Report from Nonprofit TechCon Event

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Digital Media Monitoring, Analytics and Optimization at Nonprofit TechCon (#NYNTechCon), sponsored by New York Nonprofit Media.  (Our session begins at apx 1:15 on the video below.)

A few highlights:

  • Use an editorial calendar to schedule what content will appear on which channels at what times, and share with your main and remote sites
  • When sending out social media activity reports, don’t just provide the statistics.  Streamline the numbers you send and take the time to analyze the data and explain what’s working (and what’s not).
  • Find the balance between curation and original content – make sure you are doing both.
  • While it’s fun to use social media sites, Facebook and Twitter could go away tomorrow.  And, visitors only see a small fraction of your content. Don’t forget about the basics: a strong website, a segmented email list and a good constituent database.
  • If you have multiple people handling different channels, make sure they talk to each other and don’t forget to provide links from each channel to others.
  • Include tracking codes (UTMs) on your URLs to track which visitors are moving from social media to other channels.

Thanks to Sarah Schenck, Supportive Housing Network of NY, for moderating out session so skillfully, and to my co-panelists Aaron Godert, GiveGab and Jereme Bivins, Rockefeller Foundation for their great insights.

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.

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.