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

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TAPROOTLogo2By Max Skolnik, Executive Director, Taproot Foundation – Washington DC

The website is becoming a real problem. It’s wildly confusing to navigate; the pictures are years old and all off-center; the event calendar is stuck in 2008; the “donate now” link is broken; and don’t get me started on the different fonts on each page (big pet peeve). To be honest, since our development associate left for grad school, I’m not sure how to even log on to the back-end for updates. I know the password is here somewhere buried under this pile of grant reports.

Sound familiar?

In the nonprofit sector, we are moving the needle on a host of issues. We’re finding homes for the chronically homeless. We’re helping kids graduate. We’re cleaning up the Anacostia. We’re bringing daily joy into the lives of seniors. And, we’re doing all these things with one hand tied behind our back. While we may be cutting edge in our provision of social services, we’re woefully antiquated in our use of technology.

Just imagine the power we could unleash if we had stellar websites; dynamic social media channels; streaming video content; real-time program information; insightful data analysis and visualization tools; and customized software for donor management, volunteer tracking, event coordination, and program measurement.

For too long, we’ve surrendered on the technology front. It’s always been a “nice to have” item but too much work to design and implement. As a result, we’re stuck on a hamster wheel of survival and isolated outcomes. A strong tech infrastructure can power an organization towards greater financial sustainability, expanded and more resilient programs, durable impact, and a platform for true innovation.

A critical way forward is the mastery of pro bono resources. There is a universe of technology and creative professionals in the region who are itching to connect with nonprofits. They may hate painting school walls or delivering meals, but they love to code, design, research, fix databases, edit films, break down and build up systems, and transform data into stories. They are ready to turn their professional talents into meaningful and lasting service.

We just need to make the connection. There are lots of ways to scope, secure, manage, and scale pro bono. The Taproot Foundation is proud of its many programs in the region that link professionals and nonprofits, and it is launching a new online marketplace this fall to advance this effort even further. There are many other intermediaries doing phenomenal work in this field, including 501cTECH, Compass, DataKind, Stone Soup Films, and CreateAthon. Find more info on the Taproot Foundation here. At the very least, we can fix your donation link.

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WASHINGTON, DC; Nov. 7, 2014 – 501cTECH announced today its selection of Alexandria Seaport Foundation,  Good 360, and National Military Family Association as 2014 Technology Innovation Award winners. 501cTECH, the leading nonprofit provider of outsourced technology services to other DC –area nonprofits, announced the winners at its annual Celebration of Technology event yesterday evening.

501ctech-event-sponsorsThe Technology Innovation Awards, presented by Accenture, CenturyLink and BAE Systems, recognize local nonprofits from the following three cause categories for innovative technology ideas that have yet to be implemented.

  1. PreK-12 and STEM Education
  2. Skills to Succeed and Workforce Development
  3. Veterans and Military Families

Project ideas were reviewed by a panel of executives from leading technology companies, including, but not limited to, Accenture, CenturyLink, Blackboard, Facebook, GE, Google and Salesforce. The winning organizations will receive a $7,500 cash award and consultation from 501cTECH, Accenture and CenturyLink to help bring their innovative ideas to life.

“I have been involved in the Technology Innovation Awards process since it began eleven years ago, and its purpose has never been clearer to me,” said Julie Chapman, President and CEO of 501cTECH. “Beyond funding local nonprofits in their efforts to improve infrastructure, these awards reinforce the importance of technology and innovation in the nonprofit sector.”

“If there’s a singular message we’d like to convey as an organization,” said Chapman, “it’s that technology is just as important to nonprofit organizations like Alexandria Seaport Foundation, Good 360 and National Military Family Association as it is to big companies like Accenture, CenturyLink and BAE. If we as nonprofits want to make an even bigger impact in the community, we need the proper resources.”

Technology Innovation Award Winners

Cause Category: PreK-12 & STEM Education

Alexandria Seaport Foundation (ASF) helps young people turn lives around and provides families, community groups, and schools with meaningful education, social, and recreational experiences through the building and use of wooden boats.  Their innovative new program, STEM on the Potomac, uses wooden boats, the natural environment and technology to improve student’s STEM skills.  STEM on the Potomac’s technology curriculum will teach radar and GPS technology use and offers participants opportunities to build and launch underwater remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to teach technology concepts.

Cause Category: Skills to Succeed & Workforce Development

Good 360 fulfills the needs of nonprofits leveraging the latest technological and social networking development to create new and engaging online solutions that strengthen nonprofits and expand corporate citizenship. Disaster Recovery360 will engage, empower, and strengthen individuals and communities affected by disaster through web and mobile technology.  Over an online portal, nonprofits will be able to communicate their stories to prospective supporters and flag particular needs.  Through engaging, training, and linking them directly to a network of nonprofits, donors and volunteers learn the skills they need to respond efficiently and effectively in disaster situations.

Cause Category: Veterans & Military Families

National Military Family Association strengthens and serves military families through advocacy, education, information, and programs.  MyMilitaryLife is an information delivery system that connects families with solutions or preventative programs customized to their current situation and location.  In its final phase, MyMilitaryLife needs to add a critical feature to the system so military spouses can add content and recommend resources to their peers around the country.  By adding this social feature that encourages users to contribute, they expect to increase engagement and encourage habitual usage.

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Today, Google introduced a mobile app with the potential to completely change the way you read and process emails on your phone.

The app is called “Inbox” and, like any other brand new mobile app rollout, it’s still invite only. However, you might be able to jump ahead in line by sending an email to inbox@google.com and pleading your case.

Whether you get an invite to download this week or sometime in November when it’s freely availably, inevitably Inbox will make mobile email a whole lot easier for you to manage.


This builds upon the new categories introduced in Gmail last year, (i.e. Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums). Inbox groups all your purchase receipts or bank statements together so you can quickly review and swipe them out of the way. You can also teach Inbox to adapt to the way you work by choosing which emails you’d like to see grouped together.


Inbox highlights key information from important messages, such as flight itineraries, event information, and photos or documents. It’ll also show you useful/relevant info from the Internet that wasn’t in the original email, such as the real-time status of your flights and package deliveries.

Reminders, Assists, and Snooze

You can add your own reminders for everything from picking up the dry cleaning to calling your parents. This could be the feature that eliminates your other task-related apps.

For more info, check out Google blog, or this article on The Verge.

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TIA-logo2014 has been an exciting year for the Technology Innovation Awards. We changed the format to include three cause categories, increased the award amount, and evaluated applicants based on project ideas for the future rather than ones that had already been implemented.

Our panel of 26 judges met recently to review this year’s record number of applications, and chose six very worthy nonprofits from an outstanding group. The decision was certainly not an easy one

The judges decided that the six nonprofits below had the most innovative and potentially impactful ideas for technology projects. These organizations will present their ideas in front of the panel on October 17, after which the 2014 Technology Innovation Award Winners will be selected!

PreK-12 & STEM Education

Workforce Development & Skills for Independent Living

Veterans & Military Families

Congratulations again to our finalists and thank you to all the incredible nonprofits that applied this year. The work that each of you are  doing in the community continues to inspire all of us here at 501cTECH.

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Katherine, Women in Achievement 2YWCA National Capital Area’s Women of Achievement Awards highlight extraordinary women in the Washington, D.C. area who have made a significant impact in the community and in their field. The YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women, which is something that the five honorees this year have each done through their work.

Katherine LaVelle, one of this year’s honorees, is the Managing Director of North America Talent and Organization at Accenture, and one of our closest partners here at 501cTECH. In addition to her work on behalf of clients and her leadership role at Accenture, Katherine has made time over many years to be actively engaged with the nonprofit community through her involvement with our organization. She has been the chair of the Technology Innovation Awards judging panel for many years, and also served as chair of the 501cTECH Board of Directors.

Katherine LaVelleAs a longstanding nonprofit partner and 2013 Technology Innovation Award winner, the YWCA NCA is near and dear to our hearts as well. Shana Heilbron, Chief Development and Communications Officer at the YWCA NCA, was introduced to Katherine through the Awards process last year and the two are now working together on the judging panel this year to decide the 2014 Technology Innovation Awards winners.

Abigail Goliber, Director of Development and Outreach at 501cTECH, attended the Women of Achievement Awards Breakfast and left feeling inspired.

“Katherine has been a longtime supporter of 501cTECH, and it was great to see her work and commitment to the community honored,” said Abigail. “She gave a moving speech about the inequality of access to health care and other resources in the DC region. Just being surrounded by such phenomenal women was a treat in and of itself, but being the connection between Katherine and the YWCA made it extra special.”

Congratulations to  Katherine’s fellow honorees LaDawn Naegle, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Joyce Larkin, and Patricia Brooks-Nobles.

Take a look at the YWCA’s website for more details on the honorees, or check out some photos from the breakfast on their Facebook page.

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canstock15239169Another day, another bug. Just a few months after correcting Heartbleed, researchers discover a new security flaw that exposes millions of users through the Apple, Linux,  Unix and Apache operating systems and servers. “Shellshock,” as it’s being called, could be even more widespread than Heartbleed, though the two are not similar vulnerabilities.

‘Bash’ &  Shellshock

In simple terms, ‘bash’ is a commonly used utility in each of the systems above which we now know contains a flaw that can be exposed by an attacker. Through exploiting this hole, a motivated hacker could potentially take control of an entire system.  And unfortunately, the bug has gone undetected for a very long time which will make it difficult to squash completely.

