(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

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?
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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.

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)

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 23, 2009

Let the world know about your events

Filed under: Nonprofit, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — kgilnack @ 2:22 am

The interwebs offer a variety of free tools to meet a variety of organizational needs.  One need that comes up frequently is to raise awareness of events and increase attendance.  Here’s a quick look at some of the free sites you can use to promote your organization’s events.

This is a work in progress that will likely be revised several times, but here’s a start (I hope you’ll let me know what I forgot)…

General Event Websites

  • Craigslist.com
    • Description:A very basic, community-oriented site for posting – among many, many other thingsevents.  While it’s a fairly bare-bones system, don’t miss the added exposure available from the volume of traffic that this site sees.   Users can also post topics of conversations in forums on politics, volunteers, local news, and classes (but don’t be spammy!)
    • Features: Free, easy event postings with a simple interface on a community site with lots of traffic.
    • Selling tickets? Bummer – make sure you include a link to where people can buy them in your post!
  • Eventful
    • Description: This service combines event listings with social networking, allowing users create profiles, find friends and share events.  While it seems to have been created to promote concerts, it has a wide range of categories that includes politics, organizations, fundraisers, neighborhoodshealth, learning, and more.
    • Features: This free tool will let you post your events and have them easily discoverable by people looking for them; however, you won’t find the robust promoter features of Eventbrite or going.com.
    • Selling tickets? Too bad – make sure you include a link to where people can buy them in your post!
  • Going.com
    • Description: “Going helps you find fun things to do and fun people to meet.”  Like Eventful, Going tries to combine event listings with social networking by providing far more features for event-seekers.  Users create profiles, join groups, and connect with friends – as well as sharing the events they’re attending.  Going seems dominated by social and recreational events, but there is no reason that many of the events nonprofits are holding wouldn’t fall under their culture, music, activities, neighborhoods, schools, and even networking categories.
    • Features: Track and print guestlists, sell tickets, and email your list, set vanity URLs, promote to 2 targeted groups, and make events searchable by category
    • Selling tickets? Apparently you can sell tickets through Google Checkout, but I couldn’t find the feature in posting an event and couldn’t find documentation.
    • Disclaimer/Disclosure: I recently joined this service to explore it and was incredibly frustrated when my attempt to uncheck the “Invite all of the friends in your address book to join us” feature failed.  I pretty clearly remember unchecking it, but perhaps the page refreshed or there was some human error.  Either way after emailing my full addressbook once, it sent a second unprompted or solicited reminder, again under my name of course (with the obnoxious subject line “Hey, you never responded to my friend request on Going”).  The latter part of that anecdote is what really concerns me about just how aggressive they are and made me question their ethics.  There was no indication that they’d email my contacts a second time, nor an option to prevent that from happening.
  • Idealist.org
    • Description: Idealist.org is “an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.”  While this site has the lowest traffic of those on the list, it is also visited by people likely to be interested in getting involved in their community.
    • Features: Free, public, searchable event listings, which you can promote to up to three categories to increase search results, and event registration.
    • Selling tickets? Drag, but at least you can take RSVPs and try to drive traffic to your site.
    • Disclaimer: Judging by the amount of event postings compared to people, jobs, organizations, volunteer opportunities, and other types of postings, this is still an up-and-coming features.  As always though, if you have a free opportunity to reach a potential target audience, why not?
  • Upcoming (a service of yahoo.com)
    • Description: Upcoming is “a community for discovering and sharing events. It can help you find stuff to do, discover what your friends are doing, or let you keep private events online for your own reference.” If you’d like, read more about Upcoming.  The service also allows you to post public events, and while there are very few in our Politics category, that just means your events will be easier to find by Upcoming users and many nonprofit events are likely to fit into the Education, Other, and Social categories.
    • Features: Quick, easy, free event postings that include a link specifically to direct people to buy tickets (in addition to a general info link).
    • Selling tickets? That’s a shame, but it does allow RSVPs and includes a link in your events specifically to buy tickets.
  • Yelp
    • Description: Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses,” and while you might think of them for reviews, this is a great place to let people you might not have otherwised reached know about your upcoming fundraisers and other events.
    • Features: Like Upcoming, Yelp provides quick, easy, free event postings that include a link specifically to direct people to buy tickets (in addition to a general info link).  It also has an event category specifically for charities.
    • Selling tickets? Oh well.. but (also like Upcoming) it does allow RSVPs and includes a link in your events specifically to buy tickets.

Please note that my intent was to introduce you to the free, general event sharing services out there.  While some of them have a social networking aspect by allowing user profiles and friending, I plan to talk more in a future post about how you can use Facebook and other major social networks to promote events.  In the meantime, think about if you’re better suited for a Facebook Group or Fan Page, and if you choose Fan Pages, be sure to read these great tips from Beth Kanter.

If you want to pay a nominal fee for a service that allows you to build groups and share events with people you know want to attend events, check out Meetup.com.

Curious about the reach of these sites? Good for you! That’s an important question to ask when thinking about using any new tool.  As you can see right below, Eventful has been seeing lots of growth (though even if you can’t tailor content for every site, it will only increase awareness of your event and traffic to your site to copy and paste onto all of them!).

For context, Craigslist is now receiving more than 50 million every month.  But, that site attracts traffic for a variety of topics and that doesn’t make the other event sites any less useful.

As an added bonus for anyone interested in Massachusetts politics or nonprofits, here are just a few of my favorite listservs and blogs for learning about upcoming events…

Nonprofit

  • Boston Young Nonprofit Professionals Network: connects young nonprofit professionals in the Boston area to professional development resources, career development opportunities, and social networking.
  • Mission-Based Massachusetts: an email distribution list for people who care about nonprofit, philanthropic, educational, community-based, grassroots, socially responsible, and other mission-oriented organizations in the Bay State.

Politics

  • Blue Mass Group provides “reality-based commentary on politics and policy in Massachusetts and around the nation.”

Please help – this is a work in progress! I already know that I’m forgetting some great services, listservs, and blogs, so please leave a comment and remind me so we can have a comprehensive list.

Have other tips for spreading the word about your events?  Do tell…

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