Tag Archives: planning

the third thing

I’ve always loved the children’s book Miss Rumphius.

It’s about a woman who resolves as a girl to travel all over the world, to then live by the sea when she was done, and finally, to make the world a more beautiful place.

After she has achieved the first two goals, she becomes very sick and has to stay in bed for a very long time, slowly getting well in her house by the sea.

When she does get up, she decides to fulfill her third obligation by filling the countryside with lupines.

I just now realized that she only started planting lupines (strewing the seeds, really) after she was laid up sick in bed for a year.

She had to spend some time not doing anything, reflecting on things, before she realized the tragically lupine-free conditions under which her seaside town suffered.

So when she finally got out of bed, she knew what she had to do.

Beth Kanter posted today about the five steps to building a social media plan:

  1. Listen
  2. Prepare
  3. Engage
  4. Go offline
  5. Measure success

You can read the whole post to see where she’s going with this.

My thoughts about Miss Rumphius started popping up when I read about Beth’s fourth step:

Step 4: Go Offline

This is a really important step. Does anyone know of good posts that elaborate on this point and are written from a nonprofit perspective?

It is a really important step. I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging not long ago, and used the opportunity to reflect on what it is I’m trying to accomplish here, and what value I’m adding to the space by contributing to it.

You can read my reflections on the self-imposed hiatus here.

I wrote about feeling like I was missing out — on fresh thinking, on new developments, on what was going on in people’s lives — and I still feel that way when I miss a few days or when I am in the middle of a particularly intense time at work, as I am now.

So what am I doing to provide new ideas, new ways of thinking about things? Where are my lupines?

If you’re an organization reflecting on your first foray into social media, what would happen if you took this view of things instead?

Instead of focusing on YOUR return on investment, on how many dollars/donors/emails you won at the end of the game, what would your program evaluation look like if you asked yourself what did THEY get out of it?

What bright new thing did you place in the world?

How did your community members, how did any given individual, benefit from your efforts?

This isn’t another nonprofit final report question that reads something like “quantify the number served by this program.”

It’s more a way of asking: what freestanding thing of lasting value did you create?

Look for the lupines. Start by taking a break, and lying down for a while.

money for nothing, IT for free

Is this like one of those “prizes” you get when you win a free watch, but you have to fly to Hawaii and sit through a three-day sales pitch to claim your watch?”

That’s something a friend of mine emailed me the other day about a deal she was considering that seemed too good to be true, and I’ve been thinking about it for a few days with respect to some of the free technology that’s out there for nonprofits and other groups with severely limited budgets.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems (like Salesforce, Kintera, Convio, to name just a few of the leaders in the field). CRM software is often one of the first big technology purchases that a growing nonprofit will make.

There are some great programs through which you can obtain free (or nearly-free, or free-for-a-while) versions of CRM systems that might otherwise be out of your organization’s budgetary reach. And free software donations are wonderful and highly commendable corporate initiatives.

But nothing is for free, even when it’s free.

It is terribly important to consider carefully the money and staff time that will be necessary, over the long haul, to learn how to use a new CRM, to make it really work for your organization, and to keep on relentlessly training staff, keep on improving and cleaning up your data, keep on spending precious time on the maintenance of that shiny new toy.

Everybody knows that staff time is a fantastically precious commodity in nonprofits, large and small. When your organization is mission-driven, every minute spent can, in some way, be considered an outlay of donor dollars. So nonprofits have to especially careful about the commitments they make to large technology buys — and they have to be very realistic about what they are getting themselves into.

Blogger Judi Sohn weighed in on this topic recently:

Time is money. Whether it’s your time or the time of a consultant you use to help you get the most out of these tools. Far too often I’ve spoken to folks who … can’t put the time or attention into {a new CRM system} that’s needed to really understand how it works and configure it for their organization’s unique needs.

It takes time to learn how to use a CRM designed for multi-million dollar companies. It takes time and patience to optimize your data. If you aren’t willing to spend days or weeks of your time to figure it all out, you should just stand up and slowly back away from the keyboard before you break something.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever bitten off more than you can chew. Now raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand the first time. That’s better.

It’s human nature, let’s face it. But it doesn’t have to happen when choosing a CRM provider. Here are a few starter steps to get you on your way.

First, consider creating a long-term technology plan that:

  • Includes projections of money and staff time to be allocated not just at the outset, but over a multi-year period of time;
  • Sets goals and objectives over weeks, months, and years;
  • Identifies what success will look like at various points along this timeline;
  • Includes an exit plan for when the system no longer fits your needs.

Your technology plan should be a living document –one that is referred to constantly at staff meetings and even board meetings — and one that looks five years ahead. Things will undoubtedly change over those five years, so you will constantly be updating your plan.

Second, find out which software systems are constructed specifically for your type of organization, including the size of your staff, the number of your contacts, and the technological requirements of each system.

There are CRMs for every shape, size, and tech-savvy level of nonprofit organization. You just need to find the right fit for your situation.

Third, talk to other organizations who have gone through the same software selection process. Ask your peers for their experiences and their advice. Don’t go this alone — you can learn much from other people’s successes and mistakes and make far better choices, the more research you do.

And speaking of research, Techsoup is a fantastic resource for advice on choosing a new system, transferring your data, and a host of other considerations. NTEN also has excellent reports and webinars to help you navigate the process.

What’s your experience with Constituent Relationship Management software? What’s the best advice you would give someone else about choosing and implementing a CRM system?