March 2010

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When you ask people what they're passionate about, they usually tell you really personal things: their family, food, music. But I'm a nerd. More to the point, I'm a nonprofit nerd. That means I get passionate about some pretty oddball things. Case in point? Cloud computing.

You want to see me get worked up into a good lather? Get me talking about all the ways nonprofits can use cloud services to change the world. To me, the cloud is much more than a different way of getting software; it will transform the way we create social change. (If I were saying this out loud instead of typing it, I would be madly gesticulating with my hands.)

So, it is with great excitement that we bring you our very first Cloud Computing edition of NTEN Connect. We have a couple of great articles to help you get started with cloud computing, even if you're a small organization. We also want you to know that you should believe the hype. There are terrific examples of how the cloud made the recent CrisisCamps possible, how we should rethink how we meet our missions, as well as where we take our coffee breaks. (Hint: the cloud means you can work from your OWN kitchen, where the fridge is clean.)

We hope you'll find this issue as inspiring as we do, and that it kills another couple hours of your "Countdown to 10NTC" wait. We're really looking forward to seeing you there, or having you join us at an NTC Live event.




David Geilhufe, NetSuite, Inc.

The cloud refers to a number of different technical components -- from applications to databases to server virtualization to web services -- but most folks care about what they can do with cloud solutions.

Simply put, the cloud by its very nature offers you better, more effective software solutions while saving your organization time, money, and effort.

Cloud solutions increase the probability of success and reduce the costs of failure. They support and extend the larger trends that are shaping both charity and business operations -- whether those trends are flex time, impact measurement, real time data, or open APIs -- and allow you to gain the benefits of those larger trends without really having to think about it much.


Jane Meseck, Microsoft Corporation

The technology scene today is distinguished by the growing connectivity among devices, mobile phones, the PC, and the browser, which enable people and organizations to access information, communicate, and collaborate in more powerful ways.

What we will see over the next 3-5 years is a new paradigm of computing where the use of these devices will be more and more seamless. This new paradigm offers great potential to improve how we all work -- but even greater potential for nonprofits to manage their operations more effectively, deliver a broader array of services, and achieve greater impact for the communities they serve.

But how can these technologies be used by social mission organizations, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, and nonprofits to benefit the most vulnerable people in society?


Lucy Bernholz, Blueprint R+D

Once upon a time, just a little more than a century ago, every factory that wanted to run its systems on electricity had to build its own electrical generating system. Thomas Edison and a few other entrepreneurs put an end to this by building an electrical grid -- so factory owners could focus on making shirts or chairs or widgets and not on running their own electrical plant.

Cloud computing offers us all the same freedom for our information infrastructure. On a broad scale, it will also fundamentally change how we work, where we work, and with whom we work.


Rob Jordan, Idealist Consulting

You may have already heard all the great things that happen when you move your technical solutions into "The Cloud": Automated back ups; ability to forgo networks; automated upgrades; ability to intermingle hardware; lower maintenance; virtual office space, thicker hair, and better dating life. (Well, most of those anyway.)

In roughly three months time, you can shift your most pertinent business operations from "on-premise" solutions (a.k.a. traditional offline software) into the cloud (a.k.a. online software) without too much hassle.

Here are four steps that can help guide you through the process.


Judi Sohn, C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition

When C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition started in 2005, cloud computing wasn't the buzz word it is today. It was simply the only way we could operate and build the organization.

We have never purchased a server and have no plans for one. The services and tools we use to run and build C3 have allowed us to expand and add programs while keeping our operating expenses low, maximizing every dollar we raise.

In honor of C3's 5 year anniversary this month, I present to my fellow techies in young nonprofits my 5 simple lessons learned from 5 years of operating in the cloud.


Jacob Griscom, BetterWorld Telecom

Thanks to advances in communications technology, the daily commute to work for many people has transformed from a stressful car ride through heavy traffic to an easy stroll to the home office. This growing trend, often described as telecommuting or e-commuting, reflects a fundamental change from the traditional concept of work (performed in an office, on a nine-to-five schedule) to a more adaptive, results-based one.

Telecommunications -- including Internet, mobile, and radio technologies -- is allowing an increasing number of organizations to operate efficiently in ways that previously could only be accomplished in person. The potential impact of this shift in work is financial, social, cultural, and environmental.


A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. We like Google Analytics. We like Facebook Fan Pages. But Google Analytics for Facebook Fan Pages? OMG.
  2. There are at least "Five Reasons Why Your Company Doesn't Need a Social Media Policy". But just in case, here's a new online tool that can help you create one.
  3. Slackers, rejoice: hard work may be overrated.
  4. So, naturally, queue "An Engineer's Guide to Cats". (We cannot believe we haven't linked to this before. It's make-you-cry funny. Parts, anyway.)
  5. Lucy Bernholz's "Open Philanthropy: A Modest Manifesto" is awesome. You need to read it -- after you read her article in this newsletter. It's right up there. Go on, scroll up. The cats will be still be here...
  6. Godzilla haikus.
  7. Data is becoming an art form, but who does your information belong to? Danah Boyd says the answer isn't binary: "Neither privacy nor publicity is dead, but technology will continue to make a mess of both."
  8. Need to make a map to show your impact? This one is a great model.
  9. Roomba. Agilent. Drupal. Where do people come up with these names? Let Wordoid take the guesswork out of making stuff up. Guide it with a few parameters, and it will even link to a domain name registration service. (The crazy part is how many of the fictional domains are already registered!)
  10. Seth Godin raises a good question: should we link to another cat video or to something that may inspire you to change the world (but isn't as funny)? In the end, can goodness compete with "Staticky Cat vs. Balloon"?
  11. We like to believe it can. Send us the things that inspire you for a special section in the next NTEN Connect.


While we've got you in the clouds, why not attend the 2nd International Fundraising eConference?

Whether you're a pro or a novice in the fast-growing field of fundraising, marketing, and campaigning online, you'll get what you need at the IFC Online 2010 -- the world's first all-virtual fundraising conference, taking place May 11-13. And, because you read this newsletter, you qualify for a special rate!

You could even attend in your pajamas. (And honestly, you kinda should.)


There's also something to be said for talking to people face-to-face -- and we've got 1200 nptechies and counting for you to talk to at the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Atlanta, April 8-10.

We like to talk about the great time you'll have at the 2010 NTC -- because it's true -- but it is, first and foremost, a place for you to enhance the skills you need to help lead your organization to meet its mission.

We believe the skills you pick up at the 2010 NTC will help you use technology every day to make your organization more effective. (You can even earn 9 hours of CFRE credit.) Won't you join us?


This year marks the 10th anniversary of NTEN as an organization connecting nonprofit and technology professionals with each other so we can all apply effective technology strategy and planning to making the world a better place.

As if that weren't enough, we're offering you the chance to win an Apple iPad -- just for renewing by March 31st!


The data ecosystem is the collection of tools you use to manage all the ways you interact with donors, volunteers, activists, and supporters.

We wanted to find out how happy organizations are with each of the tools they use -- but also what tools make up their ecosystems, and how happy they are with those ecosystems. So, we asked them. (That's just how we roll.)

Now we're proud to present the results of our first Data Ecosystem Survey, written by our very own Holly Ross!


NTEN CONNECT is the monthly e-newsletter of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN).
Flickr Photo: futursimple (header).
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