I had the pleasure of sitting in on the DMA 2009 Washington Nonprofit Conference session titled "New Media Channels — Adding Text Messaging, Social Networks and Media to the Marketing Mix" last Friday. Dane Grams, online strategy director for HRC, Grace Markarian, online communications manager for The Humane Society of the United States and Scott Goodstein, former external online director, Obama for America joined our founder and chief strategy office, Vinay Bhagat to share how social media and mobile technology ARE moving people.
Over the next few days, I’ll share a bit more from each speaker, but I wanted to start with Dane from HRC.
Since several members of the Obama team spoke at the conference, Dane started with the observation that the number one question at the conference was "what can I do if I don’t have Obama?" He followed that with a truism about nonprofits we should never forget - you have a compelling story to tell and impassioned people that support you. You might not have the millions of followers of an Obama campaign, but you can get results.
Rather than try to capture Dane’s great presentation, it’s probably best that you watch him yourself by clicking through the YouTube link (if you’re getting this through our RSS feed, you’ll need to click on the headline above to go to the blog and watch the video).
HRC has had great success with integrating Convio and Mobile Commons to use text/mobile messaging to move people. They have more than 30,000 people in their mobile communications program. The early indications are that integrating mobile with their campaigns is helping drive more revenue, helping get more people actively engaged in their advocacy efforts and helping them gain more people in their movement. Since most people spend about 18 hours a day with their mobile devices – they are so much more than phones (Dane uses his as his alarm clock too) – when invited into that level of relationship it can be very successful as part of the marketing mix. Enjoy.
PS – the video is about 9 minutes long, as it was all so good, I didn’t know where or what to cut.
The Congressional Management Foundation has put out a report on how to improve the state of affairs for communicating electronically with Congress. The report was released on December 8, 2008 (with an interim report published earlier this year in July). I think that everyone who is doing grassroots and online advocacy campaigns should read the full report, so download it today.
Here are some of the take-aways I thought were most notable - some of which reinforce already accepted best practices, and one that was new to me:
The "identify the organization behind the grassroots campaign" recommendation made me sit up and take notice. I used to think it was better NOT to identify the organization, and instead to spend a lot of time and effort making it seem like the letter from the constituent had no connection to an organization at all. We used various techniques like rotating subject lines for the letter to Congress, rotating a carousel of letters, and not naming our organization in the text of the letter.
Turns out that's not necessarily a good investment of time. Hill staffers prefer to know which organization is facilitating the communication, as well as an easy way to categorize the organization's and constituents' position on the issue or bill. And I can't say I blame them, knowing that the volume of messages they receive and must reply to is growing every year. (I'm not done with my Christmas cards yet, and it's going to be a race to the finish line this year, so I really feel for them.)
The report also calls for a new model of constituent correspondence management on the Hill. It refers to an aggregated communications dashboard, essentially a tool for managing the volume of incoming corresponence while preserving the ability to read and respond individually to messages. This dashboard would summarize such pertinent data as the issue/bill number, the issue position of the organization (support/oppose with comments) and the constituent comments. CMF's study also recommends identifying the vendor as well as the organization so there is a contact in case technical issues are identified.
In addition to easing the burden of managing constituent correspondence, there's another potential benefit for Congress. Over time, this system would essentially be compiling database of the "poli-fluentials" in a Member's district. See pages 15-16 of the report - poli-fluentials are people who participate in online advocacy, and are 7 times more likely to be "influentials" in their social networks. (If you attended the "Social Media for Social Good" webinar yesterday, you probably learned about influentials and social networks.) There's a lot more to say about poli-fluentials than I can fit in here - maybe a topic for another day.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to look up some of the older advocacy campaigns that I worked on, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that for the most part, the campaigns I put out in 2001-2006 followed almost all of these best practices (except for the "identify the organization" one). I'm sure some of my lobbyist colleagues had a lot to do with keeping our letters clear and concise, since most of them had been around the congressional block as legislative correspondents or assistants. So thanks, guys!
Anyway - the 111th Congress is just around the corner, so if you haven't read this study, get it today and spend some quality time with it over the holidays.
There were two great sessions focusing on advocacy at the Convio Summit in 2008, and I'm not just saying that because I organized them. ;)
The first was Online Advocacy 2.0: Moving Beyond Petitions. The panelists included:
We heard from each of these organizations how they use web 2.0 strategies to support their online advocacy work. Christopher Masak did a great job of illustrating how ACSCAN drives offline actions using online tools. My favorite example was their use of mobile messaging technology to track and drive people to the Fight Back Express - a bus that drove around the country in 2008, stopping in communities to make cancer issues a national priority.
Carie Lewis demonstrated how the Humane Society of the United States uses the "Big 4" social networking sites - Facebook, myspace, flickr, and YouTube - to promote their online advocacy campaigns. Her presentation was chock-full of useful tips for how to maximize your presence and participation on these sites with specific examples of what works well for each site. The visual sites especially - flickr and YouTube - made a big impact when HSUS busted some puppy mills in Canada and Indiana. A picture was definitely worth a thousand words. (By the way, Carie wasn't kidding - she really is a social networking addict. Love ya, Carie! :)
Finally, Marc Ruben presented some examples from M+R's group of clients - Save Darfur, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and AARP, to name a few - of different techniques that worked to get their message across. While all of the examples were impressive, the most recent campaign they did for AARP was a flash overlay video around getting out the vote for the 2008 election. You can look at this extremely creative and participatory video at www.aarpvote08.org - trust me, you won't regret it.
So that was Tuesday! On Wednesday the advocacy presentation was Applying Advocacy Best Practices on the Convio Platform. Robin Anderson, Convio interactive specialist, and Chris Burley from Defenders of Wildlife presented at this session. These two were an especially effective combination. Robin kicked off the panel by presenting some general best practices for using different Convio modules and tools to maximize your advocacy impact and viral marketing capabilities.
Chris then told us about how Defenders used Convio for their campaign to stop aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska. What I'm still thinking about after this presentation is Chris' advice to know who your targets are and to ask them how they prefer to be communicated to. Years ago I used to think that it was better to "disguise" that the letter was coming from a supporter of an organization, but this is actually not the case - members of Congress want to know what organization is facilitating comments and to easily be able to tell if the comment is in favor of or opposed to a piece of legislation.
I'm interested in how online advocacy will continue to evolve over the next year with a new Congress and a new Presidential administration, especially an administration that is more web-savvy than any have been previously. Maybe in 2009 we'll have a session called Online Advocacy 3.0 - The Hot New Tool You're Not Using Yet. Either way, I hope to see you in 2009!
My colleague Seth Merritt recently highlighted Blog Action Day, and today is the day! This year the topic is poverty, and the aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion about poverty, a complex issue with no quick, easy solutions.
We have many clients who are working on the poverty issue, and I wanted to highlight some of them and invite you to visit their websites, get more informed and involved, and support their important work.
American Jewish World Service is an international development organization motivated by Judaism's imperative to pursue justice.
American Near East Refugee Aid is a leading provider of development, health, education and employment programs to Palestinian communities and impoverished families throughout the Middle East.
The American Red Cross helps vulnerable people around the world to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, complex humanitarian emergencies, and life-threatening health conditions.
Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.
Capitol Area Food Bank of Texas's mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in ending hunger.
CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.
Feed the Children is a Christian, international, nonprofit relief organization with headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster.
Freestore Foodbank is one of Ohio's largest food banks, and serves a population of some 160,000 low-income persons in a twenty-county region.
Grameen Foundation's mission is to enable the poor, especially the poorest, to create a world without poverty.
IRC (International Rescue Committee) is a critical global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers.
Lutheran World Relief works with partners in 35 countries to help people grow food, improve health, strengthen communities, end conflict, build livelihoods and recover from disasters.
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is the voice of the Jewish poor and the first line of defense for our community's needy. We fight poverty through comprehensive social services, and treat every individual with dignity and respect.
Millennium Promise's mission is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight globally endorsed objectives that address the many aspects of extreme poverty - in Africa by 2015.
Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a social outreach ministry for the homeless and indigent working poor.
Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.
Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.
Project Concern International's mission is to prevent disease, improve community health, and promote sustainable development.
Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.
Stop Hunger Now is a Raleigh-based international hunger relief agency that has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger for over 10 years.
The US Fund for Unicef was founded in 1947 to support the work of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) by raising funds for its programs and increasing awareness of the challenges facing the world's children
Any omissions from this list are inadvertent and solely the responsibility of the author.
Please visit these organizations today and learn more about what they are doing and how you can help.
If one of the keys to successful fundraising is providing the donor with "emotional return on investment"*, then photography is a terrific shortcut to delivering that emotional reward. This is not news to anyone, but the impact that The Big Picture has had on me is a reminder that, at its best, photography can tell your story in a visceral, immediate way.
The Big Picture is a new online feature from The Boston Globe designed to "highlight high-quality, amazing imagery - with a focus on current events, lesser-known stories and, well, just about anything that comes across the wire that looks really interesting."The tagline is "News stories in photographs", but I would amend that to just "Stories in photographs" - and that's where the connection to nonprofit work can be seen.
The recent photo essays on the effects of Extreme Drug-Resistant TB (warning: very disturbing images) and promoting Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (warning: heartbreaking, if not disturbing, images) stopped me in my tracks...they popped up in my RSS reader during a very busy day, but 15 minutes later I was still looking at them. In these jaded, media-saturated times, landing that kind of emotional punch is not very easy.
While those images may prompt folks into action, the real emotional reward comes in seeing the results of your investment in the org...the kids who are now cancer-free, the TB sufferers whose pain has been eased in some way. Don't skimp on celebrating the victories...after all, at some level, your donors are giving to you so that they can feel good about themselves, so making them aware of the good they've done is in your best interest.
Certainly great photography can do a lot for your website, but I would argue that including it in your email newsletters, action alerts, etc. is a way to continue reinforcing the emotional connection that prompted the constituent to give you their name in the first place.
Some options for acquiring excellent photography inexpensively:
Any other thoughts about effective use of photography in your online programs?
* there I was thinking I'd come up with that phrase myself, but a quick Google reveals Katya A is right there with me
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