Posts from the ‘Nonprofits’ category

A Must-Read Case Study

If you’ve ever worked in fundraising, on developing partnerships, community building, or in campaign development, you want to read this case study. Which case study you ask? It’s the case study of how “Minnesota’s ‘Networked Nonprofits’ Raised Over 10M in One Day, with Only One Full-Time Employee!That case study.

For those who prefer, a highlight video is below. But, you want to head over to Beth Kanter’s blog and read the full case study about and the strategy they used to achieve such a feat.

Written by Jeff Achen,’s own interactive media strategist, I promise you will walk away both inspired and enlightened. Here’s a sneak peak:

Here at GiveMN, we’ve harnessed the power of our networks to raise record amounts of money online for nonprofits in Minnesota and engage record numbers of people in an annual, one-day giving event—Give to the Max Day.

On Nov. 16, 2010, we shattered our goal of 40,000 donors in 24 hours by engaging 42,596 unique donors who donated to their favorite nonprofits using the platform. All told, Minnesota nonprofits collectively raised $10,041,021 in one incredible day. [continue reading]

My big take-away from reading the case study is the amazing, incredible possibility of powerful partnerships and collaboration. Secondly, I am completely awed and greatly admire the approach this effort represents and inspires. not only achieved its goals–but also united a state around the causes and the people working to improve the lives of its citizens. Minnesotans may  have different challenges, interests and experiences, but no matter all of that, Minnesota is a shared commonality that used to help communicate that we are all in this together–a great message that obviously resonated with donors. Bravo!

Thank you Beth and Jeff for sharing!

The Rise of OpenGood

socialgood-dayIn honor of #SocialGood Day, I wrote a post for the IQ Solutions blog reflecting on the TEDxChange event and calling for #OpenGood.  (Disclosure: IQ Solutions is my employer.) Since posting, a number of things have happened that echo the themes from TEDxChange and this concept–giving cause that perhaps #OpenGood is more of a reality than an ideal. For instance:

Read more about what I mean by #OpenGood. At the very least, remember this: If we don’t start with asking “What if?” how do we get to “What next?”


What others signs have you seen or read that may indicate the rise of #OpenGood?

The Role of the Free Agent and Fundraising

This is my second post in my seven-day quest to raise $1100 to provide seven roofs for seven Guatemalan families. In these seven days, I will also be answering your questions and sharing insights gained. This post worked to answer Mezarine’s question: What do you think it would take to help the majority of nonprofits in America retain and train great fundraisers? So far, we’ve raised $295–enough for one of the roofs, and $10 away from raising roof #2. Please donate and spread the word.

UPDATE 11:22am: We’ve raised $1490, enough funds for 9 roofs. But #loveroofs supporters are challenging us to raise enough for all 14 roofs, not just seven. To make this happen, we have $710 still to raise. Do you accept the challenge?

Mezarine–To answer your question, I think non-profits need to understand the power of their network. Specifically, the untapped potential of “free agents.” Stay with me while I explain…

Last week, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine presented at the Personal Democracy Forum about the role of the free agent. For me, my first question was: What’s a free agent? In genius style, they helped us define a “free agent” by sharing with us the story of Shawn Ahmed and his experience with the Red Cross.

Like typical Kanter and Fine posts, I find myself reflecting on this concept of a “free agent” days later. From a contract standpoint, I usually read “free agent” as an independent consultant–however, that is NOT what is meant in this discussion. Here, I see “free agent” being synonymous with the citizen philanthropist or the social citizen. It’s the empowered, empassioned individual. So, then the question becomes–who are these people?

I think customer relationship management is important here. You don’t have to use a slick and fancy CRM system (tho they can help), but mainly, you need to be detailed, diligent and deliberate.

Be Detailed: If you interact with a supporter on Twitter or Facebook or meet someone at a conference and exchange business cards, write it down. The important thing is to get in a habit of tracking your interactions with supporters and potential supporters, where they occurred, the date they occurred, what was discussed, interests, etc. and also important: be consistent in how you log this data.

Be Diligent: You need to be strategically persistent. For example, don’t reach out to a blogger or a potential sponsor with an ask being your first interaction. Get to know the people you want to work with and hope to have support your cause. Get to know your community, take the time to talk with people, know the culture, know the challenges, know the opportunities. This means that you’ll also need to adapt and be creative.

Be Deliberate: When it comes time to make an ask, be specific. Make the ask, the process, and the ability to be an ambassador of a cause fun, popular and easy. Also, make sure that whatever you’re asking, that is supports the true mission and long-term objectives of your organization. And most importantly, be deliberate in your thank you. This might seem too ‘duh’ a thought, but say more than thank you. Keep the conversation going: Ask them what worked, what didn’t, why they got involved, etc.

These are just some initial thoughts–as they say, if [fundraising] were easy, more people would be doing it. These tips might be some ways to attract and recruit supporters, but it might not enough to retain and sustain efforts. Thus, I also think nonprofits should focus on moving its network along the “Ladder of Engagement” as Beth Kanter would put it.

[Side note:  It’s interesting because there’s similiar theories that all relate to moving people along a spectrum–I would LOVE to create a matrix of these on how they all relate.]

What do you think? How would you answer Mezarine’s question? And, what other questions do you have?

flickr credit: erasmuse

6 Steps to Choosing the Right Individual Fundraising Platform

This is the first post in my seven-day quest to raise $1100 to provide seven roofs for seven Guatemalan families. In these seven days, I will also be answering your questions and sharing insights gained. This post worked to answer: How did you choose which fundraising platform to use?  So far, we’ve raised $165–enough for one of the roofs. Please donate and spread the word.

In the #loveroofs project, the first big hurdle was finding the right fundraising platform as there are many out there. In the end, I chose CrowdRise for a number of reasons.

Let me walk you through the thought process and hopefully that helps you if you are planning an individual fundraising effort. If you’re with an org, I encourage you to keep reading too–but more on that tomorrow.

6 Steps for Identifying a Fundraising Platform

1.  Research other people’s experiences. Fellow changebloggers continue to inspire me in the work they do and how they give to others. For me, I turned to the experiences of Beth Kanter, Geoff Livingston, Stacey Monk, and others. Let’s be clear, good research should involve reading about other people’s experiences, asking them about their experiences and by participating in them. In other words–it’s harder to fundraise if you’ve never been on the other side as a donor. 😉

2. Identify a cause. This is important. Identifying your cause will quickly help you determine your requirements. For example, large non-profits already have their own donation system like Livestrong for example. Other non-profits or causes may be on certain social networks that will also act as its own fundraising platform. An example of this is Causes and it’s birthday fundraising campaigns. Still yet, some organizations have it where you can sign-up for an event of theirs and fundraise around the event like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer or Special Olympics Missouri.

3. Determine the requirements. The reason step two is important is because not all organizations have their own fundraising platform or on Facebook. This was partially my dilemna. The Amistad Foundation just got on Facebook, but is still working on setting up its cause page. Currently, it’s online donation system uses PayPal, which is fine–but it didn’t offer some key functionality such as: a) the ability to easily track the funds donated in an open and transparent manner, b) The ability to customize information, add my own text or share images. Granted, I could have set-up my own PayPal account, but another big thing for me was openness and transparency.

4. Narrow down the field. Once you determined your requirement, you need to narrow down the list of fundraising platform options. And believe me, there are a ton out there! For me, I narrowed it down to ChipIn and CrowdRise.

Each of these platforms had pros and cons. ChipIn is familiar–people know about it. It also provides a widget that you can embed on a website or blog, the ability to create your own landing page and the ability to set a goal and track progress–for all to see. However, ChipIn was also connected to PayPal. So, for this to work to me, I’d have to have people to donate to my PayPal account and then give that to the Amistad Foundation. This was an issue–but my third requirement was openness and transparency. Plus, I wanted the process to be easier.

Thus, I chose CrowdRise. Not only does CrowdRise offer the functionality of ChipIn (minus the embeddable widget unfortunately), it also has stronger design, is more inviting and easier to use. Plus, the big one for me, was that it isn’t connect to my PayPal account. Instead, CrowdRise already has a huge database of nonprofits that you can start fundraisers for–and wouldn’t you know, the Amistad Foundatin was one of them! Granted, Crowdwise takes a 5% processing fee as well as a small transaction fee, while PayPal via ChipIn takes about 3%–the pros of Crowdrise (in my opinion) trumped that of ChipIn as Crowdwise also has viral integration as well.

