Nonprofits and Social Media

I’d like to talk today about social media and non­prof­its. I’ve had a cou­ple of inter­est­ing projects late­ly help­ing non­prof­its put togeth­er Face­book Pages, LinkedIn Groups and Twit­ter sites. I think this is an excit­ing way to reach out to audi­ence members. 

Today: Email Lists

Over the last few years we’ve focused on email lists. We all have big email lists – tens of thou­sands of users, seg­ment­ed all sorts of dif­fer­ent ways. We send out dozens of emails a week and they end up seem­ing not spam.

Face­book Pages

A new era is com­ing with social media. A big change is Face­book Pages. These are geared toward adver­tis­ers although you don’t need to have a Face­book adver­tis­ing cam­paign to use them. In March 2009, Face­book redesigned Pages to act much more like typ­i­cal user pro­files: there’s a wall, there’s an activ­i­ty stream, and you can asso­ciate dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions with them. 

Two things about Pages are excit­ing. One is the activ­i­ty stream. Peo­ple who sign up as “fans” of your Page see what you’re putting out in their indi­vid­ual stream. They’ll log into Face­book and see that mes­sages like “Jen just got engaged!” or “Joe is hav­ing a bad hair day” and that your orga­ni­za­tion is hav­ing some great event com­ing up this week­end. You’re seen in the asso­ci­a­tion of hap­py news from their friends. It’s dif­fer­ent from a spam­mish email because it’s com­ing in with the con­text of their friends, which is very pow­er­ful for publicity.

The oth­er nice thing about Face­book Pages is that they’re pub­lic. A lot of por­tions of Face­book aren’t but mak­ing Pages pub­lic means you can point to them from your web­site or oth­er social media campaigns.

I think Face­book fan groups are going to be the new email list. They are the way we’ll be able to reach out to peo­ple. I’m very excit­ed about this because there’s all sorts of easy mul­ti­me­dia pos­si­bil­i­ties. You can inte­grate with Youtube, with Twit­ter, with pod­casts, etc., embed­ded for fans of your Face­book page to see as it’s hap­pen­ing. This is much more excit­ing than some of the emails that we send out. They are also more inter­ac­tive because fans can post things on your fan walls so you can have con­ver­sa­tions on your sites.

Inti­mate, imme­di­ate, engaging

What the smart non­prof­its are going to be doing is a lot of post­ing in a style that’s authen­tic and inti­mate and less wor­ried about being slick than we’ve typ­i­cal­ly been.

What I would love to see non­prof­its doing is to get seri­ous about video. I’m not talk­ing about fan­cy video, haul­ing in video­g­ra­phers for six months shoot­ing a three minute slick com­mer­cial. Get an inex­pen­sitve video recorder and start doing five minute inter­views with the peo­ple your orga­ni­za­tion serves. This will dif­fer depend­ing on your organization’s focus. One advan­tage to sim­ple videos is that you can con­vince even the busiest of your inter­vie­wees to take out a few min­utes. You make these videos and post them to Youtube, Vimeo or direct­ly to Face­book video. It doesn’t mat­ter where they host­ed but you’ll have to make sure they’re embed­ded on your Face­book fan page. 

Build­ing our Face­book Fan Page

How to direct? You can direct in the emails you’re send­ing out or through oth­er sources. Twit­ter is a great way of direct­ing peo­ple to what’s hap­pen­ing: you send out a 140-character “tweet” with an inter­est­ing tease about the video you’ve pro­duced and a link to the Face­book fan page.

The whole goal is to get Face­book fans. Once you’re in as a fan, you show up in their activ­i­ty streams. All the fans get to see the events you’re orga­niz­ing, the videos. If you have extra tick­ets to an upcom­ing event, post about it because peo­ple will see it imme­di­ate­ly. It’s a won­der­ful way to reach peo­ple quick­ly in a way that’s not as intru­sive as email (I sus­pect a lot of younger users are actu­al­ly check­ing their Face­book home­page more often than their emails!).

The New Non­prof­it Outreach

I’d love to see a lot more of these inti­mate, almost home-made videos going up on Face­book fan pages and using fan pages as a way of con­nect­ing with peo­ple. We can think of these as the new email list.

I would strong­ly encour­age non­prof­its to use all of these these media to rein­force their mes­sage and to find new ways to reach their audi­ences in a much more engag­ing, inti­mate way. 

— —  —  — –

Mar­tin Kel­ley is a web devel­op­er and social media con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in non­prof­its. This post is a loose tran­scrip­tion of his video, Non­prof­its and Social Media. This essay is also avail­able on the Mar​tinKel​ley​.com Face­book fan page.

Conflict in meeting and the role of heartbreak and testing

A few weeks ago a newslet­ter brought writ­ten reports about the lat­est round of con­flict at a local meet­ing that’s been fight­ing for the past 180 years or so. As my wife and I read through it we were a bit under­whelmed by the accounts of the newest con­flict res­o­lu­tion attempts. The medi­a­tors seemed more wor­ried about alien­at­ing a few long-term dis­rup­tive char­ac­ters than about pre­serv­ing the spir­i­tu­al vital­i­ty of the meet­ing. It’s a phe­nom­e­na I’ve seen in a lot of Quak­er meetings. 

Call it the FDR Prin­ci­ple after Franklin D Roo­sevelt, who sup­pos­ed­ly defend­ed his sup­port of one of Nicaragua’s most bru­tal dic­ta­tors by say­ing “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” Even casu­al his­to­ri­ans of Latin Amer­i­can his­to­ry will know this only led to fifty years of wars with rever­ber­a­tions across the world with the Iran/Contra scan­dal. The FDR Prin­ci­ple didn’t make for good U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and, if I may, I’d sug­gest it doesn’t make for good Quak­er pol­i­cy either. Any dis­cus­sion board mod­er­a­tor or pop­u­lar blog­ger knows that to keep an online discussion’s integri­ty you need to know when to cut a dis­rup­tive trouble-maker off – polite­ly and suc­cint­ly, but also firm­ly. If you don’t, the peo­ple there to actu­al­ly dis­cuss your issues – the peo­ple you want – will leave.

I didn’t know how to talk about this until a post called Con­flict in Meet­ing came through Live­jour­nal this past First Day. The poster, jan­drewm, wrote in part:

Yet my recog­ni­tion of all that doesn’t negate the painful feel­ings that arise when hos­til­i­ty enters the meet­ing room, when long-held grudges boil over and harsh words are spo­ken.  After a few months of reg­u­lar atten­dance at my meet­ing, I came close to aban­don­ing this “exper­i­ment” with Quak­erism because some Friends were so con­sis­tent­ly ran­corous, divi­sive, dis­rup­tive.  I had to ask myself: “Do I need this neg­a­tiv­i­ty in my life right now?”

I com­ment­ed about the need to take the tes­ti­monies seriously:

I’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion. A lot of Friends aren’t very good at putting their foot down on fla­grant­ly dis­rup­tive behav­ior. I wish I could buy the “it even­tu­al­ly sorts out” argu­ment but it often doesn’t. I’ve seen meet­ings where all the sane peo­ple are dri­ven out, leav­ing the dis­rup­tive folks and arm­chair ther­a­pists. It’s a sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship, per­haps, but doesn’t make for a healthy spir­i­tu­al community.

The unpop­u­lar solu­tion is for us to take our tes­ti­monies seri­ous­ly. And I mean those more spe­cif­ic tes­ti­monies buried deep in copies in Faith & Prac­tice that act as a kind of col­lec­tive wis­dom for Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty life. Tes­ti­monies against detrac­tion and for right­ly ordered deci­sion mak­ing, etc. If someone’s actions tear apart the meet­ing they should be coun­seled; if they con­tin­ue to dis­rupt then their decision-making input should be dis­re­gard­ed. This is the real effect of the old much-maligned Quak­er process of dis­own­ing (which allowed con­tin­ued atten­dance at wor­ship and life in the com­mu­ni­ty but stopped busi­ness par­tic­i­pa­tion). Lim­it­ing input like this makes sense to me.

The trou­ble that if your meet­ing is in this kind of spi­ral there might not be much you can do by your­self. Peo­ple take some sort of weird com­fort in these pre­dictable fights and if you start talk­ing tes­ti­monies you might become very unpop­u­lar very quick­ly. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the bick­er­ing isn’t help­ful (of course) and just eats away your own self. Dis­tanc­ing your­self for a time might be help­ful. Get­ting involved in oth­er Quak­er venues. It’s a shame. Month­ly meet­ing is sup­posed to be the cen­ter of our Quak­er spir­i­tu­al life. But some­times it can’t be. I try to draw lessons from these cir­cum­stances. I cer­tain­ly under­stand the val­ue and need for the Quak­er tes­ti­monies bet­ter sim­ply because I’ve seen the prob­lems meet­ings face when they haven’t. But that doesn’t make it any eas­i­er for you.

But all of this begs an awk­ward ques­tion: are we real­ly build­ing Christ’s king­dom by drop­ping out? It’s an age-old ten­sion between puri­ty and par­tic­i­pa­tion at all costs. Tim­o­thy asked a sim­i­lar ques­tion of me in a com­ment to my last post. Before we answer, we should rec­og­nize that there are indeed many peo­ple who have “aban­doned” their “Quak­er exper­i­ment” because we’re not liv­ing up to our own ideals. 

Maybe I’m more aware of this drop-out class than oth­ers. It some­times seems like an email cor­re­spon­dence with the “Quak­er Ranter” has become the last step on the way out the door. But I also get mes­sages from seek­ers new­ly con­vinced of Quak­er prin­ci­ples but unable to con­nect local­ly because of the diver­gent prac­tices or juve­nile behav­ior of their local Friends meet­ing or church. A typ­i­cal email last week asked me why the plain Quak­ers weren’t evan­gel­i­cal and why evan­gel­i­cal Quak­ers weren’t con­ser­v­a­tive and asked “Is there a place in the quak­ers for a Plain Dress­ing, Bible Thump­ing, Gospel Preach­ing, Evan­gel­i­cal, Con­ser­v­a­tive, Spir­it Led, Charis­mat­ic fam­i­ly?” (Any­one want to sug­gest their local meet­ing?)

We should be more wor­ried about the peo­ple of integri­ty we’re los­ing than about the grumpy trouble-makers embed­ded in some of our meet­ings. If some­one is con­sis­tent­ly dis­rup­tive, is clear­ly break­ing spe­cif­ic Quak­er tes­ti­monies we’ve lumped under com­mu­ni­ty and intergri­ty, and stub­born­ly immune to any coun­cil then read them out of busi­ness meet­ing. If the peo­ple you want in your meet­ing are leav­ing because of the peo­ple you real­ly don’t want, then it’s time to do some­thing. Our Quak­er tool­box pro­vides us tool for that action – ways to define, name and address the issues. Our tra­di­tion gives us access to hun­dreds of years of expe­ri­ence, both mis­takes and suc­cess­es, and can be a more use­ful guide than con­tem­po­rary pop psy­chol­o­gy or plain old head-burying.

Not all meet­ings have these prob­lems. But enough do that we’re los­ing peo­ple. And the dynam­ics get more acute when there’s a vision­ary project on the table and/or some­one younger is at the cen­ter of them. While our meet­ings sort out their issues, the inter­net is pro­vid­ing one type of sup­port lifeline.

Blog­ger jan­drewm was able to seek advice and con­so­la­tion on Live­jour­nal. Some of the folks I spoke about in the 2003 “Lost Quak­er Gen­er­a­tion” series of posts are now lurk­ing away on my Face­book friends list. Maybe we can stop the full depar­ture of some of these Friends. They can drop back but still be involved, still engag­ing their local meet­ing. They can be read­ing and dis­cussing tes­ti­monies (“detrac­tion” is a won­der­ful place to start) so they can spot and explain behav­ior. We can use the web to coör­di­nate work­shops, online dis­cus­sions, local meet-ups, new work­ship groups, etc., but even email from a Friend thou­sands of miles away can help give us clar­i­ty and strength.

I think (I hope) we’re help­ing to forge a group of Friends with a clear under­stand­ing of the work to be done and the tech­niques of Quak­er dis­cern­ment. It’s no won­der that Quak­er bod­ies some­times fail to live up to their ideals: the jour­nals of  olde tyme Quak­er min­is­ters are full of dis­ap­point­ing sto­ries and Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion is rich with tales of the road­blocks the Tempter puts up in our path. How can we learn to  cen­ter in the Lord when our meet­ings become too polit­i­cal or dis­func­tion­al (I think I should start look­ing hard­er at Anabap­tist non-resistance the­o­ry). This is the work, Friends, and it’s always been the work. Through what­ev­er comes we need to trust that any test­ing and heart­break has a pur­pose, that the Lord is using us through all, and that any suf­fer­ing will be pro­duc­tive to His pur­pose if we can keep low and lis­ten­ing for follow-up instructions.

Can social networking tools free us from email?

The NYTimes has a piece by an IBM employ­ee who has large­ly freed him­self from email by con­scious­ly using what­ev­er social net­work­ing tool would be bet­ter at mov­ing the con­ver­sa­tion for­ward, whether it’s IM, wikis, or even (gasp!) the tele­phone. This line stood out for me:

I have had con­tin­u­ing sup­port from my man­age­ment in this effort, because I’ve been able to prove how much more I can accom­plish by answer­ing a ques­tion, and post­ing it on a blog, for exam­ple, than I can by answer­ing the same ques­tion over and over. I still help peo­ple, but in a more open and col­lab­o­ra­tive fash­ion. Oth­er peo­ple can join in the dis­cus­sions — maybe they will have a bet­ter idea than mine. 

This is exact­ly how I try to describe the blog­ging phi­los­o­phy in the busi­ness world. Don’t think of the blog as anoth­er chore that needs to be added to your already over­whelmed to-do list. Instead, think about it as anoth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool so it becomes a seam­less part of your ongo­ing work. This will no only help work flow, but help give your blog an hon­esty and approach­a­bil­i­ty it wouldn’t have if you thought of it as sim­ply anoth­er mar­ket­ing piece.

Superstar? Aw shucks!

And a shout-out back to Hit­Tail folks who linked to my arti­cle on Adword shenani­gans by nam­ing me a super­star! Every­one Loves Hit­Tail: Hit­Tail Helps Super­star Blog­ger Mar­tin Kel­ley Save Mon­ey. Is it get­ting hot in here?

I will say that these guys are real­ly good track­ers. I some­times think if I said “hit­tail” in my sleep I’d awake to an email thank­ing me for the men­tion. I’m always sur­prised at how many com­pa­nies don’t fol­low their own pub­lic com­men­tary on them across the inter­net, but Hit­tail cer­tain­ly does.

Floating on Clouds

Last week­end I found myself with the sce­nario no solo web design­er wants to be faced with: a dead lap­top. It was eigh­teen months old and while it was from Hewlett Packard, a rep­utable com­pa­ny, it’s always had prob­lems over over­heat­ing. Like a lot of mod­ern lap­top mak­ers, HP tried to pack as much proces­sor pow­er as they could into a sleek design that would turn eyes on the store shelf. They actu­al­ly do offer some free repairs for a list of half a dozen mal­adies caused by over­heat­ing but not for my par­tic­u­lar symp­toms. When I have a free after­noon, a big pot of cof­fee and lots of music queued up I’ll give them a call and see if I can talk them into fix­ing it.

Once upon a time hav­ing a sud­den­ly dead com­put­er in the mid­dle of a bunch of big projects would have been dis­as­ter. But over the last few years I’ve been putting more and more of my data “in the cloud,” that is: with soft­ware ser­vices that store it for me.

Email in the Cloud

I used to be a die-hard Thun­der­bird fan. This is Firefox’s cousin, a great email client. I would take such great care trans­fer­ring years of emails every time I switched machines and I spent hours build­ing huge nest­ed list of fold­ers to orga­nize archived mes­sages. About a year ago Thun­der­bird ate about three months of recent mes­sages, some quite cru­cial. At that time I start­ed using Google’s Gmail as back­up. I set Gmail to pick up mail on my POP serv­er and leave it there with­out delet­ing it. I set Thun­der­bird to leave it there for week. The result was that both mes­sages would be picked up by both services.

After becom­ing famil­iar with Gmail I start­ed using it more and more. I love that it doesn’t have fold­ers: you sim­ple put all emails into a sin­gle “Archive” and let Google’s search func­tion find them when you need them.You can set up fil­ters, which act as saved search­es, and I have these set up for active clients.

Why I’m hap­py now: I can log into Gmail from any machine any­where. No recent emails are lost on my old machine.

Project Man­age­ment in the Cloud

I use the fab­u­lous Remem­ber the Milk (RTM) to keep track of projects and crit­i­cal to-do items. Like Gmail I can access it from any com­put­er. While mess­ing around set­ting up back­up com­put­ers has set me back about ten days, I still know what I need to do and when I need to do it. I can review it and give clients renewed timelines.

An addi­tion­al advan­tage to using Remem­ber the Milk and Gmail togeth­er is the abil­i­ty to link to emails. Every email in Gmail gets its own URL and every saved “fil­ter” search gets its own URL. If there’s an email I want to act on in two weeks, I set up a Remem­ber the Mail task. Each task has a option­al field for URLs so I put the the email’s Gmail URL in there and archive the email so I don’t have to think about it (part of the Get­ting Things Done strat­e­gy). Two weeks lat­er RTM tells me it’s time to act on that email and I fol­low the link direct­ly there, do what­ev­er action I need to do and mark it com­plete in RTM.

Project Notes in the Cloud

I long ago start­ed keep­ing notes for indi­vid­ual projects in the most excel­lent Back­pack ser­vice. You can store notes, emails, pic­tures and just about any­thing in Back­pack and have it avail­able from any com­put­er. You can eas­i­ly share notes with oth­ers, a fea­ture I fre­quent­ly use to cre­ate client cheat­sheets for using the sites I’ve built. Now that I use Gmail and it’s URL fea­ture, I put a link to the client’s Gmail his­to­ry right on top of each page. Very cool!

