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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Anyone with an iPhone, a Droid, or the infamous Crack-berry can personally attest to how much technology has evolved in the past decade. As devices get smaller, flatter, and faster, technology has become such an integral part of our own lives. Can anyone actually remember a time where you couldn’t take pictures, load your work-out playlist, and read work email all from your phone?

While technology has made our lives more interesting and perhaps more distracted, it’s also being used to make many lives healthier, more empowered, and just better all around. There are technology companies who are going the extra mile to invent tools that are solving big social issues and many of them are recognized by the annual Tech Awards. The Tech Awards is an international awards program that highlights the work of people who are using technology to benefit humanity. Looking at what some of the past winners of this prestigious award have achieved is an inspiring reminder of the potential technology has to kick-start social change

Husk Power Systems: This is a biomass company that is generating electricity in rural Indian villages with rice husks. There are 60 mini-plants that have been installed and provide close to 25,000 households with electricity. To date, the company’s plants have sequestered 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Not only is this technology replacing a cleaner and safer form of energy, it has also been a source of employment in these communities. They have employed and trained more than 300 local citizens and have generated $1.2 million in income. This company shows how technology can improve several systems in a small geographic area. Husk Power systems is bringing changes to the local economy, the environment, and the well-being of the residents.

Global Voices: Another laureate who is using technology in a very different way is Global Voices. They are a Netherlands based organization that aggregates and distributes news from citizen journalists from all over the world. With over 300 writers, editors, and translators, Global Voices has amplified experiences of people from Britain to Bali. With the recent uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Global Voices has become an important source of first-hand information about what’s happening on the ground.

While Husk Power Systems uses technology to build new systems in small communities throughout India, Global Voices uses technology as a portal for connecting communities who may never have encountered each other. It goes to show the vast potential technology has to facilitate important change on all levels.

If your organization is using technology to bring new solutions to old problems, throw your hat in the ring and apply for the Tech Awards 2011. The deadline for nominations is due March 31, so there is still time to get your application in. To find out more about the award criteria and how to apply, check out their site at http://techawards.org/.

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Volunteers are crucial to a nonprofit organization’s sustainability.  You may have existing tools attract, and retain talented people who are willing to contribute to your cause, but now you can consider how social media can be part of the mix. Since internet users are more likely to volunteer it’s good to figure out how to use social media to engage people in your nonprofit’s volunteer efforts.

The three core functions of a successful volunteer program can be broken down to Recruitment, Retention, and Recognition. Each of these can be powered and accelerated with the strategic use of social media. This blog will discuss how this can be used for recruitment.

Recruitment

volunteerThe first step in a successful volunteer program for your organization is attracting people to help out. In the hunt for volunteers, you can use social media to get some traction in your efforts :

  • Leverage Your Existing Social Media Network: In your volunteer recruitment efforts, if you are placing a generic posting on a nonprofit job board, chances are some of the people who see your ad may like your organization or be keyed into your cause, others may not. If you are already engaged in social media, your existing tools are the first place to start. You have already established a connection and presence with people who care enough about your cause to follow you in some way. Your messages to your twitter followers or facebook fans have by default become more targeted because they are people who are already interested in what your organization represents. Design campaigns that go out to your existing networks.
  • Make It Shareable: Social Media is called “social” for a reason. Increase your chances of being mentioned through word of mouth in the by giving people who sign up easy ways of sharing your organization’s project with their friends.

-Facebook- Get a more tech savvy staff member to use facebook integrations so when users sign up to volunteer with you, they have an option to share that message with their friends.

-Twitter- Create a hashtag for your event and use it for tweets related to the volunteer project. Then use Twitter’s Widget Tool to create a badge that shows all the tweets about the event based on the event.It will give people the impression that there’s a buzz about it and also give users a way to signal to each other that they are participating in the same event.

  • Connect with Influencers: To widen the scope of your influence after getting the word out in your own circles, start engaging individuals with high leverage points in your target audiences. By getting buy-in from people who have wide audiences, your volunteer opportunities will not only be exposed to a larger number of relevant people, but will likely come from someone who is trusted in the community you are trying to reach.

Case Study: Volunteer 4 Long Island

This is a great example of an organization that used some of the above strategies for a successful volunteer recruitment campaign. They started by optimizing their existing social media vehicles and corrected the error in the site. After taking stock of what they had in place already, they chose to expand their reach by tapping into the specific network of Long Island Tweetups. They messaged specific twitter influencers in the group to get them on board with Volunteer 4 Long Island’s project. This lead to retweets, facebook messages, and several more volunteers signing up.

If you’d like to learn more strategies and read more case studies for how social media can be used to boost your nonprofit’s volunteer efforts, then be sure to sign up for the webinar on the topic in a few weeks.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the best CMS of all? We may not have enchanted mirrors to tell us what the deal is, but Idealware has done nonprofits the favor of compiling an updated report that compares four major Content Management Systems and assesses their different strengths and weaknesses. The report, an update of the popular report that came out in 2009, takes into account the latest version of each of the tools. Even if you’re not with a nonprofit, this is likely one of the best sources of information comparing these tools!

IdealWare uses fourteen criteria to evaluate Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and Plone. Each system had its strengths and weaknesses but we were pleased to see that the CMS that we most often use, Plone, came out on top in a number of ways. The report noted that Plone was the CMS of choice for many major newspapers and large businesses. When measured against WordPress, Drupal and Joomla “Plone’s functionality is as strong, or stronger, than the other three systems in every area we reviewed except for one.” Go Plone! Below is a closer look at some of the strengths, and points of improvement for Plone

Securityplone logo
One aspect of Plone that is operating very competitively is website security. The report found that Plone’s architecture made it difficult for security issues to present themselves through add-ons or themes. There are also generally few vulnerabilities and errors. Plone beats out the rest hands down.

Accessibility and SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) determines how highly ranked your website is for specific keywords and Plone has several features built in that enhance how highly ranked a website is. Things like having an automatic header page and being prompted to use alt-tags on images is standard SEO practice that someone who’s not tech savvy could implement seamlessly. Plone also automatically populates metadata fields from the content of a page.

Ease of Use for Content Managers
While Plone can be used for complex websites, it excells as being easy to use in terms of the interface for managing the content. It is easy for anyone to keep their site updated with editing tools that are in the same place that you view the content, as opposed to a backend area. The report notes how intuitive Plone’s dashboard is, and how simple it is to perform cornerstone tasks in website management like adding pages and editing text. Plone was one of the stronger CMS in making it easy for users to achieve their daily tasks.

So what didn’t Plone do so great in?
Plone is a complex system built on a different architecture than the other systems compared (a main factor in why it is more secure!). As a result, it is a little more challenging to install and set-up without the expertise of consultants who know the system and tools. Even so, Plone has made huge improvements in the last two years to provide great ease of installation experience. While we are confident that tech-savvy self-starters can figure it out, ifPeople is also happy to do the heavy lifting when it comes to taming the technology for your use! Contact us if we can help you evaluate Plone for your website or sign up for one of our monthly Plone demos (free webinar). The ease, organization, and security your website will get will be well worth it.

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On October 20-22, the Independent Sector is hosting a conference called “Forging a Stronger Future Together”. One part of the conference is the NGen series, a schedule of programming events that focus on the next generation of nonprofit leadership.  The subject of nonprofit leadership is a contentious one in the sector.

As Baby Boomers cycle out of their positions as Executive Directors of some of this nation’s  prominent organizations they are looking behind them and often finding there is nobody there to fill their shoes. According to Bridgestone’s 2006 report “The Nonprofit Sector’s Leading Deficit”, nonprofits are looking to fill an estimated 640,000 senior managers in the next 10 years. This places a pressure on nonprofits to find ways to engage younger nonprofiteers in the sector who could start filling this leadership gap.

As younger leaders take more prominent roles in organizations, new trends are emerging in how organizations are run. Below are three trends that are largely being driven by shifts in generational values and represent an opportunity for organizations seeking direction for evolving to also attract younger talent:

Using More Technology- Nonprofits can (and should!) leverage the best tools available for running efficient, effective organizations. Technologies continue to evolve at an accelerating pace across desktop, Web, and mobile devices. In the age of iPhones, texting, and skype, technology has fostered in a new era of interactivity that nonprofits can gain from tremendously. More than 30 million dollars was raised through mobile donations for Haiti. Technology is not just offering new ways of raising money, it’s also creating more efficient ways of meeting. Instead of flying to a new city, or using time to commute to a client, software like skype can be used to facilitate meetings online.

More relationships oriented – Facebook and Twitter are not just work distractions – they are indicative of how much more social our world has become. Your organization’s growth will have a lot to do with how well you manage your presence in many of (online) social spheres. It will also require more closely cultivated relationship with your constituents in order to stand out in their mind. As a result, CRM systems like Salesforce become increasingly important to having an edge on your business.

