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Cartoon: stressed-out people working overtime at the Center for Work-Life balance

Life in the balance

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If you work or volunteer with a mission-driven organization — or a consultancy that serves them — it’s easy to get caught up in the “mission” and “driven” aspects. Taking time to look after yourself can seem like the ultimate self-indulgence when the world is on fire. And yet self-care is crucial if you want to be at your most effective in working for change.

Maybe it’s a little myopic to think that became a lot more important after November 8, 2016. Or maybe it’s just that a lot of people who are new to activism and organizing for change are going to find it out the hard way. Either way, there’s a book that can help. A lot.

(Regular Noise to Signal readers can probably sing along at this point. :))

It’s Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman‘s new book The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit. They promise “strategies for impact without burnout,” and the book delivers. (The fact that it also delivers a batch of Noise to Signal cartoons is, of course, a delightful bonus.) I heartily recommend it as a gift for both the grizzled campaign veteran and the activist n00b in your life.

(one of two people with adult coloring books) I'm doing the picture of the nonprofit staffer now. Do you have a color that says "totally stressed and burning out"?

Color me stressed

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I completely didn’t grok the adult coloring books phenomenon when they first came out. Odd for a cartoonist, I guess, but coloring has always been secondary to the drawing process for me.

And then this summer we picked up To the Moon: The Tallest Coloring Book in the World. We still haven’t finished it, and we’ve been working on it in fits and starts… but it’s a helluva lot of fun. And I finally get it.

At some point one evening as I shaded an alien swinging from a fuel tank, I flashed on my parents and me as we colored DoodleArt posters on the coffee table in the 1970s. Nice to know there’s a multicoloured line from their coffee table to ours.

Coloring can be wonderfully relaxing, even meditative. Which is why it shows up (along with this cartoon) in Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman’s The Happy Healthy Nonprofit. “Strategies for impact without burnout” is the book’s subtitle…and if coloring in can help avoid burning out, then pass me the pencil crayons.

(Bartender to customer) Okay, one more triple bacon-infused tequila. But I'm adding a kale garnish because wellness.

Nonprofit with highballs

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Mm. Kale.

This cartoon comes from the foreword to The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, written by the witty and wonderful Vu Le. If you’re in the nonprofit sector, you need to read his blog — both for the wisdom and insight it shares, and for the comic relief he provides from what can be a pretty grim world out there. (Hey, that’s why we’re trying to change it, am I right?)

Vu’s latest post is titled “7 agreements for productive conversations during difficult times,” and he suggests seven ways we can make the rocky road ahead a little smoother for each other. Given the week we’ve just had, his timing couldn’t be better.

That’s the kind of care and compassion every nonprofit should embrace.

As a quick writing exercise, fill in three ways to get from that sentence to the idea of wellness.

___________________________________

___________________________________

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Great job! And thanks for writing my segue for me! You’re awesome!

Wellness is at the heart of The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, the new book by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman, featuring health-inducing cartoons by yours truly. They make the case for putting it at the heart of your organization, too — along with advice for doing just that. Go check it out, and I hope you’ll give it a read!

(Therapist to angry man holding two pieces of clipboard) I believe "snapped self-assessment quiz clipboard in half with bare hands" is a 3.8 on the Scarcella-Turgemeyer Stress Scale.

Under pressure

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Oh, stress. You’re the kick in the pants I sometimes need to meet a deadline or escape a pursuing grizzly. But you can also freak me the hell out, cause me sleepless nights, skew my judgement and make me think drawing a flurry of red ballcaps can stave off disaster.

It does the same to all of us. And organizations where stress as the main thing driving their staff can expect to see mistakes, conflict, accidents and a lot of people missing work because of illness. (So, more than just broken clipboards.)

Hence this cartoon, my latest from Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman‘s new book The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit. And hence the book’s point, which is not only to steer organizations away from burnout, but also to boost all-around performance. (Not to mention making people suffer a lot less. And lowering your office-supply costs.)

Go, check it out, and maybe give a copy to a nonprofit leader you care about.

I can’t stress that enough.

Extreme mute

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A public service message to people who use transit: if your mobile device is going to be peppered with inbound notifications, kindly. switch. off. the. audio. tone.

That helps reduce the stress of folks around you. What it doesn’t address is the stress that a constant stream of notifications can do to your blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Especially because it seems like every app wants to be able to get hold of you day and night. And most of the time it’s just to whine at you that you haven’t been using the app enough. (“It’s been three hours since you last posted a Fleg on the Flegmar App! Your Fleg score is falling! Your friendships are withering! You will die alone and unloved!”)

And it isn’t just apps. Now web sites get to prompt your browser to ask permission to notify you. (And usually they don’t say why. Just “Gary’s Hedgehog Fetish Site Wants You At His Beck and Call. Click here.”)

Paying attention to how our use of technology (and vice versa) affects our well-being brings us to The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, the new book by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman. (Return visitors to Noise to Signal will know THHNP is replete with fresh new cartoons by yours truly.) As the book’s publisher describes it,

The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit presents realistic strategies for leaders looking to optimize organizational achievement while avoiding the common nonprofit burnout. With a uniquely holistic approach to nonprofit leadership strategy, this book functions as a handbook to help leaders examine their existing organization, identify trouble spots, and resolve issues with attention to all aspects of operations and culture. The expert author team walks you through the process of building a happier, healthier organization from the ground up, with a balanced approach that considers more than just quantitative results. Employee wellbeing takes a front seat next to organizational performance, with clear guidance on establishing optimal systems and processes that bring about better results while allowing a healthier work-life balance. By improving attitudes and personal habits at all levels, you’ll implement a positive cultural change with sustainable impact.

Sound good? It’s actually great, and I dearly hope it helps to transform the nonprofit sector. Plus, you know, cartoons. Get your copy here.

(one coworker to another as they look at a small, incessantly yapping dog) Clearly, there's some nuance to this "relieve stress by bringing a dog to the office" thing.

The sound and the furry

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Of all the cartoons I drew for The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, this was the most fun. It may be my favourite of all the dog drawings I’ve done (heaven knows I’ve drawn my share of dogs). I hope you like it.

You know what else drawing that dog was? Therapeutic. Maybe not as therapeutic as having an actual adorable animal in the office, but awfully calming. And finding some measure of balance through meditative drawing is just one of the practices that Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman suggest in their book.

A reminder if you haven’t followed this series the past few weeks: in The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, Aliza and Beth argue that wellness belongs at the heart of every nonprofit. And they give you solid advice for putting it there: through personal practice and organizational change. This is the fifth of the cartoons they invited me to draw for the book, and I’ll post several more in the coming days.

But you don’t have to wait on my posting schedule. You can see the cartoons right away with this amazing lifehack: ordering the book. Go! Go now! Fetch!

(sleepless woman in bed, to her partner) Well, on the upside, I'm a shoo-in to win the office sleep-deprivation pool.

40 winks

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Sleep-avoidance is a holy sacrament in the Church of Very Busy People. And truth be told, I’m a more observant member of the congregation than I’d like to think I am. But I’m working on it. In fact, the moment I wrote that last night I recognized what I was doing and went to bed.

There’s a particularly militant faction of my church (and I’ll cop to attending more than a few services). Adherents to that strain of the faith work for non-profits and advocacy groups in service of a shared mission. And if you’re one of those folks, it’s way too easy to convince yourself to sacrifice a few hours of sleep, or yet another workout, or a healthy meal, or investing in a relationship, in the name of The Cause.

This cartoon is from a book offering several helpful heresies that just might save the lives of some members of the flock. It’ll definitely make them more effective in changing the world. The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman argues wellness belongs at the heart of every nonprofit. And Aliza and Beth give you solid advice for putting it there.

This is the fourth of the cartoons they invited me to draw for the book, and I’ll post several more in the coming days. But you don’t have to wait for me to hit publish — and you probably shouldn’t, given my newfound interest in sleeping. You can see the cartoons right away with this simple hack: ordering the book.

Enjoy! Just don’t stay up too late reading it.

Cartoon: a supervisor asks an employee in the middle of a meditation session how that donor retention report is coming

Pro tip: make your task list your meditation mantra!

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No rest for the wicked… or, apparently, for the mindful. Meditate on that.


On October 10, Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman are releasing The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout. It makes a compelling case that nonprofits can benefit tremendously from embracing a commitment to health and wellness.

I’m so psyched that Beth and Aliza invited me to draw a series of cartoons for it. I’ll be publishing a selection over the coming days, so keep coming back!

And please consider pre-ordering The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit. Pre-orders can make a big difference to a book’s success, and I’m convinced the more people who get this book’s message, the better.

