Friday, December 20, 2013

Bringing Tech back to #NPTech, 10 Nonprofit Tech Twitter Tweeps to Follow

Social Media, Marketing and Fundraising all rely heavily on Technology. But when I think nonprofit TECHNOLOGY, Social Media, Marketing and Fundraising does NOT cover it all. Warning: Heated Rant Brewing, resisting urge to....

Anyway, when I think Technology, I think about Technology. You know, like Tech Strategy, Project Management, Business Process, Networks, Infrastructure, Telephony, Software and you know things like computers. A life before people named an expert in Facebook a Technology expert, they are a communications expert manipulating technology, not a technology exert. Arrgh, rant brewing, must shift to list.

My Twitter list of Nonprofit TECHNOLOGY Tweeps to Follow (#NPTech). (Would love to add more women in tech to this list, but here is a FANTASTIC list on Fast Company):

John Merritt @Johnmerritt - Of course I listed the Godfather of #NPTech and good friend of mine to this list first. He doesn't just know his tech, his veins are actually CAT5 cables.  IT Alignment is his game.

Peter S. Campbell @peterscampbell - You may know him from his best Project ever, #NTCBeer. But he is the "Go To" Tweep for anything related to to nonprofit technology. He is the CIO @ Legal Services Corp, but has worked at Earth Justice and Goodwill as well.

David Krumlauf @dkrumlauf -You won't find a nicer person with such a dedicated heart for NPTech. He embodies the best parts of our #NPTech community. His roots are in infrastructure and telco. He fights for technology funding to be a higher priority for foundations. He is one of my heroes.

Richard Wollenberger @RichatPAT - Fearless Leader of our NTEN IT Director Community of Practice. Director, Information Technology at Parents as Teachers.  In IT since 1987, love managing the process/supporting a nonprofit. It means something to come to work everyday supporting kids and education.

Matthew Eshleman @meshleman - Nonprofit Technology Consulting. He gets IT. Great resource for tech alignment, project management, business process and more.

Jonathan Berglund @jlberglund -  IT Director at Children's Hunger Fund. He knows his tech and has 15+ years of experience managing technology. Helped build a couple of IT Departments with small data centers, directly supervised developers, network admins, and support personnel, developed and supported an application with over 10,000 users, and managed IT budgets between $200-300k and capital projects upwards of $100k.

Rose DeFremery @rosedefremery - Rose may have recently entered the dark side and joined social media ranks, but is still a nonprofit technology expert in her heart.

Deborah Elizabeth Finn @Deborah909 -Nonprofit technology strategist. She live to bring resources and needs together.

John Kenyon @jakenyon - John may be well known for his amazing understanding of communications but he is also fits right in with the technology crowd and gets the core technology strategy.

Ash Shepherd @NPTech_Ash - Although he dabbles in social media, his NPower technology consulting background makes him a strong contender in #NPTech.

Robert Weiner @robert_weiner - Nonprofit Technology Consultant and always helpful. He gets that process

I would throw myself on this list @steveheye, but it seems self serving and the people I listed have taught me everything I know. yes, I know it is 11. Who should I add?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thanks for your support! #DifferenceMade!

Some of you may be wondering why I seemed more forward in my fundraising for the causes I believe in and support? Well it has been a tough one financially and I haven't been able to give like I want to, so I reached out and Guess What?

You all ROCK and you jumped to support these AWESOME causes! NTEN, The Cara Program and Leap of Faith Arts Ministries! Read my previous post to learn more!  (and if you want to join in on supporting these causes, you still can.

But without further Adieu.... Here is the video I said I would create, you might want to hide your pets, it might cause damage to their hearing. And please don't let Simon Cowell or Randy Jackson see it. Just remember this is your fault for donating. ;-)

A big thanks to all of the donors!

  • Paul Lamb – A shout out to my beautiful girls, Isabella and Michaela
  • Jeff Bundy
  • Bob, Carla & Connor Bickett - In honor of the awesome Tech team @ The Cara Program (Steve, Andrea & Erwin)
  • Heye Family (Kevin, Jeanenne, Gloria, Andrew, Jacob)
  • Jennifer and Nate Maercklein
  • Tom and Barb Hattan
  • Lauren Haynes
  • Peter Campbell
  • Kara Carrell
  • Jen Hawley Price
  • Mark Gillingham –Let’s hear it for the Great Books Foundation!

And a couple special shout outs for some extra generosity!

TABLE XI (JOSHUA GOLDEN) – known for asking the right questions, but there is no question here! Table XI matched the NPTech donations, but no one is a match for their support. (you should totally consider them for your web development)

Ann Feeney - Thanks for the data lyrics and generous donation!

Shauna  Musselman – Shauna, Shauna.... - I can't say thanks enough for your gift!

And a shout out to Emily Culbertson, thanks for the donation, sorry I missed you in the video, but I had already shot it. Cheers to you though!

And please, if I missed you, let me know, I'm an improv actor not an accountant.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Devotion to a cause - can you help?

NPTech or Leap of Faith or The Cara Program - Help me support these causes.

This is a unique point in my life, with many highs, but some very real challenges. My personal financial situation is a very tight one, mostly due to my own past choices. There are countless things which need repair and attention in my life, which I don't have the resources to act on. But at the same time, my blessings are overwhelming! My job is everything I could ask for, I get to focus on IT Alignment, I am surrounded by a mission driven, passionate team and it is all for a great cause! My family life is full of laughter and good times with a loving wife and great kids (even if they are getting too old, making me feel old). Not to mention blessings in friends, spiritual life, improv team and so many more.

As I reflect on my life, I see countless highlights and some challenges. The challenges all seem to be the result of my choices in life. That is where I am turning to my community and friends. Will you help show your support for some causes\orgs I have made sacrifices to be a part of?

Any small or large donation will help me feel I have made the right sacrifices and choices. I am really hoping to find 25 donors across the causes, please join me.

CHALLENGE- If I hit 25 donors across these 3 causes, I pledge to write a song based on suggestions from my donors and create a fun thank you video. So anyone who makes a donation can send me a special message to include in the video, maybe a shout out to friend, your org's name, a love note to the special someone or just a random mention of a squirrel. You can email me your suggestion, leave it in the comment or send it on your preferred social media channel.


For years I have been an avid NPTech (nonprofit tech) community member and champion! I even wrote abook on Meeting your Mission with Technology with NTEN and countless resources on IT Alignment! This is more than a hobby, getting nonprofits the technology they need is a cause I stand behind and fight for constantly.
chapter for a

As I have grown in my experience and involvement in NPTech, I am now in a place to give back some of the knowledge shared with me. I have been presented with a number of opportunities over the last year to connect with some newer staff and have enjoyed it. I always learn something new too!

So this year, I am an NTEN Champion looking to raise funds to help other nonprofits get access to the nonprofit tech community to assist them in meeting their mission!

Please go view my video and read my story on my page to support the NPTech community!

And a HUGE Thanks to Table XI for offering to match the first $250 for my NTEN campaign!  

I had the honor of working with Table XI on a website project and it literally changed the way I viewed websites and website developers. Their approach of starting with questions, designing for the audience and understanding of content creation makes their work stand out! Plus they are deliberate in the staff they hire to balance the team. And we can not forget the awesome workplace and innovative culture they continuously sculpt and cultivate.  I appreciate everything they have done through speaking at events, offering services and sharing their expertise through content for nonprofits.

Leap of Faith

Watching your kids succeed is one thing, but how do you instill the right values, build their self esteem and ensure strong spirituality as a foundation for life? I think a key to this is to avoid isolating spirituality to church on Sunday. My daughter is a different person because of her involvement with Leap of Faith. As a father, I don't seem as worried as others about how my daughter will behave as a teenager. I am proud of who she is becoming, her self image, confidence and spirituality shine through. When faced with peer pressure and life's challenges, she has leaned on her Faith.

Leap of Faith is building more than great artists, they are equipping youth through spirituality outside of church to live a life to the fullest! And as some of the first students of Leap of Faith have left for college or have grown up and moved on, they talk about the friendships and spiritual lessons having huge impact on their life.

Leap of Faith is on the edge of the next big step. Several new opportunities and new staff backed by an invigorated board have paved the way for new programming, good growth and deeper impact! Leap of Faith needs some people to step out in Faith and give them the resources to make some needed investments necessary for growth. Operating with a budget around $60,000, any donation today will lead to exponential return and have huge impact.

Donate Now to Leap of Faith or visit the website to learn more or check out the programs!

The Cara Program

Homeless is a serious issue and I have never experienced an org making such a real, lasting impact on individuals, as I have seen at The Cara Program. We prepare and equip our students for entry level jobs and provide a full year of retention support once they are on the job. But don't take my word for it. Take a few minutes to visit The Cara Program website to see the very transparent metrics which try to show the impact.

Or find time to come visit us in Chicago to see our morning Motivations! You will experience our mission first hand and learn about who we are and what we do. We do Motivations Mon-Thurs at 8:25 am till 9am. We are 2 blocks West of Union Station. Just let me know when!

But to see the real impact of The Cara Program, you have to also see the social enterprises we run:

  1. Cleanslate provides our students much needed work experience by providing litter abatement, snow removal, recycling and other neighborhood beautification services.
  2. TCP Staffing is a temp staffing agency which employs our students.
  3. Chapter 2 collects book donations to be resold, redistributed or recycled,.

Consider a donation to The Cara Program

Clothing Donations: we also accept professional clothing donations. We need women's and men's suits or interview quality clothes, ties, belts and shoes. (Often we struggle with enough women's clothing). If you get the clothes to me, I will get them downtown.

Book Donations: send your book donations over to me as well, I can get them downtown.

Hire us! Or if you work for a company in Downtown Chicago and you have entry level jobs, hire our students!

Hire Cleanslate! If you work for a company Downtown Chicago, consider using Cleanslate services where possbile!

I hope you will consider some sort of donation to one of these causes to show your support!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Discover the Passion in your #NPTech Career (Opening Post)

As of late my blog has been derailed with posts about career and jobs in nonprofit technology. But it has seemed to be interesting to a few people. So I am going to continue on the topic for a bit. This one will focus on Networking, but not between electronic devices. rather between people.

I have been in conversation with a bunch of different nonprofit tech staff, some early in their career and others much more experienced. One of the more interesting topics has been how we network. We have so many new opportunities to network, but are we using them for our careers?

Follow These 6 Steps to Network Like a Pro is a great post with some terrific advice and good links.
  1. Be ready with your elevator pitch
  2. Complete your profiles on every platform you have an account
  3. Introduce yourself to people who you’d like to connect with
  4. Follow up with people who you meet
  5. Connect through social media channels
  6. It doesn’t stop at hello, continue to build the relationship
If I was to add one thing though, it would be about personal branding.  Just like marketing for your organization, you need to have a brand. And there are tons on good articles and sets of information about personal Branding, here are a couple as examples:

But what I see missing in many of these and I think is most important is finding your passion and investing in it.  Over the next few posts I will explore some of what I have tried.
  • Find your passion - here is where it is different in nonprofits, you have to pick a career passion and a cause passion.
  • Invest in your passion - find time outside of work to learn about and participate in your passion
  • Share your passion - there are so many easy ways to share, so just do it
  • Mix personal and professional - be yourself
So my blog will stray a bit for a few more weeks. But I hope it proves useful and interesting to someone out there.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1 Yr. Anniv. at The Cara Program - Nonprofit Workplace Reflections

Excited is an understatement of what I felt when I got the call for a job offer at The Cara Program! The HR team was probably making some jokes about my giddiness on the phone. And here I am a year later and none of the excitement has worn off. Sure, my job has challenges and so does every workplace, but looking over the last year, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.

Tech Work Tied to Mission. From the first day I have been immersed and involved in the strategic process and mission discussion. There is a strong understanding about the potential for technology to deeply change the way the staff and org works to meet the mission. This is what I was searching for. I have had a passion for IT Alignment with mission for years! You can see this in the IT Alignment resources on this blog.

Leveraging volunteers. The Cara Program incorporates volunteers in the expected ways including mock interviews, training, sorting donated clothes, etc. But it goes much deeper than that. We are always using volunteers in much deeper and strategic ways. They have helped us create our SROI calculations, plan new social enterprises and run events, plus we can't forget our Tech Advisory Board (TAB). The TAB has helped us find tech resources, review our RFP process, plan governance systems and offer unending advice and support to our tech team. People willing to give their time, support and advice like Lance Russell, David Krumlauf, Rich Whitney and Jonathan Cook have taught me so much and are there when I need them.

IT's about People. The best experience and strongest learning has come from learning from the other staff at The Cara Program. Depth of knowledge, dedication to mission and passion are in such abundance it is impossible not to get swept up into it. What continues to surprise me is how much of my job and the role of technology revolves around people.

Personal Growth. It is common for an org to do an annual review and performance plan, The Cara Program does it also. Where it is different for me is the empowerment and meaningful involvement for staff across the org. Everyone is pushed to grow and do more, while encouraging a true work\home balance. Affirmations is core part of everything, we all take time to affirm other staff for their honor, passion, achievement, innovation and integrity. Yet at the same time, we are all encouraged to give feedback and go directly to other staff with questions, concerns or even to push back a bit.

So what would I share as advice to staff in nonprofits?

Find the Fit. Look for a cause you believe in and a job which fits your skills. But here is where I learned somethings. Just because you love an org, love the cause and can do the job, it still may not be the right one for you. Personality and culture make a huge difference. Does the org culture allow you to be who you are and shine?

Don't be afraid to change! So many of us get attached to an org and feel like if we leave they will never survive (or maybe we won't). This is NOT TRUE! Sometimes staff turnover forces an org to address problems it didn't know existed because you were so good at hiding them. I am not saying you should become an job hopper and ditch out when things get hard. But if you have hit a career ceiling, don't enjoy the role, you can see your role isn't helping or it looks like the org won't grow any more with you in this role, don't be afraid to move on. There is life in the next job and other orgs doing amazing work! You need to take care of you, because sometimes the org isn't.

Size Matters. Having worked for at the National Office and Metro Office of a large org, then moving to a smaller mid-size org, I can tell you size makes a big difference. The types of challenges, resources, staff and work effort are radically shifted.  I can not say which is better, you have to experience it to understand it. A large org has more staff and resources but 6 people have to approve the color of the donate button on the website. A small org may have limited staff and resources but one person can drive the website without 6 people debating fire engine red versus apple red. I love the energy, passion and the depth of involvement of ALL staff in a small org, every staff person is important. At times, I felt like a nameless cog in the bigger setting.

Anyway, this post was meant to celebrate my one year anniversary at The Cara Program. Since taking this job, many parts of my life have improved and changed. It is amazing what a positive, passionate work place can do to change your life and career. Don't settle for a job making a difference for others and not for you. I have had more calls, emails and connections in the last few months about nonprofit careers, jobs and such than ever before. My genuine excitement for my org and job has led people to ask about my journey. I am happy to share, if you want to connect with me. NPTech rules!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Song lyrics (lesson in engagement)

I have heard the song “Even Flow“ from Peal Jam so many times. I sing along, I like it!

But it never connected emotionally until I was sitting in church listening to a message about "getting off your Donkey", where they incorporated the song.

The message at church was all about how to turn empathy into action through compassion tied to your Faith. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus uses this story to illustrate the need for all of us to STOP and be the hero. There are moments in our lives where we have the opportunity to STOP and help, make an impact, change a life.

But how often do we let the moment pass because we are too busy? I was intrigued and spurred to thought by the message, I know there have been countless times my life, my busyness, made me miss an opportunity to be that HERO!

My thoughts drifted to my work at The Cara Program. I love working at a place making a real and lasting impact on homelessness and poverty. I feel like I am making a difference and giving back! Just as I was connecting emotionally and understanding intellectually to the church message, the band came out. They started playing "Even Flow" from Pearl Jam.

Suddenly it hit me, the song is about a homeless man. As the lyrics appeared on the screen, each one connected with me and dug deeper. The context provided by the church message, combined with the power of the song, really connected with me.

I didn't just hear the lyrics, I connected with them:
Freezin', rests his head on a pillow made of concrete, again
Oh, Feelin' maybe he'll see a little better, set a days, ooh yeah
Oh, hand out, faces that he sees time again ain't that familiar, oh yeah
Oh, dark grin, he can't help, when he's happy looks insane, oh yeah
Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don't know, so he chases them away
Someday yet, he'll begin his life again
Life again, life again...
The song had real meaning, brought clear visuals and spurred new thoughts.

  • How many times had I heard "Even Flow" and missed the message? 
  • How many other songs have deep meanings drowned out by my humming along? 
  • Even though I work at a nonprofit, do I miss opportunities to be a Hero? How many times do I walk by a student at Cara and not talk to them?
This led me to think about engagement overall.  I wonder how many of the powerful stories we share about our orgs, our impact, or our work get missed just like song lyrics.

  • Do people listen, hum along and enjoy it, but miss the impact? 
  •  Does the way we tell our stories cause people to just walk on by just like the first two people in the story of the Good Samaritan? 
  • Do we provide enough context and framework before talking about our work? 
  • Do we work to engage people in understanding why we do what we do before showing out impact?
So how do we shift our song lyrics from something we sing along with to something that connects and spurs to action?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Please no #twerking for my birthday. Rather #TwerkingWWJD.

Sure everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus and her VMA performance (if you call it a performance). But I just get flustered when I think about it.

Why do women have to behave like that and dress like that to be a star?

By giving Miley and others who came before her attention, what are we teaching our little girls?

If we only talk about female performers who misbehave, are we only encouraging our daughters, nieces, granddaughters or any other little girls to follow in their path?

A little background, my daughter loves Dance! But I must admit, I was hesitant to let her get involved in Dance. So many of the costumes girls are encouraged to wear are just inappropriate. period. I don't even want to talk about the makeup and dance moves.

So we were excited to find a Dance program for our daughter through our church which integrated Faith and Worship into the experience! Little did I know the dance program would become a separate nonprofit and my wife would end up being the Executive Director! But that is besides the point.

My daughter blossomed and loved dance, even though her first performance was more singing and clapping than real dancing. Dancing as a form of worship has been an enormous part of my daughter's life and it has impacted countless people. My daughter has been able to share her faith through her artistic talent, what a gift!

So when we attended our early competitions, my fears were realized. Girls across so many of the other dance teams were encouraged to wear the costumes, cake on the makeup and resort to dance moves to win while sacrificing harder choreography, complex dance moves and simple enjoyment of Dance. I was not comfortable at these competitions.

Now I see so much of our media and entertainment focused on shows stressing how little girls can only succeed in arts if they participate in this #Twerked up behavior. We have Dance Moms or Tiaras and Toddlers teaching parents all about how to win in arts competition and how to push their children. sad.

I am saddened to see all of this.

What would have happened if Miley and those that went before her had the chance to learn their art as art? Or if they did learn it as an art where did it go wrong? If they had included Faith and worship in their expression of art, who would they be today?

But at the sametime, I am encouraged by the set of parents involved with Leap Of Faith Arts Ministries where my daughter dances. These parents get it. They talk about values, modesty and encourage dance to be as worship! They see their kids enjoying the arts as it is meant to be, a way to express yourself.

The parents at Leap of Faith have supported the org as it worked to find a location, secure its 501c3 nonprofit status and now face a staff transition. It is so amazing to see these parents put their kids first and grab on to a mission.

Leap of Faith is more than a building, a staff person or an org, it is a statement to the world saying we believe there is more to Art than winning a competition or becoming famous. Our artistic talents are a gift from God and should be used to worship Him.

So for my birthday, I want the attention moved from #Twerking to #TwerkingWWJD. What What Jesus Do about Twerking?

To show your support, either share this post, leave a comment, create your own blog post or just tweet using #TwerkingWWJD in September (my birthday 9/9).

We would also appreciate any support for Leap Of Faith Arts Ministries, visit the website or donate now.

I will leave you with this video which wraps up my thoughts about Dance Momz. Enjoy at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Go BIG or go home (is mission the price for BIG though?)

As a teen every summer I spent a week at a camp meant to build values and leadership. My first years we had about 60-75 people. You had the chance to meet everyone. It was a close knit group and there was no hiding. This small group of people changed my life. I fit in.

But leadership wanted bigger impact and more kids! They had big plans and the only way to get there was more money and more kids.

My first few years, we had to earn our way to camp. We had to complete volunteer hours, attend fundraisers and be active in our local club.  But since we earned our way there, it meant so much more. We felt a sense of ownership in making the camp the best possible experience.

To get the bigger numbers quicker, you no longer had to earn your way. The hope was to get kids there, then show them the way. But the kids were not invested, they were there to have fun.  Suddenly there were more problems, which led to more rules. This of course led to more kids trying to get around the rules. All sense of trust and responsibility was lost.

With the rapid growth also came crowd mentality over individual expression. With the increase in attendance came a shift of ownership, now the staff had to be in change, just to keep control. It was no longer our responsibility to have a good experience. The staff now had to entertain us and if isn't fun, the staff were blamed.

In my opinion, mission was the price we paid for growth.

I often wonder if this is a common challenge for nonprofit technology staff. 

Do we look to increase efficiency, build capacity, innovate, help staff, and expand our organization through technology without considering the impact on our mission?

As technology staff are we connected enough to the mission to know the impact of our projects and plans?

Monday, August 19, 2013

NPTech Career Thoughts

For my 15 year anniversary, I pictured some celebration, some recognition. I looked forward to a lifelong career with a big retirement celebration. I had seen so many of my mentors achieve this.

I grew up attached to a cause, an organization I loved. I believed in the mission (and still do, just not sure they do), I put my career in the hands of the org.  My career plans centered on how I could best serve the organization and the best role available for me to have the most impact.

Lesson learned the day I was laid off for a second time within days of a vacation and only weeks from my 15 year anniversary. And not just me, over the years it was other family members, friends and colleagues.

Here is the trap I see so many nonprofit staff end up in. We are part of a cause we are truly devoted to. We love our organization. We have a meaningful and real relationship with our co-workers. Saying we are like family is an understatement. So we do everything in our power to make an impact. We roll with the punches and our job morphs, shifts and changes. We adapt and do whatever is needed from us. But often it requires us to ignore our own career and only focus on our job.

When you are hired, there is often a fairly clear job description and set of expectations. But as time passes, you pick up additional work, your role blends with others, your duties may completely shift from where they started. You become a jack of all trades just to fill any holes in your org, you step up and make it happen! You are an integral part of the org and you have no idea what they would do without you.

But while you are becoming the jack of trades for your org, you may be losing your career path and your ability to get the next job.

The first time I was laid off, my job was unique, different and had a title which didn't represent what I did. So when I started to look for a new job, my resume was hard to follow and understand. I didn't have a clear brand for myself. My experience and job title meant very little to the hiring nonprofits. I had made myself valuable in my job, but not my career. I had not taken time to take care of myself. In the end, my work was only valuable to the org, it was not transferable.

So my job search was a long one. And each time I got close, it was always the same  thought, "we like you and have an awesome set of experiences, but it just doesn't fit our opening."

There seems to be a disconnect around expecting staff to fill needs in our org and mission as needed, while hiring with strict qualifications. We want existing staff to pitch in across the org or grow with the org. But then when we hire, we look to fill a position, we look for a set of defined experiences and skills to fill a specific purpose. 

So on one hand we push staff to work beyond their job description, but we only hire people with experience specific to a job description? So we often wouldn't hire the staff we have doing the job they have?

When I did get my next job, I was very deliberate about building a network, a personal brand and getting experience in a skill set which was transferable and valuable in the job market. Since I knew I couldn't trust the org to look out for me.

You might be thinking, Steve, you seem so bitter. But you couldn't be more wrong. I am so thankful for where I am and what I have experienced and learned. It is sort of like the country song, unanswered prayers.

 I could not be in a better place in my career! I love where I work, all of my past experience is proving valuable every minute of every day. I am diving in again, head first. I am more than uber excited to be a part of a cause I have a heart for, poverty and homelessness. I am immersing myself in my job and giving it everything I have. In less than a year on the job, I am more at home here than any job before it. I completely trust that the org is as interested in me and my career as they are interested in the mission and org.

But I think it is important for me to be open and honest about my nonprofit work experience. I have met numerous people entering the nonprofit career track and countless more who have been in nonprofits longer than me. But I cringe a little when I hear them talk about their job, I just wish they could see what I see now.

Don't let your job turn into a string of sacrifices and become so focused on daily needs causing you to ignore your own needs. This isn't good for you or your org, neither of you will be happy in the long run. 

So a word of advice, things happen, are you in a place to take care of your career when it does?

(behind the scenes - my faith and trust in God played a large role in this journey and my success, however, that is a post for another day. I know He had a hand in guiding me in this direction and getting me here.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

A 6 Year Technology Roadmap. Are you crazy?

As I approach 9 months at my new job, I am getting closer to completing a 6 year Tech Roadmap.

I have told a few of my IT colleagues and many of them say the same thing: Are you crazy? How can you plan 6 years into the future. Tech changes way to fast. Or I get the question about how do I have time to do that? Well. I make time, go back and see my post about urgency versus priority.

What is a Tech Roadmap? I don't even know if it is a real term. But here is what I mean. It is a summary of the overall direction and identifies what we will focus on.

I am not planning every IT project and every step for the next 6 years. I am just setting a direction for our course. If you only do planning once a year, you will end up making progress. But if you put together enough straight lines with small turns, you can still end up going in circles.

Things will change. I don't expect everything in my Tech Roadmap to go perfectly according to plan. Staff will leave, budgets will change, priorities will shift, etc., but you still need to know your long term direction.

Think of it like your career:

  • You go to school, to get the right degree in anticipation of getting the "right" job. You talk to counselors and get expert advice. 
  • You read up on the job market. So you make plans and set a direction. 
  • You have a life plan! 
  • Then college life happens as you try to live out this plan. You start to have life experiences, things happen. 
  • But hey, you stick with that degree, cause it's still what you want.  
  • Then you get the first job, which is where plans usually change. 
  • Suddenly it isn't what you expected or you stop planning because you are too busy working
This is where I hope our Roadmap helps. The Roadmap will provide long term direction, while allowing for a typical annual Strategic Technology Plan. How do you know if your one year plan is the right one without seeing how it fits over the next few years? How do you know your large projects are in the right order? How do make the big decisions in technology?

Some examples of what is in my Tech Roadmap. 
  • Move from a heavy internal network to hosted solutions where appropriate
  • Move from data repositories to workflow management tools
  • Move from scattered internal communication to centralized, easy to access intranet
  • Move from a stable-secure network to a tested, documented, monitored network
  • Move from limited tech policies to governance in data, process and tech planning
The tech team brainstormed these types of directions for all of the different areas of Tech we will focus on. Then we thought through some of the initial projects for the first 2-3 years. We also examined where we need to shift culture, influence staff, build competencies, etc.

Then we shared this with our CFO as an early draft, not a completed, format, finalized document. It was meant to spur conversation, which it did amazingly well. We had deep conversation and thought through impact. 

Why 6 years? Well it started as a 5 year plan, but one of our amazing Technology Advisory Board Members suggest we match our Roadmap to our Tech Replacement Cycle which is planned at 6 years for some of our network equipment.

Anyway, if you ever want to debate the value of my 6 year roadmap, I am open to it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

#14NTC is not a social media conference, bring back the TECH!

Let 2014 be the year Technology returns to the Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Social Media, Marketing, Fundraising and Communications are all important. But they get plenty of attention. 

For years I have done my best to stay out of the "vote for my session cuz it is the best and I am popular" tweets, posts and general campaigning for sessions. My sessions tended to make the cut because people found them valuable and voted on them without me hyping it up.

But this year is different. Here is some of the feedback that is listed on the NTEN website about what people are looking for:

More than 70% of 13NTC attendees surveyed identified as either managers or directors at nonprofits. More than 60% of that number also identified as intermediate or journey-level learners. When asked what kinds of content they're specifically looking for: 
  • 53% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on technical how-tos
  • 50% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on programmatic uses of technology
  • 40% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on management strategy
So here I am campaigning for sessions. Here are the ones I would recommend you take a few minutes to vote for. And if possible take time to go through the IT Track.

  1. Requests for Proposals: Making RFPs work for Nonprofits and Vendors
  2. An Introductory Session on CMS, CRM, and other Three Letter Acronyms
  3. Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical Vs. Strategic Vs. Missional
  4. Data Governance - 10 Steps to Building Yours
  5. Tech Tools for NPTechies
  6. It's not the software, it's you. Process Mapping.
  7. Cloud Migration and Integration Workshop
  8. From talking about data to actually tracking your data: The right technology for Data-Informed Nonprofits
  9. Playing it Safe: Keep your network secure with the 20 Security Controls
  10. Manage Any Project Better
Please take a few minutes and vote for my Top Ten! Or suggest your tech session in the comments and I will check it out!

YMCA of Metro Chicago Facebook Resources and Case Study

This is a post I created back when I was at the YMCA of Metro Chicago, but thought I would re-share it here.

How do you get 50 authors prepared to manage 15 Facebook pages in less than 2 months with a team of 4 people? The YMCA of Metro Chicago faced just this challenge in the summer of 2010. There was a desire to get a presence established on Facebook in order to connect with our communities in new ways and do it quickly!

Our bigger challenge was managing the pages once they were launched. This case study will walk through the process we followed to get the pages launched and equipped the authors to manage them.

Below is a short summary or for a more visual representation view our YMCA of Metro Chicago Facebook Case Study Presentation.

Our Challenge Our members and communities connect with their individual center and want information from them. But there are numerous obstacles in allowing our membership centers to take primary responsibility for their own pages:
  • Membership center staff already fill numerous roles and have limited time to dedicate to new projects
  • Experience with social media and online communities is limited in depth beyond personal experience
  • Staff already struggle to get content created for our websites, newsletters and email communications
  • Limited full-time staff at some centers and limited resources to pay part-time staff
Our Metro office had challenges of its own to overcome:
  • Limited capacity to manage page for all centers, need to equip authors to create sustainability
  • Brand management and YMCA information needed to be monitored and consistent across our channels
  • How can we provide enough support to make sure the center pages are successful and what do we do if they aren’t
  • Manage risk, possible negative interactions and uphold character values
Our Strategy The key to our success was the readiness of the authors, not the mechanics of the page. So with seven weeks to work with we decided the key was to establish staggered deadlines for the authors to meet and a focused one day boot camp.
Due with application Due at Kickoff Due before Boot Camp Due before launch
  • Create Flickr acct
  • Completed Application
  • Create Facebook profile
  • Attend kickoff
  • Communication samples
  • 15 photos
  • Review Facebook privacy
  • Write 2 status updates
  • Marketing calendar
  • Fill in Facebook page
  • October Mktg. calendar
  • Document comment reply process
  • Sign Author Ack.
While the authors were busy preparing their materials; Marketing and IT collaborated to get the Facebook pages configured and designed for all of the centers. Our approach was to get all of the pages setup identically to a point where they were ready to launch without involvement of the centers. We created guidelines of what could be edited and what should be left standard.

