News from the NTEN Connect Blog

2007 IT Staffing Survey: Take it Now!

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 10/25/2007 - 8:56am
Flickr Photo: jisc_infonetFlickr Photo: jisc_infonetIn your leadership role, have you ever had to:
  • Convince your board or leadership to invest in staff or training?
  • Try to figure out how much to pay technology staff?
  • Determine if your technology spending compares to other organizations like yours?

NTEN and The Nonprofit Times are making it easy for you to fill the gap between expensive benchmarking services costing thousands of dollars, and going it alone. We’re surveying thousands of staff at nonprofits big and small to find out what it takes to make technology work for them and what qualified staff they need. In turn, we want to give you the hard numbers you need to invest in technology.

> Take the Online Survey

How To Find Data-Exchanage-Friendly Software

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 10/24/2007 - 11:18am

Peter Campbell, Techcafeteria, and Laura Quinn, Idealware

Repeat this mantra: I will not pay a vendor to lock me out of my own data. Sadly, this is what a lot of data management systems do, either by maintaining poor reporting and exporting interfaces or by including license clauses that void the contract if you interact with your data in unapproved ways.

The software you choose has an enormous impact on whether you can effectively get data in or pull it out to integrate with other packages. If you only look at the front end features, you're only conducting half an evaluation. It's also critical to determine how you can -- or if you can -- access the data.

To avoid lock-in and ensure the greatest amount of flexibility when looking to buy any new application -- particularly the ones that store your data off-site and give you web-based access to it -- ask the following questions:

How Do YOU Evaluate Data Exchange?

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:23pm

I'm pleased to say that we have a new problem in the sector: evaluating software has gotten a little bit harder lately! With more vendors offering more ways to exchange and access your data, you have more things to consider when you're looking at software.

And how DO you evaluate data exchange anyway?

NTEN and Idealware hope to help you answer that question. With support from Beaconfire, and expertise from folks Database Design Associates and Forum One, we're set to develop standards that anyone can use to evaluate the data exchange capabilities of any piece of software.

Learn more about what we're up to and share your two cents over at the Idealware blog.

An Open Letter to the NTEN Community

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:35pm

Gene Austin, Chief Executive Officer, Convio and Tom Krackeler, VP, Product Management, Convio

It is incumbent on all software vendors serving the nonprofit sector to open opportunities for nonprofits to have greater choice and flexibility in pursuing their missions.

To meet the expectations of nonprofits today -- and five years from now -- software vendors need to facilitate interoperability between systems and enable integration between offline and online data and the new Web. And they should do so with one clear purpose in mind: to open the possibilities for nonprofits to find and engage constituents to support their missions.

The NTEN community has been leading the charge for openness. With Salesforce and Facebook, Convio has embraced openness as a way of doing business.


Software vendors should:


  1. provide nonprofit organizations of all sizes and in any stage of Internet adoption the flexibility to integrate with other web or database applications to exchange constituent and campaign data.
  2. make their Open APIs available to clients, partners, and a broad developer community.
  3. expose Open APIs as part of their core product functionality.
  4. proactively use APIs provided by other companies in additional to providing their own.
  5. make their API documentation publicly available and provide a forum for sharing and discussing best practices and exchanging code examples.
  6. publish a roadmap for their API development and encourage participation in the development of that roadmap.
  7. make their APIs accessible to nonprofits at a level that does not require extensive technical expertise to leverage those APIs.

Nonprofits Can Be LinkedIn

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:27pm
Monique Cuvelier, Talance, Inc.

Only 10 years ago, social networks were built quite differently. We might pump a few hands at conferences, place a few phone calls or meet people for lunch. A labor-intensive way of expanding the little black book, to be sure, but that's the way everybody did it. Networks lived in brainspace and on slips of paper.

But a decade is a long time. Person-to-person meetings are still a great way to make connections, but networks have increasingly less to do with seeing people and more to do with outlets such as LinkedIn.

How To: Put Technology To Use

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:24pm
Your guide to resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause.

Understand Open APIs

> So, Kintera and Convio have released APIs (see Community Buzz, below). Great! What's that mean? "Advanced Purling Instruction"? "Automated Princess Interrogator"? Something else entirely?

> If you missed it, NTEN hosted an introductory session on Application Programming Interfaces at the 2007 NTC; the session slides are still available. We also published a report on Open APIs following our highly successful debate last year.

> You should also check out Care2's "Primer on APIs and Databases" and John Maeda's extended metaphor on the subject.

> Once you've got the basics, read "Can We Talk? Innovative Responses to the Data Integration Challenge", an exhaustively researched report on more than just APIs, by Dahna Goldstein and Jennifer Bagnell Stuart.

> By the time you've finished, you may want to sign the Integration Proclamation.

Choose Open Source Software

> Michelle Murrain and the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) have just published an update to their excellent "Choosing and Using Free and Open Source Software: A primer for nonprofits". If your organization is considering a move to Open Source software (or if you want to push it in that direction), you should give this well-written guide a read.

> While it targets forprofits, Si Chen's presentation on "Why Enterprises Are Adopting Open Source Applications" is full of information, including case studies; Frank Scavo summarizes some of it on his blog.

> If you're feeling especially ambitious, check out open source guru Eric Raymond's paper on the economics behind FOSS, "The Magic Cauldron".

Things We Like

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:22pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Dataplace! Take government data, mash it up, create something new.
  2. Many Eyes. Now that's some crazy data visualization.
  3. INOM's paper, "Successful Technology Use in Small Grassroots Nonprofits".
  4. Gene McKenna's SEO satire, "What if Google had to design their user interface for Google?" Funny, but true?
  5. Michelle Martin's thinking. Read her post "Culture of Training vs. Culture of Learning".
  6. Common Craft's Paperworks videos. For some reason, this reminds us of the old Sesame Street Typewriter Guy character -- and that's a good thing: simple, yet effective.
  7. AideRSS. Another RSS reader? Ah, but this one has a ranking system.
  8. Outside the box thinking. The LAFD appears to be using Twitter as a way to communicate about the ongoing wildfires. If you build it, they will find new ways to use it.

Community Buzz

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:20pm
News and buzz from people and organizations in the nonprofit tech sector. Read our posts on the NTEN blog.

The Doors are Opening, But the Chain Locks Stay On

> Kintera opened up first, but only just, by announcing that the Kintera Connect API was available to clients and partners. To help people make use of it, they have published the full API and scheduled a number of free webinars.

> A few days later, Convio launched their Convio Open initiative, including not only an API, but a set of Database Connectors and other Extensions, including a Facebook application. Convio Open also sports a prettier web site.

> At first blush, it seems that Kintera has the more powerful API, Convio the better package deal. Some pundits argue that neither company goes far enough in opening up, but these are steps in the right direction, and important ones. A year ago, NTEN hosted a discussion on Open APIs. How great is it that soon, we'll have to update our report? Who's next?

Help the World While You Make a Sandwich

> The SETI@home project launched in May, 1999, creating a virtual supercomputer by linking together a vast number of internet-connected PCs to aide in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Participants install a small app on their computers, so when the the system is not in use, its processor can be used to further the project.

> Now, the IBM Corporation has sponsored the creation of the World Community Grid. As with SETI, the WCG aggregates computer idle time into a massive public computing grid. Current projects include the creation of more accurate climate models in Africa, the search for more effective drugs to combat tropical diseases, and the mapping of select human proteins. Now you -- and your computer -- can feel good about your time even when you're off doing other things.

Monthly Giving Survey

> M+R Strategic Services is running a survey polling nonprofits about online monthly giving programs. If your organization solicits sustainer/recurring donations online, they'd like to hear from you. The survey is only a few pages long, and should take about 5 minutes to complete. Help them fill out their data set by taking the survey today.

Mo' Better Mobile Campaigns?

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:31pm

Somehow -- and I really couldn't tell you how -- I ended up on the mailing list for Electronic Retailer magazine. I was about to toss it into the recycling bin when I noticed a story on mobile marketing. Now, the magazine is produced by the Electronic Retailing Association, so most every story in the magazine is a sunny picture of how lucrative and awesome various electronic marketing options are. But there are some interesting stats to behold.

According to one article, a recent Forrester Research piece says that:

  • 90% of US mobile phones are text enabled, but only 35% are using the functionality
  • Only 11% of US mobile users surf the Internet on their phones

According to Forrester's marketing blog, exactly WHO the 35% of text messaging users are is no surprise: 80% of 18-24 year olds use some form of messaging on the phone.

Community Tweets in the SoCal Fires

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:33am

Flickr Photo From: thedpqThe fires in Southern California are a tremendous tragedy. I've heard estimates that up to 500,000 people have been asked to evacuate their homes.

As this is one of the most tech-saturated areas of the country, though, it's interesting to see how many individuals and organizations are turning to the web to organize, share, and emote.

I asked the NTEN community to tell me what they were watching yesterday. Here are a few of the things you told me: