Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What can a secure social media platform mean for your nonprofit?

Last week I talked about how social media platforms could help us work together in new ways, but it will also have an impact on how and what we know about each other. Social media provides us a new way to get to know and understand our colleagues, collaborators, clients, and supporters.

It had been widely reported that social network users have surpassed email users. People are using social media to share information about their activities, interests, likes, and dislikes. Is the Social Sector listening? Are we sharing? What can we do with this information? Mark Benioff talked about a social divide beginning between businesses that are social and those that are not. He even predicts that the next Arab Spring will be a “Corporate Spring” where heads of companies will be taken down because they are not listening enough to their employees and their customers.

What should the social sector do differently now that we have a new way to get to know each other, listen, and learn? What does this mean for fundraising? Marketing and communication? Volunteer recruitment and management? Evaluation and data collection?

I don’t think any of us can foresee all of the answers to these questions yet, but I want to urge us to begin to Get Social about how we can move the social sector to the forefront of the social revolution. Where to begin? Start the conversation by adding your comments to this blog about ways you think social media and the cloud can help advance your mission.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What does the social revolution mean for the social sector?

Last week I left readers with a question to ponder: What does the social revolution mean for the Social Sector?

I’m sure as we all pondered this question, immense possibilities emerged. Though much of the Salesforce conference I recently attended was aimed at the 97% of the audience that was from the corporate sector, the theme of the DreamForce 2011 conference, Let’s Get Social, crossed the boundaries of sectors.

Here is one key message I was able to translate.

Social media platforms and the cloud are creating new ways to collaborate and share information. For example, Salesforce’s application Chatter, released in June 2010 combines the best of Facebook and Twitter but is secure for an organization. It allows staff to collaborate/chat about projects, share documents, stream video, and perhaps most intriguing, invite non-Salesforce users into Chatter groups to collaborate while keeping all your organization’s data private. Platforms like this could enable us to easily:

  • Follow the activities that are happening at each organization related to a collaborative group or project we are a part of through real-time news feeds involving only those in our coalition or collaborative group.

  • Get feedback from a group immediately about an idea or course of action.

  • Have one place where collaborative documents, videos, etc. live that can be accessed by anyone in a group.

What could a secure social media platform for your organization mean for grassroots activism? Advocacy? Board governance? Case management and client referrals?

Stay tuned for next week’s posting as I continue to ponder these questions.

Freya Bradford, Consultant, NorthSky Nonprofit Network

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Time for the Social Sector to Get Social

Last week at Dreamforce 2011, Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, welcomed me and the 45,000 other attendees to “The Social Enterprise.” It is a term Salesforce.com has recently trademarked. While it is not the Social Enterprise that we nonprofits think of, it is a change I think we need to pay attention to.

But first, what was a nonprofit consultant from a small town in Michigan doing at the largest technology conference in the world? I have been helping NorthSky adapt the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Nonprofit Edition to manage contact information and project data in one place and digitally streamline workflows and business processes. Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that is 100% open and cloud- based, meaning there is no software/hardware to install or maintain updates on, and it can easily integrate with other products to customize its functionality. The Salesforce.com foundation donates the first 10 user licenses to 501c(3) nonprofits as a part of their commitment to donate 1% of all products, equity and employee time to charity. Nearly 12,000 nonprofits currently use Salesforce including United Way, the Red Cross and Goodwill.

While I learned a lot at Dreamforce about the nuts and bolts of Salesforce, what hasn’t left me since I got back is a tremendous new enthusiasm for the potential of social media platforms, like Salesforce’s new Chatter, to change our work as the social sector.The Social Enterprise that Mark Benioff has started talking about are businesses that are beginning to harness social media to do business in a whole new way, to collaborate more effectively with colleagues and customers. This shift has been enabled by the creation of social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Salesforce’s Chatter, and the move from the “PC Era” to mobile, cloud-based technology.

Why does the social sector need to pay attention to these changes and claim space in this movement? Social media and the cloud are helping us to connect with each other and with information more rapidly than ever before, changing the very way we build, maintain, understand and use relationships. And relationships are the key to our ability to achieve our social missions. Social media will change each and every one of our relationships – our relationships with each other, our supporters, and our clients – we need to get in the game to make this work to our advantage.

The video opening Dreamforce this year clearly set the tone that new social platforms are not just the standard decennial change in technology, but are actually creating a social revolution. Perhaps what made this most clear were the pictures from the Arab Spring of protestors with signs and graffiti that thanked Facebook for their ability to organize and take down regimes.

While the video went on to show how this new social platform could do things for business like push coupons to customers standing right outside a store, I found myself stuck on one question that seemed to have much more weight than good customer service,

What does this social revolution mean for the Social Sector?