We wanted our centers to focus on the content, not the structure of the page. However we did give them the long term freedom to make changes once they were ready to support it themselves. This structured approach allowed us to gauge the readiness and commitment of each member center even before launch. It also helped set expectations for our Boot Camp.

Our Materials Once the authors were trained and the pages launched; the centers have primary responsibility for managing the page with limited support from Marketing and IT. So we needed to be very purposeful in providing them with the appropriate resources. We provided them with:
  • Social Media Author Acknowledgement – In addition to getting their commitment to represent the YMCA appropriately, we provided clear expectations of the role
  • Comment Escalation Resources – we shared the Air Force Blog Response Chart along with a Comment Escalation Flow Chart to clearly identify steps in replying
  • Content Tips –Strategies for quality content and how to represent the brand
  • Page Administration Guidelines – Parts of the pages that can be edited and disallowed Facebook Applications
  • Marketing Calendar Template – Table structure to assist in thinking about how to post content across all communications and marketing
  • Links to articles on privacy – Shared links on updating your personal Facebook profile privacy settings
Most of these resources are included in the Facebook Manual below:

Our Outcomes Aug 23, 2010 we launched our pages, before the end of the day we had our 25 fans to secure our vanity URLS and our authors were posting welcome messages. Over the next couple weeks our centers worked to promote the page to all of their staff to build up some initial fans. We placed the “find us on Facebook” button on all of our website homepages.

By the end of August 2010, we had over 1100 fans across the pages, 116 wall posts by authors, almost 1500 unique page views and some great early engagement. In October 2010 we began our mass promotion of the pages to our members through emails, newsletters, program brochures and more. As of Nov 2, 2010 we were up to 2,285 fans across 15 pages, with 2,618 unique views and 396 comments\likes on our content for October 2010.

Our authors have done a fantastic job moderating comments and posting content!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Urgency kills Priority, don't let it kill your Impact

So at my new job I have been working on ways to prioritize projects and daily work to move things forward. You know, good old strategic tech planning.

One of the things we did was we took a couple steps to formalize how people access the IT help desk. Nothing fancy or new, just a simple policy. One of the keys to me though was asking users to set a priority for the ticket; High, Medium or Low. I defined these terms in the policy something like;

  • High= interrupts business for multiple people, impacts finance, etc.
  • Med= interrupts your ability to work,  no work-around, etc.
  • Low= everything else
I also asked for any associated deadlines, details, screenshots, etc.

But here is where things got interesting quick. And before I say anything else, I am not trying to say anything bad about our staff. This just seems to be human nature.

Requests came in, but the priority seemed to be driven by when they needed it done, not by the impact or importance. Because things get more important when you are faced with urgency. I need this by 1pm today, I am working on something for a Board Member that is going to be here in 30 minutes....

This is not a big deal when it is the occasional request, which is true for my org. They are typically good about leaving time and being purposeful. But this really got me thinking about the difference between urgency and priority.

The trick is that if you have too many urgencies, you can get to the priorities. This is where a help desk process can really help. 

Track IT! If you are tracking all of your requests and work, you can look for these trends. You can see repeat requests each month at a deadline and anticipate them. Then make a change to your technology to address it. Automate the report.... Follow up with that department, ask them to request earlier... Simplify the tool to allow self help....

Expectations! Setting expectations in your help desk process will help drive the change needed. Tied to the priorities in our help desk process was a service level agreement. We plainly tell our users how quickly to expect support based on the priority of the ticket. The service level agreements will range from org to org based on available resources. And we told the why, to allow us to balance projects with big impact with the daily urgencies.

Definition! Taking time to write a policy, enforce it and define all terminology is not easy or fun. But is important. Simple definitions and ongoing conversations have a real, lasting impact on culture.

Address the problem, not the symptom. Not a new idea. Focusing on urgency will keep you focused on the symptoms.

We are also looking to formalize our tech project request, our tech project steps, data governance, business process documentation and so much more. We have to shift from urgency to priority to allow for impact.

My question is why aren't more topics like this at the forefront of our technology conferences, blog posts, webinars, etc? Basic technology support is still important.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Due June 15! Tech Session Suggestions needed for #14NTC!

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

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

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

More than 70% of 13NTC attendees surveyed identified as either managers or directors at nonprofits. More than 60% of that number also identified as intermediate or journey-level learners. When asked what kinds of content they're specifically looking for:

  • 53% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on technical how-tos
  • 50% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on programmatic uses of technology
  • 40% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on management strategy
I suggested sessions on:

  1. Tech planning: When to use tactical vs strategic vs mission impact planning
  2. How to process map
I would love to see some others that have experience suggest some of the following:
  1. Working with technology consultants - how do you pick?
  2. Using a managed network vs hiring your own network admin
  3. My favorite Network and technology management tools: what do you use to monitor your network, run help desk, measure bandwidth, review capacity, audit security, etc?
  4. Data mining and dashboards
  5. Office365 vs Google Apps
  6. Back to the basics on Project Management
  7. The value of a technology committee (project review, peer advisory, etc)
  8. Best practices in desktop support\management
  9. BYOD and other policies needed for todays tech
  10. Governance of all kinds, data, process, etc
Anyway, that is just my initial list, I am sure you have ideas, so go suggest them now!

Then go to NTEN and suggest your session! Before June 15, yeah, only 4 days left.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Prove me right about the YMCA!

I am no longer a YMCA member.

That is a strange phrase for me. I have been a YMCA volunteer, member, staff person for over 35 years. But with recent changes and management decisions that has changed. But I do not want to go down that road in this post.

Instead, I am hoping you can help me.

When the YMCA of the USA started it's rebranding process, it developed the strategy, worked with CEOs, consultants, key staff and whatever.  Then they worked with Marketing Depts and Leadership at local Y's to roll it out. They were trying to change the YMCA to be seen as a cause driven nonprofit, not a place to go.  But Marketing won't change that (in my opinion).

Ever since I started in the Y as a kid learning to swim and then becoming a volunteer as a Teen, I always knew the real mission impact was done by the program and membership staff at the local Y. It is the staff on the front lines working with the members that make the real difference. And these staff tend to be overworked and treated as just another employee by big Metro offices. These staff have the real power to change the YMCA image and impact. Not a new logo.

My theory has always been that the real power of the YMCA is the everyday staff. It is the lifeguard that takes time to high five a kid for getting in the water even though they were afraid. It is the Day Camp staff person that is purposeful about talking about Christian values, instead of barking orders about rules. It is Fitness Staff that encourage the Health Seeker by being realistic about body image, slow change and gradual progress. It is the Front Desk staff willing to chat with members and knowing the names of their kids. These are the YMCA Heros. These staff matter.

So what does that have to do with me not being a YMCA member? Well I still love the YMCA. I still cherish the friends I have made with other YMCA staff. But in the end, my YMCA career took turns that I didn't choose and now I am in a different place.

Over the years, I have collected mounds of YMCA logo stuff. Sweatshirts, T-Shirts, mugs, luggage tags, USB drives, etc. I want to share my collection with people who also love the YMCA and want to help me prove my theory right about the YMCA. The staff make the Y what it is.

My wife and her friend have started their own organization, Leap of Faith Arts Ministries ( This organization embodies everything that the YMCA used to be for me, plus a strong emphasis on Worship which plays a larger role in my life today. Everything is focused on the mission and the kids in the program.  They are consistently asking themselves, what can we do to help these children learn to use their gifts to praise God and to know they are perfect just the way they are.

Kids today are under so much pressure to achieve, to be better than the rest, to rise above. What ever happened to having a heart eager to serve?

Image is everything. You have to have the right clothes, cars, house, cell phone, etc. Girls are encouraged to dress like they are 25 at age 5. Body Image is so distorted. Where is our sense of values?

Leap of Faith Arts Ministries is having a real impact on changing this. It isn't about the Arts that they learn, even though they are getting high quality, professional instruction. They are changing lives.

This is not some new start up though, Leap of Faith is new as a nonprofit, but has been around for years. They just recently went out on their own though. And this first year in their new building is proving financially challenging. They have a solid business plan for operations and funding through program and membership fees. However, they do want to go down the path of relying solely on charging more or running more programs to generate revenue to expand their impact.  They want to begin with a foundation of support from donors, so they can grow the program and not put a heavy burden of cost on the members.

This is their first attempt at real fundraising and we need your help to kick start it and show the board and parents that this is worth fighting for and raising money can be done.

So here is my ask. Can you show support for my wife's new org that is living out what I think is the best quality of YMCA staff today?

Here is the fun part. The first thirteen people that make a donation over $50 can get a Thank You in the form of random YMCA logo items. You will get one of the 13 piles in the picture below. Each contains some clothes and a random item.

Here are the rules:
1. Make a donation of $50 or over at
2. If you would like the YMCA thank you, leave your name in a comment below in this blog post. I will get your address from the donation, so just your name, indicate you would like a "YMCA thank you" and any other thoughts in a comment. First 13 comments from people that live in the United States will get an pile of YMCA stuff shipped to them.

NOTE! so if you want to make sure you are one of the first 13, just count the comments below.

Here is another picture of all of the items.

Or if you would just like to show your support, you can make a donation or share this post with others. If you want to leave comments, without donating, that is welcome also. We also ask that you keep Leap of Faith in your prayers as they look to ensure their future growth and impact through their first fundraising efforts.

Thanks, Steve

Monday, May 27, 2013

Identify the Gaps #MMM Episode 3

2013 has been a year of documentation and process maps at work for me. I just can't stop thinking in flow charts. It has made me crazy enough to try another song.

That is right, get ready for sore ear drums for the May version of Monday Minute Movie. I know you have all been dying to see it since I did not do a #MMM in April.  As if anyone noticed.

Well here goes. My apologies.

And in case you actually wanted to learn something about Process Maps....

Monday, May 20, 2013

Outcomes is where "ITS" at! Or is it?

Metrics and outcomes are all the rage! 

Big data, improved systems, infographics, return on investment, grant reporting and more trends have pushed us to focus on the outcomes and metrics. Which as a Finance major, I love!

However, this weekend I was with my son at a swim clinic at the Y with Rebecca Soni and she got me thinking. She said something like (not an exact quote, paraphrased):

Know the outcome you want. But in the moment, focus on what you are doing, not the outcome.

This really made me appreciate my work at The Cara Program even more. We have an intense focus on outcomes and metrics. The numbers surround us each day. They are posted, they are talked about, they are emailed and everyone knows their part to make the number goals.

But at the same time, we are consistently living in the moment. Each morning we have motivations with our students, in which we celebrate the small achievements. 

I could ramble on with this thought, but I will just leave you to finish the thoughts in your own way on this one. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

All hands on deck! We Need MORE Staff! not.

“if we had more staff we would..

…engage better on social media!”
…create more content!”
…serve more clients!”
…analyze metrics and segment audiences!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have all sat in breakout sessions where there are countless good ideas, perfect strategies and amazing resources. But there is always that group of people mumbling or outright yelling, we can’t do that, We DON’T have ENOUGH STAFF. Blah, blah, blah.

First, a big shout out to Kivi for an article that inspired my post! You should read it! Kivi always has terrific resources and her blog post on this topic is much richer in content. I hope I didn't overlap content too much. Some of our examples are similar, but I tried to come from the tech side.

While I will immediately acknowledge that many (if not all) nonprofits are under resourced, I do not think adding staff always solves problems. More staff = more politics, more management, more red tape, more, more, more, then you need more staff because you have more staff.

I think many of our challenges could be solved if we used a more important resource better, time. If we start to value each staff person’s time more than adding more staff, we may just solve some of the issues leading to the need for more staff.

Example 1: We need more staff to engage better on social media.

You can interpret this statement a few different ways. We don’t have a social media expert on staff, we don’t have time to manage all of those different channels, we don’t know where to start or we don’t even have a marketing staff. Whatever.

What I hear: Social Media is not a big enough priority for me to make time for it.

I would argue that this is a time issue, which could be solved with planning, a volunteer (or other staff) and tech.

1. Make time to create simple content plan (better yet, start with a template from a colleague, NTEN, Idealware, TechSoup or wherever)
2. Find someone with existing experience with social media (volunteer or staff) OR learn by DOING it, just find an easy place to start, then budget time to do it. If it is a priority you will find the time.
3. USE TECH! There are so many tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, etc that are free\cheap built to help you listen, engage post.

MOTTO: Don’t work harder. Work smarter. More staff may not fix it. Find existing experience and let the tech do the work.

Example 2: We need more staff to analyze metrics and segment audiences.

What I hear: we don’t care what our audiences want to hear, we just know what we want to tell them. (maybe a little harsh, but eh.)

I would argue that this is a time issue, which could be solved with planning, a volunteer (or other staff) and tech.

1. Make time to create a simple content plan and profile of your audience needs (better yet, start with a ideas from a colleague, NTEN, Idealware, TechSoup or wherever)
2. Find someone with existing experience with metrics and segmenting (volunteer or staff) OR learn by DOING it, just find an easy place to start, then budget time to do it. If it is a priority you will find the time. (Also check out the analysis exchange, free metrics help)
3. USE TECH! This one isn’t cheap but you can solve the segmentation with Tech. Tools like Informz or Higher Ground will do the segmenting, metrics, audience profiling and so much more for you. But you do have to pay for that. BUT that expense is still cheaper than the staff it would take to do it.

MOTTO: Don’t work harder. Work smarter. More staff may not fix it. Find existing experience and let the tech do the work.

Oh, wait, did I sorta say the same thing for both examples? Weird.

Maybe that is because that is what we do, we do the same thing over and over. We have a need, we hire more staff.

Before hiring, think about:
… your process, can it be improved?
… your staff skills, can they be trained?
… your tools, can tech solve the problem?
… your strategy, are you being purposeful?

I am not trying to say we need more tech and less people. I am saying, let's think through some of the challenges we are facing and think through all of the options.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What I learned at #13ntc

#13ntc was different than any other conference for me. With my new role as Manager of Technology at The Cara Program, I really focused more on the IT track at the conference. So here is what I got out of the conference this year! NOTE, I learned more than can fit in this single blog post, so watch for a series of posts after this with further thoughts.

#13NTCfoodie - Weds, April 10
At dinner I learned about the crazy things that Locale (an android app) can do. Detect where you are and redirect your Google voice number. Turn off notifications if face down. Basically you program it to take different actions based on your location or phone functions.

#13NTCbeer - Weds, April 10
OK, not sure I learned a lot. But got to reconnect with numerous great NPTech staff.

Breakfast Meeting - April 11
My wife and I met with Marc Pitman on a suggestion from John Haydon. Marc is famous for his book, Ask Without Fear, which I hope to buy and read. Marc is a fellow Christ Follower and has some amazing resources that tie stories in the Bible to fundraising strategies! We really hit it off and plan to connect again soon.

Welcome - Thurs, April 11
Some fun Minnesota facts, info and sayings, dontcha know. Minnesota had the first indoor mall? Nice because of all of the crazy snow. Don't they know it is spring?

