Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Your Automated Web Processes Working For You?

By Heather Fignar

Recently, I've been inundated with mail from a now defunct email box. In addition to all the email newsletters and feeds that I subscribe to, I have had my inbox cluttered with someone else's subscription choices.

In an ideal world, the former owner of the box would have changed all the subscription to a new email address. However, this exercise gave me an in-depth look into hundreds of subscription processes. It wasn't pretty. Here are some general observations on the good, bad and ugly -- not necessarily in that order.

  • In more than 90 percent of cases, the landing pages were so non-descript that the organizational affiliation was unclear.
  • In particular, Lyris applications displayed a page that says: "Your email address will be removed" and then asks, "Are you sure?" But the page, question, font and Yes button were so bland that I missed them the first couple times and had to repeat the process.
  • Some unsubscribe pages were also non-descript, non-personalized forms that required me to enter the email address. Lance Armstrong Foundation was one of the few organizations that had personalized the page with a header. Others had no identifying copy at all.
  • Several groups require an account login before allowing me to unsubscribe.
  • Some landed me on a page with the organizations header that simply said, "You have been unsubscribed. Thank you." Some provided a more in-depth customized form that allows the subscriber to differentiate between the topic and all organizational emails.
  • One of Howard Dean's emails had a sentence that read, "Click here to unsubscribe from this mailing list." But, it wasn't linked.
  • FeedBlitz was the only unsubscribe page that readily gave me an option to change my email address without unsubscribing and re-subscribing
The saddest finding was the lack of effort put in by more organizations to customize these crucial relational pages. Unfortunately, most signup processes are just as generic. We would recommend that organizations spend the time and energy to customize the process. If constituents want to leave the list, make sure it isn't hard, but also provide a compelling reason for them to stay. At the very least, identify yourself.

***Heather Fignar is a managing partner with NPAdvisors in Warrenton, Va. Her email is The organization's Web site is
This article is from NPT TechnoBuzz, a publication of The NonProfit Times. Subscribe to NPT TechnoBuzz or any of our other enewsletters and get the latest nonprofit news and stories delivered to your inbox.

About Face at FaceBook Is A Good Thing

By Holly Ross
There was a lot of hoopla over the recent announcement by Facebook about its Social Ads program, called Beacon. And by hoopla, I mean near hysteria-level complaining.

The blogosphere was aghast at the idea of the opt-out based advertising scheme. Apparently, the fine folks at FaceBook have seen the error of their ways. Mark Zuckerberg posted to the FaceBook blog:

About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.

In response, they are implementing a couple of interesting changes:
  • First, you will have to opt-in to display any Beacon advertising in your news stream, etc., instead of having to opt-out. Additionally, if you fail to respond to the opt-in request that is generated when you interact with a Beacon site, the system does not display the advertising. This is a significant and good change.
  • Second, you can opt-out of the dang thing to begin with. Just go to your FaceBook privacy settings and click on the link for External Web sites.

***This item is from the blog of Holly Ross, executive director of NTEN, a technology support organization. It was edited slightly. Email her at The Web site is

This article is from NPT TechnoBuzz, a publication of The NonProfit Times. Subscribe to NPT TechnoBuzz or any of our other enewsletters and get the latest nonprofit news and stories delivered to your inbox.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Salvation Army Scammers To Serve Time

By Marla E. Nobles
The federal government sent another ringing message to charity scammers thinking about taking advantage of public goodwill during times of disaster: you scam, you serve.

Two Houston brothers each were sentenced last month to more than eight years for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft as a result of fraudulently operating a Web site that claimed to raise money on behalf of the Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina victims. The fraudulent Web site, prosecutors said, collected more than $48,000 before anyone caught on.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Steven Stephens, 24, to serve a total of 111 months. Bartholomew Stephens, 27, will serve a total of 105 months. A jury convicted the pair after a four-day trial in June.

The Stephens case is just one example of the more than 2,400 Katrina relief Web sites believed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to be fraudulent.

More recently, as Southern California burned this past October criminals began setting up bogus Web sites and soliciting donations. According to the FBI, in the days following the California wildfires fraudsters flooded the Internet with fake charity sites.

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