(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…)

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

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!

January 31, 2010

How much is getting that great nonprofit job worth?

Filed under: Nonprofit, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 11:59 am

Maybe nonprofit jobs could pay a little higher, but how much is it worth to you to have an amazing resource like Idealist.org to help you find that nonprofit job?

Idealist.org has been a crucial tool in my nonprofit career, helping me find jobs with three nonprofits and an internship with a consultancy.  If you work in the third sector, I trust this is a tool you count on as well.

With a struggling economy, hiring has been on the decline for a while now, and with it, the revenues Idealist gets from employers has been on the decline too (see the message from Ami Dar below and Rosetta Thurman’s explanation on the challenges of funding infrastructure organizations for more on this).  As job seekers, we’ve been fortunate to have this tool for free, and when the economy’s back up, it will be Idealist that helps nonprofits find quality candidates and that nonprofit professionals use to find those nonprofits.  This should be reason enough for you to donate now.

But it’s also worth pointing out that Idealist is more than just the nonprofit job site, it endeavors to create a better world by promoting volunteerism, event opportunities, and ambitious more.

As someone who contributed, I will certainly be paying attention to see how they will diversify their funding, and I commend Ami Dar for being so forthright about the need for some serious work there.  I hope you will help keep them going in the meantime as well.

And whether you’re in a position to give now or not, please, get this message out to your communities, be them LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog readers, or email contacts.

Dear Friend,

You know how sometimes in life you go through a bad moment, and when your friends hear about it later, they say, “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you ask? We would have helped.”

That’s where Idealist is now, and I am writing to ask for your help.

Very briefly, here’s what happened. Over the past ten years, most of our funding has come from the small fees we charge organizations for posting their jobs on Idealist. By September 2008, after years of steady growth, these little drops were covering 70% of our budget.

Then, in October of that year, the financial crisis exploded, many organizations understandably froze their hiring, and from one week to the next our earned income was cut almost in half, leaving us with a hole of more than $100,000 each month.

That was 16 months ago, and since then we’ve survived on faith and fumes, by cutting expenses, and by getting a few large gifts from new and old friends. But now we are about to hit a wall, and this is why I am reaching out to you.

If over the past 15 years Idealist has helped you or a friend find a job, an internship or a volunteer opportunity; connect with a person, an idea or a resource; or just feel inspired for a moment, now we  need your help. I wouldn’t be asking,  and not like this, if this were not a critical time.

There are two ways you can help. First, if you can, please make a donation at: http://www.idealist.org/donate

Some people in this community are not in a position to contribute right now, so if you are, please give as generously as you can. Thank you!

Second, please spread the word about this appeal by sharing this message with friends and colleagues who may have benefited from Idealist over the years. Since 1995 Idealist has touched hundreds of thousands of lives. If in the next week or two we can reach everyone who’d give us a hand if they knew we are in trouble, I believe we’ll come out of this crisis even stronger than before.

I believe this because while this has been a tough stretch, I’ve never been more optimistic about the future. The content on Idealist has never been richer, our traffic is surging, we are building a whole new Idealist.org that will be released later this year, and the potential for connecting people, ideas, and resources around the world has never been more urgent or more exciting.

Your contribution will allow us to maintain all our services, and it will also give us some time to diversify our funding. Being able to breathe, recover, and plan ahead for a few months will be an incredible blessing.

Thanks so much for your support. Idealist has always been a community-driven site, and we can’t do this work without you.

Thank you!

Ami Dar
Executive Director
http://www.idealist.org/donate

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.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: