I recently had the pleasure of attending an event for Beth Kanters’ new book Measuring The Networked Nonprofit, Using Data to Change the World. If you are a person interested in nonprofits, you have probably heard of Beth, sometimes known as “The Queen of Nonprofits.”
I interact with hundreds of nonprofits a week. A common theme is that they all want to have a bigger positive impact in this world, in one way or another. Inspired by Beth’s talk and book, I want to share a few thoughts that might inspire you. One thing she said was that technology changes fast, people change slower, and organizations change at a glacier rate. A funny thought to some, but one that resonated with me very much. I know that when many of us feel stuck in the middle of a project and do not see change or progress happening fast enough, we often want to give up. Beth and her co-author Katie Paine stress the idea that “incremental success is not failure” and encourage us to “not give up in the middle”. This point was made specifically in regards to social media. Their point is that many nonprofits experiment with this social media, but when they hit an obstacle in the road, the organization often sees it as failure and gives up on the new strategy. They remind us that “everything looks like failure in the middle.”
Does this theme seem familiar to a project or campaign in your organization? Perhaps it hits a nerve for you personally? Has there been an event or campaign that you finished that did not bring you the desired results? I speak to a handful of clients every month that have tried our auction management platform for one year and then, because it did not produce the expected results, the organization decides to call it quits. Social media and auctions have something in common. The more you share, listen, and build them through small caring steps the more powerful they can become over time.
Beth and Katie would recommend that you should not give up on your next social media campaign at the half-way point if it is not yielding results. I would also encourage you to not give up on your big campaign or personal goals because they have not produced the immediate results you wanted. Be patient, practice, measuring what you can and improve upon it again and again and again. Nelson Mandela said it best "it always seems impossible until it's done."
Beth Kanter (@kanter) is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. She co-authored the book titled “The Networked Nonprofit” with Allison Fine (published in 2010) that received Honorable Mention for the Terry McAdams Award. Beth has over 30 years experience working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing. Her second book, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”, with co-Author Katie Paine, will be published in October 2012.
As a relatively new employee at BiddingForGood, I have been struck by how many of our customers are incredibly passionate about the causes they serve. Many are committed to helping and empowering people less fortunate. A story caught my attention last week about a tasteless tweet during one of the presidential debates from social and political commentator Anne Coulter in which she uses the R (Retard) word to refer to the President of the United States. The most compelling part of this story was how a 30-year-old Special Olympic athlete named John Franklin Stephens responded. He wrote an eloquent response which was downright inspiring to me.
Rather than focusing on the ignorance and insensitivity of Ms. Coulter’s tweet, his carefully planned response turned a negative and hurtful comment into a positive and inspirational teaching moment for Ms. Coulter and the rest of the world.
Instead of angrily lashing out at Ms. Coulter, as many people (including me) would be inclined to do, Mr. Stephens made the brave decision to exemplify why using the R-word as an insult is not only offensive and reckless, but also incredibly distorted. Here is what Mr. Stephens said to her.
“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.”
Mr. Stephens shows us first hand the strength of character one develops through overcoming physical and mental disadvantages. I find that, despite the adversity he has faced, his ability to maintain an optimistic attitude and display a genuine excitement for life to be truly inspirational.
Since I have begun working for BiddingForGood, I have been pleased to realize there are many people in this world who share Mr. Stephens’ inspirational qualities. So many of our clients have dedicated their lives to aid, support, and empower people facing hardship and adversity.
Mr. Stephens also reminds us that every individual is responsible for their actions and the mark they leave on society. We can choose to replicate Ms. Coulter’s careless behavior; to ignore the golden rule of “treating others as we would like to be treated.” We can choose to ignore those who are marginalized in this world, or worse, we can choose to disparage them. Or, we can follow Mr. Stephens’ example and use the gifts we are given for the betterment of our lives as well as the lives of others.
I especially loved the way John Franklin Stephens signed his open letter to Ms. Coulter. The letter was signed as "The Friend You Haven't Met Yet". Now, that's taking the high road.
In my town, Somerville, MA, there is a big movement towards shopping locally and supporting local owned, independent businesses. In fact, the town has its own Somerville Local First, an organization dedicated to this very movement. In a country where big box stores seem to rule to the land, it's refreshing to see a organization that helps foster the growth of locally owned, independent businesses. One of their (and many other Local First chapters) major campaigns is the 10% Shift, which encourages people to pledge to shift 10% of their spending from non-local businesses to local businesses. While 10% may not seem like much, it can make a big difference in your community!
This movement has really gotten me to think about where I'm spending my money and because of it I'm doing my best to opt for local, independent businesses rather than the larger, big box stores out there. And since I work for BiddingforGood, it's also gotten me to think of how this can effect our clients and their auctions. Don't worry - it's all good news!
It's been discussed on this blog many times before, but getting good items is paramount for a successful auction. When you start your item acquisition campaign, you should consider the locally owned, independent businesses in your area and get them involved. Take a walk around your neighborhood and take note of the shops around. Make up a list of the local businesses you visit on a regular (or not so regular) basis. Check and see if your town or area has their own Local First chapter and get a list of their members.
By getting local businesses to donate to your auction, they're not only supporting your organization and fundraiser, but you're also supporting them and helping the local economy. You're also making your catalog unique because it has items that are specific and special to your area.
Including local businesses in your online auction catalog is a win for everyone involved:
Your Organization: You have a great item to auction off, which will help you raise more money and reach your goals.
Local Business: By donating items, they are getting some great marketing benefits by participating in your auction (such as a hyperlinked logo). They are also associating themselves with a non-profit organization who's goal is to benefit their community!
Your Bidders: They're getting an awesome item, helping a non-profit organization, and are supporting local business!
It's a win-win...win!