Tag Archives: Tool

Beautiful Graphics

Does well-done graphic design make your heart all a-flutter?

It does mine. And fitting with my too-long absence from this page, I return in the year of ‘architecture & design’ as my personal theme with a lovely site and tool.

I am enamored of Nicholas Feltron’s ingenious conversion of the annual holiday letter into a personal annual report. I’m a data geek, I must admit, but the wonderfully simple graphics just make me salivate to think of the possible applications.

But wait–there’s more: DAYTUM. Feltron’s free graphic generator for your data. How clear are these messages?!

So, what will you track? Share your Daytum pages here so I can get inspired, too–where to start?!


Leave a comment

Filed under Tool

Tips for Today

There are so many great sources of info out there—I have my RSS feed pulled into my iGoogle page, and it’s great for procrastination.

It’s also pretty great for getting snippets of info. Here are just a few from today:

  • 50 Social Media Tips for NPOs from Chad Norman’s ‘Webby Things’
  • Connection Cafe’s notes about non-traditional & year-end giving (including Oxfam’s campaign) this season
  • Current favorite food blogger David Leibovitz has something to say about local foods in France. No one said I was limited to just nonprofit interests!
  • I’ve got some other ‘learning locations’ linked over to the right. How about you? Where do you get your best ‘nonprofits on the web’ (or other!) info–blogs or otherwise?

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Links, Tool

    Leaf Peeping

    The Internet allows us a glimpse at an ever-expanding world, and as Michael Pollan precociously noted in his 2002 Botany of Desire, might actually be a viable industry some day :-). Its pervasiveness into our everyday lives makes a good ol’ fashioned glimpse out the window seem like a whole new revelation.

    In my case, that glimpse recently took the form of a mother-daughter trip to Maine–not just the coast and the spectrum of fall leaves, but some of the urban areas worn down by the passing of the mills (both lumber and woolen) and the North Woods of Thoreau and hardiness.


    The Internet now affords us the chance to collaborate, to collectively plan by sharing documents via software, email, and ‘track changes’ features. I recently installed Microsoft’s Office Live and will be giving that a go as an alternative to file sharing sites. Turning to spreadsheets as a way to create and share a schedule is recognizing their ability categorize data–and a step gingerly taken by those who now have the familiarity of word processing fully integrated to their work at the computer.

    To plan a weeklong trip, my mom and I first shared just such a spreadsheet–with dates, times, reservations, weblinks and ideas–trading latest updates via email. In our Web 2.5 world, of course, there’s always a clever tool lurking around the corner. Wanting to update the proposed schedule at odd hours and not knowing if there were any updates from my travel buddy, select activities from a list of choices, and see how far we could journey each day–not to mention the growing file of car, hotel and plane reservations–created a need for something more current than a document emailed back and forth. Information overload began to take hold, just s it does for any business trip or conference. Enter:

    A site I’d used before, TripIt, proved immensely valuable in collaborative travel planning. By using TripIt’s online, interactive itenerary planning, the current version was always in play. With both my mom and I signed up as travelers, each could edit the itenerary with suggested activities, weather reports, travel directions, key phone numbers, and our reservations–including links to interactive maps, attractions’ websites and online check-in.

    And, in a miracle of modern technology, once you’ve booked reservations, you simply email them to your TripIt account whwere they are posted to your trip’s website; a long list of compatible reservations systems include airlines, Evite, StubHub, HI Hostels, hotels, Expedia, OpenTable, Amtrak, car rentals, SuperShuttle, and AAA as well as specific travel agency and online booking sites. I found it useful to block out driving times, hold hotel reservations and directions, and insert notes about activities such as the days and hours of museums, as well as links to restaurants for later booking dinner reservations. As the trip approached, I was able to all at once print out the maps and directions I’d previously stored online, as well as a copy of the final itenerary.

    Using TripIt proved to be a paperless way to manage the number of reservations involved in long-distance travel and to share the details of my travel with others. A friend who travels frequently for work uses TripIt to share her exact flight plans with her spouse. An office where one person makes travel arrangements for others could make clever use of TripIt for holding reservations, receipts, and iteneraries. I can see its usefulness for non-profit travel to meetings and conferences–anyone using this in a business situation who can comment to its effectiveness?

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Tool

    LRN about TXT

    Interested in learning about texting?

    So much to learn! Whew–I just learned a lot, and I’m not sure I can explain very well, but thanks to TechSoup and ReadyTalk’s awesome FREE webinars , I know more and you can, too!

    July 16, 2009 TechSoup ReadyTalk Webinar: Using Mobile for Outreach and Education

    And guess what?! This webinar was pulled together by a VOLUNTEER at TechSoup–hmmm….what else could be done by harnessing the power of a knowledgeable volunteer?!

    Mobile Commons and Boston After School & Beyond presented about text campaigns, background on texting and some tools to consider.

    58% of all Americans have sent or received a text message, and 80% of high-school age students have cell phones. (See more in the following post.) Mobile is an instant and immediate method of communication that captures people’s attention, and it spans income levels more so than online communications.

    Mobile campaigns typically use ‘short codes’ or thosee 4-6-digit phone numbers that have started appearing in ads. A short code is like a phone number for an organization’s text campaign. Short codes direct users text messages to you. Of course, you can use the ‘old-fashioned’ cell phone number to send and receive texts, too. Here are some ways you can use texting:

    Text Alerts: Sends out reminders to your ‘subscribers’
    Text to Data: Your basic informational text message, where your message is sent to cell phone numbers.
    Text to Voice: This sends action messages to phones, asking people to call electeds. By replying to the text, the caller can hear a recorded message with key points prior to being automatically connected
    Text to Screen: Great for live events, for example, a giant screen with the call to action (also posted online) asking respondents to offer their opinions was placed outside the California legislature, where a text ‘conversation’ is displayed on screen.
    Also, MMS and Video and Smartphone Applications are expensive, advanced techniques.

    Text message recipients can request or send information. This is known as ‘push’ or ‘pull’. For example, in a pull technology example, users can request info by texting a keyword to a specific shortcode. For example, Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone ‘safe’ eating campaign:
    To find out about your seafood choice, text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question. We’ll text you back with our assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns.

    Boston Navigator uses a text service so that Boston-area youth can request out-of-school program info by subject area and zip code using their mobile phones. Other cool text project ideas include SMS Poetry Contest and SMS 160-character (or 140 in Twitter) storytelling. When pondering a text campaign, the goal is to build your list–not only of cell phonee numbers, but also emails and users, and to ask for people to opt-in to your messages versus opting-out, as many users and senders can pay up to $0.20 per text message.

    Full-on text programs cost $17-20,000 annually!
    This does not include marketing of the text campaign (without which shortcodes and messages will be unknown!) Lower-cost services can charge $1700+ for setup with $250+ monthly fees in addition to $0.05 each for in/outbound messages.

    One place that campaigns usually start is with leasing a shortcode, which costs $500+ per month. These short codes are typically directed through an aggregator who channels messages. (My glance at an explanation of SMS routing and the accompanying diagrams confirmed that I need to keep reading to have any inkling of what that might mean!) Another option is a management service like Mobile Commons who owns shortcodes and manages the data of subscriptions, sending, collecting emails etc., for you; organizations interface with Mobile Commons rather than directly with the shortcode operator or an aggregator. A lower fee (but higher in-house management required) level is a messaging service, allowing texts to be sent and also managing subscriptions, incoming text, data gathering, etc.

    One very low-cost solution: The NYTimes covered the Birds and Bees Hotline text messaging program. Run by a North Carolina non-profit reaching teens with sex education info, they used a single cell phone with unlimited texting capabilities, and staff take turns answering text messages that come in as a result of their marketing campaign.

    Another low-cost, or even free, option is to use a marketing service that sends texts for no cost, but attachs an ad. For example,
    4Info.com was referenced as a sending out bulk messages for free, but their site refers to publishers and advertisers contacting them for a sales call. This is one I’ll pass on until further demand warrants research. Tatango is another text marketing service that seems more transparent and also has some features for the individual user. FrontlineSMS is an example of free software which will still require leasing a shortcode and evidently quite a bit of technical interface assistance.

    MobileActive is the expert in the non-profit mobile campaign arena, so check them out for lots of good info!

    1 Comment

    Filed under Tool

    Facebook Ads for Fun (not Profit)

    A month or so ago, a volunteer Facebook Page admin & I decided to play around with some Facebook ads for our Page. He had done the research on the ins-and-outs of successful ads, and since the cost was mere change, we decided to spend $25 in the name of experimentation.

    We used GoogleDocs to collaborate to draft up some ads, pick target audiences, determine run times, and choose our daily and overall ad spending caps. Ads can be targeted by age, location (even city), education, interests, etc. For example, Facebook could tell us that in our targeted area, there were 81,000+ users who listed some variation of hostel or travel in their interests, so we knew that to be our potential market going in.

    Facebook Ad Test
    62 viewers went to the trouble of clicking on our 2 ads. Facebook reports a huge number of ‘impressions’ or times the ad appeared on pages–like 172,000 for our two ads, targeted to ‘travelers’ over 5 days.

    But do you ever even look at the ads?? I mentally block them out. And I assume you do, too, which is why purchasing Facebook ads is a questionable tactic. Only .03% of our impressions were ever clicked.

    Perhaps that was because we way under-bid the suggested ‘price per click’–we picked $0.43. Currently going at $0.70-0.90, our averages turned out to be $0.35-0.41 cents per click. But hey, this was an experiment, right?!

    Our ad readers had listed their interests as: traveling (18 clickers), reading, (17), music (14; hmmm…this one is interesting), travel (11) and photography (10). 50% of viewers were women…60% of viewers were women under age 44. As targeted, most viewers were from Colorado, Nebraska & Utah.

    Oh, yeah, I also spent a crazy amount of time tracking down coupon codes for free ads, searching for ‘free facebook ads’, none of which ever worked, but by the time I got to the ad set-up stage to try out the codes, I was already time-invested and committed to clicking a few more buttons to start the ads.

    I’ll admit, I’m often wow-ed by numbers, though, that I later can’t explain or make sense of.

    What I do know is that I spent a grand total of $24.89. We had better success with a slightly higher rate per click, and on the ad that ran over the weekend.

    From “Pimp my Nonprofit….”, “Facebook knows an extraordinary amount about its users and can provide very targeted ads, which is pretty frightening” (agreed!), but could be effective for the right market, say–reaching students interested in internships. The time in analyzing such ads is similar to analyzing a GoogleAdWords campaign–without knowing much about these, either analysis seems like another great internship opportunity, to me.

    Facebook ads for fun…. And measuring sector interest. And adding a few (but not your most loyal, perhaps) fans–like direct mail solicitation for Facebook. And to understand the strategy behind the machine.

    Some others’ notes on the subject:
    • General business strategy thoughts from Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang
    • Kivi Leroux Miller’s EcoScribe Communications Online Marketing for Nonprofits


    Filed under Tool

    A new verb: Wolfram (or Alpha?)

    This is a little outside of my usual ‘Web 2.0 for non-profits’ post, but as alerted this morning by the Fischbowl–and I love that a high school teacher is not only on the cutting edge for his students, but also keeps me posted!!,


    Wolfram Alpha
    Watch this. If you like data, or new innovations, you’ll be amazed.

    But it’s not your typical search engine.

    Ever wonder how the fish production in Poland compares to New York City’s trash rate? (Okay, probably not, but I know a few walking encyclopedias who rattle off information just such as this.)
    Nutrition information.
    Demographics. Local weather (without having to jump through silly hoops like specifying your zip code.) Math problems, geography….it’s all at your fingertips with Wolfram Alpha’s computational database search.

    I can’t wait to “Wolfram” demographic data for grant requests and annual reports.

    Isn’t leveraging this computational power the whole POINT of computers?!
    And then that begs the question, why is Stephen Wolfram’s innovation just now occuring??

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Uncategorized

    Step 2: Get Organized

    Narrow the Field
    There’s going to be a lot of ways to be distracted on social networks, so plan your windows of time and choose your arsenal. Listening is a good way to get started, but there’s plenty to ‘listen’ to out there. Here are some tips for organizing your online listening and reading.
    Consolidate your Reading Material
    RSS, which I wrote about here, is a general term that means ‘really simple syndication’ or in plain English, Read Some Stuff. What it does is allow you to ‘subscribe’ to blogs and news sites. Much like the newspaper delivered to your door, new articles will be delivered to your inbox or your ‘feed reader.’

    If you’re really into reading lots of blogs, try NetVibes, where you can categorize blogs by topic. Categorizing in this way would help me stay on task whereas my current RSS set up on my iGoogle homepage just throws them all together; as a result, I find myself going from a news article to a recipe to a business blog to a non-profit blog–ahgh!

    Label your ‘Folders’
    When you’re exploring things online, it can be like a messy desk. Once you can start organizing websites with topics like folders. For example, you can bookmark your favorite web pages. One way to categorize them is by adding ‘tags’ when you save them to particular locations, e.g. with bookmarking tools available online.

    Tags are words that represent categories. You’ll often see these represented on blogs or sites in a ‘tag cloud’ where the largest, boldest words are the most frequently used. In Delicious, a social bookmarking site, you can tag things for other users by simply adding a tag

    If someone else you know is using Delicious to tag similar interests, you could just ‘follow’ them on your RSS feed. To do so, you click the RSS feed button at the bottom of their account. Here‘s a page of sites referencing library diversity.

    You can also tag pages at news sites. Here‘s a page where travel was used as a tag. By adding tags, you’ll have a page where your selected sites with similar topics–and tags–will be grouped together.

    Lastly, you can keep your own running list of favorite pages on your web broser with the tool Zotero. If you’re doing research on a particular topic, I find this handy button an easy way to mark things for later reading, and to group them by subject tag.

    You’re still going to have to ‘clean out’ your tags and feeds periodically, just like you clean up your inbox and email accounts periodically.

    1 Comment

    Filed under Tool