August 30, 2009

At the Summer of Social Good conference

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Beth KanterI was honored to speak on Friday at the Summer of Social Good conference hosted by Mashable, a popular social media and technology blog and a big geek favorite. This was the culmination of the summerlong initiative to help raise money for four charities, Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam, and LIVESTRONG.

The event was hosted by the amazing Shira Lazar, who hosts Mahalo’s This Week In YouTube and is the editor-at-large for Conde Nast’s travel blog from around the globe. She’s also the founder of The Society For Geek Advancement, which aims to bring together geek culture for social good.

The most dramatic moment of the conference had nothing to do with charity fund-raising.  It was the surprise marriage proposal on the stage from Mashable’s COO Adam Hirsch to Managing Editor Sharon Feder (she said yes)! (You can read more about that here). And while Pete Cashmore announced that he would be doing a charity event in September around his 24th birthday, I’m wondering what charity wedding registry Sharon and Adam will register with? (Kiva?)

Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook delivered the opening keynote. It covered examples of how people were using Facebook for online activism as well as how nonprofits were using it for fund-raising. She also included some practical advice. I’ve heard Randi speak a couple of times, including this informative webinar hosted by NTEN. The big news for me was news about virtual gifts for charities. Facebook is piloting virtual charity gifts to users; the proceeds will support micro-lender Kiva, Project Red, the World Wildlife Fund and Toms Shoes. The feature may also open up more broadly after tested.

The Wall Street Journal covered her keynote, as did the Chronicle of Philanthropy. They picked up on these practical points:

  • Don’t rely on groups in Facebook, have a Fan page to take advantage of Facebook’s viral nature. (You can do a lot with the look and feel of your Fan page — see the example of my landing page (or look at the welcome tab if you’ve already joined). This custom landing page was created by the good folks at Sprout.)
  • Be a little less “formal” and try a few fun updates and other content that sparks conversations. Randi suggests that having a personality is an asset.
  • Use video. Groups that post video on their fan pages are typically able to create more personal messages. And those messages are more likely to be shared with others.
  • Tag liberally. Take pictures at events and post them to their Facebook pages. When they post the images, they should tag the people in the photos — a process that notifies those who are friends of the people that they have been tagged in a photo on a charity’s page. Those notifications draw more traffic and, in turn, more supporters, to a charity’s page.
  • Incorporate Facebook into your events. If you have a special event, make sure you invite your Facebook fans to the party, too. You’ll probably attract more people — and Facebook will tell all of their friends that they are coming to an organization’s event.

Skeptics in the audience tweeted about the limitations of tool-centric campaigns or wondered if, at the end of day, there was any on the ground social change. Was it all hype?

The morning included a speech by Kari Dunn Saratovsky of the Case Foundation, who talked about offline/online connections as well as some of the challenges that charities face such as cause fatigue and slacktivism.  She also mentioned that the Case Foundation will be doing the giving challenge for a second time, so stay tuned. She asked the big question: Is all this making us smarter philanthropists (and organizers and leaders)?  Folks like Brian Reich are skeptical.

Photo by Peter Clayton

Toby Daniels, from Think Social, who was called in at the last minute, did a fantastic talk. Best of all, I got to finally meet him and Scott Harrison from charity:water face to face. (Check out this post by Toby over at Think Social about storytelling using charity:water as an example.) There were also presentations about Global Giving and Causecast.

The nonprofits Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam, and LIVESTRONG each gave excellent presentations on how their organizations are using social media.  I enjoyed hearing the latest update from Carie Lewis about her organization’s experience in social media crisis mode and the recent controversy with Michael Vick. She was able to clearly demonstrate the value of listening and engaging.  More details about the nonprofit presentations are at the Nonprofit Bridge and Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Photo by David Parmet

(In the green room waiting to go on the stage, in between Pete Cashmore and Geoff Livingston)

See more of David’s conference photos here.

Next was the “Social Media for Social Good” segment. I kicked it off with a talk titled “Be a Generous Geek,” which was about the many ways small actions (online and offline) can make a difference, sprinkled with a few stories that were featured in Shel Israel’s Twitterville and Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents. Next up was colleague Geoff Livingston, who talked about building movements (see his slides below and read more here).

Next was Scott Henderson, who presented a case study about his PledgeforHunger project. Our segment ended with an amazing talk by Drew Olanoff (you can read about his work here). I’m definitely in on the blameathon on Sept. 9.

The closing keynote was by Scott Goldstein, who talked about “All for Good” which has been described as a “SoCap09 Conference.)

The event ended with a marriage proposal and a lot of geek excitement over social media for social good. There were also some voices of skeptics asking the big question on how to channel this energy and excitement at the awareness level to bring about real change both online and offline.

What I saw at this conference was a youthful enthusiasm for generosity and the desire to do something, but perhaps there is a need for sharing of best practices and techniques beyond the tools. There is a great opportunity for generations of philanthropists, organizers, and community leaders to enrich each other’s learning.

Cross-posted from Beth’s Blog.


Geeks for Good and the Summer of Social Good (

All for Good: A Craigslist for Service ( Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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