Operation Overnight: Helping nonprofits improve their online presence

Elizabeth Boenish, web content strategist and writer, works with the board from the Anna Purna Ghosh Foundation about th
Elizabeth Boenish, web content strategist and writer, works with the board from the Anna Purna Ghosh Foundation about their needs during Operation Overnight at Geonetric in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Geonetric teams designed websites and provided digital marketing services for three area nonprofits over two days during their seventh annual Operation Overnight. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Sometimes delegating involves bringing in experts to help tackle a job, like updating your website.

Several local nonprofits benefit each year from Geonetric’s Operation Overnight program, with Geonetric employees working on a digital sprint for 24 hours, updating and improving the selected nonprofits’ websites.

“We fall in love with the nonprofits and their missions become our own,” said Linda Barnes, CEO of Geonetric, a Cedar Rapids marketing and software development company.

Each year, the company’s Operation Overnight initiative selects a handful of local nonprofits to help, many of whom may not have the time or resources to keep up with changing digital demands.

The program has evolved since it was first launched in 2012. At first, Barnes said the complexity of the updated websites created issues for some nonprofits. In response, Geonetric added training and a 90-day check-in to help empower the nonprofits to run their new sites more confidently.

“Every year we learn a little bit more and make the process better,” Barnes said.

The program is a great bonding experience for Geonetric staff. The teams originally worked on the websites all night — from 8 a.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday. “You learn a lot about your co-workers at 2 a.m.,” Barnes said.

In the spirit of learning and adapting, Barnes said teams now take a break to sleep before starting back up in the morning and presenting the completed websites at noon on Friday. Even though it’s no longer a round-the-clock, 24-hour project, Geonetric employees still get the unique experience of working with people they normally wouldn’t, usually while sharing food donated from local restaurants.

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“We all work together toward the same goal and come out with a fabulous result,” Barnes said.

Having updated websites helps nonprofits better tell their stories and gives community members a place they can easily interact with each nonprofit. Operation Overnight teams focus on highlighting action items by creating easy-to-use Web pages where nonprofits can list requests for volunteers or supplies.

“People are used to getting information online,” Barnes said. “If you’re not showing up in search and meeting people where they are, you’re missing out on opportunities.”

Volunteer photographers and videographers add the finishing touches to each website that help the nonprofits get their stories across. “Most importantly, they want people to understand their missions and find the support they need in the community,” she said.

Barnes is passionate about the Operation Overnight project and says it’s fun to watch her team and the employees of the nonprofits — who usually have at least one person on site — interact. Often, the nonprofit staff may start a little overwhelmed and scared but then get more excited when they see it all coming together.

“There’s so much good work being done in our community and it’s so wonderful to be able to help,” Barnes said.

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