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How To Fix Communications About Tech With Ben Reinhardt of BFC Digital

Introduction

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, host Ben Freda talks with Ben Reinhardt, Website Developer and Support Manager at BFC Digital, about turning digital challenges into growth opportunities. They explore the necessity of responsive communication, strategic content management, and long-term digital planning for nonprofits. Ben shares how his unconventional journey into the tech industry equipped him with the empathy and skills essential for guiding and supporting nonprofit organizations in the digital landscape.

Today's Guest
Ben Reinhardt

Ben Reinhardt

Ben Reinhardt is a Website Developer and Support Manager at BFC Digital, where he manages a portfolio of Drupal websites for large nonprofit organizations. Specializing in functionality enhancements, content management strategies, and website accessibility, Ben leverages over a decade of customer support experience to educate clients on the inner workings of their sites. He focuses on delivering user-friendly solutions and maintains consistent, friendly communication throughout every project.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [0:23] How personal experiences paved a unique path for Ben Reinhardt
  • [11:00] How teaching and writing experience enhances communication in tech support
  • [14:20] The necessity of timely responses to client issues in nonprofit tech
  • [18:42] Common and uncommon maintenance requests in nonprofit web management
  • [22:46] Handling tech anomalies and the need for a detailed communication strategy
  • [26:57] Daily challenges nonprofit content management face
  • [32:29] Key considerations for nonprofits in long-term web and digital strategy planning

In this episode…

Whether it’s a website malfunctioning or filtering through thousands of outdated content pieces, the digital world is full of challenges. But can these obstacles be effectively managed and turned into growth opportunities for your organization?

Nonprofit organizations face unique challenges in managing their web presence and digital strategies. Web developer Ben Reinhardt highlights how his background in teaching and writing has enhanced his ability to communicate effectively in tech support roles. Ben emphasizes that clear and concise communication is essential for guiding clients through complex digital issues and ensuring they understand the inner workings of their websites.

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, host Ben Freda talks with Ben Reinhardt, Website Developer and Support Manager at BFC Digital, about turning digital challenges into growth opportunities. They explore the necessity of responsive communication, strategic content management, and long-term digital planning for nonprofits. Ben shares how his unconventional journey into the tech industry equipped him with the empathy and skills essential for guiding and supporting nonprofit organizations in the digital landscape.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Quotable Moments

  • “I think of myself as like, you know, it’s not so dissimilar to tech support in some ways – people come to us with all kinds of questions.”
  • “There’s almost a politeness thing when people contact somebody, and that person saw it.”
  • “It’s my responsibility to change my communication style, not your responsibility to change your understanding style.”
  • “Each site is like its own ecosystem of moving parts, and occasionally something changes.”
  • “Think about what you might want to do with your content, even if you don’t do anything about it.”

Actionable Steps

  1. Assess your website’s content regularly to determine relevancy and consider archiving or refreshing outdated materials to ensure accuracy and user trust: This proactive approach helps prevent content overload that can hinder website performance and user experience.
  2. Implement a streamlined communication process for tech-related inquiries within the organization to ensure issues are addressed promptly: Ben emphasizes the importance of acknowledging requests quickly to reduce anxiety and demonstrate responsible management.
  3. Invest time in understanding the basic language of technology to better communicate with tech support and effectively manage digital assets: Bridging the communication gap helps teams efficiently resolve issues and make informed decisions.
  4. Stay informed about updates from various digital assets and platforms your nonprofit uses to prepare for unexpected changes: Ben’s experience highlights the value of readiness for these situations to reduce potential downtime and maintain seamless operations.
  5. Plan ahead and have a clear strategy for digital development: Forward-thinking about your nonprofit’s web strategy can save time and resources and avoid future complications.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by BFC Digital.

At BFC Digital, we help nonprofit organizations thrive on the web so they can improve the world.

Our team of creative and tech experts understands that an online presence can help foundations and organizations accomplish their missions. That’s where we come in. Over the last decade, we’ve advised our clients on web design, front- and back-end development, and tech support.

We’re committed to supporting a select set of clients who continually inspire us with their vision for a better world.

To learn more on how BFC Digital can assist you in realizing your organization’s mission, visit bfcdigital.com, email us at info@bfcdigtal.com, or call 646-450-2236 today!

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:23

Welcome to Nonprofit Thrive, a podcast where we learn from the humans who are helping nonprofits succeed in the digital world. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Ben Freda 0:23

Welcome, I’m Ben Freda, host of the show where we share the stories of leaders in the nonprofit space. The people behind the organization’s foundations, the companies that help nonprofits change the world on the web. Past guests include Wendy Davis who chatted about her book, The Fight You Don’t See, which was about her campaign for the Utah House, where she barely fell short by 78 votes of flipping her districts blue for the first time in a decade. We also spoke with Debbie McCann of W4Sight, who gave us a primer on the ups and downs of software selection for nonprofits. So for instance, you’re a nonprofit and you need to figure out which CRM to use which donation software to use, what grant software to use, how do you do that really interesting episode, she took us through the pros and cons of doing different different options for doing that. Before I get into today’s guest, which I am super excited about. I’m going to let you know that the podcast is sponsored by the folks at BFC Digital. At BFC. Digital, we help nonprofits thrive on the web. If you work at a nonprofit or a foundation or another type of social change organization, I’m sure you know that unless you’re doing a big chunky project with the budget and the 10s of 1000s of dollars, it is very difficult to find reputable, responsive, friendly web help to get your website issues taken care of that needs to change. At BFC Digital, we help our clients succeed on the web by being the web colleagues you wish you had within your organization. We can help you with fixing your bugs evolving your web presence, designing new campaign pages, integrating that new date donation system that your fundraisers so psyched about. And we can do it all without ever asking you to fill out a support ticket, go to BFCdigital.com to learn more. So for today, I am tremendously pleased to have somebody on the podcast who is very near and dear to my heart. I work with this person nearly every day. Because we work at the same company. I’ve been wanting to feature him on the podcast for a while. He is a Support Manager at BFC Digital, which means he does a whole bunch of stuff. He does project management, he does account management, he does communication with the nonprofits we work with, and he’s also a web developer on top of it. Amazing person. He’s all of those things rolled into one. My guest today: His name is Ben Reinhardt. Ben, thank you so much for joining us.

Ben Reinhardt 2:54

Hi, it’s me, the friendly folks at the BFC Digital.

Ben Freda 2:58

It is funny to have on the podcast, somebody who I am so comfortable talking to me now suppose yeah, many times this this feels like just another zoom.

Ben Reinhardt 3:05

I know, I know, we do this quite a lot. I was thinking about it beforehand. I was like, Oh, is this gonna be weird? Because it’s recorded? And then you started I was like, No, it’s not. It’s really not.

Ben Freda 3:14

It’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be normal. So I’m gonna ask you some questions. I, you know, I sort of know some of the answers to this because we walk we’ve worked together so much. But for the people who are listening, I think it’d be great to sort of start with the classic stuff. So where did you grow up? And what did you want to be as a kid and we’ll talk about how you got into what you’re doing now.

Ben Reinhardt 3:35

Yeah, sure. So I live in Massachusetts now but I’m from New Jersey, I spent most of my life there and maybe someday we’ll we’ll get back to it. But you know, when I was a kid, I, I don’t know that I had a particular direction. I think I was flitting around, and I eventually fell into some arts and stuff. You know, I was interested in drawing and pursuing. The first thing I really like, pursued with any tenacity when I was when I was growing up was was music, I started playing guitar and stuff like that, and I really enjoyed it. And friends who played and that was a great time and for a long time that I think especially into my like, early teenage years, I felt like maybe that was what I was going to do. I was I was going to be in a band or something. My parents were kind of interested in me going to music school because it was cool, but I didn’t want to train in music I just wanted to play in like punk bands and stuff. And and but but as time went on, I realized like I wasn’t that wasn’t really happening and I wasn’t maybe I didn’t have the right temperament for it. I didn’t have the right maybe discipline for it. And and also don’t didn’t want to spend all my time in a van. That’s pretty unpleasant to me. So I didn’t really do that. And so when it came time to graduate high school, I was still interested in guitars and my parents found this program that was fixing guitars. It was like a vocational school run out of a guitar repair shop.

Ben Freda 4:57

Really jersey. Yeah, I didn’t know that.

Ben Reinhardt 4:59

Yeah. Yeah, when I was so when I graduated high school, I went to be a guitar repair technicians. It’s called a luthier. It’s, you know, from fixing Lutz, stringed instruments.

Ben Freda 5:10

You’re kidding.

Ben Reinhardt 5:11

Yeah. So I have a certification that I haven’t done in a long time. But I do. And I had this box. I mean, it’s like $3,000, with specialized tools that I used to have. And I did that for the internship, not the internship, the teaching period of that the learning period of that was about six months. And then I spent about seven or eight months working at a Guitar Center, just fixing guitars and stuff. And I kind of liked the work. But I was only really 19 at that point. And just because of the circumstances, I was kind of running the shop, and I wasn’t prepared to do that. I really didn’t have the skills needed to like, manage something like that. And the whole thing kind of fell apart on me, I decided to leave it wasn’t really working. And I I went to community college, I got to my head, I wanted to go to community college, I hadn’t really had college aspirations. And when I got there I was in science for a while I thought I wanted to do something with science, maybe biology, astronomy, and I ended up sort of weirdly falling into the literature community, which is not where I ended up where I thought it was gonna end up. And I got really into it, I started getting really into writing fiction, and I was super into it for about 10 years, I was like really, really, really adamantly pursuing it went to graduate school and all this kind of stuff. And after all of it, I think, you know, you get kind of fatigued and you you know, the difference between 20 and 30 is terms of age is so different, you know, what you want, who you are, what you’ve gone through, you have the patience for what seems practical, and really change. So I, I kind of left graduate school, I thought, I don’t know, I’m kind of kind of burned out on this, I don’t really feel like the same person. I feel like I you know, I it was, you know, that world, the world of arts can be kind of disorganized, and a little frenetic and frenzied, and I was a little exhausted, and I thought I gotta find something else. But it wasn’t turned off that could be going to teaching something like that. And I, you know, got a call from, from my friend of a few years at that point, che who works with us and started with the UFC before I did by, I don’t know, maybe like a year, something like that. And she said, hey, you know, we were kind of looking for somebody who can help with some basic maintenance tasks for the stuff we do. And would you be willing, I can train you up to do all that? I should? Yes, it sure. Because I remember it being a pretty at the beginning, it was it was just kind of very, very part time kind of thing. I thought, you know, if I like it, I like it. If I don’t, I don’t I ended up liking it and wanting to stick around. And I think for me the attractiveness of it was, it was so different from what I had done for so long that it felt kind of fresh and new and exciting. And I didn’t feel all the kind of anxieties like oh, God, it’s, you know, there’s so much weighing on me about this. And I spent so many years trying was this really new thing, or I was using such a different part of my mind and my personality and my interests. And it was so much more organized, you know, it’s like I could really kind of rely on systems we had and tools we were using and schedules and all these kinds of things. And it was actually in some ways, as difficult as it was in some ways to transition between sort of different fields. It was it was almost relaxing, in some ways, because I could it was a much more predictable world I had sort of walked into and I really came to appreciate that a great deal. But it was it was in many ways, you know, getting getting the initial, you know, kind of very small job I had here was was really the first major foray I’d had into this kind of work. I mean, you know, I dabbled with it in school a few times, I’d taken a few classes here and there. It wasn’t like the first time I’d ever seen this stuff. But it wasn’t anything I’d pursued with with real intensity anyway, it was kind of you know, early when I was poking around and things in school, you know, typical classes are in high school or community college, it would take like a little thing. But this was, this was the first time I’d really been like, okay, like, what is this world look like? What does this work look like? What am I going to need to know? And it was it was intimidating, you know? Cuz because you and you and Shay, were you been at it for like, a decade, you know, a couple about a time I signed up and, and che was like Shay’s real natural talent at night. And I was like, oh my god, this is a lot to there’s a lot to know. And there’s a lot there. You know, and we and it was so much of it was was new, and there were certain things I’d never even heard of, you know, that we weren’t gonna want to figure out but right, you know, thankfully, that initial job was, you know, wasn’t wasn’t like being thrown in the deep end, it was a lot more like be thrown in the shallow end. So I had time to really come to terms with all the pieces and and it gave me a really good chance to learn all the people we worked with, and, and all the things we did, because we do do a lot of really varied stuff. You know, a lot of clients have very different needs and very different sites and very different timelines and budgets, and I got to sort of like, see what all these sites were and see who we worked with and what they were about. And you know, and as you know, once I started doing more client facing stuff, just figure out who they were and why they were doing it and how to how to have certain conversations and things like that. And it was you know, it’s I’ve been with a company for years now, and it’s, you know, every day is kind of some kind of learning experience. And I think initially that was anxiety provoking think in some ways, because there’s always a little scary. But you know, as I’ve come into it, it’s it’s been like, you know, it does do that thing where it kind of switches over into more exciting or even just like, hey, you know, part of the job is, you know, sometimes you just got to learn something new. And it’s such a big deal. And I’ve come to really appreciate that about what we do.

Ben Freda 10:17

You know, that’s interesting. I love that story. Because we talked about this before recording, but all of our clients are accidental techies. Yeah, all of the people, not I Yep. I mean, they’re my I’m probably forgetting one or two people who actually were trained. And yeah, there’s been a couple people who have been really savvy. Yeah. cavaco, who, maybe who got a degree in CS or something like that. Yeah. But your journey is so similar to so many people we work with being thrown into the deep end having to learn the technology, what is the server? What is GitHub? What is, you know, what does HTML versus CSS versus JavaScript versus coding, you know, all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s good. I’m sure. When people write to you with like, frustrations on their site. You’re like, I’ve been there, man. Yeah. Oh, exactly.

Ben Reinhardt 11:00

And I might be jumping the gun on this a little bit. But I do feel like, you know, initially, I felt like it was a huge weakness to have come into this field from such a different field with without the kind of without, you know, a computer science degree without, you know, having built my own websites for fun in the past. And, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who are extremely talented at developmental work. I mean, I mean, they just know everything there is to know about who they’re working with. And it’s incredible. I mean, it’s really impressive. And I was, I was like, oh, man, like, I don’t know, you know, maybe that’s not, maybe I’m in the wrong area, maybe I just like, can’t really get there. Maybe I should have, you know, thought better of this. But as time has gone on, I’ve kind of thought of, of my, how I started this job is more of a strength than anything else. I don’t assume anybody knows anything? Because I didn’t really no, any. And like, you know, I’ve been it’s, it’s a little silly. And I feel like I’m kind of outing myself. But I’m showing my hand a little bit. But, but I do feel like it’s easy in the tech industry, because it’s so complicated for people to come in. And it’s like, it’s like talking to doctors, right? I mean, sometimes you’re like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and you don’t know how to bring it to me, because he I don’t you don’t know how to dumb it down. And I don’t I’m not smart enough to know what you’re saying. And, and I feel like the tech industry can be like that, there’s a lot of assumed knowledge out there. There’s a lot of people who are really, really smart and really knowledgeable talking to each other in a language that’s their own. And you go to you go to look at it, and you go to research, and you’re like, What on earth are they talking? It’s impenetrable. And so having to learn a lot of that stuff, really the hard way, just like just sitting down and crunching it out. Has Has has really, I think helped me make sure that people we work with know what I’m saying and know what I’m asking and, and know that what they’re asking for is being understood. And I can sort of be like, are you talking about doing this and changing the language as needed, because the language isn’t clear. I mean, most people we work with, I can’t be like, I can’t do the techno mumbo jumbo with them. Because it’s just, it doesn’t mean anything. And it doesn’t have to be it shouldn’t mean anything. That’s not their industry, you know, most of the time. And I think that that’s sort of uniquely positioned me in some way to be really good at explaining stuff that is otherwise not particularly understandable to prospects

