(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

November 6, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Listening from the #MAPoli Elections

Today one of my enjoyable chores significantly streamlined my Tweetdeck client as I shed many list and search columns that were dedicated to listening to the Twitter chatter about the 2010 Massachusetts elections.

Filtering is one of the most important ways of efficiently finding the information you want to see on Twitter and using Tweetdeck columns to keep tabs on lists and searches is one of the easiest ways to keep an eye on the Twittersphere.  Paying attention to what all sides are saying is a great way to find messaging, events, & commentary to share and/or respond to, so I thought I’d quickly share what I listened to and why in case it can be helpful for you during future elections, or as you plan for other types of campaigns.

For me, there are a few important considerations on how to think about what you should listen to:

  1. To state the obvious: hashtags that supporters and opponents are using to talk about the election (BONUS TIP: when setting up searches, leave out the “#” as long as it won’t flood the search stream too much by searching just for the word.  Occasionally, people forget the pound-sign, use a “@” instead, or in some instances you’ll want to hear when people are using a word outside of the hashtag.)
  2. Candidate names (the ones you support and the ones you don’t) so you can hear the good and bad said about the candidates and help amplify whichever you might want to share by retweeting them (BONUS TIP: Retweet the old fashion way so you can add the hashtag and get the tweet more visibility.)
  3. Media outlets give you a quick glimpse at the headlines of the day (BONUS TIP: You can use Tweetdeck’s Filter Button to quickly see if there are any stories about the candidates that have been tweeted recently)
  4. Supporters to see what they’re saying and respond/retweet accordingly
  5. Campaign tweeps can give you a view of what the candidates are doing on a daily basis and a window into what they’re doing outside the popular hashtags (if anything)
  6. Relevant issues and keywords like the big dig, race to the top, tolls, yobgolins, loscocco, bakerbots, cape wind and other topics that might come up in the course of the campaign so you can respond/retweet accordingly

Lists

Searches (note: some of these columns lasted longer in Tweetdeck than others, but for posterity & nostalgia’s sake, here’s as many as I can recall)

  • magov
  • mapoli OR masspoli
  • malegis
  • bospoli
  • ma2010
  • votedeval
  • massgovernor
  • devalpatrick OR “Deval Patrick” OR “Gov. Patrick” OR “Governor Patrick”
  • timforgovernor OR “Tim Cahill”
  • bakerforgov OR “Charlie Baker”
  • bigdigbaker
  • mahadenough
  • hadenough
  • bakerbot OR bakerbots
  • timsteam
  • ivotedeval
  • got50

If you keep an ear out for Twitter chatter about campaigns or nonprofits, how do you decide what to search for?

Have other good tips for effective listening?

What was your favorite hashtag from the campaign trail?

Screenshot of Tweetdeck during The Great #MAPoli Tweetdeck Column Purging of 2010

September 23, 2010

ActBlue: The Best Kind of Addiction, or How to Fundraise from Young Professionals

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 2:00 am

I have been asking for money for organizations or campaigns, or at least working for organizations and campaigns that ask for money, for a long time.  Despite that, I rarely give.  When I did give, it was been because someone I know was asking, which figures:

“Asked who could get them to donate to an organization, most Millennial donors say they would be likely or highly likely to give if asked by a family member (74.6%) or a friend (62.8 %). Only 37.8% would be likely or highly likely to give is asked by a coworker.”

But lately, that’s been changing; I’ve gotten a bit addicted to supporting progressive causes I believe in (e.g. here, here, here, here and more that hasn’t been reported yet).  Multiple, small contributions – aren’t I just the millennial online donating cliche :)

Partially, it’s because there’s an incredibly important election happening in Massachusetts and I’ve been happy to give to Governor Deval Patrick because I appreciate that he’s helped Massachusetts lead the country in access to healthcare, job creation, student achievement, and because his administration represents an important change of pace in Massachusetts government (actually passing reforms, working with unions to get concessions that work, closing the Mass Turnpike Authority [don't ask], and investing in infrastructure across the whole state).

But part of it’s for another reason.  It’s the same reason I’ve been able to raise $335 for our volunteer-run Young Democrats of Massachusetts with no financial investment on our part – or more significantly, that Gov. Patrick has raised more than $1.3 million from nearly 6,000 contributors online.  Online giving makes you feel good, and is good for you.  And ActBlue is an incredibly easy way to make your campaign feel good, too.

For those not familiar with ActBlue, there are a few great benefits you should be aware of – and then you should sign-up:

But the great features aren’t the only reason to get connected:

And what got me to enter my credit card information on a website other than GrubHub or eBay?

  • For me, low dollar events in almost every case – from a Turkey Fry in Dorchester, bash in Downtown Crossing, evening with David Plouffe, and the list goes on.  Young professionals like the opportunity to network or the sense that they’re getting something directly from their contribution, so events are a great way to get the wallet opened up – and ActBlue makes the registration process easy.
  • As mentioned before, being asked by someone you know will always be the most likely way, and some of our YDM Board members have done a great job of introducing new donors to our PAC through ActBlue’s easy tools
  • What about emails? While I think Governor Patrick’s campaign is doing amazing things on every front, none of his email appeals have resonated.  They tend to run on for four or five paragraphs, and lack the bullets, bolding, images, and linking that I think would increase response rates (seriously, guys, there should be a link in the first two paragraphs of a fundraising appeal).  I’d also encourage more targeted appeals (“hey young people.. yada yada yada.. give $5, $15, or $50″), more exigency (“help us meet this deadline,” “give today so we can stay on the airwaves tomorrow,” etc.), and more talk of specifically what my contribution will enable.

Regardless of what you give, or to whom, it’s important you get involved now.  And even if you can’t give, you can find a candidate you like and create a fundraising page for them.

Until we are able to undo the notion of “corporations = people” and take money out of politics, campaigns are some of the most important causes you can give your time and/or resources to.  I’m not saying give less to the 501c3’s charitable organizations you support, but I am saying stay in one extra night, skip a few coffees, or otherwise redirect $25 to a candidate who represents the values you care about (like Deval Patrick).

And if your a progressive campaign or qualified advocacy organization, sign up for ActBlue now.

Nonprofiteers: Don’t just give, get involved. Government has a direct impact – and all to often neglect – for the nonprofit sector.  You can blame some politicians – on both sides – for not being involved enough in our sector.  But you can absolutely blame the thousands of nonprofits that don’t understand that the third sector needs to act like all the rest and play an active role in the political process.  There are some things you and your organization can legally do (PDF) related to ballot initiatives (PDF) and public policy, but budding nonprofit leaders would be wise to start finding ways to get involved in other aspects of the political process.

Part of the reason I’m so adamant in my support for Gov. Patrick is because I know he looks at the role of government the same way I do.  Government should help strengthen our communities by helping people help themselves.  And I know he knows nonprofits play a crucial role in that.  Helping people with disabilities lead independent lives, included in our community.  Empowering the most vulnerable people in our communities.  Enabling people to go to work because they don’t need to stay home to take care of a loved one every day.  Employing more people that many of the other sectors we’re investing heavily in.  Acting as an economic engine. Check out the leadership he showed addressing nonprofit human service agencies in 2008 and  2009.

For some quick tips on getting your campaigns online giving and other strategies off the ground, check out Learning from Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond and Internet Media Strategy Tips for Political Candidates.  Happy campaigning.

Whether you’re a 501c3 nonprofiteer, advocacy organization, or campaign, let us know your favorite fundraising tool and the most important features to you!

January 6, 2010

How Facebook is Friendly for Advocacy

Adriel Hampton made an astute observation about how Twitter is a friendlier space for elected officials and politicians than Facebook given the full  “control of one’s presence, without any overt need for filters.”  To boil it down, Adriel explains

If you’ve got a wide open Facebook page and somebody wants to spam you all day long, you need a strategy to deal with that. Left alone, it’s going to muck up your page.

To make an obvious extension of that thought, it’s worth noting that this is conversely a great benefit to nonprofits, other advocacy Comments Supporting the People First Campaign on Governor Deval Patrick's Fan PAgegroups, and angry constituents using Facebook.  Your campaign can get lots of added visibility and show a strong impact through the simple act of asking your membership to leave status updates on their fan page – and all of the comments left on an officials Facebook page will remain publicly visible unless the official deletes it, which would just add fuel to the fire.

Given the very tough financial position the Massachusetts government is in, human service providers, caregivers, clients, families, and the community came together to form the People First Campaign to remind Governor Patrick about the importance of protecting services for our most vulnerable citizens.  Supporters connected through emails, phone calls, tweets, and Facebook messages – and made their voices heard to the Governor through all of those channels as well.  In advocacy and organizing, be sure to consider all the ways to reach supporters, and for them to engage.

While I think 86 retweets of our act.ly petition on a statewide issue is pretty significant for a newly formed statewide advocacy campaign (I’d love to find out if @MassGovernor’s been tweeted by more constituents on a single issue), and proportionally reflect the community’s belief that these services need to be saved, Facebook did offer supporters some other benefits.  For one, there’s still a lot more people on Facebook than on Twitter, which means more people visiting the landing page or getting the emails about the campaign were able to participate on Facebook than Twitter.

Perhaps the most powerful (and obvious) difference between Facebook and Twitter is the character limit.  We spend so much time discussing the uniqueness of Twitter’s 140 character limit and how it can be used, it’s easy to forget how empowered supporters become with the ability to share their stories – and, perhaps, influence other people who read them, whether staff or other constituents.

It is important to note that many Fan Pages set their Wall to only display updates from their account, requiring readers to click the button to view Just Fans to see the messages left by visitors.  This is a handy thing for campaigns to consider when setting up their campaign, and a handy workaround for advocates seeking visual real estate on the default view: comment on the Fan Page updates.

I’m not sure why I was surprised that Governor Deval Patrick’s Facebook Fan Page was the only online presence he has controlled by his campaign and not the office of the Governor like so many other platforms, but it makes sense.  I’m glad smart guys like Adriel are thinking about Gov2.0 engagement on Facebook, but frankly besides putting specific questions out for public comment, it’s hard to see a constructive, beneficial, practical way for government agencies to interact on Facebook.  Is having the broadcast channel worth the comments you can’t control?  Perhaps it depends on the agency/official, but I support and respect those that are trying work in a medium with such little control.

Screenshots of Facebook Fan Page Comments Thanking Governor Patrick for Putting People FirstIt’s not all thankless risk for elected officials on Facebook.  In addition to broadcasting messages, receiving feedback (like it or not), and the campaign, Facebook’s can also offer the largest platform for people to show their appreciation when an elected does the right thing (like protecting important human service funding).

There’s a big difference between the logistics of government engagement on social media and that of candidates, and I think we’ll see campaigns continue to leverage Facebook.  Although Facebook has these benefits for advocacy organizations, campaigns also have the same benefits in sending  updates to rally supporters  – reaching the widest audience, sharing more than 140 characters at a time, permanence of updates, etc.  And, like advocacy organizations, can use all of the other robust features Facebook offers (like planning events and using other tools for setting up a winning Facebook Fan Page).  Just be sure whoever’s maintaining the page has thick skin.

While we made it through the last round of 9c cuts with fewer cuts than expected, Massachusetts continues to face tough decisions as we look ahead to the 2011 budget process, which is starting now.  We still need your voice to make sure Governor Patrick knows we’re still paying attention and expect him to continue to put people first as he looks at the budget.  Please take  a second to send him a reminder on Twitter, or by leaving a message on his Facebook Page.

It’s good to be back in WordPress, and I’m resolving to make sure I’m sharing at least two posts per month for 2010, so please let me know what’s on your mind – and what you think advocacy organizations are reaching out to government, elected official, and candidates in the world of social media.

September 16, 2009

More Reasons Seth Godin is Wrong

I recently read a great post on Cause  Wired Communications blog on why Seth Godin is wrong about nonprofits and social media, and wanted to add a few of my own thoughts..

First of all, the post is right on that Seth’s post perpetuates misconceptions of our sector and that the metrics of being on the Top 100 Twitterers, getting Digged a lot, and other comparisons to VC tech firms is ridiculous.  However, there is an even greater factual inaccuracy in the assertion Seth makes, purely on his observations.

I could get into how funders don’t want to put money into innovation, capacity building, or marketing – that they want every dime going to the services nonprofits provide their clients, and how that is a barrier to trying out new technologies.  There are also other potential barriers like confidentiality, limited resources in general, overall lack of technology infrastructure, etc.

BUT there’s no need.  The whole premise of Godin’s article is wrong, so that’s where I’ll start.

Godin inaccurately asserts

“The problem facing your group [nonprofits], ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change. … Where are the big charities, the urgent charities, the famous charities that face such timely needs and are in a hurry to make change? Very few of them have bothered to show up [in social media] in a big way

However, the Society for New Communications Research recently determined that nonprofits are leading the way in social media! For example, “their latest research shows the Fortune 500 with the least amount of corporate blogs (16%), the Inc. 500 with 39%, colleges and universities blogging at 41%, and charities now reporting 57% with blogs.

Here are some other great stats highlighted on SNCR’s blog:

• In 2007, 75 percent of the respondents reported using at least one form of social media. One year later, 89 percent of these organizations are using at least one form of social media. Usage increased for every tool studied.
• Social networking and video blogging are now the most common tools used, with 79% of charities using each of them. Use of online video increased by 38 percent; social networking increased by 47 percent in the one-year period studied.
• In addition, the charities reported that they have begun to use Twitter.
• When asked if they felt their blogs were successful, approximately 90% of charities with blogs said yes. This finding is consistent with studies in business and academia that have consistently shown those using social media are satisfied and feel it provides positive results.
• Sixty-six percent of respondents in 2007 and 75% in 2008 report they monitor the Internet for buzz, posts, conversations and news about their institution. This compares with 54 percent of colleges and universities and 60 percent of the Inc. 500.
• More than 80 percent of those studied feel that social media is at least “somewhat important” to their future strategy; 45 percent responded that social media is very important to their fundraising strategy.

Unless his experience has been living under a rock, Seth seems to have missed the fact that nonprofits are the changemakers in our community.  Nonprofits find solutions for problems other sectors don’t even see like developing funding solutions, driving innovation, bringing vulnerable people out of institutions and into our community, addressing mental and physical challenges that require more than doling out pills, and, yes, taking advantage of new tools like social media. (pardon the random assortment of innovative changes recent and 40 years ago – there are lots in between but I’m writing this response on my lunch, so you’ll have to add to the list in comments below).

I appreciate a good call to action and do think there is more that non-profit and for-profit sectors can do to take advantage of new tools and embrace innovation.  But perhaps before making sweeping generalizations it would be useful to do a little research and look beyond your marketing/VC lens for viewing the world, and seek out some facts.

This critique of nonprofits’ use of the social web are particularly appropriate form someone who himself is antisocial on the web, refusing to tweet or even allow readers to comment on his blog.  Seth, why aren’t you among the top 100 Twitterers out there?

What do you think?  Is your nonprofit embracing web2.0?  What resistance have you found?  How have you overcome it?

PS: I do agree that naming yourself based on what you are not is not particularly effective, but the IRS classification (nonprofit) is still more appealing than the connotations conjured by the word charity.  Perhaps one day we’ll see a rebranding exercise to go for something like “community benefit organization,” but for now we’re busy meeting the needs of our constituents.. and staying ahead of your for-profit folks on this social media stuff :)

PPS: Seth, I do allow comments here and enjoy observing and engaging in dialogue.  I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

September 9, 2009

Good Old Fashioned Rallying

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 1:29 am
Health Care Reform sign

It’s been far to long since I’ve been in touch, but I haven’t forgotten about those of you kind enough to subscribe to get posts in your email or reader, or check-in to see what’s new.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences changing web hosts in the near future – it’s actually been sitting about 2/3rd done for a couple weeks.  But since it is still an in-progress case-study, I want to see how it concludes and give you the full report – and what I hope you’ll find a useful starting point for your own due diligence and migration.

Besides changing hosting companies there’s been lots of other excitement going on, especially in the Boston elections and the national health care debate.  This is a bit off-topic for this blog, but I had the great pleasure of going out to support a public option with Young Democrats and 1000s others from around New England and wanted to share a bit of it with you.

It was a very well organized event, and incredible seeing so many people coming out to not just settle for “reform,” but to demand our elected officials settle for nothing less than a public option.   Here’s an example of how the Greater Boston Young Democrats are using Facebook, our pseudo-Google Site’s Blog, and Picasa to connect our IRL activities with our online members.

First, of course, came the Facebook invites from GBYD and our affiliated Young Democrats of Massachusetts.  Interesting note on this is that for whatever reason Facebook had our event disabled for a crucial 24 hours of RSVPing, which is part of the reason YDM sent their invite out after.  One important reminder that came up was the need to have non-Facebook ways for people to get involved in your events, which we do with our Google Calendar.

However, I’m wondering if something like Eventbrite or the other services I’ve compared before might be a better RSVP tools for people coming form email anyway.  Unlike Facebook, these tools allow people to RSVP without having to sign-in or create an account.  Plus we can remind those on Facebook with an Event Invite there as well.  But, given the demographics of a Young Democrats chapter, I’m not sure how beneficial this will be.. look for some A/B testing to come.

During the rally I kept busy with my camera and got some pictures you can see below or here, which I hope captured some great moments during the day.

And of course I sent a few tweets (here, here, here, & maybe a few others :-P) to let those who weren’t able to attend know what was going on (really wished I had a camera phone to do some twitpicking).  It was also nice of @InventingLiz to retweet and help us generate 80 clicks to the photo-album (nice awareness, but wishing I had gotten them on a landing page on our site first).

After getting home and getting the pictures online, I wrote a brief recap of the day for posterity’s sake, tying in the photos that were taken and uploaded on Picasa.  The easy integration between Google-owned Picasa and Google Sites is another reason Google Sites was the best free choice for our organization.

Here’s the post as it appeared in my very inelegantly titled Young Democrats, OFA-MA, Labor, Community Members & Leaders Rally for Health Care Reform

This afternoon GBYD was pleased to support a Labor Day health care reform rally and march from the Boston Common to Copley Square.  The rally was sponsored by Organizing for America – Massachusetts and SEIU Local 615, as well as many other community groups.

It was great to see GBYDers out in force, active in many aspects of local politics, like..

And that’s not to mention the Young Democrats who came out in force to show their support for health care reform!

Check out photos from the day below and this Boston Globe write-up 1,000 rally for health care reform on Boston Common.  You might also be interested in this commentary from Blue Mass Group:

It was inspiring to see such overwhelming support for fixing our broken health care system – but perhaps even more inspiring to look around and see so many Young Democrats taking on impressive leadership roles in our community.

[INSERT SLIDESHOW THAT WORDPRESS.COM DOESN'T ALLOW TO BE EMBEDDED (another reason Google Sites was the choice of GBYD)... err, see it here]

Oh, and I suppose it’s worth noting the last step in sharing the story of Monday’s rally – analyzing all the other steps and sharing them for your edification here in this post… or maybe this won’t be the last thing we do with it :)

I hope you’ll share how you or your organization connects its online efforts with your offline actions.

What strategies do you find work best?

Have you been active in the health care reform discussion?

July 14, 2009

Twinnovation & Nonprofits: Open Beats Closed

Rule #2 of Umaire Haque’s list of Twitter’s 10 Rules for Radical Innovation is open beats closed.  Haque finds this in Twitter’s dynamic of allowing anyone to connect to and receive content from anyone.  And similarly, they put this principal to work in communication about problems.. and even admitting mistakes.  You can also follow the founders: Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, and 3rd party partners can have open communication and troubleshooting through Twitter Development Talk.

There is a lot to be said for how principals of transparency might be applied to innovation and your organization’s business, program, and other practices.  And hopefully in the coming days this will be replaced with a link to that post, but until then I want to hone in on how we can use Twitter in particular to open up our doors from a communications and marketing perspective..

Nonprofits seem to get thee types of coverage (IMHO) in major news outlets: lack of funding and hard times (especially this year); feel good stories mostly from large mainstream, brand-name nonprofits; and corruption, mismanagement, or otherwise negative press.  In our newsletters and emails we highlight some of our successes – usually in articles longer than anyone is actually going to read (by the way, newsletters might or might not be an waste of time, but just in case, here are some great tips for improving yours).  But social media and Twitter in particular provide us with a new, instant, conscise way to deliver a message to our stakeholders, in a cheaper and potentially more effective way than our more traditional tools (depending on your goals).

How much are you really letting your funders and the public see of your day-to-day operations, your day-to-day successes? I found it incredibly interesting to read that a small sample done by NonprofitSOS’s look at how nonprofit organizations use Twitter found that

Some nonprofit organizations do not include much about their programming in their tweets. They will tweet requests for volunteers, requests for donations, links to studies or articles, but rarely will you see a tweet that gives you insight into what exactly that organization is doing.

For a human service agency, this could mean:

  • sharing the progress of an anonymous client to show the real world outcomes of community-based care
  • talking (deliberately and conscientiously) about tough choices that are being made and how they are putting the patient first
  • evaluation and accreditation survey results
  • event planning updates (also good for generating some buzz before a big fundraiser)
  • adding any bit of insight and humanity to an organization, whether it be through accounts reflecting the experience of a CEO or a direct care professional – and/or any and all in between that you feel is valuable

To start living up to my claim that we’ll look at politics (and I promise we will more in future posts), I’d also suggest campaigns think about tweeting their

  • canvassing stats
  • highlights of conversation at the doors
  • play-by-plays of key speeches and events
  • what you can about staff meetings and internal plans
  • and again: share something from behind the scenese to put a human face on how your spending people’s money, why, and what the results are.

All that being said, before I launch into some of the ways that this can apply to our mission-driven work, there is one disclaimer I should make.  You won’t see any communication coming out of Twitter until they have a handle on the issue.  You can read people, until they block you for being intrusive, spammy, they just prefer to keep a closed network, or for any other reason or lack thereof.  People can follow you.. and defollow you.  This is all by way of saying that just because Twitter provides access to instant communication, doesn’t mean it should always be used instantly.

Follow your crisis communication plan when something goes wrong, but also remember to include Twitter in your crisis communication plan if appropriate.  Let people into the inner-workings of your agency, but do so strategically.  First, make sure you’ve developed a social media strategy and if appropriate, develop and implement an internal social media policy that will allow you to advance your mission, breakdown barriers between you and your stakeholders, and ensure that you’re using this technology thoughtfully and strategically.

Also, this post by no means indicates that this is ALL organizations should tweet about – petitions, pleas for volunteers, organizing, mobilizing, dialoguing are all useful, but let’s change the trend that NonprofitSOS saw in the lack of insight being shared around how we advance our mission.

Is your organization tweeting about how it is advancing its goal on a daily basis?

What anecdotes, statistics, and other information have you found your followers interested in?

June 8, 2009

Applying Rule 1 of Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical [NONPROFIT] Innovators: Always stay Focused on Your Mission – Part 2: Communication & Evaluation

Beyond social innovation, Haque’s rule #1 “Ideals beat strategies” of Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical Innovators reminded me of the classic fundraising conundrum that donors want to support mission, not overhead.  There is much our sector must do moving forward to ensure that the public understands that “everyone—donors, nonprofits and beneficiaries—loses when there’s an overemphasis on lean overhead.”  

One big step in the right direction was the inclusion of the Baucus-Grassley Nonprofit Capacity Building Amendment in the recently codified Serve America Act.  According to the National Council, this amendment “will cover the cost of organizational development assistance to small and mid-size nonprofit organizations” – a deeply under-supported area for our sector.  Many thanks are due to National Council of Nonprofitstheir members, and many other individuals and organizations committed to advancing nonprofit excellence for ensuring this became federal law.

Until our grantmakers, individual donors, state funders, and other revenue sources understand the need for overhead to advance mission, it is incumbent on our sector to simultaneously

  • communicate the importance of organizational effectiveness and the need for back-office operations
  • evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of our programs in advancing our missions 

Our organizations were founded based on ideals and while funding for capacity building is important, nonprofits should also see this as an obvious reminder that you should talk to your funders about the things they care about and ensure your fundraising efforts reflect your cause and what opportunities exist to advnace it.

While that’s an old idea, there are still plenty of new ways to demonstrate your values (and how contributions to your organization are advancing the) – especially with the constant evolution of technology.

Here are some questions for you to think about at your organization…

Does your website just link to a PDF of your Annual Report for donors to learn about your impact, or…

  • Do you have pictures or videos that show donors how their contributions help?  
  • Perhaps even a blog or Twitter feed from with content from the people you serve?
  • At least staff or an organizational presence that allows donors, clients/consumers, media, and public in general to interact with your organization an hear about how you’re advancing your ideals

Do you invite your donors to get involved beyond check-writing  so they can see first-hand what you’re doing?

Are there technologies that your organization could use to increase efficiency and reduce costs?

Are you using the same evaluation systems that you used twenty years ago?  

Do your evaluations include real world outcomes (ex: the actual impact of your services, like a substance abuse program tracking clients’ number of days sober”), or are you just tracking how many clients you’re caring for and how much it costs?

(Be sure to check out Integrated Program Evaluation: A Three Part Vision for Better Leadership, Planning, and Effectiveness for some great ideas on how your organization can plan effective evaluations. )

Once you have some meaningful, mission-related evaluation data, are you sharing it?

How are you helping your donors see how you’re advancing your shared ideals?

Applying Rule 1 of Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical [NONPROFIT] Innovators: Always stay Focused on Your Mission – Part 1: Thinking About Social Enterprise

Nonprofits are businesses too, and there are many great resources from the for-profit world that our sector should draw on and adapt to our sector’s unique circumstances.  The blogs of  Harvard Business Publishing are one source of insightful ideas on management, leadership, career development, and innovation that I do my best to keep up with.

I read a very interesting post by Umair Haque, Director of  Havas Media Lab on how Twitter is defining how organizations can radically innovate, and it occurs to me that this fits well with many conversations that Providers’ Council members have been having on how we can transform our sector.  Over the coming weeks I’ll be taking a closer look at how the nonprofit sector can apply Haque’s Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical Innovators to our sector.

In this flagship post for me I hope you’ll get a sense of how we can draw on sources outside of our sector for new ideas and come away with some new insight on the importance of considering your organization’s mission in the decisions you make and the way it interacts with the public.

The message of rule #1 “Ideals beat strategies” is that part of Twitter’s success comes from pursuing “its ideals — democracy, peace, equity — with the quiet intensity of a true revolutionary” rather than focusing on profit.”

When considering this in the nonprofit sector my mind first went to a recent panel discussion and breakout session on nonprofit innovation that the Providers’ Council held at our Annual Member Meeting.  One major theme from the day’s conversations was the importance of a nonprofit’s social enterprise being able to connect with its mission.  Here’s a quick excerpt from the summary I wrote about the discussion

[Lyndia] Downie, President & CEO of the Pine Street Inn discussed two examples in particular that helped her agency save and even generate revenue, while building collaborative partnerships with other agencies.  The first example Downie shared was her agency’s decision to use the infrastructure the Inn’s kitchen already had in place to prepare meals that could be sold to smaller agencies.  Because the Inn already had the equipment, staff, and talent for  preparing 2,000 meals for their guests, this revenue generator was a natural extension of their existing mission and operations.

Interestingly,  Seven Hills Foundation President/CEO David Jordan shared that his organization makes equity investments in businesses to generate dollars that his organization can put to use in advancing its mission – serving their clients.  With all of our conversations around social enterprises needing to fit the nonprofit’s mission and/or operations, this was an interesting reminder that with the right skill sets (ex: investing), there may be other new and effective ways for diversifying nonprofit revenue streams – however incongruous with Rule #1.

Or, perhaps there’s a distinction to be made between consumer/donor-driven endeavors (enterprises, communications, and the public face of an organization) and the the potential innovation and revenue diversification that nonprofits can pursue at an investment level.

Here are two more examples of what human service providers are already doing to innovate the way they deliver care and generate revenue…

What have been your greatest lessons in nonprofit innovation?

Do you have interesting examples to share?

Is your nonprofit generating revenue in a way that also advances its ideals?

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