Monday, September 29, 2008

Todays fight will be site visits versus mission

Welcome to today's match.

Our reigning champion, weighing in at over a million clicks a month, our web site stats! Since the internet was born website stats has been a great contender and has led to countless web site redesigns and navigation shifts.

And in the other corner, weighing heavily in our hearts and dear to our souls, is our MISSION! Since the beginning of our nonprofit our mission was the champion and was all we talked about, well at least till the web and internet came along and our web site stats told us differently.

Our fight today will be a battle of past, present and future and will have our web site stats go blow to blow against our mission. We will look back and see who clicked on what, who visited which page and that will determine our winner. OK, so a quick review, the page that was visited the most was our free tshirt giveaway and our pages that explain how to sign up for our classes on the latest craze called Spin-Dance-Video-aerobics. So according to our rules, people only want to see the sales and the trends.

So based solely on this contest our winner is sales and hype! YAY, GO TEAM! Based on this we will do a redesign of our web site that will focus on these pages and themes. We are very excited about today's outcome, it should prove out to be a winning strategy for everyone!

Lets go to the stands for some audience reaction.

WHAT?>>?#>$%#@? are you serious? I can't believe my eyes and ears. What are these refs and judges looking at? Were they watching the same fight and did they ask me the viewer what I thought?

STOP THIS MADNESS! Now onto the real point and blog post from my own personal biased opinion.

I think too many times we use web site stats, polls, surveys, etc to determine the future of our web site. Yes all of those things are important and have to be tracked, measured and leveraged. But shouldnt we also spend some time making sure our web site is a reflection of who we are, what we are trying to do and gets people excited about our mission, regardless of the fact that our mission\about us page gets the fewest clicks?

In a recent post about YMCA web sites I suggested a bigger focus on mission for web sites. But I dont think I was clear enough. I didnt mean enhance the page called mission or add more pages about mission or only have mission content. Here is more directly what I mean.

Does every single page of your site accurately reflect your org and mission(including those focused on sales and transactions)?

Your homepage should give easy access to the pages that are the most used and accessed (and you should be keenly aware of what those pages are). But if your home page largest, flashing content focuses on a sale, then in my opinion that is also the central focus of your org. As a visitor I now know that your central reason for existing is to sell me something. You are a gym and swim period. You have nothing else to offer, so why on earth would I ever even visit the mission page, I already know it, selling stuff.

Do you provide people information that encourages them to want to learn more about who you are?

For example on a YMCA child care registration or informaiton page, do you brag about how the YMCA focuses on christian values and provides a unique experience for the kids who attend? Do you brag about the quality of your child care staff? Do you give a picture of the scope of how many kids attend your child care and the impact on the community? Do you mention volunteer opportunities? Do you mention scholarships? OR DO YOU JUST SELL THE FEATURES AND PRICE? If you focus on the cheap price, I will think exactly that, boy the Y is cheap, but I want quality, so I will go elsewhere.

By saying that your web site should focus on mission, is that you should provide ways for people to learn something about your mission on EVERY page, not just the mission page. Of course people dont vision your YMCA mission page, they think they already know what you do. BUT THEY DONT! You have to find other ways to tell them.

Does that make any sense?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Change the Conversation - Firewalls

OK, so I am working on something I want to call "Change the conversation". The series will be all about how technology staff will change the way they "talk" about technology in order to be more effective.

I will have to go back and redo this because I know it is missing things, but wanted to get one done and see what it looks like. So please forgive me for the publishing of a draft video, but here goes.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

YMCA web site video

OK, so I am meeting tomorrow with a local YMCA and one of the topics we are planning to talk about is, if you had no constraints (money, time, staff, etc) what would you want your web site to look like? Ok, so that is the funny part, of course in the real world things like money, time and staff do get in the way. But who wants to live in real world anyway, that is why I like science fiction after all (I think that is what Jim Collins writes). Ok, I made myself LOL there. ;-)

Anyway here is the short 4 minute video I created. There really isnt any humor in it and the sound quality is sketchy. BUT I made it all with FREE software - Virtual Dub, CamStudio and Impress. Plus it only took me a few hours (I already had most of the content planned out in my head.) The harder part seemed to be fixing the file size, resisting coughs and uploading to YouTube. Any hoot, I stray off topic again.

And here is the supporting ideas behind it:

What could the YMCA web site look like?

If anything was possible what would you like to see on your YMCA web site?

  1. Content – Information that is valuable enough for your audiences to crave your next update, visit on a regular basis and tell everyone they know about it.

  2. Connection – Audiences feels real connection to mission, organization and each other.

  3. Call to Action – Easily apparent what you want your audiences to do.

  4. Conversion – Audiences act immediately in a way that you expected.

But what does that really look like?

  • The web site becomes an extension of the services offered by the YMCA. Members thrive on the added benefit, information, support and tools available that expand the value of belonging.

  • Volunteers flock to the site in an ever growing rate to participate and watch for opportunities to pitch in as well as learn from the tools available to them.

  • Donors feel a real connection and understand first hand where their money is going.

  • Collaborating community organizations look to the site to see how they can increase the impact and grow the community.

That is a lot of fluff talk, but is that what your web strategy is? Or is your web strategy focused on selling more memberships, advertising the discounts, displaying the program brochure or telling people what you want to say?

What if...

  • Starter aerobic class videos to make people more comfortable in knowing that it really is for beginners, so try it at home once.

  • Blogs with stories from current members, participants, community members and volunteers telling their story.

  • Blogs from the staff that break down the barrier of title and introduce the real person.

  • Member discussion boards that allow sharing and connecting, imagine finding a workout partner, an accountability person, ride share, references and more.

  • Fitness and health planning tool that incorporates meals, exercise, spiritual and mental activities with tips, resources, etc.

