October 15, 2012

How DoSomething uses data to change the world

Sometimes impact can be achieved without money, an adult or a car

This post was written by Beth Kanter, co-author of the new book Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World. She and co-author KD Paine appear at TechSoup headquarters, 525 Brannan St., Suite 300 in San Francisco on Wednesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. Register to attend the free talk.

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, Web publishers, general public.

Guest post by Beth Kanter
beth’s blog

The New York-based nonprofit DoSomething.org has a big social change goal: To harness the energy of young people 25 and under and unleash it through national campaigns on causes teens care about. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and does not require money, an adult, or a car. Their measurable goal is to get 5 million active teen members engaged in social change campaigns by 2015. They use social media, mobile, and data to reach that goal.

A recent example is their “Pregnancy Text” campaign featured on their quarterly dashboard. This clever sex education campaign is an updated version of the teen pregnancy education program where young people carried eggs around and pretended they were babies. It was a text campaign where teens opted-in to receive texts on their mobile phones from the “baby.” Once they joined (and they could share it with their friends), they received regular annoying text messages at all hours from the “baby”  that poops, cries, and needs their immediate attention. Continue reading

October 9, 2012

Video for your cause: Get giddy over Viddy

How 15-second videos are taking advocacy campaigning to the next level

This is the third part of a series on how nonprofits can use video. Also see:
• Part 1: What to consider when investing in video
• Part 2: 7 top video editing tools for nonprofits

Guest post by Mike Kondratick
Director of Strategy, See3 Communications

Nothing tells the real, impactful human stories of actual constituents like video. In the years that I spent as an advocacy program director, collecting user-generated video from our supporters – advocate stories, testimonials, and messages to legislators – was always high on the priority list.

These programs, no matter how well conceived or how good our intentions, were always difficult to manage. Folks would use a variety of ways to capture the video: Flip cams, their laptop’s camera, their smartphone, etc. The video got back to us in different ways: email, links to YouTube pages, posted to our Facebook fan page, etc. Organizing the footage to make the desired impression on potential advocates and/or legislators was a time suck. And, regardless of how well we crafted message points for our supporters to simplify the process and make it less stressful, the video that came back had varying levels of usability. In short, these programs were a hot mess. Continue reading

March 13, 2012

5 advocacy lessons from the Kony 2012 video

Issues of storytelling, transparency & disclosure come to fore

Shonali BurkeThe big social media story of the year so far has been Invisible Children’s 30-minute film on Joseph Kony. I mean, you just couldn’t get away from it last week — 75 million views on YouTube and counting.

I was fascinated, not so much by the video, which I agree was beautifully produced, but by the amount of conversation it generated. So I talked to a few of my colleagues in the nonprofit world, all powerhouse professionals, to get their take on the video and the cultural hubbub that ensued.

And while much has already been written about the campaign, including this terrific Forbes piece on social media lessons, here are a few things nonprofit organizations should keep in mind when using digital media to further their causes:

You must let the truth get in the way of a good story

1One of the primary criticisms is that the Kony 2012 video doesn’t accurately represent the current state of affairs in Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, not to mention the fact that warlord Joseph Kony hasn’t been in that country in a while. Invisible Children said that in order for the story to resonate, they had to simplify it, and basically admitted via the statement on their site that they left out a lot of detail:

“In our quest to garner wide public support of nuanced policy, Invisible Children has sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format, focusing on the core attributes of LRA leadership that infringe upon the most basic of human rights. In a 30-minute film, however, many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked.”

Yes, the story is complicated. But with the expert talent at their disposal, I have a hard time believing Invisible Children couldn’t have given a sense of history by date-stamping the different interviews and so on.

Beth Kanter agreed, saying, “I believe nonprofits, in a day of social media connectedness, really have to understand transparency and that they can’t get away with not being transparent.” Beth elaborated further on this in a recent post, reiterating that “for responsible social change, you need transparency.”

How much storytelling is too much storytelling?

2Kami Watson Huyse raised an interesting point: “It was clear to me that this video was a storytelling exercise, and stories by definition are personal and take a particular point of view. I was more concerned with his use of his own son’s reaction as part of the story.

“The truth is a matter of interpretation. I think that this video was designed to get people to act, not to be a realistic documentary.”

While I’m not a parent, I would imagine this would resonate with many of you who are. We’ve seen time and time again that good stories are those are easy to understand and that pull on your heartstrings. But do you really have to bring your kids into it?

From Beth on storytelling: “Successful messaging is compelling, visual, emotional and simple. Some highly effective online activists told me that one of their secrets is that their messaging is at sixth-grade level because that makes it clear and simple to understand. That’s a good thing to do.”

Kony 2012 did that in spades. But at what price? At what point does the story take over the agenda — or become the agenda? It goes back to being transparent – which pretty much everyone I asked agreed was key. Nancy Schwartz summed it up perfectly: “The end doesn’t justify the means.”

It’s tough to say no to kids

3I first heard about the video from my Johns Hopkins students. Granted, they’re not kids, but they’re exactly the demographic of young activist and activist-oriented people that the film was trying to reach. Beth said she first heard about it from her 12-year-old son. JD Lasica, my Socialbrite colleague, first heard about it from his 12-year-old son. (By the way, JD interviewed one of the founders of Invisible Children for Socialbrite in 2009.) Continue reading

February 23, 2012

The best tools for advocacy campaigns

An advocacy campaign to save a state park in Big Sur, Calif. (Image by Patrick Smith)

A look at the most effective techniques to advocate for social change

Guest post by Kyle Henri Andrei

Advocacy organizations often encourage their grassroots supporters to influence politicians and corporations using different methods, from promoting a cause or opposing legislation to challenging ad campaigns or policies. A large display of public opinion can have a powerful message, and advocacy groups often help to focus and channel this support to make the most impact.

This was traditionally done with mail. The sheer bulk of hundreds or thousands of letters was a strong visual stand-in for the people behind the cause. Today the tactic hasn’t changed, but the message is more likely to be delivered by email, telephone or social media, and the physical presence of the message replaced by the easy, constant barrage of communications

Let’s look at a few of the tools available to help advocacy groups direct grassroots communications to a target.

Email-based tools

While once a strong alternative to physically mailing letters, high-volume email campaigns have become more difficult at the national level. Most Congressional offices now use Web forms and other filters to restrict the flow of email to their in-boxes, minimizing their impact. The majority of mid-range and higher-end tools are able to navigate these roadblocks, but it’s a game of cat and mouse; as the email tools become more effective, so too do the defenses.

On the other hand, state and local politicians have lower email traffic and therefore tend to have fewer restrictions on the emails they receive. This makes them more effective targets. Corporations also tend to be more vulnerable to such efforts than Congress, and are more sensitive to attacks on their brand — and, in turn, more responsive to a campaign. Continue reading

February 3, 2012

How Salsa Labs enables positive social action

Here’s a short video that provides a tour of Salsa, which offers a suite of online organizing tools to help you build awareness, mobilize your people and keep them engaged.

One client’s data-driven approach multiplied its supporter network exponentially

Guest post by Jason Zanon
Salsa Labs

Talking from the heart may be what motivates supporters, but when it comes to building a long-term social network strategy, there’s no substitute for having your head in the game.

The Environmental Working Group, whose disciplined and data-driven outreach has multiplied its supporter network by nearly a thousandfold since joining Salsa, generously shared its social media playbook with Salsa, and we thought Socialbrite’s readers would like to see how this unfolded. It includes a few common-sense strategies that any organization can put into effect — and a whole lot of shoe leather.

“We’re really aware of our audience and meeting their needs,” said Colleen Hutchings of the Environmental Working Group. “When we post an action, we’re being really conscientious of who our audience is and of meeting them where they are, which may not always be the same as an email audience or a blog audience.”

The thousands of nonprofits and campaigns that, like EWG, count on the Salsa online communications platform can light up sharing features on any page with the flip of a switch. Salsa Sharing helps visitors channel the message to their own friends on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Curation that targets each social network

Hutchings credits its burgeoning Twitter and Facebook footprints to the extra effort EWG puts into curating specifically for each social network. Some of her tips:

  • Craft custom suggested sharing messages (under 140 characters, natch) to make sharing super-easy for your social network people.
  • Have appealing linked images in the action page — essential for making Facebook shares pop.
  • Use a trackable link shortener like bit.ly to capture metrics. EWG’s last campaign as of this writing: 2,344 Facebook shares on an action with 31,095 online advocacy messages sent.
  • Try (gentle) cross-channel recruitment. For instance, suggest a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ share in your acknowledgment auto-response to folks who take the old-school webform action.
  • And most crucially, care for your community beyond your asks.

“We get into the comments and foster dialogues and direct people to resources they ask for,” Hutchings said. “People are coming to our Facebook page because they are involved in a conversation. We try to talk about actions in a way people care about, and care for the community that cares about them — and we do see new email signups and actions as a result.” Continue reading

July 27, 2011

G-Team: Groupon’s program to support causes



How the power of collective buying is helping local cause campaigns around the country

Guest post by Patty Huber
G-Team Manager, Groupon

By now you’ve likely heard of Groupon, which allows consumers to get local deals on the best things to do, eat, see and buy in their own cities.

But do you know about G-Team, which uses the same concept of a collective buying power to connect people to causes in their local communities? G-Team, Groupon’s main philanthropic program, launched a year ago this month in Chicago and was modeled on the original vision for Groupon as a platform for collective action and fundraising.

G-Team runs campaigns that focus on project-specific ideas, allowing participants to see tangible results in their community.

G-Team provides a platform for organizations and causes to garner the support of their local community and even solicit money for campaigns or project-based initiatives. Through the G-Team page, nonprofits, cause organizations and individuals can apply to have their campaign featured.

G-Team runs campaigns that focus on project-specific ideas, allowing participants to see tangible results in their community. When a campaign goes live, the featured organization is encouraged to gather as many participants as possible to reach the tipping point. If enough people buy in, the project is funded and the campaign organizer receives a check to accomplish his or her intended goal.

G-Team campaigns are currently operating in 12 Groupon markets, and each week a new campaign is selected to be featured on the daily deal site for its city. The Groupon markets with G-Team campaigns include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In the coming months, G-Team will be expanding to about 70 more Groupon markets. Continue reading