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(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.

(Three people walking; one is trying - and failing - to draw on a whiteboard) So far, everything's working with our walking meetings except the whiteboard.

Coming this October: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit

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Working with mission-driven nonprofit clients has taught me some important lessons about self-care. When you care deeply about your work, it can be easy to let self-care slide. Maybe skipping your workout means you get to make a call to a top donor. Or staying late for another few hours means a grant proposal heads off tomorrow instead of next week. Or putting off your vacation means you’re there for a crucial planning stage for the AGM.

Not only that, but some organizational cultures give a heroic sheen to unhealthy choices. It’s not poor self-care; it’s taking one for the cause! And if everyone else is doing it, you’re going to find it awfully hard to be the only one who insists on not working over the weekend.

Until you burn out, get sick or even die.

This October, 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. You’ll see the first of them here today, and a few more over the next weeks leading up to the book launch.

I’m proud to be associated with their book. And I’m hoping you’ll 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.

The Happy Healthy Nonprofit cover

Next up, my Hour-Long-Break-With-A-Caesar-And-A-Good-Book challenge

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Beth Kanter gave me a kind nudge on Facebook to draw something about the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS research. Here it is!

Now, if you’re looking for something beyond graphic smartassery — like, say, real insight into the success of the challenge and what it means for the non-profit sector — check out Beth’s blog posts on the subject:

And watch Alexandra Samuel in this panel on the challenge on CBC’s The National. (Alex wrote a blog post about participating on this panel, which I recommend not only for its keen analysis of the role of time zones in western alienation, but also for the phrase “Rob’s smoking-hot robot body.” And yes, she backs that assertion up with a photo.)

From #13ntc: Stranded…

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It was a lovely conference, even from afar (thanks, Maddie Grant and team, for a great online stream!).

A major storm slammed the Midwest, including my wife’s flight home – which was supposed to arrive around dinner, giving us a few hours together before my red-eye to Toronto and then Minneapolis. Then Alex’s flight home was delayed…and delayed… annnnnnd… cancelled. She got herself on another flight.

Meanwhile, I learned at 8:30 pm that my flight the next morning from Toronto to Minneapolis was also scrubbed. Unable to get through to Air Canada by phone (“Owing to greater than normal call volumes,” normally the bullshit line to end all bullshit lines, was probably true that night), I headed to the airport on spec. Thankfully, the Air Canada ticket agent cheerfully found me another flight – later in the afternoon, but it meant that I finally made it to the Nonprofit Technology Conference, bleary-eyed (I had plenty of company on that score) but intact.

Ticket agents, by the way, put up with a lot of crap for circumstances completely beyond their control. Be nice to them.

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!

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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.

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!

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

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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

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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!”)

5. A theory of change we can believe in

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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.

-<  ºº>•
”   “

(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

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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.)

Roy Neary serves dinnerBrent Spiner IS... awfully pale. Also, Data.The risks of hanging your graphs 90º off-kilter.

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

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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!

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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

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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

Awards luncheon: Cartoon-blogging at #12ntc

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Oh, sure, NTEN does a great job of recognizing technological innovation, community-building and superlative achievement (huge props to Farra Trompeter, this year’s NTEN Award honoree).

Yet there are so many more kinds of genuine excellence we could be celebrating, and these cartoons represent my modest suggestions for a few new categories.

Dr. Changelove – making tech change happen in your organization: Cartoon-blogging at #12ntc

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Another cartoon-blog from the Nonprofit Technology Conference. (Thanks again to NTEN for having me, and Rally for flying me in! Catch the work Kate Rutter and I did at the conference here.)

This one’s from Dr. Changelove, or: How My Org Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technology. It was one of the strongest panels I’ve seen in a while, featuring Rose de FremeryDahna Goldstein and Marc Baizman (who went out of his way to make me feel like a rock star, and then delivered a terrific Ignite talk on improvisation).

 

Social media policy: cartoon-blogging #12NTC

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It was another great Nonprofit Technology Conference, my second in San Francisco… and my second cartoon-blogging outing for my friends at NTEN.

This time around, the good folks at Rally – a social fundraising platform, and the folks behind a very cool workspace – sponsored the graphic recording effort.

Which meant there were not one but two pens flying during various keynotes and breakout sessions. My colleague was the amazing Kate Rutter, who manages to combine detail, structure and composition in ways that amaze me. You can see the results of our work here.

Here’s the first of a series of cartoons and cartoon-blogging notes: a record of the session on social media policy, led by Idealware’s Andrea Berry and Darim’s Lisa Colton and centered around their free social media policy workbook.

Snarktivism

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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.

Knock, knock

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Think about spam, and you probably think about unsolicited commercial email. You know, replica Rolexes, cheap pharmaceuticals, suspiciously low prices on Adobe software and, uh, enlargement offers (which turn out to betotal ripoffs that take advantage of emotionally vulnerable people… ahem).

But it turns out it’s also an issue in the building-a-better-world world. Nonprofit organizations that get a little caught up in the importance of their message turn to blasting out email to recipients who’ve never given them permission… and wind up surprised when their domains turn up on spam blacklists.

Enter No Nonprofit Spam, a new blog devoted to the premise that nonprofits are damaging themselves and the broader ecosystem with unsolicited bulk email. The blogging team includes some giants in the nptech community, folks like Deborah Elizabeth Finn and Peter Campbell.

Even if the issue doesn’t speak to you, it’s a fun read. Especially because it hasn’t shown up, unsolicited, in your inbox.

 

 

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!)

NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair

NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair published on 1 Comment on NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair

I spent last week in Wash­ington, DC, cartoon-blogging NTEN’s 2011 Non­profit Tech­no­logy Con­fer­ence. These are some of the highlights.

One of the parts of NTC I find the most appealing is how the trade show is called the Science Fair:

The Science Fair isn’t like a typical conference exhibit hall. Instead of running throughout the entire conference – and competing with everything else on the agenda – the Science Fair takes place only on the first day of the NTC, and it’s the sole focus of the conference at that time. It’s also the setting for the conference’s Opening Reception. As a result, the room is full from start to finish, so come prepared to talk to dozens of exhibitors and meet hundreds of conference attendees. Reflecting this event’s unique nature, we call it the “Science Fair” so that everyone realizes it’s an integral part of the NTC and not just another boring exhibit hall!

I’d love to see them take the metaphor one step further. If this is a science fair, then how about having science projects?

It doesn’t have to be mandatory (so vendors won’t phone in some token effort just to qualify), but it could be a chance to show off some fun tech application, an intriguing experiment and its outcome, or an inspiring case study. Have participants vote for their favourites (hola, QR codes) to select finalists, and enlist a panel of distinguished judges to choose the winner.

NTC: The usual WiFi hiccups

NTC: The usual WiFi hiccups published on No Comments on NTC: The usual WiFi hiccups

I spent last week in Washington, DC, cartoon-blogging NTEN’s 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference. These are some of the highlights.

You can’t have a tech conference without WiFi becoming an issue, unless you take extraordinary measures. It really doesn’t help if the venue is underground, as a lot of large convention centres are, making it a lot harder to connect even to a cellular signal – my own Internet-of-last-resort. (Although it’s actually getting pretty tolerable. I’m tethered right now, and while there’s no question it’s slower, I can definitely get stuff done.)

Was it a blessing in diguise? Maybe. It freed us to look at the people right next to us, to really look at them, and to talk with them. To share our hopes (“Try deleting your network preferences”), our dreams (“I’ve heard of a conference where the WiFi was actually pretty good”), even our innermost spirituality (“Maybe the IP address gods will smile on us”).

(a passenger deliberately bores her seatmate with stories of a frustrating executive director, to prevent him from boring her with stories about his grandkids)

Pity whoever’s sitting next to me on this flight

Pity whoever’s sitting next to me on this flight published on No Comments on Pity whoever’s sitting next to me on this flight

Actually, the guy who sat next to me on the first leg of my flight was an avalanche rescue student, and we had a fascinating conversation (well, I had a fascinating conversation – his mileage probably varied, especially once I started going on about Flash restaurant menus).

I learned that avalanches have a five-stage scale of size: 1 can knock you over, 2 can bury and kill you, 3 can wreck cars, 4 can take out a railway car and 5 can wipe out towns. I learned about the fracture line, where the avalanche separates from the rest of the snow pack. And I learned that it would be a very good idea if I never travel east of, oh, Burnaby ever again unless it’s a safe distance from anything snow-capped-mountain-y. (30,000 feet ought to do it.)

Click (and click, and click) to donate

Click (and click, and click) to donate published on No Comments on Click (and click, and click) to donatePurchase print

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

In times of horrific disaster, we want to reach out and help. That’s especially true if we’ve actually seen events unfold in front of us as they happened, whether it’s on live TV or Twitter.

For the organizations and agencies that raise money to provide relief, this is a critical time. Potential donors are seized with the urgency of the situation – and are flocking to their websites.

Which means usability suddenly takes on even greater importance. Add one form field too many, program in an unnecessary intermediate step, put a button here instead of there, and you can lose those donors… and the money they might have given.

That might sound silly and irrational, and it is. Nobody deliberately makes the calculated decision that their compassion for another human being is outweighed by the inconvenience of a poorly-coded pull-down menu.

But unconsciously, that’s exactly what happens: some part of our brain figures we’ve clicked one too many times, and bails on a cause we care about. Maybe that doesn’t speak well of us as a species, but it speaks volumes about the importance of usability testing.

On the other hand, our less rational sides can sometimes make us donate when we perhaps should be taking a step back and looking critically at the recipient. The folks at Charity Navigator have a series of suggestions for you to consider before you make your contribution to help folks in Japan, and it’s well worth reading.

How usability affects online fundraising is just one of the things I’ll be looking to learn more about next week at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, DC. I’ll be cartoon-blogging the event; if you’re coming too, be sure to say hi.

 

 

Dialog box

Dialog box published on No Comments on Dialog box

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week.

Here’s the final cartoon from Open Community – I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and I hope you’ll check out Maddie and Lindy’s book!

I kind of like that there isn’t an obvious joke behind this one, and that it’s a little ambiguous. Maybe it’s about the choice we all have to write just another blog post, or to try to do something extraordinary – something that could maybe change the world in some small way. Or maybe it’s about unrealistic expectations. Or maybe it’s a remarkably subtle commentary on interface design.

nptrek

nptrek published on No Comments on nptrek

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week.

“This above all, to thine own self be true,” said Polonius… shortly before winding up skewered by one Prince Hamlet in the arras, prompting centuries of snickering by high school students. (Funny thing: Mr. To-Thine-Own-Self died because of concealment and mistaken identity; a little transparency on his part could have made a big difference.)

But for organizations that want to engage with their audiences all Wikinomics-like, how to be true to yourself isn’t necessarily obvious. How do you maintain an authentic identity while releasing significant control to your members and supporters? Where’s the line between openness and allowing your supporters to define you and your mission?

The answer will vary – dramatically – from organization to organization. The important thing is to know going in where your line is… so you don’t wind up trying to be somebody you’re not. As countless family sitcoms have taught us, that may be a road to zany complications, but it won’t lead to authentic relationships.

Q’apla!

(Baffled by the title? Find out about the nptech tag here.)

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to published on No Comments on Po-tay-to, po-tah-to

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week.

Noise to Signal always has openings for evangelists, change agents, influencers, ambassadors, advocates and champions. To apply, simply explain the difference in a brief, 3,000-word essay below. (Retweeting also works.)

I’m cleaning my oven… while I sleep!

I’m cleaning my oven… while I sleep! published on No Comments on I’m cleaning my oven… while I sleep!

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week.

