This week marks the end of Convio as a distinct company. This is a week of lasts. The last exec staff meeting on Monday, the last Donut/Bagel Tuesday, my last managers meeting on Wednesday, my last 1:1’s on Thursday, culminated with a Convio Closing Ceremonies party on Friday. It feels like graduation week did in high school, except nobody is signing my yearbook and there’s no cap and gown.
When I arrived here almost four years ago (time flies when you are in the best job you’ve ever had) Convio was a gawky teenager—through the start up angst, but not quite ready to be a grown up either. So I did what I do best from a professional standpoint, I helped it mature. The marketing team had a lot of talent already when I got here, but was a little short on process. It was particularly short on processes that could SCALE. And when you’re trying to grow, and grow fast, you have to get really good at lather, rinse, repeat. Enter me. I’m proud of our results, and I’m proud of my team.
The executive team at Convio is really something special. I’m sure everybody thinks that about the people they work with, but in 25 years of doing this I have to say this is the best TEAM I’ve ever worked with. Gene Austin did that, and for that I will be forever grateful. He hired good people, but he didn’t hire superstar ball hogs. He hired the best TEAM. And then he made them better, both as individuals and as team players. Kind of like the 1980 US Hockey team, but without the throwing up at practice. My peers have made this job extraordinary and I thank each and every one of them, particularly those who will leave us: Dave Hart, Jim Offerdahl and Vinay Bhagat. I will miss them and I will miss this team. I’m glad that most of my pals will be part of Blackbaud, although we won’t be sitting around the table together as much as we used to.
Monday marks the first day of a new era, and like a high school senior, I’m anxious, excited, and worried about all the stuff I don’t know. Which, when I think about it is pretty much like every job I’ve ever taken. And if history serves, the jobs I took where I was the most anxious, and feeling the most over my head have always turned out to be the best jobs. So I’m sure this will be no exception. I’m looking forward to all the great things we can do together with all of this combined talent. While competing with Blackbaud has at times been fun, I’m actually looking forward to putting all that competitive energy into something else.
This week is for saying goodbye and preparing to move on. Commencement, we called it in 12th grade. I always thought that was a funny word for the end. But now I realize it really is just the beginning.
Soon Convio will be acquired by Blackbaud and as a result the last few weeks have been filled with reflection. I realized that I have been working for almost three decades in the tech sector, and during that journey I have met many people who have influenced and shaped me as a leader. There was Nancy Anderson and Glenn Osaka at HP, who first gave me insights into the core strengths of being a leader. Nancy told me to keep HR and Finance close by because the lack of good people programs or missing the “numbers” are the fastest way to trouble. Glenn gave me a great lesson in creating win-win situations with teams and people. Then at Dell, Mike Lambert and Joe Marengi schooled me in running giant organizations in a fast growing company. At CareerBuilder, Rob McGovern taught me how to instill confidence and vision in a small team of people trying to make giant changes in the way employers and job seekers engaged.
And now I need to add Vinay Bhagat to my list. With the completion of our sale to Blackbaud Vinay will depart Convio. After 12+ years, not only does he leave an indelible mark on the Convio business, he has truly helped shape the nonprofit tech sector in a manner few others can match. Frankly, many of the practices and strategies being deployed today by leading nonprofits in our sector were first conceptualized by Vinay several years back. He is a true visionary.
In 2003 he had brought Convio to $5M and 50 people in less than an ideal economic environment. At the time, the Convio Board decided to go outside for a CEO and I entered into the interview process. Vinay and I met at least a half dozen times including the time when I begged him to cut the phone interview short so I could go watch my son pitch in a baseball game. For those of you that have not been “interviewed” by Vinay it is quite an experience. I was sitting in my car, trying to figure out how my son was faring by the changes in crowd noise while Vinay was “drilling me” about my skills, leadership background and my decision making abilities.
When I joined Convio, our investors insisted that there was an 80 percent chance he wouldn’t be around in a year. “Founders just can’t step aside and let someone else take over” they told me. We both take a lot of pride that the oddsmakers were wrong and we were able to combine our strengths for our company and our customers. The real winner in Vinay’s years with Convio is the sector because never have I seen an individual that is as passionate about something as Vinay is about helping nonprofits.
We worked because he was a nonstop provider of new ideas and innovation. We also worked because I taught him that execution was as important as strategy, and never lose sight of how important people are to sound execution. He would overwhelm me with what he thought Convio should do next, and I couldn’t stop listening. Our company has evolved our strategy in many ways: a dramatic expansion of our services, entering the CRM space, and acquiring businesses that provided scale and strategic compliments. While each new strategy required my entire team to pull off, Vinay was in the middle of each (although he didn’t agree with me on selecting Salesforce).
Lastly, we all got to watch Vinay and Deepa start a family over the last few years and yes he is a passionate father. No one loves their children more than he and Deepa, and while his hours may have dropped off a little, I love that he is such a devoted father. I used to get emails from him well after midnight in the early years about all kinds of topics, and thanks to Kishan and Yazzy, bedtime for Vinay appears to be before midnight.
Vinay – congratulations on the success of your baby, and thank you for giving us all the opportunity to be part of it. Convio has changed so many lives and careers, including mine, and it all began with you. As you move on to your next gig (which is not associated with the nonprofit sector), I know I speak for everyone in saying we can’t wait to see what is next.
We often use history to predict the future. I checked wunderground.com's history of temperature averages before selecting my summer vacation destination. Predictive analytics has become a hot-button term over the past two years as business intelligence vendors have begun to incorporate simulation and forecasting into their offers. In order to predict with greater confidence, here are three terms you must know.
It is easy enough for the human eye to observe, "It looks like the test significantly outperformed the control." But statistical measures are necessary to interpret the repeatability of the observed result. Statistically significant findings should be reported with a confidence level. Think of a 95% confidence interval as an indication that if you were to take 100 different samples from the same population, the test would "outperform" the control in about 95 of the samples.
Did you note above that "significance" requires your sample observations to be representative of the greater population? For example, Congressional representatives are supposed to be a sample of the population within their districts. Ironically, Congress is seldom a good example of a truly representative sample. Scrutinize the universe under observation. Very likely you are making observations today that will influence your strategy implementation tomorrow. You cannot control for environmental changes over time, but as much as possible you should manage your test sample to represent the population in your future. Read more about Tests, Controls and Results.
Be on the watch for confounding. Hidden variables that are correlated with both your dependent variable and your independent variable(s) are called confounding variables. The classic example is ice cream sales as a predictor of drowning deaths. There is correlation, but the underlying influencer of both is temperature and season encouraging both ice cream consumption and water sports. Avoid this oversight by brainstorming potential hidden variables with your colleagues.
Keep these three concepts in mind when you are creating your own predictive analytics hypothesis or reviewing analytics provided by others. When you know your level of significance, know that your sample is representative, and have accounted for hidden variables you will be able to support strategic decisions with confidence.
Rebecca Sundquist is a lead analyst in Convio’s strategy practice group, her goal is to lend confidence to strategic decisions. She investigates constituent data to uncover trends and confirm or deny hypotheses. Rebecca practices the art of info viz (information visualization) with a commitment to simplicity. She wants to help clients see clearly where they have been and how to reach their goals.
Since 2004, Rebecca has worked with nonprofit data, implementing and monitoring acquisition, renewal and reactivation practices. She also has experience with donor upgrade strategies, activity cross over and sustainer programs.
Let's start off this blog post with a confession: I was supposed to post this yesterday. But I was traveling and just couldn't finish up before I had to board my plane. So rather than subject you all to substandard drivel for the sake of making a deadline, I asked for permission to post today instead and boarded the flight with a clear conscience.
As the plane was taxiing for takeoff, the flight attendant said "Wifi is available in-flight for a small fee." I said "Ooh! Maybe I can finish my blog post after all!" To which my seat-mate replied "Yes, after three 12-hour days of work meetings, you should definitely log onto the internet and blog during this flight instead of talking to the people sitting next to you, with whom you are friends." Since I had been reading an article entitled "Is Facebook making us lonely?" during takeoff, the irony was not lost on me.
Several of the points in the article are pretty depressing, with a discussion of the unhealthy side effects of loneliness and how Facebook can contribute to feelings of isolation and narcissistic personality disorder. While the article is talking about person-to-person relationships, it got me thinking about how one of the constant drumbeats lately in the nonprofit space is about using social media to connect more closely with your constituents. Is it even possible to build a real relationship using technology?
Well, I think that technology can help. If the staff members who are behind the curtain Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, pinning, LinkingIn, and writing the emails are speaking with an authentic voice, then it certainly can contribute to a feeling of connectedness. But it's not the end-all-be-all. What also helps a bundle is to welcome volunteers in real life at a real-life event, face-to-face, where they can contribute something. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a well-run, productive volunteer program is worth a thousand "Likes."
The most recent time I volunteered was at the National Arboretum helping to ready the grounds for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The opportunity was organized by some co-workers on the Convio Volunteer Committee. I had a great time hacking up tree roots, shoveling dirt, and tearing down ivy from cherry trees, all the while talking to colleagues in a different setting. The National Arboretum staff provided a great training, appropriate tools and enough real, hard work to do that at the end of the day, we really felt like we had accomplished something (and had a few blisters). I left feeling more bonded to the Arboretum and with a commitment to return.
Here are a couple of questions:
PS - are you wondering about the title of this post? Here's the backstory: my two-year-old daughter likes to sing the chorus of "All By Myself" by Eric Carmen, which has guaranteed that it's running on a nonstop loop in my head at all times. Pondering social media loneliness and volunteerism as an antidote has finally given me a semi-legitimate outlet to share this with the world beyond my Facebook friends. You're welcome.
I know, I know. You’re not sure what to put in that big open space at the top of the new Facebook layout.
Well, I’ve come to the rescue. I’ve pulled together three ideas from Convio clients who are rocking and rolling with the new format.
Before I jump in, here’s a quick overview of what the story is with the new format if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Facebook Fan Pages (the format used for non-profit organizations) feature a fancy timeline feature and a wide open space at the top for an image… or a call to action… or a screen shot… or something else! The format became mandatory for all fan pages on March 31. Beth Kanter provided some great information about the change on her blog.
So, this new format presents you with a great opportunity to make your organization’s Facebook page more engaging and visually appealing. Here is what other folks are doing… get inspired!
Oxfam America is using an image from a video they just released as the banner on their Facebook page. How much do you love these animals dining on a fancy dinner? You’re prompted to scroll to their wall to learn more about the video as soon as you see the banner image!
I love the way the image that the San Diego Zoo is using on their banner is seamlessly blended with their profile icon image. Cute, right?
Is it me, or are infographics more hip than significant glasses or unnecessary scarves? The National Partnership for Women and Families has created this handy infographic to kick off their festivities for Equal Pay Day.
Bonus fourth item…
The Sierra Club is using their banner graphic to provide a menu of engagement opportunities atop their Facebook page. Don’t you just want to sign up and have as much fun as that girl with the hard hat? Me too.
Subscribe to receive posts via email:
Get answers to product questions, join "Birds of a Feather" discussions and more. Join the Online Community
Alltop - Nonprofit
A Small Change
Bob Ottenhoff's Blog
Donor Power Blog
Future Leaders in Philanthropy
Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog
Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog
Nonprofit Law Prof
Pamela’s Grant Blog
Sea Change Strategies
Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology