The voluntary sector is a actually quite similar to the rest of business it’s just that the profits are then used to drive the aims of the not for profit or charity rather than benefitting shareholders or partners. So the challenges of market share and operational efficiency are just as relevant to the voluntary sector and therefore they way that software is used in these organisations is in itself relevant to anyone.
Global Xchange is on such charity, they provide youth volunteer services as part of the VSO and British Council both overseas and more recently in the UK. Persuading people to donate charities is one thing but to get them to give up their time is much harder and so the reasons must be compelling, and if your website is your main communication engine, then that then needs to be compelling. So Global Xchange commissioned Rubicon to create a rich social media experience which could be kept fresh without any input from the IT team…
Another part of the Rubicon brief was to allow potential volunteers to go through a process to get access to the Global Xchange extranet once they had been accepted so that they could share documents and resources when they were on the ground working on their volunteering project. They could also share their experiences to encourage the next week of young people to sign up as well. I think this is a great job and so do Global Xchange as this video short shows..
So a rather unusual project and Rubicon took the rather unusual step of building the whole solution around SharePoint 2010 as that gave them the basics of content management, ease of use and is relatively easy to set up to be accessible outside the organisation as well as inside. Rubicon did develop a number of custom web parts to meet the requirements(e.g. being able to create user defined cascading menus) but the fact that this is possible shows how flexible this platform is. In fact there is very healthy ecosystem around SharePoint with a number of niche partners specialising in BI, records manager and in the case of Inframon using it as a front end for System Center to show how the data centre is behaving.
A final thing to note is that this is a hosted solution and this gives this small organisation the flexibility to grow and expend the site to match demand without having to predict and bid for more resources internally.