Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Nigel Bailey, General Manager - Fairfax Production Services for Fairfax Media New Zealand. The company is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, and has two national, nine daily and more than 60 community newspapers in addition to more than 25 magazines and websites. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.
Fairfax Media NZ was established in 2003 and currently employs approximately 1,800 people. Since its founding, the company has grown its reach to nearly three million New Zealanders across its 90+ publications. We are headquartered in Auckland with additional teams in Wellington and Christchurch. When I joined eight years ago, our IT environment was incredibly fragmented. Every newspaper had its own IT department, systems and ways of doing things.
As the company grew, we began to view our business differently and started looking into how we could restructure the organization. We wanted to consolidate and standardize the different systems we used so we embarked on a systems centralization program.
Four years ago, one of our major challenges was email. Employees in different cities used different email systems—primarily Microsoft Exchange—but we wanted everyone on one central system. We needed a system that would allow teams to work and collaborate virtually. At that time, there wasn’t a comparable solution on the market. Since then, however, Google has made immense progress. In 2012, we began our migration onto Google Apps and by November, the entire company had made the move. Now, for the first time in the company’s history, we have a single view of IT across the organization.
We saw three immediate benefits after moving to Google Apps: real-time collaboration, increased productivity and the ability to work anytime, anywhere. For us, being able to collaborate in real-time is crucial. Google’s cloud-based solution means that we can do anything from anywhere. For a media organisation, this is absolute gold. Having news teams and sales teams be able to collaborate and share information wherever they are is a completely new way of thinking and it has spread to other parts of our business.
At a recent internal event, I was impressed by how efficiently everything ran. Before Google Apps, we shared agendas via email and everyone added their comments in separate documents and one person would cobble all the revisions together. This involved countless back-and-forth emails and a hope that by the end, everyone’s comments were properly captured. The agenda would have to be finalised well before the event because making any updates involved the same cumbersome process. Various versions of notes recapping the event would also be assembled from several different documents.
Now that we’re on Google Apps, we’re all on the same page—literally! Being able to share one document, where everyone can collaborate at the same time, has been a huge time saver and a boost to efficiency. The speed at which we can now turn things around is profoundly faster.The switch to Google Apps increased our productivity by allowing us to work anytime, anywhere.
One of the best parts of the migration was the team excitement about the move to Google Apps. When we announced we were rolling out Google Apps, some staff came up to us and said, “We’ve actually been using Google Apps on the side but hadn’t told the IT department because we didn’t want to get into trouble. Can we now move what we’ve already set up into the Fairfax Media Google environment?” People are using this sort of technology at home already. By moving to Google Apps we’re actually catching up to our employees.
Recently NTEN posed an interesting question to us: Is there a connection between cloud technology and innovation in nonprofit organizations? There’s no doubt that many organizations are using cloud technologies in innovative ways. But, more specifically, what links might we find between the unique aspects of cloud technology, and the conditions and success factors for innovation? This article explores that question.
Editor's note: Today’s guest blog is about the newly launched Google Maps Engine public data program, which lets organizations distribute their map content to consumers using Google’s cloud infrastructure. Frank Biasi, Director of Digital Development at National Geographic Maps, tells us how his organization is participating in the public data program and sharing over 500 maps to the world.
Why are maps important for National Geographic?
Founded in 1888, National Geographic Society aims to inspire people to care about the planet. As one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, we’ve funded more than 10,000 research, conservation and exploration projects. Maps and geography are integral to everything we do; it’s even part of our name. Over our long history, we’ve created and published more than 800 reference, historic and travel maps.
Medieval England (1979)
Dominican Republic: Adventure Map
Why did you want to take part in the Google Enterprise Maps public data program?
People have collected our magazine fold-out maps for over a hundred years, and many of those maps are sequestered away in attics and garages. The public data program gives us the opportunity to release our amazing map collection to the wider world.
We will also use Maps Engine to overlay our maps with interactive editorial content, so the maps can “tell stories” and raise awareness about environmental issues and historic events. Anyone will be able to access our free public maps, but we also plan to sell or license high-resolution and print versions to raise funds for our nonprofit mission.
Why did you choose to work with Google and not another maps technology partner?
We needed a high-performance mapping platform to produce and publish hundreds of interactive maps. We also wanted a relatively simple web-based workflow that could be used by non-technical employees and wouldn’t require any programming or desktop software. Google Maps Engine offers a good blend of robust technology and simple usability. Of course, Google will also help our maps get discovered by more people, including National Geographic fans, students and educators and travelers. We expect travel and home decor businesses, publishers and brand marketers will also want to buy or license them.
Which Google Maps Engine advanced tools do you use the most?
We use all the features. We load data, create layers, combine layers into maps, publish individual layers as maps and integrate multiple maps. We use both the raster and vector capabilities to put descriptors, links, pop-ups and thumbnails on top of maps. For example, we could use Maps Engine to add articles, photography and information from National Geographic expeditions to our ocean maps. These interactive maps, which we can display in 2D or 3D using Maps Engine, will allow people to follow along with expeditions as they unfold or retrace past expeditions.
What’s the most exciting thing about participating in the Google Maps Engine public data program?
Google Maps Engine lets us turn our maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with tons of great data. We are proud of our century-long cartographic tradition. The Maps Engine public data program will help get our maps out into the world where more people can enjoy and learn from them.
On Tuesday,Dec.3rd, the GivingTuesday logo was blazing in neon on Times Square. The hashtag, #GivingTuesday, was trending on Twitter. As some nonprofit insiders complained, #GivingTuesday making too much noise. And indeed it did:
- The #GivingTuesday hashtag was used 269,000 times in the 24 hour December 3 period, (as well as 406,000 times in the last 7 days, and 514,000 times in the last 30 days). That’s an average of 11,208 tweets per hour, 186 times per minute.
- #GivingTuesday trended for over 10 hours straight in the United States (9:30 am – 7:30 pm)
- Using statistics only from highest-level influencers, #GivingTuesday had a reach to over 425 million individuals on Twitter, and over 300 million on Facebook.
- People worldwide unified around the idea of the #UNselfie, or an unselfish selfie. Over 7,000 #UNselfies were submitted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.
- Online, nearly 3,500 Social Media Ambassadors have pledged to support #GivingTuesday.
- Multiple articles have been posted on The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Guardian.
But was all this “noise” a bad thing for giving as some nonprofit observers feared? Did the awareness raising and engagement around the importance of giving to charity push the needle on charitable giving? Were there robust results? Did it light up generosity?
According to research from Blackbaud and reported by Steve McLaughlin on the NpEngage blog, “Online giving on #GivingTuesday 2013 was up 90% compared to 2012. Blackbaud processed more than $19.2 million in online donations on #GivingTuesday 2013. This was up from the $10.1 million processed on #GivingTuesday in 2012. The average online gift on #GivingTuesday 2013 was $142.05, which was significantly up from $101.60 in 2012. That’s a 40% year-over-year increase in average gift size. The transaction volume increased 36% compared to last year and large giving amounts helped the overall growth of #GivingTuesday.”
Tom Watson interviewed Steve McLaughlin to take a deeper look at these numbers in his Forbes Column. The hopes and vision for #GivingTuesday is that it would spark a movement that creates a national. maybe global culture giving, highlighting charitable giving and encouraging those who do not give to nonprofits to open their hearts, minds, and wallets. As McLaughlin notes in the interview, he sees #GivingTuesday 2013 as the beginning of such a movement, not a one-time fad. He acknowledges that it will not happen overnight, perhaps taking as long as five years. (I agree)
The interview also discusses a concerned that has been raised by nonprofits that #GivingTuesday will just increase giving on a “over hyped” day of giving and not increase giving overall. McLaughlin suggests this just a scarcity fear that doesn’t show up in the research data that Blackbaud collects. McLaughlin went on to say that giving will increase if nonprofits are able to engage with donors in a bigger and broader ways – to embrace a systems approach. McLaughlin also offers advice to nonprofits that did well with #GivingTuesday this year: leverage your relationships with those donors year-round. For those that did not do well this year, McLaughlin encourages these nonprofits to learn from their results and improve their strategies over the next year.
That’s another valuable aspect of GivingTuesdayis the sharing of best practices to get better results and continuous improvement. My experience as a fundraising champion for NTEN was positive. I made my goal and had fun!
I’m very optimistic about the benefits of GivingTuesday and it building a movement. Are you?
Guest blogger, Julie Brown, Program Director at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. Julie is intrigued by storytelling, and the opportunity it offers to inspire donors and volunteers to act.
As a program officer preparing a presentation for our board, I search for one answer: “What is the common thread in the successful video nonprofit storytelling projects this board has funded?” Some videos make an impact and some don’t.
I’ve tried hard to figure out the magic ingredient. Is it the filmmaker? Is it the creative consultant or firm? Are some topics just more inspirational? And finally, the real difference between the winners and the losers floated to the top: humility.
Nonprofit directors—show us a story about a hero who overcomes barriers through your programming. We will understand that your organization was pivotal in the change. And once we connect emotionally to a story, the portion of our brain tasked with decision making kicks into overdrive. We want to give or to volunteer!
Children’s Mentoring Connection (CMC) has used short video storytelling with success in its campaign targeted to garner more mentors. Its remarkable results are a:
- 125% increase in mentor inquiries
- 800% increase in returned mentor applications
- 400% increase in mentor matches!
Jennifer Swartzlander, CMC’s Executive Director, shared that the goal of the campaign is to allow the viewers “to feel like they can touch a mentoring relationship.” One short mentor story entitled Dennis and Anthony shows men that being a mentor can be as easy as taking a child to Wendy’s every week. She’s Actually My Present showcases the poignant relationship that Deb and Chellsea share while baking brownies. Both videos focus on the mentor/mentee relationship with the agency mentioned subtly at the close. Follow CMCofHancockCounty on YouTube to see the entire campaign.
So, what do all of the unsuccessful videos have in common? In each one of the videos, the organization got in the way of the story. They feature talking heads, jargon, data, and maybe a few disjointed shots of clients actually served by the nonprofit—too much focus on the staff and methods of service delivery. This kind of content is all about the organization rather than the people it serves, and doesn’t resonate with prospective donors and volunteers.
Nonprofit directors—if you want to use a video to gain more funds or volunteers for the people you serve; let the story of one person inspire us to help you fulfill your mission. Just get out of the way and stay humble!
What is, or isn’t, working with your organization’s stories? Share your successes and challenges here.
P.S. Get nonprofit marketing guidance plus in-depth case studies, templates and tools via the Getting Attention blog & e-news. Subscribe today.
(Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Platform Blog)
Editor's note: Today’s guest blog comes from Dan Mesh, Vice President of Technology at Evite, the pioneer in online invitations and social planning. Evite has over 30 million registered users and sends more than 250 million party invitations annually.
In the past year, we’ve introduced a couple of exciting new products at Evite: our Postmark service offers premium online invitations and announcements for milestone events like weddings and births, and Evite Ink lets our users design custom paper invitations that we print and mail for a small fee. We couldn’t have launched these products without Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, which gave us the infrastructure needed to scale our services to high demands and analyze large volumes of data they generate.
Evite has been around since 1998, but behind this well-known online brand is a small and lean team. Migrating to the cloud has allowed us to focus our time, energy and financial resources on development of new products and services, free from worries of server management, capacity planning and hardware costs.
We chose Google Cloud Platform because the combination of App Engine and Compute Engine truly delivers on the cloud’s promise of scalable and elastic computing. App Engine’s autoscaling means that as long as our applications are developed in line with the platform API’s and architecture guidelines, scalability comes for free. This is a huge benefit since we no longer worry about scaling our services to meet heavy demands and are also free from the difficulties and risks inherent in capacity planning.
Most online businesses have very consistent daily, weekly and seasonal traffic patterns, and in Evite’s case, these patterns are even more pronounced. In the past, we used to provision resources to meet peak demand allowing for a healthy margin of error and future growth. Naturally, this resulted in a lot of wasted capital and engineering resources. Now that most of our systems are running on Google Cloud Platform, we see significant savings as application servers expand and shrink elastically in accordance with our web traffic.
For example, in the past Evite was hesitant to roll out major application releases in Q4, typically the busiest time of the year for us. During this time, we reach our peak traffic, and operational focus was on making sure nothing went wrong. Any significant releases represented unwanted risk. Cloud Platform greatly simplifies the release process and provides built-in traffic splitting. This has made it possible for Evite product teams to test new features and release products more frequently and with reduced risks, even during the busiest times of year.
As we add new products and services, Compute Engine plays a key role in our application infrastructure. We use it to closely monitor and analyze the performance of our products and services. All application data and log files generated by applications running on App Engine flow through a cluster of Compute Engine instances running extract, transform, load (ETL) processes, which feed this data into the data warehouse. There we analyze the collected data to detect errors and usage patterns helping us improve the design of our products and maintain performance levels.
Compute Engine gets high marks for interoperability with App Engine and other cloud vendors. We use AWS Redshift as our data warehouse so interoperability is very important. Equally impressive are predictable, high I/O performance and fast instance startup times. For our data processing workloads these two metrics are critical to success.
With App Engine powering all of our customer-facing services and Compute Engine helping us monitor and understand application performance, Evite is in great shape to create and release new products. We look forward to many new releases in 2014 knowing we can count on Cloud Platform to make these launches trouble-free.
Nonprofits often question what kind of an impact social media has on donors. Does engaging with people on social media encourage them to donate money? Does it prompt people to make an extra donation in a year, or increase their financial contribution? In short, does having someone follow your nonprofit organization on social media mean that they are committed to your organization? Or are people “Liking” a nonprofit page on Facebook just as a way to show public support (“hey, look at me, I’m charitable”), but in reality they are not invested in the organization?
A couple of recent studies reveal some of these answers, but unfortunately they are contradictory. Let’s take a look at some of the data.
The Nonprofit Times cited a study during the 14th Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers at the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management that concluded that social media users are quite active with nonprofit organizations.
The survey asked the following question:
“Which of the following actions did you take to support a charity or cause after engaging on social media?”
Check out the survey responses:
- Donate money: 59%
- Volunteer: 53%
- Donate clothing, food or other personal items: 52%
- Attend/participate in a charitable event in my community: 42%
- Purchase a product to benefit the cause or charity: 40%
- Contact my political representatives by phone, mail or in person: 25%
- Organize an event in my community: 15%
- Some other way: 2%
*Note respondents were able to check multiple answers.
However, according to the study The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action, published in the Journal of Consumer Research and conducted by PhD student Kirk Kristofferson and professors Katherine White and John Peloza, “charities incorrectly assume that connecting with people through social media always leads to more meaningful support.”
“Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”
Could the difference in the results be that Kristofferson and team surveyed students and not charities' current social media followers? The study focused on asking students to show support for charity, such as “Liking” the charity page on Facebook, joining a FB group, signing a petition, or accepting a magnet or a pin. Next, they were asked to give money or volunteer. The survey found that the students who publicly supported nonprofits on social media, like Facebook, were the least likely to support the charity further, such as through volunteering, donating money, etc. But when participants supported a charity confidentially, such as signing a petition, they were more likely to donate money later.
Kristofferson said that social media is “making it easy to associate with a cause without committing resources to support it.”
He also adds, “If the goal is to generate real support, public facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”
What are your experiences with your organization's social media followers? Do you feel that they are just as engaged as the people on your email list who are taking actions in a more private setting?
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Why did you choose Google Apps?
We moved our entire company onto Google Apps five years ago to cut costs and align closely with the tools our customers and employees wanted to use. The benefits we’re experiencing, however, go beyond that and have led to improved efficiency, increased mobility, and better collaboration across our company. We also knew that using Google Apps and other technologies would help us innovate and differentiate ourselves from other real estate companies.
How is Google Apps increasing collaboration across Redfin?
We have offices across the U.S., which could pose obstacles for a team-oriented work environment, but tools like Docs and Spreadsheets help keep our team collaborative. We use Docs to share any work that needs to be viewed or edited by multiple people or parties, like marketing lists or specs for new Redfin.com features. Our staff uses Docs to create and share planning documents and task checklists with 20 or more team members across multiple offices and time zones. The fact that we can all review and comment simultaneously has improved collaboration company-wide.
As a real estate business, your team is often on location. What tools help employees remain efficient while working remotely?
Our real estate agents are frequently out of the office helping clients buy or sell homes, so we really benefit from having remote access to all of our files through Google Drive. Our real estate agents work in teams, with a coordinator helping them throughout the escrow process. By using Google Drive, both team members can access and update the most current version of a contract, ensuring timely and accurate access to critical details about each real estate transaction. It’s also a huge boost to efficiency knowing that anytime we open a document in Drive, it’s the correct version and changes are saved automatically. This eliminates the need to sift through emails on our mobile device to try to find the most recent copy.
Is there a particular tool that helps keep the team organized?
Our intranet is powered by Google Sites. We store and share everything from company announcements and events to many internal resources like HR documents. The entire team knows that there’s a single, centralized place to find all of the basic information they need.
How is Google Apps helping Redfin achieve its goals?
Our primary goal is to use technology to transform the way people buy and sell homes--making it easier and more enjoyable for our clients. Any tools that can help our teams collaborate more efficiently, thus serving our clients more effectively, is a win for Redfin and our customer. Google Apps is helping us deliver that result.