We Want Your Content: Write for the NTEN Connect Blog

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 10/18/2012 - 10:41am

We're rapidly approaching November, when NTEN celebrates Member Appreciation Month by letting our Members take over! That means the guest posts on the NTEN Blog and the featured content in the NTEN Connect newsletter come from our Members.

To make that happen that, we need your content. Simply send us original or popular articles about nonprofit technology from yourself or your organization!

Things We Like (August 2010)

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 12:24pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. HBR's Dan Pallotta thinks it's unethical that your organization doesn't spend more time and money on fundraising. Them's fightin' words to a lot of commenters.
  2. We think it's unethical that this crazy yo-yo guy hasn't been worked into a fundraising campaign. He will seriously blow your mind. But we have to wonder what his parents think. Somebody find him a spokespinner job, quick!
  3. A friend posted that yo-yo link to Facebook. Adina Levin thinks Facebook's not the best place for community organizers -- but it may depend on the community. If your community is into cat fashion shows, or any number of silly memes, you're golden. We have a way of finding each other.
  4. For instance, we know a certain number of people will love this slideshow of hi-resolution space images. (They're quite spectacular.) Which people? Our people.
  5. But you kind of have to wonder what will happen if everybody just starts listening to people they agree with. After all, if it's on the Internet, it must be true. Dahna Boyd has some thoughts.
  6. Macrowikinomics.
  7. Star Wars Cupcakes. We're not sure we could bring ourselves to eat these, they're so fantastic.
  8. If you're looking for a new mass e-mail platform, you should check out Groundwire's precisely named "E-mail Service Provider Comparison Report 2010".
  9. Wired recently declared that the Web is dead. We think they're getting ahead of themselves.
  10. Regular readers of this space will know there's a growing consensus that technology is physically changing the ways our brains work. Fortunately, there's an easy way to reboot: get outside.
  11. There are so many social media options these days, you may be feeling a little lost. Here's a map to help you find your way.
  12. Finally, in the interest of making you feel good about the world, monkeys love kittens, too! (Also, how can you not want to visit a place called Monkey Forest?) Now, go forth and be productive!

How-to: Improve Your Site's Bounce Rate (Intro to Google Analytics Advanced Filtering)

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:50am

If you're in charge of your organization's web analytics, you undoubtedly know about bounce rate -- the measure of visitors who enter your site, say "Enh" (or something ruder), and immediately leave, without viewing any more of your carefully crafted pages. Yeah, those people annoy me, too.

But unless you're a consultant working with several nonprofit clients, you're probably working in a vacuum: you know your own site's bounce rate, but you don't know how good it is compared to other sites.

That's okay, though. Around here, we operate under analytics guru Eric Peterson's definition of what your bounce rate should be: 10% better than it is now.

As luck would have it, there's an easy way you can use Google Analytics to simplify that job. Let's dive in.

Collecting Data in Low Resource Areas: How to Get Started

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:37am

William (Bill) Lester, NPOKI

It's an old problem, made worse by the tantalizing potential that technology provides: how do you collect and aggregate quality data when you work in low resource areas?

If you look at the path that information must travel, there's a point where the tools NGOs have used for data collection work well. As information moves up and down the highway, from headquarters to field offices to in-country partner organizations, to consultants, and volunteers, and to the general public or the clients or the project sites, there's a point where the structure breaks down.

That's the point where you're dealing with people and forces outside of your area of comfort – the area that you cannot control.

Fortunately, there are rules you can follow to help mitigate this problem:

"Google Was Our First Office": Managing a Worldwide Staff

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:34am

Efrat Ben-Dor Erez, NPTech Israel

PresenTense, an international nonprofit organization founded in 2006, uses technology to sustain its activities, functioning as a "start up incubator for social entrepreneurs". Their mission is to engage and inspire the most creative minds, investing their ideas and energy to revitalize the Jewish community and the world. 

500 volunteers work with PresenTense each year, mainly from North America and Israel, but also from other places around the globe. With only 7 people working for them on a daily basis in Jerusalem, along with 1 in Tel Aviv and 3 in New York, PresenTense relies on technology to do the rest of the work.

The Math Is Starting to Add Up: The Promise of Mobile

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:14am

Matt Berg, Millenium Villages

Voice remains the killer app.

The ability to communicate freely connects families, strengthens social networks, reduces travel, overcomes illiteracy, and provides safety. With voice, many solutions for issues like the “market price” problem can be human engineered, as that information is now only a phone call away to a trusted source in a bigger market. Access to voice has already had a transformative affect for much of the world’s poor and will only increase as the price of making a call decrease. 

Two particular SMS health projects that have convinced me of the viability of mobile phones to effect change:

"Press 2 for Chickens": Innovating African Radio Stations

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:14am

Melissa Ulbricht,

Bartholomew Sullivan, a regional ICT officer for the African Radio Research Initiative, was looking for something new.

