Virtual Nonprofit Technology Fair

This past week, I had a the pleasure of helping a friend at the National Science Teacher Association Convention. There were penguins, dissections, and lots and lots of technology.  Of course, while I was there I kept my eye out for new tech resources for nonprofits. Here’s my report from the a weekend of hanging out with science teachers.

Square is awesome!

My friend was there promoting a science review game he has created. We were selling his game at the booth and used Square to handle credit card transactions. I was excited to have the opportunity to use this credit card reader in the field after writing about it earlier this year. I can happily report that Square worked wonderfully.

Credit card transactions were handled quickly and securely. We were able to give the a receipt to the customer via email or via text message depending on what the customer wanted.  Square even allowed us to issue receipts for cash transactions.  This saved us time from having to write out a receipt that the customer might lose.

A few tips:

  • Hold your phone so that you can swipe the card vertically instead of horizontally. Sometimes, when we had the card reader horizontal, it took a few swipes to read the card. When the card reader was vertical, we hardly had any issues.
  • Use the description field to record information about the transaction. You might not have the opportunity to build an inventory (or list of donation amounts). So, use the description field to record as much info as you can.
  • Have all of your volunteers download the app onto their phone. We kept the Square reader in our cash box. This way anyone could grab it and use it if needed.


I stopped by the Google booth to see what they had to offer. Did you know that there are laptops that run on Google? Well, they do! And they might be your non-profit organization’s best solution when it comes to buying computers for your employees.

Chromebooks are a little different from traditional laptops as they do not have hard drives – everything is stored in “the cloud”.  When using a Chromebook, everything is based in the browser. Documents can be written using Google Docs or Microsoft Office Web Apps. Calendars can be managed with Google Calendar.

We live our lives on the internet, sometimes you don’t need a computer with all the bells and whistles to be productive.

Beyond the change in software, the simplified hardware design means there is less need for technical support. For this reason alone, more institutions are switching to Chromebooks and providing them to their employees, according to the Google employee I spoke to. Besides, many people are now very familiar with Google products, so the switch appears to be an easy one for many people.

Finally, Chromebooks also are available with 3G connectivity to allow users to be connected no matter where they are.


Now Ting, wasn’t at the conference, but I wanted to throw them into the mix of new technology resources for nonprofits. Ting does cell phone service, but it does so just a little differently.

What Ting offers is a customizable month to month cell phone plan. You can choose the number of minutes, the number of text messages, and amount of data that you need. If you text more than you talk, then you can choose a plan with 6000 texts for $14, 100 minutes for $3, and 500 megabytes of data for $13. Ting will bill you $30/month. If you don’t use all of your minutes, texts or megabytes, you will be credited the difference next month.

How great is that?

Your agency might have some staff members that only need to get email on their phone, Ting can help you customize each plan to the employee. Check out their savings calculator to see how Ting would make a difference in your organization.


This last one is a quick one. What do you do with your gadgets after you upgrade to the newest model? Don’t sell it. Gazelle it.

Gazelle will buy your old technology and even send you the box you need to ship it to them. The great thing is that when people sell items to Gazelle they have a choice: 1) take the money from your sale and put it in your pocket or 2) donate the money to your favorite charity.

I hope you enjoyed our little Nonprofit Technology Fair. What new tech items are you using at your agency? Or which new item did you find interesting enough this morning to investigate more thoroughly and possibly incorporate into your agency’s technology plan?