Friday, July 11, 2014

Mission Tech Planning - The Interviews

A big hello to all of my blog readers! (all 3 of you)

I am excited about the attention Missional Technology Planning has been getting! Love it!

I even get to give the presentation here again in Chicago, you should come, everyone is invited:

But if you are one of my new blog readers or just haven't been paying attention, you might be thinking: What is the Missional Technology Planning Steve is writing about?

Well you are in luck! Here are two video interviews I did back at #13NTC with MAP for Nonprofits! So go grab your org's mission statement, the strategic plan and some popcorn and watch these!

NOTE! Please forgive my look of exhaustion and hat head. I think I should have left the cowboy hat on... These interviews were after a string of presentations and I had no idea what I looked like.


And now that you know what Missional Technology Planning is, Are you ready to use it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Due June 22! Tech Session Suggestions needed for #15NTC!

Social Media and Communications session suggestions out number the tech and tool session suggestions in mass quantities.

We need your help to get the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference to have a better Technology focus.

Here is some of the feedback that is listed on the NTEN website about what people are looking for:

  • 58% of respondents identified as nonprofit managers or directors, 17% coordinator/associate level, 17% as executives, and 8% as other.
  • More than 63% describe their level of tech adoption in relation to other colleagues as journey level (knowledgeable and experienced in a few areas), 34% as apprentice (have some knowledge/experience in a specific area), and about 3% as novices (new to it all).
  • What topics did they hope to learn about? 52% identified communications as being a core interest area and 42% named IT as their priority, followed by leadership (34%) and fundraising (30%).
  • 59% mentioned a preference for sessions featuring technical how-tos, 52% wanted to focus on programmatic uses of technology, and 40% requested content about management strategy.
I suggested sessions on:

  1. Making Technology Decisions
  2. Help Desk or Service Desk, either way IT should be a partner
I would love to see some others that have experience suggest some of the following:
  1. Working with technology consultants - how do you pick?
  2. Using a managed network vs hiring your own network admin
  3. My favorite Network and technology management tools: what do you use to monitor your network, run help desk, measure bandwidth, review capacity, audit security, etc?
  4. Data mining and dashboards
  5. Office365 vs Google Apps
  6. Back to the basics on Project Management
  7. The value of a technology committee (project review, peer advisory, etc)
  8. Best practices in desktop support\management
  9. BYOD and other policies needed for todays tech
  10. Governance of all kinds, data, process, etc
  11. Choosing a CRM
  12. What differentiates today's Fundraising Software
  13. How to manage data when you use so many different cloud based or free tools
Anyway, that is just my initial list, I am sure you have ideas, so go suggest them now!

Then go to NTEN and suggest your session! Before June 22, yeah, only 11 days left.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Small Org Tech Setup - An Example

Being a small organization does not mean you have to settle for small technology. It does require some deliberate decisions on where you spend money on technology though. Even a $5 month subscription matters. Resources, expertise and time are real limitations with small orgs who depend on a limited staff to do everything.

However, small nonprofits have huge opportunity to leverage opportunities in ways large orgs simply can't.  Seriously, stop and think about it. When you are small there are numerous things you can do in Microsoft Excel with ease which would require a full database in a large org. There are countless opportunities for small nonprofits to get free technology licenses and solutions, which exceed their needs. Those same tools would have additional costs or just won’t work for large organizations.

ORG Size Differences:

Over my career I have worked at a large National org, large Metropolitan org and a smaller local org, but over the last few years I have had a new experience. My wife, Becca Heye, is the Executive Director of a very small local nonprofit called Leap of Faith Arts Ministries. Their budget is well under $100,000 a year with no full time staff. I have become jealous of their ability to leverage lower cost, easy solutions to have a solid set of technology to meet the org needs and enable staff.

The ability for a small org to make decisions on or changes to their technology is much easier. Less red tape, fewer people involved, smaller scale, etc. But these benefits can be easily overshadowed with limited tech experience and expertise. They just may not know what is possible. So I disagree with any small org who tries to argue with me about a lack of budget being the biggest tech barrier. They just need expertise to use the budget in the best possible way first, then work to build the budget. Just getting a bigger budget may make it worse, they may have more tech they don’t understand, need or use.

