Animal shelter takes proactive approach

Much like one of the 11,000 dogs and cats it takes in each year, the Web site for Hamilton/Burlington Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had gone astray.

“It wasn’t very user-friendly, had outdated information, and we didn’t have very much control over the content that was there,” said Rebecca Bowen, accounting coordinator for the Hamilton, Ont.-based non-profit organization.

The goal was to improve Web content and provide more dynamic means to refresh the Web site with relevant information for its supporter and volunteers. The SPCA exists to save and protect animals, but the static, non-interactive content wasn’t reflecting that, Bowen said.

To achieve this, a content management application was needed. The solution had to not only accommodate a number of content authors with varying technical skills, but also to manage the workflow of content approval.

It had to be a cost-effective solution as well. Being a non-profit organization, ROI is especially important, as the Society relies heavily on donations to function and this in turn affects the level of animal care, Bowen said.

After examining several options, the Society decided on Burlington, Ont.-based iUpload and its iUpload Content Manager offering. As David Carter, iUpload vice-president of business development noted, the software requires no software or infrastructure changes and is particularly suited for non-technical organizations such as the SPAC.

The Web-based offering delivers content management as a Web service, Carter said, allowing even non-technical users to author content directly to the Web site. For permission-based e-mail marketing, the Society is also using the iUpload eMarketing Manager module. Although not technically inclined, Bowen said getting a handle of the technology took about half a day. iUpload also provides help desk support.

According to Connie Moore, these types of content management solutions allow organizations – particularly those with a modest IT staff – to be responsible for the review and approval of their own content creation and publishing.

Moore, vice-president of Giga Information Group in Washington, D.C., noted that handling content should be relegated to a business issue, not an IT function. In choosing a vendor, Moore said organizations should look to a vendor that offers a holistic approach and provides support for various content technologies. With IT out of the process, organizations can save money, time and effort, she added.

Since going live in June 2003, the new solution has unleashed new capabilities, Bowen said. Through managing the Web presence with the iUpload offering, the SPCA began to realize a ROI via increased site traffic, online donations and volunteer applications.

The product has allowed the SPCA to integrate the new site with its pet registration software, so animal adoption data is constantly refreshed. The new Web content approach enables better site indexing and searches. It has also allowed the Society to repurpose content – using an opt-in e-mail distribution tool – from its Web site for use in an electronic newsletter. According to the Society, the first e-mail broadcast done using the e-mail module generated enough donations to cover the cost of subscribing to the solution.

In the future, the SPCA is gearing up to increase site interactivity, including membership-only content and other mechanisms to reduce the interaction volunteers have on a day-to-day basis by pushing more of the workload to the Web site, Bowen said.

The ultimate measure of success is the increased traffic to the site. “In two months, we’ve received over 200 volunteer applications via the Web,” Bowen said. More traffic translates into more donations, more community support – and most importantly – more animal adoptions, she added.