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Web Development and Management Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations

Ben Freda

Ben Freda is the Founder and President of BFC Digital, a boutique web development company dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations with their information technology and service needs. In his role, he provides team support for coding, design, strategy, integration, and web technology solutions. Although Ben brings over 20 years of web technology experience, his career path started in the classroom of Stanford University, where he studied computer science and managed a website startup. Ben later enrolled at Columbia Law School, earning his JD and practicing corporate law. In 2010, he left the legal field to start BFC.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • What services does BFC Digital offer?
  • Ben Freda explains how to keep your website secure
  • Why it’s essential to back up your website
  • Enhancing the user experience through clear communication on your website
  • The top mistakes that nonprofits make with their websites
  • Ben discusses AI in web development

In this episode…

Effective web development and management strategies are pivotal to the success of nonprofit organizations. In an increasingly competitive online environment, nonprofits must leverage their websites as powerful tools for communication, engagement, and fundraising. How can nonprofits ensure their web presence effectively conveys their mission while maximizing impact and accessibility for their audiences?

Seasoned web developer Ben Freda explains the intricacies of crafting effective web solutions for nonprofits, exemplified by Save the Children’s initiative, the Healthy Newborn Network. With a focus on reducing child mortality worldwide, this project necessitates a robust online platform accessible to practitioners in remote areas. Notably, Ben underscores the criticality of understanding diverse audience needs, from on-the-ground practitioners to academics and government stakeholders. Moreover, he highlights the common pitfall of prioritizing front-end aesthetics over back-end functionality, stressing the importance of a user-friendly interface for long-term manageability. By championing audience-centric design and prioritizing flexibility, nonprofits can leverage their digital presence to enact meaningful social change.

In this episode of the Proof Point podcast, Stacie Porter Bilger sits down with Ben Freda, the Founder and President of BFC Digital, to discuss website development and management strategies for nonprofit organizations. Ben talks about how to keep your website secure, the value of clear communication on websites, and the role of AI in web development.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Proof Digital.

We are a strategic and creative performance marketing agency partnering with organizations to create data-fueled marketing engines that drive growth and deliver a tangible ROI.

Founded by Stacie Porter Bilger in 2012, Proof Digital employs a strategic marketing approach by blending today’s marketing tools like SEO, PPC, and paid social ads with traditional sales funnel processes.

Ready to get results? Visit to learn more.

Interview Transcription – Web Development and Management Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations

(0:02 – 0:16)

Welcome to the Proof Point Podcast where we decode digital success one click at a time. We share key takeaways fueled by data and insights that your team can implement today to drive growth. Now, let’s get started.

(0:20 – 0:52)

This is Stacie Porter-Bilger, your host for the Proof Point Podcast, where I feature thought leaders in the digital space, sharing marketing data tactics, AI insights, and sales strategies that kickstart growth in a rapidly changing digital world. This episode is brought to you by Proof Digital. Proof Digital is a strategic and creative performance marketing agency, partnering with companies and organizations to create data-fueled marketing campaigns and tactics that drive growth and deliver tangible ROI.

(0:52 – 1:19)

Visit to learn more. Before I introduce our guest today, I do want to do a shout-out to Noah Tanzner with RISE25 and Jeremy with RISE25 too, as well, who I work closely with on the Proof Point Podcast. RISE25 helps B2B businesses connect with their Dream 25 clients, referral partners using podcasts.

(1:20 – 1:39)

Our guest today is Ben Freda. Ben is a California native that moved to New York City for law school. After a short and inadvisable stint as a big law firm attorney, he jumped ship and began a career working with nonprofits on web technology.

(1:40 – 1:55)

Now he runs BFC Digital, an agency that helps nonprofit organizations thrive on the web through exceptional web design, robust web development, and friendly web support. Thanks for joining us today, Ben. Hey, thanks for having me.

(1:55 – 2:04)

This is great. Awesome. I really appreciate you giving us your time and giving some insights to, especially some of the nonprofits in our community and those who we serve.

(2:04 – 2:14)

I know you’ve got a decade, year, decades of experience in serving this community. So if you could just tell a little bit about your company and what you do. Yeah, great.

(2:14 – 2:17)

Thanks. Yeah, it’s great to be here. Great to talk to you.

(2:18 – 2:35)

Yeah, we do web design development support for nonprofit organizations. We’ve been doing it for about 10 years. As I think a lot of people in the nonprofit slash, you know, social change space, it started just as a kind of labor of love and has turned into an actual little company.

(2:37 – 2:49)

And yeah, it’s been, you know, it’s been a great sort of ride, getting to know people in the space and doing the work and, you know, just trying to try to help people out. It’s really fun. Yeah.

(2:49 – 3:10)

And helping people out. I mean, obviously the nonprofit space, that niche that you pick is all about community and elevating those who, you know, are serving. So can you explain a little bit more on why you, you know, nonprofits is the niche that you really focused on and helping on the digital space? Because I think that’s really important.

