Mar 10, 2010

Tools for Good: Design Meets Technology in Service

Maria Giudice's picture
Maria Giudice
CEO & Founder

About a year ago, I met a wicked smart woman at SXSW who really seemed tapped into understanding how non-profits can leverage the power of social media for social good. At the time, Sorel Husbands Denholtz was managing all social media communications for one of our clients, the California Academy of Sciences. Currently, she is working with a number of organizations and businesses to define and implement effective strategies for engaging on the social web. Her clients include several not-for-profits, including American Rivers, the California Academy of Sciences, and The Big Rumble. I am delighted that Sorel and I with be facilitating a Core Conversation together at SXSW this Saturday, March 13th, at 12:30. The Core Conversation format is a speaker, or two, in conversation with the audience. To get this conversation started, I asked Sorel a few questions:

Maria: How can organizations integrate messaging, build communities, and raise money across multiple platforms?

Sorel: In short? Break it down. Integrate where you can. Know your strategy.

These days we have both good fortune and the potentially overwhelming challenge of having many outlets for all of these activities online (and offline as well). This can be tough for an organization that is attempting to connect meaningfully with its followers. Facebook, Care2, GlobalGiving, Universal Giving, GiveMeaning, FirstGiving, GiveATweet... The list goes on and on, not to mention the organization's eNewsletter, the organization's website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and more. Many of these channels may play a role and it can quickly become baffling.

As with any communications program, it is critical to begin with a clear strategy and know whom you are talking to. It may require segmenting your target into specific affinity groups. Each site or communications format may have different requirements. Having a big picture overview will simplify the process, but it requires thinking about each channel separately to effectively connect with the people on that channel.

Integrating fundraising across multiple channels has its own special challenges. You need to know how each community responds to solicitations, what tools are available to you, how the money is being collected, how this can be integrated with your own backend systems and data collections needs, and more. Plan thoroughly, and expect to learn a lot.

We are still in the early days of these technologies, so for now, go forth and experiment.

Maria: What do you see as the biggest roadblock for organizations who want to leverage social media for social good?

Sorel: Time/time management, assuming that executive leadership is on board with the concept. Social media is often perceived as (and can in fact be) a huge time suck. It is critical that organizations wanting to move into this arena are clear about what their objectives are and that they are committed to assigning the manpower.

Social media can be integrated into a workday and there are many tricks to make the workload realistic, including sharing the burden among more than one person. It is essential, however, that spending that time remain a priority. If an organization does not commit to truly engaging with people on the social web, they may as well not bother.

Maria: How can a single person do good and help create change inside their organization?

Sorel: Every change begins with one person. So the question is really, what is it about one person that can make a difference?

  • She is clear about her objective. (I sound like a broken record here!)
  • She shares energy and enthusiasm for the new without insulting the old.
  • She embraces those who resist, bringing them along slowly by understanding what the source of the resistance is, and sharing information and perspective.
  • She doesn’t stop communicating. She listens carefully. She provides context. She uses the tools and technology available to them: wikis, blogs, social networks, websites and more. She shares the successes of other communities and organizations.
  • She is patient. Slow and steady wins the race.

One thing I learned from rock climbing: when you are stuck and see no way to move forward, change something. It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe you just step up one inch. It doesn’t seem like enough to make a difference, and yet, afterwards, your perspective has shifted, and you often can see your next move. Big changes start with little changes. And even a little change can affect your outlook.

We Want to Hear From You

Please join us for this conversation in Austin on Saturday, March 13 at 12:30pm in Room 7. If you can’t make it, feel free to email us or ask questions as comments to this post. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this exciting topic!