Questions from The Advanced Social Media Decision Maker's Toolkit: Using Social Media to Cultivate Deeper Commitment

We had a tremendous turnout of our recent Advanced Social Media Decision Maker’s Toolkit, but  a downside of a big class is that lots of good questions don’t get answered. To get around that, we took some time to answer a few of the remaining questions from our second session, Getting Beyond the Like: Using Social Media to Cultivate Deeper Commitment, and since we thought some of the answers might help other people, we made them available to everyone.

Is it more advantageous to play to your biggest demographic, or focus on gaining a new demographic?

In most cases, it’s important to keep your core fans happy. They’re the ones who will be actively doing something for your organization, like donating, attending events, or even just sharing your posts. That doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the prospect of getting new followers, or reaching out to different demographics, just be sure not to alienate your current fan base by changing completely.

In all other communications, after I focus on a goal, I focus on audience. Should you take the same approach with social media? The audience seems vast and untargeted.

Audience is certainly important with social media. Targeting and defining your audience can help you to decide on which communication channels to use, what kinds of things to post, and how you should be defining success. Understanding your audience should go hand-in-hand with goal setting.

It is helpful for those of us that are still at the "Attract Followers" stage to talk through how to do so. What are your tips?

Take every opportunity to tell people about your page. Put the link on your business cards, put it in your email signature, and put it clearly on your website (widgits are eye catching and work well for this). Ask your friends and fellow organizations to promote your page as well. You could potentially offer incentives and contests to grow your fan base. Consider a culture of calling out your newest "likes" by name, make them feel special. Most of all, post strong, regular content, and encourage people to share it. That way, when your followers friends see that content, they'll be encouraged to follow you naturally.

How do you lure followers from other peoples' pages?

It's reasonable that you would want to find followers who are interested in similar organizations, or showing an interest in your cause some other way. In the most aggressive scenario, ask the organization if they would be willing to promote your page in an email or social media post. Maybe you could do the same for them. Easier, would be to comment on other pages as your own page. If you show yourself as an informed voice on a community page, or on the page of a friendly organization, more followers might be drawn to you. Again, the same advice could be given as the post above. Make certain that your page is well promoted, and share strong content, as that will encourage people to follow you.

How quickly should we respond to comments vs. allowing other followers to respond?

It depends on the particular comment and on your voice as an organization. For questions or comments aumed at the community, sometimes the best thing to do is to let your followers do the work themselves, but unless there is a culture of responding, you may find this difficult to facilitate. If you need to stir the pot a bit to keep things moving, adding a comment can be helpful. For questions and comments aimed directly at you, you should answer and respond promptly. A question like “how to I donate?” or "where can I access your services" should certainly get an immediate response.

My organization is about independent movies. We provide value by bringing unseen cinema. We announce the events, but how do we create a value balance?

Since there is such a wealth of information about independent cinema online, it seems like it would be valuable to your followers to post relevant resources from other places. Something like a review of one of your upcoming films, or an article surrounding the subject matter of one of those films. Even if it’s not directly related to an event, your followers might be interested in articles about filming techniques, movie theaters, or entertainment news.

We are a business organization for ski areas. Is it legit to regularly repost their posts?

Absolutely, as long as you are also providing a mix of your own content in there as well. It’s perfectly valuable to post the best resources from your members, or valuable resources from around the web that are related to your mission.

As a nonprofit, we've been invited to participate in Facebook campaigns. Is there a limit on how many of these we should do? I felt that our followers were tuning out and getting 'fatigued' by the daily/weekly ask to vote, etc. but our executive director really wanted certain campaigns aggressively promoted.

You will want to uphold a steady mix of content that isn’t purely related to one of those campaigns. While you could take the approach of only valuing social media as it affects your bottom line, keeping your followers engaged and mindful of your organization’s value will make a big difference when it does come time to respond to an ask. And voting fatigue is certainly a real thing. Consider setting a threshold for how many voting campaigns you'll do in a month and ask your team to help decide on which to do and which to pass on. Wearing out your community to a point where they will not vote at all would be worse than missing an opportunity here or there. Try to find the right balance.

