As an aspiring nonprofit tech leader myself, I feel both somewhat unqualified to be coaching others on this subject, yet at the same time in a unique position to share valuable lessons from my own professional experience. I also have the benefit of this community's wealth of knowledge on the subject which I have liberally tapped into for this article.
Of course, “Leading Through Failure” actually has multiple meanings: How leaders of organizations can successfully guide their teams through times of failure; and how sometimes failing yourself is a great way to be a leader.
The complexity in this one phrase echoes the layers uncovered during the 13NTC session I organized, “nptechFAIL: How to Crash and Burn and Turn It into a Win.” Below, the panelists share lessons learned during our session, which was supposed to focus on our organizations’ and others’ nonprofit technology failures.
In the end, however, we all found that the failures were not of technology, but of leadership – and so were the lessons.
For those of us who have responsibilities in online fundraising / marketing / technology, often our work doesn’t fit within the traditional department structure of most nonprofit organizations. So depending on the results of the most recent reorganization, we may find ourselves working in many different departments.
An important thing to remember is that leadership, especially when it comes to digital technologies, can come from anywhere in an organization.
After reading the Connected Cause blog post Top 5 Things Accidental Techies Need to Know Right Now, I shared it in the NTEN Accidental Techies Community of Practice and asked what happy accidents brought people to their jobs in the first place. The themes that emerged—from the spirit of curiosity that motivates continuous learning to an impatience for inefficiency—are ones that I suspect will feel familiar to most technology champions and emerging #nptech leaders.
Here’s a small sampling of stories shared by our community members.
As technology and human communication become more and more intertwined, relevance in this rapidly changing world requires organizations to become adept at adapting. Continually. This is the "New Normal" - constantly adapting to an incessant stream of change - environmental, political, social, economic, and technological.
This is the deal: Everything we thought that technology would do to democratize information is happening, and it’s happening in ways that we didn’t dream of. Had Arthur C. Clarke known that there would be social media, HAL and Dave in Kubric’s classic movie 2001, A Space Odyssey, would have been tweeting while making their journey to Jupiter. #monolith
The result of everyone being able to access very sophisticated technology tools with only an Internet connection has broad implications in the way we think about leading the way people work. In both the private and in the nonprofit sectors, the role of the technology department has always been to provide technology as a service, but if the functional areas of an organization that the IT department traditionally service can get this from the cloud, why do we need a technology department? Or a CIO for that matter?
I'm excited to be an official blogger for the The Millennial Impact Project's upcoming conference, MCON13. MCON is an annual conference, gathering nonprofit professionals and corporate leaders to discuss how to engage and involve Millennials in social causes.
MCON13 will take place in Indianapolis on July 18th. Learn from an array of experts on Millennial engagement during the day, with an evening program of headliners discussing investment in Millennials. The impressive line-up of experts includes speakers from Twitter, SeaChange, YouTube, NPR, and headliner, Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ.
You can attend the conference in Indianapolis or you can join in the conversation through the Online Experience. Online attendees will be able to listen to the free livestream of talks and take part in the social media and conference chat. Tickets are limited and expected to sell out, so don't delay in registering for MCON13.
Getting excited to learn more about engaging millennials in your cause? Join Achieve and Care2, on June 13th for a free webinar, "How Millennials are Changing Social Causes". You can also check out Jason Shim and Shubhagata Sengupta's article on using emerging technology to engage youth. And don't miss tomorrow's #commbuild Chat where Jason and Shubhagata will be leading this week's chat on engaging youth online.
Look forward to having you as part of the conversation!
Based in Seattle, Artist Trust supports and encourages artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout the state of Washington. That can be difficult at times, since the state is large, with many remote areas. It's not uncommon for artists in rural areas to have to drive long distances simply to access the Internet.
"We really needed to think about how we should be investing in technology to align with our strategic goal to reach people statewide from our small office in tech-savvy Seattle," explained Margit Rankin, executive director.
Having never managed a project, I was thrilled when the Executive Director asked if I wanted to be the project manager for the website initiative. As a team member, I had watched project managers explain a project and worked with them to determine the required work and assign tasks to individuals. I was accustomed to meeting weekly to discuss a project’s progress and resolve any issues and requested changes. Project management seemed easy and straightforward. What else did I need to know?
Flickr: waywuweiEarlier this year, we worked with Avectra to release The 2013 Nonprofit Engagement Data Study, which was based on a survey of nonprofit communications and fundraising professionals, as well as executive directors. The findings showed that nonprofits are tracking various kinds of participation data about the ways their constituents and supporters engage with their work and resources, but very few organizations are doing so strategically, nor are they supporting this practice with adequate tools and staffing.
