In a guest post, 2020Media director Rex explains how he created a WordPress website to help with managing committee meetings for a school governing board.
Rex says: “I recently became a school governor, and at the first governing board meeting it became apparent that there was an awful lot of paperwork! I’d been emailed various documents before the meeting, but these were spread over several batches, and there were also items that the documentation was not available until close to the last minute. I felt a web-based service for keeping track of a meeting agenda with links to the associated reports would be very useful.”
I decided to build the site using the free WordPress software. Not only does WordPress have a well-deserved reputation for ease of use, which was important as non technical people would be uploading documents to the site, but there are also plugins available for every conceivale use, and I knew the some of the functions needed were not going to work “out of the box”.
Easy to Use.
Reduce, not Add to Workload.
Show upcoming and historical meeting agendas.
Cater for school governing board committee structure.
Format agenda to display items in a familiar way.
I started with a standard WordPress install using 2020Media’s zero-click WordPress hosting. A SSL certificate was added to make all communications with the site secure. I then started to build out the system using a very flexibile WordPress theme called GeneratePress. One premium add-on to this theme was used – Blog – which simply allows some of the meta-data in a post to be hidden. Cost of this add-on was $10.
WordPress Plugins Used
Admin Menu Editor
Nested Ordered Lists
White Label CMS
WP Scheduled Posts
Rather then go through a recipe style guide on replicating the site, I’m just going to explain what I did differently, please ask if anything isn’t clear.
Each meeting is a blog post (in WordPress terms). The agenda items are a simple ordered list created in the WordPress editor, with reports added using the “Add Media” or simply dragged across from the user’s computer. Post categories are used for the different committees. The theme used has sidebar widgets showing clickable Categories as well as Archives, Calendar and Custom Meta (showing a simplied login menu). Password Protected is used to block access to the site to the public.
In WordPress future dated posts are not shown until they are scheduled so to the WP Scheduled Posts plugin allowed us to publish post immediately but with future date-time. This meant the publish date could be set as the date of committee meeting, rather than the date it was written. This in turn meant the calendar and archives had meaningful dates on them.
Other plugins used were mainly to simplify operations for the users of the site. Each user was given the “Editor” role, which allows them to create and manage any post. Menu items were renamed or hidden from view to make the administration as straightforward as possible. I chose to use plugins rather than a custom theme as I believe it will be easier to maintain the site over the long term.
The system has not yet been adopted so I anticipate making changes based on feedback from the committee members. So far feedback from the Chair and Clerk (who will be the ones using the administration side primarily) has been very positive.
Prior to a meeting the agenda can be built up, and reports added.
A link to the meeting post can be circulated to the board by the clerk, rather than sending several emails with attachments.
During a meeting colleagues will be able to use tablets and laptops to pull up reports as needed, and fewer piles of paper will be generated.
Some possible future changes.
A notifications system – The system could notify all members when a post is published, or updated, or a week prior to the meeting.
Wednesday 24th February 2016 was CiviDay – an annual event to learn about CiviCRM and what it can do for your organization, meet other CiviCRM users, ask questions, share tips and build connections.
The CiviDay London event was held in the offices of Compucorp, one of the main UK CiviCRM development houses.
There are regular CiviCRM meetups in London, which are open to all. They are particularly aimed at people looking to find out more about CiviCRM or considering it for their organisation. There is always a mix of experience levels represented and are a great forum for asking questions or for meeting current users, implementers or developers who can help with your project.
CiviDay London Format
Session 1: Intro to CiviCRM
Session 2: What’s new in Civi 4.7!
Session 3: CiviRules – what I can do with it and how to extend it…
We started with introductions – the first speaker was Jamie Novick from Compucorp, our hosts for the evening. The meeting room was at capacity – I estimated over 30 people had come along. Of these, on a show of hands, 4-5 had never used CiviCRM before.
This shows a up to date view of how CiviCRM is growing across the world. I was particularly interested to see the although Drupal is the most popular underlying platform with 63% market share, WordPress is now the second most popular, overtaking Joomla. CiviCRM on WordPress has only been around a couple of years, so this is significant growth, and I believe shows how people want CiviCRM to integrate with their public-facing websites.
There’s a close correlation between hosting location and organisation location, which ties in with our experience as a CiviCRM host.
Session 2. After spending some time with the numbers, Jamie gave a quick overview of changes in the latest CiviCRM version, and what is planned for the upcoming 5.0 release.
Next, and mainly for the benefit of those who were new to CiviCRM, Jamie went through some of the most common tasks in CiviCRM, showing each activity and providing useful tips to novice and expert alike. This also helped those running older versions, so they could see what new options were now available.
Session 3. A look at CiviRules. This presentation was about an extension called CiviRules, which is a free add-on to CiviCRM.
Compucorp employee Guan Huan gave us a tour around the CiviRules extension. For Drupal developers, CiviRules will be familiar as it is similar to the Drupal Rules function. In essence it is a way of creating an automated process based on:
If <this> then do <that>
You can define Triggers, Conditions and Actions.
Another way to look at this is that is mimics SalesForce Automation – which is well known as a very powerful tool.
CiviRules is fairly new and still in development, but it was easy to see how useful this would be to reduce admin work.
Session 4. The final talk of the evening from Natalie was about CiviHR – a project based on CiviCRM, but standalone.
CiviHR is a reimagining of CiviCRM as a system for the needs of HR departments of all organisations (not just charity/3rd sector). Although being listed as an extension, it is in fact going to be released as a seperate full install of Drupal and CiviHR.
CiviHR allows you to run all the functions of a large HR department – for example, people, onboarding, contracts, holidays, sick days, training etc.
The design, which we saw a preview of, looks very slick and modern – I think all the people at the meetup were thinking “if only CiviCRM looked as good as this”!
Currently the development team hope to release an MVP (minimum viable product) in late Q2 2016. They are looking for pilot clients to work with.
The evening wrapped up with networking and a few drinks in a local pub.
If you are interesting in learning more about CiviCRM, seeing how it operates, asking questions to friendly people who have in depth knowledge, I thoroughly recommend dropping in to the next London CiviCRM meetup. You can register here https://civicrm.org/events
2020Media is a UK provider of Guest Wifi for Cafes, Coffee shops, community spaces, campsites, small businesses and more.
If you provide guest access to the Internet, for example WiFi in your coffee shop, the question of whether you are required to register, log or retain user data (identity or usage) is a complex area, not least because there is conflicting and continuously changing information.