Free Tools: Visual Timelines

Tiki-toki

Tiki-toki

Facebook isn’t the only place you may want to use an interactive visual timeline to tell the story of your organization’s evolution and accomplishments.

Lucky for all of us, there are some new FREE timeline tools out there that nonprofit communicators can make good use of: Tiki-toki, Timeline JS, and Dipity. Examples of each are to the right.

Check them all out and choose according to your needs. Of course, there are premium versions to buy that offer more flexibility, but any of the free versions probably would work fine for most nonprofits. There are several differences among them.

Tiki-Toki allows you (makes you) add months and days to the dates of your stories (at least I haven’t found a way around that!). That works great if your story takes place over a month or a week, but it doesn’t work so well for anniversaries where you just want to note years. You can only create one timeline and you can’t embed it on your website without upgrading to a premium account (lowest upgrade is $5 per month). You can share your timeline, just not embed it. There are also some limits on images hosted on the Tiki-toki server.

TimelineJS

TimelineJS

TimelineJS  is good if you’ve got tech support in building your timeline. It’s easy for the viewer to use, but not so straightforward for the person creating it. Personally, I found Dipity that simplest to create with. You can get a timeline going in 15 minutes. And I like the way Dipity hides the detailed information–you have to click on it. That makes the big messages in the headlines really pop, and lessens the distraction of the reader. Yet, anyone who wants more details can easily get them. Also, you have the choice of viewing a Dipity timeline as a flipbook or list.

The free version of Dipity allows you to create 3 timelines with a maximum 150 events. These timelines can be embedded and shared. Note–your timeline will have ads on the page unless you buy a premium version ($5 per month minimum). Also, Dipity allows you to sync your timeline with your twitter, facebook, tumblr and other social media so the timeline is automatically updated with those posts. (This feature could come in handy if your timeline is tracking campaign progress.) Here’s a good video tutorial on starting out with Dipity.

Before you even start thinking about using one of these cool tools, you need to have a good reason. Strategy first! None of us have much time to learn tools just for the fun of it. But, if your organization has an anniversary coming up or you’re trying to tell a story that rolls out over time, visual timelines can be a lot more effective than scrolling narratives. Like infographics, they offer easily digestible bites rather than a huge meal of text/photos. Consider the possibilities… And if anyone knows of other free timeline creation tools, please leave a comment below.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, Dipity has experienced long-term technical problems that have prevented creators to edit or add to their timelines. It’s been three weeks and the problem still exists. What’s worse, Dipity hasn’t been forthcoming with information to its users about the nature of the problem. They keep promising it will be fixed by such and such date, but that never happens. I moved my Dipity timeline data to Whenintime instead–based on a referral from another Dipity user. I don’t like the timeline mechanics as well, but it does offer an interesting blog template. Check it out, or one of the other two free timelines above. I can no longer recommend Dipity!

Free digital storytelling tools for nonprofits

Flickr/mysza831

A little holiday gift for you! A couple of times a year, I dig into the web to find free tools that can help nonprofits tell their stories in ever more engaging ways. Each time I do that, the range of options kind of astounds me. This year is no exception,

Not every nonprofit has the resources to hire videographers or even buy and use a video cam themselves. These online tools offer FREE ways to get dynamic content onto your website, blog, and social media without HAVING to use video. Many of these create mash-ups of just photos, text, graphics, and music.

I’m amazed more nonprofits aren’t using them because they have so many potential communication applications. They offer interactivity and surprise so they attract and hold people’s attention. Plus they’re fun! And remember, the web and social media are about entertainment as much as education.

In past posts I’ve covered some amazing AV tools like Prezi (which still has a free version but charges $59 a year for more capabilities), Glogster, Yodio, and VoiceThread (which now is available at a very low cost). This time I’d like to cover six other storytelling tools–Animoto for a Cause, VuVox, MixBook, SmileBox, ZooBurst, and Masher.

Animoto for a Cause

Nonprofits can get a pro level Animoto account free (worth $249 per year) by applying through Animoto’s nonprofit portal. Animoto is a very simple to use animated slide show producer (photos, text, music, various design templates, all animated automatically) that you can share  through YouTube, Facebook, etc. Really professional looking and the music is terrific. There are many design templates to choose from and a certain amount of branding can be done. I used Animoto last year to produce a nonprofit annual report and it got great response.

VuVox

VuVox allows you to create attractive photo collages with text overlays that advance horizontally at the speed the viewer chooses. Here’s one example and another. You can also include audio and video, although I was unable to find an example of those in their gallery. If you’ve got great photos that tell the story of how someone’s life was changed, this could be your tool. I think VuVox could also lend itself to policy issue framing.

MixBook

Using MixBook, you can make very creative free digital scrapbooks customized with your colors/wordmark etc. and share them online. Page-turning  is animated. (You can also order printed copies, but that costs.) Here’s a generic version of a scrapbook about camping. You can see how easily an environmental group could use this template. But you can also create your own pages from scratch. You can also create digital cards, invitations, and calendars that you can send and share. (I could see creating an event scrapbook with this tool!)

SmileBox

SmileBox covers a lot of territory from creating one-page “newsletters” to photo collages, invitations, ecards, scrapbooks, etc. The animated slideshow option would be great for capturing events. Here’s a sample of a SmileBox slideshow for a cancer fundraiser. This tool is free, but  like most of these programs, there’s a premium level you can buy that gives you many more options. I wouldn’t buy into any of these until you’d used the free version and seen how it works for you.

ZooBurst

ZooBurst lets you create pop-up books with images, photos, and text. The examples here are from young students, but I can see many nonprofit applications for this tool. For instance, if you run an art program for youth, you could create a book where each page is devoted to one student, showing their art work and a couple of photos of them, with a quote from them at the bottom about how your organization has changed their lives. Or you could create a donor thank you book, with quotes and photos of donors and the people their contributions have helped.

Masher

Masher deserves more exploration than I’ve had time to give it. It lets you create AV mash-ups of  not only your own photos and video, but video clips from a large library that includes the BBC. You gather and organize your images, then add special effects and music. Here’s one example with a “go green” message. Again, you can share these on social media sites or email them.

It takes a little time to experiment with these tools—as well as to hone your messages and gather your images. But they can add real zip to some otherwise very uninspiring communications, especially if you incorporate music. It adds excitement and can build momentum. As you’re thinking about tactics next year, remember these tools. They’re not only fun for your audiences, they’re fun to use!

UPDATE! Here’s another one for you, Projeqt.

If you’ve got a favorite AV tool not mentioned here, please tell us about it in comments!

Creative Commons photo: mysza831

Social issue documentaries: Building a movement

Here in the Twin Cities, we’ve just experienced an interesting media frenzy about a social issue documentary called Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story that was produced by the University of Minnesota and funded by various foundations and governmental agencies. The one-hour film–which was scheduled to debut on Twin Cities Public Television this month–examines the contribution of modern agricultural techniques to the dangerous degradation of Midwest water and soil, and the burgeoning growth of the dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A few weeks before the film’s scheduled airing, the University’s vice president of external affairs pulled the plug on it. They said they were going to have to review it more closely and that it villified agriculture. I won’t get into the PR debacle this last-minute censorship unleashed for the University (and rightly so in my opinion)–that’s a sad cautionary tale in and of itself. The story broke in a community media blog and spread to every other media outlet in the region. After much public outcry and pressure from funders and advocacy groups, the University allowed the film to be shown to a SRO crowd at the University and finally, to be shown on Twin Cities Public Television—without any pre-promotion.

I watched it last night, and was impressed at how clearly it raises important questions about U.S. farm policy and points toward next practices that could help stem the rapid loss of our best soil and the pollution of our watersheds. With all the publicity surrounding it–I’m hopeful it will have a long shelf life and eventually reach a much larger audience.It deserves that kind of exposure. (I wish I could give you a link to the film, but both the University and Twin Cities Public Television provide only minimum text information on their sites. I hope that changes!)

All this reminded me what a powerful medium film has become for igniting social movements. We all haunt the halls of YouTube, but we sometimes overlook the extraordinary film documentary work that’s being done to help people understand the causes and solutions for what seem like intractable problems. It’s not just Al Gore and Michael Moore—there are hundreds of writers, directors, and producers devoting their talents to this new way of educating citizens and building social movements. Here’s a great blog post from the Center for Social Media at The American University on Social Issue Documentaries: The Evolution of Public Engagement.

The good news is that—like Troubled Waters, which was funded in part by The McKnight Foundation—foundations are starting to grasp the promise of film documentaries. Obviously, this isn’t a realistic communications undertaking for most nonprofits—high quality production and distribution cost money. But for foundations, large nonprofits, and consortia of nonprofits—it can be a very effective way of sparking public and media interest, and getting more people engaged in behaviors that support the common good. And remember, as the line between television and computer blurs, these productions could gain much wider viewership in the next few years.


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Nonprofits and Foundations: Don’t Forget the Infographics

flickr/*raj*I’ve read many articles and posts over the past few years about the nonprofit sector’s inability to manage and share information effectively. (Gee, I’ve even written a couple.) Most of these articles suggest how nonprofits can share information more meaningfully than through reports, and how they can tell stories that convey information in a more powerful, memorable way.

Let me add another important tool to this remedial mix—infographics.

Wikipedia defines them as visual devices intended to communicate complex information quickly and clearly. We’ve all seen examples of them—subway maps, traffic signs, scientific diagrams, and even children’s books. Here’s a good blog post introduction to infographics from InstantShift.

I’ve been intrigued with this field of expertise for a couple of decades, but the sheer volume of information out there now and the leaps made in communications technology have forced an enviable bloom in the field over the past couple of years. (Look at all the examples that pop up when you search in Google images or the flickr infographics pool!)

Right now, infographics are being used most effectively by newspapers and magazines interested in easy-to-understand explanations of complex concepts and relationships. But, some foundations and nonprofits have started to understand the value of this tool to visually simplify information that’s difficult to convey in text. Check out the infographics page on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation site.

Foundations especially have struggled for years to find ways of making their knowledge bases more accessible and understandable…and actionable! Infographics—because they are so quickly understood—can really help build momentum for action.

Let’s look at a few examples of good infographics, so you get the drift. Here are 50 excellent designs compiled by blogger Francesco Mugnai. Check out his other inspirational infographics lists under “related posts” on his blog. Note the flexibility of this medium, able to capture information as disparate as what’s inside Bob Dylan’s brain to the population demographics of the US or global giving patterns for the Haiti disaster (shown on  Information is Beautiful).

In addition to what’s linked above, other online resources offer stunning examples and regular commentary about infographics to spur your imagination.

coolinfographics

francescomugnai

sixrevisions

myvisualvoice

My advice? The next time you encounter difficulty explaining information to your key audiences—don’t forget the beauty of infographics.

CC photo credit: *raj*

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Own the Room–Some great presentation advice

flickr/constantly-Jair

flickr/constantly-Jair

Lots of us tend to underestimate the potential ROI from a great presentation. If we absolutely have to do one, we default to PowerPoint and spend as little time as possible in development and preparation. Other communications tactics we’re working on are considered much higher priority.

Yet, most of us know that face-to-face communication is the top rung on the ladder when it comes to effectiveness. Mobile is awesome, but human beings still like to communicate in person. Think about that the next time you (reluctantly?) agree to make a presentation. Spend as much time as you need to ensure the desired effect. And, of course, the first step to that end is knowing what that desired effect is—ah yes, back to strategy. Set a goal for your presentation, just like you do with other tactics, so you’ll have some way to recognize whether you’ve succeeded.

I’m going to share some great advice from a new book called Own the Room, written by three experts on business presentations. It’s packed with good sense about strategy and useful how-to’s, but I’m going to focus on one aspect of the book—openings.

The best way to lose your audience in the crucial first 60 seconds of a presentation is to use a traditional, polite but dull opening aimed at everybody (and nobody). You know the kind: “Good morning. I’m Patricia Smith from the blah-blah organization. I’m delighted to be here this morning, and grateful to have this opportunity to talk to you about…..”

Everyone’s already looking at email on their phones or twittering that another lifeless speech has begun. Your opening has to get the audiences’ attention, and interest them enough in what you’re saying so they’ll stay tuned. As the authors point out, our brains are wired to pay attention to novelty and surprise–so use that knowledge. Be unpredictable—skip the tedious introductions and shake things up a little. Engage your listeners from the minute you open your mouth.

Here are three suggestions from the book about how to just that.

Ask a counterintuitive question

People may believe they know the right answer, but you then show them what the real truth is in a way that starts to frame the rest of your talk. The example given in the book is: “China has a history of disregarding copyrights. Of all the products whose copyrights are infringed where do you think the most violations are found?” Most people say movies or CDs. But you point out: “The number one copyright infringement in China involves Prozac.” From this opening you can move into the theme of your talk (trade, legal issues, depression, etc.) knowing you’ve gotten your audiences’ attention through surprise.

Make an attention getting statement

The example given is “Attractive people are more persuasive than average-looking people. How does this affect your business?” Again, from this opening you can segue into ways to level the playing field, aspects of persuasive speaking, etc. But you’ve gotten everyone to start thinking about how they fit into the attractiveness spectrum, and that engages them in your real topic.

Tell a personal story

Use the first few minutes to tell the audience something surprising or novel about yourself. Demonstrate why you’re passionate about your topic through a personal anecdote. Make it riveting, and full of visual details that help them see what you’re describing. People far prefer to hear a story rather than a lecture. Usually, we also find such stories more believable and memorable.

When using each of these techniques, the authors urge that you tailor your presentation to your audience. Generic openings don’t connect with anyone. To do that, you need to provide personal experiences, stories, concepts, or ideas in enough detail to make them interesting and relevant to listeners’ own experiences. Signal immediately that you know your audiences’ needs and expectations.

They also suggest that you reveal your personal values. Become a human being to your listeners, not just a speaker. (If that means revealing a small weakness they can identify with, go ahead.) Give them a window to your thoughts and feelings. If listeners feel like they know you, they are more likely to believe you.

And finally, the book encourages you to present your point of view on the subject. This helps your audience quickly understand your intention, context, and passion. The authors recommend that you picture your listeners with remote controls in their hands. Your job in the first few minutes is to keep them from flipping channels. Examples of a few great (and instructive) openings are included in the book.

Developing and preparing for a presentation—including one for a videoconference or YouTube—is a great opportunity to put all your communications wisdom to work. This book can help, as can many other books, blogs, and websites. Take the time to learn all you can about how to do good presentations. Your audiences will thank you!

CC photo credit: constantly-Jair

Own the Room is by David Booth, Deborah Shames, and Peter Desberg. I received a complimentary copy.

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Free tool of the week: VoiceThread for nonprofits

flickr/ //amy//

flickr/ //amy//

When I first found out about VoiceThread a while back, it struck me as something that foundations and nonprofits could make good use of. It’s a cool way to capture people’s engagement with a topic and image—to weave the threads of their voices into the story being  told.

A VoiceThread is a multimedia slideshow of photos, video, or documents that allows people to easily leave comments and join the conversation. Visually, it’s a slideshow screen surrounded by a mosaic of little avatars of all the people who comment on the image. When you click on the avatar you hear them or see what they’ve written or drawn. People can comment in five simple ways: by telephone, by computer microphone, by web cam, by writing text, or by drawing.

Once you’ve created the central slideshow story—you can invite people to view it and comment on it. Thus the conversation grows.

Wondering how you might use this free tool?

  • How about getting your donors to add their voices to a story about a common cause they all support, telling why they support it?
  • How about showcasing your grantees’ work by asking them to add their comments to a VoiceThread story you create about an issue they’re working on?
  • How about showing how real living human beings are affected by the work you do? Ask them to add comments to a VoiceThread about how one of your programs has helped them.
  • Honoring someone special? Create a VoiceThread testimonial to them including all the voice of people whose lives they’ve touched
  • Trying to build a social movement? Here’s a very visual way to start—tell your VoiceThread story and ask supporters to add their supportive comments. Watch the little avatars multiply!

These ideas should help you get started thinking about ways you might incorporate VoiceThread into your website, social media platforms, emails to help achieve strategic communication goals.  It’s very easy to share—embeddable, emailable, etc.

Now, for a little introduction from the Voicethreads folks. And here’s a great step-by-step how-to slideshow, and an example of how educators are using VoiceThread to carry out conversations with students. It’s a very versatile tool…as you’ll see as you browse through the collection of existing VoiceThreads; everything from podcasting tutorials to art exhibitions to children’s voices about what’s happening in Darfur.

As usual, I played around with this free tool—just enough to create a very simple 1-slide central story about the issue of homeless teens. When you get to the page, just click on the lone avatar for the ABCD Foundation to hear the story. (I pretended I was a foundation interested in highlighting the work of its grantees working on that issue.) You’re going to have to IMAGINE other little avatars surrounding it—each from a grantee talking about the impact of their work with homeless teens. (It would be terrific to have some of those voices be the teens themselves.)

There are a few different pricing levels beyond what you can get for free (3 min. maximums on recordings, max. of 50 comments, etc.). But, even the Pro account, which gives you the most creative freedom is only $60 per year.

I see a lot of potential of this tool for the nonprofit sector–and not just for educators. Nothing is more fascinating to us than other people–what they think, what they say and do, what they support. VoiceThread is a unique way to combine your organization’s voice with the voices of your supporters or beneficiaries. It makes for richer, more inclusive, more credible storytelling. Plus—it’s pretty darn easy to use! Try it.

CC photo credit: //amy//

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Webinars for Nonprofits: Getting Started

flickr/TechSoup for Libraries

flickr/TechSoup for Libraries

By now, most of us have participated in a webinar, but it’s one thing to participate and another to produce one. So, here’s  a quick guide to getting started in webinar production for nonprofits.

In light of current budget blues, traveling to a conference or workshop isn’t always possible anymore for your key audiences. Webinars can help your organization tighten its belt by helping share its knowledge and best practices without incurring travel costs for your staff or participants.

The first big step in deciding whether to do a webinar is completing your strategic communications plan. Your goals and strategies always determine your tactics and channels, not vice versa. So, don’t start by deciding you want to do a webinar and then coming up with an idea of what it might be about.

However, if—as part of your overall plan—you find your organization needs to communicate with a particular, far-flung audience in a fairly in-depth way (for example, to convey information or to explain a process) it might be worth considering a webinar.

Webinars don’t lend themselves to every topic, so keep that in mind. If eye contact or body language is important to your topic, you may want to look at another medium. Likewise, if you need more than an hour and a half to cover the subject, think about a series of shorter webinars or use another tool. Attention spans are challenged by webinars that last more the 90 minutes. Also, for small audiences within a short geographic distance (including internal audiences), face-to-face meetings may build stronger relationships than a webinar. Weigh all the pros and cons before you decide.

Anyone who’s taken a webinar knows they’re not all created equal. Some falter because of technical problems, inadequate planning, or poor presentors. Good webinars may look seamless and easy to do, but they’re the ones that have taken the most time to plan and carry out well.

Here are a few great resources to make sure that—if your nonprofit  chooses to conduct a webinar—it’s a raving success.

  • First, look over these two wonderful articles from TechSoup on how to plan and how to conduct an effective webinar.
  • You’ll also need to understand the range of available tools—here’s a list by Idealware that spells out what capabilities you can have in webinars, and reviews some of the webinar products you can use, including prices (scroll down to the section called Online Seminar Tools).
  • And finally, HubSpot’s 10 best practices for webinars.

You nonprofits and foundations who already have experience  at conducting webinars—please share your experiences and add any advice you have below!

CC photo credit: TechSoup for Libraries

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Social math: Yes…data can tell stories too

flickr/fragmented

flickr/fragmented

For a long time, nonprofits and foundations have tried to use data to drive social change–with varying degrees of success. But lately, they’ve caught onto stories as a more influential and memorable communication medium. Many nonprofits are proficient storytellers these days, but few extend that expertise to data-sharing.

In part, stories work because they help people connect new information to what they already know. By relating the unfamiliar to the familiar, we can figure out the relevance and meaning of all the new information that bombards us every day.

The same principle applies to data. We need to create meaning by relating the unfamiliar to the familiar. Piling on raw numbers may prove a point to statisticians, but others need more context to understand the meaning of data.

Social math is a simple way to make data easier to grasp by relating it to things that we already understand. It’s a way of presenting numbers in a real-life, familiar context that helps people see the story behind them. Here are a few examples, some taken from “Making Numbers Count” by Sightline Institute.

  • One less coal plant is like cutting 40% of Washington’s vehicle emissions. That amounts to all the cars and trucks in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane plus the 25 next largest cities in the state, combined.
  • Community residents near a gasoline refinery noted that the plant emits 6 tons of pollutants per day—that’s 25 balloons full of toxic pollution for each school child in town.
  • Most people in Africa support their entire families on the equivalent of what Americans spend on pet food.
  • In 1991, enough alcohol was consumed by college students to fill 3,500 Olympic-size swimming pools, about one on every campus in the United States. The overall amount spent on alcohol per student exceeded the dollars spent on books and was far greater than the combined amount of fellowships and scholarships provided to students.
  • The tobacco industry spends more money promoting smoking in a week than the entire federal government spends on preventing smoking in a year. (Sometimes you can skip the number altogether!)

Finding these kinds of analogies for your statistics takes a little time, but it makes your communications much more effective. Think creatively about how you can capture the scale of things by comparing them to things of a more familiar size. It’s especially effective if those familiar things are chosen to help emphasize your point. In the above example, it’s very effective to tie the amount of pollution directly to the children in a community, a particularly vulnerable population, and to an image of innocence—balloons.

The Internet makes this kind of research much easier. Two interesting sites that just might help are: WolframAlpha for comparisons of units of measure, and the EarthClock and other Poodwaddle clocks for global issues.

Two important points. First, use social math with care. You have to be able to defend the way you’re using any data, so make sure all your numbers and comparisons are accurate. Second, don’t overuse this technique. Less is more. Often, one piece of data conveyed through social math is more memorable and persuasive than six pieces of data.