Ben Freda 13:15

That just clicked for me. Because I’ve always been, you know, we talked about this sometimes, but you are really the great communicator on our team, like you are the one who understands what people are saying, You’re the one who can communicate in a way that’s like, very clear and kind and friendly and not short or clipped to the way that a lot of sort of technological anything can be done. And honestly, that that is like, so important to our clients, and a lot of why we get the feedback that we get, is that kind of communication style, and I never had never really clicked for me that hey, you were a writer? Yeah. 10 years. Yeah, a lot of this conversation is written. I mean, some of its over the phone, but yes, but a lot of it is written and number two, yeah, you did have to start at being thrown into the the pool and learn to swim. And just as these people are to, do you have do you have any other you know, just in terms of your communication style? And things you try and do when you’re communicating with nonprofits or people who need help any other guidance or? Yeah, it’s,

Ben Reinhardt 14:20

it’s interesting, right? You know, one of the things I kind of glossed over I didn’t really say is when I was an undergraduate, and this is actually where I, where I met Shay, kind of serendipitously sort of led to this was, was I worked at the college’s writing center, which was essentially a tutoring center. But the the idea of it was that students would come in with assignments, usually papers, but not always, and they would sit down with somebody like me who was going to sort of act as a coach, you know, a sounding board, whatever. Somebody who just had maybe more experience with writing or was just, you know, knew what the teachers were after, you know, it was a little more, a little better at that kind of thing. They would sit down with us for, I think it was 30 to 60 minutes, I can’t quite remember and just go through it with them. And one of the things that very often happened and you had to get good at quickly because it was happening all the time was you get a lot of younger students, freshmen, sophomores who just come out of high school, maybe had the prerequisite education needed to do these kinds of assignments, maybe didn’t, maybe we’re good at one part and not another. And then you had to sit down and talk them through relatively complicated assignments, maybe stuff they’d never done before in subjects maybe they weren’t particularly well versed in, and then, you know, and stuff that was like really technical, sometimes, like citation styles, you know, just stuff that’s not fun. And it’s hard to figure out and, and all kinds of things and you would, you’d sit down, you read their paper, you’d go through with them, and then very oftentimes, you would have to adjust yourself to whatever language they were best going to understand. And that could be anything, right? Sometimes people really were responsive to like, the technical details of like, why this should be structured this way. And they’re like, Oh, I do this, then this because, you know, and then some people were like, I can’t even understand like, and I’d have to switch to visual models, or I’d have to be like, alright, like, let’s just like, let’s scrap all this and like, let’s start really basic and like, let’s just talk about, like principles of an idea or like, let’s, let’s just go completely, like, there’s people who like you just had to give them some kind of like, relevant metaphor, and they were like, oh, it’s like this, you know, like that? No, like, Oh, my God, that makes so much sense. You know, and so you had to, on the fly, get really good at saying, if somebody didn’t understand something, that’s not their fault. That’s my fault. And how do I make my communication clear, but different, because obviously, something hasn’t clicked. And I found that, you know, we work with a lot of people who are very smart, and very capable, but they’re coming to us with things that they just have some level of understanding with maybe none, maybe some, maybe a lot, it’s something particular has happened. And it’s almost like that learning styles thing, it’s like, everybody’s going to understand something differently. And so I try to be as I try to, I try really, really hard to make things as simple as clear, I try to use visuals when I think anything beyond like a couple of sentences is going to be like involves instructions.

Ben Freda 17:10

Visuals, meaninglike screenshots?

Ben Reinhardt 17:11

Yes, screenshots will do short videos, you know, I’m not opposed to meetings, even like really, like 10 minutes. Like, what what’s going on? Because I don’t know how people are best going to learn. And I think it’s my responsibility, as you know, I mean, we’re consultants in a lot of ways. I mean, we’re a lot of things, sport developers were a lot of things. But I think of myself as like, you know, it’s not so dissimilar tech sport, in some ways people come to us with all kinds of questions. And like, you know, I don’t know what part of this, you don’t understand that. I don’t know, what about instructions maybe wasn’t clear. But my job is to give you at least a couple of ways in which you could maybe understand this, and it’s my responsibility to change my communication style, it’s not your responsibility to change your understanding style.

Ben Freda 17:52

You know what I mean? That makes that makes total sense. That makes sense. The other thing I’m wondering about is we have a, you know, if you could talk about I guess responsiveness is something that a lot of people in this industry struggle with people write to their web developer, and they get back to them two weeks later, right? Or they don’t get back to them. And it causes a lot of anxiety, because people are like, I don’t understand what’s going on, something’s broken. And I don’t know how to fix it. And it’s almost, I think, what we found is, is it’s almost more important to receive the issue than to fix the issue, if that makes sense. I mean, yeah, yeah. We’re obviously going to fix it. But but the just the first step of that, which is to receive and take responsibility for the issue, which is the communication thing really helps our clients because they know that it’s being taken care of, is that yeah,

Ben Reinhardt 18:42

do you agree with that? Yeah, I absolutely do. I mean, I mean, as you say, like people want the stuff that’s broken to be fixed like that, that’s a given. Right, everybody wants that. But I do think that we get this all the time. And, and people are really, really grateful that when they send us an email, we’re fast about getting back to them about it. And I think that, you know, if you have a website, and you know, maybe you’ve been made the de facto manager of that website on your side of things, but you’re not an expert in it, you know, you’re experts maybe in financing or just communications in general or something like that, like, you know, enough about the website to post content and change a few things, but like, there’s a lot of mysteries on on how these things work. And, you know, all they want to know is that somebody saw it, right? And then it didn’t just fall into this kind of vacuum and they’ll get it fixed and hear back eventually, you know, that somebody is like, Hey, I saw it. Like, I can’t look at it today. I can look at it later or, or hey, like, does next week work this this this week is looking pretty busy on our end, but I see it it’s on the table like is there any reason why this has to get pushed forward? And you know, it’s it’s it’s my from my end, I don’t think it’s something that’s that’s hard to do. I mean, I feel like compelled to be like, oh, somebody needs something they at least they should know I saw it. It’s that thing like when you go to a you know, a cafe or something and somebody’s doing something in the back. It’s nicer when they’re like I’ll be with you in a second then when If they don’t just say anything, you don’t even know you’re there, you know, that’s almost like it’s almost like a politeness thing when people Yeah, like they contacted somebody and that person saw it. And it’s comforting, I think, because it means we’re being attentive. And it means that, like, their requests aren’t just falling away into nothing. And you know, it landed. And I find that nine times out of 10 people are extremely flexible, you know, if they’re like, Hey, we have this problem, can we do to fix? And I say, Yeah, you know, I can, but I can’t do today is tomorrow, okay? Or is two days from now? Okay. They’re like, Oh, yeah, that’s fine. Usually the very, very often, the issues are not super critical. You know, they just, they’re, they’re raising them, because they are issues and they just want to know that they’re gonna get fixed, they want to know what timeframe they’re gonna get fix. And I think maybe this is true of more traditional companies, you know. Still, we work with mostly, you know, nonprofits now it’s like, you know, there’s a lot of people they’re talking to an answering to in meetings. Everybody wants to know, you know, this thing is this getting fixed, people are saying something, and, and if if somebody we’re speaking with can say to that team, like, Oh, I’ve contacted they know, we’re gonna we’re gonna have a fixed by Tuesday or something like that, it tends to calm people down, they just want to know, something’s happening. Stagnation is I think, what causes a lot of anxiety? And I think you get a lot of in the tech industry, for whatever reason, I don’t I don’t know what that is. But it seems to be pretty common. Totally.

Ben Freda 21:17

I mean, a lot of people who have to deal with support ticket systems, for instance, yeah, they drop something that support ticket system, they get an automated response that the computer has seen it. Yeah. But it can take a human who knows how long to look at it. And it’s that uncertainty that I think really drives people crazy. Yeah, you know, if you don’t have a support ticket system, then it’s really human, which we don’t, you know, it’s really up to a human to look at something and, and get it get a response to people. And yeah, I think that really gives people a sense of calm that it’s basic. And if it’s an emergency, it’s dealt with immediately. Yeah, right. It’s not it can be dealt with today, tomorrow, you know, but just knowing when you know that, that, yeah, that’s super helpful when you go ahead, but

Ben Reinhardt 21:58

like, if it’s an emergency, like, tell us it’s an emergency, we will we will accommodate that. But you know, most people come in with, they’re anxious to start with and, and it’s just because they they don’t know what’s happening. They’re like, I don’t know how serious this is. And once we take a load, we’re like, Okay, well, no, that’s here’s what’s going on. How how much of a priority is this? And then we kind of work out accordingly, what, what time frame, we can work it, you know, if something needs to get pushed up, it gets pushed up. I mean, that’s just how it goes. But I think that’s it. I think most people are so used to these kind of like you said it and who knows. And it’s frustrating, you know, it’s not just like, it doesn’t just sort of make you uncomfortable, because you’re like, Oh, my schedule, you know, I had to get this thing done. And it’s I don’t know how to get it done. It’s also like, it’s annoying, you know, people told me to talk to a machine. But that’s

Ben Freda 22:46

totally, totally Can you talk and this is maybe a bit of a different topic. But can you talk about the sorts of things people write to you, or call you or email you about it? Because part of your job, obviously, is this maintenance part where you’re taking care of people’s websites, sort of under the hood, automatically, but then the other part is responding to changes people want to make, or bug fixes they want to do so what are what are some classic things that people write to you about?

