The Power of Community-Generated Content

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Nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes. Some are able to front a whole mini-army of tech/communication geeks; others’ entire staff can fit comfortably in the supply closet. So how does a nonprofit, limited in budget and (wo)manpower, maintain an effective presence online?

This is one of those overwhelming questions with a simple and elegant solution... community-generated content.

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNPE) is a perfect example of how a tiny nonprofit organization (with only 3.5 paid staff) can build a small online empire that achieves its mission.

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence

A program of the United Way of Central New Mexico, CNPE’s purpose is to build nonprofit capacity through training, learning resources, mentoring, and other support services.

Thanks to community-fed online directories, resources, and news articles, CNPE has created a hub for nonprofits, volunteers, consultants, and grantmakers, and established itself as the virtual nerve center of nonprofit networking in New Mexico.

As you can imagine, the ripple effects of all of these connected nonprofits have been tremendous. But how did they do it?

History

While CNPE's website is now an indispensable port of call for the nonprofit world in New Mexico, in 2009 they found themselves in a very different spot, in dire need of a website overhaul.

Some of the issues they were facing included a clunky, confusing website and a heavy load of phone calls from people asking the same questions over and over. They were also struggling to effectively broadcast their training events.

With these weak spots in mind, they reached out to Upleaf for help.

Strategy & Design

After mapping out a customized strategy with CNPE, Upleaf built a user-friendly website in Drupal that integrated with their CiviCRM constituent management system.

By asking what resources would most benefit their community, we jointly mapped out a highly relevant content plan. The infrastructure continued to evolve each year, growing richer and deeper as more and more, mostly crowd-sourced resources were added, including:

  • Nonprofit News - articles submitted by local organizations

  • Volunteer Connection -  volunteer opps, linking the needs of nonprofits with community volunteers who respond through the CNPE infrastructure

  • Gifts-In-Kind  - community donations and a nonprofit wish-list

  • Pro-Bono Services - community members offering their skills to nonprofits

  • Grantmakers Directory - searchable directory of some 415+ foundations and agencies providing grants to NM nonprofits

  • Nonprofit Directory -  searchable directory of 2,300 nonprofits in NM and growing – nonprofit records are linked to volunteer, gifts in kind, and job opportunities

  • Consultants Directory - searchable directory of 35 consultants who serve nonprofits, self-serve for consultants who add their own listings for a small fee

  • Job Listings - long list of active job openings, posted by nonprofits

As you can imagine, this content strategy generates a massive amount of valuable and perpetually changing content that doesn’t need to be crafted by a staff person.

Benefits of Community-Generated Content

The community-generated content has boosted website traffic, year over year, by strengthening CNPE's position in search results for important keywords. The CNPE website now appears at the top of search results or on the first page for many of the topics included in the Resources section of the website. 

In addition to boosting SEO results, the strategy has increased social media sharing - driving a steady flow of traffic to the site from social platforms. The more content you have, the more sharing and the greater the wealth of information.  

Results

In 2009, CNPE was averaging around 2,300 website visits per month. The site now nets more than 25,000 visits per month.

More than 12,000 pages are viewed in the nonprofit directory and 5,000 in the grantmakers directory each month. 3,000 people view the volunteer connection section monthly to find or publish volunteer opportunities. CNPE is delighted by this upswell in engagement:

"We receive excellent feedback from nonprofits who say our website is their “go-to” resource for learning, volunteers, grants, jobs and networking with others. We know we’re achieving our mission, and our website / CRM infrastructure has been a critical piece of our success.”

 - Amy S. Duggan, Director, Center for Nonprofit Excellence

The website is now a buzzing hive of activity for nonprofit professionals and community members who count on CNPE as a networking tool and great source of relevant information. Contributors feel invested in the site and nonprofit professionals feel like they are part of community much bigger than themselves, all at a low level of effort for CNPE. 

This is the win-win advantage of community-generated content.