Pheidippides, meet Fitbippides

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This cartoon goes out to three people:

Uncharitable

Sketchnotes from #13ntc: the Nonprofit Technology Conference

Sketchnotes from #13ntc: the Nonprofit Technology Conference published on 1 Comment on Sketchnotes from #13ntc: the Nonprofit Technology ConferencePurchase print

Here are my sketchnotes from the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference. The sessions I drew include panels on:

And then there were the keynotes:

  • Beth Kanter’s panel on Placing Small Bets – which was both a thoughtful exploration of the power and limits of experimentation in the nonprofit world, and a great example of how panels can be more than the sum of their (mighty impressive) parts
  • Dan Pallotta‘s Uncharitable, arguing that nonprofits are trapped in a paradigm of self-sacrifice and calling for charities to throw off the shackles of philanthropy as usual

It’s my favourite conference of the year… even if (see next cartoon) I spent an awful lot of this year’s edition in airports, waiting for the weather to clear.

14. Measuring the impact of the crowd

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it.

This is the final cartoon in the series. So go buy a copy right now so Katie and Beth will have to write another book! And then make effective measurement one of your new year’s resolutions.

>>> *** <<<

Chapter 14 is the conclusion, and it’s both the most inspiring and the scariest part of the book. Inspiring, because it’s about your organization’s fundamental goals. And scary, because it’s about whether you’re achieving them – or, in the inspired words of a New Yorker cartoon, whether it’s “just so much pointing and clicking.”

Maybe that’s ultimately why so many of us still resist measurement. The warm, furry comfort of thinking we might be making progress is a lot more alluring than the threat of cold, clammy certainty that we’ve been spinning our wheels. Not that we’d make that calculation consciously; it just makes us that much more willing to postpone thinking about something as big and daunting as a measurement strategy.

Which is why Beth and Katie’s book is important. Really important.

It’s important because it breaks the enormous idea of a measurement strategy into far more manageable pieces, each with its own practical steps and potential wins. And for managers and leaders who can never seem to set aside a huge chunk of time and attention, that means a chance to at least take the first step, and then the second… until you’ve made enough progress to make a more ambitious commitment to measurement possible. (Crawl, walk, run, fly, as Beth says.)

And it’s important because while we do need a little fear to push us — when the monster in the closet is real, pretending it’s imaginary doesn’t work — we also need the pull of inspiration. In case after case, Katie and Beth show us how using measurement in an intelligent, thoughtful way can mean we have more impact, in terms of genuine meaningful change.

We can identify the tactics that aren’t working and redirect their resources to tactics than do; we can take strategies built on wishful thinking and ground them in certainty. And whether we measure the resulting progress in lives saved, jobs created, houses built, animals rescued, crimes prevented, wells dug, gardens tilled, hectares set aside for conservation, families lifted out of poverty or children united with new parents, we can know – know – that we are changing the world.

Have a fantastic, inspiring and measurable 2013.

13. I can see right through your nonprofit!

13. I can see right through your nonprofit! published on No Comments on 13. I can see right through your nonprofit!Purchase print

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it.

There’s only one more cartoon left to post! Quick, go buy a copy right now so Katie and Beth will have to write another book!

12. Influence

12. Influence published on No Comments on 12. InfluencePurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

11. My God, it’s full of nodes!

11. My God, it’s full of nodes! published on No Comments on 11. My God, it’s full of nodes!Purchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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Chapter 11 is called “Understanding, Visualizing and Improving Networks,” is your introduction to the world of network analysis. That’s a dry-sounding term for a truly juicy topic: mapping and understanding your organization’s network of support and attention.

Why juicy? Because mapping your network takes an abstract concept and makes it visual – and once it’s visual, you can draw sudden, unexpected, profound insights.

For example, thanks to that map of Middle Earth on the opening pages of my copy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I knew long before any of the other characters that one really doesn’t simply walk into Mordor. (Also, that a horse-drawn wagon had jacknifed on the Old Forest Road and that drivers should take alternate routes to Mirkwood.)

Possibly more relevant is your ability to see who the hubs and influencers in your network are, and who’s on the periphery – where growth can take off. You can find gaps, identify weak and strong ties, and start measuring the value of your network. You can use something as sophisticated as an Excel plug-in, or as low-tech and analog as sticky notes.

Best of all, you can have a perfectly rational reason to create one of those Carrie-Mathison-style walls-of-clues-and-connections of your own. (Disclaimer: this is insufficient justification for doing this on behalf on your organization. But what you do on your own time is your own business.)

10. How many hectares is that relationship?

10. How many hectares is that relationship? published on No Comments on 10. How many hectares is that relationship?Purchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

<3 <3 <3

Chapter 10 takes you into advanced measurement, starting with how you measure relationships. Relationships are at the heart of social media; they’re the nucleus around which all else revolves. You can’t make the piñata of change without the papier maché of relationships – and yes, that metaphor is available for re-use under a Creative Commons license. You’re welcome.

But how do you measure relationships, and the value they offer? The book points to the surprisingly straightforward approach pioneered by professors James and Larissa Grunig, and how organizations can apply it to their own relationships. And as for value…

“Make a friend before you need one,” my communications mentor Dennis McGann used to tell me, and two anecdotes from the book bear his wisdom out: one, the online conversation that ensued after the accidental death of a SeaWorld trainer, and two, the way the American Red Cross was able to turn a Twitter misfire into a fundraising opportunity.

The latter incident saw a staffer tweet about getting drunk on Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer. Normally, that would be fine, except the employee used the official Red Cross account, which usually uses hashtags like #hurricane or #relief, and not – let me just check the spelling – #gettngslizzerd.

The organization responded swiftly, deleting the tweet but also explaining it wittily. Dogfish Head, meanwhile, encouraged its followers to donate to the Red Cross. They raised nearly $10,000, briefly crashing the Red Cross server and helping #gettngslizzerd to trend on Twitter.

The lesson is clear: when life gives you lemons, make beer.

9. Meowtrics and measurement: using your data to change the world

9. Meowtrics and measurement: using your data to change the world published on No Comments on 9. Meowtrics and measurement: using your data to change the worldPurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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 ww--ww

In Chapter 9, “Measurement and the Aha! Moment: Using Your Data to Tell Stories, Make Decisions and Change the World”, the rubber really hits the road. And because we’re changing the world, both the rubber and the road are made from reclaimed and recycled materials; the vehicle is electrically driven and charged from a wind-turbine-powered grid; and it’s actually not on the road at all because we’re taking modern commuter rail instead.

This is where you dive into the data and find actionable insights.

Roy Neary serves dinner

Side effects of reading this chapter include dramatic improvements in organizational effectiveness, and a compulsion to construct bar graphs out of Cheerios at the breakfast table – kind of like Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, only with data visualizations rather than perfectly-scaled replicas of Devil’s Tower.

And as with Roy Neary, your loved ones will still think you’re nuts, and your living room will end up filled with mud and the neighbours’ shrubs. (Actually, the mud may just be because I’ve misconfigured Google Analytics.)

In fact, one of the more exciting things you can find is a Devil’s Tower-shaped plateau in your metrics: not just a short-lived spike, but a significant, sustained increase in some measurable variable that matters to you. One such Devil’s Tower led Beth to start regularly posting Fun Geeky Friday Shares on her Facebook Page.

Also in this chapter, Katie makes a pretty compelling case that measurement is hawt.

8. Someone’s Looking at You: The Fine Art of Measuring

8. Someone’s Looking at You: The Fine Art of Measuring published on No Comments on 8. Someone’s Looking at You: The Fine Art of MeasuringPurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

___ ___ < • > < • >

Chapter 8, “Measurement Tools: How to Choose and Use the Right Tool for the Job,” will break your heart in two short sentences:

Many nonprofits think that fancy analytics or monitoring software will provide them with actionable information with just a click or two. This is seldom the case.

Dang. (By which I mean something less family-friendly.)

Fortunately, the work involved in turning data into insight can be actual fun. Katie and Beth walk you through choosing the tools to use (web analytics? a survey? content analysis?) depending on your goals and strategy, with an overview for each one. The section on surveys alone may be brief, but it’s worth the price of the book for anyone who’s been fumbling uncertainly with SurveyMonkey and wondering why they get such poor results.

Meanwhile, allow me to deploy a tool of my own to better understand my readers. By completing this survey, you’ll be entered to win a… um… uh… another cartoon tomorrow.

7. Me dot org

7. Me dot org published on No Comments on 7. Me dot orgPurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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Chapter 7 is titled “How to Turn Your Stakeholders into Fundraisers: Social Fundraising and How Measurement Can Make It More Effective”. (After seeing an early outline, I wanted to call it “Turning Philanthropy into Philanthro-we“. How history might have changed if I’d ever hit “send” on that email.)

Beth and Katie suggest defining social fundraising as “people asking personal networks to give support.” If you’ve ever had a Facebook notification that a friend suggested you donate to a particular organization on Causes, or seen any of the endlessly inventive campaigns run by supporters of charity: water, you’ve seen social fundraising.

And it can work well. But taking it beyond just “let’s ask our supporters to put a widget on their blogs” requires fundraising expertise, social savvy, some decent technical chops… and smart measurement. If the Obama campaign’s message and tactics seemed to be constantly evolving, it’s because they were – in response to the data they’d analyze obsessively over what kind of appeals worked on whom, when, and under what conditions. (To put it in terms that I can relate to, “The Borg have adapted to our multi-phasic shielding, Captain – their last three appeals got through untouched and caused major donations on Decks 12 through 15.”)

Warbler as seen through a telescope
Flickr photo: Yellow-throated warbler by hart_curt

Segmenting your audience is key, too. Katie and Beth look at how Blue State Digital’s segmentation strategy dramatically boosted the chances that an email appeal from Autism Speaks would get opened by its recipient. (I love segmentation purely on the strength of the names marketers like to give their segments: “Furious Experimenters,” “Jazz-Inflected Repeat Adolescents” and “Regret-Tinged Revenge-Seekers”. Half of them sound like they were lifted from the pages of an Audubon field guide; come to think of it, the notes that accompany segmentation reports often have that observed-from-inside-a-bird-blind feel to them.)

And as the authors point out, the return you get won’t just be in the form of credit card authorizations. You’ll have a larger, more engaged network of supporters, ready to take actions ranging from advocacy to, potentially, organizational leadership.

(An aside: Turning stakeholders into fundraisers was thought for a long time to be fraught with danger. Sure, you’d probably get some lovely networked fundraising… but what if it went wrong? What if you ended up with fund-holders and stake-raisers? Almost inevitably, pundits warned, you’d have an angry stake-wielding crowd chasing people holding fistfuls of cash. But then it actually happened, and was called Occupy Wall Street. It turns out that crowd just uses their stakes to hold up hand-lettered banners and enormous effigies representing leading economists from the Austrian School, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, slavish adherence to the ideas of Eugen Böhm von Bawerk has got to go!”)

6. “OMG, what happened to you?!” “I fell off our engagement ladder.”

6. “OMG, what happened to you?!” “I fell off our engagement ladder.” published on No Comments on 6. “OMG, what happened to you?!” “I fell off our engagement ladder.”Purchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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Chapter 6 is titled “The Ladder of Engagement: How to Measure Engagement and Use It to Improve Relationships with Your Stakeholders”. The authors walk us through the idea of online engagement that draws users into increasingly greater and more meaningful actions. You might start by following an organization on Twitter, then commenting on their blog, then making a small donation, and then giving them your house and becoming their Executive Director, and wondering how all of this happened in just three minutes. (That, friends, is what great interaction design can do.)

With some organizations, it really isn’t a ladder so much as a step-stool. They have a very limited number of roles for their supporters, and can’t really imagine how they could possible accommodate someone who’d like to work outside those boundaries. “Oh, you’d, uh, you’d like to get more involved (gulp) beyond writing a cheque every year. (gasp, pant) That’s great, that’s just wonderful. (ragged, rapid breathing) Could, could you please hand me that paper bag to breathe into for a moment? Never mind – I’ll be fine. Gosh, the room’s lovely when it spins like that. (thud)” For them, there’s Beth’s previous book (cowritten with Allison Fine), The Networked Nonprofit

5. A theory of change we can believe in

5. A theory of change we can believe in published on No Comments on 5. A theory of change we can believe inPurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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(That little separator was intended to be a hamster. So now you know why my preferred drawing tool is a stylus and not a keyboard.)

Chapter 5 is titled “Don’t confuse activity with results,” which ought to cause us all some deep-seated soul-searching. It’s so easy to fall into patterns of behaviour, trot out the same shopworn tactics for campaign after campaign, and never ask the basic question, “Is this actually getting us anywhere?”

Katie and Beth say it’s time we held our activity accountable. (Giant puppets at protest rallies, tremble; you may have just heard your death knell.) And they recommend placing that activity in the context of a theory of change: a causal chain that begins with your tactics and ends – we hope! – with some measurable progress toward your goal.

A theory of change allows you to demonstrate the value of something like social media, where returns can be indirect and qualitative, resisting easy conversion to a dollar value – but which may be every bit as valuable as a cashier’s cheque. Beth and Katie (whom I may start calling “Kanter and Paine,” because it sounds like either a Broadway musical-writing duo or a don’t-f*ck-with-us law firm) prefer that to talking about ROI, an accounting term that often doesn’t capture the value in network- and relationship-building.

