Wikis, Skype and Webinars, oh my–Staff Development Solutions Part One

http://www.freefoto.com/images/04/31/04_31_1_prev.jpgTo many of those I network with online (either by reading & posting to blogs or via Twitter) –the three words in the title are routine: 

Wikis, Skype and Webinars

But for you nonprofit execs trying to manage agencies on a shoestring, one or more of these may be meaningless.  After all, these terms didn’t even exist a few years ago, and you don’t have time to spare to learn something new. If this describes you, I implore you to sit back for 5 minutes and take a deep breath. 

Challenges to Nonprofit Staff Development

Do these sound familiar?

  • You have minimal resources budgeted to improve skills, yet you know your organizational effectiveness could benefit from training.
  •  You are understaffed, so you have difficulty in letting staff have too much time out of the office to attend conferences that might let them network with peers or gain additional perspective.
  • The specialized training you need is not available online anyway.  You participated in a webinar or two as part of a national association or group, but it’s not always what you require.

Web 2. 0 (all this new-fangled technology on the web) offers some solutions to your challenges.  And the solutions aren’t as hard to construct as you think.

Wiki Wow

Wikis are my favorite tool for working collaboratively with staff.  Think of a wiki as a website where you don’t need to know how to program to make changes.  Where you can post documents, outline thoughts, post links to websites with relevant information.

Collaboration on Training Needs–Let’s say your supervisors have some ideas about what staff needs are for training and development.  Imagine being able to have your key staff collaborate AS they think of ideas, rather than wait for a staff meeting (which may not be conducive to free thinking anyway).  You can set up a free password-protected private wiki in 5 minutes that will allow them to collaborate on ideas.  They have the ability to create any structure they want,  post comments, additions and the most current version is always available. Best yet, the old versions are available as “history” so the group can decide to go back to previous versions.  And, users can automatically get email notices with updates (if they choose) whenever someone edits content.  Cool.

Continuing Education–Pass It On

Ever have staff come back from a conference or training day with materials, powerpoints and ideas?  Wish there was an easy way to pass it on to other staff?  There is.

  • Here’s one school district’s attempt at putting staff development materials online.  They have it as a publicly viewed site, but you can’t edit it if you don’t have their password.  Be sure to click on their right January 14 link to go deeper.  I hope they keep this updated, as it’s a great best practice.  They’ve used pbwiki.
  • Here’s a wiki that promotes best practices for staff training (not all in themselves wikis) in library science.  (Note: this site is laid out like wikipedia)
  • Here’s yet another progressive library group with a wiki with links for staff development (this is in the format I’m used to….from www.pbwiki.com.)  They have mostly text but I have used pbwiki’s WYSIWYG interface to add graphics, video, etc. 
  • And, here’s a great one:  a wiki dedicated to getting staff up-to-speed on and using web2.0 Social Media (including social media guidelines).  This is more from this site, called EduBuzz from East Lothian.  Kudos to them.

My thanks to the organizations that have kept these wikis publicly-viewable. 

Next up:  Staff Development and Skype, Webinars

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Appeal of social media depends on fit with organizational goals–4 Areas of Focus

There’s a lot of discussion about whether “social networks” have seen their best days, citing things like declining unique visitors, time spent on site, and general grumbling (esp. about whether one can truly ever back out of Facebook) .  You might ponder what this portends, especially for nonprofits. 

If “Social Networking” means linking people to each other in some meaningful way, then we are talking about more than Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. people.jpg

If web 2.0 means harnessing the collaborative benefits of the web, then it means more to you than how many friends you can get on Facebook. 

It means reaching the right people,

in the right way,

about the right things. 

TechSoup has words of wisdom from  Brett Bonfield and Beth Kanter about the considerations a nonprofit should give to their use (or non-use) of social media.  Frankly, they offer a lot to think about.  Let me add another dimension to what nonprofits need to think about, but bring it back to basics.  The basics of planning. It’s not so much original thought as it is simplifying the myriads of strategic info folks like Brett, Beth and others have given nonprofits.

