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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NPD10 Live Blog: Next Generation Organizations

(Audio recording available after 8/31)

Panel with Marla Cornelius, Compasspoint; Julie Davidson-Gomez, Exhale; James Lin, Glide Foundation; Olivia Araiza, Justice Matters; Miho Kim, Data Center.

Compasspoint did a report on next generation orgs: Next Generation Organizations by Marla Cornelius and Tim Wolfred (coming in September). Covering a variety of characteristics of next generation organizations: Impact Driven. Finance & Business Savvy; Continuous Learning; Shared Leadership; Wired for Policy Advocacy; Ambiguity of Work-Life Boundaries; Constituents as Thought Partners; Board as Value Add; Multicultural & Culturally Competent.

Initial thoughts/ aspirational components of these dimensions
(Audio recording available after 8/31)

Using storytelling to reframe how we think about impact and results. Being solution agnostic – try everything until it works. Break down the silos between programs, finance, etc. Using failure and learning to improve and innovate.  Power is diffused, power is shared, everyone is tapped for solutions. Keeping connected to advocacy and policy work that relates to your work. People do, touch, learn things in their life that adds alue to their work, hence the need for good work life balance. Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) – who cares what the time sheet says, get work done in a good way that keeps the larger picture in mind.

Discard that scarcity/ charity mindset – you are more than an org, you are part of a larger system. Engage with the network of orgs/people in your focus area as thought partners to find solutions. (Transparency and Openness- see Networked Nonprofit). With boards we try to limit their sphere of influence, we can use them as thought partners in solutions. Boards should derive their priorities from the organizational needs – what impact are they having on your org?. For cultural competency, recognize forms of power, privilege and disadvantage attached to social/cultural categories – does the org seek to counter that kind of oppression.

Points from stories from the panelists:

Julie: Talked about previously avoiding board membership, now a board member, thanks to a board recruitment model that courted her over 3 years. Now learned that governance is just a small part of what she does as a board member. Enjoys haring professional gifts around process and leadership.


Multiculturalism – they really don't use that term. It is really about bringing the whole person into the room,  engaging their whole story. traditional model is to keep peoples stories out of the office. Requires engaging with self-knowledge. learning to tell your own story, where your story and the orgs story connects..

Example from Glide: building is open, no buzzers no locks no "do you have an appointment?". Can be chaotic but is an opportunity for connection.  Security is charged with holding the space open but to be there if there is a situation.  Had security staff attend domestic violence program. Same triggers that start domestic or street violence trigger bad bosses, asshole colleagues, etc.  Helped people find internal physical signs of stress when someone pushes your buttons. Rather than reacting, I can respond if I recognize when I am triggered. Security staff learned from the model, learned to handle his triggers. If you can't recognize/handle your own triggers you can't handle other peoples stories that are bound to trigger you.


They are about how to change a school from the inside out – change the lives of children from families of color, create social justice. Very open space at their office, living room atmosphere. Involves rainstorming, it's about every member of staff in every stage of their lives, being responsive to their needs. More creative staff is engendered when you embrace peoples lives and accommodate staff's lives.


Shared leadership. Org model is group of circles focused on focused on capacity building, program, administration. They had a leadership decapitation. Co-directors left with all of their work, including grant files. Staff was polarized. Looked at how staff interacted with each other. Traditional model was not working, opportunity to create/shape new leadership model. not traditional management structure. Centered on Coordinating council vs. traditional hierarchy. Takes power from founder, major donors, state, etc. and gives it to the staff. Did an exercise about what did/did not work, major disagreements that they hashed out. Found principles they could agree on. First reaction was to create a policy document. Instead they created a "quilt" with different panels, on their wall, reminds them of the fundamental principles that they are working from. Have a tool that reframes mistakes as learning before moving to HR discipline. They have pay equity – everyone gets paid the same. How does pay equity promote/ cultivate the value that you express to the world. There are other elements that they use to mitigate the issues of pay equity. It's about working on things as a process. Shared leadership is actually more structure than less.

Panelist reactions:

James: These new ways of thinking are exciting but intimidating. SOunds great but sounds impossible at the same time. Inspiring but fear inducing.

Miho: Not only the personal is political but the spiritual is political. This journey of change made her look into herself, what are things she is ashamed of, strengths, but once you are authentic, your bond is deeper.

Marla: Thinking about how to incorporate these ideas and stories into her life and be aware of her own limits/paradigms, traditional ways of thinking.

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Most Popular Websites & Why Nonprofits Should Care

It's important for nonprofits to know which websites on the internet have the most traffic. It helps them understand where people are online so they can be sure they are participating on the most popular sites.

