Tag: NTA

Last year, NTEN launched the first cohort for the new Oregon Nonprofit Tech Readiness (ONTR) program. This six-month program builds on the eight weeks of curriculum for the Nonprofit Technology Academy and extends with an additional four months of support for each organization’s chosen technology project.

You may find yourself asking questions like, “Who participates in this program with a mix of online and offline learning, and what did it mean for them?” We want to introduce you to Taylor Smith, Technical Services Manager for the Oregon Food Bank, to share his answers to these questions and a few more.

What was your biggest tech pet peeve going into the ONTR?

I always thought it was a lack of strategy surrounding technology projects, but I’ve since been able to clarify that it is actually the lack of objectives that cause me to pull my hair out. The strategy becomes much more tangible once everyone has agreed upon a clear set of objectives.

How is participating in the ONTR valuable to you?

Connecting outside of my workplace with peers who are facing similar challenges and engaging with thought leaders in the industry are most valuable to me. It goes way beyond reading an article or participating as an anonymous viewer of a webinar.

Tell us about your project.

My project is supporting the implementation of a new volunteer database (CiviCore), to be used by thousands of volunteers monthly, in addition to establishing an integration plan for “connecting” that new system with our existing fundraising database (The Raiser’s Edge).

What cool stuff are you up to that you’re excited about?

Besides the integration project mentioned above, we are also re-shaping the philosophy behind how our fundraising database is used by Oregon Food Bank. Rather than seeing it as a donation/transactional database which ultimately only supports the gift processing team, we are transforming it into a true fundraising database built around relationships. This means changes to how and where we enter gifts, redefining the acknowledgment and recognition process, as well as developing a complex, but not complicated, process for relationship management.

Have you had any “a-ha” moments with your project?

When developing a system for integrating or connecting two separate database systems, I’ve keyed into the concept that we will focus on fewer points of data that have to travel between systems and ensure we handle them very well (i.e., accurately, efficiently, timely, etc.) rather than being ambitious with the amount of data and only doing it poorly.

New Year’s tech resolutions for 2015?

Use the knowledge I’ve gained from the ONTR program and NTC to support our Marketing and Communication team with improved online engagement strategies. Specifically, I hope to go from a passive participant in these conversations to an active leader in relation to nonprofit technological tools.

Last year, NTEN launched the first cohort for the Oregon Nonprofit Technology Readiness (ONTR) program. This six-month program builds on the eight weeks of curriculum for the Nonprofit Technology Academy (NTA) and extends with an additional four months of support for each organization’s chosen technology project.

You may find yourself asking questions like, “Who participates in this program with a mix of online and offline learning, and what did it mean for them?” We want to introduce you to Emily Squires, Community Engagement Director for Playwrite, Inc., to share her answers to these questions and a few more.

What was your biggest tech pet peeve going into the ONTR?

Using DropBox as our organizational server.

How is participating in the ONTR valuable to you?

We participated as a team, and my colleague Julian and I have found ONTR so helpful. We have gained knowledge and access to resources, as well as meeting other folks in Portland with whom we are building organizational relationships. I love having a group that I can email and say, “Does anyone have experience with ______?” -and get a response!

Have you connected with others through this process?

I have followed up with a handful of people from my ONTR cohort off of the group email and also in real life. The local networking has been really valuable for us.

Tell us about your project.

My project involves creating an internal guidebook for all things website and social media related. It’s slow to start (e.g., actually start writing things down, transferring them from my brain to the paper) beyond re-doing the website itself, but it is an organizational priority, and it will happen!

What cool stuff are you up to that you’re excited about?

I’m excited that we have a new website (launched Nov. 2014). I’m even more excited to stay engaged with it and make the 2.0 version even better through making changes based on feedback and data.

Have you had any “a-ha” moments with your project?

I’m ready for them when they happen.

New Year’s tech resolutions for 2015?

To keep tech integrated into our strategic and financial planning.

When Stuart Scadron-Wattles joined Image three years ago as Director of Resource Development, he was charged with boosting unearned income to help make the 25-year-old organization as sustainable as possible. Image began as a literary journal featuring visual work and critiques of performance by artists interested in the nexus of art, mystery, and faith. Today, it also offers more than a dozen other programs, including events and conferences.

