Feb 9 • 4 min read

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched on through months of April, May and June, many nonprofits realized that they would have to adapt in order to survive. 

The Resource Exchange (TRE), an environmentally focused thrift shop, gallery and maker space, found that as the lockdown orders slowed their in-person retail sales, they needed to pivot online to stay afloat. That meant getting a new e-commerce store built—fast. 

Enter Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), housed in the Fox School of Business. Through their efforts, numerous local nonprofits affected by COVID-19 have received free digital services from Temple students. The Resource Exchange, which rescues material headed for landfills and finds creative ways to reuse it, is just one of several community organizations that found help from IBIT. 

Fox students Sofia Spadotto and Safaniya Paul addressed TRE’s digital needs within a few weeks. “Their website needed a new host, the addition of an e-commerce system, and a cosmetic redesign that was conducive to easy edits for the TRE team,” says Spadotto. 

“I was able to extend my assistance in the social selling area, where I integrated the e-commerce site with Instagram and Facebook,” says Paul. 

TRE owner Karyn Gerred praised the work of IBIT. “The upgrades to our website will not only broaden the ways that we can serve our community but have also already helped us to streamline our operations,” she says. “Our dedicated staff can focus more of their efforts on what matters most.”

Mission-focused digital strategies 

Throughout the year, IBIT has worked with other nonprofit organizations to help them through these challenging times. For example, the Arch Street Preschool, located in Center City, found itself needing to improve its digital presence in order to help its recruiting efforts. 

Students Grace Graves from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture and CJ Ayesh from the Fox School took on the task. “CJ and I set out to create a new site that would not only be attractive and work to draw in new students for the school, but would also be easy to edit and use on the backend,” says Graves. The team used Wix, a website building platform, to make the long-term maintenance easy on the Arch Street Preschool staff. 

The Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF) also benefited from IBIT’s support. Students Kunal Duggal from the Fox School and Nicole Kish from the Tyler School of Art helped PAAFF prepare their website for the annual festival, which showcases and celebrates the creative works of Asian American and Pacific Islander storytellers. 

“Our old website format had not been updated for more than five years,” says Selena Yip, the festival director. “The new site has been easy to use for the staff and has been extremely helpful in our external rebrand, updating both staff and audiences on this new era of our organization.” 

Yip continues, “We hope to continue using this new website as a way to archive organizational details, reach out to prospective volunteers and provide information about our festival to filmmakers looking to submit their works.” 

Enhancing aspirations of music 

Students helped the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) and the Jazz Bridge Project redesign their digital presences in order to better adapt to the current situation and its limitations for traditional revenue. 

PGMC, which was founded in 1981 during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, uses music to tell stories aimed at educating others about the LGBTQ+ community. Their current challenge, according to PGMC Executive Director David Bielenberg, was having a website that was scalable for the group’s strategic ambitions. 

Fox students Liza Wylie-Thal and Rich Wagner “helped to define our target audiences, develop clear goals, draft through customer journey maps to determine content strategy and develop evergreen social media campaigns,” says Bielenberg. 

The Jazz Bridge Project supports musicians’ health, financial and housing needs, and their services became even more essential as in-person performances across the city stopped due to the pandemic. 

Fox students Kyra Lloyd and Ashley Mohan worked to improve the website’s user experience and design. “We used WordPress to create and design a brand new website,” says Mohan. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”

Joseph Lewis, executive director of Jazz Bridge, thanks the students for their digitization efforts. 

“We now have a modern, design-forward website that allows us to tell our story about supporting Philadelphia-area jazz and blues artists more effectively.”

The students featured were advised by faculty members from the Fox School of Business, the Boyer College of Music and Dance, and the Klein College of Media and Communication. 

The Institute for Business Information and Technology program is managed by Rich Flanagan. 

To learn more about the program and apply, please visit ibit.temple.edu

Arch Street PreschoolDigital ServicesExperiential LearningIBITInstitute for Business and Information TechnologyNonprofitPhiladelphia Asian American Film FestivalPhiladelphia Gay Men's ChorusStudentsThe Resource Exchange