Category - Social Media

Listserv Abominations
The Future is Mobile
Quantifying Evaluation – At Last
Response to "It Gets Better"
Social Good Podcast with Dan Savage of "It Gets Better Project"
Transitioning Direct Mail Donors to Social Media
Women Give to Causes More than Men
Blackbaud Research on Online Giving

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.


The Future is Mobile

Nonprofits are increasingly using social media.  LoyaltyClicks has released a new study of a survey of nonprofits that indicates that they are increasingly using social media to connect with their communities. As we know intuitively but can now quantify with surveys such as these, “Our survey showed that 91% of our respondents use Facebook, 63% use Twitter, 45% use YouTube and 35% use LinkedIn, amongst other media. And 92% of surveyed nonprofits plan on using at least one of these tools in 2011.”

But, alas, it’s not enough. The future isn’t going to happen at desks, it’s going to be mobile. In other words, the Revolution is Going to Be Tweeted – From Our Phones!

Bango reports a 600% (!) increase in the use of mobile websites in the past year. This increase is being driven by smart phones; Blackberries, Nokia and iPhones and there is no slowing down foreseen in the near future.

However, again according to LoyaltyClicks, “only 16% of the surveyed nonprofits plan on having mobile websites in 2011, while 19% plan on having Smartphone Applications.” There are significant differences in the ways that people use their mobile devices to access information, connect to friends, make donations – basically they behave differently and our applications and access points need to reflect those differences in ways that they don’t do now. Clearly, it’s time for us to get moving (pun intended!) NTEN and MobileActive are two great resources for finding out more about how to use mobile and finding technological help for your particular applications. No time to waste, the time to get mobile was last week!


Quantifying Evaluation – At Last

Innovation Network, Inc. (InnoNet) has released a research study, State of Evaluation 2010, that illuminates the opaque current state of evaluation practice in the nonprofit sector.

There is an amazing dearth of research on the practice of program evaluation. Who does what and how is hardly ever asked – except by InnoNet. Using data from Guidestar, over 36,000 nonprofits were invited to participate in the study and 1,072 chose to do so. A few of the key findings (there are many more in the report itself, which is beautifully crafted for easy reading):

  • 85% of responding organizations report engaging in evaluation over the past year. Although the nature of the type of evaluation that they engage in varies widely including monitoring outputs, evaluating process and evaluating outcomes.
  • Only 27% worked with an outside evaluator.
  • Large organizations, those with budgets over $5 million) were more likely to evaluate their work and had staff dedicated to evaluation.
  • Funders and boards of directors are the primary audience for evaluation results (58% combined).

There were some unsurprising but still desultory findings reported as well. Including:

  • 36% of the respondents reported that NONE of their funders supported their evaluation work.
  • Evaluation ranked second to last in organizational priorities.

The bottom line is that evaluation continues to be difficult to understand and implement for many nonprofit organizations, strain the budgets or smaller organizations and unfunded by grantmakers.

I have a thought of how to try to change these dynamics. I wonder if it is possible to measure if and how organizations that are intensively implementing outcomes evaluation are better at serving their communities AND raising money. The one way to motivate both funders and nonprofits to make program evaluation a priority is to prove the value of investing in it.



Response to "It Gets Better"

In response to my post and podcast yesterday about Dan Savage and the It Gets Better Project, I heard from my friend Lucy Bernholz. She noted that the gay community was upset about the videos and in the process of pushing back.

The concern is that It Get Better is too passive, it is counseling gay teens to grin and bear it until adulthood when they will have more control of their lives and it will get better. Responses have included: Where’s the Proof it Gets Better? to Stop Bullying Now! to Groundspark’s “Make it Better NOW” project. On on the Groundspark site I found one of the most moving videos I’ve ever seen fro

Any large community of people is going to have vigorous debate about an issue that is important to their well-being. And this is a big, healthy debate. I don’t think it detracts from the amazing story of the It Gets Better Project, an entire YouTube channel going viral, but it does remind me that there is no one right way forward for any social change issue.

Thanks, Lucy.


Social Good Podcast with Dan Savage of "It Gets Better Project"

My monthly Social Good podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy features Dan Savage, a Seattle-based journalist. Dan and his husband, Terry Miller, are the catalysts for a viral video phenomenon called the It Gets Better Project.

This fall has been a dismal and disheartening season for gay teens. Several bullied gay teens felt so alone and hopeless than they committed suicide; Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas to name just a few.

Dan and Terry wished that they had had just a few minutes with each of these boys to tell them, from their own experience, that life gets better after adolescence, after high school. And then Dan realized that he had been sitting back waiting for permission from someone, somewhere to talk to these kids. But in the Connected Age no permission is required, social media allows anyone to say anything to the world. So he and Terry went to a local restaurant and created a video with their own, personal message to gay teens – it gets better, they promised. They uploaded the video to YouTube on September 22nd. Dan then announced the video in his newspaper column and on his podcast. Here is their video:

And the video took off, over 250,000 views in the first two days. And it kept climbing. But then something even more remarkable happened; other people, regular people became to upload videos of their own stories. Mormons and Muslims, big city and small town, men and women, people from every stripe and corner of the country began to respond. And then, of course, the movie stars and politicians followed, including the President and the Secretary of State.

I assumed that since this effort was called a “Project” that Dan had some infrastructure, maybe not professional staff but at least volunteers, who had been driving outreach and encouraging regular and rich and famous to upload videos. Here is President Obama’s video:

But when I interviewed Dan I learned that no one had reached out to anyone! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a free-agent effort take off in quite this way before. Free agents is the term that Beth and I use in The Networked Nonprofit for individuals who create an activism campaign on their own using social media. A free agent campaign that is often cited is Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars”, one man’s grievance against the airline which cavalierly treated his instrument and has been viewed near 10 million times.  Here it is:

But the difference is that only Dave was making videos. The It Gets Better Project is spectacular because Dan and Terry provided an opportunity for hundreds of other people to share their stories as well. Unasked, unbidden, uncontrolled. Extraordinary. I hope you’ll take a listen to Dan.


Transitioning Direct Mail Donors to Social Media

I wrote last week about the very interesting research findings from Blackbaud that found that donors that come through traditional channels like direct mail give more over time when they transition to social media channels like Facebook.

I received a tweet afterwards asking how, exactly, organizations are doing this. And voila! here is a treasure trove of case studies developed by Catalog Choice, a realy great group trying to unhook us from all of the waste generated by direct mail catalogs and fundraising campaigns. Catalog Choice, supported by the Overbrook Foundation, sponsored a contest called The Paperless Choice Challenge: Discovering Innovation in Digital Fundraising. The crux of the contest was this, “can inventive, out-of-the box thinking replace direct mail?”

Nonprofit organizations were encouraged to send in their best ideas for a total of $20,000 in prize money. An expert panel selected winners for small, medium and large organizations and a people’s choice was selected by public voting.

Here were the winners:

National Wildlife Federation (large nonprofit) for their campaign to raise emergency funds to save wildlife from the impacts of the Gulf oil spill and to reach new givers. The judges praised this campaign as an effective multi-channel effort to replace direct mail and expand the donor-base to respond quickly to a crisis. The campaign integrated mobile, social media, email, video, and the web, and raised significant funds quickly for this wildlife tragedy. NWF acquired tens of thousands of new donors and reached millions of people through social and traditional media. Digital fundraising also proved to be cost-efficient. Overall, NWF spent only 4% of funds raised on fundraising expenses compared to 23% for direct mail expenses.

GiveMN (medium nonprofit) for their 2009 Give to the Max Day to help Minnesota nonprofits attract new donors and move toward online giving. The successful campaign created an online giving web platform and used digital  techniques to raised $14 million for 3,434 Minnesota nonprofits in one day. Our judges were impressed with this statewide example of how e-fundraising, combined with savvy events management, can lower costs through economies of scale for many nonprofits simultaneously and benefit less experienced groups less likely to mimic the caliber of this initiative on their own.

VEGlobal (small nonprofit) for its Unite. Act. Engage. campaign, an annual event designed as a completely paperless fundraising effort to support the group’s mission of assisting abandoned children in Chile. The campaign exceeded its fundraising goals by employing a digital network to engage international volunteers who held 16 fundraising events on four different continents. This year’s campaign coincided with their Earthquake Relief program which raised funds digitally for earthquake damage repair and safety training. VEGlobal’s efforts demonstrate how very small nonprofits can expand their visibility in the global community and meet fundraising goals quickly and effectively using only digital tools and techniques.

Go Green Team – The People’s Choice winner, which received the top nod from voters. The Go Green Team campaign will use digital fundraising tools to raise money for environmental causes in the San Francisco Bay area.

There were also a few honorable mention groups:

HomeLine Tenant Advocacy, a small statewide tenant advocacy group in Minnesota, for their highly creative 50-hour treadmill-a-thon webcast. This fun event engaged viewers and volunteers to share the group’s cause with their friends through social media networks, ultimately raising nearly $20,000 from more than 400 donors.

Wardrobe for Opportunity for their “Declare Your 15″ campaign, which gave supporters three opportunities to help the organization’s mission of assisting low-income individuals find and keep jobs: Donate $15, pledge 15 volunteer hours to WFO in 2010, and tell 15 friends about the campaign via Twitter, Facebook or email – all within 15 days. The “15″ theme reflected the group’s 15th anniversary.

Maryland Coastal Bays Program for their impressive efforts to shift all marketing and donor outreach from paper to digital.



Women Give to Causes More than Men

Ready to have your assumptions tested to the core about giving? A new study, Women Give 2010, from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, a program of the venerable Institute on Philanthropy at Indiana University.  Are you ready?  Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute has released a study of a large sample of women and men givers and found that, “Women across nearly every income category give significantly more than their male counterparts – in many cases, nearly twice as much.”

The conventional wisdom has always been that men give more money to nonprofits than women. Not just more often but more dollars. Part of the difficulty of looking at this issue is trying to determine whether the he or she is the lead giver for a married couple. This study teased apart this issue by just looking at single men and women along a continuum of income levels from $23,000 to 100,000. And lo and behold, women are giving more than men in every income bracket but one, the lowest one.

Here is an interesting tidbit: The study compared and controlled for different types of singles. Never married and divorced women were more likely to give and to give more than males of the same marital status; however, widowed men give more than widowed women, the study found.

And one more: 96% of the women in the study who earn more than $103,000 gave annually, on average $1,910 to charity. Only 75% of men in the same income category gave and their average gift was $984.


Blackbaud Research on Online Giving

I had great fun last week keynoting Blackbaud’s annual North America conference in DC. Here is the video of the keynote that I did in person and Beth did virtually. Here is the video of our presentation:

I was very pleased by the response from the attendees, but it’s not what stuck with me for the day. I attended a presentation later in the day by Blackbaud. Chuck Longfield, the company’s head of research gave a presentation on the state of fundraising on land and on line that the company gathers from it’s 24,000 nonprofit users (quite a data set!) Here is a link to the findings they were reporting on. I asked Chuck if he was seeing any trends in the behavior of donors whose entry point is online. Do they give less over time? Do they give once and never again? Are the size of their donations less than the ones given by donors who begin through an in person event or through direct mail?

Chuck said it’s too early to tell the trends in this area. But he did share a very, very interesting data point.  He said that donors who come through traditional means like direct mail, who then transition to online giving, give more over time! Chuck said it’s as if giving easier online just makes people give more. This is fascinating and surely gives an incentive to organizations to try to transition their donors to online giving as soon as possible. I discussed with Chuck my interest in understanding donors who come in through social media and he agreed its a key research area in the near future.



Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine