This started out as a NetSquared Case Study - but I wrote too darn much and decided to blog it instead! Thanks for bearing with me-- I've also posted this same item on my own blog.
In all the talk about emerging technologies I rarely hear discussed solutions for the problems faced by organizations with more than one location. But for many of the not-for-profits I work with, building and maintaining an IT infrastructure across numerous locations raises issues every day.
One technology we've seen quite a few organizations use effectively in this situation is thin-client computing, where applications are hosted on a central application server, and published - either privately or over the public internet - to user's workstations. Since all that is being sent to the desktops are keystrokes and screen images - not data or applications - bandwidth requirements between locations are kept to a minimum and speed and performance maximized. As we will see, there are some other compelling advatages as well. The two most common thin-client solutions in the Windows world are Microsoft Terminal Server, and Citrix Metaframe.
Today I was asked by the Committee to Protect Bloggers (where I'm a technical adviser) if I knew anyone who was a good source of fundraising support. The Committee raises awareness and support for people around the world facing government repression because of the contents of their blogs. (See their profile in the case studies section.) The group just secured its 501c3 status and currently has an operating budget close to zero. That makes it hard to sustain the kind of support work that the bloggers in danger world wide deserve.
I'm in the process of digesting some survey results from a group of users who just went through an online course and once again I am being made aware of the fact that folks who use technology may not understand nearly as much about what they are doing as we assume when we set things up for them. (Kind of a run-on sentence there, sorry...)
Technology is not intutive for most people. I think those of us who work with computers, the web, etc... forget that often. (And, as another aside, I realize this is hardly the first time these things have been said....) And if we step back and really objectively look at what we assume our users can do, we assume way too much.
A fundraising effort by Chez Pim for UNICEF is zooming around the blogosphere this week. Led by Chez Pim, food bloggers have donated a delicious array of raffle prizes for the second annual Menu for Hope.
Here's how it works. Each $5 donation that a reader makes qualifies them for one virtual raffle ticket to win a prize of their own choosing from the prize list. The more $5 donations they make, the more chances they have to win. In the last six days, they have raised $6,473 for the survivors of the of the earthquake in Northern India and Pakistan.
The project is run through Firstgiving which allows individuals to create personal fundraising pages for any registered non-profit organization. Nonprofits can set up pages too.
What a great alternative to the annual holiday appeal letter and an awesome way for nonprofits to empower their supporters. What if instead of sending out annual appeals, nonprofits encouraged their supporters to set up Firstgiving pages instead?
For example, I used to work for an arts education nonprofit called Streetside Stories, that uses oral, written and digital storyteling to inspire young people in the San Francisco public middle schools to write and share autobiographical stories. I could imagine them asking their supporters to set up pages to support one class of students.
Obviously though, part of the success of Menu for Hope is that it is being put on by a blogger with donations by bloggers, so the word moves quickly through all of the different blogs' readerships. So, for a nonprofit like Streetside Stories to have the same rapid success, they would need their supporters to be bloggers . . .hmmm.
Any thoughts on how to replicate this model for other nonprofits?
O'Reilly has a terrific series of books that might be of interest to nonprofits trying to leverage new web technologies. I thought I'd list some of them here (you can collect the whole set on the O'Reilly site). This list demonstrates two additional things. The first is easy: if you're not acquainted with Google Books, this'll get you there fast -- just click on some of the titles below.
The second is not quite as simple, but it's a hack worth knowing about. To generate the following list, I first searched Google Books for "inpublisher:O'Reilly hacks" -- you can try it right here. Then, I highlighted a bunch of the results. You need to use FireFox for this, because the next step is to "View Selection Source" from the context menu. Then you just Control-C to copy the HTML, paste it into a web page template or blog posting window, edit the living crap out of it, and you get something like this...
Not sure as I write this if it will be the 50th post here on this article, but chancing it. PNN Online had a nice piece yesterday on the new site...
TechSoup NetSquared, the project to increase nonprofit effectiveness through Web-based social tools, has added a case study section to its website. "Net2 in Action" highlights more than 30 real-life examples of nonprofits using this new breed of Web-based technologies to tackle issues such as reaching and mobilizing constituencies.
Similar to their corporate counterparts, nonprofits are discovering that they can increase their effectiveness while maintaining lower operating costs by utilizing Web-based and open source tools. These innovative tools are meeting the fundraising, grassroots mobilization, volunteer engagement, and issue awareness needs of many organizations.