That’s an excellent reason to develop a theory of change. Here’s mine: it’s a powerful tool for motivating people, especially if they’re skeptical that what you’re asking them to do will have an impact. Your supporters, volunteers or staff may be asking “Why will this e-petition work when every other one I’ve signed had no impact?” or “I’ve never posted an online video before. Why should I believe it will make any difference?” A theory of change can be the story of just how their action will help to change things — and can inspire them to tweak their action for maximum impact.

woman hefting cat in the air and kissing it for increasing her non-profit's CTR and fundraising results

4. You cannot resist the kitteh

4. You cannot resist the kitteh published on No Comments on 4. You cannot resist the kittehPurchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

* * *

Chapter 4, “Measurement is Power,” is not the punchline to an elaborate pun on the meaning of “ruler”. (As awesome as that would be.) Instead, it looks at how you can take the insights you glean from data, and turn them into actions with bottom-line impact. Notice that engagement grows when you add a little personality to your Facebook posts (as Kearny Street Workshop‘s Lisa Leong did), and you can direct more attention to a personal voice… and ultimately bring more visitors through your doors.

As you begin reading this chapter, you will encounter the idea of KPIs: Key Performance Indicators. A chill may have gone up your back just now, and I understand why, but be advised that learning about KPIs does not turn you into a soulless automaton, eyes fixed on a limited set of metrics and dead to the richness of the world around you. Provided, of course, that you pace yourself, and follow these simple tips:

  • Do not learn about KPIs while having Excel and PowerPoint open at the same time.
  • Pause periodically – every 20 seconds or so should be about right — and meditate for a half-hour or so.
  • Wear something – anything – made out of hemp.
  • Never play golf again.

(By the way, this cat was just about my favourite thing to draw, ever, surpassing “giant robot destroying city” and “giant winged lizards destroying world“. I probably spent the better part of a day on her.)

The risks of hanging your graphs 90º off-kilter.

3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight.

3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight. published on No Comments on 3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight.Purchase print

