Case Study: How Special Olympics–Texas Uses Brick River to Manage Hundreds of Events


Leveraging Brick River's flexibility to empower staff members in 19 area offices

As webmaster for the Texas chapter of Special Olympics, Dave Norris always has a  few dozen events on his website and many more on his radar. This month, for example, at least five of the 19 area offices are hosting virtual wine tasting fundraisers, another four offices are taking registrations for the Guardian Games, and all of them are participating in the USA Games in Orlando. All told, the Texas chapter puts on or promotes more than 300 events a year.
Texas is the second largest chapter of the Special Olympics in the world with a staff of nearly 70. That includes four staffers who work for Dave in the communications office. But Dave realized early on that the only way—and the best way—to stay on top of all these events was to empower the program staff in the area offices to build and maintain the events pages. The flexibility and ease of use of the Brick River system made it the perfect tool for the job. 

“I’m known as the website guy, but actually there are a lot of people working on the website in some way,” says Dave, whose official title is Executive Director of Communications and Marketing.  “That’s the number one advantage of Brick River for me: It allows for a very dispersed model. 

“Brick River makes it very easy for me to manage a lot of user accounts for our 19 offices around the state—to give people access only when they need it. Doing that with an enterprise system would have required a huge investment in site licenses and user accounts.”

Sharing control through flexible user accounts

Pushing website access down to where the shoe rubber meets the road offers a big payoff in speed and efficiency. “Recently we had some events that occurred during a heat wave,” Dave reports. “The program folks needed to post warnings and updates on the website. I wouldn't have been able to keep on top of all the details.”

The other key to the dispersed model is simple training tools that people actually use. “I’ve created five (one page)  tutorials to train staff on the Brick River CMS,” Dave explains. “The events module is very easy to use. Staff members can build their own pages from forms and update them easily.”

The events pages are critical to the success of the Texas Special Olympics website. The top of the home page is dominated by large buttons to become an athlete or a volunteer, and to donate now or visit the store, Dave estimates that more than 90% of the traffic is functional—coaches, athletes, and parents looking for information, mostly about events.

Sending out 30K e-newsletters each week

The communications team also disseminates information in other ways. They are heavy users of the contacts and the email modules, sending out a weekly newsletter to 30,000 members. Fundraising appeals—including the donate button and the store on the Texas SO site—are managed by the national Special Olympics team using the donations platform called Give Butter, which integrates well with Brick River according to Dave.


In addition to being the heart beat of the SOTX website, the events also stir the passions of everyone involved with SO, including Dave. Before joining SO three years ago, Dave spent a decade as a marketing director for a company in the product space. “I was pretty burnt out,” he recalls. “I was ready to work for a non-profit in the social good space. That’s the way I live my life outside of work and I was looking to incorporate those values into my job.

“It’s a great feeling, attending events and seeing our athletes smile. I never had that sort of feeling when working for a product-driven company.”

More photos of Special Olympics athletes in action