University of Arkansas students create websites for nonprofit organizations


In recent years, the rise of website use has created entirely new markets — but with new markets come new challenges. For nonprofit organizations especially, the struggle to find inexpensive websites continues, but ChangeForge aims to change that. 

Founded on Feb. 16 by four students from the University of Arkansas including David Stevens, designer and programmer, Joshua Owen, programmer, Melodie Hays, publicist, and Matt Engledowl, systems reliability engineer, Changeforge is an student-run organization that codes and creates websites for nonprofit organizations.

The organization currently includes 12 members both inside the United States and around the world. The club was founded by the Stevens and is located in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Changeforge is a student organization made of software programmers, said Joshua Owens, a University of Arkansas senior. 

"We basically build non-profits' websites at cost. So whatever our cost is to build the website for them, we charge them,” Owens said.

The club emerged out of an interest in aiding nonprofit organizations, Owens said. 

The members of the group were doing work for “portfolio expansion” during their senior year and noticed that nonprofits paid extremely large amounts for Web services, up to $5,000, for example, in addition to $2,000 weekly fees, Owens said. 

"(They) were being swindled," he said. "(Those websites were) Wordpress blogs with $25 templates installed." 

In contrast, the Changeforge club charges a much lower rate. The cost amounts to a one-time $150 initial fee in addition to any usual expenses associated with maintain a website, he said. 

This low-cost philosophy of ChangeForge ties heavily into the “open Web” movement. The “open Web” movement refers to the treatment of code, specifically source code — it aims for all or most source code to be open-source.

“The open Web movement is kind of about everything being open-source and not tracking everything you do on an individual basis,” Owens said. 

Source code is not typically made public, as companies wish to safeguard their techniques and ideas. The source code for Facebook, for example, is under copyright and only viewable by Facebook employees. Therefore, he said the spread and use of safeguarded source code is monitored by law. 

Open source code, in contrast, is freely obtainable and even modifiable by any and every person. Within limits, open source code is unrestricted. The websites designed by ChangeForge are such, and available for download at Github.com. The club freely advertises itself as such.

ChangeForge heavily emphasizes the ease of open source code because it considers websites to be of paramount importance to nonprofit organizations, Owens said. 

“It’s about speed. You can look up the websites of 100 nonprofits and you’ll find how slow they are,” Owens said. “When you see an organization, and you see they have a website, you’re going to want to be involved, and you’re going to take them much more professionally.”

Organizations with better websites have more probability of success.

ChangeForge designs websites in two one-to-two week periods. So far, the club has had “126 people signup” and has designed 18 websites. 

At the current rate of output, the club averages around 20 websites every two weeks, Owens said. Most of the clients so far have been churches in the Arkansas area.

The club has no current customers in the Rutgers area, but plans to expand their business in the future.

“I would say we have worldwide reach. In the United States definitely, Europe, specifically London and Pakistan,” Owens said. 

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Jonathan Xiong is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in biology. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. See more on Twitter @ra567.


Jonathan Xiong

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