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

~~~

Brent Spiner IS... awfully pale. Also, Data.If you respond to Chapter 3 — “Creating a Data-Informed Culture” — the way I did, you’ll start with short-lived disappointment that it’s not about building a new society whose gold standard of conduct is embodied in Brent Spiner’s character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. (And if you read my write-up for Chapter 2, you’ll realize that cruelly taunting science-fiction fans is a hallmark of Beth and Katie’s writing. You’re also one of two people who reads the write-ups under the cartoons, and as the other one, I thank you.)

That brief let-down is followed immediately by surprise, delight, delighted surprise, actionable insights and, ultimately, firmer biceps — the book is heavier than it looks. You’ll learn the difference between being data-driven, where data dictates your actions, and data-informed, where data is one of the factors that guides you — a happier place for most non-profits. And you’ll see how an incremental approach — crawl, walk, run, fly — can allow an organization to adapt naturally and quickly to the demands and opportunities that measurement presents.

2. Hey, you got network in my nonprofit!

2. Hey, you got network in my nonprofit! published on No Comments on 2. Hey, you got network in my nonprofit!Purchase print

Over the next several days, I’ll be posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. Here’s what I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love the book and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit coverChapter 2, “The Rise of the Networked Nonprofit”, is not actually a reference to Terminator 3 (but does hint at one possible direction for a film adaptation, if James Cameron should be interested in optioning it). It reviews the central idea behind The Networked Nonprofitthe superb book Beth cowrote with Allison Fine a few years ago.

That idea: a new kind of nonprofit organization is on the move, one that lets go of rigid structures and expands its impact by making the most of socially networked supporters – many of whom don’t fit into a prefab volunteer role, but instead act as independent free agents.

One of those free agents turns out to have been sent from the future to safeguard Beth and Katie, because in a few years they’ll lead a—

No, wait. I’ll save that for the pitch meeting.

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: 1. Cute animal theory

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: 1. Cute animal theory published on No Comments on Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: 1. Cute animal theoryPurchase print

I can’t tell you just how proud, thrilled, delighted and giddy I feel every time I see a copy of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine (reigning queens of non-profit social media and measurement for organizational communications, respectively.) It’s a fantastic, potentially world-changing book… and I got to draw the cartoons for it.

I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I think it’s important (and why I think you should go buy a copy right now):

It’s a momentous book. Organizations from governments to businesses to community groups to nonprofits have all struggled with whether and how to engage with the networked social world, especially when resources are scarce and stakeholders are feeling skittish. Measuring the Networked Nonprofit opens up new possibilities for accountability, learning, innovation and greater impact.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post my cartoons from the book. And I hope they’ll help prompt you to go snag yourself a copy. Whether you work for a nonprofit, a business, a government agency or just your own efforts to make your corner of the world a little better, you’ll find it a thorough, practical guide to having a far greater impact on the world — and knowing just what that impact is.

* * *

This cartoon kicks off the book’s introductory chapter, which starts with the emerging media director of the Human Society of the United States snapping a photo of her dog in a party hat. It’s related to Beth’s Cute Animal Theory, which owes something to both Nicolas Kristof and Ethan Zuckerman: “Ethan points out that the Web was invented so physicists could share research papers, but Web2.0 was invented because people want to share cute pictures of their cats.  These same tools become very powerful in the hands of activists.”

So be nice to your dachshund, tabby or Betta fish. They may be the key to global transformation.

Twister the Betta fish

Snarktivism

Snarktivism published on No Comments on SnarktivismPurchase print

Originally posted to ReadWriteWeb

By now, you’re probably familiar with the #stopkony phenomenon. If not, here are some main points:

  • Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has done truly horrific things to people, particularly children, in Uganda and now in the Central African Republic, DR Congo and southern Sudan.
  • The charity Invisible Children launched its latest YouTube video — an emotionally wrenching (and arguably manipulative) 30-minute piece that argues for Kony to be captured and brought to justice. The production values and style of the video are aimed squarely at young viewers.
  • The video exploded online, reaching 70 million views in only four days. That’s driven in part by the hugely emotional content, and by its explicit call to action: “Unlike any home- or corporation-made viral video, it can and does explicitly ask viewers to share it, almost to the point of a guilt trip. And share it methodically.”
  • As the hashtags #kony2012 and #stopkony trended on Twitter – driven in part by celebrity involvement, a target of the campaign – criticism mounted.

That criticism and the response to it have become a passionate debate over philanthropy and advocacy – from whether “awareness-raising” is a useful goal or one that saps energy and attention from the harder but more important work of building lasting change; to whether steering scarce resources and attention to arresting one man is a good idea; to how Western charities and their supporters can support positive change in countries like Uganda without engaging in a kind of western-savior cultural and political imperialism.

But along with that conversation, there’s also been some disdain for the thousands of thousands of young people who were moved to participate for the first time on any issue, let alone an international one. “Slacktivism” is the insult of choice. And the risk is that drowning their enthusiasm in derision will turn them off activism altogether. Or it may further alienate them from the organizations and approaches that are building lasting, long-term progress on self-determination, self-reliance and social justice – the kind that takes the big picture into mind.

Can those organizations learn from Invisible Children’s viral success? That would be ideal – but it’s not like they can treat the approach as a template. Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman says it well:

