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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mobile giving, if you're smaller than the Red Cross.

I'm on the development committee of a social services organization with a budget under $5 million. We're talking about testing the waters of mobile giving. Here's what I advised:

In addition to our first criteria--is the price right?--there are a few more worth considering.

For background on mobile giving, MobileActive gets a big gold star from me. They're the NTEN of mobile for good, basically. This article is a fantastic snapshot of the state of mobile giving: http://mobileactive.org/mobile-fundraising.

One of the things I'd look for in a mobile giving provider is longevity. These campaigns will build over time, I'd want to start with a provider that I thought would be around for a while. Criteria #2: Will the mobile giving ASP (application service provider) be around for at least two years? Not unlike choosing a CRM, you don't want to keep changing horses mid race.

I recommend starting with the Mobile Giving Foundation's recommendations.
They certify both ASPs and mobile agencies. They have standards for which nonprofits can participate. Alternately, the mGive Foundation is a parallel operator. Here are their standards for nonprofits. MGive only works with one ASP. You may have heard of mGive recently because it is the provider to the Red Cross.

I'd be wary of hiring a non-approved ASP. It's a bit of a wild west right now for mobile giving ASPs, and it's important to take into account the credibility of your ASP in the minds of donors and the general public. Criteria #3: Does the mobile giving ASP appear trustworthy to your donors? Have they run credible campaigns? Are their fees out of line? Note that the promotional emails you've sent may actually be resellers for approved ASPS--it's a good thing to ask any attractive offer who their mobile giving ASP is.

I'm looking for a resource that details all of the mobile giving options for non-Red Cross size orgs. I haven't found it for you yet. I may have to write it. Save me from writing is by suggesting one in the comments, please.

Petitions and 'likes' will not win the endgame.

Should we be cutting slacktivists some slack? Kristin Ivie presents a compelling case on Social Citizens:

Ory (Okolloh, Ushahidi founder) says that there is a growing sentiment in Africa that youth are wasting too much time using technology for fun, time that could be better spent using the same technology for advocacy, human rights monitoring and development. But she says she doesn’t see that as a problem.

At first I paused, not sure I heard her correctly. She explained that she saw nothing wrong with people using social media "selfishly" because if they enjoyed it, they would become comfortable with it, and then they would be ready for action when the moment arises. When they see injustice, need to fight for their rights or the rights of others, or feel they aren't being represented by their government or media, they'll be ready.
My response in a comment:

I'm a tremendous fan of systems that honor the intention of social action, however small. And the platforms that honor intention of connection, however small.

We haven't been so great--to date--about building many platforms that can take the positive intentions of thousands of small actions and transform them into either actionable data (but look at Ushahidi!) or visible impact (go 350.org!) The winning examples of these platforms and human systems though, these fill me with hope.

We're getting better. The problem isn't the alleged slack of slacktivists in my mind. It's that we're not done yet figuring out how to build the platforms and human systems that can harness the empathy for causes into powerful action. I promise you that petitions and 'likes' will not win the endgame.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dynamic hubs for beginners

A NGO asked for help on how to integrate streaming third-party content (Twitter stream) and burbs/buttons (for Facebook.)

My response:

I'm delighted to learn that you're looking for ways to integrate your social media presence into your homepage.

Is your goal to connect your different points of online presence on your homepage? Here are examples of different ways to use social media buttons on your homepage:

Twitter offers official buttons here. Many sites just download a Twitter or Facebook button from another site and use it on theirs.

Is your goal to reuse and integrate dynamic content into an otherwise static homepage? Twitter is a great way to do this. Twitter has an easy official widget you can drop in to a website to pipe in your tweets.

I'd highly recommend crafting a Social Media Strategy that's based on your Communication Plan. We Are Media is a great resource to use when writing your Social Media Strategy. (Disclosure: I helped NTEN and Beth Kanter crowdsource this resource.)

More on We Are Media about Twitter for nonprofits, and Facebook for nonprofits.

I'd love to hear what other nonprofits are doing with social media on their homepages. Please leave a comment here, and let me know what you're experimenting with.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Where should an Executive Director new to social media start?

My strongest recommendation for starting out in social media is to find an online conversation that you're passionate about (either personal or professional--as long as you're passionate about it!)

In response to @afine's great question I posted this comment:
I usually listen for a while at a dinner party, or in a new meeting before speaking--that's what I do online too. If you're used to jumping right in to a conversation, you can try that approach online too.

Once you've found that conversation, engage in it to the point where you feel like you've finally come home, the point where you feel like you've found your long lost tribe.

Whether the conversation is about labradoodles, parenting, or supporting a fight against cancer--when someone experiences that feeling of belonging they have the fuel to start building a successful personal or organizational social media practice.

EDs have the power to make people belong, to inspire action, and to listen deeply to the communities they serve.

Where did you start your path in social media? What do you recommend?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will it take a village to bring our communities online?

As nonprofits, what are our responsibilities to our communities? Screw that. As humans, what are our responsibilities to our communities? If we're creating online platforms, what values are we hard coding in to them? How can nonprofits create change online? Can your theory of change be hard coded into what your social benefit organization builds? Where is your community online?

I do think that there are some discoverable values that are hard coded into any online platform. By hard coded, I mean in the legal policies you've adopted, the features you've released and prioritized, your data taxonomies, your site map and information hierarchy. Platform values are most obvious in the TOS (see Facebook's history.) But other values are also discoverable. What user behaviors are encouraged, and how? What's assumed about how much you want to share, and what? How do you connect with other people, and why? @kevinmarks and @gravity7 have done some interesting thinking and writing in this area. Conversations with @stoweboyd originally got me chewing on this. But it's really been my @cotweet user experince that schooled me best: I like CoTweet's ethics all the way down. From the time I started using CoTweet, every feature, every interaction, every conversation has convinced me that they are building a tool to make me a more successful Twitter user. It's the first software I've ever fallen in love with. (Disclosure: In August 2009, CoTweet paid me to write a casestudy for them.)

When did I turn into such a giant nerd? I'm blaming it on 4 years of awesome NetSquared conversations.

With instructions to sit at a table with people I didn't know, I recently cheated. I sat with super smart Amy Mueller and Thomas Knoll. I know them not-well-enough. We had a wide ranging conversation about getting 'users' to do things on the interwebs. Do we need more user generated content? From whom? Of what sort? And why? What would happen when more people are participating in the read write web? We landed on the possible solution of leveling up the concept of online literacy.

I agree that there is the current situation, and ongoing danger of recreating the existing social structures online. I appreciate Marnie Webb's insistence that nonprofits have a responsibility to bring their communities, their constituencies, online. (If you only click on one link in this post, pick that one.) We must do what Marnie asks us to do. Further, I don't believe that the most powerful way to use the tools we have now is to do fundraising, however broad-based and peer to peer and direct and fancypants it is. Sure, we'll need resources to get our work done. But we can do more. We can do the brilliant, hopeful thing that the old timer internet geeks dreamed of. We can hack how we interact. We can listen like we've never listened before. We can listen to the Big Here.

I want to start talking about how, as social benefit organizations, we can hard code some awesome into what we're building. What's awesome? How can we hard code it? Who is already doing it well?

For my initial kickball team I pick
@CDEgger @webb @suzboop @p2173 @peterdietz @rootwork @awsamuel @suzboop. I proposed a panel for the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference. I'd love to rope in @kanter, but i have this silly notion that she's too busy. (Correct me Beth!)

I want the NTC panel to cover the basics and ethics of creating and managing online platforms and communities. I want us to give nonprofits a basic framework of things to consider including identity and anonymity, digital inclusion and access, community management, taxonomy, content ownership, and your data ecosystem. We need a new more involved kind of online literacy (which needs a new name)--a working knowledge of the issues creating and managing online platforms and communities and a way to stay in conversation with colleagues who are working with the same issues.

