway/

This is a social media project, meaning you can contribute and get involved in myriad ways: blog about some of your ideas (tag it with digitalmakeover), video blog about your ideas (tag it with digitalmakeover), or post to the community blog at NetSquared (tag with digitalmakeover).  You can also speak to Simon about other ways to get involved and the project’s progress by emailing him at simon @ ctt .org

What are your thoughts about the digital makeover project and SYFAB’s options?

Digital Makeover Project
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