Archive - 2009

Best Videos of 2009
Pressing Corporations to Behave Better
Huffington Post Loses Its Way
Nonprofits Compete and Collaborate for Funds
Chase Community Giving on Facebook
Disrupting Philanthropy
Women, Social Media and Influence (cont'd)
Women, Social Media and Influence

Best Videos of 2009

My last post for this year will highlight my choices for the best videos by nonprofits and for causes of 2009.

But, first, I’d like to thank a few people who have enriched my life, taught and inspired me, and helped me in myriad ways this year — and hopefully will continue to do so next year:

1.  Beth Kanter – Beth is the best nonprofit blogger there is, hands down. But luckily for me she is more than that. She is my partner and co-author on our book, The Networked Nonprofit, that Wiley & Sons will release in late spring 2010. We have complimentary skills and perspectives — but most of all we have fun together, particularly as we spend copious amounts of time trying to decide whether to get dressed or clean the kitchen.

2. Lucy Bernholz – You can’t mention Lucy’s name without using the phrase, “super smart.” That’s simply who and what she is. She is courageous and forward thinking without ever diminishing anyone else’s contributions or skills. I learn something new and interesting every time I talk to her or read her blog. She is a unique thinker and we, as a sector, are lucky to have her on our side.

3.  Micah Sifry – I met Micah in 2003 at Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 conference and he has been my primary social media educator ever since. Micah challenges, nudges, supports and guides me constantly and consistently. His Personal Democracy Forum reflects his energetic curiously. It is also the only tech conference that I go to that consistently has equal representation of women as panelists and keynoters reflecting Micah’s unwavering egalitarianism.

Now, onto the best videos of 2009!  Here they are, in no particular order, enjoy.

1. The Anaheim Ballet. Actually any of their videos would do as they’re doing a marvelous job of letting us into their rehearsals and creative process:

2. Rory Sutherland: Lessons from an Ad Man. Of course, it’s very hard to pick any particular Ted Talk to include on the list as so many of them are brilliant. This one is hilarious and provides good stuff for nonprofit folks to ruminate on.

3. The Lost Generation. It’s important to watch this one all the way to the end.

4. United Breaks Guitars. Again, this one isn’t specifically a cause video, however, it is a perfect example of the ability of individual activists, in this case the singer Dave Carrol, to use videos to express their outrage – particularly against large, faceless corporations.

5. The story of charity:water. I’m hard pressed to think of another nonprofit that does a better job of storytelling than charity:water. Watch founder Scott Harrison, a master storyteller, do his thing in four minutes.

A great resources for outstanding nonprofit videos is DoGooderTV from the smart folks at C3 Communications (and don’t miss their great video on their home page also.)

Let me know which ones I missed.

Wishing everyone a safe, fulfilling, prosperous 2010!


Pressing Corporations to Behave Better

Oh, so many funding contests, so little time! My inbox is flooded by announcements about contests from companies like the Serious Good contest for nonprofits to win refurbished computer equipment, PayPal’s “Regift the Fruitcake” fundraising contest , Chase Bank’s Community Giving Contest, and now the big one, $50 million, from Pepsi’s Refresh Everything contest coming in 2010.

As you may have read, Chase has taken quite a bit of heat for their lack of transparency with their contest. I am a bit abashed about this as I lauded the effort initially because of the focus on local nonprofits as opposed to large national groups. I missed the alarming lack of transparency, like no leaderboard, which as Beth rightly points out is now standard practice for online voting and fundraising efforts. Worse, still, Chase apparently pulled a bait and switch according to Nathanial Whitemore on when they disqualified anti-choice and pro-Marijuana groups because they found their missions controversial. In my opinion, their lack of a transparent culture is really the culprit here.  There are no statements from them, no people to get out from behind the logo and talk about their choices and decisions. Chase is a huge fortress dictating the rules from on high.

So, what are nonprofits to do in the face of big money being made available by companies that are using social media but not necessarily using it well? Kjerstin Erickson writes on Social Edge that there are opportunity costs for organizations that enter contests. Asking one’s network to participate in contests means that the organization isn’t doing other things – like building relationships or writing grant proposals. It also means that the network isn’t doing other things, like crowdsourcing new programs.

However, in a year that seems certain to be dismal in terms of foundation funding, the large amounts of money that corporations are willing to give as part of their advertising and marketing efforts shouldn’t be ignored. Nonprofits should participate in the contests. But there is something that we can do, collectively, when corporations bring their old, proprietary, closed behavior online. We can state loudly and clearly what we expect in terms of normative behavior from the funders. We have the power of persuasion on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and email to nudge, encourage, recommend and, yes, shout when necessary, that the contest organizers practice good behavior.

C’mon corporate funders, get out from behind your logos, talk with us about the contest and the rules, admit your mistakes, tell us what you’re learning as well.


Huffington Post Loses Its Way

It was reported yesterday that the Huffington Post is giving advertisers the opportunity to “buy” comments in posts on Huffington and pay for tweets that become part of their Twitter stream. Of course, this is an absolutely horrible idea that runs counter to the fundamental principles of authenticity and equal participation that power social media.

Here is how one ad agency exec described it, “It’s interruptive, potentially, but it also presents an opportunity for the advertiser to say something worthwhile.”

I don’t think I need to say anything more.

What is so shocking about this idea is that it comes from Huffington, the darling of new media, not a terrified, old media newspaper. What’s going on?  Here’s what’s going on according to the Silicon Alley Insider: Greg Coleman, the president and chief revenue officer says he will double revenue in the next year and grow it by six times in the next three years.

Coleman’s pronouncement sounds like a that of a company ready to go public. We’ll focus all of our energy on hitting quarterly profit targets year after year after year. Huffington is, of course, a for profit venture. However, it was one with a soul — until now. The site has become the media equivalent of a big box store – everything here for one,  low price! And in the process it has lost site of what it set out to do; provide alternative, citizen voices on politics.

It now looks and sounds more like the mainstream media outlets that Arianna has long ridiculed than the pioneer that it once was. Which leads to flailing around like paid comments and tweets looking for new revenue streams regardless of their ethical fit with the site.

It’s too bad. It used to be a fun, irreverent, alternative voice for progressive politics.


Nonprofits Compete and Collaborate for Funds

A few readers of this blog and listeners to the Social Good podcast have asked why I am in favor of online funding contests, like Chase Bank’s Facebook Challenge which I wrote about last week.

However, at other times I have written about the cannibalistic effect of nonprofit organizations competing with one another for funds. And others, like Peter Dietz, have written compellingly about power of social media to support collaboration that is mutually beneficial rather than competitions that are a zero-sum game.

So, A. Fine, they asked, which is it: competitions or collaboration?

It’s both.

The contest are important because: 1. The contest deadlines and matching grants create a sense of urgency that small dollar donors can respond to in great numbers; 2. Organizations are competing less with other organizations and more within themselves to spur their own networks to action; 3. Being successful in these competitions requires organizations to work in open and connected ways that are counter-intuitive for organizations that view fundraising only through a competitive lens.

From the America’s Giving Challenge Assessment report that Beth and I wrote for The Case Foundation, we found that many organizations used the challenge as an opportunity to collaborate. Two organizations working on the same cause or in the same issue area often joined forces for the Giving Challenge. What these organizations knew intuitively was that bringing old proprietary attitudes and actions to these competitions would not serve their organizations well during competitions. This is particularly true since success in fundraising efforts using social media hinge on friends reaching out to friends to create a viral effect.  Trying to look “unique” or increase “market share” are counter productive in contests where winners built momentum based on the trust and relationships that they built with their online networks.

Hope that clears up any confusion about competition and collaboration.


Chase Community Giving on Facebook

Chase Bank is sponsoring a $5 million giving program for the holidays. Yup, that’s $5 MILLION they’re giving away on Facebook to nonprofits. Voting ends this Friday, December 11th.

What is so fun about watching the giving challenges and contests unfold is that there are constantly new wrinkles that folks are adding. My Social Good podcast this month was on the proliferation of these kinds of giving contests.

The Chase effort builds on America’s Giving Challenge and the Target’s Bullseye Gives Facebook giving effort had similarities and differences. The Giving Challenge provided matching grants to causes that raised the largest number of friends using Facebook and the Parade magazine site. The winners during both rounds of the Giving Challenge were small, often unstaffed, nonprofits. Bullseye had Facebook users vote for nonprofits to receive part of their $1 million prize based on a pre-selected group of nonprofits.

Chase has taken the level playing field of the Giving Challenge and combined it with the voting of Bullseye. But, Chase has also added an interesting twist by having over 500,000 local nonprofit organizations eligible for the voting. All of these eligible nonprofit organizations are all small, local organizations. One chooses an organization, or searches by zip code. The goal, for Chase, is to concentrate their giving on local communities. This is also part of their business strategy of developing stronger personal relationships in communities with branches of Washington Mutual Bank that they absorbed last year.

Go on over to Facebook and vote for a few of your favorite local nonprofits today, and then let’s see what comes next in terms of contests and giving.


Disrupting Philanthropy

Well, there, Lucy goes again being super smart! Lucy, Ed Skloot and Barry Varela of Duke University have just released a draft of their paper called “Disrupting Philanthropy.” I had read and commented on an earlier draft of the paper and am delighted to see how much furhter it has come along since.

Here are the highlights:

  • Reproducibility, remixability, and availability of information are possible with the digitization of data. For philanthropy this means greater transparency on who is doing what and fundamental changes in how and where philanthropic capital flows;
  • The long tail of philanthropy is now the participation of lots of small dollar donors through online giving platforms like GlobalGiving;
  • The crowdsourcing and actions that are enabled by the available of new data and technologes (such as the work of the Sunlight Foundation) that lead to….
  • Lots of interesting new models and stories — but you have to read the paper to find out what they are!

Enjoy the paper and let Lucy know what you think.


Women, Social Media and Influence (cont'd)

I’d like to thank the many folks who read and commented on my post last week about Women, Social Media and Influence. Here is what I learned:

  • There is interest in measuring the influence of women using social media;
  • The unique characteristics of social media, particularly that it is ubiquitous, easy-to-use and mostly free make them the perfect vehicle for women to become more influential outside of the walls of organizations.
  • Influence is multi-channel. We think primarily of bloggers as influential individuals online, however, there are influentials on Twitter and Facebook as well and they need to be added to the mix.
  • The mom bloggers have illustrated how groups of individuals, all of whom may not be individually influential, can band together in a swarm and have a huge impact. Take the Motrin imbroglio as an example. This is of particular interest for social change because it illustrates how a group of individuals can work together to influence the behavior of a company, which could just as easily been influencing elected officials or foundations.

There were several commenters who brought up the interesting issue of whether women small business owners were doing better using social media. I agree that this is a very interesting question, however, I’m going to leave it to others as it falls outside the parameters of social change.

Many thanks, in particular, to Joanne Fritz for posing a fascinating set of questions: Are women more or less persistent than men when using social media? Do women turn social media into businesses as often as men? Does a male “voice” still carry more “authority” than women in social media? Do women use social media differently? Are women’s issues receiving more attention as a result of women using social media? How do women themselves define influence in social media?

Based on the enthusiasm I decided to keep going and begin to explore how to define and measure online influence. One interesting note, which I think is a great opportunity, is that everything that I have seen to date is for corporate marketers interested in selling things to consumers.

The first important issue to discuss is what, exactly, is online influence?  As you can see in the model social network map below, there are two compoents of social networks: the round nodes that indicate people or institutions, and the ties that connect them to one another. [This map is courtesy of  Valdis Krebs]

In every network like this there are larger nodes. These are the influencers, the people or institutions that are connected to more nodes and are also connected to in return. In more familiar terms, these are the people on your block who know everyone and knows what is going on with them. With social media we can see who these influencers are in a social network for the first time.

Micah Baldwin writing on Mashable listed the ways that influence can be measured online:

Incoming Traffic – Pageviews, Incoming traffic from search engines, rss subscribers

Incoming Links – Primarily manual links such as blogrolls, in-post deep links

Reader Engagement – Internal searches, time on site

Recommendations – Retweets, share stats

Connections – Number of mutual connections, number of mutual connections on multiple sites

Track Record – Age of domain, number of blog posts, length of engagement

Engagement – How often and long a person has engaged with a service online

These influencers have large numbers of followers, readers and friends. They also have reputations as trusted sources of information. And, again, for social change, they can make things happen: donations, raising awareness, organizing events. In a very interesting paper on defining influence and influencers published by Edelman, Jeff Jarvis says that they are not just meme starters (meaning ideas and conversations that are spread through social media) they are also meme spreaders.

As I stated in the previous post, influence is more than the size of a following. What one does with those friends and followers is what’s important. And that’s what needs to be measured! Finding the influencers like Beth is easy – they’re sitting right there in the blogosphere or on Twitter. But what do they do with their influence for social change is the real question. And as Joanne Fritz said, do women do whatever this is differently from men online?  Based on this information, I’d like to propose a framework for a research project  based on the following questions:

  • Are there influential women using social media for social change? If so, who are they and what does their influence consist of?
  • Is the influence of women exhibited differently using social media than that of men? If so, how?
  • Can we follow the bouncing ball of a social change meme that began with women influencers and map how it spread online and perhaps on land?
  • Are their barriers for women’s leadership using social media?

Please let me know what you think about these questions and this approach. Thanks!!


Women, Social Media and Influence

My friend Linda Tarr-Whelan, a colleague at Demos, published a wonderful book this year called Women Lead the Way. In the book, Linda outlines the distressingly dismal statistics of the flatlining of women’s leadership in all three sectors. For instance, the number of women in Congress has increased a whopping 2% from 14-16% in fifteen years, and the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has actually gone down.

Not yet depressed enough, I began to dig in further and found that the number of women film directors is less than 10% of the total, and the number of women CEOs of the largest nonprofit organizations has remained flat for years at 20% of the total. There was more bad news, but I don’t want to depress you too much!

There are a variety of reasons for the lack of progress for women in traditional institutional positions. Some women who could afford to have opted out as Lisa Belkin wrote, or chosen to get off of the leadership track for more balance in their lives, or hit the still-in-place glass ceiling. We have lots of firsts, women generals, and CEOs and almost presidents, and the idea of a woman in almost any job other than linebacker for the Giants, is easy to imagine, but the numbers of women in senior leadership positions within institutions, particularly in comparison to the number of women graduating with advanced degrees is astonishingly low. And, as Linda points out, low in comparison to other democratic countries.

So, I roused myself from my depression and began to wonder if perhaps the advent of social media could change this trajectory. Are social media channels like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, opportunities for women to overcome the traditional barriers that exist within institutions of position, financial resources and permission? Could women use social media to create their own followings and platforms for discussing issues and influencing other people’s opinions and actions?

There are lists of influential women bloggers, like this one: 50 Most Influential Women in Social Media in 2008. This ranking is based on Alexa rankings of traffic to these sites unlike the Technorati authority that ranks blogs according to the number of incoming links. But since Technorati doesn’t break out any data by gender, we have lists like this one.

But, these kinds of lists leave me with more questions than answers. For instance, is the amount of traffic the same as influence or power? How do we compare this online presence to on land power? Would these women have been just as powerful in the analog world, or has social media enabled them to do and be something entirely different? And is it important to compare these rankings to a comparable set of men?

I began to scratch the surface on these kinds of questions and came across something very interesting. The School of Journalism at Indiana University reports that women have remained a constant 33% of all journalists in mainstream media for years.  Technorati reports in its annual report on the blogosphere that women make up one third of bloggers. So, they’re the same, right? Wrong, many more women than men graduate from journalism school and women make up  54.2 percent of journalists with only five years experience. This means that before women can become truly influential journalists they drop out, or opt out or get bounced out. Will the same kind of trajectory affect women bloggers, I wonder?

Although the question of influence works across the social media landscape, I am particularly interested, no surprise!, in women, social media and social change.

As I begin to dig deeper into this area, I wanted to ask for some help. Here are a few questions that I hope others will help me to wrestle with — or disabuse of me of the notion entirely!  They are:

  • Is my gut instinct that social media may offer an opportunity for women to become more influential than in traditional organizations correct?
  • Who else is looking into this so I don’t reinvent the wheel? But, please let me distinguish something important. There are a lot of organizations, like the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life and Blogher that have studied how women are using social media. This is different from the questions that I have as to whether women using social media are themselves becoming more influential.  I’m not so much interested in knowing that the majority of Twitter users are women (which they interestingly report) but rather are particular women Twitter users influential in their own right (in addition to Beth, of course!) and more influential than they would be on land.
  • How should influence be defined? Beth wrote a great post called Measuring the Impact, Not the Influence. She cautions against being dazzled by the numbers of readers or friends or followers and missing the more important point of the need for influencers to build relationships and turn all of that good capital into social change. This is the same in the program evaluation world of getting carried away with outputs, numbers of people served, and missing the outcomes or results. As I commented on that post, I think there has to be a balance between the need to have a large audience of potential doers and then getting them to do something.

Really looking forward to this conversation and your help, thanks!

Full Disclosure: I am considering turning these thoughts into a research proposal for next year.


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