Sunday, November 22, 2009

Derreck Kayongo - proof that you can make a difference

Meeting inspiring people like Derreck Kayongo who began The Global Soap Project which recovers and recycles soap from American hotels and facilitates a process by which it is sanitized, melted and remolded into new bars, then distributed to refugee camps in Africa.

Uplifting and inspiring - proof positive that behind every revolution there is someone with a vision and in this case Derreck is putting that vision into action!

Posted via web from Michael's Ramblings . . .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the last train to Charleston

This marked my 8th year attending the Blackbaud Conference in Charleston SC. They have been doing this now for 10 years and I swear each time they reinvent the process.

When you see tweets like: "Best NPO Conferences I've been to. Great speakers, networking, idea sharing. Technology/ people rock!" You know you're part of something a little bit magical. It's like almost coming home and much of that is the relationships that are formed from within Blackbaud and the amazing, inspiring people you meet and continue to connect with.

The market place is a reminder of just how innovative the planning team gets in keeping the attendees engaged, relaxed and well fed. I was also watching the flow and process which maximized how the vendors interacted, the options for breaks even the chair massage - oh I would have killed to have sat in one of those chairs!

Of course there was the gestapo afternoon break folks who worked for the convention center. They refused to allow anyone access to the soda pail until 3:15 sharp. Didn't they know who I was? I actually had the bottle of soda in my hand and was told to put it back - should have licked the bottle as my Navy Alumni buds suggested, that would have been fun.

For me this year was a very different experience. I got to stretch the old noodle a bit and presented on a topic I was not all that comfortable with. I actually think I pulled it off even though I couldn't remember NWF's mission statement. Got ribbed for that one! I don't know my scores but as my "life twin" Kate who is sitting next to me said, I was "very animated, engaging and fun to listen and watch." Of course she told me this at the evenings reception hour so maybe I need to factor in the "tipsy" aspect of the review!

I attended a series of events I don't normally follow and I have to say it was liberating in a way to learn more about topics that I don't have to directly support. I find the learning to be invaluable as a technologist because you never know when I have to apply something I encountered to the job. I was also impressed that how in just a short time frame, folks attending many of the social networking sessions, were no longer questioning the terminology - they got it! So not the case last year.

I had the dubious honor of being listed at the conference as a top tweeter - not sure I can include that in my resume but I understand I will have an ASP named after me. What I did get from all the tweets . . . is how by highlighting the session points during the engagement I can now go back and reference those comments, it's better then note taking! AND - connecting with other Tweets who were in the same or different sessions, priceless.

I FINALLY got to meet Holly Ross from NTEN who used the geographical search feature on Twitter and found me at the session. For about 2 hours I was looking for a gal wearing a pair or Red Shoes and a Navy Blue blouse. We hooked up at her session where I publicly professed my love for her, she was as engaging in person as she has been online and spoke to the very point of what being a technologist means to me and how we use those skills to support those and provide service to do good in todays world.

I'm looking forward to sharing more about this awesome event and to nurture the relationships both new and old as a result of my latest Charleston trip. Until next time.

We are of Peace. Always.

Posted via web from Michael's Ramblings . . .

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Trekking to Charleston, again

It's that time of year.  Ahhh yes, November when the leaves begin to turn and fall, holiday preparations and family plans are being discussed, breaking out the warm attire begins and of course it's the annual Blackbaud Conference for Non Profits - this is either my 7th or perhaps 8th time that I am making this visit.  I think after 10 years they name a DLL or a process after you, so like Bill Murray in Caddyshack when discussing his reward from the Dalai Lama, I got that to look forward to.  Of course I'm looking forward to seeing some great friends I have had the good fortune to make over the years and then there is the PACKING challenge.  In all the time I've traveled to Charleston I try to see how little I can get away with packing for the 3 days, which hasn't always worked out.

One year I had to purchase some Blackbaud shirts as I miscalculated or did I slurp one too many oysters and stain a shirt?  Last year I made the tactical mistake of not bringing a coat and it ended up being the coldest week ever. I swear I saw snow falling in the morning - but then again there were many mornings I was a bit bleary eyed thanks to the engaging and non stop energy attending a Blackbaud session such as this can provide.

This year however will be a little different for me, this year besides looking at the forecast, I will be attending the conference as a representative of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and NOT the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).  Why is this different?  and I should be clear, different does not mean bad different or good different, different in this case is related to the scope of service which the two organization has chosen Blackbaud to partner with.  CBF followed the same rule of thumb my friends at Navy Alumni used, if Blackbaud made it we bought it.  NWF on the hand only has a limited engagement with their Raiser's Edge (RE) product.  RE is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) component both organizations use to manage key members and it's only used for a small segment of NWF 4 million membership.

