Tag Archives: nptech

Another Great Nonprofit Technology Conference – Notes on #15NTC

I returned from Austin, TX this week, where I attended another wonderful Nonprofit Technology Conference (great job Amy & Nten!).  Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in my two sessions, Winning 100% Buy-In from Staff and Board for your Next Nonprofit Technology Adoption (see collaborative notes) and Why User Adoption Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought: Making Sure Your Organization Actually Uses the Technology You Implement (see collaborative notes).

Although these sessions were given at different times with different co-presenters, they really were related;  how to get organization support from the start to increase the probability of project success, and what to do throughout the process to make sure users are happy with the new system.  Below are my slides illustrating ten scenarios of what can go right – and wrong in user adoption:

If you would like more tips on how to make your projects end better, take a cue from my friend Peter Campbell, who in his latest post What is Nonprofit Technology explains that “Successful technology implementations at nonprofits are done by people who know how to communicate. The soft skills matter even more than the tech skills, because you will likely be reporting to people who don’t understand what tech does.”
Interestingly, another session I attended  was entitled What to Do When Technology Isn’t Your Problem (see collaborative notes), which focused on the importance of people and process as well as the technology.  Spend the time to fully understand business processes work and make sure you work on your relationships, both inside and outside your organization.  When tech projects fail, the technology usually isn’t the reason why.

Winning 100% Buy-In For Your Next Nonprofit Technology Adoption – #15NTC Preview

Have you ever spent a lot of time and effort planning and implementing a project, only to find out months after rollout that users barely use the new system?

15NTCAt the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, in Austin, Texas next week, I will be a presenter in the session, Winning 100% Buy-in from Staff and Board for Your Next Nonprofit Technology Adoption.  With co-presenters Kathryn Englehardt-Cronk (Community TechKnowledge), Brad Pierson and Jennifer Vocelka (SIMS Foundation), we will share our experiences about how to get your colleagues on board for your next project.

Here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing:

  • Kathryn will present a model she’s developed to make the case for a new system and demonstrate how it will help stakeholders
  • I will present 10 scenarios on what to do if you don’t have the ideal scenario (where staff, management and board are all supportive both before, during and after rollout)
  • Brad and Jennifer will discuss how they were able to turn around a culture where previous projects had not gone smoothly

Our session will be presented Thu, Mar. 5 at 10:30 AM.  If you’re planning to be at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (always a great event), I hope you’ll plan to join us.

Why User Adoption Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought – #15NTC Preview

Have you ever spent a lot of time and effort planning and implementing a project, only to find out months after rollout that users barely use the new system?

15NTCAt the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, in Austin, Texas, I will be a presenter in the session, Adoption Shouldn’t be an Afterthought: Making Sure Your Organization Actually Uses the Technology You Implement.  With co-presenters Kevin Peralta (Amigos de los Americas), Austin Buchan (College Forward), and Tucker MacLean (Exponent Partners), we will examine why so many newly rolled out systems fall into disuse – and what you can do to prevent it.

Here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing:

  • Success in user adoption usually isn’t about the quality of the product you select
  • Training can help, but what happens when the trainers leave?
  • Staff that are actively involved in selecting a new system will be more likely to use it later
  • If you don’t generate reports regularly, you won’t know how much (or not) the new system is actually being used
  • If you don’t take the time to explain to staff why you are bringing in a new product, they won’t be motivated to use it.

Our session will be presented Fri, Mar 6 at 1:30 PM – if you’re planning to be at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (always a great event), I hope you’ll plan to join us.

Why Did My Tech Project Fail?

Have you had this experience lately?  After much research, you pick a new technology system with a vendor or consultant that you carefully selected, plan a detailed implementation then roll it out in stages at your organization.  Afterwards, you feel pretty good about your efforts, and await recognition for your hard work.

But there’s a problem.  Several months (or maybe a year) later, you run some reports from your new system, only to find out that much data seems to be ‘missing.’  You later find out that staff have reverted to way of doing things.  How could they not realize that the new system is superior?  At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I will be participating in two sessions that specifically address why tech projects often fail, despite our best efforts.

In Winning 100% Buy-In From Staff and Board For Your Next Nonprofit Technology Adoption, Kathryn Englehardt-Cronk from Community TechKnowledge will discuss the critical issue of getting management  to help you demonstrate why your staff should embrace the new system.

In Adoption Should Be An Afterthought: Making Sure Your Organization Actually Uses the Technology You Implement, Tucker MacLean from Exponent Partners and Austin Buchan from College Forward will explore the thorny issue of user adoption, and how you can insure that staff actually will use your new system.

I’ve been involved in my share of tech projects that have experienced these challenges, so I’ve reached out to Kathryn and Tucker to  share my experiences at these sessions.  I also presented with Idealware about a similar topic at last year’s conference, Selecting the Right CRM – and Making Sure Staff Use It Effectively.  This year, I will focus on making sure from the start of your project that shareholder buy-in and user adoption are planned for.

I hope to see you in Austin, Texas next March for our annual Nonprofit Technology Conference.  In the meantime, I wish you a healthy and joyous 2015!

Vote For Your Favorite #15NTC Sessions

This Friday, July 18 is the deadline for picking your favorite sessions / topics for next year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, Texas on March 4-6, 2015.

To help you navigate the long list of submissions, below are some of my favorite ideas organized by topic, many which I’ve spoken and/or blogged about:

Giving Effective Online Presentations

Maintaining Better Nonprofit Data

Multichannel / Integrated Communications & Fundraising

Mobile / Responsive Strategies

Project Management / Agile 


Website Design

Working with Vendors / Consultants

User Adoption – What to Do AFTER the Launch

If that’s not enough to whet your interest, below are some other sessions worth voting for:

As you’ll notice, there are many sessions with similar topics that will probably be combined.  Pick your favorite submissions and make next year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference most relevant to your needs.

How to Get the Most from a Webinar (and who to take them with)

Attending a webinar online is a great way to keep up your skills and connect with others in the nonprofit community.   To get the most value from an online event:

  1. As tempting as it may be, minimize multitasking.  If you can’t focus on the session you’re attending, find out if there will be a recording available (most do provide this) then listen at a time you can focus
  2. Ask questions.  (You’ll learn more that way.)  Many session presenters (including me) prefer an interactive format and welcome questions at any time, not only at the presentation’s end.
  3. Take notes – and share with your coworkers.  Writing things down will reinforce the ideas
  4. Share key ideas over social media channels (but be careful about focusing too much on this – see tip #1)
  5. Do your job first.  Make sure your webinar participation doesn’t interfere with getting your work done and be prepared to stop listening if an office situation requires your attention

Fortunately, there are many organizations / individuals offering great content in free or low-cost webinars.  For example:

But while webinars are great,  don’t forget about also going to live events where you can interact with our community in person.  And anytime you’re at an in-person meeting, please minimize use of your smart phone.  I’ve attended meetings where practically everyone is constantly on their phone – be where you are!

How to Kick Off a New Project

This week my organization continued work on the project mentioned in my last post, Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for an Agile Project  with a series of meetings with many of our users and the vendor/consultant.

Here’s why I think it went very well:

  1. We made sure all stakeholders had an opportunity to be at the table.  I encouraged everyone to participate, and adjusted our schedule for some who had very limited time availability.
  2. At my boss’s suggestion, we scheduled some meetings with multiple users/departments at the same time, allowing them to validate each other’s comments.
  3. Our vendor/consultant listened closely to our staff’s feedback and took copious notes.
  4. We spent a few hours developing a database model to best serve everyone’s needs (it’s much harder to change this later)
  5. I made sure our Executive Director had dedicated time to ask pointed questions about how the new system would be built.
  6. Even though this system won’t be built internally, both of our programmers were fully involved in all discussions so they can better support and enhance the system later.
  7. After the meetings, I thanked everyone for their participation – and reminded them that we would need their help throughout the process to ensure a successful result.

Time will tell if things work out, but I think we’re off to a great start.

Note to President Obama – If Testing Shows Problems, Delay the Site Launch

healthcare-govMost of us in nonprofit technology who have launched a new website or rolled out a new software applications know why it’s so important to allow enough time for testing.  If testing shows problems, then there has to be time to fix them.  And if there isn’t enough time to do this, then the launch has to be delayed.  And there has to be honest communication with the users to explain why the delay is needed.

