Blogs

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 baltimore.twittervision.com. 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 MontanaLawHelp.org, a legal information website for the public, and MontanaProBono.net, 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? OnlineCollegeCourses.com 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 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.

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