Is there data regarding when the best time to post is?

Whatever works for you! Check out Facebook Insights, Hootsuite, or a number of other free tools to see what times get you the best response. You may be surprised to find that 9 PM on a Sunday gets you the most views, or 7 AM on a Tuesday. Every group of followers is a bit different. It isn't something worth obsessing over, but lee[omg tans on "high focus" times can definitely be helpful. Don’t forget that you can also use these tools to schedule posts ahead of time if you don't keep the same hours as your followers.

What is better? Full name or initials in stating who is posting on the organization's page?

If you’re running a close-knit group of followers, it can be valuable to share who is posting what, but in general, it may be preferable to just post as your organization. If you want to share individual’s names, the full name would likely be recognizable to a wider audience, but if you’re using twitter for instance, every letter counts, so it would be best to remove the attribution altogether, if possible. Check out this blog post for more:

Is it OK to edit a retweet?

Since Twitter is so focused around the 140 characters, it can be tough to get YOUR message in along with someone else’s. Removing a hashtag or shortening a date is perfectly acceptable in a re-tweet, but mis-quoting a person is not. Try to leave the content as is as much as possible, but also remember to make sure that tweet is still providing value to your audience. Thanking people for the mention is good etiquette, but flooding your twitter feed with “Thanks for the RT:” won’t give much to the rest of your followers.

How do you locate user posts that are related to your organization or your mission?

Try searching on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc for relevant hashtags, or looking at where your own name comes up. Even a Google search can reveal a lot. You can also use tools like Google Alerts, Addictomatic, and Social Mention. Check out this article for more

How can we determine the kind of fill-in-the-blank questions and discussion questions that get people excited and wanting to engage?

Coming up with creative content should be part of the fun of running a social media page. Try a few out and see which works best. Definitely make sure they are fun, but still related to your mission. “What’s your favorite dog breed?” might get a lot of reponses, but is it really making people think about your mission? (Well, maybe if you’re running a page for an animal shelter). Brainstorm with your team, that should generate enough ideas for quite a while.

I inherited two Facebook as an organization, and another for our organization as if it were a person. should I only use the organization page, and what to do with all of our "friends" on the page that we have where we are just like a person?

An organizational page will look more professional, and more people will be able to see your content. Furthermore, when people search you out, it's more likely they will land on the organizational page. We recommend you delete it, rather than leave it abandoned, because should someone stumble upon it, and have their questions unanswered, it could leave a bad impression about your organization.  Before you close out your personal page, make sure to give plenty of warning, and tell everyone to like your organizational page (and tell their friends to do the same) as that is where you will be posting now. The people who were paying attention before will move and boost activity on the page. Note that during this transition, it is a good idea to really focus on high quality, interactive content to set the tone and show why the people should move. It will mean less work for you, a more effective presence, and hopefully, a single place for all your fans to come together.

If you can't interact more than once or twice daily on Twitter, is it still worth maintaining?

The answer to this questions depends on your goals. If you are looking to build a lively community on Twitter, than one or two posts per day won't be enough. But, if you are looking to share valuable content with your community and show your expertise in the larger mission, posting infrequently, but with high quality, is totally fine. Also remember that you can use a program like HootSuite to schedule multiple posts out at once and save yourself a little time.

Questions from The Advanced Social Media Decision Maker's Toolkit: Branding Through Social Media

We’re thrilled to have such a great group for our Advanced Social Media Decision Maker’s Toolkit. An unfortunate part of having a big class is the fact that lots of good questions don’t get answered. To show our appreciation for those taking the class, we took some time to answer a few remaining questions from our very first session, Branding Through Social Media. We thought some of the answers might help our other curious fans, so we made them available to everyone. Enjoy:

What if an organization has many departments which are under the same umbrella and one of the departments is much more determined to utilize social media than the others?  At the present time the agency is not utilizing social media in a way that benefits our department.

It would be preferable for your entire organization to have a singular social media strategy. However, that’s not always possible. It is best to just get started doing something, and hopefully, more people will come on board, and the other departments will become more flexible.

How would we present ourselves as expert and authoritative but still fun and welcoming without appearing completely disconnected between those ideas?

That depends on what your organization’s definition of expert and authoritative is. Idealware tries to adhere to a similar style on social media. We present content with a clear eye to being “in the know,” but we also show a bit of our personality in commentary. Our followers look to us for the right advice, but we’re real people who like to have fun too, and we’re not afraid to be ourselves. You don’t need to be stodgy. As long as you know your stuff people will latch on to it.

What value are social media users looking for?

Remember that social media users are there to connect with their family, friends, and the other parts of their community that they’re most engaged with. They clearly liked or followed you because they value you already, but only sharing out ads or promotion can alienate your followers in what they would like to be a largely “social” environment. Instead, consider displaying your organization as real people, and remind them of the work you do. Pictures from inside your organization, in the field, of volunteers etc. can be a great way to present yourself as “one of them.” Don’t be afraid to ask what they want, either. Finding out what they value through surveys or conversation can be hugely helpful.

My organization is a small time not for profit low on resources all volunteer we have a yearly three day independent film festival , how do I keep the audience engaged year around.

Take a look at the Maine Organic Farmers And Gardeners Association (MOFGA) on Facebook They have their annual Common Ground Fair, but use the theme all year long. Think about making a social media/public relations volunteer job for someone who really loves the tool. Have everyone feed interesting content about film or other relevant issues, but make sure that one person is in charge of what gets posted.

Can you recommend another tool to pull together information about what others are saying about you?

You can search for topics in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Flickr, among others, by using each site’s respective search functions.

Because constantly searching a number of sites can be time consuming, it’s often more convenient to be notified when one of your keywords is being discussed. Google Alerts, for example, will send you daily emails whenever your keywords are mentioned—though it doesn’t find all social media mentions. TweetBeep does the same thing for conversations taking place in Twitter. NutshellMail will send you an email with a summary of activity related to your accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Don’t forget the more traditional ways to listen to people, like Online Surveys, phone calls or old fashioned feet-on-the-ground conversations with people in your community.

Does tone need to be consistent or can it change based on what you're posting about, etc.?

Of course, you should use a tone that’s appropriate for what you’re posting. Different types of posts will have different types of tones inherently, so use your discretion. However, having an overall “organizational” tone on social media can be helpful when multiple people are in charge of posting. Think about what you want to say with your outreach. For example, do you want to be seen as a caring compassionate organization, a fun organization, or a serious, smart organization? That will help you determine general boundaries for tone, with some leeway depending on the particular post.

What is better, to post as an individual within the organization or as the organization?

It depends on your organization and what you want to say. If you work for a very small organization, want to have a personal feel, and connect largely within your local community, posting as an individual might be beneficial for your overall image. For most, posting as an organization provides a more “official” feel to your social media page as opposed to a communal, personal feel. Whatever you choose, just make sure you are consistent. For more information, read my blog post about the issue:

If our service users are largely seniors/boomers/older adults what are the best social media channels to use?

Facebook is a great channel for that audience. Check out some of the demographic information on social media channels from the PEW Research Center

How much is too much?  We want to avoid overwhelming our members but provide them enough information that they stay engaged.

If you’re a small organization, once or twice daily is sufficient on Facebook. If you are able to post more strong content than that, great! Just be sure that your followers are still listening. Test the waters and see when you start losing your audience by using Facebook Insights or a similar program. Check when your users are online and try to post within that window. Obviously, if you’re running a large campaign, or a program like a Day of Giving, a large volume of posting should be expected and is acceptable.

How long should a post be on FB?  A few sentences or is longer ok?

In general, try to keep regular content fairly concise. If you’re sharing a resource that requires followers to go to a link to read more, a sentence or two will suffice, but posting an important story about one of your volunteers or staffers can be as long as it needs to be. Play around with the format for your organization and see if certain length posts get fewer views or more views than short posts.

Will you be giving us info on the differences between google + and Facebook?

Because of the increasing popularity of social media, a certain amount of homogenization can be expected. Due to this, the technical features of each site are not wildly different. Facebook currently has a much larger user base than Google+ (or any other social media site for that matter), but if your audience has expressed an interest in Google+, that’s a great place to be. Try a survey of your fans to see what social media networks they are on. However, we don’t recommend getting rid of your Facebook. Like your website, Facebook has gotten so popular that some people may seek you out just to find general information about you.

Our Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide has more:

What about hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a convenient tool to manage many (or just one) social media account(s). It’s free to try, so check it out and see if it could work for you:

We don’t, however, recommend that you use it to post the same content on multiple channels simultaneously. Some content just works better on Twitter than on Facebook or vice-versa, and creating original content for all your channels will give your followers reason to follow you more than once.


What is a Content Management System?

Can you edit your organization's website yourself? Can you change text or add images without needing to use HTML? If not, then you probably need a Content Management System. A Content Management System, or CMS, allows your nontechnical staff members to update website content through a WYSIWYG-style interface, eliminating much of the need to learn or use HTML. 

It's difficult to simply add a CMS to your exisitng HTML website, however. That sort of transition means completely rebuilding the website--but you can often import or reuse your previous theme and design.

Want to learn more about CMS, websites, and other parts of your organization's technology plan? Idealware's Tactical Technology Planning covers all the steps, in on-demand recordings so you can learn at your own pace. For more information, visit

Program Evaluation on the Brain

We've had program evaluation on the brain lately at Idealware, and for good reason. It's a critical part of nonprofit work--if you can't asses the effectiveness of your programs, you can't adapt them or improve them or prove to funders that you're doing all the good things in the world that you're actually doing. 

Adding to our growing litany of program evaluation-related resources, Idealware's Director of Research and Operations Elizabeth Pope recently wrote about the topic for the TechSoup blog

"Most nonprofits conduct some kind of program evaluation, whether it’s simply keeping track of how many people have been directly helped by an organization’s services or complex multi-year studies of a program’s effects on the larger community. There is a wealth of resources out there for a nonprofit looking to design a logic model or define indicators, and lots of smart people have plenty to say about program evaluation as a discipline."

Click through to read the full post, and then chime in to the comments to let us know your thoughts on the matter.


Painting in Pixels: Using Screenshot Tools to Visualize Software


Can you guess what this abstracted picture was originally? Hint: the title of this blog post may give you an idea…

Can’t figure it out? Well, it’s a distorted and rotated screenshot of my emails. 
Here in the Idealware office, we create screenshots every day for our online trainings. While we don’t need to manipulate photos as much as this one above, taking quality screenshots is an integral part of accomplishing our mission to help nonprofits make smart technology decisions. Screenshots can help people visualize otherwise foreign and intimidating software processes. Here’s an example of one of our training slides from our On Demand Tactical Tech Planning that uses screenshots:
By showing people how email software may look, our trainees can feel more confident about making the right decision about what they need.
Here at Idealware, we typically use SnagIt to create screenshots. SnagIt is a fantastic tool that produces high quality screen captures, but can be costly. Not every computer in our office needs SnagIt, but it would be nice for everyone to have to ability to take decent screenshots. In our search for a cheaper alternative for some of our staff members, my coworker Kyle and I discovered PicPick.

PicPick is a FREE screenshot tool. It’s is pretty basic but can do plenty. I used the tool to create the picture at the top of this post, which shows how much this free tool can to. I doubt Idealware will ever need to edit pictures as much as I did with this one, but I wanted to test the tool’s features. For a full list of features, see the box below.
What PicPick can’t really do is crop the screenshot you take. But an easy solution to that problem is to copy and paste the picture into a Word Document. In the Word Doc, click on the picture and a pink tab appears at the top of the toolbar that say “Picture Tools.” You can crop pictures there, even into different shapes; I used PicPick and Word to make an oval shaped picture of the PicPick shortcut from my desktop. You could even use your computer’s Microsoft Paint tool to crop screenshots from PicPick.
SnagIt’s picture quality is sharper, but PicPick gets the job done for free, which is especially nice for nonprofits on a budget.
I am just starting to test the tool out, so I’m sure I’ll learn more tricks and turns as I go. We’ll keep you updated on our experience and satisfaction with PicPick as we start to use it more.
To learn more about PicPick and its competitors, check out this article from that helped us make our screenshot tool decision.  



Questions from Trends Worth Following: Tools for Advanced Social Media Users

When we led our free class, Trends Worth Following: Tools for Advanced Social Media Users, on Tuesday, we had a tough time sticking to our ambitious one hour time limit. We got many questions that we thought were valuable, but didn't have time to answer them, so we've selected a few of them to go into more detail here:
We are a non profit helping veterans with PTSD free of charge. We want to reach older Americans, yet what you just stated is that not many older Americans use Facebook. What would be a good strategy or platform for us? Thank you.
In fact I think that Facebook is probably the right platform for your organization. We are seeing increasing numbers of individuals aged 50 and older joining Facebook. So while they don't make up anywhere near the majority of the Facebook population, they are one of the tool's fastest growing demographics. Keep in mind, the older generation tends to take on more of a "watcher" persona on Facebook, interaction within the tool is kept to a minimum, but they are keeping tabs on people and organizations they care about and reading what is posted. 
If our needs change and we are no longer using a social media channel, is it better to just stop updating it or delete the account?
If you have decided, as an organization, that you are no longer going to use a specific social media account for the long term our recommendation would be to inactivate the account instead of just ceasing to post. Although, as with most social media advice, it depends on your situation. Having a popular channel, like Facebook, that was used and then abandoned might raise questions about the existence of your organization. However, abandoning an account on a lesser used or "past its prime" tool is much less of an issue. If you decide to leave, I would say that deactivating an account instead of deleting it would be preferable, as if you decided at some point in the future to return to the tool your history would still be there to draw on. 
We have Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. Our audience on Twitter is virtually nonexistent. Is it wrong to drop it and put our time elsewhere? Do we delete our account entirely or leave it there even though we wouldn't be actively using it?
It is totally okay to decide that a particular tool is not working for you or your audience and to cut it loose. You only have a limited amount of time to spend on your day to day work, and there is no reason to spend time on something that you feel is not offering your organization an appropriate return on your investment. Specifically for Twitter, I'd say you would want to lean towards simply stopping to post for a while before you completely shut it down. After about a month, if you feel that you really don't miss it you can deactivate. Keep in mind that once you deactivate your Twitter account it will disappear fully in 30 days, so make sure you really mean it! 

