Facebook to Phone Trees: Nonprofit Technology for Everyone

I was really excited about this year’s Grassroot’s Use of Technology Conference because I had submitted and had accepted a great proposal entitled “Facebook to Phone Trees: Multi-Generational Outreach Strategies” that was to be co-presented with Angela Kelly of Mass Peace Action and Daniel Karp of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Unfortunately I was forced to call-off the session because I’ve been worked to the bone at my daytime job and ended up running out of preparation time.

So, despite the session’s ultimate non-existance, I thought it might be valuable to post my notes for it here.

The impetus for the sessions came from some of my frustration with many technology initiatives that seek to tap into social networks like MySpace and Facebook. I often hear these initiatives couched in terms of “keeping up with the joneses” (or just tech-fetishism) rather than a measured communications strategy. Sometimes tried-and-true tools are overlooked or even forgotten. The goal of the session was to move people from thinking of the newness of a tool, to thinking of their audience (i.e. constitutents, donors or members) and what tools would most effectively reach them. We were really hoping to get an age diverse audience who would remember what things were like before the internet.

One of the strengths of the session a dialogue format in which, once the frame was set by a personal case study from Daniel, a group discussion facilitated by Angela would take place about different tools that were successfully (or not) used for specific audiences and situations, and then move into some small-groups to map out some personal strategies.

Of course, the dialogue didn’t happen, but Daniel’s case study was a quite interesting story of how (and how not) to go about integrating new social networking tools into a communications plan. To set the stage, the IPPNW is a large, distinguished (they received the Nobel Prize) and successful international organizing and advocacy organizing organization. The leadership had become concerned that a gap was developing between older members of the organization and younger medical students and new doctors who they wished to recruit and involve. Basically, the organization worried that they seemed too old and stuffy with their dead-tree newsletters and symposiums. To reach-out to these younger potential members, they instituted a large online social network campaign: MySpace, FaceBook, the whole-nine yards. And it was incredibly successful—they were recruiting hundreds of young people into the organization and creating a thriving online space. But then they had a problem….

The youthful online community was huge, but it wasn’t happy: they felt like they were being relegated to the sidelines. The online community felt that they had joined this legitimate and eminent organization, but they didn’t feel like they were really participating in it since they were only interacting with themselves in the walled-off online community. The older generation was still going about its activities offline—and it’s completely unrealistic to think you can get everyone online (says someone who works with people who print off their email). The online community hadn’t been integrated into the full scope of activities like submitting articles for the dead-tree newsletters or being invited to the symposiums. The wisdom, eminence and legitimacy of the organization still lay offline, and the online crowd hadn’t been invited.

From that experience and many others, we came up with the following advice:

  • Audience is Audiences: One size doesn’t usually fit all, and sometimes size isn’t the problem (for a shirt, maybe it’s color, fabric or style). Think of different ways to split up your audience—age, culture, values, tech-savvyness—and how it might affect your message or medium.

  • Avoid Interaction Silos: Don’t wall off different segments of your audience from one-another by virtue of the technology. If you have both a FaceBook Group, a MySpace page and a dead-paper newsletter, ask yourself: “Are we creating real opportunities for these different audiences to interact?”

  • Balance Aggregate Reach with Personal Impact: An email written in 5 minutes can reach 10,000 people. A 5 minute phone call can only reach 1, but it can have 10,000 times the impact of an email. When designing a communications strategy, make sure you’re looking at both.

  • Offer Genuine Participation: A thriving online community usually isn’t an outcome. Organize real-world actions and events and use the technology tools to communicate information about them. Have a dialogue online, but make sure to create opportunities for it to come to life.

  • Keep Humanity in Mind: Every audience has the same basic desires for success, recognition and advancement. Be innovative with technology, but never lose sight of the bottom line.

The original session submission (for posterity’s sake; I love the last line)—though in discussion the scope was narrowed:

Participants will bring their own knowledge and experiences to this open discussion of targeted communications strategies. How do generational differences affect the effectiveness of your messages, opportunities and appeals? We’ll discuss everything from Facebook to Phone Trees and PayPal to to Planned Giving.

Fluoride, teeth and brushing advice

Ever since Dr. Strangelove I’ve found the fluoride controversy interesting and scary (for many reasons). I can’t verify any of this, but from a Digg article entitled Fluoride’s glory may be cresting, here was a comment that seemed to have enough info to worthwhilely put it here:

Fluoride replaces the hydroxyl ion in the naturally occurring calcium hydroxyapatite causing a stronger nuclear bond. In that respect it strengthens the tooth. The problems associated with flouride come from poor understanding of the inherent dangers of ingestion.

When it comes to toothpaste, I alternate a flouride containing paste with a paste containing sodium-calcium phosphosilicate which adheres to the surface of the tooth enamel creating new calcium hydroxyapatite. It does this by a simple mechanism. The sodium raises the ph of the saliva which causes the calcium and phosphorous to plate out of solution onto the tooth and re nourishing any damaged areas.

7 Nonprofit Challenges

An article on nonprofit challenges from the British org Yorkshire Culture:

In business, we are told that the customer is king; in the non-profit sector it is more like Jack, Queen and King — multiple stakeholders ranging from funders, to brokers to end users. The problem is that the end user or recipient often has very little say in what is being ‘purchased’ on their behalf. To most non-profit organisations the crucial relationship is that shared with the funder or broker, not the end user. If cultural non-profit organisations are to fully exploit their enterprise potential, relationships need to be rebalanced.

And the challenges:

  1. Satisfying the needs of the funders

  2. Pricing and cost

  3. Unwilling funders

  4. Restricted income

  5. Handling surplus

  6. Investment problem

  7. Overheads in service delivery

Other words for “Lie”

It’s another election year which means that politics are flying.

From a story on NASA forcibly downplaying global warming:

The report did not directly accuse them of lying, but used more nuanced terms such as “mendacity “ and “dissembling.” The space agency complained those terms were unjust.

And I enjoy how the New York Times describes a John McCain statement:

Like Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain has steadfastly refused to set dates for withdrawals of troops and envisions a long-term American presence in the country. But last month, in the general election battleground state of Ohio, Mr. McCain did a semantic dance and said he expected that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013.

Line up in order of your SSN

The IRS is using the last two digits of your Social Security Number to determine when you’ll receive your Economic Stimulus (e.g. free money i.e. your children’s money).

Paper checks will also go out based on Social Security number. For Social Security numbers ending in 00 through 09, the paper checks will be mailed starting May 9 and will continue through May 16. A similar process will be repeated in the following weeks.

Please allow additional delivery time, perhaps 3 to 5 days, since the paper checks are being sent through the mail. PAPER CHECK

Last two SSN digits: Payments will be mailed no later than (and received a few days after): 00 through 09 May 16 10 through 18 May 23 19 through 25 May 30 26 through 38 June 6 39 through 51 June 13 52 through 63 June 20 64 through 75 June 27 76 through 87 July 4 88 through 99 July 11

** Spies Like Us release**


Aha! I knew there had to be a word for misusing review quotes. From this week’s World Wide Words:

Such extracts from reviews are called “pull quotes” in the jargon;massaging them into more favourable versions is “quote doctoring”. Another word, with apologies to Stephen Potter, is “quotemanship”(or “quotesmanship”). “Contextomy” is yet another term, one used principally by academics in reference to literary misquoting. The ending “-tomy” means cutting up and has here been neatly reversed into “context”. It was created by the historian Milton Mayer in 1966 in reference to a much more significant issue, the misquoting of the Torah for propaganda purposes by Julius Streicher, editor ofthe Nazi paper Der Stürmer in Weimar-era Germany.

Conference notes: managing nonprofit technology projects

Notes from Rebecca below on managing nonprofit technology projects

http://aspirationtech.org/events/mntp-sf http://mntp.aspirationtech.org/index.php/Event_Agenda

…maybe I’ll clean this up someday.

—- !!!Basic Stages of a Project

  1. Initiate * define project * talk about start and end points, budget, participants/roles, timeline
  2. Plan * defining scope, requirements, use cases
  3. Implement

  4. Monitor

  5. Close *how do you know when you’re done with the project you’re working on?

*upkeep/maintenance phase?

*in “waterfall” style projects, there is just one of each step *in “agile” style projects, the plan -> implement -> monitor cycle repeats *know which style project it is at the beginning!

!!!Content inventories For redesign processes, figure out what content and navigation is currently present and how it’s organized. Include things like creation dates and web statistics; talk about the value of old content to users. This can affect how much of the content is migrated, and can give organizations insight into how they intend to communicate vs. how they’re actually communicating. For example, one PM working on the ACLU site inventoried 15,000 pages; the ACLU decided to migrate 8,000 of those, and rethought their style of technical & legal language to a more personal approach.

!!!Scope Creep *postpone things to phase 2 *define project endpoints in the “initiate” phase *specifications that include what ‘‘won’t’’ be included *review scope and recently developed features regularly *revisit goals to regain focus as scope creep starts to take over *saying no: make sure that people are aware of the depth of their requests, especially if they’re out of scope. inform people about research or dev time required just to estimate cost for a feature.

!!!Recognizing Impending Doom *chunking projects: dividing projects into smaller chunks will make overages more obvious. *development time = developer + QA + PM + client + risk + padding. *define checkin points in the web plan *be upfront/honest/immediate when you’re feeling uncomfortable *be proactive about input–consider what input people will have before you ask them for it *one attendee mentioned that they “had been trying to stay with this FOSS community which was politically important, but they were making incredibly bad engineering decisions” and they eventually had to break with the FOSS group. *beware of working with volunteers who aren’t web professionals *notice the point where transparency starts to drop

!!!Client Panic *lack of communication: presenting a product that the client hasn’t seen before and they aren’t happy *role changes on either the client or dev side can trigger less dialouge *when you’re behind, don’t just work harder: restructure dev roles, reopen lines of communication with client *sign of panic: abusive emails. one dev mentioned having a “2 strike rule” for abusive communication; he immediately calls higher-ups re: lack of tolerance for abusive/blame email/interaction *learn how to identify ‘‘good’’ things about a client relationship

’'’recovery stragegy’’’: regaining trust is remotely is difficult. Highly structured communication can help; for example, frequent meeting at consistent times with a repeated agenda.

#highly structured communication #revisit goals #talk to other members of the client org #re-structure the project #fire the client

!!!Turning a Project into a Product *forces you into more standardization *documentation becomes exponentially more important *languages & international users: translators can be your most active outside contributors

!!!Other *build test cases alongside app development *involve real-life people–external stakeholders–in the process *make sure there is someone within the nonprofit who can maintain the solution *can you narrow your website’s focus? working with the client to focus the project; can be used to reduce the feature set and budget, AND/OR to clarify the client’s communication strategy. *get clients to take notes at meetings and send them to you so that you know what they’re taking away/expecting *discussions about “which tools?” can obscure discussions of needs *blog or message board for a project: for both issues and for cheerleading *“the smallest organizations need the most hand-holding” —- EOF

NTC08: The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach

I’ve been meaning to type of some of my notes from the NTEN 2008 Conference, but the benefit of waiting is that someone will do it better. Like Britt Bravo: Notes from The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach .

In short (lots more notes and examples in the link):

Need 1: To be SEEN and HEARD

Does your home page make people feel heard? Not many people give money because they read a well word-smithed mission statement. Effective sites and campaigns provide space for people to express themselves. Nonprofits need to truly listen to their supporters and acknowledge what they are saying.

Need 2: To be CONNECTED to someone or something

Engage people by connecting to what they (not you!) care about.

**Need 3: To be part of something GREATER THAN THEMSELVES **

**Need 4: To have HOPE for the future **

Doom and gloom, and finger-wagging messages don’t work.

Need 5: The security of TRUST

People are starved for a sense of trust in “the messenger.”

**Need 6: To be of SERVICE **

The #1 reason people stop giving to a nonprofit is that they feel like they are being treated like an ATM machine. They want to help, but they want to be of service, and to have different ways of serving. That need is not being fulfilled if all they hear is the unimaginative drumbeat of dollars.

**Need 7: To want HAPPINESS for self and others **

The core of Buddhism is that everyone wants happiness and to be free from suffering. The more you want happiness for others, the better it is for you, and them.

JP Cafe Brownies


The cafe down the corner from my house makes the best brownies and I’ve been wanting this recipe ever since they opened. My friends have been quietly debating whether it was corn syrup or condensed milk that makes them so good. I made an oft-hand remark about it today and the counter-girl went back and wrote out the recipe for me. Turns out the answer is butter and eggs, lots of ‘em.

In regard to the amounts below: they were given to me in grams, and I did some loose conversions since I don’t have a scale.

  • 3-1/3 C (760g) Butter
  • 1-2/3 Lb (910g) Chocolate
  • 12 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 2-1/2 C (560g) Sugar
  • 3-1/3 C (420g) Flour
  • 2 Tsp Salt

18” X 24” Pan (makes 24 Brownies)

I didn’t get the instructions for actually baking them, but I assume that you melt and cool the chocolate, then cream everything, adding the flour at the end.

Probably bake at 350 (though maybe a cooler 325). They should have a torte-like consistency when done—cakily aerated but moist and fudgy if compressed.