Monthly Archives: May 2009

Keepers of the Information

Do we care enough to educate everyone? For those of us who work on issues of poverty and justice, and who have an eye on corporate greed (hmmm…that pool’s gotten bigger of late, eh?), the question raised in juxtaposition with ever-increasing technologies is a good one.

This is the provocative message of Eben Moglen, attorney and open source software advocate for free speech who spoke at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Network Conference.

NTEN has has generously posted their conference keynotes online–open source advocate Eben Moglen (and Clay Shirky).
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Three minutes in, you may still be wondering why watching this is a good idea (unfortnately, no chapters or forwarding available), but I can say from my own personal experience at NTC ’09 that I went from wonder ‘Who is this stodgy professor?’ to ‘Wow.’

As he says, “We do, still, you know, throw away most of the brains…most of the world’s children can’t afford to buy the intelligence…”

It’s awesome of NTEN to share these! In the process of watching these today, I was able to play with video site some more and learn how to embed a video to, so I learned yet a few more tricks, too!


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Facebook Ads for Fun (not Profit)

A month or so ago, a volunteer Facebook Page admin & I decided to play around with some Facebook ads for our Page. He had done the research on the ins-and-outs of successful ads, and since the cost was mere change, we decided to spend $25 in the name of experimentation.

We used GoogleDocs to collaborate to draft up some ads, pick target audiences, determine run times, and choose our daily and overall ad spending caps. Ads can be targeted by age, location (even city), education, interests, etc. For example, Facebook could tell us that in our targeted area, there were 81,000+ users who listed some variation of hostel or travel in their interests, so we knew that to be our potential market going in.

Facebook Ad Test
62 viewers went to the trouble of clicking on our 2 ads. Facebook reports a huge number of ‘impressions’ or times the ad appeared on pages–like 172,000 for our two ads, targeted to ‘travelers’ over 5 days.

But do you ever even look at the ads?? I mentally block them out. And I assume you do, too, which is why purchasing Facebook ads is a questionable tactic. Only .03% of our impressions were ever clicked.

Perhaps that was because we way under-bid the suggested ‘price per click’–we picked $0.43. Currently going at $0.70-0.90, our averages turned out to be $0.35-0.41 cents per click. But hey, this was an experiment, right?!

Our ad readers had listed their interests as: traveling (18 clickers), reading, (17), music (14; hmmm…this one is interesting), travel (11) and photography (10). 50% of viewers were women…60% of viewers were women under age 44. As targeted, most viewers were from Colorado, Nebraska & Utah.

Oh, yeah, I also spent a crazy amount of time tracking down coupon codes for free ads, searching for ‘free facebook ads’, none of which ever worked, but by the time I got to the ad set-up stage to try out the codes, I was already time-invested and committed to clicking a few more buttons to start the ads.

I’ll admit, I’m often wow-ed by numbers, though, that I later can’t explain or make sense of.

What I do know is that I spent a grand total of $24.89. We had better success with a slightly higher rate per click, and on the ad that ran over the weekend.

From “Pimp my Nonprofit….”, “Facebook knows an extraordinary amount about its users and can provide very targeted ads, which is pretty frightening” (agreed!), but could be effective for the right market, say–reaching students interested in internships. The time in analyzing such ads is similar to analyzing a GoogleAdWords campaign–without knowing much about these, either analysis seems like another great internship opportunity, to me.

Facebook ads for fun…. And measuring sector interest. And adding a few (but not your most loyal, perhaps) fans–like direct mail solicitation for Facebook. And to understand the strategy behind the machine.

Some others’ notes on the subject:
• General business strategy thoughts from Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang
• Kivi Leroux Miller’s EcoScribe Communications Online Marketing for Nonprofits


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Social Media Policy

Policies are part of an organizational culture. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Implementing a social media policy won’t prevent misuse, and can even block effective use of new media tools. For social media to be successful, an organizational culture must embrace the viral nature of these new tools. And that can be easier said than done.

Reality is: people already talk about our organizations and brands online. The best way to ensure a positive image is to be actively involved online before issues are manipulated or a crisis develops. After all, you can’t respond to criticism if you aren’t present! Yes, it’s true–90% of social media can be a waste. It’s the 10% that can be stellar that we’re aiming for.

Colin McKay in his Nonprofit Secret Underground Guide To Social Media Adoption suggests that most large organizations already have policies in place to deal with potential concerns, as social media doesn’t create new behavior, it only amplifies existing behaviors. Those policies–and some small organizations have even a few of these–may reference confidentiality, designated spokespersons, internet use, approval of official communications, use of logo, privacy, and appropriate behavior. Following the organization’s core principles is a good rule of thumb when drafting a social media policy–don’t stray to far from what you already have, and don’t create a solution that’s looking for a problem, so to speak. My thought is this: If you don’t already have a crisis communications plan in place–long upheld as the gold standard in non-profit communications preparations, you don’t need to start down the social media policy road just yet.

Discussion with staff, media consumers, and departments concerned with IT, fundraising and marketing issues will provide insights into boundaries and potential uses of the internet or social media. If your organization is fearful of social media–or heavens above: personal internet use at work!–these dialogues need to happen for the benefit of your organizational culture. They’re not just about ‘it’s time to create a social media policy.’ Opening the discussion and working towards some simple guidelines on how your staff and volunteers can communicate (onlien and in person, too!) on your behalf instills a foundation of trust and gives everyone the same expectations for expressing individual views about an organization.

This is an outline of a very basic social media policy. It’s important, too, to be very clear in these that your organization supports online participation for the benefit of your mission. You can elaborate on each of these principles in accordance with your existing values and policies.

Be transparent. : Say who you are, and be clear that your views are your own unless you’re posting on an organizational site.

Be connected. Share with others, follow other policies, cite sources, and have open dialogue.

Be respectful. Think twice, maintain confidentiality, respect work time.

Be thoughtful. Question motives, be consistent, protect your own privacy, uphold your liability.

Most importantly, policies should support efforts of staff and supporters who are adding value to your mission. Don’t put out the fire before it starts!

Read more:
This policy is from DePaul University’s Social Media Working Group.
Beth Kanter writes and links to a range of though on these policies, as does Nancy Schwartz.
More on specific blogging policies from the Groundswell blog.
Here‘s what WildApricot and others have to say about the social media policy debate.

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Losing Control…It’s a Good Thing!

There’s already lots of info in cyberspace about how to be successful at using social media in non-profits.
But before we can be successful, there’s still a major hurdle to get over.
It’s control.

turtle by tsakshaug

turtle by tsakshaug

The idea that we can control what’s out there about our organizations is one that’s come and gone.

Here’s why we need to let go:
Try searching for your organization and the word ‘sucks’ or ‘hate’. Or just searching for your organization’s name or mission.
So, what will you do with this info?

Will you use this as an opportunity to accept feedback and make change? Will you reach out to the offended customer and ask for another chance? Maybe, you’ll use this to implement what I call the ‘turtle assignment’–like asking the first-grader who’s out of control to be the one to take care of the classroom turtle, turning those negative energies into a positive contribution.

There are some strategies to protect our brands, though:
Have a goal so success can be measured. Measurements can be used over time to make the case to the powers-that-be that, yes, social media can be helpful in communicating.

Create a policy–but not one that’s any different in principle or practice from your regular communication policy!
WildApricot’s blog gives you lots of ideas for social media policy.

At this year’s NTEN conference, keynoter Clay Shirky, (author of Here Comes Everybody reviewed here), gave his thoughts about what’s out there: “When bad things happen with your brand (and they probably already have), people no longer blame your organization. Control has already been lost.”

And from one of the conference sessions on managing tech change (BTW, one of the co-presenters joined in via Skype!) come these notes about addressing your social media strategy internally:
Who of your various staff are early adopters vs. laggards? The nay-sayers can sabotage new technology adoption.

Why tech projects fail:
lack of executive support, lack of user involvement, inexperienced project management, unclear business objectives, too large of a scope…..(The results of this survey, done every year since 2001, has never fundamentally changed.) People are obviously very critical to change!

People not only want information, they want to be involved. Understand that change naturally creates anxiety; your people need a warning system and a grieving process for the old system.

Tie your change to your mission.
Not everyone thinks technology is cool; be sure you’re not implementing technology for fun. How will this tool help you magnify your impact, and by how much? You need a leader (buy-in necessary from the top level, but your champion can be someone else). Get engagement from all levels.

And learn about getting started with some basic good practics from Deb over at CommunityOrganizer2.0:
* Set up “listening posts” to monitor online conversations about your organization.
* Buy your domain name, those related to your organization, and potential common domain name misspellings.
* Create a blog so that your organization has a platform from which to issue its own stories.
* Pick two social networking sites to join where your stakeholders hang out, and begin to converse with people there.
* Create an organizational social profile on a handful of social networking sites. You don’t have to be active on them, but you’re ready to be if need be, and it will help increase your organization’s search engine rankings.

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Top 5 Roles for Virtual Volunteers

Wondering what virtual volunteers can do for you?
First, you need to put your creative thinking hat on. It’s about breaking the traditional volunteer position into much smaller pieces. For me, Carter McNamara has long been a go-to resource regarding non-profit management. It’s no different for volunteers, where he’s updated his list of info to include some links on virtual volunteering.

That’s where I found this definition of virtual volunteers, from the Virtual Volunteering Project of
Virtual volunteering is a form of volunteering in which the tasks are completed, in whole or in part, via the Internet and a home or work computer. It is also known as online volunteering, cyber service, telementoring, teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering allows agencies to expand the benefits of their volunteer programs, by allowing for more volunteers to participate, and by utilizing volunteers in new areas.

So what can virtual volunteers do?
In my recent experience in coordinating and managing a cadre of virtual volunteers for Hostelling International, I’ve been able to hone this down to a list of tasks that are ideally matched to virtual volunteers.

• Research
Locate area campus contacts for student interns, study abroad, etc.
Develop list of similar organization and businesses

• Social media
Manage one of your social media sites, or establish one!
Conduct online outreach and promotion for one of your social networks
Metrics–recommend and/or count social media metrics for you at a shared google doc

• Planning
Create a marketing plan
Develop an events marketing timeline

• Program Design (programming or geographic)
Host a Meetup group as a focus group for your interest area
Develop a plan to match families in need with donated household items

• Marketing
A budding social news maven can research and tell you about what social news sites are out there, and which you should use. And, teach your staff about what social news sites even are!
Tag your website and news releases in social bookmarking sites

Excepting skill-specific areas–where, if you’re lucky enough to have captured the attention of a highly qualified professional, you’ll want to invest time in developing a particular objective with that volunteer–these positions are ideally time-limited (even one-time) and can accommodate volunteers with limited expertise but with access to a computer. Be they 20-year technology veterans, digital natives, or someone in-between willing to learn about new technologies, social media roles present an excellent opportunity for a volunteer to help out while learning something new. And that appeals to Boomers and Millennials alike!

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Help! Facebook changed and I can’t find the minutiae!!

Already using Facebook Pages and want to know some ins and outs with the new system?

It doesn’t appear that Facebook supports migrating Group to Pages any more. Here is what is says on their help page:

I’d like to convert my Facebook Group to a Page.

“We’re no longer able to convert Facebook Groups into Pages. You’re welcome to create a Page and notify your Group members that you’ll be using the Page instead of the Group going forward. If your Group has too many members to send them a message, we unfortunately aren’t able to provide you with any other solutions for how you might contact them about this change.”

Know what else? If your Page had Fans before the big changeover in March, they’re likely not getting your updates. Seems, despite the bevy of complaints and comments on this issue, the only fix is to ask long-time Fans to unfriend you and become a new Fan. Gulp.

You can submit a complaint to FB.

We’ve tried testing this theory with Fans old and new and can’t figure out if this still holds true or not, but here’s how Fans can make sure they’re seeing your info (Wall Posts):
– At the bottom of your Wall, in the light blue strip, click on Edit Options on the right. If people or profiles are hidden from your Wall, you’ll have this option.
– Then choose Public Profiles, and add selected groups to News Feed. Click Close to save changes.
– You can always ‘hide’ again by hovering to the right of that post and clicking on the Hide button that appears.

Here’s an analysis of why this is happening, from Post #72:
With the new change to Pages posting status updates, it is a different agreement, both literally and in the code…..I am guessing here, but I think in order to approve the status updates from products, you need to check a box in a new “column” called “Yes I am a fan and will accept news feeds.” Although that column is invisible to the user, it is a literal column of information in a database table.

Facebook is now set up so that you can be a Friend or a Fan, and also separately indicate accept feeds. They do this with the Block–you can be a friend/fan AND completely block the feed; there is no more “see less of” ruler to dictate what you’d like to see, and not. Facebook seems to be playing it safe on spam by making people virtually have to resubscribe to get feeds via this ‘double Opt-In’.

On the other hand
, Facebook apps are supposed to be more transparent…
…maybe when the directory is posted we’ll be able to figure out which applications can be added to non-profit pages, or not, from the get-go.

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A new verb: Wolfram (or Alpha?)

This is a little outside of my usual ‘Web 2.0 for non-profits’ post, but as alerted this morning by the Fischbowl–and I love that a high school teacher is not only on the cutting edge for his students, but also keeps me posted!!,


Wolfram Alpha
Watch this. If you like data, or new innovations, you’ll be amazed.

But it’s not your typical search engine.

Ever wonder how the fish production in Poland compares to New York City’s trash rate? (Okay, probably not, but I know a few walking encyclopedias who rattle off information just such as this.)
Nutrition information.
Demographics. Local weather (without having to jump through silly hoops like specifying your zip code.) Math problems, geography….it’s all at your fingertips with Wolfram Alpha’s computational database search.

I can’t wait to “Wolfram” demographic data for grant requests and annual reports.

Isn’t leveraging this computational power the whole POINT of computers?!
And then that begs the question, why is Stephen Wolfram’s innovation just now occuring??

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