Monday, May 2, 2016 - 09:06
Written by
CiviCRM member Cool Earth

Photography by Alicia Fox / Cool Earth

Cool Earth is the charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rain forest destruction. Saving the rain forest isn’t a new idea. But managing to do it is. Over the last 40 years, half the world’s rain forests have been destroyed. That’s why Cool Earth decided to go about things differently.

Our model puts local people back in control, giving them the resources they need to keep their forest intact. And by saving at-risk rain forest millions of acres of neighbouring forest are put out of reach of loggers. It is an approach that research proves to be the most effective way of keeping rain forest standing. And it is transforming the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

From the start we wanted to be light on our feet. We are a small team that makes a big impact. We also wanted to be highly accountable and communicate openly and personally with our donors, something that requires a high level of confidence in data. Redefining what a rain forest charity looks like hasn’t been a smooth ride, especially when it comes to digital system. A team who were more focused on delivering impact on the ground were the victims of an under qualified web development company. They installed CiviCRM but didn’t have the expertise to integrate it properly with the other parts of the system. As a result, data was erroneous, muddled, and more importantly, some data wasn’t making it in to the system at all. A strong visual brand and imagery on the site hid clunky functionality and a ‘rat’s nest’ of data.

At the beginning of 2015, with a strategic plan to develop individual giving much more than previously, it was clear a major rethink was needed. The general feeling of the team was to get rid of everything and start from scratch. With the help of Venn Creative we did an Information Architecture project, and looked properly at the requirements of our organisation without reference to any existing systems or processes. Then I looked at a range of systems to work out which would fit our needs best. After assessing several CRM systems, it was clear that CiviCRM fit our needs perfectly, being adjustable, powerful, and tailored to non profits.

So thankfully we didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We got rid of everything else and started with CiviCRM. We rebuilt the website using WordPress and replaced Worldpay with Stripe, which was quicker and more streamlined. And we took advantage of a number of features of CiviCRM that we didn’t know existed, like Personal Campaign Pages (For which we had been using a bespoke add-in, which didn’t work well).

We were lucky that after making the decision to keep CiviCRM we found a Civi partner, Veda Consulting, to help us develop it. The experience compared to previous digital projects was incomparable. Together with Venn Creative, we worked closely with Veda to build new integrations and strengthen existing ones. Working in the non profit sector, managing a project with partners whose values reflected ours made a real difference.

We now have a solid base on which to build our individual fundraising, and since launching the new site have seen a 50% increase in online donations.

A convert to CiviCRM, it wasn’t until I attended CiviCON in London last autumn with two colleagues that I understood the power of the Civi community. Our rain forest partnerships put people back in control, and it chimed with me that the Civi project was doing this for CRM systems: creating a product that rivaled the big boys in terms of functionality, but that kept core values of collaborative effort and open source software.

Cool Earth wants its donors, business supporters, and partner village to feel like they’re part of a community. The CiviCRM community both enables this and adds value to it.

Cool Earth and Veda Consulting support CiviCRM and the Core Team by providing unrestricted funds as a member and partner, respectively. Both are also contributors to the project. The best way to say thanks for their support is to reciprocate and help keep CiviCRM going.