Blogs

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).
 

Which Types of Tools to Use for Managing Constituents

How do you track your constituent data? You can use a broad, shallow system that can track all your different types of constituents, from donors and volunteers to clients and members. You'll get a big picture of everyone who supports your organization, and be able to see when individuals support you in different ways, like attending events and donating. But with this high-level approach, you won't have as powerful of features to drill down into the data of any one category.

You could instead use a deep, targeted database, that provides lots of features to get a rigorous view of a single type of constituent, like your donors. But what you gain in power you lose ins cope. In most cases, you'll only be able to effectively track data for a single type of constituent. How do you choose what strategy is best for managing your organization's constituent data?

Want to learn more about constituent data strategies and other parts of your organization's technology plan? Idealware's Tactical Technology Planning covers all the steps, in on-demand recordings so you can learn at your own pace. For more information, visit tacticaltech.idealware.org.

If You Endorse Me, I’ll Endorse You

Last fall, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature—endorsements. Maybe you've seen them piling up in your inbox as you're endorsed for skills you may or may not have by people who may or may not be qualified to judge. Basically, they’re the poor man’s Recommendation; an easy and painless way to vouch for someone’s claimed skills. But has LinkedIn made it too easy?
 
Over on Mashable a couple months ago, there was a great op-ed from Todd Wasserman in which he argued that Endorsements are ineffective because they're too easy, too frictionless, to make.  default, when you endorse a connection’s skills, you’re endorsing all of their skills—you have to manually uncheck the skills you don’t want to endorse. If your LinkedIn profile is supposed to be your online resume, do carte-blanche endorsements actually add any value to prospective employers compared to writing a recommendation? The value in someone vouching for your skills is that it takes conscious effort on their part to be a reference. If we make that process as easy as clicking a button, it loses its value. 
 
Both Mashable and Forbes have pointed out another trend around endorsements. Many people will endorse your skills because they want you to do the same. This quid pro quo economy also cheapens what should be a glowing and powerful action. I’m not going to stick my neck out to help someone get a job just because they did the same for me; I’m going to do that because I actually feel they have those skills, and would be the right fit. 
 
The easy solution to this problem comes from LinkedIn—you still have to approve or reject Endorsements. We just have to collecting decide that we will be more careful and meaningful, only giving or accepting Endorsements that we actually deserve.
 
Oh well, wishful thinking… 

In Search of Better Data About Nonprofits' Programs

What are we really asking for when we require nonprofits to produce data on performance, effectiveness and impact? While the surface logic is clear – we need to know this information – the full context and set of assumptions surrounding the request bears closer examination.

Our Executive Director and Founder, Laura Quinn, recently posed this question to the community and shared her thoughts on answering it over on the Markets for Good blog. We believe this is the beginning of a great conversation. Click through to read it, and let us know what you think. 

AskIdealware: What Is an Infographic?

There's a big hullabaloo lately about infographics, but what are they? How do you make your own? Kyle Andrei explains in this preview of Idealware's newly released report. Watch the video, download the report for free, and then get started creating and sharing your own infographics.

Maine 501Tech Club Reboot

If it’s not clear from our website, we love to discuss two things: nonprofits and technology. We can’t get enough of either. With that in mind, we’re excited to be the new hosts and organizers of Maine's 501Tech Club. If you’re in Portland on April 24, make plans to stop by. Register today.
 
What will we be talking about in April?
NTC for ME: National Nonprofit Technology Brought Home
 
The 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference just wrapped up, but we’re not done talking about it.
Couldn’t make it to Minnesota? Come and learn from those who did—and if you were able to attend, share what you learned. Did you find out about a new way to use technology? Talk to a nonprofit doing cool stuff? Sit in on a thought-provoking presentation? 
 
Share your ideas over drinks and snacks.
 