Scadron-Wattles participated in the Nonprofit Tech Academy (NTA) in 2013. Prior to the NTA, and not long after he joined Image, a few factors were converging: The journal’s subscription rate was dropping; the subscriber population was aging; and direct mail promotions were not working like they used to. Internally, the organization maintained six discrete databases to manage subscriptions, donations, events, and other processes and programs.

“In my role, I wanted to be sure that the people participating in and benefiting from our programs were given opportunities to support the organization,” Scadron-Wattles said. But with multiple databases, it wasn’t happening consistently or easily. “We also knew—suspected and then confirmed by a survey we did—that word of mouth was the biggest factor in the decision to subscribe to the literary journal, but we weren’t sure how to support that.”

Image had been using Convio Common Ground, which was acquired and discontinued soon after Scadron-Wattles completed the Academy. In retrospect, the timing of the disappointing news was as good as it could have been, he said.

“We could have left Salesforce altogether at that point and gone to something else, but it offered us a great deal in terms of consolidating data from many sources and giving us that clichéd but valuable 360-degree view of the customer.

“What I could see from our plans was that we needed that 360 view—who’s buying, who’s donating, who’s doing both, who’s getting our e-newsletter, and what they’re doing with it. We needed a central place where that was all clear. The Academy gave me the courage to say, ‘Okay, we’re not leaving Salesforce’ and a better framework for figuring out how to move forward.”

After several months of researching, Image selected Causeview, a fundraising application built on the Salesforce platform. The transition went well, in part due to Scadron-Wattles’ temerity to ask the company for an A-team consultant, another tip he gleaned from the Academy.

The application is simple yet flexible. For example, it integrates well (running a connector) with Eventbrite, “without us having to pay the big bucks for a turnkey solution, two-thirds of which we don’t need,” said Scadron-Wattles.

In the past, events data were housed in one of those discrete databases, and the Image website directed event attendees to call the office to register. Registrations for two conferences—several hundred attendees—were handled by three interns and the program director. “Not customer friendly.”

Now participants register through Eventbrite, and the data is uploaded (manually) to Saleforce. It’s not seamless, but it’s an improvement, said Scadron-Wattles. “It’s worth [the extra steps because] we get new donors from any group we upload, which helps our totals from a fundraising standpoint.”

Today, Image has more data stored in Salesforce than ever before. The next step, according to Scadron-Wattles, is to look at upgrade pathways and journeys for individuals who engage with Image through its multiple programs. “Say you come in through our newsletter, a journal subscription, a conference or event, or you buy an e-book or access an online article. Where do we take you from there? How do we get you to engage in new ways, to make a gift and to further support Image?”

The discussions around customer journeys raise many questions, and the planning takes time. “The good news,” said Scadron-Wattles, “is that having gone through the Academy, we know we need to have a plan for this, and we know how to go about strategically mapping out how it’s going to work.”

Based in Seattle, Artist Trust supports and encourages artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout the state of Washington. That can be difficult at times, since the state is large, with many remote areas. It’s not uncommon for artists in rural areas to have to drive long distances simply to access the Internet.

“We really needed to think about how we should be investing in technology to align with our strategic goal to reach people statewide from our small office in tech-savvy Seattle,” explained Margit Rankin, executive director.

Rankin and Associate Director Lila Hurwitz learned about the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy shortly after a staff restructuring, during which Hurwitz took on an increased oversight role for IT management, including acting as the liaison between the nonprofit and a newly contracted IT consultant.

Around the same time, Rankin had taken the helm of Artist Trust and received a grant to buy hardware and software. The nonprofit already had a lot of technology embedded in its day-to-day practices, she said. Its grant programs for artists are administered almost entirely online; it offers webinars and other virtual programs; and it uses The Raiser’s Edge for donor management. In addition, its comprehensive and highly-trafficked website is the most important way that constituents across the state learn about and take advantage of Artist Trust’s programs and services.

But no strategic technology plan yet existed to ensure that IT was in fact serving the organization’s overarching mission, goals, and programmatic needs. Rankin told staff, “Let’s make a plan before we just go and buy things.”

