Best of Web: December 2014

 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. Please forward it along to anyone you think might benefit from it.

Data! Data! Data! Where to Start? (Nonprofit Marketing Guide)

"If you have already implemented donor-centric newsletters and built a strong communications calendar, but are still looking for that extra edge in nonprofit communications to help you raise more dollars, then don’t look further, look inside your world of data. Even Sherlock Holmes once said, 'Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay.' " The Nonprofit Marketing Guide points you in the right direction.

A/B Testing for Small Nonprofits & Political Campaigns (ePolitics)

A/B testing your communications is frequently referred to in a way that makes it feel like drawing a line in the sand, separating simple outreach techniques from the sophisticated. This explainer from ePolitics will show you where to begin with A/B testing to help you take your outreach efforts to the next level. 

Giving Tuesday has established itself as a huge success in a small span of time, but it’s still just one day of the year. With 364 other days on the calendar, there are 364 more opportunities to engage your donors. Frogloop has some tips on how to fill that time to keep you going until to next Giving Tuesday. 

Infographic: How Data is Helping to Stop Violence Against Girls (The Guardian)
By now, most nonprofits have heard that data is important to the work they do. What remains less clear iswhy data is important, and how to transform it into action for good. This case study shows how Unicef, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the government of Swaziland have been able to work together to turn data into innovative approaches to protect that country's children. 
Charities have struggled to turn the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa into an enthusiasm to donate to the cause. Last month two tech titans, Facebook and Google, both decided to use their platforms to reach potential donors in a way that charities simply couldn’t on their own. NPR documents this new marriage between tech, charity, and corporate philanthropy. 

Scary Tactic Emails (Frogloop)
We’ve all received them, and likely resented them: emails that turn prophecies of doom and gloom into calls for cash. A scarier fact? Just how effective they can be. Frogloop compares these type of messages to their positive counterparts, and reaches some potentially frightening conclusions about what works, and what doesn’t.
The Big Password Mistake that Hackers are Hoping You’ll Make (State of the Net)
Almost no one likes to think about passwords. They tend to slow things down, prevent productive work, and generally make life frustrating. But with the increasing sophistication of hackers and inevitability of security breaches, strong passwords are increasingly essential in preventing serious security crises. State of the Net busts some common password myths, and give you some tips on how to stay safe.
From Mushmouth to Morgan Freeman in Eight Steps: Absolute Beginner's Guide to Voiceovers (Idealware)
Gaining a new media proficiency is like adding another tool to your communicator’s toolbelt. It lets you get you spread your message in ways more unique, and sometimes efficient, than previously possible. Idealware’s own voice-over guru, Kyle Andrei, shares his insight on how he’s been able to use that skill over the years.If you’re involved with managing the content on your organization’s website, it’s also likely that you have a wishlist of usability improvements. While major revamps are few and far between, small tweaks can still give your visitors a friendlier experience. Here are a few proposals from Wired Impact.

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From Mushmouth to Morgan Freeman in Eight Steps: Absolute Beginner's Guide to Voiceovers

I wear many hats at Idealware, and wore many more before joining the team. One skill that has come in handy more often than I expected is audio production—specifically, recording and editing voice-overs. 
It may not seem a likely thing for a nonprofit to need to do, but it’s come in handy for Idealware several times during my tenure here, whether it was our On-Demand Tactical Tech Planning or an animated video about cloud computing, or even instructional videos for our own staff. If you ever find yourself needing to do voice work for your own organization, here’s a handful of tips that I’ve learned over the years.

The Voice

I’ve written these tips assuming you, the reader, are the person doing the voiceover.
  • Get to know your voice. If you’ve never heard yourself speak, then you’re in for a treat. In the same way that people may dislike how they appear on camera, many people, when first hearing their recorded voice, will hate how it sounds. Use your phone or computer, and just take some time to record yourself speaking. Listen to it, figure out what you like or dislike, and practice, practice, practice. On this same line…
  • Find your verbal tics. We all have them, and once you hear your voice recorded, you’ll likely find ones you didn’t know you had. For example, I found that I have a tendency to “click” my tongue, seemingly mindlessly. It’s the sort of thing you don’t think about, until the microphone picks it up. 
  • Plan on doing multiple takes. Especially when just starting out, plan on recording each line or paragraph two or three times. Your first take might be too nervous or unsure; your second take might be good, but missing something. And there’s always more than one way to read a line—if what you’ve recorded feels “off”, do another take, but do it completely differently. Sometimes, you find that you had been approaching the line from the wrong perspective.
  • You will make mistakes. It’s inevitable—you’ve got the words down, in the middle of the best take, when suddenly a car honks outside. Or the phone rings. Or the cat, which has been playing with the microphone cable, pulls the mic off the table (true story). Just pause, laugh it off, and start over. That’s also why you should take a slightly longer-than-normal pause between sentences—instead of doing the whole line over from the start, you can just start at the top of the sentence you messed up.
  • Remember to breathe. As I mentioned, I’ve worn many hats—radio personality, stage actor, rock singer, public speaker. Know what they have in common? They all need proper breath support, and so does recording a voiceover. Take a deep breath—that’s from your stomach—and use all that air to support your voice. You’ll have a richer, deeper tone, greater vocal range, and most importantly, you’ll sound more confident.

The Words

So, you should be feeling more confident about your voice now. But your voice is only part of the equation—someone had to write the words you’re recording.
  • Practice the script before recording. Read the lines through at least once—and read them out loud. You’ll be able to figure out where you might get tripped up, or where the lines are confusing, in a way that silent reading wouldn’t catch. If the words written are giving you trouble when spoken…
  • Rewrite the script. If a phrase is giving you trouble, or a word is difficult to say, change it. It’s not that big of a deal. Writing for the spoken word is a different skill than writing for the written word. What looked right on paper may be an awkward mess when spoken. And while you’re at it…
  • Make notes on how the lines should sound. Is this sentence a question, a statement, or a command? Print out the script, and mark it up. A “/” could tell you that you need to inflect up, like a question; a ”\” that you need to bring it down, as a confident statement. The listener should be able to know when you’ve finished a statement or topic using your voice alone. Ending a line like a question will make the listener wonder if you’ve actually made your point.

The Equipment

Finally, you’ll need a way to record and edit the audio. First, get a microphone. A quality USB microphone will be optimized for recording voices (like for podcasts), and can be found for less than $100. Lifehacker has nice round-up on the best desktop microphones.
Then, get an audio editing program. Personally, I use Audacity for most basic audio work. It’s a free, open source project, it will run on most computers without a problem, and it’s pretty straightforward to use. But, if you want to export your audio as an MP3 file, and you probably will, you’ll need to install a separate, but also free, module. If you have more complicated audio editing needs, Adobe Audition, part of the Creative Suite, is what I used when I worked in radio.


Best of Web: November 2014

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. Please forward it along to anyone you think might benefit from it.
Maybe you've heard that our fearless leader, Laura Quinn, is transitioning into a strategic role to make room for a new Executive Director with the right match of skills to lead us into the future. Interested? Know someone who might be a good fit? Tell us.

Can You Make A Campaign Go Viral? (Frogloop)

After the cultural sensation of the #IceBucketChallenge, many nonprofits might be wondering if they can replicate the viral success of ALS Association. The simple answer? No. And they probably shouldn’t try. Frogloop suggests some goals that you should try to set instead. 
Why do people choose to give to one cause, but not another that’s similar? Perhaps more frustratingly, why are some campaigns a hit, while others just flop? Shankar Vendantam reports on fascinating new research that may offer insight to this perplexing issue.

Digital Campaigning in the Age of Marmots (Mobilisation Lab) 
Your best campaign moments will usually be carefully scripted, but occasionally you might find that great opportunities seem to wander in from nowhere. In a particularly cute case study, the Mobilisation Lab from Greenpeace shows you how to make the most of those unexpected moments. 

Five Ways for Nonprofits to Tell an Ethical Story (Nonprofit Quarterly) 
“In an effort to raise money and awareness for causes, nonprofit organizations often feel compelled to tell stories of desperate victims. These strategies may succeed in achieving temporary goals—pity does raise money. So does convincing someone they are a hero by giving. But there are bigger dangers inherent in these practices.” The Nonprofit Quarterly explains.

Data-Driven Decisions: Exploring Outcome Indicators (NTEN and Idealware)
When it comes to program data, identifying what you want to measure is only half the work; collecting and making sense of that data is another story. In these new worksheets from NTEN and Idealware, you’ll identify ways to collect high-quality outcomes data, explore the story that the data tells about your programs, and learn how to effectively communicate those stories to donors, funders, or other stakeholders.

