barcampnfp 2015

Barcampnfp 2015 end of day group shot by @netsmith

Barcampnfp 2015 end of day group shot

Hello, long time no see, sorry!

This year seems to have really flown by and I have a few different blog posts stuck in my head ready to get out. The first one being to share all the great stuff we learned from this year’s Barcampnfp.

Held 8th April 2015 in the ultimate shabby chic east London space (thank you Top Office Machines) we again had around 100 non-profit interested tech and nfp staff come together to network and learn.

How did the day work?

barcampnfp session card photo by Gaby JeffsFor those of you that don’t know already; Barcampnfp is in an unconference format, where the only thing set before the day is the venue and times. A blank timetable is posted on the morning of the event so that every participant has the chance to propose sessions. The event truly is owned by the people who attend it – this way only the topics of interest to the audience actually become part of the day!

I’ve always slightly broken the rules of a traditional barcamp by having a defined theme (tech & non-profits) and curating the sessions rather than just allowing the timetable board to be filled up directly. Following the mammoth curation session last year I decided to try just letting the participants free like the traditional format. To support this I creating more structured session cards (see pic) to guide people making suggestions.

The structured cards worked well but the curation was something participants said they’d like back next year. The curation was missed because it helped similar topics merge and gave the chance for people to be matched with someone who knows about a theme they want to learn about. Some great lessons to take on for the next event!

What did we learn?

Here’s a few of the high level things we learned:

  • Agile methodology is becoming more adopted in non-profits, but contrary to common thought discipline and documentation is what really makes agile work.
  • Digital transformation is a hot topic in the sector right now, some organisations are completely in support while others aren’t. Either way there are lots of ‘stealth’ tactics that can be put to use by specialists without org support.
  • Engaging young people requires great imagery along with good stories. Just bite the bullet and use Instagram and Snapchat which is where these audiences are right now.
  • A/B testing is important but don’t test something that you’re not prepared to implement -­ it might win!
  • Video can be done on a shoe string – raw and real stories work best in this case.
  • Measuring impact is a challenge still being ploughed through – the AMEC framework can be a great model to work with.

Check out the live notes from the day here and pictures here.

As always, let me know if you’d like to run a barcampnfp near you or get involved in the London events @spirals.

charities going backwards in digital maturity – should we blame the donors

This week Lloyds and Go On UK released their 2015 digital maturity report with the headline insight that charities are behind SMEs and going backwards when it comes to digital.

There’s some fascinating stats such as the % of digital skills across four broad skill areas (communicate, find things, provide information, transact). The study shows that charities come out worst in transact skills areas and, to be honest, I’m not that surprised.

Lloyds digital maturity report - graphWhile it’s easy to get into debates about the methodology used in the study, what’s harder to deny the fact that as a whole the charity sector has been slower to take up more digitally enabled transaction methods.

You can logic that this is due to appropriate audience focus; with older audiences being more likely donors and where average giving amounts are typically higher. To my knowledge the persistence of the printed cheque is specifically tied to charities lobbying for it to continue precisely due to this fact (happy to be corrected here if you know different!).

So should we blame the donors for charities being behind in digital?

Before I say anything else, the answer to this is clearly No. There’s a complex set of factors at play beyond audience fit; limited resources, expertise and affordable technology.

Being a long time digital specialist in the sector I’ve seen the trials and tribulations of forward focused individuals (including many non-specialists). Individuals who’ve tried to use digital but been left feeling disempowered and receiving warnings that this would risk their long-time supporter engagement. Where you have limited resources and the technology isn’t easily available you do often have to make a choice, and do it quickly based on assumptions.

Things have changed but they need to change more

With SMS giving increased in the last few years I’ve definitely seen a shift in charities thinking more about younger people. As ‘older donors’ become even more technically savvy this too has increased the impetus in the sector.

Instead of the first assumption being ‘they don’t do digital’ a few more decisions now come from the assumption ‘everyone is using digital and if we’re not there they’ll go to someone else’. However, having worked in some of the largest charities and now working with more different sized charities I can see there’s a lack of equality across the sector. Not every charity has the resources, expertise and technology to have shifted.

I’m excited to be working on something that should help to change this, let me know if you want to know more.

the future of news?

This picture sums it up… either the future, or the hype of the future. This is Periscope – a new live streaming app launched today by twitter. Whatever it becomes, I can already think of some great ways that non-profits could use it.

new york explosion via periscope

digital analytics reminders from measurecamp

MeasurecampThis weekend I spent Saturday immersed in data and analytics at Measurecamp. I love a good unconference and this definitely is up there, brilliantly organised and lots of brain stretch, and of course I can’t not mention the free t-shirt and laser pointer.

I’m a complete advocate and enthusiast about the power of data and testing. So much so I made the business case, won the budget, and recruited a digital analyst in all of my last three workplaces. Plus an analyst role is on the cards for my current team at Raising IT too.

There’s a huge amount of material generated from the event that I won’t try to replicate here. But I thought what might be useful is a few of the top-line reminders I took away:

  • Testing has lots of trip ups and myths.
    • For long purchase / supporter journeys they may have made their mind up before you even started your test.
    • It’s possible to test a gazillion things, but really you should only test the things you can actively influence and change.
    • You shouldn’t necessarily use all the results to judge a test, any ‘whales’ (outliers) should be removed to avoid skewing the conclusion.
    • Traditional models assume the environment hasn’t changed. You need an agile analytics approach where there is change to factor in.
  • Tools for digital analysis have converged to greater or lesser extent.
    • Google analytics is very powerful these days and what most people are using. I heard only a mere mention of a couple of other providers throughout the day.
    • Tracking inbound phone call sources can be made easier through Twilio or Calltracks (and probably others).
  • Integrating tracking in your CMS is still a bit technical and time-consuming.
    • There’s so many intricacies with integrating analytics correctly that it kept coming up again and again. A few of the people I spoke to were frustrated that they spent more of their time on implementation of tracking than the analysis of the data.
  • Key performance indicators need buy-in,actual evidence is not enough.
    • You should only publish clear actionable results that people are actively bought into viewing.  This take out reminded me of test I did while at one of my organisations. They insisted we printed the whole of the monthly web stats and display them on the notice board … it took a whole three months before anyone returned the ‘claim a prize if you spot this’ slip!
  • Attribution models still need expert judgement.
    • Last click / first click / weighted or something else, you still need to make a judgement as there’s no clear-cut way to decide what’s best for your activity. Try it and shape it through use.

lessons in digital transformation from UNICEF UK

Now I’ve moved to a new job at Raising IT I’m feeling very reflective about the 3.5 years I worked at UNICEF UK.

My job involved working with my team across three main areas; direct digital delivery (content, marketing and technology), leading the digital strategy and providing internal strategic consultancy, plus the most challenging but rewarding area – digital transformation of the whole organisation.

I’ve written quite a bit about on this my blog over the years but here’s something I wrote for another site recently; an executive summary of how we delivered digital transformation at UNICEF UK.

Plus here’s a pic that gives me flash backs :-)

creating success according to google

This weekend I spotted this great presentation in my twitter stream. While Google has got a few dark sides the key messages in this slide deck really struck a chord with me and I wanted to spread the word.

The greatest asset of any organising structure (be it a project, team or whole organisation) is a clear vision and shared values, plus great people empowered to get on with things. I’ve noticed this has been a key ingredient in all of the best projects and teams I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

why aren’t there more charity start-ups?

Last night Nesta held an event examining this very topic. As usual there was some great content from Mary McKenna who has been working with Vinspired on Tasksquad.

Tasksquad is a rarity – one of very few charity founded startups, at least to my knowledge. Yet I feel there are so many factors that should make charities fertile ground for entrepreneurial action;

  • goodwill support,
  • often more forgiving audiences (if you fail for the right reasons)
  • and a wealth of expertise in real social issues.

Here’s a storify from the Nesta charity digital innovation event on what everyone had to say about why it’s rare.

what’s changed in digital over the years?

This is a rather belated post promised to Amy the other day. She promised me it wasn’t a sneaky way to work out my age!

What has changed?

I’ve worked in digital for my whole career and a lot has changed in that time.

In the past 12 months there have been a few moments that have left me practically punching the air with glee because they’ve signalled the non-profit sector is finally maturing its approach to digital. To name a couple; when the opening plenary of the Institute of Fundraising Convention started with a speech about embracing digital in fundraising. The other being when I heard the change of title of the digital lead at a couple of major charities from Head to Director – a much truer recognition of the roles as they’ve been for some time.


From web monkey to specialist advisor

I can remember a time when there were only web officers. Expected to mostly put pdf’s on the website with little to no notice, that’s if people remembered the website was there at all. Now digital has a seat at the strategy and planning table in many organisations – at the very least at a project level.

From custom build to on-demand tools

Updating the website was a thing that only the web monkey knew how to do. It was all a bit techy and there was this complicated hmtl or something. Now we’ve got content management systems and other tools that everyone can use and, in some cases, that dynamically personalise the content, journey and more to the user. This was the stuff of Tommorrow’s World not too long ago.

From under the carpet to KPI

You were glad if you got a few hundred hits (yes – hits!) and quietly shared this with any geeky friends. Then perhaps you started to email and post up your top line web stats probably to an almost deafening silence of no return comments or questions. Now digital stats are part of the report to board members – Marks & Spencer even had its ecommerce stats reported in press.


I could go on I’m sure – but that’s another thing that’s changed, we’ve all got shorter attention spans :-)

the tension between brand and digital

Post it sorting at Mozilla with UNICEF UK volunteersThere’s been many debates over the impact of digital on brand and reputation. Only recently, it cropped up in a few different ways during a workshop I was involved with organising. Given this, I thought it was time to pull together some thoughts on the theme.

To give a bit of context; the workshop involved a diverse group of UNICEF UK fundraising volunteers playing around with a new Mozilla product. Appmaker helps almost anyone build a mobile web app. It’s still in an experimental phase but already quite progressed compared to the version I helped shape at mozfest last year.

Brand Vs digital

When this issue crops up its still typically presented as opposites. But like most things I’m not sure its helpful to see this as an argument with ‘sides’. This introduces a sense of competition rather than partnership or evolution.

In the workshop this sense of opposition was clear in most of the concerns raised, for example ‘what about your brand if volunteers are creating apps without your involvement?’.

Here’s a break down of the underlying tensions that crop up regularly and the real world factors as I see them.

Look and feel

What: The sense that anything not created by the brand owner is going to be poor quality or inconsistent and that this will damage the organisation.

My perspective:

Most “average joe’s” spend less time looking at your stuff than you do. Anything more than a minor problem is likely to be spotted quite quickly by today’s savvy consumer so the risks here are contained.

The democratisation of technology also means its easier to support non-designers to create reasonably consistent and good quality material if you put the right toolkit in place. If you don’t proactively put a toolkit out there you have to expect more variation and ‘dodgy design’ as people enthusiastically work out ways to hack it for themselves.

Sometimes a person outside the organisation can be more authentic and creative, and therefore more effective. Rather than spending hours trying to include authentic voices, empowering others means you’ve already done that legwork and created a sustainable model.

Open to abuse or untruths

What: The sense that people will use their new power to create an authentic looking app or other digital material to say or do something that’s not right, either on purpose or accidentally. Common concerns are that users will say something on behalf of a brand that isn’t true or funnel money or data into the wrong place.

My perspective:

This is definitely a risk, but its a risk that has always existed. Anyone could knock on a door and claim to be from a particular organisation by brandishing a printed leaflet. Educating consumers has always been a need. Today’s technology may have magnified the problem in some ways but it can also be a part of the solution.

Digital tools can provide ways to ‘lock-down’ elements of the setup so they can’t be tinkered with. Additionally there might be some sort of notification that gets sent to an organisation when certain actions take place meaning there’s a transparent audit trail.  An example with Appmaker is that UNICEF UK could possibly create a default ‘donate’ component that links directly to UNICEF’s secure payments and database.

There are also ways that digital can help to authenticate individual users are who they say they are. For example with Appmaker we could possibly create an electronic badge system where the unique badge can only be earned by genuine fundraising volunteers who have been in touch.

Finally, if there’s anything suspicious the thing about digital is that the genuine website and contact points for the brand are just a click away. As I said earlier, consumers are savvy, it’s fairly frequent that we get emails and tweets @unicef_uk checking if something is really authentic.

Aligning priorities and messages

What: The sense that you can’t keep control over key messages and timings if you’ve empowered others to act on your behalf and tailor their material/s for their own community.

My perspective:

If any of these concerns gets me the most riled up it’s this one. By consciously losing a little bit of control you gain the ultimate benefit that marketing seeks; you become a more integrated part of people’s lives. By being malleable to the interests of users you become more relevant and interesting to them personally.

Not forgetting that you continue to control the primary digital channels for your brand and can communicate the priorities to anyone who you’ve empowered. You might also reserve a place in your digital toolkit that will automatically update from central messages.

There’s not many (any?) moral ways you can control conversations or minds so this risk has always been an aspect of marketing.

Do you need designers and brand managers?

Don’t get me wrong, all of this doesn’t mean you can do away with designers or brand specialists. They can create the toolkit, focus on the big picture and keep pushing forward with more cutting edge work. They have a powerful role in making an ecosystem of digital empowerment real.

Digital can magnify the impact of designers and brand managers which is why it befuddles me that this topic still comes up in the language of arguments.

barcampnfp 2014



Mixed media



What’s this all about?

Barcampnfp is an ‘unconference’ where people from Tech & Digital come together with people from Non-profits (charity, academic, gov, arts & culture etc) to exchange ideas and learning. I’ve been the London lead for a number of years now.

This year’s full day event it took place at The Bakery on Thursday 20 March 2014 and we usually have a half day event during Social Media Week in September.