Laura Oppenheimer
Laura Oppenheimer
Interview: YogaBear’s Halle Tecco
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Providing cancer survivors with opportunities for wellness and healing through the practice of yoga is the goal of YogaBear, a nonprofit Ning Network started by Network Creator and YogaBear Founder Halle Tecco. Tecco isn’t an easy woman to track down; she’s busy running the organization, working on an MBA at Harvard Business School and contributing to publication like the Huffington Post. Luckily, we were able to grab a few minutes of her time to chat about how YogaBear was started, why they chose to use Ning and what other nonprofits can do to build out a web presence.

1-for-webWhere did you get the idea to start YogaBear?
In college I interned at Columbia Hospital, where I was working on a music therapy project. This is when I became interested in ‘alternative’ therapies like music, art, language and yoga. My boss, a PhD in neurophysiology and neuropsychology, knew I loved yoga and shared with me one of the early western studies of yoga for cancer. I thought this was a great opportunity to get more involved in the cancer community, and a few years later I decided to turn the idea into action.

Is there a typical member of YogaBear?
Our online members include yoga instructors, cancer patients and survivors, volunteers, and fans. Ages range from 18-71, with the average age being 42. Members are from all over the world, although the majority are from the US (because this is where our offline programs are).

How do you attract new members to join. Do you do any offline marketing?
We were lucky enough to receive a grant from Google, which allows us free ads. However, most of our marketing is from word-of-mouth, articles in the press and our volunteers who work with local communities.

How did you choose to build out YogaBear’s online presence on Ning?
Before we used Ning, my boyfriend was our “CTO” and we used Google App Engine. The organization was just starting to pick up, so we were always needing to make changes and updates to the website. The job got too big for him, so I began looking for ways to manage the website myself. I explored many options, and the other volunteers and I decided we liked the social-networking functionality of Ning.We found that it was an easy and seamless way to build and manage our online presence.

How does your Ning Network interact with other social media channels YogaBear uses?
We use our Ning Network as the hub, and augment this with our Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook pages. For instance, when we post a new blog post on our Ning site, we announce this on Twitter. And when we make new videos on YouTube, they automatically show up on our website because we’ve embedded our YouTube channel centrally.

What advice would you give for people looking to create a Ning Network for a cause or nonprofit organization?
First, take the time to learn basic HTML.  Second, it’s tempting to add all the bells and whistles to the site, but this can actually be a burden for users. Figure out which features are core to your existence and focus on those. If a feature isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to cut it completely. For instance, we learned that more members were likely to RSVP to events on Facebook than our Ning network. So we cut this feature out, and left more room for [other features], like the forum and blog.