When we saw the review that John Herd left us on LinkedIn, and checked out the great things that he has done with his organization's website, we decided to chat with John to see what insights he had to share about Wild Apricot!
John is the Director of Marketing & Communications at the PIA of Florida (Professional Insurance Agents of Florida), a 501(c)6 member-based organization operating out of Tallahassee. We checked out their website -- powered by Wild Apricot, of course -- and were impressed with the number of features they were actively using, as well as how they used our tools to customize their site for a clean, professional look.
With the events feature, they can promote their classes and accept fee payments online. The blog module is useful for updating members with the latest news, and both the blog widget and events gadgets are on the site's homepage, allowing the latest news and classes to be dynamically updated so they are always up-to-date. They've created a Job Board using our forum module, and also make full use of our membership application capabilities.
Finding Wild Apricot
John says that the PIA of Florida did not always have such a great online presence.
"PIA of Florida's previous site was in Joomla. It was poorly developed and had tons of bugs. When I came to the PIA, I knew they needed a fix, but I also knew they had a limited budget."
John did three weeks of research when looking for an appropriate web-based member management solution for the PIA. He obtained quotes from local companies to build a custom system for their organization, and he also looked at the cost of other third-party member management software tools. He even went so far as to interview candidates to bring a website development position in-house! In the end, none of these other options seemed to suit his organization.
John found Wild Apricot listed on a few sites that reviewed non-profit management systems. He opened a trial account in November 2009, and tested the system throughout the 30-day-free trial period, and a few weeks into the Free Account period. John was impressed --
"Finding Wild Apricot was perfect because it did everything a $50,000
site did at a rate that was astronomically less costly, not to mention
great support and future development at no cost to us."
In February 2010, the PIA of Florida, Inc. upgraded their Wild Apricot account to the paid version --
the decision was made!
Why Did The PIA of Florida Choose Wild Apricot?
While there are many reasons John chose Wild Apricot over the other solutions he researched, two of the main reasons were event management and communication tools. The integrated back-end features of Wild Apricot enable the staff of the PIA of Florida to easily keep track of their members' current status, notify them of news or upcoming events, and record their payments to make accounting easier.
"As a member-based association, communication with our members is the cornerstone of retention. We can easily find and check-in with our members at any time. Also, with Wild Apricot's automated payment system, we were able to ease the renewal process for our members, as well as incorporate the education courses we provide across the state. After implementing Wild Apricot, we saw a 16% growth in our course attendance in 2010."
That growth is thanks to John's favorite feature, the event management component of Wild Apricot. Since it's so easy to set up new events and track enrollments, the decrease in administrative time, along with the promotional aspects of having the PIA's classes broadcast on their homepage, helped the PIA to greatly enhance their class and event offerings.
John notes that:
"there are plenty of systems that do member management, though none as quickly and effectively. There are few systems that I have found that offer such an effective event management portal at anywhere near the cost of Wild Apricot. The closest system I've seen that comes anywhere near had a $20,000 setup fee! Wild Apricot makes both the end-user and the controller experience incredibly friendly. Setting up an event is just as easy as signing up for one. Having worked now for four small businesses, I can guarantee there are few budgets or staff members capable of implementing this kind of system in their business at the cost that Wild Apricot provides."
Customizing the PIA'S Wild Apricot Site
We think that John has done a great job customizing the PIA of Florida's Wild Apricot site. Of course, it helps that he has a design background, and customized most of their graphics using tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator. He also integrated some third-party widgets, such as embedding their Twitter feed on their homepage, Wufoo forms, and Google Maps. When he got stuck, he quickly contacted our support team for help.
"Wild Apricot's support team doesn't fall short of their platform's excellence. Their documentation will help the majority of clients perform all the necessary tweaks to get their site where they want it. The step-by-step directions and images they provide are great for novice webmasters. For advanced users that can't find their answer in the support documentation, Wild Apricot's phone support is a great resource as well. Not only am I speaking with someone within two minutes of calling, whomever I speak with can almost immediately answer my question or point me in the right direction. I remember calling once with a web integration question that involved something I readily knew Wild Apricot didn't support, but their team investigated and found me a solution within a day at no extra cost."
If you like how PIA of Florida's site looks, you can do it too -- when you insert a graphic and then make it link to another page, that's all you have to do to create a stylized button on your site! And if you get stuck, our friendly Wild Apricot support team is always there to help!
Advice for New Wild Apricot Users
I asked John if he had any advice for newer users of Wild Apricot, and here's what he had to say:
"Those new to Wild Apricot should map out how their end-users are using the site and how Wild Apricot can help create a more efficient and satisfying experience. We had several processes that were cluttering our time. Once we let the automation built into Wild Apricot take over, we were able to use our time more effectively."
This is great advice, since many of our users find that they have different needs, and different functional priorities within their organizations. It's important is to understand your organization's needs fully, so that you can automate the processes that are otherwise manual and taking up too much of your administrative time. With a bit of imagination, you'd be surprised how many different ways our features can be implemented. Since all aspects of Wild Apricot are fully customizable, you can often make complicated scenarios a breeze with a little bit of thought and help from our support team! And if not, there's always the Wishlist Forum for your feedback and suggestions -- because it's through understanding our user's needs that we can continue to grow and serve you better!
Thanks again to John Herd, Director of Communications & Marketing at the PIA of Florida, Inc., for taking the time to share his personal experience of Wild Apricot with us. We certainly appreciate it!
Do you use Wild Apricot in a unique or creative way?
We're always looking for interesting client stories to share. If you'd like us to review your site in our monthly newsletter and on the Wild Apricot Blog, let us know! We'd love to hear from you.
Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.