Gregory Heller's blog

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Free And Open Source Software For Nonprofit Organizations Webinar Slides

On Thursday I presented a webinar in conjunction with NTEN entitled Free & Open Source Software For Nonprofits.  You can view the slides from my presentation below or on slide share (click that last link). If you would like to see the video fo the entire webinar, approximately 65 minutes, you can purchase it from the NTEN website for $35 if you ar a member, and more if you are not.
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Free And Open Source Alternatives To Proprietary SaaS Offerings


With this week's announcement that Blackbaud will buy Convio there have been many questions whether this will be good or bad for the nonprofit organizations both companies count as their clients. We have often had clients and other nonprofit organizations we come into contact with us ask about the open source tools we specialize in, and how they compare with the proprietary tools or Software as a Service offerings that they've heard about. One very clear difference is that the open source tools don't get bought up and consolidated.

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An Open Nonprofit Directive


At the end of 2009 when the Obama Administration came out with the Open Government Directive (which I wrote about at the time) I had some conversations with other consultants and thinkers in the nonprofit technology world about the idea of an "Open Nonprofit Directive" that would, in many ways, mirror the OGD.

Two years have passed, and in the prognostications for the year ahead I've seen a number of references to "opening up" and increasing transparency in the nonprofit sector. Once again I am left thinking it is time for an Open Nonprofit Directive.

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Responsive Design, Email Content Strategy And Templates

Screen Shot of iOS email in boxWhy do so many organizations waste the opportunity to hook their email subscribers with the first line of the email message? I hadn't really noticed this sooner because of the way I consumed email: through a series of complicated email aliases and gmail filters.  Honestly, in Gmail, I was basically ignoring most solicited bulk email (organization email lists). But since I've been taking a first look at my email through my iPhone and iPad using the iOS mail app, I've begun to notice this shocking fact.

Here are some facts about viewing email via the iOS mail app:

  • Approximately 35 to 40 characters of a subject are displayed
  • Approximately 100 characters from the top of the email message are displayed

Two lines at 50 characters, and a subject of 35 to 40 characters. That's basically a Tweet.  And that (plus the "from" name) is all you have to get your reader's attention and convince them to open the email message and read on.

Why do so many emails waste this space with something like:

  • "Click to view this email in a browser" (37 characters)
  • "Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser." (64 characters)
  • "If you're having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online." (68 characters)
  • "Web version | Edit your subscription | Unsubscribe" (55 characters)
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Using Live Video To Reach Your Audience With Google+ Or UStream


I think that most organizations are a little bit afraid of video. And if they are a little bit afraid of video they are even more afraid of live video.  Video, the conventional wisdom goes, is expensive and hard to produce. Your chances of doing it wrong are higher than of doing it right, and either way the cost and time involved is probably out of reach. Live video, well that is just crazy talk! Anything could happen!

As we all know, the cost of video cameras has come way down, the once much heralded inexpensive Flip camera is now obsolute because of smartphones with high quality video cameras! And editing technology has also become cheaper and easier. For years now every Mac has shipped with iMovie, but today you can edit video with a range of online services including YouTube.

Video engages people. How many times a day do you want a few minutes of video on the web? That clip from the Daily Show, a segment from the local news, something on YouTube (perhaps involving a cute animal) a friend posted to Facebook? Or maybe you were glued to live streaming of the #occupy demonstrations this fall?

How can nonprofit organizations make use of video easily, and without great expense, to connect with their audiences? My, perhaps counter intuitive answer, is through live streaming. Yes, jump in on the deep end.  With live streaming video there is no post production necessary, just a camera and an internet connection. UStream has garnered much press because of the #occupy movements and it is a great platform, scales well, offers some good tools, but it also requires a bit more setup than, say, Google+ Hangouts.  

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Process Vs Knowledge

Eames The Architect and The Painter

I recently saw the wonderful documentary, Eames: The Architect & The Painter, and if you are a fan of the furniture, films or other design of Ray and Charles Eames like I am, you have to see this film when it comes to your town, or becomes available via DVD or some streaming service. Even if you are not obsessed with the work of the amazing couple, you have certainly been exposed to it, and I think we all can learn from the example they set.

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Interesting Stats On Mobile Adoption, Smart Phones And Apps

iPhone 4 32GB BlackIf you've been feeling like more people have smart phones than don't, you are pretty close to being right.

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Unplugging and Improving Productivity As A Result

Perhaps it is just the end of the year approaching, and we are all getting a bit reflective, and thinking ahead to New Year's Resolutions, or maybe something larger is happening.

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Should Nonprofit Organizations Hire Zero-Gravity Thinkers?

Yesterday I wrote about a recent study suggesting that millions of baby boomers want to start their own nonprofit organizations or social ventures. This morning I returned to a tab opened in my browser a day or two ago, an article on the Harvard Business Review blog, "Don't let What You Know Limit What You Imagine."  I'd highly encourage reading it, but for now I will draw some connections between it and my post yesterday.

The author, Bill Taylor, references a book by Cynthia Barton Rabe, The Innovation Killer, in which she talks about how experience in a field can become a detriment to innovation and success. Her answer is that organizations should hire "zero-gravity thinkers," innovators "who are not weighed down by the expertise of a team, its politics, or 'the way things have always been done.'"

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Lessons Of The Dancing Guy, When To Lead And When To Follow

Today I was reminded of the Derek Sivers TED talk "How To Start A Movement" in which he analyzes a popular YouTube video of a guy dancing on a hillside at music festival. What reminded me of this video, and its lessons was an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, "Calling All Boomers: Don't Start More Nonprofits"

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