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).
Speaking of Nten, I’ve just signed up for next spring’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco. Please register now to lock in the lowest rate. It’s always the premier event of the year for the #nptech community.
For best results in ephilanthropy initiatives, I’ve always advocated for an active partnership between Communications and Development. Here’s more reasons why from Kivi Leroux Miller, If you’re not getting the type of response you want from your nonprofit e-newsletters, Kivi also offers a free 15 day e-newsletter course at her Nonprofit Marketing Guide website. which offers many simple tips you can easily implement.
If your organization is undergoing a major change (as most of us do sooner or later), Peter De Jager provides many great resources on change management at Technobility. See also Chaos is the New Normal.
I’ve long advocated using web based applications, but are we ready for a cloud operating system? Here’s a first look at Google’s Chrome OS, planned for release next summer. (Why not just focus on Android, which is already in wide usage on the mobile platform?)
Need help in planning a social media and online engagement strategy? Here’s a great overview of what’s involved, thanks to Big Duck‘s Farra Trompeter. For example, pick the channels where you have the time and resources to participate (you can’t be everywhere).
2010 will begin the fourth year for Nonprofit Bridge. Whether you have recently discovered our blog or have followed us since the beginning, I’d like to offer any small nonprofit organization a complimentary phone consultation to discuss how you can effectively implement online strategies. Some questions I often receive:
With a small budget, how can I effectively do online fundraising?
How can I develop an email marketing campaign?
How much should we use tools such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with our constituents?
What is the best way to update our web content?
We’re considering a new donor database or content management system – where do we start?
Should I put my events online, even if they have no charge to attend?
Which department / staff member should take the lead in online / Internet strategy?
Please contact us to take advantage of this offer.
Congratulations to winners of America’s Giving Challenge, proving that even the smallest nonprofits can compete with the larger organizations by taking advantage of social media tools such as Facebook’s Causes application. Social media guru Beth Kanter agrees. Nten also offers ideas on how to Raise Money on Facebook. See also Clicking for a Cause for more thoughts on how social media can help engage constituents and encourage involvement with your cause.
David Roodman’s recent blog post and this week’s follow up NY Timesarticle, questions are raised about the model of newer nonprofits such as Kiva and Global Giving which have supposedly allowed donors to decide specifically how their money will be used. This has resulted in a recent change in Kiva now describing its mission as “connecting people through lending to alleviate proverty.’ My take – this shouldn’t stop the trend towards nonprofits giving donors more of a say in how their contributions will be used. However, it does provide a wake up call on the importance of transparency in explaining how the process works.
This week I had the pleasure of participating in Nten‘s first Online Nonprofit Technology Conference. While on a much smaller scale than the annual spring event, the two days of online webinars featured some of our sector’s brightest stars and allowed an opportunity for much more interaction with the presenters than is normally possible at the live event. Some highlights:
Network for Good‘s Katya Andresen reminded us that raising awareness of our organizations isn’t enough, it’s to ‘get someone to take an action.’ She also recommended we let the constituent be the messenger for our cause (much more effective than if message comes directly from organization). She implored us to focus on the donor when designing our web sites, not on the organization structure, mentioning Kiva and DonorsChoose as examples of how to do this right.
ConmmonGood Career’s James Weinberg described how social networking sites are replacing online job boards. As a way to encourage staff longevity, he suggested finding ways to change job responsibilities even if the position doesn’t change. If nonprofits can’t create opportunities for staff to advance, it is their responsibility to help them move elsewhere (not sure how many nonprofits would agree)
Idealware‘s Laura Quinn offered a sneak peak at her Field Guide to Software, to be released later this year. She added that the choice of donor database is probably the most critical decision (and to make sure everyone in organization is comfortable using it)
Beaconfire‘s Michael Cervino discussed using benchmarks from sites such as PewInternet and e-Benchmarks-Study to measure how well our organizations are performing, also showing how Google Analytics funnels can be used effectively. He also described how online surveys are best used frequently with few questions. (I added this is a great way to add data to help segment your database)
Philantech‘s Dahna Goldstein discussed how to help staff deal with change, e.g. making sure that staff are fully involved and kept informed
Consultant John Kenyon and American Lung’s Rusty Burwell discussed online communications and the importance of inter-department collaboration. See my previous post on this topic. In response to my question, John stated emphatically that social media will never replace email as the main communications medium.
Thanks to Holly and the NTen staff for putting on another great program, and congrats also to Holly for being recognized by Nonprofit Times in the Top 50 Power and Influence!
My take: smaller organizations such as Charity:Water will continue to take the lead on showing larger nonprofits how to raise funds and engage constituents in a variety of new ways. Larger organizations are still trying to deal with what Clay Shirky‘s observation during his year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference: nonprofits have already lost control of their branding and messaging .
eTapestry introduced their ‘software as a service’ product in 1999, long before many others realized the benefits of a web based interface. (eTapestry was acquired by Blackbaud in August 2007.) This week I had the opportunity to attend a session given by CEO Jay Love who offered some interesting insights.
Social media is on everyone’s radar lately; Jay described the value of monitoring comments about your company / brand and described a recent experience where eTapestry was able to respond quickly to a negative tweet by a customer. Read about the happy ending.
It’s often frustrating when our donors stop giving, but sometimes the problem is hidden when the number of new donors more than make up the difference. If we can find ways to re-engage lapsed donors, what a difference this can make in our list growth! Here’s some recent Guidestar tips on how to reduce donor attrition rates.
Two important questions to ask:
How do you welcome new subscribers? (Common Knowledge has also done considerable work on developing a welcome series of communications.)
How do you manage relationship after opt-in?
Jay described the importance of having a donor database what everyone uses to document constituent interactions, also detailing a personal experience where he is considering discontinuing support for a charity which ‘asked the same questions’ that he had already answered in a past meeting. In my experience, organizations that have a fully functional CRM often have difficulty getting staff to use it. In response to my question, Jay recommended that nonprofits demonstrate that those who are the biggest ‘note takers’ are the most successful in fundraising – and publicize this information to all staff.
Another point which may seem obvious but isn’t always applied – make sure you direct constituents to specific landing pages so you can track where they came from, not to your general home page.