Launching Non-Profit, Mountain Child. Call for Volunteers.
I recently had my first chance to work with a non-profit, US 501(c)(3) Corporation. They’re a Christian-based organization called Mountain Child. My role was to provide branding, including logo, business cards and t-shirts, as well as the initial website. It’s obvious why non-profits need an army of volunteers. I live in Korea and came to work with Mountain Child by way of the Church my husband and I attend. Korea serves as a basecamp where Mountain Child trains volunteers before they’re ready to serve anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years among the poverty and despair of the Himalayan people. When I listened to Mountain Child’s story, I knew I could believe in this project and felt motivated each day to do my best work. Friends of mine are regularly taking breaks from their teaching positions to volunteer at the R.A.N.C.H. (Remote Areas of Nepal Children’s Home) in Nepal. When they return, their stories are moving and their photography breathtaking. Many of these children will not live past 8 years old because their tribes lack fundamental medical care. Mountain Child’s mission is to set up schools, Christian churches and medical facilities so these children have a chance to enjoy childhood and live to become thriving adults.
As a consumer and designer who is constantly observing the "competition" I asked myself how I could set this small team of passionate volunteers apart. There is so much noise from non-profits out there. As a consumer, I always struggle to choose which non-profits to support. So I went about the design from a skeptic’s perspective, following recommendations on Smashing Magazine’s article about making friendly non-profit sites. I covered the basics in a month. I designed and built an SEO-optimized, valid HTML/CSS site trying to focus on clear messaging. I established PayPal donations with the assistance of Binary Factory. I set up a FaceBook fan page, as well as Flickr and Twitter accounts. Their blog is powered by Tumblr (so they have a variety of posting methods available) and the Tumblr media feed is parsed w/ the help of a Yahoo Pipe. For you tech-geeks, EE is using MagPie. So, I did the basics. Nothing is perfect on the first try.
Today was the first meeting I had with the other volunteers to talk about the marketing strategy. Up until now, I’d been working only with the founder, Jack Reid and the finance guru/coordinator, Kimberly Lowe.
After talking with the team of 6 (not including myself), I got feedback on the site from volunteers, as well as their friends and family. Much to my surprise, I got some really strange comments. Some visitors want to know if Mountain Child is "stealing children" from their homes! That’s not it at all, I can assure you. Mountain Child focuses is on 7 core issues, including death, medical care, education, combatting the sex trade industry, combatting child labor, improving environment and fostering spiritual growth. Through the rescue, raise and return program, Himalayan children have hope.
So what do you think? If you have a few minutes, review the site and share your thoughts. What can be improved visually? How could messaging be improved?
One obvious change I see already is a jQuery slideshow on the homepage for fresh content. Who wants to look at that same graphic for the next month? Not me. Much more help is needed. Its no wonder noteworthy non-profits like TWLOHA.com, ComeAndLive.com and InvisibleChildren.com have large marketing budgets. But I must remember, not all non-profits start out that way.
During today’s meeting, we came up with a plan. I’m writing this post so that other designers might consider volunteering their time and effort for a good cause. Mountain Child needs your help both online and offline.
Opportunities to Help Online Efforts:
- Google Ad Words Experts: Mountain Child would like to establish a Google Ad Words account. Ad Words is not my expertise and I understand it requires a time committment.
- Downloads and Banner Development: Help with banner ads and wallpaper that visitors can snag to spread the word and beautify their desktops and iPhones (yes, we’re Mac partial…j/k).
- Shopping Cart and Order Fullfillment: We need suggestions for a reliable order fullfillment service. Mountain Child is securing local artisans who will create wearables and one-of-a-kind art that can be sold on the Mountain Child website. We approached Zambooie, but they are overwhelmed with work requests for now. While Mountain Child is an American non-profit, the home base operates out of South Korea, so we’d like to work with a fullfillment service that ships within the US and internationally.
- Expression Engine Experts: Mountain Child is driven by Expression Engine. While I can set up basic sites in EE, I’m not well-versed in membership management. We’d like a place for visitors to submit testimonials that go through the approval of an admin. A forum to discuss trip strategy would be helpful too.
- Campaign/Promotion Suggestions: We’ve got plenty of ideas, but I know you’ve got something we haven’t thought of yet. Ideas aren’t the problem. Its the execution and shear number of hands needed to pull it off. So if you’d like to share campaign ideas, can you advise how to pull it off?
- Email Campaigns: I suggested to Mountain Child they should set up a MailChimp account and send regular email newsletters with addresses they collect from inquiries on their site. I’m willing to design a template for reuse, but they need an HTML-er to get campaigns finalized each month.
- Staff Technical Training: Implementing things takes time, but training the non-technical staff to use the CMS and manage assets (Flickr, Tumblr, PayPal, etc.) takes time too. So if you’re a guru, I can explain to you how things work quickly and you could record screencasts to help less-technical volunteers.
Opportunities to Design Offline Efforts:
- Packet Development and Street Team Assets: Mountain Child is putting together a packet for schools and churches to share Mountain Child’s vision. This packet will include a DVD, a multi-page booklet and instructions for a moderator to present Mountain Child’s mission. We’d also like designers to create stickers and swag.
- T-Shirt Design: My husband and I came up with a few t-shirt designs and used JakPrints out of Cleveland. Getting them to Korea was a headache, but we managed. Why not donate a 1 or 2-color design, b/c there isn’t anything better than wearing something and remembering…"hey, I designed that."
Opportunities to Help Offline:
- Street Teams: We love what FanCorps is doing, but they’re busy now too. We need volunteers who are moved by Mountain Child’s message to distribute our stickers and swag at their next gig or event. If you’re interested in helping spread the word and want to get a free t-shirt out of it for yourself, get in touch.
- Musicians: The median age of Mountain Child’s volunteers is 23-36. Mountain Child believes music connects people and dissolves cultural barriers. Musicians can help spread the word by wearing our t-shirts or sharing our story. Because Mountain Child is lead by Christian values, music with a message of love, forgiveness and charity are particularly valuable. Mountain Child would love to have a group play at the R.A.N.C.H. for the children.
- Hands/Team Leaders: Mountain Child needs hands. Everyone has talent of some kind. Maybe you write well. Maybe you have a knack for finding things. Maybe you need a break from your cubicle and think it’ll be cool to hike the Himalayas. We need you more than you think.
Its not easy to get a non-profit off the ground. I’ve worked lots of places: Detroit, California and now to Korea. I’ve never met such a group of passionate, dedicated people. Currently Mountain Child has 7 volunteers. I am the only volunteer with interactive design and development experience. There is one other designer trained in print. One volunteer is trained in video production and the others also have analog creative ability. Since a large part of spreading the word happens online, web designers and developers are needed most. Even if you can’t volunteer your time, contact Kimberly anyway with your rate.
- Launching Non-Profit, Mountain Child. Call for Volunteers.
- March 06, 2010