Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's McChrystal Clear - Rogue Interviews & Your Small Nonprofit

President Barack Obama meets with Army Lt. Gen...Image via Wikipedia
Although the White House stalled as long as possible so that no one could say they "rushed to judgement," General McChrystal has left the building no longer in charge of the Afghanistan Operation. This was an outcome I expected. What I kept wondering about, though, was what-in-the-world made him give this interview to the person he gave it to? There's a whole lot of interesting lessons on leadership to be gleaned from this story, and no doubt there will be a book. But as far as your small nonprofit goes, the lesson to be heeded here is:

One of Our Own Dissed Us Online - Now What?

Sometime, during the (hopefully) long life of your nonprofit, one of your own will say something stupid and/or hurtful about the NP, the staff, the board, the population being served or all of the above. In the olden days, the worst scenario was an ill-advised off-the-cuff that came out wrong when told to a print or TV reporter. These days, it could hit Twitter or Facebook or a forum on Ning and ricochet around the internet where it could haunt both the speaker and your nonprofit for as long as the social media ether exists, like that re-occurring email about Neiman-Marcus (or Mrs. Fields, or Macy's or Famous Amos) and the $250 chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Someone will probably tell you about it, or you may be fortunate enough to stumble across it on your own, since you're supposed to be involved in social media on behalf of your NP, anyway. Once you know about it, you should:

  • alert the E.D. and let him/her call the Board President - make sure the E.D. has the link
  • check to see if there are any other instances of it on other SM sites
  • check to see if it's being forwarded, stumbled upon, tweeted or shared and by whom and how fast it's spreading, if it is and make sure the E.D. has this information
It will be up to the E.D. and the Board to talk to the person who made the remark and determine what his/her relationship to the NP will be, going forward. Likely, if the remark affects a particular program, the E.D. will want to bring the program manager into the discussion about the possible reach and damage. If you're the resident social media person, they're going to ask you to help formulate a response, which may be to do nothing.

Pick Your Battles

If the person making the remark made it in an out-of-the-way place and it wasn't picked up by anyone and bruited about, the best choice may be not to give this smoldering little coal any more fuel. If it's a major flap, then a full effort will need to be mapped out, including having the person making the remark retract it, if possible. And this means that you'll have to create a strategy and call out the tactics to be used in that strategy.

Formulate a Battle Plan Ahead of Need

My suggestion is not to wait to come up with some possible plans - do what the generals do, and consider the possible scenarios and come up with appropriate responses and back-up plans. With luck, you'll never need them, but if you do, the faster you can respond, the better. Especially if what was said, though unpleasant, is true.

It's a Small World, After All

There's an old saying I have hanging in my home: "If anyone speaks evil of you, let your life be such that no one will believe him." It's a reminder to me of two things: one, to try to live kindly and honestly with others and two, that your neighbor might not believe slander about you, but that guy on the other side of town, reading about it on Facebook, just might. And in these days of near-instant communications, that could be a real problem for your mission and those you serve.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sometimes the "Madding Crowd" May Be Just What Your Small Nonprofit Needs

 I've never been a big fan of crowds, but there's no denying that a virtual crowd is what supports the efforts of most nonprofits. One of the good things about being a small nonprofit, is that you have a better-than-average chance of knowing more of your crowd. And where they hang out. But that downside of that is that you can wear your welcome thin if you're always going back to the same donors. Yet, if you're a small nonprofit in a small town, how do you reach out past your community borders? Through the internet, of course, and social media.


This was one of the big topics at this year's SXSW. Care2 and other fundraising bloggers were there to watch Beth Kanter and Mark Horvath (Invisible People Project) talk about how to go about using it to fund projects.

Of course, crowdsourcing by itself is not a new thing - for centuries, small groups have solicited donations for specific projects like new playground equipment for a local park or additional funds for after school art projects. And that, of course, is the central point of crowdsourcing - that it's very focused. It's a lot harder to get people excited about something as diffuse as several programs at one time, unless you're putting on a festival. It's a lot easier to put a face on a project and make the project more adoptable if it's very defined. An exception to this may be the crowdsourcing done by Shakespeare Santa Cruz a couple of years ago. They could have attempted to fund one or another of the plays, but they chose to try to crowdsource funding for the season and it worked. Would it have worked so well if they were not a nationally-known group? I don't know, but for sure, being nationally-recognized didn't hurt.

How Do You Crowdsource Outside the Community?

Shakespeare Santa Cruz used their website and their knowledge of Facebook and Twitter and other social networks and they had some really good cheerleaders who kept the discussion going and the struggle in the public eye. Whether or not your small nonprofit has those advantages, there are some new tools you can use.

Today, I signed up on Crowdrise (it was the picture of the napkin that did it). This is one of several new networks where you can post a project and work to get it funded through donations. For example, here's how Crowdwise works:

Though I haven't given them more than a light review, most of them seem to work the same way, as opposed to say, a brand offering x amount of money to a nonprofit based on how many votes it gets. I definitely like this better, since it gives people the opportunity to give as their heart dictates without having to choose between two or more projects they may feel are worthy.

If you'd like to know more about the future of crowdsourcing for nonprofit projects, take a look at these blog posts:
For a couple of case studies of using social media crowdsourcing, take a look at:
If you have used crowdsourcing for your small nonprofit, what was your experience?

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's MY Car - I'm Gonna Do the Drivin' Drivin'

Flickr!Image by Sam Stoner via Flickr

You can get plenty of help putting together a social media strategy for your small nonprofit. But do you just blindly have to trust the experts? Should you go with your gut or are you looking for something a little more scientific?

A post I read recently on the Sources of Insight blog gives a breakdown of why we make bad decisions. We might begin by determining the basis for a decision on a social media platform using Bernoulli's Formula:

Expected Value = the product of two things (odds of gain) x (value of gain)

That is, what are the odds that we will get the result that we want and what is the value of what we expect to gain? Then, is the value of what we stand to gain high enough to justify the risk of the odds against it?

But Who Determines the Odds and the Value?

Well, you do. And that's where we run into trouble, apparently. We tend to underestimate the odds and overestimate the value.The author of the post, J.D. Meier, suggests three strategies for lessening the risk of under and over estimating and they're worth a look (link follows this post). Read the comments, too. Part of determining value can be found in following your heart, as one exchange between a reader and J.D. makes clear.

My take-away from J.D.'s post in terms of social media and small nonprofits is that, when deciding value it's best to think in terms of concrete goals. And if you haven't a lot of experience using social media, it's best to start out with a small goal. Once you have the goal in mind, you can better calculate the odds of one or more social media platforms or combinations of platforms in assisting your small nonprofit in reaching that goal. And I would insert an effort factor into the equation - what kind of effort will be required from you in order for the odds for success to be more favorable than not?

It's your car, you have to do the driving, so it's a good idea to make sure the trip might be worth it before you hit the road.

The blog post referenced here is: Why We Make Bad Decisions by J.D. Meier

The title of this post is from "It's My Car" by one of my favorite 1980s bands, The Waitresses, from their album Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?

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