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  • 16 June 2015
Webserves launches The mPathy Project

Webserves launches The mPathy Project

For the past decade, WebServes has been empowering nonprofits and businesses to effectively use technology to do good in various populations globally and The mPathy Project is the latest addition to WebServes’ portfolio of technology solutions.

What is The mPathy Project?

The mPathy ProjectJust to give you a bird’s-eye view of this latest initiative, The mPathy Project is essentially an app development contest; a hackathon, if you will. However, unlike the typical hackathon that runs over a weekend or a week, The mPathy Project participants will have 10 weeks to design their apps.

So how is this different from other app development challenges? Well, if it is a WebServes initiative, it has something to do with social good, right? That’s exactly what The mPathy Project is; a challenge based initiative that will give talented app developers an opportunity to showcase their technological prowess and empathy (pun intended!) to build apps that will help out the ones most in need.

The Key Players

The layout of the project is straightforward with the following key members:

  • The Hosts: They  are the various nonprofits and non-governmental organizations who constantly work to address the problems in various communities. They recognize a problem and seek to use mobile technology to address it. They offer their support to the project and will in turn benefit by having the option to deploy the apps developed by the participants. 

 
  • The Partners: They can be either Sponsors or Patrons. The Sponsors ensure the operational success of the project by providing resources such as tech support, cloud services, venues, logistics, legal and consulting service. The Patrons provide the financial support. 

 
  • The Participants: They develop the app designs for the various challenges in the project and will have the opportunity to have their app designs sponsored and developed. The participants have this unique opportunity to gain recognition while working towards social good. 

 

The First Challenge

This summer, the first challenge in The mPathy Project is being hosted by ECPAT-USA whose mission is to stop commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) at the source by advocating for laws to protect children and by educating and raising awareness among youth, first responders, and within the tourism industry.

The participants have the task of developing an app that would be distributed to the companies in the travel and tourism industry to provide them with a quick and easy way to report suspicious activities related to the CSEC.

The Goal of The mPathy Project

With The mPathy Project initiative, WebServes (in conjunction with the hosts, partners and participants) aims to make it a priority to harness the power of mobile based technology to create solutions to the critical problems faced by communities around the world.

We’ll keep you posted on all that goes on with The mPathy Project but in the meantime, head on over to The mPathy Project website and Facebook page for more information on the project, photos and how you can get involved!

~Ramya

  • 25 February 2015
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Nonprofit Fundraising Software

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Nonprofit Fundraising Software

There is no question that the nonprofit sector in the United States is an integral part of the economy and society. Why, in 2012, the tax exempt sector represented 5.4% of the nation’s GDP, contributing $887.3 billion to the economy and this number is set to increase with time if past trends are anything to go by. In the last decade itself, the sector has grown by approximately 8.6% and this number is on the rise.

The very nature of nonprofits’ existence ensures that they are much needed now and will be in future. They exist to provide services to people and they make this their mission and bottomline. However, nonprofits need financial resources to carry out their missions and this is where fundraising comes in. I’m sure nonprofit organizations will agree with me when I say that Fundraising is a very important ongoing activity that is still, for the most part, primarily manually operated; 49% use manual methods.

 

Nonprofit Fundraising in the Digital Age

In this technology age, many nonprofits have started considering how they can use software to make the most of the ever changing technology trends. Our blog post on the research conducted by fundraising and donor management technology evaluation firm Software Advice highlights how nonprofits have considered buying or have bought software for their needs.

In 2014, the research team at Software Advice observed that 52%of buyers request fundraising management software most often.

Based off last year’s research findings, Software Advice’s research team conducted more research this year to gather information on the usage of fundraising and donor management software. They surveyed 190 fundraising professionals worldwide to find out how they use fundraising software, the benefits they have gained and the challenges they have overcome.

Software purchasing may seem like an activity for large organizations but most respondents in Software Advice’s sample represent small nonprofits—23 percent with an annual operating budget of less than $250,000, and 28 percent with a budget between $250,000 and $500,000.

The findings from this research provide the data that fundraising professionals need to make an informed decision when they are considering a fundraising software purchase.

So let’s get down to the findings of this research and chart out a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Fundraising Software.

 
COSTS

The points outlined in this section are more about challenges faced by fundraising professionals in using fundraising software rather than the financial costs of investing in fundraising software per se. However, even though we can’t assign a monetary figure to these challenges, they are a cost to the organization, be it in terms of time or other resources.

The challenges below were experienced by the respondents in Software Advice’s research.

1. High Learning Curve

Technology is only as good as the user. We can have the best technology but if we don’t know how to use it, then it’s as good as being nonexistent. The users of fundraising software have to learn how to use it and this has posed to be a challenge with 67% of respondents saying that there is a high learning curve associated with fundraising software.

Janna Finch of Software Advice states in her research report that this challenge can be overcome through proper training. Most software vendors offer online training resources, including knowledge bases, webinars and online support. Some vendors also offer on-site training for a fee.

2. Lack of customization options

67% of respondents said that the software could not be adapted to align with existing business processes. This is usually the case for many organizations that go for Off-the-shelf software instead of bespoke (custom) software.  Off-the-shelf software is built to satisfy more generic needs as opposed to custom software that is more specialized in nature.

This challenge can be addressed by purchasing bespoke software but many organizations may not go for this type mainly because of the high cost of purchasing custom-built software.

Another, more plausible, way to address this challenge would be to participate in a free demo/trial of the said software and read reviews about it to see if other users have had similar concerns or issues. (Software Advice).

Here’s a chart showing some other challenges faced by the sample of respondents.

Top fundraising software challenges

Users challenged by learning curve, few customizations

   

Most of the challenges could be addressed by installing a trial version of the software and checking to see how well it fits in with the organizational needs.

Kristin Urban, manager of data services for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) strongly recommends networking with other fundraising professionals on social media, such as LinkedIn, to see what software they are using. Then, she says, a formal request for information (RFI) can be created to evaluate products and ensure an organization is selecting the right software for its needs. (Software Advice Research)

BENEFITS
1. Better donor trend analysis

30% of the respondents said they relied on Interaction Tracking. This feature records (either automatically or manually) inbound and outbound interactions with donors which help the organization to uncover giving trends and patterns. Such trend analysis helps to streamline the organizations’ campaigning so that they can target certain donors for specific fundraising campaigns.

Case in point is that of Cretia Bunney, executive director of the United Way of Moscow/Latah County. Bunney says she depends on fundraising software to track donations and giving history in order to uncover trends, which is helpful in developing appeals.

2. Increased Response Rate and Donations

This comes about as a result of effective donor base segmentation and targeting. Market Segmentation and Targeting might sound like a business strategy for big multinational corporations but the reality is that even small nonprofits can benefit greatly from this strategy. 9% of the research respondents said they found the List Segmentation feature of software to be useful.

Consider this, a nonprofit classifies/segments its donors into groups based on common criteria such as demographics and giving patterns, for example. It can now observe these segments and study their giving patterns such as: what causes do donors in a certain segment support? Once the nonprofit has enough information on its segments, it can tailor its fundraising campaigns to suit each segment’s donation patterns; which is the targeting part of the strategy.

This strategy ensures that donors are not bombarded with information they don’t really need and thus they can focus on supporting the causes they really care about; a classic case of less is more…less irrelevant information is equal to increased response rate.

3. Appropriate allocation of staff’s hours

As is the case with technology, the automation of certain processes frees up the human resource to focus more on mind related tasks. 11% of respondents found the Automatic Receipts feature of software to be a feature they used most often. With fundraising software, the staff can use their time in strategic activities like more face time and relationship building with donors instead of manually entering data.

4. Reduced chances for duplicity and error

Software, when used correctly, increases efficiency by reducing the number of errors. Fundraising software offers the ability to integrate systems such as the donor management system and the Accounting system, for example. This kind of integration reduces the chances of double entry and data errors as has been observed by 20% of the respondents who said they relied on Accounting Integration as a very useful function of fundraising software.

5. Reduced Campaign Costs (in monetary terms)

Reduced monetary cost to the organization is a trickle-down effect of all the benefits outlined above. It is but natural for the organization to save money when efficiency is increased.

 
CONCLUSION

While software does pose challenges to its users, most of the research respondents agreed that Fundraising software has mostly had a positive impact on their fundraising activities as the chart below shows:

Core activities greatly improved by software

Every core fundraising activity was positively impacted with the implementation of fundraising software and 99% of the respondents reported an increase in donations collected

In addition, 56% of the respondents expect their organization to increase spending on fundraising and donor management software in 2015, either by upgrading their current system or purchasing new software.

The positive impact of fundraising software and the expected increase in spending on fundraising software by the majority of fundraising professionals could be used to make the case for why fundraising software is the way forward for your nonprofit.

Here's Software Advice's research slideshow for more information on the research results as well as some charts with key figures:

 

Do you use fundraising software in your nonprofit? What other costs or benefits have you come across while using such software? For those nonprofits who don't use fundraising software, do you plan on investing in such software? Share your thoughts with us!

~Ramya    

  • 7 November 2014
Client Spotlight: THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE

Client Spotlight: THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE

 

The Chain Collaborative

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Coffee is a staple in the daily routine of millions of people. It’s delicious, flavorful, and energizing. But how does it get into our cup? The process coffee goes through in order to reach our bellies is one worth taking interest in. A lot of help is needed to make sure our coffee gets to us in the most humane, sustainable way possible. But where do we go to lend a helping hand? Introducing: The Chain Collaborative.

 

WHO IS THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE?

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Peru

The Chain Collaborative was founded in 2014 by Nora Burkey, whose passionate interest in sustainable development led to a passion for the coffee industry. The interest was sparked when Burkey began work as a coffee shop barista. A greater opportunity arose when she met one of the original three founders of Coffee Kids, an organization geared towards supporting the communities of coffee farmers in Latin America. Burkey ended up joining a project in Nicaragua, with the intent of using the experience to aid the development of her master’s thesis, aside from gaining hands-on experience in a chain of the coffee industry. However, the trip gave her more than just that; it helped to inspire the creation of The Chain Collaborative. Burkey saw that there are people who want to get involved in working with sustainable coffee development. However, many either don’t know where to start or don’t have the right expertise to carry out their intentions. That’s where The Chain Collaborative comes in.

