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Nonprofit Tech, Tools and Social Media

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The Cycle of Listening, Part II

By jessica on February 25, 2014

The listening cycle series has been co-written by Dirk Slater from Fabriders. Dirk has two decades of experience supporting social justice movements and is a nice guy to boot. You can find him on Twitter @fabrider. You can also find the version of this article on the Fabriders site here.

Listening Live

As we outlined in Part I of this Listening Cycle series, listening can give you an idea of what conversations are happening around different terms used to describe your issue. You can learn a good deal about the people, issues, and conversations that you are interested in by conducting simple searches. However, this method makes it almost impossible to keep up, and for most of us, listening and communications is only one small part of the work we do as social change agents.

We call it a “cycle” because listening isn’t something we should only do at specific points in a campaign. The campaign will evolve as conversations morph over time, through highlights and even lulls. Stories may go viral within different groups, and you’ll want to do your best to keep up. If you are trying to stay on top of – or even change – the conversation about your issue, then real-time tracking or automated listening becomes especially important.

Now that you’ve identified your search terms, such as key stakeholders, influencers, and vocabulary in Part I, let’s talk about tools that you can use to make listening and monitoring conversations about your campaign easier.

The Right Tool for the Job

For this blog post we focused on no-cost tools that organizations use to monitor people and conversations they are interested in. There are plenty of tools out there that you can pay for, and some of the options below have services for pay, but we feel strongly that most of the tools and services you can get for free can meet most of an organizations needs around monitoring. And you should certainly use free services before investing any resources in something you have to pay for. It’s also worth noting that monitoring social media is a highly dynmamic and rapidly changing field; new tools are constantly emerging.

We have left out analytic tools like Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and website analytics tools. Monitoring how your audience is interacting and responding to your messaging is an important part of a healthy breakfast… or, a strategic communications plan. However, knowing how people are responding to your content is different from trying to learn about what conversations you might nit yet be a part of or how to connect with audiences you are not yet engaging.

That is what listening is all about. In other words, monitoring analytics and metrics around your web and social media content is an important conversation, just not one that we are addressing in this blog post.

Online Listening Tools

Listening Dashboards

A tool to use to stay on top of social mentions by creating and customizing with your keywords, searches, and other data, so that you have one place to check for notifications.

Sparkwise Listening Dashboard
  • Netvibes – a dashboard that you can create to pull RSS and other new content feeds. Information can be organized into tabs and widgets for easier browsing.
  • – a powerful open-source tool designed with civil society organizations in mind that can be used as a listening dashboard, as well as a place to create visualizations, and as a storytelling platform.
    Note that it is still in Beta, but there are lots of widgets offering a variety of monitoring options.
  • Storify – functions as a dashboard as it is a place to check for notifications and new content. Storify works well with social networks that do not work so well in Netvibes right now like Instagram. You can collect and save social network posts from the searches that you’ve created into stories to keep track of conversations over time.
Storify Listening Dashboard

New Content Feed

Places to grab RSS feeds for listening. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a feed that you subscribe to in order to be notified whenever new content is published.

New Content Feeds
  • RSS feeds are available from many blogs, websites, news sites – look for this to subscribe.
  • Google blog search – search for blog posts and pull an RSS feed from the bottom of the results page.
  • Google AlertsGoogle Account Required, you can have alerts delivered via RSS feed when new content is published that is relevant to your search terms.
  • Bing Search – pull an RSS feed from Bing Search results page by adding “&format=rss” to the end of the results page URL.

Pro Tip:Check out this blog post for more information on adding an RSS feed to a Netvibes dashboard.

Twitter Listening

Tools to use for deeper analysis of stakeholders, followers, topics, and issues on Twitter.

Twitter Listening Tools
  • Hootsuite – set up an account to listen on Twitter through saved lists and searches. Also used for scheduling posts ahead of time.
  • Topsy – a search engine powered by tweets. It can be useful for analytics and trends as well.
  • Followerwonk – a Twitter analytics tool that lets you explore your social graph.
  • – analyzes your Twitter community to help you better understand relationships such as influencers and suggests who to follow/unfollow.
  • Twopcharts – can be used to find the most influential active Twitter users for cities around the world, as well as for widely spoken languages.
  • Tweetlevel – can be used to search and analyze Twitter data around topics, hashtags, links, and users.

    This can be especialy useful when digging into web traffic analytics because it can be hard to know what link people follow to get to your site from social media.


  • Facebook – search allows you to use hashtags, similar to Twitter, but it will also let you search for keyword searches and also for people. One thing to keep in mind when searching on Facebook, however, is that people’s personal privacy settings trump everything else. So, searching on Facebook may not produce the most robust or accurate results.

Putting it all Together

Once you’ve tested out some of these tools and see how they might work for you, provide insight, and answer questions about the people and conversations you are trying to connect with online, then the real fun begins.


