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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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