Both Rankin and Hurwitz found the Academy session on IT planning useful for understanding the key components of a technology plan. Hurwitz since has been working closely with the IT consultant, and the plan is now in its second draft. It doesn’t contain every element discussed during the Academy, Hurwitz noted, but it does cover hardware and software needs, which are critical right now as the organization heads into its budgeting process for the coming fiscal year.

Participating in the Academy has given Hurwitz confidence in her abilities to manage the planning process rather than relying completely on an external consultant. “For so long we relied on someone from the outside to know and do it all. The Academy helped me step up to the realization that we have to bring some of it in-house,” she said.

“We can’t afford to have someone on staff solely devoted to IT, so it was important for us to figure out what in-house skills we can develop and what can be appropriately outsourced to make sure we’re managing effectively,” Rankin added.

Both Rankin and Hurwitz are excited to present the draft technology plan to the board of directors. “We really are going to face significant investments and need to make decisions, and now we have a plan in place to be able to articulate those needs more effectively,” Rankin said.

Academy participation also helped Hurwitz make better use of social media. Following a tip she learned during one session that images tend to be shared more often than text or links alone, she posted an image on the Artist Trust Facebook page [www.facebook.com/ArtistTrust] with a quote from an artist. It reached nearly 18,000 people, up from an average of 3,500, with nearly 1,300 talking about it (the average had been 125).

Measuring the actual return on investment with social media still feels a bit elusive to both Rankin and Hurwitz. “I can’t tell you that these people gave $100 at our annual auction,” Rankin said, “but that post was a direct promotion of the event, and it did much better than we expected.” (The annual Benefit Art Auction exceeded the fundraising goal by $50,000 this year).

As a result of Hurwitz’ expanded role as technology liaison, staff feel better supported. And acting as a conduit between the organization and the consultant helps her stay abreast of tech-related issues and needs. Once each month, she meets with the consultant to review those issues and set priorities. Next on the agenda are discussions about a new server or cloud-based alternative, since Artist Trust and its 11 staff are outgrowing their current hardware.

Still, it’s challenging to make decisions about the best products available and getting staff trained on those that are ultimately selected. “It’s hard to wrangle all that’s out there,” Hurwitz said.

Keeping an eye on the bigger picture, however, helps. “Our strategic plan doesn’t say ‘Invest in technology’,” Rankin said. “Our strategic plan says we need to continue to reach artists in underserved areas of our state, and one of the ways we can do that is to use technology. That’s how we integrate and operationalize it.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology strategically and effectively to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is an 8-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

Death With Dignity National Center (DWD) works to improve end-of-life options through carefully worded Death with Dignity laws. The Portland, Oregon, nonprofit established and defended landmark legislation in Oregon and Washington that now serves as a model for advocates and policymakers nationwide.

When DWD hired Melissa Barber full-time as electronic communications specialist in 2010, the plan was to launch a full-fledged electronic communications department to oversee several technology projects. Barber learned about the Nonprofit Tech Academy (NTA ) and brought the opportunity to her new boss, executive director Peg Sandeen. “The timing was fortuitous,” said Sandeen.

Prior to the Academy, DWD was “keeping the lights on” as far as technology adoption and reactive in its approach. “We were fairly proactive in the content of our messaging but less so in the technologies to deliver them,” said Sandeen.

At the time Barber joined DWD, the organization wanted to change its donor database, “the root of everything we do as a nonprofit,” said Sandeen. “The old system was outdated and ineffective for us, and we wanted to move to the cloud.”

DWD also wanted to move its website to the Drupal platform to have the capability to update the site without having to call its website consultant each time.

Most of the DWD staff and board members were sold on the idea of moving the database (and the website) but, “as at any organization, we have folks on a broad spectrum; some want change and some don’t,” said Sandeen. To encourage further buy-in, she formed a committee comprised of the individuals who would be most involved in the database transition and the heaviest users of the new system. The strategy was reinforced during the NTA , but it was one Barber had learned from experience at a previous employer, where getting buy-in for a technology project was a challenge. The committee was charged with determining needs and assessing available products, a practice influenced by Barber’s and Sandeen’s experience in the Academy.

