UCOA-Unified Chart of Accounts for NPOs

Short version: Unified Chart of Accounts for NPOs

“Hey y’all, let’s all adopt the Unified Chart Chart of Accounts and save time and energy to focus on our causes!

Long version:

Dear Board of Directors, Executive Director, long time accountant, and major donors. Let’s all adopt the Unified Chart Chart of Accounts and save time and energy to focus on our causes!

Wouldn’t it be better if at least reviewing the financials was simplified so you could focus on your cause? Here is a partial solution:

Unified Chart of Accounts for NPOs
National Center for Charitable Statistics UCOA

The big organizations know, but for smaller NGOs, did you know that the National Center for Charitable Statistics has published an open source/free/please-use-it Unified Chart Chart of Accounts JUST FOR YOU!

Like many of the folks reading this blog, living the life of adventure which accompanies working with worldwide NGOs, we serve on a lot of boards and sponsor a lot of activities for the greater good. We love that part of our responsibilities!

OK, maybe we just agree on the need.

A board member must understand their serious and legal responsibility to provide financial stewardship and demonstrate strong fiduciary responsibility to the organization. While not losing site of the goals.  Nothing “returns to your soul” like giving of your time and energy. It comes back to us all big time as long as it is fulfilling.

May your organization never again lose a board member to the tedium of going through financials printed out of Excel that have evolved from double entry accounting as fast as Moore’s law to quantum accounting for no reason at all. Simplify with the Unified Chart of Accounts. Even if the rules are constantly changing on you.

Power Tools for Nonprofits Presentation by Ed Schipul

From my recent talk at Power Tools for Nonprofits at NRG Park on behalf of Tendenci Open Source Membership Management Software

Python still the most popular coding language and growing

Tendenci, the Open Source Membership Management Software, is written in in a programming language named Python. (Named after Monty Python of course!)

python ranks 1 for popular coding languages
Python – the most popular coding language of 2015

And Python is the most Popular Coding Language of 2015. A nice winning streak! This matters to people choosing membership software because open source means it can’t be taken away from you. Lots of options to export from Tendenci as well if a better solution for your particular needs comes up.

The more people who know a given programming language means you have lots of resources to support, extend, upgrade and hopefully also contribute to the tendenci software and get involved.

So let’s be honest, we all like playing on the winning team. We bet on Python very early. We used Python even on the windows platform in the early 2000s. Python has truly hit a critical-mass among developers.

Given the Django web framework behind Open Source Tendenci is written in Python, and all of Tendenci’s apps are written in Python, we feel pretty good about the future stability of our technology stack.

In other words, the future looks bright and we welcome more developers to join the Tendenci community!

(source: http://blog.codeeval.com/codeevalblog/2015#.VohU45MrLeQ= )

Refactoring Tendenci 7.1

Tendenci-Logo

The time has come for us to refactor Tendenci, the fully Open Source Solution for Nonprofits and Associations.

Why?

The current version of Tendenci (7.x) has significant changes which are not compatible with Tendenci 5. This has prevented us from publishing the new code to make it easier for new users to install.

When?

We will begin publishing Tendenci 7 as a package possibly as soon as October 1, less than two weeks from now. It may not get pushed out on October 1, but people who are using the open source version and are on the 5.x release need to be prepared. The actual date Tendenci 7 will be pushed out as a package is when it is ready. But please plan on October 1.

Who?

Well, if you are hosted on tendenci.com’s servers and we manage your web site then you don’t have to change a thing and it will all just happen in the background. Clients on version 5 will remain on version 5 because of the theme changes made between version 5 and 6. Clients on version 6 will be upgraded to Tendenci 7.1

If you have your own developer or you are a developer, maybe jump over to github and the docs and keep an eye on things for the next couple of weeks. Maybe even submit issue requests for features.

Why are you telling us if there is nothing for us to worry about?

Because not everyone hosts with us and we need to try to make sure their IT team knows the upgrades are possible, but will require your technical team to do them. This is important to us even if they aren’t hosting because they are part of the community.

In fact growing the open source community of people using Tendenci is the biggest driver pushing us to refactor Tendenci. We’re geeks and collaborate on github.

tendenci-github

Wait, what does “Refactor” mean again?

It means making it easier for programmers to work on the code. Technically from wikipedia they define it as “Code refactoring is the process of restructuring existing computer code – changing the factoring – without changing its external behavior.”

It’s time to refactor so we have more happy programmers. Tendenci is just too hard to install in the wild right now. That isn’t right. Plus Happy programmers means more contributors and it builds on the virtuous cycle that is what makes FOSS (Free Open Source Software) so cool. It truly takes a village.

Can’t you just contact every one who self hosts?

Unfortunately we don’t have a list and Tendenci doesn’t “phone home” so we really don’t know how many people are using it by self installing. But we care about them and we’re doing everything we can to get the word out. Everyone should be backing up their sites of course, but still, if you click “upgrade” and your layout goes wonky that isn’t fun. No data will be lost, but what a hassle.

If you self host we are working hard on these documents so you can smoothly upgrade your site (after running backups of course)
https://tendenci.readthedocs.org/en/latest/

Where is everything documented?

Over at readthedocs. Click the image below and you’ll be on your way.

tendenci-readthedocs

What if I self host and I don’t want to upgrade?

You should be fine as long as you don’t try to do an automatic upgrade. And of course you will need to keep an eye on the django project LTS timelines. https://www.djangoproject.com/download/

If you are on Tendenci 5, because of the changes with the django project itself you will need to upgrade from T5 to T6 and then to T7.1. This is all documented at https://tendenci.readthedocs.org

If you need legacy files they are linked at the bottom of this post.

OK, tell me the biggest benefit of refactoring again?

A programmer will be able to type “sudo pip install tendenci” and make a few server configuration changes and they’ll have a site up and running quickly. This matters because ease-of-use changes behavior. If you want to move forward, we have to take care of our programmers first! They care about you, so it is a virtuous cycle.

Wait, I want more technical info!

We’re gonna be pushing the technical details to https://tendenci.readthedocs.org/en/latest/ as soon as we get it all tested. We’ll be able to push the master branch to pypi again and life will be grand!

Wait, this stuff is too technical! (the opposite of above question)

I apologize for the technical stuff, but sometimes when working with software it can be technical. Just know that if you self host, talk to your local programmer and they will take care of you with the documentation we are posting at https://tendenci.readthedocs.org/en/latest/

So if I self host, and my webmaster clicks “update tendenci” and I’m on version 5 my site will break?

Yes. You’ll be able to fix it and you won’t lose any data, but you’d probably want to just restore a backup. And then go to https://tendenci.readthedocs.org/en/latest/ for the technical info.

What if I don’t wanna upgrade ever and my server is completely isolated on a ship in the middle of the ocean? 

OK, well, we like an occasional steak so you have our sympathy for a diet of 100% fish. But secondarily we have all of the historic zip files, that are still on github but will be removed, available for download for some time at https://www.tendenci.com/download/release-archive/ 

Tendenci Newsletter Generator – It’s Back!

First – let’s talk about the NOW. Newsletters are back in Tendenci 6!!

Newsletter Generator for Nonprofits
Tendenci’s Open Source Integrated Newsletter Generator

Tendenci’s Open Source Integrated Newsletter Generator

A lot of long time clients have resisted upgrading to the responsive-mobile-first-open-source-version of Tendenci 6, or even the responsive designs in Tendenci 5, because of one killer feature in Tendenci 4 (the old Microsoft version) and that was NEWSLETTERS.

We listened. We heard you. It’s back.

The ability to communicate with your membership by study group, by event attendees, to only the board of directors, etc. We heard you loud and clear and the newsletter generator is back in full force in Tendenci 6. To prevent the tragedy of the commons (e.g. another client blacklisting a shared email server) we are requiring clients to use either their own SES or a product like Mailgun.com for the newsletter. This will offload the sending to the third party and each client can manage their own newsletter statistics for the first time.

This also alleviates another area of pain. If one client out of 500 ish purchased an email list and the bounce rate was too high, well, then EVERYBODY got slammed and nobody could even do a “forgot my password” request because another client blacklisted the mail server. It’s just the way the Internet works. Why can’t we all just get along, right?

If you are on Tendenci 6 (not an automatic upgrade from T4 or T5 because we pushed more of the design to the front end … um…. where it belongs and the designers can do their thing. Rock on you artsy folk who make software look awesome. More freedom for you. (just please no comic sans, ok?)

If you are on T4, which is approaching end of life very quickly as I type this (Microsoft, not Tendenci dictated these dates so please don’t send email asking if we can secure something Microsoft isn’t patching anymore).

Turn a negative into a positive. Now is a great time to consider a mobile first bootstrap 3 theme that integrates with Tendenci 6! They’re smart, mobile first, responsive, and make you a rock start. Check out www.wrapbootstrap.com for bootstrap3 themes. They’re kinda awesome like this:

Affordable Themes for Tendenci Sites
Bootstrap3 themes for Open Source Tendenci!

 

Just one of the many new functional mobile-first capabilities that have been built into open source tendenci since we started the rewrite in 2009.  This is functionality we have been able to bring back with the help of the Tendenci community.

After 17 years we know the functionality the people who use the site to register for events need, as well as the needs of the people on the board-of-directors and the person functioning as Executive Director. It just takes a while to rewrite 10 years of code in a completely different technology. And we’re just getting started!

Check the help file for the Tendenci Association Newsletter Sending Tool for more detail and edits over time.

The Power of Technology and The Millennial Generation

14NTC LogoMillennials are important!

They’re a technology-rich, internet-laden demographic that has untapped potential, if you can figure out how to engage them.

Join Tendenci‘s Becky Leven, a proud Millennial, as she discusses The Power of Technology and The Millennial Generation, a 14NTC panel today at 3:30 EST/2:30 CST.

 

The panel features five other experts from nonprofit and tech companies. Speakers include:

These 6 experts will go into depth about how to leverage, engage and collaborate with Millennials. If you’re attending 14NTC, you can find the event details here.

What If I Didn’t Go to 14NTC?

Never fear! This talk will be livestreamed at 3:30 EST/2:30 CST so you won’t miss a thing.

Register to watch the livestream here.

Harness the Power of PR Writing for Your Nonprofit

Last week, PRSA Houston led a workshop: “Write the Right Way: A PR Writing Workshop” and we brought back a few takeaways on how to harness PR writing for your nonprofit.

The workshop was hosted by the Holocaust Museum Houston and featured Julie Fix, An Instructional Assistant Professor at the University of Houston and Ted Moon, founder of Launchpad Writing + Research.

 

julie-fix-headshotWrite The Right Way – a PR Writing Workshop

“Public relations is about winding a compelling story” – Julie Fix

Successful PR writing comes from good storytelling. Stories simplify the complex, make intricate ideas understandable and accessible and do two important things:

  1. Deliver an organization’s message
  2. Create and reinforce opinions, attitudes and beliefs

 

With Great Writing, Comes Great Responsibility

As a public relations writer, you have two responsibilities:

  1. Communicate Accurately
  2. Communicate Appropriately

Communicate Accurately

The first step is research.

It’s important to have the pertinent facts about a story before moving forward. If you’re wondering, “Should I include this?”, err on the side of collecting too many facts. You can always put them in a fact sheet if they don’t fit in the release.

Better to over-prepare and be safe, than under-prepare and be caught off-guard. Then, if a question comes your way, you’re equipped with an answer. Also, be clear. Don’t muddle your message with too many words.

People have short attention spans, so if you want an effective message, take time to polish and edit.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” – Blaise Pascal

Communicate Appropriately

Whether your writing is proactive or reactive, it’s imperative to speak to the situation. Use timely, relevant examples and appropriate behavior. Jokes after a tragedy are not appropriate behavior, but being light-hearted about a family-oriented fundraising event is. Use common sense and think how you’d feel if you heard your message.

You can have good paragraph structure, great sentences and an excellent press release, but if the right message goes to the wrong audience, it still falls on deaf ears. Think about what problem you’re solving and who benefits from your message. Tailor your writing to these people.

Finding the Right Audience

ted-moon-headshot“Everyone is pulled in a hundred different directions at once.” – Ted Moon

According to research, the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. That means if people aren’t interested, they stop reading.

They want to know, “What’s in it for me?”. So next time you write, do two things:

  1. Recommend the solution to a problem
  2. List benefits not features of your product, event or service

 

What Else Can I Do?

When you write for PR, be sure to practice good PR writing techniques:

  • Write a great headline
  • Use good grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Communicate clearly

Write a Great Headline

The headline is your first and last chance to grab your reader. If you don’t have a good headline, people stop reading and your message is lost.

Use Good Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Nothing says, “I can’t write” like bad grammar, spelling or punctuation. Practicing good grammar makes your writing easier to read, which reinforces your message.

Communicate Clearly

Always polish and edit your writing. Don’t muddle your message by using more words than needed.

“Focus more on the nouns and verbs. Leave out the adjectives.” – Ted Moon

 Improve Your PR Writing

The key is practice. By using these tips you can learn to self-edit and consistently produce quality content. You can also improve your skills by reading good writing. Read/subscribe to sources like PRSA, PR Week or PR News.

If you’re interested in more topics related to NPOs, technology or open source, leaf through some of our other categories and feel free to share the knowledge!

contributed by: Alec Bieniawski

Houston Writeathon Talk From the February Netsquared Houston Meetup

Every month at The Stag’s Head Pub, nonprofit innovators, startup entrepreneurs, civil servants and social influencers meet to talk shop. The February NetSquared Houston meetup was visited by Greg J Micek, Founder of the Young Inventors Association of America and Jeff Reichman, the Principal at January Advisors.

 NetSquared Houston February Meetup Attendees

This month’s meetup was riddled with interesting startups and nonprofits ranging from Kandy Kruisers, a Houston company that builds skateboard and skateboard accessories, to the Houston Center for Literacy, a nonprofit working to increase adult literacy in the city of Houston.Greg J. Micek Portrait

Greg J. Micek – IQ Biometrix & YIAA

Among the speakers, was Greg J. Micek, President of IQ Biometrix, a company that creates facial recognition software, and founder of the Young Inventors Association of America (YIAA).

Greg talked about the 26th Annual Young Inventor’s Showcase, to be held at the Wolff Center of Entrepreneurship, in the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston campus on May 24, 2014. The showcase aims to promote creativity and innovation among students from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

 

Jeff Reichman – Open Houston & The Houston Writeathon

Jeff Reichman PortraitPerhaps you’ve heard about a marathon. How about a hackathon? A writeathon? If not, you have now!

In conjunction with Open Houston and The City of Houston, a group of volunteer designers, writers and data scientists are teaming up to streamline the local Houston government’s communication strategy.

Reichman says, “It’s about diversifying the pool of people who are civically engaged. Our key is to get writers and designers to communicate universally outside of language, because people assemble data in different ways.

The Houston Writeathon aims to improve government communication through building infographics that simplify processes, drafting petitions onto Change.org and working with affiliated organizations on general communication tactics and strategy.

The city provides so many services that just aren’t marketed. We have to be able to rally the talented and improve our surroundings if we want to improve local government,” said Reichman.

The event will take place at the Freed-Montrose Public Library on Saturday, February 22, from 10am to 5pm. They are still looking for volunteers and all are welcome. Get involved with the Houston Writeathon here.

If you’re interested in coming to any of the NetSquared Houston meetups, you can find out more information here. Attendance is free and meetings are held monthly at the Stag’s Head Pub on Portsmouth Street. See you there!

As a bonus, to demonstrate how much fun a writeathon can be when you get a bunch of creatives together in a room. The group wrote this techie Valentine’s day story tag-team style:

The Story

It’s Valentine’s Day, the year 3000. I’m cruising on my spaceship, headed to pick up a bouquet of flowers, when I look over to my artificial girlfriend that I’ve created from a 3D printing lab and ask her, “What color would you like?”

“Wow,” she says. “I’ll defer to you.  This is worse than the time I had to jump out of a train after my old boyfriend, which made me lose my legs. I had to get them replaced by an open source firmware running on a 3D printer. My previous legs were shorter so I decided to get new ones to make me taller. What do you think about augmentation, honey?” She asked me. 

Ignoring her comment, I remembered I had a 3D printer on board and decided to print the flowers myself. As I was doing that, the 3 moons and 2 suns began to rise over the horizon and it reminded me of when I first downloaded her from Github. At that moment, a horrible thought struck me, as I plummeted out of the sky, crashing into Earth and destroying it. I’d forgotten to put space gas in my space gas tank…

Meanwhile, at a bar on the other end of the universe, the women toasted to the destroyed earth, celebrating the end of man and all his artificial girlfriends as they had pillow fights and braided each other’s hair.

 

Translating Data: Making Sense of the Patterns

If you lived through the 70s and the 90s,  you know that trends are cyclical.

How many times have we seen bell bottoms and big sunglasses make a come back?

 

Picture of Woman with Big Sunglass and Man in BellBottoms3220590102_3b880061a8126654542_72801c1990  

Of course this isn’t limited to fashion. A detailed look into your Google Analytics charts will reveal that your organization has cycles, predicable ones you can plan for.

So how do you read this data and equate the data to your organizations live campaigns?

1) First, collect your data. (Everything you do on a recurring basis including dates). Create an aggregated list of anything involving donor/volunteer/member communication including:

a. Events

b. Newsletters

c. Fundraisers

 

2) Find your data store. (Google Analytics is free to install and has a lot of useful data.)

3) Choose your relevant date range. I like to look at two or more time frames. Typically a year’s worth of data, a smaller three month period of activity, and a one month period.

4) Run your analytics for the type period then look for patters in your data!

Types of patterns you are looking for are

a. Spikes

b. Sequential Dips

c. Dead Spots

 

Case Study:

We partnered with one of our clients, a large nonprofit organization, to increase donations an engagement of their audience in nontraditional ways.

To achieve this we turned to the data recorded on their website:

Disclaimer:

The graphs below are pulled from a report in the Tendenci software (the cms software is free for download on http://tendenci.com/ – click on “For Developers”). These same practices can be applied with Google Analytics or whatever your analytics of choice is.

This graph shows site activity grouped by module/plugin (for example any event page that was clicked on during the time period would show up as orange)

This key shows which colors are associated with activities on the website

 

This is an engagement graph of activity on a client website.

Graph showing visitor engagement on different applications on the site

 

What we noted:

  • We see a huge increase in site visits on the 4th-6th
  • Followed by a huge increase in site visits to photos on the 11th
  • And then a decrease in site activity after the 12th

So what did we find when we matched up the engagement graph with our dates of activities

Saturday, 6th was a large event

Thursday, 11th a newsletter goes out to members

When we compared to another month with a large event, we found the same graph shape.

The data tells us:

  • Before the event and day of we had lots of people on the site looking for information and directions
  • After the event we had a dip in activity but we had a lot of people visiting the photo pages to look for images of the event
  • The newsletter contained links to the images for the event so we had  a huge increase in visits to the photo page. 

So what types of actions can an organization take based on this data?

  • Have upcoming event information on your website loud and clear. People will be looking for it
  • Make sure to be taking lots of photographs at the event – photos generated a huge amount of traffic to the site
  • Newsletters or an email post event drive traffic.
  • Add a call to action on your photo pages. These pages get huge amounts of traffic post event and people are reliving the experience – make sure there is a call to action to donations or volunteering.
  • Engagement is low post event. Brainstorm ways to reengage audience after the event excitement is over.

 

The patterns are there, you just have to look for them and connect the pieces of the puzzle.

 

Want more info?

Ed Schipul is the CEO of Tendenci and will be speaking on Data Analytics at NTC 2014 in Washington DC on March 15th (Online Fundraising Strategies to Take Advantage of Your Donor Events)

 

 

Photo Attribution (in sequential order):

rchappo2002 “Mr Hicks – 1971

Betty Tsang “vampire?

Mick “Super Models and Big Sunglasses