Tag - Chronicle of Philanthropy

Social Good Podcast 2.0
Welcome Back to Social Media
Cause Fatigue: Reality or Myth?
Social Good Podcast with Dan Savage of "It Gets Better Project"
Foundations and Social Media: Fad or Future?
Social Media Fundraising Lessons
Social Good Podcast: Drew Olanoff's Amazing Story
Digital Games for Change

Social Good Podcast 2.0

I’m about to celebrate my third anniversary of hosting the Social Good podcast at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It is such a privilege and great fun to have conversations with interesting people ever month – and to have so many people listen!

However, as I’ve written recently, it’s time for nonprofits to switch gears regarding the use of social media. Using social media are not longer optional or marginal to nonprofit success, they are integral. In other words, “Within these organizations social-media tools aren’t a department, a function, or one staff member’s job. The tools are integrated into every department and every function of the organization.”

The Social Good podcast needs to keep up with this transition.

Peter Panepento, my smart, colleague at the Chronicle, and I began to discuss the next iteration of the podcast. I also reached out to the wonderful Britt Bravo for advice because she’s well, Britt, smart, funny and has her finger on the pulse of all things social change.

Here’s our thinking to date for a new format for the podcast beginning in January 2012.

We’d like to get the voice of nonprofit staff and board members who have real questions and challenges into the podcast. We’ll begin by asking people to tweet in their questions/problems in trying to keep their organizations relevant and effective in the fast changing nonprofit landscape. Should we recruit Millennials for our board? What do we do with our aging direct mail donor base? How do we create social media policies? The podcast will be a conversation I’ll facilitate between the questioner (who may want to remain anonymous) with an expert providing context, resources and a few simple, immediate next steps.

And now it’s your turn! What do you think of this direction? Should the scope be narrower and more specific? Should folks be able to email in questions (I think tweeting imposes a discipline of being concise, but I could be wrong!) Should there be a crowdsourcing element to the problem solving?

I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Welcome Back to Social Media

After the most lovely August-off, I’m back to the social media world. I wanted to share my thoughts published in a recent edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy on where we are regarding social media and nonprofits. The article is behind the pay wall at the Chronicle, so here’s the full text:

It’s Time to Get Serious About Using Social Media

It’s official – we’re all social now.Nine in ten nonprofits use Facebook, smaller but significant numbers have Twitter accounts and their own blogs, and the amount charities raise through social networks is the fastest piece of the overall giving pie.

But now that nonprofits are pinging and poking, friending and following, liking and tweeting, it’s time for them to take the next step.

Nonprofits must stop simply experimenting with social media as if it were a pair of shimmering, five-inch Manolo Blahnik high heels and integrate the tools throughout their organizations like a pair of sturdy Timberland walking shoes.

As the media-pundit Clay Shirkey wrote in Here Comes Everybody, “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Social media as tools have reached the boring stage. It is time to cut off the tags and acknowledge that the warranty for social media tools is up. What changes is what we do with them.

As Beth Kanter and I wrote in The Networked Nonprofit, organizations immersed in social media look and behave more like social networks than traditional stand-alone organizations. These organizations look outside and see a world filled with networks of individuals and organizations ready and able to help them, an abundance of smart people of good will ready to be activated for a cause.

Within these organizations social media tools aren’t a department, a function, one staff member’s job or a hammer for every nail. The tools are integrated into every department and every function of the organization.

Social media plans or departments don’t live separate and distinct from the rest of an organization is a mistake. Every functional area of the organization, communications, development, programs, even administration and finance, has use for the power of conversation that comes from social media. Staff dedicated to social media spend as much time coaching their colleagues in other departments as manning the social media channels themselves.

One such example is Atlas Service Corps, a very small nonprofit organization that has social media built into its DNA. Social media makes it possible to expand the reach of the organization, which brings nonprofit leaders from developing countries to the United States for one-year fellowships.

By using social networks, it is able to recruit fellows from abroad, raise money, share their success stories, identify host organizations and stay connected to its alumni with a staff of just nine people. What would have taken thirty or forty staff members to accomplish in an analog world, says Atlas’ founder and CEO, Scott Beale, can be done with a small, agile staff leveraging their networks to share, learn, and enlarge their efforts.

But even organizations that were created long before blogs were part of the lexicon can still transform their operations with social media. The National Wildlife Federation learned how to take advantage of social networks under the leadership of its social-media manager, Danielle Brigida. Now more than 90 of the organization’s staff members have been trained to use Twitter to share their work with the world, in their own voice, using their own identities.

The default setting of many organizations is to think of social media as a new box on the organizational chart. However, that is too narrow a definition for social media. It isn’t a thing for a small group of people to do, it is a way of being for an entire organization. It would be like restricting the telephone just to the telephone department.

Social change happens through conversations between real people. Not between logos and people, but through authentic conversations between supporters of causes. Encouraging these conversations and participating in them has to be a top priority for all nonprofit organizations. And the best ambassadors are the people already hired to carry out the organization’s mission. Of course, this means giving up some control of both the message and the messengers.

When nonprofits embed social media throughout organizations, they will allow the best ambassadors for their causes, staff members and key volunteers, to talk about the work they know best, ask for help and advice, and make new friends and supporters across networks. If those networks help all nonprofits stretch their resources, think about how much more good organizations could do for the world.



Cause Fatigue: Reality or Myth?

The phrase is everywhere in our cause world: cause fatigue. It seems logical to assume that people are getting tired of causes in general;we are drowning in requests for attention, time and money.

Or are we?

Is cause fatigue a real phenomenon or an assumption by the causerati (just made that up, you get the idea). I’m tired of all the requests, but perhaps that’s because my Inbox is stuffed not only with my personal cause requests but with press releases from dozens more.

Here is a for instance of what I’m talking about. I just read this article about an interesting survey of the different ways that men and women view causes online. I’m reading along. It all makes sense, women are interested in supporting childhood obesity more than men, men are interested in global warming and the Tea Party. But then, nearer the end of the article, this point is made:

“They also say that clicking “like” for a cause on Facebook doesn’t really mean anything and contributes to “cause fatigue” brought on by the rampant use of social media.”

What the data from the study highlighted beneath this quote actually asks about is whether email from causes can sometimes feel like spam (75% say yes) and whether you get too many email from causes and if “liking” a cause on Facebook has any real meaning.  A little less than half of the respondents said yes to the last two questions.  These three responses taken together add up to “cause fatigue” by the analyzer of the data.

Is that true? Is this how we are defining”cause fatigue”? If email is spammy, but people keep giving mainly by email, is that fatigue. If slightly more than half of the respondents seem to feel that “liking” a cause on Facebook has some meaning, is that also an indicator of “cause fatigue”.

(BTW, when I Googled “cause fatigue” the most relevant finding was the reflection paper Beth and I wrote for the Case Foundation on America’s Giving Challenge. It’s always disappointing when looking for something new turns into looking in the mirror!)

One problem I see with measuring “cause fatigue” is how to figure out what didn’t happen because of it. It’s like measuring prevention programs – how many girls would have gotten pregnant if not for our intervention? There’s no way to  know. And even if we do measure it, how do we know it’s a bad thing? And the presumption in this analysis is also that social media is causing “cause fatigue”, is that true? Maybe people have to get tired of causes before they really pay attention? More questions than answers here, which, in my mind, always means there is something potentially interesting going on here.


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.


Foundations and Social Media: Fad or Future?

The few well-known examples of foundations acting like Networked Nonprofits have become so oft-repeated that they’re almost cliches – the David and Lucile Packard Foundation using a wiki to generate new ideas for their nitrogen program, the Case Foundation’s use of their blogs to weave conversations, the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge to invest in next generation news businesses infused with social media. I began to wonder whether these examples were becoming the few exceptions in foundation world or harbingers for other foundations?

I asked Linda Wood of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and Elizabeth Miller of the Overbrook Foundation their take on the state of foundations and social media for this month’s Social Good podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The answer according to Linda and Elizabeth was unqualified: social media is the future of philanthropy. They both emphasized the risk averse nature of foundations that are just now inching their way into the use of social media and the early state writ large of social media. Linda has been blogging about foundations and transparency and using online videos to share the experiences of the foundation’s leadership program grantees. Linda said that she has couched the use of social media internally as “pilot” projects, which eased the potential fear of senior staff and trustees that social media would turn the entire foundation upside down.

Elizabeth has also written about philanthropy and transparency and said that the Overbrook Foundation was looking for discreet opportunities to test social media. One of my favorite moments was Elizabeth talking about how it feels to her to use Twitter as a foundation staff person. This is perhaps the most oft-cited fear of foundation staff that I hear, “I don’t want to be overwhelmed with requests and criticisms by being online.” Here is what Elizabeth had to say on this topic:

I think thatTwitter has helped me build relationships with existing grantees in a
major way, I’m able to RT their work, learn more about the individuals
working at the organizations etc. If anything it also exposed me to new
organizations that might be right for the foundation, and just generally
kept me up to speed in the issue areas that we fund, what interesting
articles are out there, what other foundations are doing the kind of
work we are, how to collaborate better, who to collaborate with.

There are occasionally people who will follow me or DM asking about
Foundation guidelines, proposals, how to apply for a grant (not as much
as you may think), but for me, I feel like answering those questions is
part of working for a Foundation. And if you’re being open/transparent
(like Linda talked about) then you can be clear about what you fund, why
etc. This might be skewed because I’m a program associate tweeting and
it’s not the official Overbrook Foundation Twitter feed, but that’s my
general feeling.