“If folks are tasked to use a specific resource day to day they should be engaged in the decision about what to use,” said Sandeen. “If people are using X and swearing about it all day long, I don’t want to be the executive who says, ‘Tough, you have to use it.’ I want them to feel they have the resources they need to succeed even though we’re small.”

Engaging others worked. “People really got excited about the potential of a new database, and they became more aware of the limitations of the current system,” said Barber.

Resources from Idealware helped DWD get a feel for the pros and cons of different systems. The committee selected Salesforce and issued requests-for-proposals from consulting firms. Price quotes ranged from $5,000 to $50,000. The huge variability led DWD to shift their focus and undertake a ROI analysis of moving the website to Drupal first. As a result, “We decided the website should take precedence since it had a better ROI in the near term,” Barber said.

Although the database project was put on hold temporarily, the proposal process itself was immensely useful. It reinforced the need for a new system and the cost variance, which resulted from different approaches to preparing and handling data, served as a motivator of sorts. “The need to clean up our data had been a noodling problem, and now it has a dollar value attached to it,” said Sandeen. DWD will tackle the cleanup in-house, and “hopefully that will go a long way toward cost savings.”

The website transition to Drupal moved ahead and was completed in May 2012. “We’re already seeing the difference in cost and savings after the conversion,” said Barber. While there was an up-front cost associated with the transition, DWD has gone from paying $750 per month to its former web consultant and host to $12 per month to its new ISP.

Barber credits the NTA with pointing her toward resources and information about different products and their potential. Following the Academy, she kept in touch by email with other members of her cohort. She and Sandeen also attended NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, where they met with several members of their cohort in person as well as potential consultants.

In addition to the website transition and the database proposal, DWD has made other important changes. It transitioned to a new email system (Gmail) after looking at the ROI, and put a realistic, multi-year plan in place for upgrading office computers and for the electronic communications department more broadly.

“It’s not just things that are different; now we have a structure, a plan, in place,” said Sandeen. “Each department within the organization had a plan, and it was important for the electronic communications department to have one, too. The NTA helped me see what that would look like in order for the department to be an integral part of our mission.”

Ultimately the department’s plan will include milestones and metrics for program evaluation. It’s in the early stages of assessing what data will be helpful. “The next phase will be, Now that we understand what we can collect, let’s set some targets and goals,” explained Sandeen.

The NTA also helped Sandeen develop new ways of communicating with her board of directors. “I learned to talk about considering return on investment; it’s language I wouldn’t have used otherwise,” she said.

Both Sandeen and Barber believe DWD is closer to being an innovator when it comes to technology and that the org’s maturity level now is more service- and value-oriented. “You have to be ready and open to act,” said Sandeen. “We can get so busy doing day-to-day work related to our missions that technology projects can be difficult to find time for. You have to be ready to make a commitment, though, because doing that can take you places.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of small nonprofit organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy  is an 8-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from Google.]

Artist Trust

  • 7 full-time staff; 4 part-time
  • 26 board members
  • $1.4 million annual budget

Based in Seattle, Artist Trust supports and encourages artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout the state of Washington. That can be difficult at times, since the state is large, with many remote areas. It’s not uncommon for artists in rural areas to have to drive long distances simply to access the Internet.

“We really needed to think about how we should be investing in technology to align with our strategic goal to reach people statewide from our small office in tech-savvy Seattle,” explained Margit Rankin, executive director.

Rankin and Associate Director Lila Hurwitz learned about the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy shortly after a staff restructuring, during which Hurwitz took on an increased oversight role for IT management, including acting as the liaison between the nonprofit and a newly contracted IT consultant.

Around the same time, Rankin had taken the helm of Artist Trust and received a grant to buy hardware and software. The nonprofit already had a lot of technology embedded in its day-to-day practices, she said. Its grant programs for artists are administered almost entirely online; it offers webinars and other virtual programs; and it uses The Raiser’s Edge for donor management. In addition, its comprehensive and highly-trafficked website is the most important way that constituents across the state learn about and take advantage of Artist Trusts programs and services.

But no strategic technology plan yet existed to ensure that IT was in fact serving the organization’s overarching mission, goals, and programmatic needs. Rankin told staff, “Let’s make a plan before we just go and buy things.”

