CEDAR RAPIDS — In an effort to give back to the community, digital marketing agency and software developer Geonetric began Operation Overnight in 2012.
“We realized the things we do for large organizations are incredibly valuable for nonprofits and are often really hard for small nonprofits to take money away to build up their digital presence,” Geonetric chief strategy officer Ben Dillon said.
Each year, a handful of Linn County nonprofit organizations receive a digital makeover, courtesy of Geonetric and its various community sponsors and partners. Geonetric redesigns each nonprofit’s website and provides training on digital and social media strategy, and has developed more than 30 websites for local nonprofits over the past six years.
The company’s seventh Operation Overnight is set to take place Oct. 18 and 19. Applications for participation in Operation Overnight 2018 are being now accepted until Aug. 1.
Dillon said the end goal of the project is that each organization is able to maintain its revamped online presence independently in the long term.
“For all these organizations, this is a big step forward in their ability to use digital tools. They’re able to do more outreach and be more visible and communicate with the people they serve more effectively,” Dillon said.
Jessie Lowe, chief operating officer for House of Hope, said her organization has seen increased program participation since receiving a website redesign as part of Operation Overnight last year.
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“We serve a lot of women who don’t have income to support different services that they need, and we’ve seen a spike in our scholarship applications because (Operation Overnight) made the directions really easy,” Lowe said.
Geonetric operations director Tracy Trettin said they typically have between 10 and 15 applicants and already have received a handful of applications.
Dillon said Geonetric probably will end up accepting between four and six nonprofits.
“It’ll depend on size and flexibility, but that’s been pretty typical for the last few years,” Dillon said.
He said Geonetric tries to include a variety of organizations each year. The nonprofits that benefited from Operation Overnight in 2017 were AniMeals, House of Hope, Matthew 25 and K9COLA. The application for Operation Overnight asks about the organization’s size, purpose, needs and future plans. The teams assigned to each nonprofit are put together accordingly.
Not everything happens in one day, Dillon said. Leading up to the event, discussions and planning between Geonetric and the nonprofits it is helping are important to each project’s success.
“We get our teams together and go through and make sure we’ve got representation of different capabilities: design skills, software engineers, content expertise and other things an individual organization may need,” Dillon said. “We had one very new nonprofit that needed help with naming and branding, so we made sure they were staffed with some people with that expertise.”
“A couple weeks ahead of time we sit down with them for a couple of hours. … We talk about what is and isn’t working for them in terms of their online presence currently,” Dillon said.
Lowe said last year a videographer came in weeks before Operation Overnight to shoot content for the new House of Hope website. However, she said the main work for the project is done in a 24-hour period.
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Dillon said support from various community organizations has been critical to the event’s success. In many cases, they take care of food and entertainment the day of the event and sometimes help provide support for the organizations after the fact.
On the day of Operation Overnight, Lowe said, “They have all these different people that bring food, they have music playing, a massage therapist comes in. The team spends a lot of time with you outside of the work so you really get to know them.”
At Matthew 25, simplified navigation has streamlined the nonprofit’s website, said executive director Clint Twedt-Ball.
“It’s pretty phenomenal that there’s this company that’s willing to do this and all of the employees seem to get on board and put their all into it. It’s cool how surrounding businesses in the area have stepped up and said they’ll provide food and things to support the project,” Twedt-Ball said.
“It’s more than just a website, it’s a process of team-building and camaraderie and feeling like this corporation is really behind making this nonprofit a success.”
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