5 Ways to Keep Projects Moving Forward

Do you work in an office where projects sometimes take much longer to complete?  If so, try some of these techniques that I’ve used to keep things moving forward:

  1. Send out a weekly status report of everything you’re working on.  In addition to one general update to your supervisor, try customized updates to each project team you’re involved with.
  2. Check in with your supervisor to make sure priorities haven’t changed.  Sometimes a ‘critical’ project is bumped down by other items that you may not have heard about.  (Don’t get so attached to a project that you keep working on it when it’s clear that stakeholder commitment is no longer there.)
  3. Schedule an in person meeting with your team.  But keep it short (1/2 hour if possible) and make sure you send an agenda in advance of what you plan to discuss.  (And send a summary afterwards to those who couldn’t attend)
  4. Take every opportunity to have casual chats with co-workers.  It’s much easier to work with a project team that you already have a friendly relationship with.  Walk around the office and visit other sites.  Don’t only socialize with those in your department or who are sitting near you.
  5. Send reminders to keep others on schedule – do it in a friendly but assertive way.  Not everyone is as organized as you, and will appreciate your gentle efforts to keep a project on track.

Please don’t fundraise like this

Make One GiftThis is not the first time I’ve received an appeal like this, but previously it was from a much smaller nonprofit.  Now that the US Fund for UNICEF is adopting this strategy, I’m even more dumbfounded.  Why would any nonprofit try to raise money by only asking for one gift!

Save a Child s LifeHave we raised the white flag on donor stewardship / retention, and now simply don’t expect supporters to go beyond the first donation?  I can’t imagine how this would work to the benefit of any deserving charity, especially one as well-known as the US Fund for UNICEF.

While there may be many constituents who only give once, to encourage this type of support seems foolhardy.  Is the organization hoping that some donors will forget to check the appropriate box to not get further communications? (below)This Will Be My Only Gift 2Do you see value in fundraising this way?  I don’t.

My First Days with Windows 10

Having a 5 year old desktop PC at home (Windows 7) that has slowed considerably, I figured that it made sense to wait until the release of Windows 10 before getting a new computer.  But then I heard that the new operating system would work well on older machines, I quickly said yes when Microsoft offered a free upgrade.

Unfortunately, my experience so far hasn’t been good.  The upgrade seemed to go well, but when I entered my new desktop, I found that I couldn’t access the start menu or the much heralded Cortana assistant.  Fortunately, it seems that a few others have had this experience too,  but trying to apply the fix has been challenging without access to the start menu.  Fortunately, I can still work in a browser where I spend most of my time.  (I thought I’d try adding a new user account, but unfortunately I can’t get to the PC Settings program that does this.)

I’ll try a bit longer to get Windows 10 to work, but most likely I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a new PC.  And if you wonder why I’m doing this in the age of smart phones and laptops, read this recent Wall Street Journal article, Why Your Next Computer Should be a Desktop.

Addendum 8/17/15 – After applying the registry patches mentioned in above link, Windows 10 seems to be behaving better.  Will continue testing.

Addendum 8/22/15 – My new best friend Cortana is still not working since I can’t seem to login with a Microsoft password – see this thread.  I’ve posted details to see if I can find a fix.

Addendum 8/26/15 – Finally was able to get through Cortana setup process by setting up a new Microsoft account.  But not sure how useful it will be by only working on my desktop PC at home (without a corresponding phone app).  Guess that’s why Microsoft is introducing Cortana on Android (still in beta), but I don’t currently see it available in the Google Play Store.


How to Get Funding for Technology

Do you and your co-workers assume that funders will not support new technology projects?  As I learned by participating in Idealware‘s webinar series, How to Get Your Technology Project Funded, for many funders, that’s not always true.  (Nten also recently featured Ask the Expert: Finding Funding for Technology Projects free for Nten  members.)

Below are some highlights:

  • Funders like to support projects that are more likely to be successful.  Have you done the homework to research vendors to choose a product that is best matched to your needs?
  • Do you have management and line staff buy-in for the project?  This shows your organization is ready to implement.
  • In your proposal, discuss how you’ll handle change management and training.  Funders like to see a clear plan for ongoing support / maintenance for the new system you’re seeking.
  • Take the time to develop a relationship with your funders before you ask for a grant.  Funders like to support organizations that they already are familiar with.
  • Reframe your grant request so it’s not primarily about technology.  Instead, explain how it will allow you to achieve your mission (and make it easy for funders to see the connection)
  • Do the calculations to show how your tech project will save money.  You won’t be able to define it exactly, but you need to show the funder that you’ve estimated the potential return and that the project is clearly worthwhile.
  • Make sure you’re asking for what you really need.  Beware of the ‘shiny object’ syndrome, where you’re swayed by what tech seems to be in vogue at the moment
  • Remember that the total cost of your project will be a lot more than the cost of the new hardware/software.
  • Read 3 Mistakes to Avoid in your Tech Grant Proposal (also by Idealware).

Not all funders will support technology focused projects, but if you follow these tips you will definitely increase your chances of success.

How to Prepare Content for Multiple Channels

(This is a preview of a session I will be leading at the Non-Profits & NGO Summit this Friday, Jul 17 at 4:15 PM)

Do you struggle coming up with ideas of what to post on multiple communication platforms?  Below are some tips:

1. Determine which platforms to focus on.  It is much easier to communicate with supporters where they already are then to encourage them to start using a new platform.  Your website analytics will help (see referrals) and you can also survey constituents to ask how and where they prefer to be communicated with.

2. Use an editorial calendar to plan what to post and when.  There are many good templates online, but an Excel spreadsheet is fine to start.

3. Repurpose your content for multiple channels.  Short is best for Facebook and Twitter;  provide longer content on your blog or website.  For example, use multiple Twitter posts to offer highlights from a lengthy blog update –  and link back to the blog for those who want more).

4. For content that has already resonated with your audience, don’t be afraid to repost at different days/times.  And learn from re-shares and comments which topics to plan for future updates.

5. Become a content curator.  To supplement your own content,  seek out and share others’ posts which relate to your topic.  (Make sure to give attribution.)  This will encourage others to re-share your content too.

Last Tip – Don’t spend too much time deliberating over what topics to write about.  You will learn quickly what your audience wants most to discuss – and what they don’t care much about.   (Join me at next week’s Non-Profits & NGO Summit to learn more.)

5 Tips in Using Salesforce

This week I had the rare pleasure of attending a full week training in Salesforce Administration.  While I’ve used Salesforce for years, I had never attended a formal class, learning mostly on my own.  It was an intense experience;  now I know how much I don’t know about Salesforce.  Below are five takeaways:

  1. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a live class, do it.  If not, there are great resources such as Trailhead and the Who Sees What series of data visibility on YouTube.
  2. (Even if you’re not a developer), sign up for an account on developer.salesforce.com.  Then download a few workbooks to get in depth tutorials.
  3. Be patient.  When I told my instructor that I felt overwhelmed by the amount of material we covered in the class, she said she felt the same way when she first took the same class more than 12 years ago.  Now she is an experienced Salesforce trainer.
  4. Get involved with the Salesforce Success Community and the Power of Us Hub.  I’ve found others who have used the platform for years (like my friend Judi Sohn, now with the Salesforce Foundation) to be very helpful whenever I have questions.
  5. Find a good partner to help you implement Salesforce at your organization.  The best way to do this is to ask others who have already rolled out the platform.  You don’t have to do it alone.

Note to Salesforce  – while the Administration class was great, why not a nonprofit specific version?  Many of the objects / processes learned weren’t relevant to my environment, and there was no mention at all of the Nonprofit Starter Pack, which I hope to be using soon.