Hybrid Models-  The future of nonprofit organizations challenges the very premise of its structure. Many who are motivated to do good are willing to use market forces to do so. As a result, hybrid organizations that blend business with social causes are building momentum behind Social Enterprise, and the BCorporation.  To encourage new leadership to step in, it’s important to be open to considering new models for achieving your organization’s social aims. Consier how your organization (or new ventures) could work on revenue-generating models such as the L3Cs, Social Entrepreneurship, or BCorps.

In considering what your nonprofit needs to do to engage a new generation of leadership, consider how these trends can be applied to your existing structure so that you can move in a more progressive direction.

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On September 1st, the latest version of Plone was released and a lot of innovation from this leading Content Management System is now available to new and existing Plone users! Plone 4 is more intuitive, more visually appealing, and faster. We’re so excited about this new version that we’ve been buried in working on it and launching new sites (check out the latest launch: SEEC) to get the news out for the last six week! Below are some of the key upgrades on Plone 4 that you may like:

ploneNew Look: Plone4 has a new template included when it is installed that is sleek, minimalist, and functional. After nine years of using a staple design, Plone 4 uses a modern table-less formatting and simplified CSS.

Performance Improvement: Plone 4 has a number of improvements that help it run fasterand more efficiently. It’s twice as fast as Plone 3 representing accelerating advances in performance for the platform (while many other systems are getting slower and more complex!). Plone 4’s capacity  to handle very large files has improved drastically since all file data is now stored on the file system rather than in the database. This enhances the ability of Plone to scale to handle huge content repositories out of the box!

Intuitive Visual Editing: The HTML editor in Plone 4 has been changed to a Tiny MCE which offers Plone users more ease and flexibility in design. It offers much stronger support of html tables and better support for embedded flash content. This visual editor is also widely used in other systems outside of Plone as well, meaning that it will have greater support and improvements over time. Overall Plone 4 provides better tools for creating the site you want with less of a headache.

Improved user management: Plone 4 has also streamlined the process of creating and managing users for your website. It is faster to create new users and place them in groups.

User Experience Improvements: You’ll notice several improvements in the way Plone leverages AJAX technologies in this version. The result is fewer page loads necessary to use and manage a website. Navigating to the back end administrative area of the website has been improved. Even small changes like allowing users to sign in with their email or username lend themselves to an improved user experience.

Other things we are excited about from this release:

  • Easy upgrading from Plone 3!
  • New version of the User’s Guide to Plone book!
  • The XDV templating tools that make it easy for designers to use html and css to create custom look and feel for Plone sites!

Plone 4 is a system that surpasses other CMS’s – open source and proprietary options – in terms of usability, security, community, and scalability. This latest release represents a lot of great work by the community and we congratulate and thank all those who have contributed to Plone 4!

If you’re interested to learn more about Plone, we invite you to:

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Every year, Techbridge partners with one local non-profit organization, helping them develop the essential information technology they need to succeed in their mission of service. TechBridge has just announced the 9th annual Technology Innovation Award! Want an extreme technology makeover?

TechBridge and Accenture are seeking deserving nonprofits with an innovative vision for using technology to increase capacity to deliver on its mission for the award.  Entries are due by February 8, 2010. All applicants must electronically submit an award application form, available online.

Three award finalists will be selected in March 2010 and invited to deliver a live presentation to the Technology Innovation Award Judging Panel. The winner will be announced at the 2010 TechBridge Digital Ball on May 8, 2010.

The winner of the 2009 Techbridge Technology Innovation Award is The Tommy Nobis Center (TNC). The two runners-up were Habitat for Humanity – North Central Georgia and Open Hand.

Have a look at the eligibility information and make an application online today! http://techbridge.org/tia/application.aspx

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Struggling to figure out social media? Got a network question? Need some tips on fundraising tools? Want a crash course in multimedia for your nonprofit? Now’s your chance to get tech help thanks the the NTC Day of Service!

NTEN is coming to Atlanta! And with it, the whole crew of awesome nonprofit techie folks. A visionary program that NTEN put together as part of its conference is the Day of Service, where conference attendees volunteer their time to help meet the tech needs of local organizations. So mark your calendars for April 8, 2010!

ifPeople is delighted to be a partner in the 2010 NTC DoS. Our role includes getting the word out – can you help? It’s really an unbelieveable deal, so shouldn’t be a hard thing to get people signed up for (we’ve only got 60 spots now!). You get:

  • 3 hrs with a tech consultant helping you with your burning need
  • Free membership in NTEN for a year (including all the great webinars and other goodies that members get)
  • Discounted admission to the NTC conference (an amazing place to learn!)

If you’re a nonprofit, clear April 8, 2010 and fill out the survey to get qualified!

I can’t believe how good a deal this is. If you’re a Nonprofit in Georgia, please consider signing up to receive this help and be a part of an amazing event! If you know nonprofits in Georgia, pass on the word! We’ve still got space and we want the best orgs there to get this benefit locally!

More info:

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This past month was the Dreamforce conference, salesforce.com’s annual massive event. This year attracted some 19,000 registrants apparently (fueled by the free access to Expo and keynotes). The keynotes seated 10,000, and the hall before arrival (see photo to right) was incredible – a vast sea of chairs. And the community is getting huge – there are now almost 70,000 paying customers on the platform.

This was my first Dreamforce and I was really impressed by the community. Everyone I met was very friendly, all about sharing knowledge, and passionate about salesforce. I spent a lot of time talking to people, went to a couple really good sessions, and saw a lot of new, cool stuff happening on the platform. I also came away from the event really excited about the work we are doing creating an integrated relationship management platform that includes an easy-to-use website with salesforce.com. I feared this would be blown away by the excitement of Sites and apps, but really it seems there is more of a need for that than I had anticipated (if you’d like to check out the demos we do of an open source platform integrated with salesforce, sign up for a free webinar offered monthly).

Strangely, I was 2,500 miles from home and the band that played for the Global Gala (Black Crows) went to my High School! Though it was a fun evening, I could count the number of people dancing on one hand…

I’ve still got a bunch of followup and processing of notes to do, so this is my first step at sharing what I saw, learned, and took away from the event.

New features:

It got kinda hard to tell the difference between what’s new-and-there-now and what’s new-and-coming-soon, but there was some cool stuff exposed at the conference. I was particularly excited to see that a new salesforce UI will be unveiled (in the future) and that social media is now more integrated natively. Here’s some more highlights:

  • Outlook integration: the Outlook integration finally got rewritten completely for salesforce. It’s a whole new world with this one. Currently it’s in beta, and you have to request to access it, but looks like leaps-and-bounds improvements (actually built on some of how the Google Apps integration works, so if you’re using Google instead, you’ve already got most of this). Something I would like to see for Google Apps is the “add to salesforce” button for emails that are in your inbox. Watch session video.
  • Content will be Free! One great announcement at the conference is that the Content product will be free! This looks like an amazing tool with pretty slick interface, and now it will be accessible to all! ETA still to be determined. Check out Content demo here.
  • Social Media Integation: There’s a great advance with integrating Twitter and Facebook with salesforce. In particular, the Facebook “Answers” app can be added to Company pages on Facebook and it ties right into the service/support activities in salesforce. The question and answer that happens with your community in Facebook can be incorporated into the salesforce knowledge base also (and then presented in other contexts!). Twitter messages can also be used to create cases in Salesforce (like @ask_dell), and you can reply from within salesforce! The Twitter app will be default in salesforce in near future, and can now be added for free. Another Twitter integration allows you to track conversations about your Accounts right on the account page!
  • Scheduling: Cloud Scheduler is a new tool coming soon. It’s basically the “evite for business meetings”. Ever had problems scheduling meetings, especially with multiple people? This looks awesome!
  • Drag and Drop Reports and Analytics: Customize reports with drag and drop! This will be a major improvement to usability of these vital features.

Nonprofit:

Now with over 7,000 nonprofits having received donated licenses to use salesforce.com, nonprofits are a serious part of the salesforce community! Over 800 attended Dreamforce and there was an entire track for Nonprofits. Many of the sessions emphasized how “do-able” salesforce is for nonprofits, even without tech skills or big budgets. So not as much wiz-bang, but some genuine stories of how salesforce is being used.

The Salesforce.com Foundation was also front and center during the keynotes (check out their much-improved, new website!). The company’s 1/1/1 model has led to:

  • 165,000 hours donated
  • 7,300 organizations getting donated licenses
  • $18 million in grants being awarded.

Some of the content highlights from the nonprofit sessions include:

  • Donor and Member Management 2.0: A “down to earth” session with a small nonprofit (3 people) up to a larger group. Also includes anouncement of a new, free app for taking donations on your website (with Amazon payments) and mapping them into your salesforce instance (as account, contact, and opportunity), called eGiving. Watch video here.
  • Nonprofit Starter Pack: Steve walks you through how to get the most out of the starter pack the foundation produces for nonprofits. Watch video here.

Goodies

There are now 1,000+ apps available to extend salesforce! There is a lot of good stuff out there, but it can be hard to find with all that stuff…here are a few apps and things to check out to enhance your salesforce experience.

  • There’s an app for that! A session oriented at sales folks, but generally applicable for anyone. Many of apps featured are free. Also serves as a nice intro to AppExchange. Watch session here.

More to come…but that’s all for now!

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The NTEN Nonprofit Tech Conference, held in San Francisco, Apr 26-28, was fertile ground for launching new reports for the sector. Here’s an overview of reports you should be aware of:

  • Nonprofit use of social media: The Nonprofit Social Network Survey report compiles the experiences of ~!,000 organizations in social media. The report shows that the sector’s uptake of these tools is growing quickly and receiving real resources, though it is a new process and relatively little revenue is being generated this way.Get report here.
  • Nonprofit websites: The 2009 NonProfit Website Study: Building Donations and Loyalty Through the Web Channel was the first study of constituent satisfaction with nonprofit websites by Foresee Results. According to the report, the nonprofit sector is lagging other industries in site visitor satisfaction. And that’s important because if you make your site visitor happy, it greatly increases their chances of donating, volunteering, returning, etc. The most important things to make them happy? Functionality and how your organization’s image are represented (we’ve got a fair bit of experience in handling both those at ifPeople – check out some case studies). Check out the report here.
  • Donor management software: The folks at Idealware released yet another great report! This one, A Consumer’s Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Software,  is on affordable donor management systems (everything under $4k for the first year). They evaluated systems on 127 criteria and provide guidance on choosing systems for different types of organizations and helping you understand what these tools do. Get the report here and find the full analysis here.

I think there’s actually one, if not two, more reports (incluing one from a session I attended), but I’m still trying to match up paper notes with info I can link you to online. More soon…

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In case you haven’t heard, the NTC, put on by the amazing folks at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) was a raging success. With over 30% growth in attendence over last year, the organizers had to reorganize the space a couple times to be able to accommodate as many as possible. So what made it so hot? Well, in part, it’s kinda the only game in town that can address technology in the nonprofit on a comprehensive scale. And what’s more, NTEN does a smashing job at community organizing – it isn’t just a fly-in-and-out kinda event, it’s more like family.

Soft stuff aside, you say, what was hot on the technology front? Here’s a couple things I thought were innovative technology and knowledge showcased at the conference:

  • SMS text-based evaluations: rather than the typical carpeting of colored papers with rating scales and comment boxes, NTEN went paperless for session evaluations. To fill out an evaluation, all you did was text a code for the session to a number and then you were walked through a process to fill out evaluation. Not sure what overall uptake on this system was (last I heard was half way through event and about 400 had been filled out). I found it hard to have the info I need (ie code and number) when I had a spare moment to fill it out. Sweet idea though!
  • Google Moderator: Not revolutionary – and occassionally annoying (ie having to lug around laptop, finding working wifi, remember the address, log in…), but still a cool way to promote collaborative dialog/questions between an audience and speaker. We used it in our session (~60 people) and it was even used in the keynotes (1,000+ people).
  • Twitter everywhere! We were trending in Twitter for the #09ntc and there was an overwhelming amount of traffic and conversation! Was great to watch people from beginner-level Twitter through very experienced rockin during the conference (those without computers could jump on one of many laptop workstations around the conference).  You can follow me here 🙂
  • The Social Actions folks (an in particular @engagejoe) ran an awesome campaign that climaxed during NTC. Here’s the scoop: Social Actions has an API to all the big volunteer sites around the web (wicked!). They had a contest to give away $10k to the coolest app created that leverage their API. They got some amazing entries! Have a look at the 24 finalists here. Very cool stuff! Highlights include CauseSense, which replaces Google Ads with volunteer opportunities and the Take Action button (but it with your content and watch it suggest actions!). Nice job everyone – go crowdsourcing for a cause!

Clearly that’s not all, but that’s a taste. I’ll be going through notes a bit more thoroughly soon, so expect some more posts, including one on Eben Moglen’s talk!

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