Laura Quinn's blog

New article: The Truth About Hosted Software Packages

We have several new articles going up fast and furiously over the next few days, but the first is up now: The Truth About Hosted Software Packages. There's a lot of hype and misconceptions about Software as a Service products (they're not secure! they're evil! they'll solve all your IT problems and replace your IT staff!). In this article, we round up the pros and the cons to consider as you evaluate different options for your own organization.

This Week's Online Seminars: Bulk Emailing Tools, and Online Conferencing

We have two of our most popular seminars coming up this week! First off, on Wednesday11/12, from 1-2:30 Eastern, we have Choosing Bulk Email Software. We'll talk a little about email strategies, take a whirlwind tour through some of the features you might want, and then get down to the tools, with demos of VerticalResponse and EmailNow, and discussion of a number more.

And then, on Thursday 11/13, from 1-2:30, we have my favorite meta-seminar: an online seminar about online seminar tools. In Getting Started with Online Conferencing and Seminar Tools, we'll talk through useful features, pricing, and the available tools. And then we'll close with some online seminar best practices based on the dozens of sessions Idealware has done.

Old School Social Media: The Art of the Yardsign

Just in case anyone was beginning to feel that online media had a monopoly on supporters willing to create stuff for a good cause, or they doubted that passionate supporters are willing to dedicate a lot of time and creativity, here's a montage of homemade election yard signs. These were all taken today, within three blocks of my house (also, interestingly, within two blocks of the Portland Obama headquarters, which has been aggressively giving away official yard signs).

It's also interesting to look at these with an eye towards what it means to loosen control of your message. Are they on message? Does it matter?

Unfortunately, someone took down the giant "Captain Bill for State Senate" sign, complete with an actual oar and buoy painted florescent orange, before I got there.

Resource Roundup 11/3

Messaging in-a-Box (Tactical Tech)
A set of resource sheets, tips, and software recommendations to help nonprofits effectively use open source tools to communicate their message with the outside world

iCharts: YouTube for Interactive Charts (Information Aesthetics)
Quick list of products that can be used to create interactive online charts

How To Buy a Hosted PBX Phone System (Small Business Computing)
Useful and fairly detailed overview of when and how to buy a hosted PBX service to provide office phone services like voice mail, call routing, etc

A Case Study of Drip Campaigns (ONE/Northwest)
A short but interesting case study of an email "drip campaign" as series of emails that are setup in advance and defined to go out in a specific order

Texts you can believe in—Obama's text messages are this campaign's secret weapon (Slate Magazine)
Great, research based look at how people react to text messaging - favorably, apparently

Generating Buzz: Using Social Media to Drive Website Traffic (NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network)
A case study about how the National Wildlife Federation uses social news and bookmarking sites to drive traffic to their site

Got Your Ears On? How to Listen to Your Audience Using Social Media (NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network)
Useful overview of the tools you can use to be notified of what folks are saying about you on the web

Negative Online Behavior is a Product of Culture, Not Your Social Media Tools (The Bamboo Project Blog)
Terrific look at the potential issues around negative and inappropriate comments in social media - and why it's not as much of an issue as many are concerned about

Which Online Video Sharing Site Should You Use?

In a recent conversation on Progressive Exchange, Michael Hoffman of See3 shared some thoughts about considerations when choosing a video sharing site. With his permission, I wanted to share them here, as I think they're really useful. Michael said:
You need to look at video sites in two ways. One is as a host -- a free host -- for your video. The other is as a social network, a community of video viewers.

YouTube is both a free host and a social network. As a host, it's OK, but not great. There are limits on format, the quality is OK, not great (as the default).

YouTube is also a huge social network, where people are browsing video, making comments, and -- IF this is your goal and you do the right things -- there are ways to get your video to a community who otherwise wouldn't see it.

I actually think for most nonprofits the overall size of YouTube's community is not really that essential a point. You will only get a tiny fraction of that audience and could potentially get more elsewhere, even though the overall audience is less.

For our Guide To Online Video, we used Vimeo on our site because we love the quality and format options. So in this case, our main interest was using it as a host. Blip is another good choice when the host issue is the main thing. We don't expect to get views of our videos from the Vimeo community.

But we also put the first video on YouTube, so get it out to our YouTube friends but also to be able to embed it in Ning and other communities easily.

In terms of using video for outreach there are two basic camps on this question. One says, put it everywhere. For this, go to TubeMogul. One upload, then you get on dozens of sites. Those in this camp say, why not? With your video on many sites, many more people will see it and you can have communities of supporters among the people who make those communities their home.

