Thursday, December 17, 2009

To fundraise well, create a movement? --internally first? (Part 10 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Build an ever-deepening relationship with supporters, define your cause, state your case, measure your impact, blah, blah, blah...

How is this even important if you first dont have a culture that believes in fundraising internally? What if you have staff that may not even be aware that you are a nonprofit? What do you do when staff and/or board dont understand why they would donate to your org? Or what if there is no general consensus across your organization of what your cause is and why donations matter to it? What happens when we get comfortable with our budget, find other methods for income and the immediacy of fundraising falls a little?

I dont expect that too many fundraising campaigns, no matter how perfect they are, would succeed with some of the above conditions existing. I think I may have just asked too many questions that are too hard to solve and that people dont want to address.  It is just easier to build a campaign, implement the tools, etc. And just tell the staff that fundraising is part of their job and is important to the mission. But is that enough?

At the core most people at the full time level understand basic fundraising, how to build a relationship and even understand most of the tools. But there is a difference between loving an organization enough to work there (for little pay) and understanding the cause the organization is fighting for enough to ask other people for money to support it.

One of the struggles that the YMCA faces is that we have a rich, long history and a very wide range of programs and services which makes it hard to explain our root cause. That history and depth of community involvement is one of our greatest strengths also, we have phenomenal brand recognition, huge support and expertise in countless programs. But our staff, volunteers and members get so wrapped up in running a program, it is easy to forget why we offer it.

For example, swimming at the YMCA. When we were the first organization to create and offer progressive swim lessons, we did it because most of the population couldnt swim at all and noone was changing that. (Yes we really did invent progressive swim lessons). But why do we still offer swim lessons? Is it just cause we may have the only indoor pool in a community? Is it still to teach people to swim? Or is it tied to our greater goal of building Strong Kids, Strong Families and Strong Communities? Or is back to our core goal of building Christian values through programs that build Spirit, Mind and Body?

It is so easy to have a great set of programs and services that really do meet community, family and individual needs. It is great to keep running them and making a difference. But how do we bring a staff of 3,000 people, plus thousands more volunteers, together as a movement in Chicago to see the cause we are fighting for?

In my heart and soul I believe and fight for everything the YMCA is. I have my vision of our cause and it is very strong and more compelling than ever. Is that passion shared across my YMCA and others?

So now back to the NTEN book, sorry got carried away with another rant.  Madeline Stanionis has a great set of seven steps to an online fundraising program in Managing Technology to Meet your Mission.  She even acknowledges right in the beginning of the chapter the need for a cohesive, coordinated approach to fundraising. Multiple depts, staff and volunteers have to work together.  Here are the seven steps that Madeline offers:
1. Plan
2. Dont Plan (even if it seems to contradict, it is so true!)
3. Put Your Website to Work
4. Accept Help
5. Think Campaigns, Not Appeals
6. Be Creative
7. Learn

Madeline offers actionable and reasonable advice, mixed with some great tips and examples. We all have a role to play in fundraising and leadership may have the biggest role of all, living the cause, hiring the staff and approving the strategy.

We all tend to get carried away with the newest tool, best way to make an appeal, but in the end we all need to spend time making sure our staff understand what we are fighting for, the difference we are making, why our work matters and the role they play.

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 9th chapter by By John Kenyon called Effective Online Communications. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Communicate Online like a Kenyon (Part 9 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

"Imagine your online communications are kept attractive, accurate, coordinated, and up-to-date in only hours a month. Fresh, engaging content flows like water, bringing a steady stream of new and returning visitors. Your every fundraising, educational, or advocacy campaign's online components spark throngs to action. You are safe in the knowledge that you have a plan flexible enough to keep you nimble yet solid enough to keep you prepared and help you weather unexpected challenges."
"All this is achievable for nonprofits with the right planning--along with the knowledge, skills and will to improve."

I will buy a bazillion of whatever John Kenyon is selling! Seriously, did you read that opening from his chapter in the NTEN book? I usually try to start my blog post with a witty opening, but I learned never to enter a mind battle with John when death is on the line (oops started to slip into Princess Bride talk, do you have six fingers on your left hand?)

Anyway, I can honestly say that John has a skill in his writing and presenting that makes everything seem possible and is easy to understand.  And what I like most about John's chapter and everything he does, is that he doesnt get caught up in the hype of the latest craze or that cool tool. He focuses how to enable the organization, the mission and the people to make a difference.

I learned a lot from John about the four C's of a website (credibility, cultivation, clickability and content) and the cornerstones of an email campaign (personal, targeted, integrated and trackable). He lays out a very doable course of action for any nonprofit to have a successful online communication strategy.

