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Launch Day

We had hoped that our latest report, Consumers Guide to Low Cost Content Management Systems, would be the biggest news of the week, but Hurricane Sandy trumped us. We’re keeping our friends, families and constituents affected by the storm in our thoughts, but releasing the report today anyway. Published in partnership with Beaconfire Consulting, it offers detailed reviews and comparisons of 11 Content Management Systems for nonprofits.

The report is free to download. Just click here.
 
We designed the guide to help nonprofits looking to replace an existing Content Management System or implement one for the first time. We've struck a balance, making it accessible to individuals with a non-technical background but not so basic that it won’t be of value for the technically savvy. Past versions focused specifically on open source CMS products, but this year we've expanded the report to include seven additional Content Management Systems, making this report unprecedented in both breadth and depth.
 
Why is this a big deal? Size matters—no other report out there covers so many CMS products so completely. For a nonprofit trying to make an informed decision about website management, this new report is the perfect starting point. We know organizations don’t have time to delve into a major research project—they need their website up and running with minimal worry and minimal fuss. This report provides the necessary information and critical details all in one place.
 
Additionally, we’ve written this report in plain English. Like all our resources, it’s accessible and understandable. Do you really need to know the technical details of data management in HTML style sheets? Maybe not, but you do want your website to work and to be easily editable. We don’t spend time on the minutiae you don’t need or want.
 
No report can answer every question, but for small- to mid-sized organizations, this one can provide a great overview. If you don’t have someone on staff with the knowledge to implement a CMS, we’ve also included a directory of consultants with experience helping nonprofits like yours install and implement the systems we reviewed. Again, we feel this can give your organization all the ammunition you need to make a smart decision toward a long-term solution.
 
Can you tell we’re proud of this report?
 
We’d like to thank our lead sponsors in particular—Beaconfire Consulting, Firefly Partners and New Signature—and are pleased to add to the growing collection of resources and training Idealware offers. We'd also like to thank you for your continued interest in Idealware and all the work you do to support the nonprofit community and the world.
 
 

 

Social Media for Social Good: An Infographic

This is a repost from an entry that originally appeared at http://onlinempa.unc.edu/social-media-for-social-good-infographic/, UNC Chapel Hill's MPA program website. Shared with us by Logan Harper, the program's community manager, who helped create the graphic, we're grateful for the chance to share it with our audience.

Social media—through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content—is a powerful and accessible tool. With free online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, andGoogle+, governments, nonprofits, corporations, and individuals all have the ability to communicate their messages and participate in conversations with a global audience. Social media allows nonprofits and groups promoting social causes, even those with limited budgets, the opportunity to magnify their voices. In our hyper-connected world, individuals have the tools to effect change, raise millions of dollars, find volunteers, and make a global impact.

In our new infographic, Social Media for Social Good, we profile several successful grassroots and nonprofit campaigns, explain tactics that increase the impact of a message, and explore emerging trends in charitable giving and volunteering. Highlights include:

Making a Global Impact

  • The day following the Haiti earthquake of 2010, CNNsuser-generatediReport had 1.4 million page views.
  •  Twestival, a global offline event supporting various nonprofits, raised $1.75 million in 45 countries.

 Giving Back

  • One in five adults in the U.S. has donated to a nonprofit online.
  • TweetDrive 2011 harnessed the power of Twitter to organize 38 in-person events in which people donated more than 4,200 toys.

Social Media For Social Good
MPA@UNC: Online MPA

Friend-to-Friend Fundraisers = Major Donors

I'm quite passionate about the process of friend-to-friend fundraising, it’s true. I feel pretty strongly that this is a fundraising approach accessible to all organizations, not just the property of health fundraising organizations or groups with traditional walk-athons.

Friend-to-friend fundraising is so exciting because it has an amazing ability to turn a lower level donor into a fundraising powerhouse. While every one of us may not be blessed with boatloads of money, most of us know a good number of people. And a small few of us are social in such a way that a simple ask of support will generate large amounts of money. These are the key individuals to search out. Find one (or preferably a collection of) highly social friend-to-friend fundraisers and get them to raise money on your behalf and you’ll be golden…once. However, one of the biggest challenges in the friend-to-friend fundraising process is getting those people to continue to come back as lead fundraisers year after year.

There are a number of reasons why friend-to-friend programs struggle to keep their high dollar raisers engaged and returning on a consistent basis- burnout, loss of connection to the cause, fear of asking again are all potential factors. But I believe the biggest reason why many friend-to-friend fundraising programs lose their fundraising powerhouses is because the nonprofit never shifts to see those fundraisers for the money they raise instead of the money they personally donate.

Let's agree that in some cases the amount of money that our friend-to-friend fundraisers bring into our organization can be highly substantial. A single fundraiser can bring in thousands and thousands of dollars during a single campaign. Yet many of us continue to place them in giving circles based on their direct personal financial contribution instead of the overall financial contribution that they have made to our organization. If we allow our mindset to shift to the total contribution, then many of these friend-to-friend fundraisers at the top of their game knock themselves into our major donor categories quite easily. Treating our strongest friend-to-friend fundraisers the same way we might treat a $10,000 donor is, in my opinion, a key to retaining powerhouse fundraisers from year-to-year.

So my recommendation: court your friend-to-friend fundraisers like you would a major donor. Buy their lunch, send newspaper clippings, invite them to big-ticket events on your dollar, and recognize their contribution as a truly substantial one. And if we start treating our friend-to-friend fundraisers as if they themselves had the big bucks, we will find that they feel more appreciated, they feel more connected to our organization and its mission, and they return year after year. 

 

New Heller Report on Donor Management Apps

 

If you've not yet seen it, the fine folks over at Heller Consulting recently published their report, The New World of Donor Management Apps for Nonprofits, providing an in-depth review of top fundraising applications built on the Salesforce.com platform. 

"Nonprofits today have an exciting new world of donor management applications to choose from — many of which are developed as Apps on the popular Salesforce.com platform. But with so many choices, how do you make the right decision for your organization?"

In this report, they review the top five donor management apps for nonprofits, including Affinaquest™ by Affinaquest, Causeview™ by Breakeven, Luminate CRM™ by Blackbaud, Nonprofit Starter Pack™ by the Salesforce.com Foundation, and roundCause™ by roundCorner, looking closely at:

  • What makes each App unique
  • Important things to consider before adopting each product
  • What types of organizations are a best fit for each product

 

Click through to the Connected Cause website to download the free report now.

Experiment with Tech… But Not Too Much

 There’s a lot of talk these days about how nonprofits should do more experimenting – take more risks, and be more open to failure.   Nonprofits are often too conservative, according to this line of thinking, and should be trying new things, seeing if they work, and not be afraid to fail.

I don’t disagree with this concept, but like many concepts, it becomes hard to apply in the world of cash-strapped smaller organizations.  To what extent should a small organization try something new that might fail, when there’s a bunch of proven things that they know are likely to work …and they don't even have time to do all of those things?

We’re thinking this through for ourselves, to figure out what makes sense in terms of experimenting with new ways to deliver content or information.  By definition, it’s hard to quantify the value of experimenting with any one thing, because it’s impossible to know if it will work.  But there’s presumably some also difficult to quantify upside if we hit on something that works really well.

We internally like the idea of putting aside a “experimentation budget” – a small amount of staff time and money, perhaps defined by month, which is supposed to go to something that’s experimental.  The budget allows you to say that its worth, say, 16 hours a month to the organization to try things that might fail….but could succeed in an exciting way.  But it also puts a cap on the amount of time you can waste if you fail… as you’re only putting in a small amount of time to begin with.

What do you think?  Do you have other ways to balance the desire to experiment with the desire to make sure that your time is used towards your already crowded list of critical to-dos?

Deciding the Fate of Outdated Content: To Update, Redirect or Rewrite?

For better or worse, we are witnessing a race to fill the Internet with information. Millions of pages are added each day at a rate far greater than they are removed, leaving lots of outdated content for people and bots to crawl through. Old info provides an unfavorable user experience, but is simply removing it from the website or search engines the best alternative? Find out in this guest post by Andrew Garberson, a non-profit SEO consultant at LunaMetrics.

The answer is no. And if the old page in question has inbound links, social shares or other SEO value, the answer is NO! For starters, deleting a page with oh-so-valuable links turns them into orphans because they point to a nonexistent address. Any SEO benefit derived from them is gone, leaving them to wander the world alone (and unlike Annie, they’ll never find their Daddy Warbucks).    

Take a look at a client of mine, who we’ll lovingly refer to as XYZ.org. It is a midsized advocacy organization that frequently adds content to stay current. Their longstanding practice was to delete old pages from their site, making way for the new and newsworthy. Then they met me. A quick glance at Google Webmaster Tools showed that they had about 100 broken URLs that resulted in 404 errors.

 

To make matters worse, those 104 pages had attracted several hundred inbound links that suddenly never made it home. All of that SEO credit was tossed to the curb.

Sometimes webmasters prefer to de-index old pages so search engines do not display them in the search results. That doesn’t exactly get me giddy, either. De-indexing old pages keeps them away from potential visitors, but it also keeps them away from potential visitors! See the problem? Cutting away at organic search traffic is never good for business.

So, if deleting content is not an option, and neither is removing it from the index, what’s a SEO-savvy webmaster to do? Well, you have come to the right place. Here are three healthy alternatives to consider.

  • Update the information. Perhaps a page has been live for several years and it is starting to show its age. The dates have long since come and gone and procedures and price points reflect different times. After all, a lot has changed in the business world since 2008. Simply revise the content to reflect current happenings. Small corrections do not impact on-page metrics so no need to fear a fall in ranking. Search engines will barely notice. Unless, of course, those little corrections are, say, in the title and headers. If that’s the case, it is probably best to consider a 301.
  • Apply a 301 redirect instead of making big changes to title tags or large portions of content. 301 permanent URL redirections automatically shuffle visitors to a more applicable page and send with them most of its predecessor’s page authority. A redirect is perfect for a retired executive’s profile. It likely accrued lots of links over the years and it would be a shame to let them go to waste. A 301 permanent redirect to the directory of managers or the executive’s replacement would serve the website (and all of its visitors) very well. For more general pages, however, a redirect might not seem appropriate. It would make more sense to simply create all new content under the existing URL. 
  • Write new content. Widgets were not selling well so the company decides to go in a different direction. These big changes can’t be made by updating tidbits, but the URLs and brand can be left as-is. It’s time to rewrite. Wipe everything clean but the URL, leaving the inbound links intact, and start from scratch: newly optimized title tag, appropriate Meta description and fresh content. It might not be the best option because search engine results and ranks will change, but all of those authority-building inbound links are spared from the orphanage, which is better than what would happen if you delete entire pages.

Moral of the story: don’t abandon accrued SEO credit. Never ever. Condemning links to a life of solitude on the street is neither good for you nor society. So, do your part and keep this world a better place.

For more insight from Andrew, read his article about SEO tips for non-profit blogs.

Blurry Face: Coming to a Video Near You

Earlier this year YouTube unveiled a new feature: the ability to blur out faces in videos. In the wake of the Arab Spring protests, and the ongoing violence in Syria, lots of news outlets and blogs have focused on how this feature benefits political activists, who often rely on YouTube more than other social media in order to organize, educate, and promote their struggle (NPR had a good little write up here).

The ability to blur faces and anonymize people in videos isn't only helpful for political dissidents, however. For many organizations, privacy and confidentiality limit their ability to use video to tell their story, or the stories of the people they work with. A nonprofit that works with children, for instance, could now post videos containing faces of children whose parents had not given permission to be shown. This is a common issue in videos of crowds or outdoor events, where the person on camera may have consented to be included, but people in the background or random passers-by might not have. 

Does this mean we can ignore permission? Of course not. But sometimes you only have one chance to get a shot, or don't have the ability to seek permission from every single person in the background. YouTube now makes it easier for us to catch those little mistakes, and save a great video from going in the trash.

Remixing the Clark

As a recent transplant to New England, I took the requisite leaf-peeping road trip last weekend through Western Massachusetts and Vermont. Along the way, I stopped at a museum, and was blown away by what they’re doing with technology.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. is undergoing a major renovation that won’t be completed until 2014, and much of their permanent collection is in storage. To make the most of this period, the Clark has been experimenting with crowd-sourcing one of its exhibitions, called Remix. Visitors can virtually curate, or “remix”,  selected artworks using a homegrown app called uCurate. A sister app, uExplore, comes preloaded on tablets that are handed out to visitors upon arrival in the gallery; essentially, it’s like you have a portable curator that tells you neat things about the art you’re viewing.  Certain visitors will even get to have their selections displayed in the galleries.
 
The New York Times covered the Clark’s work in detail back in March—check it out. And even if you’re not going to be in Western Mass for leaf season, you can curate your own virtual exhibit on the Clark’s Remix site and see what other folks have done: http://remix.apps.clarkart.edu/.

A Few Good Statistical Analysis Tools

Whether your organization needs to measure its programmatic success or expand its donor base, statistical analysis software can help nonprofits become more data-driven and accountable.

If this sounds appealing, you’re in luck: powerful tools that only five or ten years ago required dedicated servers to run can now be installed on a desktop. But these packages can require a considerable investment in up-front and ongoing costs, staff time, and training. Overwhelmed by the choices and not sure if you have the necessary statistical chops? We talked to a statistician to get the latest on some of the options available.

Low-Cost Options and Open-Source Tools

If your software budget is tight and your statistical analysis needs are basic, consider Excel. You probably have it and understand the platform.  Drawbacks: Excel can’t automatically handle missing cell values, and its statistical output can appear clunky and scattered. Windows users can install the built-in Analysis Toolpak, but Excel for the Mac OS now requires a free downloadable add-on, like Statplus: Mac LE. These tools amp up your spreadsheet software with features like regression analysis, analysis of variance, and sampling. Excel costs about $120 per license as a stand-alone product, with volume discounts available.
 
The most popular open-source statistical software, R requires some programming knowledge to navigate its command-line interface. Users enter lines of code to execute R’s functions, but even those lacking a sophisticated computer science background can learn it quickly. R runs on a variety of operating systems, and its thriving user community will help if you get stuck. Nonprofit staffers familiar with programming basics and with a firm grasp of statistical concepts may find R a good choice.
 

For More Advanced Needs

For users with moderate-sized data sets, Stata is an affordable option, starting at $1,195 ($600 for academic users) for STATA/IC, the standard version. The software lacks the power of some other options on the market, and can only open one data set at a time. Unlike other proprietary software, though, Stata is easily customized, and can handle downloadable user-written commands that significantly expand its capabilities. Stata also draws praise for its tech support, helpful user community, and relative ease of use. Stata has both a graphic, menu-based interface and a command-line interface for those with more programming know-how.
 
IBM's answer to statistical analysis receives high marks for its user-friendliness. In addition to a syntax editor, SPSS Statistics has a point-and-click graphical interface that doesn't require substantial programming knowledge. This ease of use comes at the expense of some control over statistical output. Nonprofits in need of basic statistical analysis won't find this an issue, but if you seek to do more sophisticated data manipulation, SPSS might prove frustrating. The standard desktop package starts at $5,120 for a user license and a year of support, with higher pricing for concurrent use.
 

The Top of the Line

With more than one-third of the market share, the SAS Institute is the giant of the statistical analysis software scene. Strengths include power and efficiency in linking large data sets, and a comprehensive built-in set of statistical analysis features.  SAS Analytics Pro, the entry-level desktop version of the software, costs $8,500 per user for first-year license fees alone and about $2,000 per year for ongoing use. This software is not for novices, and requires a high degree of statistical and technological expertise to run it. However, SAS offers excellent tech support, and its prevalence means finding others in your network who use the software will be a snap.
 

A Note of Caution

If your statistical background consists solely of hazy memories of Stats 101, a refresher might be in order. Misrepresenting data, even if done unintentionally, will get a nonprofit into trouble with its donors, board, and other stakeholders. In this case, a little information can be a bad thing.
 
Thanks to Henry Quinn for his recommendations and advice.

 

Project Management Tools That Nonprofits Should Know About

This is a guest post written by Ryan Sauer, a writer and editor for Bisk Education in association with University Alliance. He actively writes about project management and leadership in different industries and strives to help professionals succeed in getting their PMP certification online.

Most nonprofits face a challenge many large corporations don’t—a lack of “manpower.” While large corporations or businesses are able to designate specific roles to individual people, it’s common for nonprofits to designate multiple responsibilities to each team member. As a result, adept project management becomes crucial to reach the organization’s goals efficiently and effectively. 

There are a number of applications that can help with project-related tasks, including the following (note that they’re all Cloud-based, which means you don’t need to install them, but you do need an internet connection): 

Project Scheduling

 

Gantter Project – For a simple-to-learn solution that fits into your budget, consider this a clean and simple project management scheduling tool that allows users to share project schedules and invite others to view or edit project schedules together. (Cost: Free) 

 

Communication and Collaboration

 
Glasscubes – If you need more than basic project scheduling, this app lets you collaborate within created workspaces called Glasscubes, communicate seamlessly, and share documents effortlessly with cloud server support. Other features include built-in conference calling, email and lead tracking, and customized reports. (Cost: Free for basic plan, upgraded monthly plans are available)
 
 
Time Tracking
 
gTrax – If you are required to manage and record the time spent on specific projects, this service lets you input time and resources spent on project tasks. gTrax is designed to enhance project management processes by creating an integrated system for time recording and reporting. (Cost: Free up to three users, then a monthly fee per user)
 
 

Brainstorming and Mind Mapping

 
WiseMapping – Optimize and keep track of brainstorming ideas with WiseMapping. This web-based mind mapping tool leverages a combination of Web 2.0 and customization features that can provide seamless visual collaboration among members of your team. (Cost: Free!)
 

Diagrams and Flowcharts

 
Gliffy – This web-based app allows users to create diagrams and flowcharts from scratch or templates., and lets them collaborate, share and track changes with anyone. (Cost: Free for a single user, standard and pro plans available).
 

Wrapping it Up

One of the most important rules of project management is to establish and maintain a high level of communication between team members, including all stakeholders. Tools like these can help improve communication and prevent things like scheduling from becoming more confusing than they need to be.
 
Simplified communication can bring everything into focus for the entire team and help make your project a success, moving you closer to your organization’s goals.
 
 

 

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