501cTECH’s Blog Dedicated to Nonprofit Technology News, Tips, Events, and Ideas

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heartbleedHeartbleed, a recently discovered bug in the software responsible for securing web communications, may have left nearly 70 percent of the Internet vulnerable to eavesdropping over the past two years. Here’s what you need to know about the Heartbleed bug, and what you can do to keep your organization’s data safe.

What is Heartbleed?

Heartbleed is a bug within some versions of the popular OpenSSL software that provides security and privacy for communication over the Internet, i.e. email, instant messaging and some virtual private networks (VPNs). Whereas a virus is software designed by someone with malicious intent, a bug is an innate flaw within the code of an existing program that can then be exploited, which is what we’re seeing with Heartbleed.

Why the Name? In simplest terms, there is a component of OpenSSL referred to as a “heartbeat,” which keeps the communication sessions active without constantly renegotiating security protocols. The Heartbleed vulnerability allows for data to be leaked from that heartbeat extension.

What is OpenSSL?

HTTPS 2SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and is represented by that S at the end of “https”—the prefix you see on web addresses. This program encrypts your communication on a website so that a third party can’t eavesdrop while you’re banking, shopping or reading your email. OpenSSL is an open-sourced implementation of SSL used by the Apache and nginx web servers, which together power almost two-thirds of all websites.

Next Steps

One of the more troubling aspects of Heartbleed is how difficult it is to identify when the bug has been exploited. You can, however, test your organization’s site to see if it’s vulnerable.

Protect Your Site

If the above test reveals that your organization’s site is vulnerable, OpenSSL recommends that you upgrade to OpenSSL version 1.0.1g, which patches the Heartbleed vulnerability.

Change Your Passwords

But only on sites that have patched their servers. Otherwise, your new password is just as vulnerable. You can check to see which sites have fixed the problem here.

Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Microsoft

Are among the major sites and software providers to have already rolled out patches to key services. These sites should now be safe to use after resetting login information.

For more information, visit the Heartbleed website, created by researchers at Codenomicon who helped discover the bug.

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Through the Noise

501cTECH’s very own Abigail Goliber is featured on the most recent episode of Through the Noise, a podcast that explores “the business of communicating” through monthly conversations with copywriters, CEOs, Account Executives and other professionals who deal with the management, technical or creative process of communications.

In true 501cTECH fashion, Abigail brought a touch of nerdiness to this month’s episode with talk of CRMs, infrastructure, servers and data migrations. She also provided some insight into the benefits of having quality IT support in the nonprofit world.

Through the Noise is produced by Human Factor, Pivot Point Communications, and Infamia.

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photo (16)Yesterday’s Operational Success Forum, hosted by 501cTECH, United Way of the National Capital Area, and Mosaica, brought HR, IT and finance to the forefront of the minds of nonprofit professionals in attendance at the Silver Spring Civic Building and inspired useful discussion, proving well worth the months of planning.

To kickoff the forum, Goodwill of Greater Washington President and CEO Catherine Meloy delivered an inspiring keynote with useful insight into how Goodwill arrived at its current position as a leader in the local nonprofit community through investing in the right IT and finance solutions.

“One of my biggest regrets starting out,” said Meloy, “was not investing in the best possible financial person I could find. We now have a great CFO and I can’t tell you how beneficial that has been.”

Another observation she had in retrospect was just how essential an effective and innovative IT department is to every nonprofit, citing an example where implementing a solution that allowed for a “round up” option at checkout in DC Goodwill stores led to over $270,000 in additional income.

The panel discussion, moderated by Mosaica President and CEO Rachael Gibson, further drove home the importance of investing in these departments. 501cTECH’s very own Director of Technology Services, Todd Peterson made the argument that every nonprofit can afford IT support—moreover, most can’t afford not to have it.  He said lost time from slow computers alone could cost an organization $1,500 in a year, whereas the average cost of a new machine is just $700.

The event wouldn’t have been such a success if it weren’t for the generous support of our wonderful sponsors: Charity Engine, Consultance Accounting Services, Amalgamated Bank, Employ-R Solutions, and Infamia.

Thanks to everyone who attended the forum. We hope to bring more discussions like this on the importance of these departments to you in the future.

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Despite it being one of the wealthiest U.S. regions, Montgomery County is home to the largest number of low-income, uninsured residents in the State of Maryland. The Primary Care Coalition (PCC) is working to build access to high-quality, equitable health care for those residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status. In 2005, the PCC administered Montgomery Cares, a public/private partnership tasked with providing primary and preventative care to some 40,000 low-income, uninsured adult residents through eight independent nonprofit health clinics.

In 2012, the PCC sought to implement an electronic medical records program, eClinicalWorks, across eight Montgomery Cares clinics, which in 2012 served 15,000 patients. Having an electronic medial records program is proven to improve diagnoses and health outcomes, among many other benefits.  In order to implement the system, the IT environments in each clinic had to meet specific standards of modernization. Three clinics had outdated hardware, mismanaged servers, and fragile network infrastructures that not only impacted day-to-day operations, but prevented them from implementing eClinicalWorks.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.56.38 AMTHE SOLUTION

Using a grant awarded by Kaiser Permanente, the PCC commissioned 501cTECH to modernize the IT environments of those Montgomery Cares clinics that didn’t meet the requirements. 501cTECH evaluated the hardware at each site and replaced computers and routers that were too old to integrate with the new system. 501cTECH then reorganized the files on each server and fixed the network environments so that printers and servers could be accessed by computers throughout the clinics.

Services included:

  • Conducting detailed evaluation of IT infrastructure at each site
  • Identifying and replacing outdated machines
  • Networking computers and printers throughout clinics
  • Reorganizing information on servers and establishing access restrictions
  • Troubleshooting issues at clinics and providing quick solutions

501cTECH evaluated the fundamental aspects of each clinic’s IT environment—computers, servers, and network environments—and made improvements where needed.


These three clinics were able to join the rest of PCC/Montgomery Cares’ affiliated network of health centers in adopting a new electronic medical records program that streamlined the sharing and tracking of health information, and improved the quality and consistency of care for patients.

  • E- prescription eliminates cost and time previously associated with the process
  • Improved communication between clinic staff
  • Streamlined dispensing and tracking of on-site medications
  • More accurate record keeping across all clinics

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ChoiceNTEN’s annual nationwide Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) just wrapped up down the street from our office in DuPont, and the experience, enlightening though it was, reminded me of how difficult it can be for nonprofit professionals to navigate the technology world on their own as it expands at breakneck pace.

While I toured the exhibitor area at NTC, taking a break from chatting with attendees from behind the 501cTECH table, I was struck by just how many options these nonprofits were given for technology services. There were rows upon rows of vendors, each promoting their own donor management systems, accounting solutions, content management systems, and so on.

If these conference-goers were anything like the many nonprofit people I know, then they understood their goals or problems, how much they could spend to achieve or fix them, and not much else about the solutions available.  It would be next to impossible for someone in a non-technical role at a nonprofit to spend the amount of time it takes to properly research all the available options to fulfill an IT need.

This proliferation of technology is exciting to those of us here who live and breath it, but to someone just looking for an efficient way to manage their nonprofit’s donor database, track expenses, or manage a website, it probably feels a lot like a harrowing expedition into uncharted territory.

Julie Chapman is 501cTECH President & CEO

Julie Chapman is the President & CEO of 501cTECH

The number of options will only continue to increase, and with it, the difficulty of choosing the best solution for your nonprofit.

In the end, organizations that successfully leverage technology will be the ones that have strong advocates who can help them effectively navigate the overwhelming options. We pride ourselves on being that advocate for our clients.

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Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.15.31 PMA strong web presence is something every nonprofit should strive for, regardless of the service it provides. Most organizations in 2014 have a website, but that alone doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Your website should be your nonprofit’s advocate to the online world, inspiring donors, spreading awareness, and generating leads.

The first step in every journey towards a better web presence is choosing a Content Management System (CMS) that will enable you to create a website that is not only attractive and dynamic, but simple for staff to update and maintain.

A new Idealware report, “The Consumers Guide to Content Management Systems for Nonprofits” provides some insight into fourteen of the most popular Content Management Systems to help you in the decision making process. If your organization is looking to upgrade its website, why not start the search for a CMS by downloading the free report.


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Questions answered by Kerrin Epstein, Community Foundation Associate at ACT for Alexandria and Website Manager for ACTion Alexandria

ACTion Alexandria

ACT for Alexandria has an online civic engagement initiative called ACTion Alexandria. Since 2011, ACTion Alexandria has brought the community together through its online platform to take action and share ideas in order to improve the quality of life for Alexandria’s most vulnerable residents.

ACTion Alexandria is 501cTECH’s Technology Innovator of the Week for its dynamic website that effectively engages community members and inspires them to take action.

How does technology make your work life easier?

Part of my job as the Community Foundation Associate is to manage the ACTion Alexandria website. As an online civic engagement platform that is responsive to the changing needs of the community, the ACTion Alexandria website must have the flexibility to be updated quickly. By using Drupal, an open source content management system, I am able to post information easily without needing to go to our website designers for each new update.

How has technology changed the way your organization does business?

ACTion Alexandria would not be possible without a website that allows for grassroots engagement. On ACTion Alexandria, community members can post ideas, take actions (such as donating money or items for nonprofit causes or giving input on City initiatives), post blogs and add to an event calendar.

This past year, ACTion Alexandria partnered with The RunningBrooke Fund to give nonprofit organizations serving children in Alexandria a chance to apply for grant funding. Through ACTion, nonprofits submitted grant applications and then posted their ideas for helping kids on a forum on the website. Community members were then asked to comment and support the ideas they were interested in seeing be implemented in Alexandria.

How do you use technology to achieve your mission?

The mission of ACT for Alexandria is to raise the level and effectiveness of giving and engagement in Alexandria.  As the online civic engagement initiative of ACT, ACTion Alexandria promotes both giving and engagement. Over the past three years, ACTion Alexandria has worked with the community to invest $1,219,895 in community projects, donated 4050 items for Alexandria’s nonprofits, and taken 667 actions to support local nonprofits and community groups.

Is there a piece of hardware or software you can’t live without?


While I am incredibly grateful for the content management systems that make website maintenance user friendly, the products in the Adobe Creative Suite are probably on the top of my list for favorite pieces of technology. The software in the Creative Suite makes designing everything from year-end fundraising emails to newsletters, to logos much easier.

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Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are an especially vulnerable group among those in need of mission services. These victims and their children face homelessness and the constant threat of physical or sexual abuse. Secrecy and fear of retaliation make leaving very difficult for most women, so having a safe and welcoming haven from the abuse is invaluable. District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) operates DC’s largest dedicated safe housing program with over forty-three apartment units for women and children in crisis. Residents live there for up to two years while working with DASH to reestablish a safe and independent life. DASH’s housing and advocacy services offer a safety net to those who need it most.

DASH receives calls each day from victims seeking information and services. In 2011, DASH’s phone system malfunctioned nearly twice per month on average, and shut down entirely every three months. The Internet connection, run by the same provider, went out frequently as well.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 5.41.26 PMTHE SOLUTION

501cTECH explored all the options and helped transition DASH from its existing phone system and Internet service to Broadview and government-funded DC-Net for more advanced and reliable service at a lower total cost. 501cTECH then helped DASH install a building-wide wireless Internet connection that enabled the organization to make laptops available to residents.

Services included:

  • Advocating on behalf of DASH for grant towards DC-Net Internet service
  • Negotiating affordable phone system contract and phone rentals
  • Advising and coordinating transition to new phone and Internet
  • Providing ongoing support and strategic guidance


With a phone system that hasn’t malfunctioned since it was installed, DASH can now more effectively help the victims of domestic abuse who call in seeking support. And because of their DC-Net service, if those who call in become residents, they’ll now have access to laptops with high-speed wireless Internet, allowing them to search for jobs, complete schoolwork, stay in touch with family, and secure permanent housing.

  • Reduced number of phone-related service requests from an average of 1.8 per month in 2011 to zero in 2012 & 2013
  • Tripled Internet bandwidth
  • Saved over $25,000 in implementation of DC-Net and recurring Internet and phone charges
  • Laptops with wireless access made available to all residents  

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501cTECH’s very own Abigail Goliber will lead a Center for Nonprofit Advancement session on how to jump-start the process of choosing the right CRM for your organization, including establishing a budget, evaluating your organization’s current CRM process, and kicking off the implementation project.

Course Objective

Understand Customer Relationship Management (CRM): What questions to ask prior to implementation, and where to find answers.

Registration is $52.50 for Center members; $92.50 for all others.


If your organization is not a Center member and you signed up for membership today, you would instantly get one free course to be used within the first year of your membership. Find out more about Center membership.

Click here to contact our Education & Partnerships Associate to take advantage of  your free course.

Center for Nonprofit Advancement, 1666 K Street, NW, Suite 440, Washington, DC 20006

March 12, 2014 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Register here!

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floc logoFor Love of Children (FLOC) provides educational services beyond the classroom to help students succeed from first grade through college and career. FLOC brings together students, volunteers, families, and community partners in proven programs that teach, empower, and transform.

FLOC is 501cTECH’s Technology Innovator of the Week for their resourceful use of multiple online communications and donor management platforms to improve their operation.

How does technology make your work life easier?

FLOC has been integrating technology into many aspects of our work for the past two years.   We have used our website and a variety of social media platforms to recruit new volunteers, share our students’ stories, increase our donor base and streamline our application process for both students and volunteers.  We have purposely and consistently grown a social media profile to increase FLOC’s presence in the community and to highlight our work.  We are active users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress and YouTube.

We also have embraced new technologies to help improve, strengthened and grow our work with volunteers and students.  In order to better serve our students in the Scholars Program, we connect with them through all the social media listed above and have created online distance learning opportunities for our students pursuing postsecondary education. We have invested in iPads for our Program Coordinators in the Neighborhood Tutoring Program to use during tutoring nights, allowing them monitor tutoring pairs and look up valuable resources on the spot.  Through a partnership with Acumen Solutions, we developed an online volunteer application and corresponding volunteer database using Salesforce.

How do you use technology to achieve your mission?

Finding ways to harnessing available technology to help our nonprofit has greatly impacted our ability to serve our students and volunteers, by streamlining processes and opening up new resources. We have grown our volunteer base by establishing an online application process that is linked directly to our volunteer management database in Salesforce.  The online application was set up in April of 2011, and almost immediately it became the primary tool for volunteers to submit applications.  Roughly ninety percent of our new volunteer applications are completed online and 45% of this year’s new volunteers identified the web as how they heard about us.

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