TAG 2016 Conference: The go-to conference for anyone responsible for technology at foundations

 

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This is a guest post by Lisa Pool, Executive Director, Technology Affinity Group

TAG 2016 Conference

The go-to conference for anyone responsible for technology at foundations

<November 14th–17th, 2016
Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida

Why Should You Attend?

  1. Phenomenal Plenary Speakers!
    A leading Industry expert on measuring social impact, Jason Saul, will discuss How Pandora Will Transform Philanthropy. Futurist Shawn DuBravac will present How Innovation Will Affect Philanthropy.

  2. On-point Theme: Impact – Collectively Changing Communities
    Technology professionals and grant makers are not always on the front lines witnessing the impact of their organization’s efforts. We invite you to discover how information and technology impact both our organizations and the communities we serve.
  1. Networking & Community!
    Networking events designed to facilitate meeting colleagues to share experiences learn from peers in the field.
  1. The latest Technologies!
    Explore the 2-day Exhibitor Hall and talk one-­on-­one with leading companies in th industry.
  1. Simplify Program Partners!
    Learn about the Simplify Program Partners, digitalimpact, Foundation Center, GuideStar and TechSoup plus TAG’s new partner, AWS.

Download the conference agenda here and register today!

More About the Conference –

The primary goal of the annual TAG Conference is to offer an educational learning opportunity for TAG members. The conference is unique in that it is the only setting for technology professionals working in philanthropy to share their experiences with peers. As such, the conference sessions are about the application of technology. The information is relevant and targeted to this niche audience. Many attendees indicate they attend each year to network and share information and ideas with peers. This conference is one way for the philanthropic community to network and build community.

Breakout sessions include:

  • Measuring Outcomes, Impact & Learning
  • Futurist Predictions for IT in Philanthropy
  • Psychology of Addictive Websites & Apps
  • Reporting & Data Visualization
  • Strategic Planning
  • Cybersecurity
  • Tools for Collective Impact
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Office 365
  • Technology Toolkit
  • Online Communities
  • Grants Management Software Implementation
  • and more . . .

We look forward to welcoming you to TAG 2016 in St. Pete Beach!

Author: Admin
October 11, 2016, 02:52 PM

It's Not Just Grants Software; It's Your Data!

cdlock.pngAs a grants manager, you likely interact with your grants management software on a daily basis.  It helps you get your work done, right?  Well, while the software's suitability to simplifying your daily work is very important, it shouldn't be the only thing you think about when using your grants management system.  Spending a little time considering the security, stability and sustainability of your grants management platform is well worth the time spent!

I get it; sometimes talking to technical people about this type of thing can be intimidating.  Don't worry - I've put together a few simple questions you can ask your IT department or grants management vendor, to help you make sure you have your bases covered:

  1. Is the system monitored for failures? 
    While it's not always possible to prevent failures, knowing about them as early as possible allows for faster remediation.  This can be greatly augmented by system monitoring.  If monitoring tools are being used properly, disk space, CPU utilization and memory usage – all things that can impact performance – can be monitored to stay within thresholds and send alerts to the right people if they exceed them.  External monitoring services can be employed to periodically check the system for critical usage patterns and, again, send alerts if there are any issues.  This may allow your IT department (or vendor) to fix an issue before you ever realize the issue is occurring.
    One way you can be sure you have the right system monitoring is by checking over time if your IT department (or vendor) is aware of a problem before you are.  Well-monitored software should not have an outage without the IT department knowing about it first!

  2. What happens if we have a data problem we need to fix?  Is there a way to restore data from a few hours ago?  A month ago?
    Since your grants data is critical, backups should be taken frequently, which will enable you to restore a recent copy of data if something goes wrong.  In addition, your IT department or vendor should be able to provide you information on how long backups are kept.  This will let you know how old the data you can restore is.  Let's say you don't find an issue until a month later; will the data be available to restore from a month ago?
    An easy way to ensure this process happens is to ask to work with your IT department to plan a "fire drill"-type test where some data is restored to a temporary location.  I'd suggest trying with both recent data and some very old data.

  3. What happens if the computer the software is running on fails?  Do we have a documented disaster recovery plan? 
    A disaster in this context usually means the physical computer resources or software has some sort of major issue that prevent it from operating the grants management software from its current location.  This can range from a faulty computer part to a meteor strike or other natural disaster.  The IT department or vendor can mitigate the computer failure by utilizing the cloud, virtualization and/or fault-tolerant hardware.  Other mitigation techniques involve housing additional computers in physically separated.  In the case of a disaster, it's best to have a specific written plan to follow and train to it.
    An easy way to validate the plan is to ask to see the copy of the disaster recovery plan in writing.  While this doesn't guarantee it will be the plan used during the disaster, it at least means some thinking has gone into what to do in the case of a disaster.

  4. Are all our communications as secure as they should be?
    I'll find it hard to believe any IT department would answer this question with a no.  So, you are going to get a "yes."
    While you may get a "yes," it's best to investigate a bit further.  Ask if the software requires use of Transport Layer Security.  Hopefully the answer here is yes also.
    One easy way to check from your browser is when you access your grants management system, make sure you are using "https://" in the front of the website name.  That's a good indication you are using some encryption for data being sent to/from the grants management software.

Asking these few questions of your IT department now may save countless headaches later.   Remember, it's not just grants management software; it's your grants data!

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2014/09/14/16/39/encrypted-445155_960_720.jpg

Author: Dave Cooke
August 15, 2016, 01:59 PM

From the Other Side: Tips from a Former Grants Manager

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Back in the day, before I joined the Altum team, I worked as a grants manager for a couple of non-profits.  In those roles, I used different grants management products, which will remain nameless. Over the course of many years as a client I became very familiar with the products, the companies, and the other clients from the user group meetings. Altum eventually offered me a job (at a time when I was no longer a client) because they understood how invaluable it would be to have someone who knows the ins and outs of every day grants management and could appreciate the demands put on grants managers. For me, it was an opportunity to broaden my grants experience by becoming intimately familiar with more grant making organizations and their processes. (What can I say, I still consider myself a grants manager at heart.)

Now that I’ve crossed over to the “dark side”*, as my grants management friends like to tease me, I can pass along the tips I’ve learned from the vendor perspective to help inform grants managers about things to consider when talking with vendors about their grants management software:

  • Trust but verify. If there’s a particular feature that’s incredibly important to your organization, make sure you can see it during a demo. It’s not that the vendor would mislead about the system’s functionality (at least they shouldn’t), but it’s possible that the vendor thinks you mean X, but you mean Y. If it’s a robust system, you’re likely not going to see everything that the system can do during a demo, but if it’s a function that is necessary to your process, make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Ask for references, but take them with a grain of salt. Most vendors will be happy to give you a couple of references to check. That being said, just like job references, you’re only going to get names of people who they’re confident will provide a good review.
  • Know the role of your vendor contact. If your contact at the vendor is strictly sales, there’s less incentive for them to focus on “fit” as opposed to “win.” If you’re interacting with someone who has other roles at the company where they would continue to interact, in some capacity, with existing clients, they’re more likely to want to make sure you would be a satisfied customer as opposed to getting a win and moving on. Please note that this recommendation does relate more to small companies than large ones, but perhaps that in itself is something to consider.
  • Understand the product’s direction. It’s helpful to know what factors are considered when they build their product roadmap (i.e. deciding what features get added). One would hope it’s based on client feedback, and that’s what you’re likely to hear, but follow up by asking for examples of features they’ve added in the last year or two. If you’re nodding your head along as you hear the list, it’s a good indicator that their roadmap would align with your organization’s needs.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of what you should be asking vendors, but rather topics frequently overlooked during the grants management software search. You should also be asking about: implementation, customizability, cost, specific features, security, etc. We’ve put together a vendor checklist to help you navigate the difficult journey of grants management software selection. Check it out here.

 

* I know Star Wars Episode 7 came out several months ago, but I couldn’t resist. I promise you (most) vendors aren’t like the Empire.

 

Image credit: http://static.tumblr.com/7587316435c3cb3376805226e1a3c8fe/swl9bzh/LoHnqpzgi/tumblr_static_9isao0czrkg8oow0c8kskwowg.jpg

Author: M. Dunbar
July 14, 2016, 11:19 AM

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