Pro bono support helps charity launch website

20 September 2021

A screenshot of the Friends of St Paul's Cathedral website

WCIT members understand the potential that IT offers not only to transform business but also to enhance public services and help social enterprises develop. Smaller organisations in the social sector can benefit enormously from effective use of IT and social media, but many struggle to understand the options open to them and to choose the best way forward. The Pro-Bono and Projects Panel works with the social sector to address these issues, by drawing on the considerable talents and experience of Company members. Here’s how two members were able to help a London-based charity…

In early 2020, Court Liveryman Steve Smith received a request to help build a new membership system for the Friends of St Paul’s Cathedral. They wanted to transition from a paper-based approach to a mostly automated web-based system, paired with a ‘Friends’ Area’ of exclusive online content. Liveryman Alan Simpson generously provided infrastructure for the website, which it was agreed was to be built in WordPress.

At this point, WCIT Journeyman Tim Clark started to build the website and implement the membership system, reviewing a few possible options with the Friends’ coordinators. Two approaches were considered; the first was to have a system with various components (forms, access control and donor profiles among other things); the second was to find an out-of-the-box solution that would meet all (or as many as possible) of their requirements.

After discussing the options with stakeholders, it was decided to go with GiveWP, a WordPress plugin that met the majority of the requirements while being priced competitively (around £215) and not much more than some individual plugins that would have needed to be combined with other tools. In addition, the comprehensive API allowed WCIT member Tim to develop additional functionality using bespoke PHP code if needed. WordPress already provided a fully-featured CMS and blogging system, enabling the creation of exclusive content.

After several months of work and discussions, the site was launched in April 2021, and in spite of the few teething troubles as users adapted to the new site (and some hastily-patched bugs), it was very well received. Within just a few days, the site had already processed several hundred pounds worth of new memberships, largely due to a Daily Mail advertising campaign by the cathedral. The Dean was delighted with the new website, and wrote to the WCIT to express this sentiment, awarding Tim, Steve and Alan lifetime Friends membership to the cathedral. Tim attended the annual Friends’ Festival in July, where he had the chance to meet those he had supported in person and see how much of an impact he and the WCIT had had on such an important edifice of London.