FTFY: Setting Up WARL For Nonprofit Success

by Sep 3, 2018Fixed That For You, WARL

Branding a nonprofit can be tough, especially when it offers a lot to its community. WARL faces some serious challenges compared to most because of the impossibly large number of services it offers the Worcester community.

Not only does the no-kill shelter take in neighborhood animals – it takes in dogs on death row in other shelters. That’s how Pumpkin came into my life, actually. She was about to be euthanized in a shelter in Kentucky. WARL had room in their kennels and took her in. We adopted her the day after her stitches from spaying came out and just before she got fitted with a microchip. Because of WARL she got the few extra days it took to find her a loving home.

That’s not the end of the services they offer, either. They have an affordable spay and neuter program, a low cost vaccine clinic, a feral cat TNR (trap-neuter-release) program, a lost and found service to reunite pets with owners, a foster program, dog training classes, and animal control services that they offer the city of Worcester.

To top it all off they’re HUGE advocates against breed-specific legislation. When Worcester tried to pass pit bull legislation, WARL came out swinging to fight it. After it passed WARL fought even harder and made an extremely difficult decision to end the animal control services it provided the city until the bill was repealed.

Two CTA groups

Even though WARL has a lot of programs, site users have just three ways they can help WARL and its animals: by adopting, volunteering, or giving. There are a ton of options for giving, but they’re all a form of giving. These users will all respond to what I call the Helping CTA group. The users who take advantage of WARL’s programs will respond to a different set called the Services CTA group.

Helping CTAs

These call to actions are about helping animals and supporting the shelter. They need to emotionally driven. Instead of playing up the value the user receives, these CTAs need to play up the impact their actions – even the small ones – will have.

Services CTAs

Users who need services don’t need to be emotionally driven to complete an action – they just need to know that there’s an action they can perform online that will translate into something of value for the user. This makes this class of CTAs more traditionally value-driven and… forgive my lack of precision here… more marketing-ish.

Multiple programs boil down to just three user groups

I’ve categorized these as Supporters, Recipients, and Admins. Supporters are the people who give to the shelter through donations, volunteer work, or adoptions. Recipients use the services offered by the shelter. Admins are the people who work at the shelter who need to be able to keep the site up to date with information.


  • All supporters need to know what kind of help is most needed because everyone wants their help to make a maximum impact
  • Donors need to be able to make their donation and set up scheduled giving online
  • Adopters need to be able to apply to adopt a pet online and schedule a meeting with their future pet
  • Volunteers need to be able to sign up for orientation and volunteer activities online


  • Users in need of surgery or vaccine clinics need to be able to schedule services or sign up for a regularly scheduled clinic online.
  • Owners need an easy way to see if their lost pet has been found and be able to confirm ownership / reclaim their pet online.
  • Good samaritans need an easy way to see if they’ve rescued an animal who has been missing from their home and need to be able to get in touch with the owner directly.
  • Collaborating shelters need an easy way to check on vacancies at WARL.


  • Need to be able to receive and respond to adoption and volunteer applications.
  • Need to be able to create and publish events, blog posts, information, notices, and pet profiles as quickly and easily as possible.
  • Need to be able to schedule, confirm, and cancel appointments.
  • Need to be able to accept donations and payments online and offer receipts and tax-ID information.

The project deepens

After reviewing all of the user profiles and needs in more depth, I’ve realized that this is going to be a two week, full-time project so that I can develop the appropriate tools for all of the users.

A WordPress Plugin for nonprofits

I also enlisted the help of a fellow developer to build a WordPress plugin that takes an Amazon Smile Wishlist link and displays buy now buttons on the WARL site. We’ve both gone into research mode and started playing around with a few ideas already.

I want to make sure users can see the product image, price, priority level, and WARL’s explanation for why it’s needed (instead of the product description and star rating) along with the buy now button. I want that buy now button to open in a new tab, too.

I really hope that developing this plugin will help many nonprofits communicate their highest priority needs and make it as easy as possible for users to help them out. WARL won’t be the last nonprofit I take on and if I can make this process simple for future use that would make me extremely happy.

Applications driven by ReactJS

Even though Divi has done a lot of great work making their contact form better, I’d prefer to build a reactive application form for adoptions and volunteer work. I also want pet profiles and lost / found posts to be more reactive and utilize FireBase. I can ensure greater security this way.

Appointment scheduling

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to look for a decent solution to appointment booking.

Shop with Square, donate with PayPal

I didn’t realize this but WARL actually does have an online shop. There’s a link that links you to a link to the SquareSpace site. I want to remove like four of those steps and put their products into WooCommerce and connect it to their Square account for payment processing.

Every other type of payment – donations, for example – can continue to use PayPal. It’ll just look a lot better and provide a consistent user experience when it’s all integrated into one store.

Today’s Work

I got a basic mockup and WordPress installation going. I’m still playing around with heuristics and CTA / user groups right now so this is still more of a working prototype than anything. And that logo is not in its final form at all – I just needed to slap something up real quick.

You can see the prototype here: https://amy.works/ftfy/warl

Here’s a comparison between the current home page and the one I’ve been working on:



As you can probably tell, I’m already formulating a solid information hierarchy and trying out some ideas for that plugin I mentioned. I’m also using emotion-driven copy for the Helping CTA group.

I have had to use a lot of stock photos. The current WARL site uses small, low-res images right now. I would love to fix that for them (haha I see what I did there) at some point. I wouldn’t mind volunteering my time one or two days a week to be their go-to website person and make sure the right size and quality images / video were making it onto the site.