“We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are so many important players in the supply chain of coffee, but often we only focus development efforts on relatively few parts of the supply chain” says Burkey, about the naming of The Chain Collaborative. “So we wanted to be a resource to people at every level of the supply chain and not favor one part of another, since all levels are really important.” They are the experts who establish and develop connections between different parties in the coffee community. This can range from connecting consumers to nonprofits that specialize in coffee sustainability, to connecting coffee farmers with businesses or importers that are looking to collaborate. Gaining momentum in February 2014 and kicking off in July, The Chain Collaborative has had no trouble finding organizations to team up with. Along with co-founders Mike Morgenstern and Tina Kim, Burkey has focused on linking various companies and businesses with coffee farmers from various regions.

 WHY CARE ABOUT COFFEE?

coffee cherry.jpg

Coffee cherry

Why are so many people interested? When speaking with WebServes, Burkey brought up a fact that many of us know but don’t think about: coffee is everywhere. “Coffee is the second most traded commodity, after oil,” she stated. “It’s greatly consumed, and a lot of people have a passion for it.” That passion expands beyond the morning cup of fuel into the desire to contribute to its cultivation in a positive way. With an international consumer demand for coffee, there are repercussions in the form of labor, environmental, and economic security issues. Thankfully, since coffee is so popular, there are also a lot of platforms that address these issues. Consumers want to help, and The Chain Collaborative is a resource to help businesses and nonprofits reach out and engage with them.

VENTURES

planting hope.jpg

Coffee Camps Kids

The Chain Collaborative works with other nonprofits and cooperatives in order to help create, facilitate, and develop projects that accommodate the ever evolving needs in the coffee community. Here are a few of their current programs.

 The Coffee Residency

coffee retail bags

Collaboration with Irving Farm

Coffee shops sign on to three-month long “residencies” with TCC that get cafes and consumers involved in active awareness of sustainable coffee cultivation. Coffee shops “in residence” promote certain products where buyers can donate a dollar of the sale to a project of their choice, or the shop itself can fundraise in a different manner of their choosing. This networks together the shops who participate and brings about more awareness of resources available to those who want to get involved. All funds raised are used for the projects promoted.

Planting Hope

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Kids in art class during Coffee Camps

TCC’s main operations are focused in Nicaragua at the moment, where Burkey arrived at the end of October. A large part of The Chain Collaborative’s objectives is to collaborate with other organizations and nonprofits to help boost these other programs and develop them further. Following the harvest season from November to January, The Chain Collaborative will be working with Planting Hope , a nonprofit that focuses on promoting interaction between Nicaraguan and U.S. communities. They are running a project called Coffee Camps, where education, health screenings, and meals are provided for the children who accompany their parents, who work in the coffee farms. The Chain Collaborative’s plans are to revamp the food system for the children, write a Coffee Camps manual in English and Spanish for other communities to follow, and better connect Planting Hope with  both cooperatives and businesses in the coffee industry.  So instead of just giving out meals, the idea is to cultivate organic gardens and teach agricultural methods that can be sustained all year round. This will provide a constant food source for the migrant workers and their children. One of the businesses The Chain Collaborative is assisting Planting Hope in strengthening a relationship with, is Green Mountain, a coffee company that is taking initiative to collaborate with Planting Hope.

 Nyamigoye Coffee Farmers Group

Uganda5

Farmer in Uganda

Further down the line, TCC will be working in concert with coffee farmers in Uganda, who are looking to organize together in order to sustain a practice of better coffee production, and to better connect with potential buyers. By doing so, they will be able to more effectively organize care of their collective crops, and care of the workers themselves, coordinating to gain health care, insurance, and loans. By working with The Chain Collaborative, a goal will be met to eliminate the middleman in their selling process and thus gain more control over the sales process of their harvest. The Chain Collaborative will also take charge in creating programs that will give them access to benefits they need, and will aid the process of connecting these farmers directly to a US importer.

 

THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE AND WEBSERVES

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The number one information resource is the Internet. An organization’s web presence and its visibility  in various social media platforms is crucial. For The Chain Collaborative, being a young organization means that the need to cultivate a credible, professional face is key. It’s important to maintain constant social outreach, whether it is through Twitter updates or Facebook events. That, connected with a navigable, informative website, creates a legitimate presence. The Chain Collaborative has such a specific and detailed mission, and so their website is being geared to easily lead the curious and the interested to accurate and informed perceptions. This speeds up the process of collaboration and increases opportunities for working together with other parties who wish to get involved. WebServes is currently working with The Chain Collaborative to help polish that effective public element. We are glad to know that TCC is finding our services welcoming and encouraging, and that our organizational expertise in the nonprofit sector through the efforts of our WS Tech Agents, especially James Bradley, Anna Karingal, and Maya Leggat, has helped to guide The Chain Collaborative’s objectives. We will focus together on fleshing out thechaincollaborative.org with the information and the impact it needs to interact and connect well with visitors. We are also improving the aesthetic appeal of the site in order to highlight and emphasize all pertinent information. After its launch, we aim to have created the professional face TCC is looking for and for which they can easily take over ongoing updates and management.

   

- Maya

   

Interested in other clients we've worked with? Subscribe to our newsletter! Or check out the links below.

All Star Code Alexander Robertson School Staten Island Children's Museum December 2011 Newsletter

  • 7 April 2014
Trends in Nonprofit Software Buying

Trends in Nonprofit Software Buying

Do nonprofits really need software? How does software help nonprofits anyway? Well, I can think of a few off the top of my head: improve communication, manage donor relations, streamline processes to mention but a few. There are more advantages of course but the bottom line is; software helps nonprofits to focus more on achieving their missions. So, when buying new software, what should your nonprofit take into account? A recent research study conducted by Software Advicea company that assists small nonprofit organizations choosing software solutions, gives us some insight into what really affects the nonprofit software buying decisions. In 2013, Software Advice analyzed 2,313 interactions with nonprofits that were evaluating new software. The findings of this research form the basis of this blog post.

1. 51% of software buyers want to improve efficiency

Why nonprofits buy softwareThere are many facets to improving organizational efficiency but I believe that the most important ones are to seek ways to reduce wastage of resources and improve communication.

49% of buyers currently use manual methods (spreadsheets, paper and pen)

only 23% use software

Reducing the amount of paper we use is not only environmentally friendly, it is cost friendly too. Some statistics to propel you to use less paper are:

  • The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year and wastes about 1,410 of these pages. (Source)

  • With the average cost of each wasted page being about six cents, a company with 500 employees could be spending $42,000 per year on wasted prints (Source). If this calculation is applied to a nonprofit with 10 employees, the cost would be around $846.

  • It costs $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misfiled document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document. (Source)

  • 7.5 percent of all documents get lost; 3 percent of the remainder gets misfiled.

  • The average document is photocopied 19 times. (Source)

  • Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% of their time looking for the right information. (Source)

  • Miscommunication can cost an organization 25% to 40% of its annual budget, estimates private investment firm Manchester Companies. (Source)

  • It's estimated that 14% of each workweek is wasted as a result of poor communication. (source)

Based on the numbers above, the costs multiply quickly and for nonprofits, it is too big a risk to take.

There are different types of software that help nonprofits to improve their organizational efficiency but some of the tried and tested ones that we use at Webserves are in a previous post on bridging the internal communication gap.

2. 49% of buyers prefer web-based applications to on-premise

51% prefer web-based software systems

While both forms of deployment have their advantages and disadvantages, Web based applications are more suited for organizations that don’t have the infrastructure and resources to operate and maintain the software.

Take Software as a Service (SaaS), for example. SaaS is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet. (source)

 

Blackbaud released a white paper on the advantages of SaaS which are summarized below:

 
  • Little upfront investment: Rather than a huge initial investment, a monthly fee is charged for use of the software. This reduces the financial strain on nonprofits since the cost is spread out over a span of months.

  • Reliable cost forecasting: SaaS costs are generally fixed and as such there are no sudden increases in costs. This enables nonprofits to accurately forecast their software costs.

  • No extras needed: With SaaS, the maintenance and software upgrades are usually built into the monthly cost. The nonprofit does not need to hire support staff or buy expensive hardware; all this is the responsibility of the SaaS service provider.

  • Up-to-date technology: The SaaS service provider is responsible for offering ongoing technology advancements so the nonprofit does not have to research on how to get the latest technology by itself.

  • Security and reliability: Data stored with the SaaS provider is more secure than data stored at the nonprofit. Plus, the data is backed up and additional services like virus protection and data encryption are added security features provided by the SaaS provider.

  • Remote access: The fact that SaaS is accessed over the internet makes it accessible anywhere there is an internet connection and not just confined to the office.

  • Scalability: For growing nonprofits, SaaS offers the ability to easily add functionality and applications available online to a nonprofit in a quick and cost-effective manner.

All in all, an analogy from Blackbaud sums up the need for SaaS;

"People in need of phone service, water, electricity, or cable aren’t responsible for the entire infrastructure needed to deliver those services; they just order monthly service and pay for what they use. Similarly, software as a service puts comprehensive software functionality within the reach of nonprofits."

 

3. 52% of Buyers prefer best-of-breed applications

Preferred software integration model

According to PC Magazine, Purchasing best-of-Breed applications refers to buying applications from different vendors in order to obtain the best-of-breed for each application area; for example, a human resources package from one vendor and an accounting package from another.

Having this kind of a model in place ensures that the nonprofit gets the best software.

4. 52% of Buyers request fundraising management most often

Donor information is not just about collecting contact details; it’s about building long-Software typelasting relationships.

Donors should receive frequent information on how their donation is being used, personalized emails (for example on their birthdays) and in general, how the nonprofit is faring on. All this can be done using a good fundraising management system that will help nonprofits understand each of their donors, segment, analyze and communicate to them.

 

5. 56% of buyers were small nonprofits with less than 10 employees

software buying based on size of the org

The size of the organization influences decisions like the cost of training the employees. In addition, nonprofits usually have volunteers donating their time to the service of the organization. In some cases, there is a high volunteer turnover rate and in such cases, the nonprofit should consider the recurring cost of training new volunteers

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6. 91% of buyers reported an annual revenue of less than $5 million; 69% reported less than $1 million.

softwware buying based on annual revenue

As we know, nonprofits have to work with limited resources and deciding on how much to spend on new software is greatly influenced by the budget

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7. 37% of buyers work in the human services sector

Software buying based on buyer segments  

The results of the study cement the fact that nonprofits are increasingly recognizing the need for software and are seriously considering the factors that shape their software buying decisions. What other factors did you consider when buying new software?

