Preview and Version Tools – Second Day of Christmas Gifts from Tendenci to You!

Christmas Blue Tendenci-Logo Transparent No WordsComing in 2013 – More Flexible options for adding dynamic content for your team without needing to know how to write code!

ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS… TENDENCI’S GIFT TO YOU: New Ways to Update Your Website without Code

We’re always looking for better ways to give your association online collaboration tools that your staff and members can use to share news and events. This Christmas, we have a couple of really cool new features to announce

1) New Versioning Feature for Pages and Articles Saves Your Work

View Previous Versions of Your Website Content!
View Previous Versions of Your Website Content!

Our new “Versions” feature saves all previous versions of pages and articles so you’ll be able to review content edits and view the older content even after you’ve updated and saved over it. We think this feature has tons of benefits for you, including empowering your site users with access to contribute new content and update old content because you’ll never have to worry if they save over something they shouldn’t have – you can just pull up the previous version!

If you are working on a page with another person, you can both save as you work and Tendenci will save each version and connect it with your user profile, so you can view your work next to your partners.

versions attached to username
View Who Last Edited Content and What’s Changed!

2) New Preview Theme Feature Enables You to Edit and Preview Themes inside Your Theme Editor

Edit and Preview New Themes!
Edit and Preview New Themes!

The new preview option in your theme editor allows you to edit and view theme templates and layouts without changing your live website’s theme. Site visitors and members can access all your website’s content as usual and will never know you’re in the back of your website changing the design!

admin theme live preview
Preview Theme Edits Online!


We’re celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas with daily previews of the all new Tendenci Features coming to your association website in 2013! Join us each day to “open new gifts” filled with feature updates for your website!

Visit our Twelve Days of Christmas Main Page to find new gifts we’re announcing each day from Christmas until January 5th!

We love to hear your questions and comments about Tendenci, the open source CMS for Association’s – leave a reply below in our comments section or send us your thoughts via email

A User is a User is a User – First Day of Christmas Gift from Tendenci to You!

Christmas Blue Tendenci-Logo Transparent No Words
Coming in 2013 – Better ways to manage and track your users, members, volunteers, and staff!

On the First Day of Christmas… Tendenci’s Gift to You: One Profile for Every User!

Our 2013 Tendenci Roadmap includes a major focus on adding features that enable you to build stronger relationships with your members and donors through online community building tools that show you how users are engaging with your association.

One way that we’re doing this is by merging your website’s Users and Contacts with other modules like memberships. Your website will recognize anyone with a username and email to your website as a real Person by connecting the user’s activity across your website and organizing it all on their user profile.

A User is a Member is an Event Attendee is a Donor is a User

The biggest change you’ll see is how Tendenci’s database handles user information so that our software now “recognizes” if a user logged in is also a member, and if they are attending your events, and how much they are donating. This information will empower your staff with more accurate reporting on the effectiveness of your different programs and fundraising campaigns.

We want to make organizing and connecting people easier for you, and this merge includes all site users’ who have a user profile and site login including your  staff, volunteers, members, donors and anyone else you’ve opted to keep in touch with.

Here’s a Preview of the Updates Coming to Users, Groups, and Members in 2013

Check out some of these screenshots and learn about our favorite changes coming to your association website’s people management tools:

1) Find Your Users Faster with our Global Site “People Search”

The New “People” Search enables you to globally search all users and contacts in one place, and you can opt to search only your association’s members or every person on your website!

people search users and members together
One Global People Search for Finding All of Your Users!

This new update will also help prevent  duplicate entry for your staff and your members because now user profile data and membership application data is kept sync’d.  This wil enable users who later join as members to automatically complete membership application fields using their user profile data. Likewise, membership application information is added and kept updated in your users’ profiles.

 2) New Batch Editing Tools for People Give Your Staff Time-Saving and Fun Ways to Organize and Manage Your Members!

We’re adding new tools that enable Your Association Staff to approve and manage memberships in fewer steps, plus so much more! Here’s an inside look at the changes coming to your site’s Admin Backend:

admin membership batch management dropdown
Coming Soon – Batch Options for Your Memberships!
batch manage user and member groups
Manage Memberships and Groups Directly from User Profiles!
updated membership management tools
New Super-User Membership Management Dashboard Options!

 3) Advanced Membership Reports to Give You Key Performance Insights for Your Membership Programs and Events 

We’re rolling out several new membership reports in the next few months to give you real time data including information about current members, renewal and new membership financial data, and so much more! In 2013, you’ll have better reporting tools and be able to collect and analyze data about your members, volunteers, donors, and staff better than ever before!

12 days more membership reports
New Tendenci Membership Reports Coming in 2013!

Merry Christmas from Tendenci!

We’re celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas with daily previews of the all new Tendenci Features coming to your association website in 2013! Join us each day to “open new gifts” filled with feature updates for your website!

Visit our Twelve Days of Christmas Main Page to find new gifts for each day from now until January 5th!

We love to hear your questions and comments about Tendenci, the open source CMS for Association’s – leave a reply below in our comments section or send us your thoughts via email to

Hosting an Open Source Tendenci Website on the Linode Cloud

In the last post, I walked through the steps to install Tendenci on the Rackspace OpenStack cloud hosting environment.  This week, I want to share my experience  with installing Tendenci on the Linode Cloud, another great option for hosting Tendenci websites.

Translating the ‘Geek Speek’ of Linode

It seems like each of the hosting providers have their own terminology for the different pieces involved in web app cloud hosting. For example, I setup a “cloud server” on Rackspace which runs and managed your Tendenci website application.  The equivalancy to a Rackspace “cloud server” is the “linode“, which stands for “Linux Node” when you host with

Think of a “linode” as your own web application server (computer) that comes with your CPU, RAM, disc storage, and a Linux-based operating system.  For Tendenci websites, we use the Ubuntu O/S which is a version of Linux.

Linode’s Hosting Options

Linode provides a “Do-It-Yourself”  cloud hosting environment and has a pretty straight-forward pricing plan based on hardware specifications for things like memory (RAM) and the amount of disk storage space included.  Tendenci requires a minimum of 256MB of RAM, and because Linode’s minimum plan begins at 512MB, any plan you choose will give you enough to get started and you can upgrade your plan with Linode as your site grows.

Linode Cloud Hosting Plans

Is Linode Right for Your Association?

Linode has great documentation and I was able to figure out how to get Tendenci up and running with only one quick call to my programming team to find out if I wanted a 32bit or 64bit O/S.  Linode wants you to learn how to do manage these services for your cloud applications, and tries to give you the training and support you need to learn how.

Linode’s hosting plans give you full control over your association’s hosting environment, but I felt like the process was a little more challenging for me since I’m not that familiar with Linux. Particular challenges for me included customizing the DNS, setting up FTP access, and figuring out how to manage server back-ups.  These are all things you’ll need to be able to do in order to keep your website and server running properly.

I would recommend Linode as a great option to consider for associations who have in-house staff or outside IT and developer support that are familiar with Linux and managing servers.  Linode offers a great value with its plans, and is a very affordable option for hosting small to mid-size open source Tendenci websites.

However, if you’re like most nonprofit staff members, then you don’t have the time to manage these things, or even the time to learn how to do it yourself and you may want to seek out a more “full-service” hosting option. Linode may prove to be more costly via time consumption or just too challenging to maintain if you don’t have the IT support available to you.

Steps to Get Tendenci Live in the Linode Cloud

The total time for me to get Tendenci hosted on Linode where I could view the website in a browser probably took about 2 hours and I estimate about an hour of that was reading the getting started guide.  The other hour or so included creating a new account, setting up my Linode Distribution (server), and installing Tendenci.

Sign-Up and Create an Account

If you don’t already have an account with Linode, then you’ll need to first signup and select your plan. Linode does require a credit card to activate your account, and the entire process took me about 5 minutes. If you already have an account with Linode, you can skip this section.

Here’s the steps I took with screenshots for creating a new account with the basic $19.95/month plan:

1) Select the username and password for your account

Fill out the signup form’s fields with your name and billing information.

2) Select your plan

The cheapest option begins at around $20 per month, and has enough storage and RAM to support a small to mid-sized Tendenci website installation. If you’re wondering what size cloud environment your Tendenci website needs, send us an email at and someone from our support team will help you out!

linode select your plan

3) Select your payment terms

Linode offers month-t0-month, or discounted plans if you prepay for 1 or 2 years worth of services. After you submit the signup form, you’ll have a chance to review your order before your credit card is charged and you receive your account login information.

linode complete your order

* Don’t forget to check the box next to the Terms of Service agreement before clicking “Complete Order”

4) Log into your Linode Manager Dashboard to get started

Most new accounts are activated immediately, and I was able to login using the name and password I’d created on the signup form before even receiving an email confirmation and receipt.  ** Linode does say that in some cases, new accounts may take longer to activate.

linode manager login screen

Creating Your First Linode

I found Linode’s Getting Started Guide to be really straightforward and I had my server deployed with Ubuntu and ready to Boot up in about 10 or 15 minutes. Here’s what I did to set-up an Ubuntu server on Linode to host a Tendenci open source association website:

1) Pick the location for your new Linode

linode manager welcome screen

I selected London, UK as my location just for fun and because I wanted to spread the Tendenci open source love around the globe and not just stay in Texas.  It really doesn’t matter too much what data center location you pick, and the Linode documentation suggests that data centers farther from you may result in longer download times and possibly latency with remote access and file transfers.

Tip: If you’re concerned about the performance, Linode recommends you perform a Facilities Speedtest:

linode which facility data center do you choose

2) Deploy a new Linux Distribution

This simple means you’re going to set-up a server with the Ubuntu 12.04 operating system so you can install Tendenci on it later in the process.

Here’s a screenshot that shows the options you want to choose for a Tendenci website installation on Linode: linode make your settings look like this new linode

  • Distribution: This is where you’ll select the operating system for your “linode”. Linode recommends 32bit distributions, however for Tendenci configurations, you’ll want to select the 64bit version of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.
  • Deployment Disk Size: This setting should already default to the maximum size available (about 24 GB with the basic Linode plan) and you probably want to keep this setting at the default maximum size. This will give your Tendenci website plenty of storage space to get started as you add files, images, photos, and user data.
  • Swap Disk: The basic plan defaults this setting to 256MB and Linode recommends you stick to the default setting.
  • Root Password: this will be the password that you’ll use later on to remotely access your Linode and install Tendenci using the Tendenci installation script and you’ll want to make sure it is secure and you’ll need to remember it in a few minutes.

3) Click the “Rebuild” button to deploy your new Linode

You’ll be directed to the Linode dashboard where you can watch the different processes for installing and configuring your server in the “Host Job Queue” section:

linode host job queue system boot queue status

4) Click on “Boot” to power up your new Linode!

Once the server is deployed, you’re Linode dashboard will look something like this screenshot below which shows that your Server Status is “powered off” and you have a “Boot” button underneath your Ubuntu configuration profile.

linode dashboard boot server

5) Check Server Status to make sure you’re up and running

You’ll see the system boot progress bar in the “Host Job Queue” section of your dashboard, and then your Server Status will update to “running” once the system boot is complete. linode your server is running

Connect to Your Linode using SSH to Install Tendenci

In order to install Tendenci on Linode, you’ll first need to use secure shell (SSH) protocol to remotely connect to your server. The easiest way for us non-programming types to accomplish this is to use the Terminal application that comes with Macs, however you can also do this from a Linux computer (using the terminal window) or a Windows computer (using PuTTY, a free open source SSH client for Windows).

My instructions here are specifically for Mac users, and if you’re using a Linux or Windows machine and run into any issues installing Tendenci then please contact us at and we’ll be happy to get you set-up!

1) Find your SSH root login on the Linode dashboard and enter it at the command prompt (the $ sign) in Terminal.

You’ll be prompted to enter your password, and you’ll use the same password you created for your linode server in Step 2 of the previous section.

linode ssh root access in terminal

* The first time you connect to your Linode using SSH, you will get a message saying that “the authenticity of host … can’t be established” along with information about your public RSA key.  Don’t worry about what this all means – just type in “yes” when it prompts you for a yes/no answer and press ‘enter’.  

You’ll know that you’re connected to your server when you see the Terminal prompt change to something like “root@localhost:~” which means you can enter commands in Terminal on your local computer that will tell your remote server what to do.

2) Remotely connect to your server and install Tendenci.

Enter the script installation code at the prompt inside Terminal and press “enter” and the script will take care of installing all of the different packages for Tendenci, including setting up a PostgreSQL database.

This process will take about 20 minutes so now’s a great time to check your email or get a cup of coffee while you wait.

* Towards the very end of the installation process, you may get some pop-up screens asking about mail configuration for your app. For now, just use the default setting for “internet site” and then you can enter the domain name for your site or just use “localhost”. You can configure this setting later on, so don’t worry about it if it’s confusing.

You’ll need to press the “enter” or “return” key inside of Terminal because clicking with your mouse won’t work for this.  Use your keyboard’s arrow keys to move between options.

linode email config image 1 linode image 2 email config linode email config image 3
 Press the “Enter/Return” key on this Screen With “Internet Site” is Highlighted – Press “Enter/Return”  You can keep this as “localhost” or Change to Your Domain Name

3) Wait for “Tendenci is Setup!!!” Success Message

When the Tendenci script is finished installing your website software, you’ll get a “success!” message in Terminal followed by the login and password information for your website.tendenci success linode installation

By default, your username and password are both “admin” for initial deployments.

It is ** crucially important ** that you change this information immediately upon logging into your Tendenci website for the first time. Failing to change your username AND password can open up your website to hackers.  Read our Help File on User Profiles to learn how to update your user profile information: 

4) Click the button that says “Reboot” on your Linode Manager Dashboard

Tip: Make sure your server status on your dashboard still says that the server is running.

reboot linode after installing tendenci

5) Open a new browser window and enter the 12 digit IP address that’s listed after the “ssh root@” on your remote access tab.

In my case, that number is  You may need to refresh your browser window once or twice if you get an error or “Gateway not Found” message, and then you should see the Tendenci default theme homepage.

linode tendenci website homepage

6) Login using the default username and password “admin”, and then immediately go and change your username and password.

Tip: Refer to our Tendenci Help File on User Profiles for instructions on how to change your username and password.

Woohoo! You Did It!

You’re now ready to start customizing your Tendenci Open Source Association Website on a Linode Cloud.

Linode Resources for Your Next Steps

Linode offers great resources to help Linux newbies, and I recommend you take some time reading their Beginners Guide and the Getting Started Guide before you set-up your website. Then, check out these more advanced guides Linode offers to help you secure your server and customize your Tendenci site’s DNS/domain name.

Linode Library – This is the main menu for Linode’s help documentation.

Securing Your Linode Server – This guide will show you how to add new user accounts to the server and manage security settings and protocol so you won’t get hacked.

Linode DNS Manager – This comprehensive guide introduces basic DNS concepts and explains how to setup DNS records so your website can have a custom URL instead of sending people to a 12 digit IP address.

Got Open Source Hosting Questions or Suggestions for Us?

We’re hard at work testing and documenting different hosting platforms with Tendenci to give you more choices – if you have questions about installing a site on Linode or another Cloud provider, let us know via a comment below or email me and we’ll find answers for you.

Installing Tendenci on the Rackspace OpenStack Cloud Hosting Platform

##### UPDATE: this post is partially outdated. Please go to for the most recent installation instructions. #####

Tendenci has been open source for about 8 months, and we’re really excited to announce new options for the pro-open source community.  We have been testing Tendenci installations in other hosting environments to give you more freedom to choose how you host and maintain your Tendenci association website.

Tendenci Open Source Hosting Anyone Can Setup

This past week, our programming team wrote some scripts that make it easier to deploy and install Tendenci on other hosting environments outside of our own in-house managed hosting. Now, you can install Tendenci on Cloud hosting platforms like Linode and Rackspace in minutes without needing to be super-technical.

You just need to have root access to your server and a host provider that has the option to run versions 11.10 or 12.04 of the Ubuntu  open source operating system on the server. You’ll find the full technical spec’s required in this Help File on Tendenci Open Source Hosting.

This blog post is the first in a series of posts we’ll be writing so that you can set-up a Tendenci website on a server, even if you don’t have a computer science degree.  Stay tuned for more Tendenci Hosting Guides and email me if you have a hosting company you think we should write a guide for.

How to Install Tendenci on Rackspace Cloud Hosting

I wanted to find out what was involved in installing a Tendenci site on Rackspace’s open source Cloud Hosting platform, OpenStack. I’ve never used Rackspace, and my experience in managing website hosting falls more in the blogger realm with hosting platforms for WordPress like Dreamhost and Bluehost.  I was surprised at how easy the entire process ended up being, and I had a live, functional Tendenci Community website on a Rackspace cloud server in less than two hours – without having to bug my programming team.

If I can do it, I bet anyone can! Here are the steps I took (along with some explanations to technical details I learned during the process) to install a Tendenci website on Rackspace’s open source Cloud Hosting…

 Step 1: Research Rackspace’s Cloud Hosting Options

I found Rackspace’s support documents to be really simple and straightforward.  However, I did get a little confused trying to figure out which hosting package to select. To save you some time, here’s my breakdown of your options with Rackspace cloud hosting and my recommendations.

Rackspace offers 3 different Cloud Hosting service levels (prices start at around $20/month):

  1. Regular Cloud Hosting
  2. Private Cloud Hosting
  3. Hybrid Cloud Hosting

You’ll want to take the time to read more about the different plans and their costs, and write down questions you have as you go and you can send those questions to Rackspace’s support team before you sign-up. Rackspace has a great “Hosting 101” Resource Library of Articles that explain the different pieces to hosting in the cloud to help answer any beginner questions.

For most of you, you’ll probably want to opt-in for the Regular Cloud Hosting, which is the option I selected to set-up my Tendenci site on Rackspace.  If you don’t have someone on your staff to manage your IT, then I recommend you consider adding the Managed Cloud Hosting package that Rackspace offers for $100 a month.  Rackspace will manage the technical daily tasks like server maintenance, nightly backups and more.  You can learn more about what’s included in a managed hosting solution in this chart:

We include these managed hosting services with our Tendenci’s Community Hosting plans to ensure your website environment is healthy and in top performance. If you’re hosting your website on your own, you’ll want to make sure someone (either your hosting provider or an in-house IT team) is providing ongoing maintenance and security updates.

Step 2: Create an Account

Once you’ve selected the cloud hosting package that’s right for you, the next step is to signup with Rackspace by creating your account.  To signup, just go to and start completing the fields.  You’ll need to have a credit card handy because Rackspace does request your billing information up front.

I didn’t have any trouble signing up and creating my account with Rackspace, and found the process to be really fast to complete.

After you sign-up, you’ll get an email and an on screen message stating that someone from Rackspace will be calling you in a few minutes at the phone number you provided to validate your new account. I received a phone call within 5 minutes of setting up my account and the process on the phone took about the same amount of time. After the phone call, I logged into my new Rackspace account and had full access to my Cloud Hosting Next Generation dashboard.

Step 3: Create a New Server

After you login, you’ll need to create your first server. You’ll need some information about the environment Tendenci needs to have:

  • minimum of 256MB RAM
  • Ubuntu 12.04 (or 11.10) operating system
  • recommended minimum of 1GB disk space for installing and this number will grow as you add more photos, graphics, and users to your website

Rackspace has a great help file on the full details behind creating a new server: that I followed and, in about 10 minutes, I had a message on my screen showing my server was being set-up and then I was given the login password and get started.

Here’s screenshots and the steps I took to create my first Rackspace server:

    1. Click the button to “Create Server”

    1. Name your server and select a data center location from the drop down menu

    1. Scroll through the list of operating system “Images” (an Image refers to the operating system you’d like Rackspace to install on your server) – in this case, you want to scroll down to find Ubuntu 12.04.

    1. Next, You’ll select the amount of RAM you want.  The minimum is 512MB and that will suffice for most small Tendenci websites.

  1. Then, push the “Create Server” button at the bottom of the page and Rackspace will set-up your server.  This process takes about 15-20 minutes, so go grab a cup of coffee or check your email and come back to the page in a few minutes.

Bonus Tips on Cloud Hosting Costs

Cloud hosting pricing can be somewhat confusing and here’s some tips to be aware of when you’re estimating your hosting costs:

  1. Different server configurations have different costs, and so adding things like additional RAM or storage space will increase your monthly costs.  Rackspace has a pricing chart online that shows the rates for servers depend for you to check out.
  2. Rackspace estimates its pricing by the hour and then estimates the monthly pricing based on 730 hours/month.  You’ll want your website up and running 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days/year and 366 days on leap years.  Your monthly pricing may be a little higher sometimes when months have 31 days and, therefore more than 730 hours.  For most websites, this will only be a few dollars difference from month to month.
  3. Basic Cloud Hosting with Rackspace doesn’t include things like your website Domain name registration fee, email accounts, or most server maintenance and backup services.

Step 4: Install Tendenci on Your Rackspace Server

Once your server is set-up, you can install Tendenci.  This is where you’d use the install scripts, and this is also the most technical step in the process.

Depending on if you’re using a MAC or a PC, you’ll need to use different tools to remotely login to your server and deploy the installation scripts that will upload  Tendenci’s software to run on your server. If you’re using a MAC, then you should have an application called “Terminal” that you can search for in spotlight.  You’ll open up terminal and remotely login to your Rackspace server using the IP address listed on your server’s control panel dashboard:

Rackspace recommends PuTTY for Windows PC users and you can download the tool for free on their website:

After you’ve logged in with SSH to your server, you can install Tendenci using the deployment scripts and this process takes about 20 minutes of waiting (ready for that second cup of coffee?) while the software packages are installed on your Rackspace Cloud server.

Once this is finished, you have just one more step and then you can login to your Tendenci website and start customizing your layout and theme.

Step 5: Set-Up Your DNS

After Tendenci is installed on your server, you can view your live website by going to the 9 digit IP4 Public address.  This number is listed on your server profile page, and will look something like  If you were to paste your IP4 address into your web browser, you’d be directed to your website.  However, most likely – you want to be able to type in your custom domain URL and visit your website instead of using a 9 digit string of numbers.

To do this, you’ll use the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel to add your website’s custom domain name to the DNS settings.  Rackspace has an excellent help file in their knowledge center that shows you the steps to creating and managing new DNS records:

I own the domain and I wasn’t using it for another site, so I followed Rackspace’s instructions on how to transfer a domain name and in about 5 minutes, I had setup the DNS settings.

After I installed Tendenci on the server, I then went back and created a new record in the DNS settings so that the url would direct visitors to my Tendenci website IP address.  It can take a few hours for your DNS settings to propagate and take effect, and so you may need to check back every couple of hours to see if the DNS transfer worked correctly.

Now, you should be all set-up and ready to go! We’re hard at work testing and documenting different hosting platforms with Tendenci to give you more choices – if you have questions about installing a site on Rackspace or another Cloud provider, let us know via a comment below or email me and we’ll find answers for you.

#NPDev – The Nonprofit Technology Event You Wish You Hadn’t Missed

Last week, I attended‘s annual Nonprofit Developer Summit in Oakland, California. Nonprofit organizations and technologists came together to teach and learn about the technology challenges in the nonprofit industry. Every day, I was brought into thought provoking discussions on how to solve some of these challenges with technology today and inspiring success stories from .Org’s that were adapting technology to win.

I can’t express how truly mind-opening this event is, and I encourage you to add next year’s conference. NPDev gave me several opportunities to connect and interact with highly technical people who work within the nonprofit space, and because the organizers encourage end user language, I was able to participate in technical conversations comfortably and I learned so much as a result!

Big Data, Teaching NPO Tech, and Maps

To help me select which sessions I would attend, I focused on 3 main themes:

* Innovative NPO Tech Use Cases

* Big Data Collection and Management

* Teaching Methods for Tech Beginners 

Here are my top takeaway sessions, linked to their wiki notes pages, for those of you who missed this year’s event –  hopefully I’ll be able to pass on some of what I learned at the NPDev Summit.

Innovative NPO Tech – Maps

Nonprofits are doing really awesome things with maps and the conference focused on a couple of open source mapping tools, TileMill and Open Street Map (OSM) with case studies on how .Org’s were creating interactive map tools to get supplies where they’re needed and match volunteers with someone who needs a little help. There were a number of innovative technologies being talked about at NPDev with Mapping Tech being the most popular.

Here’s my Top Recommended #NPDev Map Sessions:

Introduction to TileMill and Advanced TileMill gave hands-on instructions on using TileMill to create visually enlightening maps for your cause.

Open Street Map (OSM) Mapping showed participants how to use this free, open source mapping tool.

Saving Lives with Crowd Sourced Mapping in Haiti shares case studies on how organizations are using mapping during and after natural disasters to save lives and help rebuild communities.

NonProfit Big Data Tech

Big Data is one of 2012’s most oft-used “buzz” words and the nonprofit industry is seeking solutions just like the corporate world.  Here are some of the best NPDev sessions that discussed what Big Data is and why you need to prioritize Big Data within your organization in 2013:

How to Use Data Informed Campaigns shows nonprofits how to collect and analyze past data to create compelling reports that build credibility around your cause and support your movement.

Being a Data Driven OrganizationTaming the Data Hodge-Podge shared insights into how you can identify key organizational drivers and develop methods to measure and analyze the data to help your Board and staff make decisions.

Open Data Around the World provides resources for finding free data from places like NASA and government organizations and tells you how nonprofits can benefit from using open data.

The Dashboard session includes analysis of several good and bad dashboards and what tools a dashboard should have to be really useful for Nonprofits.

Beginners Tech Guides

Strategic Hosting for NonProfits takes a look at what’s really included in typical hosting plans compared to the needs of most nonprofit organizations and shares tips to help you evaluate and select the right hosting services for your software.

How to Prepare for a Website Project from the .Org Side provides nonprofits with best practices and a methodology to use for your next website project to get the results you wanted.

Introduction to the Command line offers a little history and a truly beginner-friendly guide to using the command prompt to communicate with your computer.

 Introduction to Git covers some of the basic commands you can use with the Git version control tool.

More of What You Might Have Missed

You’ll find a list of the sessions along with the notes and other resources in the Dev Summit Wiki.

Photos from the event are being shared on Flickr with the hashtag #npdev.

Check out a local Nonprofit Tech event: Netsquared! Netsquared meet-ups are local, community-driven events where participants connect to discuss technology tools that can help social causes.  You’ll find me at the Houston Netsquared events, usually so I hope you’ll come to one of our upcoming events in 2013.


Make Your NonProfit Website a Donor Magnet Part 2

In part one of this 2-part series, I talked about the problems with many nonprofit websites that are driving potential donors away.  In the second post, I’m going to give you 5 changes you can make to your website to increase your online donor conversions.

5 Minor Changes You Can Do Today

1) Strengthen your Call to Action

The last thing you want is for a visitor to come to your website looking for a way to get involved and not being able to find the information.  Your site needs a clear call to action that asks visitors to become members, donate, or register for an event.

“Learn More” CTA Button from

Here’s a great article by the Copyblogger on the common mistakes that marketers make with their web site call to action.  Are you making any of these mistakes? If you are, today’s the day you’re correcting them!

2) Make it Easier for Visitors to Sign-Up

Make it as simple as possible for your visitors to convert into supporters on your website.  Identify the actions your site visitors take on most often and least often.  Then, log out of your site and go through each of those actions from a visitor’s perspective.

As you go through the sign-up process, ask yourself, “How easy is it and how long does it take you to complete a transaction?”, to help you figure out how you could make the process better

Test both the most and least popular actions and then compare the experiences.  Sometimes, this activity reveals ways that some actions are complicated and time consuming for visitors and that’s driving potential donors away.

3) Move Your Email Newsletter Sign-up Above the Fold

“Above the Fold” is a term for the portion of a web page that you have to scroll down to view.  Think of “the fold” as ending about where you might fold down your laptop screen.

According to another study by Jakob Nielsen, content below the fold is only viewed by about 20% of your total site’s visitors.  This means that any content you place below the fold is only going to be seen by 1/5th of your visitors.  Important items you want to have above the fold include: your email newsletter sign-up form, a clear call to action, a strong headline and links to find out more about your organization.

4) Give Donors What They Want

The Children’s Museum of Houston Gives Visitors 1-Click Access to Information.

Donors want to know more about your nonprofit before they donate.  They also prefer to go online to research information about your organization themselves before making a decision to support your mission

Donors want information that communicates what your organization does, how you spend donations and who you have helped.

If you also have memberships, then you want to also consider that new members want to know about member benefits, costs, and find out about programs and events you have for your members.

Learn more about creating engaging content for your website in the presentation Writing for the Web by Katrina Esco, Account Executive on Schipul’s Creative Services team.

5) Use Digital Media to Create Compelling Stories

You know you should use storytelling to share your NonProfit’s Mission and Vision to attract new donors.  Crafting great stories can be a challenge.  Take photos and videos from your events, of your volunteers and staff, and of  the people you’ve helped.

For example let’s look at the homepage for Camp For All, a camp program for kids with a variety of different health problems:

The Camp has a photo of a kid swimming on their homepage and just look at how happy this kid is.  This photo shows new visitors that Camp For All is making a difference in children’s lives and that’s far more powerful than if Camp For All had used text to say  the same thing.

I’ve written about how to incorporate your nonprofit’s stories with your website.  Check out Grow Your Members and Donors with Photo Albums and NonProfit Storytelling with Videos for more examples and tips.