Certainly healthcare.gov is not your every day website and some of the issues since its October 1st launch date have been due to much higher traffic than was expected.  But it seems that more testing might have resulted in a much better experience for those who have tried to sign up for medical coverage.  Since the President’s health care plan has been so controversial, all the more reason to make sure the site worked flawlessly before it was made available to the public.  It’s interesting that a ‘apply by phone’ option was recently added, but other sign up options should have been provided from the beginning;  not everyone is comfortable using the web.

Testing isn’t always fun but it’s an integral part of every website rollout.  Make sure this type of experience doesn’t happen at your nonprofit by allowing sufficient time for testing and fixes, and communicating with your stakeholders about what’s happening.

Addendum 10/28/13 – here’s some practical tips from usability experts Nielsen Norman on how the health insurance marketplace site can be improved.

Addendum 11/5/13 – From ProjjectManagers.net, how a staged rollout might have helped.  Is poor project management to blame for the launch of the Obamacare site?

Great New Project Management & Online Fundraising Resources

If you’re planning a website redesign project, download this updated free resource from Smart Cause Digital, the Nonprofit Website Project Handbook.  As a sample, below are my tweets while I attended this week’s informative webinar by firm founder Yesenia Sotelo:

  • Building a new website? Be specific about audience you’re trying to reach (e.g. not just men or women)
  • Picking a website design vendor? Do you want fast, cheap or good (pick 2)
  • Sending Out a RFP for your website project? Include a budget!
  • During website redesign process, document major decisions (in place where everyone can access)
  • In addition to building website for mobile, also make it accessible and search engine friendly
  • Show your website designer example of other sites that compelled you to take action
  • Most delays in website development are due to delays in getting content
  • All website content doesn’t all have to be written by your org. Ask stakeholders to help
  • Make sure to include enough time to user testing of new website – and to fix what issues they find
  • Also to help with website testing – try Feedback Army or User Testing, or even better if you have limited $/time – ask active volunteers to do specific task on staging site
  • Training on new website / CMS is not a one-time event – make it ongoing for new & current staff
  • Ready to launch new website? Be careful about scheduling too close to major event (allow time for possible delays)
  • Boring stuff but a must – make sure you have documentation and regular backups of your new website

Learn why communication is the most important skill of a successful project manager in this new Project Management Institute Pulse of the Profession report.

Want to learn from the most experienced and successful online fundraisers?  Download 30 Brilliant Bits of Online Fundraising Wisdom by Care2.  Its three major recommendations:

  1. Optimize for small screens – make it easy for constituents to give and take action from a mobile device
  2. Improve data communications and data sharing within your organization
  3. Learn how to tell powerful stories about the impact of your work\

Finally, if you make a mistake in your Facebook post, you can finally correct it – on Web & Android now, coming to IOS soon.  (Makes you wonder why this was so long in coming.)

How to Keep Users Happy While Building a New Database

I’m currently working with DataCaliper to design a new online database to replace a MS Access system that no longer meets my organization’s needs.  At the beginning of our project, we spent several days reviewing requirements with users to make sure we knew what type of data to collect and how the information should be reported.

When I’ve done this type of project in the past, the approach has usually been to design wireframes to show what the system would look like before any coding was done.  This time, my vendor prepared a series of linked HTML files which we used to simulate how the completed site will work.  As expected, my users had many more revisions once they were able to visually see the new design.  But unlike when using wireframes, these HTML files will be used as the nucleus of our new database.

While we’re still a few months away from completing this project, I am pleased to see how well my users are responding to this approach.  It’s been especially helpful since my main contact at the vendor has shown a rare combination of programming knowledge and people skills, e.g. being patient when users come up with new requirements that they didn’t mention at the original requirements gathering sessions.

As a project manager, I’ve learned that it’s not always simple for users to express what they want.  So that’s why it’s so important to have ongoing communication with developers as a new system is being built – not just at the beginning.  But I will also make sure my users understand that we will soon have to lock down the design and not accept further changes.

Another nice feature of our new system: in most cases, users with administrator rights will be able to add their own options for drop down menus through an ‘manage codes’ process.  This reduces the work that has to be handled by our developer.

Even if you pick a great product or platform you select for your next database, you won’t be successful unless you also select the right partner to work with. (Reminder – interview at least three vendors and make sure you check references before making your choice).