Archive - February 2011

Top 5 Changes to Corporate Philanthropy
LinkedIn in Depth
Avi Chai Foundation Gets Social
Should Causes Compete With One Another?
Year End Fundraising and Social Media
DoGood Awards Season is Here
Gladwell Gets It Wrong – Again
Lessons and Thoughts on the Egyptian Protest

Top 5 Changes to Corporate Philanthropy

I had the pleasure of speaking at Bloomberg headquarters today on International Philanthropy Day started by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. My fellow speakers were Mark Johnson of the International Rescue Committee and Ben Stein of Mobile Commons.

The question posed to me was how corporate philanthropy was changing in a social world. The answer is simple: profoundly. For a sector that for years resisted changing, the changes are coming fast and furious for corporate philanthropy. Here are my top 5 changes happening right now:

1. Philanthropy has moved from the annex to the marketing department. Used to be that philanthropy was a small, sleepy part of corporations that felt obliged to buy tickets to local events, give a sprinkling of small grants to anchor nonprofit efforts; food banks, after school programs, the arts. Not any more. Look at what the head of marketing for Pepsi had to say about their Pepsi Refresh contest:

“This was not a corporate philanthropy effort,” said Shiv Singh, head of digital for PepsiCo Beverages America. “This was using brand dollars with the belief that when you use these brand dollars to have consumers share ideas to change the world, the consumers will win, the brand will win, and the community will win. That was a big bet. No one has done it on this scale before.”

Here is a story from the Chronicle of Philanthropy of the ways that Western Union (yes, that Western Union) is folding philanthropy into their core business.

2. Corporate philanthropy is global. When brands are global so is their philanthropy. American companies have exported extended their philanthropic effort wherever they are doing business around the world.

3. How we expect corporations to behave has fundamentally changed. The unfortunate phrase, “corporate citizen” is here to stay. Cone, Inc published a study a few years ago called the Millennial Cause Study. It found that young people, Millennials, are drawn to  support companies and brands that identify themselves with causes. They also want to work for corporations that not only support causes but enable them to do so as well. I learned today that Bloomberg gives grants of $1,500 grants to nonprofits for which employees volunteer at least 25 hours.

4. The Great Recession cut back on corporate dollars going out the door, the giving changed form into volunteering and in-kind donations. As US News and World Report reported: According to a survey by the CECP, 60 percent of companies cut their philanthropic donations from 2008 to 2009, and most of those trimmed them by more than 10 percent. That has helped fuel the move toward giving time and goods rather than money. According to a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, when companies were asked how the recession has changed their philanthropy, by far the largest number said they were encouraging employees to volunteer more.

5. So What? Corporations are giving billions of dollars, employees are giving millions of hours and what does it all mean? I have no idea. As my friend Lucy Bernholz has noted, corporations who pledge to give profits are not required to report how much they gave, or even to whom. She cleverly calls this embedded giving. Corporations obviously have their own bottom line that needs tending to, particularly public corporations responsible to shareholders. And inevitably, corporate givers talk about wanting to change the world with their giving. But are they changing it, and if so, how? Not many are terribly interested in really understanding the answer to that question, even the questions to that question, for instance, what do we mean by change and for whom and by when, aren’t often asked. Sometimes, but not often. If a company gives, say, $5 million dollars for research to prevent breast cancer and more young women buy their yogurt/make-up/jeans is that good enough? I really don’t now, but I am enjoying asking the question!


LinkedIn in Depth

LinkedIn is a really fascinating social network, one that grew, leveled off, and now is growing again very quickly. The company, which clearly and badly wants to go public, has made changes over the last two years that has enabled it to reinvent itself as more than a job searching site. In a Social Good podcast last month I called it the Little Social Networking Engine That Could.

This month’s Net2 Think Tank focuses on LinkedIn. The Think Tank is a collaborative effort organized by NetSquared for bloggers that focus on nonprofits and social media to discuss one specific issue or question each month. This month’s question was, “How is your cause or organization using LinkedIn to create an impact around your cause?”

The answers were great.  Here are just a few, Claire Sales, the lead organizer, has also compiled them here.

One terrific improvement in the site is the ability of users to create open groups around a topic or keyword. Megan Keane wrote, “LinkedIn recently changed their group options to allow for open groups. We opted to make our group open which is helpful as it lets people who are not group members see the discussions. With an open group, discussions are also indexed by Google which opens up the coversation to a wider audience.”

Tobias Eigan wrote, “it’s like Yahoo Groups that has been beefed up with all the latest social media functionality and integrated with LinkedIn’s other reputation building and networking features. ”

Claire Sale mentioned that the Q&A function is a terrific way to engage group members to participate in discussions.

Take a peek at the full blog post, lots of fun stuff there.


Avi Chai Foundation Gets Social

In partnership with my friends at Personal Democracy Forum, I have had the great pleasure of working with the Avi Chai Foundation since last May. Our engagement has two sides; working with the foundation staff to help them use social media, and developing efforts to strengthen the ability of their grantees and community, particularly Jewish day schools, to become more adept at using social media to build and strengthen their own networks.

The foundation has been very courageous and forward thinking about using social media. They are sunsetting in 9 years and want part of their legacy to be a growing “tribe” of Jews that are connected with one another and Judaism. It’s a fascinating notion. They’re not interested in leaving buildings and legacy organizations but want to leave the capacity of a network of people to continue to grow and thrive.

We are beginning with a set of experiments with day schools including a training academy for which we will have the great fortune of working with Darim Online, a video contest and online fundraising match.

The foundation has taken concrete steps to enter the social media waters. Staffers have started tweeting. Deena Fuchs, the director of special projects and communications, came up with a great idea yesterday. For the next two weeks, the staff is going to have a contest to see who can gain the largest number of new friends on Twitter. We couldn’t decide on a prize. Any ideas?

In addition, we agreed on social media policies to provide guidance for staff and boundaries for management. A very interesting point that someone brought up at the meeting is that these really are communications guidelines, that there shouldn’t be an artificial distinction between policies related to social media versus traditional media.

Here are their policies. I think they’ve done a great job of keeping them simple, manageable and direct:

The AVI CHAI Foundation Social Media Policy

AVI CHAI encourages staff and Trustees to be champions on behalf of the Foundation, LRP, day schools and overnight summer camps. The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging, social networks and other forms of online electronic publishing are emerging as unprecedented opportunities for outreach, information-sharing and advocacy.

AVI CHAI encourages (but does not require) staff and Trustees to use the Internet to blog and talk about our work and our grant making and therefore wants staff and Trustees to understand the responsibilities in discussing AVI CHAI in the public square known as the World Wide Web.

Guidelines for AVI CHAI Social Media Users

1. Be Smart. A blog or community post is visible to the entire world. Remember that what you write will be public for a long time – be respectful to the Foundation, colleagues, grantees, and partners, and protect your privacy.

2. Write What You Know. You have a unique perspective on our organization based on your talents, skills and current responsibilities. Share your knowledge, your passions and your personality in your posts by writing about what you know. If you’re interesting and authentic, you’ll attract readers who understand your specialty and interests. Don’t spread gossip, hearsay or assumptions.

3. Identify Yourself. Authenticity and transparency are driving factors of the blogosphere. List your name and when relevant, role at AVI CHAI, when you blog about AVI CHAI-related topics.

4. Include Links. Find out who else is blogging about the same topic and cite them with a link or make a post on their blog. Links are what determine a blog’s popularity rating on blog search engines like Technorati. It’s also a way of connecting to the bigger conversation and reaching out to new audiences. Be sure to also link to

5. Include a Disclaimer. If you blog or post to an online forum in an unofficial capacity, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of AVI CHAI. If your post has to do with your work or subjects associated with AVI CHAI, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent AVI CHAI’s positions, strategies or opinions.” This is a good practice but does not exempt you from being held accountable for what you write.

6. Be Respectful. It’s okay to disagree with others but cutting down or insulting readers, employees, bosses or partners and vendors is not. Respect your audience and don’t use obscenities, personal insults, ethnic slurs or other disparaging language to express yourself.

7. Work Matters. Ensure that your blogging does not interfere with your other work commitments.

8. Respect Privacy of Others. Don’t publish or cite personal or confidential details and photographs about AVI CHAI grantees, employees, Trustees, partners or vendors without their permission.

9. Don’t Tell Secrets. The nature of your job may provide you with access to confidential information regarding AVI CHAI, AVI CHAI grantees, partners, or fellow employees. Respect and maintain the confidentiality that has been entrusted to you. Don’t divulge or discuss proprietary information, internal documents, personal details about other people or other confidential material

10. Be Responsible. Blogs, wikis, photo-sharing and other forms of online dialogue (unless posted by authorized AVI CHAI personnel) are individual interactions, not corporate communications. AVI CHAI staff and Trustees are personally responsible for their posts .


Should Causes Compete With One Another?

I’ve been thinking about online contests to raise friends or funds for the past several years. There have been wonderful examples of small organizations, some without any staff, being extraordinarily successful in contests like America’s Giving Challenge sponsored by The Case Foundation, through mainly elbow grease, friends emailing, texting, calling, cajoling friends to sign up for their cause.

Pepsi Refresh is this kind of contest on steroids. Pepsi has given nearly $20 million to causes that garnered the most votes monthly for the past year, and at least for another year here and in South America and China. This contest, like all contests, hasn’t been friction free. As I say here on an NPR story about the contest from a few weeks ago, all contest  organizers are playing a game of whack-a-mole with people who want to game the system:

Refreshing Pepsi’s Superbowl Alternative

I believe that the folks at Pepsi have gone into this contest with good intentions, and they have been resilient and steadfast in their continued engagement. However, a question remains for individual causes as to whether the amount of energy and the head-to-head competition with other causes are worth their energy, or whether the costs are too high.

A post on the Cone, Inc. blog does a great job of articulating the drawbacks to voting contests like Pepsi Refresh.

On this month’s podcast, Lena Shaw, of UC San Francisco, told a great story about a year-end fundraising campaign for a new children’s hospital that garnered over a million dollars in donations and nearly 165,000 new friends for the hospital. The original expectations for the campaign were $100,000 and 1,000 friends. Extraordinary results that are a reflection of the structure of the campaign.

They mixed Silicon Valley superstars like Michael Arrington and Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of, with 12-year-old Paddy O’Brien, a patient at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital treated successfully for bone cancer and now in remission as team leaders. They had great daily prizes, plus the grand prizing of the winning team having the right to name the new atrium of the hospital.  The Zynga team led the charge by having donors use their popular Farmville game and buy candy canes as donations for the hospital.  The Zynga team was the overwhelming first place winner of the competition.

What makes the UCSF contest so compelling is that although the teams were competing against one another, they were all playing for the same children’s hospital. This is a very interesting dynamic, an internal competition where all of the energy is positive and all of the proceeds go to the one cause.

I’m going to think a bit more about how other groups can structure efforts that combine the fun of competing without the detriment of causes competing against one another.


Year End Fundraising and Social Media

This month’s Social Good podcast focuses on the effect of social media on year-end fundraising in 2010.

My guests are Katya Andresen, the COO of Network for Good and Lena Shaw, social media marketing manager at the University of California at San Francisco.

Katya filled us in on the Online Giving Study conducted by Network for Good that, “More than 20% of all giving for the entire year occurs in the last 48 hours of the calendar year.” As Katya says on the podcast, almost a third of all giving happens in December. Katya has a terrific phrase for the late givers, she calls them, “Generous Procastinators.”

These statistics provide vivid reasons why online giving is so important; it is efficient and immediate and enables people to give when they want to the causes they admire.

Lena told an amazing story of the University’s partnership with Causes on Facebook had a year end campaign to raise money for a new children’s hospital. The campaign was called the “Challenge for Children” campaign. This is one of the most astonishing campaigns I’ve heard of using Causes; they were aiming to raise $100,000 and 1,000 new friends and raised over $1 million and over 165,000 friends! They created teams that were competing to raise the largest number of friends on Causes, not the largest donations, and you can see the result – they did both! You have to listen to Lena tell the story.

The challenge for Lena’s and others using social media for fundraising is how to engage these new friends and donors beyond the initial campaign. Stay tuned, that’s the rest of the story.


DoGood Awards Season is Here

The awards season is upon us, and for nonprofits its not just about Oscars and Grammys. The 5th Annual DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards. Applications from See3 Communications are open until March 2nd. Awards will be given for best Small, Medium, and Large nonprofit organization videos. winners will again have the chance to win one of four $2500 grants generously provided by the Case Foundation, awesome video cameras from Flip Video, a free registration to next year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference provided by NTEN and more. My favorite new category is the Best Thrifty Video category for videos produced for under $500!

Here is the promo for the contest:

And here is last year’s small nonprofit winner:


Gladwell Gets It Wrong – Again

Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. Last summer he wrote, I thought rather flippantly, about the ineffectiveness of social media in generating and sustaining social protests.

And now he has followed with a post on the New Yorker blog. (An irony-free zone for Gladwell who apparently doesn’t believe that this blog is a social media tool, and for him it isn’t as he appears to pay no mind to the comments.) He writes, “People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along.”

Of course they did. We had a revolution in 1776 that wasn’t tweeted, pinged or posted. It doesn’t mean that the same recipe for organizing and sustaining the protests, and sharing them with the world, is the same as it was a decade or a century or two centuries ago.

The advent of social media provides three critical resources for protesters today:

  1. The ability to initially organize as the Egyptian protesters did on Facebook and Twitter to connect with their friends, but more importantly, the friends of friends, the network. It was difficult to do this previusly, but not impossible of course, because of the time and mistakes that happen with telephone trees, the expensive and danger of advertising and danger of organizing on-the-ground meetings.
  2. The power to change plans in midstream. Using tools like text messaging, Twitter or Foursquare protesters can change meeting places or times in real time, moving thousands of people at a moment’s notice.
  3. Finally, social media enables citizens to share their stories, pictures and videos with the rest of the world. This gives voice to the previously voiceless and puts pressure on other governments to support legitimate protests.

As I wrote the other day, the only drawback to a reliance on social media at this time is the ability of governments, including ours that pressured companies to deny service to Wikileaks recently, to shut down service and cause a blackout for social media users in country and out. As we’re seeing in Egypt, resourceful individuals, citizens, reporters (see Nick Kristof’s powerful tweets here), news agencies, are finding a way to share the news of what’s happening in Egypt and around the world.

Social media aren’t causing revolutions, they are aiding them. Gladwell can sarcastically imagine Mao using Twitter while missing the point entirely that Mao never needed a vehicle or a voice, but the people of China certainly do. We will never know how the protests in Tiananmen Square might have been different with social media, but we’re seeing in Egypt the power that side-to-side communications can have in starting and stirring protests.


Lessons and Thoughts on the Egyptian Protest

I’ve been watching and reading about the protests in Egypt with awe at the courage of the participants and fear for the reprisals they may face. Perhaps it’s too early or easy to generalize, but that’s never stopped me before! Here are a few thoughts about the Egyptian protests, and what makes it similar and dissimilar to recent protests in Yemen, Tunisia and Iran:

  • Are heroic leaders always necessary for overthrowing dictatorships?  The protests appear to start in similar fashion. A long-simmering unhappiness, catalyzed by an economic or political event that is spread and catalyzed side-to-side in part because of social media, particular text messaging, that spills out into the streets. This progression mirrors those from twenty five years ago in Eastern Europe. However, one drawback to the  lack of an opposition party, is that it is unclear to whom the protesters expect power be handed to. Lech Walesa, Vaclev Havel, Nelson Mandela personified their country’s opposition forces. And, in the Nobel Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, it appears the country now has it’s heroic leader. No clear leader emerged in Iran and the protests were beaten back. Is a heroic figure an essential ingredient to success?
  • How valuable can social media ultimately be for social change if access is to easily denied? What is different about these protests from those a quarter century ago is how easily and quickly the protests can grow and spread because of social media, But just as easily as social media can be a catalyst for spreading protests, the access to social media can be cut off instantly and without explanation or recourse. This applies not only to the protests, but also to the recent skirmish Wikileaks had with American companies trying to cut off its Internet access. Although the Pew Center for American Life and the Internet now considers online social networking tools, “standard tools for political engagement,” they are also easily blocked by countries or companies. We do not have open, unfettered access to the Internet here or abroad, and these recent events should support the argument that access to the Internet is a fundamental right not a privilege. It should — but, sadly, it won’t because the corporate world has a stranglehold on the democracies, and the dictatorships control the rest. If you want to be scared about the stranglehold that the telecoms have on politics and the Internet here watch Susan Crawford talk about it here
  • I wonder if there are common characteristics to the protests, protesters, countries, circumstances, dictators that make the overthrow of a dictatorship possible in some places and impossible in others? Can anyone point me to any studies on this?

It’s a fast changing world in some ways, but some things remain stubbornly the same. The desire of people to be free is certainly something that has never, and will never, change or dimish.


Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine