During the Fall of 2013, a member of the Frederick County, Maryland community learned about a twelve-year-old middle school boy who desperately needed a winter coat and a pair of shoes. After networking, community members made overwhelming contributions to this student. Soon it was realized that this child was one of more than 600 students in Frederick County Public Schools experiencing homelessness and other challenging housing-related circumstances. It was this moment that the Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership (SHIP) was formed. Through the setup of a Facebook group and a few volunteers, SHIP began coordinating with local schools to identify the needs of homeless children. SHIP privately distributed lists of needed items with the purpose of having its caring members stepping forward to fulfill requested donations.
I learned about SHIP during Summer 2014. I was very comforted by the outpouring generosity of caring people in our community and wanted to help. As a web designer what better way to volunteer than by donating my time and talent to build a comprehensive website? At the time, being a new 501(c) 3 non-profit less than one-year-old, I knew they could benefit greatly by having an expertly-designed website that included an easy way to make donations. By having a professionally designed web presence, the organization could provide detailed information to the general public about what they do, how they help, highlight upcoming fundraisers, and easily build and organize a list of volunteers and donors through the facilitation of a convenient email newsletter signup list.
One key goal was to make the website responsive and accessible for users visiting from their mobile device. With all of SHIP’s coordination efforts happening on Facebook, where a majority of users are on their smartphones, making a responsive website was extremely important in order to provide a seamless user experience.
Over the course of several months and 95 hours of hard work, the website was completed and launched five days before Thanksgiving. SHIP instantly saw a large amount of website traffic, an increase in monetary donations, many Facebook connections, as well as an impressive number of people signing up to be alerted of volunteer opportunities and student needs.
In addition to the creation of the website, I also wrote a detailed user and style guide so that volunteers could quickly and easily make updates, refer to the colors and design elements created, and have all of the details relating to the website in one convenient location.