Why Nonprofits Should Use Skype

Communication has come a long way since quill and parchment. Today information is sent through the air at high speeds and people can get what they need in a matter of seconds. Email is a standard in today’s communication arsenal, but today I’m going talk about voice calls. Talking is still faster than writing and today we are going to look at how Skype can help when it comes to communicating through voice.

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Skype is a powerful tool that can be a great benefit to any nonprofit organization. Skype can be used to make voice or video calls to people in your contact list. I know what you might be thinking, “we already have phones for this, Marissa”, but allow me to show you the flexibility of using Skype for calls.

Calls (voice or video) to users in your contact list who are also using Skype are free. That’s right, FREE. This can add up to big cell phone savings. How many times do you send an email knowing it’s going to take longer than you’d like to get the information you need just because everyone has a ton of email to go through? If everyone in your organization was on Skype if a person had a question, they could just Skype call them and get the information in a matter of seconds. Skype calls can be answered no matter where the person is logged in from, if that’s home, a cafe, or the cubicle next door.

English: Skype on mac that is version
English: Skype on mac that is version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By adding money to your Skype account, phone calls can be made to landlines. This is a nice feature to have if a person on your team is even found in a place with a wifi signal but no cell phone reception. Additionally, by adding money to your Skype account, you can make international calls at lower rates than you would if you used a landline phone.

Skype also allows users to attach a single phone number to their account to make it easy for calls, whether made from Skype or a landline, to be answered from anywhere. With a mobile app, Skype users are able to answer voice and video calls on the go.

Skype also comes with voicemail functionality. This can be a great tool for agencies. By simply creating an account with phone number attached to it, messages left in this voicemail box can be accessed by anyone who has access to the account; making returning calls a team effort.

One more feature of using Skype for voice calls is the ability to record phone calls. If your agency is having an important conference call, it can be easily recorded through Skype. This recording could the be posted for absent team members to listen to when they are available.

There is much more to Skype besides just making voice and video calls that can be helpful for your organization. When in a video call on Skype users have the ability to share their screens with people on the call. This feature could come in handy for Board Meetings being held online if not all of the Board Members could make it. Skype also comes with an instant messaging service that allows you to send quick messages to people in your contact list when a call is not needed. Through this chat system, documents can also be easily shared between team members.

Skype is a feature rich application that has a lot to offer a nonprofit organization. I have seen where using it has increased communication between team members just due to the pure flexibility that comes along with it. Do you think Skype is a good fit for your agency? Do you already use Skype? If so, what do you use it for the most? Let talk about it in the comments below!

Two Things You Can Do to Make Your Photos Look Awesome

They say that a photo is worth a thousand words. When it comes to adding photos to your blog posts or posting photos to social networks, why not make your photos look the best they possibly can?

I know what you might be thinking – Marissa, I am not a professional photographer, nor do we have the budget to hire one. Well, today I’m here to show you a few things you can do to make sure you are putting your best photo foot forward.

Take Photos of Everything
I cannot stress this enough. If there is an event going on, photos need to be taken. Thanks to digital photography there is no limit as to how photos you can take so snap away. When it comes to photos, the more options you have the better. Even if you don’t use these photos to showcase this specific event, you might be able to use a photo take at that time for something else.

Don’t forget to make sure you have the permission to take photos of people you are photographing.

Also, if you don’t have someone on staff that is available to take photos, put out a call for volunteers. There might be a local up-and-coming photographer who could lend her talents to help out your organization.


A picture cropped without and with the rule of...
A picture cropped without and with the rule of thirds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After you’ve sorted through all of the photos and picked the ones you want to use chances are there is some editing that will need to happen. One of the easiest ways to take a less than awesome photo and make it a dynamic addition to your post, is to crop it. This is a feature you will find in most photo editing programs.

When cropping it is important to keep in mind the goal of your photo. What do you want the audience to focus on? Sometimes you might have a great shot of a lot of people at an event but 70% of that photo might be taken up by the ceiling in the room. By cropping out some of the ceiling the viewer’s focus is shifted to the people instead of the size of the room.

Also, you can crop images to follow one of photography’s golden rules: The Rule of Thirds. The basics are this, if the object of your photo is lined up along an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid, your photo will be visually interesting. Even if the original photo didn’t follow the Rule of Thirds, by cropping something out, you can change that.

Color Correction
There’s a lot that a person can do to change the color tone of a photo, but I won’t go in to all of the details here. I just want to focus on a quick color correction trick that can make your photos look the best they can. Many photo programs have an auto correct feature that automatically changes the saturation, contrast, brightness and exposure of your photos. This feature can become your best friend because most of the time it is one click that can save your photo. I will say that sometimes it doesn’t make your photo look its best, but in those cases you can go in and adjust each of those elements individually or just use the photo without any color correction.

Correcting the color of your photos can really make an impact. Many times it makes the photo look more realistic.

Photo Editing Programs
To crop and correct color you do not need to spend thousands of dollars on photo editing software. Most times your computer already comes with the software to do it. iPhoto on Macs is a dynamic program that organizes your photos as well and has an editing suite to help you make your photos look their best. Depending on the version of Windows you are using, Microsoft has basic photo editing tools also built in to their operating system to help you along.

If you are looking for a fully featured photo editor like Photoshop, but without the price tag, there is GIMP. GIMP is a free program with most of the features of a high powered editing program. Also, if you upload your photos to Google+, they have a pretty great editor built into the photo section of their site that is free to use as well.

Photos can make a big impact on your web content. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to make your photos look like they were shot by a pro. Just by cropping and correcting the color the photos on your site can look like a million bucks.

Do you have any photo editing tips you’d like to share? What photo program works best for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

How Can SOPA/PIPA Affect Non-Profits?

The Final Frontier . . . The Information Superhighway . . .  The World Wide Web . . .  The Place Where Cute Cat Videos Reside.

Call it what you will, but the Internet as you know it might change drastically after Tuesday, January 24, 2012. On this date, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) goes up for vote in the Senate. If it passes, censorship will have a permanent home on the Internet. PIPA is the Senate bill of the more publicized SOPA bill that was in the House, both have to do with censoring the Internet.

What are PIPA and SOPA? What does this have to do with the non-profit world?

Well, let’s take a closer look.

The main idea behind both PIPA and SOPA is to stop online piracy and ensure that content creators get benefits (mainly monetary) for their work. While this sounds pretty fair, it’s the enforcement of the bill that upon further inspection has people concerned. A recent TechCrunch article does a nice job explaining the issue:

“The big problem with SOPA is in the way it is supposed to be enforced, namely by blocking domain-name system (DNS) servers of copyright-infringing websites. But DNS servers are a basic technical component of the Internet (they translate site names like techcrunch.com into numerical IP addresses computers can understand better). Once you start messing with DNS, all sorts of unintended problems arise.

Blocking DNS without a full adversarial hearing in a courtroom raises the potential for censoring speech and other lawful activities. It is also the same method China uses to block “offending” content from China’s Internet.”

Furthermore, Ars Technica explains that passage of PIPA encourages online companies to act independently of the court system.

“The PROTECT IP Act goes even further than forcing these intermediaries to take action after a court order; it actively encourages them to take unilateral action without any sort of court order at all.”

So what does this have to do with the non-profit world?

Since there is currently no definition of what an “intellectual property right infringement” might be, your site could get cited under SOPA or PIPA because of links you’ve included in your online newsletter or stories on your website. If your agency gets cited, donors and supporters who might be trying to find you online via Google or other search engines wouldn’t be able to see you in their search results.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t this have a tremendous impact on what you’re trying to accomplish with your online presence?

This post on nonprofitmarketing360.com provides more clarity on why ALL non-profits should care:

“Ostensibly, nonprofits do not present anything that would seem to threaten these conglomerates, but, under SOPA’s current terms, nonprofits will not get a day in public court if they are deemed of trafficking in any such material. Even if they did, what nonprofit has a cabal of lawyers and lobbyists to counter the plaintiff’s accusations?”

Moreover, the effect of PIPA and SOPA goes beyond just impacting search results. It can wreak havoc with your ePhilanthropy efforts. Check out this quote from an article by Computer World:

“Basically, Sec. 103 will give the owner of any intellectual property the right to pursue private action against websites that they deem are infringing their rights. Under SOPA, IP rights holders will be able to ask payment providers such as MasterCard and PayPal to shut off services to allegedly infringing sites. They would also be able to ask Internet advertising networks to stop providing ads to the websites.”

So not only would the passage of these two bills affect your visibility on the internet, but donations taken via your website could be shut down as well if you are found to be in copyright infringement. Here’s a helpful infographic for more information.

In a nutshell, both PIPA and SOPA would cut off a resource many of us use everyday to communicate, research, and learn.

Can you imagine doing research for a grant and not having access to the information you need? Or what if your Twitter account gets taken down because you linked to a YouTube video? The landscape of the Internet will never look the same if these bills pass.

In response to a signed petition, the White House has recently come out against many of the main tenants of PIPA and SOPA, but this doesn’t mean the need for you to take action has passed.

This Wednesday, January 18, 2012 there will be a hearing on SOPA in the House of Representatives. In response, many popular sites such as Google, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, AOL, LinkedIn, PayPal, and WordPress will be participating in a blackout to draw attention to the issue of Internet censorship.

If you want to get involved in the process, you can contact your Congressperson at opencongress.org.

The media has neglected to cover PIPA/SOPA effectively. I hope that this post shines some light on how the issue of censoring the Internet could impact your everyday Internet life and the life of your non-profit organization. These two bills are just the start of trying to define the relationship between the government and the Internet. Even if they do not pass, there will be others that try. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.