Tag Archives: nonprofit

top, drop, and role


The new multi-disciplinary blog aggregrator from Guy Kawasaki, Alltop.com, officially went live today. As noted here last week, the Nonprofit Alltop page looks to be a good at-a-glance resource for all the latest blog posts in the nonprofit world (primarily those in the United States, from the look of it, for now at least).

Small Dots is there, and so are almost 80 other sources of nonprofit news and ideas. Should be a good place to visit when you want to take a snapshot of the zeitgeist of the bloggers in the nonprofit sector at any given time. If you’re a nonprofit tech evangelist, trying to increase nptech literacy within your organization, the Nonprofit Alltop page would be a good place to get people started.



drop.ioOne of the most useful things to come across my radar recently is Drop.io — a free, private file-sharing site that doesn’t require any registration or account creation. Anybody still struggling with an outdated, hosted, proprietary ftp site will be very excited about this. Many non-technical folks are put off by ftp sites, and the friendly, easy-to-understand, non-threatening interface offered by Drop.io looks like an excellent alternative.

Just upload the file from your computer, name it, set a password, and share the name and password with whomever you chose. (More insanely useful info here.)

Take a look:

drop.io interface


Some of the nonprofit blogging world’s best and brightest made a splash yesterday at SXSWi on the Pimp My Nonprofit Panel. Beth Kanter, Rachel Weidinger, Ed Schipul, Erin Denny, and Michaela Hackner injected some extra fun into their session on nonprofits and social media campaigns by engaging in a little role playing. Looks like it was a blast — wish I could have been there. Read all about it, including links to slides, notes, and commentary, on Beth’s Blog.

Pimp, yo.

Photo from Ed Schipul, taken by Eloy Zuniga


facebook is out for blood

A New York nonprofit, Takes All Types, has announced a new program that will mobilize blood donors through Facebook, The New York Times reports.

For those who opt in, the system will send out alerts through Facebook — as well as by phone, fax, e-mail and text message — when their blood type is needed in their area. It will also send out reminders for regular donations.

The new Facebook app will allow both donors and blood drive centers to register and send and receive alerts about blood donation needs in their geographic region.

The program’s creators, Ben Bergman and Richard Hecker, say that they were able to coordinate the project on short cash, by garnering support from interested developers, PR professionals, and hospitals.

The whole thing was done in about three months, for about $500,” Mr. Bergman said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a keynote interview at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, during which Zuckerberg responded to calls to open up messaging on the massively popular social networking site.

Some users have expressed frustration at the “walled garden” nature of Facebook, which features a messaging system that sends users emails and texts to alert users that they have received a message, but which then requires the user to log in to Facebook to read the content of the message.

Any app that relies on messaging users outside of the Facebook walled garden might encounter some resistance (or at least barriers to use) until Facebook improves its messaging system, especially an app, like this one from Takes All Types, that targets the growing segment of Facebook users ages 35 and up, who might not spend as much time on their profile pages as their younger counterparts.

Many-to-many messaging systems like Twitter would seem better suited to this sort of real-time user mobilization — except, of course, for the fact of Facebook’s 65 million plus users, compared with Twitter’s 940,000.

Oh yeah. Except for that part.

Expect to see more small, unknown nonprofits (and even purpose-built ones, as this one seems to be) taking the lead in using social networking to mobilize supporters and activists. The larger, established nonprofits with similar missions might be too slow-moving at first to either envision or implement these opportunities.

the mobile nonprofit

by jetheriotOnline collaboration tools are not just for that migratory flock of birds, the mobile web worker — those strange folk who appear to alight for brief meetings in far-flung Starbucks, then scatter, like starlings, to cooler climes.

I keep an eye on the growing catalog of these tools not just because I deeply envy the starlings of this world, but because nonprofits need mobile capabilities, too. And lots of these tools are free, nearly free, or just totally worth the dough.

Online collaboration tools should be of interest to any nonprofit that serves any sort of geographically dispersed constituency. This goes for larger regional, national, and international organizations with lots of field offices and branches, but also for the smaller nonprofit that just can’t deliver its programs to every nook and corner of its service area.

So yes, pretty much everyone should care.

