(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

October 14, 2012

My wishlist for the Obama Campaign Dashboard

I spent some time this evening getting reacquainted with the Obama Campaign’s Dashboard this evening, and I have to say it is loaded with features and seems much more robust than when I originally signed up.

With only three weeks to the election, now is the time to sign up, help spread the word, explore the features, start making calls, and help make sure we re-elect President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

With that said, of course, there were also some functionalities that I’d love to see added to help increase sign-ups, add new features, and/or improve the user experience. While many of these requests are just something to put a pin in and work on for the next campaign, others seem like fairly minimal lifts that could be worth the effort.

These are just one obnoxious critic’s opinions, but check it out and let me know what you think.

  1. Groups enhancements:
    • I had to hit “Load more items” four times to get to the Young Americans for Obama group. Dashboard should feature 3-4 of the most relevant Official Groups before going into the regional and other suggested groups based on perceived relevance. And since I’m a young American who had to go past many demographic-based groups that were not relevant to me, whatever algorithm determines relevance should be enhanced.
    • There should be a more clear call to action besides “Invite Friends” to show what the point of being in groups is (e.g. attend an event, share a resource, start a conversation, etc.). Maybe there could some integration to the Best Practices section.
    • If you’re going to tell me two people on my team are in a group, can’t you tell me who they are? And do you tell me if my friends are?
    • I don’t think I’ve seen the Young Democrats of America invite me to the Young Americans for Obama group, but it seems like asking labor, Young and College Dems, demographic-based groups, and other related organizations to encourage their members to join a Dashboard group would be a great way to increase Dashboard utilization.
  2. Feature request: voter registration – Given the elaborate amount of information that the presidential campaigns have and how they’re already planning to use it to allow supporters to do targeted outreach to contacts who might not be registered to vote, there should be a way to see which of my friends might not yet be registered to vote. Friends in swing states should be prioritized first, but I should get to see and contact them all to help Democrats up and down the ticket.
  3. Team enhancements: As someone who might be more likely to attend an evening phonebank downtown near where I work than a phonebank somewhere less convenient in the neighborhood Team for where I live — but likely to potentially participate in some events in both teams — I really think we should be able to join at least two teams. However, to prevent diluting messages by allowing Dashboard users to take on more than they can keep up with, I do think Teams should be capped at two or three.
  4. Resources enhancements: To be more useful, resources should be more easily filtered and more thoroughly segmented. While as a campaign geek I found the 2012 IT Tech Tips interesting, they really seemed geared toward people running field offices (sorry Team Obama, but most of your volunteers don’t have VoteBuilder log-ins and I don’t own a Xerox Phaser 4620 Network Printer…).
    • It would be great to have some Tech Tips geared toward volunteer canvassers and phonebankers that are accessible to everyone, but for people identified as regional office leaders to get the more elaborate documents.
    • A wordcloud of tags on the top or sidebar of the page would go a long way to helping users find the type of resources they are looking for.
  5. Feature request: empower more organizing by building on what Gov. Deval Patrick’s campaign started in 2010 (start at slide 38 of this great presentation and scope out apebble) – let supporters report non-phone voter ID information — and provide the resources to empower it:
    • Allow Dashboard users to send Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails that ask contacts to click a link and commit to voting for Barack Obama.
    • Enable Dashboard users to report voter IDs based on other interactions they’ve had.
    • Allow Dashboard users to cut turf in their neighborhood and report the results.
  6. Feature request: make real-time events more social and push impact over the Dashboard brand – The first creative online engagement activity I’ve seen from the Mitt Romney campaign was an invite to be part of their debate Rapid Response team. It appeared users on their platform were given real-time fact checks from the campaign to share across their social networks. Maybe the Obama campaign has offered this too and I missed it, but were we to be invited to watch, share, and respond to the debates via Dashboard, that could also help get more people signed up and increase utilization. I’d also like to see more Obama campaign emails highlighting specific functionalities of Dashboard and their value to the campaign; it feels like too many of their messages are all about Dashboard, Dashboard, Dashboard. Maybe that works — just emphasize the broad message that Dashboard = helping and drive people to log-on. But I think one reason that Romney campaign email caught my attention was because it offered a specific, tangible way to help out online.
  7. And finally, it would be nice to have a way to share this feedback through the Dashboard.

Despite this lofty wishlist, there’s a lot you can do to make an impact on Dashboard right now. Every organizer knows that what you do with the tools you have is way more important than waxing about the tools you want — but I invite you to do both and report back!

March 22, 2012

A caution against over confidence in progressive tech dominance

Filed under: Politics, Technology — kgilnack @ 6:02 pm

In a recent post on Campaigns & Elections, Colin Delany, the founder and editor of Epolitics.com, posits that the GOP has a shallow bench when it comes to digital talent.

I’m psyched to have Lauren Miller here in Mass. helping Elizabeth Warren make sure Scott Brown is only a half-termer. And I do think that Democrats have benefits by attracting more young, tech savvy people to their cause and developing that talent, with the added benefit of many nonprofits employing and empowering typically more progressive younger folks to maintain their social media.

Howard Dean pioneered online organizing in campaigns, Obama and BSD perfected it, and all across the country progressives have been leveraging tech for longer and more effectively than their GOP counterparts.

BUT, it’s been 12 years since the digital component of campaigns came on the scene, and I think it would be a huge mistake for Democrats to expect they still have a significant edge in technology.

When I joined Twitter almost four years ago, conservatives had a highly utilized hashtag, that pretty much every conservative I follow uses (don’t worry, there aren’t many). At the time there were three competing options, and I still couldn’t tell you of a one-stop hashtag for picking up news of interest to progressives.

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s grassroots supporters were the first to start “moneybombs,” and this remains a tactic I see used far more prevalently by Republicans than Democrats.

In the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary race, we’ve already seen plenty of web-based ads, and some pretty sophisiticatged microtargeting. Already we’ve seen some pretty sophisticated microtargeting in this presidential primary race . And I believe moneybombs originated, or at least are leveraged more with conservative candidates.

If you look on Twitter, in news and blog comments, Examiner articles, etc., you’ll see that conservatives have found very clever ways of creating AstroTurf as well as creating organized communities. They’ve found strategies for building up loud voices that amplify their messages and drive action/money, and have gotten very adept at online ads.

Even when Scott Brown was a nobody, he staffed up with some folks like Rob Willington who put mobile apps to work,  designed great websites, fostered excellent engagement and fundraising via social media, and leveraged Google ads and realtime results brilliantly (even if arguably unethically).

Plus there are (probably somewhat smaller, but perhaps potentially better funded) Republican digital strategy shops like this one growing and advances on the platform side of things.

We’ve already seen Scott Brown’s team parrot Obama’s Truth Squad and I wouldn’t go into this cycle underestimating his team’s prowess, or that of any others in races across the country.

May 4, 2011

Senator Blumenthal Leverages Bully Pulpit to Hold Sony Accountable to Consumers for Data Breach

The Democratic Unity Press is an underutilized Yahoo Group that some Democratic campaigns and offices add to their press lists to share news about their candidate / official. It’s been a great resource for me in observing the various ways that Democratic press shops are reaching out to the media, and for keeping up with one of my favorite new U.S. senators from my home state of Connecticut, Senator Richard Blumenthal.

This evening I saw a release and accompanying letter that might be of interest to anyone who still stops by this site (I’ve missed you and hope we keep catching up soon!) as it highlights in new concerns that our exponentially developing technology poses for policy makers. And it highlights the ways that our elected officials can leverage their bully pulpit to advocate for their citizens.

As you probably know, about a week ago news broke that “Sony suffered a massive breach in its video game online network that led to the theft of names, addresses and possibly credit card data belonging to 77 million user accounts in what is one of the largest-ever Internet security break-ins.” The breach targeted their PlayStation Network. If you haven’t heard about it yet, don’t feel bad as Sony; many users reported delays in being notified about the breach (if you’re still waiting, here’s the message from Sony).

According to Infosecurity part of the reason it took Sony a week to go public and begin notifying customers incident was because they were “waiting for outside experts to conduct forensic analysis and for Sony experts to understand the scope of the breach.” As you’ll note in the release and note below, there was yet another revelation about another 24.6 million users’ information being compromised. And, as you’ll note, Sony has been further delayed in notifying customers due to an apparent constraint of only being able to notify 500,000 people per hour, meaning it would take 8 days before the last of 100,000,000 customers could be reached.

Some international leaders have recently issued their own warnings to Sony and other companies on privacy, and while the United States still has not passed comprehensive federal legislation around data breach notifications, Senator Blumenthal is making me proud by putting his past advocacy as a champion for consumers in his last position as Connecticut’s attorney general (not sure why this hasn’t been updated yet…) to use. Rather than merely calling for hearings (and I assume they will happen eventually), the Senator is using his influence and the power of his voice through the media to call for immediate actions on behalf of consumers across America, including:

  1. Demanding immediate action to expedite notifications
  2. Pursuing the source of the latest round of breached accounts
  3. Discussing the issue with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during tomorrow’s Judiciary Committee hearing
  4. Calling for direct, public answers and increased transparency
  5. Encouraging the company to provide two years of free credit reporting services and identity theft insurance to customers who were affected

Check out Senator Blumenthal’s full release and letter to Sony Chairman Kazuo Hazai and President/CEO Jack Tretton after the jump, and let me know how you think our elected leaders should respond to the ever-changing technological enviroment that we live in.

What do you think of the two privacy and data breach notification bills that Congress failed to past lass session? What other effective examples have you seen of elected officials helping citizens outside their formal lawmaking and hearing powers?
(more…)

January 5, 2011

Thinking About Nonprofit Buzzwords & Priorities

Filed under: Nonprofit — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 1:40 pm

Another decade comes and goes (or did it end in 2009?), and with it, a slew of nonprofit buzzwords.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at Lucy Bernholz’s insightful post on the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade Show How Nonprofits Are Changing.

Lucy is spot on in pointing out the trend of how nonprofits have sought market-based solutions and new funding streams, largely as government and other traditional sources of revenue constricted during the recession.  But as I think back on the previous decade, I feel as though there was a significant shift in from pre-recession buzz to the point we’re at today.

Before the recession, the sector at all levels seemed to be focused on addressing the generation gap and I hope and expect that issue to move back into the forefront of conversation as we continue climbing out of this recession, funding & staffing stabilize, 401k’s bounce back, and more boomers get ready to retire.  Don’t get me wrong, many smart and talented millennial have continued the conversation – see http://nonprofitmillennials.org – but it’s time for the trades, major nonprofit publications, and execs to put “succession planning” “generation gap” “mentoring” “leadership development” back on the forefront of the conversation.

While discussion around nonprofit funding models is nothing new, drastic cuts to state and federal grants and contracts and lower giving from foundations and private donors created new urgency on this issue as we saw the emergence of research, writing, and experimentation around  “innovation” “collaboration” “social enterprise” and many of the buzzwords that Lucy points out.  I sincerely hope that  discussion and action in this area will continue even after dire economic times subside as these have the potential to transform and stabilize the important work of our sector.

Buzzwords may come and go, but I do hope our sector exercises its great ability to multi-task by focusing on these two areas to ensure that nonprofits have the strong leadership and sustainable funding they need to continue serving our communities – as well as continuing to look ahead strategically for the next buzzwords that can strengthen our work.

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

November 5, 2010

Why should nonprofits welcome the Tea Party?

Filed under: Nonprofit, Politics — Tags: , , , , — kgilnack @ 3:39 am

Earlier today I tweeted that the Chronicle of Philanthropy was rightly taking heat for publishing an opinion piece by Leslie Lenkowsky titled Why Philanthropy Should Welcome the Tea Party, but didn’t have a chance to back that up by elaborating with a comment during the day.  As I started catching up and writing this reply tonight, I discovered I had more to say than would even fit in their comments field, because, well, there’s a lot to say about nonprofits, politics, and what little the Tea Party has to offer our sector.

Dissenting or unpopular view points can foster thoughtful debate and dialogue, as @Philanthropy was correct in pointing out when they replied.  However, The Chronicle is also responsible for curating what opinions it chooses to put out on its site — vetting them for the most useful, relevant, and thought provoking ideas (at least IMHO).

I started searching for guidelines that the Chronicle might use in deciding what opinions to publish but could not find any. Even under Submission Guidelines on their Contact Us page I didn’t see any way to submit an opinion piece.  So, all I can do is offer my opinion as to why I think we could have found a better discussion piece…

The crux of the author’s argument seems to be that

“When motivated by a compelling set of issues, it seems that Americans can still put together an impressive campaign, spontaneously, swiftly, and with little professional leadership or guidance … For that reason alone, the philanthropic world should find at least some comfort in the Tea Party’s accomplishments.”

First of all, the compelling set of issues that brings this group together is ambiguous at best, but centered around the notion that we should have smaller government. Yet this basic premise is undermined by the fact that “they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers,” and the movement offers no substance about about what they would cut or why.  Well except anything that might benefit immigrants – pretty sure most of them would get behind that.

The hypocrisy of the movement’s message aside, the author is essentially saying “hey guys, come on, they’re increasing voting and civic participation, so it has to be good…”  One could replace the word “Tea Party” with “KKK” and not really lost much of the core elements of the post’s argument.  It’s a false premise to assume that all campaigns that get people riled up and politically aware are created equal.

Now, I know that by and large, most members of the Tea Party do not identify as racists.  However, between the birthers, the anti-immigrant activists, and isolated instances of violence and hateful rhetoric, this isn’t exactly an inclusive bunch. There’s a reason that Tea Party members “tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.”

I don’t really think the argument as to what extent the Tea Party may be racist is directly relevant to the debate here. I do think that just because you get a group of people together doesn’t inherently make it a good thing, and the author doesn’t seem to care at all about what ideas this group is espousing.

Mr. Lenkowsky even goes as far as saying another potential benefit is that “those with strongly felt concerns will face pressure to reconcile them with the views of others.”  I’m yet to hear of a productive example of someone exchanging ideas with a Tea Party member and making any sort of thoughtful progress toward a common end.

While the Tea Party proports to be anti-incumbent in general, it is only Republican candidates who reap their benefits (well, except for Delaware, Nevada, Mass, Connecticut, and some other places where voters rejected the extreme Tea Party candidates and opted for Democrats).  Again, there’s a reason that “they do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican.”

There is a difference, though, between mainstream Republicans and Tea Partiers. “While most Republicans say they are ‘dissatisfied’ with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “’angry.’”  While the author simply dismisses the role of corporate and private money in the movement, the fact remains that the likes of Sarah Palin, John McCain, RNC operatives, and many large interests have campaigned with and/or helped fund the movement because they know it is in their interests.

I fail to see how this angry, anti-government group is something that the nonprofit sector should embrace.  The types of cuts they would enact – like Ballot Question 3 in Massachusetts this past election – would devastate many nonprofits, particularly the human service agencies providing essential care to the most vulnerable in our community.  Contracts are already underfunded and nearly half of Massachusetts nonprofits are operating at a deficit.  The Tea Party offers nothing that will address these problems, and their anti-tax rhetoric is a direct threat to our sector.

It is time that we took a stand together and reminded our elected officials and the public that it is the role of every member of our society to contribute to fixing the problems that still plague communities.

We do so through our taxes, which then go toward funding our homeless shelters, our recovery programs, our independent living centers, our veteran services, and so many other crucial programs. During tough times with declining revenues it is more important than ever to preserve them

Nonprofits are already struggling under existing contracts and recent cuts and it is not helpful for our sector or the people we serve to embrace a group that would blindly push for further cuts without considering what we will lose. It is not helpful to embrace people who think the Department of Education is a waste of money, or who are in the minority of thinking healthcare reform should be repealed – most people who aren’t satisfied with it wish it had gone farther!

Furthermore, the actual structure of Tea Party organizations and their attitudes toward participating in the 501c-sector as described in Nonprofit Quarterly raises even more alarm. Is it beneficial to have groups parading around and soliciting donations as nonprofits when they don’t even incorporate their rongaizations? One potential saving grace is that hopefully the lack of professionalism in their organization will lead to them being short lived..

If there’s anything that the nonprofit community should do in response to that movement, it is organize ourselves to fight for our sector and more effectively communicate our message to the masses. While the author clearly downplays the role of money in their impact, I wonder how our community could transform America if we had a major “news” network agitating in our favor and the millions that the Koch Brothers and so many others have channeled into the Tea Party.

There are lots of angry mobs that get motivated who I don’t think help our democracy or will advance the cause of nonprofits. And just because they happen to organize and vote does not mean that their ideas have merit or should be welcomed.

And I thought most of this would go without saying, which is why I felt @Philanthropy could provide us with something more thought provoking thank this Tea-Party-Apologetic post.

What are the real lessons to be taken from the Tea Party?  Things we’ve known for a long time, but it’s good to be reminded..

  1. Anger is a great organizing motivator
  2. It is possible to spend 2 years blocking progress, recovery, unemployment benefits, and anything else that might help the country – and still direct people’s anger toward the party that was trying to help the country recover
  3. Nonprofits need to organize and get our message out there
  4. Taxes and government are easy to vilify, and we need to remind people what they provide and what would be lost without them
  5. Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, want to see a better more efficient government. If we can get ahead of that with real suggestions that help get more funding to services, we’ll all be better for it. That might appeal to the Tea Party, but I still suspect that unless those savings yield more money for the wealthier-than-average Tea Partiers.

October 24, 2010

Get this App and Get Out The Vote

Screenshot of Wall feedback on the Commit to Vote ChallengeWith all this talk of an enthusiasm gap fueled by the fervent Tea Party and frustration over the slowness of progress thanks to GOP obstructionism throughout President Obama’s term, Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, and other like-minded voters can take nothing for granted.  It is more important than ever that people who want to keep America moving forward need to reach out to every friend, family member, and co-worker who might be interested in a reminder to vote.

That’s why I was so pleased to get wall posts this weekend from Hartford City Councilor Luis Coto and my friend John from the Young Democrats asking me to commit to vote.  The ask didn’t end there, however, and that’s the really innovative piece of the newest GOTV social media tactic available from Organizing for America: The Commit to Vote Challenge.

The design of this Facebook app lets you share your reason for voting, and then invite your friends to commit to voting and share their reason too – plus, it even wraps in a little competition to make getting out the vote that much more fun.

Tech President sums it up well:

Hop on over to My.BarackObama.com/CommitChallenge, type in your reason for voting, and the app published your intentions to your Facebook Wall. But it also sets you up to tweak your Facebook friends, one by one, about similarly committing to vote this election (even if the whole tone of the effort is more dutiful performance of civic obligation than the electric fervor that powered things in 2008). For a dollop of competition, the site tracks how you rank compared to the number of commitments your Facebook friends have managed to pull in, awarding titles like “Committer” and “Grassroots Recruiter.”

The spirit of this app fits well with the strategy that Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Democrats have brought to this election: people talking to people they know.  This is the strategy behind their powerful online organizing tool, their Friend Banks, and so much other outreach that’s being done.  Gov. Patrick sums it up well:

(If you’re curious, here are the first and third things you can do).

Voters screen their calls (if they even have a land line) and are tired of robocalls and negative ads – and organizers have known throughout history that the way to build a movement is through person-to-person contact.

The Commit to Vote Challenge gives you an easy way to make it personal right now by sharing why you’re going to vote and encouraging the people you know to do the same.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to get this app and get out the vote too!

That being said, the rollout of this app and my over enthusiasm for it did provide a few valuable lessons and critiques to keep in mind as you do your outreach:

  1. Actually make it personal. When I was asked my reason to vote, I wrote a someScreenshot of critiques of the Commit to Vote Challengewhat long reason tied to what’s at stake in Massachusetts and in Washington.  My hope being that it would resonate with people wherever they lived and get them thinking about what’s at stake for them.  However, I received more than a few people who reminded me they weren’t in Mass, so I’m thinking that wasn’t the best strategy.  Instead of taking my approach of copying and pasting my reason for voting into every Wall Post I sent out, consider tailoring your message to each person you talk to – or at least having one national or values-based message, and one for your state and sending them accordingly.
  2. Stream clutter. Unsurprisingly, many of my friends are the political type – and so are many of their friends – which means that as this rolled out, a number of people felt like the app was cluttering up their feeds.  Frankly, I’ve seen many causes that take up the feed for the day with people all updating their statuses on behalf of ah issue, and I can’t think of any cause more important to raise awareness for than voting.  I’d say there’s too much at stake not to use this opportunity to remind everyone you can to get out the vote, but it might be worthwhile for future developers to consider a private message or event invitation instead for future iterations.  That said, I know the app developers did add a mechanism to filter out everyone who already committed so they won’t get repeated invitations and hopefully that will reduce some redundancy.  But really, it’s election time and we only elect good candidates if we get people to the polls, so don’t be bashful about sharing why you’re going to vote and then making personal invitations for others to do the.
  3. People are protective of their walls. I didn’t realize this, but a number of people just don’t like the idea of having this automatically sent to their wall – even if you are really there selecting them to send it to.  As I said in number two, there’s too much at stake in this election not to reach out using this app, but do try to make it personal and perhaps a  suggestion for future iterations would be an invitation to one massive GOTV Facebook Event, which hold your friends’ walls harmless and have the added benefit of adding election day to their calendars.

Help create excited voters and start some good conversations like the ones above and the ones below (even with my Massachusetts-oriented message) by getting this app and getting out the vote now!

Was your Facebook stream flooded?  If so, are you excited there’s such energy among your friends to vote, or do you think there are other ways an app could turn voters on without turning others off?

I’ve included my reasons for voting below the screenshots – check them out and leave the reason you shared on Facebook in a comment – but, really, make sure you invite your family and friends to GOTV first!

Screenshot of a Wall exchange between Kevin and Jason about importance of voting and difficulty of accessing ballots for people in military

Screenshot of Facebook Exchange Between Kevin and John about importance of voting
I’m voting…

  • because we need more progress,
  • because I don’t want our country or Massachusetts moving backwards,
  • because the Bush admin was kind of a drag,
  • because so many candidates like Charle Baker promise more of the same failed policies,
  • because Democrats in Congress & Mass have been fighting for and helping us recover (did you know MA is #2 in recovery & 5th best for doing business?),
  • because Democrats like Gov. Patrick and our Congresspeople have values that put people first and support equality (which is even more important when things are tough and Republicans would add $700bil to our deficit for a tax cut for rich people in Congress and put our safety net and schools in danger with an untimely sales tax cut in MA),
  • because there are infinitely more reasons I could go on with,
  • because there are real choices in this election and I’m not going to be wondering if there’s more I could have done if Republicans win and set us back decades on financial regs, civil rights, and health care reform,
  • because there’s more work to do,
  • because there’s too much at stake.

September 27, 2010

Content Still King

Filed under: Nonprofit, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 12:56 am

A recent post from NTEN provides some great guidance on writing and editing for the web, and offers a useful reminder that content is still the most important part.

Specifically, Brett Meyer at NTEN points out how “Gerald Marzorati, Editor of The New York Times Magazine, has revealed that “‘contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic'” and also that “NTEN’s own web analytics show that, by and large, our carefully considered, better written, longer blog posts yield much longer time-on-page.”

The main takeaway, I think, for nonprofits is that when you shouldn’t be afraid to tell a full story when it’s compelling; Meyer aptly sums it up:

“We read what interests us, even if it happens to be on the Web. The problem, as I see it, is that conventional wisdom is leaving us with less of interest to read. The more it becomes accepted that we need to write for people to scan, the more we strip things down to facts and figures, bullet points and sub-heads, the more we may be moving further away from what our audiences actually want.”

He goes on to lay out some good considerations for when you want to take your time in telling your story and how to do so effectively.  And he also notes the important caveat that still “there’s a lot of value in knowing how to use white space and paragraph breaks and subheadings to capture people’s attention.”  I think the layout of his own post on the topic illustrates that point pretty clearly.

An important thing to consider is what the purpose of your content is, and what the easiest way is for that to be achieved.  For example, I wrote recently that I’d like to see Governor Patrick’s campaign use more of those cliche writing-for-the-web tactics of bullets, bolding, and short content.  The goal of sharing that content is to inform supporters and request their support.  The easiest way for supporters to complete that goal is to be one-click away from contributing.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that the (long) content of their fundraising appeal was compelling enough to hold the reader’s attention and compel the reader to click the contribute link when they finally get to it.  However, some bold headings would help guide the skimming reader through the text, and putting the link to contribute farther up in the email would make it easier for contributors to give and accomplish that goal.  If the email were a short summary with a good teaser, the content could drive the reader to the website where the reader could read the full post with a contribute box and links to sign-up for volunteering readily accessible.

There’s no need to cut out good content, but it’s important to consider the most effective way to use it to maximize your conversion goals.

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!

March 27, 2010

What matters?

Filed under: Nonprofit, Politics — Tags: , , — kgilnack @ 9:59 pm

I received an email from a friend recently, asking the simple question “what matters?” in the context of a poll that board members of a local nonprofit were putting out to their networks.

She asked for 3-5, but the question was so open-ended, I wasn’t even sure where to start and finally organized my thoughts into two categories: what I think matters for nonprofits to be doing and what issues I think matter most right now.  I’ve shared them below to give some context around why I do what I do and to hopefully start a conversation about why you do what you do and what you think matters.

What matters to you and how does that connect to what you do?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

What nonprofits should do

  1. Ensuring client’s needs are met effectively
  2. Empowering people to sustain themselves
  3. Advocating for the resources needed to serve clients, and for solutions that reduce a need for services by accomplishing #2
  4. Tracking and demonstrating impact
  5. Building capacity, investing in admin, and developing a sustainable revenue strategy

Issues

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Empowering people to financial stability (job creation, living wages, CORI reform, financial literacy, family planning, healthy & affordable eating, progressive taxes)
  3. Healthy communities (affordable, accessible healthcare; robust community-based human service programs; education around healthy eating; safe water and environment; adequate)
  4. Safe communities (community policing, extended learning opportunities, wrap around services, outreach workers, job training)
  5. Education (extended learning, longer school days, safe learning environment, adequate resources, adequate pay & staffing, parent participation, interdisciplinary curriculum)
  6. Community (improving cultural competency, restoring civil society.. and civility, fostering an inclusive society, ending discrimination, finding fair solutions to immigration, community centers)
  7. Better government (transparency, campaign finance reform / public financing, citizen participation, voter access & participation)
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