I was fortunate during my 10 years at CBF to not only witness the Blackbaud product line grow and take off as it has to encompass a great many needs of non-profits but also help guide and be part of that development by taking an active role in various early adopter programs and review panels on first versioning of Blackbaud's software solutions.  

NWF is much different in that there are already well placed teams and high capacity systems in place that have established the collection of data and the flow which in turn created partnerships with other competitors in the direct marketing field like Merkel.  My level of influence along with my understanding of the work flow on this front is still at it's early stages.  The history of the process and and what makes up the volume is also at its infancy as it's only been 6 months being in the role of lead Technologist.  Was I surprised that Blackbaud had reached out and asked me to participate in a Direct Marketing Panel discussion titled:  The Challenges and Successes of Managing an Advanced, Integrated Marketing Strategy and in this case representing NWF?  Oh, yes I most certainly was - while I was happy to have the opportunity it was clear I was not treading in unfamiliar territory.

Back in April I had the good fortune to do something similar in Boston at the Target Analytics session as part of CBF and Amelia Koch the CBF Director of Membership was with me answering the tough Marketing questions.  I won't have that safety net this time even though Amelia was also invited to be on this current panel along with Misty Thornton from Heifer International   I have to admit I'm a bit nervous now, before I could speak to a great many topics as I knew the CBF organization inside and out.  Not the case with NWF.

So now that I have the panel questions in hand I have two tacts to take:  take the opportunity to spend the next week trying to immerse myself in all things Direct Marketing related to the NWF organization or . . . and it's a gamble but here it is:  focus instead on where I see the organization moving forward on the Direct Marketing front and not worry about stats and what NWF has done in the past.

So to recap -


  • November, good month, leaves, turkey, family.  
  • Charleston, look at the forecast, pack accordingly this time, try to save brain cells and liver.  
  • Blackbaud conference, excited to see many friends and partners, maybe even a Baudcast.  
  • Direct Marketing Panel, speaker, pray, shoot from the hip - ask questions later.

I pitched them the idea of me participating in a more technical track but noooooo.  It's OK, really.  But fair warning - I'm bringing all my product flair.  Can't be seen only wearing the RE and Speaker flair on my name badge, I have a reputation to protect.  Chucktown, here I trek!


Posted via web from Michael's Ramblings . . .

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Chicago bound, time to SEE3

This week I am fortunate to attend a CIO NPO symposiums of sorts sponsored by one of our tech providers, CDW - these guys not only sell everything tech related thing under the sun and are well underway to servicing the non profit sector in more areas which this conference is geared towards. More on the CDW experience later, for now I want to talk about see3.

I had mentioned about my trip to Chicago sort of in passing a week ago via Twitter when one of my followers, replied and was hoping to hook up when I arrived in Chi-Town.

Michael is President and CEO of see3 communications based in Chicago - a group I had the pleasure of being introduced to several years ago at an NTEN session in DC. I was impressed with their technology and services back then, even more now. As this incredible interactive video marketing piece from the American Cancer Society will attest to

When talking with some of my program folks at National Wildlife Federation, in particular Julie Lalo who's the Regional Representative of the Chesapeake Mid Atlantic affiliate group, we had a lively discussion about the challenges of the affiliates in sharing each others experiences and stories. How video could be such a powerful tool and how they each have so many stories to tell and more importantly to share. Not only would the general public have a far richer experience, they could easily learn from one another, if . . . and that that's a big word - IF they had the means to easily access, post and follow a video oriented system.

The tools are out there, "see3" is a perfect example - the trick is bringing all the ingredients into the one pot.

When it all comes together the stew has the potential for tasting delish, but to follow the analogy one more step, if you put too many chefs in the kitchen who knows what the results will be. I'm hoping that I can swing a hook up with Michael - I mean we have the same name, that's one of the rules of Michael's we're drawn to one another by name alone - but seriously, I'm not sure at this point if I have the right the ingredients not to mention a big enough pot to promote these amazing tools and services. NWF is one of those groups with a lot of moving parts, trying to understand and follow it all is daunting.

It would take a concerted effort to pull not only the affiliates together but also the staff. I like the concept of giving them a pot to share their ideas in while contributing to the stirring and blending to come up with a unified message.

Aren't cooking analogies the best? Maybe I shouldn't be blogging before I eat?

Specialization without integration is fragmentation - Peter Forbes

Michael Sola is the Director of IT and lead technologist at the National Wildlife Federation. NWF is the United States' largest private, nonprofit conservation education and advocacy organization, with over 4 million members and supporters in 48 state-affiliated organizations

Posted via web from Michael's Ramblings . . .