Thursday, March 31, 2011

SXSW: Nonprofits and Free Agents in A Networked World

In an interactive session with Beth Kanter (@kanter) CEO, Zoetica; Danielle Brigida (@starfocus) Digital Mktg Mgr, National Wildlife Federation; Jessica Dheere (@jessdheere) Founder/Dir, Social Media Exchange; Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) InvisiblePeople.tv at SXSW Interactive 2011, I learned how nonprofits can leverage free agents to support their cause.

First, Beth Kanter introduced the concept of a fortressed organization as one that is “opaque and impenetrable to outsiders.” (The Networked Nonprofit, B Kanter and A Fine, 2010)

And what happens when a passionate, capable, and agile free agent who is eager to help meets this fortress? They crash into a wall.  

Instead, organizations must strive to be network nonprofits.  Networked nonprofits are more connected to the ecosystem of free agents (both individuals and other organizations.) They use more collaborative ways to issue and accept requests for work, for example, using social media to locate graphic designers.

According to Kanter, in order to exemplify a Networked Nonprofit, you must be comfortable with supporters experimenting with the organization’s brand.  Bridgida recommends getting buy-in from legal to allow them to do so.  Free agents don’t care about your branding document. Be sure your lawyers know not to send a cease and desist order when you support what the free agent is doing. Use creative commons licensing to freely allow certain uses of your organization’s intellectual property.

Free agents can sometimes accomplish things that the organization itself cannot, such as operating on the ground in foreign countries. Dheere points out that it is difficult to work as an NGO in certain societies due to cultural and government restrictions, especially with respect to open access to data and content.  This is one area where working with free agents isn’t just helpful, it’s crucial. 

Free agents have responsibilities too. They have to demonstrate how they help, not hurt, the cause.  Kanter mentioned having a code of conduct for free agents, so expectations and boundaries are clearly outlined.

Craig Newark and Beth Kanter

Craig Newmark (@craignewmark), founder of craigslist.org and Craigslist Foundation, and free agent extraordinaire, was in attendance.  He pointed out that free agents help charities and NGOs stay connected with the people they serve at the ground level.

A couple of key actions that you can do now to implement your strategy to becoming a “Networked Nonprofit”
  • Be a network weaver. Start by mapping out the relationships within your organization and you will probably find you are talking to the same people.
  • Develop an engagement strategy for people outside your organization and follow it
  • Fail fast and fail cheap. Reassess afterward.


Remember: “These networked nonprofits work as social networks, not just in them.” (Ibid)

I was lucky enough to meet Kanter after her session and briefly discuss how it went, including the integration of international free agents through live conference calls and recorded videos, as well as her informal moderation style and breaking down the physical barriers between audience and panel to facilitate the discussion.

Myself and Beth Kanter

All in all, this is one the BEST sessions I attended this year and I would highly recommend the book, The Networked Nonprofit (B Kanter, A Fine) to anyone interested in learning more.

The twitter hashtag for this session was #netnon.

Beth also has a great write-up of her reflections on this session on her blog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Text-to-Donate Fundraising for Non-Profits

In a core conversation with Bridge Communities, Amy Van Polen, Resource Dev Dir, discussed her experiences with text-to-give campaigns. The results surprised me.

Typically, text-to-give campaigns involve using a for-profit ASP (application service provider) to act as the trusted third party between the phone carrier and the nonprofit. This ASP provider manages the short codes and keywords and typically charges a monthly fee ($79-$99/mo) and a per text charge ($0.48/txt). Bridge Communities used Give By Cell.

Then they shared this little tidbit of information:




Really? Breaking even a success? She also mentioned her costs to be approximately $4000 to run the campaign for a single special event. This price tag is beyond the reach of most NPOs.

In addition to the high cost, the delay between the donors text and funds actually being received by the charity can be as long as 30 to 60 days.

The process for text-to-give campaigns can be complicated. When a donor texts to donate, they receive a confirmation message to which they must reply to complete the donation. There is an average 30% dropoff rate for Bridge Communities. Many donors were kids on family plans, and carriers frequently do not permit ad hoc text charges on family plans.

My biggest takeaway from this case study is that with text-to-give campaigns, the NPO does not have the ability to collect donors’ personal information such as name or email address. This makes it impossible to follow up with a thank you or develop a long term relationship. Instead, consider text-to-pledge campaigns.

With text-to-pledge, organizations collect vital donor data with which to follow up and collect the pledge, so they can develop the relationship with the donor.

Another consideration was the judicious promotion of the text-to-give campaign. Since the minimum donation on the web campaign was $25 and the text campaign was set at $10, Bridge Communities carefully promoted the text campaign where it would not cannibalize their web and other donations.

For maximum success, Amy recommended using emotional appeals, making it fun, and using an emcee or other high energy spokesperson at the event to create a sense of immediacy and encourage attendees to pull out their phones and donate right then.

For more comments on this topic, read the tweets on #text2donate Twitter hashtag.

Monday, March 28, 2011

SXSW wrapup: Let's Hook Up: Brands, Celebs, and Non-profits

In a panel (click for recording) with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (@IAVA) and LIVESTRONG (@LIVESTRONG) panelists, Katie VanLangen (@kvanlangen), Dir of Strategic Partnerships, and Paul Rieckhoff (@paulrieckhoff), Exec Dir of IAVA and Chris Brewer, Sr Mgr, Dev Comm with LIVESTRONG discussed using sponsorships and celebrity endorsements for your cause.

The key is to find a sponsor who really cares about your cause and then demonstrate the ROI to their brand.

Be sure your cause is a good fit with their personal interests. This will help alleviate possible problems when and if conflicts arise, such as for scheduling appearances. A sponsor who has an early morning flight will be much more likely to stay late at your gala if they truly believe in your cause than one who only has a passing interest.

If you are going to involve a celebrity in your special events, ensuring their security and comfort is paramount.




They also mentioned Movember as a great example of how nonprofits can use the power of social media to engage supporters. Read more about Movember on Wikipedia.

Check out the comments for this panel on the Twitter hashtag, #letshookup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SXSW book reading: The Future of Nonprofits

From a book reading (click for official SXSW archive recording) of The Future of Nonprofits : Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age with Randal C. Moss (@randalc) and David J. Neff (@daveiam) I learned that nonprofits are still businesses, they just spend their profits differently. They cannot be lazy when it comes to new initiatives.

David J Neff and Randal C Moss book signing for The Future of Nonprofits

Charities also must pay attention to the rise of the individual fundraiser. Don’t be satisfied for supporters to simply like your cause, engage them and call them to take action.




Awareness is dead. Advertising is in. Organizations must make a business case for each new idea. Ask; is it revenue positive or revenue neutral? Is it sustainable?

If you are not structured to innovate, you won’t innovate. Organizations must create cultures that encourage new ideas from staff and have procedures in place which facilitate the adoption of new ideas.

Check out the slideshare from David J Neff. Or for more tidbits of knowledge, 140 characters at a time, read the comments on the Twitter hashtag, #thefutureofnpos.

SXSW and NTC wrapups

As you have read here, I attended the South by Southwest interactive festival in Austin, Texas, March 11 - 16, 2011. Immediately following, I went to the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington DC, March 17 - 19, 2011.

There was so much brain-filling information and best practices shared that it is too much for one post. Therefore, I will be posting wrap-ups and summaries from several of the sessions I attended here on this blog over the coming weeks.

Watch for lots of nerdy, techie, geeky, nptech goodness coming at you soon!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lena Rose is moving

No, she isn't crawling yet! But she is moving to a blog all her own!

If you would like updates on what the most beautiful baby in the world (no bias) is up to lately, please follow her here:
Rose is a Rose
http://helenaroselauriat.blogspot.com/


This blog here (Tomato's Garden) will be reserved for my thoughts and comments on nonprofit management and technology, geeky things, and my life, in general.

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to comment!

Stacy

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Washington DC moonrise

The best full moon event in 18 years and all I have this little camera phone. Still beautiful to watch from the National Mall.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lena Rose, Gator girl


Helena Rose has declared herself more than willing to be part of a Gator household showing that at 4 1/2 mos. it's never too young to show the spirit!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What being a mother has taught me about being a (nonprofit) manager

As a new mother of a beautiful baby girl, I have learned a lot in these past few months about myself and my management style. Maybe it sounds callous that I think in terms of “managing” my baby – and some parents would probably disagree and say my baby is managing me – but it’s true!

Here is what I have learned.

Perfection is not necessary – Instead, strive for continuous improvement.

I may not know everything about mothering, but neither does my baby! Both of us have started with a blank slate, and we both have to learn as we go. You can’t be a victim of decision paralysis. Accept that you will make mistakes and choose to fail informatively, so you can improve the process next time.

Your audience (be it a baby, an employee, or a donor) doesn’t necessarily know things didn’t go the way you planned, so just pretend you planned that way! And then plan on doing better next time.

Poop Happens – …on the outfit, the blanket, the wall…. (yes, the wall.) Don’t panic! Clean it up.

In business and in babies, sometimes circumstances beyond your control interfere with your ideal state (like clean walls.) Freaking out only adds to the stress level. And trust me, a stressed out baby is much more difficult to handle than a calm baby. Instead, deal with the situation one step at time. Change the diaper, change the outfit, and then hand baby to Poppa so you can go scrub the wall.

Anticipate needs – Babies don’t always know what they want; you have to know for them!

Be ready with what you think they’ll need, before they even ask for it. A happy baby is easier to feed than a fussy baby. Instead of waiting for hunger to arrive, proactively have the milk ready. You won’t have to scramble and baby won’t have to wait.

A nonprofit's patrons are the same. If you know your patrons are going to wait until December 31st to think about their annual gift, have an online donation form ready for them to make that 11th hour donation painlessly.

Go with the flow – The best laid plans [of mice and men] don’t always work out the way you want.

Be agile enough to change directions when necessary. You may have planned a walk at 2pm, but if baby is napping, you may decide to wait and walk later. If it’s raining later, when baby wakes up from her nap, rather than being disappointed that the walk must be cancelled, consider it a chance to teach baby about what rain smells like!

In the professional world, new opportunities often present themselves with little introduction. Don’t rigorously follow your planned strategy with no consideration. Wise managers will even be flexible enough to turn a possible threat into a new opportunity.

Prioritize – Deal with the most urgent need first.

Sometimes it seems all your problems come to a head at the same time. Baby is hungry, baby is wet, baby is fussy! You may be super-mom (or super-dad), but can’t do everything at once. It’s important to prioritize needs and deal with the most pressing issues first, before proceeding to the next.

Feed first, then diaper. Don’t forget the cuddles!

Face time is crucial – Non-verbal communication is key, especially when you haven’t learned to talk yet. And sometimes just knowing that you are there is enough to head off a major incident. Be present and engaged. If you are working from home while the sitter watches the “lil bits,” poke your head in the play pen to get a good smile.

At work, tour the cubicles every once in a while, just to say hey to your employees and colleagues.

The bottom line – Similar to babies, customers, colleagues, and patrons don’t always know what they need. They may know they need something, but without a clear understanding of the solutions available, they don’t know exactly what that “something” is. By being present, listening, and anticipating needs, you can make happy babies and happy customers!