The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Twin Cities 2012, March 24-25

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) protects what Minnesotans love. Our statewide coalition provides the structure for 78 (and growing!) nonprofits to work together on the most pressing issues facing Minnesota’s water, energy and outdoors. Recently named Minnesota’s #1 high impact environmental nonprofit by Philanthropedia, MEP coordinates and convenes the state’s top environmental advocacy nonprofits to share information, plan and implement policy campaigns, educate and engage citizens through events like the Living Green Expo, and “speak with one voice” on critical environmental issues.



The staff of MEP, based in Saint Paul and Duluth, work hard to facilitate and organize collaboration among the coalition members to make sure they’re coordinating in smart, strategic ways.



What new functionality we are looking for

We want our website to accurately convey who we are – the state’s largest environmental coalition – in a professional and exciting way that also makes our work understandable to all users: the public, policy makers, donors, the media and other environmentalists. Our current site is used by all of our coalition members and is overdue for a makeover (it’s 10 years old). We’d be thrilled to work with the Nerdery to determine how to best upgrade our site.



THINGS WE LIKE ABOUT OUR CURRENT SITE but hope could be enhanced through an upgrade:



• Our site is typically the first stop for people looking for info on environmental issues in Minnesota. We want to make that information more accessible through sensible navigation, a prominent search bar, an e-newsletter sign-up field, and understandable copy.



• Our website provides tools for thousands of Minnesotans to get engaged in policy campaigns and connect with their lawmakers about issues they care about. Right now, laws that protect our water, air and land are being aggressively attacked by lawmakers, and we must do all we can to help citizens become more informed and take action on urgent environmental issues.



• The web developers who built our site constructed a special content management system that allows our nonprofit members to submit content like calendar events, job postings, news items, and more. This functionality is a huge asset to our members, though we would all benefit from a modern CMS.



• Our members also have access to a members-only part of the website, which allows them to share sensitive information about our campaigns. We hope a new site would allow members to do even more confidential sharing of news and resources.



OTHER WAYS TO IMPROVE:



• Because of how our website was built 10 years ago, the MEP staff who administer our website can only make limited updates to the web content; the majority of upgrades must be done out-of-house by the web developer. This is a convoluted process that makes even minor upgrades costly and time-consuming.



• It would be great to showcase our Twitter feed, since that provides the most up-to-date news about environmental policies.



• We need to make it easy for donors to learn about our work and feel comfortable making secure donations online.



• Our site must improve our coalition’s online identity. Our current site’s outdated appearance makes us lose credibility as a professional coalition, hindering our effectiveness.



• We need something fresh and exciting that will convey the importance of the issues we’re working on – and encourage visitors to get involved.



• Other ideas? We’re definitely open to suggestions from the Nerdery!

How the new functionality will help

An upgraded, fully functional website could help all of us – MEP staff and our entire coalition representing 450,000 Minnesotans – save time, share resources, and communicate more productively. Providing this resource to our members completely aligns with our mission of strengthening the effectiveness of our coalition.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

Before & After Snapshots

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22 Messages from Supporters

2012-02-22 15:34:27 UTC
Jennifer Lynch - MEP employee

Pick us! This website serves not just one organization but an entire sector of non-profits – a nice way to get the most bang for the Nerdery buck! MEP’s website serves as a resource to our member organizations – they use the public pages to get word out about their activities and the members-only pages to coordinate amongst themselves. A well-built site would benefit 78 organizations – and give the Nerdery exposure to and working relationships with all of them.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is who the public and policy makers look to when they want to learn more about the issues facing Minnesota’s great outdoors. We need a site that will make it easier to find those answers and will actually get people excited about and involved in them. The platform our current site was built on is ten years old. We have a hard time finding support services for it, it’s expensive and time-consuming to edit, and while there is a lot of great information there - it needs a good facelift to get it all organized and make it less cluttered.

Thanks for your consideration – Pick us!

2012-02-22 19:12:15 UTC
Katrina Pauly, Social Media Intern, Living Green Expo (produced by MEP)

As a public relations student and member of current society, I understand how important it is to stay connected on all digital platforms. Every day I communicate with advocates of sustainability on Twitter, Facebook, and through the Living Green Expo blogs, always with the hopes that people will become interested in the Living Green Expo, and consequently, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. Twitter and Facebook are great places to start conversation, but our goal is always to drive traffic to the Minnesota Environmental Partnership website and Living Green Expo website to share the most about what the organizations stand for.

