nptech FAIL: How to Crash and Burn and Turn It Into a Win


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Slide deck from session at 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference. Panel session featuring Shari Ilsen of VolunteerMatch, Peter Panepento of Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jenna Sauber of Case Foundation and Emma Pfister of Water for People.

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  • My name is Emma Pfister, I sit on the marketing team at Water For People. Previously, I sat on the Resource Development team being the assistant to everything, and working with all of our community fundraising groups, workplace giving and corporate accounts. I am going to tell a little story about our the history of our marketing. It’s a story that's a little chaotic, a little sad, a bit overwhelming and hopefully a little self-a-facing and of course, as in every good story, it has a moment of realization. The moment, the crux, when we began moving away from a stagnate spiral and begin breaking things for the better.
  • How did our website fail? Well, this isn’t a story about mistakes made, a ‘we rock’d the casbah story’. This is a story about a real actual failure we are still climbing out of. This is a NOW story. How IS our website FAILING?Well, it all started back in 2009. We got a rebrand and new website. It was a step onto the same level of what other organizations and companies were doing at the time. We upgraded our look to ‘cool-ish’, and began the drive of brining people to our website. To be totally honest, this was the first time we actually began even utilizing a website for more then a place holder. Here it is, just with a different banner. [flip to next slide]
  • Okay, so the hint to my next comment was left in the previous comment. Obviously, this is still our current website. It hasn’t changed since 2009. Banners, yes, sponsors, yes, photos, um, a little. Message, same, look, same, same, same, same. What you don’t see behind the front page. Is the incredible amount of barriers to find information. There are so many pages it is nearly impossible to update them all. People change jobs, old emails get left on the wrong pages, not for lack of trying to update them, but literally there are so many pages deep, you can’t find where all the information sits. And, much of the information is inconsistent, tons of old messaging, and many broken links. Example, our stories page – probably the most important piece to any non-profits website, the place where people go to see impact, relate to an individual, well, it still has stories from 2011 listed above the fold. To dive a little deeper, our messaging, well it drives itself right over everyone’s head. Missing anyone that doesn’t get technical wat/san speak. Or it speaks with metaphors so it completely misses any head to even go over.
  • And there is one more gem to our website…. It’s Cinderelly step-sister. While they were born just a few years apart and were ment to ‘get along’, function in harmony, they actually work against each other. The tap portal is completely different database to which we post our CEO and staffs blogs, and house downloadable information for our volunteer groups across the US. It was built with the idea of being ‘Facebook-like’ platform and help people communicate with each other, share ideas, etc. Problem is it competes w/ Facebook, which really it isn’t a David and Golith story, we can’t compete against Facebooks tools and functionality. But above all what this step-sister does is drive traffic right out of our website. A big no, no. To make it words, many of the pages on the site require you to register w/ email to access. And, yes, there has never been any coordination of email address between our main email lists and the other platform. What does all this amount too?On top of also being outdated in functionality and look, it’s clunky, much of our audience to this day, despite coaching and the increased usage of the internet, still have trouble figuring this thing out.
  • Failure. The recent article talked about nonprofit webpage evolution, and we, currently, ranked back in the early 2000s. So we weren’t even ahead of the game in 2009 when this website was launched. So. The website is a fail. It was a fail of not pushing the fold when we developed it, it is a failure in us not keeping it on the cutting edge, failure in staff management, failure in understanding core values of the organization and prioritizing accordingly, failure in understanding audiences, failure in understanding current technology. Fail.
  • To many cooks in the kitchen banging pots really loud –and it’s interesting to understand it’s outcomes…. Sometimes consensus isn’t so awesome. Marketing Team know the market, that’s what their hired for. It ultimately should be their decision on the website. Yes, there should be input from other teams, when appropriate, but ultimately you hire marketing to do marketing, let them do marketing. If they do a bad, job fire them. It’s just like any other position.Not thinking ahead – we weren't even ahead of the game when we started in 2009. We went for an average design, an average technology, and didn’t think ahead. And we didn’t keep up, our website isn’t mobile.Assuming we understood our audiences and what they wanted with out asking. Then, continued to not ask them as our audience changed overtime. The end all goal of your website and marketing efforts is to draw a bigger and deeper audience - get more people involved, broaden and deepen the audiences. If you are doing a good, it’s best to drop-in periodically and make sure you know what they are up too and they know you. With the dawn of social media and our interactivity with it, it’s easy for people to be semi-ish in your network. You want them as Engaged Users. The only way to know them is to ask. Not prioritizing the one big marketing too we have – the website. It’s the first place people go to know anything about you. You LIKE a page on Facebook, you are going to ABOUT to click through to their website. You see a Hulu commercial, you click through to their site, you tell someone at a bar, you write down the address on a cocktail napkin or better yet, the name and they go home, Google search and go – to the website. When people go to the website they want to do 1 or all three things – learn, participate, give. That hasn’t changed over time, it has been what people want to know when they first get to your website, since the beginning. So, this should be plain and simple, in one ½ second glance. Selling out or biggest marketing spot to the highest bidders. Places other brands on the homepage. Na, this is your biggest marketing tool. If you are owning your brand, don’t allow another brand on your homepage, unless it has a very specific reason. Like, RED, also launched BLUE and to talk about how safe drinking water and access to sanitation overtime can reduce hospital illnesses by half in the developing world. Tradition! Well, the chic from Fiddler on the Roof who defied her father, broke tradition, to follow the boy of her dream, well she got it right. Tradition can be broken, and many times should – said the girl from a Romanian family, my Mother would kill me! If you find yourself or anyone on your team using that word – tradition - ask them to replace it with “in-bed” – yep you know this one from fortune cookies… Sponsors recognition is in-bed for any nonprofit website.It’s in-bed that we always acknowledge people like this, we do it every year, they expect it. It’s in-bed that get us stuck in funk. it’s fun and will keep, at least you snickering in the corner, fighting the urge to scream about ‘tradition.’Break tradition. Nobody is ever the same. Your audiences isn’t and neither will you and your nonprofit be next year.How does all this go on and nobody recognized it. Well….