Takeaways:
• Learn from Idealware staff and other conference attendees’ five-minute presentations on what they learned at this year’s NTC
• Network with other southern Maine nonprofit staffers over beer, wine and snacks
 
When: Wednesday, April 24 from 4:00pm–6:00pm (EST)
Where: Idealware’s Office, 1 Pleasant St., Suite 4E, Portland, ME 04101
 
We hope you can join us. Register here.
 
What is a 501Tech Club?
 
An informal local group that meets regularly to get to know their colleagues, develop a professional support network, and talk shop. The groups usually meet in coffee shops, bars, or a member's office. Topics for these gatherings range from networking to full presentations, group discussions to panel Q and A, and everything in between. 
 
501 Tech Clubs also have an online space where they network by creating profiles, talking via a listserv, posting blog entries, and maintaining shared resources. All of these conversations are stored in the group’s online space and are open for anyone to join and participate, whether they are NTEN members or not. The Portland group can be found here: http://my.nten.org/groups/profile/view/groupid/478
 

NTC in Review

The Idealware team has just returned from the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis. It was an amazing gathering of leaders in the nonprofit technology community, and we were thrilled not only to attend but to lead six sessions over the three-day conference. Couldn’t be there in-person? We’ve got you covered. We’ll be re-running four of these sessions via webinar in May.
 
From content management systems and data measurement to social media policy and mobile technologies, we were privileged to speak on a wide variety of topics that we feel are important for nonprofit organizations. We also led a special collaborative session designed to help foundations understand the importance of funding technology and to teach nonprofits how to best ask for support. And our executive director, Laura Quinn, joined a special CIO panel to discuss technology decision making. Needless to say, we were busy, and we learned a great deal. We want to pass along some of that knowledge, so please, join us for NTC in Review.
 
May 2—Based on the new Idealware report, a Consumers Guide to Nonprofit Content Management Systems, learn what 11 of the most popular open-source and proprietary CMSs have done to address the demands of today’s Internet: who passed, and who failed?
 
May 9—There’s a movement across many different human services field toward providing services via web conferencing, texting, video, interactive websites and even Skype.  How can organizations make the most of these technologies to provide services to geographically distributed constituents?
 
May 23—Many organizations are racing to develop a social media policy that governs who does what, what's OK (and not OK) to say on behalf of their organization, and how to handle sticky situations. But even more than legislating these details, the process of creating such a policy can help you engage in important discussions that will mature your organizational culture.
 
May 30—As a leader of your organization, you'd probably like to see clear metrics to track your programs, outreach efforts, and the financial health of your organization. Based on NTEN's and Idealware's research into what's actually working for nonprofits, we'll talk through what you should think about to define your own data-based metrics strategy.
 

 

What is a Computer Replacement Cycle?

Surprise, surprise, computers won't last forever. As they grow old and outdated, they stop being tools to make your job easier and start becoming burdens, which is a waste of staff time. But computers are also expensive. If your plan for replacing your organization's computers is to "run 'em into the ground" before buying new ones, you're bound to be presented with sudden, unpredictable costs, and that is hard to budget for.

Instead, a replacement cycle tells your organization when it's time to replace your computers before they "catch fire," so you can budget in those costs ahead of time. You can replace all your computers in bulk, so everyone has the same machine, and you only have to worry about the cost every four years or so. Or, you can replace your computers "ad-hoc," maybe one quarter of them each year. Both methods have their pros and cons. Replacing all your computers at once means that you only have to think about it once every four years, but you're taking a big hit on the years when you do replace them. Buying computers ad-hoc means that you can spread that cost out over time; you only pay a quarter of the cost of buying in bulk, but you pay it every year.

Want to learn more about computers, replacement cycles, and other parts of your organization's technology plan? Idealware's Tactical Technology Planning. Less than a week remains to purchase it at the reduced price, which was made possible by the Pierce Family Foundation. For more information, visit tacticaltech.idealware.org.

AskIdealware: No One Is Coming To Our Events - What Do We Do?

 Ryan Triffitt explains why low event attendance isn't always a bad thing.

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