For those of you interested in learning more about the subtleties of using social math, read Frameworks Institute’s valuable ezine on the topic.

CC photo credit: fragmented

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Free tool of the week: Fun, informative, powerful Google maps

midCaptureWe’ve all heard a lot about the capabilities of Google Maps, but that may not translate into our regular use of this great tool. I fell into that category myself before I sat down for a half-hour and just played. I decided to create a map of  East Lake Street in Minneapolis, which has benefited from recent community development projects. View the map at Midtown Renaissance: East Lake Street Comes Alive in a larger format.

To save time, I limited myself to five projects—but I could have gone on to produce a denser, more layered story of community development in this area.

Once you get on the larger map, click on:

  • the red line (Lake Street) to see a linked PDF
  • the green line (a bike path) to see an embedded youtube video
  • the yellow rectangle to see embedded photos and text, and
  • the blue square to see embedded photos, text, hyperlinks, and video.

The orange rectangle is another CDC project, where I wanted to show you that you can put a small photo directly on the map. Note also the P parking graphic; there are lots of these little graphics, like the biker on the green line, to choose from.

In short, all you have to do to create a map is go to Google Maps, quickly create an account profile, click on My Maps, and then Create New Map. Add a map title and description. You can choose the simpler street view format or the 3-D satellite view (in above photo) format to work in from the icons in the upper right hand corner. Zone in on the area you’re interested in and start using the placemarker and draw shapes tools in the upper left hand corner.

Using the placemarker tool, you can either choose one of Google’s icons or insert a url to create your own (that’s how I got the photo directly onto the map). If you use one of google’s placemarker icons, that creates a little popup window where you can title the place, add text, photos, and even embed videos. To embed photos in the popup window, click the little colored photo icon on the menu at the top of the window. To embed a video, click on “edit html” in the popup window and place the embed code from your video in the text box. Then click OK and Done (in the left hand column). That takes you out of the edit mode, so you can view your work like someone else will view it. If you’d rather learn this all from a video, here’s a good one.

You can also use the draw shapes tool (looks like a zigzag line) to create colored shapes and lines that overlay your map. I did this for the green bike route, the red street, the orange development area, and the yellow and blue buildings. A popup window automatically is created for these shapes, so you don’t have to use a placemarker.

There are a ton of uses for these maps in the nonprofit world—not just to locate your building for visitors. Think about creating neighborhood histories, identifying where specific resources or programs are located, tracking project progress on the ground, developing neighborhood asset maps, conveying complex demographic and community information, etc. (Environmental groups and others may want to also explore Google Earth Outreach for nonprofits. Here are some case studies for that tool.)

You can share these maps through emails, hyperlinks, and embedding. If you have any remaining doubts about the power of these free tools or need further inspiration, look at the Crisis in Darfur maps created by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

How has your nonprofit used Google maps creatively? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please do!

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Free tool of the week: Glogster for interactive posters you can share

glog3CaptureThis week I’m back on the trail of online storytelling tools for nonprofits and foundations. In past weeks, I’ve reviewed Yodio, Animoto, and Prezi. This week it’s Glogster.

Glogster lets you create interactive “posters” using various bits of pre-made and user-generated content—video, photos, music, text, graphics, etc. You can use this service and save/publish your glogs without registering, which is handy. And, it’s fun to use!

If you look at Glogster’s homepage (above), you might think this is a self-expression tool for teens. It’s that, and much more I think. In a matter of about 15 minutes, I whipped up two super-simple cause posters about the need for youth development opportunities. They’re no award winners, but I got a sense for how powerful these posters might be if you spent more time and thought on them. I didn’t even explore the music aspect, but that could be a nice effect. Just click twice on the images to go to the full sized glogs. (Note: The one on the right has an embedded Youtube video.) For a better idea of the range of this tool, check out new glogs featured on the Glogster site.

glog1Captureglog2Capture

The creative process is simple, but you do have to download videos, music, and photos before you can place them on your glog.

Sharing glogs is pretty easy, too. You can send them by email; bookmark them; and embed them on Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, WordPress, and other social media sites.

This could be a great way for nonprofits to create unique, engaging visuals for special event announcements, fund-raising appeals, donor thank yous, or even cause or educational messages. (NOTE: If you’re going to create a glog without professional design guidance, it might be a good idea to review my Design Eye-Q post from a few weeks back.)

Hope you find glogging as promising as I do!

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