~Ramya

  • 21 February 2014
Highlights of the OMB Grant Reform

Highlights of the OMB Grant Reform

Fed_pic In case you missed it, in late December 2013, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidelines for federal grants that will offer a streamlined and game changing approach that has been over two years in the making.  Now the once eight Federal regulations (including OMB Circulars A-110, A-122, and A-133) are combined into a single, comprehensive policy guide and affords the Federal government the ability to better administer the $600 billion awarded annually for grants, cooperative agreements, and various types of financial assistance. This change affects everyone that receives government grants or contracts that use federal funds. The guidelines are long and complex, but the National Council of Nonprofits reported on the highlights:

  • Indirect Costs: The OMB Guidance explicitly requires pass-through entities (typically states and local governments receiving federal funding) to either honor a nonprofit’s negotiated indirect cost rate if one already exists or negotiate a rate in accordance with federal guidelines. Nonprofits will be empowered to elect an automatic indirect cost rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC) – which can be used indefinitely if they so choose – or negotiate a higher rate.
  • Direct Costs: In some cases, administrative expenses associated with a particular project (such as secretarial support) can be reported as direct, rather than indirect, costs, which are treated more generously in contracting policies.
  • Audit Rules: The new guidelines will raise the Single Audit (A-133) threshold from $500,000 to $750,000, eliminating duplicate and unnecessary audit criteria, and clarifying various costs allocation rules.

In order to really benefit from these new guidelines nonprofits will have to accurately identify and track all overhead costs while negotiating for higher reimbursement rates with government organizations. This seems pretty straight forward and easy enough, however it's not always so black and white

.

Indirect costs, administrative costs, and overhead costs are accounting terms that are often used interchangeably causing a lot of confusion. A great example of this inconsistent use of terminology can be found in the report, "Indirect Costs Are Essential for Success" by the National Council of Nonprofits

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The report described how federal agencies issuing grants to nonprofits to categorize overhead costs as either direct costs or facilities costs while further separating indirect costs into two sub categories: either administrative costs or facilities costs. To get a little more confusing the federal government, through the IRS Form 990 tells nonprofits to categorize and annually report their costs as management general costs, program costs, and fundraising costs. Lets define these terms below:

  1. Administrative costs: management and general expenses such as the salaries of executives and accounting personnel and library expenses
  2. Facilities costs: items such as depreciation and capital improvement, interest on debt associated with certain buildings, and operations and maintenance expenses
  3. Management & General costs: activities that are required by organizations to operate, but may support multiple programs and the organization as a whole, such as accounting, human resources, staff development, rent, and utilities
  4. Program costs: activities associated with a specific program or project, such as direct program staff, program supplies, program management, and administration
  5. Fundraising costs: various activities, such as special events campaigns, direct solicitations, mailings, fundraising consultants, development staff, grant application prep

Correctly defining and categorizing all overhead costs will not only assist with negotiating for higher reimbursement rates with government organizations, but it will also paint a clear monetary picture in budgeting terms. The new regulations means that nonprofits should be able to focus more on delivering services in their communities and should feel free of raising additional funds to essentially subsidize governments. Also, charities with no government grants or contracts could see less competition for scarce philanthropic dollars. This is a major gain in the charitable nonprofit community

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For more information about the OMB grant reform check out these links below:

Let us know your thoughts on the OMB grant reform and thanks for reading!

-Rebecca  

  • 14 February 2014
Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Last week one of our blog readers requested to find out more information regarding advertising in the nonprofit sector. His exact question was, "How can a nonprofit effectively market without advertising?". I began to generate this list:

  1. Public Service Announcements
  2. Direct Mail and Email
  3. Word of Mouth
  4. Promotional Items
  5. Online Advertising
  6. Social Media

Although great avenues for spreading cause awareness, these tools could be limiting. An illustration of these possible limitations can be found on the website TED in Dan Pallotta’s video titled, 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong'. Dan Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry with the long distance Breast Cancer 3-day walks, AIDS Rides bicycle journeys, and Out of the Darkness suicide prevention night walks. The video 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong' went viral as Dan described how nonprofits are rewarded for how little they spend and he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and accomplishments, even if that comes with increased expenses. In the video Dan was quoted as saying,

"Charitable giving has remained stuck in the US at 2% of GDP ever since we started measuring it in the 1970s, that is an important fact because that tells us that in 40 years the nonprofit sector has not been able to wrestle any market share from the forprofit sector and if you think about it how could one sector take market share from another sector if it's not really allowed to market"

The problem, he explained, is that we have a different set of rules for charities that puts them at a competitive disadvantage in 5 areas:

  1. Compensation - Because of the stark, mutually exclusive choice offered to prospective leaders between doing very well for yourself and your family and doing good for the world, the nonprofit sector is not able to attract or keep the best talent.
  2. Advertising and marketing - Because nonprofits are punished for advertising or marketing like for-profits, the nonprofit sector has not been able to increase its market share relative to the for-profit sector with respect to GDP.
  3. Taking risk on new revenue ideas - Because of the public relations nightmare that would result from an innovative but unsuccessful fundraising endeavor, nonprofits cannot implement daring new ideas needed to exponentially grow the necessary revenues to tackle the big social problems.
  4. Time - Because the public and funders have little patience for nonprofits that fail to immediately, effectively and efficiently create a measurable social impact (unlike for-profit start-ups that are allowed by their investors to take years to return a profit), nonprofits are forced to adopt conservative strategies that do not allow them to patiently invest in building scale.
  5. Profit to attract risk capital - Because nonprofits cannot promise profits to investors in order to attract capital to fund new and innovative ideas, nonprofits are starved for growth and risk and idea capital.

501(c)(3) organizations are certainly allowed to advertise and market, but the "punishment" Dan is referring to is the public's view on donations being spent on advertising. This view leads to an underinvestment in advertising. Below is a chart taken from the Nonprofit Quarterly of the nine largest nonprofits ranked by Forbes and the percentage of advertising recorded as overhead.

NPQ_ad_overhead_chart

As you can see more than half of the organizations treat less than 15% of their advertising as overhead. YMCA and Goodwill has not recorded any advertising as overhead because they classify it as program expenses. Presumably, treating advertising as overhead is not correct. According to accouting rules, if an organization's mission is to raise awareness about an issue, associated costs are classified as program expenses, not overhead. Nonprofits can market without advertising effectively, but would increasing advertising be beneficial? That depends on a multitude of factors and is really up to the organization and stakeholders to decide. We would love to know your thoughts on advertising in the nonprofit sector. Would you feel comfortable knowing .90 cents of your dollar donated went to the funding of an advertising campaign?

  Thanks for reading! -Rebecca

  • 7 February 2014
What the loss of net neutrality means for nonprofits

What the loss of net neutrality means for nonprofits

Last week I was listening to my favorite podcast WBUR with Tom Ashbrook and the topic of net neutrality came up. I never took into consideration that one day our internet freedom could be jeopardized. Net neutrality means that Internet service providers (ISP) cannot discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. A free and open Internet guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. Recently, Verizon challenged the FCC over net neutrality –and won. A federal appeals court tossed out the FCC’s Open Internet rules, citing that the agency doesn’t have the power to require Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. The question for today is: What does this ruling mean for nonprofits? To start, without net neutrality the nonprofit sector will be forced to compete with for-profits on the cost of messaging. Andrew Raseij, a serial social entrepreneur and founder of the Personal Democracy Forum stated, “For the nonprofit sector, loss of net neutrality may be as devastating as losing their tax free status because cost of reaching the public will go so high as to be prohibitive.” If the ISPs are allowed to put up tollbooths, only those content providers who can afford it will be able to have their content downloaded quickly. Below is a theoretical example of Internet pricing structures by BarStoolSports. If you notice all the websites listed in the packages are major brands. Where is the rest of the internet? Will we only be allowed to access the big companies who pay up to ISP? Network-Neutrality-500x364 The FCC plans to appeal the ruling, but if that effort is unsuccessful nothing can be done to protect net neutrality outside the backing of the Federal government. If you wish to fight this ruling I invite you to sign the White House petition that aims to restore Net Neutrality by directing the FCC to classify Internet Providers as "Common Carriers." The petition has exceeded its goal of 100,000 signatures and is still taking signatures until February 14, 2014. It can be found and signed here. Times are definitely changing and what does the end of net neutrality mean for SEO? Finding a way around the "tollbooths" could mean sharpening the technical skills needed for search engine optimization. What are your thoughts regarding net neutrality? Do you think the increasing number of people moving from cable to Netflix has anything to do with the recent ruling? -Rebecca

  • 29 January 2014
How Your Nonprofit Can Protect Donors From Online Fraud

How Your Nonprofit Can Protect Donors From Online Fraud

No one is a stranger to credit card fraud and online fraud but every time it happens, it almost always takes people by the utmost surprise. Take the recent Target and Neiman Marcus Point of Sale Credit Card hacks; almost 110 million Target customers’ personal data has been compromised and a security firm now says more retailers’ systems could have been hacked using the same malware. Every time a hack happens, regardless of its magnitude, we revisit the lessons in privacy which is why I thought it would be a good idea to have a post on how to protect your online donors and their donations from fraud. There is one caveat though; this list is not exhaustive so it would be wrong to assume that these 4 or so tips could prevent hacking altogether. On the plus side, these are fairly easy suggestions that your nonprofit should definitely have in place.

1. Invest in a secure online donations tool

Among the criteria you would use to evaluate a potential online donation tool, security should be on the top of your list and rest assured, most of the top tools enforce this. Some examples of popular tools are WePay*, PayPal, Amazon Simple Pay and Google Wallet.

Choosing the right donation tool is entirely up to one's personal choice. At WebServes, we use WePay. Our donors have the option to pay by credit card, bank account or by signing into a WePay account if they have one.

WePay Secure Fraud Prevention  

* If you are planning to use WePay, it will be worthwhile to note that WePay is shutting down  invoices, buttons, donations, events, and stores to focus on its API feature set. More details are available on WePay Support.