(3:11 – 3:28)

Yeah. You know, I mean, I’ve kind of asked myself that, too, in the past, and this is going to immediately become a TMI podcast. But I often think that, like the stuff we choose as adults in terms of where we go with our careers is really based on, you know, childhood or our past or who we grew up to be or whatever.

(3:28 – 3:45)

And, you know, I grew up in California and in kind of a milieu where everybody was in either progressive circles or sort of like my parents were hippies and stuff like that. And you went to Stanford, right? Did you go to Stanford? I did. I did.

(3:46 – 3:54)

And yeah, there was a lot of tech going on in Stanford as well. You know, at the time, I mean, I graduated in 2000. And by the time I graduated, Google was a company.

(3:54 – 4:09)

But while I was in college, the guys that started Google were grad students. And so there was a lot of talk about sort of that first like tech bubble, you know. So there was a lot of talk about, you know, what Google was going to be and what was going on in the tech space in Silicon Valley at the time.

(4:10 – 4:32)

So I was really interested in the technology stuff. But again, growing up in the area and then just the way childhood worked out, you really weren’t, at least me, like we were sort of taught like you’re not really meant to go out and make a bunch of money on your own or you know what I mean? Like you shouldn’t. We sort of felt guilty about that and then or have been taught to feel guilty about that.

(4:32 – 4:40)

And and it’s it’s always a struggle, right? Because I’m running a company. I need the company to make money. We have employees that rely on it.

(4:40 – 4:58)

We have health care insurance. So get that one. Yeah.

And yet we’re sort of in this milieu where we’re more interested, you know, we’re supposed to be focused on making the world a better place, you know. So I’m trying to sort of marry those two things. And yeah, so that’s a long answer, but an answer to a weird one, I guess.

(4:58 – 5:03)

But it’s sort of based on, you know, childhood, I think, and where I grew up. Right. Right.

(5:03 – 5:30)

Well, I mean, I think we I mean, I know I am I mean, one of our our values is to be the change. And, you know, the one way you do that is to prop up those who are down and working in, you know, I don’t know, at the community level, right at the ground level of various issues. So they oftentimes don’t have that talent to on the technology side to really elevate.

(5:30 – 5:50)

And so they need to rely on folks like yourself. I mean, that that that’s the other reason I really like working in this space is because most of our clients and I mean, the people, the individuals that we work with are usually accidental techies. So they are people that are in the communications department of a nonprofit or started a nonprofit.

(5:51 – 5:57)

And they’re they know they need a website. They know web technology can be a real game changer for them. They need something that works.

(5:57 – 6:03)

They need something that’s good. But they aren’t techies like they don’t know how to code. They don’t know what HTML is.

(6:03 – 6:16)

You know, they might know a little bit and have had to learn a little bit from time to time. But maybe they’re in charge of the website because they just happen to be like the youngest person. You know what I mean? Or they happen to know how to use Google Docs or whatever.

(6:16 – 6:24)

And so they’re like, you’re in charge. You’re in charge of Google Docs. You get to do social media and yeah, and so right.

(6:24 – 6:42)

And social media and all the digital marketing stuff. And also, oh, you also have to run our Zoom events, you know, because you know how to use Zoom. You know what I mean? So we have a lot of people at these organizations who are just they just want to do their best for the world and, you know, help stop climate change or help migrants or whatever.

(6:42 – 6:49)

And they’re like, oh, my God, I have all this stuff to learn. Technology is pretty crazy and changing all the time. And look, now there’s AI you have to worry about.

(6:49 – 7:12)

Right. You know what I mean? And they’re not even you know, they weren’t they were they’re really educated in the communication space or the marketing space or the design space or something. And so so I really it’s really that’s the most rewarding part of the job is helping people who are kind of freaked out by what has to happen, who are themselves dedicated to helping the world, you know, change in the world.

(7:12 – 7:22)

Helping those people is really what we want to do. Right. And on the technology side, I mean, as you know, dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s are so important when it comes to the website itself.

(7:22 – 7:41)

I mean, just that piece right there. And if they don’t, they could I mean, there’s a lot of bad things that can happen if they don’t. So what are some tips? What are a couple of tips that you might say, okay, hey, if you don’t have this taken care of, you’re going to get hacked?

(7:42 – 8:36)

You’re going to you know, and then you’re going to spend all your energy on that instead of your cause. Yeah, totally. Totally.

So there’s about seventy-five of those things that you should be doing. Yes, there are. Just give a couple.

Yeah, yeah. So one of the things we do as a company is we do support. So nonprofits who don’t have a web developer on their staff, as any nonprofits don’t, they will hire us on a monthly basis just to, you know, help them.

And it can be as little as just maintaining the website, making sure things are safe all the way to sort of changing little bits every month or maybe making major changes every month or whatever. But there are three things that you have to do. Oh, my God.

And so many people don’t do these three things. And then they end up like you’re saying something falls off a cliff and they end up weak on this or lose stuff or lose stuff. So number one thing you got to do, you got to be monitoring your uptime.

