Q&A with Birch President and CEO Matt Sturiale on Staying Relevant in Today’s Digital World
By now, all nonprofit organizations know that a website is an important tool for success. In today’s digital world, your website is often the first place someone learns about your organization, and it is one of the most important ways to get your message across and keep people engaged. For millennials in particular, technology is a part of everyday life, and a website that is out of date or difficult to navigate is guaranteed to lose their attention (and their donation!)
Our client Birch Family Services recently undertook a website redesign and brand refresh to ensure they were maximizing their reach. We sat down with Birch President and CEO Matt Sturiale to chat about the process, lessons learned, and advice for other nonprofits thinking about updating their online brand.
1. Tell us about Birch Family Services- what is your mission?
Since 1975, Birch Family Services has served more than 20,000 people with autism and developmental disabilities and their families throughout New York City. In that time, the organization has grown from a single classroom to a multiservice provider of individualized, person-centered educational and long-term support services that have helped people navigate significant transitions across the life cycle. Throughout its history, Birch, now a $72 million agency, has demonstrated the ability to provide quality programs that support the individual needs of children, adolescents, and adults so that they can reach their full potential.
2. What did you want to accomplish?
Whether you are among the thousands of people who regularly visit us online or are just finding it through a search, our new website is designed to help you better connect with our mission and the services we provide through an improved online experience. Working with our terrific – and patient – website development and branding agency Trillion Creative, we were able to accomplish just that.
3. Which audiences are you trying to reach?
From the very beginning, we knew that the new site had to wear a lot of hats, so every department across the agency – Education, Community Services, Training, Human Resources, Development and, of course, the IT department – as well as our Board of Directors was involved in the planning process. As such, it’s designed for the full range of our constituents and stakeholders. That includes families looking for an appropriate school or community and home supports for their loved one; employment programs for people on the autism spectrum; career opportunities for professionals in the field; corporations looking to bolster their diversity and inclusion efforts; as well as professional development training, volunteer, and donor-support opportunities; and media inquiries.
4. How is your website more engaging?
Part of a larger “brand refresh,” the changes, which include a new logo that more accurately reflects our vision, are designed to provide easier access to more relevant and up-to-date information about our programs and services, and timely updates on news and events, as well as an easier process to support the Birch mission through private donations and volunteerism. Everything is easier. If you’re interested in employment, you can just click on the careers button. Want to support the agency with a contribution? We’ve got a button for that, too.
5. How is it more accessible?
In the old days when the process was more cumbersome, we just put things online as needed. Consequently, visitors had to scroll through pages of dense text with no clear organization. With the new site, an emphasis was placed on the content architecture and navigation, so visitors could more readily identify which areas of the site was relevant to them. The new design also makes it easier to find the right person to answer your questions, which saves time and eliminates frustration on both ends of the exchange.
6. What features make your website nimble?
With the old site, even the most basic changes were a challenge. Every update had to be implemented by our offsite web host, which caused lengthy delays, errors, and a whole lot of frustration. Now, as the new back-end interface is so simple and intuitive, you don’t have to be an IT professional to make general edits and post new information. Content can be changed more quickly and important information – school closings and other important announcements, policy updates, new employment opportunities, and donor information – can go live with very little lag time, if any.
7. You mentioned reaching funders and donors—what can we now find that speaks to them?
Throughout the site, you’ll discover a wealth of content, including detailed information about our programs and services, and stories that inspire us and bring to life the critical work we do and the people and families that we support. Anyone interested in supporting our mission can either contact us by email or directly through the site. Or they can just click a button to make a donation.
8. How do you get feedback on your website, or how do you know that you have accomplished your goals?
All areas of the site feature contact functionality that will put you in touch with just the right person to answer your questions. For instance, if you’re in the Education Services area, all you have to do fill in your own email address and message and the email will appear directly in the appropriate person’s mailbox. And we receive emails related to all our services on a daily basis. And thanks to Google Analytics, we can watch as our pages are shared on social media, which gives us a good impression of who’s engaging with it – and who we’re missing.
9. Who uses your website most?
Far and away, the data points to families looking for information about our early childhood education programs for both children with autism and developmental disabilities as well as those who are typically developing, which makes sense, given that that early childhood education is our largest program area. Next up are job seekers and those seeking professional development training in the fields we support.
10. Who works on this internally to keep it current?
The site is maintained by the Communications unit, which is based in our Development department. It was just a natural fit. All content that needs to be posted on the site goes through our Senior Communications Manager to ensure that tone and messaging remains consistent and on brand across the whole site.
11. Has your new website increased your visibility among consumers, providers, funders, etc.?
Launched just five months ago, the new site has already raised our profile. According to Analytics, people are finding it online and staying longer. They’re connecting with us on social media and jumping over to the site, sharing pages along the way. It helps that our visitors are now able to more easily share our pages across whatever social media platforms they’re using. This has really driven engagement with our core constituents, often leading to direct conversations — and donations.
Capalino has a proven track record in providing nonprofit advisory services to many of New York City’s nonprofit organizations. To learn more, contact Executive Vice President Jeanne Mullgrav at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.616.5832.
Nonprofit Advisory Services