Articles

Idealware articles, like those in our Few Good Tools series, give nonprofits concise, critical information on the software choices available for specific organizational functions and goals. We compare software options, offer real life examples and case studies, and give you the tools to make the right decision based on your specific needs.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    March 2014

    Collaboration is as integral to the work of foundations as it is to nonprofit organizations. But with staff, board members, and other collaborators spread out across multiple offices or geographic locations, it’s not as easy as sitting around a table in a conference room. The right software can not only bridge the distance and unite dispersed staff, but make it easy to present, review, and comment on information. 

Articles

  • By Laura Quinn,
    November 2014

    UPDATED for 2014! If you need an inexpensive software tool that’s not particularly strategic for your organization, traditional software selection techniques can seem awfully complicated. Here’s a simplified six-step process that can help when you just need to make a simple choice quickly.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    October 2014

    Updated for 2014

    Are you embarrassed by your organization’s website? (Come on, you can admit it.) Was it built in a volunteer’s nephew’s basement — or does it look like it was? Does it feature events or breaking news that are sadly out of date? Are you still trying to get around to adding that program you started last year?

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    October 2014

    Updated for 2014.

    Constituent Relationship Management systems allow you to track a 360 degree view of all your interactions with constituents. What’s more, all the available options—including Salesforce.com, CiviCRM, SugarCRM and Microsoft Dynamics CRM—are relatively inexpensive for nonprofits, or even free. Sounds ideal, right? 

  • By Colin Pizarek and Chris Bernard,
    August 2014

    Updated for 2014!

    Neither “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” might stay the U.S. Post Office’s couriers from delivering the mail entrusted to them, but it’s a cold fact of the digital world that email has no such steadfast guardians. Some electronic mail will simply never reach its destination—it might go to a bad address, get caught in a spam filter, or routed to a “junk” folder where it’s deleted or overlooked. This can be frustrating for nonprofits who work hard to nurture a list of email addresses. 

  • By Chris Lane, Idealware,
    April 2014

    Increasingly, an online presence is not just important for nonprofits, but absolutely vital. It’s been clear for some time that your organization should have a website—and more and more constituents are looking to connect with you on social media. But what about blogs? 

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Elizabeth Pope,
    February 2014
    Is tax season a time of time of stress, chaos, and panic, or a relatively trouble-free period? Can you access the information you need in your accounting software, create reports, and track restricted funds, or does just logging on make you worry about crashing your computer? The accounting software you use will make or break this time of year for you, and can mean the difference between a painful tax season and an easy one. If you're struggling to create reports, track expenses and complete the necessary tasks, it may be time for a new system.
  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    January 2014

    Despite the increasing popularity of email, social media, and other online networking tools, organizations still depend on the telephone for a good portion of their communications. But technology has also brought dramatic changes to telephone service, and the options for purchasing a new voice communications system are more numerous than ever before—and more confusing. 

  • By Andrea Berry and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    November 2013
    Updated for 2013. Enlist your supporters to fundraise for you! A number of online tools make it easy for staff or anyone eager to help your organization to set up individual donation pages to engage friends and family in a fundraiser. We asked a number of nonprofit technology experts for advice on the tools and best practices they recommend to make this fundraising technique work.
     
    Peer-to-peer fundraising isn’t new.
  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    November 2013

    How do open source productivity suites compare to Office 2013—and does it make sense for your organization to implement one rather than the commercially licensed, ubiquitous offering from Microsoft? We compare three toolsets on philosophy, price, and features to help you decide...

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    September 2013
    Adding visuals to a phone conference can make a big difference - perhaps by showing a document, software application or slides. Or maybe you want to conduct a more formal online seminar—sometimes called a webinar. There are a number of affordable software packages that can help.
  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    September 2013

    With Microsoft offering cloud-based and installed versions of its popular office suite, users must decide which is right for them. We look at where the two versions overlap and diverge, and when each might make sense for your organization.

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    August 2013

    Accepting payments by credit card is not necessarily difficult or expensive. In this article written for TechSoup--initially written in 2008 and updated in 2011 and again for 2013--we provide some tips and tools to process credit card transactions, both on- and offline, for organizations of all sizes.

  • By Elizabeth Pope,
    June 2013

    Your organization maintains relationships with a number of people in a number of different groups, some discrete, some overlapping, and being able to track and manage information about those relationships is critical to your success.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    June 2013

    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. Idealware's founder and executive director, Laura Quinn, wrote the following article for the Markets For Good blog.

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    May 2013

    Despite the frequent claims that print is dead, many nonprofits are looking for ways to affordably create and distribute published works—everything from local directories and guides to full-fledged books. But publishing can take a lot of time and money that could otherwise be spent on programs or mission-related tasks. A Print-On-Demand service, or POD, can be a low-cost solution that lets you provide create and distribute printed resources to constituents, wherever they may be.

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei and Andrea Berry,
    May 2013

    The unfortunate reality of technology funding is this: There is no magical technology funder out there. So when you hire a new employee, you’re on your own to find a computer for them, and all the software for it and licenses for any databases or systems you use, and those costs add up quickly. To fund such technology, you need to be creative and look beyond foundation support. How can you reduce technology costs and raise technology money at the same time? 

  • By Laura Quinn,
    May 2013

    Your nonprofit has constituents, and just like every other nonprofit, you want to track data about them. From donors to clients to volunteers to advocates to alumni, and many other types, your organization would love to find a magic system that lets you track everything you want to know about each type of constituent, including every interaction and every conversation they’ve ever had with your staff—plus the ability to spit out exactly the right information whenever you need it.

  • By Elizabeth Pope,
    April 2013

    There’s an app for everything, they say—but what about fundraising? With mobile devices reaching near-ubiquity, donors want to use their smartphones or tablets to give to their favorite charities. Some nonprofits are optimizing their websites to make it easier for mobile users to donate, others are experimenting with text-to-give programs.

  • By Tyler Cummins,
    March 2013

    A strong web presence is paramount to maintaining a strong organization, and having a mobile-friendly web presence is increasingly an important element. Currently, 85 percent of Americans own cell phones -- and more than half of those use them to access the Internet. Industry analysts expect browsing the web on mobile devices to become more common than browsing on traditional desktops and laptops as soon as next year.

  • By Elizabeth Pope,
    December 2012

    The Michigan-based HIV/AIDS Resource Center (HARC) waded into the shallow end of social media a few years by experimenting with a Facebook group and Twitter account. Today, the organization thrives across multiple social media channels, with an organized team of staff members generating content and guided by a formalized written policy. The story behind that evolution provides a closer look at the issues small nonprofits face and serves as an example for other organizations to follow when looking to create and maintain a strong, clear policy for social media use.

  • By Ben Stuart and Andrea Berry,
    September 2012

    As nonprofits have increasingly turned to social media, policies to govern their use have become the new frontier. It can be difficult for organizations to find examples that fit their needs. A good social media policy will provide clear guidelines as to what staff should and shouldn’t do when posting and interacting with the community on a day-to-day basis, freeing them up to think more strategically. But what’s involved in creating one?

  • By Elizabeth Pope,
    September 2012

    Whether your organization has just a few employees or a few thousand, its staff is its most valuable resource. To manage that resource effectively, you need to track all sorts of information—from information about your employees’ demographics to salary history to their annual performance goals. How do you make sure that data is safe, accurate and easily accessible? 

  • By Soha El Borno,
    August 2012

    Crowdsourcing can help you harness the crowd to increase awareness, cultivate new volunteers, gather information and even get work done—all for a minimal investment. How can you put it to work for you?

  • By Eric Leland,
    August 2012

    From museum stores to gift shops, organizations with retail storefronts need Point Of Sales solutions that help process transactions, provide reporting, and manage inventory. What are the options in this area?

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    August 2012

    Ticketing tools let you sell tickets, assign seating, and in many cases, track attendance at your organization’s events. What should you look for in a good ticketing tool, and how can it help your nonprofit?

  • By Soha El Borno,
    August 2012

    If you’re looking for a new broadcast email tool for your nonprofit, there are a lot of different options to choose from. But how do you know when it’s time to change?

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    July 2012

    Your organization’s blog is a place to show a little personality, share resources, highlight your expertise, and engage your constituents. What are the best tools for creating and hosting a blog?

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei and Laura S. Quinn,
    July 2012

    The use of smartphones and other mobile devices is on the rise, and more and more nonprofits are finding creative ways to tap into their popularity to deliver services and engage constituents.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    June 2012

    Odds are good that your organization is using multiple communications channels to reach people, from social media to direct mail and email to websites and blogs. Because each can attract a different audience, and may be better-suited for certain types and lengths of content, coordinating among them all can be difficult.

  • By Patrick Yurgosky, New York University,
    June 2012

    Strategic, mission-critical decisions require a clear understanding of program performance, but for most nonprofits, making decisions on facts rather than gut feelings is easier said than done. As a way to better understand program performance and become more responsive to changes, organizations are increasingly turning to dashboards—custom utilities that gather, organize and present information in an accessible way—that let them more effectively measure, monitor and manage the way they meet their missions.

  • By Jay Leslie,
    May 2012

    Many organizations question the security of information kept in the cloud. The internet can be a dangerous place for data, but no more so than your own computer, where your data faces many of the same threats—in fact, a good cloud storage vendor is likely to protect your data better than you’d reasonably be able to do on your own. With a little planning, it’s possible to take advantage of the benefits offered by the cloud while making sure your organization’s data is as safe as is practically possible.

  • By Chris Bernard,
    April 2012
    You’re on social media—maybe Facebook, Twitter or your organization’s blog—and you’re having some success, but you know there’s room for improvement. Before you start strategizing big plans for what you might do with the tools, take a little time to consider what you’re already doing with it, and whether you’re making common mistakes that are needlessly hindering your progress. Here are 10 such mistakes you can turn around with a little effort for quick, improved results.

  • By Laura S. Quinn, Idealware and Amy Wagner, MAP For Nonprofits,
    March 2012

    Many nonprofits think of innovation as a luxury they can’t afford. Staff time and budgets are limited, and improving the way they use technology seems out of reach. But technology can offer straightforward, inexpensive means of providing higher quality services, and create numerous opportunities to do more with less—even in our current economic climate. Which makes innovation something organizations can no longer afford not to embrace. 

  • By Robert Weiner,
    February 2012

    You want a donor database that will provide clean data, solid reports, and happy staff, but the software itself is only half the story. How do you choose the right system, and how do you maximize its capabilities? Fundraising technology consultant Robert Weiner walks through 10 common mistakes that get in the way of selecting the right database—and using it properly. 

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    February 2012

    The ubiquity of video cameras and the proliferation of video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo have made it possible for even the smallest organizations to include short videos as part of their outreach and engagement strategies. In this article, we look at a few good options for editing the footage you shoot and readying it for public consumption. 

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    January 2012

    Articles, conferences and books have been devoted to the concept and strategies behind evaluating the success of programs, but there’s surprisingly little information available about how to fit data tracking and analysis software into such efforts. Until now... 

  • By Chris Bernard,
    January 2012

    What if a percentage of the $150 billion spent annually in online shopping could be donated to nonprofits working to make the world a better place?That’s exactly the promise a growing number of web-based businesses are making—purchase something from an online retailer you find through their site, and they’ll send a percentage to the organization of your choice. Neither users nor their designated charities pay anything—the donations come from participating merchants, who pay the sites a commission for each online purchase referred through them.

  • By Jay Leslie,
    December 2011

    An email list is one of the sharpest arrows in any nonprofit’s quiver. An effective list can maximize your reach, help foster closer relationships with constituents and improve fundraising. But what makes a list effective? For one thing, critical mass—the more people you can reach who are genuinely interested in your organization, the better.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    December 2011

    Since most organizations don’t track just one type of constituent, the idea of a single database for all of them—donors, volunteers, clients, email subscribers, advocates and everyone else—is something of a holy grail. The ability to easily see how all your constituents interact with your organization, and with each other, makes for an attractive, ideal vision of what a database should be. 

  • By Chris Bernard,
    December 2011

    Since most organizations don’t track just one type of constituent, the idea of a single database for all of them—donors, volunteers, clients, email subscribers, advocates and everyone else—is something of a holy grail.

  • By Kyle Henri Andrei,
    November 2011

    Advocacy organizations often encourage their grassroots supporters to influence politicians and corporations using different methods, from promoting a cause or opposing legislation to challenging ad campaigns or policies. A large display of public opinion can have a powerful message, and advocacy groups often help to focus and channel this support to make the most impact.

  • By Jay Leslie,
    November 2011

    Updated for 2014

  • By Laura Quinn,
    November 2011

    It’s been six years (almost to the day) since I incorporated Idealware as a nonprofit. At the time, the idea of providing impartial info to help nonprofits choose software was more of an aspiration than a reality. But 15 reports and well more than 100 articles later—and about 60,000 nonprofits helped—it’s humbling to look back on the real impact Idealware has had on the ability of nonprofits to make smart software decisions.

  • By Jay Leslie,
    October 2011

    (This article originally appeared in the Nonprofit Times.) As user demand increases, vendors are adapting their donor management system offerings to support mobile devices and cloud computing, one of several recent market trends that are adding value and capability to the software. They’re also enhancing functionality that’s critical for nonprofits, like integrated email and ease of use, in many cases adding substantial functionality without raising prices. 

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    October 2011

    If you post a message on Twitter and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a noise? The fact is, there isn’t much reason to tweet if you don’t have an audience—a fundamental truth of all social media channels. As you think about ways to engage constituents and advance your nonprofit and its mission through Facebook, Twitter and blogs, you should also be thinking about how to promote each channel and build your audience. 

  • By Andrea Berry,
    September 2011

    (First published in the September issue of the NTEN: Change journal.) Social media has provided nonprofits with a whole new toolbox for marketing themselves and engaging constituents. Though each tool is a little different, they all create opportunities for your organization to start conversations and to show the personal side of, and the personalities behind, your work.

  • September 2011

    (First published in the September issue of the NTEN: Change journal.) Social media has provided nonprofits with a whole new toolbox for marketing themselves and engaging constituents.

  • By Andrea Berry and Chris Bernard,
    September 2011
    Social media can be useful for any nonprofit, but posting blindly without monitoring results can be a waste of time. Knowing whether your efforts are paying off can help you adapt your posting strategy to better meet your goals and improve the return on your investment.
     
    But what are the best ways to measure your efforts? What data should you be collecting? And how do you define success in an area that’s still relatively uncharted territory?
  • By Colin Pizarek and Ryan Dunlavey,
    August 2011

     What is a guerilla video? What does it take to make a video? This diagram will give you a crash course in film school, walking you through the steps to make your own video without breaking the bank.

     

    Click here to view the diagram.

  • By Andrea Berry and Chris Bernard,
    August 2011
    This article was originally published in the August 2011 issue of The NonProfit Times.
     
    Organizations use technology to engage donors, manage them in databases, and even accept their donation payments online. With a little creative thinking you can save staff time on this important step and increase the likelihood that donors will give again.
     
    Such classic techniques as thank-you letters, phone calls, events and special gifts will never go out of style.
  • By Andrea Berry and Chris Bernard,
    August 2011

    Sure, you’re on Facebook. Twitter, too. Maybe you have a blog. You put a lot a lot of work into keeping them fresh and updated with pertinent, interesting posts. But aside from the few comments you get now and again, how do you know if anyone is listening to what you have to say?

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Andrei,
    July 2011

    These days, most event participants expect to be able to register for events online. Luckily, there are lots of tools to help with that, ranging from simple up to sophisticated and all the way to multi-functional. We asked a number of nonprofit technology professionals what online registration tools have worked for them.

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    July 2011

    Petitions and pledges provide ways to effect change by letting people add their names to a particular cause to show the amount of support for it. They can also help your organization build a list of people interested in its causes. So how do you implement these measures?

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Jay Leslie,
    July 2011

    The Google Apps donation program provides organizational email, calendaring and document sharing as a free alternative to Microsoft Outlook. How do the two applications compare in the face of typical nonprofit needs?

  • By Eric Leland and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    July 2011

    An association management system can be a huge help in tracking your members, newsletter subscriptions, special gifts, invitations to events and workshops, discounts on products and services, and more. We asked a number of different nonprofit experts about the systems that have worked for them.

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei,
    July 2011

    Planning a free event? It can be difficult to justify paying a lot of money for online registration software, but trying to get by with email or online invitation tools like Evite can leave you frustrated. Don’t worry—you have options. We talked to seven nonprofit technology experts about useful and affordable options for collecting RSVPs for free events.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    July 2011

    What tools can help you raise money and rally support for your cause through an online auction? We take a look at the software tools that are widely used in the nonprofit sector.     

  • By Chris Bernard, Senior Editor,
    June 2011

    This article appears in the current issue of the NTEN: Change Journal, available for free with registration.

    It's easy to get the impression that everyone is on Facebook these days, and maintaining a presence on the site is increasingly expected of organizations interested in engaging constituents. It seems like a logical assumption that Facebook should also be a good way to attract volunteers--but is that true?

  • By Laura Quinn,
    May 2011

    Staff training and development can pay dividends for any organization, but because of the cost and logistics involved, they're often overlooked or ignored. Traveling to offsite trainings and conferences is expensive, and the nature of today's geographically-diverse staffs can make onsite training a challenge. Technology can overcome many of these difficulties in many cases, without significant expense. A number of viable methods for professional development online make it likely your organization can find one that works.

  • By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Andrei,
    April 2011
    Web analytics tools help you track your site’s statistics, which let you see how many people are looking at each page, what sites they came from, and other information to help develop a picture of who your audience is. But which web analytics tool should you use?
  • By Laura S. Quinn and Jay Leslie,
    April 2011

    If thoughts of detailed client histories and reports to funders make you break out in a cold sweat, it may be time to consider the many good case management tools that will help you track demographics, interactions, scheduling, billing information, and more. In this update of our 2009 article, we summarize what tools case management experts would recommend.

  • By Colin Pizarek and Molly Ahern,
    April 2011

    How does mobile giving work?  Is it likely to be useful for your organization?

  • By Chris Bernard, Senior Editor,
    March 2011

    Can software help your board collaborate more effectively?  It likely can -- potentially, anything from scheduling meetings to share documents or even to meet online.  This Idealware article was written for the inaugural issue of NTEN: Change, the new quarterly publication of the NTEN. Thanks to NTEN for their support.

  • By Eric Leland,
    February 2011

    Online surveys can be a huge help in understanding what your constituents think and how successful your programs are, without breaking your budget. Last year we spoke to five nonprofit staff members to understand how existing online survey tools compare—this is an update of that article with current information about the tools’ features and pricing.

  • By Chris Bernard,
    December 2010

    There's a lot of talk these days about privacy issues on Facebook.  What does that mean for you as an organization?  The issues for an organization are different than those facing an individual—but still absolutely something you should be thinking about.  This article was funded through the Idealware Research Fund, with the support of people like you.  Thank you!

  • By Gideon Rosenblatt, Former Groundwire Executive Director,
    November 2010

    What does it mean to "engage people"?  Gideon Rosenblatt talks through six different levels of engagement people can have with your organization, in an article reprinted from Groundwire.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    October 2010

    Regardless of your organization’s demographics, chances are good that a majority of your constituents use mobile phones.  How can you reach out to them on their cell?  We walk through the possibilities:  texting, two-way communication, giving, pledging, websites, apps, and more. 

  • By Colin Pizarek and Chris Bernard,
    October 2010

    eLearning modules -- multimedia modules that provide students information in an interactive, multimedia-rich way -- can be an interesting way to teach staff or constituents.  But how do you create them?  There's a whole class of software packages that help you create the core elements like text, graphics, narration, animation, and interactivity.  

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    September 2010

    Is online office software likely to fit your needs better than more traditional desktop software? Or are installed applications like Microsoft Office ubiquitous for a reason? In this article, updated for 2010, we take a look at the differences between online and installed options in the areas that are often important to nonprofits.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    June 2010

    There are many software applications that can help with project management tasks - but also many different opinions about what types of functionality you might want.  In this article, revised in June 2010, we round up the types of software and the vendorswhat nonprofit  project managers to understand what software has been useful to them.

     

  • By Laura S. Quinn ,
    June 2010

    Are your online communications working?  How can you tell?  In this article, we talk through four types of measures-- Views, Followers, Engagement, and Conversion-- that help you track your efforts to see if they're worthwhile.  

    Chances are, your organization has a website. Perhaps you also send out broadcast emails, or maintain a blog, Twitter or Facebook account. Is the effort you’re putting into online communications working? How can you tell?

  • By Chris Bernard,
    May 2010

    Every organization should back up its data, but it may not make sense for a small organization to mess around with complex hardware solutions. We talked to some nonprofit technology experts to understand what online data backup solutions are available to nonprofits.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    May 2010

    What tools can help you collect donations via credit card through your existing website?  In this adaptation and update of our 2005 report, we look at the considerations and the options for taking online donations.

  • By Andrea Berry,
    April 2010

    If you are already using email communication tools and are equipped to receive online donations through your website, email fundraising is an easy step forward. For a better sense of what's involved, we bring you a look at two smaller organizations and their email fundraising campaigns.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    March 2010

    One of our most popular articles, fully updated March 2010. Email newsletters, action alerts, or fundraising emails can be a very cost effective way to communicate with your supporters, but it can be complex to send and track thousands of emails. We talked to eleven nonprofit technology experts to find out what eNewsletter tools have worked well for them.

  • By Kaitlin LaCasse and Laura Quinn,
    March 2010

    Is Twitter useful for nonprofits?  It’s certainly been useful for Idealware. In this detailed case study, we talk through how we use Twitter, the results we’ve seen, and how it might be helpful for your organization.

  • By Kaitlin LaCasse,
    February 2010

    It's easy for your organization to get overwhelmed with data. Executive dashboards can provide an overview of your organizational health at a glance. But how do you actually create one? We provide three examples of nonprofit dashboards.

  • By Stella Hernandez,
    January 2010

    When it comes to online communications, social networking has huge communities of people sharing information with each other. And its rise comes as people question email’s effectiveness—are social networks replacing email as a communications channel?

  • By Andrea Berry,
    December 2009

    Email fundraising is a technique that’s within the reach of the smallest organization.  This article walks you through the basics: how to design a campaign, write emails, build an email list, select software to send email and take online donations, and measure the results.

  • By David Deal, for the Green IT Consortium,
    November 2009

    Computers and servers can consume a tremendous amount of natural resources.  David Deal and the Green IT Consortium take a look the software that can help you reduce your environmental footprint.

  • By Andrea Berry,
    October 2009

    How can online friend-to-friend fundraising help you to raise money and engage your staff and volunteers? This detailed case study looks at how one small school raised $3000 from mostly new donors with a minimal investment.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    October 2009

    Data warehouses can allow larger organizations to pull information from multiple places to report on it or analyze it in a central place.  We take a look at the software and processes you'll need to create your own.

  • By Robert L. Weiner,
    August 2009

    quick, easy, and you already have it.  Excel seems like it might be a great fit to manage your donor data.  But just back away from that spreadsheet – there’s a lot of reasons why it’s not a good idea.  

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    August 2009

    Through HIPAA, the US government provides a set of instructions and guidelines for working with patient health data. What you should look for to ensure that a software package will comply with the HIPAA standards? We asked a number of experts and rounded up their answers.

  • By Heather Gardner-Madras,
    July 2009

    Nonprofits have a lot of choices when it comes to communications - from direct mail, to websites, to social networking sites and more. With Spam on the rise and open rates down, what role should email play in a successful communications strategy - and when should nonprofits choose to use it?

  • By Keith Heller,
    May 2009

    You’ve defined your requirements, talked to vendors, seen demos, found the right donor management software for you and worked through the contract—now you’re done, right? Not so fast. You still need to implement the system, which requires additional planning, teamwork, configuration, data migration and testing—my favorite part!

  • By Keith Heller,
    March 2009

    What do you need your software to do today to support your organization’s strategies, or for your needs over the next three or four years? What are the common issues other organizations face when selecting such software? Keith Heller takes a look at four things to keep in mind throughout the software selection process.

  • By Peter Campbell,
    March 2009

    The Internet gives you access to a virtual smorgasbord of information. From the consequential to the trivial, the astonishing to the mundane, it's all within your reach. This means you can keep up with the headlines, policies, trends, and tools that interest your nonprofit, and keep informed about what people are saying about your organization online. But the sheer volume of information can pose challenges, too: namely, how do you separate the useful data from all the rest? One way is to use RSS, which brings the information you want to you.

  • By Keith Heller,
    February 2009

    New donor management software will improve your life, solve all your organization’s problems and make all your goals a reality. Right? And it comes with prime waterfront property in the Everglades. This last sentence is only slightly less true than the first, but we take it as common wisdom. In fact, many non-profits change systems when they don’t need to, for the wrong reasons, or in an ineffective manner—and sometimes all of the above!

  • By Michael Hoffman,
    February 2009

    Online videos can be a great way to showcase your organization's mission and work - but you'll need to make sure they reach your intended audience. Michael Hoffman looks at some of the ways you can distribute videos online.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    January 2009

    If you’re looking for software tools that can help your group collaborate, you’ll find a lot of options. There are many different types of solutions that support many different types of needs. This article compares your options.

  • By Chris Bernard,
    December 2008

    Many organizations would like to foster community and information sharing using email discussion lists. What software packages can help? We asked six nonprofit experts about the systems that have worked for them.

  • By Jeff Walpole,
    November 2008

    Open source software applications are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to vendor provided commercial software. Jeff Walpole explores the differences between these types of software, and the pros and cons of each alternative.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    November 2008

    Should you consider hosted or Software As a Service software applications for your nonprofit? There are a lot of conflicting and often inaccurate messages out there: They're not secure! Use them – they'll replace your IT staff! Perhaps they'll change your life… or perhaps they're evil. What's the truth? We investigate.

  • By Eric Leland,
    November 2008

    The right donor management software can make a big difference in your ability to raise funds. We asked six different nonprofit technology experts about donor management software that have worked well for their nonprofit colleagues.

  • October 2008

    You already know the value a good email campaign can bring to your nonprofit, whether it is an eNewsletter, or email advocacy and fundraising appeals. But how can you tell if your electronic communications are actually having the impact you hoped for? Is the work you’re putting in worth the effort? Email metrics can help you determine the effectiveness of your communications and fine tune them to improve their efficiency.

  • By Chris Bernard,
    September 2008

    Do you want to create a monthly newsletter, a formatted report, thank you cards, or an event invite? You need a page layout tool. Top-end software solutions can be complex, but there are simpler solutions as well. We spoke to five nonprofit technology and creative professionals about the layout tools that have worked for them.

  • By Peter Campbell,
    September 2008

    A major software package shouldn't be chosen lightly. In this detailed guide, Peter Campbell walks through how to find software options, evaluate them, make a good decision, and then purchase the system in a way that protects you.

  • By Chris Bernard,
    September 2008

    If your photo needs to be cropped, adjusted, or reformatted, how can you get it ready for publication in print or the web? We spoke to five nonprofit technology and creative professionals about the photo-editing tools that have worked for them and their organizations.

  • By Anthony Pisapia and Brett Bonfield,
    July 2008

    A Constituent Relationship Management can help track of all the ways that you interact with each of your supporters. But what does it take to implement one? Does it have to cost an arm and a leg? What changes will your organization need to make to support it? We look at four different organizations' CRM stories.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    June 2008

    We asked nine nonprofit internet specialists to share some of the Web hosting providers that have worked well for them, and some tips for hosting everything from a basic website to a powerhouse web application.  Fully verified and updated in June 2008.

  • By Michele Murrain and Laura Quinn,
    May 2008

    Managing all the dates, documents, tasks and people associated with a project can be daunting, but online project management software can help. We present three case studies of nonprofits who have used packages like Basecamp, Central Desktop and Trac to help manage real projects.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    April 2008

    If you want your site to show up prominently in search engines like Google, your website content management system can help - but not all CMSs are created equal. We suggest the features to look for to help with search engine optimization. 

  • By Eric Leland,
    April 2008

    A map can be worth a thousand words. If you're looking for ways to create maps or to display geographic data, there are a number of software package that can help, from free ones to complex and powerful ones. We summarize the tools recommended by five nonprofit experts.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    March 2008

    Does your organization show up on the first page of results in search engines like Google or Yahoo? The content and structure of your website can have a dramatic effect on how easily potential constituents can find you via search engines. This article explains how.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    March 2008

    You’ve finally hired two new staff members to join your successful nonprofit. The trouble is, your new colleagues are in Chicago and your headquarters is in San Francisco. How will you share documents? Is there a better solution than constantly emailing attachments?

  • By Jeremy Wallace,
    March 2008

    Documenting your organizational procedures can be a big help, but this information often languishes in obscurity and goes slowly out of date. Jeremy Wallace talks about how wikis - easily editable websites - can help.

    Most organizations have (or at least should have!) internal documentation that outlines procedures, best practices, and tips to help make everyone’s job easier. For instance, an organization might write up:

  • By Andrew Cohen,
    February 2008

    Successful online communities require more than a software package. In this article, we outline the strategies and features that can help you build online message boards, social networks, or other conversation based sites that become vibrant, useful communities.

  • By Michelle Murrain,
    January 2008

    Acquiring software for very little money — or even getting it for free! — can feel great. Yet is that bargain really a bargain? Learn how to assess whether that affordable software package is a great deal or a lemon.

  • January 2008

    This article is now out of date... but we have a whole report on this topic!  Check out our Nonprofit Social Media Decision Making Guide for an overview, research results, and a workbook on how to decide if you should use social networking sites or other social media tools.

     

  • By Eric Leland,
    December 2007

    Online integrated applications allow nonprofits to manage a number of different aspects of their constituent information and Web presence all together in one package. Eric Leland took a close look at eight packages to compare their functionality in a variety of areas.

  • By Peter S. Campbell,
    October 2007

    Let’s say you have two different software packages, and you’d like them to be able to share data. What would be involved? Can you link them so they exchange data automatically? And what do all those acronyms mean? Peter Campbell explains.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    September 2007

    Secure, staff-only websites, called intranets, are widespread in the business world and increasingly common among nonprofits. What are NPOs doing within these private Web sites? What are the benefits, and the costs? We profile three different administrative intranets.

  • By Steve Heye and Steve Lancman,
    July 2007

    When you’re using enterprise software to help run your organization, the software vendor becomes a key ally – and the right relationship may be as important as features or price. Steve Lancman and Steve Heye recommend methods for comparing the intangible aspects of vendor services.

  • By Ronald "Skip" Cole and Teresa Crawford,
    June 2007

    Information and communication technologies can be a huge aid in the effort to build lasting peace, by helping people communicate, view information, make decisions, and understand each other better. Teresa Crawford and Skip Cole give a tour of the possibilities.

  • By Paul Hagen,
    June 2007

    Finding Constituent Relationship Management software isn’t easy – there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. This article, the conclusion of Paul Hagen’s two-part series, helps you understand the CRM marketplace and offers practical advice to help you define a software infrastructure that will work for you.

  • By Paul Hagen,
    May 2007

    Constituent Relationship Management can help to provide an important 360° view of your constituents. However, an effective technology solution requires a detailed understanding of your constituents and processes. Paul Hagen explains, in Part One of a two part series exploring the issues behind CRM.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    May 2007

    How are small organizations tracking constituents? What are they struggling with, and what works well? In partnership with the River Network, we spoke to a number of river conservation groups about their constituent databases, and report back with best practices and case studies that apply to any smaller organization.

  • By Beth Kanter,
    March 2007

    Screencasts – movies that capture tasks performed on a computer – can be powerful communication and training tools, and you don’t need to be a Hollywood filmmaker to create them. Beth Kanter walks through why screencasts are useful, how to create them, and some of the software tools that help in the process.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    March 2007

    Looking for an inexpensive way to track your volunteers, donors, partners, and other constituents? We've full updated this popular article, which recommends a set of free and low cost databases that have worked for those in the field. We've added new tools, tips and thoughts to help you find something that works for your organization.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    February 2007

    Integrating all your constituent tracking applications so they can share data is highly desirable, but how should you go about it? We walk through the pros and cons of three basic methods of integrating data: Manual Import/ Export, Integrated Packages, and Automated Connectors.

  • By Ivan Boothe ,
    February 2007

    In less than two years, The Genocide Intervention Network transformed itself from a small student group to a national non-profit. How did they do it? Among other methods, they used social media sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Flickr, and YouTube to reach the young people who are their core supporters.

  • By James Roberston,
    January 2007

    Selecting a content management system (CMS) can be a complex task, and organizations often run into pitfalls with processes, politics, and understanding the CMS environment. James Robertson outlines a common-sense approach to avoiding the most common mistakes.

  • By Alan Rosenblatt,
    January 2007

    Limited budgets don’t have to substantially limit your online advocacy possibilities. Alan Rosenblatt describes the new generation of online tools that help organizations of any size cope with the increasingly complicated internet world.

  • By Peter S. Campbell,
    January 2007

    Is your organization drowning in a virtual sea of documents? Document management systems can provide invaluable document searching, versioning, comparison, and collaboration features. Peter Campbell explains.

  • By Michael Stein,
    January 2007

    New integrated online software tools lead to more possibilities for nonprofits. How do you choose?   Internet strategist Michael Stein describes what's available and offers some considerations when choosing tools that can help with emailing, online donations, advocacy online, and more.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    January 2007

    It can be hard to understand how online payment processing works. Many different steps and a lot of jargon make it seem more complicated than it is. To help you see the big picture, we’ve laid out a typical payment process in diagrams.

    Here’s the whole diagram – but don’t worry, we’ll break it down.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    September 2006

    You may have seen signs that knowledge isn't flowing easily through your nonprofit: Staff can't find documents, or research things that others already know, and decisions are made without full information. Software can't solve all your problems, but it can probably help.

  • By Heather Gardner-Madras ,
    September 2006

    Are you hoping to send a monthly eNewsletter to your constituents? Or would action alerts or donation requests align better with your goals? We’ll help you think through the features you’ll need in a bulk emailing tool to support the type of emails you plan to send.

  • By Paul Hagen,
    May 2006

    It's a challenge to manage information about all your organization’s constituents.  But this challenge is common to both commercial companies and nonprofits. A strategy borrowed from the commercial sector has been gaining popularity in the nonprofit sector over the last couple years: CRM.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,
    January 2006

    While there are many applications out there that can help you process any single type of online payment, what if you want a tool that will support a variety of transactions?  We asked six experts what tools they would recommend to process various types of payments on an existing website.

  • By Laura S. Quinn,

    If your organization works with corporate sponsors, you’ve probably put some thought into defining the different levels of sponsorship and what to include in each. Such perks can help lure new sponsors by offering a return on their investment beyond just a charitable contribution or can tempt existing sponsors to increase their donation.

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