Here are five online collaboration tools that I think could be helpful to nonprofits, either in internal (project management) or external (program delivery) applications:

  1. Basecamp – Very popular web-based project management software that I have just started using in earnest. Upload files, share to-do lists, live chat, and track progress efficiently in one central spot. Great stuff.
  2. ooVoo – Free, online video conferencing. I’m personally curious about delivering small workshops and seminars to far-flung locales using this multi-user interface that has been getting rave reviews from beta testers. However, ooVoo can only handle six viewers at a time, so for larger classes I might look into using
  3. uStream – I used this recently when I was at NewBcamp in Providence, and was impressed with the alongside-chat capability, as well as the ability to archive the videostream — and the chat –if desired. Again, potentially very useful for long-distance learning.
  4. Jott – I use Jott almost daily to record the thoughts and reminders that only seem to occur to me when I’m in my car. I’ve got the Jott phone number on speed-dial, I call, leave myself a message, and it’s waiting for me, reliably transcribed, in email form when I get home. When summer comes, and I’m managing a team of people in four different locations at once, I hope to test-drive this service as a one-to-many messaging application. Although I am always ready to try a potential upgrade of a similar service, and Web Worker Daily just turned me on to
  5. Pinger – which also looks like it could rock.

Those are the newer, somewhat sexier ones on my radar. Some of them have been around for a while, but have only just started to impress me as potentially useful for nonprofit program delivery and program management.

Here are the five, somewhat more pedestrian ones that I already love, use often and with gusto, and really would hate to have to do without:

  1. Google Calendar – About six months ago my group switched from a hand-written wall calendar to Google Calendar, and the change has been phenomenal. There is one central calendar for the organization (which everyone can view and edit), and then every member of the team has their own calendar, which they invite others to view (and not edit). You can toggle your view on and off to view different calendars simultaneously. And, of course, we can access our schedules even when we are miles away in our 100+ mile service region
  2. Google Docs – Again, remote access, combined with the convenience of having a file being reviewed and edited by several people at once stored in one handy place, with no confusion about which version is the most recent version. I’ve mostly used the word and spreadsheet bits, but am planning to use the slideshow option very soon, after a particularly bad date recently with PowerPoint.
  3. WordPress – I like to set up group blogs for working with groups of constituents that are working together on a project, who meet only occasionally, who need to get to know each other better, and who aren’t comfortable enough with technology to use a wiki consistently. I don’t know why, but blogs just seem to be more user-friendly. Also, I like teaching people how to blog because it empowers them to use technology in their own voice. Once somebody starts on a group blog, it’s easy for them to make the cognitive leap into blogging for themselves, to feed their own heads and serve their own passions.
  4. Twitter – Yes, it’s a collaboration tool. I’ve sent out calls for help through Twitter more than once, and each time I have gotten feedback that either solved my problem or sent me in the right direction for a solution. Twitter is a great “lifeline” call, especially if you are careful (as I am) to follow lots of very clever people.
  5. Skype – Free phone calls. What’s not to love?

What are your favorites? And which ones are you thinking about using in creative ways, bending them to your nonprofit will?

Photo by jetheriot

another source for nonprofit news

Guy Kawasaki’s new Alltop website keeps rolling out new section pages, and the latest to catch my eye, not surprisingly, is the Nonprofit News links page.

It’s a pretty phenomenal resource. I’ve been watching Guy roll this out over the last few days on Twitter (where he announces each page as it goes live), and wondered if he would hit the nonprofit sector. He did.

While it’s still in beta, it’s slated to roll out in official alpha mode very soon,  it is a very good collection of some of the best nonprofit blogs out there. Definitely worth a bookmark, and worth watching to see how it can be incorporated into one’s daily reads.

However, it would be very nice to have an RSS feed off the site, for those of us who don’t “visit” websites very much any more, except through the lens of our feed reader.

blogging to advance your core mission

Do you think your organization needs a blog? Or is it just a “someday” thing — a back-burner item that you feel just has to wait until you can get more on track with fulfilling your mission, becoming better known and better respected, building your donor base, getting the press to cover you, and driving attendance to your events?

And what, exactly, is it that you think blogs do?

Many organizations that would benefit from establishing and maintaining a blog are “putting it off” because they think of blogging as an “extra,” an additional, unnecessary piece of PR fluff that will take staff time away from the real, serious matters that are central to their mission.

A blog isn’t a bell or a whistle. A blog is a powerful, easily hefted tool that can achieve several goals at once. They are also cheap, easy, and incredibly low-tech.
This recent article in NPTech News (that’s nonprofit technology news for the uninitiated) spells out very clearly what the benefits of organizational blogging are.

My favorites:

1. Search engine optimization

Hosting a blog on your site can rapidly and vastly improve your search engine results. Why? Because Google (and other search engines) prize fresh content. Updating a blog takes almost zero technical skill and merely a basic business-writing level competency. For that, and ten minutes a day, you can greatly improve your page rank.

2. Expert in the Field

Don’t just be a children’s theater. Be an expert on children’s theater. Don’t just be an art gallery. Be a resource for the artist community. Don’t just sell your art online. Teach others about the process of creating art, about color theory, about outsider art. It’s not marketing – it’s sharing. The marketing is secondary, accidental — and far more effective because of that.

3. Awareness

    Be your own media source. Cover yourself, your mission, your services — relentlessly. Feature your volunteers, your sponsors, your staff, your members as much as humanly possible. Do all this in your own distinctive, human voice.

    4. Events

    Spend less on postage. Annoy your newsletter subscribers less. Maintain an interesting blog, with fresh content regularly served, and people will willingly visit and read your news and information. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

    5. Fundraising

      Online donation is rising every year, and not by a little. Nonprofits of all sizes, missions, and demographics have successfully used “charity badges” to make it as easy as one or two clicks for supporters to donate online. Each blog post gives your readers a compelling reason to hit that Donate Now! button, and hit it hard.

      …and that’s only five out of the ten cited in the article.

      Do I think it’s a bit of headline-crafting hyperbole to say that “Every organization MUST have a blog?” Sure.

      But I also think that organizations would be harder pressed to make the case for not having a blog than for having one.

      For every core objective you have in your communications plan, there is a way that blogging can advance that objective.

      blogging for the hearts of donors

      Shel Israel just posted an interview he did with Dr. Nora Barnes, chancellor professor of marketing and director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

      It’s a good review of some of the thinking that went into, and results of, the study her team did last year on adoption rates of social media within large charities in the United States, called Blogging for the Hearts of Donors: Largest US Charities Use Social Media.

      I remember when this report came out – it supported what I had already believed to be true, based on personal experience and purely anecdotal evidence. It’s always deeply gratifying when a methodologically sound, quantitative study backs you up like that.

      “Seventy-five percent of the charitable organizations studied are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis. More than a third of the organizations are blogging.”

      She mentions in the interview that charities tend to be nimble in their operations, which might increase their capacity for responding to new developments in technology like the Web 2.0 tools listed above, compared with their for-profit counterparts.

      “It’s very slow to turn a big boat around.”

      And while that’s certainly true, I suspect that it is more a cultural difference that sets charities apart from large businesses than just size. Because the charities she polled were, by and large, pretty large (taken as they were from the Forbes 200 largest charities list).

      Primarily, the disparity lies in the staff time charities have available to allocate to social media projects. Most of these social media tools are either free or very cheap — the only real cost incurred is in time spent. So where does this leave the smaller nonprofit, with a lean and mean staff with little or no time to spare?

      Well, as in all things, they get creative. They look for volunteers and unpaid student interns to get the ball rolling. In some cases, they don’t feel they can make the case for paying staff to work on social media projects until the return can be proven.

      So it’s a bit of a bind for smaller nonprofits, but there are pockets of amazing creativity erupting in small and medium sized organizations. I mostly work with arts and culture nonprofits, which have different “audience development” (read: community-building) strategies than cause-driven charities. So the social media strategies for cultural organizations are going to differ somewhat from the cause-driven organizations.

      But the common thread in all nonprofits is passion, and passion is an attribute that is also widely shared by social media enthusiasts. Passionate people find a way to make it happen. They blog on their own time. They buy decent recording equipment on their own dime and stay up for hours at night editing a five-minute podcast. They share resources, collaborate, and make connections in unlikely places.

      It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of overlap between the nonprofit world and the social media world. We’re already members of the same tribe.