Both Rankin and Hurwitz found the Academy session on IT planning useful for understanding the key components of a technology plan. Hurwitz since has been working closely with the IT consultant, and the plan is now in its second draft. It doesn’t contain every element discussed during the Academy, Hurwitz noted, but it does cover hardware and software needs, which are critical right now as the organization heads into its budgeting process for the coming fiscal year.

Participating in the Academy has given Hurwitz confidence in her abilities to manage the planning process rather than relying completely on an external consultant. “For so long we relied on someone from the outside to know and do it all. The Academy helped me step up to the realization that we have to bring some of it in-house,” she said.

“We can’t afford to have someone on staff solely devoted to IT, so it was important for us to figure out what in-house skills we can develop and what can be appropriately outsourced to make sure we’re managing effectively,” Rankin added.

Both Rankin and Hurwitz are excited to present the draft technology plan to the board of directors. “We really are going to face significant investments and need to make decisions, and now we have a plan in place to be able to articulate those needs more effectively,” Rankin said.

Academy participation also helped Hurwitz make better use of social media. Following a tip she learned during one session that images tend to be shared more often than text or links alone, she posted an image on the Artist Trust Facebook page with a quote from an artist. It reached nearly 18,000 people, up from an average of 3,500, with nearly 1,300 talking about it (the average had been 125).

Measuring the actual return on investment with social media still feels a bit elusive to both Rankin and Hurwitz. “I can’t tell you that these people gave $100 at our annual auction,” Rankin said, “but that post was a direct promotion of the event, and it did much better than we expected.” (The annual Benefit Art Auction exceeded the fundraising goal by $50,000 this year).

As a result of Hurwitz’ expanded role as technology liaison, staff feel better supported. And acting as a conduit between the organization and the consultant helps her stay abreast of tech-related issues and needs. Once each month, she meets with the consultant to review those issues and set priorities. Next on the agenda are discussions about a new server or cloud-based alternative, since Artist Trust and its 11 staff are outgrowing their current hardware.

Still, it’s challenging to make decisions about the best products available and getting staff trained on those that are ultimately selected. “It’s hard to wrangle all that’s out there,” Hurwitz said.

Keeping an eye on the bigger picture, however, helps. “Our strategic plan doesn’t say ‘Invest in technology’,” Rankin said. “Our strategic plan says we need to continue to reach artists in underserved areas of our state, and one of the ways we can do that is to use technology. That’s how we integrate and operationalize it.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is an 8-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

  • 15 full-time staff plus 8 seasonal or part-time
  • 19 board members
  • $1.7 Million annual budget

With a recent $14.7 million redevelopment project completed in 2010, the Britannia Mine Museum is undergoing tremendous growth. Established in 1971 to preserve the history of and educate the public about mining in British Columbia, the museum encourages visitors to explore their individual and societal connections to the past, present, and future regional mining industry.

The multi-phased redevelopment gave the museum a new visitor center, exhibit hall, and a restored a 20-story gravity-fed concentrator mill, used to process the valuable mineral from rock and one of the last remaining such mills in North America. Not surprisingly the changes have led to significant increases in museum visitors, from 30,000 in 2009 to 67,000 in 2012, and an estimated 75,000 in 2013.

“A lot of the systems we had were quite adequate for visitation levels three years ago, but not now,” said Kirstin Clausen, executive director. Figuring out what kinds of software the organization needed was a priority for Clausen when she participated in the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy, as was “building more robustness around managing donations and sponsorships.”

With those objectives, one of the most resonant sessions for Clausen focused on databases and the importance of identifying goals and understanding the data your organization needs to reach them. “That helped us realize we should stop putting a lot of energy and effort into finding the one magic bullet, that one perfectly integrated system at this point, because there really isn’t one,” she said.

With only about 6,000 database records, Clausen realized it was more important to focus on obtaining the right data in the right format than worrying about having to enter it two or three times, something she previously thought an integrated system would eliminate.

Clausen also began to see that maybe the museum could collect less demographic data and instead try to home in on data that addressed one of the organization’s most important questions: “Have we changed people’s minds about something that’s important to us? If not, we’re likely more exposed in terms of future funding and connectedness,” she said. “We have a nice database of donors, but we currently don’t have a strong sense of why they’re coming back, and we certainly don’t show them the love enough,” Clausen added.