2. Set up a minimum donation amount

It might seem a little overbearing to dictate how much the donors should donate but it is a way to reduce fraud. For instance, if you set a minimum donation amount of $10, it would be easier for you to know that if you receive any amount less than that, then it is a sign of some fraud in the making.

3. Make the CVV and Address required fields

The CVV (Card Verification Value or Card Security Code, CSC) is a card security feature to protect against credit card fraud. According to Greg Hammermaster (President of Sage Payment Solutions), this code will ensure that the credit card used matches the given address.

CVV for fraud prevention

4. Inform your donors on how to transact safely online to prevent fraud

While it is apparent that we should monitor our online activity, it doesn't hurt to remind     your donors that they should check their statements and notify their financial institutions of any red flags.

John Breyault, vice president of the National Consumers League and head of its fraud-fighting efforts has the following suggestions that can come in handy for donors making online donations:

  • Make sure that the website's address begins with 'https' or has a seal indicating that the site is secure.

  • Avoid making online purchases (or in this case, donations) over free Wi-Fi networks. Since these networks aren't usually password protected, your card information can be easily intercepted by cyberthieves.

  • Keep your own computer software current and malware free to prevent hackers from accessing your online information.

Do you have other ways in which you keep your donors and their online donations protected from cyber criminals? Share them with us!

~Ramya

  • 22 January 2014
Highlighting Key Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014

Highlighting Key Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014

Mobile, analytics, and cloud-based software are predicted to play important roles in helping nonprofits engage with supporters while still focusing on their missions. 2014 will be an exciting year for nonprofit technology. It is anticipated that many of the trends predicted last year will be revisited as opportunities for nonprofit organizations to use technology has become increasingly available. Technology Trends Mobile Keeping up with current trends means going mobile. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the platform of choice for computing and have changed the way we consume all sorts of online content. The majority of all emails are now opened on a mobile device, which means having a mobile-friendly approach to engaging donors has never been more important. Apps It’s pretty obvious that with a large portion of the population using a Smartphone, mobile applications are becoming more useful for consumers and organizations. The Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) reported five apps that may help your Nonprofit. 1. Cause.it Cause.it gets the word out about your organization to everyone in your community that has downloaded the application. Nonprofits have the option to partner with local businesses and users can earn points for discounts or freebies at those businesses by volunteering with your organization. 2. DailyFeats DailyFeats has become really popular by offering tools and motivation for individuals to live a healthy lifestyle. Members earn points for actions that range from eating a salad rather than a cheeseburger or volunteering for a nonprofit. These points can be used for rewards or donations to nonprofits. 3. MyWhereAbouts If you have hosted or participated in a charity run, walk or bike event then you may have already heard about this app. MyWhereAbouts allows participants to track their progress and share it by sending updates to social networks. The updates will detail the event while also sharing your organization’s donation page. 4. Square Square Register is a portable payment system that allows your nonprofit to receive payments through any iPad, iPhone or Android device. Basically, a small portable card reader plugs into your mobile device’s headphone jack to allow you to scan credit cards. Transactions are secure and payments are sent directly to your organization’s bank account. 5. VolunteerMatch With VolunteerMatch’s mobile app, members of your community can find or share volunteer opportunities at your organization via any mobile device. The apps in 2014 seem to differ from the more traditional fundraising apps of 2013 by offering incentives and a fun twist to giving. We will see how it plays out in the following months. Analytics The world has become highly data driven with companies craving the visible benefits of understanding and monetizing data. Nonprofits have begun to see the web, social media, donor, volunteer, and client data generated on a daily basis. Learning to manage and mine data is fairly simple with free tools nonprofits can use. Google Analytics is a widely used tool and is explained in a one of our previous blog posts listed here. Cloud Cloud-based services can be intimidating to organizations that are unfamiliar with the technology. However, cloud computing has become so universal that many people are unaware they are even using it. A bit of research and a highly rated cloud service provider goes a long way. Cloud service providers are offering security and easily expandable storage space, but without the added cost and technology resources of in-house servers. Religious organizations of all sizes don't seem to be afraid and have given their blessings to cloud computing. For more information on Cloud Computing, read up on our previous posts Incorporating new technology into an organization can be tricky. Feel free to visit our website and check out the technology services we provide to small businesses and nonprofits. Stay tuned for an in detail look at a few of the trends listed above. What do you see trending in 2014? -Rebecca

  • 29 October 2013
5 Google Analytics Metrics You Should Track

5 Google Analytics Metrics You Should Track

As an old Management adage goes, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Quantifiable evidence gives us valuable insights about what is working well, and what could be improved. Granted, there are some things we can’t measure (like a satisfied customer’s smile), but nonetheless, the numbers behind the purchasing process of the satisfied customer could give us valuable insights.

Lessons from the Google Analytics Summit

It is this power of data that was the backbone of October 1st's Google Analytics Summit 2013 held in Mountain View, California but live streamed on YouTube for audience everywhere. The recorded version of the livestream is still available on Youtube.

The theme of the summit was Access, Empower, Act. Collect the right data, pass it on to the right  people, empower them with the right tools to analyze the data and act on the insights. Simple, right? However, as simple as that sounds, data can be so overwhelming that we might not know what is most important for us and what is not. This is why we have this simple guide that focuses on key metrics in Google Analytics.

A Simple Guide to Analyzing Key Metrics In Google Analytics

This guide assumes you've already set up Google Analytics for your website. If you haven't, don't fret; the process is very simple and straightforward. Google Analytics' Help center outlines the process in easy-to-follow steps here. The format of this guide is in a Q & A style. The answers to the questions are the metrics you should be running.

Q. How do visitors find you and from where do they access your page?

A. Traffic Sources

It is important to know how your visitors find your site so that you can determine which platform is the most effective one to reach out to your audience. Our blog receives most of its traffic from the following sources:

Google Analytics Traffic Sources        

Based on the numbers above, we can discern that of the 348 people that visited our site over the last month, 74.71% of them found our blog by searching for certain keywords that directed them to our blog. According to the Vital Design Blog, a good traffic search rating should be above 50%. Here is a breakdown of what each traffic source means:

   

Organic Search Traffic: Found your website using certain keywords. This metric shows the effectiveness of your keyword usage and Search Engine Optimization.

 

Direct Traffic: Typed your site's URL into the browser.

 

Referral Traffic: Clicked on a link on another website that linked back to you.

 

Social: Found your website from social media platforms on which you have a presence.

 

In addition, the Traffic Sources metric shows the location of the visitors, the browser used and even the mobile devices used to access your website. Again, it all comes down to what metrics are important for your decision making.

 

Q. Which is the first page they visit? 

A.  Landing page    

Knowing which pages are first visited can help you convert leads into followers. By analyzing which of your pages are the top landing pages, you can optimize them to include calls to action that will encourage your visitors to interact more with your site. For example, one of our top landing pages is 5 Steps to Improve Your Website's User Experience (UX) and our top keyword searched is user experience. By knowing this information, we know that our visitors are interested in improving user experience and hence we try to put out more user experience related content.

Google Analytics Landing Page    

Another metric to note is the Bounce Rate from the Landing Pages. A high bounce rate could mean that the visitor just views that one page and does not interact with the site any further before leaving your site altogether. The aim therefore, should be to reduce the landing page bounce rate by having prominent calls to action that will push the visitors to visit other pages in your site.

 

Q. How much time do they spend on your site?

  A.  Average time spent

Knowing this data will help to understand how much time your visitors are spending while engaging with your site. Longer times spent are good for sites such as blogs. This means that the visitors like your content, are reading it and also reading other content linked to a specific post. On the other hand, shorter times are preferable for online banking because it ensures a higher level of security when visitors can access the site and complete their tasks quickly.

Q. What do they do when on your site?

A. Popular Content

Google Analytics makes it very easy to analyze which type of content works best for you. A higher number of page views indicates that the content is popular. The aim should be to have a high number of page views and low bounce rate. This kind of data shows that your most popular content is encouraging your visitors to explore other pages in the site.

  Content

Q.Which is the last page they visit before leaving your site?

A.  Exit Pages, Exit Rate, Bounce Rate

Exit Page is the last page that a visitor views on your website before completely leaving your website. The visitor could have already visited multiple pages or could have just viewed that one page.

Google Analytics Exit Pages

The Exit Rate measure the percentage of visitors who visited multiple pages in your website and exited your website through a specific page. For example, in the screenshot above, our top exit page is 'How to improve your website's user experience in 5 steps'. This page was viewed 156 times in the past month and had 74 exits meaning that visitors to our site exited through that page for a total of 74 times. Therefore, the Exit rate is 47.44% meaning that of the 156 page views, 47.44% were exits (Formula: 74/156 %).

This information helps us to know that the visitors found what they were looking for and left after being satisfied with the information they got. For a main website, the ideal exit page should be a Thank You Page that comes up after the visitor makes a donation or signs up for a newsletter, for example.

The Bounce Rate measures the percentage of visitors that landed on a single page and left the website without looking at any other pages. Thus, Bounce Rate is typically measured for Landing Pages.

Google Analytics Bounce Rate

The Bounce Rate of 4.11% for the 'Prezi: A new way to make presentations' shows that 4.11% of our visitors viewed the post and left our blog completely. This could mean that the visitors found our post through search sites, read it and after finding the information they needed, they left. While there is no correct or ideal Bounce Rate, a rate of over 50% could mean that your site is not converting leads and needs some tweaking.

Google Analytics has a number of other metrics that are important and need to be analyzed. Two things to keep in mind when analyzing metrics are:

1. No metric should be analyzed independently of others. For instance, just observing the exit rate and not paying attention to bounce rate would give inaccurate results. All the metrics should be put into context and analyzed accordingly for accurate results.

2. The metrics are not generic to all types of websites. For example, some websites may focus more on the Page Value (the value of a page in monetary figures) while others (like our blog) focus less on revenue and more on how many visitors we get and which types of content are popular. Therefore, only you can decide which metrics are most important to you and build goals around the same.

 

Do you use Google Analytics? If you do, which metrics have you found to be the most useful? If you currently don't use Google Analytics, we hope our post has convinced you to start using this powerful tool soon.

  ~Ramya