“We’re looking for something that can enhance radio,” Sullivan says. “Because at this point for us, radio has been very effective in reaching people, but it’s not always the most effective for getting a feedback loop or making it interactive.”

Enter Freedom Fone. Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using interactive voice response (IVR), a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. You’ve likely encountered it when you call a customer service number and are prompted with instructions to press numbers for different issues or service departments.

As many things are, IVR was used a little differently in Africa.

Creating Public Transparency: Bringing GuideStar to Israel

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:12am

Debra Askanase, Community Organizer 2.0

NPTech is the operating organization behind the development of GuideStar Israel, a project 5 years in the making. It provides services and activities designed to help social organizations make information and communications technology (ICT) more accessible to social organizations to reach their goals.

NPTech wants to create a "socio-technological market" in which different providers offer their products for social activity advancement, internet sites encourage social action, and social organizations use these products in accordance to their needs.

I had the opportunity to ask Royi Biller, CEO of NPTech, about why it was so important to bring GuideStar to Israel and how it could change the Israeli third sector.

Optimizing Your Site for Social Media Visitors

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 9:04am

Jeff Patrick, Common Knowledge

A whopping 86% of nonprofits say they have a presence on Facebook or another social media site according to the 2010 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report.  

That’s astounding really, but equally astounding, if a whole lot less obvious: your site visitors are increasingly getting to your site from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. Why is this important? This socially-sourced crowd spends upwards of 15 minutes per day, every day, on social media sites, 3 to 7 times more than on any other major web property. 

Increasingly, consumers define their world in this social context, and there are a whole bunch of them. Should you be considering this important demographic when you redesign your site next time around? Definitely.

The PREP Method of Design: Start with the Right Questions to Appeal to the Right Audience

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:56am

Christy Van Heugten, Event360, Inc.

"What audience am I building for?" is commonly the first question people encounter when they start a redesign, but I beg to differ.

Your audience is yours because of who you are. Your online presence is not about your constituents starting the conversation: at first, it's about you having the chance to give your 30-second pitch about who you are, what you do, and why it's important.

So, my recommendation for the first questions to ask in your planning process are: "What is our 30-second pitch?" and "How can we translate that to our website in a user friendly design?"

There are 4 steps I typically recommend following as you build your site.

Creating Website Content: What Do Your Visitors Really Want?

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:55am

Kivi Leroux Miller, Nonprofit Marketing

Your website is out there for all to see. You never know who’s going to end up visiting. So how can you create website content that all kinds of potential visitors will find interesting and engaging?

We could get into a traditional marketing discussion about target audiences and personas, but let’s go at this challenge in a different way. Let’s think about the stages that your supporters go through as you build rapport with them over time. To keep it simple, let’s group your website visitors into three categories: 

  • Strangers: People who know nothing about you.
  • Friends: People who like your organization or cause.
  • Fans: People who LOVE your organization or cause.

What kind of content does your website need for each of these groups?

The Mobile Web: Consider the User

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:55am

Jed Alpert, Mobile Commons

Thirty-eight percent of American mobile phone users -- 120 million people -- access the web via their mobile device; fewer than 30 million are iPhones or Android phones. This percentage increases dramatically among the under-served 30% of the population without reliable non-mobile Internet access.

The growth of the mobile web will continue to be very rapid in the coming years. According to a research report by Morgan Stanley, mobile web usage will exceed all other web usage by 2015.

This leads to a common misconception: that your organization must immediately "mobilize" its website, by creating a mobile friendly version of your existing website. This approach misses two key facts: one, users are already using your website on their phones, and two, mobile web users have different needs than desktop users

In reality, when planning a mobile web strategy, you should consider the following factors:

Evolving Project Management for Evolving Website Technologies

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:47am

Steve Backman, Database Designs

Websites have changed a lot over the past few years. Content management systems (CMS) have transformed standard expectations -- about posting news and updates without web design skills, managing donors and other constituents, opening up sections of your site to your community, tracking results, and more. And open source systems such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, and Plone have brought these features within reach of organizations with limited budgets and staffing.

Yet, when it comes to organizing the redesign or replacement of an older-style site, many organizations expect to manage the process much as they had the last one. To get the most out of a modern site, however, you need to have a different kind of project management approach.

Here are five thoughts and lessons to consider:

Is Web Accessibility a Social Responsibility?

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 7:48am

Cindy Leonard, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University

By their very nature, nonprofits exist to make the world a better place and to create positive social change. They should, therefore, be concerned with creating equal access to their programs, opportunities, and services.

There are many additional advantages to implementing Web accessibility. Some of the additional benefits include:

The Analysis Exchange

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 7:37am

Eric Peterson, Web Analytics Demystified

The Analysis Exchange is a first-of-its-kind effort to freely provide analytical insights to nonprofits and non-governmental organizations. Founded by three of the most respected web analytics professionals in the world, Analysis Exchange creates value for nonprofits by connecting them directly with experienced web analysts willing to donate their time to help efforts identify opportunities to increase online donations, engagement, interaction, and list distribution.

