Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is Adoption today's implementation?

When I first started in technology, you needed technical aptitude and were forced to follow the parameters set by the tools. Technology projects were focused on the hardware needs, installation and setup. You needed to follow the implementation plan and then stick to the manuals.

But times have changed, many technology projects require very little technical knowledge and hardly focus on the tools at all. The strategy, process, buy-in, training and organizational change overshadow all of the technology.

The transition from inserting disk A to logging into the cloud, building software to leveraging platforms, hardware constraints to nearly limitless storage, code to config, wired to wireless, heavy tech skills required to consumerized tech, and on and on...   It isn't stopping.

Sidebar soapbox: just cause all this tech is changing doesn't mean tech staff are going away. Wrong. The demand is growing. Tech staff know how to integrate, match to process, innovate, configure, manage, train, drive strategy, select platforms, see the big picture, and on and on... It isn't stopping

Back to my point though. Adoption of technology in an org is now more important than implementing it. It isn't about installing it, it is about getting it understood. It isn't about the tool, it is about how it is used. It isn't about the email, it is about the message.  It isn't about the social media, it is about the conversation.  It isn't about the system, it is about the culture surrounding it. It isn't about functionality, it is about how it serves the mission.

Anyway, I think you get the point. Most technology projects are not about implementing the technology, they are about the organizational change required (ADOPTION!)

Luckily enough, the awesome, smart people over at Exponent Partners (who we worked with to adopt Exponent Case Management on Salesforce) wrote an amazing paper all about the adoption process! And they did it in a way which would be tough to recreate here on my blog. SO GO DOWNLOAD THE ADOPTION RESOURCE!

Then be sure to read this awesome article from Peter Campbell on a very similar topic! 

I did a presentation about this for Dreamforce regarding adoption of Salesforce for The Cara Program. So to have a bit of fun with it, I first did a parody of Bruno Mars Lazy Song.  My video recreation of the song is below along with my presentation.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bring Faith to Everyday!

In my college years I strayed from my Faith. I made choices based on my own needs and wants. I became a different person. Eventually I found my way back and my life changed. My life continues to grow in blessings and joy. But I always wonder, what would my life be like if my Faith stayed a part of my life?

I think we all have part of our lives where we stray from our Faith, where we take our focus off of God and choose our own direction.

Now as my oldest kids are taking the next steps in their lives, I see them facing the choice of following their faith or taking their own path. Which makes me wonder, what can we do to better prepare our kids for their future?

When I think about this, I am reminded of countless Church services talking including God and Faith in every part of our lives and making Him the center. But do we help our children do this? Sure we take them to Church on Sunday and maybe even to a church group during the week, but do we encourage them to show their Faith outside of Church?

This is what gets me excited about Leap of Faith Arts Ministries, bringing God and Faith into the
Arts providing another opportunity to weave it into everyday. Allowing the dancers and artists to learn to use their talents to worship. This impact goes beyond the studio walls. Each time a Leap of Faith artist performs, one of dancers talks to their friends or a parent comes to Leap of Faith, an opportunity opens to experience God outside of Church.

The work Leap of Faith is doing is important to me and my family. We have dedicated a lot of our time, resources and talents to this organization because we believe in it.  Would you join us by making a donation to Leap of Faith on this #GivingTuesday?

With a monthly budget of $5,000, even a small donation has a large impact. A $100 donation is 2% of this monthly budget.  Will you join us in this work and bring Faith into the Arts?

You can donate on our website!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tech For Small Orgs!

photo from Sergio on Flickr
Having spent the last few years helping Leap of Faith Arts Ministries with their tech has spurred new thoughts on what it means to be a small org.

I think we have heard the pleas of "not enough money", "not enough time", and "not enough skills" so much that we become numb when we hear it. But these challenges are real. Using those challenges as excuses to have no technology plans is still not acceptable though. Even the smallest nonprofit should have a technology plan. Even if it is a napkin with a list of tech they use, vendor info and when it should be replaced.

SO my challenge to all small nonprofits is to stop focusing on your size and challenges and look at the opportunities you have. This video does a better job explaining it, I think...

SO what is the action you should take?
I would start with training the person who will be your technology decision maker. (note, I didn't call them your IT staff. I said technology decision maker. Even if you don't have IT staff, every org needs a formally recognized technology decision maker.)

Here is my full presentation about tech for small nonprofits:

If you are interested in seeing an example list of technology from a small org, you could read my post about the tech Leap of Faith uses. It is a good example of priority in spending tech dollars.

