A study released by the Foundation Center today reports that foundations are dipping their toes into the social media waters. Based on a small sample of 73 foundation executives, the survey finds that about one-third of foundation CEOs surveyed regularly use Facebook or read blogs. Only six percent reported using Twitter.
The executives are more comfortable using more traditional forms of online communications, such as listserves (45%) and newsletters (65%). Obviously, there is a lot of room for growth by these execs in social media.
Just this morning, a friend asked me, “Would you rather see a foundation use social media tools themselves or fund it?” Since both wasn’t an answer, I said use social media tools themselves, because as we write in The Networked Nonprofit, “Social media us is a contact sport not a spectator sport.” It’s hard to effectively fund efforts on the part of grantees that have social media built into them without using the toolset oneself. It’s like buying a car without ever having driven one.
I hope these foundations, and the others who didn’t respond to the survey, will take a page out of the Case Foundation or Knight Foundation’s playbook and really begin to use the tools themselves. Senior executives need to blog and tweet as real people, not logos, out from behind the fortress walls. It’s the ony way to see how it feels to work as part of a network not just fund them.
One of the main vehicles for sharing news about the book we used during the week was live video and chat. On Monday we hosted our own live video, on Thursday we did a live chat at the Chronicle of Philanthropy and on Friday we again used UStream for a video conversation at the Case Foundation about America’s Giving Challenge. Each time I was reminded of scenes from one of my favorite movies, My Favorite Year, about the early years of television. Here’s the trailer from the movie:
Each time we were scurrying around to make the technology work. Poor Beth was trying to monitor the tweet and Ustream chats and questions in real time, with and without her glasses, during our broadcast (I wasn’t much help). Our BlogTalkRadio chat at the Chronicle was fun, alas, most callers couldn’t get on air and we didn’t know if it was us or them. And seconds before we went live at the Case Foundation, Eric Johnson, a brillant technologist, was frantically trying to get around the internal firewall. We’re all just figuring it out, live, and I imagine in two or three years from now will look back and giggle about our early attempts.
On a more serious note there was a thread of conversation that I had with people we met in person last week that was both gratifying and a bit sad. A number of people said to me privately, sotto voce and not for attribution, that they are adopting social media from within their nonprofits, but surreptitiously and even with some fear for their jobs, because of the fortress mentalities from senior management. They didn’t want advice as much as they wanted someone to listen and to tell them that they were doing the right thing by going around the conventions and roadblocks put up by managers educated in a previous century and paralyzed by the fear of giving up control to people inside and out. I admire their courage and strength to do this and the only advice I could offer them is that they are doing the right thing that someday soon their organizations will appreciate their efforts. But until then, they will need to find allies throughout the organization and on their boards to support the need to change and open up their fortresses.
Beth and I posted our final reflections on America’s Giving Challenge on the Case Foundation blog yesterday. You can read the post here. It is a summary of what we learned in our assessment of the second round of the Giving Challenge.
Some of the themes that we learned about and discussed online with participants and others were:
the advantages to small organizations in online contests
the need to have joyous funerals by understanding and appreciating failures
the importance of relationship building
the intersection of community organizing and online fundraising, and
how to decide whether to participate in a contest.
And we proposed a special sauce for winning online contests that includes personal appeals, thankfulness, transparency, spreading out the work, the use of video storytelling, and on-land activities.
But, far and away my favorite part of the reflections post is this video that Beth did with Ashley Boyd of Moms Rising on the importance of reflecting on efforts through “joyful funerals.” Enjoy!
In the post, the pattern that we saw in the Giving Challenge and in other contests is some combination of personal appeals, thankfulness, transparency, crowdsourcing, visual stories and face-to-face engagement that make groups successful.
But, still (naturally!) we have more questions.
Our questions to readers, doers and thinkers are:
In your experience does a concoction, some blend of activities and tasks, exist, that makes some groups or people more successful than others in fundraising contests? And if so, what are they?
Under what circumstances does some combination of activities work best?
Is there a tool or action you think might work well in the future that you’d like to test next time (e.g. a geo-location service like Foursquare?)
Are we trying too hard to be prescriptive in discussing sauces, and should we just let people create their own recipes?
I attended a symposium last Friday hosted by the Case Foundation and the White House on promoting public innovation through prizes and contests. The Case Foundation blogged about the purpose of the event prior to it here.
If anyone had told me two years ago that two hundred people in DC, mainly from federal agencies, would get together to talk about using social media for innovation through prizes and contests I would not have believed it. And yet, there we were – at HUD no less!
A few takeaways for me were the array of agencies interested in working this way. They aren’t all able to do it because of the layers of red tape that prevent prizes from being given. But the gravitational pull outwards to openly sharing innovation and good ideas, lessons learned and processes for innovation is happening. It’s spearheaded by amazing people like Vivek Kundra and Beth Noveck who are working from the inside of government outwards.
I was also struck by the amazing array of contests taking place right now funded by federal agencies and foundations. Of course, I’m well aware of the high profile contests like America’s Giving Challenge sponsored by the Case Foundation, Chase Facebook Challenge, and Pepsi Refresh Project. What I didn’t realize was how may contests and challenges were being sponsored by the feds. Here is a report that provides an overview of the types of prizes and contests offered.
There was a great post on the Chronicle’s website today about the use of Twitter by nonprofit organizations.
Great quotes from my Social Citizens blog pal Kari Dunn Saratovsky at the Case Foundation and Beth (of course!) on the various ways that foundations and nonprofits are using Twitter to share news, raise money, organize events and generally connect with their supporters.
But one of the tips at the end of the article left me pondering. It said: Be professional. While for an animal-rights group blogging about vegan recipes may make sense, posting about how disappointed you were in last night’s episode of Lost probably doesn’t.
I’m not sure I agree with this. I do like my Twitter friends to focus mainly on their work and our shared passion for the various ways that social media are enhancing social change efforts. But one of the nicest things about Twitter is how easy it is to get to know someone in such short bursts of communication. I’ve learned that my old friend Ruby is pregnant, and my new friend Qui is moving to the Northwest. I hear about job openings, job woes, what people ate at their business dinner and who is stuck on the tarmac. I am getting to know my business contacts as real people, not as suits behind a desk.
Here’s the best way to see the difference. I am friends with Andy Carvin (who I’ve only met through email and Twitter!) through his personal Twitter account, he also writes the more formal NPR tweets. Andy tweets as a person, where he’s going today, what he’s reading, who he’s seeing, and what great stories are online at NPR.org or other sites that I should read. And I often do. But when his tweets behind the formal NPRpolitics logo show up I hardly ever read them. I’m not friends with a logo and I find them cold to look at on my screen.
So, I think I disagree with the advice that one should be professional on Twitter. I think you should be yourself – which is always the best thing to be anyway, right? You should use Twitter to its best advantage, meaning use it to help you to connect in meaningful ways with large numbers of people who care about you and your cause.