Are Nonprofits Staffing Tech Right?

In the past, nonprofits would just have someone on staff (usually the Communications person) run all things tech at the organization, plus their organizational duties, and sometimes that's still the case. Technology staffing is a full time job, and NTEN just released their 8th Annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report to dig deeper into what nonprofits are doing to handle the tech in this fast-paced technological world.

The report examines technology staffing levels, technology budgets, overall organizational approach to technology decisions, as well as technology oversight and management practices. Over 750 individuals from nonprofits participated in taking the survey, ranging from various operating budget size, staff size, and more.

A few key findings from the report that your nonprofit may want to take into consideration:

  • Generally organizations designate tech-specific staff. On average, nonprofits have 4.4 technology-responsible staff.

  • Size doesn't matter. Larger size and budgets don’t necessarily correlate with being at the leading end of the tech adoption spectrum: 7% of small organizations report that they are at the leading end of the technology adoption spectrum compared to 3% of the very large organizations from our survey.
  • It's time to ramp up the data. Compared to previous years, there has been an increase in the number of "Data" staff.
  • What does money look like? When looking at the per-staff budgets, it was disocovered that very large organizations may be spending the same - or even less- than small organizations.
  • Strategic planning is key. Leading organizations are nearly 3x more likely to include tech in their strategic plans than struggling organizations. 64% of all respondents have incorporated technology in their own strategic plan.

It's important to analyze your own organizational needs, and to set up a technological strategic plan and a staffing plan. Will your organization be dedicating more resources to technology and staffing this year?

Read the full report here.


5 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Reach Millennials 

Nonprofits have been trying to reach millennials effectively for some time now. Some organizations like Ask Big Questions, a program of Hillel International and Do Something have figured it out, while others are still tailoring their strategies. We took a look at a couple of surveys, from Millennial Impact Research and from the infographic, Everything You Need to Know About the Millennial Consumer. For those of nonprofits still tailoring their strategies, we've got some tips on how to reach millennials.


  1. Text, don't call! 52% of millennials would rather have conversations via text than on the phone. Make an effort to capture the mobile phone numbers of your constituents, and get their permission to reach out by text message.
  2. Make your brand accessible. Does your organization advertise in the most optimum spaces? 38% of millennials said that brands are more accessible and trustworthy when they use social media ads vs. traditional ads. Find out where your audience is. Are they on Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Do they prefer Tumblr or LinkedIn? Engage with them on the channels and platforms where they're at. On average, they're checking their smartphones 43 times per day.
  3. Educate them about your organization, and challenge them to think and reinforce their passion. It's what many millennials want. Start a dialogue, not a monologue. More than 60% of respondents liked it most when nonprofits shared success stories about success projects or the people they help.
  4. Don't just tell a story with no ask. Make sure to incorporate an ask or a call to action in all of your stories. Contrary to popular belief, millennials aren't lazy, and they want to help. 51% connect on social media, 46% donate to the causes they're passionate about, and 46% read blog posts. Who said blogging was dead? So keep 'em engaged, and ask for help when you need it.
  5. Keep your content updated. No one likes to see outdated content, but millenials in particular loathe it. It's one of the fastest ways to turn them off. 

How are you reaching millennials?



Will Nonprofits Take SXSWi By Storm in 2015?

SXSWi is one of the biggest conferences for startups, technologists, and people who have innovative ideas that they think can change the world. But where do nonprofits and cause related startups fit into SXSWi? This year several nonprofits and leaders who are doing innovating work to create social change movements, submitted terrific panels in hopes of carving out a bigger track related to activism.

Check out some of the panels that could be featured at SXSWi if we rally together and vote for them by September 6th!



Why Failure Is a Dirty Word for Nonprofits

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Sex, Lies, and the Internet

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Beyond Email: How Modern Teams Master Communication

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Activism At Its Best: Drive Supporters To Do More

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Blurred Lines: How to Engage Brand Super-Champions
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Engagement Strategies for Niche Communities
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Sync All Your Data (No, For Real)

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Keepin' It Real: Content Strategy on the Cheap!

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The Future of Infographics

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Growing an Education Innovation Community

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Is Social Good the Next Killer App? 

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Nonprofit Crowdfunding Bill of Rights

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Building an Army of Brand Advocates 

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The (Data) Science of Social Change 

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Synchronized Social: Collaborative Campaigns

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Meaningful Marketing: Working for the Greater Good

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Pushing the Envelope Forward: Latin@s in Tech

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New Models in Higher Ed: From Texas to Rwanda

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Data as Storytelling

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Startups & The City

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Are Memes Really Just Slacktivism?

New memes get started everyday. Some stick and go “viral” while others just get shared with a small community of friends, and some go nowhere. Remember the Facebook meme challenge that asked women to post what color bra they were wearing that day? Many thought the meme was connected to raising breast cancer awareness, but that was not the intention behind it. After some research, it turns out that this meme was started in December of 2009 in Canada. Here’s the original meme:

“Right girls let’s have some fun. Write the color of the bra you’re wearing right now as your status on fb and don’t tell the boys. They will be wondering what all the girls are doing with colors as their status. Forward this to all the girls online”

By 2011 the meme evolved a couple of times.

“We are playing a game…… silly, but fun! Write the color of your bra as your status, just the color & texture, nothing else!! Copy this and pass it on to all girls/Females …… NO MEN!! This will be fun to see how it spreads, and we are leaving the men wondering why all females just have a color as their status!! Let’s have fun!! Pass this on LADIES”

“List the color of your bra in your FB status, just the color, nothing more. Then send this mssg to your girlfriends’ inboxes, too … no men. The point is to see how far we can spread breast cancer awareness … and make the men wonder what’s up :) "

The meme then spread to France and the US, and was picked up by media such as Mashable, Huffington Post, MSNBC, ABC, etc. On January 8, 2011 the meme ranked number 11 on Google Trends search queries and the Susan G Komen Foundation said that their Facebook page grew by over 100K “likes” in 24 hours. 

Can You Build a Base of Supporters with Memes?

This begs the question - should a breast cancer organization have been the one to have thought of a meme like this as part of a larger campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer? Could they have leveraged this opportunity to build their email list, and raise money? Should they have taken that new list of supporters (whether it was on Facebook, email, or Twitter) and focused on a ladder of engagement plan to build real relationships these new people? Yes! At the very least, breast cancer nonprofits could have quickly jumped in and leveraged this opportunity.

What’s a Facebook “Like” Worth?

Some nonprofits may look at the Komen data and say "Wow, we should do a meme too, so it can go viral and we can get over 100K FB likes."  Wrong! First, most memes don’t go viral. Second, don’t place too much value in Facebook “likes.” Just because a breast cancer organization like Komen received over 100K “likes” in 24 hours does not mean they leveraged this meme in a meaningful way. “Likes” are the equivalent of thumbs up. It’s a vanity metric – not a metric that is connected to furthering your advocacy goals.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Fast-forward to one of the latest viral memes – the ice bucket challenge to raise money for ALS, a disease that most American’s aren’t very familiar with. 5,600 new people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS (also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease”) yearly. “The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time,” according to the ALS Association. 

As nonprofit strategist Ted Fickes said on a nonprofit listserv, “the ice bucket challenge has been going on for a while now among golfers and many others donating to the charity of their choice, law enforcement groups raising money for police charities, etc.”

But the ice bucket challenge did not really spread until Pete Frates, the former captain of Boston College’s baseball team, repurposed the meme by challenging Steve Gleason to throw a bucket of ice over his head to raise awareness for ALS, according to The Times Picayune. You may remember Steve Gleason from his former Saints days. In 2011 he was diagnosed with ALS. He started Team Gleason, the ALS foundation after he was diagnosed.

Challenge Accepted

The duo then asked other friends, including major sports superstars, to join the challenge. Check out Gleason’s touching video here. 


It’s an impressive campaign that has not only raised awareness about a disease most American’s did not know much about, but it has also raised over $7 million versus $1.4 million from last year for Team Gleason, said Paul Varsico, the Executive Director of Team Gleason. Facebook reported yesterday that 1.2 million unique videos related to the ice bucket challenge have been posted on Facebook.

Now What?

ALS organizations have seen a surge in email sign ups, Facebook “likes”, and donations, but now comes the hard part. Since most of these new donors are brand new to the ALS community and are learning about the disease for the first time, ALS organizations will need to quickly come up with an engagement plan. They are going to need to go beyond the traditional welcome series. And they cannot simply just fold these new people into their regular email and direct mail communications. They will need to develop distinct messaging that shows people how ALS could impact them and their families. For example, finding a cure to ALS could unlock the cure to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more. ALS organizations will need to test and experiment with different messages, campaigns, and ways to get people involved.

Many national organizations that have experienced this type of viral success admit that this is a tough road because the majority of people who participate or donate at these times do it to be part of a viral movement. Once that moment fades, it’s difficult to grab these people’s attention again and mobilize them.


Effective Online Onboarding Strategies

Here is (yet another) compelling reason for your organization to leverage digital channels:  the next generation of donors are engaging more on digital platforms and are increasingly looking for a way to support and donate through these channels.

The data is in, but how can you acquire and “on-board” these digitally savvy people and convince them to donate to your organization?  Care2 and Parachute Digital teamed up to create a White Paper explaining just that! The report’s Six Stages of an Effective On-boarding Strategy guides you through and answers these questions:

Some of the key points that resonated for me were:

  • You don’t have to target everyone.  Your audience should be those people who connect with the work that your organization does and actively engage with you.  Find out what is important to them and what would trigger them to support you.
  • Use email, online petitions, and web or video content.  Get your advocates to take action, and then guide them through a timely set of communications that could start out by asking for a call to action and warm them up for a donation ask.  Your supporters will embark on a “journey of discovery” where they can become invested in your vision and goals.
  • Use each piece of communication as a measuring tool.  You can track and monitor your progress through what you send to your supporters.  Is there a higher Click Through Rate in one email vs another email?  Are your supporters responding to specific content?

With these questions in mind, you are primed to start thinking about digital in a new, hopefully more positive, way.

Good luck on launching your digital strategy!


Are You being Smart With Online Fundraising?

In the ever-changing world of online fundraising, it is easy to get distracted by the newest thing that promises instant success.  We are so concentrated on the next big thing that we may neglect what really works!  I recently wrote an article for The Nonprofit Times outlining exactly what makes up a fruitful digital fundraising program.

The key piece of a digital strategy is (drum roll please) list growth! Because email drives the most significant portion of online fundraising, it is important to continue to maintain and grow your list. Why? Because the average yearly churn rate for most nonprofits is about 16%. I suggest that 10% of your digital strategy budget should go to testing new, fun tools, but these tools are no replacement for your email list. The best channels to raise money are still direct mail, telemarketing, and email for most nonprofits. Most organizations still aren't raising dime on social media. 

5 key Key Ways to Ramp Up Online Fundraising

  1. Understand your target market (the size and make up), so you can acquire the right people to support your organization.
  2. Plan out your goals and KPIs for your email program.
  3. Create your email schedule based on when your target market would be most responsive.
  4. Tell your story via email to engage and cultivate donors.
  5. Test your current campaigns with paid list growth like we do for thousands of nonprofits at Care2.

Once you know your audience, you can build an online fundraising strategy around them, grow your base of supporters, advocates, and donors using your mission and story. 


Infographic: 57% of American's Don't Trust Social Media 

If you knew that your donors and activists were very concerned about their privacy online, what would you do to better protect their personal data that you have stored in your databases? Well you better start thinking about it. Today, a new national poll was released that showed almost three-fourths of Americans worry about how much personal information is available online.

More than half of Americans also feel that they can't trust social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep their personal information, buying habits, and political beliefs confidential, according to the poll that my firm Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark of craigconnects released.

According to the survey of 1007 people 18+, mistrust of websites and social media and concerns about privacy increase as people get older. People over 65 expressed the least trust in social media, and were most certain their data was being sold. It was this demographic who felt most strongly that privacy laws need to be strengthened.

As a nonprofit, it's critical that you're aware of these issues when collecting and using the data of your constituents.

The data from the poll shows very clearly that Americans feel manipulated and exposed by the websites they frequent. While that may not stop them from using Facebook and Twitter, or your website, for example, they are clearly calling for more safeguards around their personal data.

If you're collecting your audience's personal data, it's important that you're aware of how you're using it, the capacity in which you're using it, and clearly disclosing how the data is being used. It should not be buried in some legal jargon that real people can't understand.

Here are a few ways you can make sure you're respecting your constituents' privacy:

  • Fully disclose what you plan on doing with their data. How will it be used? Will any of the data be shared with 3rd parties?
  • Disclose what you will do to protect and secure their data.
  • Make sure you're honoring your Terms of Service, and make the language accessible to your audiences.

What else can you do to make sure that you're protecting your constituents data and respecting their online privacy?

Check out the full infographic, and survey data at