Beth’s Blog http://www.bethkanter.org How Connected Nonprofits Leverage Networks and Data for Social Change Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:47:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 What I Learned About Philanthropy, Fundraising, and Social Impact at IFCAsia in Bangkok http://www.bethkanter.org/ifcasia-reflection/ http://www.bethkanter.org/ifcasia-reflection/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:13:55 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13342

Last month, I was honored to co-teach a master class and workshops on digital strategy and crowdfunding with Cambodia colleague, Tharum Bun, at the first IFCAsia in Bangkok.    I learned so much about the digital challenges facing Asian NGOs, how these are similar or different from NGOs in other regions, met and connect with amazing people, and was inspired by the speakers I heard and the workshops I took for my own learning.… Read More

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Last month, I was honored to co-teach a master class and workshops on digital strategy and crowdfunding with Cambodia colleague, Tharum Bun, at the first IFCAsia in Bangkok.    I learned so much about the digital challenges facing Asian NGOs, how these are similar or different from NGOs in other regions, met and connect with amazing people, and was inspired by the speakers I heard and the workshops I took for my own learning. The IFCAsia delivered on all the reasons why someone should attend.

These are two photos of me and Tharum Bun, a Cambodia blogger I met via our blogs back in 2003. In 2005, we got a chance to meet face-to-face in London at the Global Voices Blogging Summit after I transitioned from being the Cambodia bridge blogger. In 2007, over ten years ago, I launched a crowdfunding campaign to participate in the first ever Cambodian bloggers conference, organized by Tharum and colleagues. We’ve stayed in touch over the years – I’ve visited him in Phnom Penh and met his family, he has visited me – we even walked the DISH at Stanford.

Tharum has served as a communications director for a number of international NGOs based in Cambodia, but recently launched his own communications agency.  So, it was really a great honor to co-teach a master class on digital strategy and two crowdfunding workshops.   When you teach internationally, it is important to localize your content and Tharum was able to provide many local and regional examples and tips.   We also had an opportunity to make a recording to deliver some of the content from our workshop that the IFC will make available to small NGOs in other parts of the world.

One thing I really enjoy about the IFC and it was true for the IFCAsia, is the curation and the high quality of the sessions.   The plenary and big sessions were thought-provoking as they were inspiring.

The opening plenary was hosted by the renowned Usha Menon, past chair of the Resource Alliance and celebrated speaker, connector and consultant to the social impact sector.   One of the speakers, Professor Jen Shang, who later did a deeper dive into her research report ” “Tomorrow’s Philanthropy:  Insights into the Future of Philanthropic Innovation.”   I was expecting a boring academic presentation, but Prof Jen is Shang one of the most dynamic speakers I’ve ever heard.   Her report touched on the need for sector collaboration, celebrating mistakes and failures, and innovation.

There was also awards ceremony co-sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Resource Alliance has been presenting the NGO Awards in Thailand, India and Vietnam for 10 years, but 2017 marked a substantial change in the award program’s focus and delivery. The change is intended to honor efforts from all sectors that work toward creating positive, lasting change in the Asia Pacific region: NGO, CSR, individual philanthropy, social enterprise, fundraising, volunteerism, and others. They also had a talented filmmaker capture the winners’ stories in brief videos. If you want to see storytelling at its finest, coupled with breathtaking social impact, watch the videos.


The closing plenary featured Jack Sim, the founder of the social impact movement, The World Toilet Organization.   He shared how he built a global cross-sector movement to support sanitation in developing countries.    He was hilarious as he was inspiring.  He spoke about networked mindsets and how to work across sectors.  If have never heard him speak,  I urge you to carve out 20 minutes and listen to his most recent TedTalk.

He also shared some insights about his new venture,  BoP Hub, a non-profit venture that aims to provide a global platform to forge strategic partnerships between the private sector, social enterprises, subject matter experts and the BoP community, to give individuals at the base of the pyramid a chance to participate in the marketplace activities as consumers and entrepreneurs.

I always welcome the opportunity to observe and participate in other sessions, especially when they use participatory techniques.  Not only is the content superb, but I also observed and took notes about some excellent participatory facilitation techniques.   As a trainer,  one way to learn is to observe and take process notes.   I’ll share that in my next post!

 

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Does Your Nonprofit Suffer from Fire Drill Culture? http://www.bethkanter.org/fire-drill/ http://www.bethkanter.org/fire-drill/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:34:25 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13333

Flickr Photo by Gavin St. Ours

Last week, I was honored to do several workshops  hosted by the Fund for Santa Barbara on how nonprofits can link a culture of well being to outcomes based on my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout.… Read More

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Flickr Photo by Gavin St. Ours

Last week, I was honored to do several workshops  hosted by the Fund for Santa Barbara on how nonprofits can link a culture of well being to outcomes based on my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout.

The workshop includes a facilitated process based on the “World Cafe” method where participants work in small groups to discuss the challenges in the workplace and how to address them.  They capture their discussion by taking notes on the “tablecloths,”  (in this case, it is flip chart paper).

One of the topics includes stress triggers in the workplace.   As I do this in different places around the world with different types of nonprofits, different themes bubble up.   In Santa Barbara, a common theme was that their nonprofits operated in “Crisis Mode” all the time and it has created a culture of stress.

Crisis As Workplace Culture

Crisis mode happens for a variety of reasons. First, there are social service agencies that work with people in crisis and it becomes part of the workplace culture.  Also, staff exposed indirectly to trauma through hearing about the difficult experiences of the people they serve or “secondary trauma”  can lead to burnout or “compassion fatigue.”

People who work in this environment often feel they can’t take time off or practice self-care because if they do their client will suffer.    But, in this type of work, it is critical to incorporate self-care in order to sustain oneself and to serve clients better.

One technique is to weave self-care into your workday .  Rather than having self-care be something “outside” of work, it can be integrated naturally into the course of the workday.  Self care is highly customized to the person, but the trick is to think of it more broadly than physical health and incorporate micro moments of self-care or #boringselfcare.  Maybe its going outside for a ten minute walk or closing your eyes for a few minutes to meditate.

It is also important to become hyper self-aware of when you are not practicing self-care.   Identify your PCI: Personal Chaos Index or when your work is out of balance and you’re not taking the time to smell the roses.

In the workplace, especially where staff may be subject to secondary trauma, it is important to create some physical space that is quiet and calm, like a meditation or quiet room.  Or have coloring books or other fun stuff in the break room.

Crisis mode also happens when there is a lack of planning and prioritizing and everything is important! As projects get more complex or your organization is trying to accomplish more with less resources, it gets harder to accomplish without more intentional planning.

Look ahead rituals can build space into your schedule.  Having a staff retreat on an annual basis to map out large projects is also a good idea and anticipating monthly or quarterly key deadlines can minimize stress.    There is even a “look ahead” template for Excel that make this type of planning easier to do.

Look ahead rituals can even be as simple as encouraging staff to take 20-30 minutes on Mondays to look at their week and different deadlines.  Also, it is important to having ongoing communication when priorities shift and be able to ask and answer the question, “What is the most important deliverable on this list of ten things that we need to do today?”

There is also “Fire Drill Leadership” as defined in this article as a shrill voice or tone that makes everything an emergency when it isn’t.

The article describes the reasons why operating like this all the time is not a good idea:

1. An actual emergency is not given proper urgency
2. Leader loses credibility
3. Organization loses focus
4. Culture becomes one of detachment and disengagement
5. Roles become murky

It also creates stress and burnout. So, the big question, how do you prevent this or turn it around?

Fires are urgent but unimportant activities that are not a part of your organization’s plan, but require a resource investment.  It is your reaction to the fire that needs to change.   When a fire pops up, the reaction is a flurry of unplanned activity that usurps everyone’s attention and time.  That reaction needs to be replaced with a phrase like, “Let’s think this through.”

The phrase reminds people not to just react to the fire, but to consider it relative to other planned initiatives currently being worked on.  Do really needs to attend to this?  Does this fall within our responsibilities?  Is solving this fire now mission critical?  Who can handle this more efficiently? How did this fire start in the first place? How can we prevent it?

You can control the fire by addressing it once and analyze why it is happening or determine and eliminate the root cause through problem solving.   One approach is to harness your inner change maker, and lead a session with your staff on analyzing the problem.   Here’s a process that you can use at a staff meeting.

How does your organization avoid crisis mode and fire drills?

 

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An Ingenious Texting Bot from @SFMOMA http://www.bethkanter.org/bot-museum/ http://www.bethkanter.org/bot-museum/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 17:22:26 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13329

As we enter the age of automation, more and more nonprofits are using bots. If bots are designed well, they can have impact.   The San Francisco Museum of Art recently launched an ingenious bot called “Send Me” that allows anyone to send a simple text message and receive a picture of a piece of art matching the idea, words, or phrase texted.… Read More

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As we enter the age of automation, more and more nonprofits are using bots. If bots are designed well, they can have impact.   The San Francisco Museum of Art recently launched an ingenious bot called “Send Me” that allows anyone to send a simple text message and receive a picture of a piece of art matching the idea, words, or phrase texted.

This is not the first art museum bot, as MOMA launched a bot on Twitter that shares art in 2014 and there are a number of museums that have used Facebook Messenger Bots, like the Ann Frank House to help people plan a visit or learn more about the exhibits. The SFMOMA works with SMS and is designed to solve a particular challenge.

The problem that the “Send Me SFMOMA” project is trying to solve is that The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has 34,678 items in its collection. If displayed all these items, you’d need to walk 121 miles to see them all. Unfortunately, museum only has the physical space to display only about 5% of the collection. And that’s where this ingenious bot comes in — it literally places artwork on the palm of your hand.

According to Jay Mollica is SFMOMA’s creative technologist, they asked the question, “In a world over saturated with information, we asked ourselves: how can we generate personal connections between a diverse cross section of people and the artworks in our collection? How can we provide a more comprehensive experience of our collection?”

According to the SFMOMA web site, during the first four days of its testing phase,  more than 12,000 text message requests were received, generating over 3,000 different artworks sent to users across the globe.   According to the Mollica, that is more art than is currently on display.

While the goal is to share the art that can’t be displayed, I wonder what the impact will be on visitation at the actual museum?    Nonetheless, the data that they receive from this service should surely offer the curators some food for thought in planning future exhibitions.

If you are need of inspiration or just stressed out, then the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art can help you practice a little self-care without leaving your office.   While you can’t always take a long enough break during your work break to create a work of art, looking at the right art work can be calming and refreshing.

I texted the word “Calm” and it send a work by  Vija Celmins that showed me the ocean.  It was a nice five minute break from the onslaught of emails and deadlines!

According to the SFMOMA website, all you have to do is  text 572-51 with the words “send me” followed by a keyword, a color, or even an emoji and you’ll receive a related artwork image and caption via text message.    Now it is your turn.  What did you text?  What did the bot send you?

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Turning Empathy Inward at Nonprofit Organizations http://www.bethkanter.org/empathy/ http://www.bethkanter.org/empathy/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 14:54:13 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13202

In my book with Aliza Sherman, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, we offer a framework for practicing self-care and creating a culture of well-being in the nonprofit workplace. The book looks at our relationships with ourselves, other people, careers and money, our environment, and technology—and shows how our relationships with people in our workplaces heavily influence our well-being.… Read More

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In my book with Aliza Sherman, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, we offer a framework for practicing self-care and creating a culture of well-being in the nonprofit workplace. The book looks at our relationships with ourselves, other people, careers and money, our environment, and technology—and shows how our relationships with people in our workplaces heavily influence our well-being.

Since the launch of our book, I’ve been teaching workshops for nonprofits on how to practice self-care and bring a culture of wellbeing into organizations. And I keep hearing the same questions and concerns: Inevitably, a nonprofit leader will come up and confide that everyone in the organization is on the cusp of burnout. Everyone works ridiculously long hours, feels under attack from breaking news, has too much work to do, and has too few resources.

Sometimes they mention feeling lonely or experiencing a loss of purpose for the mission that initially energized them. They are passionate about the organization’s work, but they find it hard to continue while feeling devalued. These young leaders desperately want to change their organization’s culture and not have to leave.

Most modern workplaces have become so impersonal and demanding that we’ve gotten desensitized to caring about coworkers. Many people who work for nonprofits suffer from passion fatigue and compassion burnout because they already have to give so much to those they serve that they have nothing left for fellow staff. Awakening Compassion at Work, by Monica Worline and Jane Dutton, is a compelling guide to rehumanizing workplaces with love. The book offers a road map for how to instill organizational culture with a deep sense of compassion—something that would make many organizations happier and healthier places to work.

If you think compassion in the workplace only serves to appease hippies or to soften harsh corporate cultures driven by a profit motive, this book may make you think again. Nonprofit workers are experts at being compassionate to the people they serve. But they also need to practice compassion in their own offices. The authors make a good case for why there is no greater power or source of strength in the world than love. Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries—and nonprofits need to promote them not only among the communities they serve but also as part of their internal culture.

You can read more of my review of this book published in the Summer 2017 Stanford Social Innovation Review

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Creating A Global Network of Capacity Builders for Social Change http://www.bethkanter.org/peer-learning-3/ http://www.bethkanter.org/peer-learning-3/#comments Tue, 11 Jul 2017 16:01:23 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13301

I’ve always benefited from learning from colleagues who do nonprofit technology training and capacity but often we come from the same perspective.   I’ve always dreamed of accessing a diverse network of people who do nonprofit capacity across different disciplines  or what Nancy White has described as “learning from adjacent practices.”

This would be a network or community of practice that freely shares and learns from one another about training and capacity building that is participatory, peer-learningnetworked, makes use of design thinking, openly shared and a prelude to collective action.… Read More

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I’ve always benefited from learning from colleagues who do nonprofit technology training and capacity but often we come from the same perspective.   I’ve always dreamed of accessing a diverse network of people who do nonprofit capacity across different disciplines  or what Nancy White has described as “learning from adjacent practices.”

This would be a network or community of practice that freely shares and learns from one another about training and capacity building that is participatory, peer-learningnetworked, makes use of design thinking, openly shared and a prelude to collective action. The subject matter, of course, the effective use of digital and networks that is holistic and that incorporates on culture change, innovation, and collaboration skills.

That’s why I was inspired to read this recently published report “Today’s Challenges: Training and Capacity Building,” written by Sara El-Amine for the Mobilisation Lab in partnership with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. (I was interviewed for the report).

The Mobilisation Lab (MobLab) has existed for a few years as the internal innovation lab for the Greenpeace’s campaigns globally.   In January 2017,  as the MobLab moved to expand its mission to serve the broader global progressive movement and become a stand alone entity,  they commissioned the report to address these two questions:

  • What would a globally connected, thriving capacity-building ecosystem for modern advocacy and campaigning look like?
  • And how could MobLab best support the creation and/or health of that ecosystem?

The reports defines many challenges, but through the research and interviews, there was critical alignment around this all familiar problem:

“Capacity builders and trainers in the global progressive space are too few and too disconnected to fulfill current demand in supporting social change leaders, practitioners, and activists. Furthermore, many practitioners and individual advocates in the space don’t know about fellow organizations serving similar purposes or filling complementary gaps. As a result, duplicative work abounds, and there is lack of alignment around sector-wide gaps.”

The report goes on to identify 7 more specific challenges facing capacity builders and trainers who work with various social change movements and campaigns in detail and definitely worth reading the report:

  1. Desegregation and diversification of the progressive movement
  2. Funder misalignment on movement needs
  3. Lack of platforms through which to network laterally
  4. Lack of platforms/resources to facilitate innovations
  5. Lack of shared definitions and shared language
  6. Dearth of resources/cultural practices around curriculum sharing
  7. Need safe and supported spaces for difficult movement conversations

The conclusion discusses the need for a more vibrant, networked entities working in concert to “build the capacity of capacity builders” to avoid repeating mistakes made in isolation.  Going forward the MobLab will be working collaboratively with capacity builders to further define this challenge and pilot solutions and new projects.

Michael Silberman, director of the MobLab, wrote this reflection on the report on MobLab’s blog, outlining some pilots and opportunities for collaboration.    I’m particularly interested in these three ideas specifically that revolve around reflection, learning, and sharing.

    • Develop peer learning opportunities: Many interviewees felt that incentives were misaligned across progressive organizations to facilitate meaningful reflection on what’s working and what’s not. We heard near consensus around the lack of support for entry- and mid-level staff/volunteers, in particular, to admit key mistakes and crucial lessons learned.
    • Surface innovations more effectively: Participants observed that some of the most exciting campaigning was happening “outside of the typical slate of progressive institutions.” Movement members and leaders alike cited the absence of effective forums for exchanging these reflections and learnings.
    • Develop shared training curriculums, resources: Most participants acknowledged a lack of entry-level programs or available trainings for digital advocacy and other modern campaigns skills. “I’m not sure where to go for tools to train my team, and it seems like the people at the top who should know these things aren’t sure either,” one practitioner summarized.

MobLab is moving forward to support the initial stages of this work, working collaboratively on a number of projects (see the full list here) and initiatives.

If you do capacity building and training on advocacy for social change, especially in the digital area, does this resonate with you?

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How Nonprofit Professionals Can Manage Workplace Stress Triggers http://www.bethkanter.org/stress-triggers/ http://www.bethkanter.org/stress-triggers/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:31:29 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13291

Flickr Photo by Brittney Bush

This week I facilitated a Happy Healthy Nonprofit workshop for nonprofit professionals hosted by CVNL in Marin County.    Before focusing on workplace strategies and culture change, participants go through some reflective exercises, including taking the nonprofit burnout assessment, identifying stress triggers and reactions before creating a self-care plan.… Read More

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Flickr Photo by Brittney Bush

This week I facilitated a Happy Healthy Nonprofit workshop for nonprofit professionals hosted by CVNL in Marin County.    Before focusing on workplace strategies and culture change, participants go through some reflective exercises, including taking the nonprofit burnout assessment, identifying stress triggers and reactions before creating a self-care plan.

As a group, I have participants take an online poll, answering the questions, “What are your workplace stress triggers?”   As the word cloud appears on the screen, we discuss the triggers and reactions.

A “Stress Trigger” may not need to be defined, but it is something or someone that causes you to have a impulsive reaction that may not be the best response to the situation and create more stress.   If your stress is being triggered repeatedly at work (or elsewhere) this can lead to burnout.  And sometimes, we are not even aware of the symptoms, let alone changing the situation.  Anne Grady, in a recent HBR blog post, describes the harm that repeated stress triggers can create in the workplace:

“When you are triggered, the emotional part of your brain takes over. You are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the same neurotransmitters and hormones that have evolutionarily protected us from threats like bear attacks (freeze, fight, or flight). Your logical brain temporarily shuts down, and you lose the ability to solve problems, make decisions, and think rationally.

When this happens, you have been emotionally hijacked, and it is difficult to see things as they really are. You go into protection mode, and until the perceived threat or trigger has dissipated, you will remain there. Over time these reactions can lead to acute anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, and other health problems from heart disease to lowered immune response.”

As the above word cloud indicates, sometimes stress is triggered by other people at work, leadership, board, or co-workers.  One of the ways to reduce handle this stress, is to flex your emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. (Daniel Goleman who coined the term “emotional intelligence” brought it to a wide audience with his  book of that name, and it was Goleman who first applied the concept to business with a series of HBR articles.)

These qualities may sound “soft”, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable results. With regular intelligence,  you are generally as “smart” now as you ever are going to be.  People learn new facts but their intelligence, or their ability to learn, remains largely the same.  Emotional Intelligence is a flexible skill that can be readily acquired and practiced.  People can actually increase their emotional intelligence by working on the skills – and manage their stress better.

1: Make Time Everyday for Reflection:  Keep a Journal

The first step is self-awareness and that happens through tracking and observing yourself in work situations that trigger stress.    One way to do this is to build in some reflection time into your day and maintain a journal.   Self-care and managing your stress is all about establishing and maintaining good habits, and writing it down helps you change and commit to the good habits.

There are also many other benefits to writing a journal.  Reflective writing has also been shown to improve decision-making and critical thinking. It also helps you keep track of progress made towards goals.

If people at work are triggering your stress and challenging your emotional intelligence, use these journal prompts to help you reflect:

  • How is it impacting me physically, emotionally, and psychologically?
  • What triggers these feelings and emotions?
  • What action can I take to manage the situation and my emotional response more effectively?

2: Track Your Moods

The above is an example of how to do this with pen and paper, another way is to use apps called Mood Trackers, journals that let you chart your emotions and thoughts and test different self-management techniques.

I tested a number of those apps and found the best one for me was “Moodnotes,” you can track your emotions in different work situations and it prompts you to reflect on the situation and how to manage it.    Having this self-awareness lays the groundwork to help you effectively manage your stress triggers at work.

How you manage stress triggers at work?  Do you keep a journal?  What is your favorite journaling technique?

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ETR Steps Forward for Weekly #WorkplaceWellness http://www.bethkanter.org/workplacewellness/ http://www.bethkanter.org/workplacewellness/#comments Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:40:26 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13285

ETR Associates Staff Walking Group

Note from Beth: I recently facilitated a Happy Healthy Nonprofit workshop on bringing a culture of wellbeing into the nonprofit workplace. We discussed the importance of leadership modeling and supporting a culture of  wellbeing. My colleague, Laura Norvig, who works for ETR, a behavioral health non-profit devoted to providing science-based programs and services for youth and families,  shared some great examples about how their nonprofit’s CEO, Vignetta Charles, PHd, has helped shift the culture.  

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ETR Associates Staff Walking Group

Note from Beth: I recently facilitated a Happy Healthy Nonprofit workshop on bringing a culture of wellbeing into the nonprofit workplace. We discussed the importance of leadership modeling and supporting a culture of  wellbeing. My colleague, Laura Norvig, who works for ETR, a behavioral health non-profit devoted to providing science-based programs and services for youth and families,  shared some great examples about how their nonprofit’s CEO, Vignetta Charles, PHd, has helped shift the culture.  Her CEO recently wrote a post  reflecting on their wellness efforts on the organization’s blog and she agreed generously to republish this post as a guest post.

ETR Steps Forward for Weekly #WorkplaceWellness by Vignetta Charles, PHd

Something new is brewing here at ETR. No, I’m not talking about our new CEO (that would be me). Nor am I talking about our group of new hires, although they are all very cool (and, BTW, we do have several current openings).

I’m talking about walking. Stepping up. Living our values. It’s ETR’s very own weekly step challenge, and it’s helping us make some impressive changes within our own workplace.

From Simple Start to Grand Goal

It started simply—as all great movements do. A few ETRians who like walking or running decided to set up a weekly step challenge together. The group grew, and so did the number of steps logged. It didn’t take long before a hearty cadre of 8 steppers racked up a 5-day workweek total of 468,731 steps. Nice job!

But we are an organization that believes in continuous improvement. “Hey,” said one of the steppers. “Let’s get some more folks involved and set ourselves a goal of one million steps over 5 days!” The group got bigger, the step count grew, and all kinds of discussions about physical activity began to circle around our offices. “Can we count swimming?” “What if I don’t have a Fitbit?” “How are you keeping yourself motivated?”

The steps are adding up. The energy is building. This may be the week we reach that million step goal!

Positive Responses

The steppers are liking it, but they’re not all walking for the same reason. For some—like me—it’s competition. For others, it’s the overall camaraderie. Several people have talked about how this is giving them the inspiration to go another 10 steps, or another 100.

Here are some of the things our steppers have to say:

  • As a remote worker, joining in the Weekly Workplace Wellness effort has helped me connect and bond with colleagues I don’t usually interact with. Fun!
  • I finished two audiobooks and started a third this week, mainly because my ETR Stepper Peeps motivated me and kept me on my toes. Literally.
  • I’ve got my Fitbit set to remind me to take 250 steps an hour. I’ve been trying it out this week, and I’m feeling more alert at my desk through the entire day.
  • I’m not very competitive by nature. But the Fitbit app displays our Workweek Hustle rankings and lets me know if I’m close on the heels of another stepper. I’ve noticed that’s enough to motivate me to get out and do a few more steps.
  • It definitely feels good to have some top down support for wellness. Fun to have your CEO join your Workweek Hustle group!

Photographic Evidence

We’re also seeing some great photos of the walks folks are taking. Here’s early morning at the Santa Cruz Wharf:

Santa Cruz Wharf

Beautiful Boulder, Colorado

Borrowing neighbor’s dog for a walk

Here’s one of our ETR intrepid training teams (including colleague trainer Miguel Taveras, from Proceed, Inc.), up at 4:00 a.m. West Coast time to get their steps in before their event in New Orleans (photobomb by Michael Everett, trainer extraordinaire, with a supportive cheer in the background)

Extending and Growing

As the leader of this mighty band, I am indeed proud of what I see happening here. We are supporting each other in making healthy choices. This is a way for us to live one of the bedrock values of our organization. It helps us move from talking to walking—figuratively and literally.

There is praise aplenty for every participant’s achievements (no matter how large or small). There is felicitous collegiality (“Let’s do a walking meeting today.”) There is thoughtful wit (“There’s movement afoot…” A pedestrian cliché…).

There are even, good heavens, walking haiku:

Craving to be fit

Walking, trekking, counting steps

Stronger than before

I love the way this effort is extending and enriching our connections and genuinely changing our behavior. We may have started with eight people, but I’m setting my sights on 80—and beyond!

I hope with all my (healthier from walking) heart that you are being equally inspired in your own workplace. I’d love to hear about the wellness efforts of your organization.

Vignetta Charles, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer of ETR. She can be reached at vignetta.charles@etr.org.

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How Much Is Nonprofit Workplace Stress Self-Inflicted? http://www.bethkanter.org/hhnp-stress/ http://www.bethkanter.org/hhnp-stress/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:25:40 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13278

Last week I facilitated a workshop on the Happy Healthy Nonprofit:  Linking Nonprofit High Performance to Wellbeing in Santa Cruz hosted by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.

Part of the workshop included an assessment and reflection about the causes of stress in the nonprofit workplace.… Read More

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Last week I facilitated a workshop on the Happy Healthy Nonprofit:  Linking Nonprofit High Performance to Wellbeing in Santa Cruz hosted by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.

Part of the workshop included an assessment and reflection about the causes of stress in the nonprofit workplace. I had participants use an online polling app to type in their answers and the combined responses generate a word cloud.   The word “Perfectionism” was the most frequent response.  It made me wonder how much workplace stress is self-inflicted.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many external circumstances that cause lots of workplace stress in nonprofits – lack of resources,  difficult circumstances of people the nonprofit serves, demanding boards and leaders, and so on.   But, some of our stress is self-generated.   One way to reduce some stress is to find ways to turn that around.

Perfectionism is an internal mindset where we tell ourselves that bad things in the world will happen if our campaign, program or whatever is not perfect from the beginning , delivered with 500% and on a self-determined, but unrealistic deadline.  Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and ultimately of getting improved impact. It also makes work life really stressful.

If we can take a look at our own inner perfectionism and how it permeates our work life, it might help us reduce some stress.    If we don’t understand this, then all we do is try to design the perfect program or campaign, one that is way too complex and takes many months to complete.  Or we look at every task on our daily to do list as having to be done perfectly and comprehensively.   That is exhausting.

I came across this wonderful 99U article called “Satisficing.”     The opposite of “satisificing,” is when we try to make everything we do awesome, an A+,  or the best we’ve ever done.

Satisficing is the act of stepping back and stopping that perfectionism behavior – and feeling that good enough is okay.    Many people who work in the nonprofit sector are driven by passion for their work because we are doing good and many of us share being over achievers.    So, it is hard for us not to give our complete energy, even at the expense of our well-being and stressing ourselves out.

The article offers several tips for applying “Satisficing” in general to our lives:

1.  Accept you won’t get everything done
2. Keep a new ideas journal and don’t feel like a failure if you don’t implement everything
3. Prioritize your well-being
4.  Ship early, than iterate

The article suggests that we in our work, we should avoid aiming for brilliant out of the gate, do the basics and then recognize that with almost anything in our work, we can refine, edit, and iterate.     Why is it so hard for nonprofits to work this way?

Why not have an experiment that puts satisficing to the test.   Create a hypothesis about the amount of time it takes to do a work task and see if anything bad happens if you invest less effort or time.    What if you cut the time for meetings from 60 minutes to 30 minutes for a week, would you get through the agenda?    Maybe you learn something about how much at 60 minute meetings is wasted because you scheduled it for 60 minutes or maybe something about designing a more streamlined agenda.     What if we looked at different organizational work processes and tested a more streamlined approach.  Does that blog post actually need 10 revisions and 6 approval chains?

In Santa Cruz, when the word “Perfectionism” bubbled up to the top, it lead to a conversation about “satisficing.”    We talked about the benefits and fears of “satisficing” versus “perfectionism.”     We talked about how liberating this can be – giving permission to do less – that it creates space for creativity.    You also feel more empowered because you are getting things done and that creates momentum.    And, it also generates a feeling of acceptance and love of other people on your team.    It can be hard to make this shift, and small experiments might help with making it feel more comfortable and not feeling like we are “slacking off.”

The concern of course is applying it in an organizational context.  What is the organizational standard of  “good enough.?”   What happens if you practice satisficing but others think you are just aren’t doing a good job and just point out the rough edges.   This is part of the culture change, getting everyone on the same page about the ship early and iterate often approach.   Good enough is also a very subjective.  Of course, organizational leaders need to model this mindset and people in the organization have to practice it.  It also takes a lot of mutual respect so you don’t just focus on pointing out flaws.

I’m trying to apply this to my own work and it isn’t the easiest thing in the world.  How have you applied the “satisficing” to your work for your nonprofit?   Is it part of your organization’s work culture or viewed as “slacking.?”

 

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Book Review: Nonprofit Storytelling in a Digital Age http://www.bethkanter.org/storytelling-digital-age/ http://www.bethkanter.org/storytelling-digital-age/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 18:14:53 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13271

My colleague, Julia Campbell, has just published a book, “Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits” and was kind enough to share an advanced copy.

In a digital age where there is so much online available online and attention is your supporter’s most precious resource, are you saving or seizing it?  … Read More

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My colleague, Julia Campbell, has just published a book, “Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits” and was kind enough to share an advanced copy.

In a digital age where there is so much online available online and attention is your supporter’s most precious resource, are you saving or seizing it?  If your organization has the skills to craft authentic, real, emotional stories about the work that you do every day and make those stories social, you will be able to grow support and keep donors engaged.  And, that’s where Julia’s book comes in.

This comprehensive book covers the following:

  • Part One addresses storytelling readiness, especially now to transform your nonprofit’s culture.
  • Part Two covers the mechanics finding, writing, and sharing compelling stories, as well as addressing some very common storytelling challenges.
  • Part Three provides tips on the digital tools you need to use to share your stories with supporters

I was immediately drawn to the chapter that describes common storytelling challenges and solutions.    While there are many challenges, many times nonprofits are dealing with clients who can’t really share their story because of confidentiality restrictions.   Julia has some great practical advice here:

  • Shield personal details. Use a different name and identifying characteristics when describing the person. Make sure you are transparent when doing so. Include a footnote saying that
    some details have been changed to protect identities.
  • Use a creatively-staged photo.  While showing the faces of the people served is very powerful, sharing a story with an imaginatively shot photo can also work well.
  • Speaking with alumni of the program—people who are not currently using services and who are not in immediate distress.  Gather their success stories (or their on-the-road-to-success
    stories—maybe their story is still being told).
  • Collecting stories from your donors as to why they give and from your volunteers as to why they volunteer. They all have stories of
    their own and a reason to be giving back to your organization.
  • Finding a local celebrity.   Invite a person who is well known and respected in your community and who supports your
    cause to share a story or two with your audience.

Through this book, Julia offers many great examples, tips, worksheets, and very practical advice about the whole process of storytelling in a digital age.   This book will be a valuable addition any nonprofit’s communication’s toolbox.

How does your nonprofit use storytelling effectively on its digital channels?

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5 Ways Nonprofit Facebook Messenger Bots Can Deliver Impact http://www.bethkanter.org/bots-nonprofits/ http://www.bethkanter.org/bots-nonprofits/#comments Tue, 13 Jun 2017 16:53:36 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13250

My conversation with the Albert Einstein Bot

In my last post about nonprofit bots, I discussed the big picture of automation in the nonprofit space and what I learned from the “The Beth Bot” experiment.    For this post, I did a landscape scan to identify some of the best examples of nonprofit bots.  … Read More

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My conversation with the Albert Einstein Bot

In my last post about nonprofit bots, I discussed the big picture of automation in the nonprofit space and what I learned from the “The Beth Bot” experiment.    For this post, I did a landscape scan to identify some of the best examples of nonprofit bots.  (These examples use Facebook Messenger, but bots be deployed other platforms or apps.)

What is a Chat Bot? Why Use One?

More and more people are adopting social media messaging, including Facebook Messenger, to contact nonprofits with questions, comments, or requests.  While anyone can message your nonprofit’s brand page 24/7, nonprofit staff don’t always work around the clock to respond. (And, if they do, they need to read my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, to find out why that is not a great idea.)

Facebook Messenger chat bots will let your nonprofit immediately interact with supporters.  Bots can answer basic questions like “How can I learn more,” and offer a link to sign up for your nonprofit’s email newsletters or action alerts.    More sophisticated bots can help educate and engage your supporters about your nonprofit’s issues,  programs or services.

If you are thinking about adding a Facebook Messenger bot to your organization’s digital strategy, spend some time interacting with other nonprofit bots.   While the Facebook Messenger platform has taken some small steps to make bots easier to find,  they are not always easy to discover.   I set up this List to save you some time hunting down nonprofit examples.

Activism

Climate Reality Bot

The Climate Reality Bot is designed to educate supporters and build the organization’s email list for action alerts.   Designed with ChatFuel, it is a simple bot, using close-ended options to funnel supporters to different options on the lower rungs of the ladder of engagement.

The task of capturing email addresses from Facebook is completely automated and available 24/7.    This is a simple way to get started using bots strategically and does not take that much upfront design time or customization.    You’d simply track your conversion rate to see how effective your bot is at building your email list and based on results, tweak.

Engage and Educate

The Genius Albert Einstein Bot

It is not necessarily a nonprofit, but I think it is one of the best examples of the potential of bots beyond automated email address capture.

As a promotion for its new show, Genius, the National Geographic Channel has created an Albert Einstein bot for Facebook Messenger. You can discuss life, love, and science—although he’s quick to warn that “I become absent-minded during light conversations that do not involve the physical properties of light.”

The bot is more fun and engaging than most—full of animated gifs, puns,  and witty comments about relativity and robots, even if they don’t match the question you asked.  Obviously, this is a custom programmed Facebook Messenger Bot designed for a conversational experience.

If your organization wants to create something genius like this, it will most likely require time, resources, and outsourced expertise, but it will stand out.

Museum Visitor Experience

The Anne Frank House Bot

Museums have been all over bots on other platforms, see the Momabot on Twitter for example.  So, it comes as no surprise that Museums have been early adopters of Facebook Messenger Bots.

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam was one of the first to launch a Facebook Messenger bot.  Facebook Fans can ask the bot for information about the museum, such as opening times and where to buy tickets, or about Anne Frank herself and her history.

The Anne Frank House bot is custom programmed for automated self-learning, using artificial intelligence that allows the bot to learn to recognize the context of questions and to generate specific answers based on that.

The Australia Democracy Museum also has a Facebook Messenger Bot, with similar objectives.

Donate

The Pop Bot

The bot is named Missiobot and comes from Missio USA, an organization inside The Pontifical Mission Societies, which is, as the bot states, sort of like the pope’s personal Red Cross.

Shortly after you start a chat with Missiobot, you meet Pope Francis, and it doesn’t take long for a smiley face emoji to be part of your conversation.  The bot is more engaging than most  you encounter on Facebook Messenger, a testament to good design using decision-trees and multi-media content.

But what makes this bot most engaging is good storytelling shared in a conversational way, matching the pope’s tone of voice and illustrated with photos, video, and audio.   The stories are about missionary projects such as helping nuns care for the kids in the slums of Nairobi.

This is storytelling with a purpose, each story ending with the option of taking action,  share the story or donate.

A bot like this could be implemented on any of the bot building platforms, but you’d definitely need to have the content assets, stories, and spend a little time designing the decision-tree.

Health Information Support and Counseling

I discovered a couple of health education bots, I’m sure there are more but as I mentioned they are not easy to find. Here are two examples.

Woebot

Woebot

This is a mental health bot, available to anyone via Facebook Messenger looking for some supportive talk to deal with anxiety or depression.  After informing you that is not a human and to dial 911 in the event of an emergency and then encouraging your read the privacy policy, it does a mood assessment.  It then uses CBT techniques to help reframe thought patterns or negative emotions associated with mood disorders like anxiety or depression.

Woebot was built from the ground up based on AI software expertise, working with Stanford AI lab.  They used design thinking to build a “decision tree,” mimicking clinical decision-making with task-specific sections of natural language processing, using a decision-tree.

Momconnect

Momconnect is a bot developed by the  Praekelt Maternal Health, an initiative that uses mobile technology to improve the health of pregnant women, newborns and infants in South Africa.

This Facebook Messenger demo shows how a pregnant mother in South Africa can register to receive free, informative messaging about maternal health and have her questions are fed directly to the organization’s professionals who can respond to her queries and ensure that a high level of service is available at every clinic in South Africa.   The main program is SMS based.

Conclusion

In a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, MIT Research Fellow Michael Schrage proposed a provocative and counter intuitive approach for enhancing innovation and productivity through man-machine collaborations.  Don’t just leverage advanced technologies like bots to automate a work task, but also focus on enhancing innovation and productivity by leveraging technology to create higher-performance versions of employees.

Nonprofit adoption of bots is in the early adopter phase although we are well into the next technology disruption: automation.   When I asked the Albert Einstein Bot whether the robots would take over the nonprofit world, it answered with “Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.”   In other words,  the human element is always going to be important, but perhaps there are ways that we can use bots to make our nonprofits smarter about achieving impact versus automating a task.

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4 Design Thinking Facilitation Resources for Nonprofits http://www.bethkanter.org/nonprofits-design-thinking/ http://www.bethkanter.org/nonprofits-design-thinking/#comments Fri, 09 Jun 2017 17:30:37 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13236

Almost four years ago, I wrote my experience as a participant n a design-thinking lab to give input on a digital strategy for a philanthropy. The design lab was facilitated by Pete Maher, founder of Luma Institute.  I learned so much about the taxonomy of innovation and really practical techniques, that I took the facilitation training.    … Read More

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Almost four years ago, I wrote my experience as a participant n a design-thinking lab to give input on a digital strategy for a philanthropy. The design lab was facilitated by Pete Maher, founder of Luma Institute.  I learned so much about the taxonomy of innovation and really practical techniques, that I took the facilitation training.    I started incorporating facilitating design labs as well as the techniques into my training practice ever since.   I even facilitated design labs to help with the research for my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.

I admit it.  I’m a facilitation geek who has an obsession with sticky notes and magic markers and desire to incorporate creative facilitation techniques into training that I design.  I’m always looking for ways to take my practice deeper.  I also get asked about where to get facilitation training for design thinking methods.   This post summarizes a few resources.

The Big Picture:  Design Thinking in the Context of Innovation

Jeremiah Owyang has a comprehensive post cataloging different methods to use to facilitate innovation and Design Thinking is one of them.   Design Thinking is associated with IDEO and the Stanford D School, although there are many methods out there.   The design thinking methodology encourages exploration of unconventional solutions by looking at a problem from the point of view of the people being served.   The many methods of Design Thinking go through a similar path of gathering research, analyzing and identifying the right problem, developing creative ideas, and testing prototypes.  Design thinking,” according to Fast Company, “describes a repeatable process employing unique and creative techniques which yield guaranteed results — usually results that exceed initial expectations. Extraordinary results that leapfrog the expected.”

4 Design Thinking Facilitation Resources for Nonprofits and Philanthropy

The Facilitator’s Guide To Human-Centered Design for Social Impact

IDEO.org is a nonprofit design organization that launched out of IDEO with a mission to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable communities through design and offers a number of free and low cost resources.  The site has some free resources with method tips sheets.   The Facilitator’s Guide  is a free online course in collaboration with +Acumen that guides social change leaders through a design process and helps them understand different facilitation techniques.

Luma Workplace

Luma Institute offers face-to-face intensive design thinking facilitation training workshops.  I’ve had the opportunity to take these workshops a few years back and learned a lot.  While I highly recommend them, it is a commitment of time and resources.    More recently, Luma has launched an online platform called “Luma Workplace.”   It methods are based on Luma’s book and experience applying them, but are designed to be more flexible and repeatable methods to be used in the workplace.  There is a monthly subscription fee,  but you get access to step-by-methods, lesson plans, and recipes to using it in your workplace.

