Team Consulting with America Needs You and Fidelity Investments
This is the first in a series of blog posts tracking a long-term skills-based volunteering project with America Needs You and Fidelity Investments to upgrade the nonprofit’s website. Read part 2 and part 3, out now.
The Need: A New Website for a New Chapter
A nonprofit’s website is one of its most important platforms for connecting with the community, from the people it serves to the donors who help fund its programming to all those who contribute to mission success. A captivating and intuitive website design can take communications to the next level – and that’s exactly what education and mentorship nonprofit America Needs You (ANY) is looking to do. When Common Impact uncovered that need, we were quick to pair ANY with a team of Fidelity Investments skills-based volunteers for a website redesign project.
ANY fights for economic mobility for ambitious, first-generation college students by providing transformative mentorship and intensive professional development. For the past 10 years, the organization has improved college persistence and career success outcomes for more than 2,000 students across the U.S.
ANY has changed significantly over that time, moving from a local to national model, and wants its website to reflect that growth. The organization’s WordPress site is over six years old with limited functionality and a layout that is difficult for users to navigate and for staff to update.
The ANY team wants to create a more positive and memorable user experience featuring well-organized, customized content that is easily accessible to their key audiences: students, volunteers, corporate partners, campus partners, and donors. They want to move away from their static, business-oriented site and develop a platform that better tells the stories of ANY students and volunteers and captures the energy of their community. The communications team is proficient in adding content and making minor site updates in WordPress, but in order to implement a full overhaul of their site, they need outside support.
The Solution: Long-Term Skilled Volunteering
ANY tapped on Common Impact to design and manage a skills-based volunteering project that would connect the nonprofit with digital marketing and website design specialists who could develop a strategy for streamlining content, reorganizing site architecture and menus, diversifying design elements, utilizing more engaging visual and interactive elements, improving navigability, and increasing ease of content management and administration. These wide-ranging needs called for a long-term model of skills-based volunteering we call team consulting.
Team consulting projects are multi-week or multi-month engagements that allow for not just deeper nonprofit assessments and strategy development, but the actual implementation of new resources, systems, or programs. Team consulting is ideal for complex projects that nonprofits may not have the specialized knowledge, staff capacity, or budget to carry out on their own. Along the way, they learn about tools, strategies, and best practices for success that they can continue to apply in their work long after the skilled volunteering partnership has ended. For corporate volunteers, team consulting challenges them to apply their expertise in new contexts. They receive regular opportunities to stretch their capabilities and gain new skills and perspectives from working with their nonprofit peers.
ANY’s website redesign speaks to the uptick in demand for marketing and technology projects during the pandemic. Oftentimes, budget and staff capacity constraints mean nonprofits have to deprioritize projects like updating a website or redesigning communication materials and end up relying on stopgap fixes for years. But because they’ve found themselves relying on these resources so heavily during the pandemic, many organizations are turning their focus to upgrading their websites and other communication platforms. When ANY went from in-person to virtual recruiting and programming, its website and other digital platforms and content became the core of its communications with current and prospective students, partners, donors, and supporters. With skills-based volunteering, organizations like ANY have the opportunity to create compelling content they can be proud of. To Chief External Affairs Officer Emily Ashton, who has been with ANY for seven years, having outside knowledge, resources, and time to commit to the website through skills-based volunteering is a critical next step for the organization’s marketing success.
Getting Started: Skill Sharing with Fidelity Investments
Common Impact scoped a comprehensive yet well-defined team consulting project and matched ANY with Fidelity Investments, a longtime leader in skilled volunteering with rich expertise in the nonprofit’s areas of need. Fidelity has partnered with Common Impact since 2003 to run skills-based volunteering programs that align employees’ skills and talents to the social challenges they’re best positioned to address. Since then, more than 1,700 Fidelity employees have helped create long-term impact for nonprofits across the country.
For this project, five Fidelity volunteers were selected for their prowess in website development and UX, digital marketing, design, IT, business analysis, and project management. Though they come from different teams, specialties, and even countries, what unites these volunteers is a shared enthusiasm for ANY’s mission to support first generation college students, especially during this difficult time for students and new professionals.
The Fidelity volunteers each committed to 2-8 hours of work per week for approximately 4 months, including weekly check-ins with their ANY counterparts. The team began their work with a kickoff meeting where the ANY staff shared about the organization, the story it wants to tell through its website, and its goals for the project. Up next was an initial assessment of ANY’s website, followed by mapping priority enhancements and beginning to develop a project work plan. With the partnership kicked off, ANY and Fidelity are on their way to creating a dynamic new website.