Does the new Myspace have ads?
These days, just about every social media channel has some form of advertising. However, the ads in this case aren't especially jarring as they take the form of "featured" pages and content. Like the rest of the "New Myspace" redesign, most ads are very heavily focused on music.
If you're posting pictures of events/people, don't you need to get the individuals' permission first?
You should always have a signed agreement that states what a picture can be used for. This is especially true in the case of children. However, photos of events that are more pulled back and include a large number of less easily identifiable people don't require permission. Another great way to get photos is to have your followers take part in a photo contest, or encourage them to post their own pictures from events.
I manage a number of social media accounts. Any suggestions on social media management tools? Are there tools that can help update several of your online spaces simultaneously?
These are somewhat similar questions, but there is an important distinction. We generally recommend that you treat each social media channel totally independent of one another. For example, while a great photo from a fundraising event makes sense to post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and just about anywhere else you can think of, always sharing the same content across all of your social media channels can be less engaging to your followers, and will not play up to the strength of individual tools. Hootsuite is one commonly recommended social media management tool can post content to multiple social media channels, and even multiple accounts on the same channel.
Do you think Twitter will eventually overtake Facebook?
I would doubt that. According to a PEW Research Center report from February 2013, 67 percent of internet users have a Facebook page compared with just 16 percent on Twitter. Twitter has become a huge resource, and is great for keeping a pulse on what's going on in the world, your interests, and your friends, but it doesn't have the personal feel, or page customization possibilities of Facebook. Furthermore, I don't think they're necessarily mutually exclusive. The types of content you might share on Facebook probably won't translate directly to the short form of twitter. No matter what tool you're using, it's important to consider what kind of content you want to post and who you want to reach before you start considering which one is currently on top.
Does the downside of the hype cycle coincide with the social networking platforms trying to figure out a revenue model that will support their infrastructure (i.e. there is no such thing as free)?
It can. The hype cycle is a fascinating model, but it doesn't match up with every single social media tool. Sometimes it takes tools a long time to get off the ground, sometimes they drop off in users due to lack of updates to a site, or lose users because it's not meeting the expectations. The point of referencing the hype cycle is to show how the latest tools aren't always going to take over the world, even if tech media makes it sound that way. In general, it's hard for anything to meet inflated expectations when word spreads so quickly online, and not having a revenue model prior to launching can expedite that process.

Best of the Web: August 2013

The Idealware “Best of the Web” is a monthly roundup of the top nonprofit resources from the Idealware blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed to help you make the right technology decisions.

How Gmail’s New Inbox Is Affecting Open Rates (MailChimp)
Many email marketers are nervous about Gmail’s latest update. Recent changes include “tabbed” inbox browsing, which can automatically organize emails into “promotions” and “social” tabs) and a number of other customized allocations. Nonprofits are finding their blast emails are frequently ending up in the Promotions tab, but is that significantly affecting open rates? Could this be the end of email marketing as we know it, or is it a new beginning?

Five Things You Should Know about Changes in Facebook Functionalities (SocialFish)
Uproar surrounding Facebook changes is not new. Facebook’s millions of users are rarely quiet about their distaste for new features and looks, especially when they’re released faster than anyone can keep up with. SocialFish rolls out its take on the latest features added to your organization’s page.

75 Percent of Young Donors are Turned Off by Out-of-Date Web Sites (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
If you want to attract younger volunteers, donors, and event attendees, a strong website is an important gateway. A new study shows that a majority of ‘millennials’ said they were “turned off” when a nonprofit’s web site had not been updated recently.” Are you inadvertently driving them away? The Chronicle of Philanthropy looks at ways to use your website to attract a younger crowd.

Engaging Youth in Nonprofits (Idealware)
Idealware’s 20-year-old Intern Rachel decided to break down what actually works for her when it comes to nonprofits engaging her generation. In her opinion, too many organizations are prioritizing social media and have neglected email and mobile outreach as methods of engagement.

Social Media Tips that May Not Be So Obvious (FrogLoop)
Frogloop lists a few Facebook “pro tips” to polish your posts and prioritize productivity, including how to edit link-associated text, change image captions, and push your best posts back out into the news feed where they belong.

Do Storytelling and Data Have Chemistry in Your Fundraising World? (Nonprofit Quarterly)
Nonprofits often have inspiring stories to tell. From their origins to the people they help to the volunteers who keep things moving forward, those stories can inspire donations and cultivate deeper commitment. A powerful way to reinforce these stories is with actual data about your programs, but those working in communications and those actually evaluating data rarely meet. How can your organization incorporate metrics into your story?

111 Low-Cost or Free Online Tools for Nonprofits (Nonprofit Tech for Good)
It’s clear nonprofits need a strong foundation of technology to get their work done efficiently, but the budget isn’t always available to invest in the latest and greatest tools. Nonprofit Tech for Good created a long list of the most exciting free and low cost tools that can help a nonprofit succeed.

Understanding Software for Program Evaluation (Idealware)
In our increasingly data-driven world, nonprofits need more than ever to be able to measure and monitor the effectiveness of their programs. It’s difficult to improve program services or reach without first measuring current effectiveness. Whether you're a veteran or just getting started, this free handbook provides all you need to understand how to make technology a part of your program evaluation strategy.

Want More Facebook Activity? Surprise Them and Make ‘Em Happy (Mobilisation Lab)
In a new study, Martin Lloyd, Greenpeace International’s marketing and communications manager, partnered with market research firm Brainjuicer to identify the psychological and emotional influencers driving sharing levels. The result? Put a positive spin on your message, and don’t forget a call to action.

Launch Day: Understanding Software for Program Evaluation

Program evaluation is on our minds lately here at Idealware, and why not? If an organization cannot measure and analyze the effectiveness of its programs, how can it improve them? Today we're thrilled to launch our latest report, Understanding Software for Program Evaluation, a handy reference guide to the types of software that, when brought together, can enable your organization to accurately and confidently collect, measure, and monitor the outcomes and effectiveness of your programs. 

Do you need technology to evaluate programs? No. But software can help you collect, analyze, and even visualize your data for the most accurate results, and in this report we  explore several different types of tools and how they can help your organization. Like all our reports, the guide is free to download. Click here to get started, and then come back and tell us what you think...



Nonprofit or not, it should come as no surprise that organizations are looking to save money. How can you afford the latest technology for your employees on a budget? One solution that many businesses have been flocking to is BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. While this option can seem mutually beneficial both for budget minded organizations and gadget loving employees, the headaches involved in regulating this process aren’t always worth the rewards.
BYOD doesn’t necessarily refer to just one policy. It is a series of decisions that have to be made regarding employee use of their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops during office hours. Your organization's specific policies will have to be agreed upon, and employees will have to be briefed on the new regulations. In some situations, organizations can offer stipends for device purchase or monthly data plan payment. This strategy can save the employees money since they can also use the device at home, and saves the organization money since they don’t have to purchase computers and phones that live in the office. Naturally, how much money an organization puts toward a device will increase or decrease depending on how imperative the device is to the employee’s daily work.
If your organization uses cloud based software, BYOD can be even more appealing. Without too much tech knowhow, the employee can access to the same software and data all on a device they’re comfortable with just as easily from home, in the office, or on the go. This applies to basic applications like Google Apps and Dropbox, as well as full blown donor management systems, office productivity software, and more.
Having a device that lives in the grey area between work and home life can create some unique challenges for organizations. For example, what happens if the device is lost or stolen outside of the office? Who is held liable for replacement? And what should you do about all that sensitive data? For this reason, it becomes even more important to regularly back up your data and to have a way of wiping your data off the device remotely. Idealware has plenty of resources available on data backup, and a service like Air Watch can provide improved security, offer reports on device usage, and allow administrators to delete data.
There can also be the ever present worry of viruses and malware. While you can (and should!) be running regular antivirus scans on your office computers, you can’t be as certain that your employees are being as careful with their own devices. Make sure you have a system in place to know that your employees aren’t downloading malicious software on your organization’s device. Also, tell your employees to be careful about shared networks such as free Wi-Fi at restaurants and coffee shops, and free wireless printers in hotels. They might be safe enough for checking your Twitter feed, but dealing with sensitive, high level information on an open wireless network can be dangerous.
It may be appealing to your employees to let them choose which kind of device they want. The staff here at Idealware all use Windows based computers in the office, but many of us use Apple computers at home. Along with that, not everyone in your organization will be interested in using their own devices, so it is important to implement some form of consistency so you don’t run into problems with compatibility. For example, if you use a lot of Google applications, Android phones and tablets, and Chromebook laptops, can be a good choice to ensure the maximum ease of access. Keep in mind that since these devices lack optical drives, you cannot install your own software with a CD. If your standard office computers are Apple based, iPhones and iPads are a sensible choice, and Windows 8 phones, tablets, and computers make access across multiple devices easy as well.
Some organizations are trying to get the best of both worlds by exploring dual boot options, or even mobile phone virtualization. With these options, users can have multiple logins for their devices, one for personal use and one for business use. While having separate accounts can help in managing that fleeting home and work life balance, it will take a dedicated IT person on your staff to setup and troubleshoot this service in most cases. Multi booting operating systems can also be helpful for users who need to use a certain OS in the office, but would prefer to use another at home. Remember that while Windows and Linux operating systems can be installed on any computer, OSx cannot legally be installed on any machine unless made by Apple.
What is your organization’s BYOD policy? What personal devices are you splitting your time with? Which ones do you wish you could?

Can Video Games Really Change the World? Lessons From the 2013 Games For Change Festival


The crowd at the 10th Anniversary Celebration and Games for Change Awards

In June, I had the pleasure of attending the 10th Anniversary Games for Change Festival, which brings together game designers, nonprofits, academics, students, and technology companies to promote and create games for social change. This was the first time anyone from Idealware has attended this conference, so I was more-or-less charging blindly forth into uncharted waters. 
So, what treasures did I bring back from this exotic land? Here are a few takeaways:
  • Games have come a long way from Oregon Trail. Many of the presenters talked about the problems inherent in thinking of “educational games”, or “serious games”, and how that mindset leads to lower-quality or half-hearted games, a point elaborated on by the two speakers on the opening night. The first, Ian Bogost from the Georgia Institute of Technology, talked about how the community should instead focus on creating “earnest games”, that use education, social good, or other big ideas as a way to enrich the game experience—not the other way around.
    Robin Hunicke from Funomena echoed this sentiment with her assertion that every game, regardless of subject matter, makes a statement. To her, the problem with the video game industry is that the statement made by the mainstream, best-selling games is usually one of violence or wish-fulfillment, but the growing “indie” community allows a place for elegant, expressive, and emotional games a place.
  • Most nonprofits aren’t ready for games. While there were several examples of low-budget, meaningful games at the festival, many games and developers were still prioritizing conventional models of entertainment, or more expensive development processes. Others were clearly pursuing innovative, but largely impractical and cost-prohibitive technologies, like biometric sensors.
  • There is help for nonprofits. There were multiple firms and companies present that specialize in developing games for organizations, or provide customizable game platforms. For example, every download of the Global Gaming Initiative game Sidekick Cycle contributes to providing bikes to children in Africa. Kognito Interactive, also present at the festival, provides a game platform where players assume the role of doctors, therapists, or family members to practice address mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. Other firms providing similar platforms include Amplify Learning and Green Door Labs.
  • Mobile is the past. While mobile devices are still the future of service delivery to many nonprofits, many of the game developers at the festival seem to be leaving mobile behind in favor of web or browser-based platforms. These games don’t have the face the restrictions imposed by mobile app marketplaces, like Apple’s App Store. They also don’t have to deal with the fragmentation of the mobile market, where games and apps must be developed separately for Android, iPhone, and other platforms.
  • Games have the potential to make big changes. When done correctly, video games and even board games give players the chance to learn interactively, or even take control of how they learn. One of the speakers, Jesse Schell of Schell Games, spoke about the differences in learning styles—extrinsically motivated students and intrinsically motived students. Intrinsically motivated students seek out knowledge on their own, and may be passionately curious about some subjects, but completely disinterested in others. Games could make an impact in meeting the educational needs of this type of student, who would want to pursue a topic on their own time, outside of a school setting.
    There are also games that try to let players view the world from a different perspective. One game on display at the festival, LIM, uses its gameplay to evoke the experiences of being different in a heteronormative society, while another game, Dys4ia, uses a series of mini-games to guide the player through the difficulties of a person going through gender reassignment.

These are all really big goals, and while the ideas and vision of the gaming community aren’t always in line with the day-to-day realities of most nonprofits, they are certainly laying the strategic groundwork for a technology beyond our current cutting-edge.


Syndicate content