Metro Blooms is a private nonprofit that partners with other organizations, businesses, local governments, and citizens to promote environmentally sound landscaping practices that restore the health of our land and water resources. Our programs educate property owners on the beauty and benefits of raingardens and other stormwater management practices. Our do-it-yourself approach puts raingardening in the hands of gardeners and nongardeners alike. We offer design assistance and connect property owners to resources to ensure the successful installation and maintenance of raingardens. Metro Bloomsâ€™ programs include the following:
-Our popular Raingarden Workshop is offered in partnership with area cities and watershed districts to educate more than 6,000 property owners since 2005 about the beauty and benefits of raingardens and other healthy landscaping practices. Attendees are assisted by designers from the University of MN School of Landscape Architecture and Master Gardeners to design their raingarden and approximately 2,000 property owners have installed their own raingarden.
-We partner with neighborhood organizations and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota (CCM) to organize neighborhood-wide raingarden installation projects. The Powderhorn Lake Neighborhood of Raingardens project installed 130 raingardens and is credited with helping to achieve measurable improvements in the water quality of Powderhorn Lake. It has inspired another 19 neighborhoods to engage with us in similar efforts to install more than 360 raingardens and other stormwater best management practices (BMPs).
-Our 30 year old, volunteer-based Minneapolis Garden Awards program evaluates and recognizes between 1,000-2,000 gardens each year along with the gardeners who are beautifying our city and helping to restore the environment. Weâ€™re developing a mobile application that will support the voluntary evaluation of raingardens.
-Our raingarden maintenance program works with K-8 teachers to connect classrooms to the outdoors and the science of raingardens on school grounds. We partner with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to maintain school raingardens.
What new functionality we are looking for
Responsive Web Design: Metro Blooms has been integrating more technology into all of our programs, including using QR codes to share information and creating a mobile application for our Minneapolis Garden Awards program. However, our website is not designed to be viewed on platforms other than PCs. A responsive web design would allow the layout of our website to adjust itself based on the size of the screen used to view it, making it much more user-friendly and accessible from phones, computers, TVs and tablets. This change could be incorporated through a new WordPress Format.
WordPress Format: Currently, if we need to make significant changes to our website we have to contract a web designer to do the work. We are a small nonprofit and often cannot afford to do this, so our website goes without updating for months at a time. Updating our website to a WordPress format would allow us to easily edit content without hiring a contractor and also provides an opportunity to change our site to a responsive web design.
Web Interface: Metro Blooms began over 30 years ago as a gardening recognition and awards program, and our website design still portrays our â€œsmall garden clubâ€ history rather than the lead role that Metro Blooms has taken regionally on the promotion, design, installation, evaluation and maintenance of raingardens to restore and protect our environment. The following are some of the changes that would help alter this perception:
-Update the look of our home page and incorporate images to clearly link Metro Blooms to environmental design and clean water
-Consolidate links to create a clean home page that is easy to navigate, and add an event calendar
-Create pages for building and maintaining a raingarden linked to a plant selector and educational and DIY videos
-Allow access to garden evaluation results
-Use words such as raingarden, clean water, native plants, and ecological landscape in text and meta data for search engine optimization
Updated Database: Metro Bloomsâ€™ database is difficult to navigate and lacks the capability to do many of the tasks that we require. We need a clean, interactive database that:
-Allows us to easily connect our current garden database with our user database, for one relational database
-Allows us to run custom donor/user reports and search users using a variety of criteria and relationships
How the new functionality will help
There are a number of ways that a new website would help us fulfill our mission: 1) It would give us a marketing tool that accurately portrays who we are and what we do, 2) it would allow us to offer up-to-date information regarding the installation, evaluation and maintenance of raingardens and other stormwater best management practices and new classes, services and events, 3) it would help us to connect the dots in our database of award winning gardeners, raingarden workshop attendees, donors, and volunteers so that we can better connect them to our mission, and 4) it would allow all of these people to easily access our website on their mobile phone or tablet to register for a workshop, find out how to install and maintain their raingarden, nominate a garden for recognition, evaluate a raingarden, and donate to Metro Blooms.
1) Marketing tool that accurately portrays who we are and what we do.
Engaging citizens, local governments, and businesses is primary to our mission to restore the ecology of the urban landscape. People who share our vision would not know it by visiting our website. Weâ€™ve heard from many constituents that our website does not portray who we are and what we do. When we explained our work to one marketing professional whose only knowledge of us was through what sheâ€™d seen on our website, she became excited about the work we are doing, saying, â€œThis is actually something I care a lot about, I would donate to you and volunteer my time, but I had no idea. I thought you were a small garden club.â€
Metro Bloomsâ€™ programs and services are expanding and evolving, but our website is holding us back. For example, weâ€™ve recently expanded our scope to include the maintenance of native plantings and raingardens on commercial and institutional properties. Our landscape designers oversee the work of the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to provide affordable raingarden maintenance, and in 2014 we will save the Minneapolis Public Schools more than $90,000 through these services. These are needed and valuable services that fill a void in stormwater management, but you would not find information about these activities on our website. This is in part because our capacity to update our website is so limited, and in part because the garden club theme of our website does not align itself well to a commercial/institutional property owner audience. For these reasons we have chosen to market these services outside of our website.
A new design would allow us to use our website as a valuable marketing and educational tool.
2) Offer up-to-date information regarding the installation, evaluation and maintenance of raingardens and other stormwater best management practices and new classes, services and events.
We direct 1,000s of potential raingardeners each year to our website:
-600-900 property owners sign up for a raingarden workshop or request an onsite consultation
-Over 100 volunteers download their garden addresses to evaluate, and then submit 1,000s of garden evaluations and nominations online
-50-90 Neighborhood of Raingarden Installation project participants find out more about raingardens and sign up to receive an installation in their yard
-1,000s of award-winning gardeners visit our website to RSVP for an event and to view photos of the top Minneapolis gardens
A WordPress format would allow us to easily and creatively update our website in our fast-paced and changing environment. We could share relevant information with our constituents, manipulate the layout and look of the pages, and upload images, files and links to partners and additional resources. It would allow us to upload new forms for these programs, add events and services, update sponsor information as it is committed, etc. all without having to contract with a web developer.
As we prepare for a major expansion of the raingarden evaluation and maintenance resources on our website, a new website would help us to ensure its successful launch and allow us to direct our financial and staff resources to achieving our mission.
3) Connect the dots in our database of award winning gardeners, raingarden workshop attendees, donors, and volunteers so that we can better connect them to our mission.
A relational database would save us both time and money, allow us to clean up duplicates, and increase our staffâ€™s capacity exponentially. Again, allowing us to focus directly on achieving our mission instead of generating clean and accurate lists. It would help us to build better relationships with many constituents by completing tasks such as generating personalized letters to garden evaluators who have attended our raingarden workshops and donated to Metro Blooms. If we are aware of all the ways our audience is connected to us, we could treat them as a valuable friend rather than like a stranger.
4) Allow users to access our website on their mobile phone to register for a workshop, find out how to install and maintain their raingarden, install a rain barrel, nominate a garden for recognition, evaluate an raingarden, and donate to Metro Blooms.
Having a mobile-ready website would help us to ensure that we are reaching our audience, and help us to expand our mission to a new audience. Our research tells us that sixty-one percent of people leave a site if it isnâ€™t mobile-ready (Google Blog 2012) and Morgan Stanley (2011) predicted that in 2013 mobile phones would surpass PCs as the most common web access device.