  • Content that is informative related to healthy lifestyles or families that can be reused on a members blog, facebook, web site or even just an email link.

  • E-Newsletters that are more than just announcements, they tell a story and show community impact.

  • Interactive e-learning courses that teach volunteer coaches, educate members of full YMCA services, reach young audiences with health tips, etc.

  • Board members get real time access to information, conversation and resources to share with community.

  • Online games that demonstrate the need for spirit, mind and body.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Great tech staff are enablers...

I think Dilbert rocks (ok well some of the time they get a bit weird).

I have heard too many stories about technology staff working day and night, the craziest hours and giving everything they have just to keep things working. These techs love their job and the work they do, just like many other nonprofit, mission driven staff. But these tech staff are maintaining the thin line between the org growing or crashing into complete chaos.

Technology departments arent given the budget or the staff to do what should be done. Rather they are told what needs to be done and they can only use the limited resources they already have. Now of course these staff are gifted and creative enough to rise to the occasion to get the job done. But if you were ever to go back and look at these projects, you would wonder how it ever worked. I always think of "punky power" when I talk about this (old Punky Brewster show reference).

Its as if nonprofits are willing to gamble with all the donors money, staff's time and everything they believe in just to save a few dollars.

Data breach, network crash, embezzlement, data loss, IRS audit, etc. Those are the type of rewards waiting for those who gamble. Waiter, please cancel the order of life cycle management, I think I would rather have the catastrophic data corruption. And even if none of these terrible things happen, just think of the simple result of missed opportunity.

OK, so not sure I have made the point of how great tech staff are enablers though. If we, ok that is a stretch to include me. If you, the great tech staff out there, work yourselves into the ground and push the limits of your not so secure\stable technology without truly stressing the risks to leadership if it (or your) crumbles then are you enabling them to continue that bad practice? If your org is not securing information, creating stable systems and growing the technology support then I say part of your job is to speak up.

Ah well, that is all pretty easy to say when you dont have a job. I still think that part of the reason I dont have a job is that I did speak up about this. But I do know that it had to be said and I know that voice helped others change direction on a treacherous road.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dont be too proud of this technological terror you have constructed

" Don't be too proud of this technological terror you have constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant, next to the power of the force."
―Darth Vader talking about the Death Star
OK, so my 37th birthday is here and I have to go with a Star Wars quote to make my day. I think we can learn a lot from Darth Vader. Even amidst the best, biggest, strongest technology, the power of people is still greater. OK, so maybe I dont have the force, but today's technology has yet to exceed the ability for people to destroy it.

We can come up with the best tool in the world that changes millions of lives, but is that as meaningful as that one person who is saved merely by the kind words of another?

I know it seems like these are random thoughts without connection, well yes, I guess they are. Any hoot.

I think there are two points that I am trying to make.

First, as soon as a great technology is released, there are those who will turn it to use toward the dark side. But does that mean we should just avoid those tools? For example all of these fears around using social media because of the "bad stuff" out there. Maybe that is your chance to show that although that technology be used can destroy a planet, it can also be used to save lives, make connections, grow real change in a positive way, if you just took time to help people understand it.

Second, we can create all of these awesome tools but if they are meaningless to the people that were intended to use them, they will fail and be destroyed. So before selecting that software that is the cream of the crop, highest functionality, whiz bang... think through if your organization is even really ready for it. Can you even use it? Not only do you have to find technology tools that meet your functionality needs, your people have to be able to use it. For example, in Star Wars the light sabre seems to be the best weapon, so why doesnt everyone use it? Well because they would just cut off their own arms or something. You need to be trained first.

Anyway, just my ramblings on a star wars theme.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tech is funny, funny-weird, not funny ha-ha

OK, so I have decided to begin this blog as an effort to get out some of the creative energy that is growing inside of me. So for my first entry I thought it would be fun to just make fun of myself.

It all started back when I decided to get my Bachelors degree in Finance back in the mid 90's. No wait, actually it all started with the Oregon Trail in grade school but that is going back too far. As a part of my Bachelors requirements I took intro to spreadsheets and intro to DOS. That is on my transcript, I chuckle each time I think about how useful my degree and college experience was. Any hoot. I had to bring my diskette with me all the time to college. Computers and technology were not funny, only some people understood them. Most people flocked to movies about how technology was going to destroy the world (Terminator, War Games, etc).

All the techies were so serious (or so it seemed to those not in the circles).

Now technology is everywhere, my kids are creating powerpoints for first grade, my older kids email their high school homework and have online textbooks. But still if you joke or talk about tech too much in the normal world it is still funny weird, not funny ha ha. Are we still too serious about our work in technology?

Finally companies are starting to move this along, what a genius it was for the Apple folks to run the I'm a PC-I'm a Mac commercials. Make technology something everyone can talk about, laugh about and even understand? Lets not go too far. (PLUG ALERT, PLUG ALERT) By the way my church did a great parody of that commercial.

Any hoot, rambling again. Back to the point, for years I have been misunderstood. People ask what I do and I start to tell them and they just gloss over and wave their hands in surrender (unless of course they are funny weird too). I have a passion for trying to help people understand what technology really is and what it can do, but without all the jargon, hoopla, overpromising, technical terms and what not. I say humor is a medium we should all embrace more, and not just humor within our little tech circles...

SHARE IT - BE FUNNY - Not funny weird though. Lets break down the walls that seperate us techies from the rest of the nonprofit world. Even if that means that we have to talk to those overcommitted program staff, CEO with too much vision, paper toting field staff, slide ruler carrying CFO or even the legal and HR Staff?

Any hoot, I hope to make some cool movies, draw some goofy cartoons, tell stories or something to try to make a point and at least make myself laugh a little.