Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rogue Leader!

I'm about to rant a bit... please excuse this post for what it is...

Rogue web sites. Hell on earth.

At least once a month I'm finding out about chapters who've taken it upon themselves to develop, build and launch unauthorized web sites for local special events. How fun!

Here's a typical scenario in chronological order:
  1. Chapter is planning an event (golf, black tie, mud wrestling, whatever)
  2. Chapter puts together committee
  3. Committee deems National Web site "not sufficient" or doesn't think to ask for help
  4. Committee member knows "web designer" who builds registers a domain, donates free hosting and designs a web site
  5. National HQ marketing stiff finds out about committee designed web site through random chance (the most likely way to find out about such rogue sites as it turns out) and unfortunately, decides to click the link to check out the site...
  6. Site is usually terrible, incorrectly branded and incorrect
  7. National HQ marketing stiff is put in awkward position (i.e. Now what? Shut it down, build a new site for the event, scream and yell, etc...)
I've thought long and hard about policies to control this, but as anyone working in a large NPO with chapters knows - they're gonna do what they're gonna do if there aren't any severe consequences. In the absence of any strong enforcement, we've tried to build out a robust tech platform using a CMS and external services to process event registrations and online fundraising. We've also staffed up to help "consult" with chapters - but over and over again, they go to outside sources and break branding rules, develop ugly sites and then are offended when we try to help the get things right.

We've also put out policies about URL/domain registration (not allowed locally), online marketing (not without prior approval from Headquarters), e-mail marketing (use our centralized service or get a baseball bat wrapped around your head) and utilization of donation/registration services.

Is there anyone out there fighting (or going with the flow) of rogue web sites? I need some references to help me make some decisions here!

I can't decide to be honest with you how to proceed. I'm torn between locking down things centrally (but have no staff) or going with the chaos theory for local special event sites (i.e. let them go for it). I'm sure ultimately the solution is a compromise, it usually is.

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