The other awesome part of small nonprofits? Even a $25 donation goes a huge distance. If you found this info or my blog helpful, consider donating to Leap of Faith Arts Ministries!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why do I spend so much time on #NPTech?

Recently a few people have asked me questions like:
Why do you spend so much of your time on nonprofit technology?
Where do you find the time to write, present & speak about nonprofit technology?
Why are you so passionate about nonprofit technology?

Since the early 90's I have been a fan of the ability of technology to change the way a nonprofit meets their mission. My degree is in Finance, so I have a natural interest in process, policies, controls, metrics and the bottom line. Combine my finance education with a childhood full of volunteering in almost every program role possible at the YMCA and you get a process driven love of program delivery with a heart for technology innovation.

Understanding the importance of technology used to be a huge problem, today the problem seems to be moving from knowing technology is important to acting on it. Not to mention the distraction of social media. Yeah, I said it, social media is a distraction from core technology strategy (almost as distracting as gifs...). It seems like too much of our attention in nonprofit technology is on social media. Yes, social media is important, but more important than a solid infrastructure, good security, efficient staff, organization effectiveness and innovative use of technology for mission? I think not.

So I am trying to do my part to bring core technology strategy back into focus. The nonprofit and NTEN communities were there for me when I was starting out and I want to be there for others. I use a big chunk of my spare time reading, writing and speaking about nonprofit technology because I know first hand the power it has. 

I am not saying I am doing this alone, I am doing it as one small part of a community. This is why the NTEN community is so critical. This is why I am an NTEN Champion this year. Your support of this campaign helps nonprofits everywhere learn more about technology. It is like supporting all causes all at once!

Show your support at:

OR learn about the other causes I am promoting at:

This video is a teaser of a Bruno Mars song I rewrote. I will release more of the video as more donations come in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Celebrating a year of Impact! Will you join in?

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

But wait, there is more this year! My 14 year old son has started his own campaign called Comforting Covers!

"Getting stuff done" seems to be the only theme this year. A major project at The Cara Program was super rewarding and impactful, but required extra time, focus and energy. Leap of Faith went through major staff changes, a location move and a fundamental shift by joining More Than Great Dancing.

Not to mention Becca enjoying being a Band Mom and myself continuing to find time for Improv. But I have also been blessed with a number of opportunities to present at conferences including Dreamforce (Salesforce), NTEN NTC, Nonprofits in Motion, and National Catholic Development Conference. It has been a wild ride.

We have still made time to enjoy life, embrace family and love God, but it has all taken a toll. We have put more time and resources than ever into the causes we believe in.

I wouldn't change a thing. A key learning has been that we can't do it alone. We need your help.

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.

Comforting Covers

Comforting Covers was started in early 2014 by Dominic Heye (my son), a 14 year old boy. Inspired by God, this kid made this little idea he had into a huge plan. He collected over 15,000 dollars in February 2014. Now this year he hopes to collect double that. Comforting Covers collects blankets, gloves, coats, socks, shoes, pants, and anything else a homeless person might need in bitter Illinois weather. All of the items collected will be divided up and donated to Daybreak Shelter in Joliet, IL and Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, IL.

Comforting Covers is an organization that collects warm items, such as blankets and coats, and gives them to the homeless in Chicago and Joliet. Clothing donations can be dropped off at my house or at Leap of Faith.

Visit Comforting Covers on Facebook for more info!

Leap of Faith

New Location, New Curriculum, New Staff, New Website, and tons of New Opportunity.

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 has taken many next big steps, but it has required a lot of resources. Leap of Faith needs some people to step out in Faith and give them the resources 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 possible!


For years I have been an avid NPTech (nonprofit tech) community member and champion! I even wrote a book 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!

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does it have to be Innovation or Sustainability?

Are sustainability and innovation enemies?

Is sustainability the opposite of innovation?

It always seemed logical to me, sustainability is working to keep things going while innovation is all about change. They appear to work against each other.

Recently though I attended an innovation workshop one day and a sustainability workshop the next day. And something clicked, which I had always known, but it brought it back. Innovation is required for sustainability. When things are going well or when you are trying to go beyond success, sustainability is the foundation you build. Sustainability is not about status quo, it is about actively taking measures to ensure stability and growth. Innovation is key to growth.

It struck me as interesting when I heard Thomas Kuczmarski say something like -Innovation isn't always looking for a solution. Often it is just understanding & looking at problems differently. Not about idea generation, identifying the right problem to solve is the key to innovation.

And when I think about sustainability it is being able to see your potential problems and reduce the risk of them happening. So the key to both is knowing the problem.

Thomas Kuczmarski continued to talk about innovation as not the same thing as continuous improvement. Innovation is all about creating unique benefits, differentiation from competition, being valued by the customer, creating economic value = key to innovation. Of course I had to translate those to nonprofit terms like mission impact, serving the constituent and such, but you get the drift.

Nonprofits have a responsibility to their donors and supporters to be responsible with the organizations funds. Too many nonprofits see a need & act on it or come up with an idea (innovation), without first understanding the sustainability, which can waste resources. Every organization should have a conversation about sustainability to gain understanding about where you are having impact balanced against the cost. Not to say efforts which cost a lot need to be cut, the trick is to have a balance of efforts and cost for sustainability.

You should know exactly where your organization's contribution to intended impact & excellence in execution = assessing mission impact. If your org is doing something with low impact & you aren't the leader, maybe look at off-loading that to a partner. (Thanks to Steve Strang, MPA from Spectrum Nonprofit Services for the sustainability thoughts in the training)

In the end innovation is a big key to sustainability. Innovation is just an idea until it is defined, actionable & has measurable outcomes (and oh yeah, sustainable).

(The thoughts in this post are based on presentations from Thomas Kuczmarski and Steve Strang. Big thanks to your thoughts and inspiration, it will have an impact on org and me.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Start with an Inventory - A Rule in Tech to Live by

When you go grocery shopping, first step? See what you have already.
Photo credit Kiri on Flickr

When you go on a vacation, first step? Well, I guess a list, but then you use the list to do an inventory to make sure you bring everything.

When you cook or bake, first step? Well, I guess a recipe, but then typically it is a good idea to make sure you have the ingredients. (Having been sent on last minute trips to spend too much on something we could have gotten cheaper at a time when we didn't really have the time, I can say... you want to make sure you have the ingredients...)

Bringing this back the tech now. Many, if not all, tech strategies and projects start with an inventory. Besides, my analogies were way too much of a stretch anyway.

Tech Replacement. First step in creating a technology replacement plan, take an inventory of your technology. Then use the inventory to determine what needs to be replaced and when. Then look for areas you need upgrades and expansions. Come up with a timeline and bingo. Of course it is a bit more complicated, but you get the idea.  Read this Article from TechSoup to learn more! Plus look at a tool like Spiceworks to build your inventory.

Security. Understand your current security, network, software and setup first. Best way to do that? My opinion is to get an outside security assessment, you can read more about my opinion in this post on Community IT.

Choosing Software. Most people would run out and look at the features or explore choices. But again, start with an inventory. This inventory is different though. It is no longer about a physical count. This inventory is best started with understanding your processes. Yep, good old business process mapping. You could try to jump to business requirements, but it will end up backfiring. The type of information uncovered and discovered when you document how you work is much different than jumping to how do you want the software to work.You must read this article from the Brilliant Peter S. Campbell on IdealwareRead this article from IT For Charities! Then dig through good articles on Idealware.

Websites. OK now you are going to say, start with the audience! Yes agreed, the audience is a key. But a close tie here is an inventory of your content. Shouldn't there be a balance of what you want to say, who you say it to, what they want to hear and what content you already have? Another good article from TechSoup.

Email and Social Media. Too many of the social media conference sessions I have gone to jump straight to the tool, seriously the tools are just tools. A real communication plan is needed first, know what you want to say to who and what you want them to do with the info.  Best place to start? Do an inventory of your current communications. Which leads me to a point going back to the website. Why have a website without a communication plan? Without a plan to communicate, your website is probably just a brochure. Another good article on TechSoup.

This probably all sounds logical and a good idea, but it still surprises me on how many times I hear about org's who skip these steps or even blog posts who just gloss over this.

Anyway, I think you get my not so hidden thought in this post. Start with an inventory. There is a reason most people know about gap analysis and how it starts with an inventory. It is because it works. And if you don't what Gap Analysis is, you might hang around and see if I post something about it next.

Please share any other good articles you have on these topics!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mission Tech Planning - The Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Small Org Tech Setup - An Example

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

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

ORG Size Differences:

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

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

Example Tech of a Small Nonprofit

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

First basic tech:

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

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

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

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

Email and Intranet – Free Google apps with Gmail.


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

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

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

Program Management

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

4 Easy Steps to Missional Tech Planning

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


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

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

So first an overview of each type.

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

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

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

Make It Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation Slides:

Here are the slies from the presentation.

Monday, May 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Technology Committees - Meetings can have Value

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

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

Structure. What type of committee will you have?

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

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

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

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

Further Reading!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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

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

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

Weds, March 12

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

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

Thurs, March 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, March 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the slides!

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

View the slides.

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


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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where I'll be at #14ntc

Each year I follow in the inspiring example of Peter S. Campbell by sharing where I'll be at the Nonprofit Tech Conference.  You should read Peter's post to see where he will be! (I feel honored beyond compare to have been mentioned on his blog with a reference to my "inspired antics", love it!)

The annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference is something I look forward to all year long! This event has helped shape my career and the orgs I have worked for, plus it has impacted a number of orgs and staff I have collaborated or shared with. I love it. Anyway, here is where I will be at #14NTC.

HELP! Last year I made awesome plans to connect with people at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, but I don't have any of those plans yet, hit me on Twitter at @steveheye if you want to connect or leave a comment.

Or you can read what I learned at #13NTC to see if it helps you want to go!

Weds, March 12

Pre-Conference: How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading - I'm Presenting
Too much to say about this session! Highly talented, expert panel combined with a topic we all need help with, including me. Read my full blog post on this session! (NOTE you have to register for this)

A mix of nerds and brew, need we say more? Celebrate the 6th annual #ntcbeer, the pre-conference party known for good refreshments and better conversation. Catch up with nptech friends old and new over a few brews or whatever. Visit us on Facebook!

Thurs, March 13

IGNITE! Plenary - I am presenting
There are five AMAZING IGNITE sessions, plus mine. My blog readers get this extra hint of what will be in store with mine, Justin Timberlake inspired me. (oh my)

Head in the Clouds: Real world experiences and recommendations for moving technology infrastructure to the cloud.
Whether you’re working with a provider or building your own, moving to the cloud is an important step that takes planning, staff and dollars. This panel discussion looks at the whys and hows of moving to the cloud, as well as how two organizations approached their moves to the cloud.  Session specifics will include strategic planning, cost-benefit analysis, infrastructure planning, migration paths, best practices and more.

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together
From strategy planning to case studies following implementation, gain insight into how a strong partnership between IT and Communications can create a smarter, more sophisticated approach to your communications. (The Amazing Peter Campbell playing the role of IT)

FUN After Hours!
Microsoft Reception
Salesforce Foundation Party
NPO Engagement Party Hosted by Idealist

Fri, March 14

Plenary: Where Does Tech Belong and Who's in Charge?
Join a roundtable of experts to take a deep look at where technology belongs and who exactly is in charge.

Tech Tools for NPTechies
This session is for small (under 75 staff) np's and is for the IT (accidental or purposeful) staff. We'll discuss discuss specific tech tools (some free or low cost) to help you make support users, run a network, and manage IT staff. Explore tools for managing hw/sw on a network, with examples appropriate to different sized organizations and skill sets.

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

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

Progressive Party, but not planned yet. Need some help here people!

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

Plenary - The Future of Technology
Watching the signs. Join Willa Seldon, leading nonprofit expert and Partner at the Bridgespan Group, for a look at the big trends in nonprofits and philanthropy, and what that could mean for nonprofit technology.

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

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

Rumor has it that I may be involved in some of the games and bringing my Ryan Seacrest skills back to work.

SO much Stuff! If you haven't registered, DO IT NOW! If you have registered, change your travel to be there early for the Pre-Conference (Smaller crowds and more info!)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading #14ntc

All of us look back and can quickly think of times when a technology project went astray. Whether it was a minor misstep or a major fallout. So it isn't a matter of if you have failed, it is a matter of when you have failed.

This is the topic of our pre-conference session this year at the Nonprofit Technology Conference by NTEN.
Technology implementation is becoming more critical to nonprofit mission success every year. It's not just the nuts and bolts that keep your staff online, its the expansion of technology into mission, program, communications, development, and ultimately organizing that nonprofits seek to achieve. Using this broadened definition of 'technology,' we know that the failure rates of these implementations are extremely high - but why? These sessions will explore at both the strategic and tactical levels the constraints under which nonprofits must implement technology, the role strong internal leadership and understanding plays in their success, and ultimately, how to both succeed and to learn from inevitable failure to position your organization to fail in small, non-disruptive ways, learn from mistakes, and iterate for long term tech - and tech leadership - success. 

But this is more than a panel talking about why it is OK to fail. This will not be a discussion of theory, this will not be a presentation. You will come out with a set of tools to help ensure project success, but also be able to react and correct the course if things start to go wrong.

