Tendenci Helps Non-Profits Profit With Revenue Generating Tools and Advice

Photography by Tracy Olson

Could Your NonProfit Organization Use a Little Extra Dough?

Ok – that is a trick question because of course you’d love to earn more this year for your nonprofit or association!  I’m going to share a secret and give you some simple steps to follow to make this year your nonprofit’s best financial year yet.

What’s the Secret?

Step 1 to increasing your online revenue is to integrate your website with an online payment gateway.  You’ll want to apply for a CNP Merchant Account, (CNP stands for card not present), which will allow you to accept online credit card payments from your site visitors, donors and members easily.

Credit cards are fast and secure, making them the preferred payment method for your site visitors’ online purchases.   If you don’t have a merchant account and are accepting online payments, then you are probably using a 3rd party like PayPal or Eventbrite to direct your site visitors to when they are making a purchase.

These 3rd party providers are great options for smaller organizations or the one time event, but for nonprofits with membership dues and renewals, regular event registrations, job posting fees, and other online payments coming in – you really will want to consider comparing payment gateway options and accept payments through your own website.  In most cases, a Merchant Account will end up being cheaper than using a service like PayPal or Eventbrite in the long run.

Applying for a Merchant Account is actually pretty simple to do, and is the first step towards increasing your nonprofit’s online revenue.  By integrating payment processing with your website, you also will have more control over the purchasing experience that your site visitors and members have.  This will let you customize and personalize your website better so your site visitors will love coming back to your site.

Here’s some more information about the different merchant account providers that Tendenci integrates with and I recommend.  There are links to the different pricing plans, FAQs and getting started guides for each of the different companies to help you make the best decision for your nonprofit.

What’s the Next Step?

You’ll want to determine what your organization has to offer of value to your community to better understand your current and potential sources of additional revenue.

Take out a piece of paper and a pen, or open up a Word or Google document and just start listing out all the things you are either charging for, or are doing for free that people ask for more of.  Add things to your list that you’re not currently doing and getting requests to do too.  Brainstorm with your staff and volunteers and let them add their ideas to your list.  You may be surprised by how long your list grows.  Non-profits often overlook their value and the opportunities they offer that they can charge fees to provide.

It is a common myth that the majority of a nonprofit’s revenue comes from donations and contributions.

Non-Profits Earn Revenue from Fees for Goods and Services

Don’t just take my word for it.  Take a look at this chart below that displays revenues earned across different Tendenci modules for the past 3 years.  Tendenci’s software integrates each of the different core modules with your merchant account payment gateway to accept online payments through your website.  We compiled data from the last 3 years for the total revenues earned by nonprofit organizations’ Tendenci websites segmented by the different modules including event registrations, memberships, job directory listings, product sales (cart catalog), donations, training courses, and more.

These graphs display revenues earned as a percentage of the total in years 2009, 2010, and 2011:

Tendenci Modules Revenue Earnings Bar Graph
Graph Depicts the Percentages of Revenue Earned from Tendenci Modules

The results of comparing this data tells us that the fees nonprofits earn online from event tickets and membership dues far exceeds fees earned from donations year after year.

If you want to earn more revenue online this year, host more and better events, focus on bringing in new members and increasing membership renewals, offer training courses and consider adding an online store if you have a gift shop.  Offer more services and products for sale and focus less on asking for donations.

Looks Easy on Paper – How Do You Create and Manage These New Services?

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed right now – you are not alone.  Start small, take your list that you made and put stars next to three items on the list that you think your organization has the budget and staff to accomplish this year.  Start with those three and measure the results of their revenue generation this year as you implement them.  Be sure to save your list, keep adding items to it, and return to the list when you’ve accomplished all three of your starred items.  Pick three more things from the list and try those.

I also recommend you utilize technology to help you collect payments, manage your events and members, and report results of your activities so you can make better decisions on what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can improve upon and do more of next year.  I also highly recommend you checkout TechSoup’s website, where you’ll find great reviews and special pricing for software exclusively for nonprofits as well as a Learning Center and a Community Forum where you can find help using unfamiliar technology.

I also recommend you give the new Tendenci CMS for NonProfit Websites a try!

Any More Tips?

Find creative and innovative ways to add value to your organization’s offerings.  To help you get started, I’ve prepared a great presentation and online webinar to give you some creative ways to use your nonprofit website to earn more this year.  You’ll find new ideas to use your website to promote your services, manage registrations, membership applications, job postings, training courses, and more plus collect payments and automatically generate invoices and receipts.

You can register online today for this free webinar hosted this Thursday, March 29th 2012 and if you missed it, check our Training Calendar for the next  upcoming free class.

Find a copy of the presentation on Tendenci’s Slideshare plus additional presentations that show nonprofits how to create more effective online marketing campaigns.

We also have a free 30 day trial where you can start setting up a Tendenci website and try out some of these revenue generating ideas yourself.  Tendenci enables you to create custom pricing for things like membership dues, jobs board postings, event registrations, and donations so that your nonprofit is able to generate the funds needed to grow without having to feel overwhelmed.  If your current website isn’t doing enough for your nonprofit, come give Tendenci a try.

Check out these resources to help you create and set-up a Tendenci Community website: 

Tendenci Training Videos – short videos that walk you through setting up the different modules included with your Tendenci website.

7-Step Guide with Help Files and Videos to take you through the first week of setting up a Tendenci website.

 

 

 

 

SXSW 2012 Surprises | O/S Tendenci, Mobile Kills Privacy, Space Gets Interactive

Tendenci Heads to SXSW Interactive 2012 to Announce Open Source Plans

If you haven’t yet heard the exciting news, Tendenci announced plans for an open source version of our CMS for nonprofit websites at SXSW Interactive 2012 in Austin, Texas.  There is a press release with all the details and a great blog post from Ed Schipul, CEO and founder.  Check out our photos from SXSW 2012 on our website and there are more coming soon.

SXSW always has a ton of new software tools and web innovations being released and this year was no different.  The big themes for 2012 focused on social discovery mobile apps and Outer Space.  I also brought back some lessons learned about the importance of protecting your users’ personal information and data.

Mobile Apps Invade, Kill Your Privacy

Everywhere you went at SXSW, people were talking about “social discovery” and mobile apps like Highlight, Ban.Jo, and Glancee were being downloaded by attendees.  If you haven’t heard about social discovery mobile apps, then be prepared because this is a little creepy: when you download one of these social discovery apps, you give them permission to access your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare and then they automatically notify you when anyone of your friends or contacts is nearby.  As in, physically near you – and they also notify your friends and contacts when you are near them if they have the app on their smartphone.

You can be walking into a Starbucks and this app will buzz you and tell you who else you know is in line for their morning cup ‘o joe.  The idea behind social discovery apps is to make it easier for you to find out when your friends are nearby, or people you have been talking to online, so you can meet up with them in real life.  That sounds great – until you remember you accepted that random Facebook friend invite for that friend of a friend of your aunt and now your iPhone is telling you they are nearby and want to chat with you.

Finding the settings to turn off the apps’ automatic discovery and sharing of your location can be near impossible too.  You can read one horror story from TechCrunch journalist, John Biggs, when he talks about how the iPhone social discovery app Highlight basically shared his cell phone number with approximately 140 strangers in an SMS invite fiasco.

Key Lesson Learned – Protect Your Users’ Privacy

I am often asked by our clients about how best to grow your online communities and these apps present challenges that make it too easy to accidentally turn off a potential member and to scare off your website visitors who fear their privacy and personal data isn’t being kept safe.

I don’t want to come down too harshly on social discovery mobile apps and I did download and use the Ban.Jo app while I was at SXSW and had fun using it. I think these apps have a time and a place for using them, and then you uninstall them until the next big social event.  The big problem I had was how hard these apps make it for users to control the privacy settings and allow us to choose exactly what data is public and what is private.

I don’t know about you, but I want the ability to use software applications to store my personal data and to connect with friends and colleagues without having to “sell out” and give up control and ownership of that information.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve focused on building so many permissions options into the Tendenci CMS software: both content-specific permissions to give you full control over who can see and change your website content as well as user and member-based permissions to give your staff and volunteers selective access to do what they needed to on your website without having access to the areas they didn’t need.

The first thing I did when I came back from SXSW was create 2 new Help Files on Tendenci’s permission settings so our website Admins can go and take full control over your site’s content.  You can check them out online and let me know if you have any questions after reading through them:

Tendenci’s Site-Wide Permission Control Settings

Tendenci’s Content-Specific Permission Control Settings

Outer Space

SXSW 2012 showed that Space is still inspiring people to create innovative technologies, build new communities, and play Angry Birds.

SpacePoints: Space Outreach at Ludicrous Speeds! gave me the opportunity to lead a core conversation on crowdsourcing the application development to build online communities.  You can check out the SpacePoints application, now officially in Beta and share your secret space story about what excites and inspires you about space.

How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration was a great panel that shared how people passionate about space are meeting online and creating offline friendships while driving innovation in space exploration.  I had a chance to hear from Astronaut Ron Garan and the leaders in aerospace talk about how the Space Tweeps Society, NASA, commercial aerospace companies, and ordinary space nerds were making a difference.

A License to Rhok shared how NASA and the open source community is developing Random Hacks of Kindness (rhok) to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges.  Developers and Non-Developers alike can get involved and find ways to make a difference and solve global problems through programs like the  International Space Apps Challenge coming in April, and Launch.Org, which is collaboratively led by NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE.

Angry Birds Space Launched in style with a Flash Mob Dance Off in the streets of downtown Austin.  Here’s a video from YouTube:

Meet Us at NTEN’s NTC 2012

Our next excursion to a big conference will be in San Francisco for the NTEN 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) April 2nd through April 6th, 2012.  We’ll be out there learning about what technology problems nonprofits are struggling with and giving attendees the first look at the O/S Tendenci Community CMS.

If you are going to be attending NTC or are in the San Francisco area and want to schedule a demo, send me an email and let’s connect!

You’ll soon be able to download Tendenci’s new open source version and we are looking for developers and designers to partner with us and grow the O/S Tendenci Community and platform.  You can sign-up today for a free trial and find out what Tendenci websites can do to help your nonprofit organization succeed online at http://signup.tendenciapp.com!

Check out upcoming Tendenci training webinars and see what events we’ll be at on our events calendar and watch new Tendenci Help Videos weekly!

Tendenci, the NPO CMS website software, is going open source thanks to Matt and Dries

UPDATE 4/3/2012: The Tendenci Open Source Download is available on GitHub here. Also view Instructions on Hosting Requirements

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We are making Tendenci open source. Yes really. Official Tendenci Open Source Press Release here. So what is Tendenci?

Tendenci is an Open Source Software for Associations (AMS) and Built Specifically for Non-Profits.

That’s it. Sounds simple but organizing people, especially members of non-profit organizations (NPOs), is a real challenge. And designing software is a challenge too. Therefore focus produces better results.

We’ve talked about making our product open source for years internally. So why now?

The tipping point for me was last year at our bi-annual conference where we had the privilege of hosting two open-source visionaries Dries Buytaert and Matt Mullenweg on the stage at the same time. Dries is the founder of Drupal and Matt is the founder of WordPress.

Their WordPress-Drupal talk at SchipulCon 2011 moderated by David was absolutely inspiring to me. Here were two men who give their product away for FREE but still create jobs with over 100 employees each. The video is on WordPress.tv here.

One thing Matt said during the talk was:

People being told what to do and working for money are never going to match people working for passion and a community.

— MATT MULLENWEG

Matt’s right. I do things for free with a greater passion than what I do for the almighty dollar. I’ll spend 5 hours editing photos for a volunteer event out of passion for the arts. Or to support and remember our troops. Because I am passionate about both. I am passionate about non-profits and service to community and country, which is what drove me to start programming Tendenci in 2001! And yet paradoxically I have always kept Tendenci proprietary. My vision for the company is:

To Connect and Organize the World’s People. Do Good.

Thus we are making our code open source for the NPO community to use, build upon, download and do as they wish. And yes, we fully realize our competitors will be the first to download. But hey, maybe they have some great ideas for integration plugins and they can make a profit too. It will be released on GitHub to coincide with the NTEN conference in San Francisco next month.

Why am I doing this? It is me (Ed) making an ideological decision. I didn’t say “logical” I said “ideological.” I want to change the world. After travelling extensively and earning a degree in Political Science I’ve become more aware that we are part of a global community. I want to leave the world a better place than when I arrived. Yes, seriously!

Open Source enables us to DO GOOD at a higher level than our pure proprietary model allows. “To connect and organize the worlds’ people. Do good.” As goes the vision so goes the company. Enzo the (talking) dog in the amazing book The Art of Racing in the Rain says:

That which you manifest becomes you.

What Enzo was saying is that when you are driving a race car you can’t look at the wall to stay away from it. You need to look at the road way up ahead so you are prepared BEFORE you get there. And proprietary is limited by resources in ways that open source is not. We can manifest more good being open source.

Matt and Dries convinced me that we can build an open source product through a global community to change the world, AND still create jobs and make a profit. Thus after 14 years in business and having started programming Tendenci in 2001 (11 years!) I am ready to make the jump to open source.

What technology is behind it? It was originally written in ASP. Not anymore. On January 22nd 2009 our programming team convinced me we needed a complete rewrite because the only people who know the Tendenci 4 framework are people who work at Schipul because I never documented it. Ooops. So over the last three years we have done a COMPLETE rewrite of Tendenci from the ground up using the best-of-breed open source technology. At a technical level our programming team recommended the Django/Python/mySQL/Ubuntu “stack.”

That was a big decision. I’m committed and I am 100% positive this is the right path forward for us, our clients and NPOs everywhere. (We plan to have a github repository available by NTEN if not sooner. See you in San Francisco y’all!)

Thanks,

Ed

QUESTIONS?  (POST IN COMMENTS WITH MORE QUESTIONS)

Is Tendenci really built specifically for non-profits and will memberships be included in the open source download?

Yes and yes. Memberships are included in the base download. As are membership benefits like pricing for events etc.

Can businesses still use Tendenci?

Yes, most definitely. In fact with the new plug-in architecture and the new templating system, you will have even greater flexibility.

For example, WordPress is used as a great CMS system and we build a BUNCH of WP sites for businesses, organizations, individuals, artists, and non-profit organizations. WordPress rocks. It has a ton of great add-ons. Yet its DNA is fundamentally a blogging platform. Tendenci is fundamentally a CMS for non-profits.

Will Schipul, the company behind Tendenci, continue to build and support Tendenci?

Yes. Absolutely. I LOVE THIS SOFTWARE! And our programming team is excited to be a part of the open source community. We are not going anywhere. Quite the opposite – we are getting even more energized about it!

While I like being able to download it if I want, I’d rather not deal with all of that. Does Tendenci offer hosting?

Absolutely. Visit www.tendenci.com and click the “Free Trial” button and you are up and running. Work with your own developer to configure it to your specifications or call us at 281 497 6567 and we can help.

We are a web design firm. Can we sell Tendenci sites and host them on our own servers?

Yes. That is how open source works. And we need design partners as well to help with clients who choose to host with us. And theme and plug in-developers too.  You can find out more by checking out our Partner Programs.

How will you stay in business if you just give away your product?

I not only expect to “stay in business” but I expect our profit and revenue to go up through lower cost cloud based hosting at Amazon and increased volume. Lower costs means higher usage pretty much in every economic model I have ever seen.

And Tendenci being open source creates an ecosystem for other developers to develop apps on that meet the needs of their specific clients.

Why make Tendenci Open Source now, in 2012? Why the timing?

What better time? Thanks to our clients we grew another 20% in revenue and earned a fair profit last year. We have been profitable since 2002 and are completely self funded so I didn’t have to call a banker or a board that doesn’t understand SaaS and open source to get approval to make this decision. I simply listened to our clients. I listened to our employees. I listened to our stakeholders. I listened to Matt and Dries. And I made a decision that is best for everyone including non-profits all over the world given Django is multi-language.

And hey, financially we are strong and what better time to give to the open source community than during a recession and at a time of strength? I would have done this years ago but you can’t build an open source community around a proprietary technology like ASP (what I originally wrote it in). It was the rewrite of Tendenci by our young and talented programming team that is allowing us to make the move now.

Why is open source so important for NPOs? Do they really care?

Yes, yes and more yes. Just ask them.

According to the NTEN 2011 survey 33% custom built their web sites (perhaps on top of open source), 10% used proprietary products, cloud based or not. The remaining 57% strictly use open source software. Excluding non-profit hospitals and other niche verticals, I believe open source web technology probably accounts for close to 70% of the market by number of NPOs. PHP based CMS systems like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla currently fill this need, and they are great products.

I believe opening Tendenci up as open source provides a fourth viable option to meet the specific needs of non-profit web sites. And Tendenci is built in the Python programming language on the Django framework which opens opportunities up to developers who prefer Python.

Or to put it another way, I believe proprietary SaaS products that target the non-profit community will only survive if they focus on very specific niches because they are excluding almost 60% of their target audience. As a VC would say, that sort of limits your “addressable market.” Our proprietary competitors don’t share this belief. And I didn’t either last year. I’m a convert. And I ask you,

Would YOU rather know you can download all of the technology for your site if you wanted to?

Of course your answer is yes. You want open source because you want and deserve to control the destiny of your web presence.

That is why my personal blog and this blog are on WORDPRESS! I believe WordPress is the best blogging platform around. I love it. I started with a paid hosted site at www.wordpress.com. And at some point I wanted more control so I migrated to my own server (we have a few. #heh). Shouldn’t you have that same freedom as a non-profit?

Well, now you do.

How can I get a copy of the source code and start working on it now? (I’m writing this on 3/15/12 – the Ides of March indeed)

We hope to have a public repository available on github by NTEN next month. The (slight) delay is simply because we built our hosted environment to use three distinct servers, search index, web server and CDN. That won’t make sense to 99% of the people reading this. In English it means “we built it for BIG HUGE SITES. We need to make that part optional so a small NPO can download and run it on their own web server without having to buy three slices at Amazon. We’re working on it! And I can’t wait!

In the meantime, you can sign-up on our website and we’ll be sending an email with the download link to you as soon as it is ready.

(Note: We do have a few select beta testers with early access working on the SpacePoints site. We’ll get it available to everyone soon.)

What other questions do you have? Hit us up in the comments below!

#peace

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