My struggles coming from a large and long standing nonprofit come in many forms:

  • Building a consensus on message - we offer so many different services in wide ranging neighborhoods, populations and sectors that it is hard to focus.
  • Communicating internally first - it is hard to communicate to our fans when we dont always communicate well with each other
  • Marketing, fundraising, emergency or public service - often our immediate needs of meeting budget and getting through today drive our messages, not our mission and vision
  • Changes in leadership - in times of transition when short term stop gaps lead rather than long term strategic plans it is tough to build sustainable messages
  • Creating urgency in messaging - how do you create urgency in a message when the things you fight (Diabetes, obesity, health) are all gradual in nature
  • Changing a brand - our brand has many traditions, fans and stereotypes, only some of which are true, it seems harder to change someone's mind rather than show them something new
My partner in mission work is Judith Sol-Dyess and we are working in numerous ways to impact these challenges and we have a lot of ideas.  I have spent over a year building the foundation of a web strategy focused on the four C's and it is working overall. I have numerous strategies that I a rolling out and a few tricks up my sleeve, but those will have to wait for another post.

I know, usually a blog posting is more about a solution rather than listing challenges, but this is my blog so I can do what I want.  And here is what I want! I want John Kenyon to post a counter blog post and help me! So anyone that reads this should nudge John Kenyon to help out this poor blogger.

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 9th chapter by By John Kenyon called Effective Online Communications. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tool Trends or People Trends? (Part 8 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Questions Answered..."Where should you focus your efforts to find out where your stakeholders are and what they are doing online with and for your organization."

"What data is meaningful?"

"What is trend, and what is simply trendy?"

I'll Teach My Dog a Lot of Words
I was reading this book to get answers not more questions. But Michael Cervino decides to start his Chapter in the NTEN with questions. And not just questions, but questions that I dont hear my organization asking themselves.  It is like Dr Seuss once said "One Tweet, two tweet, red tweet, blue tweet." Oh no that isnt the right quote. Sorry, it is like Dr Seuss once said "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."

I am not exactly sure what the quote from Dr. Seuss means, but here is my interpretation. Sometimes it is harder to find the right question to be asking than to find the answer.  The question isnt "should we have a facebook page?", it could be "what is our goal in communicating online?" The question isnt "how do we fundraise on Twitter?", it could be is "where are our potential donors online?"

RFPs (Requests for Proposals) are a great example of making sure to ask the right question. If you ask a vendor, "can your product handle multiple integrations?" They will answer yes. But what does that question even mean? And of course they say yes, because anything can be done with extra customization, you didnt ask if it exists now, you just said can it...

I learned a lot in this chapter. Michael does a great job of outlining how to create SMART objectives, gather data, analyze data and identifying trends in order to understand your constituents better. Michael keeps all of this online activity in perspective by focusing on the organizations goals and then find the correct audience match.  This should not be about the tools or the trends in technology, rather it is tracking your audience and their engagement with you.

But the questions and the tracking cant just happen at the beginning of the online presence rollout. Back to the RFP example, how many times do we actually go back a year later after we select the vendor and compare the progress to what the vendor said we would have in the RFP? Or do we simply forget the questions we asked and only examine the current reality? You dont have to continually ask new questions, sometimes it is best to go back and ask the same question again to see if you did answer it or if it was the right question.

I have picked up on one thing from Judith here at work as a part of our online registration system rollout.  And that is to document the questions and decisions that have to be made, then include the answer (with the reasoning). Because inevitably someone will ask the question again or will change their mind.  This isnt about just saying, told you so or saying we already did that. It is to avoid asking the wrong questions and making the same mistakes.

Anyway, nicely done chapter Michael!

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 8th chapter by By Michael Cervino called Where are your stakeholders and what are they doing online? You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Flickr photos by Travelin' Librarian and by Thomas Hawk

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Facebook yes, social media no - Social Media sidebar

"We cant approve a social media strategy, but we should be on Facebook."
"No our communications plan doesnt specifically integrate social media, but why dont we have a Twitter account?"

So I have heard statements like this a lot recently.  It seems to be easier to get approval to launch a Facebook page than to get a conversation started about social media as a whole.

My initial ideas around getting social media started were met with questions and resistance.  Everyone would agree it was important and had lots to add.  However nobody is willing to step up and approve something as vague and misunderstood as social media. So we end up asking for approval for something that isnt tangible enough to make a real decision on.

I have seen others have success in a very different approach.  In the background they create a master social media plan and tie it to their communications plan.  But when they seek approval, they talk at a more tactical level that is easier to visualize and quantify. They pick the first tools, participants and campaigns they want to launch. Then they pitch for approval of these trials, not a big approval of a social media strategy.

So all of these big pushes and "experts" that push for a very deliberate big social media strategy are correct that you should have it.  However, maybe the approach shouldnt be to get leadership to approve that strategy.  Rather you should seek approval of your first tactics that are derived from your plan.

Not sure this post is a complete thought and it lacks any flair\images\etc.  But it has been nagging me and I needed to post it in order to get it off my brain. Someone please help me complete this thought.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Juggle the infrastructure (Part 7 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

A jugglers hands are a critical tool in making the magic happen.

So when we first start to learn to juggle our instinct is to stare at them and figure out why they are catching the balls. We look at our hand as it releases the ball, then quickly scan over to the other hand to see if we are going to catch it. But as we look at one hand, the other one is also supposed to be simultaneously doing its part. Plus we may be so busy looking at our hands, that we dont even see that the ball went the wrong direction and we dont stand a chance of catching it anyway.

However if you talk to a juggler, they will tell you the key to juggling is to watch the balls, not your hands. You should be able to know your hands will be in the right spot without looking. You have to train your hands to catch the ball based on where you saw the ball was headed.

Social media, gadgets and technology whiz bangs are great at making us loose sight of the basics.  How can we ever manage all these new balls in the air when we havent even trained our hands to catch the ones already in the air?

Every organization needs to be able to depend on their core technology to be there to catch the balls (daily work) and throw them back up without looking at their hands (technology). Technology should be transparent like the jugglers hands, he doesnt seem them, they just do their job.

Sure there may be an occasional dropped ball, but well trained hands will be able to pick it up and get started where it left off.

While I love conferences like NTEN, enjoy reading blogs and heart social networks, how do we ever believe we will get our organizations to embrace technology if our core infrastructure doesnt work? Sure Facebook would be awesome, but our PC's are too old and bandwidth is strained. Sure I would love to launch a video campaign but first I have to clean our network storage because it is full. Why dont we have more information getting put in front of leadership that helps them understand this point?

Seriously, dont start juggling 5 balls until you can handle the 3 you already have.

Anyway. Kevin Lo and Willow Cook do a great job with their chapter on Introduction to IT and Systems.  I have always been a HUGE RAVING FAN of TechSoup because they will not and have not given up on the basics.  They are still willing to tell you what a VPN is or what is important in IT security or why/why not buy refurbished. Stop reading my blog and go to TechSoup now!

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 7th chapter by By Kevin Lo and Willow Cook called Introduction to IT and Systems. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Flickr photos by Cayusa and by Shannon Henry 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blame it on the budget (Part 6 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

"We need a bigger budget! We have computers to replace, software to upgrade, networks to secure, staff to train, websites to redesign, emails to send, apps to develop, databases to support, etc." It is like a broken record or the echo in a cave that never ends, the tech department is always asking for extra money.

Often we have the best ideas and all of the best intentions in mind. We know we are asking for the extra money because we need it, not just for technology sake.  Then we make the request and the response simply is "it's just not in the budget." So each year when it comes to budget time, we push for that bigger IT budget, whether it is operating or capital. We make the case for the needed upgrades and replacements. We add in new initiatives and tools. But when the ink hits the paper, does the budget get approved?

Technology has a history of being viewed solely as a cost center. We are an expense to manage. So that is how our budget is reviewed, a list of wants that is easily trimmed.We may eventually need them, but our tech staff can make due with what they have. Besides we all know that no matter what budget IT gets, they will always want more.  There is always that better tool, upgrade, gadget, etc. 

How do we start to change this? It is different for each organization, but one thing is to give the rest of your organization a voice to express why the technology improvements are critical to them. Have the staff that do the daily work tell the story of why technology is needed. Shape the request as if it is a business need, not a technology request.  

IT can't be the one always asking for the IT budget. If the IT department is the only one who is willing to stand up in an organization and say that we need better technology, then maybe you don't really need it. If technology is aligned well and the full organization sees the value, then they could become your budget champions. Instead of the IT director making yet another technology ask, have the staff that need the technology help write the business case for the budget.

One way to accomplish could be to come up a technology purchase request form that ties a purchase to a business need, organizational goal or strategic initiative. Another could be to begin a cross functional steering committee that analyzes the organizational needs and makes technology proposals. 

But some of the best ways that I have seen a technology budget written is simply to tie every purchase to a specific item in the strategic plan, describing how it meets that goal. But be sure to also be very direct in which staff in the org it impacts, as well as what the risks are if the budget isnt allocated.  

The real key is that once you have a budget approved be sure to spend time measuring the effectiveness of that purchase. What impact did it have? What work was improved? How much time was saved? If you used a form to get a department or staff member to suggest the technology, follow up with a survey to that group. If you tied it to a goal or initiative, was it met? Tell the story about how the technology helped. 

To sum it up, it is easy to trim and ignore a technology budget when it is just that IT director yelling in a cave that we need more money.  That request has a different voice when it comes from the rest of the staff as part of a business plan.

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 6th chapter by By Scott McCallum and Keith R. Thode called Budgeting for and Funding Technology. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

IT Clones or People? (Part 5 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

An army is a set of soldiers that are taught to follow orders, stay in line and do their job. Soldiers are pushed to loose their identity, hide personality, and fit in.

Special Ops teams though are chosen for their special talents. They are carefully selected to build a balanced team.  Each member is encouraged to be an individual but act as a unit.

But who gets selected for the Special Ops team? Is it solely based on skills, qualifications, experiences, certifications, etc? No, I would have to venture that there is more to it than what you know and what you can do, it is also who you are and how well you fit in with the team.

Think about all of the best army movies, superhero teams and even in person teams you know. Is the team a group of clones like stormtroopers that always get along? Or is it a team of individuals that can lead to some disagreement, difference of opinion but believe in a similar cause?

Obviously I am exaggerating this, but one of the things that we stressed in our tech team interviews is personality and how it will mix with the team. I have seen many managers that look to hire almost exact replicas of themselves.  They look to find someone they can get along with. But many of the most successful IT departments I have seen are composed of many differing opinions and personalities.

So the only thing that I would add to the chapter by James L. Weinberg and Cassie Scarano called Finding and Keeping the right people is to be purposeful about personality. This would include some exploration of the commitment to the mission that you work on. The chapter does offer a very comprehensive structure to follow in hiring, plus numerous easy to implement tips. Much of which was new learning to me, I will have to reread this one a few more times.

The part I really liked was how much they talked about what you should do before you even begin looking. Too often I see a rush to fill a quick staff need, rather than think through what the long term role that is needed.  I have seen so many job descriptions that stress an immediate need for technical expertise.  But what I have learned is that often it is easier to teach the technical skills than it is to find a team member.

Getting the right IT staff is not talked about enough. The success of IT Alignment depends on the staff more than the tools. How can IT have a solid relationship with the org if the IT team isnt purposeful in creating it's team to focus on relationships and mission?

FUNNY (TO ME) RANDOM THOUGHT: Often technology is thought of as just a set of tools. Isnt hiring staff only for tech skills treating them like a tool?

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 5th chapter by James L. Weinberg and Cassie Scarano called Finding and Keeping the Right People. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Flickr photos by The U.S. Army and by Official Star Wars Blog

Thursday, October 1, 2009

IT/Fin Dev Relationship, ONTC slides, NTEN guest blog

I have been pretty busy at work and at home but found a smidgen of time to do a few little things to possible help the greater good or inspire some thoughts.  So I thought I would share those here, in case both of my readers were interested.

First, John Merritt and I had a great time presenting during the Online Nonprofit Technology Conference for NTEN. We broke down our thoughts about how to approach IT Alignment based on a typical org chart.  After all an org chart does tell you a lot about how IT is viewed in your org. As we went through the slides we took turns sharing examples of how we approached each part of the org, plus highlighted successes and failures in those efforts.  Thanks to the awesome staff at NTEN for including us!  So here is that presentation:

But that's not all folks.

NTEN Blog Guest Post!

I was also invited to write a guest post for the NTEN blog, how cool is that!?!? They gave me free reign on topic but set a word limit.  Lucky for them I was a little focused that day and didnt end up talking about flying monkeys improve air quality or how lightsabres are awesome hedge clippers. Rather I stayed on topic and talked about IT Alignment, but I did completely ignore their suggested word limit!  CLICK HERE TO READ THIS AMAZING POST! (ok over did it there)

IT Guy to Fundraisers: Partner With Us

I was asked by Fundraising Success to write an article based on my planned participation in the ONTC.  So I decided to have a little fun with the friendly people over in Financial Development.  They can be so serious about raising all that money and stuff. Well anyway, you can read that article by clicking here, no maybe here, no wait here.

I will get back to the 11 part series next week, but at this rate I wont even finish this year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

IT is not your friend and you are not our customer! =IT planning? (Part 4 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

(NOTE: please read the comments after the post, Peter has made some amazing observations and comments. As I thought, Peter is the master of this topic. Thx for the comments Peter, I should have had you just be a guest blogger. And now back to the original post.)

The goal of the IT department is not to make friends. Nor is it a good idea to follow the old thinking that staff in your organization are your customers. IT should act as a partner.

Whoa, slow down Steve, what does that have to do with the IT Planning and Prioritizing chapter by the brainiac Peter S. Campbell in the NTEN book, Managing Technology to Meet your Mission? Well, if you would be more patient, I will get there. I was trying to think what I could add to Peter’s chapter without just repeating his totally accurate and well thought out methodology. Because I cant compete with his knowledge on this topic.

However, I think an element that should be stressed when Peter talks about building that integrated plan that includes technology, is understanding how IT is seen by the org. We can write the best plans, set goals, define metrics and have all the best intentions, but if IT doesn’t have the relationships it needs they wont be acted on.

If you think of the staff in your organization as customers, then your ultimate goal would be to meet their needs working with the motto that the customer is right. In this approach you react to the requests and needs of your customers. Your role is to provide the solution, support or training that they tell you they need.

If you strive to have the friendliest, well liked relationship with the staff, then all you do is strive to make them happy. But sometimes we have to push back on some ideas in order to balance the needs of the full organization. We simply cannot make everyone happy all the time and be their BFF.

We have to act as a partner, we are all working toward the same mission. The relationship between IT can be a friendly one, but our allegiance should lie with the mission and strategic plan. As a partner we work with the other departments, not for them as customer implies.

So tying this all back to Peters “spot on” description about IT priorities and planning. Our ability to participate in the planning process and get invited to the table with access to provide input depends on the role we play. If we are simply taking orders, then the IT priorities will be subject to whimsical changes. If we are there to be their friends, will they heed our advice and expertise?

After saying all of that though, you would be mistaken in not reading Peter’s chapter and implementing the process he recommends. You may just want to be sure you keep the whole picture in mind and read the rest of the book too. The best laid plans….

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 4th chapter about IT Planning and Prioritizing. You should totally buy the book. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Flickr photos by kalandrakas and by Claudio Cicali and by LollyKnit

Friday, September 18, 2009

North or Be Eaten (quick diversion in form of book review)

(I know I am in the midst of an 11 post series about the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission but I needed a break from Technology. And what better way to hide from technology than to read a good, fantasy story?)

"Did the book get here yet?" For days that is all I heard from my 9 year old son and wife.  When they found out we were getting a copy of North or Be Eaten to read to do a book review they couldn't wait to get it. My son loved the first book and was anxious to see what happens next. He actually read North or Be Eaten before me.

You may ask, Steve, why do you like this book or what was it about? Well before I could tell you that I would need to explain that the biggest reason we looked forward to this book was because of the author, Andrew Peterson. As a Christian artist his soul and spirit shines through in the art (music, drawings or books) he creates which makes it genuine. These works of art are a part of him.  You can really see this in the Note to Parents on the Wingfeather website. My wife is a huge fan of his music, it is just so full of personality and raw emotion. And my family thinks the books are just plain old fun!

Andrew Peterson has a clever way of telling a suspenseful story while introducing the craziest characters and creatures in the book North or Be Eaten. The book was an easy read but was very compelling and kept my attention, which helped me forget about all the technology that fills my work week. This is the second book in the Wingfeather Saga and the second book Andrew has written. I do have to make one confession, the first book was a little tough to read in parts, there was a lot of jumping around. But that foundation of solid characters and setting that was set in the first book opens up the possibilities for a fantastic series of books that I cant wait to read!

Andrew's words create a world that is so believable and real that you begin to immerse yourself in it. Just with a few sentences he is able to paint a picture of the important elements of the scene and then let your imagination fill in the rest.  He also allows his characters to grow and change throughout the book.  You are able to connect and empathize with them as they meet continuous struggles. They make mistakes and even have some regrets from the past, plus have familiar family struggles.  Andrew also keeps the fantasy elements in check so that you are able to connect with it.

"There are some parts that really FREAK YOU OUT, but it is so good." says my 9 year old son. I asked him if it was scary though. He said "It isnt scary, but there are some bad things that happen. But it's not like they were that bad." When he was reading its like he just climbed right into the book and pushed play.  Its like Andrew says on his website, "Sometimes it is necessary to paint the sky black in order to show how beautiful is the prick of light."

Well those are my thoughts, so go get the book now!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ROI - what can I say Beth is a genius (Part 3 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Let’s play a game.

Sure what is the game called?

I don’t know, it doesn’t have a name.

So you start to play the game, but as you play the game you and your friends make up the rules as you go. “You can only step on the yellow bricks” or “you cant get me when I’m touching the house”. Some rules work, some seem to ruin the game. But no one ever seems to win either, the game just sorta ends when Mom yells time for dinner.

Mom asks, what were you kids playing? The answer of course, “nothing”.

That nothing means more when it isn’t a game anymore. As kids we didn’t need to set goals or have to measure the success of our game. We just want to have fun. We look back at it and ask, “was that fun and should we play again? And if we play again what do we change?”

I get the feeling that many people approach some of their technology projects in the same way. They decide they want to try something, but they don’t set goals, don’t know the rules and aren’t really sure when they are done. So even though the technology may have worked and stuff got done, they aren’t really sure what they did.

Beth Kanter reigns supreme when it comes to measuring the ROI of a project, especially social media. Anything in the post I probably learned from Beth. OK, yeah, not probably, I did learn it from Beth. Her work on listening, metrics, and ROI is the best and most respected that I have seen in the nonprofit sector. So when it came time for me to write a blog entry about her chapter in the NTEN book, I was worried about what I could add to an expert like that. But then I remembered something Beth had talked about that didn’t seem to be as obvious in the book as I had expected.

It is a simple concept, ROI is best measured when the goals and metrics are established before you start.

However, as my pastor says simple is not the same as easy.

I cant tell you the number of times that as a project is finishing or in the middle of it, we get asked about the outcomes or the ROI. So we go back, dig through the data (if we have any) to look for evidence. But this evidence gathering should not be like hide and seek, where everything is hiding and you don’t know what you are looking for. It should be like a scavenger hunt, where you have a list before you start and gather the pieces as you go.

But why is it important to set the goals and ROI first. Can’t we just experiment and see what happens? Well for some things yes, you can. Beth does a great job in the chapter giving advice on how to decide how deep the ROI analysis should be. But measuring a project when it is done doesn’t determine if you accomplished your goal in the most effective way. You end up reporting outcomes, not reporting if you met your goals.

“What gets measured gets done” that is what a colleague of mine used to say all the time. So let me try to explain my thoughts on establishing ROI before you start in a different way.

Many organizations spend time at the end of the year reporting statistics of # of people served, communities impacted, new programs launched, etc. So if you budget and year end reporting are your only tools to measure success then the goal of your organization drifts away from accomplishing the mission and begins to be driven by meeting the numbers. So if you only measure the fiscal amounts and the number of people served, then that is everyone’s focus.

Metrics has to include tangible and intangible goals that are set and tied to ROI metrics before the efforts are started. Otherwise what will you review to gage progress? Yes, the results and outcomes may be very different and even much better than the metrics, which is awesome. So then you may have to adjust your metrics, but at least you have them to adjust.

Anyway, again those are my random but slightly related thoughts. So lets not set our ROI to make a real difference and stop making up the rules as we go.
Here are some of my favorite posts from Beth on ROI:

ROI - Fun read - Good ideas - makes ya think

ROI (Results on Insights): Nonprofit Examples of How Listening Returns Value

SXSW: Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam - Slides, Links, and Poems (long)

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 3rd chapter about ROI). Also dont forget that NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference! You should totally buy the book and sign up. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Old habits die hard (Part 2 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

When I get up in the morning I have a set of "rituals" that should occur in order without interuption if my day is going to go well. My rituals involve coffee, email, facebook, coffee, shower (usually) and a little more coffee. And within each one of those, there is another set of rituals and patterns, like how many times I stir my coffee, order I dry myself off after shower, emails I look forward to everyday, websites I check each morning for fun (like woot), etc.
Now many of you may argue with how, when or why I do these things and you may even be right in your arguements. And I would imagine that all of us have these rituals.
Tea is better!
Here are the statistics saying that more people around the world like Tea and that it has more possible nutrition value. Plus it comes in many unique flavors and has such deep historical roots. So you need to switch to Tea today.
Um, no thanks. I enjoy coffee.
It's HOT!
It is too hot oustside for coffee. Why not enjoy a cold beverage? Maybe a soda? Or maybe put some ice in your coffee.
Um, no thanks. I enjoy coffee.
Anyway, I could really get carried away with my examples here but let me actually try to make sense for a minute and relate this to technology.
Often we come up with so lots of good logic, real facts, deep arguements, relevant reasons and whatever to get people to change their technology use, but it doesnt always work. Why is that? Um, no thanks. I enjoy coffee. (sorry had to say it again). It is because we are dealing with people. And people are complex. Then put those people together working somewhere to fight for a cause or mission they beleive in and it just gets more complex.
It is no longer as simple as, would you like to try tea instead today? You are asking people to change behavior, leave a comfort zone and risk failure, all while doing a job that is part of who they are.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: just one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.
But that doesnt matter to me, I may never change these habits, rituals or patterns, because I am comfortable. It doesnt matter to me that there is a better razor, newer shampoo, coffee is bad for you, I cant buy everything on woot, there is a more effecient way to use my time, etc. Logic and reasoning are not my only motivators for my behavior, choices and ability to change.
One thing I have learned that works well and is reinforced by Dahna in the book is that you have to manage change on an ongoing basis, not for individual projects. As Dahna calls it, you need to work toward an adaptive organization.
I tend to get irritated when people ask, how can I convince my organization to start using social media or networking? Because often after you ask questions, they dont want to work on real change, they just want the cool tools. There is a lack of regular effort to build toward that adaptive organization. When you start to talk about it they dont want to talk about an integrated communication, fundraising, marketing strategy because their organization just doesnt work that way. Well my push back is then dont start something like social media until that starts to happen or else it wont be as succesful.
Dahna offers some awesome advice in the Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission book to begin to work on a culture change. To begin creating conditions for ongoing change she suggests nonprofit leaders should begin:
  • Challenging assumptions and encouraging questions
  • Encouraging experimentation
  • Resisting complacency
  • Decentralizing decision making
Dahna has obvious expertise and experience with this topic. Her chapter was fabulous.
Wrap it up
Managing change around technology is not a one time goal. It is all about a long term strategy to create an adaptive organization with real relationships across the organization. You can take steps alone, but the journey is easier together.

Over 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 2nd chapter about Managing Change leader for). Also dont forget that NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference! You should totally buy the book and sign up. (In case you are wondering, I am volunteering to do this, I am not getting paid or in any other way reimbursed for this. I just love NTEN and their events.)
Coffee photo from scottfeldstein, light bulb from Crashmaster007 on Flickr

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aligning Tech with Mission (Part 1 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Meeting the mission is why we are here right? Then why not let everyone within your organization work toward meeting the mission, rather than just making things work?

That may be over simplifying things, but hey I am writing this blog post so if you don’t like it write your own or leave a comment.

Over the next 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 1st chapter about IT alignment (which I was the ring leader for). But rather than rehash what is in the chapter, I am adding a few things to it that compliment it very well. I want to talk about the role of the CEO and technology strategy. NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference!

Lets start with Technology Strategy and how it gets created at a YMCA (you can adapt this to your org if you aren’t a YMCA). But rather than bore you with more words, flip through this presentation.

Key Thought:

Is your IT department there to just fill orders or is it a part of your mission team?

But this is not a new thought, much of my thinking around this topic is summed up in this diagram that dates back to 1993.

Here is the quoted text that explains it (click here for full text):

Venkatraman ea argue in 1993 that the difficulty to realize value from IT investments is firstly due to the lack of alignment between the business and IT strategy of the organizations that are making investments, and secondly due to the lack of a dynamic administrative process to ensure continuous alignment between the business and IT domains.

They describe Four Dominant Alignment Perspectives towards the analytic alignment of Business and IT:

  1. Strategy Execution: this perspective views the business strategy as the driver of both organization design choices and the logic of IS infrastructure (the classic, hierarchical view of strategic management). Top Management is strategy formulator, IS Management is strategy implementer. [Arrow 1]

  2. Technology Potential: this perspective also views the business strategy as the driver, however involves the articulation of an IT strategy to support the chosen business strategy and the corresponding specification of the required IS infrastructure and processes. The top management should provide the technology vision to articulate the logic and choices pertaining to IT strategy that would best support the chosen business strategy, while the role of the IS manager should be that of the technology architect - who efficiently and effectively designs and implements the required IS infrastructure that is consistent with the external component of IT strategy (scope, competences and governance). [Arrow 2]

  3. Competitive Potential: this alignment perspective is concerned with the exploitation of emerging IT capabilities to impact new products and services (i.e., business scope), influence the key attributes of strategy (distinctive competences), as well as develop new forms of relationships (i.e. business governance). Unlike the two previous perspectives that considered business strategy as given (or a constraint for organizational transformation), this perspective allows the modification of business strategy via emerging IT capabilities. The specific role of the top management to make this perspective succeed is that of the business visionary, who articulates how the emerging IT competences and functionality as well as changing governance patterns in the IT marketplace would impact the business strategy. The role of the IS manager, in contrast, is one of the catalyst, who identifies and interprets the trends in the IT environment to assist the business managers to understand the potential opportunities and threats from an IT perspective. [Arrow 3]

  4. Service Level: This alignment perspective focuses on how to build world class IT/IS organization within an organization. In this perspective, the role of business strategy is indirect. This perspective is often viewed as necessary (but not sufficient) to ensure the effective use of IT resources and be responsive to the growing and fast-changing demands of the end-user population. The specific role of the top management to make this perspective succeed is that of the prioritizer, who articulates how best to allocate the scarce resources both within the organization as well as in the IT marketplace (in terms of joint ventures, licensing, minority equity investments, etc.). The role of the IS manager, in contrast, is one of business leadership, with the specific tasks of making the internai business succeed within the operating guidelines from the top management. [Arrow 4]

The idea is to think through where a technology strategy or project starts to how it is implemented. Does it start with a tool, then you look how to leverage it? Does it start with a business or technology need? Or is it tied to the overall strategy? I think each of these has there place, there are times where technology should drive the strategy or where technology should be asked to solve a single problem. BUT that should be balanced by allowing technology to participate in the mission strategy as well.

I blame the CEO. Oops did I say that outloud? If technology is not integrated into your mission and mission team, I blame the CEO. The CEO does not have to be involved in, completely understand or even totally support technology. But the CEO is ultimately responsible for three things: appointing correct IT leadership, giving needed authority to IT staff and providing a reasonable budget. Notice I didn’t say they have to love technology, nor do they need to have cutting edge tools or whatever…

Before I continue my rampage, watch this slideshow about the role of CEO and CIO. This slideshow was the end result of years of work of the IT Director and CEO building a relationship.

I hope the positive approach in that slideshow was better than my short attack paragraph on CEOs, which really wasn’t meant as an attack at all. I have met many CEOs that I like.

The point here is that the IT department can do everything in their power to help meet the mission but until they are aligned within the organization it wont be as effective.

If you enjoyed this, good, because there are 10 more posts coming about the remaining chapters in the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference! Sign up today.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Zoo or Jungle? what is your IT alignment?

When you go to the Zoo each of the animals has their area to live in. The zookeepers do everything they can to replicate the animals natural environment, diet and activity in their cages. They provide the best care that they can to keep the animal healthy and happy. The zoo keeper is focused on one exhibit or area at a time. However very few, if any, of the actions that the Zoo Keepers make for each animal actually help the full zoo. You treat each of the animal areas as individual projects.

In the jungle the ecosystem is what keeps it all running. It is no longer enough to only look at the needs of individual animal. Every decision and action has to be weighed against the overall shift in the ecosystem.

When we allow our organizations to grow into silos and then implement the technology solutions for each individual area are we just tending a zoo? So while that technology may help that individual, what did it do for the org or for the full mission?

My boss, Judith Sol Dyess, just posted some similar thoughts about how she just "deleted her strategy" on her blog. I find it very interesting that without strong IT leadership, further exaggearted with a big disconnect between IT and Leadership that the Zoo silos grow. Here is a quote from Judith:

" thing stands out. We have moved from projects that benefit the entire org, to department-based work. That’s not to say that Finance or Marketing don’t have valid technology needs, not at all. But this segregation of projects is troubling."

IT Alignment is all about matching your technology strategy to your organizations mission. Too often we get stuck tending the monkeys and loose track of the jungle we are in.

(zoo photo from Flickr mag3737)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Role of my faith in my work

Some of us may have a type of job where it is hard to bring our faith, beliefs and religion to work. Well that is yet another reason to love where I work, the YMCA. Although our historical roots as an organization with heavy evangelism and bible studies is not as prevalent today as I would like in the Chicago Association, everything we do is still rooted in those beliefs and values. So while I am work I am able to bring all of who I am with me.

However in the last year I have started to notice that when I am talking in my NPTech circles, that I have somehow hid my faith and beliefs. It is almost as if I have allowed myself to focus so much on tech and nonprofit talk that everything else slides to the back. Recently though many things have been pushing me to let my faith shine.

The Religion & Technology Divide is a Guest Post by Paul Lamb on the famous Beth's Blog. This blog talked about disparity between technology and religion. This mirrors my own personal thoughts.

One of the things that I have enjoyed is that my church home, Community Christian Church, has embraced a lot of technology. The leadership and staff of the church have embraced technology within the services, throughout the building and even embracing social media. They see the ability of YouTube to spread the message through hilarious videos (like the one I am in here). Our pastors are all over Twitter and Facebook because they see the value in creating or enforcing relationships.

Anyway, I am rambling, so back to my point (or 2 points to be exact).

Point #1 =How many of us hide part of ourselves or our beliefs because we are afraid?

Afraid to offend someone?
Afraid to not fit in?
Afraid to have our beliefs challenged by others?
Afraid to mix personal and professional?

I think many of us try to treat our lives like the government, where we try to separate Church and State. But even the government cant keep them separate. I am going to be more deliberate about not hiding my faith.

Point #2 - Churches should see that technology is not inherently evil and the NPTech sector should look to help churches find positive ways to leverage it.

All technology seems to have a dark side and can be used in bad ways, but if the harm didnt outweigh the good would it still continue to thrive and grow? Well ok yes, it probably would but... Technology can be used in very positive ways. And isnt the church here to help us live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God? As individuals we are all faced with the moral challenges that technology and the internet provide. If the church hides from these moral challenges, how can they help us? We need the church's support and guidance to navigate these choices.

As far as the NPTech sector goes, how can we ignore the faith based side of the nonpofit world? I think you would be hard pressed to find a more devoted following than those who belong to a church. Why dont we leverage that and collaborate more? And is it just me or is the topic just not talked about?

Final thought

So what is the role of faith in my work? Since my faith and beliefs are a big part of me, then naturally they are going to come with me. They play a large role in every decision I make, every thought I have and every action I take.

Well those are my thoughts, as random as ever, but probably not as humorous as I try sometimes. I dont claim to have all the answers on this topic, nor am I an expert. I would love to be challenged and questioned on this, it helps me think it through.

Photo Credit=kid w/iphone from mastrobiggo on Flickr

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

T-Shirts transform people to heros

Each of you has been issued a t-shirt. You have to wear everyday it while you are working here for the next week. This t-shirt will give you an instant reputation and a free pass to many things. This t-shirt has been worn by many, many groups and individuals before you. The people here in New Orleans know and recognize the t-shirt and they know you are here to help. Wearing that t-shirt you can walk into a restaurant, use the bathroom and leave, and noone will question you. That t-shirt will allow you to walk down some of the most dangerous neighborhoods and people will be kind to you. That t-shirt transforms you into a hero into the eyes of the people here. They will know you are here to serve and pray with them.

This was one of the opening speeches I heard last week when I went with my son's youth mission trip through Community Christian Church in conjunction with EFCA in New Orleans. By the end of the week, I knew that he was serious. The people were so friendly to us, they were willing to talk and pray with us. When we put on those t-shirts and went out as teams, we were no longer individuals, we represented something bigger. It would have been hard for any one of us to make a lasting impact, but as a team unified by a t-shirt we did make an impact.

We were transformed internally when we put on the t-shirts also. While wearing the t-shirts we forgot what was important to us or what we wanted to do and focused on the needs of the group and project. We even slept on floors and showered with frogs. Groups worked on roofs in New Orleans in summer! (95 degrees and humid)

At the end of the week they challenged us to not let our work stop when we took off the t-shirt. They dared us to live everyday as if we were wearing that t-shirt.

And that really made me wonder how far this t-shirt idea could go. A logo t-shirt transforms a group of people from a crowded hike into a walk-a-thon curing cancer or a group of kids kicking each other into a soccer game. People bonding together around a cause, idea, goal or team get transformed when they have a badge they can wear that tells others what they believe in or what they are doing.

However this transformation is not because the t-shirts are magic. It is because they have a symbol to rally behind. YMCAs are great at promotions like giving out t-shirts, water bottles, pencils, etc. And people seem to like wearing our "gear." But that t-shirt does not transform the person. The transformation comes only if that t-shirt is tied to an action, a cause, a team or somehow letting that be a part of your organization. Giving the t-shirt is not as important as inviting them into your team.

Transferring this to the web may not be as hard as you think. I think that adding the causes application or becoming a fan of an org on Facebook can be similar to wearing a t-shirt. You have some cool "gear" to display on your profile. But just like that promotional t-shirt, just getting a fan isnt enough, you have to get them engaged and invite them into your team. DONT give them the t-shirt to just wear as an advertisement, let them crave the t-shirt because they are so involved in your team.

On a side note, I must say that anyone that discounts the importance of teens in making a difference should go with us next year. These teens worked harder, sacrificied more and prayed in a way that I could never imagine. Teens are not the future changemakers, they are todays changemakers.

I am trying to figure out an "online t-shirt" that people can earn and wear online to work on behalf of the YMCA or to be our spokesperson. hmmmm......