Often times, nonprofit organizations are lacking digital proficiency, which limit potential interaction with many other people who share the same values and missions. With an updated website, first-time visitors and regulars alike will be able to easily find what they are looking for, in turn, keeping them coming back. A brighter, neater, and more cohesive website would portray the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in the best light, showing that the organization is not only up-to-date on environmental issues, but also digitally. Without the help of Nerdery, this would be very difficult to achieve, as we all know how expensive and time-consuming website construction and maintenance is.

A more effective website would especially benefit the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in living out its mission in one more way, to eliminate any paper waste and go completely digital!

Your digital expertise would support all that the Minnesota Environmental Partnership does for our environment.

2012-02-22 20:41:29 UTC
Drew Bennett - Energy Associate, Izaak Walton League of America

I work for one of the 78 nonprofits that uses MEP to convene disparate groups as well as interact with the public. Their communications team works miracles with the resources available, and they have already made great strides to pull us (and organizations like us) into the 21st Century. They have a vision of leveraging social media to increase awareness and generate action - two of the most important results in the environmental arena. I can not think of a more effective use of the Nerdery's generosity than to work with the MEP folks to increase the functionality and public appeal of their website.

MEP is well-recognized in Minnesota, as they engage in numerous forms of outreach and public communications. They pass environmental info and news to the web-savvy new generation as well as the what-is-the-Interwebs generation. This communication results in better policy that protects our state. MEP is a mouthpiece for environmental leadership in a state that craves waterway protections, clean energy, and a healthier outdoors. With an improved website, MEP will be able to serve both its member organizations (me) and the general public even more effectively, to the benefit of the entire state.

2012-02-22 22:42:50 UTC
Nathaniel Cook

I'm a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. I am majoring in biology and environmental studies, and often visit MEP's website to stay up-to-date on latest environmental issues facing our state. I use this information for research papers and discussions in class. In addition, I use MEP as a resource for contacting my local and state government officials. Although the current website is decent and the content is good, it is no secret that the navigation system for the site is severely outdated. I think it's saying something when college students have a hard time navigating this website. I would personally benefit from the website being upgraded, and I'm sure the rest of our state would benefit enormously, considering MEP plays such a critical role in coordinating the other environmental non-profits with the public. Having access to reliable, easy-to-navigate, information regarding our environment is vital for maintaining the health and wellness of our citizens and our identity as Minnesotans. I cannot think of another group who is more deserving and would benefit more greatly than MEP.

2012-02-22 23:15:41 UTC
Lynn Gitelis, League of Women Voters and a BSA

Here's my thought on what MEP's website could use for updates; this is
solely my opinion though, as I have not cleared any of this with MEP :)
This organization plays a critical role in getting environmental issues
the attention they need, and an updated website is crucial to that function.
I can hardly think of a more deserving group for this project!

MEPs website could function as the center of environmental debate, discussion and policy development IF it were updated to make it scalable, include features such as real-time encrypted chat among members, private message boards for policy development discussions and real time social media feeds (simultaneous to multiple sites). It's important that the site be updated to allow for user content update (rather than going through programming staff)and to optimize navigation (which currently works, but requires going through too many levels). Current social media sites will change over time, and new sites will be developed, and it's critical that MEP's site be flexible enough to easily shift to new sites as they come online.

Calendering is another function that needs improving; member groups have many events that they need to publicize to both the public and the environmental community, so we need both a public and private calendar
to accomodate both needs.

The public side of the site needs to have the knowledge base that can help educate the public (one stop shop for education), links to both member groups and knowledge websites, a calendar of public activities, and a means to contact any group within MEP and MEP itself. A volunteer sign up calendar would probably be welcome too. Links to social media sites for member groups should also be included. Navigation should be as clean as possible without requiring drilling down 4 or more levels to find information.

The private side of the site (encrypted) needs to have access to all current initiatives of member groups that they want to post, status of bills, a private real time chat room, access to the searchable knowledge base, links to all the member groups and members themselves including contact information, content that can be easily updated by designated members/groups, private calendar, message board, navigation that is as optimized as possible, a means of updating multiple social media sites with one update rather than having to update each individually, and the capability to issue email blasts or similar urgent communications to all or selected members as the need arises.

I'm looking forward to hearing that MEP has been selected for this project and that they can start work soon to build a fantastic new website!

2012-02-23 18:26:52 UTC
Emily Smythe - MEP Communications Intern

The team at MEP is one of the most organized and focused that I've ever worked with. They take on a TON of work, connecting citizens to legislators, planning events like the Living Green Expo and helping other organizations coordinate so that they can have their greatest impact. In all aspects, the staff understands the issues and is on top of the latest in environmental news and policy. However, to look at design of the website, you wouldn't know it. Of course the systems on the site need to be improved to make it more accessible and useful for everyone MEP serves, but I think one of the biggest issues with the site is the image it projects. It looks clunky and out of date (because it is) and it suggests to visitors that MEP might be the same. Nothing could be further from the truth! Not only does MEP do great work of its own, it is also a major hub for those looking to stay updated on state environmental issues in general. Meaning: a makeover for the MEP site would help to improve the image of environmental work all over Minnesota! As the #1 high impact environmental nonprofit in the state, MEP's website should reflect the vibrant, active organization and community that it represents. PLEASE PICK US!

2012-02-23 19:12:10 UTC
Brittney Klingl - Social Media Intern, Living Green Expo (Produced by MEP)

Online marketing is one of the most important aspects for nonprofits. Along with Facebook and Twitter, it is essential for an organization to also have a strong presence through its website. MEP uses its website to share information about its unique mission and keep people up-to-date about current environmental issues. The easier this information can be accessed, the easier more people can adopt the values MEP promotes. MEP deserves this because it has been a long-time non-profit organization in Minnesota, and its ten-year-old website could use Nerdery's updates to promote its unique mission.

2012-02-23 19:48:14 UTC
Kara Cook

When I originally heard about the Minnesota Environmental Partnership back in 2009, the first place I went for more info was MEPartnership.org. I, like many other first-time visitors, had a tough time navigating the website to find the info that I wanted, and could tell right away that MEP was definitely overdue for a website overhaul. I know the public who use MEP's site to track Minnesota's environmental issues and connect with their elected officials would greatly benefit from a new site, as would the 78 nonprofits that rely on MEP daily to collaborate and share resources. A new, functional website for MEP would help Minnesotans and nonprofits across the state -- and the water, energy and outdoors in Minnesota that MEP works to protect.

2012-02-23 21:23:31 UTC
Alex Tsatsoulis, Sierra Club

As a staff person at an MEP member group, I rely heavily on their communications team to get me up-to-date info and analysis of ongoing issues. Unfortunately their current website makes that sort of information sharing pretty much impossible, hurting their efforts and ours as well. A modern website that was set up to quickly update visitors of the latest goings-on would really help us all coordinate our work as member groups, as well as increase the effectiveness of our messaging and communications.

It is especially important for a group that represents such a large number of environmental groups to have a website that reflects the work they do, and their current site falls flat in that regard. A new site should help better reflect the the work they do to protect Minnesota, as well as the professionalism of the organization and of all the hard-working staff there!

2012-02-24 14:40:48 UTC
Emily Franklin - Associate Director of Development & Communications, Environmental Initiative

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) plays an important role for the environmental community and for all Minnesotans who support clean water, clean energy and investments in our great outdoors. As the statewide coalition of environmental and land conservation organizations, MEP’s work to draw attention to critical environmental issues and foster collaboration among Minnesota’s environmental nonprofits is deeply dependent upon effective communications and outreach strategies. MEP also plays a very important role in educating the general public about the environmental challenges Minnesota faces.

MEP’s current website does not accurately reflect the role the organization plays as a source of information, a pathway for individuals to take action, or a coordinator among member groups. When writing and designing for the web, less is more. MEP’s current website is not easily “scannable”, the fonts are small, and at times it is difficult to find information quickly. In this era of information overload, you have seconds to engage users and keep them on a site. A new website could improve site search and navigation functionality, more fully integrate MEP’s social media presence, and segment content by audience. A new site could also more clearly communicate the links between MEP’s various initiatives and separate sites (Protect.MN, Living Green Expo, MEP Northeast, LoonCommons Blog).

As communications professional and staff member at Environmental Initiative (an MEP member organization), I fully support and hope the Nerdery selects MEP for the overnight challenge! An improved website for MEP will help over seventy environmental organizations (including mine) as well as keep the general public informed and engaged on the most important environmental challenges Minnesota faces.

2012-02-24 16:56:54 UTC
Andrew Slade, MEP Northeast Program Coordinator

They call us folks living outside the Twin Cities Metro "Greater Minnesota," and I like that. Maybe "Better Minnesota" would be more fitting.