  1. Listen online to the keywords, people and issues you’ve identified
  2. Identify opportunities
    • What topics are people talking about along with your issue?
    • What are people saying about your organization? Your People? Your Issue?
    • What vocabulary are people using?
    • How does it differ?
    • Who is talking about your issue?
    • Who is connecting with you?
    • Who is a big influence on the conversation that you want to be a part of?
  3. Incorporate into you communications strategy
    • Some ways to incorporate what you learn from listening include:

    • Connect with influencers
    • Share the other’s work and thoughts, crediting them of course
    • Use language, style, and frequency of messaging that seems to work to engage your stakeholders.
  4. Keep listening to see how it is working
  5. Practice and improve

Special Thanks

A very heartfelt and special thanks to the community of online listeners who have shared their tools and best practices with us in order for us to share with you. We are especially grateful to Matt Fitzgerald and the team at Upwell, as well as to Susan Tenby, the Online Community and Social Media guru at Caravan Studios, for their commitment to listening and sharing best practices with the community.

Have a favorite social media monitoring tool or tip you’d like to share? Leave a comment or send us a tweet! We’ll be listening!

The Listening Cycle, Part I

By jessica on February 14, 2014

Beyonce wants you to listen

Beyonce says Listen


The listening cycle has been co-written by Dirk Slater from Fabriders. Dirk has two decades of experience supporting social justice movements and is a nice guy to boot. You can find him on Twitter @fabrider. You can also find the version of this article on the Fabriders site here.

Social media has changed the way we consume information. Most people will learn about world news or major events on social media before they learn about it from anywhere else. For advocacy and activist organizations it provides huge value as it allows them to get messaging out without having to get it noticed and vetted by major media outlets. However, the real power in social media is not about broadcasting but in its ability to allow advocates and activists to listen and understand campaign stakeholders and key audiences. This allows them to craft messaging that meets them where they are at.

We’ve been huge fans of the ‘Big Listening’ techniques shared by Upwell and have talked about them extensively in webinars and trainings that we’ve produced on social media. What we wanted to do in this post is present a ‘how-to’ on listening within the context of an advocacy campaign.

This blog post will teach you how to:
  • Identify key stakeholders in your campaign and where you can find them online.
  • Look for discussions either directly about or related to your issue.
  • Learn the vocabulary being used so that you can craft messaging that will engage stakeholders rather than alienate them.
  • How to get started:

    Before using any technology it’s critical to know who your key stakeholders are in your campaign and what you would like them to do. To be clear, when we use the term ‘stakeholder,’ we are talking about the people who are impacted and/or involved in your campaign. Use the Pyramid and Half Wheel Exercise to understand who your stakeholders are and what tactics you want to use to engage them. Once you’ve identified the key stakeholders in your campaign, you know who you want to listen to online.

    Next, you will need to identify what you are listening for. For this you will need to start with some brainstorming and then do some online detective work.

    Using this Campaign Listening Template to capture what you find, list out the different keywords and people associated with your organization or campaign. Try to make a list of anything that someone might mention when talking about you, your organization, issue, or campaign.

    Keywords to listen to may include:
    Organization(s) involved Spokespeople for or against the issue
    Executive Director or CEO Names of campaigns, propositions, or programs that you support
    Key leader(s) of the campaign Events, protests, or actions that you’ve been a part of
    Any #hashtags you’ve created or used frequently to contribute to online dialogue about your cause.

    The Campaign Listening Matrix Template was developed as a collaboration between Aspiration and Fabriders. We used our combined past experience of working with campaigners and listening online to inform the development of this document. That said, it has not yet been tested in the wild. Try it out and let us know how it is useful to you or how you have tweaked it to work better for your campaign.

    We’ve put together this Example Campaign Listening Matrix to help show how you might fill the template out for your own campaign.

    You may have keywords you want to listen to online that don’t quite fit into the categories on the template we’ve provided. That’s okay, list them out anyway. Each organization and campaign is different, trust your instincts.

    After you’ve figured out what keywords you are listening for, look at where your stakeholders are online and notice how they are talking about your issue. You’ll want to visit and listen to stakeholders in all three groups from the half wheel exercise, allies, neutral, and opposition. Go to their websites, blogs, social media accounts, interviews, articles, and papers published online, and use the template to list out the terms they are using to talk about your issue.

    As you list these out, look for the most common terms that they use. These terms are keywords, or the words that have the most significance in how they talk about things. Some organizations may need to create two keyword columns, one that lists the current vocabulary terms and the other that lists the desired terms you’d like each group to use.

    Testing… testing

    Now that you have some search terms, it’s worth using google on them to test out your assumptions. As you search each of the keywords, look for clues that let you know how different stakeholder groups are talking about your issue or campaign. Do the results support your assumptions? Whether yes or no, this should inform how you use the vocabulary terms in your messaging to connect with different conversations happening online.

    Let’s walk through an example

    If you are a sex worker advocate, and are actively promoting sex work as ‘work,’ then you would know that your allies are probably using the term “sex worker” and opposition tend to use the word “prostitute”. Neutral parties who are less clear about the terms would be using both “sex workers” or “prostitute”, interchangeably.

