Will Your Nonprofit be Ready for the Future of Payments?

This article was originally published on nten.org in January

15NTC poster

from nten.org on instagram

One recent sunny afternoon in Austin, I gathered with a small crowd of NTEN 501 Club NPTechies to lunch and learn about digital currencies and payments innovations.

We were there to talk about Bitcoin—what it is (digital cash), what it isn’t (internet not required), why you would want to take advantage of it (0% transaction fee, anyone?), and what you need to know before implementing (multi signature wallets!)

The informal discussion was led by presenters, David J Neff, Digital Strategy Manager at PwC and Jacob Parks, Legal Researcher at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. (You can watch the whole thing on Capital Factory’s YouTube or read my blog post for a summary.)

Most importantly, I learned that tech-savvy charities need to address changes happening in the payments landscape NOW.

Timing is perfect for you to learn from trailblazing organizations already breaking ground on the new frontiers, while still being early enough to claim advantages for your own cause. For example, digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, offer an excellent fundraising currency for micropayments and microlending because they provide a platform where you can give $0.25 without credit card fees eating it up.  Organization who have a good strategy in place will be poised to gain exposure to new sources of support with little accounting risk.

Digital currencies aren’t the only thing shaking up the payments landscape. Changes in physical security, such as chip-and-PIN (smartcard) technology, are already being used widely in Canada and Europe and will be expanding in the United States. ApplePay and others are radically increasing the adoption of tap-to-pay NFC platforms, especially in event-based scenarios. Will your nonprofit be ready?

All this innovation has not gone unnoticed at the major nptech software companies, either. PayPal has added digital currencies and wallets to its lineup for merchants and more is on the way. Even Microsoft is accepting Bitcoin! Software providers who want to keep their customers are looking for creative ways to integrate more payment options into their solutions. As they do, more charities will have more ways to connect with donors within existing toolsets.

At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we are going to take this discussion to the next level with an expanded panel of experts to talk about how payments innovations are changing the way organizations engage with their constituents. David J Neff will join NTEN veteran, Jason Shim from Pathways to Education Canada, as well as pros Alissa Ruehl from Blackbaud and Robin Dupont from PayPal in a panel you won’t want to miss!  

See you in at #15NTC

NTC15 Session #1048:
Cryptocurrency that Cares: A primer on how digital currencies and payments innovations can help your organization

 Follow along on Twitter with #15NTCmerchant on Wed, Mar 4 1:30pm – 3pm CT

Nonprofits and Bitcoin – 501 Tech Club Austin panel

In October, the Capital Factory hosted the 501 Tech Club of Austin, an affinity group of NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network which is a community transforming technology into change. The panel was entitled “Nonprofits, Bitcoin and Digital Currencies.” Presenters included David J Neff, Digital Strategy Manager at PwC and Jacob Parks, Legal Researcher at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.


Before our discussion began, participants got a quick primer in bitcoin. You can learn more about Bitcoin in this primer from Princeton:


In the June issue of NTEN: Change, members read about how Bitcoin may be a game-changer for fundraising and nonprofits:

You can also watch this accompanying recorded webinar with David J Neff and Jason Shim of Pathways of Canada:


Some of the key learnings from the panel included:

What is digital currency or Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency. There are many “altcoin” alternative digital currencies too.
  • It’s like digital cash. Once you pass it to someone, there is no real way to track it. 
  • You store your coins in a vault at an online exchange (eg, Coinbase) which generates a wallet key you use to exchange coins. Be sure to pick a reputable exchange!
  • You don’t need a computer to pay with Bitcoin (eg, write your vault number and pass it on a napkin.)
  • Bitcoin value fluctuates more than traditional currencies, making it also like an investment. (Around $650/coin once, now closer to $430/coin and still on the move!)
  • Mining Bitcoins is very complicated. 
  • Accepting Bitcoins on an e-commerce website is technically very easy.


Why Bitcoin?

Advantages of implementing Bitcoin at your organization include:

  1. Access to new markets and supporters by being a first leader
  2. Reduced (or zero!) transaction costs 
  3. Increased opportunity of provide micro-financing internationally, especially where anonymity increases program effectiveness (eg, instances of govt oppression, etc) 



Tips for reducing your exposure to fraud:

  • Always use 2 factor authentication for bitcoin transactions (eg login with a password, confirm with a text message)
  • Segregate duties (for digital currency transactions, same as you would to reduce check fraud at your organization
  • Multisignature wallets coming soon — support segregation of duties by requiring at least 2 signatures to spend
  • Hot wallet vs Cold Vault — keep a portion of coins in wallet for current use. Unused coins can be put in “cold” storage on a computer that is not connected to the internet

Know before you implement

Before adding bitcoin, know how to account for it! There are no GAAP standards yet, although the IRS has released a statement that bitcoin will be treated as property. Have a strategy in place before you start accepting transactions.

Number 1 source of fraud at organizations is check fraud (#2 is falsified expense reports). Minimize your exposure to risk by segregating duties to spend digital currencies. Implement multisignature wallets as soon as possible.


Why now?

By implementing now, organizations can become a leader in nonprofit bitcoin use while still being able to learn from the experience of those already transacting. Organizations can gain exposure to new markets for fundraising messages with little additional accounting risk. Be prepared for the day when a major donor walks in and asks to leave their endowment-starting donation as bitcoin!


Additional links mentioned during our discussion:


How to mine bitcoin–one of many examples available via search! (this is not an endorsement of any product):


Newsweek article on the guy who didn’t invent bitcoin:


Do you have a link to share about Bitcoin and Nonprofits? Leave a comment!

ROCKSTAR Product Management at HTC and Sprint Underpromises, Overdelivers

HTC’s product management is a great example of under-promising and over-delivering on customer expectations. Not only have they been surprisingly transparent on committing to release dates, recently they have been getting to market early and allow service providers to push updates ahead of schedule. All great news for HTC end users as well as good PR for the providers servicing those devices.

This weekend, Sprint customers were able to download the latest HTC software update, which includes (KitKat) Andriod 4.4 update, even thought it wasn’t supposed to be ready until Feb 11. This is a major update, bringing the long-missing inclusion of Google+ updates into Blinkfeed (THANK YOU HTC and Google!) as well other enhancements, especially for HTC Share service.

The update will be pushed out next week, but it was nice to be able to manually download and get it early, especially for a geek like me. The product management team responsible for developing these releases has demonstrated a clear ability to deliver high-quality developer packages to service providers ahead of schedule. In other words, they are being ROCKSTARS!

Do you want to be a ROCKSTAR product manager? Set clear expectations, transparently share them, and then habitually beat those expectations–Underpromise; Overdeliver!

Travel Tips for Families: Austin and Chicago

(This article was co-authored with Kendra Thornton and was originally posted on Rose is A Rose. Reposted with permission.)


Traveling with families can be a joy that creates a lifetime of memories. Travel expert, Kendra Thornton and I have created these guides to each of our respective home towns. You will find this article full of tips for anyone traveling to Austin or Chicago with their families!


Part 1: Local’s Guide to Austin, TX

By Stacy Dyer

Austin is famous for its music, food, and sports; yet it’s the distinctively “weird” Texan culture that reverberates through visitors, young and old. Families visiting Austin can visit these top spots to get a taste of the quiet beauty and unique culture locals enjoy year-round.


Walk in the Park: Zilker

Zilker Park is one of Austin’s best-loved parks. While swimming in Barton springs can be refreshing, there are plenty of other attractions at Zilker. Don’t miss the long-running Zilker Zephyr miniature train ride and for a little touch of local Austin musical history, visit the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn next to Lady Bird Lake. There are plenty of sports including weekly soccer tournaments during season and an 18-hole disc golf course. Depending on when you visit, Zilker Park plays host to a variety of special events and performances, some of which are free. In the spring, you can find free Shakespeare in the Park at The Sheffield Hillside Theater and in the summer, Blues on the Green provides regular musical performances. Austin City Limits music festival, hosted at Zilker every fall, provides an intense, immersive experience for every musical taste. During the holidays, a magical Trail of Lights culminates in the towering Zilker Holiday Tree.


6th and Lamar: A “Whole” lot of Weird

Not just a grocery store, Whole Food’s world headquarters is an experience! Even if you aren’t doing your weekly shopping, there is plenty to enjoy at Whole Foods flagship store. Beer lovers can walk through the refrigerated beer aisle. And those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolate fountain in the bakery. Park in the below-ground garage and have your groceries delivered to your car with a special elevator! Top off your shopping expedition by grabbing a quick sandwich or salad bar to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Wash down your lunch with a locally-brewed Sweet Leaf Tea. Stroll across the street to shop at Austin institutions such as Bookpeople or Waterloo Records and buy a “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirt to commemorate your trip.

Where to Stay: Driskill Hotel

The historic Driskill Hotel is a luxurious downtown hotel that provides everything travelers need with distinct Austin style. Young guests are “deputized” upon check-in with an official Driskill Deputy sheriff’s Badge and presented with a certificate signed by Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel’s founder. Kids also get a coloring book and crayons, and free cookies! No historic hotel would be complete without a haunting or two; ghost hunters should ask for the official list of ghost stories at check-in.

Where to Eat: Food Trucks

Who wouldn’t want to be served gourmet-quality dishes from a restaurant on wheels? Austin food trailers are unique and delicious. Sample different menus in a kid-friendly lot at the Midway Food Park on S Capital of Texas Hwy, which even boasts a playground! For more, try the food trailer parking lots on South First Street, East Sixth, West Campus, or in the Mueller district. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to sample something that sounds bizarre! (East Side King serves deep-fried beets so delicious, even the pickiest eaters will love them!)

Check out this map for more spots to bring your kids in Austin, TX!

View Austin kiddo spots in a larger map


Part 2: The Local’s Fun Guide to Chi Town

by Kendra Thornton

There’s a lot to love about Chi Town. It’s one of the birthplaces for American history, and it’s a vital mecca for food, arts, culture and music. Travelers from all over the world find the history and sports magnetism of Chicago to be an incredible adventure. From a local’s perspective, there are a few things that people can miss on the big tours that run the tourism show in Chi Town. Whether you are just stopping in for your first trip or this is your second trip, there are some amazing places to check out next time you’re wandering the Windy City.

Check Out Those Dinosaurs

The Field Museum in Chicago is located right off South Lake Shore Drive, and it’s one of the best places to see some art, culture and history for an afternoon. It’s also a good place for fun recreation if you’re traveling with kids. The Field Museum is most well known for its dinosaur fossils exhibitions, but there are all kinds of seasonal, yearly and one-of-a-kind exhibits that you’ll love to explore. If you’ve visited the museum in the past, you’re guaranteed to find something new the next time you go.

Sail the Waters

If you have the time on your next trip to Chicago, you should definitely take a trip out to see on the Tall Ship Wendy, a pirate boat tour on Lake Michigan. This adventurous ride is made for any sea lover who loves some adventure and lots of good humor. While educational, it’s also quite fun to explore with the entertainers on board, and you’ll get to learn about the area while taking in some incredible sights. There are tons of photo opportunities along the way as well.

Where to Stay in Chi Town

Whether you love the old historic hotels like The Drake or you want something more modern like The Peninsula, there are a variety of different hotels in downtown Chicago that offer incredible views and quick trips to wherever you want to go. To compare all of their rates and get the best ratings on hotels in Chicago, I’ve found Gogobot to be one of the best sites to find information. You can check out all of the four-star and five-star luxury hotels as well as cheap bed and breakfasts and highly rated three-star hotels that may interest you.

Eating Rich for Cheap in Chi Town

Chefs love Chicago. Whether it’s the sports, beer or just that deep-dish pizza, there are a ton of different world-renowned chefs who have started restaurants here. You’ll find some of the best restaurants while exploring the streets of Chicago, but one of the ultimate places to go any time of day is the South Water Kitchen in the Loop. A native Chicagoan makes food here, and the menu reflects that kind of flair and pizzazz. It’s also got all types of classic dishes, which is perfect for those picky eaters in your party.


Special thanks to Kendra for her contribution to this article!

4 Ticketing Strategies Arts Orgs Can Learn From Sports Teams

Austin Wranglers Fans

Austin Wranglers Fans

During a discussion at a recent Austin 501 Tech Club event a new friend reminded me that the challenges faced by small, producing arts organizations are in fact very similar to those faced by regional “for-profit” sports teams.

Connected with a Shakespeare theatre company in Texas Hill country, my friend’s litany of difficulties in creating both appealing and profitable pricing scenarios for all patrons, from first-time attendees to deeply engaged sponsors is a familiar story to nonprofit managers everywhere. Reconciling rising costs from vendors, such as ticketing systems, with the producing organization’s own need to increase margins to continue operations is a challenge universal to performing arts and sports events alike.

Small to mid-sized sports teams are more successful at marketing and reaching new audiences than their nonprofit counterparts because they treat the entire fan experience as a revenue opportunity, not just the sale of tickets. In fact, there are four key strategies performing arts organizations can learn from the way sports teams produce events and create exceptional experiences for fans while maximizing revenue.

Packaged to Sell
Sure you have single tickets and season tickets. Now get creative! Most ticketing services charge fees based on ticket price, so create packages that include more than just tickets. For example, the Austin Wranglers, an arena football team, included drinks, food, and table service with prime-front row seating. The setup required the sacrifice of an entire section of regular seats from the normal seating map, but the total revenue for the premium packages, which were often included as part of a sponsorship deal, exceeded the maximum revenue that could have generated from that section (if it sold out) by 10 times! In fact the revenue from the premium seating section was almost equal to the entire rest of the house!

Create smaller group packages. Groups don’t have to be ten or more. Include smaller group packages that net the same gross revenue to your organization by providing other “extras” such as coupons to be exchanged for food or drink at the concession stand, t-shirt, or collector’s program book, etc. For example, a family 4-pack including 4 sodas and 4 hot dogs might be priced similarly to a group of 10, and reaches a previously potentially under-served market segment. This kind of creative packaging has the added benefit of maximizing ticket revenue margin–since you sell fewer seats, you pay less ticket fees, and make up the revenue in additional services.

Reward early orders with special printed commemorative tickets. Even if your venue entrance system requires barcode scanning, most ticketing databases allow blocks of seats to be batch printed so you can create custom printed tickets which include barcodes. Companies such as National Ticket Co and Worldwide Ticket Craft are a good place to start getting quotes. If you don’t need barcodes, printing custom tickets is as easy as getting the seat numbers right. The effort you put into to designing and creating collectible tickets season after season, not only creates an urgency in your customer base to order early, but also also creates a deeper engagement with your best, long-term fans.

Something Special
Have a special promotion for every event. Rotate special deals, so it spreads the revenue “hit” across different operating budgets. The Round Rock Express use this technique for almost every home game. Examples of their promotions include: dollar hot dogs and sodas (concessions budget), get in free with a donation to local food bank (tickets budget), fireworks (game operations budget), special program (eg, kids club).

Creating special promotions is limited only by your imagination. Don’t let your ticketing or database system limit you. Think outside the box to create promotions that motivate ticket buyers. Listen to your sales staff, and be open to test new ideas. Don’t be afraid to fail. The promotions that fail never need be repeated, and ones that are successful can become traditions!

Include the Kids
Want to make sure the adults have a good time? Include children’s activities at every event to keep the kids distracted and out of mom and dad’s hair. For sports teams, this often means games or activities that happen during the game, off to the side. If your event allows it, consider creating a safe “kid’s zone” with low cost supplemental activities for families. Parents who want to attend the arts usually budget for childcare. Price the cost of your planned activities less than a night’s babysitter.

Don’t be dissuaded from this tactic if your organization produces art that isn’t necessarily considered “kid-friendly.” Get creative and find ways to include activities for the younger set. For example, most 11-year olds wouldn’t sit through Macbeth, but they would attend a fun Shakespeare “quick camp” while mom and dad see the show. Your organization can potentially supplement revenue and create life-long fans, all while providing a convenient service to parents!