Fundraising Day Recap

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending Fundraising Day.  I spent part of the day volunteering to help attendees, but was able to attend several sessions of the Web, Tech and Social Media track. Below are a few highlights:

  • Social media guru Danielle Brigida (US Fish & Wildlife Service) offered these essentials for communicating on social media: a compelling message, an intriguing visual and a clear call to action.  On Facebook, she suggested we focus more on getting shares than likes and to utilize interest lists
  • David Acup (Environmental Defense Fund) and Luke Franklin (ASPCA) offered a dizzying number of tips such as: remembering to communicating tech wins (not just requests), utilizing custom targets on Facebook and recognizing social ambassadors (who is already sharing your org’s content?)
  • Fundraising expert Jeff Brooks (True Sense Marketing) discussed 3 donor trends:
    • Donors are crossing channel lines.  Make it easy for them to do so.  Align channels.
    • Donors are consolidating giving to fewer organizations.  Develop fundraising ‘offers’ to clearly indicate how gifts will be utilized.  Don’t forget to thank donors quickly and report back on how their donations have been used.
    • Most current donors are boomers.  Make them the hero in your communications (don’t focus only on your organization).  You probably should contact supporters more often than you are now (as much as 12 x/year!).

Thanks to the Association of Fundraising Professionals for hosting another great event and to Steve Jacobson (JCA) and Paul Habig (SankyNet) for moderating the tech track sessions.

How to Get (and Maintain) Buy-In for Tech Projects

At the recent Nonprofit Technology Conference, Nonprofit Radio host Tony Martignetti asked me to speak about my two sessions,  Winning 100% Buy-In from Staff and Board for your Next Nonprofit Technology Adoption and Why User Adoption Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought: Making Sure Your Organization Actually Uses the Technology You Implement.

If  you missed my sessions, now you can listen to my interview via podcast.   (The program also includes comments by Blackbaud veteran Steve MacLaughlin on emerging nonprofit technology trends.)  My segment begins at 32:00 of the 57 minute podcast.

Thanks to Tony for having me on his show and to Nten for running another great event.


Is Agile Project Management Right for Your Nonprofit?

Seven years ago I presented a webinar for Nten on Project Management for Nonprofits (I’ve recently updated the slides).  Since then, agile has become an increasingly popular methodology for managing a project.

At the 501TechNYC meeting in NYC on Wed, May 27, Monica-Lisa Mills and I presented Is Agile Project Management for Your Nonprofit, where we will discussed how agile may (or may not) work at your organization.

Whether you realize it or not, you probably do some project management in your job, and using agile principles may help you to have better results.

Addendum 5/28/15 – Thanks to Monica-Lisa for collaborating with me and sharing her expertise and to everyone who attended last night’s event.  Slides are below:


If You Do This Right, Your Project Will Be Successful

Probably the most challenging part of a project is defining your requirements.  Try these tips to improve the odds that your next project will be successful:

  1. Allow sufficient time to document your current system – and what features / functionality you want in your new system.
  2. Ask a team member who is a strong writer to help with this process.
  3. After you think you’re done, show your write-up to someone who is not directly involved in your project.  Can they understand what you’ve described?
  4. Many vendors/consultants will guide you through the requirements gathering process.  This will cost more than doing it yourself, but in the long run will cost less than if you have to re-do a project that has failed.
  5. Plan for a phased approach – not all requirements not have to be met in the first release / launch / rollout.  The more focused and short-term you can keep your project, the more likely you will get the results you want.
  6. Prioritize your needs.  Getting a system that meets 80% of your requirements in 3 months is probably preferable to holding out for 90% of your needs that will take much longer to implement.
  7. Have a change control process in place to handle user requests for items that are not part of the requirements.  Keep a ‘wish list’ of features / functionality that you may want to add later.
  8. Assume that staff members may leave and companies you hire may change who is assigned to your project.  This is why it is so important to document your requirements clearly.

Need more help on how to document your requirements?  See Requirements Management: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly from the Project Management Institute.  Doing this right won’t guarantee that your project will succeed, but if you don’t, most likely your users will not be happy with the results.