Jaki LevyDid you know that WordPress and WP Engine’s platform can enable community, arts, and not-for-profit groups?

I recently chatted to Jaki Levy of Arrow Root Media, who gave some great examples of how he and his team are using WP Engine to save time, money, and effort for community organizations.

Dance Films Association

One example we discussed was Dance Films Association (DFA), an organization that has been around for over 40 years. DFA runs the longest-running film festival in the world that focuses solely on dance and choreography.

Jaki explained that previously, DFA was paying a high price for a membership system that didn’t integrate with their email list, link to their website, or provide sufficient reporting.

His team at Arrow Root Media was able set up Dance Films on WordPress, using BuddyPress as well as a recurring membership arrangement. This meant that everything could run on the one system.

Like many nonprofits, DFA relies on an external vendor (us) to run their WordPress site. Nonetheless, they are administering a very active online community. We provide the tech and strategic support, while they do all the content and community updates. And they are doing an awesome job running with it!

Here’s a case study of how Jaki and his team built out the site, including the plugins they are using for the film festival.

Kickstarter Campaign

On January 30th, 2014, DFA launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a digital archive of dance films. Dance Films raised $13,243—much more than their original goal of $10,000.

Jaki credits this achievement to the fact that Dance Films now has a working membership website, which allows them to easily reach out through their members.

Dance Films Association jumping for joy at reaching their Kickstarter goal

Dance Films Association dancing for joy after making their kickstarter goal


Jaki is also involved in [freespace], a community hacking project based in San Francisco. [freespace] were given access to a 14,000 square foot space in San Francisco, which they opened up for anybody in the community to make use of, in the spirit of open-source:

We thought about it—the way open-source is built in such a way that anybody can contribute. We wanted to open a space that had an open source ethos. Anybody can contribute to the space. Everybody can make the space their own. Anybody can host their events.

mural on the wall at [freespace]

Artists self organized to create a mural on the wall at [freespace]

Jaki told me that—the very same day we held this interview—a new [freespace] had opened up in Paris. Their first event at the space was a fashion hackathon.

In further evidence that [freespaces] are taking off, a national initiative was announced to help more [freespaces] launch across the United States during this year’s SXSW Interactive Conference—in partnership with the National Day of Civic Hacking.

[freespace] Running on a WP Engine Multisite

It was exciting to find out that the Paris [freespace] is running on WP Engine—on the same multisite install that the San Francisco [freespace] runs on. Jaki explained to me that he is able to spin up a new city site with just a couple of clicks.

If some other city wants to do a new [freespace], I have all the themes, plugins, documentation ready to go. I go through and I provision a new account. I’m able to clone it, and it’s up and running in a couple of minutes.

Use-Case for Copy Site

We chatted about WP Engine’s new Copy Site functionality, which Jaki says he’ll use next time someone wants to set up a [freespace] in a new city (the feature was released just after Jaki created the Paris [freespace] site).

Using Copy Site will give the new city [freespace] organizers greater freedom to customize, while still sharing all of the basic functionality, themes, plugins, and features of the original site.

Building Community with WordPress

It was really wonderful to hear about the ways WordPress and WP Engine are being used to empower organizations in the community and arts sectors.

A big thank you to Jaki for taking time out to chat to me about the groundbreaking and, frankly—pretty darn cool—projects he’s been working on!

Want to learn more about Jaki? Check out our Finely Tuned Consultant interview from 2013.


Are you building communities with WordPress? Let us know in the comments below!