Alexacom I am a fan of Alexa.com®, the web information company that ranks websites with the most traffic by country and by category as well as providing data on audiences. While the data you collect on your stakeholders online behavior, through website, email and other analytics is the most important, the data about activity on the greater web helps steer your online strategy.

As sites decline in popularity (as MySpace® seems to be doing, though it still has a lot of traffic) nonprofits may want to think about putting less effort into those channels. This of course depends on your website traffic statistics – if MySpace® continues to be one of the top 20 referrers of traffic to your site you likely want to maintain your presence there. If not, you may want to reduce the resources you expend on maintaining a presence on that channel. I recommend you check out this ranking once a quarter, just to see what sites are rising/falling in popularity.

For example, Twitter has moved from #9 to #7 in the past month. YouTube is now the #2 search engine on the internet after Google and visitors average almost 20 minutes when they visit. Are you on YouTube? Getting familiar with Twitter? You likely should consider it.

Besides statistics by country, you can look at the statistics by category. Under the heading "Society" there are listings for Activism, Philanthropy, LGBT, Issues and more. Under Philanthropy, the top 6 sites are:

1. Care2.com

2. The Animal Rescue Site

3. Caring Bridge

4. The Hunger Site

5. Food and Agriculture Organization

6. Idealist

As of August, 2010, here are the top 20 sites with the most traffic in the United States. The links take you to the detail page on the Alexa.com site:

1.  Google

2.  Facebook

3.  Yahoo! 

4.  YouTube

5.  Amazon.com

6.  Wikipedia

7.  Twitter

8.  Craigslist.org

9.  eBay

10.  Windows Live

11.  Blogger.com

12.  MSN

13.  Myspace

14.  Go

15.  Bing

16.  AOL

17.  LinkedIn

18.  CNN Interactive

19.  ESPN

20  WordPress.com

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LBSNs (Location Based Social Networks): Foursquare

Foursquare logo  

Foursquare is an up & coming social media tool that is just starting to be understood and used by nonprofits. While it's not something you likely need to figure out today, it is a good idea to be familiar with it and have it on your social media radar. At the bottom of this post I list nonprofit specific articles about foursquare.

Foursquare, like other social media tools, comes with its own unique paradigm and language, so requires some explanation up front. Think social networking tool meets location-based game meets travelogue.

With foursquare you sign up for the service and then as you visit places – parks, stores, restaurants, nonprofits, etc. – you "check in" to that place, either directly on the web or through a mobile device. There are different badges you get based on various criteria including number of visits, number of other members signed in and more. If you have the most visits to a certain location, you become the "mayor" of that place and are listed as such on the website. 
Businesses and organizations can use the service to provide virtual "coupons", i.e., "check-in" to our coffee shop get a free bakery product or become the mayor and get 10% off your purchase. 

I like being able to see if friends have visited places so I can ask their opinion about them or have them ask me. The badges and mayorships create a bit of a competition for bragging rights. It also serves as a kind of travelogue as I can go back and see where I checked in when. I have been using it since March and have 16 badges, am mayor of 16 places and have 36 friends I am connected with. 

I am more careful who I friend on foursquare and only connect with trusted friends, not acquaintances, as I am revealing where I am (though you have the option not to share your check-in with anyone). Lately I have seen an uptick in the number of friend requests, so thought it was time to write a post about it.

Launched in March of 2009, Foursquare in June banked $20 million in funding to grow its operations and user base. Article on eweek.

So who is using foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and other services of their kind? Nearly 80 percent of location-based social network users are males, and 70 percent are between the ages of 19 and 35. recent research from Forrester found.

The report from Forrester in July said this "Location-based social networks (LBSNs), such as foursquare and Brightkite, offer interactive marketers the promise of right-time, right-place marketing by connecting people and nearby points of sale with geotargeted media. The market is quite nascent, with only a few million consumers using geolocation apps monthly. Marketers need to know what audiences can be reached with these services, which companies — if any — are ready for prime time, and whether LBSNs align with business objectives. Forrester recommends that bold, male-targeted marketers start testing but that most marketers should wait until they can get a bigger bang for their buck, when adoption rates increase and established players emerge from the fray."

