Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scope Creep the band - an interview

A quick side diversion from the usual blog post to talk about a small project that we are working on to help support the NTEN scholarship fund for the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference. Please sit back and enjoy this interview.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If you hide your struggles, how can you get help? (Part 6 of 11 NetNon series)

Family Restaurant may have to close after 75 years of operation. In the days of fast food and big chains, small restaurants depend on their community to support them. The Family Restaurant is the poster child of this impact. If you want us to stay open we need you to visit us.

How many times have you seen a story like that, remembered the place fondly and then went to visit to support them?

Budget shortfalls, program delivery challenges or even mistakes can be opportunities to garner support for your organization. But we treat them as shameful things that expose weakness. We hide our problems, we mask the truth and we put on a happy face.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are things that have to be and should be confidential, but at what point do you tell the truth. I know what you are thinking, why do we have to tell the truth, why open up our books and share our dirty secrets? Can’t we just come up with a good slogan, rally a cause and raise money?

That might work, but what if you are missing a different opportunity by hiding information from those that want you to succeed. What if money isn’t the only problem? What if you allowed your supporters inside your walls, get their hands dirty and fix the root causes, not just give money.

Obviously this is easy for me to just type and say, reality is a lot harder. But here is what I would challenge you with. What is your organization’s first thought when it comes to information? Is it, noone can see this until it is approved? Does the question even get asked, should we share this?

The Networked Nonprofit Chapter 6 is all about transparency and a culture of sharing. The point of sharing your struggles isn’t the focus, but it was the core thought that I grabbed onto. The book does a great job of talking about the different types of orgs with sharing: the fortress, transactional and transparent orgs.

Sharing numbers is super easy
Sharing stories takes time
Sharing who you are and the challenges you face takes courage

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 6 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Social media doesn’t create friends, people do (Part 5 of 11 NetNon series)

Listen, converse and build strong relationships. There are many different variations of the basic steps of social engagement, but they are all very similar. But how does that fit in with reality?

The reality is that many orgs have a couple designated people that are allowed to speak on behalf of the organization. Those people “know the party line” and can answer properly. We have been burned before so staff are asked to not reply on behalf of the org. This causes a direct conflict with the listening and conversing steps if the people starting your social media aren’t one of the “designated people.”

So we stumble across some mentions of our org, but we don’t reply because we don’t have the authority and it isn’t a big enough deal to pass up the food chain. Strike that up to missed opportunity.

Social media gets launched and so begins the next internal battle, will we use our powers for good? Do we start with the intention of being social or are we so focused on the end goal that we miss the party? Do we try to maintain control so tight that we push everyone away? Do we create a sense of trusting the good in people or are we always braced for the worst?

So many people think that the reason starting or running good social media is hard is because the tools are technical, technology is advanced or above their skill level. But the real challenge is in why you are using it, is your org really ready to be social?

Social media doesn’t create friends people do.

Don’t just read that sentence and move on. Really think about it. The social media tools don’t mean anything without the people behind it. So are there people behind your social media strategy or a set of processes, programmed responses and one way communications?

If every conversation has to start with YOU saying something, I will get bored. If you let ME start a conversation and YOU reply, that means more. You actually wanted to know what I have to say and replied.

Think about it, don’t have that friend that always wants to drive the conversation, you have to talk about what they want…. They are so annoying. Maybe I have something to say about a different topic.

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 5 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

Monday, November 8, 2010

YMCA of Metro Chicago shares Facebook Resources

Detour again... So I have been too busy with silly videos and work to keep going with the #netnon posts, but I do promise to get back to them next week. But this week I have to share something from the IT team at the YMCA of Metro Chicago (my job).

We recently launched 15 Facebook pages for our YMCA membership centers. And on our new YMCA of  Chicago IT blog we have shared a PowerPoint case study, which is cool, but...

Even cooler is the Facebook Manual! No sorry, it does not teach you how to use Facebook. Rather this is what we created to help guide our authors.  Notice, I said guide our authors, which is slightly different than just rules.

Anyway, here is the link, go check it out NOW! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scope Creep the Band

Slight diversion from the #netnon series.  I would try to give this video an introduction, but it really doesn't deserve one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Try it and fix it as we go (Part 4 of 11 NetNon series)

"Try it and fix it as we go" Hmmm. That is one idea. Or we could make sure we have the right strategy, do a deep risk analysis, get the right staff, run an RFP process for a consultant, build some "must follow" processes, have a committee write a plan and vet all decisions through senior management. We should wait until we are ready.
I know many of you are thinking, yeah, you are so right Steve. "Try it and fix it as we go" isn't a good idea, we should think this through. We should make sure we are ready.  Wrong, ok well mostly wrong.

We tend to use phrases like:
"Go big or go home"
"Failing to plan is planning to fail"
"A consultant knows best."
"There is no try, only do or do not."
"The risk outweighs the benefit."
"Always be prepared."
"We've always done it that way."
"My experience tells me..."

OK, I think you get the point with the quotes. Sorry I got carried away there. But do you see how our old way of planning, strategy and decision making has to shift in order to use social media well?

Yes, "Try it and fix it as we go," is a good way to think about creating a social culture. And here is another favorite quote from the book. "Failing Fast." OK, seriously we don't want to fail, let alone fail fast.

Does this mean we don't plan or think this through, we just start? NO. Rather we plan and think through a methodology to allow for experimentation and ongoing changes tied to a set of goals that are measured with agreed upon metrics of success.  We also clearly state expectations of appropriate behavior in a social media policy for all staff. We help clarify the role of the individual vs org, public vs private, personal vs professional. We spend time crafting what we want the voice of the organization to be. We think through how we will react to and learn from failure, because it will happen. We come up with ways to encourage staff to grow and share in a positive way.

The plan isn't about the steps, tools and getting it right the first time. It is all about how you manage the culture, experiment and keep moving forward.

This chapter spends some time thinking about a social media policy, which is a great opportunity for conversation about social media across your full organization.  But a social media policy shouldn't be a list of do's and dont's. It needs to set the tone of your social culture. It needs to provide the framework to encourage you to "try it and fix it as we go" and "fail fast". (and here I thought the words try and fail should never be in our policy.)

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 4 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Understanding Social Networks (Part 3 of 11 NetNon series)

"Traditionally, organizations have viewed themselves through an organization centric lens. Envisioning oneself and one's organization as the center of the universe with other people and organizations circling around it---providing it with funds, attention and volunteers as needed---is at odds with a world energized by social media and connectedness. Other organizations and individuals are not waiting for instructions for what to do; they're talking, doing and connecting based on their own needs and interests. Networked Nonprofits know this and are reorienting themselves to engage with individual free agents and organizations in their networks."
"How can I use social media to do fundraising, get attention for my organization, promote my event?" Those are the questions that I hear a lot. But if you are still working from an organization centric lens, which the questions above suggest, then you misunderstand the structure of social networks. The real question may be, "how do we incorporate social networks to be ready for people to get involved in the way they want to?"

Taking time to understand how a social network works, what it is used for and by who will greatly enhance your success but may also shift your goals and plans.  Chapter 3 does a great job of explaining the structure of social network. A network basically consists of two things; nodes (people\orgs) and ties (connections between them). The book goes on to describe how people connect, share and form groups.

Slight detour below.

"I've got some loose ends to tie up." We have a tendency to want control. We have a tendency to want to hang out with those we are closest to. We have a tendency to want order. We may have to rethink this.

Loose ties is what it is all about.  Within your organization's social network map you will have some strong ties to key supporters, which you have always been able to tap. But with social networks you can directly tap the LOOSE TIES. "Loose ties are lighter connections that friendly acquaintances have with one another."

"Tell your friends about..." Isn't that what we always add to the end of any pep talk? Now with social networks we have a more direct route to tell their friends or arm our friends with an easier way to tell their friends.

Detour was meant to have a point, not sure if I made it though. So like a fairy tale book, I will just say it. The point is, It is important to know who your strongest ties are, but don't loose focus on those loose ties. In order to do this, you may have to loosen control, hang out with your friends' friends and allow a little disorder.

Back on the road.

Social Capital. At the end of the chapter the focus turns to social capital. Here are some ways to social media builds social capital:
  • People are easy to find online and on many channels
  • Talk is cheap
  • Serendipity is enhanced online
  • Reciprocity is incredibly easy 
 Reciprocity is incredibly easy. That point struck me hard! It is so true. And reciprocity isn't just easy in social media, it is so powerful. A public thank you, compliment or positive interaction that people can over hear is incredible!

Anyway, my thoughts were really scrambled and random on this chapter. But in the end, understanding the structure of social networks, knowing your role\network, leveraging your ties and building social capital is how it starts (not asking how do I promote my cause.)

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 3 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Challenges & Trends of a Networked Nonprofit (Part 2 of 11 NetNon series)

Free Agents. When you dont know who else can you turn too? Your team is almost complete, but you need to bring in that one player from the outside who will push you over the top. You need a Free Agent. They know they are good, they know they are in demand, they want to help.  Free agents is a great term and I love how it plays out in Chapter Two of the Networked Nonprofit.

Paraphrased from chapter:
We are facing a leadership crisis arises from:
  1. Rise of professional staff, replacing volunteers
  2. Funders focused on professionally staff org, not volunteer staffed
  3. Orgs looked to budget and staff growth as indicators of success

Things rings so true to me. Resources were abundant, growth was everywhere. Training and leveraging volunteers was not as effective as just hiring the staff.  I have actually said those words so many times. But in the midst of this, you lose involvement of your supporters, you lose connection to the community and so much more.  We built structures, policies and big budgets: we were building empires to serve a cause.

Revolutions are often started by a single person with a simple idea and they use their influence to build a movement, they are Free Agents. (I hope that doesn't go too far from the books definition).

Free agents are those that take it upon themselves to make a difference, take action or start a movement because they care. They have some sort of connection, passion or personal reason driving them, so they act. But they don't always want to join forces with some org that will just slow them down.

Free agents today have a secret weapon in social media. A single person can spark the hearts and imaginations of hundreds, thousands or millions of people. However, our organizations are not always ready to work with that Free Agent, we just want to hire them. But many of these Free Agents will come and go, a cause will attract their attention only until they are satisfied and then they move on.