But, to be honest, that panel proposal is only the edge of my crazy idea. And it puzzles into NTEN's awesome ongoing discussion about the health of your data ecosystem, and a project about open nonprofit data I've been discussing with Holly Ross.

I have a fantasy that we can chew on this and create some resources for our fellow changemakers. Some checklists of stuff to think about, and examples of people who are already doing it well.

I'm sure I've missed some incredibly intelligent, engaged people already doing this work. You're invited too. We need a whole village. Join up, and I'll figure out how to get us what we need to have this conversation. Please nominate people who you think should join in the comments, @rachelannyes, or rachel.weidinger@gmail.com. Village up, changemakers. We've got some infrastructure to theorize, and create.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Doing things anyways.

Last week at the Online Community Summit, a presenter shared a somewhat garbled Robert Sutton quote that intrigued me. What I heard was "A successful prize gets people to do what they want to do anyway." What I took away was that successful prize gives permission to act.

I was interested enough that I tracked down the actual Robert Sutton quote: “a successful prize gets people to do what they want to do anyways—it just helps them to do it more successfully.”

There are several directions here that are interesting.
  • Prize as push to do what you want to do.
  • Prize as push to take an action you would have anyway within a certain timeframe.
  • Prize as permission to act at all.
  • Prize as incentive to do what you want to do anyways.
  • Prize as reason to prioritize one single action among many actions you want to take.
  • And finally, the meaning that was possibly originally intended: prize as incentive to act--but with a wrapper of other elements that make you (or your action) more successful.
What are you trying to get people to do? Why?

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Taxonomies.

In response to thoughtful Lucy Berhnold's new buzzword taxonomy I left a long comment:

I'm wary of rigid taxonomies, and hopeful that this actually isn't the next trend.

While taxonomies may help drive Open APIs like Civic Actions--and indeed underlie many piles of information-- what's much more interesting to me is the idea that shared language allows for 1. understanding and 2. remixing. "Shared language" as in, for example, when we use the word "organization" we indicate that we mean U.S. based 501(c)3.

My issue with the application of the word taxonomy in the context you suggest is that a rigid mapping of relationships between individual stuffs is not always so great. Linking an address to a zipcode is sometimes entirely different from linking a funder to a grantee. Locking complex, organic entities into a rigid relationship can limit us in unexpected ways. Forcing taxonomic order amongst dynamic entities or issues is a powerful thing. Use it wisely.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On United Flight 1184

[Image via friend Daniel Terdiman, News.com...read his whole awesome article.]

On United Flight 1184, spread couchily across 35 G and H, the Rockies are reflected in my quite reflective screen. It’s usually only me layered over whatever doc I’m working on, but this morning it’s all wing and mountains. Working looking at my constant reflection is hard on my eyes, and completely odd. Nothing like looking at your face 10 hours a day to ground you in the fact that you’re getting older.

It’s been one week since I returned from SXSW Interactive, and today I’m headed to NTC in New Orleans. I’m leaving spring in San Francisco, and not thrilled about it.

Conferences are crucibles of interaction though, and the past two weeks have been intense and creative. I expect this week will be no different.

Jane McGonigal’s keynote has been on my mind. Her superhero qualities (above) are mooshing with my interest in SuperHero Camp this summer. Tantek and I had a fascinating exchange about programs for change, and started to talk about how to build them, how they replicate, and how to understand people. The Leslie and I have springlishly committed to each other that we will explore a new idea, for reals. Obama gave a speech I was grateful to hear, and among other hopes, I hope he stayed up all night to write it himself. [Here we wobble and drift, through clouds over snowy peaks. And the mountains end and it’s a sea of houses on the plain.]

If I sit with my hips all the way back in the seat, regally postured, I’m always the tallest person on the plane. The view from 30,001 feet.

Soundtrack: Shuffle…Gillian Welch/ Miss Ohio, Elliot Smith/ Miss Misery, Aimee Mann/ Wise Up, Mountain Goats /The Mess Inside, The Beatles/ I’m Looking Through You.