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See you on the Internet with Avery Swartz

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Your book is such a great intro to everything digital. Can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of this book, and why you decided to write it in such an accessible way?

As you know, Cindy, I'm a nerd. I used to run a Web Design Studio, and I work mostly with small businesses and nonprofits. Almost eight years ago, I spun up a workshop company called Camp Tech. At Camp Tech, I really wanted to put on practical tech workshops that would be approachable and accessible for people who think they're non-technical people. For everything that we do at Camp Tech and in all the classes we teach, we are saying to the non-technical people: we're gonna teach you a bit about tech, which you might not know, but we don't think you're a dumb-dumb. We have mad respect for people that are subject matter experts in other areas. We ran these workshops across Canada. People were asking how do I access this in other ways? Then I literally went to the bookstore and checked what books are out there right now if somebody wanted to learn more about how to do internet related things for their organization. There is literally not a book that tells you everything and kind of ties it together holistically. And then I was like: Oh shoot. I gotta write that book.

Your love and respect for your audience really shines through for me in the book, as you take the time to describe and explain what things stand for. And it's not jargony. So often when people are diving into this space, they just get lost in the jargon and give up.

There are so many barriers in technology, both visible and invisible, and that really does make it difficult for people. Jargon is one of them. There's this lie about how tech can make things simpler, easier, or somehow better than a non-technical solution. Sometimes it can but not always. Then there is this sense that if you can't instantly understand and succeed with technology, then the problem must be with you, as opposed to the problem being with the device or the system. Just because you don't instantly know how to read a dashboard full of data does not mean that you're a dumb-dumb. There are so many things that non-technical people can do. I have met people coming to Camp Tech that are working in schools, arts organizations, and companies that are literally changing the world. Then these people would come in and say, I feel stupid. And I'm like, no, you are amazing. You are not stupid. I understand this. So let me help you. Let's get together, and then you keep doing your awesome work.

You started the book talking about all-around measurement. Applying that to small nonprofits, how do we want to measure so that it is actually working for us and our organizations?

This is a big one. One thing I have to say right off the bat is that the book is that even though the book is called See You On The Internet: Building Your Small Business' Digital Marketing, believe me, my nonprofit friends, this book is for you. A lot of the nonprofits and small businesses I work with are a bit allergic to measurement. Measurement can imply quantification in a way that sometimes feels a little bit uncomfortable. It also implies that we can't do things scrappy. We have to stop for a minute. We have to write reports for the record. So there's this idea that if we measure, we have to do strategy in this planning, and then we're gonna have to write a 400 page formal report.

No! You can do the measurement in a really scrappy way. The idea is that if you don't know where you are, you'll have no idea how far you've gone. If you don't know what to measure, then you can get really overwhelmed. Measurement does not mean we drown in data. A lot of small nonprofit clients ask me, Avery, you're a nerd, you have to help us get all of our systems talking to each other. And I would be like: Cool. Great idea. Start at the end. Tell me what you're going to do with this data that you think you need. And then we'll work backwards and find out how to get that data. Because if we could spend so much time and so much money on collecting data, making data open, and having the systems talk to each other, and at the end of it, you realize that you just devoted all of this effort into harvesting data that is completely inactionable.

So I am really flipping that measurement conversation on its head. I say to my clients: I want you to come back next week with only three things that you think you could actually change in your organization. If you had better data, you would know how to move these things forward. So my advice for time and resource-starved nonprofits is to honestly ignore most of the data and focus on the things you can tie back to your organizational goals. Start with the end in mind, and then ignore everything else.

Now let’s turn the conversation to the topic of data security and privacy. Tell me a little bit about your take on how organizations can start to think about their security.

When we're talking specifically about data privacy and data security, often, the weakest link in all of the systems is the human in the system. So what I mean by that is you can have all kinds of added layers, which I heartily endorse things like two-factor authentication, but then also the same human that does that then keeps all of their passwords stored on a post-it note on their laptop or in a document called passwords doc. So then it's not a technology thing. It's a personal thing.

Passwords are what I call an “eat your vegetables” subject, as we all know better. We just don't do it. It's right up there with eating your vegetables and going to the gym. Like you don't want to do it. Yes, it is important to have a complex password. And it's very important to also have a different password for every system that you log into. If I had to choose between the two, it's more important that your password is different than being complex. Data breaches are now just part of modern life. So if you have the same password everywhere, and your password is compromised in one location, it’s compromised across the board.

What I do personally is I have a weird word and number system that I have in my own head that assigns different passwords to all things. But you can also use a password manager which I do as well. A password manager is the digital equivalent of having that little book that has all your passwords. And, and it cannot be hacked. The companies that make these password managers have such thorough encryption that they don't even know what your master password is.

Some other practical tips would be: don't share a login with everybody in the office. Take five seconds and set up a different account on your CRM. Don't store your donors credit card inside an Excel spreadsheet.

One of the questions I get from a lot of smaller organizations is around migrating their data to a cloud. Can you talk a little bit about that?

When we talk about storing data, my advice is to lean on the big guys and send the responsibility up the food chain. If you can get yourself into some sort of a scenario where you're using a system, so that like it processes, you know, donations and things for you and you don't ever have to even know people's credit cards. That's a good system because it takes you out of the equation when you're balancing risk. If you are thinking about potentially moving your data to the cloud, getting an IT consultation is probably well worth it. Please don't just go and get some never-heard-of-it free cloud system. Let's go with the big guys. Microsoft has a phenomenal cloud. Google has a phenomenal cloud. These are companies that know a thing or two about security.

A data breach is almost inevitable. Don't lose sleep over it. I think more about how we can mitigate risk in a way that we protect ourselves as much as we possibly can. When you do potentially put all your data into OneDrive, which is Microsoft's cloud solution, you don't talk to your sales rep, talk to the person that's there, run through all the what-if scenarios, and then ask them what they're doing on their end. If you're a company that's particularly concerned about keeping data in Canada, definitely get an IT consultation because they're going to be able to give you some really good solutions that would mean that your data don’t even technically have to leave the country.

This is so relevant. Right now, we're in the middle of a pandemic, and people are working remotely. Having cloud-based accessible information will increasingly become the norm.

During this pandemic, it's really clear who has had plans in place and who has not. This is an opportunity to transform your organization into a digital-first organization or a remote-first organization, which doesn't mean that you won't go back to working together in person. But you will have the systems in place so that give the opportunity for people to work remotely without putting the organization at any risk.

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership


Avery’s book


Microsoft’s Cloud (One Drive)

Google’s Cloud (Google Drive)




Amazon Cloud


Constant Contact

Connect with Avery on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn @averyswartz

You may also find it helpful to review our episode with Anil Patel on the future of work and our episode with our co-host Aine McGlynn on your systems.

The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano