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!