Dear Nonprofits, Be Fearless

This is our final installment of Nonprofit 2.0 keynotes. In the last couple of weeks, we were able to recap Majora Carter and Craig Newmark. And we finally have the workshop session notes up for you to check out.

Michael Smith, the Director of the White House's Social Innovation Fund, spoke to the Unconference after lunch. His topic? Be Fearless. He encouraged every nonprofit and strategist to embrace being fearless.

Michael stressed the need for social change in our country. He had some really important points:

  • Make big bets, experiment often, make failure matter, get out of your bubble, and let urgency conquer fear. Be a fearless changemaker.
  • It's imperative to make failures matter. Don't be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes.
  • Nonprofits need to cultivate a culture of evaluation, to learn what is working and what is not.
  • 1 in 8 nonprofits devote $0 to evaluation. That needs to change ASAP. It's imperative to evaluate your impact.
  • Nonprofit innovation and disruption is less about being fearless, and more about having the courage to move forward in spite of fear. Let your urgency conquer your fear.
  • If we are going to get the right solutions, we need the right people in the room, not just the elite. A room full of decision makers must include a representation of the demographic being served.
  • “We need to be cathedral builders” - that is, we are part of a greater story that will long outlast us.
  • We need to get rid of 1/3 of nonprofits. It’s turned into the Hunger Games. Most of the time, what we don't need is another nonprofit.

Michael's advice can be applied to both nonprofits and individual social change makers. It's important to innovate, disrupt, and evaluate to reach our goals and objectives. What inspires you to lead fearlessly?



Nonprofits Need to Focus on Results

Last week we gave you a recap of Majora Carter's keynote at the Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference, and we promised to keep 'em coming. This week, we'll dig into what Craig Newmark had to say during his keynote.

Craig Newmark is the founder of craigconnects and craigslist, and tends to focus on getting stuff done. He's pretty much a pro at that, and had some really great feedback for the nonprofit community.

Some highlights from Craig's talk that you'll want to make note of:

  • He talked about social justice in the US: "We put a lot of money into feeding people yet a lot of people are hungry. We put a lot of money into education, and that doesn't seem to work so well. Which I don't get. We put a lot of money into housing, and yet there's still people without houses."
  • Long term, Craig wants to figure out how to give  a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. 
  • Craig believes that you can't make change from the top down. He said, "The president is the most powerful person in the world, but not that powerful. What's powerful is when people in the trenches work together to get things done, and that's what makes a difference."
  • Craig encouraged us look to take a look at the social media leaders in the past who were good at doing things. An example he gave? Early blogger Julius Caeser, who "blogged" in a very low tech sense.
  • On the modern printing press: "the Internet should be everyone's printing press. Everyone should get a break like this. The internet is our way of doing things. The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends  for justice."
  • On skills: "I've seen C3s who are only good at telling good stories, cashing checks, and moving on. I know of one group in the DC area, ran for a while, cashed checks, tried dirty tricks, and is now a goner."
  • On success: "In any job you're in, you're responsible for your own branding."
  • On funding charities: "I'm kind of tired of passion, especially as I enter my sunset years. But the deal is, you really want commitment from people. You want the excitement, but then they need to follow through. Following through is the hard part, and that's what I look for. Instead of passion or excitement, I'm looking for commitment and results. People can get excited about something, realize it's hard, then that passion might now count for anything." In short? Follow through with your passion,  truly carry out your mission and show me results."

Have you ever struggled with ensuring that our mission, your actions, and your passions are all congruent? How does your nonprofit handle that? And do you have a truly effective elevator speech about what you do? I know they're talked about flippantly, but they really are key to talking to funders and constituents who may want to get involved in your organization.

I know there's a lot to digest, but stay tuned for sneak peek into Michael Smith's (of the White House's Social Innovation Fund) keynote. And in the meantime, you can check out the Storify recap of the Unconference.


5 Ways To Make Your Donors Feel Like Heroes

I feel like there is a lot of donor fatigue happening right now in the nonprofit community. Our donors are being solicited on every channel from numerous organizations multiple times a day. Today I received at least 10 fundraising pitches. Instead of treating our donors like ATM machines, we need to make them feel like heroes to our movement. Here are five ways to make your donors feel totally valued.

1. Connect their donation (even if it’s $5) to measurable impact. For example, tell them how their $5 went to purchase vaccines or a pizza pie for 5 volunteers who were canvassing around a campaign in your neighborhood.

2. Thank your donors. Don’t just send them an automated email. Send them a heartfelt thank you note. For example, do you have donors who have donated $25 to your organization every month for the last five years? Great, send them a handwritten note, signed by some of the staff expressing your sincere gratitude. These types of donors are the lifelines of your nonprofit.

3. Pick up the phone and call your donors to thank them. People love being personally thanked by a real human voice. They will probably be even surprised by this gesture because very few organizations take the time to call their donors. This can definitely help set your organization apart when it comes to donors thinking about where they are going to donate larger gifts to.

4. Do a social media shout out. If you have a social CRM and have done social media appends, you have access to where your donors are on social networks. Surprise them and thank them publicly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. If you have too many donors to thanks on social media, make a fun meme and tag them on different social media channels.

5. Invite them to VIP events where you treat them as your special guest. This should be a complementary event where they don’t have to donate money to attend. They should not be pitched to donate either as the goals here is to show your appreciation to your donors.


Why aren't we supporting leadership in a way that helps people grow?

Yesterday at the Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference we explored how to disrupt social change in the nonprofit sector. The day began bright and early, bursting with energy. Majora Carter started us off as the first keynote.

Majora Carter is an activist, urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She recently launched another nonprofit to help train low-income people in the Bronx to code. 

Her philanthropic pursuits and business interests have all pointed toward greater self-esteem and economic potential for low-income people everywhere. This was self-evident in her keynote.

Some highlights from Majora's talk:

  • Male-led nonprofits are funded more than female-led nonprofits at 20:1.
  • Majora said nonprofits need to get rid of elitism in the sector if we are going to have a greater impact. Often people who are part of the community that is being served are NOT called upon to identify problems and develop solutions. The community that's being served are considered partners but not necessarily the major decision-makers. Michael Smith, Director of the Social Innovation Fund spoke about this issue during his keynote as well. They are so spot on!
  • Majora, who describes herself as a "nonprofit recovering executive" says her past experiences has shown her how to do things well, and for less, but says that's not the market for most nonprofit dollars. She explained that, "This is an unreal economy. UNREAL in the worst sense of the word."
  • The digital divide is not about access. It's about whether you're a consumer, or if you're on the production side.
  • Majora really stressed that the term Nonprofit doesn't describe how good you are, or that you're good at all. It only describes your relationships with the IRS. This really resonated with me and others in the room.
  • Majora left the nonprofit sector because she felt like nobody was going to truly listen. She believes that it's time the sectors are really diversified. She said that it's bizarre to her that the parallels between leadership in the nonprofit world are very similar to the corporate world. People need to talk about it more. 
  • Why aren't we supporting leadership in a way that helps people grow?
  • The nonprofit sector has to work with the corporate sector. They can't be siloed, it isn't realistic. Everybody isn't bad, nor is one organization all good.
  • The playing field needs to be more open, and wider for more people. Majora encouraged the audience to not be afraid of being in a leadership position.
  • Majora also stressed the importance of recognizing the privilege you have, or don't have, and talking about it, of beginning these dialogues in our communities.

Majora's keynote was very powerful, and it quickly became clear that she really is a disruptor.

Have you noticed anything we highlighted from her talk in your own organization? Is there something that really resonated with you? We'd love to hear it; please comment with your own experiences and thoughts.

Next up in our Nonprofit 2.0 roundup: Craig Newmark, founder of craigconnects and craigslist. Stay tuned for the highlights from Craig's talk. And check out the Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference Storify here



Can Online Campaigners Fight Online Harassment?

If you work in social media or online advocacy you are no stranger to trolls and online harassment. We at Rad Campaign along with Lincoln Park Strategies and Craig Newmark of craigconnects recently conducted a national online poll about the rise of online harassment. We found that almost 25% of people reported that were either harassed online or knew someone who had been harassed. Even more alarming was that this figure climbed to 47% for people under the age of 35.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with Ted Fickes at Mobilisation Labs about how harassment in the nonprofit campaigner world. We discussed how online campaigns are built around email lists, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and phone calls and that we are reaching more people with less face to face interaction. However, is the nature of digital campaigning contributing to an environment that makes harassment possible?

I personally think the lack of face to face communications makes it easier for people to lash out and make threats against others, as people can hide behind their screens. It’s easy for someone to disconnect from the face on the other side of the screen, and cultivate a means of dehumanizing someone since they’re “only speaking to a screen.” This is also where the mob mentality comes in, which is more easily formed online than offline.

So how do we create safer campaign spaces online? I think the biggest piece to address is the cultural piece. Creating and sustaining a culture where people respect women and people of different faiths, political beliefs, gender identities, and sexual orientations, etc. is going to take a long time. There are a lot of awful stereotypes that have impacted our culture that need to be dismantled.

However, there are other things that we can explore that are more immediate steps. One of the things that I’m interested in talking with the panel about is what the online gaming community is doing. When League of Legends players faced online harassment, they had people from their own community voluntarily “police” the community to report and address the harassment. People were able to issue email warnings and ban users. When staff audited the community warnings and bans, they found that 80% of the reports were credible. They also focused on working with the game users who were censured or banned to get back into the game. Many said that they did not realize how offensive they were until another user pointed it out. Other online gaming communities have tested creating a code of conduct that people must agree to.

What other ideas do you have for nonprofit campaigners fighting online harassment?


Infographic: Women's Influence Online

Did you know that women make contributions to twice as many charitable organizations as men do? Studies have also shown that women bring in half or more of the income in 55% of U.S. households. And women ages 50 and older control a net worth of $19 trillion. Furthermore, women are expected to soon control 70 percent of all planned giving assets.

If your nonprofit is looking for more reasons to cultivate women donors and advocates, you should know that women also volunteer more than men do. 32% of women compared to 25% of men.

As I was doing some research on cultivating women donors, I came across this useful data by BlogHer: According to their survey, 41% of women used Facebook to contribute to a community, 33% used Twitter, 32% used Pinterest, and 28% used blogs.

Interestingly 36% said that they use blogs to help make purchasing decisions, 21% used Twitter, 18% used Pinterest, and 17% used Facebook. Could women also use these channels similarly to help inform their decisions on what charities to donate money to? 

Check out more data below! 


Web Design Pitfalls to Avoid

If your nonprofit is about to go through a website redesign, this is a major opportunity to completely overhaul your website and the internal processes that can easily ruin your site. Jared Seltzer, co founder of Rad Campaign and I had the opportunity to talk about these issues at 501TechNYC last month.

While there are many ways you can ruin your website that will prevent you from effectively telling your organization’s story, inspiring action, and cultivating donors, here are a couple of web design pitfalls that I want to focus on today. Avoid them at all costs.

Not Showing Restraint
The fastest way to ruin a website redesign is to NOT show restraint while going through the planning and redesign process. I know how exciting it can be to plan a new website. Every stakeholder in the organization has lots of ideas and opinions to share about what the site should look like, what should be featured, the site architecture, etc. Collect those ideas and work with an experienced website vendor or your trusted in-house website team to prioritize them based on the established goals, objectives, and target audiences.

When we go through a website redesign process with nonprofits at Rad Campaign, we also develop a discovery brief. This is a high-level document that clearly outlines the important elements of the website - including objectives, target audiences, like I mentioned above, and how you want these audiences to perceive the organization. I’m also a big fan of vision statements. This is a 3-4 sentence statement for internal stakeholders that describe your organizations inspiration and vision for the new website. I find that these two documents set the stage for the rest of the process and help control scope creep. Since they highlight the primary goals and overall vision of the website, they are a great way to remind everyone to focus and show restraint, which people can often forget several months down the road as they are deep into the weeds of the website build.

Not Doing a Content Audit and Re-Writing Content
If you don’t do a content audit you will waste every penny you invested into your new website. Why? Because the content issues you had on your old site, will follow you on the new site. You can’t mask a bad content strategy with a pretty design. Your audience will see right through it.

Content needs to be carefully curated and presented in a way that people can easily find the information they are looking for. Too often organization’s homepages (and interior pages) look like everyone in the organization had a say on what should go on the homepage and it ends up looking like the kitchen sink.

When doing a content audit and preparing content for the new website, focus on keeping it simple andstreamlining the content. A recent Harvard study found that the more complex a website is, the less appealing the website is to visitors. Here’s an example of a political news site that has shown no restraint with their curated content. They have posted at least 53 articles on different topics on just 1/3 of the homepage. This is the exact opposite of keeping it simple.

Remember your website is not your organization’s personal filing cabinet. The website is not being built to serve your staff’s filing needs so that they can find that resource that they wrote last year. The website is there to serve your audiences needs and the content they need from you. Your target audiences are a different demographic then your internal staff.

Carve out the time to do the content audit and re-write your content based on the goals, objectives, and audiences of your website. You will thank me later.