Off the shelf solutions

National charities with regional offices

It has always seemed a little odd to me for a national charity with regional offices to either make a recommendation to use the same web developer as the person that developed the national site, bearing in mind that the national site probably cost £2000 + often more than £6000. Or simply make a list of “approved suppliers” available to the regional charities. Why would you not take a more strategic approach to propagate your brand? I first started working with charities by building a website for a local organisation called Home-Start, they were a local branch near where I am based. I developed a new site for them based on elements from the national site, this reinforced the branding of the parent organisation. An analysis of the 300 plus regional offices at the time (2010) showed that less than half of them had a website and of those that had a website less than 3% had a site that was remotely similar to the parent organisation. This seemed like an opportunity lost.

A national charity will spend thousands on securing and promoting a brand ID. In the commercial world this can run to £100,000’s. So if you spend that money at the corporate HQ, why would you not also seek to make that available to the regional sites?

Common Factors

Within most charitable national organisations with regional offices they will carry the the following features:

  • A corporate set of procedures
  • A corporate approved data management system
  • A rule book on using marketing collateral in printed material
  • Defined service offerings
  • Defined roles for volunteers
  • Defined roles for employees
  • Defined responsibilities and guidance for trustees and directors.
  • Defined operations manual
  • A QC Management process administered by representatives from or appointed by HQ

When you have looked at one regional organisation and then work with a second, You immediately appreciate that both offer basically the same services with some minimal localisation. The only difference is that they may be a bit bigger or smaller, and they are based at a different location. They speak the same operational language and offer largely the same services to a similar community with the same needs.

Extending a helping hand

What I did at the time was to create an off the shelf website. This carries the colours, symbols, logos and other marketing collateral for the organisation but pitched at the local level. 80% of the content is common and applicable to any regional office within that parent charity. 20% of the developers effort is in customising the solution for the location and small modifications to the service offerings and referral processes. This significantly reduces the cost of developing a website for a regional office. If that reduction in cost can be passed to the regional office, you can make a web presence a reality where it might only have been a dream before.

Customisation

Not everyone wants something off of the shelf, people want to put there own spin on things. That too can be accommodated. Using WordPress and with the appropriate privileges set the local office can now make their off the shelf website more localised than just the address, some graphics and some of the text. Additional pages can be added for those that are larger. But the important point is the starting point or foundation is very low cost. The system is extensible and can be modified to accommodate future needs such as recruitment or any fund raising initiatives.

HQ Broadcasts

It is even possible that if a national charity HQ wanted to highlight a particular message then they edit one page locally and this page can be included in all sites. So rather than putting out an important message on the HQ site about say changes in child care, or post natal depression, the same message could instantly be present in all of the regional sites as well. It isn’t rocket science, but nobody seems to be doing it. Given the cost of propagating the news, it seems like a quick and easy win.

Your “Off the Shelf Solution”

If you are interested in developing an off the shelf solution that meets your brand guidelines, is consistent with your messaging, and helps your local offices by providing quick and low cost way of getting on the web let me know. Provided you have enough regional offices it may be practical to produce a full site of 12 or more pages starting at around £160. Contact me, I would be happy to discuss it further with you.

Examples

In the following examples, these have been developed independently of the corporate HQ’s and marketed to some regional offices, or word has simply got around. I have built around 40 websites for Home-Start organisations and around 20 for Child Contact Centres which are part of the NACCC (National Association of Child Contact Centres). Having now demonstrated the concept and helped so many charities achieve a web presence at a much lower cost than starting from scratch, I would be interested in helping other groups.

Follow these links to learn more about Home-Start and Child Contact Centre off the shelf websites.


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