Columbia Riverkeeper

Navigating the waters of Bene

“ThinkShout’s BENE platform is a forward-thinking solution designed to make the daunting task of building a website, a fun and enjoyable experience. Thanks to ThinkShout’s team, no matter how complex the design request seems, the BENE platform delivers a thoughtful, well-designed solution.” - Liz Terhaar, Communications Director, Columbia Riverkeeper

Who is Columbia Riverkeeper

Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.

Their staff works to inform and engage the public on issues facing the Columbia River. They are a leader in high-profile campaigns to protect our region from dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and other threats facing Columbia River communities and salmon habitat; and have a proven track record in organizing and empowering local communities, enforcing environmental laws, and building strategic coalitions.

Not unlike many nonprofits out there, Columbia Riverkeeper does all of this with a modest staff size (16 total) and limited budget. But if there’s one thing ThinkShout knows, it’s nonprofits, and when you’re committed and driven to make a difference, you don’t let those details derail you. You dig in and make it work. So we were excited to help them tackle the task of building a new website on the Drupal distribution we released last fall, Bene.

The Goals

Columbia Riverkeeper’s previous website lacked intuitive navigation, and no longer reflected the organization’s brand. They needed a site that would allow users to easily find the information they were looking for, told a compelling story of who they are and what they do, and increased conversions for donations and newsletter subscriptions. They also wanted a platform that was easier to manage, more performant, and secure.

But they needed more than just a platform to build a site on, they needed strategy and design support to help them craft clean visuals, simplified messaging, and clear calls to action throughout the website. These were things that just don’t come with the wiki or FAQs in an out of the box solution. Columbia Riverkeeper required the discovery process, strategy, and design that comes with a high budget website redesign, but they needed it for a fraction of the cost.

ThinkShout developed Bene precisely to address this scenario.

Columbia Riverkeeper Home Page Screens

Why Bene

For the last several years, ThinkShout observed a pattern. We’d meet with organizations that wanted to partner with us, but the budget just wasn’t there for the services and technology we offered. Around the same time, we started to notice something else – their sites didn’t require the vast complexities and depth that a custom Drupal site involves. They simply needed the basics, with some room to grow. More than anything, they needed the expertise to know how to create their unique information architecture and make a compelling case to audiences for support.

Mobile views of Columbia Riverkeeper's site

So we set out to build Bene, an open source solution that addresses these needs. As a bonus, organizations can work with us to gain the strategic and design support to ensure their site is built to attract audiences and help them achieve their mission. This was something that, based on our own knowledge and experience at nonprofit orgs, would be of extreme value to groups like Columbia Riverkeeper.

Unlike DIY platforms that have limited flexibility and cannot grow along with an organization, Bene is built on Drupal, the leading open source web platform which allows for never ending expansion and customization to meet an organization’s evolving needs. As improvements, integrations, and contributions are made to Bene, those enhancements become available to anyone on the platform. That’s the beauty of open source.

And, since Bene is templated and built on a specific set of blocks, ThinkShout is able to focus our work with smaller organizations on strategy, design, and customization. Precisely what Columbia Riverkeeper needed.

Bene & Columbia Riverkeeper

All ThinkShout website redesign projects start with a discovery workshop to assess the client goals and audience motivations – Bene projects are no different. Our experienced staff worked with Columbia Riverkeeper to define and prioritize their target audiences, their motivations, and how to structure content on their site to keep those audiences coming back and engaged.

After the onsite, we reviewed any and all assets the client had to help guide our creative direction and set their style tiles.

Style tiles for Columbia Riverkeeper's site

Next was the application of the Bene base build and core modules / content types, followed by the implementation of Columbia Riverkeeper’s design. We also provided template theming for Salsa, (their CRM system) to ensure continuity for the end user when they completed petitions or other actions on their site.

After some training sessions to ensure Columbia Riverkeeper’s staff was set up for success in using and administering the tool, we then handed over the keys to the team to import and stage their own content in the system. It truly was an intuitive, clean, and simple process.

Recorded trainings and documentation are part of the package with Bene. We recognize that we’re providing a valuable tool for our partners, and part of ensuring sustainable success is providing that instruction so that as staff changes or grows, they can share that knowledge without depending on their own internal resources. That’s music to a small staff’s ears!

We’re still working closely with Columbia Riverkeeper, providing support in the form of security updates, addressing bug fixes as they arise, and quarterly strategic planning sessions. Our goal in all of this was to set our partners up in a successful way to achieve maximum impact with their missions. We’re excited to see where they go as they embark upon this new chapter in their digital identity.

“On behalf of Columbia Riverkeeper, I want to thank you for all your hard work and creativity that went into this project from content strategy to art and coding, we appreciate the awesome platform you’ve built for us. I’m thrilled to start 2018 with a website that appropriately reflects the work we’re doing. We love our new website and we’re excited to continue to improve it with your expertise.” - Liz Terhaar, Communications Director

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