Friday, December 21, 2007

Nonprofit Technology Blog Gets a Face Lift in 2008



I am SUPER pleased to announce that Nonprofit Technology Blog will get a face lift in 2008!

Next year, my dear friend and co-worker, Ben Hendricks, Director of Technology for NPower Greater DC Region will begin sharing his insights regarding how technology can empower your nonprofit to increase productivity, improve employee morale AND innovate!

Ben has been at NPower for 2 years. Prior to joining us, he was Manager of Information Services for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital. More important, he's funny, smart and has a knack for simplifying complicated stuff!

Not to worry, for those of you interested in learning how to use the Web and new Web-based technologies to market and raise money for your cause, I will still blog about online strategies and tools for success.

Please check back in January and join us for the ride. We hope to be a part of your continued success!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Help Your Favorite Charity Raise $50,000

Network for Good and Global Giving (an NPower client) are partnering with PARADE magazine and the Case Foundation on a very cool campaign, called America's Giving Challenge.


"The program aims to show how anyone and everyone can have greater impact in their community and bring more support to the charities and causes they care about.

Here's how it works!

Participants use charity badges to promote their causes and help their charity get $50,000. Or they can simply give to a cause to help it qualify for a $1,000 award. The America’s Giving Challenge runs from 3:00 p.m. EST on December 13, 2007 through 3:00 p.m. EST on January 31, 2008.

Learn more here!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tell Me A Story


When I was in graduate school I heard about a book called "The Wind Done Gone." As I recall it didn't get rave reviews but it did get a lot of press. Here's why.

Alice Randall decided to rewrite "Gone With the Wind" from the perspective of the mulatto maid. (Yikes!)

As you can imagine this didn't go over well with many folks. In particular, The Margaret Mitchell Estate was REALLY disturbed by this "illegitimate" interpretation of the hallowed southern classic. In fact, they were disturbed to the tune of a very expensive lawsuit which was eventually settled out of court.

While I can't say for sure whether or not any of the Estate's charges were valid, I do know this.

People have different perspectives on reality. Whether it's the reality of the antebellum South, the reality of abortion, or the reality of gay rights there are a multitude of frames on every issue. More important, these frames affect us. They inform our laws, our journals, our dinner conversation. And that is why it's SO IMPORTANT that diverse stories are told.

Until recently the privilege to tell a story and to frame the important issues of the day has been afforded to a small few - journalists, gatekeepers, media, folks with money and a distribution vehicle.

The good news is that the Internet is now providing an unparalleled opportunity for multiples stories and perspectives to be told.

I'm hear to say, don't get left out! Don't wait for The Press or The Thought Leaders to cover you. Tell your story. Seize the moment. Stake your place!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Find Your Social Networking Niche


I had lunch today with Justin Perkins, Super Nice Sales Guy and Consultant for Care2. Care2 is a for-profit, niche, social network that helps over 8,000,000 people who "Care2 make a difference - Discover, Share, and Take Action!"

What is a niche social network you ask? Think of it as semi-private party vs. a house party. Unlike a house party (i.e. MySpace), Care2 and other niche social networking sites cater to a specific demographic or issue. By focusing on a specific topic or personality-type, niche social networks become more attractive to marketers who need to reach a specific audience, i.e. women with young children, environmentalists or dog-lovers. (BTW, this IS the demographic on Care2 aka LOHAS - Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.)

Based on Care2's profile, here are three types of nonprofits that might want to join their network.

1. Progressive organizations might introduce their advocacy platforms to Care2 members.
2. Womens' organizations might invite Care2 members to join their Giving Circles.
3. Youth development groups might enlist Care2 volunteers.

You get the point.

Before wading into the social networking space, do some research to find the niche social network for your target audience; this way you're likely to reap better marketing results.

Here is a list of social networks on Wikipedia.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Tools and Rules for Nonprofit Marketing Success



I had a great time talking yesterday at Lipman Hearne - a marketing and communications firm that exclusively serves nonprofits. They are launching a cool, new branding campaign called The True You. Check it out!

They asked me to provide my (humble opinions) on how nonprofits and the consultants that serve them should approach marketing and communications in the "Connected Age," a term I first heard from Alison Fine. Here is what I had to say. It loses some of the translation without my voice but hopefully you'll get the point and find it useful. Cheers!

P.S. Have any of you worked with any great marketing and communications firms lately? Specifically, I'm looking for great advice on messaging for a new product launch. Recommendations?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Love, Love, Love This!

Great presentation by Robert and Maryam Scoble about how to blog well. Found it on Slideshare.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don't Fly Blind


Last Friday, I attended the annual luncheon of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. It's held at the convention center and every year over 1,000 businesses and major associations come together to assess the "state of the state" of DC's economy. This year the key note speaker was John Talmage, President and CEO from Social Compact.

Social Compact is a market research firm which seeks to provide the best information on the state of urban neighborhoods in America. Their goal is to help local governments, private investors and citizens make informed investment and public policy decisions regarding the urban core.

Here's what he said that rang true for me.

"We have to improve the quality of our data about our inner cities in order to make "information-led" decisions about how, where and why to invest in our urban neighborhoods. It's not enough to say 'wouldn't it be great if we could revitalize this place?' No, we need to make the case for why and how investment will work."
This got me thinking about how critical it is to HAVE and USE good data to make business decisions. It's an important marketing and technology issue.

  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are meeting the needs of the people we serve?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are serving the right people?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are properly stewarding our donors' resources?
  • Without the right market research how can we show that our causes are a public policy imperative?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are not just flying in the dark?

Everyone knows that market research, i.e. large-scale quantitative analyses can be extremely expensive. But thanks to technology there are many ways to do research affordably. Online tools like Zoomerang and Survey Monkey enable even a smallest and poorest organizations to gain valuable and inexpensive feedback across space and time.

Technology aside, the most important tool for gaining market intelligence is LISTENING. Listening to clients, listening to members, listening to donors, etc. Don't just use your list servs, blogs and forums to provide "a networking forum for your members" use these tools to really LISTEN to what your publics need from YOU with a goal to UNDERSTANDING the complex issues we are all trying to address.

Don't fly blind!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Charity Widgets May Increase Holiday Giving

Looking for a way to increase holiday giving? Consider adding widgets to your fundraising mix.

A widget is a piece of content that you can paste on your website, blog or social networking page. Widgets can contain pictures and text. See GlobalGiving's "Give Love" widget at right.

The great thing about widgets is that many sync up with donation platforms like PayPal. By clicking directly on the widget your friends, relatives, co-workers, donors, and volunteers can make an immediate contribution to your cause.

Many individuals are using widgets to raise money for the charities that they care about. Many nonprofits are using widgets as part of their viral marketing/fundraising efforts.

There are several services on the Web where you can create widgets for FREE including SixDegrees.org, Change.org, chip in, and Widgetbox. To learn more about how individuals and nonprofits are using charity widgets to raise money for their cause read this report.

Happy widgetizing!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And the Winner Is...

We had a fantastic time at our annual NPower Greater DC Region Technology Innovation Awards Luncheon on Friday and I'm pleased to say that this year's winner is RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

RAINN won for their innovative use of online chat to create the nation's first secure and confidential Online Hotline for survivors of abuse. They get a "full suite" of technology services valued at $45,000 including a strategic technology plan, Microsoft software, IBM hardware and $2,000 in cash.

We also previewed our new "video" at the event. Hope you like! For more information about what we're up to at NPower read our annual report.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Slowly Does it Every Time


I spent some time last week reading over some of the great advice that we got from this year's Technology Innovation Awards Applicants. You can learn more about our Annual Award and Luncheon here.
This advice came through loud and clear and reminded me of Aesop's famous fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
"It's not important to be on the bleeding edge of technology. It's more important to define your requirements and determine what your users (staff, board members and volunteers) really need and will USE. We didn't change our systems overnight. We took our time doing the research. Now we are reaping the rewards. We know we have the right systems in place because our people are on board."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

If You Build IT They Will Come - NOT!

I came across this interesting report a few weeks ago. It was released this summer by the Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management in San Francisco.

This finding caught my attention and is right on.

"Less successful nonprofits assumed (my emphasis) that the community would use their technology once it was available. For example, one organization established an online discussion forum so people could discuss common issues and recruit volunteers online. The discussion forum was largely unused. While the organization’s staff recognized that they needed to do greater outreach, they failed to consider whether their constituents wanted this technology. Technology is only effective if people have the time and interest to become involved in the issue in the first place." (AMEN!)
Technology, like any tool, should be user-driven but for some reason many of us forget this. We become enamored of the "bells and whistles" of a new tool and fall in love with a solution for its own sake.

We fell prey to this mistake at NPower when we purchased a first-in-class project management system for our consulting and sales team. Turns out we didn't need 1/2 of the functionality that the tool offered and rather than streamline our work, the tool made project management MORE not less onerous.

Don't choose a new technology for your organization based on the credentials of the vendor or the sales pitch alone. Choose a tool based on what your users and constituents NEED to get their jobs done. This may mean, for example, managing donors via an Excel spreadsheet or helping members to communicate via a simple list serv. While I know this will not be sexy for the tech-savvy folks in your organization, if a technology works, it works. And that's the important part.

At the same time, keep your eyes to the future and plan for change and growth. That way you can be sure that your technology will grow along with you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Embracing the BOO! in You!




OK, I know this is corny but I can't resist doing a post related to Halloween.

Actually, I'm NOT a big fan of the holiday. I'm too vain to want to purposely make myself look ugly and I HATE being scared.

This got me thinking...when do we lose our love of fear, being on the edge, and trying new things? More important, how do we get it back?

Technology terrifies many of us. Lots of people get faint of heart just thinking about upgrading systems, installing new software, in short - shifting the way they work. For most, it's not the technology itself that's the issue - it's the fear of change, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of making a mistake. Problem is, fear is a normal part of change and it doesn't go away, until AFTER you master a new task.

The next time you are approaching a new project - technology-related or not - remember my tips for embracing the BOO! in you!

1. bring a friend on your new adventure
2. wade in slowly
3. don't worry about doing it perfectly
4. ask for help if you get lost
5. have a back up plan
6. pack lots of candy for the trip :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Study Shows Technology + (Wired) People = More Money for Nonprofits

My frolleaugue (friend and colleague), Katya Andresen, VP of Marketing for Network for Good and super smart writer/publisher/editor of Nonprofit Marketing Blog, forwarded this soon to be released report to me today.

It contains valuable information re: how "Wired Fundraisers" are using new technologies (especially charity widgets) + their skills at connecting to "generate more donations for charities' vital missions."

Here are the key points:

1. When Wired Fundraisers Talk, People Listen: Wired Fundraisers are regular people with a cause and a keyboard, and they are proving highly effective at fundraising for their favorite charity in an ever-widening personal sphere of influence online. That’s because today, the messenger matters even more than the message. People trust messengers they know, like friends and family. These messengers naturally communicate in the most effective ways – through personal means, in a conversational tone, and with great stories. A promotion from a
charity can’t compete with that level of intimacy, authority or authenticity.

2. Not Every Wired Fundraiser Is a Champion: The successful Wired Fundraiser has a relatively rare combination of true passion and a means to lend a sense of urgency to their cause. Not every Six Degrees fundraiser or Facebook Cause is a winner, but a proud few – the superactivists - are very effective, raising $9,000 on average and reaching 150 people.

3. Technology Gives the Wired Fundraiser Special Power: Widgets and social networks make personal fundraisers more effective for four reasons. Widgets – bits of code that enable you to generate and place content anywhere online, including on Facebook pages or blogs – make it possible for personal fundraisers to take their message anywhere they communicate online, including social networks where messages spread very efficiently. They make it possible for the fundraiser to
evangelize in their own way, in their own words. Because they make fundraising so easy, widgets attract a new group of fundraisers. Importantly, widgets also make it easy and convenient for friends and family to give instantly, when they feel an impulse to give. That means more donations to more causes.

4. Smart Charities Embrace the Wired Fundraiser: Technology enables anyone to be a fundraiser, anywhere online. The control over the message is in the hands of the Wired Fundraiser. Wise charities see this as something to embrace rather than something to fear. They tap into the opportunity to spread their message further, by new means, via new messengers.

To create your own charity widget and evangelize for a cause you care about, go here. See also this previous post by me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Problem with Diets and Technology


Pick up any self help magazine and you are bound to find yet another article which lays claim to having discovered the perfect diet. More water, less water, milk, grapefruit, toast... there is an endless stream of advice regarding what it takes to take off the weight.

The problem is everyone knows diets don't work because eating habits are a function of much more than food. Real weight loss takes hard work, patience and often a good therapist!

Unfortunately, many organizations approach technology the same way that many people approach diets. They want the quick fix, i.e. the perfect database, hardware, or software solution to transform their organization and bring success. Never mind the fact that the board is under performing, the ED is burnt out, and funders are leaving in droves.

The problem is it's not that simple. Just as dieting alone cannot change your life, technology alone cannot save your organization, because employing the right technology(ies) is just one part of a comprehensive program to effect institutional change.

When working with clients, we often use the pyramid above to illustrate how and where technology fits into the organizational equation. We also help clients think about the other critical components of organizational success - PEOPLE and PROCESSES.

The next time you are discussing an organizational problem ask yourself this question. Is this a technology, process, or people issue? Clarifying the source of your pain and discerning what is broken will help you to determine what to do next.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Join the Social Web?

Britt Bravo, author of Have Fun, Do Good! and blogger for NetSquared invited me to participate in the October NetSquared Think Tank . The topic is, "what is the ROI (return on investment) of the social web for nonprofits?" I'm late in responding and sure that someone has beat me to the punch but here are my thoughts.

I DON'T THINK anyone knows what the monetary ROI for social media is yet, i.e. how much money can be raised through Facebook, MySpace or blogging. While there are some specific groups (Kiva is one) and campaigns that are experiencing success, social media are still too new for a scientific analysis or prediction of results.

I DO THINK that there are internal benefits to engaging in these new marketing and communications technologies. Specifically, I think blogging can be a great professional and organizational development tool.

I agree with what Rebecca Blood has to say in The Weblog Handbook see the chapter on Finding Your Voice. (BTW, this is considered the seminal text on blogging and is a must read.)

1) Writing for a blog everyday or several days a week makes you a better writer. It's the practice that's important. The more you write the more skillful you become.

2) Writing for a blog forces you to be concise. Summarizing text and writing short prose is hard. It forces you to clarify your thoughts and beliefs. No more LONG, BORING text. Blogging can help you to refine your message and get to the point.

3) Writing for a blog equals writing for a perceived or real audience and the public nature of the medium makes you want to write often and write better. No one wants to look stupid in public.

In short, blogging can help you and your organization get better at telling your story so that you can persuade more people to join, donate and advocate for your cause. This is a good enough ROI for me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

6 Strategies for Online Success

Being online, a pre-requisite in today's Connected Age, requires that all organizations and people engage in a very different way. For example, the non-hierarchical and open environment of the web requires a different kind of messaging - one that is more authentic and less advertorial. And the crowded and "noisy" environment of the Internet requires that you "speak" in a clear, compelling and concise manner and have something interesting to say.

Here are my 6 strategies for online success. Please send me yours.

1) be open - this is both a cultural imperative and an important business consideration for a successful online experience. the Internet doesn't like or facilitate a proprietary mindset. sharing information widely and connecting to others is the whole point of the medium. you must embrace this fact or people will ignore you.

2) be real - in addition to being open you must share your authentic self and your opinions. being pretentious or fake will not get you far online because people will see through you. Don't forget: other people are talking about you, your company and your issue too.

3) be interesting - this is the most challenging part of any marketing strategy, but it's particularly true of online messaging. to be successful online you've got to be interesting, i.e. have a point of view, an angle or expertise worth sharing. the more specific that expertise the better because then people know what to expect from your blog or brand. there are simply too many voices on the Web for you to be dull.

4) be interested - the Web facilitates sharing, conversation and communication across time and space in a way that was impossible just 10 years ago. this is a great opportunity and challenge for most organizations; we're so used to listening to ourselves. If you're going to be online you have to be interested in what other folks have to say about your issue, your products and your services. one way to show your interest is by joining other conversations.

5) be careful - the imprimatur of the Web is that everything is set to print, FOREVER. don't forget or ignore this rule.

6) be brave - being online is a very public experience, even if you never track your website hits or receive a comment on your blog. to be successful online you have to step outside of your comfort zone at some point. I recommend wading in slowly, getting support and then diving in!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Choosing a Technology Consultant or Vendor

Alison Fine, has published a new report which overviews how a select group of human rights' organizations are and are not integrating social media into their operations. She has a lot of important things to say, but this "finding" in particular caught my attention.

"There was almost universal frustration voiced about using outside technology
consultants. The organizations felt that it was difficult to identify an appropriate one and felt that they were often left maintaining systems or tools for which they didn't feel qualified. Smaller organizations said that they could not afford help of any kind, particulary their own staff dedicated to technology."

Ugh! While I understand this sentiment and recognize that this is a problem in our sector, it's certainly not something that any consulting organization wants to hear.

Let's face it, many vendors sell nonprofits things they don't need. Right or wrong, it's their job, which leads to an important fact. Vendors are NOT consultants. Most are not skilled at or paid to provide objective analyses and recommendations to organizations. They are skilled at and paid to SELL specific solutions.

In order to address this reality, NPower created this guide, "Selecting the Right Technology Vendor." It is our hope that it will make you a more educated consumer when it comes to choosing a vendor.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Take a Chance

Marketing guru, Seth Godin, had this to say in a recent post.


"If I had to pick one word to describe what's new, what's different and what's
important about now vs. then, it would be "choice." The choice of more products. The choice of more retailers. Many a click away.The choice of more consumers to ask for an opinion.The choice by marketers over who to market to (precision increases). The choice of workers to be virtual or flexible or change careers. I used to have one choice to make a phone call. Now I have a dozen. I used to have one place to buy insurance for my company, now I have thousands. One bank near my house, now ten thousand a click away. I have more choice in who to hire, who to work for and most important...More choice in who to listen to (and who to ignore)."



This got me thinking...If I had to pick one word to describe what's new, what's different and what's important about now vs. then, it would be "chance."

The web is providing an incredible chance for us to engage the world and each other in a very different way. Call it luck, call it opportunity, at no other time in history has the potential for change been this great.

We now have the chance to connect across space and time with like-minded individuals to pursue a collective goal.

We now have the chance to add our voices to the collective wisdom about what is and is not important to talk and think about.

We now have the chance to learn about and support new causes, ideas and people that are doing amazing work in the world.

We now have the chance to promote and raise money for the causes and ideas that we care about.

It's up to us to take it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Good Tech is Hard to Find



If you're a regularly reader of blogs you've probably already come across this article which previews a soon to be released report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.

The researchers found that second to hiring fundraisers, hiring techs is the biggest challenge for nonprofits.

This is bad news for all of us because TECHNOLOGY IS MISSION CRITICAL. How can you work for peace, deal with global warming, do micro finance, advocate for young people, etc. if you don't have the systems in place to:

  • evaluate your work;
  • collaborate with other agencies;
  • manage volunteers; and
  • fundraise?

Well you can't, of course, except in a very limited way and that is frustrating for all of us.

At NPower NY and NPower Greater DC Region we've launched new services to address the lack of technology resources in most nonprofits one region at a time. Specifically, by using technology (in this case software) we have developed new services to automate IT support. In DC we call it NPower ON! NPower NY invented IT Basic.

Both organizations are helping nonprofits move away from the "break/fix" or "computer guy" model of IT support where workstations and servers are only tended to when things are on fire. Instead, with NPower ON! and IT Basic, we are providing ongoing, full service IT support to more nonprofits all the time. Services like these (also known commercially as managed services) reduce unpredictable and costly on site visits. And continuous and automated updates, anti-virus protection and patches keep systems secure and predict problems BEFORE they occur.

I hope you'll check us out, especially if you're feeling the pain. I'd also love to hear what your organization is doing for IT support.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The News is Dead

Alison Fine wrote this interesting post entitled, Times Select RIP, last week.

I strongly agree with her assertion that many folks still "just don't get it" when it comes to understanding that the internet cannot be co-opted. You can't just take your offline newspaper, magazine or brochure and smash into onto the web and assume it will work. Instead, the internet has to be approached as a different medium which has/is fundamentally changing the way people understand, use and access information.

The ability for everyone and anyone in our crazy world to own their little slice of the web to opine, converse and generally tell stories is moving us all away from an interest in and a need for the passive digestion of news. Indeed the wonderful web offers an opportunity for each of us to be a participant in the creation of information, stories and news. More important it offers each of us the opportunity to define what is and is not important. FINALLY!


Being online is not about having the most friends or garnering a huge audience or controlling the flow of information, although these are very seductive ideas. Being online is about sharing a unique viewpoint (hopefully in the context of a larger conversation) and gaining the confidence and skills to find, distill and hang a set of ideas together in one's own unique voice.

"But what about all of the junk out there," you say. Well, you're right, there is lots of trash and bad information. But broadcast media has never been a salve for that wound.

You do need to be critical thinker in this new world because it's not clear who the best and new gatekeepers are. The din of voices also makes it more time consuming to cull through all the information, digest and create a coherent point of view.

"Well," I say, "welcome to the graduate school of life." You have to read widely, listen and pursue the truth in order to grow yourself up. Good luck!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good Web Resources for Nonprofits


Here is a GREAT post on web-based resources for nonprofits. I found it on the 501(c)(3) tech club listserv, which is run by NTEN. You should sign up.

I especially like their suggestion that blogging software may be a good option for folks building new websites. See also my post, "Why Build a Website When you Can Build a Blog?"

A few tools that are missing:

1) Charity badges from SixDegrees.org. (See sample badge from NPower above.)
2) Donate now button from Network for Good

Others? Got any good and cheap resources for creating/editing videos?

Monday, September 24, 2007

No Technology, No Tomorrow

Last Friday at NPower Greater DC Region we FINALLY announced the finalists for our 2007 Technology Innovation Awards. Drum roll please...

They are:

  • Fairfax Symphony Orchestra for the use of podcasts to take the orchestra online
  • Global Giving for GiveCertificates - online gift certificates that can be redeemed for donations to charity
  • RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network for the first web-based hotline which provides anonymous and secure counseling via chat
To see the complete list of applicants, visit our site - http://www.npowergdcr.org/.

One of my favorite parts about the application process was reading the answers to the last question, "What can nonprofits learn from your innovation?" I couldn't write better messaging if I tried.

If you work for an organization that still needs convincing regarding the benefits of technology to your operation and mission, these testimonials may help. Cheers!

"Think out-of-the-box and out-of-the-office. Technology has dramatically changed the way in which nonprofits can operate, but this requires creative thinking that is not limited to the physical boundaries of offices, walls or state lines. By thinking of our agency beyond those traditional boundaries, we were able to utilize current technology to create a productive, client-friendly environment that enables us to communicate and share information across locations. Technology also allows staff to be more responsive to client needs and more flexible regarding their own schedules and work locations." - Adoptions Together

"Technology is not our enemy. Too often, technology can seem more confusing
than helpful. Through the process of automating our data collection and evaluation, we have learned how useful technology can be. Evaluation now takes less time, is more efficient, and we can measure a broader range of indicators. Our funders are also pleased by the improved quality of our data. Other nonprofits should note that technology is useful both for program strength and for increasing funding. - DC Bilingual Public Charter School

"Investing in some simple technology upgrades can not only improve relationships with outside stakeholders, but can also improve business processes and internal stakeholder relationships. Non-profits need to remember that the web is not just for public audiences, but should also be deployed in ways that can benefit internal audiences. Organizations with small budgets need technology innovations as much as, if not more than, larger groups and can make small investments that will reap large returns." - First Night Alexandria


And finally, my favorite!

"No technology, no tomorrow." - National Geneological Society

Friday, September 21, 2007

Feel the Fear and Do IT Anyway

Yesterday we had an all staff meeting to talk about reorging some of our processes, people and work. We hired Rhea Blanken, the Organizational Alchemist (don't you love that name?) to walk us through the process.

It was an exciting meeting because we're hopeful that these adjustments will enable us to do all of the things we want and need to do - improve our productivity, enhance employee morale, improve customer satisfaction, in other words - take our business to the next level.

It was also scary as heck!

It occurs to me that this is what it's like for all organizations (and people for that matter) when they're approaching new technology. Technology is inherently empowering and scary as it is an important lever for CHANGE.

This sentiment was echoed by Kelly McShane, ED of Community of Hope, when I interviewed her for a project a few weeks ago.


"My advice for other nonprofits - technology is not a silver bullet. There is always something that will go wrong. It's just the nature of the tools. Pick wisely and most important help people manage change."

If you're thinking about introducing a new tool for your organization consider:

1) investing in training - Again, the tool is just the tool. It's only as good as its implementation. You have to give folks time to learn new technologies and get up to speed.

2) getting a coach - One of my favorite people is fond of saying, "if you want to go to the Olympics, you need a coach." None of us can make major changes on our own. We need the support, wisdom and advice of others who have gone before. By the way, this doesn't have to be a paid consultant. Talk to other organizations who have been in your shoes, get on listservs where people are discussing your issue, join the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN).

Most important: Feel the fear and do it anyway! You don't know what you know or don't know until you know it. Get IT!?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maslow on Nonprofits


Em Hall, author of the Fashionista blog, asked me the other day what NPower is doing to help nonprofits use social media to achieve their missions. What she means is this. How are we helping nonprofits to think about using:

1) blogs
2) social networks
3) wikis and other collaboration tools
4) RSS and other syndication tools
5) charity widgets
6) etc.

to raise more money, find more advocates, increase membership - generally spread the word about what they do.

My answer: Not much, yet.

I think it's fair to say that the NPower Network hasn't been at the forefront of promoting the new web 2.0 technologies.
It's not because we don't think they're important; it's because most of our customers aren't thinking about them yet. Most of the nonprofits and foundations we serve are still struggling to secure new hardware and software and ensure that their networks stay up and running.

It's sort of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. (You remember that pyramid from Psychology 101.) It's hard to focus on self-actualization until you get the basics - food, shelter, clothing - met.

The problem is, it's a catch-22. New web-based marketing technologies can actually HELP YOU to raise your visibility so that you can raise the friends, supporters and partners you need to build capital. So, ignoring these tools may actually be a detriment in the long run.

My suggestion: Wade into the web 2.0 waters.

Start reading blogs. Create a Bloglines account to track the news you read. Tag online content you like and engage in conversations on other blogs.

If you're a strategy type, read this primer by Seth Godin or this one by Enthusiastic Group. Both provide a good overview of the new marketing/technology landscape and what it may mean for your organization.

Peace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why Build a Website When you Can Build a Blog?

I receive several calls a week from nonprofits who want to re-do or develop a new website.

While it's true that having an online presence is critical to any successful marketing effort, this doesn't mean that you need a traditional website. Why not consider a blog?

Here are my 5 reasons to consider launching a blog instead of a website. (I'd love to hear yours.)

1) Blogs are cheap. Typepad can run $5 per month. Blogger is FREE!

2) Blogs are super easy to maintain. Anyone in your organization can make updates, you don't need technical knowledge to maintain a blog. Believe me!

3) Search engines like blogs. Every time you publish a new post on your blog, you are creating a new web page, this will increase your ranking in the search engines. Not to mention all the linking you will do to and from other sites, this will increase your rankings too!

4) Blogs make it easy to organize your ideas; they are very efficient knowledge management tools. No more putting up and taking down web pages. Simply code your posts as you go.

5) Blogs make it easy for people to contact you in real time and they make your organization look accessible. Hopefully you really are accessible to the people you serve. :)

In short: Blogs can do virtually anything your website can do.

To learn more about the benefits of web logs vs. traditional websites, see this post on Techcafeteria. I also like Seth Godin's take.

Better yet, Just Dive In!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Finding My Voice

The more I think about the "positioning" for this blog, aka what I want to write about. The more I realize that what I'm really passionate about is marketing. But not old school marketing like direct mail, new school marketing which uses the web as the medium.

So, in the spirit of ready, fire, aim - I'm now going to focus this blog on teaching myself and others how to be a great online marketer with an initial focus on blogging. It goes without saying that I'll still focus on marketing great causes as the end.

To get oriented I've been surfing the blogosphere for the definitive list of nonprofit blogs with a goal of sharing blogs that may inspire others and learning from the best. Of course, there is no definitive list, but here is one that I found helpful. The icing on the cake is that it's managed by Rosetta Thurman, a young African-American women who is sharing her thoughts on nonprofits, as a next generation leader. Her blog is aptly titled "Perspectives from the Pipeline." I can't wait to meet her!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Women and IT

I got a great comment from Surya, who used to be a Senior Consultant at NPower NY, regarding my "I HATE Technology" post. Here's what she said.

"Jocelyn, great blog! But doesn't this point that you make - 'Technology IS frustrating unless you are hardwired in a very specific way. And I think for women in particular it's something we struggle with.' - reinforce some of the barriers you seek to bring down? Is the expert use of technology as a tool in the nonprofit sector, a learned/learnable skill (nurture) or a product of nature?"
This has lead me to some research and soul-search regarding what I see as two separate questions. 1) Are technical skills genetic or can they be learned? and 2) Are women less technical than men?

I have to say, I do think people are hardwired differently. Some of us are more inclined toward careers in science, while other folks prefer to participate in the arts. On the other hand, according to National Center for Women and Information Technology, gender roles (which are not pre-determined) play an important part in the jobs women and men "self select." (See this paper.) Thanks, Surya for reminding me that the jobs we "choose" aren't solely our own choice.

With that said, the IT profession IS male dominated and there are many folks out there with a mission to change this.

According to NCWIT's research,
  • 51 percent of professional occupations in the 2006 U.S. workforce are held by women
  • 26 percent of professional IT-related occupations in the 2006 U.S. workforce are held by women
  • 13 percent of corporate officer positions at Fortune 500 technology companies held by women
(I can only imagine what these numbers are for women of color!)

Your thoughts?







Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dora the Explorer | My Technology Heroine


I LOVE Dora the Explorer. In addition to the fact that she is brown, bilingual and super smart :) she's also an icon for the right use of technology. Here's why.

All of Dora's Adventures include:

1) a specific goal - whether she's scaling snowy mountain to save the baby lion, fording crocodile lake to get to her grandmother's house, or hiking through chocolate forest to find the key ingredient for her Mami's birthday cake, she always has a specific goal for every adventure.

2) she never goes anywhere without her friend "Map" aka her blueprint for getting the job done.

3) technology is key to her success - "Backpack," her partner in crime, carries all the tools she needs to get the job done whether flashlight, rope, tape or soap! Also, she doesn't use the same tools for every adventure. She brings the right tools for the job.

4) thanks to her sidekick, "Boots the Monkey," she never travels alone.

OK, maybe the metaphor isn't perfect but wouldn't it be great if this was how we all approached our projects at work, indeed life?

Define the goal, create a plan to get there, use the right technology for the job, hold hands and have fun!

Vamanos!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blogwild!

I just finished Blogwild: A Guide for Small Business Blogging by Andy Wibbels. It's a very quick and easy read re: setting up a blog. Check it out!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

How Do We Get More Nonprofits Online?

Britt Bravo, author of Have Fun Do Good and community builder for NetSquared, graciously invited me to participate in a new monthly community blog called Net2ThinkTank. This post will be one of many entries. Check out the others here on Tuesday.

Britt's question is: What is needed to facilitate more nonprofits' adoption of the social web? In other words, how do we get more nonprofits to blog, use social networks, share video, etc. so that they can raise more money, recruit more volunteers, win advocacy campaigns - change the world?

As far as I can tell there are 4 obstacles which are key barriers to online entry and success:

1) no time
2) no money
3) no online ambassador
4) no clear ROI

Let me elaborate.

No time
It's obvious that time is a finite resource and anyone who has ever worked for a nonprofit knows it is THE precious commodity. For human services organizations, in particular, the mission - creating more educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth, eradicating homelessness, enabling people to die with dignity, etc. - is an urgent matter. Because of this and because of the nature of the issues they address, program managers become overwhelmed by the crises they face every day. Thus, for many leaders, focusing on marketing and communications (online or offline), instead of taking care of people is seen as a distraction at best and a frivolity at worse.

No money
Just because most of the social media tools are super cheap doesn't mean they're free. After all, nothing is free and again, no one knows this more than the ED who is used to stretching every dollar bone thin. People cost money, time is money. Any responsible leader must ask herself every day, what is the best and highest use of our organization's resources? Most would be hard pressed to say blogging.

No online ambassador
It's critical that more young people become employees, volunteers and donors of the causes they care about because we need more online evangelists! All of the younger folks I have met in the past 2 years have a natural affinity for the social web. Their expertise and enthusiasm for all things online will propel more nonprofits into this new medium.

No clear ROI
Although case studies are popping up which show how nonprofits are using the social web to raise money, get new members and do successful advocacy campaigns, etc. more research must be done to demonstrate the ROI of social media tools. This information will help bring the skeptics on board.

Finally, since it's not my style to end on a down note, I'll end this post by pointing out that while there are barriers to nonprofits' use of social media, lack of passion is not one of them. On the contrary, PASSION, the key ingredient of any successful communication campaign, is in abundance in this crazy industry we call The Nonprofit Sector. Once we address the challenges I've outlined above, we'll be able to let our passion to shine through!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fashionista


I had lunch yesterday with Em Hall, Retail Marketing Manager for Goodwill of Greater Washington and the brain child behind their new Fashion Blog. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do. It's a GREAT example of using new media to:

1) Sell products;
2) Increase donations;
3) Re-brand an organization so that it appeals to the younger set; and
4) Have a lot of fun at work!

Em and her colleagues launched the blog this summer as part of their "social media" mix and are already seeing great results. For example, last month a vintage suit that she blogged about and listed on their E-bay store sold for 10x what it would have gone for in one of their stores! The blog is also bringing in new shoppers and donors from far and wide.
I have to admit that until lunching with Em and reading her blog, Goodwill was NOT on my radar for donations, let alone fashion! But Em is trying to change that.
"Many of our loyal donors have never stepped foot inside our stores. By showcasing great items on the blog, we're showing folks that fashion LIVES at Goodwill!"
In addition to subscribing to Em's blog, check out Goodwill's Virtual Runway Show and Online Auction coming up next week. In addition to helping a great cause, you may find a great new outfit.
Happy Shopping!

Where in the World is NPower?


This summer, my talented colleague Tim Johnston, who also happens to be NPower's Chief Technology Officer was invited by our client the Eurasia Foundation to attend a staff meeting in Istanbul. As you can imagine, this engagement was quite a coup for our little 'ole DC based organization.

Glamour aside, the interesting thing about this engagement is that the Eurasia Foundation faces many of the same challenges that we all face. Namely, how do we ensure that information is shared across the organization and get everyone on the same page? Or, to put it more technically - what in world do we do with all of this data!

Data is one of those tricky things. Did you ever notice how it seems to take on a life of it's own? We've all had the experience of rushing in vain to get out a grant for a funder or pulling out our hair over the prospect of creating a report on our program results.

Well, I'm here to say that, like the Eurasia Foundation, you're not alone! You can find and use a tool that will help you to master your organizational information and share it widely. And it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg.

If you're currently in the market for a database solution, I urge you to check out Idealware's upcoming webinar on the topic. And as always, feel free to give us a call.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Women Rule Nonprofit IT!

NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network, announced yesterday that Holly Ross is taking over as the new ED. She is replacing Katrine Verclas, who has been appointed to the board.

This got me thinking that the three key national organizations - NTEN, TechSoup, and NPower - that focus on strengthening nonprofits' understanding and use of technology are all under new leadership and are all women run!

If you work for a nonprofit or care about helping charitable organizations to be more tech-savvy, then you MUST get involved with these three organizations.

NTEN is the vehicle for learning more about technology and discussing technology issues with like-minded people. They run excellent and affordable webinars, have well-trafficked list servs and run THE national nonprofit technology event each year. NTEN's new ED is Holly Ross.

TechSoup is the place for heavily discounted software from all of the major vendors, including Microsoft, Symantec and Cisco. They also have an incredible library of FREE articles on every technology topic. TechSoup's new co-director is Marnie Webb.

Finally, NPower Network - a 12-organization federation of local nonprofits (we are the affiliate in Greater DC) provides technology consulting and support to nonprofits. We do the actual work of helping you pick the right software solutions, upgrade your CMS, install a new network, etc. NPower Network's new ED is Barbara Chang.

Go team!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shameless Evangelizing


I'm wearing my NPower hat today! But it 's for a good cause! Really.

Is your nonprofit doing something cool with technology that is yielding measurable results? Then consider applying for the 2007 NPower Greater DC Region Technology Innovation Award, presented by Accenture.

Our annual Technology Innovation Award recognizes nonprofits in the Greater DC Region that are using technology to achieve greater impact in our community.

The winning nonprofit receives $2,000 in cash and a technology consulting, hardware and software package valued at $43,000.

Two runners-up also receive technology consulting, hardware and software packages valued at $20,000.

All three nonprofits are showcased at our annual Awards Luncheon on November 9.

Apply today! Deadline is September 7.

Contact me at 202-234-9670 or jocelyn@npowergdcr.org and visit our website to learn more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Blog is Not the Dog



I was meeting with our fearless leader, Julie Chapman, the other day and she reminded me that "the blog is not the dog." (We talk a lot in metaphors around here.)

What she means is this. Technology, for example this blog, is just a vehicle (the tail of the dog). By itself, it's not important. It doesn't DO anything. On the other hand, raising more money, increasing membership and passing laws are real. They are examples of the dog.

This is easy to forget, especially when you work for a technology consulting company. We do tend to become enamored of the tools for their own sake.

The next time you're getting frustrated trying to perfect a new brochure, determining how to improve your website, deciding whether or not to launch a MySpace page or vetting a new software solution - take a step back. Ask yourself, what is the goal here? What are we trying to DO. And remember the TOOLS are just TOOLS. The important thing is to determine your goals. Once you do this, the tail(s) will come.

Monday, August 27, 2007

All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

It's the first day of Kindergarten and that got me thinking about the similarities between Elementary School and the wonderful new Web.

I don't know about you, but one of the best things I learned in Kindergarten was to cut and paste. "What has that got to do with the Web," you ask? EVERYTHING - if you believe Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion. Here is what he has to say.

Imagine for a moment that you can take any piece of online content that you care about - a news feed, an image, a box score, multimedia, a stream of updates from your friends - and easily pin it wherever you want. Once clipped, you can drop the content on your desktop, an online start page like Windows Live or Pageflakes, “the deck" of your mobile device or even “a crawl” on your Internet-connected television.

This isn’t some far off vision. It’s the near-term future. It’s the coming era of the Cut and Paste Web.

According to Rubel, the new Web is about individuality and the ability to create your own collage. So rather than paint a static picture of your nonprofit, give your supporters the organizational colors, words, sounds and images they need to create their own unique montage.

For a great example of the Cut and Paste Web, check out the Give Love widget at right by Global Giving, new NPower ON! customer. They are SO SMART to incorporate these portable items into their marketing mix. By giving their supporters this slice of code - packaged up in this cute graphic - they are increasing the potential that their mission and message will spread.

To learn more about how to create a widget for your organization, visit SixDegrees.org and read Let's Go Widget Shopping on Beth's blog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Show. Don't Tell!

Today, I'm sounding off about VIDEO.

A recent report by Pew Internet & American Life Project - a great source of information on how we are all using the Internet - says that 57% of Internet users watch video online and 75% open a video link that a friend shares with them. What does this mean for your nonprofit? Get your video out there!

The good news is that you probably already have a video. Rather than show it once a year at your annual event, post it NOW on the home page of your website. Better yet, add a link to it from your e-mail signature and tell people to check it out in your next newsletter.

This is a very easy and compelling way to tell your story. It's much better than the dense text on your Fact Sheet or in your organizational brochure.

Here is a powerful video to get you inspired. I had never heard of Central Dallas Ministries' Transition Resource Action Center until hearing Kartieaa's story. Now I'm a donor!



Got a great video to share? Send it to me and I will link to it.

P.S. For a nice overview of where to host your video and how to create one yourself. See this post by OnPhilanthropy.

P.P.S. Don't forget to check out NPower's video too!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Just Build IT!

I just got back from a meeting with Orysia Stanchak, Executive Director of YWCA National Capital Area, NPower board member and client.

I LOVE Orysia's gracious and hospitable nature. She exudes confidence and warmth.

Orysia's newest "baby" is a project called Washington Area Women in the Trades or WAWIT for short. WAWIT is a 12-week intensive, pre-apprenticeship program for low-income women to prepare them for careers in the construction trades. They graduated their first class this summer.
"I LOVE these women," she says to me as we watch her video. "This is a brand new start for them."
Thanks, Orysia and the YWCA for the work you are doing to eliminate racism and empower women. As always, we're privileged to be a small part of your success!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Hate Technology!

While I LOVE the power of technology to make change, the technical stuff is maddening! One of the reasons I started this blog was to force myself to learn Google Analytics and a tiny little bit of Html code. Today, I'm trying to redirect my blogspot URL to the permanent home for this blog. And while the techies out there will laugh, it's taking me more than an hour to do this...

Technology IS frustrating unless you are hardwired in a very specific way. And I think for women in particular, it's something we struggle with. The good news is that all of these new tools out there are making it much easier and cheaper to master this landscape.

Carol Fennelly, Executive Director, Hope House, DC and self-proclaimed technophobe is a great example of a brilliant woman who is taking on technology. Carol's goal was to get out the word about the great work they are doing at Hope House, DC. Thanks to relatively inexpensive e-mail marketing tools, like Constant Contact, she is now regularly communicating with her supporters and gaining new supporters too.
Carol, thanks for encouraging us all to "just dive in!"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Web 2.0

Saw an interesting post on TechSoup about the first NetSquared Event. A group of folks were asked to speculate on which of the new web-based tools (wikis, blogs, social networking sites, RSS, etc.) are most useful to nonprofits.

While I am personally obsessed with blogs right now, I strongly agree with Bryan Nunez, Technology Manager, Witness. FYI, Witness just won the 2007 American Express Building Leadership Award for its efforts to train grassroots organizations worldwide to use video and online technology to publicize human-rights violations.
"I think it's more of the concept that has the most effect. I think it's the idea that people have opportunity now to represent themselves, and that's an umbrella concept that covers most of the technologies that are going to be discussed during the conference."
Embracing "Web 2.0" or two-way dialogue is more about the culture of an organization than its' tools. My frollleauge Alison Fine author of Social Momentum: Igniting Change in the Connected Age, explains it well. In a Web 1.0 organization, decision making is hierarchical. A few (usually white, male) senior staffers go off on THE ANNUAL RETREAT and return with marching orders. Conversely, in a Web 2.0 environment an organization OPENS the door for staff, volunteers, donors, clients and other key stakeholders to be a part of the decision-making process. Which type of organization do you work for?

Dream Big

I just finished Dream Big by Lisa Hammond aka The Barefoot CEO and Founder of Femail Creations. Her e-newsletter is Girl Talk.

Lisa created Femail Creations - a website and catalogue which showcases cool stuff by women, for women - and was recognized as a Small Business Association Business Person of the Year 1 year after being denied her first loan. What I love is her chutzpah and her willingness to "just dive in" sans business plan.

In marketing and in real life, I think it's important to meet people where they are. Including OURSELVES! Sometimes you can't determine where you are going until get going. And that's ok. This is also Julie Chapman's advice. She is my beloved boss and terrific mentor. Execution, i.e. getting stuff done, is more important than planning any day. So get ready, fire, then aim.

The Break Up

Check out this GREAT video by Microsoft which beautifully illustrates the problem with broadcast media. Note that the woman is the consumer. This is not incidental. According to Blogher research, women spend $5 trillion a year (U.S.) and control 83% of household spending.



I first saw the video on See3's blog.

I first saw the research on Maurene Caplan Grey's blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

2Blog or Not 2Blog



Here is a presentation I did with Qui Diaz, my dear frolleague (friend and colleague - Katya's word) on August 9. Qui has a great eye for design. Thanks to Beth for tagging it for the "np tech group" on SlideShare.

Community of Hope




Since I am not on the "front lines" everyday, I often forget how what we do here at NPower- provide technology consulting and support to other nonprofits - actually makes a difference in the world. This week Matthew Coffman, NPower Communications and Development Coordinator Extraordinaire and I took a trek out to Southeast DC to interview and shoot photos of our friends at Community of Hope Apartments.

It took 4 years to raise the money and renovate this old building but now it is home to 10 families working hard to start over again each day. What a privilege to play a very small part in their success!

How BLUE are YOU?

Qui Diaz inspired me to get out there and blog although she doesn't know it yet. Check out her musings at Evang.list.

YOU.

I LOVE that Time Magazine decided to make YOU and me and everyone on this big planet "2006 Person of the Year." (OK, I know this is old news but what can I say.)

If it's true that the internet is enabling anyone to be a writer, editor and publisher then it makes sense that WE are the levers for changing the world. Maybe the "great wo/man theory" is finally dead.

What do you think about power of the web to unleash ALL of our voices. Is this good or bad or both?

My Friends and Family Laugh

My friends and family laugh to think of me working for a technology consulting firm. How in the world did I ever land in the world of networks, servers and hard drives? Actually, the techie stuff is not what does it for me. Instead, I'm passionate about the power that technology can unleash once all of the infrastructure stuff is taken care of. I'm also passionate about showcasing and encouraging more women to use technology.

My goal for this blog is to experiment with this new landscape and see what it's all about. Can a blog really be a vehicle for making important connections, raising money, doing advocacy and other good in the world? Let's find out.