Sunday, November 28, 2010

who governs who?

The second part of this week's readings discuss the governing boards of non-profits, basically the people who make many of the final decisions on how things go in an organization. I'm glad there was a chapter about this because, frankly, I forgot about this aspect of non-profits completely. I guess because boards are often backstage, you can forget they exist. And that's the point of this chapter: to make boards more interactive with the public so they can be included in key decisions too.

This chapter starts with an example of a closed board and an open board that uses social media. The open board is taken to the extreme, but it's noted that not all board will be able to operate that way immediately (again, long transition period). I like a lot of the ideas presented in this chapter though. Boards do need to be open because they make many major decisions.

The key characteristics of an open board presented in the chapter by the P2P Foundation really hit it perfectly, so I'm just going repeat them:
  • "Anticredentialism, the idea that anyone can participate regardless of their title or position."
  • "Collective choice systems, meaning that hte group makes key decisions democratically."
  • "Communal validation, in which the products and choices of the group are open to public scrutiny and revision."
  • "Open development, which eschews closed doors and hiding places. The entire project is developed transparently."
These characteristics may seem lofty but I think they are doable. It might be hard to start up, though social media makes it much easier, but these practices should be incorporated slowly into an organization's board.

Luckily, the next part of the chapter is dedicated to the "beginning" of governing as a Networked Nonprofit. It lists a bunch of easy steps an organization can take to be more open. This means small things like having a Facebook group to posting agendas online to just meeting somewhere new. It basically means stepping out of comfort zones and utilizing social media/the Internet to its fullest.

"friending to funding"

This week's chapters discuss some of the more logistical aspects of Networked Nonprofits: funding online and the governing boards. This post is about the former. I'll admit, when I first read these chapters, the ideas seemed a little extreme and not feasible for many organizations. To the book's merit, they do say that the transition to a Networked Nonprofit could be long.

One point the chapter stresses from the beginning is to mix traditional and nontraditional forms of fundraising to maximize the amount raised because while social media has taken off, some people are still more comfortable with traditional forms of givings, such as writing checks. Even though I'm part of the "millenials," I sometimes still prefer more traditional methods of giving. There is something about giving all of your credit card information on a random Web site that means you must really trust whatever organization you are donating. This brings about another point the chapter stresses. It says organizations should focus on young people as donors and to connect with them through social media. I agree that this is a good way to connect to young people, i.e. me; however, I feel that this is may be aimed more at young people who are a bit older than me, i.e. out of college. I hardly ever donate to random organizations online, whether introduced through social media or word-of-mouth. This is because I'm involved in so many organizations and only make money through a part-time job, so no donations are ever random for me. Usually donations are made to organizations through some sort of philanthropy event, mine or friends'. I can't be sure but maybe organizations' social media will be more relevant when I'm out of school.

The chapter goes on to discuss habits/patterns of social media fundraising. Among these habits are using a multichannel strategy, treating donors as partners, thanking donors often, conducting online fundraising contests and using stories to make fundraising personal. This last habit is particularly important to me because this is the strategy we are using for our Safe Harbor video! We are hoping that by putting a face to the story and having such a potent example of domestic violence that we can help women find help. The chapter also discusses "click actions" or clicking to support a cause that leverages a donation from sponsors. It specifically mentions a game called FreeRice which I absolutely love and have been playing for a couple of years now. Obviously I knew I was helping by playing the game but I never even thought about the PR strategy that went into it, but really it's quite clever. A site similar to this is This site isn't a game or anything but you can click every day to provide food for people who need it. There are also tabs at the top where you can click for several other causes.

Also, on a completely random thought that has nothing to do with the chapters discussed except that it's philanthropic, I saw a Toy Run today in Anderson! Toy Runs are events where bikers ride around all day to support Toys for Tots; usually a toy is part of the participation fee and sometimes the bikers actually transport toys from collection bins to kids. Basically, there were hundreds of bikers in Anderson today, riding for a cause. I think this is pretty cool since bikers aren't usually seen as a philanthropic group. Here's an example of a pretty big toy run: The Big Texas Toy Run. This is also a good example of a grassroots organization since these toy runs are held all over the country without any official sponsors or leaders.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

pepsi refresh update

We are slowly getting higher in the rankings for the Pepsi Refresh grant (86 as I write this) but I'm afraid it's not going fast enough to reach the top 10 before the month is over. It really breaks my heart especially after personally seeing people trying to win this for Safe Harbor. For example, when we went to film a Safe Harbor shelter for our video, the employees told us they were voting every day and thanked us for doing it. After seeing the actual shelter we would be helping and hearing the gratitude of the employees, it made me want to win even more.

Another story: During one of my multiple attempts to get our flyer approved at Hendrix, a guy who was also getting a flyer approved, stopped me so that he could text right then. Apparently, he had been in a class this summer that applied for a $5,000 grant (I think they got it too!), so he knew how important it was to vote. He also mentioned that he got a Tweet about it from @ClemsonStudents which is pretty cool that others are doing it too.

safe harbor video project update

So! Our video project has finally begun with filming that took place Friday. Though we hit a few bumps with microphone/sound problems, overall I think it went well. The sound wasn't very good when we played it back on the camera but it sounded better on my computer so I'm optimistic that it will turn out well.

As for the actual inter view, it was great! The woman we interviewed had an amazing, inspiring story. She wanted her face to be shown so that there would be a face to the story (which it is pretty amazing). We couldn't have asked for a better interview. The only problem is her interview lasted almost 10 minutes, much too long for our video, and we have no idea what to cut out!

In our last class, we did some story boarding. I think the focus will definitely be on the story of our interviewee with domestic violence statistics and facts throughout. We also have footage of the inside of one of the shelters which we hope to incorporate in the video, possibly when she discusses the shelter itself. Mainly I think our goal for the video is to inform viewers of domestic violence and show how Safe Harbor can help.

And I think we'll succeed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

some new concepts: crowdsourcing and learning loops

This week’s readings discuss crowds and learning loops. Chapter Eight, “Working with Crowds,” talks about, well, crowds. It starts by defining “crowdsourcing” as “the process of organizing many people to participate in a joint project, often in small ways.” Then it classifies it into four categories:

Crowd wisdom: Best example? Wikipedia. I mean, can you think of a better example of quintessential crowd wisdom?

Crowd creation: PostSecret - This is an ongoing art project, as described by the website. Users anonymously submit secrets; it started through snail mail and has grown to include e-mail and such. If you've never seen the website or the books, you're missing out. They even have a Twitter now.

· Crowd voting: Pepsi Refresh! Need I explain more?

· Crowd funding: Crowdrise - Crowdrise is a website that allows anyone to start an online fundraising page so that you don't even have to be an organization, you can just raise money on behalf of an organization.

These are the four different ways an organization can utilize crowds to create social change. I think it’s important to define these categories because it shows the different ways you can utilize the power of a crowd. I tried to find examples for each because though the book gives its own examples, I was finding it hard to think of other ways each of these could be conceived. I’ll admit, it seems that utilizing a crowd seems to be much easier to put in motion when the idea is something creative like in the example of the Royal Opera creating a user-submitted opera or the Humane Society creating a video contest after the Michael Vick scandal. Can these methods be easily used in a different type of non-profit such as a hospital? I think that the creativity and scope of crowdsourcing corresponds with the creativity and scope of the organization’s goals. I’m not saying a hospital can’t use social media and crowdsourcing – far from it – but they have to modify it and maybe use slightly more traditional methods to reach its audiences.

Chapter Nine discusses learning loops – something I had never heard about until reading this book (I had heard crowdsourcing in passing at least). Thus, I feel that I need to define learning loops, mainly for myself. Learning loops is the process of monitoring (and analyzing) results and then using this information to change future plans. The way this is different from normal analysis that PR professionals have been doing for years is that it is all done in a short period of time, or in real time. The Humane Society example works here too (in fact, it was the opening example of the chapter). The chapter warns to not have too broad of a scope, however. It suggests working in small sections with targeted audiences so that if one small section doesn’t go the way you want it, you have the chance to change/scrap it without losing a ton of money and a ton of time. While the chapter gives a million and one ways you can measure the success (many suggestions don’t require money or too much effort), it emphasizes the overall goal. At the end/middle/throughout campaign, analyze it with the overall goal in mind. Did it reach it? If it did, what elements made it successful? If it didn’t, what didn’t work?

The suggestions and ideas of the book are lofty at times. I think they are all feasible but seem to apply to some organizations more than others. However, it might take some time for organizations to move completely into this direction but I think it’s a great direction to be heading!

To offer a possible downside of crowdsourcing, here's an article I found on Fast Company that describes why crowdsourcing may only produce mediocre results. However, I think that if an organization uses it for smaller things (I mean, designing a car? That's a VERY lofty goal for a crowd), it can produce good results.

Monday, November 8, 2010

building relationships through transparency

Wow I've been neglecting my blog. This has definitely been my toughest semester so far. BUT excuses aside, I plan for the rest of the semester to be much more active, especially as we start to wrap up everything for the semester, like the Safe Harbor video and the Pepsi Refresh project. But first, I'm going to talk about the book. This week's readings dealt with, as my title says, building relationships through transparency, an idea that is just now starting to catch on among non-profits.

I'll start off with one of my favorite statements from chapter 5, "Listening helps you be less of a spammer and more of a service provider." Now this I like, I mean, who likes spam? I've signed up for plenty of mailing lists, only to get annoyed by the daily e-mails that don't even apply to me. I've set up an entire email just for things like that and it has become my default email to give to companies/organization, basically used for anything that's not personal or school-related. About once a week, I'll go through it and basically delete all of them. Seriously, it's a horrible task. Ok, so that rant has a point, I promise. I think if more organizations listened to their consumers/supporters/whatevers, all forms of communication would be streamlined, improved and more efficient. Of course, listening isn't the only step. You then have to use the information you get from listening and apply it, so you can effectively engage with your public. An organization must engage with everyone, even their critics. The book makes a special point about talking with critics. Listening and engaging with critics provides two great advantages to an organization:
1. You can hear criticism and fix the problems within your organization that are most important to the public.
2. You can explain and give further information to clarify problems that critics have. If you don't respond and just leave the criticism out there, that's hurting your organization. However, if you respond with a thoughtful, concerned answer, people will usually have more respect because it shows you care. Then the discussion begins.

Here's another pretty important concept: being able to lose control. No one likes to lose control, especially when it comes to an issue or cause that one is passionate about. Because of new technologies, the "power is being pushed to the edges." The public has more control now; it's not just the CEO of a company who controls the outcome of an organization's efforts. There is a forum for everyone to get their opinions out and control their own efforts. This doesn't mean that an organization should put in no effort to create well thought-out messages, it just has to understand that the public and other organizations have their own messages and efforts too. The good thing is, most of the time these other messages and plans will help a cause or effort, rather than hurting it. Even if your messages are exactly the same, if everyone is working toward the same goal, it's a good thing.

The next chapter continues with these ideas of relationship building by discussing one important aspect of building a relationship: transparency. You can have relationships with your publics without transparency but they won't be as meaningful and therefore your publics may not be as interested in helping your cause. The very first thing mentioned in Chapter 7 is the dashboard. I'll admit, I had never heard of these before but they sound really cool. Having all of that information in one place, in an easy-to-navigate table makes it easy for people to understand how the organization work and what problems/successes they are having.

This chapter emphasizes trust; however, it is not only referring to building trust within publics but it also states that for trust to build in publics, the organization must trust that people "on the outside" mean well. I think this is a key point (and so does the book). If an organization thinks everyone is out to get it, it'll never let its guard down enough for anyone to help.

The last points made by this chapter are on how to apply these ideas of transparency to the way an organization works. In referring to "publicness" (a word I quite like, I might add), author and blogger Jeff Jarvis (in the book) has this to say: "The more public you are, the easier you can be found, the more opportunities you have." For a non-profit organization, this is absolutely key. I mean, it's important for all types of companies but for-profit companies can afford to be underground while not-for-profit organizations need all the "publicness" it can get to reach its audiences and have an impact. This publicness can be achieved through letting an organization's information out into the public domaine (all information! - not just the good stuff like how much money was donated), being easily found on search engines and having a presence on social networking sites.

Transparency must be found inside and out of an organization. That is, an organization has to share this information (and one could argue even more) with its employees. Creating trust among employees is equally (again, one could argue even more) important in the success of an organization. As we've learned from day one in PR classes, happy, enthusiastic employees equals happy, enthusiastic publics. Problems with employees can seep out to "the edges" of an organization. Besides, internal relations is the place to start to achieve transparency. Start the conversation inside, share it with the outside, and then engage the inside and the outside together.