Many orgs are scared of this type of relationship.  How can I trust, work with and equip a Free Agent when I cant control them and I have no idea how long they will stay involved? How can this one person or group of people do anything better than our org that has the best staff and years of experience? We are so busy how can we possibly focus our time on Free Agents?

I think I need to go back to the point from Chapter 1 where we talked about that we have already lost control. We don't want to control the Free Agent. They have something we need, influence within the community.

Maybe the next time we have a need, require fresh energy or look to hire more staff we will turn to a Free Agent to save the day.

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 2 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Say hello to Networked Nonprofits - (Part 1 of 11 NetNon series)

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

First, what is a Networked Nonprofit? Here is a bit from the book about that. But it is hard to get the real picture from these words.  Reading the examples of how this plays out in the real world is awesome in the book.
"Networked Nonprofits are simple and transparent organizations. They are easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out."
"Networked Nonprofits don't work harder or longer than other organizations, they work differently. They engage in conversations with people beyond their walls - lots of conversations- to build relationships that spread their work through the network." 
So what were my thoughts from the chapter? - I am glad that I asked myself.

Our staff and organization are too overworked. We dont have the resources, time or staff to do it all. However we are unwilling to give up any control. We use excuses like Brand Management and Quality Control to hide behind, saying that we need to control the message and only our staff can do the work right. We are very official in everything we do and proud of it. In case you dont pick up on my sarcasm, I would question how this needs to change.

Making the changes is not an easy task for many organizations though. Large organizations can have long histories and deeply rooted cultures, couple with org charts that reinforce silos within the organization. If an organization cant effectively communicate, network and share within its own structure, how can it ever be transparent and open to others.  If I had the answer on how to fix this, I would share it, but I dont have a silver bullet here.  Maybe the book will have these answers.

"Networked Nonprofits are not afraid to lose control of their programs and services, their logos and branding, messages and messengers because they know that in return they will receive the goodwill and passion of many people working on their behalf."
OK, now those are just fighting words. We are afraid of this. We see the brand challenges that others have faced because of corrupt leadership, misused funds, staff behavior, and so many other reputation disasters. Many of us have seen or heard a message on behalf of a nonprofit that is off course, inappropriate or misinformed. So we must fight to keep control and own all of this, right? Right? Hello, arent you listening? We need control. --- No actually we only think we have control.

Thinking that you have control of your brand and message is like thinking you can hold jello in your hands forever, eventually it is oozing out of control.  People are shaping, impacting and changing your brand everyday, whether you give them the control or not. So why not embrace those that "get it", give them information and get them involved?

This is not an easy change to get started. Nuff said.

The chapter continues by "busting" some social media myths:

  • Our constituents aren't online. Busted.
  • Face-to-face isn't important anymore. Busted. (IRL FTW!)
  • Social media isn't core to our work. Busted.
  • Using social media is hard. Busted.
  • Using social media is time-consuming. SPOILER ALERT - Confirmed to a point.

 I love the thoughts that went into this part. Try to address the resistance upfront.

"Conversations activate the natural creativity and passion that people bring to causes they care about."
 So lets stop talking to ourselves or at our constituents and really engage and empower them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The metrics of fishing

How much did you catch? That is the first question people ask when you go fishing. And they expect you to have counted. But you cant just say how many you caught, you also are expected to know their weight, length, type and what bait you used. That is all so obvious and straight forward, but let me tell you a short story.

I am in my late 30's, ok fine really close to 40. And my two oldest sons are 17 and 18. These are years of big change for them. I dont seem to get enough time with them. All I have enough time to do is talk to them about being responsible, making the right choices and what did they do now...  I talked to Grandpa and we arranged to stay out fishing with just the older boys. We had the gear, the weather was great (a lot dark though, which doesn't mix well with sharp hooks), we had our bait and we had a fishing plan.  When the fishing trip was all over, everyone asked the obvious questions stated above.

Now if you hadnt heard that very short synopsis of my story, you would think that the measure of success is how many fish we caught, right? But I hope you see that my measurement of success in this scenario was me spending time with my sons and whether we connected. Did they see that I am more than a mean face that says "no" and pushes them to be who they could be?

Dont you think we should be measuring our social media activity with this type of lens? Yes, you need to be able to report on where you fished, number caught, size, type and what bait you used. However, maybe it is time to stop focusing on the fish and look at what made the trip special and the connections you made while fishing?

Friday, August 27, 2010

I dont care what you want to hear!

Sometimes when I look at a website, read a status or check out an article and I think to myself wow, they have a lot to say but the really dont care about what we want to hear or what we care about.

For example, my blog was started for me to have a voice, think through some thoughts and just share some of my ideas.  I am not looking to build up a huge following, become famous or tailor to what my audience wants (of course that assumes I have an audience at all). I write my blog posts so that I can process a thought from start to finish. By putting my thoughts into words online and publishing them publicly I am forcing myself to make a statement and allow people to react (whether that is bad or good reactions). Some of my posts people have actually enjoyed and shared.  Others I enjoyed a lot and no one seemed to care.

The danger that I see here though is when this attitude or thought process crosses over to an organization, company or any other website that is driving toward a goal.

This blog is for fun and sharing, there is no mission to be met or sales to be made.

But when you are planning your website, social media, emails or whatever communication you are working on, is your thought process too focused on what you want to say? Well you might just be telling your audience that you dont care what they want to hear.

I'm just sayin.....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Facebook Comments Again

I was excited that John Hayden shared our YMCA's comment escalation flow chart on his blog! It seems that many people can identify with it.

Here is John's post:

Here is a quote that I liked the most from his post:
Five reasons why a decision flow-chart makes sense
  1. Scalability – Staff can be brought into the social media workflow quicker with simple directions.
  2. Consistency - A simple response policy means that you’ll more likely respond as one voice, instead of many disjointed voices.
  3. Alignment - You can ensure that tactical responses on social media aligns with your over-arching business goals.
  4. Speed - The quicker foot-soldiers understand protocol, the quicker comments get responded to.
  5. Smarts - Granting the ability for staff to make decision on how to respond means that legal council can spend time on genuine legal issues.

I will be running a training this week for about 45 Facebook authors for the 20 or so pages that we will be launching on Aug 23. John Haydon's points really made me think through how I was going to convey the importance of replying to comments to our authors. I need to be more deliberate about explaining that there is no silver bullet to replying, but you need to have a plan. You cant just wing it, especially when there are multiple authors and you are replying on behalf of the organization.

"We already know what some of the comments are going to be from some of our members. We already see them in comment cards, email, phone calls, conversations, etc. So how can we be ready to reply to those?" That remark came up during a recent planning meeting. And it is true, we will get some of the same comments. My thought is, you would respond in the same way as when you received the comments in the other means, except maybe look for some brevity and give a way to follow up.

One of the biggest push backs we get from our staff is that they are already so busy that how are they going to fit in yet another task to reply to comments.  That is why we really need this structure to help them respond quickly, professionally and confidently.

Thanks for the mention John and for the extra inspiration to keep thinking this through.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Facebook Metrics! Measure from the start

August 23, 2010 is the planned date that the YMCA of Metro Chicago will be launching about 20 Facebook pages, one for each of our membership centers.  In about 2 months time we have created a process to build the pages, train the authors, drive the strategy and make it happen.  But we recognize that we will need to measure our progress. So this is when I turned to Beth Kanter for advice, well her blog, not her personally.

Spreadsheet aerobics is a blog post from Beth that talks about how to measure your Facebook work and experiments. I took her advice, but I am doing it one step at a time. 

We have created a set of trainings, materials and steps to rapidly deploy our social media sites.  Our first effort is Facebook for our membership centers. Our first goal is to establish our presence and provide the foundation to begin to connect with our members.  We want to be where our communities are and communicate with them they want to.

Once we have the basics working, authors trained and a presence established we will work to equip our YMCA staff as authors to begin to create engagement with purpose. But we have to start somewhere, which for us will be creating the presence, training our staff and just getting it rolling!

In that effort, we will just be tracking the basic stats straight from Facebook Insights.  Each our Facebook page administrators will download the interactions stats into Excel and send it to us.  We will then copy those numbers straight into this report format.  Our hope is to be able to show the correlation between those actively interacting on their page with the increase in participation of fans.

Anyway, here is spreadsheet report, based on concepts from Beth Kanter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

NTEN Tech Leadership Academy and what I learned already.

While I have been working on my transition from Steve Heye to just "the Steve," I have been too busy to post to my blog.  So instead I am just going to share some of the things I have learned while preparing for the upcoming Tech Leadership Academy from NTEN. I'm presenting with John Merritt, but I have already learned a few things without the event even happening yet, just imagine once it does happen.

Incredible training op from NTEN - Technology Leadership Academy! This is a free training for smaller orgs, but it is so much more than just a training.  They have assembled some of the best trainers, well plus me, to cover the spectrum of technology topics.

Apply before July 30 right here!

Part of what they will be covering in the Academy above is a great diagram that is in a slideshow from the awesome Holly Ross . The slide shows an adapted, simplified version of the IT Alignment stages that I refer to a lot. But they have added some arrows indicating that as alignment increases the technology brings additional service to the mission.  I like the simplicity of it.

But then she also a second diagram (but it looks like she is borrowing it from Save the Children) of a IT Strategy pyramid that talks about how to progress forward in these IT Alignment stages. This diagram helps illustrate that only one of the levels is solely focused on tech tools, the foundation.

The second level requires examining your operations and tech. The third level is not just business steps, it is how you deliver your programs, serve your constituents, meet your mission with tech.

The top of the triangle is all about what you do differently, this requires not just thinking about how you deliver services, but how you can leverage technology to completely change your whole organization, add a new service or completely redefine the way you meet your mission leveraging technology.

To see the full presentation that Holly created you can visit SlideShare at:

Thanks for inviting me to participate Holly, looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

IT Manifesto and Collection of things...

Holly Ross posted "A Leadership Manifesto: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom" on the NTEN blog. Please take a minute to go to this post and make your comment, especially if you have a different viewpoint. This is a great post.  Here are a couple quotes that I cant help but share.

"Right now, in our sector, we need technology leaders.  We are standing right on top of a critical inflection point, and we owe it to our causes to make sure that we navigate the change as best as we possibly can. So I am calling on all of you to stand up and lead.  We will follow you."

"The old style of IT management was a command-and-control model.  It was about "experts" making decisions for the end users and mandating those decisions. These days, there are more experts than you think. innovation and expertise in technology can come from any staffer in any role, and technology leaders need to recognize and embrace that.  We need to run IT shops that protect our assets while encouraging this innovation. When everyone's a part of process, the revolution happens much more quickly."

And from out of the comments from Holly:
"tech is definitely undefined and muddy now. It's out of the back room and out in every department at your organization. Think about how we used to deal with IT...."  "now technology is a completely different beast. It's about communicating, conversing, collecting, sharing, advocating and more. It's about all the ways that we meet your missions."

Holly hints that the conversation about technology leaders has only just begun for the next year.  I cant wait to see what comes out of this.

And here are a few other gems I want to share:
Recording of a presentation on IT Alignment that John Merritt and I did for NTEN. It is worth a watch, we were on something of a roll that day.

Slideshow of Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom from Holly Ross.

Forget the Tech, Lets Talk Mission - Great article from John Merritt (he wrote it and just added my name)

And now for something completely different, be sure to take time to order your copy of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's new book the Networked Nonprofit. Read more about the book and the launch!

Flickr Photo credit: Chris.Corwin

Friday, June 4, 2010

Social Media Comments Gone Wild! What to do?

Air Force Blog Assessment
What if someone says something bad about us on social media? We cant do that!

Isnt that one of the bigger hesitations of orgs using social media? It is easy to think through what to do if the comments are just wrong, but what if the comments are bad but correct, just plain mean or pose a real risk?

I am a huge fan of the Air Force Blog Assessment chart! This is what we used to guide the discussion around how and when we should reply to comments on our social media sites.  This visual worked great to allow non-tech staff to think through and understand all of the options.  It also helped leadership to feel more comfortable with our ability to reply.

But what do you do when the same comments start to cross boundaries and exposure your participants, your members or your organization to real risk?

So in addition to the Air Force Blog Assessment we decided to create a comment escalation flow chart.  This is intended to help our social media authors decide what action to take in addition to the reply.  We wanted to have a documented process for our employees to use and to find a way to keep our Communications & Risk Management departments in the loop.  So here is what we came up with.  We are also working on documenting the actual steps they take but wanted a visual to make it understandable and simple.

socmed post reply-g

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you have similar things in place?

Here is why I decided to share this.  Moderating comments may seem like just another task that has to be done by our authors.  But in this particular pilot launch the authors are working with Teens.  So when they take action on an inappropriate comment, they are actually working toward the goals of their program. By having a conversation with a program participant about responsible behavior online, they are reinforcing the program goal of strengthening self image and how you present yourself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Software randomly creates policy where none exists & other stuff I learned

If there isnt a documented process, policies or set of standards that your organization uses to define it's best practices on how business is conducted, then by default your software may create it for you.  Software and the solutions you use will have built in policies and processes. So in lieu of you picking the best way to run your business you allow the software to do it for you. WOW! How come I had never really put that thought together in my head?

Ok, so in many cases following the rules and policies dictated by your software is a good thing. Many times these are based on regulations, business practices and audit standards.  But beyond that should you determine the most effective way to run your organization, then try to adapt those practices to your software.  Rather than seeing how the software works, then letting that dictate your process?

Slow down Steve, where is all of this craziness coming from?

I was excited to be given the chance to present my #10ntc Ignite session for a small group over at the Great Book Foundation.  My ignite session tries to relay a point about how technology staff talking about tools and solutions can kill your audience. After that I spend about 20 minutes talking all about IT Alignment stuff from the NTEN book.  Then we opened it up for some questions and answers.

There was a group of questions that revolved around determining policy, planning technology strategy and staff roles in all of this. That is when someone asked about how do you manage a multi-layer technology strategy that meets the needs of the individual staff, each department and the full organization.  If you are meeting all of those needs wouldnt that require multiple technology strategies and require those strategies to start from very different perspectives?

That lead me to try to explain how you do need to have a few parts to your IT Alignment strategy.  This goes back to John Merritt's idea of the ART of the Technology.  ART = Alignment, Relationship, Transparency.  First, have a strategy to make the technology work so well that it is transparent, second work to build relationships between IT and the rest of the org, third move technology to meeting the mission through Alignment.  So yes, it is a bunch of strategies, not just one focused on mission, but that is still the end goal.

Steve, you are so off track yet again, wasnt this post about software creating policy?  Yes, it is about that and I am trying to get back to that if you would just let me.

This then loops us back to the comment about software creating policies and practices where there are none. If you dont have a well rounded technology strategy that is focusing on all three elements Alignment, Relationship and Transparency tied to the mission it is easy to let the tools take over.

WOW! Did you see how I just tied that all together and referenced the ignite session as well? ZOINKS!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stop selling Slurpees and Lead with questions

Solutions. That is what IT Staff is good at. We see a problem or opportunity and we come up with solutions.  We have a fantastic ability to know and quickly identify possible tools or even process changes to make impact. We are quick to offer help and jump to the easy fixes.
Happy 7-11 Day!
But I would argue that this solution pushing turns us into a convenience store. We are only asked about things when a solution is needed.  Why do we need to be part of the planning when all we do is provide the solution?  People would rather finish their planning, identify what the problem or need is, then step up to the Slurpee counter and order the quick fix.

By acting under the orders of "the customer is always right" and "Service with a smile", are we really providing the best services to our organization?

Most of the Nonprofit Tech Staff that I know have much deeper skills than providing icee beverages when people need a quick fix.  We have a set of skills that complements the rest of organization very well but I dont see it used enough.  We are very analytical, process oriented, mission driven and creative with a unique perspective, plus the knowledge of tools and methods that many others dont know.  So why do we squander it?

Here is my proposal.  When a request comes in, lead with a "Yes but I have some questions..." Spend some time asking questions about what they are working on, what is the end goal, what would success look like.  And dont ask these questions in a formal document or a survey, try talking to your colleagues.

Question Mark and ArrowOr better yet, here is my ideal request.  Dont wait for people to come to you looking for solutions. Target one group of staff that is working on a great program within your organization.  Work within your IT team to come up with a set of questions about that program that would help you understand it better. Come up with questions about what the planned impact is or what long term success would look like.  Then invite a couple of those staff to your IT Staff meeting and have a conversation with them about it.  Dont even talk about tools or solutions. Just ask questions to better understand the program.  Showing interest in their program and asking questions will develop a relationship that will benefit everything you do with them.

In general, I think we all need to start leading with questions, not answers.  Try to listen and not jump to the solution.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You dont need a website, You need a web strategy! #10ntc

I was spending time cleaning my garage this weekend and I found a whole bunch of tools that I have never used. All of these tools serve a purpose and are still very useful, but at this point in my life I dont have a big plan to build anything.Without a big plan to build, the tools just sit there.

Websites can turn into those tools rusting in the garage very easily. A website, regardless of the coolest widgets, will only be as useful longterm as the strategy behind it.

Keeping this post nice and simple to hopefully make a point, so I will let the ignite video below do the talking.  I must give credit to Gregory Hellor for this post and title! Thanks for the inspiration.

Ignite NTC: Gregory Heller "You Don't Need A Website..." from GregoryH on Vimeo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My more formal notes from #10ntc

#10ntc is the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference hosted by NTEN. These are my short, more formal notes.  This in no way covers the new people that I met, old friends I connected with, vendors I discovered, laughs I had and doesnt do justice to the Awesome-Sauce that the NTEN community is.  Maybe that will be my next post.

Summary of YMCA Day - April 8

Group of about 10 YMCA staff gathered and did a round robin of sharing projects they are working on.  The range of projects was from Sharepoint and websites to underwater pool safety cameras and video conferencing.  The group was excited to share and connect with other YMCA staff responsible for technology.

My biggest learning from the YMCA day was that we need to find a better way to stay connected with what other YMCAs are working on in order to not duplicate efforts and share learnings. Also that there is some sense of wanting to share tools and resources across tech staff but they meet resistance from leadership back at their centers.

There was a lot of mentions of YMCAs growing their use of Sharepoint as an intranet, document management and communication tool. However one of the more interesting side notes about intranets and websites was a debate/conversation about who owns it (Marketing, IT, Finance, Operations or ?).  YMCAs also seem to still be facing some of the struggles of centralizing IT and mixing it with operations as they grow and add centers.

Overall NTEN conference summary - April 9-10

The conference did not have a central theme, but if I had to pick one for what I learned it would be "rethink what drives your strategy."  

Your online engagement strategy should be 90% story, 10% technology. Find your audiences and adapt to where they are. GEORGE WEINER, Do Something <@georgecaweiner>

Our social media policy in 140 characters: Be transparent. Be responsible. Be Non-Partisan. Be Trained. Be Responsive. TAMMY GORDON, AARP <@AARP>

People don’t hate change. They hate disruption. PETER CAMPBELL, Techcafeteria <@peterscampbell>

For example one of the keynotes, Andrew Sullivan, suggested that people connect with another person online, not an organization or company. So your communications and web approach should walk the line of official org messages versus messages from individuals from within the org.  So this would make you question what drives your communication strategy to leverage those personalities within your org.

Another example is more specifically in the website strategy.  In order to have a full online presence strategy you need to include a large group of people.  Like Marketing for messages, IT for tools, program staff for content, operations for process, fundraising for philanthropy, and so on. But the key here is to change what drives the meetings, spend time talking about what we want to accomplish, what we want our audiences to do and what our audiences are interested in at the big group meetings.  Then let the decision makers that have been given the authority make it happen (IT, Marketing, etc). But those roles and that web strategy planning process has the be clearly defined so that while big and inclusive it still allows room for things to move fast and well.

Another example is around how we tell our stories of impact.  Right now we simply state that an event happened, maybe tell an anecdote and some stats, but it isnt a story.  If we want to change our stories to get people to act, then we need to rethink how and why we write stories. A story needs background, a conflict with resolution, a heartfelt connection and an easy to grasp message that ends with a call to action. We dont have a culture that creates and shares full stories, we focus on the outcome and miss the struggle and end with call to action. We need to change why we write stories and provide a better structure to those who are expected to write them.

General Conference thoughts

Combined Communications strategy - Lots of talk about social media, social networking, web 2.0 and sooo many tools, but the theme this year was to have a strategy that drives it all. Stop picking a tool then a strategy for that tool, rather have a central plan for what you want to say, who you want to converse with, what you want to hear and what you want people to do.  The tools like Facebook, MySpace, etc will keep changing, so set the strategy not the tool.

More interaction with audience - stop talking to people and have conversations with them. Heard this in social media sessions, website strategy and communications areas. People dont want to be talked to from an org. They want to have a conversation with a person.

New ways to educate audience - games, mobile devices, e-learning and more ideas are coming up that arent broadcast methods, rather they are ways to interact with a purpose.

Session notes:

Create a Culture of Storytelling 
(1 set of slides at
Stories have to come from your heart before they will go to people's heads. Dont tell stories that you arent so excited about that you run home to tell friends & family about it. Storytelling is weaved throughout ALL messages, pages and sites. Stories don’t belong solely on about us area. We need a writer on staff to drive this process and culture! It is good, actually encouraged to repeat a point across stories, can take 7 plus times before somebody remembers something. Seize opportunities–when feedback is asked for on another site about your cause, push your supporters to go and give it! Social media for non profits is just as much about listening as it is about sharing your mission.  Pick the words you want to use or not use! Are they victims or survivors (as an example). 
Making it Real: Getting Project Management Right for Content Management Web Projects
A central website strategy tied to a communications plan is needed for a successful website implementation and CMS project. A clear owner of the website strategy is needed, but has to be supported by a full representation of the organization. Stressed importance of content gathering to start early in the process to enable a better site map and navigation. Group debated whether to start or end with web design. On one hand people love to see the graphics and the visuals but on the other we loose sight of the message when focusing on details of design.  The purpose of the website should drive design in the end, but people clamour to see the structure. So providing early and frequent glimpses through sitemaps and wireframes are critical so people can see what you are talking about. They walked through steps of I was hoping to get more project management tips from this session, but it went offtrack and got too simple.

Secrets of Landing Page Testing: How to Optimize PPC to Convert More Donors, Activists, and Email Subscribers 
Really focused on use of combination Google Optimizer and Analytics to test the effectiveness of your website efforts and conversions. Landing pages are becoming even more important because search results and web campaigns aren't taking you to home pages any longer. Discussed how to do some A-B testing and how to evaluate the results.
Forget the Tech, Lets Talk Mission (IT Alignment materials Click HERE)
I presented this session with John Merritt from the San Diego YMCA.  Two organizations provided us sample strategic plans and supporting information.  We did several group exercises to try to demonstrate some tactical and strategic ways to move IT from being reactive to working toward the mission. It was great to be able to talk through some of challenges and objections people face, then work through ideas to make a difference.

Social Media's Potential for Faith Based Communities
I also presented at this session. It was interesting to debate through how allowing people to connect personally to church leaders may cause challenges of separation between leaders and members. The debate really brought to light the need for a purposeful discussion around the organizations versus individual voices. We also really highlighted the opportunities in social media for education around delicate or private topics. E-learning and resources are more readily shared in today's social media structure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thanks to Microsoft and Google! Where is Apple?

Based on the title you may be jumping to a bunch of conclusions, like, oh here goes Steve bashing iPhones and iTunes again just cuz he likes his Android device, but you are wrong.

I just spent the last few days at the Nonprofit Technology Conference hosted by NTEN in Atlanta. And one of the Diamond Sponsors (highest level) has been Microsoft for quite a few years, along with Blackbaud.  I applaud their involvement and support! Plus Google did have some involvement, they had a booth, ran some sessions, etc.  Plus they do have some great nonprofit programs like YouTube nonprofit channels.

So where is Apple in all of this? At the conference iPhones were everywhere, vendors were flinging around free iPads like they were candy and little bitten apples were glowing on Mac books on tables.

But again, where is Apple in all of this? No sponsorships, no involvement, no nonprofit programs? Or am I just totally missing the boat?

Friday, April 9, 2010

When Tech takes over! Beware.

I am at the nonprofit technology conference in Atlanta hosted by NTEN, it is my annual dose of information and inspiration to refill the my NPTech well. Last night I did an ignite presentation and had a lot of fun. (Ignite is 20 slides, 15 seconds each and you just have to keep up with the auto slide).

I did this mostly for fun, but ended up having one of those moments where something just becomes so clear that it shocks you a little. The point was to watch out how we talk about technology, because what we say isnt what people hear.

Stop involving and informing your stakeholders in technology, rather you should be involved and informed with them.

Dont try to get people on the side of technology. You should be on their side and have a strong enough relationship with your organization so that the technology becomes almost invisible and everyone sees the mission value of it.

Anyway,here is that video, enjoy. (sorry if the quality is weird, filmed on a flip).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn't Suck

This awesome video from Fast Company says a lot in just a few minutes.  I know I could not have said it better.

And I dont think this just applies to our mission statements.  I think you can use the ideas in this video to apply to a lot of the content, messaging and stories we write.  How many times have you written something that you think is great, only to have it edited so much that you cant even remember why you wrote it.

We try to appeal to too many audiences, make sure all of our bases are covered.  By covering all the bases, you are diluting the message.

Lets all try to be more concise and say what we mean, skip the buzz words and trying to say it all. Say what is important and end it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Steve has been hiding, sorry

Many of my regular readers (all 3 of you) may have been wondering where is Steve Heye and why hasnt he been blogging in 2010?  I miss his witty comments, deep insight and... OK lets just stop with the self flattery it will get you nowhere.

I want to apologize for my lack of blogging, I have succumbed to the fate of many NPTech staff out there, I have been buried in work, plus hiding in denial that my oldest son is graduating High School.  But as a reward to my faithful followers I will give you a peek at what I have been working on so hard.

The YMCA of Metro Chicago is launching an all new online registration system, that will hopefully reinvent the way people sign up for our programs.  We came in with the thought of "lets design this from the audience perspective" instead of mirroring our own internal structure, nomenclature and ideas.  The shift of how things are displayed, categorized and common across centers took months of conversation with our staff.  The technical aspects of coding, database integration and web development were challenging, but nothing like the cultural shifts that have started.

We had to create a translator or match maker application to "match" the classes stored in our database with the structure we created on the web.  Then we assigned the task of matching to our staff at our centers.  We had quite a few staff comment, "I never knew that my classes were displayed online that way because of the way I set up the data."  We had spent so long coming up with work-arounds in our database, that many didnt realize the implications.

But anyway, sorry for the short post, but I need to get back to work.

Oh but wait, here is your sneak peak access:

Web Address:
Username: ymca
Password: testing

I would appreciate any feedback also.   But just know that as I type changes are being made to the site based on early member feedback.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where will we be tomorrow? (Part 11 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Where are we today is usually what I answer when someone asks me about tomorrow. I figure if someone asks an obscure question that has limitless answers, that will probably only be proven wrong somehow, just answer with another question. ;-0  Just kidding of course.  But there is some truth to the idea that knowing where you are today is key to knowing about tomorrow, although that isnt what I want to talk about in this blog post.

Where will we be tomorrow?

Nonprofits will continue to push the edge of what technology can do to meet their mission while simultaneously allowing their infrastructure, process and core technology idle or fade.

What does that even mean?

Funding. We are able to get funding and a budget for technology or projects that are new and exciting, but can we get the same approval for more bandwidth, replacing PCs, tech support, training, process improvement, etc? This is not a new problem, nor am I the first to mention it. The nonprofit sector will become even more innovative and use technology in ways that gets the attention of the world. While at the same time using an unsupported software, under trained staff and outdated PCs.

As nonprofit techies we are pros at making due with what we have.  We will continue to do this and be proud of it.

Staff. Our staff use, understanding and requests for technology will rapidly change. Technology isnt really just the role of the technology department anymore, more staff are tech savy, have an element of tech in their job description and can be effective at rolling out new technology. Yet at the same time, many of our staff will not get the training they need on the software we use, our internal process and how to work more efficiently with the tech we have. New staff coming in will no longer just expect a desk with a working computer, they will need a mobile phone, faster internet access, video editing capability, access to everything from anywhere, permission to use whatever open source tool they find and more freedom to make their own technology choices.  Are we ready for that? I would imagine that many of us are not, we have rigid technology policies, adequate infrastructure and centralized decision making.

Well anyway, those are the two that I wanted to talk about.  I really didnt do them the justice that I wanted to, but my life has been super busy with a new online registration system, rolling out an intranet, etc, not to mention that whole life at home.

I was finally able to finish this 11 post series in just under 6 months, YIKES. But I really enjoyed it, I will need to help write another book for NTEN so that I have something else to write about on my blog.  I Love NTEN and cant wait for the upcoming Nonprofit Technology Conference on April 8-11 in Atlanta! I will be there with my partner in crime, John Merritt from the San Diego YMCA to present a session called Forget the Tech, Lets talk Mission! It is going to rock!

Over the last 11 weeks I did a themed series of blog posts. Each week I wrote about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 11th chapter by By Edward Granger Happ called Where Will we be Tomorrow. 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, January 12, 2010

Belated Beth Kanter Surprise Birthday wish

Happy Birthday to the inspiring Beth Kanter (one day late)! Amy Sample Ward and Stacey Monk through an online surprise birthday party for her, inviting bloggers to pay her much deserved respects and highlight the cause she is fighting for, sending kids to school in Cambodia through the Sharing Foundation.

My last post was about how you have to have live the cause and know what you are fighting for to fundraise well. In my opinion that is what Beth does best, you can immediately tell that she doesnt just support the Sharing Foundation, she lives it.  And the same goes for her work in helping nonprofits use social media, she doesnt just provide resources, she immerses herself and becomes the example to follow.

So in honor of her birthday, please learn about the cause that she believes in.

Click here to learn more about the surprise party.

And Happy Belated Birthday to Beth Kanter, an unending supply of experience, knowledge and compassion.