Stay tuned to next week’s blog as Freya Bradford, NorthSky Consultant, continues to ponder this big question.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nonprofits Need to Embrace Innovation

Innovation… it’s a word that generally brings to mind a for-profit corporation such as Apple or FaceBook, not so much a nonprofit organization. But innovation is essential to the success of a nonprofit: creative solutions for challenging problems, timely response to new opportunities and changing community need, creative partnerships, and the urgent need to improve business systems and reduce operating costs. Innovation needs the right Petri dish in which to cultivate; in other words, the right culture and leadership. Elements that create the best climate for innovation include:

  • an openness to change by the board of directors and management team and all the messiness that comes with managing change,

  • a diversity of thought and perspectives,

  • a forum that encourages / invites creative ideas from every corner of the nonprofit (including the front line team, clients and volunteers),

  • a willingness to take a calculated risk and fail at times,

  • a comfort with involving all constituents and actively communicating with them about challenges and changes, and

  • a shift from dependence on strategic planning to strategic thinking. What tools can help you?

  • Build a diverse board and continually bring on new board members.

  • Establish a consent agenda and move past agendas that focus on reporting on past performance and focus on the future.

  • Pursue ongoing professional development for the board and leadership team including team building activities.

  • Establish ground rules at planning sessions and new planning approaches that encourage looking at challenges and opportunities in new ways; and encourage breakthrough thinking.

  • Use business plans to evaluate new opportunities and ventures and mitigate the risk.

  • Understand the complexities of managing change and become very proficient at change management (including the engagement of constituents). You’ll find some great articles, tools and templates for business planning, board/leadership development, strategic thinking and consent agendas in the NorthSky Online Resource Center at http://www.northskynonprofitnetwork.org/resource.php

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Navigating a fleet of projects

The bay is starting to look blue (and almost tempting) and I can envision the day (maybe just weeks away) when boats begin to dot the horizon again. As I navigate through my typical work week, it does feel like I have my own private fleet of projects that I'm sailing through an ocean to a final destination. My regatta is made up of various sizes, shapes, and crews but all with one hope: a successful landing with an intact cargo and satisfied passengers.

So is the life of a professional project manager. Constantly planning, launching and bringing in a project. (Hopefully, on budget, on time and meeting the team's expectations.) It's hard to predict the conditions we'll encounter. Sometimes it's smooth sailing the entire way; other projects are not so lucky and are battered by storms and change.

Successful project management is partially a mindset and approach-- knowing how to pull together the specific steps and "to dos" and then walking through a systematic process for each individual step.

It's also an understanding of the tools that are available to help you manage the project. Tools such as flowcharts, worksheets, gantt charts, online meeting scheduling, and document sharing sites. The range of options is impressive and often overwhelming.

The final ingredient is style; understanding the nuances of team facilitation and how to engage, motivate and move a diverse group in a progressive fashion to achieve a shared vision.

Over the next month, we are offering several professional development resources focused on project management. If you missed Robin Grinnell's project management and facilitation sessions on March 17, 2011, you'll find her materials in the NorthSky Resource Center at www.northskynonprofitnetwork.org/resource.php Andy Wolber will be back on April 14 with another technology webinar: Managing Projects with People Beyond Your Walls. Sign up at: www.northskynonprofitnetwork.org.

You'll also find business planning templates in our resource center. Feel free to share any other resources that you've found useful. Happy sailing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ah, the world of databases....

Can't live with them, can't live without them. But we all know that our ability to effectively manage the constellation of constituents: clients, donors, volunteers, and staff that comprise our nonprofit's universe, is at the mercy of the database we've chosen and our skills in using it.

This month we have the opportunity to learn more about selecting databases and one in particular, Salesforce. Technology consultant, Andy Wolber, will be leading two webinars on March 10 as part of the NorthSky Professional Development series: www.northskynonprofitnetwork.org

Salesforce is a database we have experience with at NorthSky, having launched it here last fall. It's growing in popularity with nonprofits throughout the country; it's very robust, handling an array of organizational needs -- from marketing and sales, to project management and evaluation. While we don't engage in fundraising here, its fundraising capabilities also appear strong. We've only begun to dig into all of its capabilities but we are excited about the possibilities of having an integrated technology approach that links our website, email marketing and evaluation system together. We'll be launching our new website this Spring so watch for that.

Join us on March 10 to learn more about databases including Salesforce. Anyone else using Salesforce? Anything to share?

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Always a Good Day When My Technology Works

If I can just successfully log in to my email, catch a cell signal, and launch that web meeting connection, I feel pretty powerful. A true technology master ... and I've barely begun my day.

How did we ever become so dependent on technology? Well, I'm certainly a few steps behind many people, perhaps a little ahead of some. I'm forced through my work at NorthSky to use tools I'd probably never try and to actually lead (good grief) some aspects of our technology development. I've struggled to learn many things that I've felt hopeless to master only to have that energetic rush that occurs from a successful download or set up.

Everyday, I find something new to help me in my work-- some little technology tool or trick. An invaluable resource in my education has been technology expert Andy Wolber who will be launching his 2011 NorthSky technology webinars this month. These are great sessions starting with an "Introduction to Google Aps for Nonprofits" on Feb 10. Check out the schedule at our website: www.northskynonprofitnetwork.org.

Here's hoping you have a good technology day with lightning speed connections and no computer crashes!