For over six years Idealware has published its Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits, which is based on feedback from actual nonprofit staff members on their favorite software and the input of Idealware's experts. The 2012 edition looks at emerging tools and technologies in a wide range of areas including office productivity, collaboration, donor management, outreach, and fundraising. In this post I'll highlight a few of the newer entries in social media and finance/accounting, and point to other sources of information about software.
Three of the newest entries cover the topics of Social Media Measurement, Google+, and QR Codes, with each explaining how they can be used by nonprofits to further their missions. Perhaps of most interest to nonprofits today is the section on measuring social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter. The Field Guide provides a nice amount of tools you can use for this purpose. Facebook Insights is a reasonably powerful tool available to any organization that has at least 30 fans; and platforms like Hoot Suite and CoTweet provide basic metrics for Twitter. Other measurement tools mentioned include Klout, which measures your Twitter influence; Booshaka, which measures Facebook interactions; and AllFacebookStats.com which collects general Facebook page data and calculates change rates and other complicated statistics.
What about Google+? The authors state that while this new social media offering launched about a year ago has generated a lot of buzz and is growing quickly, its potential to nonprofits is still unclear. One reason is that initial user registration was by invite only, resulting in a general user base that is spotty. Right now niche groups like early adopters, techies, and photographers are more entrenched and it remains to be seen how the community will grow.
Another new section covers QR Codes. These are square bar codes that can be scanned with smart phones, directing the user to a particular web address. Some nonprofits are using these codes on print newsletters to encourage users to sign up for eNewsletters instead; others are using them in direct mail pieces to provide easy access to online donation sites. One advantage of these codes is that they cost nothing to produce (a simple Google search will result in numerous free QR code generation sites), though the authors warn us that this technology is not yet mainstream and only speaks to smartphone users at the moment.
The Field Guide also discusses financial software applications for accounting and credit card processing. Some accounting systems for smaller nonprofits include QuickBooks and Fund E-Z. For in-depth coverage of accounting systems, however, you should also be aware of the Nonprofit Times' Accounting Software Annual Report which goes into more detail and provides contact information for vendors. Credit card payment processors include Click & Pledge, Greater Giving and GiftTool, which are fee-based but allow you to process payments online. The guide also indicates that many mid-tier and advanced donor management packages (e.g. Donor Perfect, eTapestry, and Raiser's Edge) process donations and other payments directly from that software.
Finally, while Idealware is one of the best sources for information on software for nonprofits, they are not the only one. TechSoup provides free information, resources, and discounted software; NTEN is a membership organization of nonprofit technology professionals that facilitates the exchange of tech information through its annual conference, journal, and blog. More sources of technology advice and software reviews can be found in the GrantSpace article "Where can I find reviews and resources for fundraising and other nonprofit software?"
The Idealware Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits can be found under call number 675 IDE in all Foundation Center Libraries.
The Foundation Center--NY