What's on our mind
Here at NPower we love to hear from other thought leaders in the sector. Thanks to Nicholas Merriam, Operations Manager from Building Changes, for this guest post on adoption strategy. Click to read all about it.
Here at NPower we love to hear from other thought leaders in the sector. Thanks to Nicholas Merriam, Operations Manager from Building Changes, for this guest post on adoption strategy.
Building Changes has been working with NPower Northwest for the last year and a half to create and implement a comprehensive, organization-wide database (SalesForce). While this technology was an essential infrastructure addition, the big question came up, "How do we get our staff to use it?"
Adoption of any new technology in an organization is hard work. It’s challenging to figure out how to get people to enter information or look at the great dashboard you made. It’s hard even in organizations that are inefficient or are using antiquated tools. Many people are comfortable with the way they work and don’t want to change – even if they see good reason for it.
It strikes me that adoption is challenging for many of us, because we fail to realize that adoption has everything to do with change management and organizational culture and almost nothing to do with the actual technology. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “...if we build a great system, everyone will use it...” At Building Changes, we found that to successfully drive adoption we needed to approach the challenge in a variety of ways, by aligning with our current organizational culture wherever possible. Organizational culture can act as a leverage point (or barrier) for any adoption tactic you might implement. Here’s what we did:
Leverage the Culture
Building Changes has a highly collaborative culture, so we used that to develop the database. Our project management teams are ad-hoc groups, formed with different staff from different departments, depending on what we’re building. The teams come together for about 90-120 days and lend their expertise and knowledge to help inform how best to build the system. These ad-hoc teams leverage our collaborative nature and help everyone in the organization gain exposure to the development process. As with any other type of project, each staff member’s dedication to success grows as their responsibility increases.
Engage Early Adopters
Many different people worked on the database during the roll out phase and we found that some were more excited than others about using this new technology. We engaged these “Early Adopters” and solicited their help in leading staff meeting demonstrations and teaching others how the database works. We also directed questions about the database to these people. These “Early Adopters” have ultimately turned into our database evangelists, preaching the good news about how this tool is changing the way we work.
Provide Timely Support and Ongoing Training
One of the most frustrating things with technology is when it doesn’t work properly. Having ongoing, real complaints about technology not working properly is a surefire way to kill adoption momentum. To curb this we budget for ongoing support and have a number of people that are quickly becoming skilled at troubleshooting. This ensures that when someone has a problem, we can address it rapidly. We also provide ongoing training for our staff. We send new hires to a class at NPower and have periodic brown bag trainings to showcase new functionality or simply answer questions.
This is the only portion of adoption that is focused on the actual technology. It’s important that whatever you build not only solves a problem, but also helps the organization gain access to information and make better decisions. These decisions could be directly related to one person’s work, or ideally, would related to a department or the entire organization. Prior to building our new database, it was incredibly time consuming to develop a report on where our grant dollars were being deployed across the state. Now, we have a variety of reports that anyone can access and dashboards that update weekly to inform everyone of where our grant dollars are being deployed.
Hopefully these tips will help you drive adoption of any new technology at your organization. Keep in mind that adoption is far more of an art than a science; the specific tactics that worked for us, may not work for others. The one thing I know for certain – culture is king. Organizational culture guides how people work, informs organizational norms, and can drive or kill adoption. Identify the leverage points in your culture, align the technology with those points and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
- Nicholas Merriam, Operations Manager at Building Changes
Building Changes leads a multi-faceted approach to ending homelessness in communities across Washington State. Our grant making, training, and advocacy activities ensure that housing and vital public services are available to people at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness.
During the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Brown Bag yesterday a few great questions came up that are worth sharing with everyone in some more detail. Find the answers here.
During the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Brown Bag yesterday a few great questions came up that are worth sharing with everyone in some more detail.
What does my site or page look like to Google and their web crawlers?
This came up after discussing the importance of putting content in the appropriate HTML tags such as <title> and <h1> tags, as well as the use of images without alternative text. Here’s how you can view your website similar to how Google sees it.
First search for your site or page. When you locate it in the search results, hover over the image preview and click on the cached version:
This will also pull in the images that are hosted on your site. However, search engines spend most of their time parsing and reading in text. Click the “Text-only” version of your site to see what the web crawlers are able to see:
Was it what you were expecting? If images or other multimedia play a large role in your web presence and do not have any alternative text, you may be surprised at the lack of easily discoverable content.
When I search for the name of my organization (even using the exact title), my website doesn’t show up. What’s going on?
The first two questions you’ll want to ask yourself are:
- How much time did I give myself after publishing the site to when I started searching for it?/li>
- How much traffic does my site get on a regular basis?
