Blogs

A Note About an Event Registration Software Vendor

At Idealware, we work hard both to remain impartial in our research--we don't take any money from vendors--and to be fair, but our primary mission is to provide nonprofits like yours with the information you need to make smart decisions about software. The field of technology and the vendors providing tools is constantly changing, and trying to keep up is sometimes like changing a flat tire on a moving car. The information in our articles, including vendors, prices, and features, can go out of date almost as soon as we publish it. 

Typically, our policy is to acknowledge that fact and not revise articles between our scheduled review cycles. But this week, we've made an exception.

Someone recently alerted us to a developing situation with Acteva, an online event management and payment system that's been around since 1998. Some of the vendor's nonprofit clients have reported that they were never paid the revenue owed them, or had to wait months to receive checks. Details are somewhat murky--there's a website that's been established to discredit the company and share horror stories, but we've been unable so far to independently verify them. Other clients have taken to the TechSoup forums to share their experiences. It's hard to know what's going on here, but the Better Business Bureau rating for Acteva is an "F," and the vendor's accreditation was revoked back in October 2012, largely because it failed to respond to any of the complaints levied against it. 

In the past, we've included Acteva in articles about event registration software, as well in our Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits. We've decided to make an exception to our policy and remove mention of the product from our materials while we monitor the situation. We'll continue to look into it, and we encourage you to conduct your own research if you're considering purchasing event software. In fact, this is a great reminder to always do your homework when selecting a vendor-- you never know what you might find out. 

Half Price for a Full Summer

School may be out for the summer, but Idealware’s trainings are always in session. We have a full schedule—and now we’re offering it at half price. The reason is simple: We want you to have the tools you need to succeed. The options include a mix of brand new sessions and Idealware classics, including all our best-rated sessions. We hope a 50 percent discount will help you carve out some time during your busy summer schedule.

The Summer Sale applies to all Thursday sessions in June, July, and August. Enter the code SUMMER2013 at checkout to receive the 50 percent discount.
 
We hope you’ll join us. 
 
Here’s the full schedule:
June 20

June 27

July 18

July 25

August 1

August 8

August 15

August 22
 

New Infographics Course Tomorrow: Twice the Impact at Half the Price

Tomorrow we’re offering an online seminar about Infographics, and if you act now, you can take advantage of a half-price discount by entering the code SUMMER2013. Why are we offering a discount? Because we think this is a valuable course, and we want to reach as many people as we can.
 
Nonprofits of all sizes have become more “datacentric,” and as we strive to measure our work more closely, we’re up to our eyeballs in data. Infographics—essentially any combination of information and image used to tell a story by visually representing data—are a relatively recent extension of data visualization, rising in both popularity and importance as a way for nonprofits to present and make sense of their data in a more digestible format.
 
In this new session, based on our report, Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing: From Data to Design, we’ll explore the many different types of infographics, how they can communicate information effectively, and how you can create your own. We’ll break down the barriers of this growing approach to data visualization, and make sure you know when – and when not – to use them to get the full impact.
 
Session Takeaways:
·         Understanding and creating infographics.
·         What defines an infographic?
·         How can you create one that presents your data in a compelling and easy-to-understand way?
·         A look at tools that can help you create infographics.
 
How can infographics help you? Here’s a real world example we think demonstrates perfectly:
 
Last year, HousingWorks RI planned to produce a four-page Issue Brief on rental housing in Rhode Island showing that because rents were higher than many residents could afford, the state had a dire need for more long-term affordable rental housing. Despite the compelling data, the brief was drowning in numbers and percentages, and the media seemed uninterested in the story.
 
But when the staff produced an infographic (shown below) conveying the same information in an easy-to-read, compelling format, the interest level spiked. “In all we had over 20 media mentions, including a small blurb in USA Today,” HousingWorks RI Communications Director Nicole Lagace remembered. “Our experiment paid off and we continued to build upon our reputation for providing user-friendly, well-designed information.”
 
Got data you want to share? Looking for new ways to engage constituents, legislators, the media, or other key audiences? Sign up now for our new Infographics session and enter the code SUMMER2013 to take advantage of our one-time only discount price and see what all the fuss is about.
 