(8:37 – 8:59)

So, yeah, there are great online services that will ping your website every minute, every two minutes, and see if it’s up. Now, in the olden days, the site used to go down and you’d have to go in and fix it and put it back up. Now, that doesn’t usually happen anymore, because as long as you’re using a reputable host, it’s generally going to not go down and not go back up.

(8:59 – 9:12)

But you will be able to determine your uptime over time. So you’ll know if you’re getting you’re supposed to be getting five nines, which is nine point nine nine nine percent uptime. If you’re getting nine nine point nine nine eight, that’s probably fine.

(9:12 – 9:34)

If you’re getting nine point zero or point four, then you’re talking about like, you know, multiple hours of downtime a month. And so, you know, in that case, you’re really risking losing traffic, losing eyeballs, losing supporters, losing maybe your executive director has a meeting with the board and is showing them something. And maybe the website doesn’t load during that meeting.

(9:34 – 9:41)

Everyone was terrible. So you want to be evaluating that over time. And if you’re getting low numbers, there’s something wrong.

(9:41 – 9:53)

I mean, either the host is messed up or there’s some code issue on your website or something that you need to get looked into. If you don’t do that, then in three months, you’re going to have a big problem. So that’s number one is uptime.

(9:53 – 9:57)

This is going to go on for a while, but. It’s OK. No, hey, that’s what I mean.

(9:57 – 10:06)

The dotting the i’s and crossing t’s stuff is even though it’s not sexy. I mean, to be truthful, it is critical. And we understand that.

(10:06 – 10:14)

So go. What’s number two? What’s number two? Number two is you got to be updating your website. So a lot of our nonprofits are using WordPress or Google or Joomla or something you’ve got.

(10:15 – 10:24)

And there’s always that little, you know, the login to the back end to make a change or add a blog post or something. There’s always that little annoying number. It’s like like four updates needed or 20 updates needed or whatever.

(10:24 – 10:34)

And people like, oh, I don’t want to do that. And sometimes if I run the updates, something will break because it’s a plug-in. It’s been updated and has been updated for six months or a year.

(10:34 – 10:39)

And then it’s going to break something. It’s going to break something because I did something else anyway. They just try and ignore it.

(10:39 – 10:54)

But we’ve had so many clients come to us because something went wrong because they didn’t update it. And they’ll and they’ll be in emergency mode because all of a sudden their resources library won’t work or their donate functionality hasn’t donate forms gone. Right, right, right.

(10:55 – 11:05)

Stuff like that. And so I go ahead. No, I mean, if they don’t update that to that, what’s one of the easiest ways somebody hacks your site totally is when they don’t update those plug-ins.

(11:05 – 11:11)

And I’m WordPress specifically. I mean, we work with others, but we have a lot of clients on WordPress, too. But they don’t play those plug-ins.

(11:11 – 11:19)

That’s where the that’s where the bad guys come in. Oh, totally. And people don’t know that most of the updates to plug-ins are not for fancy new functionality.

(11:20 – 11:30)

It’s mostly plugging security holes. It is that you got to do those. And so people don’t.

And right, they get hacked. So that’s another one that you got to do that. All of our clients we have on a schedule.

(11:30 – 11:34)

So every week we’re running updates for all the sites. That’s awesome. Don’t have to worry about it.

(11:34 – 11:55)

But if you don’t need to hire someone like us to do it, you can really do it yourself. But you just want to do it on a testing environment first to make sure it’s themselves doesn’t break things that you have already built. Like if there’s a new event system or whatever, you want to make sure those things don’t get broken.

So you want to you do want to do it on a dev site and setting up a dev site is sometimes hard for people and stuff. So you may need somebody to help you with that. But you want to do that.

(11:56 – 12:13)

So that’s number two, which is probably. Yeah, those two are the most important. Number three.

One of the things we have for all of our clients on maintenance, which you can again, you can do this yourself if you want to do malware scans. So yeah, what you just said is a great point. Let’s say you haven’t updated your plugins for a while.

(12:13 – 12:25)

There’s some there’s your site’s been hacked. Oftentimes the hack will not be to steal your data. I mean, who cares about your data most of the time unless you have private data on there? Most nonprofits probably don’t.

(12:25 – 12:27)

And shouldn’t. And probably shouldn’t. Right.

(12:27 – 12:55)

They do. That’s sort of a different issue. Yeah, that’s a different.

But often those hacks are to inject malicious code into the site, your header, your footer. You know, to either insert links into the footer to increase the SEO value for other people or to spread viruses or to steal some keys, whatever. So you want to make sure that some service is scanning the code every once in a while to make sure that there is no malicious code in there.

(12:55 – 13:00)

So we use a service called Sakurai, which is there are a lot of these. Sakurai is a good one. Yeah, that’s a good one.