5. Ask around. As I was teetering between Crowdrise and ChipIn, I asked some fellow changebloggers their opinions. There weren’t strong feelings one way or the other, so I went with my gut on Crowdrise. Part of its appeal is that it is a new platform, so I wanted to use it and provide feedback for our community at large. However, looking back, I wish I would have asked YOU guys via a blog post which one you think I should have done. What can you say? Here’s to learning by doing!

6. CHOOSE. For me, this was the hardest part. I sat on this fundraising effort for a good 2-3 weeks wanting to get it all just right. I was nervous (still am!), was running all the ifs in my head, refining and refining, and finally, with faith, I chose.

Do you think I made the right choice? What’s your experience? And, what other questions do you have?

Do You Follow Your Head or Your Heart?

I believe you can learn something from just about anything–including The Celebrity Apprentice (stay with me). I haven’t watched the show all season–but tuned into the finale by chance. On the finale, an interesting debate arose: In making decisions, including business decisions, do you follow your head or your heart? Here’s the gist:

THE FINALISTS: The finale came down to two people: Holly Robinson Pete and Bret Michaels. Holly–the top-notch, professional project manager who knows the foundation lingo and raised the most money ever for a charity on the show. And Bret Michaels–the rocker with a heart whose creativity has been a driving force, leading to strong results.

THE CAUSES: Bret’s cause is the American Diabetes Association as he himself was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was six years old. While on The Apprentice, Michaels also learned that his 6-year-old daughter is borderline diabetic as well. Holly’s cause is the HollyRod Foundation–originally inspired by watching her father struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Holly and her husband created the foundation to support families who might not have the means to support a loved one with a serious medical condition. When Holly’s oldest son was diagnosed with autism–the Foundation turned its focus to autism.

THE DIFFERENCE? Storytelling. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think Joan Rivers said it best when she said something along these lines: “If it were as it should be, it would be Holly hands down. But Bret has my vote–the emotion he’s brought to it–you got to go with him.” In sum: Bret shared his story and went behind telling us his story. He drew us in with his raw personality–sharing the effects of diabetes, living his passion and opening his heart. In the end, the crowd and Trump himself, wanted to be a part of that story–they wanted Bret’s story and his mission to be triumphant.

THE WINNER: Bret Michaels.

Holly’s story was personal–but she was more professional. At one point, she said, “I know how to impress executives.” That might be true, but at the end of the day, you’re selling yourself, your story and your mission. Holly impressed us from a professional perspective–she did everything right. But, Bret made it personal. Thus, the big question, do you follow your head or your heart? The case of The Celebrity Apprentice just goes to show–that there are times when the heart wins out, despite all the logic, Excel modules, planning and preparation.

So your challenge–Are you speaking to the head or to the heart? To executives–or to the people? Know your story and share it–real, raw and right to the core.

PS: Join us @read4change and our special guest Stacey Monk of Epic Change as we talk about how storytelling and its role in creating change.

Quote of the Week: Unleashing Love

This week’s quote comes from one of my favorite people in the non-profit tech community, Stacey Monk of Epic Change:

In America alone, we spend $14.6B annually on Mother’s Day for “stuff” that could just never say what’s in our hearts. What if instead, we all just unleashed that love on the world? How would it impact our world if we stopped using stuff as a surrogate for love? What if we invested that love to make the world a better place for Mamas & children everywhere?

Love Your Mama

This thinking led to Epic Change’s latest fundraising initiative, in honor of mothers everywhere–including Mama Lucy. Mama Lucy is Epic Change’s Tanzanian partner–the money raised from the effort will go towards the children’s home Mama Lucy wants to build for her primary school.

To date, over 200 mamas have been honored and over $11,000 has been raised–making a home for 12 children. The goal is to create a home for 50 children. You can contribute by unleashing your love and honoring your own mama by create a heart space–an online, visual tribute to your mom over at

Unleashing Love

The idea of unleashing love, however, can live beyond Mother’s Day and can be applied towards an organization as well.