Even better, nonprofits are giving back to the web analytics community because our experienced analysts work directly with “student learners” so that they can gain valuable “hands on” interaction with web data.

Joining Analysis Exchange is completely free and the entire process takes about three weeks beginning to end. The time commitment for nonprofit members is literally only a few hours:

Things We Like (June 2010)

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 9:52am
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. We have so many data-themed links this month, you should probably take a moment to consider what all this information may be doing to your brain. According to the NYTimes, it's not good. Can somebody make a PSA-style poster to illustrate this? Yes, they can!
  2. The problem may have to do with a lack of feedback. A land line phone plays back your own voice at low levels. The feedback keeps you from shouting. Cell phones -- and social media sites, and your in-box -- don't offer much in the way of feedback. No, angry responses to your opinions don't count, but if computers beeped every time somebody used ALL CAPS or TMEM (Too Many Exclamation Marks!!!!) to make a point, we'd likely have fewer flaming trolls.
  3. Oof, that was kind of a long rant. Puppy break!
  4. Google's new Fusion Tables lets you import, mash-up, share, and visualize your own and others' data.
  5. Of course, there are so many visualization tools out there now, you almost need a guide. Idealware to the rescue: "A Consumer's Guide to Low-Cost Data Visualization Tools".
  6. Data aggregation is good, too. Box office trackers have started counting Twitter mentions to help predict movie openings. The adage holds true for Hollywood: no news is bad news, even in the form of 140 character body slams. But we bet that's not true for your organization. Are you tracking negative mentions? Do they correlate to anything?
  7. Yeah, that last one tired us on data, too. Thank goodness for Charlene Li's "Oreo Effect". No, it has nothing to do with a Duoseptuagenuple Stuf...
  8. Speaking of delicious, we love us some sushi, so we're not happy to hear about the impending collapse of the Atlantic bluefin tuna population. Even more reason to carry the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guides wherever you go.
  9. Have we been a little heavy this month? Let's take another puppy break. And maybe a hedgehog break. (Also, if there's an ad for "Robot Unicorn Attack" at the top of the page, you won't be disappointed.)
  10. Ah, much better. Now, if you haven't read the just-released book, "The Networked Nonprofit", by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, why the heck not? Oh, because it was just released? Fine. Just don't let it happen again.
  11. Finally, if you saw Landon Donovan's game winning goal against Algeria, you know his reaction left a little to be desired, so we leave you with some of the best goal-scoring celebrations of all time. Try breaking some of these out at your next staff meeting when you report back on all the amazing work you've done. (Oh, and you might want to check out the longest tennis match in the history of the Universe -- at Wimbledon, no less).

How-to: Use Google Analytics to Track Your Online Marketing Campaigns

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 8:18am

Brett Meyer, NTEN

You may already know you can use Google Analytics to track your Google AdWords campaigns. Makes sense: Google would integrate puppies into their products if they thought it would help. [Ed. note: Actually, they have.]

Because they had to standardize the system used for this tracking, you can co-opt it for your own purposes to track click-throughs from your e-mail campaigns, banner ads, links in blog posts, even paper mailings (if you use it in conjunction with a URL shortener like

Turns out, it's really easy. Here's how to do it:

Go Beyond the Dashboard Report

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 8:14am

Marissa Goldsmith, Beaconfire Consulting

Organizations love their dashboard reports. I've spent hours creating Excel spreadsheets for monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. I've filled them with all different kinds of stats, from pageviews to visits to most-printed pages.

These reports may result in kudos for an increase in pageviews, or grimaces for the decrease in returning visitors, but the only action that I have to look forward to is spending several more hours creating the same spreadsheet next month/quarter/year.

And so I became a dashboard report hater. But eventually, I realized that it wasn't the dashboard report I hated, it was the culture that the dashboard report fed into -- the culture that values the existence of a report over what the report itself is telling you.

Since that epiphany, I have worked to actively change the nature of the reports themselves. Here are a few ways how:

What Does Your Facebook Funnel Look Like?

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 7:47am

Shabbir Imber Safdar and Shayna Englin, Englin Consulting, LLC

Everybody's on Facebook, so clearly your non-profit should be there, too, right?

Probably, but given limited resources it’s important to get a better handle on the specific value your organization's investment of time and resources on Facebook is delivering toward your bottom line. It's time to make it accountable.

One approach to making your Facebook efforts accountable and more forcused can be found in the marketing funnel. Here's the concept:

Making More of Your Metrics

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 06/22/2010 - 8:11am

Steve Peretz, M+R Strategic Services

Since the release of the 2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, we know many of you have been hard at work looking at how your programs measure up against industry benchmarks. But the Benchmarks Study is really meant to help you think (or rethink!) how you collect and calculate your data in the first place—since the most important metrics for your organization are, of course, YOUR metrics.

Here are three tips for better collecting and calculating your organization's metrics: