Charlotte Pride reached out to Apparo seeking a corporate volunteer to assess their technology use and provide a plan with recommendations for improvement.
As a result of their Community Impact Project, Charlotte Pride anticipates not only being able to serve the LGBTQ community in a more efficient and effective way, but also reaching more of the community throughout the Carolinas. Currently, inefficient communication tools and lack of networking infrastructure makes it difficult to have streamlined procedures and policies within the organization and for the volunteers (who primarily run all events and projects). With the new technology plan in place, these services will be able to run more efficiently and serve more of the community through better communication with current and prospective volunteers. Because of this, the LGBTQ person in rural North Carolina who might otherwise have been isolated and alienated, will have access to the services and support that Charlotte Pride offers.
Charlotte Pride is the leader in LGBTQ visibility in Charlotte and the Carolinas. Charlotte Pride presents and collaborates on programs, projects, and activities, including the annual Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Charlotte Latinx Pride, Charlotte Women’s Pride, and Reel Out Charlotte, among others. Since its founding in 2000, Charlotte Pride has expanded its year-round programming and partnerships to better connect community members with its mission, vision, and values. It is now one of the largest LGBTQ Pride organizations in the American Southeast.
Charlotte Pride was in need of a technology assessment and recommendations plan in order to prioritize technology needs and continue to move their organization forward by enabling them to work more effectively and efficiently. Currently, they have no technology plan which has lead to issues involving collaborating and communicating within the team and to volunteers, as well as with the networking infrastructure. Going into this project, Charlotte Pride’s goals were to have a solid plan in place for technology, with alternative tools for collaboration and communication, and to identify gaps in policies and practices in terms of email retention and data backup.
Apparo matched them to a corporate volunteer team from Duke Energy who assessed Charlotte Pride’s current infrastructure, operations and technology policies across the organization. Through this assessment, they were able to create a technology plan and prioritized roadmap to address needed hardware, software, security and policy changes and a budget for the recommended changes. See PDF of project snapshot here. Watch a video conversation with the project team.
With these new technology plans in place, Charlotte Pride will have 144 hours annually of freed up time to fulfill their mission more effectively.
Charlotte Pride is a primarily volunteer-run organization, having a core volunteer team that can range from 20-30 people at any given point in the year (more during bigger events, such as the parade). One of the pain points the organization had was their inability to communicate effectively across the team. Utilizing clunky communication tools made it difficult to collaborate together in a streamlined and efficient way. To tackle this issue, their tech plan contemplated a full migration to Google Workspace, which in turn allowed the organization to better understand its current communication and collaboration tools and how allowing for proper policies, procedures, and management measures in place will make the overall organization run better. These measures will also help to ensure greater capacity to onboard more volunteers, allowing Charlotte Pride to serve their constituents more efficiently.
Currently, all IT support falls on Matt Comer, Charlotte Pride’s Communications Director. The support he provides includes troubleshooting printing and network issues, just to name a couple. Matt explained, “I’m currently spending 2-3 hours each week troubleshooting these issues. In the beginning of the pandemic, it was even more. The tech plan recommends engaging services of a third-party IT company, which I’m sure will help. Also having a professional network in place will help.” With the time savings Matt anticipates, he will refocus his efforts to better plan marketing and outreach communications including social media strategy. “Social media engagement is an important thing that I just haven’t had time to do, but I know has to be done. I’m looking forward to having the time to do that,” he elaborated. The increased focus on communications will increase awareness of programs and projects for the LGBTQ community, helping to spread the word and increase attendance. Just by increasing awareness, Matt anticipates more members of the community utilizing the services Charlotte Pride offers.
The data that allows Charlotte Pride to remain successful in their events will be backed up and secured, ensuring sustainability going forward.
There are many events and projects Charlotte Pride hosts for the community including an LGBTQ film festival, engagement and education programs, and vendor fairs. The biggest event they facilitate is the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, which has seen an increase from being a one- day eight-hour event in 2008 with 8,000+ attendees, to having over 200,000+ at the event in 2019. Matt explained to us, “70% of the event is facilitated through staff and volunteer time, which is a lot of logistics for us to manage. Without the necessary data we need to put on this event, there would be no event.” The data includes everything from volunteer information to vendor contact info.
To date, all this data has been tracked in spreadsheets that aren’t always properly backed up or easily shared between team members. While they saw success from a fundraising perspective at the parade in 2019 (they were not able to hold the parade in 2020 due to the pandemic), the procedures in place didn’t set them up for success going forward. “We’re running everything the way we did in 2008 when we had 8,000+ people and a lot less to manage. With these back-up protocols and procedures in place, we’re set up to have a sustainable future to see events like the festival and parade continue for many years to come,” Matt said.
With new networking infrastructure and protocols in place, it will be easier to successfully bring more volunteers into the organization.
In their current situation, it’s difficult to share and access data. Per the tech plan, the new networking infrastructure and backup protocols in place will allow for better collaboration and success moving forward. Given that the organization is primarily volunteer run, any turnover can be difficult. Matt shared, “Thankfully we have dedicated volunteers, but onboarding new people is difficult. We don’t have a central place for information including policies and procedures which can make it difficult for new volunteers to be successful.”
Having maintenance and repair measures included in the technology plan will allow Charlotte Pride to decrease tech-related expenses.
Initially, Charlotte Pride will have to invest in smarter purchases, but they anticipate saving money on the “just-in-the-moment purchases.” With no tech plan in place currently, the organization ends up replacing tech that doesn’t work instead of having the means to troubleshoot. Now they’ll be able to invest in the infrastructure necessary now so they don’t have to replace as much going forward.
This project proved to be impactful for all involved.
Matt explained how this project closed some gaps for Charlotte Pride, “I don’t know if we would have tackled these issues at all without Apparo and the Duke Energy teams, even though we definitely needed to. We probably would have addressed tech needs in our strategic plan, but not as in-depth as this has been. There are gaps we didn’t know existed. The biggest one being around data and information security. We know how to turn on authentication, but I don’t think anyone on our team would have thought installing a firewall and professional network would be necessary. It gives us, our volunteers, and sponsors a peace of mind that everything is secure which will help us immensely going forward.”
Jamie Jones, one of our volunteers from Duke Energy, also shared her love for the project, “Everyone has felt like this was a labor of love more than work. It never felt like we were doing more work. We felt like we were giving back to a good cause and being able to play a part in that feels great.”
Similarly, our Epic Change Agent, Nicole Hamilton, shared her gratitude for the project overall, “It was great being part of this experience and to help in a small way. I feel like we’ve grown so much as a team and have accomplished so much together even if we’ve never been able to meet in person. Duke, thank you for putting in as much time as you did – especially over the holidays. It’s appreciated more than you realize and made all the difference in the success of this project.”
One of our other volunteers from Duke Energy, Michael Chando, also expressed his gratitude for the experience, “We really appreciate the opportunity to assist such an impactful organization in the community. From this point on, I hope you know that there’s an open relationship between Charlotte Pride and Duke Energy. If you need anything going forward, we’re here for you in any way you need. The door is always open.”