Laura Quinn's blog

New article: Engaging Constituents Using Mobile Technology

We've got two new articles going up very close together!  The first one is up now:  Engaging Constituents Using Mobile Technology 

It's a nice overview of the various ways that nonprofits might use mobile phones to reach out to constituents using mobile texts, giving, pledges, websites, apps, and more!  This is a really complex area, as we found when we went to research it, so we're happy to be able to provide a summary to all the information we found!

Online Advertising On the Cheap

 Online advertising is more affordable than it might sound. With Google Ads, you can reach out to the people searching on a particular keyword.  Facebook ads can be targeted it to the exact demographic you're interested in, based on age, sex, geographic location, education, or even your own Facebook audience.  Blog ads are also reasonably affordable and inexpensive.  On a budget of a couple hundred dollars, you could probably reach a number of people that weren't previously familiar with your organization.

Online advertising lets you advertise your organization or mission through other people’s websites. Some sites limit you to text ads, while others let you run banner ads—usually an image limited to a particular size, though animation and interactive banner ads are sometimes possible. You typically pay for ads by “impression”—the number of times the ad shows on a site—or by “click”—the number of times any user clicks on the ad.
Google AdWords are a common, cost-effective method. You create a short text ad and choose the keywords and geographic area you’d like to reach, and Google posts your ad next to searches for them. Google provides easy-to-use tools to track your results and further optimize campaigns, making it straightforward to manage. Cost depends on the popularity of the keywords you choose, but often starts at just a few cents for each user who clicks through to your site—and you can cap the amount you spend per day. Even better, qualifying nonprofits can get up to $10,000 per month  in free Google AdWords advertising through the Google Grants program.
Facebook also supports online ads similar to Google’s, for somewhat less expense. Advertisers have the option to create either text- or image-based ads, and pay either per-click or per-impression. Easy to use tools allow you to target a very specific demographics, and pay likely somewhere between $0.50 and $1.50 for each person who clicks your ad. Facebook charges a $1 per day minimum in the U.S.
Both Google and Facebook offer tools that let you monitor your ad's performance in a lot of specific detail, including how much you've spent, and how many people have clicked.  Facebook also reports on the demographics of the people who have clicked your ad -- a very interesting point of data.
Many Blogs and websites also accept ads, a good way to target a particular niche audience. Companies like Blogads facilitate advertising across a number of different sites. These networks typically let you search for Blogs and websites by demographic, audience size and prices. Prices vary depending on the blog, placement and duration, but start as low as $15 per site for a week-long ad on a less-known site. 



New In-Depth Classes from Idealware!

 We're excited this fall to be trying out a series of longer classes -- both online and live.  We'd love your help in spreading the word to those who might be interested -- we're trying to gauge the interest to decide whether we should offer the online ones.  Pass on the information!

 Email Fundraising: Online Deep Dive
6 online sessions: Tuesdays 3:00 - 4:30 Eastern Time
Starting Tues, Sep 14th and running through Tues, Oct 12th
$275 for up to three people in the same organization

Over the course of this six part series, you will design and create a full-fledged email fundraising campaign, ready to go for your year-end appeal. Through expert-led sessions, worksheets, and review of your work by both peers and experts, we'll walk you through creating an overall strategy, writing a series of emails, defining the email and online donation tools that you'll need, and creating an approach to tracking and measuring your success. This course will require about two hours a week outside of the sessions themselves, and is geared at those who want to literally produce an email fundraising campaign during the course. Sound interesting to you? Please let us know so we can gauge interest in the course.

Low-Cost Donor Management Systems: Online Deep Dive
5 online sessions: Wed and Fri 3:00 - 4:30 Eastern Time
Starting Wed, Sep 22nd and running through Wed, Oct 6th
$190 for up to three people in the same organization

 Looking to explore the world of low-cost donor management systems? We'll take you through a deep dive of the easier to setup options that are under $2500 in the first year (some much cheaper). Through sessions and worksheets, we'll first help you define what's important to you in a donor management system. We'll then take in-depth look at five systems -- Giftworks, eTapestry, DonorPerfect Online, Z2 Neon, and Common Ground-- with both vendor demos and expert commentary. We'll help you pick a few systems to focus on, and walk through how to choose and implement a system. Sound interesting to you? Please let us know so we can gauge interest in the course.

Boston Email Fundraising Bootcamp: In Person Training
September 30, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm Eastern. $125.00
Conducted in partnership with Third Sector New England, this IN PERSON TRAINING conducted in Boston, MA will be an intensive, activity-packed day to help you jumpstart your email fundraising efforts. Whether you are new to the world of email fundraising or just need a refresher, join us to hear from experts from Idealware and other firms and get hands-on help from peers and consultants in thinking through and beginning to design your own email fundraising strategy. Register now>

The World of Ticketing Options

 We're in the midst of researching options for ticketing software for a big training for arts organizations.  It's a complicated area, with the potential of a lot of advanced requirements. You don't need to be a very large arts venue to want to be able to sell tickets to reserved seats both  through a box office and online.  And pretty much any venue would want to be able to integrate data about patrons who have bought tickets with a fundraising process, to consider them as donors.  But when you put these two together, it makes for a complex, and often expensive system.

General Admissions Ticketing
At the lowest end of the spectrum, there's general admission seating solutions.  You can use the same vendors in this area as you would use for paid event registration -- as for registering for a workshop or a class.  Vendors in this space, like EventBrite or BrownPaperTickets (or see our Few Good Event Registration Tools for a broader overview) allow you to sell tickets online, including different levels of tickets to the same event (like VIP or mezzanine tickets). BrownPaperTickets is particularly compelling in this area, as they'll send your patrons actual paper tickets via mail, if desired.  
Box office staff could certainly buy tickets for patrons that call in via the same interface, but there's no particular support for this, so it may be awkward.  These tools don't offer anything in the way of fundraising support, so you'll have to integrate the data to with another system to do most any donation solicitiation.  You can export a file to import into any donor management system, or EventBrite or BrownPaperTickets both integrate with Salesforce.
Stand-Alone Solutions for Reserved Seats
If you just need to sell reserved seats for your venue, and it's not critical to you to easily pull your event patrons into your fundraising process, there's a lot of small online software that will allow you to easily sell tickets.  These websites -- like, TixHub,, and Vendini --- allow you to sell tickets, often including box office functionality to print tickets to box office printers.  BrownPaperTickets has also recently added reserved seating functionality. In a similar vein, New Concept Software's Tick-It! Trak Pro and  Center Stage Software's WinTix/WebTix provide both installed box office software and online solutions.
None of these systems will support any kind of robust fundraising, however, such as tracking pledges or gifts in kind.  
Integrated Constituent Tracking and Ticketing Solutions
Even for a small organization, it can be very useful to have a single system that allows you to track not just tickets but also a full fundraising process -- from pledges to gift-in-kind to major donor cultivation processes.  Easy-Ware's TotalInfo and Arts Management Systems' Theatre Manager are both interesting options in this realm, tailored for nonprofits.  They provide affordable software which is installed on your own computer, with integrated online ticketing functionality.  
Patron Technologies, best known for the broadcast email tool PatronMail, has just introduced a new system called PatronManager which is built on top of the Salesforce platform to include reserved seating ticketing and box-office functionality.  It’s an interesting option especially for small to medium sized organizations who have a number of constituents to track in addition to their patrons.
For medium sized and larger organizations, Choice Ticketing Systems and AudienceView Ticketing provide more sophisticated functionality.  Neither of these tools specializes in donor management, but each provides some constituent tracking functionality as well as the ability to take and track donations.  Paciolan, recently acquired by Comcast, provides ticketing and fundraising functionality for larger organizations. Blackbaud’s The Patron Edge also provides box office functionality, with some ability to integrate into The Raisers Edge.
Last but certainly not least, Tessitura is the Cadillac of the arts management world.  It's very well respected for highly usable functionality that truly integrates complex box office, online ticketing, and fundraising and more.  It's a complex system that's much more appropriate for organizations with multi-million dollar budgets than for small ones -- it requires considerable customization, training, and staff time to use.
Solutions Specializing in Commercial Venues
If you have complex box office needs but don't need a lot of fundraising functionality, you may find that the ticketing systems used primarily by stadiums and commercial venues work well for your needs.  These systems -- like ProVenue by, Ticketmaster Classic or Ticketmaster Archtics -- don't tend to have much sophisticated functionality to track donor interactions, pledges, or a donation made with an event payment, but instead focus on complex online and offline box office functionality needed by venue.
What Else?
We’re still in the midst of researching, so your comments would be very helpful.  Know the ticketing space?  Who have we missed?  What did we get wrong?  (Please note that this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of EVERY ticketing option, just an overview of some of the most widely used).
By the way, if you’re interested in ticketing, check out Technology In The Arts’ 2009 Ticketing Software Satisfaction Survey, for a useful look at what’s important to organizations and system usage, divided by size of organization.   

Introducing the Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide!

 After almost a year of preparation, and six months of research, it’s finally here!  We're thrilled to announce Idealware’s free Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.  This guide walks you through a step-by-step process to decide what social media channels make sense for your organization via a workbook, guide, and the results of our research.  And through the included Consultant Directory, you can find a professional to help define and implement your strategy.

Created in partnership with the New Organizing Institute, and with the support of Trellon, The Decision Guide focuses on the tangible results that nonprofits are seeing from Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Photo Sharing Sites, Video Sharing Sites, and other social media channels, and helps you to decide how they fit within your own communication mix.  
And if you feel we haven't been holding up our end of our own social media channels, you can blame the Decision Guide.  Now that that's out into the world, we can breathe a sigh of relief... and getting back to our own regular blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, et at.
Talk a look at  the Decision Guide (free registration required) for yourself!

A Tweet into the Ether

 Our survey about usage of Twitter is still open (if you use Twitter and haven't taken, please do!  Or spread the word, especially outside the nonprofit and technology world), but one fact is quite clear from it:  

Your followers may well not actually be paying any attention to you.

Currently, survey respondents officially follow, on average, 385 people each.  How many do they actively pay attention to (i.e. when they're checking Twitter, they see the person's tweets)?  81, on average.  21%.
When you add to the fact that many people aren't constantly monitoring Twitter, and that most miss tweets that went out when they weren't monitoring it, you see a picture of Twitter as kind a "post into the ether" -- you can tweet, and some people are likely listening, but it's very hard to know who or how many.
I'm still thinking of the implications of this for our Social Media Decision Guide.  How does this affect the ways that a nonprofit should use Twitter?  Thoughts?

New article: Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Online Communications

 I was worried about re-creating the wheel with our new article, Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Online Communications, but I'm pretty happy with the way it came out.  We propose breaking the world of online metrics into four kinds -- Views, Followers, Engagement, and Conversion-- which is helpful in forcing you to define what you actually want to measure in terms of your communication goals.

Thanks to TechSoup for the financial support of the article!

In Seach of Phone Banking Software

So here's a piece of software that seems pretty useful...imagine this scenario:

You have a bunch of volunteers mobilized to call constituents. Perhaps they're calling previous donors, to ask them to donate again.  Or they're calling around the community, to encourage people to come to a hearing.  Regardless, they'll need a call list with names and numbers, and some way to note who they spoke to and what people said.

You can certainly do this on paper, but then some poor smuck has to enter all the information as to who was reached and what their response was into the database.  Seems like something that software would be useful for, huh?  So I'm envisioning a tool that would provide volunteers with only their own list (or even just the next person to call), maybe over the web, so they could be either in person or remote.  And then they would get a little form for them to enter response information that would then go straight into a database, for easy loading into your constituent management system.

Sounds useful, huh?  And pretty simple. But I can't find anything like it that's straightforward and  reasonably priced.  This type of functionality sometimes comes packaged with expensive university management software, but that doesn't make sense if you're not a university.  Sungard offers SmartCall, but it's functionality is way overkill for most organizations.  MoveOn uses this functionality to mobilize remote phone-a-thon type actions, but they built it themselves.

What do you think?  Does anyone know of straightforward software to do this?

Help Spread the Word about TechSoup's Donation Program

 Whenever I lead seminars with groups of smaller or grassroots nonprofit organizations, I'm alarmed at how many don't know that they can get discounted software from TechSoup.  I  talked to a group where none of the 30 participants had heard of TechSoup. 

And in fact, TechSoup's doing a webinar next week to introduce the donation program.  Can you help spread the word?  Here's the details:

Get Started with TechSoup's Product Donation Program

Thursday, June 10 11 a.m. Pacific time

Does your nonprofit or public library need better technology? Wish you had the latest version of that pricey software? Or sturdier hardware?

Learn more about TechSoup's product donation program and how to get started with this free webinar. Join TechSoup, get registered, learn what it means to be qualified and eligible for different donation and discount programs, and start requesting donations.

This webinar will walk you through all the steps of getting started and help you get on your way to low-cost, high-quality technology to help your organization run smoother and meet your mission. This webinar is best for people brand new to TechSoup or whose organization or library may be registered but are just not sure how to get started. TechSoup’s donation programs are open to eligible nonprofits and public libraries.


New articles: Online Donations, and Online Data Backup

 It's a new article bonanza!  Two great new articles up.  With the first, A Few Good Online Donation Tools, we've adapted and updated our very first detailed report, all the way back from 2005 into an article.   As you can imagine, that 2005 report was a tad out of date, but with the help of donors (like you!  thank you!) we've pulled the useful information and updated the information about the tools to provide a useful overview of the area.

And then, on a bit of a different topic, we have A Few Good Tools for Online Data Backup -- an overview of considerations and options for organizations who want to backup their data remotely.  This is a great option for small organizations without tech savvy, as it's often an almost set-it-and-forget it type of thing.  



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