Monday, August 31, 2009

Untangling the Web

In conjunction with launching Critical Issues 3: Untangling the Web and Wednesday Webinars, this post initiates a series on nonprofit use of the Web. Because the possibilities are evolving so rapidly, we kept the Critical Issues piece at the conceptual level, reserving more specific comment for this blog.

In this post we’ll draw on several of the best bloggers on nonprofit Web topics to introduce the issues, and then touch on specific Web 2.0 functions that can advance nonprofit strategy.

First of all, if you have any doubts about the need to dive into social media, take a look at one of the many versions of the YouTube video, Social Media Revolution based on Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics. Once this has focused your attention, review some blog posts on how to approach social media:

You may want check out some commentary on social media use, such as Social Networks Are Red Hot, Web Sites Are Diddlysquat, or step back and think in even more basic terms about communication strategy, as itemized in Lindsey Patten’s Notes for Nonprofits.

Resources on the Web

Beyond the blogs mentioned above, here are some Web resources that can be enormously useful for nonprofits, in four categories:


If you are looking for specific tools for nonprofit governance and management, there are excellent resources at the Foundation Center’s Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, the Nonprofit Resource Center, BoardSource, Free Management Library, and Idealist.

For technology information, try TechSoup, Idealware, or ReadWriteWeb.

Two new knowledge resources for nonprofits:

  • IdeaEncore Network, “an online marketplace for the sharing of ready-to-use tools, presentations, course outlines, templates, and project plans within and between nonprofit organizations.” (Disclosure: as a beta tester, Synthesis Partnership played a minor, uncompensated advisory role in the implementation of IdeaEncore)
  • Nonprofit Webinars, a clearinghouse for webinars on issues of interest to nonprofits. (Another disclosure: Nonprofit Webinars is hosting my new series of webinars on nonprofit strategy, planning and organizational development, Wednesday Webinars).

One of the best ways to keep current on helpful blogs, webinars, and other media, as well as asking questions of and discussing timely issues with nonprofit colleagues, is LinkedIn. There you’ll find groups such as Nonprofit Professionals, Nonprofit Professionals Forum, Web 2.0 for Nonprofit Organizations, Strategic Planning for Nonprofits, and Start-Up Non-Profits. The daily or weekly digest e-mail of postings to these groups is a good way to manage the flow of information.


The omnipresent Google showcases its tools for operations and fundraising, along with ideas on how to use them effectively, at Google for Nonprofits.

Web 2.0 offers a growing number tools for collaboration, from scheduling meetings (Doodle) or registering events (Eventbrite) to holding them online (Tinychat, reviewed on readwriteweb: Tinychat Relaunches as Easy to Use Video Chat and Recording Platform).

Other free collaboration options include easy-to-use, feature-rich sites that go far enough beyond their origins as blog (Tumblr) and wiki (Wiggio) to provide overlapping opportunities to assemble virtual workspaces that fit various kinds of needs. Readwriteweb offers a guide to other Online Collaboration Tools.


Sharing starts with the capabilities you decide to embed in your website, blog, Twitter feed and/or Facebook page. (This might be a good place for me to acknowledge how much I’ve learned over the past few months from another seeker of social media communication truths, Lorrie Jackson, who has lots of helpful thoughts for nonprofits, especially schools, on her blog).

From Flikr to Tinypic, photo sharing sites have a variety of useful features to offer in conjunction with blogging and microblogging. The potential impact of video and slide show sharing is shown by some of my favorites: The Girl Effect, SELF’s Powering the Fight Against Hunger, and the Social Media Revolution video mentioned above. Get some ideas for using video and see more examples in Beaconfire Consulting’s blog post on How Nonprofits are Using Video Online: 20 Examples.

For webinars dimdim seems a good free or low-cost choice, especially for low-volume use. For a how-to introduction, look at Gayle Thorsen's Webinars for Nonprofits: Getting Started.

Do you have an e-mail newsletter? You should. Here is a brief compilation of e-newsletter tips and advice from a blog called Have Fun Do Good: 10 Nonprofit e-newsletter Resources. There are many providers of newsletter software, with various collections of features. For easy setup, a good feature set, and a cost-effective start for smaller-scale users—no monthly fee, and very low fees per address—take a look at Campaign Monitor.


Some very useful search shortcuts and power boosters:

The bottom line

While one very natural reaction to this flood of possibilities is that it’s way too much information, the fact remains that the means of effective learning, working and communicating are changing radically, and the way to survive natural selection is to evolve. We all need to learn enough about the new environment to be able to work differently and prioritize effectively.

More to follow

Webinars for Nonprofits

Wednesday Webinars, a new series of webinars on nonprofit strategy, planning and organizational development will be hosted at Nonprofit Webinars. Wednesday Webinars will be focused on skill-building and professional development, offering concrete tools and techniques that can be applied in any nonprofit. Get more information and register for the first webinar (September 16) “Cultivating Stakeholders: A strategy of inclusion for challenging times” for free (the standard fee via Nonprofit Webinars is $25).