How To: Put Technology to Use (January 2009)

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/29/2009 - 4:42pm
Your guide to the resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause (although this month, we're going to be a little self-serving).

Get the Most out of NTEN

Our newsletter is only the tip of the iceberg: it's the Member benefits you're not seeing yet that will sink your ship. Hmm, wait, that doesn't sound right. Unless: you're like a goldfish on that ship, trapped in a bowl (of tech knowledge), but tragically separated from the wider sea of technology-loving fish everywhere. So you want the ship to sink! [Ed. note: Ouch.]

Anyway, if all you're getting out of NTEN is this newsletter, you're clearly missing out. We've got plenty of free ways for you to connect with your peers, from our Facebook group to our Affinity Groups and 501 Tech Clubs to our blog.

But if you really want to thrive in the current economic environment, you'll take the next step and become a Member.

Let's just consider our popular webinars: in addition to saving up to 50% off our already low prices, NTEN Members can buy the Season Pass -- unlimited webinars in 2009 for only $275.

What's more, we've just made our entire archive of recorded webinars (through September 30, 2008) free to our Members, with more to be added on a quarterly basis.

Then there are all the other reasons to join.

Prepare for the NTC

And, of course, NTEN Members save $200 off registration for the 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference. You can get the best price by registering before the Early Bird deadline on January 31st. You can also book a room at the San Francsico Hilton at our special group rate.

With that out of the way, you can start looking forward to April 26, when 1,200(ish) like-minded individuals join together for 3 days of insight, camaraderie, learning -- and not just a little fun.

We've been working hard to make sure there are so many great breakout sessions, you may have a hard time choosing between them. Now would be a good time to start planning your own learning agenda. We've also got noted author Clay Shirky as our keynote speaker.

Plus, we'll be in San Funcisco. And wouldn't you know it, they have a handy Visitors' Guide, so we don't have to scour the web for recommendations. (We can recommend the MOMA, though.) Finally, don't forget to sign up for our After Party, at Mezzanine. The musical acts should come as quite a surprise. Stay tuned!

Nonprofit Radio: How to Make Podcasts That Promote Your Brand and Engage Supporters

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 9:10am

Corey Pudhorodsky, 501c3Cast

By now, podcasting should be considered an established medium. Yet, even after four years of general public awareness, there are still many misunderstandings about how podcasting can be used by individuals and organizations.

From questions about the actual production of the files, to distribution, to listener metrics and feedback, there are plenty of moving parts that can raise questions. These uncertainties may be why many nonprofits still hesitate to adopt podcasting as a part of their new media strategy.

Like most things in the social web, though, there are tools and resources that can make creating a podcast accessible to almost any organization.

From Humanities Major to Career NPtechie in Two Easy Steps

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 9:02am

Johanna Bates, Community Partners

In the beginning, maybe you just had patience, perseverance, and a love of -- or at least a lack of fear of -- computers and the Internet. You found you had a knack for technology and you became your org's go-to person for computer problems. People kept seeking you out because, instead of acting like the stereotypical IT guy, speaking only in tech-ese, you answered their questions and helped them feel a bit less intimidated by tech tools.

One day you woke up to the fact that tech-related work had taken over much of your job -- and you liked it.

By now, you're at least an accidental techie. But at what point can you call yourself a technology professional? What training is required? At this perhaps unexpected career turn, how do you become a bona-fide Nonprofit Techie?

Managing Technology Change: Imagine All the People

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 8:53am

Bev Magda, The Humane Society of the United States

It's critical, especially during tough economic times, to ensure technology projects within your organization are completed on time and within budget. But often, a significant piece of the project is overlooked in the rush to meet these goals. That missing piece is the people -- those individuals affected by the technology that is being implemented.

Research has shown that individuals can have a profound impact on the success or failure of a project within organizations. How much they're on board with the project, how much training they've had, and how much they know about a technology change can make or break a project. Therefore, you should mitigate the impact of technological change by using all of the following methods:

Your Website as an Experience of Your Brand

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 8:43am

Farra Trompeter, Big Duck

Your organization's brand is more than its logo, its name, or how it all looks on letterhead. It starts with the core purpose and vision your organization hopes to fulfill and goes all the way through how people experience your organization -- via programs, events, videos, newsletters, and yes, your website.

If you had to describe your organization in a single word or idea, what would it be? What about your personality? Are you more professional and academic; hip and cutting-edge; or grassroots and responsive? Now, keep that idea and those adjectives in mind, and let's take a fresh look at your website.

Gobs and Gobs of Data: Strategies for Visualizing and Sharing Policy Content

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 8:32am

Kurt Voelker, Forum One Communications

Policy-oriented organizations have long produced dizzying amounts of statistical content. In the past, rows and rows of data would die a quick death in thick policy reports or inscrutable spreadsheets. Don’t let your data fall victim!

Today, there are many tools to visualize and share data online. Smart organizations are creating and publishing their data widely to other sites, widgets, social networks, and aggregation applications. They are using data visualization and sharing tools like Swivel, Widgenie, Many Eyes, Google Maps, Google Motion Charts, APIs and others to make their data more available and more compelling.

So how can your organization tap into these tools and trends?

Business Intelligence: A Key to Success

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 9:39am

Krista Endsley, Sage

The weakening economy has created a ripple effect across all types of businesses, including the charitable sector. Due to funding uncertainties, many nonprofit organizations and government agencies are more hesitant about expenditures, and keeping a closer eye on budgets and cash flows. Yet, they are under growing pressure to do more with fewer resources.

Typically, systems are in place to help each department meet these challenges and work effectively. Key staff members enter, manage, and report on this data -- but it can be difficult to pull together snapshots of progress quickly enough to make real-time course corrections. To help relieve these demands, many organizations are turning to Business intelligence tools to retrieve, organize, and share knowledge for analysis and guided decision-making.

By having precise, up-to-date information at their fingertips, nonprofit professionals at every level can gain a deeper insight that allows them to strengthen stewardship, improve agility, and, ultimately, secure the success of their organization.

Good Lessons from a Bad Economy

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 9:29am

Randy McCabe, MPower Open

A bad economy can be one of the best things to happen to a marketing professional.

That may seem paradoxical, but times of constraint -- when revenues fall or simply do not meet budgeted expenditures -- force hard decisions that do not even seem like options during periods of prosperity and largesse. As Samuel Johnson, the celebrated 18th century English author, once said, "There is nothing like the prospect of being hung in a fortnight to concentrate a man's mind."

There is a powerful opportunity here. With the limitation of lower revenues and the pressure to cut costs, this is an ideal time to innovate around your operations and systems costs while still funding programs and activities and, yes, increasing investment in donor development.

Debunking Five Myths of Online Fundraising

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 9:25am

Thon Morse, Kimbia

[This article was originally published on Kimbia's website.]

Today's challenging economic times mean a lot of nonprofits are looking for new ways to raise money. Many organizations realize the Internet presents a huge opportunity, but most have achieved limited success.

If your organization has yet to experience strong results raising funds online, the coming year provides an ideal window to experiment with new approaches. A good first step is dismissing some myths about online fundraising that may be standing in the way of your success:

  • Myth #1: Online fundraising isn't as effective as offline techniques.
  • Myth #2: People won't give online.
  • Myth #3: Online fundraising means raising money through my organization's website.
  • Myth #4: Technology is not the problem.
  • Myth #5: Raising 10 percent of all gifts online is a great goal.

How Will Your Nonprofit Raise Money in 2012?

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 8:04am

Peter Deitz, Social Actions

With the global financial crisis at its peak and a recession looming, many nonprofit managers are probably asking themselves, "How will my nonprofit raise money next year?" I suspect fewer fundraisers are asking themselves, "How will my nonprofit raise the money it needs four years from now?"

Current best practices will serve nonprofits just fine in 2009. Between email solicitation, direct mail, major donors, and grant-writing, the vast majority of nonprofits will weather the economic hard times. But a shifting communications environment and changing donor demographics could render those best practices ineffective at best, and obsolete at worst, as early as 2012.

So how should your organization prepare for the changes that are afoot?

Things We Like (October 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 11/03/2008 - 3:43pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite (zombie-related) nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Zombie Harmony: For all your zombie dating needs.
  2. Wait, there's an election going on? Don't know how we missed that. Good thing the Twitter Vote Report didn't: tweet your voting experience to help others avoid problems.
  3. If you watch Colbert, you've probably already been to FiveThirtyEight, an in-depth poll aggregation site. Along with RealClearPolitics, it keeps political junkies better fed than a zombie in WalMart's brains aisle.
  4. Pumpkin cookies!
  5. Play2Cures, from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Pledge money to purchase online game tokens, which you can send to anybody. The mini-golf game nearly derailed this newsletter.
  6. The New York Times has a cool visualization of how people around the world spend their money. You know, back when people were still spending money. Altruism gets nary a mention.
  7. Mercy Corps' Action Center to End World Hunger.
  8. Wow, some people take this zombie thing a little too seriously.
  9. Google Labs is now available to Google Apps users. Now your entire org can benefit from tools like "Mail Goggles", which promises to stop you from sending regrettable e-mails after a couple of drinks.
  10. Also, you can apparently use your Gmail account with OpenID.
  11. The We Are Media Wiki. Yes, we helped make it. That doesn't mean we can't like it!
  12. Sorry, no velociraptor-related items this month, but: would you survive a zombie invasion?

How To: Put Technology to Use (October 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 11/03/2008 - 3:42pm
Your guide to the resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause. This month, all of the links are courtesy of We Are Media. Add your voice to the discussion today!

Share Your Story

And by "your", we mean your supporters, because with Social Media, they're the ones extending your brand. You just need to give them a little shove in the right direction sometimes.

If you haven't read Seth Godin's seminal "Flipping the Funnel", yet, you should start there. The Rapleaf Business blog also has some great advice on incorporating user generated content instead of working from scratch.

What's that you say? It may be easy for big groups, with photogenic interests -- like the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Habitat program or The Nature Conservancy's nature picture contest -- to use something like Flickr, but you're too small? Balderdash! Poppycock! Take a look at what the Learning Community is doing. Or the Women's Museum. Flickr makes it easy to get started!

Then, of course, there are blogs, and podcasts, and video, and... (Those are all "How-to" links, by the way, but) if you're short on time, here are 50 Web2.0 ways to tell a story.

Determine the ROI of Social Media

NTEN's own Holly Ross suggests a simple formula: (Time & Money Saved + Money Earned) - (Time & Money In) = ROI. That sounds about right. Money earned is easy, but how do you figure if you're saving time and money?

Well, The Social Organization has a piece on "Collecting All Social Media Metrics". That's a start. Dow Jones, of all places, has a white paper on "Tracking the Influence of Conversations". (We imagine many of the conversations they've been hearing over the past month involve Chicken Little.)

All you wannabe bloggers should get a kick out of "The ROI of Blogging". (And you have read Chris Brogan's "12 Ways to Sell Social Media to Your Boss", right?) Then there are some straight ROI articles: "ROI: The Null Hypothesis" and "What's Your Return on Your Social Media Investment".

Geez, there's just too much to cover for one little section of one little newsletter. But that's why we helped start We Are Media! We hope that, after you've read through it, you'll consider adding to the conversation.

Generating Buzz: Using Social Media to Drive Website Traffic

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:54am

Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation

As social media grows in popularity, one fact cannot be ignored: if used well, it can generate impressive amounts of traffic and increase engagement around your cause or organization. If ignored, however, it can lead to tears of anguish and people punching their computers.

I spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of time trying to figure out how to use social networking, bookmarking and news sites to enhance the National Wildlife Federation's online presence. The work I've been doing with my large non-profit can be translated to even the smallest message.

There are several key techniques for dispersing information effectively. These overall strategies aren't anything new in the marketing world: Social media is just a new way to do old business. The tools may have changed, but the need for knowing your audience, having an end goal, testing theories, and acting on lessons learned remains the same.

Your Supporters ARE the Message

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:46am

Karen Curry, ACLU

The ability to have conversations with members and supporters is the most exhilarating part of the new media landscape for advocacy groups such as ours. We no longer just shovel stuff out there, not knowing if it ever reached anyone or what they thought of it. Advocacy is now a multi-way street, with information coming in and going out -- and nuance being added to the message as it evolves.

Consider Kenevan McConnon, a Colorado blogger. This May, having just gotten his rebate check from the government, he began looking around online for something to spend it on. Then, he spotted his ACLU renewal form. He had been putting off renewing, for no particular reason, but when he saw the notice sitting on his desk he had an A-HA moment. He realized he could spend his money on that most quintessential of all "made in America" items -- the United States Constitution --and decided to send the entire rebate to the ACLU.

But that was only the start.

Got Your Ears On? How to Listen to Your Audience Using Social Media

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:42am

Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer, SocialFish, LLC

Social media is all the buzz these days. For associations and non-profits wondering how to get in the game -- or how to figure out whether they should -- listening is the place to start.

Listening means finding the online social spaces where your audience is already communicating, monitoring the conversations that happen there, and gathering intelligence you can use to better understand your audience. Because social media is open and public by nature, listening is not only welcome -- it's expected.

Best of all, you can get started for free!

Developing a Social Media Plan: Lessons from Election 2008

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/28/2008 - 2:44pm

Lauren-Glenn Davitian, CCTV Center for Media and Democracy

Election 2008 is remarkable for many reasons. For the first time in U.S. history, the candidates for president have raised more than $1 billion. Voter registration is headed for new highs across the nation -- with a firestorm of newly registered voters under the age of thirty. And early voting levels -- 2.2 million ballots as of this writing -- indicate a massive, record-breaking turnout on Tuesday, November 4th.

Because campaigns employ such a variety of communications tactics to win an election -- from door knocking to lawn signs to TV commercials -- it may be hard to determine exactly what role social media tools have played in this historic year. But, clearly, the campaigns have made social media a central strategy in their Donor, Volunteer, and Voter mobilization efforts.

As agents of social change, there is a great deal the nonprofit sector can learn from Election 2008.

Things We Like (September 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 3:15pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Ah, Fall in an election year, when young partisans' fancies turn to how to craft the most deceitful email. If an acquaintance forwards you some digital BS, look it up on, where the editors pick apart the truthiness of almost every junk email. Then, "Reply to All", paste in the Snopes debunking URL, and expect never to hear from that acquaintance again. To maintain our nonpartisan stance, here's an example from a search on "Bill Gates": did he really pose for Teen Beat magazine?
  2. The Talking Book from Literacy Bridge.
  3. Proof that a single blog post can make a difference. Heidi Swanson, creator of recipe site 101 Cookbooks, turned her increasing web traffic into near-instant success as a Kiva Lending Team.
  4. UsableLogin's single password for multiple websites: better than OpenID? Vidoop?
  5. One NTEN staffer could survive for 1 minute, 35 seconds chained to bunk bed with a velociraptor. You? This is a great example of how to build a simple, interactive web application.
  6. The Publius Project from the Berkman Center aims to create a record of how the rules of the Internet -- in relation to constitutional law -- are formed over time. We're glad that references to the Federalist Papers are good for more than just justifying a history major at trivia night.
  7. Delicious pie charts!
  8. An Italian town is going to create a database of dog DNA so they can test abandoned excrement and fine the offending owners. Said the mayor, "If signs and invitations aren't enough, we'll try genetics. I want a clean city."
  9. Does your audience like you? REALLY like you? Calculate your NetPromoter Score.
  10. Network for Good's partnership with Capital One. Now nonprofits can receive the full amount of a donation, without credit card processing fees -- and we can contemplate the differences between marketing for charity and selling a credit card. Yep: children, puppies, and the environment vs. a Visigoth attack.
  11. Ever wanted to write your own bill? Now you can, sort of. The Public Markup Project from the Sunlight Foundation lets you comment on legislation. Now that's a participatory democracy!
  12. hopes to become the Craigslist of nonprofit giving (presumably without the personals).

How To: Put Technology to Use (September 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 3:09pm
Your guide to the resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause.

Craft a Fundraising Appeal

In Cordoba, Spain, one enterprising itinerant was in the habit of setting out 3 hats, with a sign next to each: "Money for food"; "Money for beer"; and "Money for drugs". His multi-channel appeal did better than average, as different audiences donated based on their own proclivities. (An NTEN staffer merely recorded the anecdote, for eventual use as an example of how to connect with those who may not be predisposed to give you money. Besides, his beer money had already been spent.)

When you start to think about your next fundraising letter, you should follow the example of Marc Pitman: print out and analyze your past appeals. Who is your message targeting? Are you talking about yourself, or connecting to your potential donors? (Just, please, don't ask yourself, "What would happen if the author of The Da Vinci Code wrote your next fundraising appeal?" Other than that, Alan Sharpe's advice is pretty decent.)

The Intangible Measures of Success

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 1:44pm

David M. Lawson and Jay Goulart, WOW! Institute

Have you ever reached your fundraising goal, but still found your organization cash-poor? Have you found yourself surprised when donors you thought for sure would come through again, didn't?

In uncertain times like we find ourselves in today, we often discover the impact of things like donor perceptions, satisfaction, and happiness. Long-term success depends in no small part on your ability to measure the intangible reasons that create customer loyalty.

If you are going to exceed your donors' expectations, you need to incorporate qualitative measurements that start to illuminate the intangible reasons you are succeeding, holding your own, or perhaps, failing.

Rapid Donor Cultivation: Getting the First Online Gift Faster

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 1:38pm

Jenny L. Feinberg and Jeff Patrick, Common Knowledge

As nonprofits escalate their focus on the Internet for fundraising and base-building, there is, increasingly, a recognition that the online channel can be a constituent-friendly, cost-effective means of building relationships and raising money from individuals.

New online fundraising programs, however, bring new challenges:

  • How to acquire new constituents?
  • How to cultivate this virtual constituent community?
  • How to produce fundraising revenue (quickly)?
  • How to reduce the payback period for the program investment?

To address these questions, you should be inspired by best practices in the online retail industry.