Focusing on Local Helps Army Cadets Increase Web Traffic by 65%, recruit more volunteers and increase online engagement
Managing a national website which has a strong focus on local activities and information is a huge job, especially when resources are limited. The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is one of the UK's largest voluntary youth organisations with 46,000 cadets (aged 12-18) and 8,500 adult volunteers. They needed to develop ways of keeping their website content up-to-date and being able to process online applications easily at both a local and national level.
As part of a website redevelopment project, Electric Putty created a bespoke application management tool and local microsites which enabled the ACF to provide their audience with easily accessible and local information. This provided website visitors with a much more personal user experience, resulting in increased local engagement and a 30% rise in adult volunteering enquiries.
With 1700 locations across the UK, the ACF was struggling with work flow processes and maintaining brand consistency across all of their county locations. Some counties had external websites where as others had nothing. It was important for head office to manage the ACF brand without losing the great content being produced at a local level. It was important to them to move away from a 'top down' content management approach – enabling content creation at grassroots level and empowering the adult volunteers to engage with the website at a local level.
On top of this, processing online applications for adult volunteers was proving challenging. The ACF desperately needed to recruit new volunteers and this needed to be managed locally rather than nationally. A volunteer would apply on the site and their details would be mailed to their local county HQ. However, this meant enquiries could not easily be tracked and evidence suggested these applications were often not monitored or administered properly. As a result the number of volunteers signing up was not consistent between the local detachments and the figures head office were reporting from the website.
In order for users to easily find their local cadet force, Electric Putty created a data import tool to convert the postcodes for all 1700 detachments. These were then plotted onto a single map which made it much easier for users to find their local detachment and easily register their interest. Electric Putty used ExpressionEngine to deliver the content-managed site and provide a foundation for the more complex interactive elements.
To ensure that all expressions of interest were followed up, a tool called Application Manager was developed that integrated directly into the CMS. Whenever an expression of interest was submitted from the website the relevant county recruiter was sent a notification email which contained a unique URL. Once they had made contact with the potential volunteer, they could follow the link in the email and record this activity in the Application Manager. This enabled Head Office to keep track in the application process.
To provide further flexibility, optional county micro-sites were created. When activated this provided the county administrators with an extended suite of tools enabling them to create their own news stories, media galleries and editorial pages. This meant the website was able to provide interesting and engaging content at a local level whilst maintaining brand integrity.
As part of further development on the site Electric Putty worked with ACF's media agency on modifications to the Detachment Finder and Application Manager to work within a Facebook application. Users can now find their local detachment and register interest without leaving Facebook.
The launch of the new website was a success both internally and externally. Enquiries about joining as an adult volunteer rose by 30% and handling of enquiries and applications became much more efficient with volunteer enquiry follow up increasing from 44% to 90% in less than 6 months.
The ability to easily create local content meant that all of the county HQs became much more engaged with the website. This made a massive difference to the overall feel of the website and provided users with a much more personal online experience. Overall, web traffic increased by 65% and engagement at a local level improved across all the whole of the ACF, with 75% of counties now using the optional microsites.
“We were delighted with the success of the new website and particularly pleased that so many of our county HQs have embraced the optional microsites. Linking the website strongly with our social media presence (on Facebook and YouTube in particular) has also led to rapid growth and much greater engagement of our online community. The new website has done more than meet our expectations; it has exceeded our greatest hopes."
Melanie Bowran, Head of Marketing and Communications at the ACF
The new website has not only enabled ACF to provide a much better service to potential adult volunteers who enquire online but has also vastly improved internal processes. Now on a monthly basis the ACF circulate data showing what percentage of recruitment enquiries have been followed up allowing each office to compare their results with other offices. This has led poorly performing offices to greatly improve and those with a good record take great pride in ensuring their follow ups remain at 100%.