We plan to use some hilarious skits to illustrate points, dissect real examples for application, integrate methods you can use in your job and provide expert insight in topics like:

  • Setting expectations-defining the project goals
  • Managing the people
  • Communications
  • Process to manage decision making

Even as we have planned this session, I have learned a few new things. I am eager to attend and hear my co-panelists present. The team is an amazing one! Rose de Fremery, Dahna Goldstein, Tracy Kronzak, Robert Weiner and myself. It would be hard to build a more balanced team, ranging in expertise in technology strategy, change management, building staff skills, project management, business process and so much more.

I have presented many times at the NTC, but I can honestly say I have never seen a more prepared, well constructed agenda and great team.

It may seem like this is an attempt to just promote a session I am presenting in, but I really have a minor part. I just felt driven to share this session because I see the value and I know you will too.  I hope you will join us!

Read more about the session! And register for the NTC and our pre-conference session (a separate, free registration is required and has LIMITED SPACE).

Sessions like this and awesome people like my co-presenters gets me excited about the NTC! If you aren't registered yet, you should do it now!

Register for NTC before Feb 15 to save!

Monday, January 27, 2014

City of Chicago inspires my thinking around Tech

I recently attend an event hosted by LISC where Brenna Berman (CIO, City of Chicago) presented their plan to use technology to impact Chicago and it really got me thinking.

They have Five Strategies (paraphrased below from my notes):

  • Next generation Infrastructure
  • Every Community a Smart Community
  • Efficient, Effective and Open Government
  • Civic Innovation
  • Technology Sector Growth

Brenna spent a chunk of the time talking about making every community a smart community.  Smart communities is an effort already in progress with a few Chicago communities but will be rolled out to more.  The initiatives are:

  • Broadband access benchmark
  • Scale up smart communities
  • Free public WiFi
  • More low cost broadband
  • Youth tech education
  • Digital training
  • Digital excellence activities
  • Public computer access
  • Education resources

This struck a topic I love! IT Alignment. There is an understanding of the need to balance the people, process and tools in these initiatives. Making change in Chicago is an enormous task with the politics, diverse communities, unions, corruption, etc... The conversation at the event fascinated me to no end, I was surrounded by smart people with real questions, possible solutions and a desire to collaborate to have an impact.

What I really latched on to was the balance of infrastructure and policy with community needs and people. They understood the "build it and they will come" won't work. Providing infrastructure, computer labs, wifi and Broadband isn't enough, they need outreach, training and creative ways to get the tech into people's homes in ways they will actually use it.

I have just started to become aware of amazing technology innovation in Chicago through efforts of 1871 to provide space for startups, Starter League helping startups succeed, Chicago Maker lab offering 3d printing, Chicago Tech Academy build tech skills in our youth and i.c. stars focused on technology workforce development opportunities (actually I have know i.c. stars for a few years, they rock). Those are just a few, I know there are many more I am missing.

To me, much this is a great example of how to use technology directly to impact the mission. Technology can spur new opportunities, new ideas and new ways to change the world.

Read an article about the Chicago Tech plan

Or visit this set of deeper resources, including a video about the plan

Just my ramblings, sorry if this doesn't have a single point to it, just a collection of notes and thoughts I wanted to share.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical vs. Strategic vs. Missional

I am preparing for a session I will be presenting at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference.  I have been having an internal battle for 15 years on the topic of Strategic Technology Planning.  I have read books, blog posts, case studies and articles proclaiming the best practices of a Strategic Technology Plan. But as I often repeat, “Best for you, isn’t best for me. Let’s talk about Model Practices.”

This leads me to a topic I have seen bounding around recently. Maybe we don’t all need a strategic technology plan. At first, you have to focus on a stable infrastructure.

As a terrific example, Idealware has created their Tactical Technology Training, which I LOVE!

But we all know a strategic plan is needed for deeper impact of our technology. Which I would recommend the Tech Leadership Academy from NTEN.

However, the contender I want to bring to the ring is MISSION.

Sure our Strategic Technology Plan is tied to mission via a close tie to the organization’s overall Strategic Plan. But what about stepping back to find ways for technology to directly impact the mission, not to support the org in meeting the mission. Do you see the distinction?

Here are a couple slides to illustrate this, but I would love for a few people to watch the video embedded below and give me some real feedback.  I will be refining the concept, slides and presentation between now and March 2014.  This is just a sampling of what will be discussed there, but I could really use your feedback!