In addition, much of the qualitative information about donors resides with Clausen herself, who has been with the museum and served as director for 12 years. “We need to have others in the organization, too, who understand the intelligence behind this group of relationships,” she said.

With such growth in visits, Clausen also has identified the need for a new admissions point of sale system. The current system, which connects six tills, was designed for retail operations and managing inventory, and therefore doesn’t supply reporting that is as useful as she and her team would like. But with an already stretched staff, “it’s easy to go back to the old ways of doing things. The system we have is paid for and working, so I’ve been holding off [selecting and implementing] something new. We’re not sure exactly how to do it yet, and it will become a big — and costly — project.”

Through the Nonprofit Tech Academy, Clausen feels better able to identify and prioritize technology needs. She also now discusses those needs with staff in new ways. “We used to rush for the sliced bread, to find the one solution. Now I’m more likely to bring the discussion back to, What is it we’re trying to solve here? It gets tiresome for staff to hear you can’t afford new software, but to say we’re putting off a purchase so we can explore the end goals further, that makes a lot of sense to everyone,” she said.

Staff have since backed away from several products they had been proposing, and the ones the museum has implemented have had better results.

The conversations Clausen has with the museum’s board of directors have changed as well. She now emphasizes the organization’s focus on a few key priorities at any given time as well as the virtues of patience. “So much of technology is about integration, changing the siloes, and finding ways to make it work across departments and disciplines. That takes patience; the solutions are not quick,” she said.

Today, Clausen is more confident in her abilities to bring appropriate technology to the museum. “I don’t have all the answers by any means, but I’m not so daunted by it.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is a 9-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

  • 1 part-time saff person
  • 10-15 board members
  • $100,000 annual budget

Since its founding 38 years ago, the Emanuel Arts Council (EAC) has worked to provide art and cultural activities and arts education to enrich the lives and economic well being of local citizens. Housed in a renovated church building in rural Swainsboro, Georgia, the EAC has one part-time paid employee, its executive director, Jen Meadows.

The nonprofit organizes many popular initiatives and events, including an artists’ guild, a youth advisory board, artist-in-residence, community theater and dance programs, as well as festivals celebrating African American and Hispanic art and culture. The EAC gallery space is active, with artist exhibitions scheduled continuously through 2014. A group of ambitious and loyal volunteers and a working board take on many responsibilities, and several financial supporters “really make a difference funding wise,” Meadows said. But one ongoing challenge over the years has been to widen the base of supporters who recognize the value of the arts as a means to foster awareness of diversity and improve life skills and overall healthiness of the community, which is the vision of the EAC. To date the council has not relied heavily on technology. “We still do many things on paper,” Meadows said. When she learned about the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy (NTA), she was excited to expand her knowledge. “I was hoping to learn what software might be a fit for our organization and how to get board members, volunteers, and potential new hires trained on it,” she said.

Meadows participated in the NTA with a member of the EAC board, who used computers at the local library and community college to attend the virtual sessions, since the operating systems and software on the organization’s two donated desktop computers couldn’t support access.

As a result of the NTA, the board member took the initiative to redesign the nonprofit’s website using WordPress, a content management system that would enable the group to more easily manage and update content. The project also included making the site more interactive for artists and other visitors, and adding a donation page and social media links. Plans include the addition of online ticketing for events, something Meadows and volunteers have been managing manually.

The board member has been a “driving force” behind the site update, according to Meadows, and has since recruited two other directors to assist. He also has taken on the unofficial role of technology liaison to the board, which came as a welcome surprise to Meadows. In fact, she is hoping more board members and some of the organization’s volunteers as well will express an interest in future tech-related efforts and initiatives. As executive director, she knows she needs to spend the lion’s share of her part-time schedule on strategic issues, overall leadership, and technology planning, and less on implementation and day-to-day operations.

Currently the EAC lacks both a strategic and technology plan. But it’s a priority for Meadows, who became director in 2009. “Ultimately my goal is that we will form a strategic plan and, at that point, look at all the ways technology can help us accomplish those goals and then how to raise the funds for it.”

