Laura Quinn's blog

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.

How Much Does a Nonprofit Website Cost?

Ah, it's the eternal question: how much should I expect to pay for a website? And how can I find out some answer other than "it depends" without actually building the sucker? It can be really difficult to define what communications approaches make sense for you when website costs appear to be all over the map.

Well, it does depend. If you want to hone in on a price, the best way is probably to get proposals from consultants or firms - not a fast process, but a pretty accurate one. But the general magnitude depends on factors that are knowable, so I thought I'd take a crack at defining what you could expect at each price level based on my experience. Note that this prices are approximate US market rate - so you might be able to find folks who will discount or volunteer for less, but these are what someone who's doing this full time might charge.

This is around the lowest market rate you're likely to find, and it won't buy you a lot. At this price, you might be able get an independent consultant, probably without a ton of experience, to whip out a 10-30 page static site, based on a templated graphic design and a very straightforward navigation scheme. You won't get something very branded to your organization, and you'll likely have to define precisely what you want up front, as this price wouldn't cover time to help you work through your needs to any substantial degree. You may well have trouble finding someone to work at this low end.

At this level, you could get a jack-of-all-website-trades independent consultant who makes a living building website to build a simple site tailored to your needs. It might cover a simple, custom graphic design, and potentially one or two simple features (like a simple event calendar). There still wouldn't be a lot of time for strategy or feature definition, but you could expect a bit more customer service from the consultant. Note that a jack-of-all-website-trades consultant is likely to be, as the aphorism says, a master of none. Top quality websites are typically designed and built by a team of people - perhaps a graphic designer, a navigation expert, a content specialist, a design implementer, and an serious programmer. A jack-of-all-trades isn't likely to be an expert in all of those things, so it will be important to see a portfolio to judge their skills in the areas important to you.

We're now getting into the realm of solid, scalable, strategic websites. It would cover an independent consultant, a team of consultants working together, or a small firm, in building a site on a solid infrastructure (like a content management system) with some strategically chosen features beyond simple text and images. It also might cover a very simple, basic site from a top consultant or firm - something very small but expertly crafted and designed. The budget would now cover some up-front help from the consultant in figuring out your needs.

A lot opens up in this price range. This could be a fairly sophisticated site from a small firm, or a straightforward site by one of the top firms in the country, with some substantial strategic guidance.

This is a solid budget for most large websites. Very sophisticated web applications or huge sites could certainly cost more (potentially much more!), but for $100,000 you could hire a top nonprofit internet consulting firm to create a robust site. At this level, your consultants can also help guide you through decision making, and shepherd decisions through internal politics and disputes - you're getting a strategic partner in addition to just someone to implement a site.

So that's my experience with website costs. Others want to share their experience?

Online Seminar on Website Analytics - Tomorrow!

We've got an online seminar coming up tomorrow on Website Analytics - essentially, how to tell what people are doing on your website. We talk through the metrics you can track, what they mean, and how to use them, focusing substantially on Google Analytics. This is one of my favorite sessions - it's fun to conduct. We spend a lot of time actually demoing tools (both Google Analytics and AWStats, another free tool that a lot of folks have already), and then focus on how to actually use analytics to make decisions.

Interested? Join us! It's $40 to register, and all you need is a phone and a web browser to participate. Read more or register now.

Resource Roundup 9/26

Comparison of Email Newsletter Tools - Updated for 2008 (ONE/Blog)
Update of ONE/ Northwest's terrific, detailed comparison (with matrix and all!) of a number of blast emailing tools.

Make a Comic (The Bamboo Project)
This is fun: it's a list of tools that can help you easily create a comic, using wizard-like tools. I've been thinking of comics as potential ways to communicate concepts myself.

Web Apps Failure: A Pain in the SaaS (Small Business Computing)
High level look at what you can do to protect yourself from hosted application downtime and failures - by asking the right questions up front.

Grating Expectations: Sending Constituents the Emails they Expect
Thoughtful exploration of what supporters might expect when they join an email list, compared to what we send them - and how to make them match.

Measuring the Effects of Social Media Marketing (e.politics)
Great look at the difficulties and possibilities in measuring ROI of social media

New Metrics for Success: What I Learned from the Drudge Report (NTEN)
NTEN provides a thoughtful look at the online metrics they're using to measure their own efficacy

Salesforce 101: Fun with Campaigns and Workflows (A View from Judi Sohn)
Great case study of how the Colorectal Cancer Coalition is using campaigns in Salesforce to support less obvious processes - like event registration and memorial gifts

7 Ways To Stay Informed And Up-To-Date Online
Nice overview of tools that help you monitor what's being said about you or a topic online

Online Seminar about Online Seminars Tools

Interested in conducting online conferences or seminars - for team meetings, or training? What better way to learn about the tools and techniques involved than through an online seminar?

Our first iteration of our Getting Started with Online Conference and Seminar Tools sold out so far in advance that we scheduled another one - and it's on for tomorrow, Wednesday, from 1:00 - 2:30 Eastern Time. The topic is a little meta, but and interesting one - what features might be useful to you in an online conferencing tool? What tools are available? And I'll talk a little bit about some of the differences between these webinars and in-person seminars that I've picked up after doing dozens (yikes!) of these online seminars.