Example Tech of a Small Nonprofit

Here is a quick overview of the technology, but first a quick disclaimer. I am not endorsing, nor recommending these solutions. While these may be working well for this org, every org has their own needs and should find the tools to match them.

First basic tech:

Phone – Google Voice has been configured to allow the org’s phone to be redirected to whatever number needed. This allows staff to manage calls without being in the building and helps avoid costly phone bills since the building has no internet to allow for VOIP phones either.

Internet – A Clear modem from Mobile Citizen for a super low cost. Sure this does not provide blazing speeds for mass consumption. But most staff do their office work and email from home anyway.

Netbook and Printer – A donated Netbook and printer is the extent of the tech setup at the office. The rest is built around BYOD.

Finance – Quickbooks meets the accounting needs for the org with a low cost. (However since Leap of Faith is a Faith Based Org they do not qualify for the TechSoup donation from Intuit. Lame.) Simple enough solution to run on a single laptop backed up to an external hard drive offsite.

Email and Intranet – Free Google apps with Gmail.


Website – WordPress on is the current website setup, but they are migrating to WordPress on Dreamhost for free nonprofit hosting. I built the website for them. This combined with Google AdWords Grant rocks! Plus backed up to Dropbox for free. PayPal for Online Donations.

Communication – Facebook page, MailChimp for email blast, Remind 101 for text blasts

Class Management and Online Registration – Studio Director is the software used for the management of classes, registration and parent information. This is one area they are spending a bit more money. This solution has challenges, but offers good support which is KEY for a nonprofit with limited tech expertise. Hosted solution so no internal tech needed.

Program Management

Event Management – Tututix for ticket sales, Curtain Call for Class to sell dancewear plus shoes, evite for the occasional free event,

Donor Management – DonorPath provides more than software, they are providing support, guidance and resources to help make them a success. This is another area where they have opted to spend some resources. Hosted solution so no internal tech needed.

Studio Management – More Than Great Dancing is an affiliation of Dance Studios they use for management, marketing, curriculum and lots of other resources. Yeah, this really isn’t tech, but this affiliation provides advice on how to make all of this work together and goes right along with the approach listed above. Put the resources where they will have benefit.

Other Tools – Square for Credit Card Processing, Doodle to find meeting availability.

What is so magic about this combination of solutions? Nothing!

The magic to these solutions is priority.  They have really worked hard to identify which tools to spend money on and which ones they will look for free or really cheap options. Too often I hear nonprofits complain a lack of money for tech, but they are spending what they have on the wrong priorities and don't use what they have.


Of course there are challenges with relying on free tools, they can disappear, start charging crazy prices or get bought. But when you are small, you can move, just make sure you check who owns the data and how easy it is to get it out when you need it. Plus when you use a bunch of different tools you will face data silo challenges and what happens when there is staff turnover, does someone else know about all of these tools?


I challenge small nonprofits out there to look at their tech. Look at your budgets. Look where your tech resources are going. Find a trusted resource to help supplement your tech expertise (like how my wife did with me) and see if you are using your existing resources and opportunities to their fullest potential.

The other big benefit of small nonprofits? Any size of donation makes an impact, show your support and donate today!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

4 Easy Steps to Missional Tech Planning

This post is a follow up to a Tech Planning Smack Down: Behind The Scenes post on the Community IT blog about a Session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. Be sure to go read that post first!


A silver bullet for technology planning does not exist. There is no right way to do it for everyone, your job is to find the way which works best for you today (might be different later).  But it actually goes even further, you may have to use multiple technology planning methods to build a single plan. We will walk through Tactical, Strategic and Missional technology planning.

In order for technology to meet staff and organization needs, support the organization’s strategic plan and provide innovation for program delivery and mission impact, it will need to implemented in a range of ways. Each style of technology planning requires different information, people, time, resources and skills. Each of them is also used to create different plans over different periods of time.  The first key is to have an overview of each type of planning; Tactical, Strategic and Missional.

So first an overview of each type.

Tactical: focuses on using quick timelines with small teams (even one person) to get all of the technology working correctly, establish a replacement plan with improvements and begin to address problems, not symptoms.

Strategic: Shifts to meeting the operational and strategic needs of the organization. Relies on cross-functional teams with a need for business process changes, staff training and change management. As strategic technology improves it gets tied to and even can be integrated into the organization’s strategic plan.

Missional: Scope shifts beyond the goals and plans to the mission and vision of the organization. This often requires expertise, insight and collaboration from outside the organization. Identify gaps between your ability to meet the mission and the capacity of the organization, then march technology to the gaps.

Make It Happen

Just understanding the types isn’t enough though, you have to know how you create and implement the plan too. But the real trick is that there is no one right way to do the planning.  Here are just some ideas, but you have to make it your own.

There are plenty of resources out there to show you how to do the tactical and strategic planning. I would suggest reviewing the Tactical Tech Planning course from Idealware, attending the Nonprofit Tech Academy from NTEN and reading the Unleasing Innovation paper from MAP Tech Works.  You should also consider working with a consultant to run the process and bring in outside expertise.

But I have not found as many which focus on the mission focused technology.  Which is why we ran a session on it at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference.  So here is our idea on how to do it. (Lindsay Bealko from Toolkit Consulting and Andrea Berry from Idealware were key in planning and running this)

Who: Pull together a diverse group of people from inside and outside of your org with a wide set of experiences and expertise (including some who may not know your org well, but understands the cause). Have this group break into small teams and the activity we did in our session.

1. Mission or Vision Statement
Review your mission and\or vision statement and look for the phrases or concepts which:

  • extend for many years
  • exceed the capacity of your org
  • requires collaboration across the sector
  • reflects the big hairy audacious goal of the org

2. Identify the barriers
What stands in the way of acting on or in completing the selected part of your mission or vision statement? Create a list of these barriers.

3. Brainstorm with technology
Use a set of cards with different types of emerging and core technologies (prepare these cards ahead of time).  These cards should have a range of things from e-learning, emails, websites, mobile apps, text messaging, tablets, computer labs, CRM, big data, wide area network, etc.

Have the group brainstorm possible technology approaches to each of the barriers you identified in the second step. To make it tougher we had the group pick the technology which seemed like the least likely match. Challenge the group to look for ideas which do not rely on staff intervention, extend past the reach of the org, have a direct impact on constituents, etc.  Come up with your own rules for the group based on your style, culture and cause.

4. Bring it back
You may or may not come out of this exercise with a real and actionable idea to act on. But what you will get is a whole new conversation. Find a way to collect the info and then build on it.

Presentation Slides:

Here are the slies from the presentation.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Technology Committees - Who to Include and What to Do (part 2)

This is a continuation of a post about types of Technology Committees and the value they can bring.

NOTE, this post really focuses on advisory tech committees, but can be altered for others.

Once you decide to have a tech committee, who should you include and how do you recruit them?

SkillsThe key is to find some members with experience and skills which don't exist in your org. Often these are not technology skills at all. Remember, you aren't using your technology committee to do your tech support, they are there to help you drive your strategy. So often things like vendor negotiation, business process, data management, governance, tech policy, software selection, project management and other business skills. Often these skills are the ones missing in orgs. A nice balance of these skills with experience in technology projects or management is great.

PurposeBut even more important is to match your members to the purpose of the committee. How do you plan to use the group, to brainstorm new ideas, review existing process, assist in projects, strategic planning, reviewing vendors...

Connections - It is great if you can find a range of members who may not be connected to each other. It is great to have a few who are existing supports of your org, know each and get along. But at the same time, with variety comes a different set of vendor experience, tools used and so on.

Recruiting - Look for existing volunteers, donors or engaged audiences. Specifically target a few people through your board, most of them work at companies with the types of people you are looking for. Reach out to some friends or colleagues at other orgs who are in similar roles or look to bigger orgs who may have more tenured staff. The trick is to have your purpose, vision and structure of the committee ready, along with being able to articulate the value they can bring and what the commitment would be.

SIDEBAR - Now I have to take a minute to stop sounding mechanical and maniacal, like this is all calculated, all about some master plan. It isn't. This about people. Our Tech Advisory Board is full of people I respect and have developed friendships with. This group has been more than helpful, they have made a real impact. OK, so now back to the post...

Then once you have a team, it is time to meet, but to do what?

Information - Share information, updates and insights about the tech and strategic plans of your org. This is a great way to both get them involved and open opportunities for input. 

Challenges - Be upfront and honest about where the org is struggling, it is the best way to get support and help. Always painting a happy picture may not drive them to action. And don't just focus on the little ones, make the challenges big enough to be meaningful.

Social - be sure to make the group social in a way that fits your culture. Infuse the stuff that makes your org great, be who you are as an org.

Focus - provide a focus to your meeting, what is the big item of the agenda.  Be sure to share this ahead of time, give them time to prepare. Push through the updates and info to allow focus on this.  A great way to do this is to be in regular communication with this group between meetings.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Tech Committees, specifically ones with an advisory role. The time, effort and attention needed to make these work may or may not be right for your org. It is just an option working for us which I don't hear talked about enough.

Also, if you want to join my tech committee, just let me know!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Technology Committees - Meetings can have Value

I have long been a fan of Technology Committees, but I don't hear a lot of others talking about it. In my role at The Cara Program, we have a fantastic Technology Steering Committee. I can't begin to state all of the benefit this group has brought. They have provided assistance, advice and insight, but have also helped us make connections, find resources and accomplish things we couldn't do alone. But before I go into a little information about our Technology Advisory Board, a few thoughts about committees.

Purpose. I suggest starting with defining a purpose for the committee. You have to come up with something meaningful for the group to work on. This needs to be bigger than just whatever comes up and you need help on immediately. There should be a tie to a real need in the organization and if possible, a long term set of goals.

Structure. What type of committee will you have?

  • Policy - similar to the Board of Directors where they will set policy and make decisions. This could be called a review or approval committee also. But the key is you make the recommendations, they make the decision.
  • Budget - this group is really meant just to help guide what is feasible and what is the best use of your funds.
  • Steering - this type typically drives the process and comes up with the recommended solution, but brings it to another group or person to make the final decision.
  • Advisory - this role is more about opinions, advice and collaboration. The group comes in knowing they are there to help, support and be involved in a meaningful way, not drive and decide. There is still great value and involvement for everyone, but the decision stays inside the org.
I prefer the later of these (Advisory) for my technology committees. There are many times when I don't have all the answers or where technology decisions are just too complex for internal staff. I Plus with outside input, real innovation is even more likely.

Regularity. This group needs clear expectations and a regular schedule, but you can set the schedule. Our committee meets each quarter for our full meeting, but is in regular contact between those. And sharing updates with the group, without a request for help, can go a long way.

Commitment. Before you begin, make sure you are ready to do it for the long haul. You will need to put in the work to keep the group alive and active, but the payoff for them and your org is worth it.

Return on Investment. No, I don't mean for the org. I mean, make sure there is return on the investment of the time of your volunteers in the committee.

In my next post I will share some thoughts on who to include and what to do at the meetings. But you can see the overview for The Cara Program Technology Advisory Board on Slideshare.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I learned at #14NTC (NTEN Nonprofit Tech Conference)

People were the best part of #14NTC, which always seems to be true. I met so many new people and got to see so many I have known for years!

Kudos to the NTEN staff for a great event and for keeping a smile on their faces the whole time! (or close to the whole time)

Weds, March 12

Pre-Conference: How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading (check out the slides)
I was on the panel for this session, but learned a bunch of things before and during the session from the other amazing members of the panel.
  • Awesome report from Standish group on project success\failure
  • Creating a shared vision of success: • Everyone must have a shared understanding of what success looks like • Without it, you cannot get to a successful outcome • Senior leadership with tech fluency and IT leadership with mission fluency • The entire organization must be involved 
  • If leadership manages technology like Captain Picard where there is no discussion, it is just "Make it so," your tech staff will stop being creative and innovative.
  • If tech staff doesn't take the time to learn the business, programs, mission, etc., they won't be able to help the org's goals.
  • Investing in your tech staff is key. Don't spend all of your budget on an outside consultant and leave your staff without any training. I added a quote I heard about investing in staff: "What if I invest in staff and they leave? The real question is: What if you don't invest in staff and they stay?"
  • Rose shared how she used the IT Alignment Model I had a role in creating, plus talked about the value of doing an alignment assessment.
  • Great conversation between the leadership staff in the room and the IT staff in the room on how to improve communications-collaboration. Leadership should give IT seat at the table, give authority, share mission information, involve tech early, learn to involve tech in problem solving instead of order taking, etc. Techs should stop using geek speak, learn about the business, stop over-complicating policies, involve users in decisions, 
  • Talked about how to fail without collapsing the whole org. Learn to identify level of acceptable risk, do pilots, control the scope, build in go/no go checkpoints, set realistic expectations, etc.
  • Accountability and Authority are key elements to a successful project, consider using a decision making model like RACI.
  • Good quotes:
    • “Unfettered Quasi-Illuminati Fueled Social Engineering Conducted by Out-of-Touch Foundations Seeking Self-Aggrandizing Strategies.”
    • "Obfuscate stuff with Gobbldy Gook"
    • "Reviewing old tweets is not the best way to figure what staff knew after they leave"
    • "Funders need to leave room for failure to allow for success"
    • "IT Alignment doesn't happen because it is too easy for nonprofits to say "We Don't Have the Resources" or "I Don't Understand the Tech""

I learned about the value of taking time to be social, this may seem easy for me, but it often isn't. I find ways to stay busy and avoid social events. It was proven worth while when a couple people from #13ntc approached me and we both immediately remembered a personal connection we had shared the year before.

Thurs, March 13

IGNITE! Plenary
I heard so many people just loved the Ignite Sessions! It was a fantastic way to kick off the conference:

My heart went out to Sue Anne Reed in the Ignite session! She showed amazing bravery sharing her personal stories of hard challenges, life lessons and outlook on life. She really stole the stage and engaged the audience, plus provided great thoughts for everyone to consider in their own life.

Huge THANKS TO Peter S. Campbell and Dahna Goldstein for being brave enough to bring part of Scope
Creep The Band into reality!

Here is a portion of my ignite session in a pre-recorded format:

Head in the Clouds: Real world experiences and recommendations for moving technology infrastructure to the cloud. 
Whether you’re working with a provider or building your own, moving to the cloud is an important step that takes planning, staff and dollars. This panel discussion looks at the whys and hows of moving to the cloud, as well as how two organizations approached their moves to the cloud.  Session specifics will include strategic planning, cost-benefit analysis, infrastructure planning, migration paths, best practices and more.
  • The cloud is not just one thing, need to understand some of the different models out there -- public, private, hybrid. Public are outside your network, often big services such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure. Private cloud is a function provided within your own firewall. Something you manage and control. Hybrid - moving to the cloud isn’t a binary choice. Can combine some services in cloud and others on-site, and integrate them.
  • Meeting user expectations are good reasons to consider cloud services: availability / access / mobile
  • Cloud combined with virtual desktop can create equal access to all tools across staff & org.
  • Cloud contracts are CRITICAL to read! When you migrate off, how do you get your data, in what format and when?
  • A few things for smooth cloud move: do homework, build a team, communicate vision, plan, test, distinguish need v want,

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together
From strategy planning to case studies following implementation, gain insight into how a strong partnership between IT and Communications can create a smarter, more sophisticated approach to your communications. (The Amazing Peter Campbell playing the role of IT)
  • Leadership must take a role in breaking down silos between IT & Marketing. Too often org chart & leadership builds tension.
  • Create a regular format for Communications and IT staff to meet on an ongoing basis
  • focusing on business goals gets everyone pulling in one direction. Take out the personal and advance the mission.
  • Make help desk process as easy & fast as possible to make tech friendly to mktg & more
  • View tech support as relationship not as service to users
  • Tip to have better relationship with IT  -  don't wait for computer problem to be in touch

Fri, March 14

Disrupting the Nonprofit Sector
 If we are going to truly solve the world's toughest social problems and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, we need to examine how the nonprofit sector can evolve to create more innovative and efficient organizations. This involves disrupting the nonprofit sector as we know it today.  Drawing from Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward's book Social Change Anytime, Everywhere, topics will range from 'Thinking Like A Start-Up' to exploring 'Reducing Competition and Consolidating Resources.'
  • Interesting idea: charge for a service, but refund the money if they show up. 
  • Striking that most orgs invest less than 3% in #nptech
  • Disappointment=reality minus expectations. A key to innovation is realistic expectations & know when to quit
  • Grow a culture of "we all succeed together" & "we all fail together." Don't allow all compliments to go to any one staff person, nor all of the blame (including leadership).
  • Need to delineate between Fail & Screwing Up. Accountability still needs to exist. 
  • Be purposeful on how much you experiment. Create innovation budget (not just dollars, but risk tolerance too)
  • Using run, grow, transform is a good budgeting framework to distinguish operations from innovation 
  • Saying no to an opportunity, even when money is tied to it, let's you say yes to a better opportunity
  • If you want to spur change in your org, but you have no authority, figure out who influences the influencers in your org
  • Leadership should be cheerleader of staff ideas, not be the creator of all ideas.

Network Security for the Non-Profit: Beyond PCI Compliance
This session is for nonprofit tech professionals who have an interest in network security. Learn about various security options that scale keeping in mind limited time, expertise and budget.

  • Security matters b/c "damaged reputation/donor lack of confidence in organization could be catastrophic"
  • “you can transfer risk to a vendor…but you can’t transfer responsibility for your data”
  • Look for ways to tie your security plans to ongoing strategic & capacity needs.
  • Patching is 95% of the battle
  • definition based security is on its way out b/c threats are so dynamic, that means heuristics are the new it.
  • Ken shared a ton of tools and ideas on setup as well, but it is impossible to show without his presentation. (Here is a link, but not sure it will work)

Requests for Proposals: Making RFPs work for Nonprofits and Vendors
This session is for people who either purchases software and services as well as people who provide such things. RFPs are controversial, with good reason: a poorly written RFP does little to help the buyer or seller forge a successful transaction or engagement. (The Amazing Peter Campbell Presiding). Read the great session notes to see more, bunch of my notes in there.

Sat, March 15 (how did both of my sessions end up on Saturday?)

Balancing Project Management and Business Process for Long Term Success - I Presented
Business Process has invaded my career, my life and now my dreams. I will be sharing my experiences plus a lot of thoughts on Methodology, plus Betsy will bring her PMO skills to the table. I don't think I have ever seen a session like this one at NTC, it will rock.

Read the good session notes for this one too! To get an example of part of my session, you can take 10 minutes and watch the video below or check out the slides. NOTE though, the video misses our main point of the session, which was how to make Project Management and Business Process a part of your everyday work, not just during projects.

View the slides!

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical Vs. Strategic Vs. Missional - I Presented
THIS WAS FUN! I haven't presented with Lindsay in YEARS, but we make an awesome and fun team, this will not be boring or a slideshow! This will get you thinking and involved. Seriously though, you will learn all new ways to approach your boring, old tech plan.

View the slides.

Read the session notes, but they can not accurately describe the amount of fun we had in this session. Nor can they accurately describe the type of thinking we encouraged in the audience.


All in all, it was a great conference! I was so excited to hear so many people talking about how to match technology to the mission throughout the conference, it's like music to my tone deaf ears. I think the key point I learned this year, was to keep pushing to learn more, each time I feel like I get comfortable with a topic I find out there is so much more to know. NTC serves to solidify my love of the #NPTech community, so many knowledgeable, generous and passionate people! Let's get out there and use the tech to meet the MISSION!