  • When push back started happening on the website from all the different cooks in the kitchen and they started banging pots loudly, it became a game of making people happy, not getting the best website out there for our audiences. This wasn’t a conscience decision, it happened as deadlines loomed, push back continued, until there needed to be a consensus. Having to many people involved and not the right people was an issue. The process of our website development went from a cute little gremlin that when given food grew into not many, but one big gremlin monster. And it happened organically, overtime, without being seen.It was perpetuated by staff being overwhelmed, not prioritizing to meet the overall organizational goals, to it then become a really big Gremlin with such long hair you could find your way out. Why didn’t anyone stand-up and say “yo this is important” or “this isn’t getting done”Feelings. Nonprofits has a culture of being really nice, and calling the kettle black. Stop being nice and be real. Nice is good when everything is truck’n along, when it’s not, stop being nice, be real, and get the job done. You wanted a broken key-board? No way Macklemore. I want a working one that makes me sound like a Rockstar. Say, no. Speak up. Stop being nice and start doing the job. All not speaking up does is make a much bigger problem down the road.So, how did it change?Well failure is failure, but there is good and bad failure. You have to choose which one you are. Bad Failure, well that’s when you ‘fail’ you say it out loud, add it as a stamp of legitamacy, and never say why or use to it propel you forward. Good Failure comes down to one simple thing – COURAGE.
  • The courage to say we failed, this is why, and this is how it motivates change. In my organization this game down to 1 person saying enough is enough and breaking it so we could move forward. This involved personal issues, people’s feelings got hurt, people were put in uncomfortable situations, management changed, people left, some people just needed to suck it up and some people faired really well. It sucked, but the break HAD to happen if we were EVER going to step out of the stagnate cycle we kept perpetuating within ourselves.
  • This is the beginning for us. It all JUST happened. We are moving fast on a new website and breaking more things everyday, but it also takes time, especially when you are coming out of the dark ages.It took the courage of 1 to enact the courage of others to say it out-loud what was in everyone’s head, and finally, finally move forward on building a website, that, well for one, is about us, not our sponsors, that’s is clear for anyone to understand, not just engineers, that doesn’t confuse people and send them away, but keep in and involved, coming back to know more, spreading the word, building momentum, creating a tribe of people out to changing the world w/ us. So, next year, when we have done our jobs well and more people are involved and looking at us, we can adjust move, build, write to accommodate these new eyes. The website will change again, it will not be stagnate, ‘cause if it is, we had some serious BAD Failure.
  • nptech FAIL: How to Crash and Burn and Turn It Into a Win

    1. 1. nptechFAIL: How toCrash and Burn and Turn Itinto a Win#13NTCfail(#npfail)Shari Ilsen, VolunteerMatchPeter Panapento, Chronicle of PhilanthropyJenna Sauber, Case FoundationEmma Pfister, Water for People
    2. 2. Evaluate This Session! Each entry is a chance to win an NTEN engraved iPad! or Online using <#13NTCfail> at
    3. 3. About the SpeakersPeter Panepento Jenna SauberAssistant Managing Editor Digital Mktg & Comm ManagerChronicle of Philanthropy Case @cajunjenEmma Pfister Shari IlsenMgr, Social Media & Partnerships Sr Online Communications ManagerWater For People @silsen#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    4. 4. Agenda • All About Failure • VolunteerMatch’s Failures • Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Failures • Case Foundation’s Failures • Water for People’s Failures • Your Failures#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    5. 5. Failure - So Hot Right Now#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    6. 6. An Opportunity to Surprise and Delight#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    7. 7. An Opportunity to Step Outside the Box#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    8. 8. An Opportunity to Learn and Teach#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    9. 9. Beth Kanter and the Failure Bow#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    10. 10. Arianna Huffington October 7, 2003: Arianna Huffington loses the California gubernatorial recall election to Arnold Schwarzenegger. May 9, 2005: Arianna Huffington launches The Huffington Post.#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    11. 11. Born: 1955FoundedApple, Inc.: 1976Fired: 1985#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    12. 12. Michael Jordan "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    13. 13. It’s All in Your Head Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset Intelligence is a fixed Intelligence is trait malleable, full of potential Goals Looking Smart Learning Effort Beliefs Effort is Negative Effort is Positive Strategies After Failure Helpless Resilient From the research of Dr. Carol S. Dweck#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    14. 