Turn Fans into Cheerleaders
The Austin Wranglers had a very vocal set of fans, nicknamed the “Rowdy Wranglers.” These year-after-year season ticket holders made their presence known at every home and away game, traveling many miles, at their own cost, to support the team. The team recognized these raving fans by officially sanctioning the group, providing “uniforms” (in the form of custom printed official jerseys, which the fans paid for themselves) and allowing the group onto the field to perform pre-game. They literally paid to become cheerleaders for the team!

While pre-show public performances with pom-poms may not be appropriate for all producing organizations, arts groups can leverage their most loyal supporters by engaging them in peer-to-peer fundraising and advocacy campaigns, as well as volunteer opportunities. Have an engagement ladder that lays out the path from first-time ticket buyer to donor to board member. Always consider that butt in that seat gave his/her time and money to be at your event. What else might they be willing to do, if you ask them?

Nonprofit Doesn’t Mean “Doesn’t Make Money”
Being a nonprofit organization doesn’t mean you don’t make money; you just do something else with your profits. Instead of paying shareholders, you provide programs or serve the community. The same as all businesses, nonprofits must maximize revenue while minimizing costs. By following the example of successful events produced by local sports teams, regional producing arts organizations can garner that extra winning edge for themselves!

Word Cloud: Who Am I?

I recently attended a session at ProductCamp by Marc Miller of Career Pivot about how to maximize your professional brand on LinkedIn. One of the techniques he recommends is to create a word cloud of your resume so you can easily see what key words stand out. Just for fun, here is mine! I used wordle.net to create mine.

Dyer Resume Word Cloud

Word Cloud from resume of Stacy Dyer

Words are important. Regardless of whether you are marketing yourself or your product, drifting too far from the core focus dilutes your message and bores your readers. Worse than that, when writing for publication online, in the the world of SEO and Google-bots, having too many of the wrong words could translate to attracting the wrong audience altogether.

Word clouds can be a fun way to visually see the most frequently used key words and ensure your writing stays on target. What does yours say about you or your product?

8 Things I Learned at ProductCamp Austin

After so many recommendations and endorsements from my fellow product management and product marketing colleagues, I am pleased to report that ProductCamp 10 lived up to its reputation as a can’t-miss event for product management professionals. Networking, learning, and innovative ideas abounded at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, Texas this past Saturday.

ProductCamp 10 Austin

Thom Singer presenting, “Giving Better Presentations” at ProductCamp

While I knew I had already missed a few ProductCamps, I had no idea Austin was actually one of the first (following Silicon Valley) to launch an un-conference ProductCamp (2008) and that it has now spread around the globe. Comparing the perspectives of representatives from other cities with our own here in Austin was fascinating.

By far, the best aspect of the conference overall was how open and friendly everyone was. Networking is a pleasure in such an accommodating atmosphere–even for introverts!

My Favorite Learnings from ProductCamp 10 Austin:

  1. Kanban process — Forget Agile, this is the newest trend in product management! It involves managing a queue of user stories, but not grouping into sprints. Very interesting…. (via @johndeo)
  2. Avoid “Tyranny of the Install Base” — Once your product gets going, you tend to only listen to sales and your existing customers. (via @mhelmbrecht)
  3. As an extrovert, I should warn people when I am “thinking out loud.” (via @mhelmbrecht)
  4. Agile experience is irrelevant; executives consider it a check box.
  5. Content isn’t king, it’s the mayor. Audience is king! (via @thomsinger)
  6. LinkedIn Premium membership allows you to see what keywords people are searching on you and prevents others from seeing that you were stalking viewing their profile. (via @MrMillerAustin)
  7. Well written user stories should be able to be re-purposed as sales script. Write as problem/benefit; never feature/function. (via @proficientzppm)
  8. I want to be a “foxy” PM, as opposed to a “hedgehoge” (agile generalist, rather than narrowly focused and intractable) (via @PGopalan & @joshua_d)

What I Missed Most:

PowerPoint Karaoke - This session, while offered, was not actually voted in. That was a shame because it looks hilarious! It basically involves making up a story to go along with the random slides you are given and having been handed a deck by my old boss to present at a major user conference myself, I know how important it is to be able to think on your feet! I hope this is resurrected at an upcoming ProductParty soon. As a former theatre geek, this sounds right up my alley!

Presenting “Architecting a Successful Whitepaper” - Unfortunately, my colleague with whom I had planned to offer a workshop session on Architecting a Successful Whitepaper had a family medical emergency and was not able to make it on Saturday. Talking with several attendees, I am sure the material we were planning on presenting would have been relevant and interesting. And I know it would have a lot of fun! I look forward to the next ProductCamp so we can try again!

Useful links:

Throughout the day, I picked up useful links to resources, articles, and online tools. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order!

Word Cloud generators:

“Best Session” winner which I missed – boo! (I’ll have to make sure I catch Mike presenting at the next ProductCamp in July…)


Do you have a favorite resource, moment, or funny story to share from PCATX?

ProductCampATX: 5 Steps to Architecting a Successful Whitepaper

Technology that allows marketing professionals to endlessly segment audiences and target campaigns is driving more and more content into the marketplace, but more is not necessarily better. While marketing teams need a constant stream of fresh content to fill the sales funnel with qualified leads, creating vital marketing assets like whitepapers can’t be a haphazard afterthought to product management.

Lori Witzel, a demand generation and content marketer, and I have proposed a session for ProductCamp 10 Austin on February 16, 2013 which will address this issue specifically with product managers and product advocates in mind!

Please join us for our session, 5 Steps to Architecting a Successful Whitepaper, Faster to learn our systematic approach to architecting and driving the creation of successful whitepapers, faster. This will be fun, lively, interactive discussion with a hands-on activity.

Also don’t forget to check out the rest of the great sessions proposed for ProductCamp Austin!

See you there! Follow the fun on Twitter with hashtag #PCA10



5 Steps to Architecting a Successful Whitepaper, Faster

Experienced tech product managers know that Information-rich “written for people not search engines” content drives inquiries that convert to sales quickly. Whitepapers are one such tool to help your product out-perform revenue goals. All too often, though, it takes months and high-priced outside resources to create good whitepapers.

This session will teach you a systematic approach to architecting and driving the creation of successful whitepapers, faster.In this session, product managers will learn 5 steps to faster whitepaper creation—and will also receive a handout that’ll make it easier to architect the next whitepaper. One product manager will be selected from the audience to participate in a hands-on whitepaper activity, so all can share in the experience of putting these steps into practice.

The session leaders (Product Marketing Management and Demand Generation Marketing Management) have worked with software product managers in the rapid development of whitepapers that drive product sales.

QR code Case Study: New Albion Ale

As a product marketer, I am always looking for the new and interesting ways brands are interacting with their consumers and the general public. And while the talk last night may have been about all the Superbowl commercials, at least one company is making use of QR codes as a simple way to create a relevant, customized user experience without the big spend.

On the back of their limited edition, New Albion Ale, brewer, Sam Adams included a QR code link to additional content online. The code links to a brief, well-produced video discussing the history and background of their product (which is actually really cool!) This is great use of a QR code as a living hyperlink in real life to online content that enriches the end-use experience.

It could have been more mobile optimized. If it had been a direct YouTube link, it would have automatically prompted me to open the video with the appropriate app, making it a one click experience, instead of two, but I understand why they chose to use a custom landing page. Overall, this a great example of QR code placement and content quality .

Lots of lessons to learn here for small biz and charity alike!

View the video here: http://bbc.wistia.com/medias/4vi44xtr0m

Do you have an example of a great implementation of a 2D bar code? Please share!

Volunteers: Herding Cats into a Pack of Lions

Cat wearing tieAnyone who manages volunteers can identify with the analogy of herding cats.  Volunteers want to  be more engaged than ever, but often nonprofits fail to capitalize on their skills and passions. Organizations need actionable ways to change the way they engage with volunteers.  Whether you’re developing interns, young professionals, or working with retirees, learn how to turn your herd of cats into a pack of lions!

Watch this presentation to learn:

  1. Why volunteer programs fail
  2. Strategies for evaluating and identifying gaps in current volunteer system
  3. 6 tips to improve volunteer engagement