Sunday, January 4, 2009

New year, new web sites. Is this important?

With millions of web sites covering every imaginable topic, is it a big deal when a few new ones are added to the pile? When the sites cover neighborhoods or community issues – and provide information that isn't available elsewhere – well, yeah, that is very important.

So I was excited in late 2008 as new web sites brought visibility and news from four different community-oriented sources.

Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness – This consortium coordinates and promotes a jammed calendar of events, exercise classes, health fairs and meetings that promote healthier lifestyles and preventive health care. Administrative assistant Maria Ramirez got the site started and coordinator Katie Ediger took it from there. Though Katie had never edited a site before she did a great job figuring out a logical way to present information and avoid double- and triple-clicking to get to something good. With help from consortium members and executive director Juana Ballesteros, Katie hopes to build out the site with plenty of new content.

Claretian Associates – The NCP lead agency in South Chicago had a decent web site already but it was tedious to update with news stories, photos and calendar items, which meant, of course, that some updates never got done. Like the Community of Wellness team, Claretian took advantage of the Grassroots web template developed by Webitects Inc. for the New Communities Program. Associate director Kate Graham put the site together and didn't forget to promote it. On Decemer 16, just before the Christmas lull, she sent out an e-newsletter with multiple links into the site. Traffic spiked that day with 54 visits, not bad for a brand-new site.

Keep Our Homes – Providing information to people facing the risk of foreclosure is the intent of Keep Our Homes, a partnership of Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC), Southwest Organizing Project and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. GSDC executive director Jim Capraro put this site together using the open-source Joomla platform. A self-proclaimed "computer geek" as well as prominent community development leader, Jim has launched a side venture called to help more community groups take advantage of this powerful and low-cost way to build web sites.

Valerie Denney Communications – Valerie Denney has been helping community groups and nonprofits tell their stories for more than 20 years; now her newly revised web site gives a deeper look into her client base and methods. I learned about this site the old-fashioned way; a simple and classy New Year's card arrived via U.S. Postal Service (!) and suggested I take a look. And I did.

So, yes, it's important to have a web presence, to organize the material well, and to promote the site to your potential readers. Happy New Year!


Tutor Mentor Connections said...

One way we can build traffic to the new and existing web sites is to connect with other organizations and hubs of information who focus on similar neighborhoods and similar issues. Another is to connect blogs and events at key times each year.

I encourage you to visit and add links to your member web sites in the different sections of the T/MC site. Then I encourage you to read the T/MC blog and consider ways we can encourage every organization working with youth in Chicago to link our blogs, in a blog exchange, the week of the Inauguration. Doing so can create local attention and perhaps capture national attention.

Michael said...

The Claretian website looks a ton better. I keep all the NCP websites in a folder to check in on things, so that one really stood out. Grassroots makes posting a breeze.

Patrick Barry said...

I'm intrigued with Daniel Bassill's idea of linking blogs in a "blog exchange" during inauguration week but don't know quite how it might happen, beyond long lists of links, which wouldn't have much value. Does Tutor Mentor Connections have some ideas on this?

P.S. The T/MC mapping gallery is very impressive.