The Kony story resonates because it’s the story of an identifible individual doing bodily harm to children. It’s a story with a simple solution, and it plays into existing narratives about the ungovernability of Africa, the power of US military and the need to bring hidden conflict to light…. What are the unintended consequences of the Invisible Children narrative? The main one is increased support for Yoweri Museveni, the dictatorial and kleptocratic leader of Uganda….As someone who believes that the ability to create and share media is an important form of power, the Invisible Children story presents a difficult paradox. If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them? And if we do, do our simplistic framings do more unintentional harm than intentional good? Or is the wave of pushback against this campaign from Invisible Children evidence that we’re learning to read and write complex narratives online, and that a college student with doubts about a campaign’s value and validity can find an audience? Will Invisible Children’s campaign continue unchanged, or will it engage with critics and design a more complex and nuanced response?

In the changing world of volunteer activism – particularly with the rise of social networks – non-profits are finding they have to change too, often fundamentally. That’s one of the key insights of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book The Networked Nonprofit, which argues organizations have to become more open, and engage with their supporters more as peers and free agents than as volunteers slotted into pre-defined roles.

Harnessing the energy of a #kony2012 – and ensuring it does more good than harm – is one more challenge they’re facing.

NTC: Here, let me write you a charitable receipt

NTC: Here, let me write you a charitable receipt published on No Comments on NTC: Here, let me write you a charitable receipt

One of the sessions I toonblogged at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference was Beth Kanter’s I found my free agent. Now what?

In The Networked Nonprofit, the book she and Allison fine wrote about effective nonprofits in the era of the social web, we hear about “fortress organizations”: nonprofits that work assiduously to keep their supporters and members at a distance. Volunteer activity, if it’s tolerated at all, is directed into narrow, well-policed channels.

“Free agents” are people who work outside an organization to communicate, raise funds and mobilize support for it. Their relationship isn’t the traditional get-a-zillion-fundraising-appeals-and-a-nice-annual-calendar relationship that fortresses prefer; free agents are more like peers of the non-profit they support.

Of course, some of their activities may not be the kind of things organizations are used to seeing done on their behalf. (Which gave rise to the suggestion I wound up making: manage your doubts, not your free agents. Maybe this mantra can help: “It’s not like they’re robbing banks.” Unless they are, in which case a word or two with them is probably in order.)

It was a fascinating workshop, and there were several great reports on it:

(Found more? Let me know!)

 

NTC: It’s not you. Or you. Or you. It’s me.

NTC: It’s not you. Or you. Or you. It’s me. published on No Comments on NTC: It’s not you. Or you. Or you. It’s me.

One of the sessions I toonblogged at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference was Beth Kanter’s I found my free agent. Now what?

In The Networked Nonprofit, the book she and Allison fine wrote about effective nonprofits in the era of the social web, we hear about “fortress organizations”: nonprofits that work assiduously to keep their supporters and members at a distance. Volunteer activity, if it’s tolerated at all, is directed into narrow, well-policed channels.

“Free agents” are people who work outside an organization to communicate, raise funds and mobilize support for it. Their relationship isn’t the traditional get-a-zillion-fundraising-appeals-and-a-nice-annual-calendar relationship that fortresses prefer; free agents are more like peers of the non-profit they support.

It was a fascinating workshop, and there were several great reports on it:

(Found more? Let me know!)

 

NTC: Fortress organizations

NTC: Fortress organizations published on No Comments on NTC: Fortress organizations

One of the sessions I toonblogged at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference was Beth Kanter’s I found my free agent. Now what?

In The Networked Nonprofit, the book she and Allison fine wrote about effective nonprofits in the era of the social web, we hear about “fortress organizations”: nonprofits that work assiduously to keep their supporters and members at a distance. Volunteer activity, if it’s tolerated at all, is directed into narrow, well-policed channels.

“Free agents” are people who work outside an organization to communicate, raise funds and mobilize support for it. Their relationship isn’t the traditional get-a-zillion-fundraising-appeals-and-a-nice-annual-calendar relationship that fortresses prefer; free agents are more like peers of the non-profit they support.

It was a fascinating workshop, and there were several great reports on it:

(Found more? Let me know!)

Book cover: The Networked Nonprofit

Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter

Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter published on No Comments on Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter

Originally posted on BlogWorld

Book cover: The Networked NonprofitI’ve learned that you can never go wrong by going to a Beth Kanter panel. The co-author ofThe Networked Nonprofit (I’m halfway through it on my iPad, and it’s terrific) has a gift for bringing out the audience’s shared wisdom and experience while keeping the panel conversation lively and valuable.

Not that panellists Danielle Brigida, social media outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, and Claire Williams, who leads social innovation at Twitter, needed any prodding. Each could have easily filled the hour with anecdotes, advice and recommendations. (Thanks to Williams, my new Twitter mantra is “WWKD: What Would Kanye Do?”)

Here are notes from Brigida’s and Williams’ presentations.

Captive audiences

Captive audiences published on 1 Comment on Captive audiences

Here it is 2010, and I’m still sitting through godawful, text-heavy PowerPoint presentations with cheesy transitions, pointless clip-art and (pause, Rob, and try to stop hyper-ventilating)… Comic Sans.

Speakers often focus on what it’s like to be giving a presentation, but it’s easy to forget what it’s like to sit through one. Especially the fifth or sixth presentation of the third day of a conference.

You’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair (comfortable conference seating has yet to be invented), probably wired on a combination of carbs and caffeine, quite possibly sleep-deprived from all that late-night networking, and trying to stay alert while passively listening to someone droning on at the front of the room about “paradigms”.

Fortunately, I’m not seeing as many as I did three or four years ago. Word counts are often way down; diagrams are simpler and more effective; and slides, mercifully, take a back seat to the speaker and their story.

Maybe that’s because so many people saw An Inconvenient Truth and were blown away by what Jill Martin and Duarte did… or because of books like Presentation Zen, Beyond Bullet Points and Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes… or just because enough people have been to Beth Kanter‘s presentations.

Whatever the reason, I’m grateful and so, I suspect, are a whole lot of audience members.

(Of course, the state of the art is constantly in flux. And if you want to see where presentations are going, especially in an era of Twitter-enabled audiences who aren’t feeling so passive any more, you could do far worse than reading Cliff Atkinson’s The Backchannel.)

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