Why your nonprofit needs to know about mobile

Mobile facesIn May I'll be giving a keynote at Australia's nonprofit technology conference, Connecting Up 2013. In a recent blog post on the Connecting Up site, I share some examples and reasons nonprofits need to engage with mobile technology.




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Top Five Benefits of Having a Technology Plan

For over 20 years I’ve been helping nonprofits improve the ways they use technology. Whenever I began a new consulting project – be it for a communications plan, a website audit or coaching – one of the first questions I always asked was “Do you have a tech plan?” That’s because no matter how an organization engages with technology, a good plan is the touchstone.

Here are five top benefits I have seen organizations reap from technology planning.

1. Effort Coordination

You wouldn’t send your staff out to help people without a plan, so why approach tech – which practically everyone uses in their job – without a plan? Like a lighthouse in a storm, a good plan helps you steer your efforts and helps you avoid the rocks of uncertainty.

2. Saving Resources

Let’s be real, technology can be expensive and confusing. Quick fixes and short-sighted “band-aids” lead to spending much more than is necessary. The bottom line is that, without a plan, you are being inefficient in your use of resources.

3. Increased Effectiveness

By being thoughtful about how they use technology, I have seen organizations increase the number of people they serve by 20% with the same resources. Planning helps identify and reduce inefficiencies. When staff have the right tools for their job, they are more effective in everything they do.

4. Better Decisions

Every technology planning project I’ve been involved in has resulted in improved data management. It often takes the form of reducing the data “noise” that staff and management deal with, focusing on what data is really useful. This in turn improves their ability to make sound decisions based on data.

5.  More Funding

A good plan connects your mission with your use of technology. For example, if a funder is interested in increasing the amount and quality of mental health services in your community, you can show how funding your technology project will help achieve that goal. It also provides a basis for showing other funders what your technology costs are for projects they fund.

No matter what their age, experience or comfort level with technology, people from organizations of all sizes and types reap these benefits. They are often surprised when I tell them that they already know 80% of what they need to know to be effective in technology planning, because they know their organization’s culture, history, processes and environment.

I’m thrilled to be bringing my knowledge and experience about technology planning  to not-for-profits in Australia through 4 Connecting Up! workshops in March 2012. The workshops will provide the know-how to create a technology plan and an example of a plan to follow. Join us and boost the results you get from your investments in technology. After all, who doesn’t want to be more effective, efficient and better stewards of resources?

Learn more about the workshops here


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Text and Mobile Basics for Nonprofits: Do’s and Don’ts

My colleague Sarah R Moore reminded our students at our recent session on Storytelling Through Social Media – "Remember when email grew to be essential  and many nonprofits wished they had been collecting email addresses all along? This is the same with mobile numbers and texting. Even if you're not texting yet, you want to start collecting mobile numbers now."

Now is the time for all nonprofits to have mobile and texting on their radar. Smart-phone sales have outstripped PC sales and the number of visitors accessing websites from mobile devices is growing every week. The first step is to start including them in communications and technology plans.

There are a variety of interactions people can have with a nonprofit via mobile devices. They can donate, be directed to a web page via QR code, or receive and share information via text.

For donating via text, donations are still limited to $5 or $10, though that is supposed to be changing in the not too distant future. Unless you have the media reach of the recent disasters in Haiti or Japan – or you have access to large numbers of potential donors at a concert or sporting event – this is likely not worth pursuing for most nonprofits. By developing a mobile version of your website that includes the ability to donate you can accept any level of gift, just as you can on your website – but it does require an investment in programming. It is also possible to develop applications (apps) for mobile devices, but there needs to be a clear strategy and reason behind it as this too requires resources to develop.

QRcodereaderYou've likely seen QR codes in advertisements or other print materials. You can scan the code with your smartphone and it will take you to a website where you can learn more about the person/product/service/etc. The Nonprofit Technology Network has used them on conference badges where the code is linked to attendees profiles. One student at a recent workshop shared that she scanned a QR code on a restaurant menu to get nutritional information and she got sent a coupon for use towards that meal! Unfortunately another student reported being called after scanning a QR code – not a good practice.

Texting is where most nonprofits can start without a large investment. Texting can take several forms, such as occasional text messages to alert folks about events or actions or sharing of information, i.e., texting "BANANA" to a certain code could send back the nutritional information.

Here are some basic DOs and DON'Ts:

1. Include TEXT in Communication Preferences

Have a communication preference field in your database. Your constituents should have a choice to communicate with you via postal mail, email, phone or text. Track that choice and communicate with them via their preferred channel.

Collect the information and then ignore it.

2. Start Collecting Mobile Numbers

Ask folks for their mobile number and if they would like to receive texts from you. Always indicate how they can STOP the texts (usually by texting STOP to a specific code).

Start texting without asking or without warning


3. Start Texting Intelligently

Start with something small and specific, like an event. You might consider sending a text for Save the Date, one for Registration Open, one for Last Day for Early Bird rate, and maybe one with a link to directions the day before. Or for a protest, maybe one announcing it and one with details.

Start randomly texting – have a purpose, measure activity, learn, try again.
Text registration reminders to folks who already registered – it's annoying and you look uncoordinated. 


4. Track Text & Mobile Activity

Ask folks you text how they like what you text, if they would like other information, if they prefer a different frequency of contact, etc. Use that information to craft future texts campaigns. Try again, track, learn, try again. Repeat.

Through your website analytics program, track how many folks are visiting your site via mobile. Dig down to see what pages most of them access, to get a clue about which pages to incude on a mobile site, which is usually much smaller and more text-based than your full website.

Put effort into mobile or texting without tracking impact.


Here are some resources for further reading:MobileMedia Toolkit

mobileactive.org, includes an "mDirectory" for tools and case studies.

mobilemediatoolkit.org – tips on how to create, share and deliver media to mobile

Mobile: The Next Frontier of Fundraising – socialbrite

Five Best Apps To Send Group Text Messages On The Cheap – lifehacker



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Improve Nonprofits’ Understanding of Google Tools – Share Your Story

You can help the community better understand how to use Google Apps, Google Analytics, Google Adwords/Grants, Google Checkout, Google Earth, Google Maps, and YouTube to advance their work by sharing your stories and experiences with these tools. Nonprofit users’ stories will inform Google on the best topics and examples to incorporate into their trainings for each module.

To participate send your contact information, including email/phone number, web address, and the Google tools your agency uses to npstories@gmail.com. We'll be collecting stories through the end of the year.

I'm working with Compasspoint and Google to build training modules that include case studies and strategies as well as information about the tools. More details on Compasspoint's website: http://www.compasspoint.org/gtools



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Ten Nonprofit Technology “Commandments”

This article was first written in 2003 for NTEN. It has had slight revisions to improve clarity in 2013. Even after all these years, I believe the ten ideas remain relevant.

Systems IntegrationThe choices you make about technology can make or break your organization. The time for making guesses about your technology choices is over. There are two different paths our sector – and your organization specifically – can choose. One leads to effective technology use, the other does not. Let’s look at what actions organizations can take to use technology effectively. It actually has much more to do with your data than with technology tools.

 For nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, the most important asset in fulfilling their missions, besides their people, is their information. Data is important because organizations use it in everything they do from making a phone call or writing a letter to requesting funding. As the volume of available data grows, locating useful information becomes increasingly difficult. The advantage is going to those organizations who can collect, organize, process and act on that useful information. Working with large volumes of information intelligently requires technology tools that are appropriate for your needs. The increasing volume and importance of information makes Information Technology essential to helping good causes succeed.

What is ”using technology effectively”?

Technology is not an end in itself. Simply having a database, a network and a technology budget does not mean you are using technology effectively. Truly effective use of technology means something different for every organization – only you can say what it means for your organization. The activities detailed below make up a good part of the road to effective use of technology. On the road you will examine what you do, how and even why. You will identify and correct your mistakes and build on your successes.

This is a complex issue, so get help from an expert if there is not one in your organization. There is no substitute for a person who knows how technology tools are being used in nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Make sure you have a nonprofit-focused technologist included in all discussions about your data and tools. When someone understands what you want to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it, they can then suggest tools to help you act faster or more effectively. In technology staff and consultants, our community has a wonderful resource to help them benefit from tools that use technology – take advantage of that.

Here are 10 things that organizations need to make effective use of technology tools. 

-> Which ones you are already doing and which need improvement?


After people, Data is Your Most Important Resource

Act accordingly in planning and allocating resources. For most organizations, staff salaries are the largest budget item. Is Data the second largest? Too infrequently.

Your Results Depend on Your Investment in Data

Dedicate staff time to collecting, maintaining and understanding it. Spend money on finding the right tools for you. The minimum spent on technology tools will get you the minimum impact.

Define and Know Your Data Needs and Uses

Define the data that your organization needs to fulfill its mission. Know where to get the data and specifically which pieces of data are important to you.

Seek out Data and Keep it Flowing

Actively seek out data that could help you succeed – include data on clients, funders, members, donors and employees. Make a concerted, ongoing effort to keep data flowing into your organization and to maintaining that data.

Define Your Needs in Detail BEFORE tool selection

Define and create the best system you can to hold and manipulate your data. DO NOT grab the first tool or software that looks good. Measure twice and cut once goes double – no triple – for technology. If you have tools, regularly review new options.

Honestly Look at Your Information Systems

Take an honest, detailed look at how your systems do – and do not – work. Look at human systems, data systems and communication systems. It is difficult for you to be objective about your organization’s problems, so get an independent opinion – and listen to it.

Maintain Commitment of Board and Staff

Get agreement from staff, management and the board to make an ongoing commitment of resources to improve operations.

Have an Ongoing Conversation about Data

Have an ongoing discussion in the organization about the best ways to use your data, and what you can learn from it. This can be between the ED and the Program manager, or it could be a six-member committee of staff from throughout the organization.

Keep in Touch with Other Organizations

Keep in regular contact with other organizations and the nonprofit technology community in order to keep up to date with tools and solutions. There is no substitute for advice from experience. Seek out organizations of a similar size and mission and share challenges. Don’t continue working in isolation or ignorance.

Knowledge Eases Fear – Gather and Share Knowledge

Identify and confront techno-phobia in all its forms. No matter if it’s the ED, the development director or the administrative assistant – you need everyone pulling in the same direction, not at opposite ends. If you are that person, remember that the cure for fear is knowledge – seek it out.

Since data is essential to the life and success of every nonprofit organization, and the best way to manage data is with tools that use technology, then information technology should be the second most important thing to every organization – and funder.

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7 Social Media Resources & Tools for 2011

Here are seven tools that I think they are worth a look for nonprofits. These range from social media policy and advice to video distribution to managing your social media presence to charting your social graph.


Social Media Policy Database – Social Media Governance

More than 160 searchable Social Media policies


Article, Case Studies and Advice on Using Social Media – Social Media Examiner

A free online magazine designed to help you discover how to best use social media tools to find supporters, increase contributions and generate more brand awareness.


Free Video Syndication & Analytics Tools – TubeMogul

Update multiple video and social networking sites from one place. Analytics tools shows who views what and where videos are being viewed.

Understand Your Online Social Capital – Peer Index

View vital stats, audience vs. authority compared with others, a topic fingerprint and more.


Check Username Availability Across Social Networking Sites – Namechk

Check across dozens of popular Social Networking sites for your desired username or vanity url.


TwilertTwitter email alerts – Twilert

Get email updates of whe your organization, brand or any keyword is mentioned on Twitter.


Search Twitter Profiles & Compare Users – Followerwonk

This tool helps you search Twitter profiles, so you can find people who work on specific issues or in specific topic areas. Also compare users by followers, tweets, etc.

Some of these tools I use, some I heard about at the recent Nonprofit Technology Conference. Thanks to Farra Trompeter at BigDuck for many of these – get the slides from her session here: http://slidesha.re/11NTCbrand .

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Google For Nonprofits – New Single Application


I attended the Google for Nonprofits event in Washington DC on March 18th at the Google Offices.

Google4nps There were three nonprofits who talked about how they used Google tools and some announcements about current and forthcoming features of their tools. Google staff from the Google Earth, YouTube, Google Mobile and the nonprofit program also spoke.

The big news – that Google now has a single application for nonprofit organizations to fill out to get approved for Google Grants, YouTube nonprofit status and other offerings. Not only is there now just one application, but Google has pledged to review all apps and provide a decision within thirty days. Having heard from organizations about waiting months to hear about their application, this is great news. If you have applied for a Google Grant in the past and would like to participate in the YouTube partner program, you will need to apply again.

Beyond the adword grants, this includes letting nonprofits use enterprise level versions of Google Apps – Docs, Gmail and premium geo-features (using Google Maps and Google Earth). This also includes YouTube, which provides branded channels, the features of including overlays (links) and annotations in videos as well as having the Google checkout button on the page to facilitate donations. The program also includes promotion – being featured on the Google nonprofits home page.

For more information and the application, go to www.google.com/nonprofits

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Causes Gift Cards

I have been to connected to Causes on Facebook for a long time, donating to friends causes and for the last two years doing Birthday Wishes through them. I've been a fan of gift cards for quite a while, I like giving something that the recipient can choose how to use. I recently received a gift card from Causes and had a great experience around using it.

FBCausesJKAvailable in $25 and $50 amounts, much like an iTunes gift card, you scratch off a covering to reveal a number that you then redeem via the website. They allow the recipient to choose from over 1.5 million nonprofits.

What really impressed me positively was the whole experience surrounding using the card. The easy to use and well constucted web site was the beginnning of the great experience. The redemption page is uncluttered and has links to help if you have problems with your card. Once I entered my number and signed in via Facebook, I was taken to the donation page, which really impressed me.

Causes friends projectsOn the left side of the page is a place to search nonprofits by name or by category. What I thought was cool was that I could also browse projects by those that were cloe to their goal, my friends projects, most urgent (campaigns ending soon) and those recently updated.

Here you see a screenshot of my friends projects. As we know, people are more likely to give to a cause their friends recommend than they hear about from a stranger. I enjoyed browsing through my friends causes and reading about the projects they support. It not only gave me a bit of new insight as to what was important to my friends but introduced me to several nonprofits I had not heard of before, setting me up to be a bit more likely to give to them in the future.

I have friends who recieve services from a nonprofit in Sonoma County called Food for Thought, so I searched for it and it came up immediately. I was able to choose to have my donation go there and then asked if I wanted to share it on Facebook, which I did.

FBGiftCardFFT A few days later I recevied an email from Causes asking about my experience and about the ease of use of the website.

I thought this was an excellent example of having a conversation with users and getting their feedback to improve your site, which I recommend for all nonprofits.

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The Networked Nonprofit Consultant

CVNL On January 12th I will be presenting on the topic "Social Media for Consultants" to the Nonprofit Consultants Network at the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Management in San Rafael, CA (if you are a consultant to nonprofits in the SF Bay Area I strongly encourage you to check it out – CVNL's Peer Affinity Groups).

Networked Nonprofit As a huge fan of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's The Networked Nonprofit book, it has been interesting to look through that lens and see how it applies to consultants. Consultants usually don't fundraise for themselves and they are are not trying to engage supporters in the way most nonprofits do. In my experience, as a consultant I focus on keeping my skills up to date, networking, finding prospects/clients and managing my reputation. I think that is true for most consultants.

So how do The Networked Nonprofit principles translate for consultants? Some of the things that resonated with me from the book are:

Sharing Ideas – prospective clients and colleagues need to know what I am thinking about, working on and what types of advice I give to have confidence in hiring/recommending me. The old model of consulting seemed to be to not give anything away without compensation, but I think it is important to give people a taste of my skills and knowledge for free.  Social media allows me to easily share tips and thoughts, both my own and those of others I admire (like Beth , Allison and many others).

Relationship Building as Core Responsibility – Everyone I come into contact with online is a potential referrer if not client or colleague. An important component of building relationships is acknowledging, appreciating and thanking people who mention me, quote me, thank me or give me props. It takes 15 seconds to say "Thank You!" I also try to be sure to share/retweet what others post if I think it is of value to those that follow me.

The Right Metrics – Just as tracking online metrics is important to a nonprofit, it is important for me as a consultant to track which channels and content work best for me. Looking back on my website stats for 2010, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are in the top ten of sites referring traffic. This also means seeing what Facebook posts get the most comments/likes and what tweets get retweeted the most.

Some of the other concepts they discuss also have relevance for consultants online presence, like "Listen First, Engage Second", "Content has a Social Life" and "Small Pilots – Learn, Reiterate".

Though consultants may have different aims online, may of the same excellent practices and habits that are effective for nonprofits work equally well for consultants.


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Ten Principles for Nonprofit Technology Professionals

In 2008 I led a discussion through an NTEN Affinity Group to craft a code of conduct that nonprofit technology providers could agree upon. This was based on work that Marc Osten had done to articulate a set of principles for the UK circuit rider movement with help from Beth Kanter and Michelle Murrain. 

As a follow-up, at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference I facilitated a discussion about what might be done to find common ground among #nptech providers. While never officially adopted by NTEN or other organizations, they stand the test of time

We hope that these are principles that nonprofit technology service providers, consultants and vendors can all agree upon.


NonProfit Technology Professional’s Principles

We, as technology professionals serving nonprofit organizations, pledge to:

  1. Do no intentional harm to data or devices containing data 
  2. Appreciate, respect and adapt our approaches to an organization’s culture, mission, context and resources 
  3. Focus on solutions appropriate in both the short and long term
  4. Explain technology strategies and tools using clear, non-technical language
  5. Understand and communicate relevant excellent practices as well as legal and technical requirements related to our work
  6. Engage in continuous learning to maintain our skills and knowledge
  7. Regularly participate in – and share knowledge with – our nptech community
  8. Maintain ethical practices and declare any conflicts of interest
  9. Provide recommendations and not directives, communicating the reasoning behind recommendations, ensuring decisions are always the clients
  10. Be transparent about pricing for products, services and any project costs


Additional history:

On March 13 of 2008, the following message was sent out to all relevant nonprofit technology related listservs, online bulletin boards and affinity groups, showing the supporters of the initiative.

Dear Colleagues,

Imagine our U.S. community of nonprofit technology professionals – staff, consultants, vendors, support organizations and others – having a set of principles to guide our work and let other communities know us better.

Most groups of professionals have principals or codes of conduct that their members agree to abide by –  nonprofit technology professionals (NTPs) in the USA being a notable exception. We would like to facilitate our community generating and agreeing to a set of principles/ code of conduct. The UK Circuit Riders have already articulated and presented a set of principles appropriate for them, that many have signed on to follow. Now we think it’s our turn.

We are presenting a draft set of principles as a starting point for discussion. NTEN has agreed to host the discussion through an online affinity group. Over the next 90 days, we ask all of you to review the draft, comment, contribute and discuss (see process schedule below).

At the end of ninety days we will put all of the feedback and discussion together into a set of principles built by the community. We will then encourage all nonprofit technology professionals to sign on to the principles and abide by them.

We are looking for basic principles applicable to the broadest range of nonprofit technology professionals – staff, consultants, vendors, professors and others who identify with our community.

Sign up for the discussion forum where you can view the initial draft, read more about the why? and how?, comment and discuss.

We look forward to the conversation – including in-person discussion and input at NTC – and we will contact this list again when the final draft is ready.

We hope you will  join us in taking another step to professionalizing what we love to do,

Beth Kanter, John Kenyon, Michelle Murrain, Marc Osten

Process Supporters (organizations for identification purposes only):

Peter Campbell, Earthjustice & TechCafeteria

Teresa Crawford,  Director Advocacy and Leadership Center, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Jeff Forster, Robert Morris University, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

David Geilhufe, Philanthropy Program Manager at NetSuite

Dave Greenberg, CiviCRM

Mary Gross, Director of InfoTAP, a program of Nonprofit Management Solutions

Allen Gunn, Aspiration Tech

Cheryl Hanback, Web & Graphic Design

Phil Klein, Pen & Pixel

Eric Leland, Leland Design

Sheldon Mains, Nonprofit Tech Consultant

Ryan Ozimek, PICnet

Laura Quinn, Idealware

Jon Stahl, ONE/NW

Michael Stein, Internet & Media Strategist

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