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 →

If you’ve wanted to volunteer in your community but aren’t sure where to make a long-term commitment, consider taking part in Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” promotion, which runs throughout 2010.

This is one of the highest-profile campaigns by a corporate giant to promote volunteering and giving back in the community, and it’s also a good way to “sample” volunteering at a local non-profit without having to make a long-term volunteering commitment.

Here’s How it Works
Disney has collaborated with the HandsOn Network, the volunteering arm of the Points of Light Institute, to offer one-day volunteer opportunities. In exchange for spending a certified day “on the job,” Disney Parks awards a free theme park ticket to up to 1 million volunteers.

What Does This Mean For Philanthropy?
Here are a few thoughts about how this promotion is innovative in today’s philanthropy landscape:

  • Exposure of a new generation to volunteering: Corporations have long used their philanthropic efforts in marketing campaigns, but this is a little different. Instead of awarding dollars to worthy non-profits, Disney has created an incentive for an entire population to learn more about volunteering, philanthropy, and the work of the non-profit sector. While this may stymie non-profits in the short-term (many might rather have the money), I have to believe that the long-term benefits of a new generation having volunteering experience will break down potential barriers to philanthropy in the future. Over three million people signed up for Disney’s “Free Ticket on Your Birthday” promotion last year, so the one million person goal in this year’s promotion isn’t far-reaching; and many families are signing up together, meaning the kids get exposure to the needs as well.
  • Exemplifying a mutually beneficial relationship between donor and recipient: Disney’s theme park attendance will increase as a result of this promotion, which means food, lodging, and merchandise sales have great potential to increase as well. This is a great example of a mutually beneficial donor/recipient relationship — even financially.
  • Combining individual efforts into a greater overall outcome: This is another example of Longtail Philanthropy. Through this program, many people will offer a small gift (a day of time) in order to create a much larger overall impact. If one million individuals volunteer through this promotion, a significant impact can be made within the participating non-profits.

So while this promotion may not change the face of corporate philanthropy, it will surely give some social responsibility departments something to Continue reading →

There are three truths when it comes to the grantmaking process:

Fact #1: Funders get bogged down in due diligence, report review, and grant follow-up when they could be developing more effective and efficient funding strategies.

Fact #2: Nonprofits spend too much time and money meeting specific funder requirements for application and reporting.

Fact #3: Due diligence, grant applications, and reporting have to happen.

Can we make all of this waste less time?

Well, the answer is…maybe. There have been a few efforts to streamline grant processes regionally, and even a large effort nationally. The jury is still out as to whether or not these efforts are the silver bullet.

Local Efforts
Many local grantmaking associations, like Philanthropy New York (formerly the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers), have been streamlining their process for years. This means that the funders aligned with Philanthropy New York agree to accept a standard grant application from nonprofit agencies and a standard reporting format from nonprofit agencies, ensuring that agencies with programs funded by association members don’t have to write different reports for each funder — they only have to write one.

While this is happening in several regional areas, there are still many funders in those regions who decline to jump on board.

projectstreamlineNational Efforts
Managed by Grants Managers Network, Project Streamline is a national initiative developed by the following partner agencies:

• Grants Managers Network (GMN)
• Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)
• Association of Small Foundations (ASF)
• Council on Foundations (CoF)
• Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers (Forum)
• Foundation Center
• Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO)
• National Council of Nonprofits (NCN)

Currently in Phase II of a three-phase campaign, Project Streamline focuses on four core principles: Take a fresh look at reporting and application requirements, Right-size grant expectations, Relieve the burden on grantees, and Make communication and grantmaking process clear and straightforward.

To date, the initiative has picked up some heavy-hitting sponsors, including the Gates, Hewlett, Ford, Robert Wood Johnson, and Packard Foundations.

While regional efforts have had lukewarm results, I’m very interested to see how these theories work in practice nationally. This isn’t a new problem, and it’s been exacerbated over the years by resistance to change, a lack of trust between funder and grant recipient, and even a lack of trust within the funding community.

Institutional funders spend time and money developing targeted grantmaking strategies, and there’s a concern that standardizing processes might lessen the control currently held by foundations over what outcomes are being measured, reported, and publicized by individual agencies. If there is any Continue reading →

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 — 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 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.

I received comments via twitter suggesting numerous other ways philanthropy is using/funding crowdsourcing. While the jury is still out on whether crowdsourcing will provide true benefit as a new funding model, the experimentation going on is garnering lots of discussion. I’ve distilled a few of the arguments here:

Potential Pros: Crowdsourcing exposes more “real people” to philanthropy — and the organizations working to provide needed goods and services — and the concept of weighing which organizations are doing the best and most beneficial work. Also, the majority voting together will discover the greatest need (a bell curve theory).

Potential Cons: A danger that crowdsourcing will lead to popularity contests, giving an edge to organizations who are savvy with marketing or who have full coffers for influence. Also, a fear that the masses will agree on philanthropic risktaking, which some philanthropists deem necessary for the development of truly innovative ideas.

More Examples

And here are a few more examples of philanthropic crowdsourcing — let me know your thoughts:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Through the Knight News Challenge, the Knight Foundation is crowdsourcing ideas for funding. In this initiative, the foundation planned to “invest at least $25 million over five years in the search for bold community news and social media experiments.”

Target projects are “innovations that use new or available technology to distribute content in local communities,” with the following parameters:
1. Use digital, open-source technology.
2. Distribute news in the public interest.
3. Test your project in a local community.

To date, three years of funding has been awarded. And while the initiative itself is an example of crowdsourcing funding ideas, several of the funded projects involve crowdsourcing.

One example is Ushahidi, an organization that seeks to expand an initiative to crowdsource crisis information. The strategy is to develop a free web map and timeline that journalists and citizens can use to contribute multiple reports of large news events. By allowing anyone to contribute news stories, the service would broaden information distribution even in places too dangerous for or inaccessible to mainstream media. Imagine the difference in news coverage of the recent demonstrations and uprisings worldwide had this been in place.

The British Government
Just this week, Britain suggested it was time to begin dabbling in crowdsourced giving, reports The Independent.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy gave the details stating, “Under the proposal, Britain’s Department for International Development would set aside about $65-million that the public would control by voting online between 10 aid projects in Africa and elsewhere.”

Everyone’s Doing It?

Small to Large; Corporate and Foundation; Open and Controlled. A breadth of organizations including the Case Foundation, NetSqaured, and American Express have tested their theories of crowdsourcing in philanthropy, including:

  • Controlled experiments, wherein foundations maintain the role of determining grantees, but the public is sourced for suggestions and input, and
  • Open experiments, which more resemble “contests”

You can read more about these foundations and their crowdsourcing programs at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.