social mediaCreating an online presence isn’t a fast process; it takes time, work, and attention. Whether you’re a social entrepreneur, a nonprofit, or a grant-making foundation, getting online is a critical and money-saving step to significantly increase your promotional efforts and public relations profile.

But How Do I Get Good at Social Marketing?
Social marketing is best done by employing copious amounts of extroversion and diligence! That said, here are a few tips for those starting out (and a few reminders for those who are already in the mix).

  • Dedicate Resources: Even though there are enough anecdotal statistics these days showing that an online presence is worth spending time and money to create, many nonprofits and foundations are unwilling to dedicate resources to continued online efforts.

    Guess what. You have to. It’s not a question of whether you need to get online, it’s a question of how soon you’ll be left behind. Some of the greatest available wealth is sitting in the pockets of a very young generation — and this generation is looking online to figure out where to distribute that wealth. Any resources you give to creating an online presence for your organization or product will be paid back in spades — financially and/or via public relations — in the next 10 years.

    Find someone on staff who’s energetic, outgoing, able to maintain and monitor relationships, and knows his or her way around a computer. Carve out 50% of this person’s time and dedicate it to building and maintaining an online presence.

  • Figure Out An Online Message: Spend a week figuring out what your main online message will be. Your mission statement is fine, but you can’t fit it into 140 characters on twitter. Continue reading →

As you know, I started the Longtail Philanthropy series of posts to relay a few options for those new philanthropists who may not have scads of superfluous money laying around, but who nonetheless would like to see how their dollars might be combined with others’ in order to make a difference.

Kiva is an organization that not only allows the opportunity to combine your cash with other people’s to make a greater impact, but also completely redefines giving. In fact, what you’re doing with Kiva isn’t “giving” at all. It’s lending.

Kiva.org “connects people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty,” and it does so in a strikingly innovative way. Called peer-to-peer lending, Kiva’s model allows many small loans from individuals like you and me to be pooled into bigger loans, then administered to entrepreneurs around the world via third-party micro-lending partners.

Kiva cycle

How Do I Do It?
It’s a bit like online dating. You log onto Kiva’s website, search through the online profiles of qualified entrepreneurs, and determine who will receive your loan. Your money (amount is determined by you, and can be as low as you’d like) is then pooled with that of other lenders who have chosen the same entrepreneur, and the funds are disbursed to a Kiva partner micro-lender who has made a loan to this entrepreneur.

When the entrepreneur pays the micro-lender back, the micro-lender pays Kiva, and Kiva pays you. You can then go on to re-invest (and by “invest,” I mean social investment — you aren’t making any cold hard cash on this deal) the repaid funds in another entrepreneur, or have them placed back into your paypal account.

What’s My Risk?
According to the Kiva.org website, out of $53,000,535 in ended loans, 97.87% have been paid back in full. So while Kiva does not absorb the risk of lost funds (if your chosen entrepreneur does not pay the loan back, you’ve essentially lost that money), your chance of being paid back in full is very high. If you’re just starting out, consider making a $25 loan, or another amount that you’re comfortable losing in the worst case scenario.

The Latest News
While Kiva has made its name as a facilitator of lending internationally, recently the organization has blurred the lines between third-world countries and the USA, introducing its collaborative micro-lending to the United States market of low-income entrepreneurs. This controversial decision to bring the process stateside has fueled much discussion in the micro- and peer-to-peer lending communities, and may make your decision easier or more difficult depending on your desired outcome and political leanings.

If you’ve got some time (and an ability to deal with a scant amount of cheesiness), check out this video about how Kiva works. Those of you who are visual learners will benefit:

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Kiva.org Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

Be sure to check out the first post in this series, Meetup Philanthropy.

Blogger’s Note: This is the first in what will be a series of posts looking at what’s been called Longtail Philanthropy or Network Philanthropy — aggregating smaller efforts to produce larger impact.

meetupBeen to a “meetup” lately? Even if you haven’t, you’ve likely at least heard about Meetup.com — a social networking website that helps bring together people who have similar interests and happen to live near one another. The site is useful if you want to find a hiking group, a book club, or a wine-tasting event; but we’re also seeing more and more groups coming together not just for social networking, but for social good.

The Whole Can Be Greater...

The Whole Can Be Greater...

Head to Meetup.com and search for Philanthropy: there are 76 already-formed meetup groups in 60 cities and 3 countries. These run the gamut from groups who get together to volunteer for charity, groups who pool their cash to give larger amounts to charity (these are commonly called “giving circles,” and we’ll talk about them at a later date), groups that like to talk about social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy, groups of non-profit workers who get together to discuss fund raising, etc.

So, if you’re new to philanthropy — or are trying to figure out how your $10 per month or 3 hours per week can make a difference in your community, city, state, or country — consider finding a meetup in your area with like-minded folks. You might be surprised what happens when the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Photo Credit: aigarius

The Philanthropy411 blog posted yesterday twitter links to 90 Foundations that Tweet, along with 16 philanthropy professionals who have their own twitter accounts.

This is a great resource for any philanthropist or non-profit entity — whether solo or part of a larger organization — as reading tweets gives rare insight into real-time discussions and foci in those organizations. It also offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn from and collaborate with one another — something that happens too little in the philanthropy arena but is beginning to be recognized as a benefit to both foundation and grantee.

Here’s why tweeting is a mode of community communication you’re going to have to get on board with, at least for a while:

1. Tweeting is informal. One of the greatest breakdowns between a non-profit entity and a philanthropic body is cultural inequality. With twitter, everyone (more or less) is on the same class-level.

2. Tweeting is broadcasting. You never know who could be reading, so tweets need to be comprehensible to anyone and everyone. This means there’s very little room for specific audience manipulation.

3. Tweeting is non-committal. Twitter is a forum for discussion. People tend to finalize deals over more traditional communication streams like email, snail mail, phone, and face-to-face meetings. Whereas twitter is considered a place where you can show interest without committing yourself to a deal. This is the place to learn more, ask questions, and then take it to the next level (usually email) if necessary.

4. (At least for now) Tweeting circumvents bureaucratic barriers like calendar scheduling and gatekeepers. If you have a good idea, tweet it @ the person you think would find it interesting; no need to get time on their calendar. I strongly believe that, as the service becomes more widely used, VIPs will continue to institute stronger barricades. But, while it’s new and fun, you can often reach them directly.

Twitter remains a means to an end, but it can be a mode of conversation providing exposure to new ideas and connections without the weight of commitment.

By now, you’ve likely heard of Gmail and Google AdSense creator Paul Buchheit’s blog post titled Collaborative Charity. In it, he declares,

“I’m going to donate a bunch of money, but I want random people on the Internet to decide where it goes.”

This is crowdsourced philanthropy. You remember crowdsourcing from Who Wants to be a Millionaire. That lifeline — “ask the audience” — was the perfect example: asking a large group of people to offer their ideas on a solution to a problem. Wikipedia is another great example.

But why would we try this with philanthropy?

Well, it’s a simple case of market majority. While a lone philanthropist doesn’t necessarily have the breadth of knowledge to determine the best grant recipient, the market majority — the crowd — will most likely be able to shake out the highest priority need.

And one of crowdsourcing’s biggest benefits in the philanthropic field may be transparency. Making decisions based significantly on the suggestion of public majority means less chance of ethics or bias being called into question. And making your values and conditions clear to your “crowd” simply demands greater public transparency in order to ensure an informed decision.

There are still many unanswered questions about crowdsourced philanthropy: Will it be successful? Will it become a trend or a viable model for giving? Who exactly is the audience? Perhaps Paul Buchheit’s experiment will help us begin to understand the answers to those questions, but many more experiments will be needed to label this a success.

And one thing is certain — philanthropy will need to master technology in order to get the most benefit out of this, and most other, field trends.

Good Examples of How Philanthropy Can Use Crowdsourcing

Philanthropy Enabling Crowdsourced Solution: This is an old example, but a good one. In it, the Rockefeller Foundation funded an opportunity for a non-profit in India to generate solutions to a problem via crowdsourcing.

Philanthropy Using Crowdsourcing for Strategic Planning: The Peery Foundation is currently using a twitter hashtag notation stream to publicly discuss some significant strategic planning questions. The hashtag — #PFWhiteboard — suggests that foundation representatives, and anyone else who has a thought or good suggestion toward their progress, are “whiteboarding” solutions via twitter stream. In my experience, hashtag conversations have been a bit clunky to follow, and you don’t necessarily get a broad market spectrum of input; but the Peery Foundation is experimenting in public transparency, crowdsourcing ideas toward their strategic planning process, and taking full advantage of available technology in this process. I look forward to following the conversation and to getting great ideas from their brainstorming.

These are just a couple of examples of how philanthropy can use crowdsourcing in rather low-risk ways. And while they’re no doubt just our “first steps” toward experimenting with this idea, they offer springboards for more complex ideas in the future. You don’t have to put yourself out there like Mr. Buchheit, but you can use this age-old technique to create opportunities, define solutions, or narrow down choices.