Best of the Web: November 2012


When I founded Idealware seven years ago, it was an unproven concept. Providing impartial resources to help nonprofits choose software had never been done. In fact, many people told me it couldn’t be done. The needs of organizations were too different, too unique, they said, to make unbiased, wide-reaching software reviews useful. 

However, our very first report—reviewing online donation software—was downloaded more than 500 times in the first month alone. And these days, I hear constantly about the savings nonprofits have found through our reports and articles and how our resources have improved their ability to do their work. I even hear from software developers who are using our reports as a checklist to ensure that their products meet the needs of nonprofits. After more than 70,000 report downloads and hundreds of hours of training, I can say with confidence that the Idealware model is not only possible, but that it provides enormous value to nonprofits nationwide.

I can’t thank you enough for your help and confidence—without it, Idealware could not have become what it is today. From the very beginning we have relied heavily on the knowledge, advice and thoughts of nonprofit staff and technology professionals like you. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of nonprofits make smart technology decisions over the last seven years, and through your support of Idealware, so have you—you have supported not just our mission, but the missions of all those organizations, too.

With that in mind, this month’s “Best of the Web” will read more like a “Best of Our Community.” Many of the people and organizations we need to thank have helped you along the way, or would be great resources if you need help in the future. Of course, this list could be even longer--I’ve no doubt left someone vital out, but I want to specifically thank the people and organizations that have helped to make Idealware what it is today:


Wow. I can’t believe how long that list became. Thanks to all of you.

Finally, I would like to thank you—and all our readers—for reading our emails, downloading our reports, sharing our articles and participating in our trainings. Your interest in Idealware resources is the true validation of our hard work. We plan to continue to evolve to bring you even more, better resources in the coming years. We’re excited to continue the journey with you.  

Laura Quinn, Founder and Executive Director


Idealware's Black Friday Sale!

 It's Idealware's Black Friday Sale! We're blowing out The Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits.

We only have 100 of these fantastic resources remaining! When they're gone! They're gone! Click the flyer to purchase yours.

AskIdealware: What's a good example of an organization using data to make decisions?

We're often told that we need to use data to make smarter decisions, but what does that look like in the real world? In April 2012 we worked with NTEN to conduct a survey and set of focus groups to better understand nonprofits' relationships with data. What we found was a large dichotomy—either they were doing a lot with their metrics, or not much at all. In addition, we learned that such internal factors as staff capacity, expertise and budget can greatly affect the ability of an organization to make strategic use of data it has collected—as can external factors, like the demands of stakeholders and funders.

Today, we're releasing the results in the form of the 2012 State of Nonprofit Data report, which you can download for free at

In this short AskIdealware video, Chris Bernard talks about how one organization is using data, and what makes it unusual.



Download the report for free at .

AskIdealware: What's it Like to Intern at Idealware?

Idealware is looking for a couple of good interns, and we like to think the experience is one that you won't soon forget. It's a great way to make a difference in the nonprofit community, to work with some interesting people passionate about their organization, and have a little bit of fun. We asked some of our former interns to tell us a bit about their time here in Idealware's Global Headquarters in Portland, Maine.

Speaking from experience as Idealware's inaugural intern, I can tell you this: don't expect to be sent out to get coffee for everyone. You'll be treated like a part of the team and involved in research, writing and all the other things that make Idealware such a respected organization. (I can also tell you that if you did bring some lattes to the office, no one would complain). 


Interested in joining Idealware as an intern? We're seeking two for the upcoming semester. Read more about the research internship at and the training internship at

Or give us a call and talk to one of our former interns--two of them are now regular staff members.

Twitter in the Charm City

This guest post was written by Kate Bladow, Founder & Strategist at Powered Pursuits.  


In Baltimore, Twitter is a popular tool for meeting new people and tracking local news, especially among the Creative Class. However, there's an assumption that a significant portion of Baltimore isn't using Twitter, including the many people who reside in low-income neighborhoods.
Dave Troy, founder of 410 Labs and the creator of Twittervision, decided to test this assumption. About 2 to 4 percent of the tweets, or posts to Twitter, from the Baltimore area are associated with a location. (A Twitter user has to opt in to providing location information.) Since late August, Dave Troy has been archiving and publishing these tweets as a text file that can be read easily and a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file for developers.
A quick review of the data suggested that the assumption about who is and who isn't using Twitter is wrong. To get a better look at patterns, Dave asked the Baltimore technology community to help him analyze the data. Another Baltimore entrepreneur and co-owner of Charm City Networks, Chris Whong used Dave's archives to create several maps:


  • the tweets and the location where they were posted;
  • the shortest and longest paths of people who tweeted from multiple locations; and
  • all of the paths of people who tweeted from multiple locations.


A few other visualizations were created as well:

  • a video showing how people move around Baltimore based on their tweets (Dave Troy);
  • a video following a specific person's tweets around Baltimore (Shea Frederick);
  • a tool that maps the path of a specific user based on his or her tweets (Shea Frederick);
  • a map of tweets where the Baltimore Orioles are mentioned (Dave Troy);
  • a map of the tweets from August 27 to September 6 (Dave Troy); and
  • a visualization of the words that were used and how frequently (Chris Whong).


The result: people are posting to Twitter from across the city. (To see this, choose the option to show income data on Chris' map.) Apparently, people in low-income neighborhoods are using Twitter and at a rate that appears similar to that of other Baltimore neighborhoods.  For Baltimore nonprofits this means that Twitter may be more effective tool for engaging with Baltimore's low-income communities than previously thought. Beyond their typical use of Twitter, an organization might try the following ideas.

  • Identify people in underserved neighborhoods and build relationships with them to connect with those communities.
  • Target a neighborhood where a specific problem is known to exist, watch for tweets from that neighborhood referencing the issue, and connect with that person to learn more or help solve the problem.
  • Watch for opportunities to use the data to learn more about specific events or issues. For example, Dave was interested in how the Grand Prix affected neighborhoods outside of the Inner Harbor, so he mapped specific posts that referenced the Grand Prix. (Hosting the Grand Prix has been a controversial issue in Baltimore.)


Most of you probably don't live in Baltimore, so this data has limited utility for you, but Dave Troy has made his code available to others, so that they can replicate this project for their communities. You can find it on GitHub: Capture tweets for a given lat/lon bounding box and Parse tweets from Chris Whong has already put it to use for New York City.

But there's a bigger lesson to learn from this project: Many communities have people who understand technology, are invested in making their community better, and may already be working on projects that your organization doesn't likely have the resources to try. To find them, check out technology meetups, find your local Code for America Brigade, talk with local technology councils, or use Twitter. People like Dave Troy, Chris Whong, and Shea Frederick likely exist in most larger cities. You just need to find them.

(Hint: If you are in Baltimore, find them by joining the Baltimore Tech Facebook group or coming to Groundwork, an event about using data to make Baltimore better.)

Kate Bladow, Founder & Strategist at Powered Pursuits, helps nonprofits and social changemakers understand, implement, and evaluate technologies that help them meet their missions. Previously, Kate worked for Pro Bono Net, where she helped legal aid programs and courts develop LawHelp Interactive document assembly projects, and for Montana Legal Services Association, where she helped to launch, a legal information website for the public, and, a website that supports legal aid and pro bono lawyers. She is a member of the Wide Angle Youth Media Board.


Facebooking for Office: How Social Media Inspires Voters

You may have heard there's an election next week. Campaigns have changed over the years, and will continue to change as new means of reaching voters are developed. What role does social media play in elections? put together this interesting and timely infographic. We're grateful for permission to share it.

Facebooking for Office Infographic

Idealware's Newest Hire

An introduction to our new Marketing and Partnerships Manager, Ryan Triffitt.

 “Well, how did I get here?”

In most situations, I believe David Byrne says it best. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question, but I’ll give it a try. And, to continue to prove that I’m a child of the 80’s, in the words of Inigo Montoya, let’s go back to the beginning…
A graduate of Bowdoin College, I began my career with aspirations of being a ski bum, but soon found myself in the marketing department at Sunday River Ski Resort. My first role was that of the “Voice of Sunday River,” literally. The voice on the phone updating snow conditions at all hours of the day and night was mine. In fact, as a fun party trick, I can still belt out snowfall amounts, trail counts and event updates at will. Buy me a beer and let the fun begin:
“New England’s largest and most powerful snowmaking system has been cranking around the clock!”
Soon, I became Communications Manager and responsible for the resort’s public relations. I spent the next 5 years at Glen Group, an advertising agency in North Conway, NH, leading their client services team and working with such clients as the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development, Carrabassett Valley Academy, Ski New Hampshire and the North Country Council. When a premature mid-life crisis set in, my wife and I left our jobs and sold our house to hike the Appalachian Trail. For anyone looking to escape from reality, see America in an entirely different light and meet amazing people who will become lifelong friends, I can’t recommend it enough. Upon returning to civilization, I took an account executive position at Rooks Communications (later, Dwell Creative) in Portland, Maine becoming the green-niched agency’s third employee. I helped build the agency’s systems and client base working with the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, the National Parks Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and the Maine Department of Agriculture. In late 2006, I became the Director of Marketing at the Mt. Washington Auto Road and Great Glen Trails. Have you seen the “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers? My job was to run around parking lots slapping those on cars. At least that’s what I told people, but during my time at the base of Mt. Washington, I revitalized the marketing efforts of America’s Oldest Manmade Tourist Attraction, including the development of an entire new online marketing strategy, website presence and social media efforts. I also led the rebranding project for Great Glen Trails and developed and implemented marketing strategies for more than 20 annual events. Beginning in July 2011, I struck out on my own to start Long Run Marketing, specializing in marketing strategy and planning, online marketing, social media management and graphic design. And, now, here I am at Idealware.
As the Marketing and Partnerships Manager at Idealware, I will be using my marketing expertise to trumpet the wonders of Idealware to everyone imaginable. Additionally, I’ll be helping spearhead our fundraising efforts to support our many projects and programs. Most importantly, I’m thrilled to be using my talents for good rather than evil. It was the mission of Idealware that drew me to the organization. So often nonprofits, although passionate and motivated, lack the information and time to find technology solutions that will help their efforts. They work too hard to not have the best tools! Above all, the energy and focus of the Idealware team is something I’m already proud to be a part of. It’s an impressive group of people. Even in my initial days at Idealware, I know it’s an opportunity that comes along “Once in a Lifetime.”

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, 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

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. 

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