February 5, 2016

Nominate a Campaign or Initiative for the Care2 Impact Prize by Midnight!

This is an invitation straight from our friends at Care2:

Know of a prize-worthy campaign or initiative in the charity sector? Nominations are still open through the end of today!

Each year, Care2 awards the Care2 Impact Prize to honor a campaign or initiative in the charity sector that has made an outstanding impact on the field of online advocacy, online fundraising or both.

The award will be presented at the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose in March.

The deadline for nominations is midnight on Friday, February 5 (that’s tonight!).

Any member of the nonprofit community is welcome to make a nomination. The finalists will be selected by a panel of judges from the pool of nominations, then YOU will vote for the winning initiative!

Will you take a moment to nominate a campaign or initiative that has made an impact?

Thank you for honoring these heroic efforts.

February 4, 2016

Be a Guest Author for Connect: Measuring Impact

“Show me the impact.” Have you ever uttered these words? Do they stir in you motivation, excitement, perhaps a little nerdy thrill? Spin that excitement into 800-1,200 words in Connect next month! March’s theme is “Measuring Impact.”

Do you adore data visualization? Are you carrying some serious how-to action on better grant reporting in your pocket? Do you have some burning dashboarding successes to share? This is a chance to shine!

Connect articles generally include the following (you can check out our guidelines and monthly themes here):

  • 800-1,200 words
  • At least one evocative image (700px wide or greater) that you either own rights to or are under Creative Commons license
  • 2-3 sentence bio
  • Profile photo

Kindly note that Connect articles are about ideas, not products or services.

If you have an idea for a guest article, please email me and let me know! The deadline for March Connect articles is February 21.

And thanks to all you wonderful impact nerds!


Steph Routh
Steph is Content Manager at NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network. She has spent over a decade in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on organizational development, communications, fundraising, and program planning. Steph served as the first Executive Director of Oregon Walks for five years prior to joining NTEN. She is passionate about removing barriers to opportunities and finding equity at the many intersections of social justice work. And she feels lucky every day she is at NTEN, with a Community that does exactly that. Outside the NTEN office, Steph is the Mayor of Hopscotch Town, a consulting and small publishing firm that inspires and celebrates fun, lovable places for everyone. Steph is married to her bicycle and an aunt of two.
February 4, 2016

A Brief History of Tech Clubs in Poland

Our Tech Club meetings, held on the first Wednesday of each month, have already attracted thousands of people from all over Poland. The formula created by NTEN and transplanted into Poland has proven to be exactly what local NGOs need!

Washington, D.C., Boston, Kraków, New York, Kielce, San Francisco, Lublin, Wrocław, Portland, and Austin. If you have not guessed yet what the cities on the opposite sides of the ocean have in common, the answer is simple: Each of them is a host to a local Tech Club. Regular panels devoted to technology and social considerations in the nonprofit sector have caught on so much that it is hard to imagine not having them.

How It All Began

Poland’s first Tech Clubs were launched through an initiative in cooperation with NTEN, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, and the Information Society Development Foundation.

“The meetings have become one of the Foundation’s strategic activities, supporting our mission to use global IT-related trends for local development in Polish conditions,” says Rafal Kramza, CEO of the Information Society Development Foundation.


Polish Tech Clubs are present in 16 cities, with operations covering almost the entire country. Meetings take place in all kinds of locations—cafés and clubs, university lecture halls, technology parks, and design centers. They gather hundreds of people every month, and have attracted more than 7,000 participants since the beginning. They are attended not only by NGO activists, but also by representatives of scientific, business, start-up, and student communities. This is largely due to the subjects discussed during Tech Club meetings, which are widely varied and adjusted to current needs. The most popular lectures are those on social media, fundraising and crowdfunding, graphics design, content publishing, and network security. But aside from those, many other equally interesting considerations are being addressed.

These Meetings Are Different

Obviously, education and expert support for local NGOs are the main objective of the Tech Clubs in Poland. However, the character of the meetings inspires additional activities—networking, discussions, and community-building around Tech Clubs are all very important aspects of those events.

“Much to my surprise, it turned out that it was not just another technology-only meeting,” admits Stanisław Skolimowski, a participant of the Tech Club in Lublin. “It is an attempt to focus on operators to whom the final projects could be really relevant.”

“I think that there should be more such meetings,” says Piotr Celiński, a media expert from the Digital Culture Institute (Instytut Kultury Cyfrowej). “I like the formula, as it is comprehensive and universal enough to accommodate a range of subjects.”

Creative Partnerships

In addition, Polish Tech Clubs involve cooperation with large companies, which can be mutually beneficial. A research project on foresight is currently under way, carried out by Tech Clubs in partnership with DELAB, an R&D unit established jointly by Google and the University of Warsaw, which promotes the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the economy. ICT knowledge and experience are also exchanged on an annual basis with the involvement of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the largest NGO charity initiative in Poland, which provides aid for sick children and the elderly. Tech Clubs offer technology support for the initiative, which engages millions of Poles every year.

For some time, the Polish Tech Club operator—the Information Society Development Foundation –has been receiving inquiries from Poland’s neighbor, the Ukraine, regarding the possibilities of expanding the TechClub concept there, which is equally responsive to such activities.

Tech Club meetings in Poland are a regular event deeply rooted in the local NGO scene. Beyond any doubt, the idea will continue to expand, and Tech Club meetings will gather an even larger crowd of people craving technology expertise.

Tech Clubs are a part of the New Technologies Locally Program implemented by the Information Society Development Foundation and established by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation. Program activities include a technology portal, conferences and trainings for NGOs, a network of 60 circuit riders, and support for the development of new technology solutions as part of the Innovation Fund.

Dawid Szarański
Dawid Szarański is Program Director of the Information Society Development Foundation. He graduated from the University of Silesia, the University of Wolverhampton (UK), a post-graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics. He has a 10-year professional experience in marketing and project management. His areas of interest are virtual network management and the data management.
February 3, 2016

Email Segmentation: The Whys and Hows of Targeting Your Audience

If you’re anything like me, your email list is your work baby.

You’ve worked hard to build your organization’s email list. You send out a regular newsletter with all your latest links and information. You A/B test your subject lines and monitor your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not.

You do all these wonderful things to take care of your list and as a result, your open and click-through rates are on par with nonprofit averages.

But you don’t want to be average. You want to be great: a leader, the head of the pack, the top of the class. You want your boss to say “wow!” at your next review.

Meanwhile, your boss and fellow staff members don’t quite understand what it takes to increase open and click-through rates, especially in this day and age when people are so inundated with information. And sometimes, they can get even get in the way of your organization’s success without even realizing it.

For example, one day during a check-in meeting with your boss she tells you how excited she is about the newest partnership you’ve formed with another organization. She can’t wait to tell the world about it and wants you to put an announcement the next e-letter.

The problem is there’s not much of a story to tell quite yet so this information is only relevant to a small group of your closest supporters. Now what?

You’re in a bind—you don’t want to be the one to always say “no” to these kinds of requests, because you know how important this partnership is to her. At the same time, you also don’t want to keep sending out announcements that not many people care about and risk having low click-through rates or people unsubscribing.

Don’t you wish there was a way you could say “yes” to your boss’s request and improve your open and click-through rates?

This is where email segmentation comes in.

Instead of sending information to everyone, you can use email segmenting to send an email to one specific slice of your list.

If you haven’t used this tactic yet, this will bring your email strategy to the next level. When done right, you’ll see much higher open and click-through rates for emails sent to one segment. Another benefit is people on your list will get more information about things they like to hear about, and less information about topics they don’t care about. You can interact with influencers more often without bothering your more casual subscribers. And, finally, you can say “yes” when your boss tells you to send out an announcement you know your entire list doesn’t want to hear about.

Here’s how to get started segmenting your email list:

The first step is to figure out how to divide your list. You can break up your list by interest, audience type, and/or an action they’ve taken.

Let’s use an email list for an animal shelter as an example. Here are some ways to divide that list:

Interest: Dogs, cats, rabbits, or some combination of the three types of animals you take in.

Audience type: Volunteers at the shelter, animal foster parents, animal activists, and people who have adopted an animal from your shelter or who are interested in adopting.

Action they’ve taken: Whether they’ve donated in the past, signed up for your animal wellness training, or opened or clicked one of your recent email campaigns.

More than likely, many people on your list will fall into more than one of these groups, and that’s ok.