The findings also suggest, however, that of those who are tracking and looking at correlation between engagement and more "traditional" data like annual fundraising levels, constituent retention or growth, average gift size, etc. -- at least some positive correlation is being found.
To get a closer look at practices and challenges at the organizational level, we sought input from 10 nonprofits and associations that vary in size and work across many programmatic areas.
We've compiled their responses around seven key questions and share their stories and examples of how they are collecting, managing, and sharing engagement data at their organizations -- and how it impacts their work.
Just about every time I meet with a nonprofit executive to discuss some technology project, within the first few minutes I hear: “I’m not a technology person.” But who is? Why don’t we hear “I’m not an accountant” or “I’m not an expert in evaluation” or “I’m not an expert in governance”? Many executives don’t approach management and leadership in these areas with the same trepidation as they do technology. And yet the same skills that make any leader effective are appropriate to managing technology.
When it comes to tracking and using “engagement” data – the actions, interactions, and even conversations that relate to an organization’s work but don’t necessarily represent the transactional or financial data that have been traditionally used for measuring an organization’s health – today’s nonprofits are either tracking a lot, or hardly anything at all. And very few organizations are applying that data to make decisions about their programs or measure their strategic outcomes.
In the spring of 2013, NTEN and Avectra surveyed nonprofit communications, fundraising, and leadership staff about their engagement data management practices, findings, and future plans. The results of the study are available in this graphic report.
What does this mean for nonprofit advocacy, communications, engagement, donations, program delivery, site design and system infrastructure? Well, it means a lot of different things.
This issue of NTEN:Change provides statistics you should probably know about your supporters and constituents, strategies that might need to incorporate mobile technology considerations, tips, stories, and insights from nonprofit professionals and technology experts.
NTEN's publication, designed especially for busy nonprofit executive directors, departmental directors, boards, and other leadership staff, is free and hot off the press. In the current issue you'll find:
- "Testing the Waters With Mobile Technology: What You and Your Peers are Finding," by Kyle Henri Andrei, Idealware.
- "A Mobile Silent Auction," from Josh Hirsch, The Weiss School.
- Case-Study: Mobility and Program Delivery, Headway Emotional Health Services.
- Leadership Cheat Sheet: 10 Steps for Planning Your Nonprofit App, from Allyson Kapin, Co-Author of Social Change Anytime, Everywhere.
- "Three Things You Should Know About Your Mobile Supporters" by Claire Kerr, Artez Interactive.
We also feature content from the American Red Cross, Forum One Communications, the NTEN community, and... I couldn't possibly list everything here, so please check out the new issue to see more (and make sure your Executive Director and Board Members read this):
When DWD hired Melissa Barber full-time as electronic communications specialist in 2010, the plan was to launch a full-fledged electronic communications department to oversee several technology projects. Barber learned about the Technology Leadership Academy (TLA) and brought the opportunity to her new boss, executive director Peg Sandeen. "The timing was fortuitous," said Sandeen.
Prior to the Academy, DWD was "keeping the lights on" as far as technology adoption and reactive in its approach. "We were fairly proactive in the content of our messaging but less so in the technologies to deliver them," said Sandeen.
By Andrew Means, YMCA of Metro Chicago
The question of how nonprofits use data is swirling around professional organizations throughout the sector. Everyone is talking about data. What can we do with is? What should we do with it? How can we use it? What does it mean for our sector?
Despite all of this interest we have very little idea what organizations are actually doing with data, and why they are doing it.
NTEN's Communities of Impact recently conducted a small survey (n=69) of nonprofit professionals asking how their organizations are engaging with data. We are now in the process of conducting follow-up surveys, and a few interesting insights have begun to emerge.
- The "why": As with much in the nonprofit sector, funding is the driving force behind the decision to collect data. Nearly 75% of respondents said that they collect data to report back to funders. Another 75% said that they collect data for program evaluation purposes, which is often done as either a funding requirement or a way to attract new funding.
- The "why not": Many organizations are struggling to collect data. The culprits are unsurprising as well: the top three challenges cited are lack of time, lack of money, and lack of training.
- The "who": To me, the most illuminating survey results have to do with who is being made responsible for data in nonprofit organizations. The vast majority of organizations reported that program staff decide what to measure, what it means, and are in charge of the capture, management, and sharing of data. Yet, as this Stanford Social Innovation Review article points out, data analysis is difficult and requires significant social science training – let alone the technical training necessary for the storage and sharing of data. Can we really expect all of our program staff to be equipped to run high quality programs, be data collection experts, and know how to analyze complex data in ways that lead to program improvement?