I love Elizabeth’s take on this – particularly that being accessible is part of her job!  Hope others are listening.


Social Media Fundraising Lessons

Stacy Palmer of the Chronicle of Philanthropy invited me to participate in a reporters briefing called the New Nonprofit Reality. The co-hosts are Edelman, the Chronicle and The Bridgespan Group. I will be sharing the panel with Stacy Palmer of the Chronicle and Ken Berger of Charity Navigator.

My charge is to help answer this question:

How is technology influencing public perception of nonprofits as well as fundraising efforts? (Talk about Haiti as a fundraising case study)

My thoughts:

1. Just to clarify my perspective, I will offer my thoughts on how social media can help build relationships with communities of people. I really don’t know anything about hardware or software, big boxes and cold rooms are anathema to me! But I do know something about ways that nonprofits are using the array of social media channels to connect with people, learn from them, build relationships with them to further their causes.

2. Organizations that are focused on friends first, funds second are doing better with social media. The Humane Society spent several years building their friends on MySpace and Facebook. It was only last year that they asked for funds as part of their Spay Day contest that Beth writes about it here.

3. Beware the silver bullet! Text message fundraising was a perfect vehicle for the Red Cross to use after the earthquake in Haiti. But as I wrote here, it shouldn’t be assumed that other organizations with less urgent needs can use it to the same effect. It was an intersection of tool and time that made it work so well – in addition to Wendy Harmon being a great planner and preparing for just this kind of opportunity.

4. Moore’s Law applies to fundraising with social media. Moore’s Law describes the double of computing speed every two years. In the same way, the use of social media for fundraising (not just using websites as portal for giving but using social media like Facbook to raise friends and funds) will increase geometrically. Blackbaud reported last year that online giving was still small part of the fundraising pie, but the percentage has increased significantly just in the first quarter of this year and will continue to do so. Just because it’s small now, just because people expected Causes to be a money spigot, doesn’t mean that it has leveled off.  We are just beginning the climb.

5. While the volume of giving is growing online, the dollar amounts are low. Are social media channels simply online direct mail, or will donors be able and willing to give larger amounts over time? It depends largely on whether and how relationships are built with donors. It also depends on how Millennials ultimately begin to give to causes. They, like everyone else, are beginning to dip their toe into fundraising using social media, but will they eventually become bigger donors to specific institutions over time, or will they spread themselves around and give little amounts to lots of causes?  We’ll have to wait and see!

So, these are just my thoughts right now about this very big and important topic. Please let me know other things I should be thinking about, thanks!


Social Good Podcast: Drew Olanoff's Amazing Story

My monthly Social Good podcast is available on the Chronicle website.

This month, Drew Olanoff tells his story. Last May 29 year old Drew learned that he had cancer. An avid user of Twitter, he decided to fight back by having some fun. He created an accounted called BlameDrewsCancer and invited everyone he knew to blame anything bad that happened to them on his cancer.  And a cause was started – but not ended. He tells what happened next on the podcast.

Drew is an important illustration of the power of individuals who are facile with social media to raise awareness of issues and causes and activate a community for them. Nonprofits need to understand, appreciate and learn to work with these free agents.


Digital Games for Change

This month’s edition of the Social Good podcast was is up on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s website. The topic this month are the ways that digital games can be used for social change.

According to the Entertainment Software Industry association’s website, $11.7 Billion was spent on video games in 2008 alone and 68% of American households are playing video games. This doesn’t include the growing number of free games downloaded onto iPhones and other mobile devices. Gaming is HUGE, and will continue to grow exponentially.

A few groups are creatively using them to raise awareness and funds for causes. My guests on the podcast are Alex Quinn, the Executive Director of Games for Change and Brian Reich, who has the coolest title ever, Principle Evangelist of a new for profit venture called GamesThatGive, to talk about the ways that digital games can impact social change.

I was struck during our conversation about how both groups are using digital games for change but in diametrically opposite ways.

Picture 4Alex and the groups that his organization supports are creating games with a serious purpose. Against All Odds has users experience the life of a global refugee. 3rd World Farmer has players experience managing a virtual farm in a third world country. Players learn about issues and even develop action steps beyond the game. Schools are incorporating these kinds of games into their curricula.

Picture 3Brian’s group is a for-profit start up that is leveraging the large amounts of time people are playing casual games like Solitaire and Gems. By encouraging casual game playing on their site, the company will be donating a portion of the ad revenue the site is generating to donate to causes like nonprofit organizations like the Wilderness Society.

I love the idea that both of these groups arrived at the idea of using digital games for change in entirely different ways. It is a great reminder that there is no one right way to use social media for social change.


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