Tag: Collaboration


[Editor’s note: The following is from the December 2012 issue of NTEN:Change, NTEN’s quarterly journal for nonprofit leaders. Read the complete issue on “Collaboration” when you subscribe to the journal for free!]

By Debra Askanase, Community Organzier 2.0

This spring, the New York City Elder Abuse Center (the Center) began its journey from a traditional, “non-social” organization to one that uses and embraces social media in both its communications and internal processes. Established in 2008 as a collaborative response to the growing number of complex elder abuse cases in NYC, the NYC Elder Abuse Center helps professionals, organizations, and systems prevent elder abuse and improve their response to it.

The Center wanted to expand its reach, connections, and impact using social media and received grant funding in 2011 for social media planning and implementation through 2012. The Center staff includes just five staff members (four full-time) plus one very part-time social media manager at five hours a week. In order to accomplish the goals of social media strategy, Deputy Director Risa Breckman knew that 1.) work must be spread among staff 2.) she had to delegate others to take the lead with social media and 3.) everyone will need training in order to realize efficiencies and goals.

Risa sums up the value of a collaborative approach: “Our staff conversations about ways to utilize social media are creative and energizing. Everyone brings something unique to the table, whether it’s content, tech skills or social media know-how. Also, using a team approach, we all learn and grow together, increasing our organizational capacity to use social media. The knowledge doesn’t just reside with one person.”

The Center developed a social media strategy, but did not finalize it until after a half-day staff meeting to review the plan and think about the realities of implementation. They tackled tough questions such as: “we’ve never put together a podcast, how will we practically make this happen AND work through the learning curve?” Or: “not many of us are on LinkedIn, how should we use it to help the organization?” And: “what role should Slideshare play in relation to the podcast?”

At the end of that day, the Center staff walked away with a few solid accomplishments and a sense of their collaborative approach to social media, including the social media manager role, who else makes up the “social media team,” which social media channels to focus on, the content conversation for each channel, and finally, what training was still needed. The social media team includes the Deputy Director, the Special Projects Director, the Social Media Manager, the social media consultant, summer interns, and an outside content development consultant. Some of the team is dispursed, working virtually.

The Center developed a Facebook Page, blog, a podcast, a Slideshare channel (with slidecasts), a Linkedin Company Page, and a private Delicious profile for internal knowledge-sharing. They also participate in conversations in Linkedin Groups, and Twitter (via Director Mark Lachs’ twitter profile, @drmarklachs). Though it seems like a lot of channels, it is manageable with shared responsibility. As Cara Kenien, the Center’s Social Media Manager told me, “Risa is so open to delegating and readjusting as needed and finding ways to share responsibilities, which is why we are so collaborative.”

Here are a few key takeaways that the Center learned about the role of collaboration and social media:

1. Training and Documentation

Though none of the Center’s staff regularly uses social media personally, Risa Breckman decided that the entire team should be involved in the planning and training process so that knowledge-sharing efficiencies could emerge. The staff received training in the basics of using NYCEAC’s social media channels, as well as Google alerts, social media measurement, and blogging within either the bi-weekly calls or in-person.

The social media team maintains an internal document within its shared Google Drive folder called the “NYCEAC Internal Resource List.” The resource list is really the “go to document for all things online.” It includes keywords and keyword phrases for online content, related websites, where to find Creative Commons images and how to attribute them, podcast development resources, and other relevant information for the social media team. Important points from the trainings are also placed into the Resource List. Sometimes on a call, a team member will say “let’s put that in the Resource List,” and I’ll know that means everyone uses it!

2. Team meetings

The entire social media team participates in bi-weekly telephone calls to address “big picture” issues related to NYCEAC’s social media strategy, knowledge-sharing, and training; the minutes are captured in an ongoing social media team meetings Google doc for the entire social media team to access. Since not all of the team works out of the Center, the phone calls are also an extremely important tool for keeping the team intact.

3. Ongoing conversations in the Cloud

The team accesses a shared Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) folder. All ongoing work is placed into the shared folder, and team members are notified when it is ready for review. Online mentions and Google alerts are placed into a shared excel spreadsheet, and each team member adds social media metrics to it. Podcasts and Slidecasts are placed into a shared Dropbox folder for review. Each team member places relevant elder justice and elder abuse articles and online mentions from the web into NYCEAC’s private Delicious bookmarks. These cloud applications enable the team to work efficiently.

4. A culture of collaboration

From the beginning, the Center’s approach to social media was collaborative, including shared responsibilities, delegation as needed, and erring on the side of inclusion. Cara Kenien, Social Media Manager, comments: “Everyone was always prepared to dive in and learn together, from the Deputy Director on down. Everyone also steps up to take on responsibility, and to take on the more difficult task of discussing process issues.”

Debra Askanase is the Principal and Online Engagement Strategist at Community Organizer 2.0, a digital strategy and engagement consulting firm. She blogs regularly about the intersection of social media, nonprofits and technology at Community Organizer 2.0. Connect with her on Twitter, Google Plus, Slideshare, or Linkedin.


[Editor’s note: The following is from the December 2012 issue of NTEN:Change, NTEN’s quarterly journal for nonprofit leaders. Read the complete issue on “Collaboration” when you subscribe to the journal for free!]

Data sharing has become a critical part of collaboration and will continue to do so as we are able to access and create more data. There are many sites that allow you to upload data, as well as download other data, for free. These are just a handful of nonprofit-focused data sharing sites to get you started:

  • National Center for Charitable Statistics: NCCS provides data, as well as analysis tools and reports, on Nonprofits around the US. You can learn about other organizations in your area, analyze giving trends, and download data directly from their site.
  • Data.gov: Data.gov provides public access to datasets generated by the Federal Government. The site hosts a wealth of data searchable by agency, category, topic, or geographically. You can filter the raw data, RSS feeds of the data, charts, maps, or even widgets made of the data. From the Open Government section of the site, there are links to access other government data sites for specific US states, cities, countries, and agencies, as well as 35 international open data sites.
  • GuideStar: GuideStar gathers and publicizes information about nonprofit organizations. Hosting a database of nonprofit information including mission, programs, leaders, goals, accomplishments, and needs, GuideStar allows users to search for specific nonprofits, analyze data, and update their own organization’s file.
  • Socrata: Their open data platform is a gathering place for shared data – find data sets or upload and share data from a project, research, or regarding your cause in your community – from water quality to voting records to school attendance.

Where are you finding/sharing data for your organization? Please let us know in the comments below.


[Editor’s note: The following is from the December 2012 issue of NTEN:Change, NTEN’s quarterly journal for nonprofit leaders. Read the complete issue on “Collaboration” when you subscribe to the journal for free!]

By Michelle Hines, UCP/CLASS

Since the economic downturn, an increasing number of organizations have explored and implemented mergers or collaborative agreements. Many factors should be considered when organizations begin to work on mergers, including technology. Beyond financial and equipment matters, one of the most important concerns that can dictate the technological success or failure of a merger is change management. To ensure a smooth transition during a merger, you can prepare your staff for merging technology in five steps:

  1. Develop a communication plan. Do not start with the technology. Start with communication. Employees may have increased anxieties about their job security, so lessen their worries about what you are going to do with the computers. Create a communication plan that outlines the exact aspects of technology that will be impacted by the merger. This official document should address high-level technology strategy surrounding the merger and then focus on departments and individuals most impacted by it. Use multiple modes of communication, including paper, email, and even texting if that suits the organizations. It is better to over-communicate than not provide enough information.
  2. Address change and set expectations. Provide an opportunity for face-to-face meetings with staff to discuss merging of technology. Discuss the pros and cons of change, in general, without going into the specifics. Listen to feedback on how they perceive change. This conversation educates staff on the process of change. Then outline the overall goals of the consolidation technology. Use other resources, such as a strategic plan or a technology plan, to pinpoint how these goals align with the organizations’ missions. Then ask employees to express how much “pain” they feel the merger will create on a scale of one to ten. Using the same scale, set a reasonable expectation of how much pain they should anticipate. By allowing staff to express their concerns and by you establishing the expectations, you can lower doubt, anger, fear and possible resentment when things seem more difficult than they had anticipated.
  3. Find the commonalities. Commonalities between the organizations have already been identified in a merger. Continue to explore for similarities in how technology is used between the two parts and involve staff in this process. For example, if one organization heavily utilizes Outlook Calendars, they could be fearful of having to change their method of calendaring to something different. If both organizations use Outlook Calendars, that is a commonality and unlikely to need changing. Finding numerous small similarities can help connect staff based upon a shared culture and further help forge relationships.
  4. Identify the differences. The majority of time will be spent with the differences in technology usage between the two organizations. You must find where things are incongruent between the organizations and where you will need to implement changes. If you have completed the other steps, employees are prepared to expect adjustments. Sometimes the changes will be readily accepted, especially if one organization is dramatically ahead of the technology curve than the other. Sometimes, staff will still resist, even if the changes involve improvements for the better. For example, one organization may have a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone system while the other is still sharing a single voicemail box. Those with just one voicemail box should be excited for the change to the VoIP phone system, but some staff may still resist the change out of fear and lack of information. The key is to do your best to encourage everyone to move forward with the best technology solutions and present the changes as beneficial for both sides.
  5. Implement. A merger will take time, but do not allow the process to be dragged out indefinitely. Staff will begin to fear that the changes will not stop. Be thoughtful of what needs to be done, but you must take action. Publish an implementation schedule and make it readily available to staff. If the schedule changes, be prompt in communicating those changes to staff with an explanation of why the schedule alteration is necessary. No one wants to spend six months bogged down with a phone system change. Effective and timely implementation of changes will show that IT respects the staff members’ time and will hopefully make them more tolerant of scheduling changes when you do need to make them.

Technological change in a nonprofit organization is never easy, and in a merger can be downright tricky. You can, however, increase the likeliness of success through thoughtful planning, good communication and timely implementation.

Michelle Hines is the Technology Director for UCP/CLASS. You can find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @geeka507.