News from the NTEN Connect Blog

They're Just Like Us: Data Integration Obsessions

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 2:02pm

CIO MagazineCIO magazine released a new white paper and video yesterday (registration required) on the topic of data integration. Although the content is all about big, for-profit enterprises, a lot of the data and analysis applies to the nonprofit community, as well. It turns out that for-profits have too many databases full of out-dated information, and they're fixin' to do something about it. Some interesting tidbits:

  • 73% of survey respondents say that Improvement of Business Intelligence is driving their data integration plans. In other words, they want a 360-degree view of their clients.
  • 47% of respondents say that the biggest challenge is changing the culture of their organization. Getting that end-use buy-in for the new procedures and policies is tough.
  • Most agree that a successful data integration initiative will have buy-in and support from the leadership and work across departments.

Sounds awfully familiar!

A Different Kind of Fundraising Widget

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 7:35am

Maplight.org (the winners of the NetSquared project) have released two new projects today: a fundraising widget that lets you track presidential fundraising; and plans for an API that will let you tap into their vast array of FEC (Federal Elections Commission) data.

According to their press release, we have a lot more to look forward to:

The MAPLight.org presidential widget is the first of several more widgets that the organization will release. By September 15, MAPLight.org will release a widget for U.S. Congress, showing total campaign contributions for each candidate for Congress. By September30, MAPLight.org will release its "Money and Votes" widget, revealing correlations between campaign contributions and votes for any bill in U.S. Congress.

The widget is lots of fun, but it's the API I'm really excited about. I can't wait to see what the community is able to do with that data.

From the Affinity Groups: Recommendations for Online Donation Tools

Submitted by Visitor on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 4:07pm

Many organizations are successfully employing online donation tools. This topic was recently taken up by members of the San Francisco 501 Tech Club. Groundspring received a mixed response with some citing very positive experiences and others quite the opposite. A representive from Groundspring chimed in to highlight upcoming features that may resolve some of the mentioned problems. Paypal also received favorable mentions, as well as a warning of potential complications for nonprofit organizations engaging in long-term use for fundraising. Multiple members recommended Idealware's report on the topic, as well as Affinity Resources' summary matrix and Techsoup's articles.

With over 100 active groups and nearly 5,000 users, NTEN's Affinity Groups platform is an incredible resource for those in the nonprofit tech community. Join for free in order to view more useful and interesting discussions.

Facebook and Twitter Are Changing the World

Submitted by Holly on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 8:35am

I got a phone call from an old colleague yesterday. Well, he's not old, but our relationship is. So maybe that makes us both old, but that's beside the point. The point is, he sounded just like me a year ago: a little lost on why social networking sites and services like Facebook and Twitter matter.

Since I'm a recent Twitter convert (read: addict) and Facebook has long been part of my daily routine, I went through the laundry list of the benefits of these tools:

  • Discovery - you find things you would never find otherwise
  • Personal Connections - you meet people you would never meet otherwise
  • Marketing - great platforms for getting the word out
  • Relationship building - you actually get to see a more human side of folks, and that's nice.

He remained unconvinced. I spent the rest of my night presumably meeting up with old friends, but really just stewing about why I couldn't convince him. What is the killer argument in favor of these tools?

The Social Development Impact of Muni Wireless

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 7:57am

A short time ago, things went sideways in San Francisco's bid to bring municipal wireless to the city. It's a long story to tell, so I won't. Suffice it to say that I think it's a real shame. Even worse, however, is that there is a distinct voice missing from the muni wifi debate in San Francisco and around the country: YOURS.

As has happened with every technology revolution (Web 2.0 anyone?), we are following the Roller Coaster of acceptance with municipal wireless. When cities and towns first started partnering and building service a few years ago, there was little awareness. But once it caught on, it caught on big. In the last year, we've been experiencing the swell of enthusiasm as a few major cities have begun to bring their networks online. Now we've hit the most interesting part of the ride: the drop.

GigaOM, a tech news and opinion blog, has recently commented on this stage in our relationship with municipal wireless:

Blackbaud Labs: Nonprofit Play Area

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 2:52pm

Blackbaud, a provider of services designed specifically for nonprofits, has launched Blackbaud Labs, a testing ground for projects in the pipeline. Google famously maintains its own "labs", essentially a place where they can get free alpha-testers to fulminate over their not-yet-ready-for-primetime products.

The newer Blackbaud Labs currently features two products: a demo of Infinity, their Rich Internet Application (RIA) development platform; and a mash-up of Infinity with Microsoft's Virtual Earth API, which allows mapping of CRM data. The mapping demo features a pretty nifty screencast, highlighting both the potential and the developmental nature of the project.