Anoth­er life saver is that I splurge for the upgrad­ed account that gives me secure serv­er access and I keep my pass­word lists in Back­pack. There’s a slight secu­ri­ty risk but it’s prob­a­bly small­er than keep­ing it on a lap­top that could be swiped out of my bag. And right now I can log into all of my ser­vices from a new machine. 

Keep­ing the Mon­ey Flow­ing from Clouds

The lat­est Web 2.0 love of my life is Fresh­books, a ser­vice that keeps track of your clients, your hours and puts togeth­er great invoic­es you can mail to them. I’m so much more pro­fes­sion­al because of them (no more hand writ­ten invoic­es in Word!) and when it’s billing time I can quick­ly see how many unbilled hours I’ve worked on each project and bang!-bang!-band! send the invoic­es right out. Because the data is online, I was able to bill a client despite the dead com­put­er, pro­vid­ing my exact hours, a detailed list of what I had done, etc.

Oth­ers

Cal­en­dar: I always go back and forth between lov­ing Google Cal­en­dar and the cal­en­dar built into Back­pack. Because I can nev­er make up my mind I’ve used ICal feeds to cross-link them so they’re both synced to one anoth­er. I can now use whichev­er is most con­ve­nient (or whichev­er I’m more in the mood to use!) to add and review entries.

Pho­tos: Most of the pho­tos I’ve tak­en over the past four years are still sit­ting on my dead lap­top wait­ing for me to find a way to get them off of the hard dri­ve. As trag­ic as it would be to loose them, 903 of my favorite pho­tos are stored on my Flickr account. And because I emailed most of them to Flickr via Gmail most of those are also stored on Gmail. I will do every­thing I can to get those lost pho­tos but the worst case sce­nario is that I will be stuck with “only” those 900.

Your Exam­ples?

I’d love to hear how oth­ers are using “the cloud” as real-time backup.

On shoestrings and keepin’ on

There's some interesting follow-up on the Cindy Sheehan "resignation" (see yesterday's post). One fellow I corresponded with years ago gave a donation then sent an email urging us not to fall into despair. It's hard.
Go beyond Democratic Party fronts like MoveOne and you'll find the most of the peace movement is a ridiculously shoestring operation. Nonviolence.org's four month "ChipIn" fundraising campaign raised $50 per month but the sacrifice isn't just short-term--just try applying for a mainstream job with a resume chock full of social change work!
Michael Westmoreland-White over on the Levellers blog talks about "keeping going through the despair":http://levellers.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/needed-for-long-haul-peacemaking-a-spirituality-of-nonviolence/:
bq. This is a cautionary tale for the rest of us, including myself. Outrage, righteous indignation, anger, public grief, are all valid reactions to war and human rights abuses, but they will get us only so far. They may strain marriages and family life. They may lead to speech and action that is not in the spirit of nonviolence and active peacemaking. And, since imperialist militarism is a system (biblically speaking, a Power), it will resist change for the good. Work for justice and peace over the long haul requires spiritual discipline, requires deep roots in a spirituality of nonviolence, including cultivating the virtue of patience.
Michael's answer is specifically Christian but I think his advice to step back and attend to the roots of our activism is wise despite one's motivations.
Sheehan's retirement didn't stop her from "talking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning":http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/30/1343232. She talks about cash-starved peace activists and contrasts them with the tens of millions presidential candidates are raising, most of which will go to big media TV networks for ads. Sheehan says we need more than just an antiwar movement:
bq. Like, ending the Vietnam War was major, but people left the movement. It was an antiwar movement. They didn’t stay committed to true and lasting peace. And that’s what we really have to do.
More Cindy Sheehan reading across the blogosphere available via "Google":http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=cindy+sheehan&btnG=Search+Blogs and "Technorati":http://technorati.com/tag/cindy+sheehan.
And for those looking for a little good news check out the brand new site for the "Global Network for Nonviolence":http://gn-nonviolence.org/. I designed it for them as part of my "freelance design work":http://www.martinkelley.com but it's been a joy and a lot of fun to be working more closely with a good group of international activists again. Their "nonviolence links":http://gn-nonviolence.org/links.php page includes sites for some really committed grassroots peacemakers. This long-term peace work may not give us headlines in the New York Times but it's touched millions over the years. If humanity is ever going to grow into the kind of culture of peace Sheehan dreams of then we'll need a lot more wonderful projects like these.