Mobilization Lab Campaign Accelerator

The Mobilization Lab is a global innovation lab for online social change campaigns incubated by Greenpeace.  They offer “Campaign Accelerator” training that helps nonprofits apply design thinking and collaborative creativity methods to develop ideas for effective online campaigns.    They offer face-to-face workshops  for facilitator training.   They also have free guides available that explains and help you learn how to facilitate the process.  Or you can simply access their campaign planning/design tools.

DYI Development Innovation Toolkit

I first discovered this highly useful innovation kit for development professionals that uses design thinking and other methods a few years ago.  The toolkit gives a “bird-eye’s view” of innovation that discusses the theory and management of the innovation process.  The heart and soul of the toolkit are the worksheets and processes for problem solving.     The worksheets are categorized by what the team or organization hopes to achieve.

Has your nonprofit used design-thinking methods internally?  Have you been trained to facilitate these methods?   What did you learn?

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New E-Book: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy for Nonprofits http://www.bethkanter.org/npxperts-philanthropy/ http://www.bethkanter.org/npxperts-philanthropy/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 17:28:46 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13229

It’s not secret to nonprofits that fundraising is critical to the success of your mission. But, does your entire organization treat it this way?  Is  culture of philanthropy embedded in the way that everyone does their work?  I’m thrilled to contribute a chapter in Blackbaud’s newest npEXPERTS eBook, that includes 10 chapters of ideas on how create a culture of philanthropy—one in which executives, board members, accountants, marketers, and everyone in between understand the importance of your organization’s fundraising success and how they can contribute to it within their unique roles.… Read More

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It’s not secret to nonprofits that fundraising is critical to the success of your mission. But, does your entire organization treat it this way?  Is  culture of philanthropy embedded in the way that everyone does their work?  I’m thrilled to contribute a chapter in Blackbaud’s newest npEXPERTS eBook, that includes 10 chapters of ideas on how create a culture of philanthropy—one in which executives, board members, accountants, marketers, and everyone in between understand the importance of your organization’s fundraising success and how they can contribute to it within their unique roles.

What is a culture of philanthropy? It is all about how to nurture a nonprofit organizational culture that has shared responsibility for fundraising among all of its people. In the nonprofit sector, there is growing understanding about the importance of creating a culture of philanthropy to power effective fundraising. In a report last year for the Haas, Jr. Fund, author and consultant Cynthia Gibson set out to capture some of the core elements of such a culture, including key indicators that might suggest what it looks like when you have one.

The E-Book offers 10 thought pieces on this idea – from leadership to everyone in the organization.   My contribution is “Creating a Culture of Philanthropy While Doing the Work,” and focuses on ways to encourage effective cross-departmental collaboration. The piece provides some practical recipes that can help build collaboration muscles while getting stuff done.

The chapter is based on the notion that today’s nonprofit marketers must be experts in learning how to shift their organizational culture towards a culture of philanthropy by becoming skilled collaborators, adept at bringing diverse perspectives together, and confident in their abilities to collaboratively steward supporters at every touch point along the ladder of engagement with other teams, departments, and senior leadership. This gets to the heart of the best practices that are needed to create a culture of philanthropy within a nonprofit organization.

But the reality is that in many nonprofit organizations, different teams and departments do not have a shared mental model for a culture of philanthropy. Even worse, they don’t appear to be speaking the language and may work as isolated islands instead of finding ways to build bridges together to cultivate and engage supporters and do it with common values, culture, vocabulary, and practices.

What happens as a result is that it makes it impossible to build sustainable relationships with donors over the long haul. Supporters have a disjointed experience with an organization they care about because of organizational silos. It also creates a problem internally where turf wars and a non collaborative environment lead to frustration, burnout, and staff turnover. Shifting the organization’s culture is a process, and it takes time. It also takes paying attention to organizational culture or the way works gets done, in addition to deadlines and deliverables. Nonprofit marketing teams want opportunities to improve their cross-departmental collaboration skills and competencies, but it also takes a new organizational mindset to nurture their development. Effective collaboration happens when teams create the time and space for learning across an organization and when it becomes ingrained into an organization’s DNA.

The chapter includes some techniques and recipe processes that your team can use to help your organization practice cross departmental collaboration and learn how to begin to work towards building a culture of philanthropy throughout your organization. These are based on my work on the Emerging Leaders Playbook, launched last month.

You can download your FREE copy of the #NPExperts e-book here.

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Nonprofits in the Autonomous World: Will the Bots Take Over? http://www.bethkanter.org/charity-bots/ http://www.bethkanter.org/charity-bots/#comments Tue, 06 Jun 2017 16:49:38 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13212

Click to Check Out Beth Bot

What is the “autonomous world?”  As Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, describes it as drones, robots, chat bots, and AI.    He should know, having tracked and observed the disruption caused by online technology over the past decade.… Read More

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Click to Check Out Beth Bot

What is the “autonomous world?”  As Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, describes it as drones, robots, chat bots, and AI.    He should know, having tracked and observed the disruption caused by online technology over the past decade.

We are in the middle of global disruption due to widespread mobile Internet and cloud technology, Big Data, the rise of the collaborative economy and crowdsourcing/funding.  As Jeremiah points out, we are entering the next phase where robots, drones, bots, AI, and self-driving cars will have widespread adoption.

And after that technology will be merged or implanted in humans.  Think about swallowing a micro medical device that can send a report back to your doctor or having your fitbit implanted in your body so you don’t loose it.  Think cyborgs

What does this mean for the nonprofit sector in the future?  I had an opportunity to walk the Stanford Dish recently with Jeremiah the other day.  And one thing he said about the impact of living in an autonomous world, “Empathy, human touch and interaction will be become more important.”   

It reminded me of a prediction that my TechSoup Global colleague, Marnie Webb, said to me almost 7 years ago when we were talking about the impact of crowdfunding and connectivity.   She said that in a world of connectivity where individuals can do their own crowdfunding for services, bypassing nonprofits, that nonprofits will still have the advantage because of the human relationships.

A recent post on the Ford Foundation blog, “Why you should care about bots if you care about social justice,” notes automation itself isn’t cutting edge, but the prevalence and sophistication of the how the automated tools interact with users is.    And, some can spread beauty and inspiring art, like the MoMaBot or abuse and misinformation instead.

NGOs, activists, and even governments have used bots to automate positive social change activities:

The post offers some recommendations to nonprofits and activists about how to avoid having bots (evil bots) disrupt their activism and creative ways they should be thinking about deploying automation in service of social justice, especially if the nature of their work might make them likely targets.

  • The potential for an army of bot trolls to disrupt an activism campaign
  • A policy for how to respond to negative comments or social media workflow
  • Bots could help protect the privacy and safety of activists
  • Bots needs to be designed  increase engagement, support and inspire offline action

Nonprofits are also using bots for supporter engagement, fundraising, and cultivation and as part of their digital strategies.  Right now it is difficult to discover bots, but after a bit of research I found a few examples of nonprofits making use of Facebook Messenger platform.

  • National Geographic the Albert Einstein Bot to accompany its Genius Film Festival.  This is one of the best examples I saw of using bots for engagement and it most definitely required some custom programming.
  • Climate Reality is using a bot on its Facebook Brand Page.   The bot is programmed to encourage fans who message the page to sign up for different actions.  It also reminds folks that it is robot.    This bot is for lead generation and was created using one of the free chat creation platforms for messenger which I discuss below.
  • Charity:Water created a bot called “Walk with Yeshi” as a donor engagement tool.  When you send a message to this Facebook Messenger bot named Yeshi, she tells her story about how her daily walk for clean water in Ethiopia.   
  • The UN Global Report is using a bot to engage young people in discussions about civil society related to the reports.

I pulled together a curated list.ly of some really well-designed bots from nonprofits and beyond here.

Designing an Effective Nonprofit Chatbot

I decided to set up an experiment to better understand what was involved in the design of small pilot bot. Since I am not a coder, I used Octane AI, an app that let’s anyone create an app co-founded by Matt Schlicht and Ben Parr, to set up “Beth Bot,” for my Facebook Brand Page.

To design an effective bot, you first need to figure its purpose and how it connects to your goals.  You also need to think about its voice and tone and how it can be relevant and engaging to your target audience.

There are two design tasks.  First, if you are not doing custom coding with NLP like the Einstein Bot, bots work best with close-choice questions that lead the user to more information or an action.  The Whisky Bot, while not a nonprofit focus, it is a good example of a more elaborate bot with close-ended questions guiding the user.   The Climate Reality bot is a good example of a simple bot to build an email list.

The next step is figure out the script and pathways for the conversation.   Bots can also answer open-ended questions and get smarter as they go, if you train them.  That part is an interactive process where you add answers that users ask the bot.     Because Bots are somewhat of a novelty now, users seem to enjoy trying to stump the bot with open-ended questions.   Using a platform to create your bot where you don’t need to know programming language, does not yet let you create a bot that can chat with intelligence.

And that brings us to the another task, testing and iteration.  I started there by asking colleagues to ask open-ended questions so I could train the bot.   When people asked it questions that it doesn’t understand, you  program it to respond with a selection of responses.   (On the back-end, you can go in add responses to those questions so the next time someone asks that questions there will be response. )  Right now the software is super limited on the training part, but as the platforms evolve this will change. (I hope)

Training your bot is an iterative design process that is required for a bot created without having to put your hands into the messenger code and if you want to make it engaging.   There are bots that are self-training using AI language.

The testing was fun and it also helped me figure out how to script the close-end conversation that happens when you “Wake Up the Beth Bot.”   The app was fairly simple to use, but it was really helpful for me to sketch out the flow first and then the conversation based on the pathways the user could take.   It is helpful to keep your responses short and incorporate emojis, images, and even video.

If you want to see how the Beth bot carries out a conversation and responds to open-ended questions, you can engage with the Beth bot here.   The app gives you a dashboard that gives you metrics and you can also track conversion rates on the landing pages that you send users to. 

If you want a basic primer on what a chatbot is, I suggest this article from Chatbot Magazine.  To program a bot in Facebook Messenger, you don’t necessarily need deep technical skills as there are apps that make it easy, including Octiveai, Manychat, or Chatfuel.

Here’s a few good tip sheets if you want experiment.

Conclusion

Bots are catching on and as we move further into the autonomous, your audience/stakeholders may expect them as a way to connect with your nonprofit.  The most effective bots are those that engage, but that requires some investment of design and iterative development.    One easy way to get started is to create a pilot with a specific goal, measure it, and develop it further based on what you learn.