It's $40 per person - you can register online. We cap the registration at 22 people - so there will be lots of opportunity to get your specific questions answered. Or we also have a's also recording of the last time we conducted the seminar, for $20.

Social Media: Revolution or Evolution?

Of late, I've been giving a lot of thought into how social media can and should fit into nonprofits' marketing and internet strategies. Like the research geek I am, part of my process has been to read a whole lot of the information that's already out there (and there's a *lot* of it).

There's a ton of information, but surprisingly little about how social media tools and tactics fit into any other marketing activity. In fact, many of the info out there seems to imply (or to assert outright) that social media is a revolution in communications that makes all other marketing obsolete. Certainly in nearly everything there's an implication that social media is a different type of thing, which requires a different mindset and priorities.

I have to say, I just don't find this idea that social media is a whole new thing to be helpful. First off, it just doesn't make much conceptual sense to me. The ideas of guerrilla marketing and savvy branding - which have been with us for decades now - focus on crafting a compelling story that supporters will pass on. Familiar, huh? And to me, a really useful base on which to build the case for social media.

And the idea that nonprofits need social media to save them from a broadcast-only marketing strategy, and that otherwise they don't listen to anyone... this is nonsense. Nonprofits have always been particularly good at engaging constituents and listening. Community meetings, pledge-a-thons, house parties, bake sales, volunteers canvassing door to door to spread your message.... all great tactics to engage and listen, all conceptually similar to social media techniques. You don't need online tools to listen to people or to engage them (though they can help, no question).

Not to mention that it's clear that nonprofits need to do more than simply listen. They do have messages that they do want to put out into the world. Social media doesn't replace the need for a very solid website and email strategy. I don't think any credible authority would say differently, but when there's so little focus on how social media fits into these established methods, and so much on how social media is a wholly different thing, we give nonprofits the impression that they should focus their time accordingly: lots on social media, little on websites and email.

And lastly, the social media "revolution" that folks identify links suspiciously to shiny and nifty new tools. Why is creating an online video and posting it on YouTube one of the hallmarks of social marketing, while creating a terrific report which is widely discussed and promoted an old school method? Why do we talk a ton about FaceBook groups as important online communities, and hardly at all about email discussion lists (which often reach a much wider audience)? I don't see any fundamental paradigm shift between these things - the tactics and strategies at work are very similar, it's only the tools that change.

Don't get me wrong. There's no question to me that social media - and the shiny new tools - can provide compelling benefits for many nonprofits. And they engage different audiences than more traditional techniques, which is useful in of itself.

Isn't it more useful, though, to help nonprofits understand how these new tools and tactics fit in, how they're similar, how they can build on what they're already doing, rather than to focus on how *different* social media is from everything else?

New articles: Purchasing Major Systems, and Page Layout Tools

We've got two articles up (yikes! it's a flurry of activity this week)!

First up, Peter Campbell has written a great, detailed guide to Evaluating and Purchasing Major Software Systems. It's the tactical, nuts and bolts stuff that can be so hard to wade through on your own - should you write an RFP? What should go in it? How do you compare? What do you ask a vendor to show you in a demo? What should you look for in a contract?

But if instead, you're thinking about a new method to design your print newsletters, event invitations, or that next annual report, you're going to need software - enter A Few Good Page Layout Tools. We round up the advice from a bunch of graphic design experts on what inexpensive and more robust tools can be useful, and how they differ.

Resource Roundup 9/16

Nonprofits and Photosharing: A Cost-Effective Way to Spread Your Message Online (Michigan Nonprofit Association)
A great summary of what photosharing is, how to do it with a tool like Flikr, and what nonprofits are doing with it.

Simplify the search user experience (Step Two Designs)
Nice look at the key features necessary for a good search experience - particularly for intranets.

NTEN is Listening -- and Learning (NTEN)
Interesting post about how NTEN is following what people are saying about them on the web

Frontline SMS: Great tool for reaching your constituents via SMS (Non-Profit Tech Blog)
Thumbnail review of a product that will let you blast SMS messages to your supporters' cell phones

Contrarian thinking about online organizing (Jon Stahl's Journal)
In a short but sweet post - which got a lot of interesting comments- Jon Stahl postulates that it's too easy to confuse tapping into existing energy as *creating* that energy through online organizing

The Direct Mail Addiction (Nonprofit Online News)
Thoughtful (though perhaps a bit overstated) look at some of the issues involved with direct mail, and some of the reasons that nonprofits may overprioritize it compared to other communication methods

Online Social Networks in Politics: Promise and Frustration (e.politics)
Really insightful look into the opportunities and challenges for politics and advocacy presented by online social networks.

Data Protection and Web Based Applications (ICT Hub Knowledgebase)
I don't know if I agree with the exceedingly cautious tone of this article. But an interesting look at some of the issues with hosted applications - especially free ones.

Google Maps: Seek and Hide (Beaconfire Wire)
Great look at some of the important considerations and challenges when implementing a mashup with Google Maps

Lessons from Katrina Help Media, Volunteer Efforts in Gustav Coverage (MediaShift)
Interesting look at the website and social media efforts geared to help in the Hurricane Gustav efforts
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