  • Have your employees felt appreciated lately?
  • Is there an organization with an unmet need in your community?
  • Are you following the golden rule–treating others as you want to be treated?

These are just a few examples–but you get the picture, we can unleash love in our daily lives. As As Stacey suggests–What type of impact would that make? Imagine how that could change our world–your world?

So go love–unleashed and with wild abandon.

Behind the Scenes of NBC’s Parenthood Project

In the midst of reflecting on Pepsi Refresh, Disney and other CSR efforts, I received an email about another project with a social message–NBC’s Parenthood Project that worked in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club. Curious–I responded to the email asking if I could interview someone behind the campaign to learn about the inter-workings of business doing good.

Enter Cathy Goldman, NBC Vice President, Promotion & Brand Management. Cathy was kind enough to answer my questions. And while NBC didn’t answer all my questions, I find the answers fascinating. What I take away from both the Web site and Cathy’s answers is how integrated each facet of the project is–from the TV series, to leveraging social media through video, photos and text, to the universal concept of parenthood–all the way to identifying a non-profit that has a strong family strengthening initiative–it’s smart. Read for yourself and share your thoughts below:

SB:  Where did the idea for the Parenthood Project originate and how did it evolve?

CG:  Using our campaign strategy as inspiration, we wanted to give viewers an opportunity to participate in the dialogue that we began about what parenthood means to them. Considering this very relate-able topic, we thought tying in a charity component would resonate strongly not only with consumers but with talent. The talent participation has exceeded our expectations as they were all willing to share in the cause.

SB:  What are the goals of the Parenthood Project–What is NBC hoping to achieve?

CG:  There were a few goals, including: to elevate the conversation on what parenthood means; establish a dialogue with our viewers to make them feel involved with this highly relate-able topic; raise funds for a valuable charity that closely aligns with the show content, and tap into our talent to raise this topic into cultural relevance.

SB:  How did the Boys and Girls Club get involved?

CG:  We wanted to partner with a charity that had a national footprint, and after doing some research, we found that The Boys and Girls Club had a powerful family program (Family Strengthening Initiative) that provides viable resources for families

SB:  How did you decide to involve people through social media–and how did you choose which social media to include?

CG:  In all of our marketing communications, we look for ways to utilize and leverage social media tools. Since the main underpinnings of social media are meant to break down walls between people and their circle of friends and influencers, we concluded it was an important tactic that would elevate and amplify the messaging of this important project.

SB:  More and more, we’re seeing an increase in social media for social good–especially in the arena of corporate social responsibility. Why do you think that is? How can we continue to improve upon past success?

CG:  The heart of social media is the idea that people have their own online communities–and what better way to maximize those new connections for people than to incorporate a pro-social message.

The Fight for Good: Disney vs. Pepsi

Lots has been said about Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Project. However, not as much has been said about Disney’s “Give a Day. Get a Disney Day.” Why?

Both projects launched around the same time and both stand to do good. Thus, let’s match them up and see who’s left standing: Disney or Pepsi. Let’s begin.


Disney: Give a Day. Get a Disney Day.
What: Inspire one million people to volunteer a day of service.
How: Individuals can sign-up to volunteer at participating community organizations in their area. In return, that person will be awarded with a 1-day, 1-theme park ticket to the Disneyland® Resort or Walt Disney World® Resort, free.
When: Jan. 1, 2010–Dec. 15, 2010

Pepsi: Refresh Everything Project
What: Award a total of $20 million in grants.
How: Engaging in a social good crowdsourcing experiment.
When: Early 2010

Round 1: Program

Disney: It’s simple–give a day, get a day. It’s easy to understand and process. It’s national yet local–and is on the tail of national calls to service and volunteerism. It’s also collaborative by working with organizations across the nation. It’s also customizable and has something for everyone as any person wanting to participate can type in their zip code and find volunteer opportunities in eight different categories: animals and environment, arts and culture, children and youth, community, education and technology, health and human services, hunger and homelessness, and seniors and elder care.