Unfortunately new or low-trafficked sites will take a while to gain some momentum. In fact, Google’s web crawlers may not even be aware that your site exists. You can solve this problem by submitting a sitemap to Google, or by just waiting for a couple other sites to link to yours.
The next thing to consider is that once Google is aware of your site, its crawlers won’t necessarily crawl it every day looking for new content. Even then, it takes awhile to start showing up in search results.
For the case when your organization’s name doesn’t even show up in the search results, even after a few weeks, you might want to check to make sure that your organization’s name is listed in the critical places-- the page title tag <title>, header tag <h1>, and elsewhere throughout the page. Sometimes it helps to have your organization’s name in the footer of the page, alongside the address and contact information, or somewhere on your site’s navigation or side panels.
What were those resources again?
For more information, check out these three great resources. They’re written in an approachable and friendly format and even include cute robots and diagrams.
- Google SEO Starter Guide (.pdf) for helpful technical information and best practices to ensure that your content is discoverable
- SEOmoz Beginners Guide (.pdf) for the history and evolution of search engines and a discussion on how and why they work the way that they do
- Google Webmaster Tools to spot any errors or problems that Google’s web crawlers have run into, preventing your site from reaching its potential
Thanks for coming!
Be sure to check our training calendar for upcoming brown bags. If you missed yesterday’s SEO brown bag, we’ll be doing it again in a couple months.
Peg Giffels had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion on Social Media Return on Engagement last week at an Executive Director Roundtable hosted by the Alliance for Nonprofits and 501 Commons. She was impressed by the high rate of adoption of social media across different types and sizes of organizations, and also by the outright courage nonprofit leaders are showing by trying it out. Read more...
I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion on Social Media Return on Engagement last week at an Executive Director Roundtable hosted by the Alliance for Nonprofits and 501 Commons. In the ED Roundtable format, participants rotate between three topics, so I saw three different groups for 1/2 hour each. In those 30 minutes the Executive Directors expressed diverse feelings about social media, including confusion ("What is the difference between Facebook and Twitter?") and delight at the possibility of reaching new audiences. I was impressed by the high rate of adoption of social media across different types and sizes of organizations, and also by the outright courage nonprofit leaders are showing by trying it out.
I shared some tips from my own experience and from NPower's Knowledge Center, including a new flier on Return on Engagement. One of the key differences between social media and traditional media is the shift from monologue to conversation. That means giving up a little bit of control over your organization's message, in trade for a chance to better engage with and learn from your clients, donors and other "constituents". It's the difference between posting a carefully crafted summary of your fundraising event on your website (a one-way broadcast), and giving a shout out to event volunteers on Facebook and tagging them to encourage comments back. Both communications have their uses, but without the Facebook update you miss giving your volunteers a chance to appreciate you back, and to share their enthusiasm with all of their friends.
The ED's I met with on Friday were not worried about control in the same way that nonprofit leaders were just a few years ago. I credit these leaders with "getting it" that the advantages outweigh the discomfort, and with being willing to bravely enter a new world of figuring out how to use the tools in service of their missions. One participant shared that she keeps a list of "Twitter mavens" to whom she feeds updates and news. They in turn share the information with their followers, increasing the chance for donations and volunteer engagement for her organization. Now that's smart and brave!
Thanks to the Alliance for Nonprofits and 501 Commons for the opportunity to share some tips and to learn from the group on Friday. For more conversation about technology for mission impact, check out the brown bag sessions listed on our Training Calendar. Our brown bags are free and chock full of useful info. We offer a brief presentation and plenty of time to learn from your peers, with cookies and coffee to fuel the conversation. Next up on social media: Social Media Intermediate on March 7, and Social Media Content Curation on March 28th.
Our AmeriCorps VISTA team is excited to announce the launch of our Tech Assessment Project. This pilot program gives small nonprofits working in the area of poverty alleviation a chance to assess their technology, receive trainings and create a strategy map to guide their operations planning, grant-writing and volunteer recruitment. Click through for information on how to apply...
Our AmeriCorps VISTA team is excited to announce the launch of our Tech Assessment Project. This pilot program gives small nonprofits working in the area of poverty alleviation a chance to assess their technology, receive tech training and create a strategy map to guide their operations planning, grant-writing and volunteer recruitment.
As newcomers to Seattle, our VISTA team is excited to have this opportunity to get to know many of the amazing nonprofits in the area who are doing great work everyday to help alleviate poverty. If your nonprofit is interested in this free program, here are all the details about about eligibility and project outcomes, and a link to the application form.
Applications are due by March 23rd, so if you're interested let us know soon!
NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference is just weeks away: April 3-5 in San Francisco. There's so much to love about NTC 2012. The networking opportunities alone are worth the trip, but the schedule of sessions is enough to set even the most accidental of techies swooning. Read more...
NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference is just weeks away: April 3-5 in San Francisco. There's so much to love about NTC 2012. The networking opportunities alone are worth the trip, but the schedule of sessions is enough to set even the most accidental of techies swooning.
Did we mention that our very own Alison Carl White and Peg Giffels will be presenting? It's true! In their session "Taking Action, Making Change" Alison and Peg will introduce the NPower Northwest Technology Theory of Change and how it helped us envision the capacity, people and processes we need in order to reach our goals.
Check out this post from NTEN's blog featuring videos from Alison and Peg, as well as a few other NTC presenters sharing what they love about the conference. Register before February 17th and you'll save a hundred bucks! What's not to love?
See you there!
- Mandi Moshay
Being an NPower client comes with lots of perks – friendly consultants, reliable support, and the peace of mind from having a trusted technology partner. And we're happy to highlight yet another benefit from working with us – discounts from Microsoft! Read more...
Being an NPower client comes with lots of perks – friendly consultants, reliable support, and the peace of mind from having a trusted technology partner. And we're happy to highlight yet another benefit from working with us – discounts from Microsoft!
Through the Microsoft Direct Donations Program (MSDDP), NPower clients receive a code that allows them to request Microsoft products through TechSoup without paying administrative fees. This includes Windows PC operating system upgrades, server software licenses, Microsoft Office, and more. That’s not all - because of the long-standing partnership between NPower and Microsoft, we’re also able to facilitate discounts of up to 75% for our clients on Office 365 and Dynamics CRM hosted licensing.
If you have any questions or would like to take advantage of these killer deals, contact us at email@example.com.
- Mandi Moshay
In the age of Internet search engines, what could be simpler than typing in the services your nonprofit needs and combing the results? The problem is, with traditional search engines, the results can be overwhelming or biased toward those that appear on the first page. Worse, what you’re really looking for may not be there at all or buried so far down the list that you never see it. And then there’s the issue of quality. When it comes to consultants and other service providers that appear, what would their clients say about them? There’s a better way to find nonprofit resources and referrals, especially here in Washington State. Read more...
This is a guest post from Matt Fikejs, Information & Referral Program Manager at 501 Commons. Matt writes periodically writes for the NPower Northwest blog to share updates from the Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory.
In the age of Internet search engines, what could be simpler than typing in the services your nonprofit needs and combing the results? The problem is, with traditional search engines, the results can be overwhelming or biased toward those that appear on the first page. Worse, what you’re really looking for may not be there at all or buried so far down the list that you never see it. And then there’s the issue of quality. When it comes to consultants and other service providers that appear, what would their clients say about them?
All due respect to Bing, Google, and others, there’s a better way to find nonprofit resources and referrals, especially here in Washington State. 501 Commons’ Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory takes the hunt for nonprofit help to a whole new level with a nonprofit topic-based search tool and webpages specific to nonprofit issues. We also require that listed providers who offer consulting services or products have at least three years experience serving nonprofits and come recommended by at least three nonprofit clients. And we do reference checks to ensure this standard.
In future posts, I’ll describe the carefully curated resources and original content you can find through the Directory. Today, though, the focus is on the many types of nonprofit specialists who are listed…that is, approved, then listed:
- Consultants and consulting firms, like fundraisers and accountants
- Other providers/companies, such as graphic designers and technology services
- Nonprofit capacity-building organizations (e.g., NPower Northwest)
- Associations, networks, and volunteer centers
- Educational programs and resource centers
So the next time you’re looking for help from experienced, skilled, and recommended service providers – or seeking valuable online resources – start with the Directory. Better yet, bookmark it now and jot down my contact info (firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-682-6704) in case you still have questions.
We all know that time is precious and time is money. Here’s to quick and successful searches!
- Matt Fikejs, Information & Referral Program Manager, 501 Commons
Have a website or create content for the web? Do you want people to discover it, read it, interact with it, and use it? You can improve your chances of discovery through search engine optimization - the process of making your web content discoverable to those searching for it. Here are five quick tips to increase your website’s prominence with search engines.
1. Use a unique, descriptive article title and URL
Avoid something like: www.npowernw.org/node/2842/fa8ccd103ex.htm
And instead provide a more descriptive URL such as: www.npowernw.org/knowledge-center/planning-a-website-project or www.npowernw.org/blog/for-your-next-remote-troubleshooting-session
Descriptive URLs allow potential visitors (and web crawlers) to get rough idea of what lies beyond the hyperlink.
2. Use a hierarchical structure to organize your site
As you can see in the above descriptive URL examples, you can imagine where other articles might fall. For example, helpful resources on topics (such as website project planning) would fall under the /knowledge center/. Time-dependent blog posts or short articles would appear under the /blog/ section. Information about NPower’s staff and board would probably appear after /about-us/.