We asked nonprofit professionals why their organizations don't collect data. Here are the top reasons they cited.
The survey seems to reveal a sector struggling to figure out how data fits. We are limited by resources, training, and technology. (The number one reported data storage tool was Excel. That fact alone betrays our sector's lack of sophistication when it comes to thinking about data.)
But the problem might also be with the word itself. Data is not any single thing. When you talk data with development professionals, they often think of giving history and campaign metrics. With someone from marketing, the conversation might veer toward click-through rates or even market segmentation analysis. With someone from the programs team, their minds might jump to program evaluation or assessments. And on and on.
Data in and of itself, in its raw and pure form, is not useful. Data is like crude oil: extremely valuable, but only because of what you can do with it. Untouched, unmanipulated, unchanged, it's valueless, but once transformed it can serve any number of purposes.
The nonprofit sector is still trying to figure out how to transform its data into something valuable. Nonprofit leaders need to continue to mature and invest in the resources necessary to help their staff navigate this process.
Through our follow-up interviews and a series of resources to be developed over the course of this year, we hope to give nonprofit professionals some tools and examples to speed this process along. Stay tuned!
Andrew Means is a member of the 2013 Communities of Impact and a Performance Improvement Analyst at the Chicago YMCA (learn about his team's work via this case study). Andrew is also organizing a conference called Do Good Data in Chicago this August.
A month or two ago, a friend of mine asked me a great question: "What is the role of circuit riders today?" I didn't have an immediate answer. But the question stuck with me, and I have an idea that I want to share, appropriately, with the NTEN community.
tech club logo
Online community is pretty amazing stuff. But there's something about meeting together in person that sparks new ideas, deepens those online connections (and sparks new ones), and provides invaluable support from colleagues engaged in the work of social change.
Enter NTEN's 501 Tech Clubs. These are informal local groups of those working in the nonprofit sector that meet on a regular basis to network and connect with colleagues, share information, and develop a local professional support network. Meetings range from happy hours, to speaker presentations, to open discussions, and other formats and covering a range of relevant subjects. Recent group topics have included social media, nonprofit video, online payment solutions, SEO, and analytics.
Tech Clubs are driven by local leaders who step up to organize and plan group events with the support of NTEN. Debra Askanase leads up the Boston Tech Club as part of a a loose affiliation of co-organizers who represent programmers, database developers, salesforce/software apps for nonprofits, IT staff, and social media consultants. For about a year, Debra and team took over organizing duties, planning events approximately every month that always are networking-heavy, and usually also offer content. They've had great success in particular with "mini-Ignite" sessions, where the community can to present in Ignite-style around a topic (fundraising, technology, etc.).
Since the beginning of the year, Bethany Lister, along with Ivan Boothe and Sarah Lyman, took over organizing the PDXTech4Good group in Portland, OR. PDX organizers. Turnout has been terrific thus far and the organizers make it a point to learn from each event. They created a Google doc with information regarding event promotion, logisitcs, and planning as a resource for speakers. Post-event, they get together for lunch to go over the attendee evaluations and talk about what worked and didn't work and use that to plan details for future events. "[These lunches are] just an extra hour every month and I feel much more connected to my co-organizers and to our mission", says Bethany.
Some Tech Clubs have merged with NetSquared local groups who share similar group objectives. As Vancouver NetSquared/501 Tech Club organizer, Eli van der Giesson puts it, "Vancouver's Net Squared group is all about connecting nonprofits, activists and technology folk. So it makes perfect sense for us to affiliate ourselves with our natural partners who are doing the same work".
ConnectVA partnered with NTEN in 2012 in launch a local club in Central VA. Organizer, Rebecca Eisenman, reports the group has been really ramping up in the past year, developing nonprofit technology clinics, working with local sponsors for monthly events. ConnectVA also holds an annual larger event: The Social Media for Nonprofits Conference.
Other groups have formed just in the last few months. Peter Edstrom, co-organizes the new Minneapolis group that had a successful turnout for their first event and more events planned. Sue Anne Reed is in the very early stages of getting the Nashville Club started, with the goal of a first meeting sometime this summer. Sue has a potential venue space already lined up that even meets a key requirement: free parking!
But organizing is not without its challenges. Marcy Rye has been building momentum for the Los Angeles Tech Club with two other organizers, but the group faces geological challenges which has made it difficult to find a regular venue in a place accessible to people in disparate areas. As the group grows, they may consider having two groups in different sections of Los Angeles. Securing event sponsorship and locations has been a constant search for Boston and their goal this year is to secure a year-long sponsor and a single venue. Amy Quinn, Denver Tech Club organizer, found initially there was a big divide between techies and "nontechies" in the group, so uniting people around a shared purpose of technology education has been key to bridging these different groups together. As she puts it, "In the end, it's about the people anyway besides the exchange of tech information".
On a quarterly basis, Tech Club leaders get together on a call with NTEN to discuss news, events, and share challenges and successes. These calls give leaders a chance to connect with other organizers and get ideas for speakers, venues, event topics, and organizing strategies. Every year, Tech Club Leaders host a happy hour at the NTC to get together in person with organizers, club members, and other interested folks from around the globe.
A number of new Tech Clubs have emerged in just the past few months. Besides Minneapolis and Nashville, groups have started up in Ohio, South Florida, Salt Lake City, and Connecticut. You can find a group in your local area - and if you don't see one there - you can start your own! You can also follow the awesome Tech Club organizers on the Tech Club Leaders Twitter list.
By Sophia Guevara
With so many apps available in the iPhone App Store and Google Play, it is difficult to find which ones could actually provide value for the needs of a nonprofit leader. With this being said, here is a list of five apps you may not already have on your phone but are worth considering:
- Lookout mobile security app - Lookout provides a free option to locate your device once it goes missing or is stolen. You can map the vicinity in which your phone is located once you lose it or activate a siren that sounds for up to a minute to help you locate it. For Android phone users, Lookout provides the ability to remotely lock and wipe a phone when the owner of the phone is unable to retrieve it. These advanced options will require access to the premium edition, which isn’t free. In addition, Android phone users who lose their phone without installing the Lookout app can install their Plan B option immediately by remotely installing the app through Google Play.
- Taxi magic app - This is a must-have for nonprofit leaders who travel. While you can use the app to book, track your taxi and pay for your ride with your credit card - you can also use the app to find local taxi services around the area and call directly for the ride if you prefer.
- HP ePrint service app - This is an excellent app for those who need to print documents or images directly off of their phone. This app allows you to identify and use HP public print locations like FedEx, UPS Ground, etc. You can upload your document and image and select the location nearest you that you would like to print them out at. You are provided with a special release code that unlocks your print job and allows you to make the copies you need.
- Evernote app - This free app allows you to save notes and ideas as an audio recording, picture, notes and to do lists. You can sync your data across multiple devices if you use Evernote on both your computer and smartphone. There is a premium version with additional features, but you need to pay a fee for this kind of access.
- Chrome browser app - This free Google browser app allows you to search fast and sync bookmarks on all of your devices. If you use Chrome as a web browser on your computer, you can send bookmarks to your mobile devices as well. This can be very helpful as you can have access at a moment’s notice to all your bookmarks just in case you need to share one with another colleague.
These apps can help the busy nonprofit professional stay productive and keep their phones secure while on the go.
What apps are you crazy about? What would you recommend to your colleagues?
Join the discussion and leave your tips and recommendations in the comments!
Sophia Guevara is the Chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries, and is a new member of the NTEN:Change editorial committee for 2013.
This article is part of the June, 2013 issue of NTEN:Change, which is all about mobile. Your executive director and board members should be reading this quarterly digital journal for nonprofit leaders!
Since March of 2011, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with countless changemakers and nonprofit leaders in my role as NTEN’s Membership Director. It is with tremendous enthusiasm for our potential to make real impact together as a sector that I’ve accepted a new opportunity: to be NTEN’s CEO.
So, hello, again! My work will certainly be changing with this new role, but I can assure you that one thing remains very much the same: my focus on supporting NTEN Members and the nonprofit community in truly improving our world effectively and efficiently with technology. I hope there will be even more opportunities to hear from you, learn from you, and collaborate with you.
I couldn’t get started in this new role without saying thank you. Thank you to the NTEN’s board and staff for your dedication to our mission and including me in it with you! Thank you to the members who go above and beyond for sake of helping NTEN, your community, and me – you know who you are! And many thanks in advance to all of you for connecting and contributing to this important work.
I’ll be starting as CEO on June 1st, and plan to hit the ground running. We will have two positions open so be on the look out next week for information on joining the NTEN team.
Here’s to many more conferences, reports, case studies, and cat videos together!
It is my pleasure to share some exciting news today: The NTEN Board of Directors welcomes Amy Sample Ward as NTEN’s new Chief Executive Officer.