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Tips & Tricks from the Trenches

Posted by Guest Blogger at Oct 03, 2011 10:30 AM CDT
Categories: Data Integration, Fundraising, NPtech, Productivity, Technology

Based on the Summit session she's leading right now, the following blog post is written by Judi Sohn. Judi is currently Vice President of Operations of Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization she helped start in 2005. She is co-moderator of the popular community-led Nonprofit Salesforce Practitioners listserv and will be joining Convio’s Common Ground team as a full-time employee in January 2012.

Our organization, Fight Colorectal Cancer, started using Salesforce as our primary database in 2006, when we were barely a year old. We adopted Convio Common Ground for better integration with fundraising and email marketing in 2009. While it’s nice if an organization has someone who does nothing but Salesforce tasks all day, many organizations like mine have an administrator juggling other roles. Never fear. If you can move a mouse you can be a very effective Common Ground administrator.

As easy as it is to get around Common Ground, Salesforce can be an extremely complex tool. Even after over 5 years of daily use, I am constantly finding a better way. In my session, “Common Ground Administration Without Tears: Tips & Tricks from the Trenches” I show attendees some of the little things that I wish I knew when I didn’t know I needed to know it. It’s not about features. It’s the easy, small steps any accidental administrator can take that will protect their organization’s data, save time (and when you save time you’re saving precious donor dollars) and make you look like a data rock star to your colleagues.

Here are just two of the many tips I share and demo in this session:

Get comfortable playing in the Sandbox

sandboxDid you know that every Common Ground instance comes with a testing environment? Curious what would happen if you deleted a bunch of fields? Want to try out some fancy code? No sweat.

A sandbox is a free exact duplicate of your Common Ground production organization without any data. Every field, workflow rule, report, tab, etc. is exactly the same as the environment your users are working in. Add a few sample records and then go to town on your customizations. When you’re ready, you can copy your sandbox customizations to the live organization. You can also use your Sandbox to test new versions of Salesforce and Common Ground before they’re released to the general public. If something misbehaves in Sandbox, you can simply request a new clean copy of your live organization and start over again.

Document everything

Screen StepsAs your organization starts to rely on Common Ground for a 360 degree look at your organization’s programs and measurable data it’s almost too easy to add custom fields and objects in Salesforce. As helpful and wonderful as the Common Ground Resource Center is, you’re going to find that there are times where the screen shots in the documentation don’t look like yours anymore. Or maybe you’ve added a whole new section for tracking data specifically related to your organization’s programs.

The best thing you can do for your users is to provide step-by-step instructions that are customized just for your organization. The easiest way I’ve found to provide this documentation is with ScreenSteps. It’s a desktop application for Mac or Windows that makes short work out of writing software documentation, complete with annotated screen shots and explanation text. I don’t know how I created documentation without it.

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Summit Quick Tips

Posted by at Oct 03, 2011 06:30 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Technology

Convio Summit 2011 kicks off today! If you are with us in Baltimore, you can make your Summit experience even better with a little bit of inside scoop.

  • Keynote: Don't miss this year's keynote speaker Chip Bell, best-selling author and entrepreneur, today from 9:30-11 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom.
  • Registration: Have your badge email printed out? Go to the 3rd floor for Express Registration - scan - print - you're done! Didn't bring your printed confirmation page? Need to pay your registration fee? No problem! Go to our regular Registration Desk on the 4th floor and we'll sort it out.
  • Convio Luminate: Have a Convio Luminate question? Look for the Convio Luminate Badges! Convio's personal Geek Squad!
  • Community: Stop by the Convio Booth #13 on the 4th floor to learn about the new Convio Client Community, Monthly Webinars, Service Modules and much more!
  • Exhibitor Booths: Exhibitors aren’t only a wealth of nonprofit know-how, they are a gold mine of giveaways! From LinkedIn recruiting tools to discounted AFP memberships, you can win lots of Summit booty.

And last but certainly not least, I’d like to congratulate this year’s Innovator Award winners.

You can learn more about each of them and their campaigns by joining us tonight at the Innovator Awards Cocktail Party (or if you aren't at Summit, in Connection Cafe posts over the next several weeks).

Congrats to our Innovators and I’ll see all of you today at Summit!


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3 Tips to Tap Into $173 Billion

Posted by Jennifer Atkins at Sep 28, 2011 02:46 PM CDT
Categories: Constituent Empowerment, Fundraising, Technology, Volunteerism

At the risk of preaching to the choir…volunteer programs are a great way for your organization to engage constituents and achieve your mission.

A recent study by The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) states that overall US volunteers served 8.1 billion hours in 2010, valued at an estimated $173 billion, with volunteers providing 52 hours of service per year. With the budget challenges you may face, can you imagine the impact to your organization if you had a volunteer force giving an hour a week of service for a full year! On top of the time dedicated to your organization, volunteers also donate 10 times more money to nonprofits than non-volunteers.

