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.
Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a cat lover. My entire life I’ve had cats and all of them have meant the world to me. Even my cubicle at work is graced with many cat pictures and a Nora the Piano Playing Cat calendar. (You must check out her video on youtube if you haven’t seen it!)
Sometimes after a long day, I head over to the Pet Smart near our office to visit the cats who are waiting there to be adopted. It took a few visits, but I soon realized that Pet Smart hosts the cats but Broken Tail Rescue is the non-profit that brings them there. Broken Tail Rescue posts information on each cat. The basics like their age, name, and gender are included but there’s also a little snippet about how they got there. Each cat has their own unique story.
It reminds me of the many Animal Welfare organizations that run auctions with us like the Pet Network Humane Society that is open now. Pet Network is a recognized leader in animal rescue, adoption, and education. And Cat Haven in Louisiana that has an auction opening today, for example. I recently liked their Facebook page and have seen many touching stories about cats that have been fostered and adopted. They even have a reminder on how to keep pets safe during Hurricane Isaac. Not everyone is able to adopt an animal, but our auctions offer many great opportunities for animal lovers to help and win something they’ll love.
I think there’s an instinct to help within all of us; including animals. Think of all the wonderful stories we hear on the news of animals helping people and each other. The instinct to help each other is clearly a universal one, but some follow that instinct more than others. It is easy to forget with everything else going on in our lives. But every day there are people who don’t forget to help. I know that all of our bidders and clients are among the people who make it a part of their daily lives to remember. If we could all be so generous and devoted as our animals.
Welcome to 2012: A year in which we will elect a new President; figure out how to navigate life without Oprah; and hopefully, bring the funding of non-profits back to pre-recession levels. With a bright shiny New Year on the horizon, there were a lot of opinions shared this week forecasting the trends that will shape the non-profit industry in 2012. We’ve collected them for you here in our weekly round up.
First, Non Profit Quarterly took a stab at identifying the broader social trends that will impact non-profits this year. Some that we found particularly interesting include:
- Growing income inequity—number of those in poverty in U.S. highest ever. This will, no doubt, increase the need for the services non-profits provide.
- Even among nonprofits, the rich seem to be getting richer. Popular charities and non-profits are easier to find and therefore dominate the race for donation dollars. This means smaller organizations will need to get savvy in order to keep themselves in operation.
- The economy continues to be unpredictable in most ways and state and local budgets often increasingly stretched paper-thin. This means more cuts to critical services and an increase in the need for non-profits to fill the funding gap.
Next, we found an interesting infographic on Non-Profit Marketing Guide on how non-profits plan on communicating to their supporters this year. Most interesting was that 77 percent of non-profits plan on emailing their donors at least once a month. That is up 75 percent form last year. 51 percent of non-profits plan to send mail to their supporters at least 4 times a year. That is down 55 percent from last year. This is a clear sign that marketing efforts are shifting and taking an increasingly digital approach. We think this is a smart and cost effective move.
The final story we want to share this week, was posted by Sherry Truhlar from Red Apple Auctions. It included predictions for charity auctions in 2012. In her piece, Sherry predicts this will be the year online auctions will really explode and become a part of the gala experience. We wholeheartedly agree. In addition, she predicts a proliferation of mobile bidding. We see this as an exciting area we intend to embrace in the next twelve months. We hope you’ll join us in making this prediction a reality.
I recently had a conversation with Jaime Zagami, spokesperson for American Corporate Partners. I thought it would be great to shed some light on a non-profit which helps private sectors give back. A reciprocal model of BiddingForGood, I find it interesting how non-profits and business can assist each other in efforts to attain “Goodness In Action.”
(Courtesy of Jaime Zagami)
There are thousands of military service men and women stationed across the globe who won’t be seeing their families this holiday season. With President Obama drawing troops down and out of Afghanistan and Iraq, those who are coming home will face a job market that is less than welcoming. This challenge is especially daunting for those who have never had a formal job interview or written a civilian résumé. This is where American Corporate Partners (ACP) can help.
ACP, a national non-profit based in New York City, launched a brand new initiative to help veterans achieve their career goals in an online setting. The first of its kind, ACP AdvisorNet is a free “Quick Question Community” connecting veterans across the globe with business leaders. Through an interactive and easy-to-use interface, veterans can ask questions about: employment, career development, and small business and receive advice from business professionals with expertise in a variety of fields. Veterans and Advisors can follow topics and Q&A threads, or send private messages to initiate offline conversation with other users.
ACP AdvisorNet is open to all current and former members of the U.S. Military and their immediate family and business leaders nationwide can log in to share their expertise and advice. All users can ask or answer questions whenever they want, wherever they are, and are able to see the professional and/or military backgrounds of other users, promoting an environment of accountability and trust.
When you have a moment or two to spare this holiday season, consider logging on to say thank you to our military service members by answering one of their questions and helping them make a successful transition from the military to the private sector.
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!
CSR can come in all types of forms. Some businesses run cause marketing campaigns and donate a portion of sales to causes, some businesses pledge by going green and using sustainable products and others become corporate citizens.
The CSR space is becoming so popular that there are even prestigious awards that recognize companies who are ‘doing good’. For example, Cause Marketing Forum just announced the winners of their Halo Awards for best Cause Marketing Campaigns.
Whatever form of CSR a business takes on, it is exciting to see this movement and its increased importance just over the past 5 years. At BiddingForGood, we run a private company that is designed to raise funds for causes. Over the years, we have improved on those designs to ensure that more money goes back in the pocket of our cause client. We have designed programs for businesses to directly connect with causes by BrandingForGoodTM. We launched an Automated Item Request System (AIRS), free for businesses, to help with their charity donation requests, and we recently just introduced our GoodometerTM which gauges our level of social impact on dollar/hour by hour basis. We share the GoodometerTM license for free to any other business who wants to measure their social good.
We would like to thank all of our partners and will be writing more about who these generous companies are and what exactly it is that they are doing.
In the mean time, who are your favorite companies that give back? Is it your bank? Is it your favorite apparel retailer? Whoever it is, please share with us!