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Using Joomla to build and maintain websites for volunteer run/charity organisations


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The Eastern Suburbs Dog Training Club is a volunteer run organisation that has held dog training classes on Sunday mornings in Sydney's Centennial Park since 1962.

We have no club-rooms and everything we need on Sundays, the dog training equipment, administration desks, vetting tables, tea and coffee urn, etc, is towed onto the grounds and set up first thing in the morning, and packed away and towed back off the grounds at the end of training.

Due to the lack of shelter and electricity of club-rooms, and the older demographic of our helpers, for the majority of our 50 plus years of dog training our administration processes, from the handing out of information, to the registration of new members and maintenance of the membership database, have been paper-based or very low tech, eg. a spreadsheet for our membership database .

In 2006 the club entered the digital age with an HTML/CSS based website, which I designed and developed for the club (pro bono). The objective of the website was to provide an overview of the club, our classes, training dates and other general information. It proved successful, we were able to redirect emailed enquiries to a website rather than having to call them the club's mobile phone and we didn't have to hand out information brochures. However, it was very hard to update the less static content, like the training dates, club news and newsletter articles.

About this time a former club member emailed me and asked, "Have you ever used a content management system? Check out Joomla. It's super easy to use ... after the initial WHAT THE!? shock."

This lead to version 2 of the website, using Joomla 1.5 in 2008, and to my becoming involved in the Sydney Joomla User Group and JoomlaDays, both of which were invaluable in helping me get over the WHAT THE!? shock of Joomla!

Version 3 of the club website was produced using a template creator, Artisteer, and introduced funky sidebar menus and images to make the site more friendly. However, we soon discovered more members and potential members were accessing the website via mobile devices than desktop browsers and the website wasn't responsive and looked terrible on a smartphone. This led to a responsive version 4 of the website in early 2014 and later that year we rolled out online membership applications ... which we download into our spreadsheet database!

In this presentation, I will recap the benefits of using the Joomla platform to build and maintain a website for a volunteer run/charity organisation like my dog club, what I consider to be the must-have extensions, and some of the WHAT THEs!? you can avoid with a little preparation.

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Using Joomla to build and maintain websites for volunteer run/charity organisations

  1. 1. Using Joomla to build and maintain websites for volunteer run/charity organisations. (Joomla helps train dogs, too! ~ JoomlaDay 2009) Robert Fairhead, Rocher Communications
  2. 2. Eastern Suburbs Dog Training Club • Established in 1962 • A self-funded, community/volunteer based organisation • Run obedience training for puppies and adult dogs on most Sunday mornings in Centennial Park • 600-700 members per year, 120-150 renewals/life members. Approx 450-550 join short term for basic 6-9 week training • Profile of our longer term membership (renewals/life members) is middle-aged and older • Our short term members are typically younger, singles, couples and families. (More tech savvy!)
  3. 3. 2007 V1 website
  4. 4. HTML website worked … BUT! • Enabled volunteers to direct email/text/out-and-about enquiries to the website - achieved objective … BUT! • Too many pages promised: “Details will soon be appearing – please revisit” (eg. Tips) • Very hard to update content, especially Club News, Newsletter articles, AND Training Dates • Timely email from former Club member: “Have you ever used a CMS? Check out Joomla. It's SUPER easy to use … after the initial WHAT THE??? Shock!” • Help with “WHAT THE???” from Joomla book, online forums and JUG • Version 2 of website launched August 2008
  5. 5. 2008 V2 website
  6. 6. Benefits of V2 Joomla website • Open Source (not expensive!) • 1000s of templates: JA Purity with standard Joomla install • Customise template colours etc with parameters and CSS • Huge library of Open Source extensions, eg. Akeeba Backup, Attachments, sh404SEF etc • Support via discussion forums, Sydney JUG, books, conferences (like JoomlaDay) and workshops • Main benefit: Ease of updating content and keeping it relevant, especially Club News and Newsletter • BUT, it looked a bit bland, no photos of members and dogs!
  7. 7. 2011 V3 website
  8. 8. Benefits of V3 Artisteer Joomla • More customised look rather than off-the-shelf templates • WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop environment - didn’t need to worry so much about PHP tweaking … though CSS knowhow still very handy • Introduced images of cute dogs etc (though could have done this with off-the-shelf templates) • Initially very happy with Artisteer ... BUT, MailChimp campaign reports from 2012 onwards showed most members were accessing mailings via a phone/tablet • AND, our version of Artisteer proved not to be responsive
  9. 9. 2013 V4 website
  10. 10. Benefits of V4 Purity III Template • Out-of-the-box Responsive! • Purity III much better template than original Purity • Built on Joomlart T3 Framework - makes customisation (a little) more logical and easy to keep track of! • Opportunity to reorganise content and introduce more images (people love photos of dogs!) • Thanks to sh404SEF upgrade from older version of Joomla and template wasn’t a show stopper • Perhaps thanks to sh404SEF, or Joomla, or website’s clever developer and content creator, we rank high on Google ...
  11. 11. 2014 V4.1 website
  12. 12. Key Extensions • JCE Editor (IMHO, should be default Joomla editor) • Akeeba Backup • Attachments - used for newsletters, renewal forms etc • sh404SEF - sorts out item id # URLs! • RSForm!Pro - online membership application etc • Articles Anywhere - • Googlemap plug-in - • Google Authenticator - Two Factor Authentication • Also recommend Akeeba Admin Tools for restricting access to admin, eg:
  13. 13. Dog Training Tips 1. Be prepared - have a full treat bag handy and non-aversive training equipment, eg. a balance harness instead of a check or halti collar 2. Control the environment - don’t do your training where there are distractions, like manic off-leash dogs 3. Reward desirable behaviour, ignore undesirable behaviour 4. Remember, it’s a two-way street, your dog’s learning what you want and you’re learning about your dog 5. Be persistent, patient and calm … just like with Joomla! 6. It takes time, but if you’re lucky, your dog will live for 12, 14, maybe even 16 years!
  14. 14. Questions/Discussion? ● Dog Club website: ● Rocher Communications: ● Tall And True (beta): ● Robert Fairhead: ● Offer design and communication consultancy for Joomla (and dare I mention it?) WordPress websites and blogs.