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.