Pepsi: It’s innovative, creative and “sexy.” It’s also a big investment–$20 million big. Pepsi is also a heavy hitter, and has entered the social good space by doing something new and doing it first, which can work to their advantage. The project is also inclusive–where anyone can submit an idea and anyone can vote up projects and ideas. Pepsi, like Disney, has also divided up the entries into different categories for people to consider: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education.

Round 2: Usability

Disney: The landing page for this initiative is a bit buried and there is no friendly URL. However, once there, Disney outlines the steps a person needs to take pretty well and makes the process relatively simple. The downside-there’s a lot of small print.

Pepsi: For both Disney’s and Pepsi’s initiatives, you have to create an account. However, for those less technical, the Pepsi site may be harder to navigate and understand–given the complexity of the competition.

Round 3: Authenticity

Disney: This is being promoted–but not as heavily or perhaps just more traditionally as I have seen TV spots. You can argue you this two ways: First, perhaps Disney doesn’t want to dedicate as many resources to a do-good promotion. Or secondly, maybe they don’t want to wave their do-goodness around. Out of the two companies, I’d say Disney has had a tougher road to climb to gain consumer’s trust.

Pepsi: For Pepsi, the Refresh project was a cheaper investment than the Superbowl, and some would argue, is having a higher return on investment. However, it may be too early to tell just what the return on investment really is. What I have noticed–is that they are definitely promoting it through blogger outreach, social media, celebrity endorsement, television ads and Pepsi was also a sponsor to the Superbowl Fan Jam that aired on VH1. Some have also commented that Pepsi’s set-up of the Refresh Project doesn’t express a true commitment to the social change community and dub it more cause-washing. Either way, we’re all talking about it.

Round 4: Impact and Sustainability

Disney: In the short-term, a lot of projects will be accomplished. In the long-term, hopefully people will be inspired to continue volunteering and giving back to their communities. In addition, the participating organizations have an opportunity to engage new community members to their cause and build a long-term relationship with them.

Pepsi: In the short term, people can be inspired by the dreams and ideas for a better world. In the short term, many groups and individuals will receive much needed resources to make things happen and take the efforts to the next level. However, it will be the responsibility of these organizations to put the funds to good use and create and drive the impact and its sustainability. One could also argue it’s the voter’s responsibility to vote for those projects that will be sustainable.

Winner: Disney

While I give props to Pepsi, I think Disney edges them out and this is why:

1. I understand it. My friends, who aren’t bloggers and aren’t techy, know about it, get it, and are participating. It’s simple.

2. It works for both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, it encourages volunteering, while working to inspire volunteering as a normal and frequent experience in the long-term.

3. Everybody wins. The organizations get help and an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with volunteers. The volunteer gets a free ticket to Disney. Disney gets people in their parks where they are bound to buy food, souvenirs and more–not to mention the engagement and positive press.

4. It’s collaborative. Disney found a way to not just talk about collaboration, but actually do it. The Huffington Post even claims Disney’s program “is beautiful on so many dimensions.”


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

When defining the success of these initiatives, here’s the more important question:

  • For Pepsi/Disney, did the project increase sales of Pepsi or encourage more people to visit?
  • For the do-good community, what is the overall impact of these initiatives to our communities?

Now, what if it’s found that there is a larger impact to our community, but not an advance in sales? That is where I think the rubber will meet the road.. My hope, is that we can continue to learn from one another to make it a win-win so that more organizations think about doing good.

What are your thoughts–Disney or Pepsi?

Note, this write-up is without any specific background knowledge, research or documentation about these initiatives. Also, thank you Pepsi and Disney for embarking on these efforts, as I hope all of us continue to learn and discover new ways to make our world better.

flickr credit (in order): mrkalhoon, vrogy, Express Monorail

One Word of Advice for Voters of Pepsi’s Refresh Project

Sustainability. In a fast-paced, 140-character world, short term and one-hit wonder thinking is rampant. But when it comes to making a difference and solving the great problems of our times, we need to be thinking for the long-term. This is why I hope the voters of Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Project will keep the concept of sustainability top-of-mind.

Let me first say that I applaud Pepsi’s jump into social good–and I hope more groups follow their lead. Perhaps if more did, then we’d have more case studies, a deeper set of lessons learned and more refined best practices. In a sense, we’d have more to talk about. This post is not for the folks at Pepsi. Rather, it’s aimed at the people who are engaging in Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Project.