There are times when I feel kind of like the Geordi La Forge of blogging: “I’ll reroute the RSS feed through the main sensor array — that ought to buy us enough time to depolarize the warp couplings with a Flickr badge!”

How about you? How Rube-Goldberg-esque is your blog setup?

Honey, have you seen my…?

Honey, have you seen my…? published on No Comments on Honey, have you seen my…?

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week.

See, this is why I use Delicious.

Now if I was feeling all profound, I’d make the argument that you can’t bookmark that web app… because if an app is going to save us, it’s actually the social web itself: not just the hardware and software, and not just the content, but the people that it networks together.

Busy, busy, busy.

Busy, busy, busy. published on No Comments on Busy, busy, busy.

Open Community is a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community – and it includes cartoons from yours truly. To celebrate its launch, I’m running a new cartoon from the book every day this week! Today, a look at the multi-tasking, multi-talented world of the online community professional.

Introducing Open Community

Introducing Open Community published on 1 Comment on Introducing Open Community

Today marks the launch of Open Community, a terrific new book from Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant for associations that want to dive into the world of online community. As the authors put it,

Written for the complicated and quirky world of associations and membership organizations, Open Community is about how associations can—and why they should—build community online. (Not to be confused with building a successful private social network. That’s just one small part of a really big picture.)

The book is a collection of big ideas. The simple yet far-reaching concepts, framed by our own definition of Open Community, describe how to approach the inevitably long and complex process of building community online in such a way as to help your association succeed. The concepts in Open Community are actionable and applicable to any association, large or small.

Open Community: a little book of big ideas for associations navigating the social webI’d be psyched about OC anyway… but I’m especially excited because Maddie and Lindy invited me to draw the cartoons you’ll find at the beginning of each section of the book. So all this week, you’ll be seeing Open Community cartoons on Noise to Signal – which I think will mark the longest stretch of continuous posting in the cartoon’s three-and-a-half-year history.

I’m delighted to be associated with Open Community, and I hope you’ll find the book as nptech-a-licious as I do! (You can buy your copy here.)

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.

Tim O’Reilly: O’Reilly Radar

Tim O’Reilly: O’Reilly Radar published on 2 Comments on Tim O’Reilly: O’Reilly Radar

OSCON has amazingly short keynote speeches. This one, by Tim O’Reilly, is just under 12 minutes long.

And yet he managed to inspire me far more than most 20-minute, half-hour or (god help us all) hour-long keynotes I’ve heard. Starting with a quotation from Harlan Ellison about diverging images of Christ in Rio, he challenged participants to use open-source not just to sell to the enterprise, but to build a better world. The challenges we face together, he argued, need the collaborative skills of the open-source community and the software they’re creating. (As you can imagine, that message resonated with me.)

That parallels the evolution of O’Reilly Media, which has changed from being a book publisher and event convenor to an organization with a strong focus on applying technology in ways that “help good futures to happen”.

His presentation ranged from food carts in Portland to the relief effort in Haiti. If you like the cartoon, you’ll love the movie:

We are the world… we are the night elves…

We are the world… we are the night elves… published on 1 Comment on We are the world… we are the night elves…

You might think I’m mocking gamers here. I’m not, actually – I just got seized by the idea. I’d love – love – to see a charity set up something to let you contribute World of Warcraft gold to them. (There’s a market for WoW gold, so in theory this should actually be possible.) It’s not unprecedented – the American Cancer Society raised a little over $274,000 last year with their Relay for Life in Second Life (I just dropped by ACS in Second Life, and confirmed that it’s on for this year, too – July 17-18.)

By the way, if you’re looking for ways to help the people of Haiti, the CBC has a list of agencies doing relief work there. My U.S. readers may find this list compiled by the people at Convio handy – along with this article from the Nation.

Every day is Blog Inaction Day!

Every day is Blog Inaction Day! published on No Comments on Every day is Blog Inaction Day!

I’d feel better about this cartoon if not for the fact that it was my only contribution to Blogger Action Day.

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