Then we have the YouTube only folks. Like Brave New Films. They say, we don't want to "dilute" the views, because if we get enough views on YouTube the video goes into rotation in other places on the site -- like most viewed or most commented, etc... where it can get exposed to many more people. (it is also impressive to have videos with huge numbers of views and helps with PR and other things.)

It's a good point, but 99% of nonprofit videos never reach the threshold to get into this additional rotation anyway and most of their views are ones they sent through email and embeds.

New article: A Few Good Online Survey Tools

It's the article all you research geeks (like me!) have been waiting for: A Few Good Online Survey Tools. Eric Leland compares some of the lower price and more advanced options, and talks about what features you can get for a song, compared to one that you'll need to pay more for.

Ask Idealware: Update on CiviCRM?

Gabe asks: Have your thoughts on CiviCRM changed over the course of the last year, since your last post on the topic? Now that it's at 2.0 is it "ready for prime-time?"


Michelle Murrain, Principal of
MetaCentric Technology Advising and Zen of NPTech blog, says:

A year has made a difference in CiviCRM. They have seen an increase in their user base, there are more developers involved, and version 2.0 (in fact, 2.2 is under development now) has added some great (and needed) new features. I'm confident in CiviCRMs ability to carve a decent niche among the tough competition in the nonprofit CRM space, especially given that we are perhaps entering a time when organizations will have less money to spend on technology solutions.

I think it's a viable alternative that all but very large and complex organizations should have a look at, to see if it is a feature match to their needs. Perhaps even very large organizations might ponder funding the addition of some needed high-end features in CiviCRM. That might end up being more cost effective than the expensive proprietary alternatives.

The Ask Idealware posts take on some of the questions that you send us at ask@idealware.org. Have other great options? Disagree with our answer? Help us out by entering your own answer as a comment below.

Fun with Meeting Scheduling

I was at an event recently where I spoke to a bunch of people about nonprofit software, and the most popular tool of the night was not email software or a donor database or some fancy Web 2.0 thing, but... MeetingWizard.

If you need to schedule meetings with a bunch of people who aren't all in the same office, and don't know about MeetingWizard or Doodle... you should. They're simple, but they can be a huge help in getting everyone to a meeting time that will work. They're very similar to each other - both are free online tools that let you define some potential meeting times, send the choices to a group of people, and then see the times that work for each person.

MeetingWizard is a little more tailored to closed meetings - it easily supports different time zones, for instance, allows you to enter the email addresses for the folks you'd like to respond (or choose from the people you already have stored), and will tell you when you have answers from everyone.

Doodle has less meeting-specific functionality, but is appropriate for a wider set of questions - for instance, if you want to ask people to pick general timeframes (afternoons vs. mornings, for instance) or to weigh in on really any set of options. While MeetingWizard emails your attendees, Doodle gives you a URL for your poll and allows you to send it to whomever you want.

I use MeetingWizard all the time (just found it before Doodle, and am comfortable with it) and honestly find it hard to imagine scheduling big meetings, like our board meetings, without it.

New article:- The Basics of Email Metrics

We've got a new article up - The Basics of Email Metrics: Are Your Campaigns Working? This is a pretty hefty one, covering what email data you might want to track, where to get it, how to make sense of it in calculated metrics, and modifications to improve your results.

Somehow, all our articles that are intended to be basic overviews end up pretty hefty. I guess there's just always a lot to cover!

Resource Roundup 10/10

Overview of Social Networking Tools (Work Literacy)
Detailed introduction to a number of different social networking tools (FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, many more)

What, Why, and How of Facebook Pages: An Expertise Roundup (Beth's Blog)
Setting up an organizational presence on Facebook? Should you use a Facebook Group, a Facebook Page, or both? Beth Kanter summarizes some thoughts from the blogosphere

Email Appends: Risks and Rewards (Robert L. Weiner Consulting)
Quick post with terrific resources about email appending - sending your list of constituents off to a service to get email addresses for them

The best ad plans of marketers and men… (Beaconfire Wire)
A look at Google's new Ad Planner tool, which helps you view the demographics and viewing habits of those frequent particular sites (cool, although a bit frightening...)

Don’t Just Spam Congress: Creative Ways to Put Your Supporter List to Work (e.politics)
Interesting list of ways to ask your supporters to take action

First Impressions Through Visual Web Design (User Interface Engineering)
Terrific article about using visual design and layout to help your website visitors understand where they are and what they can do there.

Podcasting with Big Duck (NTEN)
Short case study about Big Duck's (a nonprofit marketing firm) podcasting process

Young People Will Switch Online Channels as They Age (e.politics)
Will email die out as a communication media as Gen Y gets older? Or will Gen Y switch communication mediums? Colin Delaney explores.

About Us Information on Websites (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
Great overview of why it's important to provide solid "About Us" information on your website, and how to do so.
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