Next, figure out how to sort people into those groups.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use the information you already have in your database to segment your email list
  • Ask people about their interests when they sign up for your enewsletter
  • Track which page people were visiting when they signed up for your enewsletter online
  • Sort people based on what kinds of events they attended: If they attended a volunteer orientation, you can put them in the “volunteer” group; if they attended a bunny basics class, you can put them into the “rabbits,” “attended training,” and “potential adoptee” groups, etc.
  • Use their open and click activity from past emails to sort them into groups. This is a good practice to help you divide the more and less engaged subscribers and target your emails accordingly

If you use MailChimp, this guide can walk you through the process in more detail.

Finally, start sending targeted emails to your segments. You should target both your highly engaged subscribers and your more casual subscribers in different ways.

For more engaged groups, send emails that feature one highly-targeted article, announcement, or resource roundup. Don’t worry—you don’t have to create new content just to send emails to your segments. These emails can include information that you may have already featured or are going to feature in your regular newsletter. You can also send these groups “sneak peeks” of new resources to generate some buzz before you make a more formal announcement.

For less engaged subscribers, use email segmentation to experiment with new messages and subject lines. For example, if people didn’t click on the “donate” button in your latest email fundraising campaign, target that audience and try a new email format, video, or story to see what might resonate with them.

Another easy segment to target is people who didn’t open a previous campaign. Copy your most recent email and send it again a week or two later with a different subject line to the people who didn’t open the first one.

Don’t be surprised if emails sent to less engaged groups have a lower open and click-through rate than your regular newsletter. However, this practice gives you another opportunity to reach people on the outskirts of your list and may boost the total number of clicks to the articles in your newsletter.

Final note: Email is one of your best communications tools to reach multiple audiences. Segmentation gives you many possibilities to increase engagement with both your power users and your more casual subscribers. Go give it a try!

Rebecca Reyes
Rebecca runs Spring Media Strategies helping nonprofits and social enterprises analyze their marketing channels, create digital marketing campaigns and strategies, and train people to use new technologies. She identifies tools and strategies to help organizations work smarter. She is also the communications manager at Everyday Democracy, managing all of the organization’s online communication channels. Connect with her on Twitter @mnrebs.
February 2, 2016

The Mindful Community Manager

Often, a digital community develops from the needs of a few users with questions. Those users start a Facebook group. They could be volunteers who want to have a place to talk to each other, or teams who are working at diverse geographic locations and need a central place for information sharing.

The community grows organically for a while, but when the organization hires a community manager to manage this valuable resource, they must give that manager clear intentions for the purpose of the community and the direction they’d like to see it develop. That manager must also consider the voice and style of the community so as not to upset the membership. If changes need to be made, they should be done with consideration of and compassion for the members who have invested time and thought into the community.

What Is a Community Manager’s Role?

It’s common to think of a community manager as a moderator: someone to control the messaging and make sure things stay on track. While that’s a part of their role, there is so much more to community management than this! Although they do administer and/or create the rules for the community, they guide the members in a direction that educates, facilitates discussion, and helps each other succeed.

A talented community manager is a nurturer, an arbiter of quarrels, a font of information and resources, and a facilitator of discussions that encourage growth.

In order to do their job to the best of their abilities, they must clearly understand and be mindful of the goals of the organization as well as the goals of the membership. These may be two very different things, so there may or may not be more guidance necessary to ensure the goals of all parties converge and balance.

Finding the “Mavens”

Once you have the intentions clearly in mind you can review the community and discover people who are natural “mavens.” Mavens are people who communicate freely, are generous with their time, and generally have an uplifting presence within the group. People are drawn to them because they have a way of making the other members feel heard and valued.

Obviously, this is a characteristic of any good community manager, but sometimes the community manager has the job of enforcer. While you want your community to feel valued and cherished, it helps to align with your mavens to create a team who can work together to grow a community that is engaged and happy.

Working with your mavens can be rewarding for you both. Here are a few ideas to support them to the benefit of all:

  • Publicly recognize their help and accomplishments. Gratitude is a powerful force to deepen relationships
  • Give them insights into new developments within the organization and let them be the ones to share some of the breaking news
  • Educate them on specific tools or processes important to the organization or doing their own duties
  • Encourage them to message or email you directly with any issues or questions
  • Acknowledge their connection with the members by asking them to single out the stars for recognition
  • Work with the people who may have a negative opinion or experience, too. Help them understand you are listening and there to help

The community is made up of a lot of different personalities and beliefs. And we don’t really want them all to be assimilated into a homogenous community. We want everyone to be free to have their own voice (within reason). If everyone has the same opinions then there is no good discussion it’s all Sameville. Sameville is boring. Vibrant communities are full of all kinds of people and opinions, including the occasional dust up.