Peter Gulka, of the Blackbaud User Society, seems pretty excited about the possibilities of Blackbaud Labs, but adds that he would really like to see Blackbaud offer an SDK or a free API. "What could we come up with on our own?" he wonders. "We're a smart bunch and I would love to see a developer community like SourceForge pop up here." Given the blazing successes of development communities for Facebook, Salesforce, and others, the potential for more great community-developed nonprofit resources seems high. You can let express your opinion in the Blackbus Labs Forums.

Beth Kanter and the Salesforce Screencasts

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 8:24am

Nobody chooses images to enliven screencasts quite like Beth Kanter. She can almost make you forget you're learning. In the first of a series co-sponsored by NTEN and Salesforce, she covered the integration of Google Adwords with salesforce.com. Now, she delves deeper into the uses of salesforce.com with her new screencast, "Salesforce Campaigns for Nonprofits".

By turns engaging and informative, the screencast begins by defining what a Campaign means in salesforce.com, before moving into a brief tutorial, highlighted by the very real uses of Campaigns by the Cascadia Building Council. The 13-minute presentation concludes with a series of tips and best practices from Idealist Consulting's Rob Jordan and NTEN's Holly Ross.

Go for the music and pithy speech bubbles. Stay for the expertise.

Everybody Loves NTEN Discounts

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 8:21am

Annaliese Hoehling, NTEN Membership and Outreach Manager

You told us you want more product discounts and we listened. NTEN is happy to announce a plethora of new member discounts, from IT training to data recovery services, offering savings of 10-55% to all current NTEN members. New discount partners include:

  • The Learning Tree
  • GiftWorks from Mission Research
  • Ontrack Data Recovery
  • GrantStation
  • Train Signal

To see a complete list, check out our discounts page.

You must be an NTEN member to take advantage of these savings. If you are not already a member, now's the best time to join, during our summer membership special.

Community Buzz

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 08/20/2007 - 12:21pm
News and buzz from people and organizations in the nonprofit tech sector. Read our posts on the NTEN blog.

Grantmaking 2.0

> The Nonprofit Commons on Second Life held its launch party on August 14th, complete with virtual dancing. Not surprisingly, Beth Kanter covered the event in yet another blog. When does she sleep?

> GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) references the MacArthur Foundation's exploration of virtual philanthropy, including SecondLife, in its new report, "Grantmaking 2.0: Using New Technology to Enhance Grantmaker Practices". We'd call the report excellent even if it didn't highlight NTEN's webinars as a great use of technology. But we do appreciate it.

> If your organization uses Salesforce.com and you have a technically inclined staff, consider contributing to the "Nonprofit Grantmaking Solution" wiki at the Apex Developer Network to help build the next great grantmaking tool.

Not Just a Geek...

> Jonathon Colman was Treehugger.com's EcoGeek of the Week on July 31st. We mention this not just because Jonathon gives NTEN's own Holly Ross a shout out in his interview -- or because "EcoGeek of the Week" is so fun to say -- but because he highlights many of the ways the Nature Conservancy uses technology to promote its causes. Be sure to check out the Carbon Calculator. Jonathon also did a session for NTEN at NTC 2007 that can only be described as "kick-ass".

Geek Squad for Nonprofits

> If you're in the Chicago area and find yourself in need of a web site or an online application, you might want to get in touch with the Chicago Technology Cooperative. Launched by Jim Craner in 2005, and now up to 6 full-time employees, the CTC promises to provide expert technical services to nonprofits for 20 to 50 per cent less than most computer consulting firms.

Money for Something

> There are a number of current grant competitions you may want to check out. First up -- because it's the biggest -- is the Knight News Challenge, which offers up to $5 million in grants for "big ideas". Anyone can apply, and they promise, "If we like your idea, we will give you money to make it happen." The deadline is October 15, 2007.

> The MacArthur Foundation/Hastac Digital Media and Learning Competition is offering $2 million in awards split between two categories: Innovation Awards, for pioneers exploring new digital learning models; and Knowledge-Networking awards, supporting creative and dedicated communicators. Serendipitously, the deadline for this one is also October 15.

> And, receiving its last mention in NTEN Connect (because the deadline for applying is August 31st) is the Antonio Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest. If you don't know about this one yet, you haven't been paying attention.

Things We Like

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 08/20/2007 - 12:20pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Network Neutrality. We've covered it in our blog, but not as thoroughly as the International Journal of Communication does in their premiere issue.
  2. TechCrunch's Social Networking Comparison Chart. Fun with JavaScript! Once you've unchecked the page to manageable dimensions, scroll down about half-way to the Nonprofit Specials line.
  3. Jing. Screencasting on the fly? Does Beth Kanter know about this? Oh, right, she's the one who tipped us off.
  4. LOLNPTECH provides some deeply geeky laughs -- see especially the Cat Processing Unit and Cat 5 gags -- but overall: We Not Getting Some of Theez Cat Jokez.
  5. Allan Benamer's use of Yahoo's Term Extraction API for his informal LinkedIn survey about the needs of the nonprofit sector.