Millennials and the Reshaping of Charity and Online Giving (Nonprofit Quarterly)
As millennials become more prevalent in the workforce, they also are becoming more influential in the charity and philanthropy sectors. Nonprofit Quarterly shares insights from a number of recent studies on how millennials are changing the landscape, and hints at what you can do now to protect your organization’s health for years to come. 
Data visualization is one of the hottest trends around, and with good reason. But with it’s prevalence comes the need for it to also be effective and impactful. Wired digs into data and data visualization to give you some key thoughts that will help you ensure that your use of them isn't for nothing. 
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Best of the Web: October 2014

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. Please forward it along to anyone you think might benefit from it.
"One of the biggest hurdles a nonprofit can overcome is a tall one: getting potential donors to simply know they exist. A new website from Perry Chen, a Kickstarter co-founder, aims to give small-but-worthy nonprofits a boost." Find out how it works, from Fast Company.
Your online fundraising can use an upgrade, right? Right. Even as nonprofits embrace technology, many of us still lag in the area of online fundraising. Frogloop highlights some of the most common offenses and shows you how to fix them.
The use of data at nonprofits is becoming more commonplace, but this positive change comes with its costs. Our own Executive Director and Founder, Laura Quinn, acknowledges one of the dirty secrets of the data-driven nonprofit sector and notes what can be done to right the ship.
Technology gives many nonprofits the ability to work in ways that simply weren’t previously possible. Wired shares an enlightening case study about an organization hoping to use technology so effectively that it someday puts itself out of business.
Any organization with an online presence eventually runs into users that just don’t want to play nice. Cyberhate is distracting for both you and your constituents and generally causes a lot of headaches for anyone who gets involved. Find out what Google is doing to stop hate online, and what you can do to keep your content friendly and on point, courtesy of the Google Public Policy Blog.
A smart fundraiser never passes up an opportunity to put compelling content in front of a new audience of potential supporters. While you might be understandably skeptical about newer social media tools like Instagram and Vine, Jim Lynch at Fundraising Success makes a great case for how they can be used to make your most compelling fundraising content ever.
What’s the best way to engage a supporter online? What’s the return-on-investment of your last email campaign? How long should you take to respond to a question on Twitter? Find out the answers to these questions and more, thanks to the blog at Tech Impact.
Being able to talk about technology is a necessary step to being able to use it within your organization. Can you define the differences between the Internet and the Web, or UX and UI? If not, Mashable has the article for you.
It’s okay to admit it: not many of us get excited thinking about databases. But at a certain stage in your growth they become essential to managing a serious fundraising effort. The Data Bank makes a strong case for why you should put in the work now, with a sneak peek at the rewards you’ll reap later on.
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(Update: Position filled) We're Hiring a Managing Writer

UPDATE (DECEMBER 2014): Thank you to all our candidates. We are no longer accepting applications.

Want a chance to write for a living AND help nonprofits make the world a better place?

Idealware is a small-but-growing nonprofit that provides thoroughly researched, impartial, and accessible resources to help nonprofits make smart decisions about the software that can streamline their processes and help them fulfill their missions more efficiently and effectively. Lean staffing and tight budgets keep them from devoting the time necessary to keep up with new technologies and find the right tools. Which is where we come in—we provide an authoritative online guide to the software that allows smaller U.S. nonprofits to be more effective.

Our reports have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, making us a trusted resource with a growing reputation. And now we’re hiring a Managing Writer to help create and edit our articles, reports, and other resources, and guide them through the process from creation to publication.

Idealware is based in Portland, Maine, but the Managing Writer will work remotely (and report to someone in Portland, Oregon). Want to join us? Email your resume to with “I’m Your New Managing Writer” in the subject line.  Tell him—in no more than three sentences—why you want to work for Idealware, and why you’re the right fit for the job.

Here’s what we’re looking for…

Job Summary

The Managing Writer will write and edit content with a primary focus on the Research and Editorial program area of the organization, with additional writing for Communications, Marketing, and Training as needed. The ideal candidate will be a strong writer and editor with (at least) several years of experience doing so professionally. You must be comfortable performing journalist-level research—through phone calls, interviews, and the web—and turning it into well-written, accurate content for a variety of formats, including long reports, short articles, workbooks, blog posts, and emails.

You’ll own projects, and should have basic experience managing and scheduling them and keeping them on track.

Working with other staff, you’ll give voice to their research and rewrite and edit their content, so you must be experienced and comfortable accepting and offering critique and edits. You should also know your way around a style guide. We’ve worked hard to establish and maintain our organizational voice—we’ll need you to learn it and guard it with your life. You’ll also need to do a little client-management, working with funders, sponsors, nonprofit technology specialists and other subject matter experts, and program staff.

We’d love it if you were comfortable with technology or had nonprofit sector experience, but our primary requirements are for a solid writing and editing professional who believes in our mission of helping other nonprofits, and is a good fit for our team.

Interested, or know someone who is? Please help us spread the word!


We're Hiring an Executive Director

Here at Idealware, there’s nothing we like better than helping other nonprofits. It’s both our mission and our passion. In the eight years since I founded Idealware, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of nonprofits across the country—and now we’re well positioned to grow in a way that will allow us to reach even more.
As part of that growth, I see an opportunity to step out of the Executive Director role and into another one to make room for a successor with the right experience and vision to lead us into the next stage of our evolution.
I say “us” because you’re a part of the Idealware family, just like all our constituents and partners, but also because I remain fully committed to Idealware. I’ll continue to work closely with the board and staff (and eventually with our new Executive Director) to support this transition, and am excited about what’s ahead. I plan to continue my involvement with the organization in a new, part-time role that I look forward to further defining with the board and new ED.
Idealware has come a long way since the days when I worked out of my attic with a team of generous nonprofit tech volunteers to create and distribute our resources to as many nonprofits as possible. We fought hard for every subscriber, and even harder for every donor, and it worked—eight years later, we’re a diverse staff working to continually raise the quality of resources the nonprofit sector expects from us, and to expand our reach and reputation.
As part of the Idealware family, we’d love your support spreading the word to help us find our next Executive Director. We’ve posted the job and a more detailed description for you to pass along to anyone who you think might be a good fit.
In the meantime, you won’t notice any changes at Idealware—we’re busy as ever researching and planning reports, filling our training calendar, and learning from the remarkable people in nonprofit technology. I really appreciate your support over the years, and look forward to your continued collaboration with the Idealware board, staff, and community—and with me in my new role.
Once again, I hope you’ll pass along this infromation to anyone you think might be interested in joining us. We’re proud of our work and our staff and look forward to adding the right person to help lead us into the future.
Laura S. Quinn

Best of Web: September 2014

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. Please forward it along to anyone you think might benefit from it.
Five Ways Your Nonprofit Can Reach Millennials (Frogloop)
Has your organization been trying to reach millenials? Frogloop shares a list of five outreach tips, from keeping your online content up-to-date to actually asking them to support you.
Seven Facebook Hacks to Make your Website More Shareable (Socialbrite)
John Haydon offers tips to make Facebook work harder for your website target audience, whether it is nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, journalists, or the general public.
Ice Bucket Social Media Trend Causes 1,000% Spike in ALS Donations (Nonprofit Quarterly)
Pull quote: “There are certainly critics of the trend who believe 'a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research,' but apparently the goofy stunt has caught on like wildfire and has increased donations to the ALS Association by 1,000 percent...”
Infographic: Why Video Is The Best Form Of Engagement (TechImpact)
There is a seemingly infinite number of ways for you to engage viewers online—through content, infographics, video, social media, or even memes. Nonprofits everywhere are searching for ways to increase their exposure online to increase donations, spur community involvement, and to make the world a better place. So with their noble goals in mind, what is the best way to engage users online? If the title didn’t already give it away, it’s videos. TechImpact shows why.
The Start-to-Finish Guide to Securing Your Cloud Storage (LifeHacker)
Whether you store your files on Dropbox, iCloud, or Mega, how can you make them more secure—and still convenient to access? LifeHacker walks you through a few steps.
Infographic: Nonprofit Communications Trends (NIFTIT)
Earlier this year, the Nonprofit Marketing Guide released the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, and it shows that many nonprofit communications suffer from a lack of focus. Do yours? Check out the report and see how you compare.
The always insightful Brett Meyer digs deep into the data to explain how the trends he notices in his own dashboards are reflective of larger patterns across the sector. Good stuff here—give it a read.
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Unleashing Innovation Case Studies: Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA)

In 2012, Idealware worked with our friends at MAP for Nonprofits on Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program. Since then, the folks at MAP tested an approach to helping nonprofits identify viable opportunities for innovation. You can read all about the pilot program and read a number of case studies in MAP for Nonprofits' Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program; we're reprinting a few of the case studies here because we think they're of interest to our audience.

Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA)

When MSBA entered the pilot program, the organization was in the middle of implementing a new association management software package (AMS), and had already slated several other routine but resource-intensive IT upgrades. Part of their reason for joining the pilot was to stay mindful of the organization’s overall IT needs in the midst of these projects, and begin identifying the next thing on the horizon.

Survey responses showed membership recruitment and retention as a priority. Barriers between the organization and its priority included staff and volunteers who were feeling spread too thin, incomplete/inaccurate member data, and a website perceived to be weak on branding and engagement. Overall, respondents seemed positive about technology.

In their exit interview, the MSBA participants said this process has helped them become aware of some new possibilities. However, they affirmed their decision to stick to the basics for now, and get what they have working smoothly before experimenting with new technologies.One thing that drives membership recruitment and retention is emailing valuable information and resources to members. MSBA emerged from the pilot program with an objective to improve accuracy and completeness of member information, especially email addresses, in order to reliably reach members with information that adds value to their membership in the association.

In order to reach its objective, MSBA needed a creative way to obtain the information, while making the most of staff time. The new AMS will require members to log in with email addresses in order to access benefits online, so much of their plan intersects with roll-out of that new platform.

MSBA Ideas and Next Steps:

  • Design a communication plan
  • Remind members to update email addresses
  • Create incentives or contests to motivate members to update their records
  • Investigate list enhancement services that append email addresses to a mailing list
  • Phone members to update information and get them more engaged

This organization discovered some creative solutions to an issue that is connected to their top strategic challenge, namely keeping members engaged with relevant content in order to support strong member acquisition and retention. That was a positive outcome of the pilot project. However, there weren’t any truly innovative solutions. We think that is because the organization was already using all of its innovative bandwidth on the AMS project. The timing was not right to make an innovative leap, as key parts of their IT infrastructure were already in flux.

Breaking: Blackbaud to Acquire MicroEdge

Idealware just got wind of the press release announcing nonprofit software giant Blackbaud's plans to acquire MicroEdge, the makers of the popular grants management products GIFTS, GIFTS Online, and GIFTS Alta, as well as the community foundation software FIMS. We have to admit-- we didn't see this one coming. The Charleston, SC Post and Courier has some basic coverage of the story

No word yet on how this will affect current MicroEdge clients, or users of Blackbaud partner FusionLab's grants management products, Granted GE and Spectrum. MicroEdge and FusionLab's offerings in this space are reviewed in detail in Idealware's most recent version of the Consumers Guide to Grants Management Software. You can download that report for free thanks to our funders, theTechnology Affinity Group (TAG), and the Grants Managers Network (GMN).

We will continue to monitor the situation and weigh in on any developments. Stay tuned...

Unleashing Innovation Case Studies: Residential Services, Inc. (RSI)

In 2012, Idealware worked with our friends at MAP for Nonprofits on Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services. Since then, the folks at MAP tested an approach to helping nonprofits identify viable opportunities for innovation. You can read all about the pilot program and read a number of case studies in MAP for Nonprofits' Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program; we're reprinting a few of the case studies here because we think they're of interest to our audience. This is the first...

Residential Services, Inc. (RSI)

RSI entered the program having recently implemented several technology systems, including a new database. Through the Identifying Needs and Understanding Technology survey – which they chose to send to the entire organization - they realized that internet bandwidth issues were making it difficult to use the new technology. They responded immediately by systematically checking every location’s internet connection, troubleshooting problems, and upgrading network components where needed.

Survey Helps Organization Connect to Internal Tech Concerns

Reflecting on this later, the executive director was glad they had decided to extend the survey to the entire organization, rather than limit it to management and the technology steering group. The survey helped RSI leadership realize that employees – although expressing enthusiasm for adopting new technologies – had become frustrated with the rapid roll-out of recent changes.

As a result, RSI delayed the planned rollout of a new electronic medication administration record system in order to be more thoughtful about managing the change, and ensuring that infrastructure was ready to support the new technology. “We were seeing the signs of problems and frustrations among our staff,” said Executive Director Jon Nelson. “We put everything on hold while we implemented a plan to improve the equipment (modems, routers, firewalls) and work with the developer of the software to make needed improvements.”

Improving Integration of Systems

Through the pilot program, RSI identified that improving internal processes and systems like scheduling, time and attendance offered the most return on  investment. Data silos were leading to inefficiencies, and stood in the way of data analysis. As it turned out, employees were eager to try new tools. Within a month of RSI completing the pilot program, two locations were already piloting and evaluating two different timekeeping tools. Nelson explained, “If we had proposed a change to our timekeeping system from the top down instead of getting the idea from the people who use it, the change would have failed. The chance to learn and demonstrate responsiveness, as a result of this program, definitely built momentum for change.”

The scheduling and time and attendance project is moving ahead at RSI. They have been piloting multiple options at different RSI homes and have been working with a developer to fine tune a scheduling application. They also have broadened the scope of the project to look at software that would better integrate the scheduling and time and attendance data with other payroll data. In addition, they have been sharing questions and ideas with Community Involvement Programs, another participant in their cohort, looking for some common solutions. Holding the implementation of their new electronic medication administration record system, in response to employee concerns, allowed the organization to identify and implement a plan to improve the equipment (modems, routers, firewalls) and the software.

The bottom line is that RSI is using several ideas that came from the pilot program to improve the use of technology at RSI, in an informed, prioritized manner.

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