The Actors Fund website was designed in 2001, a relic from the dial-up era. Beyond the unintentionally nostalgic design, the website was challenging to manage and almost impossible to navigate. The Actors Fund, a nonprofit that provides services and programs to members of the entertainment community, was struggling to serve its members with this outdated Internet presence.
Compounding that problem was that the organization did not have the resources or the expertise to re-design its website and transform its relationships with clients and donors.
It was a situation perfectly suited for Viacom’s Talent for Good program, part of our Viacommunity social impact umbrella. The Talent for Good program matches employees’ professional expertise with nonprofits to serve a need that those organizations can’t fill themselves.
JM Chilgren, senior product manager on the Multiplatform Monetization team at Viacom, is no stranger to Viacommunity and to volunteering. He’s a co-chair of LGBT Employee Resource Group Emerge, an active participant in Viacommunity Day, and a frequent volunteer with LGBT nonprofits. Chilgren was asked to join the Talent for Good pilot and acted as project lead on the team that would help The Actors Fund overhaul their website. Chilgren’s team included a Senior Product Director Kimberly Hicks, Design Director Al Lucca, Senior Manager of Emerging Trends Product Research Tracy Stender, Software Engineer Martino Buffalino, and UX Researcher Mike Suneja, all from Viacom’s Central Product Group under David Kline.
“Talent for Good allows individuals to grow in the corporation by contributing their skills,” said Chilgren. “The program makes it easy to pair yourself with a nonprofit. More importantly, it’s an amazing way for Viacom to not just give money to an organization, but contribute actual talent to solve real world problems they are facing.”
The project began with significant communication between Chilgren’s team and the Actors Fund to identify the website’s most pressing needs. The Viacom team then presented the nonprofit with recommendations and finally created a prototype of a new website. Each of those steps drew considerably on the Viacom employees’ professional experiences, but more importantly, depended on their ability to combine their different expertise to serve the project. Chilgren highlighted the interdisciplinary aspects of the program: “Working with the other team members, we all gained experience and learned a little bit about areas that don’t involve our day to day.”
As he conducted weekly check-ins with the Actors Fund leadership team and developed a website prototype that matched the organization’s needs, Chilgren gained an appreciation for how a large company like Viacom with extensive resources can work with smaller organizations to benefit both groups. “The most rewarding moment was realizing the impact our work with The Actors Fund would have on people’s actual lives – that thousands of people will be able to better find the services and benefits that they need and depend on through The Actors Fund website,” he said. “We hope The Actors Fund will be able to better communicate their mission through their Web presence, helping to raise more money and allow them to continue to grow and support their amazing community.”
The Actors Fund is working on building the website right now, with the hope that they can soon go from their current site (on the left), to an updated site based upon the Viacom Talent for Good team’s wireframe (on the right):
Chilgren has already paired up with another nonprofit through Talent For Good, conducting a website audit for Live Out Loud, which pairs LGBT youth in high school with mentors and professionals.