One of the least understood characteristics of a good community manager is the ability to scan the community, nurture the people who need nurturing, and give help or instruction to the ones who need that. This is rarely even noticed—they’re not managing out in the open, but behind the scenes. They’re talking to people in direct messages with personal support, ideas for topics that are useful, suggesting edits, or asking clarifying questions prompting more useful discussion. They create chemistry between individuals, empowering them to be better together.

Emotional Intelligence and the Community Manager

When encountering someone who seems angry and obstreperous, the knee-jerk up impulse is to dismiss or get mad right back at them. But, if we are present and mindful, we look to see why that person is responding this way. There may be a underlying reason that needs to be addressed. Simply talking to them can turn a troll into an evangelist and a supporter of the community. It simply takes opening your heart and listening, then using what you learn to make the community a better place.

I am not saying that every community should be a bed of roses where everyone is happy and dancing together. I’m saying we need to encourage diversity and allow people their own opinions without trying to restrict them too much. If they are being aggressive towards other members, dealing with that one-on-one rather than publicly is often the best route.

Sometimes we have to step back a bit. We need to take a breath or go for a walk if need be before we respond to someone in the community who is being troublesome. We put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand why they’re behaving the way they are behaving. Is there maybe a valid reason? Are they feeling ill? Is there something about the person they’re arguing with that we don’t know, like the history of the argument? As a community manager, it’s your job to get to the bottom of it without making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Bottom line? A mindful community manager is aware of the intentions of the organization and the community members and seeks to enable them. She listens with compassion and shares information generously and supports rather than limits. He nurtures individuals to help them be the best they can be. A good community manager is a jewel to  nurture and celebrate!

Learn more! Join Janet for NTEN’s Ask the Expert event: Mindful Social Media for Nonprofits.

Janet Fouts
Janet Fouts is Founder and CEO of Tatu Digital Media, a San Jose Digital Marketing Agency. Founded in 1996, Tatu Digital works with a range of clients from tiny non-profits to Fortune 50 corporations to manage brand reputation, create effective social business strategies, manage campaigns, search engine optimization and marketing. Janet is a frequently requested speaker on the topics of digital marketing and social business at conferences and within corporations around the world. She has written 5 books, including the recently published: Mindful Social Marketing: How Authenticity and Generosity are Transforming Marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @jfouts
February 1, 2016

The Motivating Spark in a Student’s Eye: Digital Inclusion Fellowship Voices

In May 2015, NTEN and Google Fiber launched the Digital Inclusion Fellowship, a new national program investing in local communities and nonprofit organizations to address the digital divide. Sixteen Fellows are working this year on projects that include setting up basic computer skills courses, increasing home Internet usage, and volunteer recruitment and training. Naymar Prikhodko shares her recent work as a Fellow in Austin, Texas, working for the Skillpoint Alliance.

The Digital Inclusion in Austin report, released in 2014 by the University of Texas, suggests that over 50,000 Austinites do not use the Internet. This is due to various factors, including affordability and relevancy, among others. Two-thirds of non-users stated they cannot afford this technology, since they lack both stable employment and the security to maintain a comfortable living. Two in five of resident non-users reported a lack of interest in technology. Tens of thousands of residents have limited or no access to online government services, online banking, electronic health portals, and social media.

Connecting People with Resources

In addition to affordability and a sense of relevancy, I find that lack of skills is a major barrier in overcoming the problem. As a Digital Inclusion Fellow (DIF) working at the Skillpoint Alliance, I find that confidence, skills, and multi-platform literacy are important elements to focus on. In my role as a Fellow, I aim to create awareness about the importance of the use of technology in my community; to connect people with resources (computer literacy programs, low cost devices, affordable internet services, etc.); and to create learning material for facilitating workshops on the use of technology in order to empower non-user residents and help them enjoy the benefit of getting online.

The Empower Computer Proficiency Program (ECPP)—a program at the Skillpoint Alliance—consists of a 6-week series of computer proficiency training classes for adults covering the basics, such as using the Internet and creating an email or word document. Participants learn to master both fundamental and advanced features of Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Classes are held at Allan Elementary School and are taught in both English and Spanish. After completing the course, participants will have increased their computer literacy and gained the confidence to compete in the modern job market.

After graduating, most of our students seriously consider purchasing Internet access, because they realize how integral the Internet has become to everyday tasks, like paying bills, applying for jobs, searching for medical information, and helping with kids’ homework. In our last Empower Graduation Ceremony, we graduated almost 50 students. Since I started working at here in July 2014, we have increased our number of Spanish classes offered from 25% to 75% each quarter.  We started the New Year with full classes and more people on the wait list than ever.

Accessing Public Computers

In addition to promoting the Empower series, I am working on a pilot program with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA). The Lab Apprenticeship Program (LAP) promotes technology literacy, education, professional development and training at HACA’s low-income housing properties. Simultaneously, LAP aims to provide critical support to over 1,400 low-income residents accessing public computers in three of HACA’s public housing communities: Meadowbrook, Booker T. Washington Terrace, and North Loop.

LAP aims to create a pool of individuals with solid foundation in computer proficiency and lab management. The Apprentices or Computer Lab Assistants (CLAs) at the end of the year will accumulate the necessary skills and experience to apply for full-time employment positions with organizations such as community centers, public libraries and schools. LAP includes three days of intensive training in three main areas: employee development and labor relations, basic troubleshooting tools for PCs and Windows, and basic facilitation principles appealing to most adults in the process of taking in and assimilating information.

Whether I am promoting Empower, supervising and training CLAs on how to use technology efficiently, or facilitating a workshop for parents or parents’ specialists in the use of technology for empowering people, I do my work with passion, dedication and commitment. The key factor that inspires me to work in favor of bridging the digital divide is the satisfaction of creating educational opportunities for them to benefit from the power of getting online.

The Wonder of Full Screen Mode

Deanne Q and company

Deanne Q. is one of the Computer Lab Assistants (CLAs) in the LAP program. Her inner motivation to do her job professionally inspires me. Deanne is in her 70’s, a HACA resident, and the Team Lead at Booker T. Washington. Deanne needs to take three buses to get to the computer lab on time on Saturdays. Deanne does not speak Spanish, and her students speak little English. However, she manages to explain to her students the advantages of using the Internet. I asked Deanne what inspires her to sacrifice her Saturdays and fight all the odds to get to the computer lab on time. She said with a big smile, “The satisfaction of seeing my students’ delight when they realize they can use a computer with confidence. Didn’t you see, Nay, the spark in my student’s eyes when she realized she can watch YouTube videos in full screen mode?” She said her student said, “At home, I watched all my YouTube videos on a screen so tiny. I didn’t know there was such a thing as full screen mode.”

Much like Deanne, I am also motivated when my CLAs let me know that they feel more confident helping other HACA residents lose their fear in using computers. It inspires me when HACA residents tell me that, thanks to the CLAs, they are able to set up an email account and use it to communicate with family, friends, or even with their doctors.

I also feel encouraged to do my job when participants of the Basic Computer Skills for parents tell me, “I can now use Google translator to communicate with my children’s teachers, yes!” Or when these parents share their joy of being able to use Skype or Facebook to reconnect with people in their country without spending a lot of money for phone calls.

As a DIF, I intend to continue sparking people’s interest in their education so that they can contribute to the development of our community through employment and support of others who are currently lacking in technological and digital skills.

Naymar Prikhodko
Naymar Prikhodko is a trilingual social worker who speaks fluently Spanish, French, and English. A native of Venezuela received her Associate in Computer Science degree from the Capital Region Technological Institute, Caracas, Venezuela. Naymar received her Bachelor in Social Work degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She began her career in the field of social services working with Spanish speakers and English speakers for several years within the Austin Independent School District and the Round Rock District. Naymar continued expanding her community services by co-facilitating and organizing the religious and faith formation program for both the English and Hispanic population at St. Louis Catholic Church where she worked for six years. Since 2011, Naymar has been working as a facilitator for the Spanish class at two International Montessori schools. For more than three years, she has been developing a fun easy and interactive program to teach Spanish for children in a bilingual setting. She has been a team member and Bilingual facilitator for the Overton Group since September 2013. Naymar was selected as Digital Inclusion Fellow working for Skillpoint Alliance in June 2015. As a NTEN member and Skillpoint Alliance fellow, Naymar supports and believes the mission of both organizations to expand the economic growth and development of people in the community through a cultural exchange vision that emphasizes the use of technology while addressing the need to develop local talent through educational opportunities leading to college and career success to empower the fulfillment of the individual in our society.
February 1, 2016

