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 Change.org. 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.”

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September 23, 2010

Witness: Putting a face on human rights

Witness: Documenting human rights from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAlot of people don’t think of video when they talk about social media, but it’s a critical part of the landscape. “Witness was founded on the idea of testimonies and powerful stories,” says blog editor Matisse Bustos Hawkes. “Formulating a story that can reach your intended audience is an incredibly effective way of putting a face on an issue.”

You’ve likely heard of Witness (they prefer the all-caps WITNESS), the international nonprofit that provides video storytelling training to human rights organizations around the world. Witness was founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation as a project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First.)

While Brooklyn-based Witness is not a political organization, “there are a lot of things happening in the current events landscape, the news cycle, that can be seen or thought about in a human rights context,” Matisse said, citing the Iranian street protests of 2009-10 and the Saffron revolution of fall 2007 in Myanmar (Burma).

Witness helps frame and shape a story with the objective of reaching a target audience with a specific goal in mind. But Witness does not exist simply to convey the news. “We are telling a story from a particularly perspective,” as a documentary filmmaker might — from an advocacy perspective framed with the lens of human rights, she said during an interview at Personal Democracy Forum 2010.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo. Continue reading