(13:00 – 13:16)

And it just lets us know, you know if there’s anything suspicious that turns up in there every six-hour scan, we’ll get a ping and we’ll go in and we’ll check it out if need be. And if there has been a hack, you got to change all the passwords and all that kind of stuff. So anyway, that’s a so out of the seventy-five, I’ll give you three.

(13:17 – 13:26)

Yeah, there’s seventy-five. But those are three. That’s a pretty good one.

Yeah, I’ve got to do those. And I like talking about those, too, because, you know, hey, look, if you want to hire us to do it, we’ll do it. We’re happy.

(13:26 – 13:37)

We love doing maintenance for nonprofits, but you can also do it yourself. I mean, you can you know, the uptime service, there’s a service called Uptime Robot. We use that.

That’ll cost you ten bucks a month. Right. The security service, that’ll cost you a bit more.

(13:37 – 13:46)

But you and the updates you got to do yourself. But, you know, it’s a DIY-type situation. If you want it to be those three, at least you can do, you know.

(13:46 – 13:58)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. But it’s you know, the challenge is always to stay ahead of the bad guys. And those things help you stay ahead of the bad guys as well as back up your site if you can, in case they do hack it.

(13:58 – 14:03)

And then you then you have it. Oh, for sure. Backups is number four.

(14:03 – 14:07)

Yeah, for sure. I threw in number four. We did number three and they threw in number four.

(14:07 – 15:00)

Awesome. Anyway, OK, tell me a few stories. I know that you were, I talked to you a little bit about Save the Children and and what they’re doing.

Can you tell me a little bit about that, about that organization, and what you kind of been working with them on? Yeah, yeah, totally. Totally. So Save the Children.

Some people know about Save the Children. It’s a pretty big organization, an international nonprofit. Yeah, they have a ton of programs that they do so that they fund and they arrange and they run.

So some great people work there. Hillary is a great is our contact there. She’s awesome.

She runs this project called Healthy Newborn Network. Just an example. So they have they have a bunch of data about how to decrease the mortality of babies around the world.

(15:01 – 15:12)

So yeah, it’s great. Child mortality has decreased over the last 20, 40 thousands of years. But there’s but a lot of those decreases are not spread equally across the world.

(15:13 – 15:37)

And there is still more to do in terms of decreasing child mortality. So there they have a program where they have gathered up academic data. Our processes are what what are ways to decrease child mortality? And some of them are really obvious nutrition, you know, and some of them aren’t like ways to do child delivery.

(15:37 – 16:12)

If you are, let’s say, in the middle of an environment where there isn’t a lot of electricity, how do you decrease child mortality during delivery during those periods? So there’s just a lot of information. And so they have put together this website, which we’re doing with them right now, which allows practitioners in those far-flung areas to get the information they need to decrease child mortality on the ground. So, for instance, they have documents about how best to manage young children refugee camps, you know, how best to help them thrive.

(16:12 – 16:32)

And so for that kind of thing, I mean, it’s great because they’re they’re really passionate about their mission. They’re doing some like this is not like one of those kind of up in the air, you know, issue kind of talking issues. This is a real thing that is going to affect people’s lives on the ground.

(16:33 – 16:47)

And they get like, all right, our website needs to work. Right. And they’re international, right? I mean, they’re serving international and they’re working with these resources around information then and then in a bunch of different languages.

(16:47 – 16:57)

Right. And they need it to load fast because there’s not necessarily strong Internet in these places. So anyway, so right.

(16:57 – 17:12)

And they want that, you know, but again, it is so that’s one of the one of the audiences of that of that organization. And then academics who are creating research is another audience of that organization and that web to sort of figure out what is being done and where the holes in the research are and what the past research is. So you’ve got another audience.

(17:12 – 17:41)

And so they’re really working hard to understand who those audiences are, what that website needs to do for those different audiences with some weird requirements. It is and how each of those audiences need to navigate to the site through the site to get the information that they need and want and what they want them to do. What problems do they solve and how are they going to make those who those audiences lives better? And then again, what do you want them to do? Or gain access to.

(17:41 – 18:01)

So there are a lot of different funnels, I guess, from that site that you need to work through in that development of that site, which is a great opportunity. And also the different languages, speed. There are a lot of important dotting I’s and crossing T’s that need to go in place for that particular project that you’re working on.

(18:01 – 18:04)

It sounds wonderful. Oh, for sure. Yeah, it’s it’s really good.

(18:04 – 18:13)

And it’s funny because we do we do a lot of web projects for nonprofits and some of them like Hillary HNN, Healthy Newborn Network, I just talked about. She knows who the audiences are. She’s really in touch with it.

(18:14 – 18:30)

Right. Sometimes we’ll get projects where an organization will come in and maybe they’re newer or maybe they are not entirely clear on what they’re, you know, what they want to say. And they will want the website to be about them like, hey, this we are this organization.

(18:30 – 18:53)

This is what we do and here’s what we do. And here are some examples of the things we do and check out this cool stuff we do. And that’s great.

That should be should be the branding, right? That should be on the site. But what we’re really trying to get people to do when we have those projects at the beginning is to say, all right, let’s take the lens away from who you are and put it on that audience. So like who is the audience? And there probably isn’t one audience.