As a result of the NTA, Meadows feels more confident about delving deeper into technology. She also feels better able to convey tech-related information to others. “And I know where to get some of the information I don’t know. Just learning about what resources are there to help with some of these issues is a huge benefit,” she said. “Sometimes that makes all the difference.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is a 9-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

  • Housed within the San Diego State University Research Foundation
  • 300-400 events annually

A classical clarinetist, educator and executive director, Marian Liebowitz, DMA, is on a mission to bring emerging musicians to audiences worldwide.

Liebowitz founded and heads the San Diego State University Adams’ Project Performers Network, a booking agency for emerging musicians she created over 20 years ago. Then in 2009 she created the Heartpower Performances program in order to bring concerts and music classes to venues serving at-risk populations, such as homeless shelters, juvenile justice centers and Alzheimer’s care facilities. The Adams’ Project Performance Network and its programs are under the fiscal sponsorship of San Diego State University Research Foundation (SDSURF), where Liebowitz serves on the faculty.

When she learned about the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Academy (NTA), Liebowitz hoped to gain an overview of the current role of technology — both to better prepare her students for careers as arts administrators and professional musicians and to more efficiently market and manage her own organization and its programs.

Although Liebowitz uses technology everyday in her multiple roles, she says she’s had a “longstanding fear of anything technological, that fear that if you touch the wrong button you’ll lose everything.”

When Liebowitz first founded the Adams’ Project Performance Network over 20 years ago, the program booked about 20 events each year. Now it schedules between 300 and 400 annually, in California and beyond. Keeping track of event dates, venues and performers as well as continually engaging new audiences are ongoing, and high, priorities.

Liebowitz found the NTA session on social media one of the most relevant, specifically material about how to identify different constituencies and choose the best channels and tools for communicating with them. She learned that she could keep the Adams’ Project and Heartpower program websites fresh and current by integrating social media feeds, particularly from Facebook. Prior to the NTA, “I didn’t know that was possible,” she said.

Although it’s difficult to quantify the impact of adding the feed, she knows it has had an effect. “We can’t say how many more people are attending concerts or how many more jobs we’re getting into the program as a result, but I do know–judging by the increasing number of Likes and seeing people at events who said they learned about it through Facebook–that it’s helping us create more of a following,” Liebowitz said.

And although the Adams’ Project doesn’t actively fundraise since it is under fiscal receivership, it does receive donations and grants. “When we get funding, we want to celebrate it, and Facebook seems to be the social media venue where the most people I know interact; almost all of our students are on it and many of our supporters, too,” Liebowitz said.

As a result of the NTA, Liebowitz is looking more deliberately into other cloud-based resources. The Adams’ Project uses a Google calendar to display upcoming concert dates and Google Docs to manage the booking process, but Liebowitz plans to follow up on information and resources provided during the NTA to select additional tools. She hopes to create a master calendar and have the ability to generate reminders to individual performers and ensemble members about their upcoming events. Otherwise, “it’s just massive to try to coordinate it all,” she said.

The NTA also led Liebowitz to revise the syllabus for a course that helps music students hone critical skills in community outreach and nonprofit management, Marketing in the 21st Century. With permission from NTEN, she added material from the Academy to the curriculum, including content about social media and defining–and differentiating among–an organization’s community, network and crowd.

In another course, a community outreach practicum that teaches student performers how to create compelling programming for at-risk audiences, Liebowitz restructured class assignments to include the option to develop a website or act as social media brand ambassador for Adams’ Project and Heartpower performances. Several students have since built websites for their ensembles, which have led to an increase in their followings and to some additional performances.

For Liebowitz, the greatest impact of the NTA has been on her comfort level with technology. “For me, it’s about relieving some of that fear, about how to approach technology and proceed without feeling like I have to get someone to help me. Now I’m much more brave about working through things on my own, and I’m much more confident taking information about technology into my classes.”

