A small team operating with hard-coded content in a traditional CMS meant the web copy and events were often outdated
Content updates required technical expertise and significant time
Event data and content was spread across different systems, making it difficult to organize and piece together
A single content platform supporting low-code content ensures frequent and accurate event updates across all platforms
An easy-to-use editorial interface engages volunteers further, enabling them to help with content creation and marketing responsibilities
Robust APIs help content flow between Contentful and custom-built backend technologies
“Nonprofits are often strapped for time and resources, making it difficult to keep digital platforms up to date. In being able to easily edit and automate content with Contentful, we’ve attracted more donors and can better demonstrate our effectiveness to education partners and donors."
“A lot of our technology is actually built in-house, like our event management system. We’ve been really happy with Contentful’s GraphQL API — it's essential for integrating our content types with these existing custom systems.”
“When we weighed the options, it was pretty clear that Contentful was the only platform appropriate for an organization of our size. As a small team, we needed something we could work with to further our mission, not struggle against.”
CodeDay, a nonprofit that helps students in underserved communities explore paths in coding and other technical fields, was having a hard time reaching new audiences with its static website and monolithic CMS solution. The organization needed a flexible solution that allowed the small-but-mighty web team to integrate its platform with other third-party apps. CodeDay chose to migrate its web content to Contentful, largely due to how easy it was to add apps from the Contentful Marketplace and work with the GraphQL API. The result was a fresh website that volunteers could easily maintain and update with new content.
When confronted with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the most common teenage responses used to be doctor, lawyer, nurse, or professional athlete. While technical roles such as computer programmer, software engineer, and web developer are becoming more frequent responses, curriculum to develop the base-level skills needed for these jobs is largely absent at schools in underserved communities. This is something nonprofit CodeDay works to remedy by offering 24-hour coding events at high schools in underserved communities. Through these events, teens learn basic technology and collaboration skills while building a project that’s based on something they’re interested in.
To keep the program running, CodeDay needs to rally volunteers, sponsors, and students. Its website, codeday.org, is the primary driver of that. Unfortunately, despite CodeDay’s efforts and the tech-savvy nature of its small-but-mighty team, the channel was doing a poor job attracting and inspiring interaction across these groups. A rigid, hard-to-use platform was behind this.
Claiming content accuracy and speed to market
During its early years, CodeDay was team WordPress. At the time, this now-monolithic CMS was well known, straightforward to set up, and satisfied basic content management needs. After all, CodeDay had 20+ custom-built apps to address targeted business operations. Despite such a selection of tailored tools, the nonprofit struggled to keep its website and event page fresh. Its small team of employees and volunteers simply didn’t have the bandwidth to hardcode content updates.
As a result, web content was six- to nine-months outdated. This wasn’t a good look to prospective donors or volunteers, much less to the young coders looking forward to joining events. Instead of helping the nonprofit fulfill its mission, CodeDay’s CMS — and the siloed, unstructured content it contained — became a barrier.
Early 2018, CodeDay had enough. The nonprofit began researching headless content solutions that would support content accuracy across digital spaces and enable that content to be inputted and published with speed. Although it assessed a handful of other options, Contentful seemed the most fitting for a company in CodeDay’s position.
“When we weighed the options, it was pretty clear that Contentful was the only platform appropriate for an organization of our size,” Tyler Menezes, Executive Director at CodeDay, said. “As a small team, we needed something we could work with to further our mission, not struggle against.” Menezes and his team fast-tracked their migration to the new platform. In 15 days, CodeDay’s site was fully powered by Contentful.
Relishing the benefits of rich, unified content and a microservice ecosystem
As CodeDay configured the platform, it was pleased by how easy it was to connect custom-built and third-party apps. The Contentful Marketplace and GraphQL API became heavy hitters, helping it ensure each piece of content stored in the CMS was accessible and consistent across these different tools, including the one most important to its operations: CodeDay Clear — the nonprofit’s custom-built event management tool.
“Pre-Contentful, you’d find what should have been the same information and content to be different across each tool and platform,” Menezes added. “We’d remember to update something in one place but not in another. Now that we've sorted that out with Contentful, everything is just automatically up to date.” From a logistical standpoint, this was exciting. CodeDay volunteers and attendees no longer had to worry about showing up to the wrong place, at the wrong time, on the wrong day.
Aside from pulling in the tools necessary to keep the nonprofit and its events running, CodeDay has integrated microservices to extend the “bells and whistles” of its site — those items that aren’t necessary but nice to have when enticing new students. These include MUX, a video streaming app, and (somewhat surprisingly) the nonprofit’s old CMS, WordPress, which hosts student-authored blogs. Through these tools, CodeDay can share authentic student testimonials and projects (which are more often than not video games) in various mediums. The result is a moving digital experience. At the very least, this experience communicates the value the nonprofit offers to participants. At the very most, it attracts new young coders, dedicated volunteers, and generous sponsors.
Contentful has also been pivotal in building the CodeDay community. CodeDay has connected the composable content platform to its Discord server, which boasts more than 5,000 students, who connect over projects and programming problems. With this integration, Menezes and his team can plug in important announcements and promote upcoming events based on content stored within the platform.
No-experience-necessary content management
Connecting custom tools and weaving content throughout the nonprofit’s tech stack aren’t the only benefits CodeDay has experienced with the transition from WordPress to Contentful — it is experiencing improved content operations and a higher level of volunteer engagement. “The interface is just very intuitive,” Menezes pointed out. “It's not something where you need a tutorial or anything. When we give volunteers access, they understand how it works pretty quickly — that's been really helpful to us.”
Before Contentful, CodeDay’s marketing team-of-one struggled to keep content fresh and consistent across tools and platforms. Limited bandwidth and the absence of the project management and ticketing systems commonly used by larger organizations meant editorial requests were largely verbal and often forgotten about before they could make it to the site.
Contentful has changed this. Now, the turnaround time from request to publishing is quite short, and often, there’s little or no need for requests at all, as volunteers ordinarily making requests now have the agency and know-how to go into the platform and publish content themselves. According to Menezes, Contentful has been a catalyst to more significant volunteer contributions. “We've seen volunteers who typically stick to mentorship transitioning into higher impact roles. They’ll help collect testimonials and organize events using Contentful.”
Personalizing programming to global students
The time CodeDay has saved with streamlined content operations has been reallocated to scaling CodeDay at the global level. Before Contentful, CodeDay was well-rooted in North America — the nonprofit had hosted just one international CodeDay, in Kenya. From this event, it learned the importance of localized promotions (i.e., translating and adjusting content to meet regional preferences).
Contentful’s content models drive CodeDay’s globalization strategy. The nonprofit uses this content model to build out region-specific sites that populate with localized images, testimonials, and languages. “It’s a lot more impactful to see someone you know or go to school with participating in a recent CodeDay event rather than a random individual in another country from ten years ago,” Menezes said.
If you visit CodeDay’s site today, you’ll notice that, in addition to North American events, there are also CodeDays and CodeDay Labs occurring throughout Asia and Africa. And it's not stopping there. CodeDay plans to use Contentful to expand further and help aspiring programmers located all over the world realize their talents and future potential.