The Posse Foundation
Some programs are about helping students get into college. Others are about helping them stay there. The Posse Foundation is about changing the face of American leadership. This unique nonprofit foundation makes a lifelong commitment to each student taken under its wing—and the members of Posse extend that same spirit of mentoring and giving back when they enter the workforce.
Founded in 1989, Posse started because of one student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.“ Each year, Posse serves thousands of nominated students by selecting and training hundreds of Posse Scholars and matching them with more than 30 partnering universities offering four-year, full-tuition scholarships. The foundation identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes, and embeds them in something between a family and a community, helping them succeed not only in college, but professionally, for a lifetime.
The online worlds of non-profit and higher education are full of clichés. These tired visual tropes inspire no one. They do not adequately reflect a “normal” university experience, let alone one as unique as what Posse offers. Clearly, the new site couldn’t just look like any other non-profit or genre-typical construction.
Nor was cliché dodging the only visual challenge. The new site had to serve several seemingly disparate audiences without playing too broadly to any one in particular. It had to say “youth” without appearing young. To speak to university partners, the site had to look reputable without being too “ivory tower.” And for career partners, the site had to feel professional without looking stuffy. The new design had to work naturally for all three audiences while always feeling authentically and uniquely like itself.
Numbers as wayfinding
From the moment we first visited Posse, we were stunned by the success of their scholars. A 90% graduation rate, over $200 million in awarded scholarships, and a 33-university partnership are just a handful of the amazing statistics we discovered. These numbers are another way of telling the Posse story, so it made sense to use them as an alternate pathway through the site (in addition to a more traditional, audience-based navigation).
Bigger shoes to grow into
Powered by a largely out-of-the-box copy of Expression Engine, the new Posse site had to be scalable. For the initial launch, the back-end system acts only as a web publishing system. However, the already-in-progress next phase will allow for robust features such as user profiles and private messaging. We built the back-end extensibly enough that it would easily grow, without forcing site administrators to act as technicians.
An ongoing process
Although the Posse team is now armed with a robust content management system that allows them to be self-sufficient, Happy Cog continues to work with the organization to roll out features for both internal and external audiences. The new Posse site informs and educates a broad readership, but there’s much more in store for the online Posse world. Future rollouts will more precisely serve Posse’s scholars, its university partners, and the administrators of career programs. We’re delighted to continue working with an organization that is so effective at changing the face of leadership.