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‘Symphony’ revitalizes online image

From the master site to local sites, project aims to deepen digital engagement with The Salvation Army in the West.

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The Western Territory launched a new framework for The Salvation Army online that aims to deliver a stunning experience, increase fundraising, deepen engagement and serve fresh and timely content on a master site and at the local corps level.

The “Symphony” project—based on the idea that we don’t have to be the same to play in concert—was designed in partnership with The Richards Group and Devnext, and spearheaded by the territory’s Director of Digital Strategy, Angela McIntosh, and Website Services Manager, John Docter.

“When we did the research and dug into the analytics, we figured out that multiple sites meant more traffic. But we knew we didn’t have enough staff to manage hundreds of sites independently. So we needed to design the technology to manage the framework of the site from a central location, but preserve as much local autonomy and creativity as possible in the content,” said McIntosh, who formerly worked as head of product at MobileCause. “The website has been designed around the idea that we should each keep our own unique local identities while getting the best from the corporate brand. And the new network of sites ensures that wherever a visitor lives, he or she will have access to a compelling and consistent Salvation Army presence online.”

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McIntosh and Docter found that local corps websites had a conversion rate—the percentage of users who take the desired action of making a credit card donation—of less that 1 percent (0.28 percent) compared to an 11 percent rate on satruck.org.

“The adult rehabilitation centers site, satruck.org, has been hugely successful at raising the conversion rate of their sites by banding together under a single national strategy and using data to drive user experience decisions,” McIntosh said. “Fundamentally, we are taking the same approach.”

Symphony is being released in three movements.

First, the master site explains The Salvation Army as a whole, detailing the philosophy behind the organization’s hyper local focus and featuring 16 primary issues the Army is engaged in—from fighting hunger to human trafficking. Within each, the site will make a case for the need, explore Salvation Army work in that area and allow the user to contribute to the solution.

“Our target demographic here at The Salvation Army is people who want to make a positive impact on their world. Those people need clear and compelling ways to make an impact,” McIntosh said. “When we design immersive, interactive experiences for users we draw them further into the mission and further into becoming the person they want to become. We empower people to live consciously, generously, spiritually.”

Notably, the site will tie directly into social services data so that those looking for help can see a more detailed view of what is available near them.

Come July 5, a “conductor” site will launch to manage the framework of all local sites, setting layouts, analytics, brand standards and code.

“Think of the conductor like a machine that absorbs all of the complexity for a local unit,” McIntosh said. “The conductor makes it possible for us to learn from all of the collective user behavior and make data-driven decisions to optimize giving, volunteering, subscriptions and fundraising. It’s the engine that puts our business intelligence to use.”

In the event of a disaster, for example, the territory could push uniform information and donation pages to every local site through the conductor.

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Also beginning July 5, every division, metro area, corps and residential program in the territory will have access to its own microsite within Symphony to populate with content before the Aug. 2 launch. The simple interface will allow staff to administrate a professionally branded site with no coding experience, configuring their own homepage to promote local initiatives. On each microsite, a conversion toolbar allows a visitor to volunteer, subscribe, attend, give or start a fundraiser.

Symphony was built in the International Headquarters WebManager platform so that it can scale to any Salvation Army territory.

“It’s designed as a flexible framework that’s going to grow with us over the years. It’s a place for transparency, where you can see the amazing work being done all across the country,” McIntosh said. “It’s a place where it’s compelling and easy for the public to connect with The Salvation Army and join us in doing the most good.”

Live training and self-paced video tutorials will be available to staff throughout July.

Visit the master site at westernusa.salvationarmy.org, and see a live prototype of a local site at symphony.salvationarmy.org.

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