Category - Social Media

Videos of the Year
The Online/On Land Disconnect
Landmark Online Giving Study
LinkedIn: The Little Network That Could
Wikileaks ≠ Transparency
Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding
Which is Better: More Donors or More $$$?
Listserv Abominations

Videos of the Year

Welcome to my third annual Videos of the Year post!  This year I want to concentrate on the videos that are clearly self-made, not videos that are the equivalent of the old, professional public service announcements. Not that there is anything wrong with professional videos, it’s just a different animal from self-made content that individuals (which free agents or part of organizations) create to share a story or advocate for a cause.

Please share any videos you thought were terrific this year.

Here are my top videos of the year, in no particular order:

I had the chance to talk to Dan Savage about this video for a Social Good podcast. Two things really stuck with me during our conversation. The first was the spontaneous nature of the making of this video. Dan and Terry just decided one night to make this video, without a script, with a friend holding the video camera. The second was the fact that not only did this video go viral, but the entire It Gets Better YouTube channel went viral, with thousands of people uploading their own videos and stories. I can’t think of another channel going viral like this, it’s a really remarkable event; a combination of lucky timing and real, heartfelt stories.

One of those personal, homemade stories posted on the It Gets Better YouTube channel was this one by Buddie. If you’re not moved by this, well, I’m not sure what would move you.

This video was a contestant in the Acumen Fund’s Sanitation is Sexy contest. As the daughter of a civil sanitary engineer, I find this topic and video particularly effective.

Mark Horvath, also known as Hardly Normal on Twitter, is a remarkable free agent (now an award-winning free agent according to Mashable) and advocate for homeless people. His efforts teaching homeless people how to use social media, particularly through the vehicle of Invisible People TV, to tell their own stories and advocate for their needs are both inspiring and effective.

But, if I were to select the best public service announcement videos of the year, there are plenty of great ones to choose from. OK, twist my arm, here are my top three:

and, finally, my favorite video of the year (who doesn’t love school kids advocating for a new roof?) which is one of the winner of the Bing Competition:


The Online/On Land Disconnect

Nancy Scola wrote a terrific post about a new report from the Berkman Center called Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing.

The paper is a great primer on political activism in repressive regimes, how change happens and what makes it so hard and risky.

Nancy nails the key, and most provocative, argument in the paper: “We might, in other words, watch in awe as  video of Neda Agha Soltan’s death during Iran’s post-election protests goes viral, to give an example, and be too quick in seeing in it evidence of some sort of powerful social and political resistance, when the actual facts on the ground might not bear that understanding out.”

Here is one of those videos just as a reminder:

But what changed on the ground, politically as a result of the protests? We’re not sure, certainly not as much as the protesters or the watchers hoped in the moment. Of course, as the authors of Political Change in the Digital Age quoting Marshall Ganz point out, these kinds of regime-change movements take a long time to realize. So these protests may have planted a seed, created supporters, put into motion future change that we won’t know about for years.

The authors hit on the key issue facing activists using social media. This is what I’ve called Phase Three in the development of social media for social change. Phase One was the wonderful euphoria at the beginning of this century of discovery of social media. Look at this amazing stuff, we shouted. Look at all of these free, ubiquitous, easy-to-use tools that enable regular people blog and have a voice they’ve never had before. Watch them create videos, make their own playlists and share songs, and then watch them connect with new and old friends online and create their own social spheres.  Wahoo, look at power seep from institutions and move towards individuals!

Phase Two was seeing what all of these tools did to organizations that embraced them. That’s why Beth and I wrote The Networked Nonprofit, to understand and examine what happens internally and externally to nonprofits that are organized more as social networks than stand alone institutions. In short, wonderful things happen as outsiders get out and insiders get in. Networked Nonprofits include wonderful organizations like, charity:water, Surfrider Foundation.

And now we’re inching our way into Phase Three. We’re connecting, pinging, poking, friending, fanning, running for our causes – made much easier in countries like ours that encourage free association and speech – but what is it all adding up to? In other words: so what?

The Berkman paper focuses on the use of the Internet to strengthen and power nongovernmental organizations and efforts to reform authoritarian regimes. There have been significant limitations to these efforts, largely because these governments simply shut down the sites and flows of information to the networks of activists. As the authors note, “Efforts at digital organizing in Iran do not appear to have been effective. In the run-up to the disputed election, the Mousavi campaign sought to use Facebook to rally supporters. The government responded by simply blocking access to Facebook. Online communities that congregate at a single URL are easily dismantled; organizations that rely on a centralized nodes and hierarchical structures are trivial to break up.”

