The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2014, April 12-13

Friends of the Parks

Paired with Nuthin but .NET

Friends of the Parks (FOTP) is a park advocacy organization, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and improving Chicago’s parks and forest preserves for all citizens. For the past 39 years, FOTP has increased commitment to Chicago's parks by working from the grassroots up:

~Leading nearly a thousand Chicago public school kids (every year!) on nature hikes through our Nature Along the Lake program, creating the next generation of nature lovers and environmental leaders

~Organizing thousands of community and corporate volunteers to clean up and improve community parks

~Leading the country's largest Earth Day event, citywide, every April

~Establishing park advisory councils to empower citizens in their communities

~Developing new parks across the city

~Renovating playgrounds and play spaces with community park champions

~Presenting workshops and lectures to engage and inform Chicago's citizens

In short, Friends of the Parks is Chicago's Best Friend.

What new functionality we are looking for

The core goal of a new website would be to easily interact with our constituent base. Our current website is text-heavy, with a style that isn't welcoming to the more contemporary demographic that we'd like to engage.

We'd like the overall ethos of the site to be event-driven, promoting action, rather than text-driven.

Design-wise, we would love something clean, crisp, and simple. A design that encourages photographs and graphics. A design with a lateral-scrolling main feature, to catch a viewer's eye and ignite their interest in making parks awesome.

Function-wise, the following features would be great:

-A "Donate" or "Become a Member" button on the front page

-Integrated event registration box on the front page, for volunteer events, community action days, education events, and other exciting parks events.

-A "Featured Video" type of section on the front page, linking to a collection of past featured videos, where we can share the stories of community parks champions

-A survey/questionaire function, so we know what Chicagoans are thinking about the issues of the day

-An integrated blog with most recent post(s) on the front page, to promote a free flow of ideas

-Partner/external links, to highlight our fellow green orgs and partner groups

-Integrated Facebook/Twitter links

-An "FOTP Swag" type of link/page integrated with CafePress where people can easily order shirts/mugs/etc. with FOTP logo on it

How the new functionality will help

As we enter our 40th year this summer, FOTP finds ourselves at an exciting crossroads. Our first few decades have been focused on securing public land for the people of Chicago, and we've achieved great things in this arena. Now we look to expand our reach to encourage Chicagoans to use, steward, and enjoy these public spaces.

Many of our older members and constituents find the web to still be a challenging frontier, while our younger constituents desire and demand the cutting edge of simple, accessible websites. We want to be able to bridge these two demographics with a site that is cool, fun, and contemporary, but that maintains a welcoming aura.

With a new website, we can expand our reach to tens of thousands of new parks users and outdoor enthusiasts, and recruit exponentially more people who want to find fun in Chicago's parks.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

10 Messages from Supporters

2014-03-13 21:42:56 UTC
Ismael Enriquez

I will like to say that FOTP has been very. Commited in our neighborhood and our parks in the Little Village community by engaging with the Our kids and giving them hope for better and improving our parks .Also with our back to school events any supporting our park advisory council .

2014-03-13 23:07:14 UTC
Vivian Leventis - Peirce School

One of the struggles of being a public school teacher in an urban area is the fact that it is not easy to bring nature to the classroom on a limited budget. This program pays for buses, equipment and instructors so that my students can have a rewarding and rich hands-on experience in the midst of a natural setting. The program has become an essential part of my 5th grade science curriculum. I have been participating in this program for over a decade and have been fortunate enough to have had hundreds of my students reap the benefits of this real life science curriculum over the years.

2014-03-14 13:06:00 UTC
Allison Melowsky- LEARN Hunter Perkins Campus

Working in schools with urban, low-income Chicago students, I have seen the stark reality that many of my students have been at a disadvantage to exploring the natural environments found in Chicago. I was recently astonished to hear a 2nd grade student questioning Lake Michigan and if he would be able to touch it. Many other students of mine have never touched sand, which they can find just miles away on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The Nature Along the Lake program has been eye-opening for my students. From bird watching to exploring sand in search of fossils and shells, our students love every moment of it. They are opened to a world that did not exist, close to their home. The trips align with curriculum content that is taught in many of these grade levels, allowing students to connect their classroom with our outdoor environment.

This fall we were fortunate enough to arrange trips for all 2nd-5th grade students at my school (6 trips in all). I would love the opportunity to send these students back for spring trips and expand into bringing them back again next fall. I know that, upon receiving this grant, more students throughout Chicago would be given such an opportunity for explore an outdoor classroom.

2014-03-14 14:24:23 UTC
Pete Leki

Waters School has partnered with FOTP's Nature Along the Lake for more than ten years. Their support has been one of those gifts that makes education more than a test, more than a text book: real life experiences in this beautiful and beleaguered world. Nature and FOTP keep reaching out a hand to our city children, inviting them to be partners in healing this earth and all its diverse corners. Thanks for you advocacy and passion,

2014-03-17 16:45:48 UTC
Tom Drebenstedt- Rutherford Sayre Park Advisory Council

FOTP is essential to the dialogue between Chicago Park District and the committed volunteer community. By offering advice, organizing tools, professional connections, and encouragement, ordinary citizens are able to make their neighborhood park vital to their community. Improved playgrounds, public art, community gardens, landscape enhancements and physical improvements to fieldhouses are all a result of FOTP's efforts. Did I mention increasing multi-generational programs?

Now its pay back time, lets give FOTP the improved website they deserve.

2014-03-17 18:48:46 UTC
Margaret O'Conor- Chase Park Advisory Council

Award FOTP a revamped website! FOTP's good work reaches places & people far beyond the average NFP/Community organization. Their focus on urban areas, forest preserves & our lakefront is invaluable. They educate, advocate, troubleshoot, fund & keep an eagle eye on the public lands in Chicago & beyond. They have a rich history & are striving to improve everyday. The Chase Park Advisory Council is a better council due in part b/c of FOTP's best practices. They go the extra mile. They deserve a new website to help them be more strategic in reaching their goals. PICK FOTP!!!

2014-03-18 01:25:16 UTC
Douglas Wood - Wicker Park Advisory Council (Programming Chairman)

The Wicker Park Advisory Council has been associated with the Friends of the Parks for the last 12 years as we have worked to develop our park’s assets, programs, and special events and have assisted the FOTP staff in many of their education ventures. We believe that the future of all of Chicago’s parks is dependent upon informing Chicago’s residents that creating a great park is fun, not so hard and that many regular ‘guys’ have done it. So, how do you convince a Chicagoan to do it themselves and how do they learn the techniques of development? The Friends of the Parks has become a forum and clearing house for how to ‘make a park and make it work.’ However, when you visit the site; this is not apparent without some work to find it – and most people don’t want to work finding things on a website until they are enticed to find it. The suggestions that are listed for upgrades to the site would: grab the attention of the viewer, get them to see what others have done, and then entice them to take the time to read how to do it and/or find upcoming programing that would assist them. Please fund this upgrade to the FOTP website, Chicago needs better parks and the site needs upgrades to deliver clearly, the wealth of information brought together by the FOTP competent staff and devoted colleagues.

2014-03-18 12:56:55 UTC
Jeff Taylor

The Nature Along the Lake program is the first opportunity many public school children have to connect with nature. It is a program which deserves our support.

2014-03-18 17:02:58 UTC
Barbara Hughes

The Friends of the Parks has been an exemplary program , which has introduced city kids to the wonder of nature. Many of these young people have never been more than a few blocks from their home urban areas, and would have had no exposure to the beaches, forest preserves, or lakefront. I teach high risk students, and those that have learned about their earth and take part in caring for the environment grow up to be better citizens and demonstrate empathy for others and their planet as well. It is money well spent with results far into the future years.

2014-03-23 03:28:36 UTC
Rita Barth President of Cragin Park Advisory Council

We have just begun our partnership with FOTP. Some of us are going to the conference.This is so important. We are all new to being on a PAC. We are looking forward to meeting others and learning. FOTP is helping us with 501c3 status and and new playground. We are a small park that has many many children using an old playground. Thanks FOTP for stepping up and helping us in many ways.

Our Mission

Our mission is to preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of Chicago parks, forest preserves and recreational areas for the benefit of all neighborhoods and citizens. We work to make sure that public spaces are used for the public, and that those public spaces can be amazing places.