Yesterday, we announced that Schipul–The Web Marketing Company will now operate under the name of our open source CMS software, Tendenci.
Since the company was established 16 years ago, our vision has been “To connect and organize the world’s people. Do good.” Since 2004, our Tendenci software has enabled all types of organizations to achieve this greater vision. We have provided a platform for developing high value websites at a cost-effective price through the ongoing development of Tendenci’s baked-in capabilities that catered to the unique needs of organizations, such as membership management, event management and online fundraising.
It struck us a few years ago that Tendenci could be much more than our in-house proprietary software. It could be the WordPress or Drupal for cause-related organizations. While writing it from scratch in ASP originally, a liability, rewriting it we had the chance to make a leap forward past PHP in technology and rewrote Tendenci in Python and Postgres on Linux. Tendenci lives in the cloud and is the future.
Why do people start cause-related organizations? To affect some change in society, of course. Yet, if you search the internet for advice on starting a non-profit, instead of basic steps towards establishing your group, experts from all sides of the table will tell you not to do it. Besides the headache of running a thankless organization, they claim, it’s also expensive. Not only do you need to have funds in place to pay for lawyers, accountants, and bookkeepers to keep your records and file paperwork for you, there are numerous other expenses associated with incorporating your NPO. Add website development and hosting costs on top, and your average American’s dream of starting an NPO to honor the loss of her baby or to save circus elephants is damn-near unattainable.
This is where Tendenci’s vision comes in. We still want to connect and organize the world’s people, ethically. But we also want to change the world and Tendenci is the software that will take us there. This movement isn’t about me — I’m not in this for the glory or recognition. Hell, it wasn’t even my idea to put my name on the door.
My goal is for Tendenci the software to be bigger than we are as Schipul the agency. Hence the decision to change the name of the company. Tendenci is our future and we want to align our name with our company’s future.
Tendenci will be the #1 software for NPOs and NGOs globally. I want Tendenci to live on long after I’m gone. I believe in this software and I believe in what it can do.
What does this mean for our current clients?
We will continue to serve you and take care of you in the best way. One of our company’s values is a Win/Win mentality, as described in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We don’t want to just come to a compromise that vaguely works for both parties — we want everyone to come out on top. There is always a third option, a better alternative.
By serving you as Tendenci, you will actually have more options available to you due to its open source nature. You will have the benefit of a community of programmers from all over the world working to make your software better. Tendenci will grow and mature, and as more developers start to use the software, there will be a larger pool of developers you can access to keep your Tendenci sites up to date. Your developer in your hometown can upgrade your site to the latest technology. By being open source, we give you freedom — freedom from vendor lock-in, freedom to develop, and freedom to impact a global community.
Operating as Tendenci, we get to focus on what’s truly important to us — connecting and organizing the world’s people and doing good! By focusing on these goals, we will be more efficient and we can provide better customer service to our clients. We are keeping the knowledge of a 12 year old brand, learning from all of those years listening to our clients and prospects. You can still expect the superior customer service and expertise you’ve come to expect from Schipul — it will just be packaged in Tendenci colors.
The transition has already begun. We haven’t changed locations, but instead have begun outfitting our office in Tendenci aqua and blue. We’ve said goodbye to some staff members and welcomed others. We have renewed our commitment to our Tendenci clients and users to focus all of our efforts on making the software great.
We understand that the Tendenci platform exists to help you do good. It takes people to make change happen – we have chosen modern, agile software as our foundation to serve you in your objectives. Tendenci exists to serve YOU.
I am truly excited to embark on this new phase for our business, our clients and the community. And I am humbly grateful to the clients and programmers who have given us so much valuable feedback to improve Tendenci.
I look forward to working with you to change the world.
Tendenci websites include all the tools your nonprofit organization needs to create a website that will attract donors, volunteers and members and make it easy for them to get involved.
According to a study published in the NonProfit Trends, 34.8% of last year’s online donations occurred after October, November and December. For most nonprofit organizations, the Holiday Season are when you generate the majority of your annual online revenue from donations, holiday gala fundraisers, and membership renewals coming due.
Is Your Website Ready for the Holiday Rush?
If your nonprofit’s online fundraising isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you aren’t alone. A recent Usability Study of nonprofit websites found that it is 7% harder, on average, for someone to make a donation than it is for them to make an e-commerce purchase.
In this two part blog post, I’m going to share the research on which elements are frustrating and driving away potential donors who come to your site and can’t find what they were looking for. The second post will give you 5 minor changes you can quickly make that will get your website ready well to attract new donors just in time for the holidays.
Nonprofit Site User Experience is Falling Behind
The usability study, led by noted web usabilty expert Jakob Nielsen, tested common activities that a visitor to a nonprofit website might do and found some surprising results:
Making first-time and repeat monetary donations on nonprofit websites – on average, online donations tooks 7% longer than a typical e-commerce site’s shopping cart check-out. 17% of the nonprofit websites made it extremely difficult for visitors to even find the online donation option.
Donating tangible items like furniture, canned foods, and used clothing online – this received the lowest user experience rating of all the tested activities and in nearly all cases, site visitors went to multiple nonprofit websites before finally finding an organization with clear and complete information on how to go about donating.
Researching how to volunteer online – communicating Volunteer information was the one thing most nonprofit websites are getting right. The study gave this the highest user satisfaction ranking and reported that the one item most nonprofits forget on the volunteer pages is way to contact the organization.
Researching nonprofits on Facebook – the study found that people don’t like to donate on Facebook and that visitors except a nonprofit’s website to have far more content than your Facebook page does. The report explains that potential donors go to a nonprofit’s Facebook page to read the stories of the people who benefit from the nonprofit’s work.
The study showed that over 53% of the nonprofit websites had missing and outdated content and 47% of the websites were not designed to be intuitive and user-friendly. The report states that you could increase your online donations by 10% or more just by making some minor changes to your site’s usability and improving your content.
A 10% increase is almost $14,000 if you fall within the median online revenue earned from first time gifts*.
If your nonprofit site is chasing new donors away, this means you’re missing out on thousands of dollars in online donations.
Is Your Website a Donor Magnet?
If your nonprofit organization’s website is one of the roughly 50% that is unknowingly chasing off site visitors, then we’re going to fix that starting right now. You can use the study’s recommended best usability practices with your Tendenci website to give your site visitors a great online experience and increase your donations, memberships, and volunteer applications.
The key is to have content on your site that potential donors are looking for that is easy for visitors to find and tells the visitors how to donate and why they want to donate to your organization.
Crafting the elements within your site that will attract new donors requires time, research, and lots of creativity!
In Part Two of this series, I’ll give you 5 seemingly minor things that you can change on your site that will increase your online fundraising efforts and get you ready for the holiday fundraising rush.
We did it. Django Dash for our second year in a row. A little different, but still memorable.
This year we spent the majority working from the comfort of our own homes.
Thanks to Schipul and our decision to move toward a remote work lifestyle we were able to easily face this year’s competiton in style aka in our jammies.
If anything this saved us valuable travel and setup time.
I said this last year, but I’ll say it again this year; because apparently we did not learn our lesson.
Make as many decisions as possible before the competition. Think roadmap or dare I say clipboard of fun.
One of our greatest strengths is our team. We work together every workday, this competition was no different. I can only imagine the stop-and-go speed of competing on a team that doesn’t know each other.
Competition time is definitely not the time to learn new things. It’s just so hard not to. You find yourself inspired and when inspiration strikes all you want to do is strive, learn new things and create.
In the case of Google authentication, it had to be learned. Our project was dependent on it, as always; it’s amazing what you can do when you have to.
I don’t foresee this habit waning any time soon. If anything I look forward to it. I learned a lot of useful things this weekend and I’m left wanting more. Give me that feeling anyday.
Veering from the original mission
Early Sunday morning we found ourselves having to make a choice. A choice between accumilating more points by submitting more commits and focusing on specific code requirements such as standards and creating tests. Or making a product that might actually provide some value to many in the near future.
We chose the latter. The idea of our project actually being useful at more than just collecting points is an honor. With this in mind we refocused and put effort into submitting a finished product that’s worth demoing.
We’ll be demoing our finished 48 hour project to the office and get our first ouside perspective. No matter what people say I’m not-so-secretly wishing we can keep up this momentum and continue improving our project.
What did you build, tell me already!?
Without getting into too much detail – at this point in time – it’s best summarized here. http://theoldmail.com
You can sign up for the site now and take it for a spin. Keep in mind that this was 48 hours of code. You might find some quirks and so-called missing features.
What about the competition?
It’s been said that we get our results some time this week; but as I mentioned before we’re more excited about the project itself and what it can bring to others.
It’s open sourced
One of the rules of the Django Dash competition is that the project itself must remain open sourced. So feel free to take a glance at our code on github.com and fork the code if you’d like to start contributing.
The general software platform I’ve been leading development on called SpacePoints can best be explained like this:
When you share your excitement and passion for space, you’ll earn a ‘spacepoint’ and the SpacePoints online platform maintains the database of your space activities and spacepoints earned.
The toughest part with describing SpacePoints is communicating the idea around a platform for space enthusiasts to share their excitement of space-exploration to people outside of the space community and being rewarded for this through a virtual points system. The goal is to motivate people to become more active in promoting space exploration, whether it be robotic, planetary science, human spaceflight, science fiction turned reality, or other space-topics.
The Background Story of SpacePoints
SpacePoints was an idea that spontaneously came out of a SpaceUp Houston Unconference last February in a session jointly led by Dennis Bonilla and Tim Bailey. I could write several pages sharing the story of how SpacePoints went from an idea to a crowdsourced workshop and set of requirements to a working software product.
I won’t go into all of that here though – instead I will share a little about the “elephant in the room” and how I came to use Tendenci as the platform for SpacePoints. In case you missed what the “elephant” is – I work for Tendenci and I’m building SpacePoints (a volunteer project that I’m personally involved in) on Tendenci. I’m presenting SpacePoints at different events like SpaceUps and SXSW Interactive and as a result, Tendenci is getting PR too.
The decision to build SpacePoints on Tendenci was a tough one – and not remotely because I thought Tendenci wouldn’t be a good platform or don’t enjoy using it. Quite the contrary – I love Tendenci and use it every day to update both our company’s websites: http://schipul.com and http://tendenci.com.
SpacePoints actually started on a custom PHP platform that we weren’t able to complete due to a lack of programmers with enough free time. Then, I began researching a number of different options including Drupal, PHPBB and Elgg. Each of these were far more technical than I was prepared for with the limited timeline I had before March 12th, 2012 when Spacepoints will be officially launching in beta at SXSW Interactive.
I needed a beta-ready version of a new online community and I had less than 5 months to do that. The irony is it took a Drupal developer (and friend), Kojo Idrissa, to convince me finally to stop resisting and use the tools that I had inside of Tendenci because I knew how and could accomplish it in a way that would really make SpacePoints more than just a “space-twitter” clone.
The SpacePoints Development Site is already being tested by a select number of users and it is far easier to use and integrate social sharing tools and other plugins in a short time frame than other options I looked into. I am really glad I ultimately chose Tendenci for the platform.
What I Learned From This
I learned a lot of new technical things, including just how complicated setting up and configuring a Drupal platform can be, but I also learned something more valuable that I feel is something most of Tendenci’s clients can relate to.
Nonprofits and cause-related projects are understaffed and underfunded and generally don’t have a lot of technical people to help – yet the website and other online tools for marketing and fundraising and building a community are so critical. If you can find a tool that you can use and that you can afford (or that someone is going to donate like my company has donated Tendenci software and hosting to the SpacePoints project), then Say Yes and use it!
Even if it isn’t the exact fit you wanted – nonprofits don’t have the luxury of waiting for something perfect if perfect means custom programming, doesn’t exist yet, or costs too much. Start building your community and generating revenue through donations, memberships, and sponsorships on whatever platform you have access to. You can always change it later on when you have more support and more money.
I wish I had said yes months before I did instead of worrying about how it would look. Yes – Tendenci is going to gain a lot of PR from this and that’s not a bad thing because SpacePoints is also going to be able to grow and succeed faster than if I’d tried to go with something else.
I would love for you to go learn more about the longer story of SpacePoints. Then sign-up for a beta invitation and if you’ll be at SXSW this year, come to the panel! Here are the links:
We've got our lucky Fan Mania winners announced on our Schipul Facebook Fanpage! Didn't get a chance to fan us on Facebook yet? No worries – be sure to visit us at www.facebook.com/schipul to check out our other exciting Facebook promotions, giveaways and events!
As always, thanks for being part of the Schipul and Tendenci family – we are huge fans of YOU!
The Schipul team (creators of your Tendenci software) loves our clients – you help us grow, teach us new things and keep us on our toes. We want to thank you for being part of our tribe and are holding a Schipul Fan Mania contest to do just that.
All you've got to do is login to Facebook and join our Schipul fan page (www.facebook.com/schipul) and you'll be eligible to win one of the following rocking prizes:
Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Laptop
–Hate carting around a huge laptop just to log in to twitter now and
then? We’ve got the laptop for you! You pick the color, and we’ll ship
it out to your place! With this little gal, you’ll always be able to
update on the go.
If you're an esteemed reader of our Tendenci newsletter, you already had a sneak peek at our Big News this week!
This year's Tendenci software and Schipul Web Marketing conference (now lovingly called SchipulCon) will be at the Houston Zoo on October 15 – 16th!!
Topics will range from some very exciting new Tendenci 5.0 feature showcasing by our Programming team to Social Media training to Web marketing strategies to online Community building classes. Know of a non profit or wannabe Web guru? Invite them to attend!! All are welcome 🙂
Tickets will go on sale later this month, in the meantime please do submit your SchipulCon training ideas and suggestions on our SchipuCon 2009 Forum. Can't wait to see you there!!