The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has worked with Apparo on two initiatives which have resulted in a powerful new communication tool for our organization. We reached out to Apparo in 2015 because our website was clunky and slow, complicating our internal operations. It was outdated with academic language that didn’t appeal to constituents and lacked social media integration. It was not helpful in reaching our membership goals.
Later that year, Apparo scoped a website assessment plan and facilitated a Community Impact Project to deliver that assessment. In 2016, we were the winners of Apparo’s Website for Good Award. Apparo’s project management was instrumental in the successful and timely completion of a website that truly meets our needs. As we reflect on our work with Apparo, we realize the importance of both phases of our work together. As a result of our initial Community Impact Project, grant funding that might otherwise have been expended for planning could instead be applied to building the new website.
Now, thanks to Apparo, our new website increases our constituents’ interaction with our organization, helping boost our membership by 25% since its launch in May 2017. The new site:
· Integrates seamlessly with social media and our blog, helping drive increased interest and traffic to the rest of our website. Our Face book following has increased 74%, lnstagram 60%, and Twitter 40%. This is driven by the content we are creating on the website that we are sharing on social media.
· Enables our Young Allies of the River program – Our new website is appealing to a demographic that would not have connected with our old version. We are successfully promoting this group through the website and social media.
· Drives newsletter subscriptions, an important step towards membership.
The new website also increases our operational efficiency:
· Integrates with our volunteer management software, allowing for tracking of 2,000+ volunteers. Significant staff time is saved on volunteer management, allowing these staff members to focus on programmatic work. Our communications with volunteers are also improved, helping us retain and attract volunteers.
· Allows for easy management via Word Press – no additional staff or expenses were required.
The Catawba River itself also benefits, because the new website has capacity to launch a mobile application. When neighbors and boaters see trash or sediment in the river, they now can log it via the app, which sends the GPS coordinates to the website. In the first six months the app was downloaded more than 1,000 times, and we received several hundred reports of potential threats to the river.
The new website has changed our organization. Before this project, we worried constantly about the website’s stability and operation. Now, we don’t think about it at all, we just know it’s working. We are able to manage the site easily on our own and focus on our programmatic work. We are able to reach audiences we never have before, and our membership continues to grow. We can’t overestimate the impact we are able to leverage from a highly functional website and remain grateful to Apparo for the hard work that they provided as a partner in this journey.
Emilee Syrewicze, JD
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation