Archive for January, 2011

Got some bread? Sow an Appleseed this week

One of the best aspects of working at PICnet is the talented, passionate people it attracts as fellow PICnetters. I’m energized each day by my colleagues and their commitment to improving the public good in meaningful, tangible ways.

Those meaningful and tangible ways often take other forms than just their workaday lives at PICnet. We were excited for Michael Chisari, PICnet Developer, when the project he’s been passionately building in his off-hours scored some free pub on TechCrunch recently.

All the hubbub is about Appleseed, an open source, fully decentralized social networking software suite to rival Facebook and its closed system. Michael’s innovative work on the cutting edge of an emerging movement is inspiring to see and helps to inform the work he does at PICnet while we look to innovate and anticipate the needs of our clients and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Interested in learning about the open source movement that is seeking to bring about the next wave of social networking? Check out Appleseed‘s site.

Better yet, kick in some cash to help Appleseed meet its fundraising goal this week. Hey! Why not even a whole mess of cash and maybe Justin Timberlake will play YOU in the inevitable Hollywood smash: “The Social Network: The Rise of Appleseed”.


B Corporations who love nonprofits

PICnet loves nonprofits. It’s true. We’re head over heels gaga in love. It’s more than just a schoolyard crush or a passing fling. We’ve been faithfully committed to nonprofits in word and deed as our true love from the beginning. Last year, we made it official. We signed on the dotted line. We filed the paperwork. It’s legal and lifelong, an enduring commitment certified through our status as a social-responsible B Corporation.

Why? We’re soul mates, you see – bound together by common missions to make this floating rock we’re spinning on a better place by looking after the planet and its people. It’s bound up in our DNA as a company and permeates our work with nonprofit clients in building websites that help manifest their mission.

PICnet is happy to hang out with like-minded B Corporations who serve nonprofits. The name for such a hip, swinging crew, you ask? Well, B Corporations for Nonprofits, of course! Check out, straight out of its bubble wrap this morning, for a full list of nonprofit-loving B Corps and the impressive range of services we offer.

B Corporations for Nonprofits was brought together for a purpose. That purpose was well-put by Randy Paynter, the founder and CEO of Care2, ahead of a press conference PICnet, Care2, and PhilanTech held today in support of the new group:

“Nonprofits today can choose to work with service providers that share their commitment toward bettering society and the planet,” said Paynter. “It’s a way to spend dollars to strengthen, rather than weaken, an organization’s social mission.”

If you’re a nonprofit looking for some heartfelt love and mission-amplifying choice amongst service providers, check out B Corporations for Nonprofits.


Nonprofit technology inadequate, study says; six ways software as a service models can help

Think your nonprofit has inadequate technology to get the job done? You’re not alone. Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project released a study showing a whole lot of folks in your shoes feel ya.  In fact, I believe that was one of the survey questions:

How would you characterize your attitude toward this statement: “I feel ya.”

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. I’m not sure what I feel
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly Agree
  6. I SO feel ya!

No surprise, right? Nonprofits often feel like the youngest kid in the Walton family getting the hand-me-downs from brothers and sisters. Poor Jim-Bob.

Though Hopkins didn’t ask me, I feel ya, too. When I read the story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the study, I couldn’t help but think of a gig I had prior to PICnet for a great nonprofit where I was cobbling together donated broken down IBMs and a couple Mac IIe machines to form a reasonable representation of a computer network.  Whether your nonprofit is in that meager a state or not, the Hopkins’ study likely isn’t news.

Even in better economic times, a good number of factors contribute to the nonprofit challenge of meeting technology needs.  Donors are loathe to bankroll equipment and software.  Staff specializes in the doing of the mission, not the wiring of the mission.  Equipment costs require significant initial cash outlays that are hard to come by.  Technology advances at the blink of an eye so money spent on boxes and software seems to become obsolete faster than your iPhone can stream Ray Charles’ “I’m Busted”.

What intrigues me about the study isn’t the obvious finding but how industry trends toward software as a service (SaaS) models can help nonprofits deal with the dilemma.  Rather than buying software in shrink-wrap off the shelf at your local office supply store and installing it on your computer, software as a service leaves the software with the provider and you access it over the web.  Undoubtedly, you and your nonprofit already use some SaaS options.  If you are a Non-Profit Soapbox client, you definitely do since all you need to update your website is a handy dandy browser that connects to the software we house and update on our servers.

There are at least five reasons why this is trend helps combat the finding of the Hopkins study.  As for the sixth I’ll tentatively toss out, I’m down with any and all comments that enlighten me as to its validity.

1) Reduces hardware costs

Software as a service means more software in the cloud and less software on your computer.  The less software on your computer, the less you need to expect from your machine.  That lowers the price point of new hardware and extends the life of old hardware.  Have an old machine without enough horsepower to effectively run Adobe Photoshop?  Pop open a browser and tackle that image alteration with Pixlr or any number of other online options.

2) Reduces staff time invested in upkeep

Software has updates that need to be run on machines.  That requires someone running those updates and standardizing versions across computers.  Software as a service models eliminate that because the software doesn’t live on your machines.  Case in point: when PICnet pushes the latest Non-Profit Soapbox release next week that will add some great new features for Soapbox 2, your site will automatically have the new functionality ready to be used as you wish.

3) Pay as you go to use what you need

Initial cost of many software as a service models is generally the monthly fee you will normally pay, reducing the initial out-of-pocket expense and flattening out the cost curve over time.  And services scale to allow you to gradually increase your use over time also on a more graduated cost curve and fitting more neatly into annual budget cycles.

4) Nonprofit-friendly pricing from various SaaS providers

This is a trend we love to see: great services sold at a reduced rate to nonprofits – or given away for free to nonprofits.  And while free or reduced priced software could always be come by before, the SaaS model makes it easier to systematize discounts and removes barriers to your nonprofit scoring a deal.  From big boys like Google and Salesforce to elegant tools that are more targeted like Wufoo‘s form solution, plenty of SaaS models (heart) nonprofits.

5) Free options

Some software as a service providers don’t care that you’re a nonprofit.  They just give theirs tools away for free regardless.  While some are worth exactly what you pay, many – like noted above – are just plain groovy, depending on your needs.

That’s five benefits.  Here’s the tentative sixth that I’ll leave up to you to assess the validity of:

6) Easier to find funding from willing donors?

With the monthly pricing model associated with software as a service models and their pay-for-what-you-need approach, is it easier to fund software as a service costs through donor funds if there is a clear, definite use of that service for purpose of a given program activity?

To put it another way, can software as a service costs be viewed less as overhead and more as program costs?