Forrester Report (full report $499)

According to a techcrunch article here are the stats as of July 7, 2010 on Foursqaure vs. Gowalla:

  • As of today, Foursquare has just over 1.9 Million users. Gowalla has around 340,000.At its current pace, Foursquare will surpass 2 Million users within a week.
  • Foursquare is adding almost 10x as many new users per day as Gowalla and, despite a significantly larger base, has a daily percentage growth rate that is 75% higher than Gowalla’s.
  • Currently, Foursquare has about 5.6 Million venues and Gowalla has 1.4 Million venues.
  • 1 in 3 venues on Foursquare have been checked into only once or never. That number is 1 in 4 on Gowalla.
  • The most popular venue name is “Home,” followed by national fast food chains like “McDonald’s” and “Burger King”
  • On Foursquare, men outnumber women almost 2-to-1. Exact gender breakouts are not available for Gowalla, but the most popular first names suggest a similar distribution.

There are some interesting ideas and discussions starting to perculate from nonprofit thinkers. Check out the following for their posts and links to other examples of use:

Beth Kanter – Foursquare

Beth Kanter – Foursquare 2

Danielle Brigida on Location Based Apps by Frank Berry

Danielle Brigida on Location-Based Networks Podcast with Allison Fine

Heather Mansfield – How to Add Your NPO to Foursquare

Allyson Kapin of Care2

Peter Panepento

Bonus suggestion: CauseWorld

Beth Kanter – CauseWorld

Beth Kanter – Causeworld on iPhone

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Online Collaboration Tools Worth a Look for Nonprofits: Etherpad, Yammer, Present.ly and more

Online tools for collaboration are nothing new, but they have matured over the last few years with added features and more real time updating. I think they should be part of every nonprofit organization's toolbox to facilitate communication and collaboration.

EtherPad_ ScreenshotEtherPad
(Note: the online component of this service was purchased by Google and the servers shut down. Google incorporated some of the features in their "rebuilt more real time" Google Docs launched in spring 2010. See below for alternatives.)

I did a webinar/ commuinty brainstorming session in December '09 with NTEN and the awesome Johanna Bates about low-cost and free IT solutions (Download the PDF – 618KB). At NTEN's recommendation, we included this free tool as part of the webinar and as a way to capture both the tools we knew about and the tools that the attendees shared with us.

It works like Google Docs in that many people can collaborate online to build a document, but has some unique features:

  • Contributors don't need to register/be invited to join in
  • There is a chat window seperate from the main doc window, so the two aren't mixed together
  • There are several options for exporting the document
  • Coolest feature (I think): A "time slider" that let's you scroll back in time to see exactly how the document was constructed

If you are looking to collaborate with a team of geographically distributed team, you may want to give this tool a try.

Since the servers on etherpad.com were shut down, on Google's page they list some alternative online services based on Etherpad "(not affiliated with Google, use at your own risk)".

EtherpadorgAlso check out the EtherPad Foundation where you can download an offline version or follow links to other online version.

See also this article from 2009 by David Pierce: "5 Great Alternatives to Google Docs You Should Consider" .


YammersmlogoYammer and Present.ly are tools that can provide a great way for people in organizations to keep informed about what people in other departments are doing. They provides opportunities for people to exchange ideas and stay up to date that normally could take hours in a full staff meeting. For a few orgs it is beginning to replace email as a primary mode of internal communication.

Present.lyThey are called micro-blogging tools and they work somewhat like an internal Twitter. People can post updates on what they are doing, resources (documents, presentations, notes, photos, etc.) and others can respond and comment. You can also create groups and there are apps for people to connect to it from their mobile devices. It can be a great way to manage and maintain a record of activity within an organization.

In their article "Making the Silo Break", Changing Out World shared "According to a study cited in the Economist, corporate workers spend between six and ten hours per week hunting for information that they could otherwise communicate to one another seamlessly in the Facebook/Twitter-like sphere of Yammer."

Related Articles:

Randy Tyler: Using Present.ly for Nonprofits

Randy Tyler: Using Yammer for Nonprofits

TechWall: Present.ly vs. Yammer

CNET: Present.ly vs Yammer

Other tools to consider for collaboration:

Here are some suggestions (from the NTEN Discussion list) for "an integrated solution so that all of (y)our members (with different email domains) can collaborate on projects, share documents, track progress with project management elements, and communicate and connect with each other in a facebook-like way". Some of these are "enterprise level" tools, meaning you usually need a server, that in general may not be appropriate for small- and medium-sized (under $2 million budget) nonprofits .

Jive SBS



Google Wave

Google Applications 

Lotus Live



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Facebook Birthday Wish Fundraising Results

Thanks again to Nelson L, David K, Judith S-D, Leyna B, Judy H, Michael S, Gambill C, Joe Baker, Julie B and Joe Horacek-Lee for helping me use my birthday to raise money for a great cause. I raised $635 thanks to them (oddly enough I raised $653 last year for GSA Network, must be something about those numbers!).

I wish Causes would give me more information on exactly who clicked on my birthday wish link when so I could track which of my posts was most effective in driving traffic and donations.

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Facebook Birthday Wish: Visual Aid

Visual Aid LogoLast year I took my first foray into fundraising with a Facebook Birthday Wish, raising $650 thanks to generous support from my colleagues, friends and family. This year I have the goal of raising $900 for an organization I have been a fan of for a long time - Visual Aid.

Visual Aid encourages artists with life-threatening illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer to continue their creative work. This small organization does big things including providing opportunities for artists to connect with their community, providing art supplies, career resources and educational outreach.

National Portrait Gallery London by John KenyonAs many of my readers know, in my travels I usually try to fit in a visit to an art museum, be it the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh or the National Portrait Gallery in London (pictured) among many.

As an art lover and an amateur photographer I know the power art can have to nurture both the soul of the artist as well as our own.

The founder of Visual Aid and photographs from their current exhibition are featured in the new documentary "We We Here: Stories from the AIDS Years in San Francisco".

Please join me before next Thursday in supporting this wonderful organization, either through my Facebook Birthday Wish page or directly through the Visual Aid site.

Thank you in advance for helping continue the creative work of those who might otherwise be silenced by illness.

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Upcoming SF Bay Area Social Media Trainings

Join me in person for these Social Media session:

Compasspointlogo Social Media 101: Telling Your Story
(w/ Sarah Moore)

Compasspoint's NONPROFIT DAY
August 31, 2010 – San Francisco, CA

here for information and registration

CVNLSocial Media 201
Part 1: What Works? Strategies & Case Studies
Part 2: Creating a Plan for Social Media


September 7, 2010 – San Rafael, CA

Click here for information and registration

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NTEN Webinar: Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report

From NTEN:

Remember those halcyon days of yore when the phrase
"social networking"
was suffused with golden light? New fundraising campaign? Try Causes!
Need to build community? Let's create a Ning site! No budget for a web
site redesign? Start a Facebook Page instead! Maybe it will work.

Google Analytics Traffic Sources Well, playtime's over. If your organization isn't
measuring the results of its social media initiatives, you may be wasting
time and effort. (You just don't know it yet!)

In association with Common Knowledge and thePort, NTEN has started
an effort to quantify how nonprofits use social
— and they're going to have a free webinar to talk about the results, "The Results Are In – Nonprofit
Social Networking Benchmark Report
". This will be your
chance to ask questions about their 2nd annual Social
Networking Benchmark Report
. Your input in the discussion
would be most welcome.

You should register for this (free!)
webinar here.

2010 NP social media benchmark_report And, if that's not enough for you, they'll be going
into greater depth with their 4-part series, "The
State of Social Networking in the Nonprofit Sector 2010

When: Wednesday, May 12th, 11:00
am Pacific Time / 2:00 pm Eastern

Cost: Free!

Presented by: Jeff Patrick, Common Knowledge

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Florida 6/24-25: Engaging Older Adults (50+) [with Social Media]

I'll be live and in-person for a session on Social Media for Nonprofits which is part of a wonderful two-day mini-conference focused on helping nonprofits engage and mobilize older adults:

Senioratlaptop Harness the Power: A Wave of
Boomers, A Wave of Technology, & A Sea of Potential Partnerships

About the program:

  • Designed to help you achieve your mission through mobilizing the talents and
    skills of people 50+
  • Help you better
    understand how to develop partnerships that can expand
    services and market reach without significant impact on internal
  • Learn more about using social media to
    attract people
    50+ to your organization—as participants, supporters, and partners.

Presented by:

Taylor, Ph.D.
, Director, Temple
University Center for Intergenerational Learning

Frumer, MSEd, LCSW, NCGC,
NCG Associate Executive Director,
Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service

JFCSFLlogo John
Executive Consultants Select Group

Traci Nemerofsky Esq, President, A Plus Home
Health Care, Inc.

Date & Time:

June 24, 2010; 9 a.m.–4 p.m. EST

Friday, June 25, 2010; 9 a.m.–3 p.m. EST

Host Agency:
Alpert Jewish Family
& Children's Service

AllianceChildFam Workshop
    West Palm Beach Marriott
1001 Okeechobee Boulevard
Palm Beach, FL 33401 

Registration Fee: $125

Intended Audience

Designed for CEOs/executive directors, senior management
professionals, and general staff.

Click here to register

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