Ben Reinhardt 23:10

Yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of stuff, because we have so many different kinds of people we work with, who have such different scales of website. So one of the things I get frequently from one of our clients is, you know, they, they have a lot of resources on their website. And they, sometimes they they upload the wrong PDF, or they upload a PDF, and they realized was a typo, and they gotta change it. And just because of the way certain things work, it’s like, Oh, can you swap this out for us, we just don’t have the time, you know, and it’s like, is, it’s really as easy to spend, like, they just want to change the file, you know, and it’s like, they’re paying us to do it, and they don’t have the, they don’t have the bandwidth for whatever reason. And that’s fine, we’ll do that. I do talk to people a lot about they, they have ideas internally about where they want to go with this site in the future, maybe two months, six months, two years, five years. And they’ve been talking about it internally for maybe weeks or months, but they’re like, maybe we should bring me in, you know, bring Ben in and just see what his thoughts are on, like, whether this is viable, whether there’s something we’re not thinking about whether or not there’s some better way to do this. Now, that will take four or five years of planning, maybe something we are already using does this and it would be really easy, but we don’t know. You know, I know, internally, you know, you and I and the team at large just sort of just talked about, like, you know, it’s it’s, it’s nice when when our clients think of us as part of their team, because it means that we get involved in conversations. And you don’t have to sort of hem and haw about six months worth of this and, you know, well this, will this be viable, and then realize, Oh, God, we should talk to the web guy. You know, you kind of bring it to us upfront and we’re like, well, here, here’s what I think, factor that into the whole plan and then you don’t have to kind of constantly rewrite your expectations. Other things I get, you know, like little things happen, you know, like, one of the things I think that has caused people, a lot of that maybe maybe isn’t as clear to people who aren’t on our side of things is that, you know, a website is a composite of a lot of separate pieces. And a lot of those pieces, most of those pieces, maybe all of those pieces are not made by the same teams, right? You know, WordPress, WordPress is one agency, right? They do WordPress, they do WordPress Core. And then there’s all the plugins and plugins are made by their own independent creators, and they’re beholden to what WordPress is doing to a point. But there’s nobody’s forcing them to do things to a certain standard. And nobody’s forcing them to do things to certain compatibility. There’s themes, there’s custom stuff that we do, there’s custom stuff that other people have done. And so you know, there’s the servers, there’s like, so many, there’s email systems, there’s so many pieces. And at any point, these things are all they’re all moving targets, right. And they’re all changing at different rates. And so things happen almost randomly, sometimes it’s like, all of a sudden emails don’t send and you’re like, nothing has changed. Something has changed, you know, you know, but it’s like, what in those pieces is changed. And so people come times with these kinds of like, almost anomalies, like, we haven’t pushed any updates, nobody’s done any custom things on the site, and all of a sudden, something’s broken. And you’re like, Well, what is it and then we go in, and we dig around, and we find, oh, you know, this, this server changed some policy that like, wasn’t really we weren’t alerted to or like, you know, something about MailChimp has changed and it wasn’t clear that that was going to happen, or there’s a bug, something got pushed out accidentally, or, you know, the server went down, but like, they didn’t get a notice that something like that. There’s all kinds of things. So get these like little weird, anomalous things that happen. And we kind of go in and we do we just kind of investigative work, I find that with some frequency, I’ll do that kind of thing, where it’s like somebody’s like, what’s going on? And either we’re like, oh, this particular thing has happened. Let’s resolve that. Or, you know, even sometimes we’re like, that’s, you know, I don’t I’m not shy about being like, I don’t I don’t know what that is like, I will I will figure it out, like I’m on. I’m on it. But you know, I think it’s, you know, people that come here like what’s going on? You’re like, I agree. That’s crazy. That’s weird.

Ben Freda 26:57

And I can think of one that happened yesterday or two days ago, which was we did that project four choices project, right? Where we did a comparison, it’s a Javascript app on top of a WordPress app. And users can compare different strategies for reducing childhood obesity, click on what they want. And then different strategies are compared in a chart, and you can export that chart to PDF and go give it to somebody. Yeah. But I remember the automatic PDF generation stopped working. Yeah,

Ben Reinhardt 27:22

I just stopped working.

Ben Freda 27:24

No one did anything. We didn’t do any, you know, but but up and up. I don’t know how,

Ben Reinhardt 27:28

yeah, no, it wasn’t. It was it was one of those things, it was like, it was a confluence of a couple of weird things that there was a very basic update that had gone through, but due to something and like, there was a bug with with like, WordPress is like, you know, how the plugin library works. Okay, files had been deleted, like, sort of unexpectedly, like, I contacted the developer, and they were like, they should be there. That’s not right. You know, it was a matter of just, you know, a fresh install resolved it, but it was like, you never know, they didn’t even know and it’s their thing, that stuff happen. Like that happens, like I said, happened. Yeah, it’s a lot of moving targets. And oftentimes, the bigger the website, the more moving targets, there are and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s something that you have to be aware of, and it’s something you have to be ready to just kind of dive in and be like, alright, let’s just take the system from the bottom and see what’s going on. So I get a lot of that kind of stuff. Yeah, and then there’s just general support requests, like, Hey, we’re trying to build a new page, we have a big event coming up, what you know, this week, we made a mock up, you know, a very basic one, is this something can help us build and, you know, almost always, it is very rarely, like, we really can’t do that. But it’s it’s, you know, it’s they’ll come to me with their kind of plans, and we just go through an implementation of whatever they want to do. That’s templating styling, you know, new functions, all that kind of stuff. It’s, you know, and then, you know, estimates and like you said, you know, we have to kind of, there’s a lot of Helms to demand, you know, but, you know, coming up with, like, how much it’s gonna cost, you know, what are your timelines, all that kind of stuff in the real project management side of things and trying to set expectations beforehand so that people kind of know what they’re in for?

Ben Freda 29:00

A lot of yeah, that’s, that’s another thing that I think where your communication style comes into play, is people do come to you a lot with, hey, we want to do X, we want to create a new resource library on our website, for instance, and we want it to be filtered by these three attributes. Are we talking about a five hour job? Or a 50 hour job? Or a 500 hour job? Yeah, I mean, a lot of people don’t know. And it can be really hard to determine because it can depend on the type of systems you already have in place. How was your site already built by some? Are you using Drupal you’re using WordPress? Are you using Joomla? Are you using solar system, blah, blah, it can be a five hour thing on one system and a 50 hour on another depending on how it’s been built. But people do that. I’m sure your communication style comes into play there too. Because you’re like, you know, it’s, it’s good to sort of understand how that stuff is so opaque. I mean, it

Ben Reinhardt 29:49

is yeah, stuff like that can be really complicated and, and people often tell me they’re like, I don’t know what’s involved. Like, tell me what’s involved. You know, and and I Do that. And you know, sometimes I worry about kind of overtopping the point and being like, do they really need all this information, but my position on it is like, they don’t have to read anything I write, right? They’re not to read the, you know, they can. And if it’s really bad, sometimes I will include like, like, here’s the short version, if you’re just interested in the immediate answer. And here’s the long version if you want the details. But you know, my position on it is like, even if something is complicated to explain, even if it’s like maybe overstating the point. Yeah, fundamentally, it’s a website is theirs, it’s their property, they own their thing. It’s like, I wouldn’t want to go to a mechanic and have them tell me I fix your car. And when I said how he went, don’t worry about it. Oh, no, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t understand anything, right? Like that. That just seems it would feel rude to me. And so I’m like, here’s, here’s like, the layout, here’s what’s gonna happen, here’s maybe some of the problems, here’s why those problems would exist. If you care, great. If you don’t, that’s fine. I’m just I want it down. So that if anybody’s like, Oh, can we do this? And be like, No, this is, you know, this was the problem kind of anticipated this is, you know, why it’s doing that. And it can be challenging because the tech world can be really opaque, as you say, in the language is, you know, some of these systems are incredibly complicated, the language is really dense, but I feel it’s at least important to try to make it clear to people sort of what’s involved, especially when you’re talking about, like you said, like something like a resource library, a larger build than just like a single page, something that’s gonna have integrated systems and multiple parts. And you know, why something would have to work in a certain way. And what the the upsides and the downsides of that are all the ways you can manage that, and what’s going to be involved on the staff side of things, because you know, you can automate a point, but you most of the time, you know, there’s going to be some level of human control, and what can you manage what’s reasonable for your team? And figuring that out in advance can be really helpful, because choosing between two tools is sometimes just about what you should expect from the person who’s gonna have to use it.

Ben Freda 31:49

Can you talk a little bit about oh, we only have five minutes left, but I know these things go so fast, right? You get into these discussions? Yeah, can you and this is a bit related to what you just said about understanding what you can manage on the back end as a staff as a nonprofit, because of course, every one of the nonprofits we work with, is strapped for resources and manpower. Yep. So when you’re thinking about the web, let’s say your nonprofit, let’s say you’re thinking about your web strategy, or your digital assets for the next year, or three years, or five years or whatever. Can you talk a little bit about what you should be thinking about? As you do that? Yeah.

Ben Reinhardt 32:29

So one of the things that’s come up a lot in the last few years is when you have an organization that’s been around for a little while, maybe 510 1520, sometimes plus years, you tend to accumulate a lot of content. And it could be all kinds of things. It could be just resources you have, it could be news items you’re pulling in from others, like there could just be content, we have clients who have 1000s of pieces of content, they tend to be bigger organizations, but not necessarily. And so there comes a point where you have to really seriously consider, can I actually manage? who’s managing it? How many people are managing it? And what can I expected them? And, you know, there’s one client that I’ve worked with for years now. And there has been an ongoing discussion, that’s finally getting resolved to rebuild, but it’s like, we have so much content that may or may not be relevant anymore. It’s just maybe outdated or something like that. What do we do

Ben Freda 33:15

with it? You’re talking about healthy newborn network? Like, or network? And that one’s interesting, because it’s a resource library. That’s for practitioners for like, yeah. And doctors on the ground in remote areas about newborn health. And some of these articles that are in the resource are going to be wrong. Yeah,

Ben Reinhardt 33:32

that’s something they have to constantly be aware of is that as new information comes out, old information may no longer be relevant. Like it could be historically interesting. But it’s not something they’re trying to promote, necessarily. Yeah.

