With more than 800 million websites on WordPress alone, it should come as no surprise that some incredible organizations are using it to serve their communities. Here at Pressable, we are grateful for the opportunity we have to provide many of them with managed WordPress hosting.
This new series, which we’re calling “Hosting For Good,” will highlight some of the organizations that are using technology to give back to the community. The work they’re doing is changing the world, and we’re excited to share their stories with you. We hope the series encourages you and inspires the work you do with WordPress and beyond.
Providing every community in the nation with reliable, accurate information they can use in their daily lives? This mission is why Extension Foundation is an excellent example of hosting for good.
To really appreciate the foundation’s good work, you have to know a bit about how higher education works.
In higher ed, knowledge is meant to be shared within the academic community and built upon. Academics accomplish this mission through teaching and research. But the mission is even more significant for the U.S.’s 112 land-grant colleges and universities.
These 112 schools also are responsible for extension, which means reaching out and extending the university’s research and resources to serve the community and meet public needs. One of the ways the Extension Foundation helps these schools accomplish this goal is through approximately 100 extension project WordPress websites.
“The purpose of the cooperative extensions in these states and at the county level is to help solve problems or develop skills to build a better future where people live and work,” said Aaron Weibel, the Extension Foundation’s communication and engagement manager.
There are thousands of university- and county-based extension employees and more than two million volunteers nationally to help land grant universities accomplish this mission.
Technology for Community Service
When the Extension Foundation formed in 2006, it aimed to create custom technology platforms to help extensions distribute research-based, helpful content to the public.
“It was our mission at the time to be America’s biggest knowledge network to help people solve problems in their homes and their communities using research,” Aaron said.
Less than a decade later, the extension realized there was no need to build custom platforms anymore. They could just use WordPress.
So, with the help of the content management system, they began using the websites to help all of these extensions make a greater impact in their local communities.
“We migrated all of the great content being produced in these communities to WordPress sites,” Aaron said. “Right now, there are about 95 sites that are available.”
These sites range in topic from agricultural safety and health to animal welfare, disaster education, and even diversity, equity, and inclusion, depending on the community and the research happening at the local land grant university.
“It’s become a really big collaboration hub,” Aaron said. “Through these communities of practice and these WordPress sites, we’ve created a national presence for content and a way for researchers across the nation to work together on projects instead of duplicating efforts.
“Go to your local land-grant university website, and you’re gonna find an unbelievable amount of resources from the Cooperative Extension Service that are designed to help you in your community and life.”
And the content on these websites is based on academic research, so it’s likely more accurate than many other sites on the same topics, Aaron said.
“I can think of an example of food preservation. There’s a lot of personal blogs out there that share information about food preservation, but it’s not necessarily always accurate. And in some cases, it’s unsafe practices,” he said.
Using WordPress for Good
Serving people through accurate, reliable information is why it’s so necessary for Aaron and his team to help these universities get to the top of search results, locally and nationally. This need to have consistent access to reliable information that the community needs is why having a managed WordPress hosting company behind their sites is essential, Aaron said.
“Things can’t go down,” he said. “And if they do, it has been a relief to have a service available 24/7 that we can reach out to and ask for support on.
“You have folks looking for content to address certain problems they may be having or challenges they may be facing. We want to make sure that people can always access that content.”
In addition to needing reliable sites that are always available, the extension also sometimes has to launch a special site or landing page quickly. When this happens, Aaron said WordPress is a huge benefit.
“The ease at which our technology team is able to stand up a sandbox WordPress website and then eventually transfer that over to a domain has been really helpful,” he said. “It streamlined the process.”
Partnerships for the People
The Extension Foundation helps land-grant colleges and universities serve the population with reliable information they can use in their daily lives. This information is housed through WordPress websites and hosted by Pressable.
The work the foundation supports is just one of many examples of how people use WordPress and reliable managed hosting for good. We are proud to support the incredible work they do, and we encourage you to check out your own local extension… you never know what you might learn!