The Conversation around Funding Technology

We love talking about technology. While that may be the understatement of the year, it’s true. But for Idealware it goes beyond that. We want to talk about technology in a way that directly connects nonprofits to the right technologies. And often, that conversation turns to funding. Needless to say, that conversation can become complicated. Instead of just being a part of the conversation, we’re convening it.

 
Idealware recently released A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, a resource developed with our foundation partners to help foundations understand how to maximize their investments and help ensure the success of their grantees. Now, we hope you’ll join us to further the discussion with a free panel: Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations on Tuesday, June 11 at 1 pm (EST).
 
What will we be talking about? Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations is an online panel made up of foundation representatives who can speak directly to the positive impact they’ve had through supporting technology. Properly supported, the right technologies can build nonprofits’ effectiveness and efficiency and multiply the impact of a foundation’s grants and programs. Included on the panel will be some of the organizations profiled in the case studies featured in the guide, and they will expand upon not only what spurred them to support technology but also the results they’ve seen. 
 
Confirmed panel participants thus far (Subject to change):
  • Luis Chabolla, Communications Officer at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County
  • Tina Arnoldi, Director of Technology at Coastal Community Foundation (of South Carolina)
  • Ashley Harper, Director of Grants & Initiatives at Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
  • David Krumlauf, Chief Technologist at the Pierce Family Foundation

Who should attend? Foundation program officers already working to support technology who want to help grantees make the right choices with their technology budgets, or those just beginning to gain an interest in technology themselves. We’ll help you think about planning to support nonprofit technology in way that meets both your funding ability and level of readiness.
 
This panel discussion is free to join, and we invite you to share your thoughts on this topic. 

Best of the Web: May 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.

“Engagement is a function of listening to the customer voice, how they’re behaving and how they actually want to engage with us.” Don’t get trapped by the buzzword “engagement.” It can be a powerful metric for understanding your relationship to your constituents, or it can mean nothing at all.
 
There’s no doubt that many organizations are using cloud technologies in innovative ways. But, more specifically, what links might we find between the unique aspects of cloud technology, and the conditions and success factors for innovation?
 
We can’t assume nonprofits have the resources to provide high quality data about their own effectiveness. While that might seem like an easy and obvious thing for them to be able to do, it’s not—not in the least. Organizations pushed to provide impact data to get funding will provide something, but it’s not likely to be the high quality data or strategic metrics that would actually help them improve. How can we remedy this?
 
Next time you think about designing a technology platform for a community, don’t forget to take the time and effort and get the expertise you need to build the accompanying relationship infrastructure that will ensure the success of your investment.
 
From homeless and addicted to internet guru with tens of thousands of followers on social media, Mark Horvath, @hardlynormal on Twitter, is now working toward one goal: to end homelessness in our lifetime. The @home campaign uses documentary film, social media, and a smartphone game to activate communities to solve homelessness in their own backyards.
 
The belief that Facebook is a "magic" solution for marketing and fundraising is false. Facebook is just one of many tools in your marketing toolbox. The social sharing nature of Facebook can be vital, and sometimes critical, to your marketing and promotions plan, but only if you’re willing, able, and motivated.
 
Don’t get discouraged by low traffic. You organization’s blog can help you demonstrate knowledge, expertise, and experience; feed your social media; and provide content for grant submissions.
 
While the focus of the article is on for-profit companies, it’s even more critical for nonprofit brands to be human. The success of any social program is ultimately determined by its ability to connect on a one-to-one, human level. That connection is even more important for your cause.
 
Unsure if cloud technology is right for your organization? This lighthearted animated video explains the basics of the cloud and how it can help an organization. 
 
Research shows that by 2014 mobile device usage will exceed that of desktop and laptop computers. What does this mean for nonprofit organizations and online fundraising campaigns?
 
There's a big hullabaloo lately about infographics, but what are they? How do you make your own? In this short video, research analyst Kyle Andrei explains the basics excerpted from Idealware’s recent free report, “Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing: From Data to Design.”
 

Talking Tech Capacity

On the heels of the launch of our report, A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, we’ve enjoyed leading the conversation around the topic of foundations supporting technology capacity building. We see technology support as a great way to have a positive impact throughout all your grantees’ programs and services. It’s not as simple as that, but that’s where we like to start.

Technology in and of itself will not save lives or end world hunger, but it can have a powerful effect on every organization’s mission. Think about it:
 
  • Broadcast email tools can help you launch a targeted fundraising campaign.
  • A new content management system can allow your staff to easily edit and update your website to raise volunteers around special events.
  • Your organization can convert your one-time donors into legacy donors by using a new donor management system to build relationships with them.
  • A cloud-based backup system can save your organization’s critical data in the face of an unforeseen disaster.
 
Do you have an example of how technology has helped move your organization forward? It may not be obvious at first, but we bet you do. Technology can be powerful for nonprofits. And it’s up to all of us—remember, we’re a nonprofit, too—to help us communicate the impact it can have. The more foundations are aware of the benefits of technology for our organizations, the better partnerships we can form.
 
In A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy, we outline 10 specific tactics foundations can undertake to support technology. If you’re reading this from within a foundation, think about just one tactic you could employ. Start small—we believe great things will follow. If you’re a nonprofit staffer, talk to your foundation partners about implementing technology to forward your mission. 
 
Either way, be sure to download the guide.
 
If you’d like to engage more deeply in this conversation, join us for a special online panel, Supporting Nonprofit Technology: A Panel for Foundations, on June 11 at 1 pm (EST).
 

Which Types of Tools to Use for Managing Constituents

How do you track your constituent data? You can use a broad, shallow system that can track all your different types of constituents, from donors and volunteers to clients and members. You'll get a big picture of everyone who supports your organization, and be able to see when individuals support you in different ways, like attending events and donating. But with this high-level approach, you won't have as powerful of features to drill down into the data of any one category.

You could instead use a deep, targeted database, that provides lots of features to get a rigorous view of a single type of constituent, like your donors. But what you gain in power you lose ins cope. In most cases, you'll only be able to effectively track data for a single type of constituent. How do you choose what strategy is best for managing your organization's constituent data?

Want to learn more about constituent data strategies 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 tacticaltech.idealware.org.

If You Endorse Me, I’ll Endorse You

Last fall, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature—endorsements. Maybe you've seen them piling up in your inbox as you're endorsed for skills you may or may not have by people who may or may not be qualified to judge. Basically, they’re the poor man’s Recommendation; an easy and painless way to vouch for someone’s claimed skills. But has LinkedIn made it too easy?
 
Over on Mashable a couple months ago, there was a great op-ed from Todd Wasserman in which he argued that Endorsements are ineffective because they're too easy, too frictionless, to make.  default, when you endorse a connection’s skills, you’re endorsing all of their skills—you have to manually uncheck the skills you don’t want to endorse. If your LinkedIn profile is supposed to be your online resume, do carte-blanche endorsements actually add any value to prospective employers compared to writing a recommendation? The value in someone vouching for your skills is that it takes conscious effort on their part to be a reference. If we make that process as easy as clicking a button, it loses its value. 
 
Both Mashable and Forbes have pointed out another trend around endorsements. Many people will endorse your skills because they want you to do the same. This quid pro quo economy also cheapens what should be a glowing and powerful action. I’m not going to stick my neck out to help someone get a job just because they did the same for me; I’m going to do that because I actually feel they have those skills, and would be the right fit. 
 
The easy solution to this problem comes from LinkedIn—you still have to approve or reject Endorsements. We just have to collecting decide that we will be more careful and meaningful, only giving or accepting Endorsements that we actually deserve.
 
Oh well, wishful thinking… 

In Search of Better Data About Nonprofits' Programs

What are we really asking for when we require nonprofits to produce data on performance, effectiveness and impact? While the surface logic is clear – we need to know this information – the full context and set of assumptions surrounding the request bears closer examination.

Our Executive Director and Founder, Laura Quinn, recently posed this question to the community and shared her thoughts on answering it over on the Markets for Good blog. We believe this is the beginning of a great conversation. Click through to read it, and let us know what you think. 

AskIdealware: What Is an Infographic?

There's a big hullabaloo lately about infographics, but what are they? How do you make your own? Kyle Andrei explains in this preview of Idealware's newly released report. Watch the video, download the report for free, and then get started creating and sharing your own infographics.

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