IT Director Meet up - Thurs, April 11
Good conversations about challenges that IT Directors are facing. There was a lot of discussion around migration to the cloud and Office365. Interestingly enough there were staff in the room moving to the cloud and those moving off. It seemed that those with more custom needs and larger IT staffs wanted to move tech back in house. While those with limited staff were willing to live with the limits of the cloud to allow staff to focus on other needs.

We also had conversations about BYOD. There are real challenges with network security when you don't manage the devices. But another challenge is that if the device gets lost, we will want to wipe the device clean to avoid losing data\confidential information. Many orgs were having staff sign an agreement about wiping the device if lost. But when you actually do wipe it when it gets lost, then they find it, they aren't so happy.

Filmed a Movie Monday - Thurs, April 11
I was asked to be filmed for a Movie Monday about the role technology can play in fundraising.   I went on a bit of a RANT about how we throw people resources at some of our fundraising challenges because we either don't have or don't know about the technology that can do it for us. For example, we spend a lot of time on email segmentation and email list creation. There are tools that can automate that whole process. But we don't buy the better email blast solutions because they are too expensive. So we just continue to miss opportunity or force staff to waste time on work-arounds. I will let both of my blog readers know when mine is posted.

IGNITE! - Thurs, April 11
I gave an IGNITE session about how the Cloud is trying to KILL tech strategy. And for the first time ever... I sang it! These are 5 minute presos with with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. NOT AN EASY TASK TO PRESENT, but so fun to watch. Watch mine on YouTube!

Opening Plenary - Fri, April 12
Quite controversial. Stirred a great conversation across the conversation.There were so many key points that Dan Pallotta made that I loved, I  paraphrased a couple below.

  • Why don't we have a visceral reaction to, "it is good to make a salary while not helping people." But a NPO CEO with a big salary is a problem?
  • NPOs criticized for spending on ads & taking risks and all failure is bad! How can we innovate within that?
  • The concept of too much overhead NPOs limits the ability to have the overhead needed to grow to the scale needed for real impact!

I did not agree on the overall premise of his presentation. I would offer my opinions on this, but I am still thinking them through. But my gut reaction is that I do not like the glorification of Capitalism and make as much you can applied to social good.  Here are some smarter summaries and reactions:

But regardless of whether you agree with Dan, the plenary did the job of spurring buzz and conversation.

IT Governance - Friday, April 12
This session was one of my favorites in years! IT Governance definition - The essential organizational structures and processes that ensure that the organization’s IT sustains and extends the organization’s strategies and mission. (revised ITGI, 2012)

As IT gets more complex, tech ownership becomes disparate and information increases in value, you will need IT Governance to manage the structures and processes. 

Fantastic conversations about the changing role of IT, Mission Alignment, Process, Risk Management, Resource Management, Performance Measurement, Accountability and Value Delivery! The slides and the speaker, Matthew Eshleman - @meshleman, were great, but the conversation in the room was Awesome! Check out the slides!

Project Management - Friday, April 12
Battle Royal - Agile vs Waterfall! OK, not really, because at the end of the session there was a general consensus that both are valuable in the right situation.  And we came to the same consensus around the best Project Management tools, it just depends on your situation.  Here are a few key points:

  • Project management is 90% communication. Best PM knows their audience & targets them with the right info. Project plans are just about managing steps, more importantly they help define what the project is. Project charters are a key. Boil the project down to the 2-3 key outcomes\goals. Expectations are everything in PM. 
  • If I know exactly what the end product looks like, I use traditional project management, waterfall. If I see a lot of iterations, then agile. 
  • Key to waterfall project management is the work-breakdown structure. Think about it in term of deliverables, those are your milestones. Agile project management prioritizes communication, constant review and collaboration over steps\dates. 
  • RACI - Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Create a decision making process. 
  • Sharepoint has many decent project management tools, task list, wikis, doc mgmt, calendar, communicate. Jira is an open source project management tool, from the makers or confluence. Hosted tools available. Greenhopper, Q&A are good add ext. Basecamp is cloud based agile tool. elegantly simple-but many of us need deeper tools. Match the Project Management tool to the audience, scope, size of team, detail needed, size of project. 
Morning Plenary - Sat, April 13
Fail Panel. Beth Kanter hosted a panel to celebrate embracing failure. Last year this panel talked about innovation and they ended it by talking about the need to allow for failure to be able to innovate.

I really enjoyed the concept of learning from failure and not hiding it. I loved the concept of budgeting for failure, set up a specific amount of your org's time to experiment in ways that are more risky but could have big potential while still managing that risk.  Love these phrases:

Failure is not the opposite of success, failure is a step in the process of success.
Embracing failure is not the same as accepting failure.
There is a difference between failing and being a failure.
How long before failure is connected to PUPPIES? How do puppies learn? Lots of accidents.

I am not a complete convert to Celebrating Failure though. New word for failure: my thought, not the optimal result but success is clearer now.  At some point in the panel I just felt like they turned a corner where talking about failure so much really seemed like success wasn't possible.

Nonprofit Leadership and IT - Sat, April 13
The only constant of technology and the role of IT is constant change.  The panel in this session rocked the house with their experience, thoughtfulness and expertise.  Here are some key points:

IT should represent the full org.  The role of IT is to change the way we work and the way we deliver our services. Bring insight into the unknown that tech brings. Everything is radically shifting as mktg/comm, fundraising, program service & full org collides w/tech! We work to integrate it. IT can see business processes that existed forever, that just don't make sense. But you have to carefully change, no blame.

IT should have vision.  Data, systems, infrastructure, communication tools, tech impacts everyone, so why not include them in planning conversations. The role of IT is often being the person in the room that says:"hey did you think about? Vision. If nothing else IT director needs to be known for having vision. Earn the right to be at the table.

IT should be at the leadership level. IT needs to be at the "C" level because so many IT projects require org change, peer support & policies. ALL organizational change REQUIRES technology to support it. So why would you not have tech represented at the "C" level? If IT isn't at the "C" level then they may not be seen as peers in leadership and may be given the same access and authority to have impact.

How can you have a Brand Voice without and Internal Conversation - Sat, April 13
Dan Michel from Feeding America and myself presented on the need to provide resources to your staff to enable them to use the brand voice. It was a fun session! Dan kicked it off sharing the new brand voice that Feeding America is launching for all of the Food Banks in the network. They did a lot of research on the right voice and are making every effort to get buy in.  They are using their extranet, webinars, in person events, emails and more to get it out there.

I then shared some information about the recent YMCA rebranding. There was some unknown work that was created to change the image of the YMCA from a place to go to a cause driven org. We worked at the Chicago Y to use the rebranding to enable the membership and program staff at our Ys to create digital content. But to top it off, I ended with the amazing passion and buy-in that the staff at The Cara Program. They have taken every effort to put the mission first, share stories consistently, live by mission metrics and so much more! I LOVE it!

Read the session notes

Geek Games! - Sat, April 13
Dodgeball. Karaoke. Legos. The conference ended with me and Shannon hosting the Karaoke at the first ever Geek Games. I was fearful of noone singing and I would have to do it, but WHAT! WHAT! NTC got talent! So many awesome singers and we had a blast! And only 1 injury in Dodgeball, Shannon got to fulfill a dream by asking "is there a doctor in the house?" on the mic. Kudos to the singers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Cloud. Our Hero. (My #13ntc IGNITE session)

There are no words for this.  In this version you do miss out on my wig and stage presence, but hey whatever.