Ben Freda 33:43

Like how to treat how to treat a malnourished child. Yeah. And let’s, I don’t know if some particular area with some particular diet might be wrong five years later,

Ben Reinhardt 33:53

yeah. And they have to be really conscientious of that. They have to be on top of their resources. And but when you have 3500, like, how are you going to be on top of that much stuff? And so sometimes, you know, it took months of us figuring out what the best strategy for do we keep it? Do we archive it? What goes, what stays what’s relevant, what’s good for people who are trying to do like, historical work, like sort of, you know, assessments over so much time versus stuff you need right now? And how do we manage that? How do we notate that? That’s, that’s what it’s for, you know, once it’s been updated. And I think that that’s one of the things that people should think about is that as time goes on, it’s always easier to manage things a little bit at a time. If you can sort of like, take five away every week, you will have less as long as you’re not adding 10 Every week, you know, and I think that it can get overwhelming after a time and I would recommend that anybody who’s coming up on a point where they’re looking at the content, they’re like, Ooh, that’s a lot I’m gonna have to deal with that someday. Deal with it in small bites. Now, I mean, certainly with with us or with somebody like us, there are tools we can use in their strategies week. use to help automate some of that work. But it’s still a lot of work. And it still takes a lot of forethought. And I would recommend that if there’s things that you’re just like, This is no good, like, just drafted at least, like get it off the site, if you’re concerned about it, and get ahead of that as much as you can, because it doesn’t stop probably, you’re probably only going to ever have more. And then there’s other parts of it too, like content makes the site bigger could make it slower, it could make you need to jump up and server which can be additional cost, you know, that kind of thing. Images are big, and you got to be aware of that. Yeah, files can really blow to site and so keeping stuff on your site for a long time, just because like, well, I’ll deal with it someday, you know, you may be forced to deal with it faster than you want to, and it can make the sort of managerial side of things more and more complicated. And, you know, like you said, a lot of these nonprofits, like, they, they manpower is something that they can be short on, you know, it’s a smaller team doing a lot of jobs. And, you know, spending time just like, looking through 2000 articles is not usually somebody’s best use of time, unless it’s, like helping you work where you’re, you’re really trying to stay on top of new medical stuff. But, you know, it’s it happens. I’ve had this conversation about, like, what do we do with all this stuff? And I’m like, well, that’s a very large conversation about what you find valuable. Yeah. And it’s, it’s a conversation we tend to have over several weeks or even months, depending on

Ben Freda 36:20

Yeah. And I will say just that, that on the historical aspect. We talked about this a little bit before. But yeah, this is sort of a new thing. Right, like 15 years ago, first website for 10 years ago, first website for a nonprofit plenty probably than 10 years ago, or 15 years ago. Let’s try a CMS. Yeah, so we can create stuff. And 10 years ago, let’s start creating content. Yeah. And now we’re at the point where like, Oh, my God, but how do we have some content here? How are we going to manage this? How are we going to present it on the front end for users to use? And how are we going to manage it on the back end for us? Because it does take some resources that it does,

Ben Reinhardt 36:55

it does. And I just encourage people to sort of, even if you don’t do anything about it, think about what you might want to do with it. And sometimes it’s as simple as like, we have to update our tagging system so that things are better organized. And sometimes it’s like, we have to take a really serious look at everything we have and start with this whole the herd. Yeah, pretty much. That’s my big one that keeps coming up. I keep seeing more and more people like, boy, we sure have a lot of stuff and we don’t know how to deal with it. Like, yeah, okay, well, let’s, let’s sit down. We’ll talk about it.

Ben Freda 37:23

Interesting. Listen, we could talk about tons of stuff, this could go hours. But can you just tell people who have listened to this how they can find out more about you and or get in contact with you? Yeah,

Ben Reinhardt 37:38

I mean, I think the easiest way is, is to work with us at BFC Digital. That’s a sure way to get to talk to me.

Ben Freda 37:44

That I love that. No, I agree.

Ben Reinhardt 37:48

It’s a little shameless, but it is true. But yeah, if, I mean, should I should I give up my work email is that is that appropriate?

Ben Freda 37:56

You can give your work email, your personal email, your band website?

Ben Reinhardt 38:02

Oh, I don’t have one of those. Now, when you’re writing, you’re writing? Oh, I haven’t done anything in a while. I’m working on something my free time. But it’s it’s just you Where

Ben Freda 38:10

Can people find more? Okay, let me ask this question. Yeah. How can people find out more about your writing?

Ben Reinhardt 38:14

Oh, there’s, there’s really none of it out there. Honestly. There isn’t. No, I published it like a long time ago, but I hesitate to throw it out into the wild. Don’t worry about that. Maybe someday I do drawings and stuff to sell. But I’ll throw that up here. So people can see it if they’re interested. But yeah. But I think um, but I think if people are interested in asking me any questions in particular, you know, I’m BenReinhart@benfredaconsulting.com, which is our, our formal name, and I haven’t updated my email. But yeah, I’m happy to answer any questions people have, like, you know, like you said, I am kind of the de facto communicator on many things, because I like doing it. So I’m happy to answer questions and go into stuff and talk about what we do. And, you know, we’ve talked to people sometimes it’s just like, you know, we got a problem, like, is this something you can fix? And I’m like, let me take a look. And I’ll let you know and, and then we’ll see what we can do. And someday

Ben Freda 39:10

we’ll put up a page on our website with everything you’ve ever written. Oh, God, no, I’m really pressing on this. I don’t know why I’m pressing on this.

Ben Reinhardt 39:18

I think you’re just topically interested because you’re never been able to see it, and you want to know what it’s like. You’re absolutely right.

Ben Freda 39:24

Listen, thanks so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. It’s been super fun. Let’s do another one of these another time, but I really appreciate it, man.

Ben Reinhardt 39:31

Yeah, no worries.

Outro 39:35

Thanks for listening to the Nonprofit Thrive podcast. We’ll see you next time. And be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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