The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Twin Cities 2012, March 24-25

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless

Paired with CodeX

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH) is a small nonprofit representing the interests of 150 homeless service providers across the state. MCH advocates at the state legislature for policies that prevent and end homelessness; shares best practices and training between and with member agencies; and educates the public about homelessness.

Each night in Minnesota, approximately 13,000 people are served in homeless programs or sleeping outside. The good news is that homeless service providers are ending homelessness every day for individuals, youth, and families - we know that if we can bring these efforts to scale we can prevent homelessness for most and end homelessness immediately when people do fall into crisis.

Minnesota has a Roadmap to Ending Homelessness. We know what we need to do. We just need to create the public will.

What new functionality we are looking for

Social Media

MCH has nearly 3,000 fans on Facebook (HomelessCoalition) and has recently started tweeting. We'd like to better link our social media presence with our website: Youtube videos, Facebook feeds, RSS feeds, new reports, compelling data, and personal stories.

Public Awareness

Approximately half the homeless in Minnesota are children but most people still think of homelessness as an urban, adult male, chronic alcoholic. MCH could do a better job of educating the public by sharing the true face of homelessness, along with compelling statistics and stories, on our website.

Legislative Advocacy

MCH is the voice at the Capitol for homeless service providers and people experiencing homelessness. We could keep our members better informed by having a bill tracker prominently displayed on the website during session.

Connecting Member Programs

MCH is a membership organization with 150 members across the State. We would like to highlight one of our members each week and then archive the stories as a way of sharing the creative work of service providers, incredible need, and geographic diversity of homelessness.

Board Portal

MCH's Board Members come from across the state with a range of backgrounds, for example some are service providers, others have experienced homelessness themselves. A portal to share board documents, with a required log-in would keep us better organized and effective. Board members who have internet access only at a public library, for example, could quickly find the materials they need for making important organizational decisions.


A calender would help us share our events and the events of our member programs so that Minnesotans who want to pitch in to help have the opportunity to do so. We'd like each of our member organizations to be able to add their own events.

Personal Stories

Sharing personal stories is the best way we know to educate the public, media, and lawmakers about homelessness. We'd like a section where people who are at-risk of homelessness or are on the streets can share their stories with us privately and we could highlight a story each week. In a similar way, we'd like to highlight the good work of business, faith, and civic leaders who demonstrate exceptional leadership in addressing homelessness.

Join Our List

Currently the sign-up function of our website is not connected with our email list, so we often lose names of people interested in joining the work.

Archived Trainings Materials / Webinars

MCH puts on a statewide annual conference for several hundred service providers each year. We'd like to archive the best material to be an ongoing resource for new staff in our member programs. Additionally, we are moving towards using webinars for traning throughout the year and would like to archive webinars by topic while they remain relevant.

How the new functionality will help

The economic recession hit MCH hard. MCH went from a staff of six to just one part-time staff. (The person who understood the website was regrettably laid off; the person kept on is the daughter of a guy who once turned his storage unit upside down looking for a desktop icon. She's not tech savvy either.)

Three years later, MCH is back on our feet. We're up to 3.5 staff, including a full-time Director of Communications/Development. We have the capacity to maintain a website with accurate and up-to-date information.

During our financial crisis, MCH underwent strategic planning to determine whether we should still exist and if so, what we should keep doing and what we should let go of. Overwhelmingly, we heard from our members that we should be more member-driven, that our effectiveness comes from coordinating the good work being done in the field, sharing best practices, tracking compelling statistics and stories, and bringing this information to legislators and the general public. We heard that our members want to be more involved in our legislative advocacy work, they want to be kept informed of the issues, called on when there is work to be done, and convened (electronically when possible) to help shape the larger public conversation.

It seems to us that we cannot end homelessness until people 1) know it exists; and 2) know what they can do about it. A good website is essential to this work of ending homelessness; it will inform and then provide opportunities for getting engaged. When used in partnership with an aggressive social media strategy and targetted email communications, a good website will help us end homelessness.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

37 Messages from Supporters

2012-03-01 14:51:33 UTC

The Coalition is a positive, strong, effective voice for homelessness in Minnesota! They provide so much information to small and emerging organizations that help us have a unified voice. With a new, improved website, it would make it easier to find information needed to help stand with them to end homelessness!
Please support their vision to improve communication to Minnesotans!

2012-03-01 15:09:22 UTC

Please select MCH as a project! It's an opportunity for the Nerdery to use their awesome skills to support a very effective and energetic organization that working to heal some big rifts in our community.

2012-02-29 16:34:48 UTC

MCH does incredible work, especially considering the light resources they have to work with. An improved website would help spread the word farther about their work, including the very important Day on the Hill. Please help make their website reflect their great work!

2012-02-28 22:58:12 UTC

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless communicates regularly with thousands of individuals, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, countless elected officials, and the Governor's administration. I can assure you: we are effective, respected, hard working, and efficient. We're thrifty and leverage resources. But our website is a mess. It's hard to know where to begin. How do I get rid of those dead end state and federal blogs? Have we ever blogged? Our website is a mess. There are statistics up from 2006...but the most recent data is from 2009. Help, please. Our website is a mess. I daydream, and night dream, about the day our website doesn't say "page not found" at every other turn. I cringe thinking about foundations, supporters, people in need, turning to our website and wishing they never landed on the page. Our website is a mess. How do we thrive in 2012 with a website from 1992? Facebook. Constant contact. Relationships. Phone calls. Phone conferencing. Meetings. More meetings. Hand written notes. Avoiding the thought of our website all together. We make it work. Somehow. But a new website would make all the difference. We greatly appreciate The Nerdery for taking on this project. What a wonderful use of time and talent.
- Kenza, Communications Director

2012-02-29 00:02:43 UTC
Heather Licari

The Coalition is critical for keeping greater MN informed. In more rural areas, the site is a vital resource for those of us unable to access immediate resources. Homelessness touches us all and the Coalition helps us all to touch homelessness.

2012-02-29 01:26:15 UTC
Jessica Webster

Say YES to the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless!! You will find no other organization that does SO MUCH with so little, and they are a critical asset to all of us working in the anti-poverty community. For the hundreds -- if not thousands -- of us who connect with MCH regularly in our work, I know MCH would maximize the value of this overhaul. And be eternally grateful.

You rarely find fantastic, reliable websites in the anti-poverty community because we simply cannot afford them. But in this explosive era of technology, social media, and online communication, MCH would be that much more effective with this tool at their disposal. They're already effective ... but we'd all love to see them take it to the next level! ... and bring the rest of us with them.

2012-02-29 01:30:47 UTC
Mike Sprunger

This is an organization that absolutely deserves a new website and would not squander the opportunity. Just take a look at their past five years of accomplishments, and I think you'll agree that this is a formidable crew that can only be more effective with an improved web presence. This is a vote for MCH!

2012-02-29 01:34:17 UTC
Linda Koelman

The Coalition does amazing work and serves the neediest people in our communities. They are dedicated and caring - and always hampered by tight funding. A better website would help them serve and get information out to so many more people. They deserve your help!

2012-02-29 03:38:33 UTC

MCH is a powerful voice for our most vulnerable neighbors... but you'd never know it by looking at their website. It's tough to find information, events, current happenings, and the really compelling stories and data that must be buried in there somewhere. A website makeover would make the MCH website the go-to resource to learn about homelessness and how each person can do her part to end it. MCH is comprised of incredible advocates who deserve a better way to spread the word about their work. Please help them get the website they need to grow and move forward!

2012-02-29 03:43:42 UTC
D'Ann Urbaniak Lesch

The work of MN Coalition for the Homeless has impacted me and my students at St. Catherine University tremendously. We have been educated by MNCH's staff to better understand the issue of homelessness and have also worked alongside MNCH to ask our policy makers to prioritize ending homelessness. Please work with MNCH's website so ordinary people like me (and the college students with whom I work) can be better informed and involved!

2012-02-29 04:10:36 UTC

You'd be hard pressed to find any grassroots homeless organization that does more good to advance the cause of ending homelessness with so little funding and barebones staff. Yet their passion, their unwavering committment, and just plain hard work get enormous things done in the world of homeless advocacy and education.

Just imagine the Coalition for the Homeless could do if they could harness the power of an even more robust, dynamic and modern website? The multiplying effect on their already incredible staff and resources would be huge, and allow them to even further advance the cause of ending homelessness.

2012-02-29 13:36:29 UTC
Liz (the boss)

I cringe everytime i hear the words "I was on your website..." Please help!

2012-02-29 13:42:30 UTC
Jen Peterson

I am so impressed with the MCH and all their great work. I am proud to be a board member of MCH. Aside from the work they do on the homelessness front, I have had some great assistance from them with connecting with the other movers & shakers in the world of affordable rental housing development in my own community. They help with the immediate need of advocacy on legislative needs and issues related to actual homelessness but also are very effective in dealing with one of the main reasons that people become homeless which is lack of truly affordable housing.

A website make-over would be awesome and really help the group expand their presence on the Internet. A live twitter feed and a super easy schedule of events would be so cool.

Sincerely, Jen Peterson

2012-02-29 13:53:59 UTC

There isn't a more deserving group than MCH!

2012-02-29 14:02:16 UTC
Kera Peterson

Can you imagine a Minnesota without homelessness? MCH can. And they tirelessly work towards that goal.
A website redesign would enhance their work, allowing them to better serve their partner organizations and advocate for Minnesotans experiencing homelessness.

2012-02-29 14:21:06 UTC

MCH's work to end homelessness and to inform Minnesota legislators of housing program needs is esential. their dedication, knowledge and efforts empower and inspire all of us that we can do more and that we must do more.

2012-02-29 14:21:27 UTC
Steve Horsfield

The Coalition is a tremendous resource to those of us working to end homelessness in MN. A grassroots organization with tremendous impact - improved technology would position the organization to be even more impactful with limited resources! Thanks for your consideration.

2012-02-29 16:37:13 UTC
Heidi Johnson McAllister

In a technological world, a website that is user friendly, well designed, and interactive is so important to any business or nonprofit. The website for MCH is fine, but with a well designed website, it could be a great tool to advance their mission to end homelessness! Thanks for considering MCH!

2012-02-29 14:38:55 UTC

Pick MN Coalition for the Homeless a vital resource for our community.

2012-02-29 14:53:48 UTC

MCH is a huge asset to our community. Their tireless work to end homelessness, educate the public and electeds and work in collaboration with non-profits across MN is a vital part of changing the face of the MN. Please give them this opportunity to put a professional face forward to world so they can do their work even better.

2012-02-29 15:36:15 UTC
Cathleen Cotter

MCH's ultimate mission is to put themselves out of business; having a slick-as-a-whistle website will help them eradicate homelessness in MN.

2012-02-29 16:47:01 UTC

MN had an ice storm last night. I laid in my warm bed and wondered about all the people without housing. How did they make out last night? Did they freeze or did they find shelter? MN Coalition for the Homeless is a tireless advocate for the homeless. The organization has a wonderful spirit through out. I am a graduate student and the Coalition has gone out of their way to help us with our project. The website does not showcase adequately the work these fine people do. Links on the website are dead ends. The public face of the coalition needs a makeover! Thanks!

2012-02-29 21:49:46 UTC
Margo Hurrle

MCH is a leader in advocacy for homeless people in MN. They are well respected and needed in the community. Here is one of the most important reasons they need a more user friendly website...many homeless people do not have acces to a phone to call for resources, but all people have access to a library or resource center that allows them to get on a computer and reach out for support or to tell their story. By helping MCH you would be giving a voice to homeless people across the state! Thank you!

2012-02-29 22:43:41 UTC
Trudee Able-Peterson

It's crucial for MCH to have a user friendly updated techno friendly web site so that we can connect state wide to identify and address the issues of homelessness in all of our counties.
The web site is utilized by programs/agency staff and most important of all, homeless families, single adults and youth.
This update is badly needed for all homeless Minnesotan's and their advocates.

2012-03-01 03:42:21 UTC

Please help MCH get the word out by helping them get a better web site. They already do so much, but a better web site will enable them to do so much more.

2012-03-01 13:51:58 UTC
Jeannie Seeley-Smith

The Coalition does more with less than any other advocacy group I know. The contribution they bring to our State is critical to those of us who are providing direct service. There is no doubt they would maximize the website for the benefit of the homeless and those who serve them.

2012-03-01 14:20:04 UTC

The coalition is a small group of really amazing people who do so much with so little to help those amongst us who desperately need our support. Their work is so important and so valuable...I hope you can help with a much deserved new website!

2012-03-01 14:21:17 UTC
Ann Jalonen--MICAH member

I would love to be able to access a site, and refer potential supporters as well as homeless clients to, that brings together the best info on services as well as action. Most of the info I find is narrowly geared to one segment or another of the population. It would be wonderful to find all the info in one place!

2012-03-01 15:42:25 UTC

Working with the homeless population, I strongly suggest that we do not make any further changes at this time. With the economy as it is and the shortage of jobs, most people, even if they have a job, it usually isn't enough to pay for housing, transportation, taxables and other family needs. For single homeless people it is even more difficult. They aren't able to obtain employment. Most of the time they have a difficulty time even obtaining temporary jobs. If they do obtain employment, their food support is decreased or taken away. With temporary or part-time employment there is no way they can become self-supporting and independent.

2012-03-01 16:29:35 UTC
Atom Robinson

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless is a powerful, articulate, necessary and vital voice for people experiencing poverty and crisis in Minnesota. With limited resources, they have fought back against painful program cuts, promoted policies that help people experiencing homelessness get back on their feet, and brought important voices and stakeholders to decision making conversations. They work on behalf of and along side Minnesotans who have been most punished by our awful economic downturn.

The staff at the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless provide an essential advocacy voice; they know that their work is stronger when more people are participating and using their voices to call for social, racial and economic justice. An updated and modernized web site is a critical part of any advocacy organization's communications infrastructure. To bring more power to their movement, they need better tools at their disposal.

Please select the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless for the Overnight Website Challenge.

2012-03-01 22:28:18 UTC
Jessica F

MCH does a lot of great work, but their website is really bad! Please support them in getting a new one!!!!

2012-03-02 02:46:23 UTC
Amy Brugh

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless does the behind-the-scenes advocacy work on behalf of the homeless community. I hope The Nerdery selects MCH for a website makeover, so they can come out from behind the scenes and shine even brighter!

2012-03-02 03:59:13 UTC
Liz Doyle

MCH is a forceful voice for homeless men, women and children in Minnesota. Now you can provide a home to MCH - a new, welcoming and innovative space where advocates, public officials, service providers and homeless Minnesotans themselves can connect, collaborate, and together create a world without homelessness. No organization is more deserving of your time and investment, or more capable of transforming this investment into meaningful social change.

2012-03-02 04:06:09 UTC

I am a person who is online all the time and i hope MCH is picked. Ending homelessness is important, very important

2012-03-02 05:27:55 UTC
Patrick Ness

MCH has one of the most pathetic and outdated websites I've ever seen. They also do some of the most inspired and effective work I've seen - all on a shoestring budget.

A new website would allow this very talented but undersized staff to connect with, educate, and mobilize organizations, individual members, and elected officials in exciting new ways.

Thousands are sleeping outside, in cars, couches, and shelters tonight. And tomorrow night. MCH is working to change that, and I believe they can. But, they need the capacity to advance the work, and a new website is an important part of their strategy.

MCH is an ideal candidate for the overnight web challenge.

2012-03-02 15:14:11 UTC
Justin V

MCH could really use some website help. They are a small operation that make a huge difference. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people working to end homeless in MN, but nearly all do not have the time to track and understand the labyrinthine workings of state government. MCH tracks and understands the state legislation that will best help prevent and end homelessness, and then succinctly explains to busy agencies how to best advocate for effective legislation. A new and improved website, something they do not have the time and expertise to bring to fruition, would be ultimately very helpful to those in Minnesota living without a place to call home.

2012-03-02 15:49:17 UTC
John S

They do good work and a better designed website would help them to realize their mission.

Our Mission

The Coalition’s mission is to generate policies, community support, and local resources for housing and services to end homelessness in Minnesota.