Is your nonprofit experimenting with or thinking about using chat bots? Please share in the comments.

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Book Review: The Imagination Gap http://www.bethkanter.org/book-review-the-imagination-gap/ http://www.bethkanter.org/book-review-the-imagination-gap/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 21:23:55 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13207

My colleague Brian Reich has just published a new book, The Imagination Gap.  I’ve known Brian for over ten years and he is a brilliant strategist for executive leaders and global brands – nonprofits, startups, and political organizations.   He has done a lot of work recently in innovation processes, especially to solve big social change issues.  … Read More

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My colleague Brian Reich has just published a new book, The Imagination Gap.  I’ve known Brian for over ten years and he is a brilliant strategist for executive leaders and global brands – nonprofits, startups, and political organizations.   He has done a lot of work recently in innovation processes, especially to solve big social change issues.  So, I was excited to dig into his most recent book and thinking.

The big idea in the book is that imagination is the greatest natural resource available to humans and organizations and it is a muscle that we are not exercising regularly.   Brian says that in our work we are too often just doing what we know and have always done.   In other words, taking the easy way out.  Imagination is achieving something that has never been done and explore new ways of thinking and doing that can move beyond what we know and have always done.

Before you begin thinking that only geniuses have permission to use imagination, Brian gives us permission to use it.  It isn’t a special skill or talent.   It also isn’t the same thing as creativity or innovation.   Above all, imagination is about big NEW ideas.

The book gives us an introduction to imagination and the important role is plays in all aspects of our lives – personally, professionally and as a community.  The book also describes the barriers and challenges to using our imagination and provides some steps that we can take to close the imagination gap.  What I like is that each chapter includes a good summary of the content,  plus an imagination challenge where we can work our imagination muscles.

My favorite chapter is called “A Different Kind of F-Word,” and it is about the role that imagination plays in supporting a culture of failure.    Brian and I once shared a keynote plenary at the NTEN conference in 2012 – titled “Failure is not an F-Word,” and Brian dropped a few F-bombs on the stage.   So, I wasn’t surprised to see a chapter on this important topic, but appreciated how Brian’s thinking about it has evolved.

Brian talks about how popularity of “failing” has faded from our conversations over the past few years.  While the decline of failure as a meme may be linked to a downturn in the economy or an increase in political rancor, Brian says that the reason is that we’ve gotten lazy and stopped using our imagination. He says it is because we’re just more comfortable with the status quo.

He reminds us of the value of failure:  It leads to change when we can remove the stigma and understand how to improve something.  He also reminds us that when we’re comfortable with failing, it becomes easier to do.   And while there may some tension to encourage failing, Brian says it is only way to unlock imagination.

The imagination challenge for this chapter is to analyze a mistake.  After you apologize, think about what went wrong and try to understand how it could have gone differently.   As Brian reminds us, it is not the act of making a mistake that invites learning, it is the process of sitting with it, and feeling the pain of discomfort that it causes that will motivate you to learn how to improve it.

This book is a wonderful walk through learning how to use your imagination.   The chapters are well-researched and engagingly written.  At the end, there is a bonus exercise or two to help you apply the idea.    Imagine the problems we could solve, if the nonprofit sector collectively used its imagination every day!

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4 Signs You Are A Burned Out Nonprofit Fundraiser http://www.bethkanter.org/nonprofit-fundraiser/ http://www.bethkanter.org/nonprofit-fundraiser/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 15:09:36 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13184

You’ve smiled through back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings with donors and your best donor prospect just cancelled on you, and now you’ve got to finish that grant report before you can go home.

It’s totally normal to feel super exhausted after a particularly rough day—but if every day is starting to feel rough, you might be close to burning out.… Read More

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You’ve smiled through back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings with donors and your best donor prospect just cancelled on you, and now you’ve got to finish that grant report before you can go home.

It’s totally normal to feel super exhausted after a particularly rough day—but if every day is starting to feel rough, you might be close to burning out.

The clinical definition of burnout is “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that occurs when we feel overwhelmed by too many demands, too few resources, and too little recovery time.”  Given the harsh working environment for nonprofits, it is a perfect recipe for a whole bunch of burnt out nonprofit fundraising professionals and others..

The good news is that once you know the signs of burnout, you can take steps to stop it. In my book, co-written with Aliza Sherman, we walk through plenty of warning signs, along with self-care activities to alleviate your stress.

Here’s four warning signs of burnout, coupled with easy ways to feel better.

Warning sign #1: You’re feeling weary and small things are starting to really (really) irritate you

Burnout can sneak up on you—and the first sign is often a short fuse. Maybe every little thing about a donor, a board member, or your executive director is rubbing you the wrong way.  Your executive team’s expectations are way out of whack and you just don’t have the energy to politely set them straight. The WiFi is on the fritz again and it feels like the end of the world.

Every nonprofit fundraiser has to put up with some annoyances, but if you’re feeling like you’re at your wit’s end at the start of the day, you might be burning out. Left unchecked, this can evolve into angry outbursts and serious arguments both at home and at work.

Self-care solution: Get more sleep, even if it means taking a 20-minute nap under your desk

If you find yourself snapping at the people around you, you need to catch up on your Zzz’s. Sleep deprivation messes with your concentration, mood, and ability to cope. To get more sleep at home, stop trying to cram in one more email before bed and avoid staring at screens before you hit the hay.

But don’t limit your shut-eye to your bed. Sleep in the workplace may seem like an oxymoron, but napping during the day can improve cognitive functioning, leading to greater productivity at work. Studies show that daytime napping can elevate moods and even improve immune function.

Find a quiet room or place at your office or nearby where you can get some brief shuteye. Yes, some professionals actually curl up under their desk for a cat nap. Better yet, approach your employer about a meditation or nap room and show them data on increased productivity from a well-rested staff.

Warning sign #2: You can’t seem to concentrate on anything and your productivity is suffering


When you’re overworked and over stressed, it affects your concentration—your mind wanders, you forget things easily, you can’t focus.

Self-care solution: Add more movement into your workday—stand up and walk around to clear your mind

If you’re having trouble focusing, you may be suffering from “foggy brain” caused by too much sitting at work. One study found that a simple 20-minute walk can significantly improve your ability to concentrate. While another at Stanford University determined people were more creative when they were walking versus sitting.

My advice: stop using your computer keyboard as a lunch tray. Instead, incorporate a brain-replenishing walk into your lunch hour. Don’t think of a taking a walk as taking a break or slacking, but instead consider it a tool that will improve your productivity and bring more innovative ideas to your work.

Warning sign #3: You’re feeling sluggish throughout your day, even when you get plenty of sleep

Your energy dips at work more often than the post-lunch crash. You feel physically and emotionally exhausted—depleted even. You may go to bed early, only to wake up still feeling tired.

You might find it difficult to get out of bed at all. This sort of fatigue only adds to your anxiety about all the work you need to get done in a given day.

Self-care solution: Stick to healthy foods and beverages—and avoid the temptation of sugary snacks at the office

What we eat and drink can impact how our bodies and brains work. There’s a reason why healthy food is called “brain food.” Knowing what we put into our bodies can mean the difference between being strong, clear-headed, and effective or being sluggish, dull, and slow at work.

At home, you may be successful at avoiding sugary snacks because you don’t buy them. But at work, if there are chocolate covered donuts in the conference room, you might be tempted to indulge. That’s why it’s so important to make a plan for bringing healthy foods and beverages to the office in order to make better nutritional choices.

If you’re not sure where to start, The Kaiser Permanente Healthy Meetings Guide includes a list of light meals and snacks that are simple and low cost and the American Heart Association’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit provides nutritional guidance for food in the workplace with practical action tips.

Warning sign #4: You’re feeling compelled to overwork because you think it’s the only way to get everything done

Working in talent acquisition means that you may find yourself working after hours and weekends to research donors, write proposals, or plan campaign strategies. And, of course, you may not mind that much if you have a real passion for your work.

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However, your passion can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, that fervor helps you keep going in the face of difficult challenges. On the other hand, you can become so driven you don’t stop to refuel or smell the proverbial roses or even notice your work is starting to take a toll on your health and wellbeing.

Self-care solution: Give yourself a break—when you work too much, you’re not getting much done

Sometimes our reaction to stress is to work nights and weekends, not taking breaks throughout the day, or sacrificing vacations days. These habits are not healthy and will definitely make you unhappy, leading you down the slippery slope to burnout. And the kicker? Working longer hours actually decreases your productivity.

If you’re someone who accumulates vacation time without taking it, you are essentially working for free. Use your vacation time, and take real vacations where you completely disconnect from work, emails, and the mobile devices that connect you to work.

If you give your brain a chance to reboot, you’ll return to work with more clarity and perspective that will serve both you and your company far better than staying late at the office.

The bottom line: self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s the key to being productive at work. When you are overworked and super stressed, you will not perform at the top of your game. Take better care of yourself so you can raise more money for organization’s mission to save the world.

A version of this blog post appeared on the LinkedIn Blog, it is based on my new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout also co-authored with Aliza Sherman.

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The Convergence of Social Activism, Donations, and Social Media: Episodic Giving In A Post Truth World http://www.bethkanter.org/post-truth/ http://www.bethkanter.org/post-truth/#comments Wed, 24 May 2017 17:53:47 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13171

Here’s the latest evolution in episodic giving, WeCanResist.It, developed by Allyson Kapin and colleagues, the app turns Trump’s tweets into donations for social justice orgs like Black Lives Matter, Clean Water Action, National Center for Transgender Equality, etc.    This newest example of rage fundraising in an era of post truth is focused on helping less high profile nonprofits that are doing important social justice work and need funding to sustain their efforts to fight for democracy.… Read More

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Here’s the latest evolution in episodic giving, WeCanResist.It, developed by Allyson Kapin and colleagues, the app turns Trump’s tweets into donations for social justice orgs like Black Lives Matter, Clean Water Action, National Center for Transgender Equality, etc.    This newest example of rage fundraising in an era of post truth is focused on helping less high profile nonprofits that are doing important social justice work and need funding to sustain their efforts to fight for democracy.

Our world – politically, economically, socially, technologically – is changing before our eyes.  According to Trend Watch’s piece on “Truthful Consumerism” it is a world with polarized societies, the emergence of new populism and a huge dose of anger. They point to a new word introduced by the Oxford Dictionary, “Post-Truth,” “which means relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Trend watch summarizes key global trends that make this time in history seem uncertain, chaotic, and toxic beginning with online and the rising numbers that exist inside a filter bubble that serves them information, ideas and news (some of it fake!) that serves to confirm what they already think. The result? Rising polarization.  Adding to this we have and quoting from Trend Watch:

  • Massive inequality. A popular sense, shared by millions, of being shut out of the gains created by globalization. And yes, that sense is made more acute by the relentless visibility of one percenter lifestyles in all their Instagrammed ‘glory’.
  • Mass migration. From Syria to China to Mexico, mass economic and politically-driven migration and refugee crises are triggering social tension, the rebooting of nationalisms and the emboldening of old prejudices.
  • Future shock. Vast, ongoing changes to economies, patterns of work and lifestyles, brought about by technology. Millions are aware that even greater change is coming, via automation, AI and more. And that means an uncertain – and perhaps less habitable – future.

In the US, we have witnessed the emergence of what has been dubbed “Rage Fundraising,” a surge in episodic giving to nonprofits after the election and it continues in reaction to the current US President’s policies, actions and tweets. As my colleague Steven MacLaughlin wrote, earlier this year, “Good by slacktivism, hello actgiving.” It is no more the debate about how to get from a click to a donation, they are donating.  But more about how to retain those donors, especially new donors.

Steve describes this new phase as less of a revolution, but more of an evolution in “episodic” giving or giving in reaction to current events, much like a disaster fundraising efforts.  And, there are also examples of this type of giving happening as self-organized efforts by supporters without the institution coordinating or generating it or linked to political activism.     A few examples from the past few months in the US:

  • Mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned down and the local synagogue handed the community the keys to their template.  In addition, a GoFundMe campaign was launched and raised over $1 million towards rebuilding from donors of many different religions from around the world.  This not only shows solidarity, but harnessing collective rage against racism and act giving.
  • Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated .  Muslim leaders across the state have raised more than $60,000 in a LaunchGood fundraiser to repair the tombstones.
  • During the Super Bowl, a conflicted fan wanted to cheer for the Patriots, but because the star quarterback supported Trump, he started a Twitter hashtag: #AGoodGame and pledged $50 and $100 donations to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund for every Patriots field goal and touchdown, respectively.
  • To protest the Secretary of Education’s Cabinet Nomination,  citizens banded together to launch a GofundMe campaign to “buy their Senator’s vote.”   They raised over $60,000 and donated the money to charity.    Independently, another citizen group ran a similar campaign on GoFundMe for their senator’s vote, also donating the money to charity.
  • When the current President’s senior adviser used the “Bowling Green Massacre” a fictitious incident alluded to during several interviews as justification for a travel and immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, supporters of the ACLU quickly created this fundraiser, The Bowling Green Massacre Fund

Steve points out that the essential mechanism for “actgiving” to accelerate is connectivity and networks that we have access to through social media channels. Combining fundraising with social media can be like lighting a match to gasoline.   Think about how  The Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 helped the ALS Association raise over $100 million.   Viral videos, social media, and mass media coverage ignited unprecedented donations in a short amount of time.   It also marked one of the first instances of  episodic giving shifting from disaster fundraising to supporting a social change movement.

Questions remain:

  • Is this new evolution of online giving that merges social activism, social media, and philanthropy sustainable?
  • How can nonprofits embrace this fundraising style while maintaining loyal donors?
  • What is needed to transform episodic donors into regular donors?
  • How to capture attention for your organization’s cause given this backdrop of “post truth,” and transform their passion into informed action and consistent giving?
  • Giving the these are global trends, are there examples in other countries of episodic giving to support a social movement or an expression of rage?
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What I Learned About Online Donor Engagement from Fundraisers in Brasil http://www.bethkanter.org/brasil-2017/ http://www.bethkanter.org/brasil-2017/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 16:14:50 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13136
Last week, I was in Sao Paolo for the ABCR Festival, the leading conference in Brasil for fundraising for nonprofit organizations. This was my third visit to the country. I delivered a keynote for Social Good Brasil in 2012 and for a conference on volunteering hosted by Fundação Telefônica in 2014.… Read More

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Last week, I was in Sao Paolo for the ABCR Festival, the leading conference in Brasil for fundraising for nonprofit organizations. This was my third visit to the country. I delivered a keynote for Social Good Brasil in 2012 and for a conference on volunteering hosted by Fundação Telefônica in 2014.

My last visit to Brasil coincided with the Brasil’s version of GivingTuesday called DiadeDoar and I was lucky enough to attend a fundraiser with Brasil’s Giving Tuesday leader João Paulo Vergueiro. João is also the executive director of ABCR, the professional association for fundraisers in Brasil and the host of the annual ABCR Festival.

I presented a master class on The Networked Nonprofit as pre-conference session, a mini-workshop on the Happy Healthy Nonprofit, and a plenary session on engaging donors moderated by Macelo Jambeiro, a talented digital strategist that works for an agency called Alder & Lang and previously with Change.org. My co-presenter for the plenary was the amazing Marcelo Iniarra, who is a digital mobilization pioneer and fantastic presenter/facilitator. The last time I shared a plenary stage with Marcelo Iniarra was in 2014 at the International Fundraising Congress where he rode a bicycle on stage!

The official title of the session was “Donor Engagement in An Age of Complexity.”  The unofficial title was “Beth and the Two Marcelos.”  A wink and nod to a famous novel and movie in Brasil about a women with two husbands named Marcleo.  The audience laughed.

The moderator, Marcelo Jamberio, organized a set of questions that other Marcelo and I responded to with slides and audience interaction.   Marcelo set up the overall context:  How can NGOs effectively engage donors online in an ever-growing age of complexity and connectivity?   The challenges:

Some things have not changed:

Some points and examples we shared in response to questions:

  • Fundraisers need to be experts in transmedia storytelling techniques and exploring new possibilities for sharing stories

Transmedia storytelling it is the technique of telling a story across multiple online platforms and formats using current digital technologies.  The stories are told in the best way for the platform or what we called “optimized” and the narrative is aligned.     It is also important to learn how to experiment telling your story in new and emerging channels.

I gave the example of charity:water that tells the story about how clean drinking water can change people’s lives in development country. I showed examples of how charity:water shares the story across different platforms and how it supports their fundraising.   One compelling example is how charity:water is telling the story through the use of “bots” using Facebook Messenger, including its “Walk with Yeshi” that allows donors to interact with an Ethiopian girl on her daily walk to get water from a well.   The UN Global Report  is also using Facebook Messenger bots to engage young people around different issues.

It raises the question, though – Will the robots take over fundraising?

  • Stories need to be compelling, immersive, human, funny, or provocative to capture attention

Marcelo Iniarra pointed out that people have limited attention, but simple human experiences like this video of an interrupted skype interview with Robert Kelly from Korean caught people’s attention around the globe.   Marcelo talked about how humor can capture attention.   He shared a campaign called Testi-monials, created by FCB Cape Town for CANSA which is setting out to remove the awkwardness around talking about testicular cancer, and drive awareness about “how important it is that men not only talk balls but take care of them too.”

The campaign, which has global appeal, features testicles giving their own testi-monials about cancer and how they have been personally affected. The campaign provides advice on how to self-examine and help detect signs and symptoms.

  • Engagement with a purpose and knowing your audience

I shared an example of “360 campaigns” that have online and offline components, that may engage with supporters online but inspires them to take an offline action.    I shared an example of a campaign from DoSomething that encouraged young people to download an app and go into shelters to take photos of the dogs and cats and share online.  I also discussed the importance of laying out the supporter journey and having metrics to understand and improve conversion rates.

I also shared some points about the importance of creating audience personas before you start crafting stories.  A persona is a fictional person created to represent a target audience. Audience personas  help you identify the needs and interests of your top audience segments and make them come to live.  Building personas allows you to have empathy for the audience, to put yourself in their shoes. It makes content creation more effective. I facilitated a brief interactive exercise with the audience to better understand the process.

  • Fundraisers need to be trend watchers and adapt their engagement strategy based on larger understanding of the environment emerging trends

Marcelo talked about the importance of observing trends that are unfolding around us and adapting your strategy based on that.    He called this “trend-driven innovation” and shared resource email and book with the same title.    The most recent trend is something called “Truthful Consumerism,” which is described in the brief video above.  The bottom for shaping online engagement is:

“Amid all the change and uncertainty of this moment, a set of core truths about our shared future are as relevant as ever. Transparency. Aspiration. Positive Impact. Tolerance. Empowerment. These truths are powerful – and positive – directions of travel sweeping through many advanced and emerging economies. Ground your innovation in one (or more!) of these forces, and you will ground it in something meaningful and lasting.”

  • Harness the power of staff/board personal brands and social media champions

I shared some points about rise of personal brand, especially a nonprofits leadership and staff  and personal and professional value of developing their own “brands” through media presence.  By using their voices to support their organization’s mission, they boost trust and inspire meaningful conversation and debate.   I shared some examples of how development officers and CEO’s are leveraging their personal brand to encourage donor engagement and did an interactive exercise with the audience to help them understand this point.

  • Cultivating Gen Y and Gen Z – the next generation of donors

We discussed the importance of cultivating the next generation of donors – not just Millennials, but also Gen z (age 12-20).  This generation can be particularly valuable in any crowdfunding campaigns and I offered a few examples.   To be successful, fundraisers need to learn how to speak “emoji.”

 

  • Understand the nature of distributed trust

Marcelo talk about the erosion of trust. Conventions of how trust is built, managed, lost and repaired – in brands, leaders, and entire systems is being turned upside down. Technology is creating new mechanisms that are enabling us to trust unknown people, companies and ideas.  At the same time, trust in institutions is fading.  Global trust in government, media, business and NGOs has fallen to its lowest levels ever.   A shift is underway from the 20th century defined by ‘institutional trust’ towards the 21st century that will be defined by ‘distributed trust’ across huge networks of people, organisations and intelligent machines.

He gave an overview of Rachel Botsman concept of distributed trust. You can learn more from her Ted Talk, “We’ve Stopped Trusting Institutions and Trust Strangers” or her wired article “Technology is Making Easy to Trust Strangers.”

I enjoy teaching workshops and presenting internationally because of the opportunity to learn from global peers.   What would you add to this conversation about donor engagement?

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Building Relationships within A Cause-Centered Community: Jeffersonian Dinners http://www.bethkanter.org/jeffersonian-dinner/ http://www.bethkanter.org/jeffersonian-dinner/#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 17:23:38 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13126

A cause-centered community is a group of people who share a common passion for a cause.   They could be a group of people who support a particular nonprofit’s social change agenda or a group of people from different organizations united around a common challenge, idea, or cause.… Read More

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A cause-centered community is a group of people who share a common passion for a cause.   They could be a group of people who support a particular nonprofit’s social change agenda or a group of people from different organizations united around a common challenge, idea, or cause.

I’ve been a member of the Leap Ambassadors Community, comprised of people who believe strongly that nonprofit performance matters.    While a lot of work is online –sharing knowledge and insights, co-creating tools to support high performance, micro-communities on different topics, and much more, the community has also met face-to-face.

At the most recent gathering last November, there was a desire to meet on a regional basis, I was lucky enough to co-design an informal meeting with Jill Vialet who suggested we use the Jeffersonian Dinner model.   It is great for helping to build relationships between people in a community and if used in a fundraising context, it can activate additional resources for a cause.

 

The model, named after Thomas Jefferson, who was well-known for hosting dinners with leading thinkers of the time, and Jefferson facilitated a passionate conversation about a host of important questions and issues.     The model has been popularized by Generosity Network co-authors Jennifer McCrea and Jeff Walker who have many online resources about how to plan and host one.

Jill shared this infographic that shows the rules.

Click for larger image

What I liked about the format is that everyone participated in the conversation and you could learn a lot about the people around the table.  Otherwise, the socializing would be in smaller pairs or threes and not get into a lot of depth.     You have give a bit of thought to the question and it is a good idea to let participants know about the format and question ahead of time.

You could use this model in a number of ways.  Of course, for fundraising cultivation and engagement, building an ambassador community, building relationships between people in a social movement, or as part of a multi-day training in a retreat setting.   I could see it being used at board retreat.

Have you ever hosted a Jeffersonian dinner or been a participant?  What was your experience?  Has your organization used this model to support donor engagement or an ambassador community?

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Different Ways Nonprofits Are Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems and Achieve Impact http://www.bethkanter.org/design-thinking-nonprofits/ http://www.bethkanter.org/design-thinking-nonprofits/#comments Fri, 05 May 2017 17:17:52 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13121

Note from Beth:  Several years ago, I was got trained in design thinking facilitation methods using Luma and have incorporated these techniques into my consulting and training practice.  I have also learned a lot from other nonprofit colleagues who have use these techniques, including Brian Reich (see this blog post about his design thinking work to solve the refugee crisis) who has just published a book on innovation called “The Imagination Gap” and my colleagues, Ted Frickes and Micheal Silberman at the Mobilization Lab.    

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Note from Beth:  Several years ago, I was got trained in design thinking facilitation methods using Luma and have incorporated these techniques into my consulting and training practice.  I have also learned a lot from other nonprofit colleagues who have use these techniques, including Brian Reich (see this blog post about his design thinking work to solve the refugee crisis) who has just published a book on innovation called “The Imagination Gap” and my colleagues, Ted Frickes and Micheal Silberman at the Mobilization Lab.    When I noticed the ImpactKit project, I was curious.   Mike Radke agreed to share this post about the work.

Different Ways Nonprofits Are Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems and Achieve Impact

One of the most admirable things about the people who run non-profits can also be their achilles heel: they love helping people. Often this means the business and strategy that supports innovation in the social sector is underdeveloped. But, in my experience, this is merely because those who rule the business strategy domain don’t speak the language of mission driven organizations, who are put off by any attempt to reduce their work to fit onto forms and spreadsheets.

This is exactly why the practices of Design Thinking and Systems Theory has enjoyed such welcome from the social sector. They are speaking the language of people, and empathy, and systemic change. The reception has been warm, but the adoption has been slow, primarily because Design Thinking and Systems Theory need to take a dose of their own medicine and adapt to be relevant and resonant with this new audience.

Drawing on more than decade leading strategic change in the social sector and my training in psychology and design thinking, I saw a huge opportunity to build a tool that leveraged the experience and language of the social sector to introduce Design Thinking and Systems Theory and an innovation flow that keeps people at the forefront, and gets changemakers back to the front lines with new ideas quickly.

This tool is called ImpactKit. My team at ION Studios curated 110 universally adoptable methods of social change and paired them with 10 custom mini-workshops that were designed to be led by and for social sector organizations to build their own innovation workflows.

We have been testing these workshops for the last few months and have had some interesting early results. We took an early prototype with us to Amsterdam to THNK’s annual gathering of Social Entrepreneurs, where we challenged their Creative Leaders to think about the Syrian refugee crisis. That group used our gap analysis exercise to find an opportunity to give refugees on the move a chance to add value to local communities while maintaining the dignity of earning an income and doing the work they engaged in at home.

In December we sat down with an emerging learning organization with ambitious plans to reach a billion people with a complex array of products and services. The team at this organization knew they were onto something special, but were struggling to engage donors in supporting the organization writ large, not just individual projects. After some empathetic listening, we found it was because there was no value proposition in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So we used a mapping and communications workshop to layout a Theory of Impact and sequencing strategy to help them secure their first major core funder.

Finally, about a month ago, we were working a small social-enterprise working on poverty alleviation through last-mile solutions. They felt stuck. After having have had some early success, they were being confronted with criticism of lack of awareness of the scale or scope of the problem. The leadership has covered this issue in the NGO sector for years, and were well aware of the depth and breadth, but they were struggling to translate that to a business whose funders were looking for returns on impact and profit. We worked through a day long stakeholder-centered innovation workshop with the test-print of ImpactKit. In order to scale both their impact and their bottom line, we found an opportunity for them to pivot towards a business-to-business model rather than a direct service model.

As the first run of ImpactKits go out around the world, we have picked up the following 5 tips about using ours and other’s tools for bringing Design Thinking and Systems Theory to social impact:

  1. Mind the gaps

In the business world they look for the Blue Ocean, the uncontested space where there is a ton of money to be made. In the social sector we need to look for the gaps, the unaddressed nodes in a network of need, so that the entire problem is addressed.

  1. Failure does not mean harm

Design Thinking moves fast, and relies on “failure” to learn and iterate. That’s a concept that can be disquieting for those whose mantra is “first do no harm.” Trust the process, and trust yourself. The practice of Design Thinking requires that you are constantly seeking input and feedback from stakeholders, so will know right away if something new is doing harm, and your conscience will help you stop it.

  1. Know your role

Most of us know that the social sector is a collaborative exercise, but the myths we tell are those of heroic individuals or organizations who are capable of single handedly eradicating a problem. Once you tightly define your role (or roles) in a system of change, you will better know who you should be working with, what your next service should be, and where the need has shifted to allow you to sunset a project.

  1. Design for complexity, communicate for simplicity

John Meada (master Designer and Technologist) offers this definition of Simplicity: ‘Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.’ Systems Theory allows you to map the complexity and nuance that is necessary to build adaptive organizations and innovative interventions. But when you go to your funder or stakeholder, they aren’t starting from scratch. Know what is obvious to them and find what will be meaningful. Design Thinking is a natural process for extracting those “simple” nuggets from the system.

  1. Get the innovation/implementation balance right

The process of innovation needs to include space for wild and unimplementable ideas, and those of us who have worked with constrained budgets are prone to being uncompromisingly pragmatic. Make sure that you identify specific times in your innovation workflow for open and divergent thinking and others for pragmatic, implementation-constrained exercises.

 

Michael Radke helps social enterprises to achieve the radical social change they envision through his innovation consultancy ION Studios, and is designing a new type of cultural institution dedicated to helping people understand people as co-founder of The Ubuntu Lab.

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Can You Measure the Impact of Capacity Building for Nonprofits? http://www.bethkanter.org/capacity-building-dividend/ http://www.bethkanter.org/capacity-building-dividend/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 17:37:01 +0000 http://www.bethkanter.org/?p=13113

Capacity building is about improving organizational (or network) effectiveness.  Capacity building includes both money (grants), consultants/technical assistance, peer learning/communities of practice, and collaboration.  According to the survey of funders about capacity building completed by GrantCraft, the top five areas of capacity building that funders most likely support include: leadership, strategic planning, financial management, governance, and fundraising.  … Read More

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Capacity building is about improving organizational (or network) effectiveness.  Capacity building includes both money (grants), consultants/technical assistance, peer learning/communities of practice, and collaboration.  According to the survey of funders about capacity building completed by GrantCraft, the top five areas of capacity building that funders most likely support include: leadership, strategic planning, financial management, governance, and fundraising.   Other areas include: communications, executive transition, evaluation/learning, networking/convening, and professional development.

As a trainer and facilitator, the work I do with organizations and networks, often on behalf of a foundation for its grantees, is capacity building.   But, like anything else, to improve results, you need to measure it.      My colleague, Teresa Crawford,  Executive Director
at Social Sector Accelerator, a member of the Counterpart International Network, has been doing research on this topic:

Is it possible to effectively measure the impact such “capacity building” services have? Do these services truly lead to a “Capacity Dividend” – accelerating nonprofits’ ability to pursue their purpose? If so, what approaches lead to the greatest impact and under what conditions? 

To answer the questions, they conducted a landscape analysis of existing research on the impacts of capacity building on organizational strength and social impact.  They reviewed research from nearly 60 academic, think-tank, and thought leader sources published after 1990 and interviewed leading practitioners from both grant-makers and capacity building service providers.  They also facilitated discussion with others funders that invest in capacity building.

What they discovered is that the existing research, both anecdotally and qualitatively, largely supports the notion that organizations that receive capacity building support can achieve greater social impact.   Unfortunately, on the whole, the review unearthed a lack of robust empirical research linking capacity building support with improvements in measures of organizational effectiveness, and even less research linking capacity building with greater social impact.  The field needs stronger evidence that investments in capacity building – instead of or in addition to – other forms of support pays off.

The landscape analysis suggests that the question is not whether certain types of capacity building are better or worse than others. Rather, the question grant-makers and nonprofits should ask is what kinds of capacity building will achieve the desired outcomes and optimize mission-related impacts.

In the spirit,  the complete Capacity Dividend research is available here:

If you deliver capacity building to nonprofits or you are a nonprofit who has engaged with a capacity builder, how did you measure the results?

 

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