Although our government is less likely to shut down sites, at least publicly, we still haven’t connected all of the dots from outrage or empathy or concern expressed online and political success on land. We know they need to be connected, that social change actually happens on land, always, but how we make that connection and whether lighter engagements, all of that pinging and fanning (derisively called slactivism by some), actually makes a difference in and of itself is the next set of questions to be answered.

Lucy began this discussion a few months ago. And it needs to continue. Here are a few first steps:

  1. Organizations need to o consider more carefully how to integrate their online and on land efforts.
  2. We need to overcome our addiction to online analytical tools, all of those pretty and instant charts and graphs and engage in more traditional evaluation methods to find out what people knew as a result of their online engagements and what, if anything, they did as a result.
  3. Most all, I want to know what is working, where is social change actually happening (distinguished from acts of loving kindness, like collecting coats in winter time, which are wonderful, necessary things to do but not social change.) Where and how are all of these efforts actually making a difference?

Don’t be cowed by the difficulty of these tasks. As I wrote above, we’re just at the beginning of Phase Three, so we have time to explore it and figure it out. It’s good to know, at least, what phase we’re in!


Landmark Online Giving Study

Network for Good and TrueSense Marketing released their long awaited study of online giving appropriately named The Online Giving Study. The study looked at data for about $400 million worth of giving across charitable websites, giving portals and social networks processed by Network for Good.

Here are a few of the key findings:

  • What we know about successful fundraising stays with the same with social media. A key passage of the report is, “Raising funds online is not about technology, any more than raising funds through the mail is about paper. It’s about the relationship between the nonprofit and the donor who wants to support a cause. People who give online are no different from other donors in that they expect a relationship— not simply a transaction—with the organization they support.”
  • Online relationships are often deeply affected by offline connections and cultivation.
  • December (people giving for tax purposes at the end of the year, literally the last days of the year) and disasters dominate the online giving landscape.

For me, the key data from the report is this chart:

Holy cow, look at how donors come and stay on organization’s websites for giving compared to portals (like Network for Good) and social networking sites (like Facebook)! Really, it’s not even close — I’m even wondering if the other channels are worth all of the effort, hoopla and eyeball fatigue they are creating.

The report emphasizes several times that donors are giving largely through an organization’s website because of the relationship they have with that organization. And if they give through another site, like a giving portal like, they give less and are not likely to give again.

These particular data raise two questions in my mind:

  1. Do these findings reinforce the skepticism that have had about the need for Jumo? (You can see some of the criticism here and here.) What is the point of yet another platform that takes away time and attention from individual organizations if we’re finding that donors are not deepening their relationships anywhere but on their own site.
  2. Does this make a group like charity:water, a born and bred Networked Nonprofit, look even more prescient building their own network, my charity:water, on their site as a place for action, advocacy and fundraising?

LinkedIn: The Little Network That Could

This month’s Social Good podcast focuses on the second life of LinkedIn.

Sometimes social media tools and channels come and go so quickly I never learn how to pronounce the name of the thing! And then sometimes, not often, but just sometimes, a tool starts, levels off and then has a more dynamic second life. LinkedIn is one of those second life social media tools. I remember when it started I just kept adding friends but didn’t really have any idea of why I was adding them or what do with them. Facebook seemed a more interesting place to be and meet people and share, unless you were looking for a job and then LinkedIn was a must.

LinkedIn then began to reinvent itself. As other social network sites were flattening out in terms of the number of users, LinkedIn was soaring – passing 60 million users this year, increasing by ten million users a year over the past several years. That’s still small compared to the over 300 million users on Facebook, but it’s not nothing. Then, I saw an article that said that LinkedIn was the only social network was that was profitable – take that Facebook and MySpace! Then it added the functionality to create groups of people with a common interest or geographic area. And all of a sudden my LinkedIn friending began to soar again.

My interest was really piqued when Susan Kistler, the Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association told me that they transitioned their longstanding listserve to a LinkedIn group last year and that the conversation was richer as a result.

The LinkedIn experts on this month’s podcast are Amy Sample Ward, a pioneer in the use of social media by nonprofits and currently the Community Development Manager for TechSoup Global and Estrella Rosenberg, serial nonprofit entrepreneur,  philanthropy expert and author of Adventures In Philanthropy

I hope you enjoy listening to Amy and Estrella with their very practical advice on how best to use LinkedIN for your organization or cause.  It’s really the little social network that could!


Wikileaks ≠ Transparency

As much as I hate using “gate” moniker, I want to discuss what is being called “Cablegate” because its ramifications for organizational life.

If you’ve been leaving beneath your bed for the last few weeks, you may not know that Cablegate refers to the release of thousands of secret State Department communications by Wikileaks. Here is good synopsis of the lead by Time Magazine.

Wikileaks first came onto the world’s radar screen by posting a video of American soldiers shooting Iraqi civilians. This is whistleblowing. The American military it appears had done a terrible thing and then covered it up. This is what journalists do, they uncover the bad things that companies and governments do and shed light on them. Daniel Ellsberg is one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers, having released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times to reveal the lies that the US government was telling the public about their administration of the war in Vietnam.

Cablegate isn’t whistleblowing, it isn’t righting a wrong, unveiling unethical or immoral behavior. It is the theft of regular communications that makes it nearly impossible for the State Department to function.

One of the smartest people I know, well, actually one of the smartest people anywhere, Esther Dyson, discussed the downside of what she called “radical transparency” at Transparency Camp last year a double edged sword for organizational leaders. Beth Kanter reported Esther saying at the camp, “Esther Dyson said that transparency should be able the results and any deals, but there is a place for private discussion.   “We could all go around naked and look like angels, but in the real world that doesn’t happen.”  Transparency has its benefits, but so does privacy.  As Esther Dyson said, “There is a need for respect – of relationships, to get trust, and further understandings.   You can’t be fully transparent all the time because you need to give people a safe place to have the discussion without disrespecting others.”

And there is why I respectfully disagree with my friend and colleague, Micah Sifry, who wrote yesterday on his blog on TechPresident, “…there is a danger rising both to internet freedom and open government here, but that is not because of Wikileaks. It is because people who are threatened by more transparency want to stop this trend before it is completely uncontrollable.”

Leaks like Cablegate might be inevitable, however they are not honorable or constructive. Street crime might be inevitable but that doesn’t make it right. It also makes the word of transparency advocates, like Micah, much harder because it masks the true beauty and value of transparency which is to enable outsiders to get in and insiders to get out in order to make the work or product or law better. Transparency is not an academic exercise or window dressing for show, when done well and right, for instance in the ways that the Sunlight Foundation works, it makes the work better. Releasing every day cables of conversations within the State Department doesn’t make anything better, it just makes the work harder to do at all, much less do well.

The leakers, including Wikileaks, should be punished for it. How is any organization or government agency supposed to do business, to wrestle with complicated situations where the answers aren’t clear cut, in other words deal with the world as it is, if every conversation, every thought, every musing is going to be public.

The shame as Micah points out is that this kind of behavior provides cover for anti-transparency forces to have an excuse to become more opaque. They would would head in that direction anyway. News organizations should not have printed these leaks, it wasn’t news, it was a crime.

OK, folks, start disagreeing now!


Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

My friend Carol Cone has co-authored a new book on nonprofit branding called, Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding! It’s a great book and resource for nonprofit organizations interested in branding with very specific case studies of the way that nonprofit organizations like Komen for the Cure, Unicef and smaller organizations like College Forward! among others.  One of my favorite sentences among may was this one, “Your brand must stand for a cause — something bigger than organizational activities, something that your constituents care about and believe in.”

The book is good news, but the contest accompanying the book is really exciting news. The authors have announced a contest called the Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding Contest worth $100,000 in free advertising space in USA TODAY for the lucky nonprofit winner. Here how it works:

Nonprofits will apply here to be eligible to compete in the contest. A panel of charity industry leaders will evaluate entrants based on their effectiveness in marketing, communications and social impact, and on how the first prize will impact their organization.  The public will then vote on the ten finalists to decide which North American organization will walk away with the first place prize.The deadline to enter the contest is December 10, 2010.

Sounds like a great opportunity for some lucky nonprofit!


Which is Better: More Donors or More $$$?

The Minnesota Community Foundation has their second annual “Give to the Max Day” last week and once again it was a spectacular success.

The first giving day was last year. I had a chance to talk to the chief architect at the Minnesota Community Foundation, Jennifer Ford Reedy, a few months ago for my Social Good podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

It was a terrific example of a foundation forming partnerships with dozens of local nonprofits and a dozen other funders, creating an open source platform for giving (it was open source to enable and encourage other foundations to replicate the effort.) And at the end of the day, that first go round, the day generated 38,000 donors giving $14,000. I remember seeing those numbers on Beth’s blog and thinking that there had to be a typo. In the depths of the recession it was astounding to see that Minnesotans had given that much money to charitable causes. But, then, again, it’s Minnesotans, the most generous people in the world.

Jennifer posted a summary of this year’s event on the Council of Foundation’s blog last week. Jennifer outlined a key difference between this year’s event and last year’s. They decided this year to focus on increasing the number of donations not the size of the donations. They were successful in doing this, their bottom line this year was 42,000 donors pledging a total of $10 million.

As Jennifer writes, “we created an incentive system that rewards organizations for turnout.” The incentive were grand prizes of $20,000 and $10,000 to the nonprofits that raised the largest number of donors during the day.

This all raises a very interesting question: should nonprofits be aiming for more donors or more money?

Smart people like Kim Klein have been arguing for years that building a broad base of supporters is critical to long term sustainability for nonprofits.

But what if the needs are so great, winters in Minnesota are brutal after all, that losing $4 million hurts local people and communities in the most need right now?

I think part of the answer has to be what happens to these donors after they give on the big day? Blackbaud reports that donors who give online give more over time than their traditional counterparts. However, we reported that after the first America’s Giving Challenge sponsored by the Case Foundation that the winners didn’t know what to do with their online donors once they had them. That was three years ago, maybe we’re collectively getting better at learning how to build relationships with our online friends and turn them into long term donors now.

Maybe. At least I hope so! Katya, Kivi and Rebecca provide hopeful insights here on how to retain online donors.

This is, I suppose, the heart of our biggest challenge for the next few years; creating online friends, building stronger ties with a portion of them, asking them to give in real, authentic ways — and getting them to give again.


Listserv Abominations

I had great fun speaking at the Jacob Burns Film Center & Media Arts Lab the other night with a wonderful group of nonprofit executives. During the Q&A someone asked about the utility of listservs. I responded that they are an abomination, a source of email overload and epicenter for the awful habit of “Reply All.” There was nervous laughter but also resistance in the room. One woman replied that her listservs were still valuable to her, a source of information and advice, and her older colleagues were comfortable using them. Old habits die slowly.

Yes, of course, I was being a bit of a smarty pants, but this vestige of Web 1.0 of packing email boxes full of Great! and I Agree! and Our Servers Have Been Down What Did I Miss? is archaic in today’s Web 3.0 world (a social media world powered by social networks.) Cathy Nelson has an interesting take on this issue of listservs:

Recently in a blog reference I made a passing comment about listservs being archaic.  Well apparently I struck a nerve.  This post is not meant to be an apology, But I do want to take a stand here.  I am still a member of a listserv. Why? There is a node of my network that just can’t seem to move beyond its listserv for communication purposes, despite a blog, a wiki, a ning, and even Twitter and Facebook presences.  So I share information there, and attempt to expose this node to forward minded thinking.  Not sure how successful I am, and sometimes I worry that I am considered an annoyance.  But sadly, it is where this node in my network resides, and no amount of prodding, exposure to newer ways, or guilt-trips seem to move them to our other modes of networking.

I was recently asked to join a listserv for a new board chair position I’ve started and couldn’t bring myself to do it.  As I said to the group at the Burns, even if I set my filters on email and look at the emails once in a while, I would still have to sift through all of that chafe to get to just a little bit of wheat.

The argument against sun setting listservs is that it is a model of social networking most comfortable for older users of email. Once they’re on the list then they are set, and are reluctant, loathe actually, to switch to any other platform for conversation.

But this isn’t a hard and fast rule. The American Evaluation Association moved their listserv to LinkedIn a few years ago and it has gone spectacularly well. Susan Kisler, the head of AEA, said that they initially lost some folks who were reluctant to move to LinkedIn, but the conversation has been richer, more substantive, on the new platform.

Of course, at the heart of this issue is the intractability of a lot of people. Once they have a system they don’t want to change it. And although we tend to think of this as an issue particular to older people, there are plenty of inflexible younger people. It’s an interesting question: what makes one person open to new ideas and ways of working and another person resistant to them? I’ll leave most of this to the shrinks of the world, however, I do think that it is important to consider what we’re teaching in management classes. In addition to listening and facilitation skills that are critical, we also need to add constant adult learning as key characteristic of effective leadership.


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