The Good News

Patches for Shellshock are already being pushed out for Linux, and OS X is expected to release one soon. The odds of Shellshock impacting you are probably pretty slim if you use standard security precautions.

How to tell if you’re vulnerable

To test if your version of Bash is vulnerable to this issue, Red Hat says to run this command:

$ env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable’ bash -c “echo this is a test”

If the system responds with the following, then you’re running a vulnerable version of Bash and you should apply any available updates immediately.


  this is a test

bash-640x360 2

H/T: The Verge, PC World, Mashable, Tryhunt.com

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The awardees for the second cycle of 501cTECH’s Small Nonprofit Transformation Initiative (SNTI) have been announced! Congratulations to Capital City Area Health Education Center (Capital City AHEC), Chess Challenge DCand Father McKenna Center

CCAHEC       Chess Challenge           Father McKenna Center

Though they improve our community in countless ways, local nonprofits like these face a challenge when it comes to technology. Even a small investment in improving their technology can be transformative as we have seen through our own work in the community.

This is the rationale behind 501cTECH’s Small Nonprofit Transformation Initiative.   We want to help these organizations create a more cost-effective and sustainable technology infrastructure.

SNTI’s Three Stages

1.      A strategic assessment of an organization’s technology needs in the form of a three-year technology roadmap

2.      Implementation of key recommendations from the roadmap

3.      One Year of IT support (subsidized at a monthly fixed rate)

The objective of a strategic assessment is to evaluate not only the organization’s existing technology infrastructure but to review how the organization uses technology to achieve their most important goals.  The strategic assessment provides a three-year technology roadmap—a tool that merges a strategic plan with tangible action items, including making recommendations, prioritizing when recommendations should be implemented and providing the costs of those recommendations.  In the past, many nonprofits have successfully used their technology roadmap for fundraising efforts.

Based on their individual roadmaps, the awardees will be provided with updated hardware and software.  All specifications are based on routine work and include vendor discounts, which are passed directly to the nonprofits.  A key component will be the migration of their data to a cost effective and secure cloud computing solution. Subsidized technology support in the form of patch management, automatic updates and help desk services will be provided to these organizations as part of this initiative.

The turnkey nature of the program is very powerful and will be truly transformative for these organizations.  501cTECH will provide ongoing coaching to the staff of these organizations to help them identify additional ways and means to use free or discounted technology resources.

The work will begin officially on October 1. Our thanks to Clark Charitable Foundation and the Marpat Foundation for their continued support of this worthwhile program.

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Through the Noise

In celebration of this wonderful young podcast’s birthday, here is 501cTECH’s very own Abigail Goliber on an episode of Through the Noise, the podcast that explores “the business of communicating.”

In true 501cTECH fashion, Abigail brought a touch of nerdiness to this 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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Amazon-Smile-300x300Have you heard of Amazon‘s new program called AmazonSmile? It makes online giving unbelievably easy for fans of online shopping.

Through this program, Amazon shoppers can now choose to donate 0.5%, or 50 cents out of every $100, of all their purchases to a US-based nonprofit they would like to support. With $26.5 billion in Amazon sales projected for the fourth quarter of 2013, up to $13.25 million in funds could be raised.

Through a partnership with GuideStar USA, over one million nonprofits are already listed in the AmazonSmile database—all Amazon shoppers need to do is search and select their favorite nonprofit. However, nonprofits must register with AmazonSmile in order to claim the funds they’ve raised. After one year, they will be distributed to other registered organizations.

How to Sign Up for AmazonSmile:

1. Visit smile.amazon.com and login to your Amazon account.

AmazonSmile 1

2. Search for and select your favorite nonprofit.

AmazonSmile 2 AmazonSmile 3

Sources: Nonprofit Tech for Good, AmazonSmile

First Meeting for 2014 Technology Innovation Awards Judges’ Panel

Tomorrow morning, two months after a record number of DC-area nonprofits applied to the 2014 Technology Innovation Awards, an expert panel of technology executives from 24 major companies, and two representatives from last year’s winning nonprofits, will review each technology idea and choose two finalists in each of the three cause categories: PreK-12 & STEM Education, Workforce Development & Skills to Succeed, and Veterans & Military Families.

Leaders from top technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Salesforce, GE, Blackboard, CenturyLink, and Accenture, to name just a few, will evaluate the project ideas through the collective lens of an experienced technology professional in the for-profit world. Leaders from YWCA National Capital Area and Potomac Riverkeeper, winners of the 2013 Technology Innovation Awards, will represent the nonprofit perspective in the meeting.

After the six finalists are selected tomorrow morning, representatives from each of those nonprofits will present their project ideas to the judges in October, and the panel will choose the three winners.

The winning nonprofits will be recognized at the Celebration of Technology on November 6 at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center downtown.