WolfBrown: On Our Minds

Posts tagged ‘social media’

The Next Best Practices

June 15th, 2010

As a consultant, I’m used to identifying “best practice” models, as they are useful for clients to learn from the exemplary experience of others. So I was interested to see Beth Kanter mention “next practices” in her blog.  When it comes to technology, she’s right at the front of the line, especially relative to social media, so it’s not surprising that she’s latched onto the concept of crowd-sourcing and “next practices,” a subtle shift from our common thinking. A little research finds mention of “next practices” as far back as 2006, in an article by John R. Sullivan, now a professor of management at San Francisco State University. He focuses on the increasing speed of innovation and the need to look outside our core business to explore new models. And Saul Kaplan, the founder of the Business Innovation Factory, argues that “All leaders should spend more discretionary time outside of their industry, discipline, and sector…The big and important value-creating opportunities will most likely be found in the gray areas between the silos we inhabit.”

So many aspects of arts and culture are changing so rapidly that we often haven’t had time to sort out what the best practices are. We can learn from what others are trying, even before their approaches have been anointed as “best.” And as various fields and disciplines shift and merge, looking outside our usual range of comparatives could provide just the flash of strategic or tactical insight needed to move an organization forward. So while we still need to cultivate best practices, let’s keep a forward-looking eye to next practices.



Anyone trying to sort out the new world of fundraising in the digital age should consider the research and findings of The Next Generation of American Giving:  A study on the multichannel preferences and charitable habits of Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Matures. It sorts out by age segment how people learn about charities, get involved, and decide to give. The big lessons: “Fundraising is profoundly multichannel,” and “The younger the donor, the greater the number of ways they give.” To be effective, organizations have to reach out to all generations in multiple ways and provide a variety of paths to involvement and donation, including traditional direct mail, but also encompassing newer social media channels. It also means that organizations have to structure internal fundraising, communications, and technology operations in ways that integrate those functions toward shared goals, and that fundraising database applications have to be able to track all of the different ways organizations are connecting with donors. It gets harder and harder to tell which solicitation a donor is responding to in a multichannel model. Where did they hear about us? What message connected with them? These questions can leave us scratching our heads. But the study also points out the eternal fundraising truth that, “There is not a single tactic or giving channel that is nearly as important as the quality of your message and your ability to inspire, arouse, and engage the hearts and minds of your donors.”  We live in interesting times.


Accountability…transparency…openness in communication… These are “buzz words” today in many sectors, both for-profit and nonprofit and the Foundation Center has offered a service to the nonprofit sector that provides all of this – and more – about leading foundations in America.  They call this service Glasspockets.  I visited the site and was astonished at what they have done.  They have identified 22 measures of transparency and accountability, and they have already collected information of all of these measures for 15 major foundations.  See their report on The Rockefeller Foundation, for example.  Glasspockets also provides key information on Web 2.0 communication tools (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn) that foundations are now using to increase their transparency to the public.  The immediacy of communication on the web provides us all with information that used to be nearly impossible to get.  Sometimes I find it overwhelming.



April 2nd, 2010

Are we at the cusp of a new, more democratic model of funding the arts?  Several weeks ago, Joe Kluger wrote about Pepsi and other corporations that are using social media to crowd-source grantmaking.  Power to the people?  Not so fast, says our friend and colleague John Shibley. “I admire the faith you place in the masses.  I wish I shared it.”  Shibley argues that crowd-sourcing might be good for rating restaurants, but might not be an effective approach to solving complex social problems.  ”If popularity proved quality, then TV ought to be full of masterpieces.”  Personally, I am less interested in the application of the American Idol principles of audience engagement to grantmaking than I am in exploiting the potential of web-based technologies to drive new approaches to fundraising.  Last year, I followed with interest several news stories about online fundraising initiatives.  The Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan’s one-day Community Foundation Challenge-Arts and Culture on August 18 generated over $4.9 million for 75 arts groups, leveraging $1.6 million in matching funds from the foundation, well surpassing the original goal of $3 million.  With just $500,000 in matching funds, GiveMN, a Minnesota fundraising campaign, raised $14 million through a 24-hour “Give to the Max Day” event via the Internet, donated by 39,000 people.  Check out the next-generation fundraising site, www.GiveMN.org, funded by the Minnesota Community Foundation.  And The Pittsburgh Foundation through its Match Day in October, raised $1.5 million in online gifts in 22 minutes and 11 seconds.

What fascinates me most about all this is the power of the ‘limited-time’ event to capture the attention of the public.  What would explain why tens of thousands of people flock to a website at the same moment in time to donate?  While I would like to think the matching incentive is a motivation, as well as the immutable deadline, this alone doesn’t explain it.  Most certainly there are other, more subtle, psychological factors at play, both altruistic and selfish.  The emergence of community-wide online fundraising “events” underscores the critical importance to arts groups of being able to mobilize their constituents electronically.  New technologies are reshaping the giving patterns of ordinary people who understand that they can play a small, meaningful part in changing the world, or at least their own community.



Pepsi Refresh Project

March 4th, 2010

Personally, I prefer Diet Coke to Diet Pepsi.  But, an exciting new grant program from Pepsi is causing me to reconsider.  The Pepsi Refresh Project is giving away $1.3 million every month through January 2011 to individuals and organizations that develop innovative programs which have a positive impact on their communities.  What is unique – at least for now – about the Pepsi initiative is the way it uses the empowering principles of social media technology to determine grant awards.  Other corporations – including Western Union, Microsoft, Target, and J.P. Morgan Chase – have occasionally used interactive technology to solicit applications and user recommendations for corporate contributions.  Pepsi has taken the concept further, by leveraging its resources with the democratic principles of such user controlled philanthropy incubator sites as kickstarter.comchipin.com, and kiva.org.  Pepsi accepts grants in six categories (Arts and Culture, Health, Food and Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods, Education) and awards several in each category at the end of each month, based on the number of votes submitted for each application by members of the public.  In these challenging times, it is nice to see a company spend over $15 million on a program to improve its corporate image, which also provides resources that support good causes.  While the Pepsi project will quickly become very competitive and not solve any one organization’s financial problem, the real value of this innovative project would be if their use of social media principles had a viral impact on other corporate, foundation, and government grant making processes.


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