My name is Tim Shaw. I am Managing Director of Strategy Services for Forum One Communications (www.forumone.com), an internet strategy, design, and technology firm based in Alexandria, VA and focused on the public / non-profit sector. We are extremely proud to have counted NCLR among our group of top clients for nearly six years now. I am going to talk today about the latest trends in use of the internet for non-profit organizations. It is exciting time because there are many great tools available to you.
I gave a talk at this session a year ago and talked about the “Web 2.0” thing that was happening. What has happened since then? All that and more. Services are continuing to boom and the overall theme continues: it used to be about your web site and bringing people to it. No more – now it is about participating in a broad web of places your target audiences might go. The good news? Not a lot of cash outlay is required. The bad news? Time is. But maybe some of this is more worth doing than what people do, in part, today.
Here is some data behind the story. Yes, it is more the young folks – but not exclusively – but people increasingly participate and give back. The web is not one way any longer. There are more influencers and fewer barriers to becoming known.
Don’t get lost in the tools. Don’t jump on Twitter because everyone is talking about it. Use it because you are prepared to leverage its strengths to promote what you are doing. Let’s think about these problems.
Let’s face it – any organization needs to have its work known and understood. In many cases this is an explicit goal – you are in the business of educating others in some way. In others it is more implicit – you need notoriety to get funded. This is where new tools have led the way.
I didn’t mention blogs last year, but I want to quickly mention them because telling a story is what sells an organization and blogs give the voice to do that. Blogs also help search rankings and, when written authentically, can vault an expert to a well-known expert better than anything else. Set one up for free using Wordpress.com, but it WILL take staff time. On the subject of search – who knows what the 2 nd most used search engine after Google’s is right now?
Answer: YouTube’s The next great way to tell stories is video. Useful videos can be produced easily – get a flipcam and talk to your stakeholders! – and posted to a non-profit channel for free. The Obama campaign uploaded over 1,800 videos. Wanted to be sure that their videos came up in search.
Twitter is the biggest and best known “microblogging” site. Groups are using it to amplify outreach and build further connections. Also gives immediate – and new – voice to sites. Free and not too time consuming. Have to engage, though (expl. RT). www.twitter.com
It’s easy to dismiss microblogging services like twitter if you think of them as merely a way to share frivolous personal details. If you conceive them this way, you’ve missed the point. The value is like having an online coffee shop. They are talking about your brand, and you need to be part of the conversation. Keep site content fresh Publicize news and events quickly Monitor what people are saying (through searches) Host informal conversations and make connections (for advocacy, community building, communities of practice) Create a hub for multimedia sharing (both hosting and referring) It’s the voice for your business or org!
So now every major organization or major marketing campaign is setting up a page on Facebook. Pure fundraising has mostly disappointed, but it can be useful for connecting to people and delivering updates to them. It also connects them to each other, but I am getting ahead of myself…
In many ways, organizations need to better connect people and connect to people. This is a key part of education and training. It is part of building advocacy relationships. It is critical for fundraising. It is part and parcel of recruiting. This is happening online – a lot.
Facebook dwarfs traditional media outlet sites. Twitter and LinkedIn (professional site) and exceeding them as well. http://www.facebook.com/ http://www.linkedin.com/ ASPCA on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/ASPCA/7191206138
One idea – connect your supports to build affinity. ASPCA is using a free / low cost service called Ning (http://www.ning.com/) to run its own social network (http://aspcacommunity.ning.com/). The tool allows them to let their supporters create profiles, post photos or videos (puppies, anyone?), and interact with each other. Note that ASPCA has created a guide for community behavior and let the tool provide a few clear things to do. ASPCA has a really loyal following, so the community can energize itself fairly easily. Other groups might have to be more deliberate. They key point, though, is that ASPCA is creating a way for its supporters to engage with it and other supporters in a way that they dictate. This builds credibility and loyalty. It is hard for groups to give up control of the message, but when you do, you have the potential to attain exciting new results. My colleague titles his slide on this subject “put down the bullhorn.”
When you have a known group of players you need to work with, you can use even more structured tools. NCLR’s Homeownership team has created a practitioners community using an inexpensive tool called ProjectSpaces. The goal is to connect affiliates and other partners with NCLR and with each other for knowledge sharing and access to services. Key success factor is that NCLR very actively manages the community through the site and makes it part of the processes. This is CRITCAL to success. You cannot just launch the technology and let it go. ProjectSpaces (www.projectspaces.com). We also use Central Desktop (www.centraldesktop.com). There are free, simple kinds of options using tools like Google Sites (sites.google.com), Google Groups (groups.google.com), and Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/).
You can even find tools for more narrow tasks. Google Documents enables shared spreadsheets and charts that can be embedded in sites for dynamic presentation of data.
The final frontier – maybe the hardest one, but potentially the most valuable – is using the networks and tools of the internet to do your work better and accomplish more.
One quick win: put your information resources in one place. www.netvibes.com aggregates RSS feeds, which are ways web sites broadcast their content in an open form. The result is that I go to one place for all content that interests me. Also see www.igoogle.com and my.yahoo.com.
What would you do if 50,000 people came to you and said “we have ten minutes and an interest in your topic – what can we do?” Here is what NASA did. Problem was: need to land rover, can’t put in on a crater. How to teach computer where craters are. Hard computer problem, but easy for human eye. Volunteers did 200 hours of work in heaviest day, 14000 hours over a year (7 person year equiv). Solved problem much more cheaply and quickly.
Let’s get practical for non-profits. How about asking people to contribute ideas for solutions to problems you face. That’s what Ashoka is doing with its Changemakers program. www.changemakers.net
Here’s the future, potentially. How many people have something like this? More and more people, it turns out. There are emerging cases of using text to collect data, such as the case of election monitoring in Africa (NPR and others used it here in 2008). Could it be valuable to give people on the ground a simple way to provide information in real time so that you can make better decisions? That’s what is possible.
NCLR Conference 2009 Internet Trends Presentation, Tim Shaw, Forum One Communications
Trends in Online Technology Services a.k.a., The Maturing “Web 2.0” Toolbox Tim Shaw, Managing Director of Strategy Services Forum One Communications July 25, 2009 2009 NCLR Annual Conference
But wait! <ul><li>These are just tools (revolutionary tools, but…) </li></ul><ul><li>You MUST focus on solving problems, e.g., </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Better promote my work / organization (for funding, education) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Better connect to people (experts, funders, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More efficiently get work done </li></ul></ul>
Blogs <ul><li>Blogs are: </li></ul><ul><li>a “voice” </li></ul><ul><li>story tellers </li></ul><ul><li>vehicles for experts </li></ul><ul><li>search magnets </li></ul><ul><li>…and a commitment! </li></ul>
Benefits Of Blogs/Microblogs <ul><li>Keep site content fresh </li></ul><ul><li>Publicize news and events quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Monitor what people are saying </li></ul><ul><li>Host informal conversations and make connections </li></ul><ul><li>Create a hub for multimedia sharing </li></ul>http://we.care.org/notes
Final thought – staffing <ul><li>Staff time becomes the barrier </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Think about NOT doing something else </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hire and train for this realm </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find people active on their own time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No programming, but HTML is nice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Let people have space to experiment and “own” </li></ul></ul>
Summary messages <ul><li>Solve problems related to achieving your mission </li></ul><ul><li>Target your most valuable online audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Think beyond your site </li></ul><ul><li>DOES NOT cost $ - many free / low-cost tools </li></ul><ul><li>DOES take time – its not about technology </li></ul><ul><li>You can try many of these TODAY – do it! </li></ul>