Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

* This first appeared on the blog for the Stanford Social Innovation Review *

Even engaged citizens in Oakland, Calif., didn’t know the city had a Public Ethics Commission, let alone what its purpose was, when I joined its ranks three years ago. And people who did know about it didn’t have many nice things to say: Local blogs sneered at its lack of power and few politicians feared its oversight. Created in 1996 as a watchdog organization responsible for opening up city government, the commission had become just another element of Oakland’s cumbersome, opaque bureaucracy.

It’s easy to see why. Technology and media have dramatically changed our expectations for what defines transparency and accountability. For example, in the past, walking into City Hall, making an official request for a public record, and receiving it in the mail within two weeks meant good, open government. Now, if an Internet search doesn’t instantly turn up an answer to your question about local government, the assumption often is: Government’s hiding something. (more…)

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*This was originally posted on the blog Exhale is Pro-Voice*

On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

Panel attendees also helped generate quite a bit of buzz on social media about the presentation while it was happening, and you can read some of their Tweets below:

Thank you to all who attended and helped us grow the conversation through social media and beyond! If you’re not already following Exhale on Twitter and Facebook, we hope you’ll join us there in the Pro-Voice

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*This post first appeared on the blog for MAG-Net.org, the Media Action Grassroots Network, a project of the Center for Media Justice.

After an abortion, women who want to connect personally with others who share their experience face incredible social and political challenges, such as stigma, judgment and manipulation. They risk losing their job or straining relationships with friends and family.

Yet, the desire to share stories and feel connected to others who understand is so strong that a woman will take great risks with the hope that her voice will be heard and that she will no longer feel alone.

At the recent National Conference on Media Reform, Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice spoke in a workshop on how to use mobile phones for social change. She shared with us that technology is so much more than a tool for organizing or politics.  When a woman living as an inmate in a federal prison pays $7.00 every time she calls home to hear her daughter’s voice; or an African immigrant in New York pays $5 for a phone card he’s promised will give him twenty minutes with his family back home, only to have his time cut short after 5 minutes, technology becomes a matter of human dignity. Malkia reminded all of us attending the workshop that we love technology because “we love to connect.” We call, text, tweet, and email not because we love our gadgets, but because our gadgets help us meet a deep, human need for personal connection.

Exhale, an organization created by and for women who have had abortions, uses technology to facilitate connection and communication between women who have had abortions; and to shape public conversations about our personal experiences with abortion. Our pro-voice programs offer women who have had abortions the opportunity to speak for themselves – to tell their own stories, in their own words and in the forums of their choice – and feel heard with dignity and respect. (more…)

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Recently, a long-time friend, coach and colleague asked me for my recommendations on how she can become a super social media guru.  She’s a nonprofit consultant with vast expertise and wants to grow her skills and experience to continue to be the great resource she already is to her clients. (more…)

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I was honored to be invited by the Development Executives Roundtable to share Exhale’s experiences with major donor fundraising on April 20, 2010.

In this edited video, I share the challenges that Exhale faces and what it looks like when we do major donor fundraising right.

I was honored to receive the following feedback:

“I hope you could feel the energy and admiration in the room yesterday, as I did, as you described the work you do with EXHALE.  Many of those who attended yesterday were from small organizations, and you were an especially uplifting and encouraging force for them.  But you were for me, too.  Especially when I heard that Rush Limbaugh ranted against you!  One attendee told me how much it meant to her to finally hear from someone who works and raises money in very challenging circumstances and for a very challenging mission.  And who is succeeding. You are an inspiration.” – Marjorie Winkler, ACFRE
Fundraising Consulting & Interim Management

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According to Susan Mernit, co-founder of Pink Garage, a new online community and resource for women entrepreneurs, and a product development, business strategy and social media consultant, she was just awarded a New Voices fellowship to launch Oakland Local.

Oakland Local will be a daily-updated Web site and mobile service with a focus on environment, climate, transportation, housing, local government and community activism in Downtown, Uptown, North Oakland, West Oakland, Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, and the Dimond District.

We will have an editor, a publisher and three paid part-time reporters who will produce content, along with community contributors. We’ll be very mobile-friendly and the site will geotag content to an XML data map, encourage users to interact via cell phones and employ a range of social networking tools to surface, share and make discoverable so much of the amazing organizing and activism in Oakland.

Says Susan:

[Oakland Local] offers an opportunity to provide so many groups working on issues in Oakland an opportunity to have their work and views be heard and seen. And to work with lots of people to invent this.

Yay Susan! Where do we sign up?

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If you’re on Facebook, or been around online social networking for awhile, chances are you know all about 25 Random Things About Me. Or, maybe you just read about it in the NYT or Time. I wrote my own and I read what my friends write. Most of them are actually pretty interesting, but I’m probably biased, cause I think my friends are downright fascinating.

Lately, though, I’ve been a bit freaked out by some of the things I share with my friends. For example:

My friend Kate and I have both day-dreamed about Laura Ingalls Wilder taking a time machine to the future so that we could take her on a guided tour of the modern world.

My friend Nisha and I both think tomatoes are GROSS.

My friend Aimee and I both spent a summer (possibly the same summer though we are different ages), reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a book that forever changed each of our lives.

My friend Maureen and I prefer cilantro to all other herbs. Me and Franz both like Hawaiian pizza best and Connor and I share a love of beef.

OK, well, some of them aren’t exactly freak-out worthy, but clearly my friends and I share a passion for sharing about our food likes and dislikes. This information will help me in deciding whose dinner invitation to accept.

But some of my friends random things have given me new insights into why I feel particularly bonded to them despite us having very different life experiences in so many other ways. Things I thought were special and unique to me are in fact shared by others. Talk about a life lesson. We are typically less alone in our pain than we think, and in fact, less alone in our joys. Milestones big and small can be shared with others and bring deeper meaning and connection with those we love.

I like thinking about me and Aimee reading the same book, at the same time, even though we didn’t know each other, and considering how this book shaped who we are and how we came to be friends with one another. I like imagining Kate and I as kids sitting in the backseats of different cars in different states looking out the window and seeing the world through the eyes of our heroine Laura Ingalls. These seemingly random things make up how we look at the world, and who we’ve become, and which friends we make. I wish I could go back in my own time machine to tell little Aspen that one day she will meet some really awesome people that will make her adult life interesting and fun.

Oh…and by the way, my high-school basketball jersey number was always 25.

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It’s Friday after all…Here is the first one that came up. I like it!

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How Will Your Nonprofit Raise Money in 2012?

Peter Deitz, Social Actions

With the global financial crisis at its peak and a recession looming, many nonprofit managers are probably asking themselves, “How will my nonprofit raise money next year?” I suspect fewer fundraisers are asking themselves, “How will my nonprofit raise the money it needs four years from now?”

The second question is the more important of the two, and the more difficult to answer.

Current best practices will serve nonprofits just fine in 2009. Between email solicitation, direct mail, major donors, and grant-writing, the vast majority of nonprofits will weather the economic hard times. But a shifting communications environment and changing donor demographics could render those best practices ineffective at best, and obsolete at worst, as early as 2012.

Raising money in 2012 will require creativity and foresight. Micro-philanthropy — that ambiguous term that refers to all things socially networked, small-scale, and charitable — will have matured.

Donors of all ages will be looking for meaningful points of engagement with your organization. They’ll want to set the programmatic agenda, select the beneficiaries and target areas, communicate the organization’s message, and, in real-time, evaluate feedback as it comes in.

Notice something strange about those tasks? None of them involve passive check-writing on behalf of your organization. In 2012, individuals will come to your organization with the expectation of being full partners in your work, not just dollar wells to be tapped when cash is needed. Donations will be a consequence of meaningful engagement, not a measurement of it.

Over the next four years, innovative organizations will use technology to transfer to individuals the reins on everything from program work and evaluation to fundraising and communications. Raising money in a micro-philanthropic environment will come naturally to these groups.

The economy may be hopping four years from now. For organizations that stick to a more traditional managerial and communications structure between now and then, however, raising money is going to be tougher in 2012 than in the darkest days of 2009.

So how should your organization prepare for the changes that are afoot?

Get accustomed to using social media to communicate with all of your potential donors.

There’s an unfortunate consensus emerging in the nonprofit sector that social media is only helpful for communicating with young people. Nonprofits are spicing up their social media communications strategy with language and informalities that may turn-off older supporters and major donors. This is a flawed assumption. The fact is that program officers at foundations, boomers, and prospective employees are all turning to social networks to get a sense of your organization.

In this medium, openness, responsiveness, and inquisitiveness serve your cause well. Simplistic appeals targeted at teens and college students don’t. Therefore, when crafting your social media communications strategy, focus on the qualities you want to be associated with and not the target audience you want to reach.

Experiment with online contests, both creating them and participating in them.

Online contests like the Knight News Challenge, The Case Foundation’s America’s Giving Challenge, and the AmEx Cardmember Project can be resource draining to participate in, especially for a time- and cash-strapped nonprofit. Nevertheless, participating in some (surely not all) of these contests will provide your staff members a focused opportunity to use social media to communicate with supporters. As a result, your nonprofit will get a sense of how many of your supporters are following you online, and to what extent you can count on them to act on your behalf.

Another approach to the online contest phenomenon is to run your own. Platforms like Genius Rocket and NetSquared provide nonprofits an opportunity to crowd-source a communications or technological need. Figure out what your need is, set a bounty on it as a deliverable, and then witness how the Internet responds. You’ll probably be pleased with the outcome.

Participating and running challenges encourages openness, responsiveness, and inquisitiveness online. These are important traits to develop, and will make fundraising easier as micro-philanthropy matures.

Make hiring decisions based on social media know-how and not just resume smarts.

When it comes to preparing for the shifting communications environment and donor demographics, your employees are your biggest asset. Most job seekers still list their desktop computing skills in their resumes instead of their social media know-how. When interviewing for any position at your organization, make sure to ask about the applicant’s familiarity with social media. Training employees down the road can be expensive and ineffective. You are better off hiring people who are at home online than trying to make them that way after they’ve been hired.

Note: Age is not a good indicator of social media know-how. Ask questions, and you’ll be surprised who’s on top of the technological changes and who’s not.

Empower your interns.

If your organization has interns, make sure to tap them for ideas on how to use social media to create meaningful points of engagement with your organization. Too often, interns are given menial tasks like photo-copying and filling out Excel documents. And yet, they are the ones who have volunteered to spend time with your organization (read: “they care”). They also have an outsider’s perspective on how your organization is represented online. Make the most of their time with you by asking them for ideas on how to better represent your organization online. Their ideas could very well lay the foundation for an effective micro-philanthropy campaign.

Get an iPhone.

The future of interacting with your organization is mobile as well as online. Get an iPhone or portable data-device in order to start experiencing the possibilities. If your nonprofit’s managers are not using portable devices to communicate with staff and supporters, they’re not going to understand the potential for mobile technology to change the what and how of your organization’s work. Get them started now, so that in 2012, you’re not beginning at square one to develop a mobile fundraising strategy.

Four years ago, web 2.0 was barely on the radar of nonprofits. Today, it’s becoming standard practice to communicate with supporters using tools like Flickr, MySpace , Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. If four years of social media can transform the way U.S. presidents get elected and people connect with causes, imagine the changes that another four years of social media will produce.

My advice to the nonprofit technology community: let’s start preparing now by thinking as creatively as possible

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