Most of us are both time- and budget-strapped. We want to stay focused on our mission, but, try as we may, it seems there is always more to do than there is time to do it. Yet, the people we serve and the funders who underwrite our efforts expect us to produce results. So, what's a time- and cash-strapped nonprofit to do? Here’s an answer: Automate time-consuming, but necessary processes using modern technology.
The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) supports Portland’s arts and writing community and curates North America’s largest zine library, a circulating archive of self-published and otherwise underground and rare publications. Our collection is well-known, diverse, and spans seven decades and over 60 languages.
As glorious as the zine library is, we have developed an enviable problem of scale.
Data analysis poses a tremendous challenge for scientists today. While technology has vastly expanded our capacity for collecting massive amounts of information, our ability to translate those mountains of data into practical knowledge has remained quite limited. Scientists at Cancer Research UK (CRUK) recently pioneered some innovative methods for expediting the quest for a cure. In fact, the results of CRUK’s 2013 GameJam were so impressive that the event may very well establish a radically new model for disease research — one in which the public plays a crucial role in the scientific process. Gamification has certainly reached new levels. At first glance, Play to Cure: Genes in Space might not appear to be a game designed to aid advances in cancer research. However, it is hoped that gamers will help scientists find vital new clues in the fight against cancer.
With the rise in popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), online learning technologies and practices have moved into the mainstream; nonprofits are building e-learning sites to expand service reach, improve service quality, and reduce training costs. Building an e-learning site entails pulling several systems and tools together to deliver a smooth online experience for learners. At the heart of an e-learning site is a learning management system, or LMS.
When it comes to a term as broad as “tools,” understanding what an organization or individual’s goals are vital to identifying what to use. As a member of the tech community, I find that there are a tremendous amount of resources that people are not using in their toolkit. There is an array of affordable — and sometimes free — technical tools that can be leveraged for success.
It’s summer here in the States, but we aren’t taking any vacations from our website relaunch project! We’ve been working away at this for a few months now and figured it was about time to send you a postcard.
Here’s a quick status update from our content team—inspired by the three daily scrum standup questions used in Agile development—about how things have been going and what’s next.
Progress made over the past six weeks:
- Card sorting exercise at staff retreat. It was good for everyone to do this exercise in order to see and analyze the results, but also to refine the list of cards and approach when opening the exercise to the general community.
- Community card sorting exercise. We are wrapping up the community card sorting exercise in August and will use the results to refine and inform the new information architecture of the site.
- Content audit: We have started a content audit and have begun to feel overwhelmed by the amount of content currently available on the site. Not coincidentally, we have discovered a need for a content expiration strategy.
- Dreamt: It’s not all a tired slog – we’ve been dreaming up some great features! Our IT Director Karl says he's most excited about "a streamlined profile creation and management process, clear engagement paths for site visitors, and a consistent and mobile friendly feel across our entire web presence."
- Built our team: We hired a content strategist, Gwydion Suilebhan, to help us work through our many, many issues. And Philip Krayna, our long-time partner in design, will be aided in the graphic redesign by the brilliant design minds at Cornershop Creative. We're very excited to have their help!
What we plan to do by mid-September:
- Finish content audit and have our plan for archiving/migrating
- Send our proposed site architecture to designers for use in wireframing/usability validation
- With over 8,000 pieces of content, the biggest challenge we're staring down right now is how to manage that content audit.
While this has been happening, our community feedback team has invested lots of time in surveys and interviews. We'll have an update from them soon. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who responded to our RFP and participated in the card sorting exercise and survey. We can’t wait to launch this and appreciate your interest in this process. Happy August!
Last week I got to attend the National Alliance for Media and Culture (NAMAC) and Alliance for Community Media (ACM)'s first-ever joint National Conference: State and Main 2014 (#StateMain14) in Philadelphia, PA. The beautiful murals you'll find throughout the streets of Philadelphia provided a perfect backdrop for this gathering of nonprofit arts professionals.
I took part in the panel: Multiple Platform Social Media Strategies, which explored ways nonprofits can use social media more effectively, and sought to answer the proverbial question: "If a tree falls in the social media forest, how can you make sure anyone hears it?"
NTEN Member and Social Media Strategist, Lyndal Cairns, moderated the panel, and helped put together this blog post. In addition, we were joined by fellow panelists, Felicia Pride, Pride Collaborative, and Nickey Robare, St. Paul Neighborhood Network.
Each panelist explained how they used social media to further their mission and then shared their experience with finding and telling their organizations' stories, goal-setting, and developing strategies for engagement. We explained the differences between networks and the communities that reside there, how to develop your organizations' "voice," and how to turn social media interest into ticket sales and donations.
The best part was the input we received from attendees about tools to help social media managers get organized and develop content without straying from their mission. Some of the tools highlighted include:
- Feedly: a news aggregation app that pulls feeds from news sites and social media.
- Evernote: a note-taking app and program that helps you "remember" and categorize links and notes.
- FlipBoard: a content curator that brings you content based on your interests with a newspaper look and feel.
- Storify: a content curation tool that allows you to create a timeline of social media posts, video, slide decks, and other online media.
- NTEN Member, Beth Kanter, has a primer on content curation that's a useful guide for getting started.
- Attentive.ly: a social relationship manager, which links with a constituent relationship manager (CRM) to track and target messages to social media "champions" and prospective donors.
- Sprout Social: a social media management software that gives high-end monitoring and reporting services, as well as incorporating some CRM features so managers can identify and write notes on social media engagers and assign project management tasks.
- Mobile Commons: a platform that helps nonprofits reach their communities through text message.
- If This, Then That: a task management tool to automate program processes like sending social media posts, creating lists, and staying on top of tasks.
- Social media policy Pinterest board curated by NTEN Member, Debra Askanese.
- Social media advice specifically for government employees by Hootsuite, via @DebbyRogers on Twitter
And it wouldn't be a social media panel without social media from the social media panel (how very meta)! Check out the Storify from Lyndal highlighting the social posts from our session.
Do you have tools to recommend? Add them to this list by posting in the comments!
Inefficient nonprofit boards lead to disengaged board members. Combine that with the weighty responsibilities of board members—which include rallying community support, spearheading fundraising efforts, and bringing invaluable strategic consult to the table—and low board engagement can put your organization’s future in jeopardy. Many nonprofits are turning to board portals to remedy low board engagement.
Just when you thought you missed the boat, here's your second chance!
Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Event360, we now have 10 extra scholarships available for individuals interested in attending the 2014 Leading Change Summit this September 3-6.
The deadline to apply is next Friday, August 22, but scholarship applications will be reviewed and awarded on a rolling basis, so apply as soon as possible. Note: These scholarships cover the the cost of LCS registration, but excludes travel and lodging.
The eligibility requirements are a bit different from the 10 scholarships provided by TechSoup Global, so please review before applying.
- Applicants must be an employee of a 501(c)(3) organization in North America.
- Applicants must be able to describe a technology project or strategic goal related to technology that they plan to design and develop further at LCS and implement in their organization.
- Following the LCS, applicants must be willing to be featured in an NTEN case study on how organizations are using technology to improve their work.
To apply, visit the LCS Scholarships page on the 14LCS website.
Your mobile phone is probably within arm’s reach right now. And it’s probably on. Like everyone else on the planet, you probably use your phone to go online, make reservations, listen to music, take pictures, refer to maps, access social networks, text, and occasionally even make a phone call. Mobile devices are fast becoming our all-purpose, constant companions. So why isn’t money pouring into nonprofits through mobile phones?
Our track on the Future of Technology is coming together in a great way. We will be exploring the elements that help our organizations manage change as our technology, our staffing, and our constituencies evolve and change.
I love being on planes because my beloved cell phone gets turned completely off, or put into “airplane mode.” I am rarely more than a foot away from my phone, so there’s something about airplane mode that I find liberating—not “having” to respond to anyone or anything. With my phone off, I can’t obsessively hit the sync button to check for new emails or texts. I feel free. I feel less anxiety. I feel less stress. I feel happier. As I turned my phone back on after a recent trip, I asked myself, what would life be like with my phone in airplane mode?
The Web is fundamentally the creation of the people that use it. Almost everyone contributes to it in some manner. Certainly, people coding applications and websites are creating the web, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg. What makes even the most elaborate coding effort worthwhile is the content people share on the web and the communities people build around it. There are many organizations fueling the maker movement and teaching web literacy. The Mozilla Foundation’s Webmaker project is doing both.
If you’ve looked over the agenda for the NTEN’s first-ever Leading Change Summit (#14LCS) this September, you’ve probably noticed that we tried to build in a healthy mix of time that attendees will spend in their tracks vs. time that will be spent all together.
All this summer we’ve been introducing you to the facilitators who will make the three tracks so memorable. Today I’m happy to introduce someone who will lead our first chunk of all-attendee, cross-track time on Wednesday, September 3: Lisa Heft.
Lisa is an internationally renowned facilitator and educator known for her use of Open Space Technology and other participant-driven dialogic and interactive methods for engaging deeper reflection, learning, and interchange. Her experience is across cultures and industries for diverse meeting objectives, knowledge-sharing conferences, dialogue-based task work, planning, and reflection. Lisa has been coaching our Education Manager, Julia, as we design this inaugural Summit, and she knows how important it is that the first all-conference gathering on Wednesday afternoon set a foundation for the rest of the event.
When you arrive at the San Francisco Hilton, you’ll pick up your registration badge and head directly into the session that Lisa is planning. She’s working closely with Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Deena Pierott, to make sure that this first opportunity for learning and sharing is inclusive, fun, thoughtful, and sets the stage for you to make the most of the rest of the Summit.
View the lineup of #14LCS speakers and facilitators and register today!
I felt really humbled to be amongst a highly diverse group of both budding and seasoned grassroots activists. The last time I was in Baltimore was in 2007, with Amnesty International at their regional conference, attending as a bright-eyed student organizer trying to learn how to more effectively spread the good word of social justice and human rights (the story of how I got involved in nonprofit marketing!).
At #MFOM14, I participated as a speaker, leading one workshop, Email Marketing to Support Year-Round Online Fundraising, and as a panelist for the session, Visual Communication: Create pictures, videos, and presentations quickly, easily, and affordably.
Key takeaways from the Email Marketing workshop that took place on Day 1:
- Fundraising is dependent on relationship building: Nonprofits should work year-round to cultivate and maintain relationships with donors, so that “the ask” is not a cold call at the end of the year. Channels such as social media can really help with this.
- Think about goals and audience: Before you create content, first think about the ultimate goal and the target audience. Let that inform your decisions on what channel(s) to use to reach your audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach new donors, consider participating in #GivingTuesday (in addition to running your year-end campaign) to help increase visibility by connecting to this broader movement. Download this free recording from Blackbaud’s webinar about setting your goals for #GivingTuesday.
- Set your own benchmarks: Guidelines, benchmark reports, and best practices are helpful to know, but ultimately it’s important to know your audience. To learn this, test as much as you can in order to get to know your audience well and understand what resonates with them. For example, consider creating a strategy for segmenting your emails and testing, this is a great resource from Kivi Leroux Miller.
- Everyone is a fundraiser: People donate to entire organizations, not just to one department (or silo). Make sure you’re set up for integrated fundraising success by regularly checking in with staff/departments to ensure that you’re accurately representing their work. Learn more about the three common barriers that nonprofits often face on Nancy Schwartz’s blog.
To learn more about how you can use email marketing to support year-round online fundraising, I’ve uploaded my slides to Slideshare.
While my workshop on Day 1 focused a lot on internal processes and best practices, the next question that we anticipated from attendees was, "What tools can I use to help create this compelling content?"
On day 2, I was part of the Visual Communications panel with four panelists (some you might recognize from the NTEN Community!): Tomás Aguilar, Progressive Technology Project; Yee Won Chong, Fundraising Consultant; Nadia Khastagir, Design Action Collective; and Chris Tuttle, Tuttle Communications. (See photo on the left)
Together, we joined forces and presented on the top tips and tools for creating visual media with a limited budget, and explained why it’s so important. We drew information from Resource Media's Seeing is Believing report, and explained how the language of pictures is universal - picture processing is an ability that we're all born with, as opposed to reading literacy. This is especially relevant if you're working with audiences around the world that communicate in multiple languages, or are illiterate.
Check out our presentation slides, as it’ll give you a lot of new ideas that can help support your year-end fundraising, as well as day-to-day content creation for social media, marketing, and beyond. Specifically, here are the key tools that are free/low-cost and easy to use:
- Image editing: BeFunky Photo Editor, Social Image Resizer Tool
- Videos: Beyond using Instagram & Vine for short videos, easy to use editing tools for longer videos include iMovie and Animoto
- Graphic design: Visual.ly, VectorSnap, Phoster, Google Drawings (check out Chris Tuttle’s blog post, 5 ways to Enhance Your Website With Google Docs)
- Stock Images: Noun Project (for icons), CompFight, Flickr, and Thinkstock.
We also asked the audience what tools they would recommend through Poll Everywhere. Here's what they said.
Special thanks to the mighty team at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training! To learn more about the 2014 MFOM Conference visit the conference website, and check out the conference hashtag on Twitter: #MFOM14.
I’d love to continue the dialogue about these two topics! Please post a comment below to share your thoughts and ideas about email marketing or visual communications, such as:
- What are some email marketing tips that work for you and your organization?
- What free or low-cost tools do you rely on for creating visual media?
Over the past couple of months we’ve been introducing you to the incredible cast of characters who are helping to shape NTEN’s inaugural Leading Change Summit.
It’s about time we celebrate the dynamic duo behind the Idea Accelerator: Emily Lonigro Boylan and Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad of LimeRed Studio. LimeRed is a creative services firm that works with organizations that inspire positive change.
Emily, who founded LimeRed Studio ten years ago, has a portfolio spanning business development, design, user experience, writing, marketing, and strategy in both online and offline programs for multinational corporations, nonprofits, universities, boutique businesses, and prestigious consumer brands. She is a board member of MOM+BABY, member of Chicago's Small Business Advocacy Council, contributor to The Net Change, and more.
Demetrio serves as LimeRed’s Director of Strategic Design. He is also an Assistant Professor and Researcher at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches the Social Media & Public Relations Strategies courses in the Marketing Communications program, as well as an executive producer and on-air host for Chicago is the World, a weekly radio program with a global following.
Both Emily and Demetrio are committed members of NTEN and #nptech communities; you might recognize them from past talks at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, the 501 Tech Club Chicago meetup, or the Nonprofit Tech Academy faculty.
Learn more about Emily, Demetrio, and the Idea Accelerator:
- Read a Q&A on the LimeRed blog
- Sign up for our free August 14 webinar, How to Make the Most of the #14LCS Idea Accelerator
We can’t wait to see what ideas surface between now and the Summit, and which finalists will take the mainstage at the end of the Idea Accelerator! Huge thanks to Emily and Demetrio for helping to shape and manage what’s sure to be an energizing and inspiring grand finale.
NTEN Communities of Practice (CoPs) are affinity groups centered on specific topics of interest, from community management to Drupal to nonprofits in the arts. These online groups provide support for your specific needs and interests and offer ongoing opportunities for growth.
But it takes more than a name and a platform to convene a group of thoughtful people; it takes volunteer organizers who are willing to give their time and efforts to build and maintain an online community. We asked NTEN's great CoP organizers to help us understand why they answered the call to nonprofit tech leadership. Following are some highlights from the many answers we received.
Why did you start leading your CoP?
“The previous leader left the nonprofit world, and I wanted this CoP to continue to thrive. It's helped me, and I want more and to help others.” - Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
"The CoP used to be only about blogging. I started the group about 8 years ago because I enjoy connecting nonprofit bloggers with each other and wanted to have a place to talk about blogs. I recently expanded the CoP to digital communications to meet the needs of the NTEN community and continue to lead the CoP because I enjoy this role." - Emily Weinberg, Nonprofit Digital Communications CoP
"A couple of us met at NTC 2014. And while each of us came from different parts of the nonprofit arts community, we all wanted to see a stronger presence by arts groups at the conference. There was so much goodness on offer! I’m hoping we can create and sustain a space where arts groups can connect and share what they know (and especially what they don't know)." - Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
"I have 3 passions: 1) Technology; 2) helping people; and 3) talking. When I heard that the IT Directors CoP (now the Technology Decision Makers CoP) was looking for a cohost for the monthly call, I was excited to step forward. I enjoy working with Richard, and I hope that our efforts mean that other nonprofits don't have to go through the trials that we endure." - Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“I was searching for more meaningful work. As if a light bulb had suddenly gone off, I realized that I wanted to use my 20+ years of database experience for causes that I felt passionate about. Last summer while lying in a hammock, I was contemplating my plan to transition from corporate to nonprofit work. I happened to have my iPad with me, and whatever it was that I searched for lead me to NTEN. I became a member and am now the CoP organizer for Nonprofits & Data. People I have met through NTEN seem to really like what they do. It’s so refreshing to meet people who choose to spend their time to make positive changes in the world.” - Shari Cartun, Nonprofits & Data CoP
“After attending the 2014 NTC I really wanted to connect with more women in leadership and tech and find a common story arc of how we ended up where we are today and where we want to go tomorrow. Also, I wanted to connect with more diverse women in tech and encourage all the women sitting outside during discussions to join and be heard.” - Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
What advice would you give to a new CoP leader?
“See what other CoPs are doing to get ideas. Try them with your CoP but know what works well for one CoP may not work as well for another. Create a survey for your CoP to see what your community wants.” - Emily Weinberg, Nonprofit Digital Communications CoP
“Co-organizers are invaluable. You need to be able to go on vacation! And if you're an overworked staffer or a scrambling freelancer, sometimes other things have to take priority — be open with your co-organizers about when you can step up, and when you need to take a break.” - Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
“If something about your CoP is not working, try something new. Once you find something that seems to work, really commit to it. Schedule it way in advance (for example, we usually have ours on the third Thursday of every month, 1pm ET/10am PT). Have a single URL when possible where notes or resource lists can live. If your CoP is open to people who aren't members of NTEN (ours is), then consider publicizing it in other places outside of the usual NTEN circles. There are lots of nptechies out there who don't yet know about NTEN and would love to connect.” - Johanna Bates, Drupal CoP
“Don't try to impose your ideas on your CoP. Instead, figure out what people are already doing and find ways to enhance that. Change happens best in small moves. I use that advice in lots of places in my career.” - Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“I don't have any advice yet, except to say I don't expect to see much 'community' activity until we get critical mass (normally over 100 people minimum in my experience).” - Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Describe one big failure you had while working with your CoP and how it made you a stronger leader.
“Firstly, there's no such thing as failure, only adjustment of expectations :) We're too new to have failed yet, but we did realize we need to do more promotion of our calls. We had a ton of people for the first one, so didn't try hard enough for the second and had a lot less people.” - Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
“Our first call was pretty lively and well attended. We were psyched. However, our second monthly call consisted of just the CoP leaders and one other person (a leader of another CoP who was just listening in to see how our two CoPs might intersect). No one else joined the call. The session was being recorded, so I felt more than a little foolish. It underscored the need for me to carve out some more time between calls to build awareness for the next call. - Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
“One of the biggest struggles has been trying to find candidates for a monthly webinar. A lot of the amazing women that I think our group would like to hear from tend to be booked far in advance or charge for speaking engagements. We haven't really been able to successfully engage in a discussion about what the group members want from the webinar or who specifically they'd like to hear from.” - Michelle Chaplin, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
“Since I'm new, I don't have a failure to report! Yet. :)” - Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
How do you identify and develop emerging CoP leaders in your community?
“I cultivate participation by manually inviting members to the calls. When I invite 20-30 people, attendance is up.” - Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“Johanna and I are both involved in the Drupal community generally, so we're always on the lookout for other folks who would be interested in helping present on a monthly call, or folks who might benefit from being able to ask questions on a call.” - Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
“With this group, it's mostly about encouraging people to step up and be leaders. Most of the members I've heard from already have great stories to tell and strong leadership qualities. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that they already have what it takes to do this! - Michelle Chaplin, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
“The group is so new that we are still trying to find our voice and foundation. Looking for emerging leaders in the community will be the next step.” - Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
If you were to write a book, what would the title be?
A life lived without blinders - Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
Judgy Judge Judger (I actually have this printed on a nameplate on my desk. A birthday gift from my now-husband.) - Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Luckily I have written a couple - Open Community and Humanize. Currently working on my next book, and having major trouble honing in on a title, actually. It's about millennial thinking and how all generations need to embrace it to succeed in the new normal - I want to call the book Epic Win but my co-author's not so keen. :) - Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Old Ivan's Miscellany - Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
The Hollow and the Spring - Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
Ampersand: Noticing Both and And in an Either/Or World - Johanna Bates, Drupal CoP
What's your favorite YouTube video?
Our hats off to the many amazing volunteers who bring together their local communities of nonprofit tech aficionados to support and further social change. Thank you!
It's easy to join a Community of Practice— just look for the group that strikes your fancy, login to your NTEN account or create an account, fill out your profile, and join the discussion(s). Do you have an idea for a CoP? You can start one! If you'd like to start a group of your own, contact us, and we'll help get your group started!
We’ve been working all year to make the 2014 Leading Change Summit an incredible experience for all of you, so we were excited when the San Francisco Hilton at Union Square presented an opportunity to make it even more spectacular. One lucky attendee will be upgraded to a corner suite with a view for no additional cost!
Now, we know what it’s like to work for a nonprofit. Managing our budgets seldom affords the opportunity to fly first class or stay in four star accommodations. We could never pick a winner at random because in our eyes, you all deserve the fancy room, so we need some form of tiebreaker in the interest of fairness.
How to enter to win a sweet corner suite in three easy steps:
- Register for LCS
- Make your hotel reservations by 8/15
- Post a haiku telling us why you are looking forward to LCS to Twitter using #14LCS
Your haikus will be judged by our team of english majors (who all ended up working in #nptech); one lucky winner will be notified by 8/20.
Many nonprofit organizations are leaning heavily on digital marketing and donation appeals due to the ever-growing cost of snail mail and the rising popularity of technology. If your organization is adopting this trend, are you utilizing the right tools and strategies to optimize the amount of online donations you receive?
Here, we'll explain two simple strategies for improving your organization's corporate giving metrics by making just a few simple edits to your website!
As some of you may know, #Commbuild, NTEN's weekly Twitter chat devoted to community builders, both online and offline is turning four this year. In the spirit of celebrating this milestone, we’ve decided to take a look back to our beginnings, chart how we’ve grown over the years, and talk about the future of #Commbuild.