Analysis Exchange – Optimizing The World

Analysis Exchange – Optimizing The World

A new year has dawned and if you’ve been short of resolutions for 2011, perhaps I can help.

Last year, the Analysis Exchange was created as a means of providing much-sought experience to web analysts through free website analysis for non-profits.  The process can take as little as three weeks and can be a huge bonus to organisations that have no budgetary scope for web analytics.

It also helps mentors and students to build their community networks and gets the non-profits in front of new audiences (look at what Jason Thompson’s involvement with the Analysis Exchange ultimately achieved for Charity:Water recently).  Plus it can be fantastic fun, educational and humbling.  I have yet to find a downside.

So, practically speaking, how can an Analysis Exchange project provide positive outcomes?  Colin Smith is the Executive Director and a member of the board of directors of Change for Kids, a non-profit organisation based in New York that partners with public schools to empower underprivileged children by providing them with a broad range of innovative literacy, arts, and music programs.  Below, Colin talks about his experience with the Analysis Exchange and how he felt it benefitted Change for Kids.

What is Change for Kids all about?  How are you involved?

Change for Kids
Change for Kids is about providing the educational opportunities every child deserves. CFK partners with under-resourced NYC elementary schools to overcome dramatic cuts in programs like art, music, tutoring, fitness and more. We believe that providing a broad range of educational programs inspires students to discover their unique strengths and builds the confidence for long-term achievement. I’ve been the Executive Director of Change for Kids for the past two years. As you’d expect, the schools’ needs have increased tremendously during that time and I’m so proud of CFK’s ability to grow and meet those needs.

How did you first hear about the Analysis Exchange?

We rebuilt our website in 2009 with the generous help of Arc 90. However, our internal technical expertise has been limited given our small staff. As such, we’ve always looked for opportunities to expand that knowledge, particularly around our site, how to measure success on the site and how to improve it. When Analysis Exchange came to our attention through NTEN (a nonprofit technology group) we jumped at the opportunity.

How did the process work?

We were very much keen to learn about optimizing our site but, given CFK’s small staff, resources have always been a concern. Analysis Exchange couldn’t have made the process much easier. We listed our project on the site and were rapidly sent a number of interested applicants for the “Mentor” and “Student” project management positions. After selecting the two positions, we set up a conversation with all parties to outline the project. From there, James [Phelps] and Emer Kirrane took over and had few questions for us prior to the ultimate presentation. We learned such an incredible amount and yet the process took up a minimal amount of our staff’s time.

What was the best thing about the Analysis Exchange?

The people. The site and process is great but we couldn’t have been much luckier than to have had Emer and James involved. Both were professional, thoughtful and always went the extra mile in the project. For the final presentation, not only did they produce the analysis requested, but the team built an entire extra section on ways we could improve our site including visuals and revised content. Emer even donated to our organization, which really meant a lot to us. It was such a joy to work with Emer and James and I hope to continue to in the future.

What was the worst thing about the Analysis Exchange?

There wasn’t a developed rating system for choosing the mentor and student so we were selecting them based on bio alone. I subsequently rated Emer and James through a detailed system so I assume that is a feature being or already built.

Did you gain any useful insights into your website?

We learned a ton about our site. The team listed key performance indicators for us to track on Google Analytics, which were new and valuable to us. They reviewed our site and provided ideas for content, image and structure amendments. Finally they made social media and research suggestions. We have used or plan on using all of these incredible helpful suggestions (per question 7 below).

Have you been able to use any of the information you received?

Yes. At the team’s direction, we added the Facebook add-on display on all of our site pages and have seen substantial growth in FB users. They suggested and we added an easy to use, online volunteer form instead of listing our email address. We’ve been astounded at the results from this in terms of how many more people now reach out to us (nearly three times as many per week compared to before). Next, we’ve included the KPI’s suggested in our site analysis and will be including them in the dashboard we’re producing during the next two months. Finally, at the end of last year we conducted an intensive brand audit – including a new logo and messaging platform. With this audit finalized, we are now able to revise our communications, particularly the website. The information (noted in my above comments) the team provided on amount of content, structure and imagery is foundational in guiding this revision.

Would you recommend Analysis Exchange to other non-profit organisations?

Similar to my comments in question 4, certainly. The strain on resources is minimal and the analysis incredibly valuable. Every nonprofit should try AE.

Would you do another Analysis Exchange project?

Absolutely, though ideally with Emer and James at the helm. We’ve talked about doing another analysis when our revised site is constructed (expected by February this year), as well as on social media and Google Adwords. Analysis Exchange is such a great resource and so easy to use that we’d love to work on any of these projects with AE.

What is your latest project with Change for Kids?  How can readers help?

We have two phenomenal new programs that can continue to grow with community support. The first is our tutoring program – matching mentors in the community one on one with students at our partner schools. The program has more than doubled over the past year and in the spring semester we’re going to be expanding to Saturday mornings (10am-noon) at our Bed-Stuy school to better accomodate our community members work schedules.  We’re going to pilot the Saturday program with 25 spots – if readers are interested they can reach out to our Director of Operations, Mike Quinzio here. Second, we found out in working with our partner schools that, given budget cuts, they’re currently providing just an hour a week of gym to their students – every other semester. That’s just not right – particularly in communities with frightening levels of childhood obesity and asthma rates. This year we piloted an exciting fitness and nutrition partnership at one of our schools and we’re hoping to expand that next year. If your readers are interested in making a donation to our fitness or any other programs, they can support Change for Kids here. Thanks so much!

Get Involved In The Analysis Exchange

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Learn more about the initiative and how to get involved in the Analysis Exchange site.  For further information, feel free to contact me directly. If you are into Twitter, you can find the Analysis Exchange in the following: