Blogs

It's the End of Tumblr As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

It’s a perfect coincidence that one week after we launched our latest report at Idealware, Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media, Yahoo! continued its trend of absorbing startups with a distaste for the letter e (Flickr being the most notable) by purchasing micro-blogging giant Tumblr. The deal was made final today. There is a bit of danger in calling yourself “cutting edge” in a field as dynamic as social media, but it doesn't affect the report dramatically, and more importantly, shouldn't really affect Tumblr, either.
 
Yahoo! seems to have heard the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and this time, might actually be taking it to heart. With CEO Marissa Mayer posting on her own Tumblr that she promises “not to screw it up,” it would seem that Yahoo! wants to do its best to make dedicated users happy by keeping Tumblr as familiar as possible. In fact, not only will it not be adding a Yahoo! logo to the site, but Tumblr CEO David Karp and his entire team are reportedly staying at the helm for the foreseeable future.
 
Still, there are a lot of good questions one might ask about the acquisition. Is Tumblr going to stop being cool to young people now that it’s owned by a huge corporation? Is Tumblr going to be littered with annoying ads? Do I have to find a new place to post stories about my cats?
 
The answer to all these questions is a firmly neutral, "probably not." If Yahoo! makes good on its claim to leave Tumblr as is, there is no reason its users would run away. While young people are always looking for the latest and greatest thing, Yahoo! bought Tumblr in part to attract 18-24 year olds to its services, so it wouldn’t make sense to do something that would alienate them.
 
As for advertisements, nothing truly new is imminent yet. Big brands have been on Tumblr for a while now. Like any social media outlet, it’s great advertising that only really costs staff time. With that, Yahoo! is looking to add “featured Tumblrs” of sorts--specifically, a dashboard on the homepage that advertises a few paid sponsors’ pages.
 
Maybe there will be an influx of brands to Tumblr in the near future, but it won’t likely be all that noticeable. Successful brand pages on Tumblr aren’t really full of advertisements. They’re full of content meant to engage with people, make them laugh, get them to ask questions, and remember the brand. For now, big, flashy banner ads and pop-ups don’t seem likely. If they really wanted be the social network apple of my eye, they could offer a “Tumbling for Good” program, similar to the one StumbleUpon employs, that features one outstanding nonprofit Tumblr each month, but I'm not holding my breath for that.
 
If you read our recent report, Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media, and you want to fully invest your resources into Tumblr, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but perhaps now is not the best time. While I don’t think Yahoo! buying Tumblr will make a huge impact on the site, the safest strategy is to wait and see. If you’re already on Tumblr and thinking of abandoning ship, again, I recommend you wait and see. While social media changes rapidly, it doesn’t happen overnight. Tumblr isn’t suddenly uncool, and Yahoo! isn’t suddenly the hippest place on the internet. Although, the way it is trying to listen to its audience makes me think that it might be one day.
 
The recent redesign to Flickr is excellent, and the fact that users get an entire terabyte of photo storage for free is pretty remarkable. With Tumblr, Yahoo! is asking potential sponsors to think about advertising that will work for the medium. If a business the size of Yahoo! is really willing to hear ideas about what to do with its latest billion dollar project, I’m impressed, and definitely excited to see what will come out of it.

Donor Management Systems Report Update Under Way

On a nearly daily basis, we receive calls and emails regarding The Consumers Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems. Released in June 2011, this report provides an overview of what donor management systems do, recommendations for systems based on particular needs, comparison charts, an index that provides summaries of all 29 systems, and a directory of consultants who can help you implement and install these systems. And, the feedback is always similar: “This report is fantastic, I refer people to it all the time. When are you going to update it?”

First of all, thank you. And secondly, we are happy to report that we are currently immersed in a complete update of this report. The new edition, due out in October, will follow a very similar structure. For each system, we walk through the functionality offered for over 150 criteria. The new report will look at the features that might be useful, summarize and compare 35 different donor management systems, and provide detailed reviews of select software that we find offers the most bang for a nonprofit’s buck. Needless to say, it’s extremely in-depth, and we’re excited to put it all together. 
 
One immediate difference you may notice will be the title: The Consumers Guide to Donor Management Systems. In its past iterations, the report had a very specific cost threshold— in 2011, the systems had to cost under $4,000 to support one user and less than 500 records for the first year. Since many nonprofits of all sizes are using tools with varying price points, in this update we’ve included widely-used systems priced above this cost threshold. (Keep in mind that popularity does not equate to quality in our eyes.)
 
Along with the system reviews, the report contains a consultant directory. If you or an organization you know has had a good experience with a consulting firm, we’d love to include them in the directory or as a report sponsor. Please let your partners know about this opportunity and have them contact Ryan Triffitt, ryan@idealware.org, to discuss the options.
 
Once again, thank you for your feedback on the last version of the report. With your input, we’re hard at work on the next version, which we hope will be even more useful to nonprofits searching for the right system to manage relationships with their donors.
 

 

The Impact of Tech Capacity Support

“Too many foundations dismiss technology as peripheral to the important work they fund. But even a small investment in your grantees’ technology can have a large impact on their missions.” 

The above quote comes directly from our report, A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy. It’s a bold statement, but we stand by it. In fact, we believe this notion is a critical shift in thinking all foundations should consider making.
 
Through our research for the report, we learned that a number of foundations are already making investments in technology. These foundations have decided that funding for programs, while valuable and essential, can’t be maximized if a nonprofit’s technology is not on solid ground. For example, integrated mobile and IT infrastructures can help your geographically diverse service organization manage case workers in remote areas, but if your computers can’t handle the latest software, it’s a bad investment. This is where foundations can—and should—help.
 
The first step is determining what that investment should look like. Foundations can fund a variety of projects that support technology: purchasing actual hardware, helping them choose software, building technology skills, or providing direct technology help. The shape of the support can take many forms, so ask your grantees what makes sense for them. All the passion and hard work in the world can’t help nonprofit staffers who can’t reliably connect to the internet, manage their volunteers, or email their supporters, for example—and the list goes on and on. Even a small technology investment can go a long way toward affecting a nonprofit’s mission.
 
At Idealware, we believe that funding technology can have a positive impact throughout all a nonprofit’s programs and services. We invite you to download the report, A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy. Additionally, we recently hosted a panel discussion on the same topic, which included foundation representatives whose organizations have made a commitment to supporting technology. Each provides simple tips and terrific insights on how foundations can make technology funding a reality. You can hear the recording of that session here. We are excited to be one of the voices leading this conversation, and we’d love for you to join it.
 

 

Is Your Donor Data Trapped in Excel?

Stop us if this sounds familiar: You’re looking to send a thank you note to all the people who contributed to a special appeal last spring, and when you start looking for their addresses, you realize they’re on your coworker’s computer—in an Excel file—and that coworker is out of the office today. 
 
This kind of information isolation may have been par for the course when we still used paper Rolodexes and address books, but that day is long gone. The connection between nonprofits and donors is undeniable and essential, and you need a good way to manage and maintain your relationship with each of them. The key is having the right donor management system to help you keep track of them and all the data associated with them. 
 
But what does such a system look like?
 
A donor management system is built to handle relationships between data—basically, your donors and gifts—to allow you to more easily track the people who make your work possible. So, there must be one magical system for you, right? Not so fast. Navigating the choices you have when selecting a donor management system can be daunting. Some systems claiming to be donor management systems may not even specialize in that area. It’s complicated, and often organizations lack the time and staffing to undertake the proper research.
 
That’s why we’ve created The Donor Management Systems Toolkit to help you understand your options. Register now to learn how to best connect your donors.
 
In the The Donor Management Systems Toolkit, you will:
  • Learn about features and considerations for choosing a donor management system.
  • Analyze your organization’s needs and the constituent data that you want to track.
  • Review a method of system evaluation and implementation.
 
As with all our training, it is backed by hours and hours of research, including the extensive work for the latest update of the Consumers Guide to Donor Management Systems due out in October 2013. 
 
Toolkit Schedule:
July 9: Thinking Through Your Donor Management Needs
1 pm – 2:30 pm EST
A review of the common features of systems, key considerations for choosing one that’s right for your organization, and how to compare different systems. You will evaluate what you actually need from a system and ask the all-important question, “Do you really need a new system at all?”
 
July 16-18 and July 23-25:  Donor Management System Demos
1 pm – 2 pm EST
A deep look at some of the highly rated donor management systems being reviewed for Idealware’s A Consumers Guide to Donor Management Systems report, including a mix of low-cost, mid-range, and full-featured systems. Each demo is led and critiqued by Idealware’s constituent database expert.
 
July 30: Best Practices for Implementing and Using Your Database
1 pm – 2:30 pm EST
This session will walk you through the process of implementing your new database and close with an overview of data management best practices.
 
Don’t keep your most important data locked into one Excel sheet. Join us for The Donor Management Systems Toolkit. Read more and register >>>
 
To get you ready for the Toolkit, we’re hosting a special one-hour session, New Trends in Donor Management, on Thursday, June 20 at 1 pm (EST). We will present a run-through of the top trends from our new research for the upcoming Consumer’s Guide to Donor Management Systems.
 

 

A Note About an Event Registration Software Vendor

At Idealware, we work hard both to remain impartial in our research--we don't take any money from vendors--and to be fair, but our primary mission is to provide nonprofits like yours with the information you need to make smart decisions about software. The field of technology and the vendors providing tools is constantly changing, and trying to keep up is sometimes like changing a flat tire on a moving car. The information in our articles, including vendors, prices, and features, can go out of date almost as soon as we publish it. 

Typically, our policy is to acknowledge that fact and not revise articles between our scheduled review cycles. But this week, we've made an exception.

Someone recently alerted us to a developing situation with Acteva, an online event management and payment system that's been around since 1998. Some of the vendor's nonprofit clients have reported that they were never paid the revenue owed them, or had to wait months to receive checks. Details are somewhat murky--there's a website that's been established to discredit the company and share horror stories, but we've been unable so far to independently verify them. Other clients have taken to the TechSoup forums to share their experiences. It's hard to know what's going on here, but the Better Business Bureau rating for Acteva is an "F," and the vendor's accreditation was revoked back in October 2012, largely because it failed to respond to any of the complaints levied against it. 

In the past, we've included Acteva in articles about event registration software, as well in our Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits. We've decided to make an exception to our policy and remove mention of the product from our materials while we monitor the situation. We'll continue to look into it, and we encourage you to conduct your own research if you're considering purchasing event software. In fact, this is a great reminder to always do your homework when selecting a vendor-- you never know what you might find out. 

Half Price for a Full Summer

School may be out for the summer, but Idealware’s trainings are always in session. We have a full schedule—and now we’re offering it at half price. The reason is simple: We want you to have the tools you need to succeed. The options include a mix of brand new sessions and Idealware classics, including all our best-rated sessions. We hope a 50 percent discount will help you carve out some time during your busy summer schedule.

The Summer Sale applies to all Thursday sessions in June, July, and August. Enter the code SUMMER2013 at checkout to receive the 50 percent discount.
 
We hope you’ll join us. 
 
Here’s the full schedule:
June 20

June 27

July 18

July 25

August 1

August 8

August 15

August 22
 

New Infographics Course Tomorrow: Twice the Impact at Half the Price

Tomorrow we’re offering an online seminar about Infographics, and if you act now, you can take advantage of a half-price discount by entering the code SUMMER2013. Why are we offering a discount? Because we think this is a valuable course, and we want to reach as many people as we can.
 
Nonprofits of all sizes have become more “datacentric,” and as we strive to measure our work more closely, we’re up to our eyeballs in data. Infographics—essentially any combination of information and image used to tell a story by visually representing data—are a relatively recent extension of data visualization, rising in both popularity and importance as a way for nonprofits to present and make sense of their data in a more digestible format.
 
In this new session, based on our report, Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing: From Data to Design, we’ll explore the many different types of infographics, how they can communicate information effectively, and how you can create your own. We’ll break down the barriers of this growing approach to data visualization, and make sure you know when – and when not – to use them to get the full impact.
 
Session Takeaways:
·         Understanding and creating infographics.
·         What defines an infographic?
·         How can you create one that presents your data in a compelling and easy-to-understand way?
·         A look at tools that can help you create infographics.
 
How can infographics help you? Here’s a real world example we think demonstrates perfectly:
 
Last year, HousingWorks RI planned to produce a four-page Issue Brief on rental housing in Rhode Island showing that because rents were higher than many residents could afford, the state had a dire need for more long-term affordable rental housing. Despite the compelling data, the brief was drowning in numbers and percentages, and the media seemed uninterested in the story.
 
But when the staff produced an infographic (shown below) conveying the same information in an easy-to-read, compelling format, the interest level spiked. “In all we had over 20 media mentions, including a small blurb in USA Today,” HousingWorks RI Communications Director Nicole Lagace remembered. “Our experiment paid off and we continued to build upon our reputation for providing user-friendly, well-designed information.”
 
Got data you want to share? Looking for new ways to engage constituents, legislators, the media, or other key audiences? Sign up now for our new Infographics session and enter the code SUMMER2013 to take advantage of our one-time only discount price and see what all the fuss is about.
 

The Conversation around Funding Technology

We love talking about technology. While that may be the understatement of the year, it’s true. But for Idealware it goes beyond that. We want to talk about technology in a way that directly connects nonprofits to the right technologies. And often, that conversation turns to funding. Needless to say, that conversation can become complicated. Instead of just being a part of the conversation, we’re convening it.

 
Idealware recently released A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, a resource developed with our foundation partners to help foundations understand how to maximize their investments and help ensure the success of their grantees. Now, we hope you’ll join us to further the discussion with a free panel: Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations on Tuesday, June 11 at 1 pm (EST).
 
What will we be talking about? Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations is an online panel made up of foundation representatives who can speak directly to the positive impact they’ve had through supporting technology. Properly supported, the right technologies can build nonprofits’ effectiveness and efficiency and multiply the impact of a foundation’s grants and programs. Included on the panel will be some of the organizations profiled in the case studies featured in the guide, and they will expand upon not only what spurred them to support technology but also the results they’ve seen. 
 
Confirmed panel participants thus far (Subject to change):
  • Luis Chabolla, Communications Officer at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County
  • Tina Arnoldi, Director of Technology at Coastal Community Foundation (of South Carolina)
  • Ashley Harper, Director of Grants & Initiatives at Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
  • David Krumlauf, Chief Technologist at the Pierce Family Foundation

Who should attend? Foundation program officers already working to support technology who want to help grantees make the right choices with their technology budgets, or those just beginning to gain an interest in technology themselves. We’ll help you think about planning to support nonprofit technology in way that meets both your funding ability and level of readiness.
 
This panel discussion is free to join, and we invite you to share your thoughts on this topic. 

Best of the Web: May 2013

The Idealware “Best of the Web” is a monthly roundup of the top nonprofit resources from the Idealware blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed to help you make the right technology decisions.

“Engagement is a function of listening to the customer voice, how they’re behaving and how they actually want to engage with us.” Don’t get trapped by the buzzword “engagement.” It can be a powerful metric for understanding your relationship to your constituents, or it can mean nothing at all.
 
There’s no doubt that many organizations are using cloud technologies in innovative ways. But, more specifically, what links might we find between the unique aspects of cloud technology, and the conditions and success factors for innovation?
 
We can’t assume nonprofits have the resources to provide high quality data about their own effectiveness. While that might seem like an easy and obvious thing for them to be able to do, it’s not—not in the least. Organizations pushed to provide impact data to get funding will provide something, but it’s not likely to be the high quality data or strategic metrics that would actually help them improve. How can we remedy this?
 
Next time you think about designing a technology platform for a community, don’t forget to take the time and effort and get the expertise you need to build the accompanying relationship infrastructure that will ensure the success of your investment.
 
From homeless and addicted to internet guru with tens of thousands of followers on social media, Mark Horvath, @hardlynormal on Twitter, is now working toward one goal: to end homelessness in our lifetime. The @home campaign uses documentary film, social media, and a smartphone game to activate communities to solve homelessness in their own backyards.
 
The belief that Facebook is a "magic" solution for marketing and fundraising is false. Facebook is just one of many tools in your marketing toolbox. The social sharing nature of Facebook can be vital, and sometimes critical, to your marketing and promotions plan, but only if you’re willing, able, and motivated.
 
Don’t get discouraged by low traffic. You organization’s blog can help you demonstrate knowledge, expertise, and experience; feed your social media; and provide content for grant submissions.
 
While the focus of the article is on for-profit companies, it’s even more critical for nonprofit brands to be human. The success of any social program is ultimately determined by its ability to connect on a one-to-one, human level. That connection is even more important for your cause.
 
Unsure if cloud technology is right for your organization? This lighthearted animated video explains the basics of the cloud and how it can help an organization. 
 
Research shows that by 2014 mobile device usage will exceed that of desktop and laptop computers. What does this mean for nonprofit organizations and online fundraising campaigns?
 
There's a big hullabaloo lately about infographics, but what are they? How do you make your own? In this short video, research analyst Kyle Andrei explains the basics excerpted from Idealware’s recent free report, “Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing: From Data to Design.”
 

Talking Tech Capacity

On the heels of the launch of our report, A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, we’ve enjoyed leading the conversation around the topic of foundations supporting technology capacity building. We see technology support as a great way to have a positive impact throughout all your grantees’ programs and services. It’s not as simple as that, but that’s where we like to start.

Technology in and of itself will not save lives or end world hunger, but it can have a powerful effect on every organization’s mission. Think about it:
 
  • Broadcast email tools can help you launch a targeted fundraising campaign.
  • A new content management system can allow your staff to easily edit and update your website to raise volunteers around special events.
  • Your organization can convert your one-time donors into legacy donors by using a new donor management system to build relationships with them.
  • A cloud-based backup system can save your organization’s critical data in the face of an unforeseen disaster.
 
Do you have an example of how technology has helped move your organization forward? It may not be obvious at first, but we bet you do. Technology can be powerful for nonprofits. And it’s up to all of us—remember, we’re a nonprofit, too—to help us communicate the impact it can have. The more foundations are aware of the benefits of technology for our organizations, the better partnerships we can form.
 
In A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, we outline 10 specific tactics foundations can undertake to support technology. If you’re reading this from within a foundation, think about just one tactic you could employ. Start small—we believe great things will follow. If you’re a nonprofit staffer, talk to your foundation partners about implementing technology to forward your mission. 
 
Either way, be sure to download the guide.
 
If you’d like to engage more deeply in this conversation, join us for a special online panel, Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations, on June 11 at 1 pm (EST).
 
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