Mid-Life Crisis or a Refining Stage

Like any “product,”  the “first blush” is off many of these media vehicles. They went from introduction stage through the ravenous growth cycle and are now facing “maturity.”    If we’ve moved from people jumping in willy nilly to planful consideration, I’m all for it.  I think the best days are yet to come, as organizations refine how they use web 2.0.  Judging by the number of professional people I’m in contact with each week that don’t use any social networking (mostly because they haven’t had the time to figured out its best use), maturity and beyond has the potential to be glorious.

Strategize, Implement, Evaluate 

Use of social networking should not be a goal in itself.

Use of web 2.0, if appropriate, evolves as part of your organization’s implementation of it core long-term strategies.  It’s part of the short-term goals and tactics that move you toward your long-term goals.  And, as in any good strategic plan, you need to periodically evaluate your implementation for its effectiveness–tweaking, eliminating, expanding as needed. 

I see four major strategic areas in which a nonprofit can use social media to achieve their goals. 

Staff development 

Internal Business Processes

Fund Development/Fundraising (so often, this is all you read about)

Community/Friend-Building (which may feed into some of the above.  BTW, advocacy would fit into this category).

Over the next week, I’ll take a look at each of these and how long-term goals can be implemented through short-term objectives/tactics via web 2.0.  

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When Wikis Trump Email

j0404960.jpgGlad I discovered Stewart Mader yesterday.  What drew me was a discussion of wiki versus email on Day 2 of his series, “21 Days of Wiki Adoption.”

Last month, I wrote how email might not be going away anytime soon, and I stick with that.  But having held jobs where I’d leave my desk for a meeting, returning to find 100 emails, I know there must be a better way.  My email-from-hell experience was during the implementation of a rather large project–welfare reform–in one of the largest state agencies in existence.  I was top assistant to the Deputy Secretary overseeing this sea change. 

Everyone would “CYA” themselves by copying me on every email…it was how they “collaborated.”  Sound familiar?

Oh, if we only had wikis then.  Development of regulations, retraining of staff, outreach to constituencies, new policy manuals, IT apps–all under deadline with thousands of people involved.  How many days we broke our momentum to attend front-office meetings to explain where we were on the project(s) and “collaborate.”  Some staff had to come from across town or across the state. 

Collaboration and a Smaller Inbox

Fortunately, wikis are now idiot-proof and easy to set up.  I’ve used them (from PBWiki) for my college teaching, in both traditional and online classes.  In all cases, I’ve been the only person involved who knew what a wiki was at the outset, but most participants adapted quickly. 

 duqprojectmanagementwiki2.jpg

The screenshot here was for a Project Management class I ran of adult (mostly National Guard) students enrolled in a Masters of Leadership program run by Duquesne U. 

We were spread all over central PA during the week at our jobs, but had 8 weeks (and 8 evening classes) to run a fundraiser from scratch to finish to benefit The American Legion Legacy Scholarship.  We used the wiki to get our ducks in a row for a mission statement, then used subsequent pages to share word documents, timelines, tick lists, etc.  In projects, a wiki lets you:

  • Avoid the barrage of email
  • Have one source for the most current version of documents
  • Get input from multiple sources in an orderly manner
  • See the most recent updates, comments and postings by your colleagues
  • Let participants view parallel activities that might affect their portion of the project
  • Be more nimble, reacting to new input and altering direction, if needed.
  • Cut down on meeting time (if you need meetings at all).