She expects the impact to continue as she sifts through many of the resources she bookmarked during the Academy. “I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

[This case study is part of a series documenting the challenges and successes of arts-related organizations learning to apply technology to achieving their mission. The Nonprofit Tech Academy is a 9-week course hosted by NTEN. This case study and this organization’s participation in the NTA were generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

  • 6 full-time staff; 3 part-time
  • 13 board members
  • $2M annual budget
  • Mission: To build powerful connections among women and leverage philanthropic investments toward solutions that address the root causes of injustice and inequality.

With a mission to leverage philanthropic investments against injustice and inequality, Women Donors Network (WDN) is a community of progressive women who multiply their energy, strategic savvy, and resources to build a more just and fair world. Through member-led Donor Circles, regional events and trainings, and network-wide strategic initiatives, the San Francisco-based nonprofit relies heavily on its website and donor database to carry out its work.

A key objective of the organization’s current strategic plan is to strengthen member engagement with WDN through its website, events, committee work and other avenues, explained Laurel Potter Huerta, project manager, Programs & Technology Initiatives.

When Potter Huerta received an email from NTEN announcing an upcoming Nonprofit Tech Academy, “we had a lot of tech projects going on, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for us,” she said. Technology has become a larger part of Potter Huerta’s job as WDN responds to member needs and program growth.

Although WDN aspires to be an innovator with technology, in reality it’s probably keeping up with the field. “It’s definitely our goal and intention to align our technology with our mission, but a small staff that manages a lot of programming and competing priorities seem to limit our ability to get to that stage,” she said.

The nonprofit had been using an outdated and highly customized version of FileMaker to manage its database, which didn’t provide the depth of reporting on member engagement that staff and board members needed. A recent transition to a Mac-based environment imposed additional limitations on accessing and exporting data.

Potter Huerta and WDN leadership knew the org needed a new database, preferably cloud-based, that would provide easy access for all staff and the board. Free Nonprofit Starter Pack licenses through the Salesforce.com Foundation and a large and growing nonprofit user community drove WDN’s decision to select Salesforce.

There was plenty of support and enthusiasm among staff and the board. “Everyone saw the ability to gather and report on information as something that would be helpful to their work,” said Potter Huerta. To facilitate the transition she worked closely with Shake Technologies, a Bay Area IT consultancy recommended by a board member. She and the consultant assessed WDN’s needs for the new system, mapped workflows and fields, determined the proper format for data, and designed the database.

The effort took about 18 months from the planning stage (begun prior to the NTA) to pilot. The process was “long,” in part because of the other tech initiatives also underway; in addition to the Mac conversion and Salesforce implementation, WDN also redesigned its website.

Multiple priorities and limited time posed challenges. So did the necessary step of cleaning data before importing it into the new database. WDN decided to keep the massive cleanup project in-house rather than outsource. It was intense and tedious, Potter Huerta said, but ultimately necessary. If she had it to do over again, she would make the same decision. Only instead of doing it all herself, she would assemble a team and assign particular data categories–say, contacts, events, financial–to the org’s subject matter experts. “The cleanup process is hard to outsource,” she said. “Every organization knows its own data best.”

Working with a consultant Potter Huerta respected was a big help. “Having someone you trust is key,” she said. She also drew on a number of other resources. Through the NTA, she met colleagues who had been through Salesforce implementations. She attended NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference and Salesforce’s Dreamforce event. A WDN board member had gone through a similar database initiative at another organization, so Potter Huerta got some advice from her as well.

The NTA helped Potter Huerta more generally in her role managing tech initiatives, particularly in thinking more about technology return on investment and data usage. “It really expanded my learning. Many of us in nonprofits are accidental techies, so being exposed to resources to help move beyond that to a more intentional role was important and useful to me. I’m not sure it changes the reality of our limited time and competing priorities–those will always affect your decision-making process–but the NTA offered some great resources.”

Potter Huerta has seen WDN’s IT maturity level evolve. “I definitely find we’re more proactive and service-oriented than before.” The change is evident in the transition to Salesforce, which staff began using after the pilot.

“Now staff have easier access to better data, which is so important when we make decisions about which programs are well-attended and useful for our members, which geographic regions we should target for particular programs, where we have opportunities for more outreach and which ways of communicating with members, friends and allies are the most successful,” said Potter Huerta. And the best part, she added, “is not having all that tied to our server and clunky, old database.”