In the fall of 2011, IBI revamped our website design with a fresh new look throughout the site. We created a rotating photo block on the home page which makes the website look much more like a professional organization compared to the static front page design we had in the past. Additionally, this rotating block can highlight up to 5 projects at a time. IBI staff also added RSS feeds to our blog, news, and industry updates on biochar so our membership can subscribe directly to those. IBI added a “Business Member Directory” section to our website along with a large button visible from all pages as a part of a broader launch of a new “Business Member” membership category.

Specifically regarding IBI’s new membership management system, it has been built with the following new or improved value-added features for IBI members:

  1. A searchable Member Directory – member profiles can be directly updated by IBI members and searched easily. An advanced search feature allows IBI paying members to find each other and connect on similar research topics. This feature permits members and IBI alike to build a network, with IBI providing a forum to do so.
  2. A group of streamlined data fields for member profiles and for use in the online member directory is offered, allowing members to fill in the most pertinent information relevant to those interested in biochar.

From an IBI communication perspective, IBI’s move to an advanced web-based Membership Management Tool (powered by provider “MemberClicks”) has also allowed IBI to exponentially grow its membership offerings and implement industry-setting initiatives without adding costly overhead. MemberClicks’ highly configurable database structure will allow IBI to implement new value-added features in the future without outgrowing the system’s capability in the near term. Some of the improved features in this new technology include:

  1. The ability to track expanded profile data for each and every paying member.
  2. The convenience of centrally tracking different membership groups (i.e. Sustaining, Professional, Business, Student or Developing Country)
  3. Better communication ability to specifically target messages to different membership groups and to non-members.
  4. A built-in event management tool that will allow IBI to manage revenue-generating events (i.e. training).
  5. A built-in survey tool will allow IBI to poll members/participants on different topics, receive feedback on events and trainings, and vote on initiatives.

Specific outcomes from the updated website include:

  1. The International Biochar Initiative website is now the second listing with a Google search of “biochar” (behind the Wikipedia entry). Previously, IBI’s website came in at number 4 or 5; we attribute this partially to an expanded, often visited website that is continuously updated.
  2. The Business Member Directory on our site has allowed IBI to showcase our new Business Members. We have now nine business members and interest from many more. This addition has created an additional revenue stream for the organization.
  3. The IBI website has seen 17% more traffic (tracking visitors) in the past 2 ½ months since the website was updated, compared to the previous 2 ½ month time period.