For those not familiar, Pepsi is foregoing its Superbowl Ads and instead, engaging in a social good experiment. Pepsi will award a total of $20 million in grants over the course of the year. Who will receive the grants? That’s for you, me and everyone else to decide by voting–and a big reason why I hope, each voter, keeps in mind the concept of sustainability when reviewing the proposed projects. (More on how the project works.)

When reviewing the proposals, a thought kept pulsing, growing bigger and bigger inside me. Pepsi is awarding $20 million dollars in resources–but what if you had $20 million dollars or your organization did–how would you allocate those resource and why?

Sure–Recruiting people to help clean the highways is great–but what if we knew of a way to make it where people didn’t litter in the first place?

Sure–It’s great to offer a summer camp to kids to teach them to better appreciate the earth, but how can we scale this to reach more children in more places?

Sure–It’s great to find ways to get people up and moving. But, there are so many good people working to achieve this already. What strategies do they find working? Let’s invest there.

The Pepsi Refresh Project is a great initiative, but it’s just a start. I expect (and hope) we’ll start to see more of it. I also agree with Beth Kanter that, with crowdsourcing efforts, this is where having a key group of content experts involved is key. But, to me, the biggest take-away is that we, as a community, need to be thinking more strategically with our resources–this is why I love social marketing. It addresses both the short-term and the long-term. It looks at advocacy as well as promotion and a wide range of other various tools. It thinks both upstream and downstream. In other words, it offers a framework for us to create sustainable programs, products and services that truly can make a lasting change and a better world.

Thus, to all you voters, when reviewing, please keep in mind the idea of sustainability. What’s going to make the biggest difference for the amount of effort, resources and time?

What about you–what advice do you have either to Pepsi or to the fellow voters?

Four Phases of Online Social Change

red heartYou may agree or disagree with me on this, so I encourage your thoughts as I’m transcribing some of my own observations into the online social change field. These observations boil down to four “phases” of online social change that I think reflect our maturity into using social media tools to meet our organization’s aims:

  1. Awareness Building
  2. Fundraising
  3. Contests and Competitions for Change
  4. Advocacy

In the beginning, I feel many tools were leveraged as awareness-building mechanisms. From the initial launch of Causes to recruiting fans, followers and friends, many tools were initially set out to further awareness-building of an organization.

Then, I felt like the tools and our use of them matured as we discovered ways to leverage the tools into dollars–from Twestival to Tweetsgiving to Goodsearch. Even Causes adapted and identified birthdays as a way to increase micro-donations. You could say that online fundraising in and of itself has seen a phased formation and continues to evolve. See Beth’s Kanter’s recent post: 5 Social Media Fundraising Trends for 2009.

Then, enter the behemoths–contests and competitions like “America’s Giving Challenge,” hosted by the Case Foundation entered in the next rendition. You could say this ties into a more advanced type of fundraising, but I felt like it deserved to be on its own. As, I don’t yet think this area has been “tapped out” and neither do organizations according to Andre Blackman who interviewed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who uses contests and competitions to further public health innovation.

However, where I feel we are still in our infancy is with online advocacy for social change. It’s starting to creep up–just look at LiveEarth’s 2009 campaign “Love, the Climate” where people were encouraged to write love letters to office holders who worked to prevent climate change or the “Be a Voice for Darfur” movement which utilized activist and blogger toolkits to further realize the campaign’s objectives. Even provided a way for people to create and spread petitions with a call to action via Twitter.

Like I said, I think advocacy is where we have the most potential to further expand. I could be biased based on my government and citizen engagement day-job type of work–but I think there’s more ways we can get involved, as citizens, in decision making and peace keeping in our local, state and Federal governments–even internationally. What about you? Where do you think we have the most room to grow and what do you predict as being phase 5? Perhaps, partnerships and collaborations might be a phase five as we see how online and social media open up new doors of opportunity across organization firewalls. Or, another phase 5 might be storytelling–as more of these functions become interwoven and organizations get better at telling their story.

What do you think?

flickr credit: flatfield