Not that you really needed extra convincing on the value of a volunteer program. What you might need though is tips and best practices for making that volunteer program simply fantastic.

Here’s three quick tips from our recent Volunteer Management Tipsheet

  1. Make it easy - Time is often a person’s most valued commodity. While some volunteer opportunities require screening and training, identify low-barrier opportunities to engage first time volunteers. Consider episodic, micro-engagement and online opportunities to meet this need and whatever the area of interest, respond to an inquiry in a timely manner, within 24 hours if possible. For all volunteer opportunities, offer as much flexibility as possible.

  2. Ask for feedback - Concisely acquire feedback on three areas: the activity, the experience and future interests. Using this information you can not only further develop your overall volunteer program but help individuals find the best next opportunity for them. Bonus tip: track feedback on your volunteer’s constituent record to help shape future engagement.

  3. Say thanks - And then say it again and again. For above and beyond volunteerism, ask a leader in your organization, like a board member, to make a special thank you call. Recognition in the form of annual awards and listings in your annual report also make for a strong show of appreciation.

For more tips and ideas, check out the full tipsheet.

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Which channel is netflix on?

Posted by Amber Wobschall at Sep 21, 2011 04:10 PM CDT
Categories: Data Integration, NPtech, Technology

Netflix has been getting a lot of attention lately for some recent changes they are making.  Just take a look at twitter for a small example of what people are thinking and saying. The nonprofit industry has some lessons to learn from their mistakes, which is why I take a moment to highlight this today.

As a consumer, I was relying on Netflix to fulfill what I saw as their mission - to provide me with programming, regardless of the channel I consumed it on. Sometimes, I wanted a DVD to take on the flight, sometimes I wanted to stream a TV series and sometimes I had to rent by mail because streaming was not an option for the program I wanted.

As a constituent, I rely on the nonprofits I am involved with to work towards fulfilling their mission, which I support. I do this in various channels as well. Sometimes, I will make an online gift, sometimes I will attend an event and sometimes I will volunteer in person.

What I don’t want, from Netflix or from the organizations I support, is for my interactions to be treated so siloed and independently that the left hand doesn’t seem to talk to the right hand. When it works well, it’s just a great experience. (If you’ve ever arrived to volunteer somewhere and been thanked for your recent donation, you know what I mean.) And it keeps me coming back and supporting them for years to come.

So what are some lessons we as the nonprofit community can learn from Netflix’s current challenges?

1. Make it as easy as possible for your organization to understand the full picture of how your constituents are supporting you. This takes a lot of work, but a database where employees can see all different kinds of interactions with your organization is key. Put those pieces of the puzzle together, so you get the full picture of your supporters.

Puzzle Pieces2. Your internal structure (departments, programs, etc.) should not dictate a disparate experience for your supporters. Your donors, activists, etc. see you as one organization, working towards one mission. Help them feel that, even if you are in the midst of a budget battle or some other internal challenges.

3. Allow constituents to opt in or out of certain communication channels. Reach them where they are and how they want to be reached, it will make them happy campers.





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Internet Soup

Posted by Noah Cooper at Sep 19, 2011 10:04 PM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Technology

These are some things from the internet that I think are insightful/interesting/other words that start with "in":

  • Desert Bus for Hope is pretty much my favorite charitable campaign of all time, and it's only 59 days and counting until Desert Bus 5! For the unfamiliar, Desert Bus is a Sega CD game that involves driving a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas, in fantastically exciting real-time. Since 2007, Desert Bus for Hope has raised nearly $500,000 for Child's Play, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in a network of over 60 hospitals worldwide.
  • For those in the fine state of Texas, HTML5.tx is where you need to be on October 8. The conference brings together the best and brightest in the world of web design and development to talk all things HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. And I'm not just saying that because I'm going.
  • This "Compilation of Well Designed Donation Pages" blog post has been making the rounds on my team's distro list. The list, which includes a few familiar faces, highlights visually-compelling donation pages that use layout, creative color palettes, and striking imagery to drive conversion. I'd love to see some comments from other orgs who have tricked out their forms! (Bonus points if you've done some split a/b testing to confirm that your fancy design actually drives increased revenue.)
  • Last but not least, did you know September 30 is Hug a Vegetarian Day? It's true. This holiday, which I sort of invented 5 years ago, is just as simple as its name implies. All you have to do to celebrate is give the vegetable lovers in your life a big ol' hug. If you don't think it's a real holiday, check out the totally legit-looking website holidays.net.

P.S. If you're going to Summit, come say hi in the expert lab! I'll be there pretty much 24/7.

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