September 27, 2010

How nonprofits can get started with mobile

How nonprofits can get started with mobile from JD Lasica on Vimeo.


Some tips about how to create an effective mobile campaign

This is part two of a two-part series on how organizations can use mobile tech for social good. See part one: A beginner’s guide to mobile fundraising.

JD LasicaWith the explosion of mobile giving in the wake of this year’s humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti and the Gulf Coast, nonprofits and social change organizations are now taking a new look at what mobile might be able to do for their own causes.

Nicola Wells, regional field director for the Center for Community Change’s Fair Immigration Reform Movement, offers nonprofits a half dozen tips about how to get started with mobile and create an effective mobile campaign, whether for fundraising, recruiting or other goals. The 11-minute interview was conducted just after we presented the Mobilize Your Cause bootcamp at City University of New York as part of Personal Democracy Forum.

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement is a national coalition of immigrants rights groups whose work in social media has three goals: to build a list of individuals who can be called upon when needed to press for immigration reform legislation; to communicate important news and information to those individuals as the campaign evolves, and to engage those supporters and build a relationship with them.

Mobile was a key component of the strategy. Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo

Nicola noted that immigrants and people of color tend to use mobile more than the general population, and a lot of FIRM’s supporters did not have computers and did not belong to Web-based communities like Care2 or Thus, mobile was the perfect tool for keeping in touch with them.

Wading into the mobile space should not be done lightly, however. “It really takes a lot of staff time just to set up the mobile piece: to create the messaging, do the copy editing and to deal with the day-to-day functioning of the list,” she says.

When the mobile initiative got underway, the executive team had to make sure they had staffing in place and in alignment, including having a key manager of the social media team involved in the mobile campaign. Next, they dedicated to the team a tech expert who was familiar with mobile campaigns and brought in Mobile Commons — a text messaging platform for mobile marketing — to handle the back end.

They talked with partners before they began building the list so they could figure out the right positioning and managed to negotiate relationships to get their long-term buy-in, Nicola said. Finally, they began thinking deeply about the user experience, particularly:

  • calls to action, including urging them to attend rallies on behalf of the cause
  • alerts, so that when specific high-tension information came out, people would be in the loop
  • a feedback loop that gave members a sense of having access to the campaign

Key lessons learned along the way

Some key lessons they learned, Nicola said, were these:

  • You really have to put your short code and mobile information everywhere you put your url.
  • Person to person is the best way to sign people up, not through email.
  • Have people at your events walking through the crowd to recruit people for the mobile list. “Computers are not the best way to sign people up.”
  • Once you have a short code, try not to change it, because you’re building a brand around your code and number. For example, FIRM uses the short code JUSTICE (Justicia in Spanish) texted to 69866.
  • You really have to learn the art of communicating complex ideas in 160 characters. “Allow one or two people on your team to take ownership of that,” Nicola says. “I like to call them the gatekeepers.”

Continue reading

April 29, 2010

Attend the Mobilize Your Cause Bootcamp in NYC

Take charge of social & mobile media for your cause or campaign

JD LasicaAt the Personal Democracy Forum in New York on June 2, Katrin Verclas — founder of MobileActive and a partner in Socialbrite — and I will be presenting the first Mobilize Your Cause Bootcamp. I’ve been giving social media bootcamps for some time, and Katrin jets off to another continent every other week to give presentations on mobile activism, so this should be a special event.

Please tweet, post to Facebook or share the word with your own networks.

We’re setting aside part of the afternoon for talks and Q&As with Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, Nicola Wells of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and Rachel LaBruyere of the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign. I’ll also be on a panel at Personal Democracy Forum the next day.

See below for details and how to register.


For the first time, Personal Democracy Forum is bringing you an interactive workshop that will dive deeply into strategy, tactics and tools available to activists and change agents.


The bootcamp will offer a deep look at the following:

  • Social media for social good: Examples of how campaigns or ongoing initiatives have been successful in raising awareness, participation or funds for social causes, nonprofits and political movements.
  • Mobile action: Examples of how text/SMS campaigns and mobile applications are gaining momentum as a platform for social change, with an emphasis on U.S. campaigns.
  • How to build an activist community: We’ll explore how different organizations have successfully used social and mobile tools to activate their members, spread awareness, engage members and raise funds.
  • New technologies: An overview of the best “social good” tools and resources available for advocates looking to make a difference.
Who should come
  • Social media/community managers at nonprofit organizations
  • Editors & managers of political and political reform sites
  • Communications, marketing and PR professionals
  • Techies, geeks, nerds and mobile fanboys & fangirls
  • CUNY students and faculty
  • Activists, advocates and those who want to make the world a better place

Register Now

Katrin Verclas is founder and executive editor of She has spoken at Skoll World Forum, TED, Pop!Tech, SXSW, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, the Politics Online Conference, We Media and the Open Society Institute, among other places. She is an experienced trainer currently engaged in a six-country engagement focusing on social and new media for NGOs focused on transparency and governance in repressive media.
JD Lasica is founder of – social tools for social change – and a pioneer in social media. JD also runs the consultancy and was co-founder of, the world’s first free video hosting and sharing site. He has presented at social media bootcamps, SXSW, Macworld, Digital Hollywood, Blogworld, Harvard’s Berkman Center, Stanford, MIT, NYU, UC Berkeley, universities in Sweden, the Citizen Reporters’ Forum in Seoul, the Cannes Film Festival and elsewhere.
Special guests

Continue reading

Craig Newmark The bootcamp will include a special appearance by Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a political reform advocate. Craig will join in a conversation about developments in the social change sector and how to build an activist community. Bootcamp participants will engage in a Q&A with the speakers during this 45-minute segment.
The bootcamp will also feature a discussion with Nicola Wells, an organizer for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a national coalition of grassroots immigrant rights organizations, a project of the Center for Community Change. Nicola focuses her work on building strong state-based campaign for federal immigration reform.