3. Create and submit an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap is a tool for web crawlers. Similar to a human-readable site map, it actually shows the hierachical structure of your entire website. This is useful if web crawlers are having a hard time discovering parts of your site because it tells them exactly what is where. You can create an XML Sitemap using Google’s free tools and can submit it to search engines to notify them of your content.
4. Avoid large pictures in lieu of actual text and HTML
This is a pretty common mistake. Organizations and companies that don’t have the time or know-how to build a proper site or page with HTML will often just upload a single large image composed of text and smaller images all in one. Other times the article header (with the article’s title and description) is entirely one image. Unfortunately, while humans can read and navigate these images with little trouble, web crawlers are nearly blind to the text on an image. An imperfect solution would be to include the text as the image’s description or alt-text field. However this doesn’t always weigh the components of an article properly (headers and paragraphs should really be placed in their appropriate <h1> and <p> tags) in calculating the web page’s score.
5. Read Google’s SEO Starter Guide and attend one of our brown bag presentations
Most of the tips in this article came from Google’s own SEO Starter Guide (.pdf) which contains detailed instructions and advice to make your website and content more discoverable. Though Google is the number one search engine used to direct visitors to websites, many of the ideas contained in Google’s SEO starter guide are written and helpful even if you are targeting other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo.
If you’d like more information on how to optimize your website, bring your lunch and join us on February 22 for a free brown bag workshop on Search Engine Optimization. The workshop includes time for a presentation and discussion/Q & A. See our training calender to register.
NPower is pleased to welcome the newest member of our staff, Dennis Henderson. Dennis joined our team earlier this week and his work will be focused on providing fast, effective help desk service for our Managed Service clients. Dennis will be with us for six months as part of his work with Year Up, a fabulous technical and professional training program based here in Seattle. He’ll be helping triage support requests as they come in and learning the tech ropes with our consulting team. Welcome, Dennis!
NPower is pleased to welcome the newest member of our staff, Dennis Henderson. Dennis joined our team earlier this week and his work will be focused on providing fast, effective help desk service for our Managed Service clients.
Dennis will be with us for six months as part of his work with Year Up, a fabulous technical and professional training program based here in Seattle. He’ll be helping triage support requests as they come in and learning the tech ropes with our consulting team.
This past Monday, I had the chance to host a Sunday Supper as a part of Points of Light Foundation’s National Day of Service to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As a part of my AmeriCorps VISTA assignment, it is a high priority to identify opportunities to educate myself and others on poverty-alleviation issues. Postponed due to Seattle’s epic snow storm two weeks ago, the evening was a great chance to gather friends together to share a potluck supper, watch a documentary, and discuss the issues facing public education in the US. We selected the film Waiting for Superman to jump-start conversation about the importance of education to help improve lives, end poverty, and restore neighborhoods. Read more...
After watching the documentary together, we discussed many of the difficult issues raised by the film including the challenging balancing act of teacher’s unions, the achievement gap, and the high number of high school drop-outs who end up in prison. It was a good evening and chance to talk and think with friends about ways we can work toward improving public education and making it possible for every and any student to their fullest capacity.
- Abby Nafziger
NPower is excited to announce the arrival of three new staff members. Read on to hear why they came to NPower and get links to their full bios...
NPower is excited to announce the arrival of three new staff members. Read on to hear why they came to NPower and get links to their full bios...
Dave Forrester: "I'm excited to be back at NPower Northwest at this critical point in its growth. I've been involved with just about every aspect of our services in one way or another in my prior work with this great organization: with stints in technology training, technology strategy consulting, and database and website development. I even set up a few peer-to-peer networks for clients back in the day. In my new role, I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues here to leverage our core competencies in technology to build capacity and adaptability in the nonprofit sector."
View Dave's full bio here.
Pallavi Garg: "It is a challenging yet exciting time for nonprofits. Organizations that can rally support, cultivate meaningful relationships, and demonstrate operational excellence have the ability not just to survive, but to thrive. The right technology strategy deployed well, opens up immense possibilities for nonprofits to excel. I feel privileged to join the dedicated and talented team at NPower Northwest that is committed to helping nonprofits in our community achieve scale and capacity expansion, and hope to leverage my past experience in the corporate and non-profit sector to serve diverse organizations."
View Pallavi's full bio here.
Jenna Barrett: "I'm delighted to join the team at NPower Northwest. As a former client and believer in the power of technology to advance communities I’m inspired by NPower's mission. Putting my administrative and nonprofit experience to work for the staff at NPower is a great way to help ensure everyone has the tools they need to do great work. I look forward to helping support a mission-driven and positive office environment for NPower staff, clients and partners."
View Jenna's full bio here.