June 6, 2011

A reality check on social media

Social Media for Social Good


It only works when it’s connected to the real world

JD LasicaAt the National Conference on Volunteering and Service — which some folks call “the Super Bowl of nonprofit conferences” — George Weiner and I teamed up on one of the most successful Social Media for Social Good Bootcamps that Socialbrite has put on to date. (Socialbrite has put on camps in New York, San Francisco, Miami, London and elsewhere.)

For those of us who live and breathe tech and social media — me in Silicon Valley and George, CTO of DoSomething.org, in New York and Washington, DC — it’s always a good reality check to come to gatherings like this and see how the non-early adopters are faring.

The three-hour session we led yesterday offered a range of tips on how to use social media strategically for campaigns, for collaboration, for building community, and I invite you to browse through the presentation above, since the attendees found it useful: “AMAZING session” (thanks, Volunteer Centre) … “awesome, fantastic session” (thanks, NCVS) … “Great session!” (thanks, Groupon).

But there were more beginners in the crowd than I expected. For instance, only about five out of 50 particpants were using Google Analytics (the free tool every website and blog ought to have). None had heard of the Grassrootsmapping.org effort to document the Gulf oil spill, even though we’re right here in New Orleans. And only one out of 80 people (not counting me) at today’s session on data had ever used Tumblr, an easy way to post blog entries and photos.

These are good, smart, motivated people — we need to break through the barriers and connect the tools and strategies with the organizations and causes that need them, starting with the basics.

So let’s take a deep breath and remember: We still have a lot of work before us, and there’s a lot of education yet to be done.

April 12, 2011

How to activate your organization’s supporters

JD LasicaAt the conclusion of Socialbrite’s 3-hour Move the Needle bootcamp at Sustainatopia in Miami to help organizations — social enterprises and nonprofits — use social media for social good, I chatted with my partner Sloane Berrent about some of the tips we discussed with participants, including how to find the influencers in your sector and Sloane’s suggestion to create real-world meet-ups from your organization’s online connections.

Couldn’t be in Miami? Today I’m giving a 90-minute version of the Move the Needle presentation at 1 pm ET in my first CharityHowTo webinar. (It’s not too late to sign up!)

“You can’t be everywhere all the time,” she says in our talk — especially when social media demands conversation and interaction. So organizations should identify evangelists, influencers and brand ambassadors and seek to enlist them in your cause or organization’s mission.

Make sure you identify metrics and tie them into goals so that you can tie it into larger programs or ongoing campaigns, Sloane adds in this 6-minute interview. You have to do the homework — the hard stuff — but it gets you to the great outcomes.

There isn’t one tool out there as the complete solution to identifying influencers, but Social Mention, Klout and other tools should be part of the mix. Sloane and I suggested setting up a shared Google doc where you track influencers and your interactions with them.

Real-world meetups are important as well. “People really want to be offline” and meet up in person, she said. “Create a program online but have an event offline that brings people together to talk about your organization.”

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo
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March 17, 2011

A story-driven Web platform for communities

Shelbyville project kicks off with a series of ‘Welcoming’ videos

JD LasicaChances are you haven’t yet heard of Shelbyville, a small rural community in Tennessee, much less than the upcoming “Welcome to Shelbyville” documentary or the online project that is forging a pilot, or prototype, for communities to tell and share their own stories. So let me share my initial impressions of this remarkable, ambitious, exciting effort.

On Monday I was lucky enough to be a part of a “digital braintrust” of 20 progressive media and nonprofit representatives at the Bay Area Video Coalition headquarters convened by Active Voice, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that uses film, television and multimedia to spark social change.

We spent two hours reviewing the Shelbyville Multimedia project and offering ideas about how to finish it out and what to do differently next time. First, a quick overview:


Miss Marilyn, a retired public elementary school teacher who taught in Shelbyville for 34 years.

Active Voice conceived the vision of building a story-driven Web platform and brought together a team consisting of Free Range Studios, a creative services firm, and documentary filmmaker Kelly Whalen.

Over much of the past year, the parties combined efforts to create the ShelbyvilleMultimedia.org website while Kim A. Snyder directed and produced “Welcome to Shelbyville” (executive produced by the BeCause Foundation, in association with Active Voice) which has grown into an hourlong documentary that will air on ITVS’ “Independent Lens” series on PBS on May 24.

You can see the webisodes, produced by Active Voice in association with the BeCause Foundation, on the Shelbyville Multimedia channel on Vimeo. If you’re an educator, activist or community organization that wants to engage on a deeper level and host some of the webisodes on your own site or blog and invite conversations about the stories, head to the webisode discussion questions page.

What are your impressions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

‘Shelbyville’: Stories about immigrant integration

Welcoming America is an umbrella organization that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born residents.

The Shelbyville project is a series of stories about immigrant integration. One of Active Voice’s objectives was to introduce people to Welcoming America, an umbrella organization that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born residents. It is overseeing “welcoming” initiatives in 14 states, including Welcoming Tennessee.

“They opened doors for us in Shelbyville and introduced us to other affiliates, who hosted community ‘sneak previews’ in October,” said Active Voice operations director Daniel Moretti.

Active Voice approached Irina Lee, the creator of First Person American, about working on a pilot based on the Welcoming Stories theme. The idea, Moretti said, was “to combine FPA’s aesthetic and authenticity with Active Voice’s need to attract user-contributed stories. We’re hoping to raise funds to keep going, to both send Irina to other cities, and to commission other artists to create new Welcoming Stories formats.”

You can see some of the Welcoming Stories on the Tumblr site created by Active Voice and Free Range.

The tone of the two sites is positive and uplifting. As Moretti told us: “We didn’t want to build an advocacy site but a site to help people take the next step by providing options for different levels of engagement.”

While the project took a lens to the issue of immigration in rural Shelbyville, Tenn., Moretti pointed out: “We’re media strategists, not immigrant integration specialists. We had a feeling that what was going on in Shelbyville would resonate with people in small towns and large cities across the country, and we’re eager to help them connect to these issues in a human and nuanced way. But Welcoming America is doing this important work for the long haul, and we hope the website will be a great vehicle for them.”

The story-driven Web platform that Active Voice and Free Range developed, then, is not just to showcase webisodes, parts of a documentary or even the story of Shelbyville. Active Voice sees it as an early pilot of how other communities can tell their stories in a deep, meaningful but easy and lightweight way, with the focus on individuals’ stories rather than forcing users to wade through a complex backstory. Continue reading

October 4, 2010

9 Web platforms to help you change the world

MicroPlace: Invest wisely to help alleviate poverty.


SocialVest, MicroPlace, Vittana can help you make a difference

Target audience: Social change organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, students, educators, individuals.

Guest post by Shira Lazar

While there might be more noise in the social good space, there are also more tools to make giving easier and more accessible than ever. Many are also calling this a trend toward “democratizing social good.” The fact is, you don’t have to be a billionaire philanthropist to contribute to positive change in the world.

Whether you want to start a movement, do something to give back or just share your story, here are some great platforms that are enabling different ways for people to participate and make a difference.

SocialVest: Support causes through shopping

1Founded by Adam Ross, Socialvest marries shopping and giving together to make it easy for people to support their favorite causes by creating a fundraising channel out of everyday shopping. Then you can choose to donate the money you’ve accumulated to the charities or causes you care about and give the money you’ve earned through your SocialVest “Giving Account.” SocialVest also allows users to promote your cause via social networking and set up give groups and fundraising projects through social tools.


Causes: Mobilize your Facebook friends

2Co-founded by Joe Green and Facebook’s Sean Parker, Causes is the app inside Facebook that lets people choose specific causes to mobilize their friends for collective action, spread the word and/or raise money. Since 2007, the app has been used by a community of 125 million people and has had more than $22 million donated through the application.

DonorsChoose: Help students in public schools

3DonorsChoose is a platform that connects donors with classrooms in need. Go on the site, choose the project that interests you and donate to a worthy project. The site delivers the materials to the class and in turn the students will send you thank you notes and photos of the impact made.


MicroPlace: Invest wisely to alleviate poverty

4With MicroPlace, for as little as $20, you can open an investment account, use their search tools to find an investment on their site, pay with PayPal or your bank account and then receive interest payments to make your money back. These socially responsible investments in microfinance can help alleviate global poverty, helping the billion people who live on less than $1 per day.


Kiva: Micro-loans to entrepreneurs

5Kiva has been a prime of example of online microfinancing, enabling people to give “loans that change lives.” As of Sept. 19, Kiva has distributed $160,822,200 in loans from 757,183 lenders. A total of 220,977 loans have been funded. Make a loan for as little as $25 to one of their deserving entrepreneurs, follow their progress and get your money back over time.

Vittana: Send someone to college for $25

6Vittana co-founder Vishal Cakrabarti was named one of The Huffington Post’s 2009 Gamechangers. With its motto “Students in school, one loan at a time,” Vittana uses person-to-person micro-lending of $1,000 or less to enable students to pay for their college education, highlighting “high-achieving, deserving” students in developing countries on its website in the hope that visitors might be inspired to help out. Continue reading

July 14, 2010

A change agent’s top 5 tools for social change

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, NGOs, foundations, educators, individuals.

Guest post by Allyson Kapin
Partner, Rad Campaign

The tools for taking action and effecting social change are getting more robust all the time. Here are five of my current favorites:


1I think Care2’s Frogloop is one of the most trusted sources among nonprofit campaigners for having the latest resources and best practices to engage activists and donors using multiple channels including email, texting and social media. Full disclosure: I’m the Blogger-In-Chief but I don’t think that clouds my judgment. :~)



2OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the nation and the world created by regular people, Wikipedia-style. It’s a fantastic tool that nonprofits should be using more. It contains a lot more open data than Google Maps.


3If you’re the type of nonprofit campaigner who thrives off of multitasking, Threadsy could be a life saver. In a nutshell, it’s a dashboard that allows you to manage email, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging – all in one place! It was in beta but now it has just been released to the public.


4Idealware provides some of the best research and data to help nonprofits make smart software decisions – anything from choosing open source content management systems and the differences between them to low-cost data visualization tools.

The Petition Site

5Care2’s The Petition Site enables anyone — not just nonprofits — to start a petition around social action issues, from stopping the Sable Island seal slaughter to protecting against new drilling.

In this series

Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

An educator’s 5 top tools for social change

12 open source tools you should be using

6 productivity tools for social change

A developer’s 5 favorite social tools

Top 5 tools for the entrepreneurial journalist

Top cause organizations

July 6, 2010

Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

Ayelet Noff during Traveling Geeks UK trip
Ayelet Noff of the Traveling Geeks holds the Flip Ultra HD in London. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Launching our summer series on making media for social good

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, NGOs, citizen journalists, media makers

JD LasicaWe’re kicking off a summer series on making media for nonprofits and social change organizations. And, to highlight the wealth of tools on Socialbrite as we just marked our first birthday, we’ve rolled out a complete redesign of our Sharing Center.

Regular readers know that Socialbrite is all about showcasing social tools for social change. Every week we bring you a new batch of articles from our team to help you take advantage of the astonishing new ways to connect, collaborate and communicate and mobilize your cause online.

We’ve been saying for some time that every organization, every nonprofit, is turning into a media outlet, at least in part. It’s the same meme my Traveling Geeks colleague, journalist Tom Foremski, has been using with his new site, Every Company Is a Media Company.

So we decided to tap our friends’ expertise to highlight the tools and platforms that have been making the biggest difference in their own efforts — people like Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign and Frogloop, Claire Sale of NetSquared, Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Forum, Peter Deitz of SocialActions, Beth Kanter of Zoetica, Julie Crabill of Inner Circle Labs, Katrina Heppler of envisionGood.tv, Nathan Freitas, the mobile developer for the New York State Senate, and others.

Our original idea was to do one big roundup of indispensable tools — with the caveat, as always, that you should begin your efforts with a social media strategy, conversation strategy and social media strategy, and not just a set of tools. It turned out, though, that our colleagues provided so many suggestions that such an approach proved unwieldy. So instead we’ve decided to run a series of “top tools” lists by these experts in the field, kicking things off with this initial roundup of tools and resources for social good.

We suspect some tools and sites in the list below will be familiar while others may be new to you. Please add your own tips and suggestions in the comments below! And if you’d like to contribute your own short article, let us know.

Social action tools & platforms

Mobilize.org: Empowering & energizing the millennial generation

1Mobilize.org promotes greater civic participation and political engagement among young people. The site’s organizers believe the millennial generation offers hope for social justice regardless of race, class, religion or partisan identification. Mobilize.org has hosted eight Democracy 2.0 Summits on financial literacy, money and politics, millennial veterans, the environment and unemployment — with an eye toward developing sustainable solutions to these challenges. Follow mob_org on Twitter.

Amazee: Powering social collaboration

2Amazee is a global, Zurich-based platform that enables social collaboration for individuals, nonprofits, organizations and businesses. You can start a group to promote a cause or idea, to find like-minded people and to raise funds. Follow Amazee on Twitter.

Wiser Earth: Connecting you to communities of action

3WiserEarth is a free online community space connecting people, nonprofits and businesses working toward a just and sustainable world. Communities include the Culture of Peace Initiaitve, the Story of Stuff Project and the Radical Inclusion group. Now that Ning will be charging for hosted communities, Wiser Earth is a good choice for nonprofits and cause organizations looking to create an instant social network. Follow Wiser Earth on Twitter. Also see: Zanby: Roll your own community.


Charity How To: Step-by-step tutorials

4Next to Socialbrite, we think Charity How To does one of the best jobs of teaching nonprofits how to take advantage of digital tools. It offers step by step video tutorials, webinars and lots more. Follow CharityHowTo on Twitter.

we are media

WeAreMedia: A wiki of resources for social good

5WeAreMedia, spearheaded by Beth Kanter, is a wiki that came out of a hands-on workshop sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network. The site provides pointers to slideshows, resources and how-tos, like these tips and tutorials about Twitter.

Also, don’t forget Social Actions, which connects you to the issues and causes you care about.

Media creation tools


WordPress: Enabling citizen publishing

6WordPress.org, a self-hosted open source blogging platform, has become the software of choice for hundreds of thousands of blog publishers like Socialbrite or Syracuse’s University Lectures, while sites like Social Media Social Good use WordPress.com. You’ll want to take advantage of some of the thousands of free plug-ins that its global community of developers have created. Here’s our list of 10 WordPress plug-ins that rock, and here’s why we think WordPress is slicker than TypePad. Follow WordPress on Twitter.

OpenStreetMap: An open alternative to Google Maps

7OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the nation and the world created by people like you. The service provides an open alternative to Google Maps by letting organizations embed maps and use geographical data in a collaborative way. Follow openstreetmap on Twitter.

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