(18:53 – 18:56)

There are probably multiple audiences for nonprofits. There always are. There are supporters.

(18:57 – 19:03)

That’s number one. And then there are perhaps people you’re delivering services to. So you’re building a web.

(19:03 – 19:33)

We built a website, for instance, to help this organization that educates public school teachers in New York City about how to best teach homeless kids, because it turns out there are one hundred thousand homeless kids in the New York City public school system, which is more than there are kids in the Austin, Texas public school system. Total.

We have more homeless kids in the school system than they do. And by homeless, I mean people living in shelters or without a. No, that’s right. Not on the street, but they don’t have a stable home.

(19:33 – 19:43)

So there’s a couple of issues. They don’t have stability at home. That’s number one.

They don’t have transit. Their transit could be an issue. They don’t have an address like a physical address.

(19:43 – 20:04)

So you can’t mail stuff to them, which seems like such an obvious thing. But it’s a challenge. So to me, this organization, they are they’re helping teachers and educators figure out how to best handle that because, in every class, there’s going to be one or two shelter kids.

Right. So, oh, man. And now this is a podcast thing.

(20:05 – 20:07)

Now, lost my train of thought. I can’t remember. No, it’s OK.

(20:07 – 20:12)

I hope I didn’t interrupt it. No, no. But building community.

(20:12 – 20:39)

I mean, websites are ways. I mean, you have to speak in the way that the folks that will receive it and those teachers need to receive that information. Right.

Capture that information so that they can then improve themselves. So it’s it’s that’s what that’s science to it. Right.

You’ve brought me back to the point I wanted to make, which was yes. So you take the lens away from the organization itself. Hey, we help teachers do this, but we help homeless kids.

(20:39 – 21:03)

But you want to put it on the audience. So the audience in that case is all right. So there are teachers and educators who want to know how best to handle that situation.

And then you’ve got the parents of homeless kids who also want to know. And so their interests are totally different and they are looking for different resources and they’re looking for different things. And then you’ve got the supporters of the organization who are like who want to champion this organization, which is doing great stuff and really needs to exist.

(21:04 – 21:31)

And then you also have, you know, it’s also mostly funded by the state. And so you have government people who are coming in to figure out, hey, what are we funding and how are we funding it and how does it work and does it meet the requirements that we have at the government level? So you’ve got like it’s more complicated than say, you know, than saying, what do we do? It’s sort of what do these audiences need and how do you get them to what they need without getting them off track? Right. And that definitely takes clarity.

(21:31 – 21:56)

But it also takes a little bit to some of the emotional triggers to actually they want to get from here to there. And so if you use that language that shows that you’re going to solve their problem, whether it’s the parent, which is a different problem like you said, then the teacher. And then, oh, so you kind of make the teacher the hero by giving them this information in a way.

(21:56 – 22:06)

And that’s what you want to do as a nonprofit or a business. I mean, those who come to your site, you want to make them more about them than you. Yes.

(22:06 – 22:19)

And which is always hard because I mean, people in our business, we always talk about our services, what we do. Right. But it’s so it’s going to translate that into how we I mean, you solve people’s problems from the bad guys.

(22:19 – 22:33)

You help you also help them put up a resource to, you know, tell their story. I mean, so that’s yourself and their problem versus the web development. But I use web development all the time as far as services go.

(22:33 – 22:38)

Yeah. It’s just training ourselves to talk about the problem we solve. Yeah, totally, totally.

(22:38 – 22:59)

And it’s just that’s part of what I really like working about, about working with nonprofits and social change agencies, too, is like. That part can get that part’s a little tricky, right, because, you know, because it’s it is not it’s not as obvious as I would like it to be a lot of the time. Right.

(22:59 – 23:42)

Like so so we, yeah, you want if you’re a nonprofit, you want your supporters to be the heroes. I know. Yes.

But you also want. To serve the people that need what you’re giving. Yes.

To be the heroes to kind of, you know, but that’s a bit weirder, too. It is. It is.

It’s it’s a hard it’s a hard thing. What are some mistakes that they make? I mean, I think what we were talking about, one mistake nonprofits make may not make it, you know, not necessarily think about those. Yeah.

But what are some other mistakes that even we talked about not taking care of your site? Yeah. Any other mistakes you think that that. Yeah, that’s a good that’s a that’s a good question.

(23:42 – 24:08)

I would say a common mistake that we see people have when they come to us, we get a lot of people or organizations that have websites built already who are having trouble running them or they’re not really meeting their needs anymore. And so we’re sort of taking over and helping shepherd them to a better place. One of the mistakes we see a lot is not paying attention to what is a technical thing, not paying attention to the back end of the site.

(24:09 – 24:40)

So how it’s been made. So you can, for instance, there’s you can build a WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla site. Yeah.

Or you can really pay attention to how the staff is going to use it and build it in a way that makes it easier. So we get a lot of clients who come to us saying this thing is impossible to use. But it might work on the front end, but it’s impossible for us to move modules around.

Right. We have a landing page and I can’t put the content underneath to put the image on top. Something custom-built within it.

(24:40 – 24:53)

It’s just a code mess. It’s yeah. And you and you get back into where you don’t have control over how the pages are laid out or it’s basically I had a person talk about this the other day.

(24:53 – 25:16)

It’s basically like a Microsoft Word, WYSIWYG, or text structure that’s like a frame that you can’t change, things like that. Right. So one of the mistakes that I think people make is they really focus on what it’s going to look like on the front end and they don’t think, hey, what is the flexibility that I need for going forward? And my staff actually use this in a way that’s not really difficult and frustrating.

(25:16 – 25:59)

Right. It sounds like when you’re at, which is a great approach, is that you ask that question back to them because sometimes they’ll come to us and say, we want this, we want this, we want this. And you’re like, well, you can have that customization, but how are you going to use that in the future? And is it going to be hard for you to edit? So I think I think that’s a really important point because nonprofits don’t have budgets to have somebody, a full-time web development person coding that site all the time.

They need flexibility. So that’s a really important mistake. I mean, I think that can think about the ease of editing and creation as a primary.

(26:01 – 26:21)

I want it when you’re doing a website. Yeah, totally. And again, it’s hard sometimes when you’re going into a big project, a lot of nonprofits still use RFPs, which there’s some debate about whether you should do that or not.

And I’m not a fan, but I know why. Yeah, I get why people do it. And you can get a good result from an RFP.

(26:21 – 26:41)

I mean, it’s not impossible to do that, but you do need to know what you’re looking for. I mean, it is quite easy for some agency to respond to an RFP with a proposal that focuses on the front end and doesn’t and has a process that’s really opaque and you don’t know. And once they win the project, show you something and then build it without any input about how it’s going to get built.

(26:41 – 27:06)

And it’s hard unless you sort of know to look out for that. You can kind of end up at the end of the project with like, all right, they’ve hit the they’ve hit the specs in the RFP, you know, they’ve hit the KPIs or whatever. But this thing is like basically impossible to use, you know what I mean? And then they think, oh, no, you know, so it’s you just need to know going in, like, all right, so part of my RFP is going to be like, hey, let’s talk about how the backend is going to be built and how we’re going to use it.

(27:06 – 27:30)

And can you please train us on the backend and can we submit it to how the backend works while we’re testing it and stuff like that? Is that going to be part of the project or not? Right. I was just looking at the RFP we were responding to for a nonprofit and it has multiple WordPress sites of it, then they want to know if they can integrate with this other software and this other software. And like we need to have a conversation about how you’re using this and how you want to navigate it.

(27:30 – 27:53)

But yeah, because because of this RFP, the partnership piece is missing for us to be able to kind of talk through about what the best practices on how they can or can’t use those. For sure, the very integration tools in which they want. So totally, it’s even if your RFP is really long and really detailed, it’s going to be hard to give us all the information that we need to give you.

(27:53 – 27:59)

We’re making a lot of assumptions when we write those proposals. I mean, we’re we’re making we we have experience. I mean, we know how to make assumptions.

(27:59 – 28:13)

We know probably making the right ones in most cases, but it’s impossible to know for sure unless you really get in and talk. But on the other hand, I get that organizations not going to go out and have like an in-depth conversation with 20 different vendors. Like that’s just impossible for them to do.

(28:13 – 28:17)

So, right. I don’t know. You know, so it’s I get what I do.

(28:17 – 28:23)

But yeah, it’s a process. Yeah, for sure. Shifting gears, I know it’s the hot topic and we’re in deep on AI.

(28:24 – 28:37)

How do you see AI changing web development, for example? And we use it from a leveraging data standpoint. We use it for a lot of different ways. But web development and AI has a place.

(28:38 – 28:48)

So any thoughts there or any insights? Yeah, it’s a good question. AI, it is a hot topic. And yeah, in terms of web development particularly.

(28:50 – 29:40)

I mean, we’re already using it in very limited ways to give us the basics when we’re starting things so we can, for instance, we did a project where we needed to add on to an organization’s website. They had a WordPress website that ran pretty well and worked pretty well. They needed a membership area where they could let their partners log in and access particular data.

So we’ve done this a million times and we can easily write a plugin to give them the functionality to do that, particularly there’s, or use off-the-shelf plugins if that’s possible. Anyway, but in this case, we needed to do something really particular that hadn’t been done before. So I cannot write that plugin for us.

(29:40 – 29:59)

But what I can do is give us the base file set that we need so we can say, can you write a plugin that allows people to log in and there’s a profile page and it allows them to update their name, address, and blah, blah, blah. And when it hits save, it sends an email to somebody. So it will give you the basics of that, which maybe take you five, to 10 hours.

(29:59 – 30:20)

You know what I mean? But there’s still a lot. I mean, that’s just the basics, you know. But right.

But there’s still a lot of work that has to happen on top of that. So sure is that that’s where we are in 2024. Right.

Like you can say we can save maybe 10 percent of the time doing that right now. Yeah. But that’s that’s where we are now.

(30:20 – 30:32)

You know what I mean? Maybe in the future, we’ll continue to maybe get us 30 percent of the way there, 40 percent of the way there. The other. So the other point about that, though, is that that’s a functionality plugin that we can help.

(30:32 – 30:50)

I can help with. I cannot yet do what we spend most of our time doing, which is what is this site going to look like. Yeah. What is it? How is it going to work? And then let’s translate those mock-ups that we’ve designed into a real landing page for this login screen, for this membership area, for instance.

(30:50 – 30:53)

Let’s translate that. Let’s build that out. I cannot do that yet.

(30:53 – 31:11)

It can’t take a design and say, let’s build. And I really think it’s going to be hard for it to. It’s been a to get to that human component of getting to the emotional triggers from a marketing standpoint, it will help and speed up more.

(31:11 – 31:31)

I mean, we use it for code development and I think that’s where its strength is. It might also help with some creativity brainstorming instead of having old school was having, you know, you would have a bunch of people you would ask their opinion about an idea. You can ask what’s a good tagline for or what’s a good one.

(31:32 – 31:43)

So some of the words and copy can be brainstormed, but you still have to have the human component on the design side. I will see. I just I’m not betting on it ever getting there.

(31:44 – 31:49)

I don’t think it will. I mean, most of our work, though, is development. So we do we do some design when we need to.

(31:49 – 32:09)

We also have partners that do design. We have a great designer on staff, so we do do that. But someday, I wonder if let’s say, we get a mock-up for that login page, for instance, from our designer, if we can say, hey, I build this out in WordPress, you know what I mean? And if we could, it would reduce the cost, right? It would reduce the cost for nonprofits trying to do that.

(32:09 – 32:21)

It would make it fast for us to do that. Yeah, I’m not I’m not against it at all, you know, because that’s not really something a human needs to do. You’ve already designed it.

You just want it to work with HTML as well. I don’t know. We’ll see if we can get there.

(32:21 – 32:33)

Maybe someday there are some themes in WordPress that are working towards an I don’t know if you’ve ever used Elementor. Yeah, for sure. You know, and again, those will go ahead.

(32:34 – 32:58)

They’re trying. They’re trying. And I think they’ll get to a point where if you’re just starting out, you may want to use that.

Yeah, it’s always going to at least right now. It’s pretty generic what it can do. Like it’s looking, it’s not necessarily, you know, I don’t think an organization who is comfortable with a generic looking template design is going to want to, you know, it’s great if you’re jumping right starting out, you need to need a thing.

(32:58 – 33:20)

But once you have an identity, once you have what you want to do, you know, and you’re a unique organization, you’re I’m not sure it’s going to really work for a long term, you know. But who knows? Who knows? Yeah, I’m happy to get all right in the ride. I mean, similar to like you said, I mean, back in 99, I can remember, oh, my gosh, I missed that curve of innovation.

(33:21 – 33:38)

I mean, I think we’re kind of in that time period of we’re just in for a new ride. We’ll see how things kind of go. Yeah.

Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see. And, you know, the other thing is, is there, you know, our nonprofits are often concerned about are there ethical issues with AI? So there’s a lot.

(33:38 – 34:31)

There is a lot of debate. So totally. And so for this one, when we’re talking about translating a design into code, for instance, are there ethical issues? I mean, you don’t get the ethical issues with like copying people’s data and like, is it OK to use, you know, someone else’s what would work to like pull in as a as a learning tool or something? You don’t get those, but you do get the like, well, are you you know, what is that due to people whose job it is to code? And what are the structural issues related to that? And so.

So there’s also some concerns, you know, that way to you, what if you, you know, I don’t know. Yeah, I think I look at it as it’s going to help us maybe do our job better. I just don’t think when the human component of helping these companies or organizations move forward is going to be just as critical, especially with how.

(34:33 – 38:32)

Much information is out there, and so you have to bring in the human commitment, so I’m hoping it’s going to make us better not take our jobs away, but we’ll see, I could be wrong, I could be wrong. I don’t, you know, I mean, I think we’ll just help look like you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re into technology, you guys handle a lot of the technological stuff, so do we. It’s like a tool, you know what I mean? And like, so are websites.

I mean, we’re helping, we’re helping nonprofits with web technology, web technology is a tool like it’s not, it’s not a thing for its own right. It’s because it’s helping them accomplish our mission. That’s why they have it.

So yeah, so if AI can be part of that tool mix that helps them accomplish their mission, then that will be our job is to like help them leverage that, you know what I mean? So, yeah, I totally agree. It is another tool in toolbox. Yeah, but it’s hot.

And I had to bring it up because it’s, it’s the it’s the hot topic of 2024 and beyond and beyond. And we’ll see anyway. Totally.

You know, is there one last question? And I really appreciate you giving me your time. And I hope we can talk again because I know we both have a passion for nonprofits. And your story is an interesting one.

I didn’t ask you though, hang on before I do my last question. What made you go from being a lawyer in a big firm to starting this, this, this, this company that you have for 10 years? Yeah, let’s see. It was 2006.

And I had worked for a big law firm, in New York City for a couple of years. And, it wasn’t as terrible as people say it was. I was working, you know, 18 hours a day.

And I was five. And yeah, I was like, whatever. Right.

But I liked aspects of it. I liked the writing, for instance, we wrote some great motions that were really interesting. But I felt that the work I was doing was both too stressful and not important enough.

You know what I mean? It was like, if I’m going to be tearing my hair out and working so hard and stressed all the time, it’s gotta be something that matters. And I was doing a case at the time. I was the lowest, you know, I was the youngest person.

So I was doing all the stuff that no one else wanted to do, which included reviewing a million emails. But it was that the people in this company, our job as lawyers for this big law firm was to defend companies. That was our job.

So big companies would hire us because they get sued all the time they get sued for everything from someone falling in the store in the lobby of a Citibank to big securities things where they’ve underwritten the stock and the stock has gone down and somebody sues them because of that because they lost the money and blah blah blah. So we’re always defending, we’re defending, defending, defending these big corporations. And I remember one of the cases was a hedge fund.

Our client was the hedge fund. They had purchased a boat factory in Wisconsin. Okay.

Because they thought it would make money. And during right, before they purchased the boat factory, the union that worked there negotiated a new contract with the owners of the boat factory, they gave them health care. And then when our client came in, they bought the boat factory and they wanted to get out of this contract because they didn’t want to give them health care because it was too expensive.

Okay. And their argument, so they stopped giving them health care. The union sued them.

We defended them saying we had the right to remove their health care because it wasn’t us that signed the contract. It was the previous owner that signed the contract. And I remember spending a whole weekend in Tompkins Square Park in New York City, which is close to where I live.

I had a girlfriend at the time who I wanted to hang out with and there was a concert and we were there and I was sitting there reviewing. I was stuck at this concert. She was listening to music.

I was reviewing stacks of emails about how these guys were gonna remove the health care from their lives. And I’m like, this is a mess. What is going on here? What am I doing? What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This is terrible on many reasons.

(38:32 – 40:46)

And there’s the personal reason. There’s the what I’m doing to the world reason. And poor Maureen Wiley, who I haven’t spoken to in 20 years and lives in Seattle, was sitting there bored.

You’re reading all these emails and briefs. Emails about how we’re gonna screw over the union. At the time, I have to give a shout-out to my friend Ryan, who runs an organization in DC called Soapbox Engage, which helps nonprofits with CRMs.

He wanted to hire me to run the New York office of his company. So I was like, thank you. I am in.

I am so in. And that’s where I got really involved in nonprofit technology. So it was basically a new career.

A lot less money. But it finally felt like, all right, look, if I’m working hard, I’m doing it for something that is going to be good, you know, is going to be worth working for, as opposed to these dudes shutting down the health care at their boat factory, which was a huge drag. Thank you for giving me that story.

It’s a good one. And that’s one that a lot of people should hear. Because no, I mean, not about the boat factory or what they were doing.

But you know, just sit there and self-evaluate. This is not really how I should be spending my time. How did my life end up? Yeah, I was like, what is what? How did this happen? But yeah.

And it’s those jobs, right? That I think people that really burn people out, the ones that are high stress, low meaning. Yeah. So now we have a high stress, but high meaning because we’re running our own companies.

Yeah. The stress level is just the same. Still there.

But at least there’s a purpose. There is a purpose. So one last question.

And what was the final proof point? And do we want to leave with our listeners, especially as it relates to those who you serve, and any takeaways? Oh, from this podcast? Yeah, from this podcast or whatever. Yeah. Um, yeah, gosh, I don’t know.

(40:46 – 41:04)

Yeah. Yeah. If you need marketing help, hire a proof digital.

Oh, yeah. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Because you guys apparently know what you’re doing. I did. I did speak to our host before the show.

Just listeners. I did speak to our host before the show. So I know her a little bit.

(41:05 – 41:59)

Yeah. Good people over there. Good people over there.

That’s the take. Thanks. Thanks for the shout-out.

Appreciate it. Same thing for Ben. He’s working with nonprofits.

I mean, you heard the story about Save the Children. There’s so many stories behind beyond that. And just love.

Again, you’re helping them dot their I’s and cross their T’s that they need to do to elevate their organizations. I mean, more than that. But I mean, it’s just those things that help so they can focus on what they do best.

So one, we’ve been talking to Bren, Ben, sorry, Ben, Ben, Freda with BFC Digital. Ben, thank you for joining the Proofpoint podcast. Thanks so much for having me.

It was a lot of fun. Thanks for listening to the Proof Point podcast. We’ll see you again next time.

(42:00 – 42:02)

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