Best of the Web: July 2017

Magic Is Not Magic

A couple of weeks ago, This American Life aired an interview between Ira Glass and the magician David Blaine where they talked about Blaine’s glass eating trick. But here’s the thing. It’s not a trick. Blaine really eats glass. In fact, he’s done it so many times that his teeth are nearly ground down to the nerves.

I’ve been thinking about magic and innovation a lot lately. New ideas can seem like magic. They appear out of nowhere and once they’re in the world they often have a power all their own.

But the truth is that magical thinking will not transform your programs or improve outcomes. Innovation isn’t magic. It’s hard work. It’s planning and training and being open to seeing new opportunities. Like Blaine’s glass eating, you think there’s a trick to it, but really it’s just chewing and chewing a piece of glass until all the sharp edges are gone.

I’m not a magician and you’re probably not a magician either. The good news is, we don't have to be. From bots to texting to online experiences that boost compassion, we can all be innovative if we dig deep enough into the issues and take the time to explore what's possible. Although… let's agree to draw the line well before anyone starts eating glass.

Enjoy this month’s top posts.


Best of the Web: July 2017

Nonprofits in the Autonomous World: Will the Bots Take Over? (Beth’s Blog)

According to the security firm Imperva, more than half of the traffic on the internet is carried out by bots. This silent majority can make it easier to automate tasks or provide information. Beth Kanter explains the basics, links to a few successful nonprofit bot projects, and explains how you can develop your own bot without being a coder. Check it out. 

4 Tools for Kids to Help Develop Compassion and Social Change (KQED)

Can tech help you care more and do more to help other people? Check out these innovative projects that connect kids with each other and to solutions to big problems around the world.

Alidade (Alidade)

Choosing technology—especially software—can be scary. However, an organized process that helps you consider your needs, sort through your options, and evaluate your solution can make choosing a lot less scary. This online tool from the Engine Room guides you through the process and makes it easy to move forward with your tech project feeling confident that you’ve asked the right questions and are setting yourself up for success.

Texting (Idealware)

There’s increasing interest in text and chat to stay in touch with people and provide information. Here’s an example in Chicago and another in Toronto of nonprofits using texting to reach their people when and where they want to be reached.

Here Are the Webinar Tools You Should Be Using In 2017 (TechChange)

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but as a quick summary of the major platforms it’s pretty useful.

Net Neutrality—We Need Your Help! (TechSoup)

If you’re not up on the issue or don’t have much of an opinion on net neutrality, I encourage you to read this post from TechSoup. It makes it pretty clear what’s at stake. If internet service providers can choose what content to slow down or speed up, content that’s not in their corporate interests is at risk. That could be Netflix or it could be your nonprofit.

Blogging Best Practices (

If you’re getting started with a blog, check out Mark Root-Wiley’s article on blogging best practices.

Why Email Deliverability is the Most Important Metric for Nonprofits (Care2)

If people aren’t getting your emails, open rates, page views, click-through rates, and dollars donated will be lower than they should be. This post explains why many emails are getting caught in spam filters and how to improve your deliverability rate.

Internal Communications: Strategies for an Overlooked—But Critical—Communications Channel (The Communications Network)

Investing in your nonprofit’s organizational culture shows you care and gives your staff members the tools they need to represent your organization in the rest of the world. A compelling internal communications strategy is good for your people and is good for outreach and marketing.

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