If you need an easy-to-understand resource on what a wiki is, check out this video by Lee Lefever of CommonCraft.com

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Risks, rewards involved in adopting new business models–even in Web 2.0

A couple of “down” days with a cold followed by watching the Superbowl led me to ponder new business models and web 2.0. 

online learningAs you recall, the Superbowl was played at University of Phoenix’s stadium.  UOP was one of the first educational institutions to adopt the distance learning model.  The upside to pushing the envelope is their phenomenal growth and still cutting-edge usage of technology (there are no regular textbooks, just e-books).  The downside: traditional institutions scoffed at degrees earned online.  Some business processes (such as incentives for recruitment) had to be tweaked for an educational model. 

Standards for online learning didn’t exist when they began some 30 years ago, but we’ve come a long way.  Departments of education (state and federal) now recognize these degrees through accreditation.  In some quarters, UOPs e-learning reputation overshadows the fact that they have 200 physical campuses too.  (What, a football stadium?)   (Disclosure: I am a part-time business instructor for UOP Harrisburg campus..but for that reason I know first-hand how stringent their academic standards are). 

When bloggers write about Web 2.0 business models, they generally mean how an entire business is modeled via the web 2. 0 world (Twitter, Google, Facebook, any new startup taking advantage of trends).  But I’m more concerned with how individual nonprofits have adapted to use web 2.0–and I’m not just talking about marketing or fundraising. A couple of years ago, Dion Hinchcliffe wrote this:

There’s a whole aspect of Web 2.0 that can drive genuine business value and significant competitive advantage

This applies to nonprofit as well as for-profit organizations.  

Awhile back, I did a presentation to a statewide network of family service agencies focused on adoption of technology in service delivery.  We examined internet “counseling,” which was first emerging. It usually consisted of sort of of email communications with a therapist.  I thought e-therapy had potential to reach consitutencies not reached through ordinary means—rural residents (if they had internet access), people without transportation, or those otherwise resistant to sharing personal information face-to-face. Well, the suggestion didn’t go over too well. 

Since then, e-therapy has moved forward.   A check of sites (I’m not endorsing these, as I have no knowledge of the quality of their services) such as asktheinternettherapist  and letstalkscounseling show added services including internet video counseling via instant messaging, Windows Live, and Skype. 

Certainly, there is a need for local services and face-to-face counseling where human service providers can make appropriate local referrals and interventions.  Many family service agencies end up dealing with unexpected issues–domestic violence, child abuse, and thoughts of suicide.  But I can’t help but wonder how these agencies can benefit from selective use of these technologies to reach clients in need.  Isn’t that where hotlines came from years ago? 

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Social Media in Action 2: Pedal to the Metal for America’s Giving Challenge

On a post last week,  I reported on Social Media In Action, where Beth Kanter’s passion for kids in Cambodia stood to benefit from participation in the online fundraising contest sponsored by America’s Giving Challenge.   Beth’s passion is for The Sharing Foundation, which is benefiting from her networking on Twitter and her blog. 

The contest is intented to encourage better and more use of online fundraising for nonprofits.  The four fundraisers with the highest number of unique donors will receive $50,000 from the Case Foundation. The 50 projects that get the most total donations will each get $1,000.

 As of this moment in time, The Sharing Foundation is at #2 in terms of unique donors, with 1,490–nope, make that 1,495 (just changed) unique donors. 

  • To donate or check out the action, click here (be patient, with last minute donations, the site is a bit slow).  

The leaderboard is here, if you want to check it out.  

The contest ends this afternoon at 3 p.m.  (if you are reading this after that time, still check out the links…there is much to learn). 

If you are reading this in time, please consider giving the $10 minimum donation to help ensure The Sharing Foundation receives the extra $50,000!  It’s the number of donors that counts.

And if you are with a nonprofit, check out all these links above, including Beth’s Blog to see how you too can take advantage of web 2.0 media. 

Are “late” adopters “twits?”

At least I am. 

I confess, I’m “late” with getting on board with Twitter (ok…it launched in late 2006; only in the cyberworld is this late).  Lots of reasons: 

  • Concern with time management 
  •  Already have plenty of work flow interruptions
  • Too busy to take the time regarding how it all works. 
  • Not sure if there was anyone to tweet with (as most of my peers don’t use it)
  • Fear that the Twitterati will regard me as a late adopter that should just go away (blog posts on how Twitter should get back to how it was a year or more ago instilled that one…..)
  • Okay, and maybe the concern that I won’t be able to keep up with the fast-paced lives of others.  I’d look quite boring online. 
  • I need to detach from my electronic devices quite frequently during the day to stay sane.

You get the drift.

Why I’m taking the plunge.

Darren Rowse at problogger   has a recent post that he worked on over several days.  He discusses the Benefits of Twitter to bloggers, showing how, during his blog writing, things were popping.  Other recent posts include:  How to Use Twitter: Tips for Bloggers and 35 Twitter Tips from Twitter Users.   I’m still digesting these tidbits, diving in nonetheless and hoping to find my “voice” and time management tips for getting the most from the technology.  Still figuring out which desktop client, if any, I should use.

And the ever savvy Beth Kanter again showed how we can all benefit from Twitter.

Journey of a Newbie: Installment 1  

What I’ve figured out so far, in terms of Twitter use:

  1. I’ll use Twitter for mostly professional reasons. (You don’t need to know when I’m running to the grocery store).
  2. However, I’ll be a little more informal then my blog (which is in itself more informal than my presentations).
  3. For now, I’m using Web access only. 
  4. I’ll follow a couple of key people, lurking a little but tweeting concepts I’m working on.
  5. I will start to “tweet” links I find interesting for upcoming blogs, maybe even items that don’t yet make it in, in the hopes of getting other perspectives.
  6. I will learn to think in 140 words or less….but will communicate enough info that followers get the drift.
  7. I will “tweet” more on what I’m thinking, than what I’m doing.   (Advice from Todd Mintz).
  8. I need to learn the lingo.  We use Twitter where we “tweet,” and we are “tweeting,” were “tweeted” but never “twit?”   😉

Stay tuned.  Tips for productive use of this medium actively solicited! 

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Social Media In Action

I haven’t been blogging long, and although I have a depth of experience in communications and a “gut” instinct on what works, there’s still a lot to learn.  One great source has been Beth Kanter’s blog and wiki.  The great thing about social media is that this assistance comes “free” (okay, I retract that, there’s the time issue–but you know what I mean). 

Social Media In Action

Beth’s passion is for lifting kids in Cambodia out of poverty and she’ s involved in The Sharing Foundation, recently mentioned in a slide presentation Ed Schipul gave at the Got Social Media Conference. I had already seen the slideshow posted on Beth’s blog, and read where SHE learned her project was mentioned in the presentation in a “tweet” she received.  I then decided to get more serious about Twitter (had signed up for an account a few days ago but hadn’t yet used it—more on that in future post on being a newbie).  Twitter was having some problems yesterday so I bagged it for another day, but not before directly tweeting Beth Kanter.  She got back to me, asked if I’d donate and help get a couple of other donations for the Cambodia for Kids/Sharing Foundation group.  Ah..the wonders of social media. 

America’ Giving Challenge wants to encourage online giving campaigns.  Toward that end, they are sponsoring an online fundraising contest.  There’s the chance for Sharing Foundation to winner an extra $1,000 or even $50,000 if they can get enough unique donors.  Minimum donation is $10.  Contest ends January 31 at 3 p.m. but…

Beth said:   

..over the next five days (now actually 3), the organizations that get the most donations in a single 24 hour period will receive an additional $250, plus the largest donation will be matched. So, if you haven’t contributed yet, this would be an excellent time to donate $10!

If we are four of the top causes to get the most unique donors, we’ll win $50,000 for the Sharing Foundation as part of America’s Giving Challenge. With $10 you can help improve the lives of over 1,500 children in one of the world’s poorest countries.

So check out this link, donate and spread the word.

How’s that for a “best practice” in action?