14. It’s All in Your Prep • Manage your risk: – Take little bets – Fail early and often – Fail fast and cheap#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    15. 15. Don’t Let Failure Be Your “F” Word#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    16. 16. Talk About It!#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    17. 17. Our Failures 21% adoption rate#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    18. 18. Ok, fine. 8% adoption rate#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    19. 19. Lesson Don’t build the path before learning where people already walk. Failures are just works in progress.#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    20. 20. And now for something completely different…#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    21. 21. #13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    22. 22. What We Learned:• Timing Matters• How to plan and execute a multi-platform engagement campaign• You gotta know people (and be willing to spend money)• Ice cream is delicious VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    23. 23. Innovation in a Conservative Organization  Evolving past risk-averse culture  Understanding there are no “sure things”  Giving people the confidence to fail #13NTCfail
    24. 24. The Chronicle’s Challenge A Business Model That (Once) Worked Major Disruption Changing a Culture: Understanding that Failure IS an Option #13NTCfail
    25. 25. A Traditional Journalist’s Mindset Mistakes Can Get You Fired A Quest for the Truth Distrust of the Sales Side – Preserving Editorial Integrity #13NTCfail
    26. 26. My Challenge: Swing for the Fences Evangelizing Online First and Social Media A Move to Online Education Data #13NTCfail
    27. 27. Failure Case Study #1Causes Pages:A Failed Assumption or Just Failed Execution? #13NTCfail
    28. 28. #13NTCfail
    29. 29. #13NTCfail
    30. 30. Failure Case Study #2The Philanthropy 50:Understanding that Some Failures Lead toFuture Successes #13NTCfail
    31. 31. #13NTCfail
    32. 32. 3
    33. 33. 3
    34. 34. Failure Case Study #3Webinars:Some Failures Lead to Future Successes #13NTCfail
    35. 35. #13NTCfail
    36. 36. #13NTCfail
    37. 37. How to reach me Twitter: @ppanepento @philanthropy Facebook: E-mail: peter.panepento@philanthropy.comCompelling Storytelling in an Online #13NTCfail Age
    40. 40. NTC 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS 40
    41. 41. WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA FAILURE? It is: • Insensitive or inappropriate commentary, photos, media • Attacking other brands/orgs and your community • Deleting “oops” posts with no explanation or retractions • Crossing the line between brand and personal voice and views But it is also: • Ignoring your community completely, in crisis mode or not • Not having a backup plan if something goes wrong (staff, messaging, etc.) • Avoiding real time marketing and communications • Assuming your followers didn’t screenshot/see/RT your original post • Continuing to try the same tactic that didn’t work, again and again • Not pivoting or adjusting midway in a strategy NTC 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS #13NTCfail 41
    42. 42. NTC 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS #13NTCfail 42
    43. 43. NTC 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS 43 #13NTCfail
    44. 44. FEARLESS RECKLESS• Opportunistic / joining the • Trying too hard to force your conversation brand where it doesn’t fit• Experimenting with new tools / • Not evaluating along the way to tactics pivot for better results• Reaching beyond your bubble • Alienating specific demographics for new audiences or forgetting your current• Letting urgency conquer fear: community have a crisis/big moment • Ignoring a big moment, or gameplan responding without a strategy• Owning your mistakes & • Ignoring your mistakes and showing transparency hiding what went wrong• Setting big goals for your social • Not having goals or metrics at all media strategy NTC 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS #13NTCfail 44
    45. 45. COME FIND | 2013 | BE FEARLESS, NOT RECKLESS #13NTCfail 45
    46. 46. Breaking Things For The Better#13NTCfail
    47. 47. is ing How did our website fail?#13NTCfail
    48. 48. #13NTCfail
    49. 49. Failure.#13NTCfail
    50. 50. #13NTCfail How did this happen?
    51. 51. Failure is slow. It doesn’t happen overnight.Sometimes, this makes it even harder to see.#13NTCfail
    52. 52. Courage!
    53. 53. breaking Still Broke things for the better.#13NTCfail
    54. 54. Emma C. Pfister Emma C. Pfister Manager, Social Media & Partnerships @emmacpfister#13NTCfail
    55. 55. Your Failures (Best failure gets an awesome VolunteerMatch T-shirt!)#13NTCfail SESSION TITLE Slide 56
    56. 56. About the SpeakersPeter Panepento Jenna SauberAssistant Managing Editor Digital Mktg & Comm ManagerChronicle of Philanthropy Case @cajunjenEmma Pfister Shari IlsenMgr, Social Media & Partnerships Sr Online Communications ManagerWater For People @silsen#13NTCfail VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering
    57. 57. Evaluate This Session! Each entry is a chance to win an NTEN engraved iPad! or Online using <#13NTCfail> at VolunteerMatch Volunteer begins. Where volunteering