Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nonprofit 2.0: Accelerating Your Organization to Success

(Originally published at

One of my core philosophies for organizational success is that nonprofits should focus 100% on their mission and remove all extraneous noise generated from infrastructure processes or systems that are not core to their mission. The theory behind this accelerative philosophy is that attention and time are finite and valuable. Therefore, capital resources and people should not be used to develop solutions or solve problems that others have already solved.

A good litmus test for the need to partner with a company versus tackle a problem yourself is to ask the question: "Is the management of the system part of our mission or is the use of the service it provides part of our mission?" If the answer is "use of the service," then look for ways to partner with best-of-breed companies that provide services that meet your organizational needs.
Example 1

Let's apply this philosophy to traditional internal email service. Is your organization's mission to provide the best email service to your constituents or is it simply to communicate with your constituents? I suspect it is to communicate. So, if your organization's mission does not include providing hosted email services, then move the management of your organization's email server out-of-house to a Web 2.0 provider such as Google Apps. By doing so, you create a situation where extraneous resources are not spent worrying about backups or installing the latest security patches.
Example 2

Now let's apply this philosophy to the slightly more complicated service of constituent management. It might seem like owning your own constituent management system is key to providing your organization's programs or services. I would argue that the use of the service is most important, not the management of the system. Therefore, the management of the physical constituent management system should be moved out-of-house. A primary benefit: You don't have to worry about creating the next version of the system; your time is spent gaining knowledge about your constituents or providing more services.

Sometimes an argument to keep a system in-house is made because of the perceived need for a specific feature or the need for more control over security or databases. I would respond by doing a true root-concern analysis of the feature and then look for different ways to address the concern. One way is to choose a partner, such as Convio® and their Common Ground™ CRM system built upon the Force.com™ platform, that is flexible enough to support almost any feature or security request.

With the dawn of the Web 2.0 space, this philosophy is even more effective and practical due to partners such as Convio, Amazon®, Google®, NING®, Yahoo!® and salesforce.com® — all of which provide best-of-breed services to nonprofits. Below are a few examples of what's available:

* Google, through the Google Grants program, gives an in-kind grant of approximately $100,000 per year in Ad Words spending to every nonprofit that submits an application, and provides Ad Words expertise to help organizations leverage Ad Words more effectively.
* Google provides free private label email and calendaring services to nonprofits via their Google Apps program.
* NING.com provides private label social networking technology for about $30 per month.
* Yahoo! Small Business provides an industry leading ecommerce platform for about $150 per month.
* Convio provides multi-channel constituent relationship management across an integrated platform that reduces costs and removes the IT hassles associated with traditional legacy systems.
* Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) provides online file storage for $0.15 per gigabyte of storage per month.
* salesforce.com provides 10 free user licenses to nonprofits and then provides additional licenses at a substantial discount.

Nonprofit organizations are maturing into Nonprofit 2.0 organizations, and the landscape is ever changing. For your organization to ensure its stake in the Web 2.0 world, it must maximize time and resources by using partners to solve non-mission problems, leaving you to concentrate on what is most important — the successful execution of your mission.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Flare :: data visualization for the web (in flash)

"Flare is an ActionScript library for creating visualizations that run in the Adobe Flash Player. From basic charts and graphs to complex interactive graphics, the toolkit supports data management, visual encoding, animation, and interaction techniques. Flare features a modular design that lets developers create customized visualization techniques without having to reinvent the wheel.

This latest release is a major update with numerous improvements to simplify the process of creating rich, interactive visualizations."

And to top it off, the library is one of the best written (from a pure coding stand point)

Check it out. http://flare.prefuse.org/

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Project Diabetes

Is a project that I have been working on for the past several months. Use the website, widget, voice app, and iPhone version to record your blood glucose, insulin, activity, and carbs for free.

The real interesting piece, is the voice application. Use your cell phone, anywhere, to record your diabetes information.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Convio Aikido Program (aka Convio CRM)

As a member of the Aikido Charter Program, I wanted explore the power/benefits of the Convio CRM (aka Convi Aikido Program) before I discussed it on my blog.

First what is Aikido, one might ask? Well, it is Convio's custom non-profit template built on top of the Force.com (aka Salesforce.com's platform-as-a-service environment). They took the many years of non-profit eCRM knowledge and built a modern, scalable, cost-effective tool for non-profits.

Why is this a good thing? Many reasons: 1) It allows Convio to stay focused on the CRM needs of non-profits and not have to deal with the noise of the large scale infrastructure management (The Force.com platform does that for them.) and it allows the non-profits to stay focused on delivering programmatic value instead of managing a local CRM infrastructure. 2) Because they are not having to deal with the infrastructure management, it allows the smaller non-profits (which are most non-profits) to leverage the full benefit of a CRM without the costs. 3) The force.com platform allows for the rapid (and easy) customization of reports and account settings. 4) The force.com platform has a plethora of 3rd party apps (AppExchange) ranging from marketing (email, offline,events...), Google tools (apps and adwords), eCommerce integration, financial accounting packages, and several non-profit specific tools.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, I suggested a long time ago that Convio partner with Salesforce. Convio's strength is the eCRM front end content management system (CMS) and Force.com's strength is the backend technology. The Aikido CRM program marries the strengths of both Convio and Salesforce.com and creates services that are ideally suited for the non-profit space.

(I wonder if Salesforce should acquire Convio and leverage Convio's CMS across the business world? )

The good news is that there are progressive thinking non-profits out there that understand the power Aikido brings: Susan G. Komen for the Cure is one of them.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mobility Vision Integration Process awarded IDEA Silver and Bronze

Mobility VIP, a project that I worked on with a friend has been recognized with two 2008 IDEA awards:
Silver in the category of Interactive Product Experiences
Bronze in the category of Ecodesign

What is the Mobility Vision Integration Process?
The Mobility Vision Integration Process is a research project being undertaken by Art Center’s Advanced Mobility Research and Graduate Industrial Design Programs. Mobility VIP investigates ways that expert designers can support and accelerate the dialogue about the future of sustainable mobility.
The outcome of mVIP is to enable teams of creative people, charged with designing viable, future mobility solutions to deal with wide-ranging, unpredictable and disparate issues that we usually have no control over and to spot otherwise unforeseen opportunities.

What are Mobility VIP cards?
The mobility VIP cards are an experimental tool piloted in 2007 and now in public beta. The cards support rapid future scenario development on the topic of sustainable mobility so that groups and individuals can quickly enter a dialog and brainstorm about possible outcomes, solutions and strategies.

The mVIP cards are an actual deck of cards to be used in workshop settings. The deck contains 109 cards in 11 categories. The deck is also available for review on this site as a Flash application.

Want to learn more...

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0 == expensive brick (update)

After many hours without a phone, I finely got past the iTunes Authentication point (I guess patience does payoff) and my phone is now recognized as something other than a brick. This was very annoying. For anyone out there with this type of problem, I would recommend trying every 10 to 15 minutes.

I really like apple's products and services but they should planned for this. I wonder which part of the system broke down today: iPhone -> iTunes (local) -> iTunes validation (Apple server) -> AT&T service configuration?

On a side note: Does anyone know if the new me.com supports IMAP? Right now, I don't think they do. I am hoping that Google will figure out a way to push my emails/contacts/calendar to my iPhone very quickly.

iPhone 2.0 == expensive brick

I woke up this morning all excited to play with the new iPhone 2.0 firmware. But after downloading itunes, downloading the 200ish meg firmware upgrade...upgrade (or better a firmware 2.0 restore) seemed to go through as planned. Nothing happened that caused me to think otherwise.

Now upon reset of the iphone, I get an error -9838, unable to connect to itunes store. So far, not a good experience.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

creating postive energy

I have been doing a lot of thinking about stress/stress-response as they relate to positive and negative energy systems - physical, mental and spiritual. I thought this white paper is a good way to start learning about self-discovery about one's energy systems.

What motivates you to create reinforcing positive energy within your life. Innovation, exercise, learning, exploration? Let me know in the comments? For me, exploration that leads to innovation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Once Upon a School :: Challenge yourself to participate in the lives of public school students.

Once Upon a School is challenging adults to support their local public schools. Our goal is to collect 1,000 stories told by those who participate.


"When we think about kids and education, we have to get back to the basic undeniable that kids are individuals, they learn in a thousand ways, and there are undeniable steps to greater education for all: better salaries for teachers, smaller class sizes, and more one-on-one attention."

     - Dave Eggers, Author, philanthropist and literary entrepreneur

Friday, May 9, 2008

Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Johnny Lee: Creating marvels from the Wii Remote

How have I missed this before? In Tom Peter's words: WOW!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Austin rush concert

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Trapped somewhere in New Mexico.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One of the best flash sites I have ever seen!


MoMA :: Design and the elastic mind visualization. It is a little overwhelming at first but just play around with it. You will see what I mean.

To quote Tom Peters, WOW. No, I really WWOW!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google Launches Non-Profit Portal


Google recently created landing page of Google services for non-profits. Be sure to subscribe to the non-profit Google group.

The services include:
Gmail (apps)
Google Grants
Google groups

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Health 2.0 Conference

Writing from the Health 2.0 Conference in San Diego.

It is interesting to hear about the "experts" talk about health 2.0 when they are really talking about the healthcare 2.0 system. Is it health 2.0 or healthcare 2.0? This is a very important distinction. One is industry centric (healthcare) and one is consumer centric (health 2.0).

Lot's of products/sites talked demo'ed here. My favorites (from the Health 2.0 perspective:)

(A little product aside, this is the biggest difference between Google Health and Microsoft HealtVault. Google is a product for consumers and Microsoft is a platform for industry. I will let you figure out which one will win.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

google sites :: next killer app for business

So, today The Google announced a new feature called Google Sites for their google apps platform. At first glance, it seemed like just another cool google tool. But after playing with it for a few hours, I think it will be as powerful as blogger/blogs. So, within that hour, I setup an intranet and client facing extranet with file management tools, and collaboration tools.

Just think, your company can create an area for you users, customers, constituents to interact in a Wiki manner (and for free). Here are just a few ideas: Share new product ideas, product reviews, help guides, or document support services (for those non-profits out there).

So how did Google do this? Well in 2006 it acquired the wiki company Jotspot and then integrated it into the Google apps suite of services. In the short time Jotspot was Jotspot, it had hosted more than 450,000 wikis. (no wonder Google purchased them...)

To enable site, the Google app administrators need to enable it explicitly and need to enable the Next Generation interface

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Recently, I ran into PlanetCancer.org's (myplanet.planetcancer.org) cool niche social network. Perfect example of a community helping each other deal with the horrible and life long stresses of cancer. If you (or family member,loved one) are a "young adult" with cancer, please join and support them! Here is a snip of info about them:

Planet Cancer is a community of young adults with cancer. (You know, that age between "pediatric" and "geriatric," where no one knows whether to give you a lollipop or have a serious talk about your fiber intake.) It's a place to share insights, explore our fears, laugh, or even give the finger to cancer with others who just plain get it. We don't deny the dark side of illness and death here. But we also firmly believe that laughter and light can turn up in the strangest places.

Check out www.planetcancer.org for more info.

To top it off, they are great people as well.

Here is a link to join: http://myplanet.planetcancer.org/?xgi=7UtJAfQ

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Web 2.5 :: The Year of the widget (Part I)

“My prediction would be that Web 3.0 will ultimately be seen as applications which are pieced together. There are anumber of characteristics: the applications are relatively small, the data is in the cloud, the applications can run onany device, PC or mobile phone, the applications are very fast and they're very customizable. Futhermore, theapplications are distributed virally: literally by social networks, by email. ”
            Eric Schmidt, CEO Google (see below for his video)

Part I, what does this mean of consumers?

For consumers, interconnected and interoperable widgets or gadgets allows for users to completely customize their online/offline/mobile experience. Let's use Flickr as an example of interconnected/interoperable widgets. I may load my flickr photos into my facebook environment, I may load my flickr photos into a niche social network (my family social network), and embed a flickr slideshow in this blog. All from one flickr environment. The interesting part of this is that these environments don't need to synchronize because the apps are views into the flickr stream. I change/update my photos in flickr, they get changed/updated everywhere. Think of these widgets/gadgets as an IMAP implementation for email.

Another simple example, is the remember the milk plug-in for my google app's gmail interface. I can now view, create, edit my tasks right from my email interface. Again, just a modify/add/delete (MAD) view into the tasks. Remember the milk provides the basic platform and allows for different widgets or views into the information.

Now if flip this around to content digestion, one example is NetVibes (http://www.netvibes.com/) provides an environment for me to embed my remember the milk tasks, facebook inbox, gmail, google reader aggregated feeds, free/busy calendars, RSS feeds from my favorite authors, and monitor my ebay auctions. I can access all my information from a browser, iphone, blackberry what ever the consumer chooses.

The consumer also can disseminate large quantities of information to their friends, co-workers, family very easily. In a nut shell, enabling a customized and personally relevant digital ecosystem.

While I think this is a huge step forward for the WWW, I think that a lot of the widgets that are being produced are horrible from a usability and design perspective. Because users now have a choice for almost everything, usability, interaction design, experience design become the differentiator. Take for example, which is easier to use Yahoo Maps or MapQuest? Just because it is a mini-application/widget/gadget, does not mean that it needs mini usability or mini design.

For part II, I will discuss the business value of delivering widgets/gadgets (ROI, marketing, customer insight)
For part III, I will discuss how to leverage existing tools and platforms to deliver widgets/gadgets. (NING, salesforce)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Follow up to my jott.com post

As a follow up to my Jott.com post last year, I wanted to discuss a few of the examples of the uses from a few friends:

1) A heart surgeon, uses it to record practice notes and help with reminders for operational follow ups.
2) An ecommerce warehouse manager, used it to document business process issues in the middle the holiday season craziness.
3) A CEO of a small start up, uses it to send emails while driving home in his hour long commute home.
4) A sales guy, uses it to send tasks and meeting follow ups to his remember the milk account (He uses the RTM email to task feature.)

Pretty amazing for a free service: business process documentation, project management, office management. I personally am really interested in exploring the business process documentation and optimization side of using Jott.com