Regardless of what you call us, rural communities and urban areas like Duluth are a critical part of the state environmental NGO infrastructure. In an ideal world, the MEP website would make integrating these spread-out parts of the state seamless. This is not an ideal world.

Despite being perhaps the only male "goddess" on our team, I have not been able to get through the programming to have any impact on the site. What passes for a Northeast section is out of date and difficult to bring up to date. In today's world, updates to the website should come automatically, Instead, the site lags 2-3 years behind the time.

PLEASE help us help Minnesota!

2012-02-24 20:28:39 UTC
Ashley Hartley

Having an effective, user friendly website is essential for any organization to succeed, especially an organization like MEP. They rely on their website to keep their member groups and the general public informed on key environmental issues that affect everyone in the state. Not only is it a source of information, it serves as a hub for all interested parties, both environmental non-profits and the general public, to connect, share, and engage on key issues and community events. It is an invaluable tool in all of their communication efforts--one that is (and should continue to be) heavily leveraged by MEP and their member groups to stay connected.

While the content on MEPs website is useful, current, and relevant, it can be overshadowed by the outdated layout and functionality. As a user of the website I find it difficult navigate, but I see so much potential in how this website could further benefit everyone involved with a much needed update.

MEP truly deserves the chance to have an updated site to better serve the community. While they do an outstanding job with the resources they have, their importance and credibility in the effort to protect MN's treasured outdoors is not accurately reflected in their current website. I would love to see the Nerdery get involved with MEPs site and make it a better experience for everyone!

2012-02-27 02:06:11 UTC
Richard Newmark

I serve on environmental committees for my synagogue, my city, and the local audubon society. An updated web site is necessary for me to recommend information and find information to provide other members of these committees.

2012-02-27 13:35:40 UTC
Bob Tammen-Retiree

My wife, Pat, and I live in Northern Minnesota, 220 miles from the state capitol in St. Paul. MEP has an office within walking distance of the capitol. Their presence in St. Paul and on the web helps to keep us connected. We hope that their web presence can be updated to keep pace with the challenges we face.

2012-02-27 18:26:11 UTC
Greg Seitz

MN Environmental Partnership represents a broad segment of the nonprofit groups in Minnesota that are working to protect our water, wilderness, air, and forests. As a leading organization, it should have a modern website, with both contemporary functionality and design.

Unfortunately, MEP's current website is outdated. For average citizens wanting to learn about current environmental issues and take action, it can be confusing and difficult to find the right information and tools. For members of the environmental community, it can also be difficult to access the resources we need to work effectively in partnership.

I would like to be able to share information from MEP's website easily via other channels, including to members of my own organization. With a new website, my group could use MEP's website as a one-stop destination for information about current legislation and other important issues. Right now, that content is often missing or hard to find.

I think it is also just important for MEP to project to the public, decision-makers and others the sort of modern, innovative work it aspires to. A website that uses outdated navigation, design, and content sends the wrong message about the relevance of this organization. Thanks for considering MEP for inclusion in the Overnight Website Challenge!

2012-02-27 19:29:24 UTC
Cathryn Kennedy

Please pick MEP! I've worked with MEP for 10 years. About 5 years ago we started thinking of ways we could redesign the MEP web site. But there was never enough money. So we added "companion web sites" for the legislative season, because those were affordable. But then we had to update two or more sites! Ugh! What a lot of work for staff. Plus, it was confusing to users. One year we had at least 4 different web sites! One for MEP and 3 for each of our main issues. I might even be forgetting one site. The Band-aid approach didn't work. Now we are down to two sites, but that's still confusing and a lot of work. MEP needs your help: plain and simple. Thank you for considering the great benefit you will be making to MEP and Minnesota's Great Outdoors!

2012-02-27 22:23:16 UTC
Jenna Hartwig Wade, Fresh Energy

My work as communications specialist at Fresh Energy (a member of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership) would benefit greatly from a new and improved MEP website. First, I'll be honest. Fresh Energy is an active MEP member but I haven't visited the MEP website in years. It just doesn't provide enough value to my work. And in 2012, that's tremendously damaging to an organization. The staff at MEP work hard and do incredibly important work on incredibly important issues, both for its member groups and the general public. But none of that is apparent through their current website format. The current design is old fashioned - it serves mostly as a brochure instead of a hub for collaborative work and citizen engagement and action. Today's version of a website is much more dynamic than static and relies heavily on social sharing, two things the current design is lacking. This not only fails to draw people in but doesn't give them the option to share with their colleagues and friends. It's also difficult and cumbersome to navigate. An organization's website is often the first thing people see of its brand, and should immediately create urgency, interest, and passion for your work in your users; you need to draw them in and make it as easy as possible for them to find what they're looking for. Because it's hard to navigate and most of it is static, the current site design makes it look like MEP isn't really doing that much - which is patently untrue. Also, internet users are so much more visual than they used to be and environmental issues are incredibly visual. MEP's main work - protecting Minnesota's Great Outdoors - would benefit from a design that allowed more visual flexibility and less text. Again, the text-heavy design is far out of date. MEP is doing cutting-edge work (just ask Philanthropedia), but in order to be successful in 2012, that means you absolutely have to have a cutting-edge website. I can't overstate the importance of a clean, dynamic, social, and user-friendly website to MEP's work, the work of its member organizations, and the work of regular Minnesotans who want to protect the Minnesota they love.

2012-02-27 23:33:19 UTC
Sarah Goodspeed

MEP is arguably the single most prominent environmental organization in Minnesota, the common thread for the entire environmental community to gather upon. I have followed MEP for nearly a decade, and the website has not changed and has never been quite adequate to communicate effectively all of the work that MEP does. I have interacted with this site as a student performing research, as a young professional looking for jobs, as a citizen looking for policy action, and as a partner in advocacy and outreach, and millions of others across the state, nation, and world are looking to this website to reflect the leadership that MEP and Minnesota's environmental community have reflected in their work. This website is an important resource for collaboration, research, advocacy, and a channel for citizens and policymakers to communicate. The website design must impress upon visitors the breadth of user opportunities with a clean and professional appearance, interactive presentation of information, and simple tools to facilitate engagement. Users from all backgrounds depend upon this organization for clear and strong communications, with the website increasingly dominating that interaction. Thank you to The Nerdery for your help!

2012-02-28 13:37:55 UTC
Steve Morse, Executive Director, MN Environmental Partnership

Remaking the MEP website would benefit not just MEP as an organization, but all the people and natural resources of our special state. These are critical times as many of our recently elected state leaders seem to feel that they have a mandate to rollback the tremendous progress that we have made in protecting our Great Outdoors. The MEP site is the portal through which many citizens, legislators and the media track what is happening and get engaged to make a difference for out state. We would all benefit from a site that was dramatically remade to pull people in and allow them to easily act. A creative, smart redesign could make this happen. In addition, this would allow us to more easily update the site on a regular basis at a much lower cost. Pick one for the planet - pick MEP!!

2012-02-29 22:04:03 UTC
Tammy Truong, Living Green Expo Manager- Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Working for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership as manager of the Living Green Expo, I was charged with creating concept and design for the Living Green Expo event website (www.LivingGreenExpo.MN). It was a huge undertaking, and with staff resources stretched rather thin, MEP could really take a huge leap forward with some help to get a new organizational website launched! We have resourceful, knowledgeable, and talented folks who could manage a new website and keep it running smoothly- however designing one from the ground up would be a better match with Nerdery skills than our own! Hope you’ll help us get a running start!

2012-03-03 13:21:54 UTC
Faulan

Nice quick overview of rnuinng a website. I really like the ending where you tell of how important it is to have great copywriting. This is such a hard skill to learn, but can be learned. It is highly worth it to invest in a professional who can look it over for you and give you feedback on how to improve. This will also help you to fine-tune the skill. Thanks for sharing,Emily

2012-03-05 02:58:57 UTC
Sally Wakefield

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership provides a unified voice for environmental protection in Minnesota - and they do it well, coordinating as many as 80 groups that are passionate about protecting our environment for future generations. As you can see their website is outdated, clunky and costly for staff to manage. They are an incredibly efficient organization and could be even more so with an updated site and up-to-date functionality. With your help the already scarce resources available for their incredibly important mission can be best used on program services - fighting environmental assaults,advocating for stronger protections and alternative energy solutions for Minnesota. I truly hope that you agree that this is a worthy organization desperately in need of some Nerdery assistance. Many more eloquent than I have already outlined how many ways this website is used and relied upon. Please help us help our environment and select MEP for your oversight challenge - thanks!

Our Mission

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) exists to help diverse environmental nonprofits be successful by working together. The mission of MEP is to make that success possible by strengthening the effectiveness and building the power of our members to achieve the highest quality natural environment for Minnesotans.