    Words that people use to describe sex workers give insight into their attitude, feeling, respect for the people.
      Allies Neutral Opponents
    Search Terms “sex worker” Both, “Sex worker”
    or “prostitute”

    Pro Tip: If I use advanced search function, then I can specify if I want to search for results with both terms or one without the other.

      What I can learn from listening:

      Listen. Understand. Act.

      Image source: highersights, flickr

    • If I’m searching on google for references to “sex work” I want to think about using either of those two terms depending on the what stakeholders I want to learn more about.
    • Are there surprises or challenges to my assumptions? Who are the loudest voices of support or opposition? Any new stakeholders that I should consider?
    • What other terms or issues are people using when they talk about “sex workers”? How about when they use “prostitute”? How can I incorporate those terms and issues into my messaging to be a greater part of the conversations already happening online?

    In this example, if we look at both “sex worker” and prostitute – we get a huge number of results. If we wanted to find results for “sex worker” but without any use of “prostitution” that number is far lower. And if we look for “prostitute” without “sex worker” the number is way bigger. So clearly there’s a lot more work to be done on getting people to respect sex work as work – but this gives us a picture of how often the language is used on the internet.

    As you learn words that your stakeholders use you can use and adjust the Campaign Listening Template to keep track of them.

    Who? What? Now, Where?

    The other side of the coin is to keep track of where these discussions are happening and where these stakeholders are actually talking about your issue. So once you have identified who they are in the half-wheel and pyramid exercise you can look to see where they are online.

    Organizers review keywords

    Image source: dirkslater, flickr

    So if you have identified new stakeholders, you’ll want to do more detective work about where they are online, and again look to see:

    • Do they have a Twitter feed?
    • Are they a Facebook user?
    • Do they use blogs or online forums?

    It’s also helpful to think about who influences your stakeholders and who they follow online.

    • Where do they get their news and information from?
    • Whose information are they sharing?
    • What #hashtags are they using and responding to?

    Update your tracking documents by keeping track of their online presence. Writing things like each group’s Twitter username down now will save you time later when from you are using different tools to listen online.

    By first identifying your key stakeholders, then identifying the vocabulary they are using online to talk about your issues you are better able to keep up with the conversations that you need to be a part of. All of this better informs your ability to influence the dialog and encourage allies to engage deeper with your cause and neutral parties to become supporters. It may even inform your tactics and strategies of neutralizing the influence of people in opposition to your cause.

    Where from here?

    For some of the tips to engage in conversations online after you’ve been listening, check out these Social Source Commons blog posts “I’m Monitoring Social Media… Now what?” and “Pain, Passion, Fame, Fun”.

    Next week we will release part 2 of the listening cycle, containing key tools you can use to make ‘listening’ easier.

    We’d love to hear how listening online has helped you learn and engage your stakeholders more effectively?

    Text Messaging for Grassroots Community Organizing

    By Jordan Ramos on January 30, 2014
    Text messaging is more accessible than ever and can be a powerful tool in direct community organizing.

    Text messaging can have a huge impact on movements by enabling always-ready access to information

    Is Text Messaging Right for Your Work?

    Short Message Service (SMS) can be an effective method for communicating and interacting with a relatively large audience of supporters in a direct and engaging way. Despite their reputation for being exclusively the domain of large-scale fundraising – or even Stupid, Pointless, and Annoying Messages (SPAM) – mass text messaging services have great potential to be used in grassroots community organizing in a way that can greatly benefit your mission (and your community) in the long run.

    Text messaging technology is old, simple, and cheap enough for it to have become by far the most widely adopted form of electronic communication, even in rural regions without internet connectivity. Even where coverage is too spotty for a phone call, a text message will always come through as soon as coverage becomes available. Because it requires only the most basic infrastructure, SMS is often the tool of choice for low-capacity and community-organized projects such as citizen reporting and journalism, connecting people with doctors and educators, allowing lending and payments over long distances, and providing farmers with agricultural price updates.

    Just a few use-cases:

         Harassment reporting and map

         FrontlineSMS Projects: Legal advice, mobile payments, education

         Mobile Clinic communications

         Hurricane Sandy Relief: Occupy SMS connects aid with those in need

         Text Messaging boosts farmer incomes in India

    Why Text Messaging Is More Powerful Than You May Think

    Text messages are great for communicating with people on a closer and more informal level than is possible through e-mail or even a phone call, and it is far easier to actually engage your audience. Unlike most other forms of communication, text messaging is:
    1. Intimate/Direct

    Unlike e-mail, where many people delete far more messages than they read, most people still read every text message they receive and keep the ones they need for later reference. Specifying distinct command words that your SMS service will recognize also makes it simple for recipients to reply as soon they receive a message (or later) if they are interested.

    1. Immediate

    At a maximum of 160 characters per message, messages are small enough to be received a few seconds after they are sent.

    1. Always on, Everywhere

    People who have a cell phone often carry it with them at all times, meaning they can be out and moving and still receive, read, and even respond to your message.

    1. Accessible

    This applies both to the users/community members/constituents who subscribe to your messages, and to the experience of you and your organization. In the United States, 91% of adults carry a cell phone capable of text messaging. On top of that, it is cost effective to both send and receive text messages.

    All services can be set up to use rule-based logic, where it checks to see if conditions are true or false, then determine an action based on that.

    Text Messaging Services — The ‘Brains’ Behind the Operation

    Clearly it’s not possible to text message every one of your contacts individually, let alone read and process all of the responses you receive, and group messages pose obvious privacy issues and require trust that no member is going to spam the rest of the participants (because you gave them their phone numbers).

    So, what can you do, then?

    There are countless tools that fall under the category of ‘SMS Services’. (Short Message Service Service — like ATM Machine, or PIN Number— is kind of redundant.) Each tool has the same set of core functions:

    • Send/receive messages
    • Manage contacts and groups of contacts
    • Set up rules for how the service reacts to keywords and messages

    The main differences between tools are that they vary heavily in:

    • What is required to run it,
    • Where it actually runs (both the service’s ‘thinking’—which can be a smartphone, a personal computer, or ‘cloud’ server— and its texting ability—which can be any phone [with cell service], a GSM modem, or ‘cloud’ server),
    • Cost of messages and the service itself,
    • Set-up (time and energy), and
    • Scale.

    While we won’t be addressing any specific tools here, at the end of this post we’ve included the set of tools we have tested and used in projects.

    Use Responsibly

    While SMS is possibly the most effective way to reach out to people you are trying to support through your work, if used irresponsibly —which is easy to do without meaning to— you risk alienating your community and supporters (making them former supporters) and can breach into the realm of becoming illegal SPAM. We want to help you avoid doing that and also make sure your supporters feel comfortable participating by maintaining the following:
    1. Consent

    In order to send multiple messages to a person, you must earn their consent to do so. If you have a list of participants for one of your events and their phone numbers, you are allowed to send out a blanket text message offering instructions TO consent if they choose. If they do not respond, you cannot send them any additional text messages. After consent is earned, it’s always good practice to respond to their consent with clear instructions to withdraw their consent at any time. This way they won’t feel trapped!

    1. Content, Tone, and Frequency

    Content: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who consent to receive a particular type of information (example: upcoming events) usually only want to receive that type of information. Messages should be as brief as possible to address the major topic of your message. Don’t make them read a whole paragraph! If you are communicating several types of information, you should also provide ways for your audience to opt in to each type.

    Tone: When you’re talking to humans about human things, it’s perfectly appropriate to talk like a human. If you want to ask people if they are planning on attending an upcoming event, ask them like you would normally, but ask for specific responses to communicate ‘yes’, ’no’, or ‘maybe’ so your service can read it and make it useful for you. People feel more comfortable responding to a message when they feel like it comes from a community member rather than a bank!

    Frequency: Messages should be consistently spaced and as infrequent as possible to communicate your goals. An even better practice would be to provide a way for your audience to change options for how often they receive your messages, so they know when to expect them.

    1. Privacy

    There are two reasons for maintaining the privacy of your contacts: 1) To protect them by allowing them to respond (relatively) anonymously, and 2) So they do not feel that if they DO opt in, they are going to receive messages from third parties or other contacts.

    In some cases, being found to be associated with your cause may put supporters at risk — for example: if your community consists of undocumented workers, you MAY not want their identities known. Additionally, participant-to-participant communication might actually be a legitimate short-term use, if personal information about participants is concealed by your service.

    Getting Started

    Questions to consider when choosing a service:
    • Who is my audience? How large?
    • How do I collect contact information from participants?
    • What do I need the service to do?
    • What do different services require or cost?
    • How do I maintain the privacy of participants?
    • Do I need to be able to change the service in real-time?

    Here is my rough guide to help decide which service might be appropriate for your specific use [PDF]


    Below are the tools I have tried, and my assessments of many of them here [PDF]

    For further reading check out Tactical Tech’s Mobiles-in-a-Box: Tools and Tactics for Mobile Advocacy

    Creative Commons Attributions: Arrows designed by Tobias Klepp, Share designed by Anand A Nair, Protest designed by Gilad Fried, Cell Phone designed by Alex Hartmann, Cloud Settings designed by Agus Purwanto, Laptop designed by Olivier Guin, Light Bulb designed by Ema Dimitrova, Settings designed by Joe Mortell, Tips designed by Lemon Liu, Thought Bubble designed by Irene Hoffman, Radio Tower designed by Jon Anderson, NFC Phone designed by Andrew Forrester, Comment designed by Icomatic, Iphone designed by Hedie Assadi Joulaee, Signal designed by Alex Fuller.

    All other glyphs fall under Public Domain from the Noun Project.

    Trust in the Cloud

    By misty on December 4, 2013


    Are you considering using the Cloud at your nonprofit organization? What are some implications of the use of the Cloud for nonprofits and social justice movements?

    (Hold up, if first you want to get caught up on “What is the Cloud?“? Read from Mashable or LearnFree.)

    Calling it “The Cloud” is misleading

    The Cloud is sold as a nicely packaged solution to store your data in one secure place. The reality of our current Cloud use is different. Really, the Cloud is a densely fragmented patchwork of services, models, and tools that you use online to store, edit, and share information.

    As technology users and consumers, and as social justice workers, we like to think about how storing and sharing information online may effect our organization or the people we serve.

    We’ve put together a few thoughts over time. The following list is by no means all inclusive but hopefully presented as a path to start conversations. We are inspired to collaborate with you around the awareness of shared responsibility as activists using Cloud technologies.

    Aspiration’s Cloud Considerations Checklist

    1. Follow the Hollywood Marriage Rule

    Technology relationships do not last forever. Technology changes. every. day. When selecting technology, think in terms of future seperations.

    Questions to consider…

    • Can we get our data out?
    • Is our data really our data, or did we give it over to someone else?
    • Is our data secure?
    • Who else can see our data on this technology?

    2. The Cloud offers real benefits, but much remains unsolved

    Benefits Unresolved
    Makes new collaborations possible
    Increases availability of info
    Improves efficieny in communciation
    Allows for mobility
    Maintaining unified online identity
    Undetermined control of data
    Unclear third party actors
    Fuzzy open standards

    3. Most cloud solutions are uniquely unleveraged relationships

    Most cloud providers hold too many cards. They are uniquely leveraged in how much data they have and what they can do with it. Better checks and balances systems need to be put in place.

    4. Your DATA is your digital power

    Putting organizations files, contacts, and data in the cloud raises rather than lowers the stakes on protecting it. If it really matters, keep-up-to-date versions locally, along with Plan B.

    5. The Cloud is in diapers

    The idea of the cloud is still young. Don’t trailblaze or make big bets if you don’t have too. Rather, model on others’ success. Time will tell and teach.

    Nonprofit Brainstorm: What’s in Your Cloud?

    Before considering the Cloud or reviewing your current Cloud use, a good place to start is figuring out where you currenty put all your data as an organization. Start with these questions:

    • Where do you have accounts online?
    • Where do you put files online or contact information?
    • What internet services are you using to house your data?

    When you start by taking an inventory of where you are at, you can get a real sense of where you stand rather than getting paranoid (or nihilistic) about your cloud use ;).


    Thank you to Gunner for sharing his tips on the Cloud through many nonprofit technology trainings and inspiring the blog post. Thank you to Jessica Steimer for helping to get our data house in order.


    What are other things to consider before putting your data in the cloud?

    until next time,

    Social Media Toolkit Released by Greenlining

    By misty on November 5, 2013

    Greenlining Social Media ToolkitWe admire JC and Braelan, the good folks over at the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley. Today, we want to share out their newest publication, The Art of Listening: Social Media Toolkit for Nonprofits. The strategy guide is filled with social media strategies and tactics to really build a foundation for your social media presence as a nonprofit.

    Is there anything better than to hear from an actual nonprofit (who has gone through the hoops) about how nonprofit technology works and doesn’t work for them?

    And, it comes at a perfect time for us ;)! We’ve been thinking a lot about crafting messages, creating content, and building self-serve templates to help organizations plan their online messages. Read Engaging Network Hubs or A Template for Calendaring Your Messaging for more.

    And then, BAM! We saw this! In their toolkit, Greenlining provides sample templates to help you plan your content. All photos are from Greenlining’s Social Media Toolkit and we recommend a download.

    To start, if you are strapped for time to brainstorm content ideas in the beginning of each week or month, use this template to get your content generating house in order.

    Greenlining's Social Media Toolkit: Weekly Content Ideas

    Greenlining’s Social Media Toolkit: Brainstorm Content Ideas

    Then, use the following as a sample to plan out how those ideas will get distributed across your online channels, like Facebook, Twitter, or email.


    Greenlining’s Social Media Toolkit: Plan Your Content

    Practical steps and bite size templates like these help to put ideas into action.

    We’ve had the pleasure of sitting on the sidelines over the last several years watching Greenlining work hard to discover how social media can help build an online community and shape dialogue about a topic.

    And now, they turned those learning lessons into something useful to share with fellow nonprofits! Thank you JC for getting at the heart of helping social justice advocates and organizations communicate and listen online.

    How do you manage your weekly content and social media presence? Any tips or tricks to pass along to fellow nonprofits?


    Plus, share the social media toolkit and tag @greenlining!

    Preparing Your Computer for Translation Purposes

    By JC Sanchez on September 12, 2013

    Here at Aspiration, we love to use free open source software, so our go to office suite is LibreOffice. For those of you who do not know what LibreOffice is, it is basically the equivalent to Microsoft Office suite, but better because it is free!

    I was recentlyHelloHola doing some work in Spanish. If you have worked in another language other than English in a text editor, you know right off the bat that the software is not, by default, set up to automatically recognize and spell check your work. To enable the spell check you have to first select your language under the “Tools” options and then ideally, boom you would be done! However, this was not the case for me.

    Just like the Microsoft Office suite, LibreOffice also supports different languages. Just as we would expect, sometimes open source software does not work the way we want it to function. Since the “change your language” method did not work, I had to look for a way to make spell check work. If this method already worked for you read no more, but if it did not, fear not! I got some tools for you!

    Language Packages

    In order to have multiple languages ready for editing on your computer, your text editing programs work with what are known as “language packages.” These language packages are dictionaries that programmers compiled to work with text editing programs, such as LibreOffice, to enable spell check or also in some cases they can help change the entire computer’s interface into a different language.

    Finding These Packages

    There are several places where you can find them, but the easiest method I found was through Synaptic. Synaptic is a graphical package management program that makes life easier when dealing with packages. Usually, language packages can be downloaded from your operating system’s website or also through a terminal. If you choose to go through these routes, it might be a little more challenging since it involves a lot of work, but the beauty of Synaptic is that it decreases all your work to about 3 clicks.

    Note for Linux and Debian Users: First thing to point out before continuing, LibreOffice on Windows and Apple computers does a good job of downloading and apply the language package selected. It was with Debian that my roadblock occurred, and I would assume that this might also occur with other Linux based systems. I know Debian by default has Synaptic installed, but for Ubuntu users, sorry, Synaptic is no longer installed by default in Ubuntu 11.10. If you have anything before 11.10 you should be fine, otherwise you are going to need to install Synaptic.

    From the web digging that I did I found several different language packages, but not all of these packages worked with LibreOffice. Even though not all of these language packages worked, don’t count them out yet. They are still useful with other text editing programs or with your computer’s user interface.

    The List

    Below I have listed some of the language packages that I found with descriptions. I have also embedded a toolbox to the right:

    ispell – This is the most complete language package out to date. It is one of the most popular ones, but it will only work in plain text, LaTeX, sgml/html/xml, and nroff files. Also for those Emacs users, this would be your best pick. Additionally, it did not work with LibreOffice. NOTE: This package does not come with dictionaries, so you will have to install an additional language package. You shouldn’t have any problems finding them, all you have to do is search for the following in Synaptic: the letter “i” followed by the language you are looking for and you should get a result. If nothing comes up it could be that you misspelled something or maybe the dictionary has not been compiled yet, sorry. :(

    ispanish – This is one example of an additional language package that you would have to download for ispell. This particular package is the Spanish dictionary. Again, if you install this package without ispell it will not work. You must install ispell first

    aspell – This language package is fairly recent. It was supposed to replace the leading language package, “ispell.” It shares the same abilities as ispell, but it is better at handling personal dictionaries. However, aspell did not work for me in LibreOffice and it might be the go to package once they get it to work with LibreOffice. Well if it is your go to text editing program, otherwise you should not have any issues using this package.

    aspell-es – Just like ispell, aspell requires additional dictionaries to function. This particular example is of a Spanish dictionary. If Spanish is not what you are looking for just follow the following formula to find your language: “aspell-” (including the dash) followed by the first two letters of the language you are trying to find.

    myspell-es – This is the only language package that worked with LibreOffice. This is a standalone package so it does not need a “myspell” to be installed first.

    Although only one language package works with LibreOffice, I still recommend installing the other packages because it won’t hurt to have a computer that is ready to spell check in any program you use, besides they are easy to find and install in Synaptic.

    Well that is all that I have so far. If you have other language packages let us know! Also let us know what you think!

    Embarking on a Quest for a Tech Solution

    By jessica on June 20, 2013

    Embarking on a quest can be daunting. Embarking on a quest for a new technology project is especially so.

    On trips and quests in life, we often start by finding a map or connecting with someone else who has been down that road.

                   How to Write a Nonprofit
                    Request for Proposals (RFP)

    Unfortunately, for nonprofit organizations trying to find new technology tools, often there is not such a clear way to begin. Also, there are a plethora of new technology tools available everyday, there are many myths about technology and tech experts, and there are often inconsistencies within organizations around the vision for the technology deliverable.

    Here at Aspiration, we are in awe of the on-the-ground work being done by nonprofits and community organizations. At the end of the day, this mission-critical work is priority, and technology decisions should support the same.

    That said, we believe that the Request for Proposal (RFP) process is a critical part in any enterprise-level nonprofit tech sourcing adventure.

    Taking the time to first articulate what they are looking for, helps nonprofits to save time and money by pinpointing what specific needs they have for the tech tool to fulfill. A Request for Proposal can help staff identify and develop a clear and shared vision for what they hope this new technology platform will accomplish.

    The material that goes into an RFP is also valuable fodder for engaging with the ultimate users of any new solution. It is a concrete touch point for asking questions like “is this what you need” and “what did we forget?

    A properly specified RFP is an essential tool in the backpack of anyone hoping to acquire accurately specified technology.

    An RFP represents:

    • A clear statement of your vision, ensuring that your organizational vision and the vision for the tech deliverable make sense.
    • An understanding of the processes that this tech tool needs to support at your organization.
    • A shared vocabulary, or bridge of understanding, that unifies project stakeholders and which ideally spans the life of the project and beyond.

    Aspiration has worked with many nonprofits over the years on their search for technology solutions, as well as with many technologists trying to develop technology tools that meet the unique needs of nonprofits. Aspiration Executive Director Allen Gunn shares his knowledge and experience in this webinar, “How to write a Nonprofit RFP“.

    For more information about putting together an RFP, including a template to get your started, check out:

    The concept of RFPs can be daunting to those who have not authored one, and even for those who understand the importance. This webinar attempts to demystify some of the confusion about how to write one, what to include, and when one is needed.

    Nonprofits have used the Aspiration RFP Process for projects such as:

    • Web site design and redesign, specifying target audiences and the specific benefits and utility the new or enhanced site will provide.
    • Database or CRM implementation, articulating what information needs to be managed and how it will support programmatic and operational objectives.
    • Vetting a technology strategy by describing how a tool or platform will connect the full range of stakeholders.

    Preparing an RFP, just like preparations for a trip, can help you to arrive pleasantly at your desired destination. And because technology deliverables are just milestones on a longer journey, RFPs can serve as valuable touchstones in your longer mission trek.

    So, what are your thoughts on this often-debated topic?

    What problems have you encountered when trying to find a tech solution?

    And what experiences have you had in trying to employ RFPs in your processes?

    Crash Course in Online Activism

    By misty on April 26, 2013

    Are you creating an online campaign with a group of young folks? Are you interested in becoming an activist?

    If you have an important story to share online, start here!

    Watch the video to get a 3 minute e-Advocacy crash course, What is e-Advocacy?, produced by Jennifer Dueñas from the Ryse Center’s Youth Organizing Team in Richmond, California. The video breaks down the ‘Four Processes for Sustainable Online Impact’ and gives you ideas to help get the word out online.

    What is e-Advocacy?

    Produced by Jennifer Dueñas from the YO Hub

    CANFIT says, “Props to Ryse Center’s Organizing Hub for a fresh video on E-advocacy and online organizing!” We couldn’t agree more!

    We have a huge admiration for the Richmond Youth Organizing Team, CANFIT, and the Ryse Center in Richmond! Through a series of workshops and trainings, Aspiration had an amazing time working with them to build momentum for increased youth involvement in online organizing. CANFIT’s MO Youth e-Advocates Project engages youth in “e-Advocacy” and works directly with youth to expose them and their adult allies to the fast-evolving world of “online campaigning”. Check out more information from CANFIT on the Youth E-Advocacy project:

    Download training materials on the Four Processes for Sustainable Online Impact.

    Follow the @RichmondYOT on Twitter to keep up with their game changing and community building work!

    Pain, Passion, Fame, and Fun

    By misty on January 2, 2013

    Have you been thinking about how to get people to care about the information you are putting online?

    As you begin the process to engage people in the offline or online world, you have to figure out how your messaging reaches the people you care about by tapping into what they actually really care about. On top of that, you have to figure out not only how to reach your audience but also to balance the priority of these messages for your staff’s work time.

    Of course, this is easier said than done.

    To help get through this hurdle, we have a couple filters we like to run our online messages through to really think if the content might be engaging, based on what we are trying to get done vs. what other people’s motivations really are. We named these so-called “filters” the two P’s and two F’s.

    What do we mean by that? Let me tell you.

    The 2 P’s and 2 F’s are ways to think about if your online messages inspire action and give value to your constituency. We describe them as the following:

    Pain Pain is motivation. What causes your people pain? and; what encourages them through their struggle?
    Passion Passion drives the work. Tap into your people that care about what you care about.
    Fame Weave your community into your messaging. Give people online fame and draw attention to things besides yourself.
    Fun Celebrate your work! Convey the joy and emotion in what you’re doing.


    To understand your stakeholders is key. An easy way to start is by asking, What causes them the most pain? What needs are not met in your community?

    Find common areas of pain among your people. Then, use this knowledge to identify how those pain points are being messaged in your website and your email newsletters. Figure out points of crisis or injury to identify points of need.


    There are always a group of people that care about what you are working on. The goal is to tap into that passion that already exists in your network and give voice to the people that are feeling what you are feeling.

    When you tap into people’s passions, make sure to always give them the opportunity for a small amount of ownership (Tag in a photo, Name check, Invite to an event as a guest, Ask to share with friends). The act of acknowledgement will give you the space to build an online presence engaging folks with continued small, well-defined asks. This leads us to Fame…


    Weave your base and your community into your online narrative and messaging. Organizations are in a paradigm where they have to talk about themselves and their successes for funding purposes. How can we turn this around and highlight people in your network that are doing amazing work around the issues that you’re collectively working on?

      Use Fame to bridge Online and Offline Work

    • If you want people to come to your protest – you better have gone to a couple of protests.
    • Making people part of your narrative in a noncommittal way through social media and online communications gives them “fame” and by default engages them more.
    • Using the jpeg – posting people’s pictures on the Internet invokes the feeling of getting your name or picture in the local paper. It builds excitement, engagement, ownership.


    You must convey the joy in what you are doing, even when you are working on serious issues. Look for the celebration of life or paint a narrative around what happens when your message/movement works. Build a transactional relationship that highlights the best case scenario and shows what the world can be – based on what actions that you want people to take.

    People want to join movements that look like they are having fun.

    Value Delivery is Key

    The 2p’s & 2f’s can be used to not only continue to engage already existing networks but also GROW networks by connecting with more people, which we sometimes forget or find too hard to do.

    At the end of the day, no matter what tricks or tips we apply, we must remember to always ask ourselves what value we are providing or creating for the people we are serving and if it’s what they really want.

    Special Thanks to notetakers from the CA Tech Fest in Fresno and Gunner for providing thoughts on this blog post.

    How do you motivate your people? What really gets them interested?

    We’d love to hear more ideas!

    Making a ‘Tweet This’ Button with # and @

    By jessica on September 5, 2012

    Are you trying to set up a “Tweet This” link in your email newsletter but it keeps looking funny or not including all the text?

    Last year, Matt wrote one of Social Source Common’s most popular blog posts that details Creating “Share This on Facebook/Twitter” Links.
    The post includes what code is needed to create an auto-tweet or auto-share link.

    In this post we will dive deeper into “tweet this” links, including:

    Why not use the buttons supplied by
    Twitter button builder?

    Twitter offers an “easy” way to create your own button and twitter developers provide information about creating and using tweet buttons. The problem with buttons built in Twitter’s button generator is that they require Javascript. While this works fine for websites, Javascript is either stripped, or disabled in most email clients, because it is commonly used by spammers. So, if you include a ‘tweet this’ button in your HTML email newsblast it is likely that it just won’t work. Also, your email blasting service may flag any HTML code containing Javascript.

    Why do I have to use these special characters just to do a #&%@ tweet?

    When you create a “share this” link on twitter starting with
    <a href=”…“> you are creating an URL that leads to a tweet composition page where text is already entered. That means that the text you want to show up in the tweet needs to be part of the link.

    When you pass information through an URL link, you need to make sure it uses only allowed characters like:

    • letters
    • numbers
    • special characters that have meaning in the URL

    Any other characters in your tweet link will mess things up.

    For instance, sometimes we use a / symbol when we make a tweet to save precious character spaces, like “I have a love/hate relationship with my office chair.” Usually, this works fine. But, we cannot put a / symbol in a ‘share this’ tweet link in email newsletters. The / symbol is mistaken as something else and your ‘tweet this’ link will not work properly. To that end, we must use other funky ways to tell the code exactly what we want. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it, I promise.

    This funky thing we do so we can use symbols in our tweet is called “URL encoding“. URL Encoding is special combinations of characters in a URL that are interpreted as other characters.

    Share on Twitter Links that include # and @

    Creating a HTML link to automatically fill in some Tweet text is pretty simple and you will avoid all that Javascript trouble. You just need to know some additional code to stick into the HTML link code. You may want to check out Matt’s original post about creating share this on twitter links first.

    Some of the most common symbols needed for a good tweet are also those that cause problems in the URL code. They include the #Hashtag symbol and the @Mention symbol.

    Common Characters for a Tweet:
    URL Encoding Character Description
    %20 space a space between words in a tweet
    %23 # hashtag to categorize tweet
    %40 @ at sign to mention another twitter user

    Let’s take a look:

    To make a link that works, just replace spaces and special characters in your tweet text with their URL encoding equal.

    For a link like this: Share This on Twitter

    That sends the user to this:

    Example Share This Tweet

    …use the following code:

      <a href="
      %20links%20for%20%23Email%20Newsletter%20from%20%40SSC_Tweets%20&url=">Share This on Twitter</a>
    • Blue is the HTML code
    • Green is the code that gets Twitter to generate a tweet through a link
    • Purple are the URL encoding reserved characters
    • Red is the text of the tweet
    • Orange is the URL that will be included in the tweet
    • Black is what the link will say

    Make a Button

    If you want to make it a button, just make the link an image instead of text.

    For a button like this: Tweet This

    Use code like this:

      <a href="
      %20links%20for%20%23Email%20Newsletter%20from%20%40SSC_Tweets%20&URL="><img src="” alt=”Tweet This” title=”Tweet This" /></a>
    • Blue is the HTML code
    • Green is the code that gets Twitter to generate a tweet through a link
    • Purple are the URL encoding reserved characters
    • Red is the text of the tweet
    • Orange is the URL that will be included in the tweet
    • Aqua is the image link
    • Black is what the link will say if pictures are not loaded

    If you found this post useful, go ahead and Tweet about it!

    What other tips or tricks do you have for creating “share this” links or buttons?


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