An IGNITE presentation is 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide and the slides auto advance. Not easy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where I will be at the NTEN #13NTC

Taking the lead from the Famous Peter Campbell (if you want to connect with a great tech strategist, read his post) I thought I would share where I will be at the #13NTC.
Before I go over my schedule, I thought I would share a couple thoughts about NTC. My first NTEN NTC was in 2004 in Philly. Back then I was with the YMCA National Office. I went to the conference to learn about tech trends and find resources to share with the Y's that I worked with. I also dragged about 10-25 YMCA staff from across the country with me. During that time I presented every year about Tech Alignment or some other Tech Strategy session. 
Then came the dark years where I was focused on Social Media and Web. That's right, I strayed away from the core tech strategy to the shiny objects. I do still dabble in the dark arts, but I have a new job and a new outlook. I even had to miss one year of NTC... booo.
Now I am with The Cara Program as the Manager of Technology and I get to plan and strategize tech all day, plus I get to do it! So #13NTC is a very special one for me because I can officially call myself an IT Director of sorts and hang out with the cool kids that focus on the Tech.
As you can see though, NTEN NTC can be many different things for many different people. I am also bring my wife, Becca Heye, she is the co-founder of She is looking for info on running her org and fundraising.  Sarah Mansberger, the Director of Development from The Cara Program will be there as well! Rock ON!
Here is my schedule:

April 10: #NTCbeer! Here is an awesome write up from Peter Campbell!

April 10th, 7:00 pm, Brit’s Pub a few doors from the hotel for the 5th Annual #ntcbeer event.  As of this writing, we have a dead heat for signups on the official Facebook page (90) and the MyNTC event page (89) for a grand total of, well, somewhere between 160 and 170, I think.  There are duplicate signups and there’s no easy way to do the math.  This is definitely shaping up to be the largest one yet, as many more people will sign up in the days just before NTC and quite a few won’t bother signing up at all.  Join me there with the understanding that it’s about the company first, beer second; we have a history of being a welcoming, casual crowd.  And we have some surprises in store.If you aren’t going to NTC, but you can get to Austin, Texas, be sure to attend our sister #ntcbeer event! Rumor has it that they know how to have a good time in Austin.

April 11 - Thursday

NTEN Welcome Session 9am
Fun way to see everyone before the conference starts and NTEN has promised something with some real pizzazz.

IT Director Meetup
Meetup with IT Directors at 10:30am - Lets keep the Tech part of NTEN alive.

Drupal Day!
I will be at the Drupal Day event in the afternoon. Wish I could go the full day, but overlap in schedules...

Science Fair 3pm
Don't fear the vendors! This is a great time, not a pushy sales pitch. There are numerous great nonprofit partners that will have booths. I have a few vendors I need to find = Business Intelligence, Client\student management CRM, Salesforce, Office365, etc. I am looking to get some advice, ideas and make connections.

I will be giving an IGNITE session about how the Cloud is trying to KILL tech strategy. And for the first time ever... I will be singing it! It is worth your time to go to IGNITE if you want some entertainment mixed with education. These are 5 minute presos with with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. NOT AN EASY TASK TO PRESENT, but so fun to watch.

NPTech Staff with New Jobs Meetup!
Judi Sohn, Peter S. Campbell, Thomas Taylor, Brett Meyer, Elliot Harmon, Lindsay Bealko and myself have all changed NPTech jobs in the last year. Some of us will be meeting up around 8:30pm at (discalimer: not everyone listed above has confirmed, I cannot control nor guarantee who shows up). But everyone is welcome.

April 12 - Friday

Breakfast -8am- would love to find someone to have breakfast with

Opening Plenary
8:30am - These are always critical to attend to get your brain kick-started.

IT Governance session!
10:30am IT Governance: Boring Name. Big Impact I have a number of large projects and technology changes planned within my org and we will need the policies and practices to go with it. I really think this is a critical element that is not given enough attention.

Lunch - would love to find someone to have Lunch with

Project Management session (see Peter's write up below)
At 3:30, I’m presenting on Project Management: Choosing the Right Tools and Approaches for Disparate Projects.  I’m only somewhat ambitious here, but my goal is that everyone attending will walk away with a solid understanding about traditional (“Waterfall”) and modern “Agile” project management; how and when to apply one, the other, or some combination of the two; and what awesome tools and applications are available to support them.  As always, I’ll keep the PowerPointing to a reasonable time limit and mine the wisdom of the crowd attending.  I think there will be a healthy showing  and there are already some gurus signed up.

Friday night isn't planned yet.

April 13 - Saturday

Breakfast -8am- Having Breakfast with John Haydon and Peter S. Campbell, WOW!

Opening Plenary
8:30am - These are always critical to attend to get your brain kick-started.

"Where Is This All Going? The Future of IT #13NTCwhere" session
10:30 am - What are the tech trends to watch?

Lunch - planned with Michael Nealis, Laura Norvig, Robert Rosenthal, Debra Askanase

Brand Voices - the internal conversation session! - presenting
1:30 pm- Dan Michel from Feeding America and myself will be talking about how a brand voice depends on internal communication. How can your org spread the same message and use the same voice without having it with staff first?

GEEK GAMES! Hosting the NTC has Talent stage!
5pm - I will be doing my best Simon Cowell meets Ryan Seacrest as I give NPTech staff a chance to spotlight their amazing talents!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Cloud is our hero! #MMM Episode 3

So I tried out a new tool for Episode 3 of Monday Minute Movie (#MMM).  But who knew that once you were done, you couldn't go back and edit. oy. Plus I can't embed it, WHAT? There goes my viewership.....

So this month's #MMM is a bit over a minute, but is under 2 minutes! SO I will just call it a minute and you can just get over it.

This month's topic is an advertisement for the Ignite Session that I will be doing at the #13NTC!

Watch My Google Story called The Cloud is our Hero!

Cant Make it to #13NTC?
And a quick announcement. If you can't go to the Nonprofit Technology Conference hosted by NTEN, you should seriously consider the Online NTC! I was not able to attend the conference last year, but did attend online. It was a great experience, not as good as being there, but still great. I was able to catch the Keynote speakers, which ROCKED! Plus I picked a few good sessions to join.

To make the online NTC experience better though, I involved a bunch of co-workers. We all gathered in a room to watch sessions together that were cross functional. We were able to chat and apply to our work right away. We were brainstorming and building some camaraderie during the sessions.

So while one of the best parts of the NTC is the hallway conversations and the amazing people you meet, when you can't attend in person, the online NTC is still a good choice. Plus it is very reasonably priced, especially if you share it with others at your org in a room with a projector.

Anyway, register for the NTEN NTC online conference today!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Awesome Tech Planning Resource!

For the last two weeks I have rambled on about Tech Planning. I have thought about how to demystify the process. How to simplify it. 

The key was a shift from Strategic Tech Planning to Tactical Tech Planning!

Wait, What? Why would you not want strategic tech planning? What is up with Tactical?

Well let's put it this way. If your car has a flat tire and needs a new starter, do you need a strategic plan to fix the car? 

Well if your technology is in the early stages, it is like fixing your car. You have to get everything working correctly before you can think about the strategic parts. Doing an oil change, regular maintenance and thinking through upgrades is a bit silly when it has a flat and can't start.

The self serve training and resource for Technology Planning that I have been dreaming about for years has arrived. And it is from the trusted experts at Idealware! Yay! This resource is the perfect way for you and your organization to begin the journey toward a strategic technology plan by starting with a tactical one.
Idealware let me have a sneak peek at the training and associated resources, I cannot easily explain how AWESOME they are! When you combine the video with the downloadable action plans and templates, you have everything you need to get started. But even better, they don't throw it all at you at once. They purposely take you through a series of steps that are easy to digest and complete.

You might be saying to yourself, Self, I think this guy is whack or is getting paid to talk about this, but you would be wrong. Well maybe not about the whack part.  I am only talking about this training because I think it is a great tool! I have worked with Idealware on a volunteer basis in the past, but  I just really appreciate what they do.

So anyway, If you work at a small to mid size nonprofit, I would suggest going to Idealware and check out their Tactical Tech Planning today! 

Also a huge shout out to the Pierce Family Foundation for their support of this project! Awesome to see a foundation that really understands the importance of solid technology, operations and administration to support a nonprofit to meet it's mission!