5 Ways to Draw the Community Into Your Events

Here in Victoria, B.C., the nonprofit and tech communities are fairly tight-knit; but some of these communities seem to operate in separate spheres that don’t necessarily overlap. As organizers of NetSquared Victoria—which is part of the NTEN 501 Tech Club program—bringing together these communities to share ideas and resources is part of our mission.

Here are some strategies we’ve used to draw different communities to our events and get community members more engaged.

  1. Start a Needs Parade. We end all of our events with a “needs parade,” a chance for speakers, volunteers, or attendees to deliver a 30-second pitch about a specific need to the group. Needs can be anything from, “I’m new to Victoria and I’m looking for work as a social media manager,” to “I’m planning an event and we need sponsors,” to “My rock band needs a drummer—anyone know a drummer?” This is an easy icebreaker that helps prompt connections and conversations that might not have happened otherwise.
  2. Co-sponsor events. Partnering with like-minded organizations to co-sponsor is a great way to get members of both organizations talking to each other and sharing ideas. The women in tech panel we hosted with the Victoria chapter of Ladies Learning Code was one of our most popular events. So popular, in fact, that we’re running another women in tech panel on February 23. We also help organize an annual event called NGO Ho Ho, where small nonprofit groups can celebrate the holidays together at a much bigger and more festive bash than they could throw individually.
  3. Recruit diverse organizers. We think having a large group of diverse organizers who pitch in as they’re able can be better than a small, homogenous group of organizers, even if the smaller group is more devoted and hard-working. That’s because diverse organizers can help attract more diverse speakers and attendees, which leads to livelier discussions at our events and more cross-pollination of ideas. Plus, it’s easier for a small group of devoted, hard-working people to burn out. We’re pretty flexible about the level of time commitment, which makes it easy for organizers to contribute when they’re able to and avoid guilt when they’re not.
  4. Invite varied speakers. In planning our events, we try not to focus too much on speakers from one type of organization or topics that overlap too many months in a row. By inviting presenters with varied experiences, it helps us bring in varied attendees. Often, our event speakers share or retweet our event announcements, too, so it’s also a chance to engage with their communities. Social Media Surgery is a great example of varied speakers. Our last Social Media Surgery featured six “surgeons” (experts on various aspects of online communication and social media) offering one-on-one tips and advice in an informal setting.
  5. Engage the community on social media. We live-tweet our events using the hashtag #Net2Vic and retweet other attendees using the same hashtag. After each event, we also compile highlights using Storify so that others can see the main takeaways, or attendees can recap the key points. In promoting our events, we use other hashtags to indicate geography, such as #YYJ (the airport code for Victoria) or #YYJevents, so that those following the hashtag know about the events even if they don’t know our organization yet. Posting event photos on social media (we give attendees the chance to opt out of photos if they prefer) are also a great way to re-engage attendees after the fact when they tag or share photos.

Engaging members of different communities helps our organization grow and keeps our events useful and relevant. We’d love to know how you’re involving your own communities in events, so leave a comment and let us know!

Susan Johnston Taylor
Susan Johnston Taylor (http://susan-johnston.com) is a freelance writer and a NetSquared Victoria organizer. NetSquared Victoria is a network of nonprofit technology leaders who run monthly meetups in Victoria. We help nonprofits use technology to run their organizations and tell their stories. Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NetSquaredVictoria) and Twitter @netsquaredvic.
February 1, 2016

Announcing the State of the Nonprofit Cloud Report

State of Nonprofit CloudWhen we previously conducted research about the use of cloud services in the nonprofit sector, it was 2011. In that original report, we noted that many nonprofit staff were using hosted services, such as email, without realizing that they were accessing the cloud. We also found that there was strong concern for security of cloud systems, such as databases, though those same organizations were using hosted services for accessing and sharing sensitive data.

At the end of 2015, we partnered with Microsoft Philanthropies to conduct another round of research to get a better sense of the cloud services being used by nonprofits; fears or struggles around using the cloud; and plans for potential expansion.

>> Download the report

We anticipated that some notable changes might have occurred in the years since the last report and certainly have proof of those changes in this new report. Some key findings include:

  • Cloud services are a core part of nonprofit operations, with 100% of survey respondents indicating they use at least two cloud services, up from 80% of survey participants in our last survey.
  • The newest addition to organizations’ cloud services ecosystems is document storage.
  • In comparing installed versus hosted services, respondents noted staff training as important but not likely to have a difference in their selection (contrast this to the results in NTEN’s annual Tech Staffing & Investment research, where respondents indicate that they have the tools they need but not the training to use those tools well).

>> Download the report

We hope you find this report valuable. If you have observations, feedback, ideas, or requests as far as how we can help you and your organization use technology, please let us know.

Amy Sample Ward
Amy Sample Ward is NTEN's CEO. She is also a speaker and author focused on leveraging social technologies for social change. In 2013, Amy co-authored Social Change Anytime Everywhere with Allyson Kapin. She previously co-authored Social by Social: a handbook in using new technologies for social impact. She has worked in and with advocacy organizations, private foundations, and community groups in the US, UK and around the world.
January 28, 2016

Things We Like (January 2016)

A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources and other goodies.

  1. What’s your big idea for bridging the digital divide? Share your best with the Living Progress Challenge.
  2. Share the story of your best work through the medium of video! DoGooder Awards have returned, and submissions are welcome through February 12.
  3. The audio medium of podcasting brings “The League of Awkward Unicorns,” a welcome venue of virtual storytelling about mental illness.
  4. The Storytelling Nonprofit Virtual Conference is also returning.
  5. What if the Jedi returned as a favorite cartoon? Say, a Star Wars / Calvin and Hobbes mash-up?
  6. What if there were an iTunes Terms and Conditions / graphic novel mash-up? Answer: it would be magical.
  7. Observe, 10 times Black women were beyond magical in 2015.
  8. Beyond our atmosphere, the magic of space is observed by a Japanese weather satellite and animated in a loop.
  9. The health benefits of animated looping (also known as “knitting”) are extant. Knits and purls, unite!
  10. Coffee and cereal, unite! Mornings just got a little better (or at least more frenetic).
  11. Hoodies just got a little better (or at least more furry) with this, which allows you to wear your cat wherever you go.
  12. Wherever you go, it’s great to remember that the “Other Side” is not dumb.
  13. If you need a reminder that the other side is not dumb (cross-stitch, tattoo, stencil, etc), maybe you need a typeface. This practical typeface guide is for you.
  14. And here’s a practical guide to being aware of and managing risk, called “What Nonprofits Need to Know About Security.
  15. How aware of penguins are you? Here’s what you need to know about Penguin Awareness Day.
  16. Perhaps you were already aware that apparently Benedict Cumberbatch can’t say “Penguins?”
  17. Or can he? The guy finally beats the word and breaks a smile.
  18. This guy beats Fallout 4 without killing anyone and nearly breaks the game.
Steph Routh
Steph is Content Manager at NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network. She has spent over a decade in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on organizational development, communications, fundraising, and program planning. Steph served as the first Executive Director of Oregon Walks for five years prior to joining NTEN. She is passionate about removing barriers to opportunities and finding equity at the many intersections of social justice work. And she feels lucky every day she is at NTEN, with a Community that does exactly that. Outside the NTEN office, Steph is the Mayor of Hopscotch Town, a consulting and small publishing firm that inspires and celebrates fun, lovable places for everyone. Steph is married to her bicycle and an aunt of two.
January 27, 2016

Stop Winging It! Thoughtful Technology in the Social Sector

Sam and Chris have collaborated for years on the cutting-edge technology program at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) . They’ll be discussing their “product team” model at this year’s NTC in a session called ” Finally, A Model for Delivering Technology In Nonprofits That Works!

Why a Product Team?

Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about the “product team” model which has been so successful for delivering technology at IAVA and a couple of other leading organizations. The crux of this model is that you create a product team inside your organization, charged with stewarding your investments in technology. Adding a product team is a really simple concept, but in practice it ends up being a fundamental shift in how an organization approaches technology.

Why is this shift necessary? Because these days, there’s a new rung on the ladder of work that didn’t really exist 10 years ago. Digital tools used to be products like Excel or Photoshop, and you could hire experienced practitioners to use those tools. Now, much of the software we interact with is on the platform level. Out of the box, they have some functionality, but their real power comes from how you can customize them for your particular needs.

Of course, no one is forcing you to do that. If you’re using out-of-the-box tools and they’re working well for you, by all means you should continue. However it’s much more common for an organization’s technology to be a major source of frustration, or at worst a significant roadblock to its ability to deliver on its mission. We see this as a logical result of the chaotic model of technology management that has been standard practice for so many years.

In contrast, empowering a dedicated team to do that job in a thoughtful, coordinated way is amazingly valuable. It’s the ultimate new force multiplier. And in the competitive landscape we have today, many organizations are experimenting with this new level of power. Perhaps you’re doing it already, or your competitors are.

What It Looks Like in Practice
RRRP-in-myIAVA-2IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP)—its signature case management and referral program—is a great example of how this works. That program started with someone’s idea that IAVA could do case intake and refer veteran members to useful programs and services. Initially it looked like basic case management; but over the course of time, it steadily evolved as new ideas and feedback came in from staff and members. Because the product team was there to steer that evolution, the technology was able to quickly adapt to each of those new ideas. Before long, the RRRP program was doing several things that weren’t even on the radar initially, such as gathering feedback from members about the services that were referred, giving members one-click access to open cases in the online community, publicly publishing the data about the program’s effectiveness, and several other improvements. In the end, the program has evolved quicker, has had greater impact, and has saved countless hours of staff time by automating once-heavily manual processes. These agile changes simply would not have been possible without the product team in place to understand, oversee, and implement them.

It’s a huge return on the product team investment.

That’s what we mean by this approach being a force multiplier. Instead of the all-too-common story of technology getting in everyone’s way, IAVA’s technology is helping make their programs stronger and their staff’s jobs more efficient.

Nearly every one of IAVA’s products—and those of most tech-savvy organizations—is facing that kind of ongoing evolution, where every quarter there are significant insights that lead to new “wouldn’t-it-be-awesome-if”s. That’s the choice you’re making by having a product team. The more capacity you give your product team, the more of your “wouldn’t-it-be-awesome-if”s can come true.


Investment Level

Of course, this model is really based on internal staffing, which can give some organizations some initial sticker shock. It’s not necessarily the technology itself that makes good tech cost so much—it’s the staffing. You have to seriously invest in people to steward your technology or it won’t be successful. And the more capacity you have— if it’s the right kind of product management capacity—the less technological pain you should have to take on.

Most organizations only come to understand this after years of painful tech frustration. But ultimately it’s much more cost-effective to invest in people who can ensure your tech operation is strategic and executed well, rather than to skimp and try to get by without active management of your tech investments.

For good technology you need real involvement and care. Maybe you can find ways to do things cheaper here and there. But even that takes time and care. And often, the cheaper you get it, the more you’ll have to fight to get it to where you need it in the future. You end up paying one way or the other.

What About Small Organizations?

We’ve had some people ask what small organizations should do if they can’t afford to hire a whole product team. We think a “product” approach is more important than the specifics of the staffing. If you’re a really small organization, maybe you can get away with one person in this product manager role—or even shift someone to that role, as long as they have a clear mandate for it.

But one way or another, forward-looking organizations are investing in smart product management full time. They understand that cultivating staff expertise in platform evolution as a necessary element of a modern, effective organization. The more thoughtful your internal approach to technology, the more powerful your organization can be.

Pretty quickly, you end up saving yourself a world of work, improving your efficiency, and amplifying your effectiveness. Yes, you’re taking on an extra level of complexity. But that complexity is already part of the new world we work in. This approach just stops ignoring that reality and sets you up to handle it. The sooner you adopt it, the sooner you can start getting more done with less.

Hear more at Chris and Sam’s session at NTC, Finally, A Model for Delivering Technology In Nonprofits That Works!

Sam Dorman
Sam Dorman is one of the social change sector’s recognized leaders in the technology arena, helping organizations deliver technology that works for people. His work to help organizations use a Silicon Valley-style 'product team' to transform their impact using technology is described at http://tiny.cc/product-teams
Chris Zezza
Chris Zezza served as the original Chief of Digital Products for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) as well as its Salesforce Architect. He has an extensive background in technology and nonprofits.