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Allen Gunn - Aspiration

Three Important Tips

  1. Back up your data! Frequency depends on how often your data changes. Make local copies too!
    1. Zac Mutrux at Sarai Consulting - recommended as good consultant who can set up data backups. In high demand, has a waiting list.
  2. Maintain control of your organization's technological destiny. (Don't let consultants, volunteers usurp your technological destiny.)
    1. E.g. open source software with a large user community, such as WordPress
    2. Boring technology is good (vs. bleeding-edge)
    3. Ask around - what are your colleagues at similarly-sized nonprofits (with respect to staff/resources) using?
  3. Claim your right to have technology explained to you in the language of your organization/workflow/mission (rather than tech-speak). Language that you understand--and in writing!

Managing Your Website

  • Volunteers webmasters/techies often go AWOL without warning - make it a financial arrangement (paid staff/consultant/contractor)
    • Pain point for nonprofits - for-profit sector is a brain drain on the pool of nonprofit tech workers
  • Choosing technology for your website:
    • Who is your audience?
    • What do they want from your website? What kind of information do they want to access, what tasks would they want to do online?
    • What do you (the org staff members) want your website to do for you? What do you want it to accomplish?
  • Dreamweaver is useful for some tasks:
    • Creating web page templates
    • Server-side hosting; content management
  • Nonprofits don't need to host their own websites; they should NOT have their own server room (except if their data is controversial/sensitive, e.g. one org keeps data on its clients, who are illegal immigrants)
  • Recommendations of web hosting companies:
    • Hosting companies that suck: GoDaddy.com, Network Solutions/Verisign - poor customer service, including delays and shady practices if you try to cancel/transfer your domain
    • Hosting companies that are good: domainsite.com
  • Do NOT use the same company for website hosting AND domain name registration - later on, if you need to transfer one or the other, this company will have you on the ropes because they control both of them!
  • Buy your .com & .net domain name to protect your good name/reputation! You don't want an adversary, competitor, or porn site to buy them!

Online Donation Services

  • PayPal - Mixed reviews. History of locking down bank accounts if there are irregularities or issues with transactions. There are tradeoffs to using PayPal.
    • Use a dedicated bank account for accepting online donations through PayPal and other donation services. This protects you from having assets frozen if there is an issue with an online donation transaction.
  • Network for Good (recently merged with Groundspring) - low end of price scale, monthly fee. Not perfect, but a decent offering for its price point.
  • DemocracyInAction - higher-end service
  • Antharia - speaker mentioned this company, but he is not yet familiar with the quality of their offerings

Communicating with Tech Staff/Consultants

  • If tech person is planning to introduce a new technology into your org/website, they should be able to describe the migration strategy to the client, clearly and to their satisfaction. How will they get all of the old users/systems/data onto the new platform?
  • A common frustration: tech people speak a different language from nonprofit people, who speak a different language from each other (based on subsector!)

Online Advocacy and Outreach

  • Technology for online advocacy and outreach has three "moving parts": website, email blaster, and database.
  1. Website - recommend using open-source content management system (CRM), e.g. Drupal, Joomla, WordPress
  2. Email - do NOT send mass emails to your members from your desk!!! No matter how cleverly you try to do it, it will be automatically labeled as spam and filtered out. Instead, use a third-party service:
    1. Low-end: Constant Contact, Vertical Response. Approx. $50/month. The problem with these is that they tend to be data silos - once you put your member/message data into their system, it is difficult to access/update/extract your data again.
    2. Mid-market: DemocracyInAction. Approx. $100-$300/month.
    3. High-end (waste of money, in speaker's opinion): Kintera (which has been generating a lot of controversy due to their nonprofit software patenting practices), Convio
    4. Ultra-low-end, REALLY basic: npogroups.org, run by Electric Embers. Old-school listserv for low-volume emails. Approx $12-$25/month.
  3. Databases - orgs have two types of data: people data and program data
    1. Write down your workflow BEFORE choosing a tool/database!
    2. CRMs - Constituent Relationship Management (or "Client Relationship Management, or "Customer Relationship Management"--take your pick) - just about everything in the market that is actually labeled and sold as a CRM is inappropriate for nonprofits [Note from kfb: CRMs were originally developed for large businesses/enterprises and have a hefty price tag and a level of complexity far beyond what most nonprofits need.]
    3. Salesforce.com - speaker gives cautious approval. Originally created for enterprises, but they are adapting it to work for nonprofits too. Not open-source.
    4. DemocracyInAction - not bad, but workflow is missing; they are working on addressing this gap
    5. CiviCRM - another option; open-source; workflow not yet supported.

Funding Your Technology Needs

  • Put your org's technology needs in your grant proposal, but hide it in a line item!

Web 2.0

  • Overhyped (according to the speaker), but still, there is some "there" there...
    • Online communities
    • Flickr for photos
    • del.icio.us for social bookmarks (a way to share links to websites and find out which ones are really popular with your friends and the general public)
    • Discussion forums/boards - speaker feels these are too much of a management hassle [Note from kfb: I disagree, I think they can have a high degree of community/interactivity/utility and can provide value that outweighs the hassle, but it's paramount to have a good team of moderators (who may be volunteers). See The Simple Living Network for an example of a well-run forum]
    • Blogging/RSS - turn on comments, otherwise there's no point
    • Social networks
      • MySpace and Facebook - both can help drive traffic to your org's website. Facebook has open API, meaning that a lot more tools will be built for Facebook
      • LinkedIn - mainly professional contacts and job networking, organizational networking, trolling for consulting work
      • change.org - from their website: "a social network for social activism, incorporating nonprofits, politicians, and people across the globe"

More Resources

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