Idealware February eNews: Keeping It Simple

Recently I chatted with Allen Gunn (known in some circles as Gunner) about the tradeoffs between power and simplicity we sometimes have to make with technology.

By adding apps and plug-ins and playing with software configuration options, a nonprofit can do a lot of cool things with its technology. Workflow automation! Integration! It all sounds so efficient and powerful, doesn’t it? But Gunner sees it as an empty promise, because maintaining all of this complexity—feeding the beast—can be a lot of work.

The example he gave was WordPress plug-ins. Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that the more plug-ins you have, the more updates you have to run—and the more difficult it is to diagnose the problem when something breaks.

There are other costs, too. More complex technology implementations can also make an organization more vulnerable by creating additional vectors for virus and malware. It  increases the potential for incompatibility among add-ons. It can also create barriers to user adoption by multiplying the number of systems to learn. Or it may add up to more than one way to accomplish a task.

For example, say your database has a native broadcast email tool as well as an integrated third party broadcast email tool. How is a new user supposed to figure out which tool to use? When she does, is the user interface cohesive with the rest of the system, or does it require her to learn an entirely different layout and set of commands?

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s make K.I.S.S. our motto this month. You can decide what it stands for at your organization, but I’m going with “Keep It Simple, Sister.” Over the years, Idealware has published a number of resources to support the effort to keep it simple that might be worth revisiting, including the following:

·        Selecting Software on a Shoestring
This evergreen article looks at how to make a smart technology choice without spending more money on the selection process than on the software itself.

·        How to Implement Simple Segmentation Strategies
An oldie but goodie about using simple segmentation techniques to build more meaningful connections with new and repeat donors.

·        Will All Your Constituents Fit Into One System?
Will combining everything into a single database simplify your data management, or will it actually make things more complex? It depends. This workbook should give you some insights.

What are your thoughts on power vs. simplicity? Have you learned any lessons one way or the other worth sharing? I’d love to hear from you.



Recent Publications

Case Management System Market Trends 2018

Case management systems cover a wide array of specialized needs, and are often used by vastly different programs. In 2015, we published A Consumers Guide to Case Management Systems, which looked at five widely-used, generalized systems. A lot can change in three years. In this new article we take a high-level look at those changes and at the trends driving the evolution of the marketplace.

Landscape of Digital Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

Technology has revolutionized marketing. New tools can help you better connect with the people who use your services and support your mission and causes, and help you learn more about their interests so that you can better meet their needs. We created this report to help you understand the multiple facets of digital marketing of interest to nonprofits and identify a logical, cost-effective path forward for your organization.

Becoming a Data-Informed Organization: How to Assess Your Nonprofit’s Data Maturity and Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

What is a data-informed organization? The ideal is to incorporate data as part of the culture so that it becomes second-nature to collect and act on it. This report defines five stages of data maturity and identifies the factors that comprise them. It also includes a brief self-assessment to help you determine the status of your own data efforts, which is the first step toward advancing.

Upcoming Training

Free Webinar: Six Reasons Why Infographics Matter
Thursday, March 1, 1-2 PM Eastern. FREE!
People love infographics—but should your nonprofit love them enough to create them? Join us as we discuss the role infographics play in a healthy communications mix. Hosted by Expert Trainer Laura Quinn, this webinar is free thanks to the generous sponsorship of Wire Media.

Visual Storytelling: The Complete Infographic Toolkit for Nonprofits
Thursdays March 8-29, 1-2:30 PM Eastern. $180.
Infographics with attractive images and compelling data can reach a big audience. They give your data the power to rally support, inspire action, and drive impact. Tap into your data’s potential to create change with Visual Storytelling: The Complete Infographic Toolkit for Nonprofits, led by Expert Trainer Laura Quinn.

Online Communications: The Basics
Thursdays, April 12-26, 1-2:30 PM Eastern. $120.
Every nonprofit needs a solid online communications foundation. This course will help you define your communications goals, practices, and strategies. We’ll help you refine your communications goals, learn what kind of content engages your stakeholders, understand the purpose and best use of each online communications channel, develop an editorial calendar, track success against goals, and choose how to invest your time and money.

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