Remembering Mary

marytylermoore_creditpbsI think I always wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore . . . throwing my fuzzy, striped wool cap up in the air in the middle of that cold, potential-filled Minneapolis intersection at Nicollet Mall.

That was really my life plan ― unconsciously maybe. I yearned to be a sassy, single career woman on my own, working for my own version of Mr. Grant at a TV station ― and living in a cozy, split-level, efficiency apartment in the land of 10,000 lakes. I actually painted my room yellow and made my own curtains out of sunny yellow-checked bed sheets I bought at Sanger Harris when I was 13. Eventually, I even chose an internship at the Minneapple’s Guthrie Theatre ― ostensibly as part of my graduate arts administration program, but it was probably more about my pursuit of my Mary myth. Unfortunately, my Cold War-era company apartment on Loring Park had more cinder blocks and roaches than Victorian panache, but I did love the Twin Cities.

It’s amazing how seventies television molded me. It taught me that if I had yellow shag carpeting, a really skinny chest of drawers, a self-effacing smile ― and a neurotic, wise-cracking neighbor, things might work out after all. And I tried to work that out for a long time. Mary was my aspiration and, at times, my fragile identity.

I did enjoy countless hours of quality time with my CBS gang. I remember Archie Bunker, Mary Richards, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett typically occupying my Saturday nights as a pre-teen ― in front of that enormous, fake-wood RCA console in the corner of the living room. I often curled up on my parents’ sea foam green sectional― with a whole box of Reese’s mini-peanut butter cups, a package of Oreo cookies and an ice-cold Tab. Ah, those were the days.

So now, look at me ― I am that single gal, but alas, I’m on the other side of divorce with two sons who are practically adults. I’m back in Dallas, and I finally sold off that skinny, yellow lingerie chest in a garage sale for $15. Admittedly, I had been lugging it around for years and years. I finally emptied the drawers, but I think there was still some junk inside.

Thank you, Mary, for being there all those years. Thank you for serving as role model for me and so many young women who ultimately found strength in themselves. Love is all around, no need to waste it. Will miss you.                                                                                             Photo Credit: PBS.org

 

Time Traveled

Notes from a social media Cyrano.

Time. A noun. Verb. Adjective.
We don’t have time. Oh, we’ll make the time.
We spend time, save time, buy time.
Are we living on borrowed time? People give us their time. Really?
But we took the time. Will I be on time? Well, at least, we made good time.
What time is it? In real time. Oh, time’s up. Is it all a waste of time?

All in good time.
But time waits for no one. Time marches on.
What’s time does it start?

Time’s ticking away. Time flies.
Time sensitive, stamp, warp– crunch.
Is it good timing or bad?
Oh, there’ll come a time.
It’s just a matter of time. Time after time. Any time at all.
Somewhere in time. They didn’t get there in time.
Is time on our side? Is there enough time?
If you could just save time in a bottle. . .
Time isn’t holding us; time isn’t after us.
But, we’re running out of time.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Is time an illusion?That’s exactly what I hear all the time.  

Time is on my mind—can you tell? It’s front and center as I face the half-century mark in a matter of weeks, in fact. Somehow 50 years on this earth is poignant and powerful—especially since events of the past couple of years have completely taxed my resilience, heart, faith and very existence. I keep thinking there is something on the other side this personal and professional chaos— a sort of rebirth or even anagnorisis, as the protagonist might have in ancient Greek tragedy. You know that frightening feeling when you get swept away in a wave at the beach—and for those few harrowing moments in time, seemingly suspended, you have no idea which way is up, nor if you will find your way to the surface?

Age 50 would be a more than poetic time to find my way to the surface, don’t you think? Gandhi discovered at 50 his real mission in nonviolent resistance, and Cervantes was older than that when he began his career as a novelist. As Nietzsche said, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

Speaking of time, it’s been a long time since I wrote my own blog. Funny how it works—when you develop an expertise, especially a non-traditional one, you often end up doing it for someone else. I write for others now. I guess you could say I’m a ghost blogger – a sort of social media Cyrano. It’s an interesting role to play—creating the authentic voice of another—in particular a business—a bit like acting. The goal is to humanize the corporate persona in a social media stratosphere. Gotta admit that it’s a challenge managing the tightrope of “corporate transparency”—kind of an oxymoron–and the real time attention required in the brave new world of instant gratification.

In the early days of advertising, businesses traded money for exposure, and today, in the new media world, we trade money for time. Real time.  Some tasks are automated, but it’s difficult to automate authenticity.

In fact, so many of my clients say, “I just don’t have the time for this.” And they are right. It’s like living a double life—the online persona and the business pro.
But with more than 600 million Facebook users,  somebody has time!

So really, it’s not about time.
It’s about the value of the experience–and the joy. It’s about connection and the fun.  A recent poll by Priority Management, Inc. had an answer.  In a lifetime, the average American will spend:

• 6 months sitting at stoplights
• 1 year looking for misplaced objects
• 2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls
• 7 years waiting in line

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that a sense of belonging is just above safety and security. And, the irony is – we can’t self- actualize alone. So, enter social media. Even if it’s electronic, it’s human connection and the ability to feel part of something. It’s a new kind of relationship reality. So, I guess time is not as important as choice.

It’s about choices we make. Personal choices. So many choices, and just where does the time go?

Making social media sing with REO

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about optimizing social media, life, and spirit. Reach her at elgantz()yahoo.com

I have been on a unique journey that has definitely been broadening my horizons— drilling deeply into a real-estate-publishing niche focused on REOs—that’s “real estate owned” properties (not the eighties pop band) that have run the foreclosure gauntlet and are back in the hands of the financial institutions. This is a growing byproduct and reality of our struggling economy, which was so crippled by the once reckless heyday of sub-prime mortgage lending.

Yes, I guess one might say there in a murky dark side to this world—all the financial loss, property vandalism and deterioration, hassle, anger, anguish, shame, and lives in upheaval. But as there is a yin to every yang, REO sales actually provide a glimmer of hope for devastated neighborhoods and broken dreams—the promise of asset managers and investors who are committed to win-win-win propositions which involve neighborhood transformation, green renovation, and helping people live without the oppressive burdens of back-breaking mortgage obligations.

That’s where the REO Expo, June 6 – 9, and the Open Door Institute, a vibrant community for REO professionals, come into play.

I joined the mother ship, The LTV Group, about a month and half ago to develop a social media marketing strategy for the REO Expo and other corporate entities down the road. Other core businesses under the umbrella are REO Insider magazine and HousingWire magazines and LTV Creative. It’s been quite a ride—working with a talented and energetic bunch of folks, as well as a target market with a fiercely persistent, can-do work ethic. We are less than two weeks away, and the registration momentum continues to build. Here are the basics of the case study—with updates to follow.

REO Expo 2010: Social Media Strategy

Objective:
Maximize registrations for REO Expo and simultaneously—expand membership in the Open Door Institute, a new community for REO professionals, requiring dues ranging from $595 to $2995.

Key tactics:
• Driving consistent conversation and engagement activity on Facebook, Twitter, REO Pro Ning community, Linked In, and blog response. Monitor, engage, converse, and respond. In a little over a month, the Facebook fan (or like) page is more than 425-strong.

• Building a complete social media “ecosystem” across all marketing communications channels—with social media group icons inviting engagement on all outgoing emails, materials, and the REO Expo website.

• Launching a “Share Your Story” contest. The winner received free REO Expo registration, a 3-night hotel stay at the conference, and an invitation to the private reception with Emmitt Smith. The two runners up won free registration. We had some very disturbing REO tales, indeed, and interestingly, the site that provided the most involvement was Linked In—through postings on the various subject-matter interest groups.

There were many stories of persistence, accomplishment, and cast-iron stomachs, but our winner, Nelya Calev of Seattle, wove a particularly disconcerting yarn. You can read the whole story on REO Insider blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“Our guys re-keyed the house, and I went to take pictures for BPO. And as I was walking down the hallway when I saw F*&K . . . (name of the bank) written in large letter on the wall and punched holes next to it. Not a big deal, so I take pictures. There was spilled paint on the tile floor, fire place, and carpet. No biggy, right? I walked in to the master bedroom and he had little girls underwear framed on the wall . . . What kind of sick person does that? It scared the crap out of me . . . I went downstairs and he had a picture of . . . “

OK . . . I think you get the picture. Not for the faint of heart, right? She goes on to say she had to deal with crazy neighbors approaching every buyer and scaring them off. He had to babysit buyers and the buyers’ agents to get it sold.


And I thought I have had a colorful career!

The Campaign Results so far:
1. Registrations have increased almost twelve-fold since launching an integrated social media, e-marketing, and traditional materials/word-or-mouth marketing campaign a little over a month a ago—meeting and even surpassing expectations.
2. Open Door Institute Membership has almost doubled in the same time period.

Registration is online at www.REOExpo2010.com. Be sure to sign up sooner than later, because attendance is capped and the free classes that we’re being offered through the Open Door Institute and Default School are filling fast.

There’s more to come, and we will keep you updated. Or, why don’t you join us? For now, it’s time for me to fly . . .

Will Social Media Make the Grade?

Integrating social media into business in a meaningful way is more difficult than I thought it would be—academically speaking, of course. In fact, it’s really ironic. Though higher education is ostensibly about forging trails, igniting discourse, and driving innovation, the reality is that the business of academia is still working on how to maximize the high-octane power of social media. Methinks it’s probably just a little too out-of-control and outside the box for those venerable educational brands.

I think the real rub is the expectation of immediate results versus the fear of unbridled conversation. But it really comes down to justifying the opportunity cost (now that’s a vestige of my 25-year-old MBA trickling out of my baby-boomer psyche). Truthfully, social media may even be the ultimate paradox. In a world of 24/7 e-commerce, instant gratification, and auto-responses, business leaders want immediate profitability and irrefutable ROI. But social media in business is more about the journey than the destination. It’s process. And that’s very hard to justify in a dollar and cents world—especially in today’s, re-orged, laid-off, downsized, bailed-out, and bedraggled business climate.

As many experts have said about social media, it is more a mindset or behavior that a channel or tool, in the traditional marketing parlance. More and more, I see how companies really need to transform from the inside out. We must radically rethink everything—communication, marketing, and sales to truly maximize the power and effectiveness of social media—and marketing, in general. The online social media space is not an environment where ROI can necessarily be calculated based on standalone, one-off calls to action—but where we build an intertwined, 3-D, online “ecosystem” that enables customers, constituents, or alumni to respond—whether it is buying the latest alumni directory, dog food, or a tax preparation service.

It also means integrating a company’s brand and grassroots employee behavior into the rhythm of the social media dance. To be successful, we can no longer be afraid of engaging through our own profiles, website, and presence. We as small business can carve out a more profitable future if we are willing to fully engage in the opportunities. Granted, social media for business is a revolutionary concept. We must be willing to test, test, test, experiment—and even fail. We must also be willing to allocate time and resources. Some ideas:

1. Perhaps this means training a core group of employees (or volunteers for nonprofits) or interns to nurture, tend, and cultivate social media farm, as Chris Brogan calls it.

2. Start from square one on the brand, value proposition, and core products. It is important to analyze and synthesize online behaviors to best understand how to trigger them. Online activity is a very different behavioral energy from the traditional one-to-one sales call transaction. We must understand the dynamics of both.

3. We must spend as much time listening and participating online at posting calls to action. Social media expert Chris Brogan emphasized this in his recent Dallas presentation. This means actively posting, conversing, and responding on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Gowalla, YouTube, the university website, and blogs. The rehearsal is just as important as the performance. It’s about igniting behavior, interest, and activity – then making the pitch.

How will we know that we are successful? When we have increased our goal of social media lead generation and revenue impact, we will know. In addition, web response tools help us continually clean email addresses, physical addresses, and contacts. Streamlined e-marketing can also drastically reduce dependence on snail mail, thus enhancing the profit margin of each project.

What are the appropriate metrics to track? We will implement a series of initiatives and promotions for each type of product offering. We will measure their effectiveness based on fans, followers, click-thrus, and incremental increases in revenue. Key indicators:

• Brand activity and campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, blogs, online communities, and more traditional news.
• Website traffic.
• Conversions of social media traffic to leads and sales.
• Daily user engagement via online communities.
• Benchmarks for measuring the impact of social media efforts.
• Content on multiple blogs and syndicated content.
• Competitive programs and initiatives within the online product/service community.

A well-meaning, yet hopelessly pedantic friend recently sent me this quote that resonates for me in this context:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Tactics for Tough Times

“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” –John Steinbeck

Whether you are large or little, flush or floundering, it’s never too late to chart a course to flourish in the New Year. Even though recovery is still looming as a faint glimmer on horizon, we need to be vigilant about honing our skills to work smarter and make the most of the new economic realities. Here are some scrappy, do-more-with-less things you can do to jump-start your marketing program in 2010:

Contact your lapsed donors. Appeal to them via snail mail or better yet, through email. Reactivated donors can have higher lifetime value than new donors, because they’re already invested.

Express gratitude. Curtailing donor-acknowledgment activities as a means of cost-cutting can be counter-productive–and even devastating. In fact, messages of appreciation will be more potent than ever.

Take risks. Yes, even in a time of uncertainty, new tools can help you differentiate yourself in a sea of solicitations and a cacophony of causes. Social media can help you expand your base and leverage the viral power of peer-to-peer fundraising in dynamic, new ways. Discover exciting ways to streamline your process and empower your volunteers. In this Internet age, the medium is definitely the message, as well as the method!

Innovate. Effective fundraising is dependent on innovation. Everything is testable, and any idea can lead to a stronger program. Whether it succeeds or fails, there is something to be learned. The biggest mistake you can make during tough times is to retreat to a defensive position and make decisions out of fear.

Put the “Donate Now” button on everything. Don’t be shy about the “Donate Now” button. So many schools and universities, in particular, are shy about using this. It’s one of the easiest ways to increase online giving–by asking!!! Some key places to put it include:
• Your homepage.
• The homepage of your online community.
• Every email, every e-newsletter you send.

ENGAGE in social media. If you have not already, create a Facebook page that will automatically post status updates to your Twitter account. (Set that up, too.) And, investigate your LinkedIn groups. You may find that that there is already an active community of support burgeoning on these sites. Build a bridge, and interact with online savvy groups.

Investigate mobile applications. Whether you are providing mobile access to a unique resource, to volunteer offerings, or to giving opportunities, everyone is going mobile. We need to communicate to our donors and alumni where they are — in the palms of their hands — through mobile applications, texting, and mobile-friendly rendering of our communication devices. This will be essential in 2010! According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 43.3 million units during the third quarter of 2009 (3Q09), up 4.2% from the 41.5 million units shipped in 3Q08, and up 3.2% from shipments of 41.9 million units in 2Q09.

Whatever you do, keep trusting — and testing, testing, testing . . . And remember to take time to breathe and celebrate everything you have accomplished this year.

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media that makes a difference. Contact her at elgantz @ yahoo.com.

Giving Thanks

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
— Thornton Wilder

As we approach another Thanksgiving—dining room tables heaped high with the obligatory turkey, taters, and trimmings, it’s difficult to ignore the struggle and challenge so many of us have faced this year. Alas, it’s been a year of more slicing and dicing of budgets and jobs than of crudités. So many have lost so much.

That’s why it is more important than ever that we focus on gratitude—the active process of paying attention to the blessings in our lives and expressing thanks. Granted, this may require a little more creativity and resourcefulness than usual, but it is so important. How powerful it is that seek the silver lining in our most difficult situations and feel genuinely grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow.

Admittedly, that sounds a little pop-psychological. You may be thinking, “Yea, Elaine, easier said than done.” And, I agree to an extent. My year has provided many “learning opportunities.” With an unexpected “professional reinvention,” the vicissitudes of life as a single mom with two teenage boys, a failed relationship, and critically ill family members—2009 has been no picnic.

But I am grateful for so much. The road to self-awareness can be arduous, disruptive, and painful, but it reaps generous rewards. I have excavated buried treasure (and some trash for immediate disposal) from the depths of my own psyche. And, I am grateful to be making new discoveries daily about what I really want and what I possess that I can express to make the world a better place. Wow, with almost a half a century under my belt, I’m finally starting to figure some of “it” out. As treacherous as the road has been, it’s been productive, indeed.

My remarkable boys, faithful friends, family, and church home are all on my gratitude list. I also appreciate you and your interest in my writing. This blog is my passion and my pleasure. It is astonishing. The unpredictable Circle of Life has truly spun me in an exhilarating, new direction this year. And I am convinced that gratitude has helped me. The challenge is allowing ourselves to see it amidst the noise, clutter, and confusion of our lives—to be fully present and consciously aware. It pays to practice gratitude; it can:

Improve relationships. Think about those people who let you know they appreciate you. Doesn’t their appreciation improve your relationships? Be grateful for people, and make sure you let them know how you feel.

Reduce negativity.
It is hard to be negative about your situation when you are thinking about the positive aspects. One of the fastest ways to improve your mood or outlook is to count your blessings.

Improve problem-solving skills. When we think about a problem from the perspective of gratefulness, we open our minds up to new possibilities and connections. We enter a problem-solving situation with an attitude of opportunity rather than challenge or defeat.

Help us learn. Most dark clouds have a silver lining. Every problem can give birth to opportunity. Being grateful for your situation, even if you don’t like it, allows you to be thankful for the opportunity to learn something new.

Alleviate depression.
Try writing five things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. You may just start to see a ray of light piercing through those gray clouds. Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important things that you can do for attracting and manifesting the things that you desire into your life.

Life is a series of choices. It is a combination of proportion and perception, and we must be deliberate about consciously choosing gratitude. I surrender my feelings of negativity and despair. I embrace the viability of hope. I actively look for humor, abundance, and joy, and I allow others to reach out to me with their gifts of love, laughter, and healing. I signal the world that I am open, engaged, and committed to fostering the greater good—today and in the years ahead.

Blessings to you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving,

Elaine

Global, Social, Ubiquitous, and Cheap

Professor Clay Shirky
Professor Clay Shirky

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social change. Elaine covers social media for nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Find out more at SocialFuse.

I have just discovered Clay Shirky, New York University Interactive Technology Professor and my new favorite media provocateur. He talks about social media in the context of the broadly transformed media landscape with massive cultural implications. He spoke at the NTEN conference in April, and Blackbaud Blogger Chad Norman documented several quotes that he claimed “blew his mind.” And, indeed they do mine, too! Shirky has remarkable vision and shrewd insight. His fundamental premise is that cell phones, the Web, Facebook and Twitter have radically changed all the rules of the media game, allowing ordinary citizens to access extraordinary new powers to engage in and impact real-world events. It’s a fascinating concept that certainly informs the way we think about social action as a whole. Further, in considering Shirky’s observations, I’m wondering if we could be on the verge of a systemic reinvention of how we address society’s most pressing needs across the board? Could the “nonprofit organization” as we know it be ripe for transformation? In a presentation on TED, Shirky makes a sweeping claim:

“The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

He goes on to say that only four other periods in history have manifested such revolutionary change:
• In the mid 1440s, the invention of the printing press, movable type, and oil-based inks.
• About 200 years ago—the invention of the telegraph, followed by the telephone—
enabling 2-way communication, slow text-based conversations, then real-time voice
conversations.
• About 150 years ago—recorded media, other than print—introduction of photographs, then recorded sound, then motion pictures—all encoded into physical objects.
• About 100 years ago—harnessing the electromagnetic spectrum to send images through the air—radio and television.

Reviewing the 20th century, Shirky suggests, “The media that’s good at creating conversations is no good at creating groups. The media that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations.” The Internet has shattered this model—in several salient ways.

Bill Cheswick's map of the Internet
Bill Cheswick's map of the Internet

First, it natively supports groups and conversations simultaneously. Now “many can talk to many,” as opposed to “one talking to one” or “one talking to many.” The other big change is the Internet is carriage for all other media. Everything exists side by side and intertwined. And the marriage of the Internet and mobile technology has taken this a step further—making media global, social, ubiquitous, and cheap. And this reality has enabled the third big shift—the consumers are now the producers. Shirky suspects there are now more amateurs producing media than professionals, leading to another one of those provocative quotes—”Media is increasingly less just a source of information and increasingly more a site of coordination.”

So, I have to ask— where does this leave the “marketing communications professional”? What exactly is our role now? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself recently. We are no longer about “carefully crafting and conveying messages” – but about ““creating an environment for convening and supporting.” As marketing professionals, are we becoming party hosts, rather than communicators? Hmmm. How does this new media model integrate with the current structural framework of business? There is the rub. This is a shift to be reckoned with. But consider the other conundrum . . .As drivers of organizations, how do we make use of this new landscape? And how does the traditional nonprofit organization adroitly adjust to this new media environment?

I can’t help but think about social entrepreneur Manny Hernandez’s success with a non-traditional approach to social action—transitioning his initiative from independent social media communities to official nonprofit status, as opposed to the reverse. His success in creating support networks for diabetes through free Ning tools is an example of the phenomenon Shirky describes as the value of “social capital,” rather than “technical capital.” He aptly observes that “tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” Wow. Another revelation. He adds that the real innovation happens when the tools become second-nature for the user. Manny’s post titled “How To Create Social Change Without Forming a 501-c3” details how he drove the development of his communities independently — TuDiabetes (almost 10,800 members) and EsTuDiabetes (almost 5,400 members) before deciding to establish a nonprofit organization, Diabetes Hands Foundation. You can read more about his transition from the social media cloud to nonprofit organization on Beth Kanter’s blog.

Personally, I have been on both sides of this question, but the rapid-fire change from just a year ago makes it difficult to discern a definite path or any firm conclusions. Having worked for nonprofits and with a for-profit, cause-focused, social-media start-up, I have experienced the challenge of engagement from many vantage points. I believe the key is to optimize the global-social-ubiquitous-cheap equation in ways that leverage “social capital” and capture the imaginations of the wide web of user-consumer-producers. Definitely a brave new world! And an energizing, astonishing, and sometimes befuddling time of recreation.

How do you think nonprofits should adapt?

Will microvolunteering have a macro impact?

iphone_200
I was very intrigued by the latest social media philanthropy trend I saw posted by NPR on my Facebook page—The Extraordinaires, a snazzy, new social media enterprise that delivers microvolunteer opportunities to mobile phones that can be done on-demand and on-the-spot. The article begins – “Got five minutes? Got a cell phone? Want to do good?” What a concept—weaving volunteer activities into the fabric of your busy, over-programmed day. Interesting concept, but does it make practical sense? When you are waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store, might you have time or focus to translate an email newsletter into Spanish—or figure sum-of-the-years-digits depreciation on the purchase of a new copier? I wonder. It’s a great concept, indeed—multi-taking at the highest level of win-win efficiency.

Upon download, I realized the opportunities offered were almost universally photo-related—tagging images for the Smithsonian or cataloging images for the Brooklyn Museum. My mind was racing with other options or opportunities. Still, I was a bit bewildered. The app asked that I describe what I saw—one session asking me to tag what appeared to be 19th century French Genre paintings. Now, I’m thinking this is a bit freewheeling for a museum. Luckily, I took art history in college, but I’m not so sure I would trust the random, crowdsourced public to accurately catalog these esoteric works for posterity. Definite fact-checking and review required, indeed.

As I hit submit, I suspected that it was less about the task at hand, so to speak, and more about the experience. It’s kind of like taking one of those Facebook quizzes. It’s fun and enlightening in a pseudo-informational sort of way, but the value is questionable. However, I was surprised that there seemed to be no data capture—no way of engaging me further after my “micro” interaction. There was just a very cordial thank you for “making the world a better place.” So, the ongoing social media question looms—how do we bring those touched through casual encounters such as an iphone tagging exercise into our cultivation universes?

Extraordinaires co-founder Jacob Colker, 26, says, “We hope people might look differently at that ride on the bus and not just play video games.” He continues, “Microvolunteerism is perfectly suited for the Millennial Generation. They are used to text messaging, MySpace, Facebook, get-in, get-out, instant gratification. For them, going out and cleaning up a park—that’s not necessarily attractive to them.” So, is microvoluteerism the new media equivalent of a one-night stand? No commitments . . . no strings? I guess we’ll have to stay tuned!

I cringe to think the entire paradigm for volunteerism is shifting to micro tasks and instant gratification. I prefer to see this as fresh, innovative concept yet another option to attract “followers” and “fans.” I am reminded of the mission trip my 17-year-old son recently took to northern Michigan. The group of 35 students spent a week renovating a deteriorating campground for economically disadvantaged youth. They built Adirondack chairs, sanded fences, and painted cabins. They got their hands dirty and their hearts engaged. No cell phones were allowed. And, the gratification may not have been instant, but it was most certainly—genuine.

What do you think about microvolunteerism?

Changing the World with Social Media

Beth Kanter is always on the leading edge of social media adoption and integration. She is the ultimate nonprofit social media maven and was recently featured on Mashable. Here are some of her fundamental assessments of ways social media is shaping the nonprofit world: earth-day1

Giving the message intimacy and relevance.
A few weeks ago, the March of Dimes supporters came out in droves for a networked memorial service for a toddler named Maddie. The community raised tens of thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes in Maddie’s memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family. The organization did little to stage this event. The March of Dimes has embraced openness and inspired their stakeholders to feel empowered enough to take action on their own.

Making birthdays matter.
Social media is enabling individuals to create, join, and grow groups around issues they care about. I love the way DonorsChoose providing a way to make birthdays a reason to give. And Stephen Colbert is setting the pace with “Birthday Give Back” . And as Beth says, keep an eye out for more social apps with a conscience that will offer even more creative ways for supporters to self-organize and take action around causes. As non-profits begin to engage their own communities in these online conversations, they are able to reach more people than ever before, and using less effort doing so. As Maddie Grant, a partner at SocialFish, observes, “We can all be change agents and that has to be good for the entire nonprofit industry, as long as organizations adapt to this new way of being part of a two-way conversation and groundswell of social responsibility.”

Integrating media.
An interesting example of crowd-sourcing by a nonprofit comes from Michael Tilson Thomas, artistic director of the San Francisco Symphony with the recent performance of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. The performers were selected from thousands of video auditions from around the globe. The finalists were winnowed down by a jury of professional musicians, not unlike a traditional audition, but the winners were crowd-sourced by YouTube users via online voting. The resulting “mashed up” symphony orchestra, had more than 90 players representing over 30 countries.

Driving social change “in house.”
Danielle Brigidia, who is responsible for social media strategy for National Wild Life Federation , says “Internally, we have started to focus on cross-promoting our ideas and programs more thanks to social media tools like Yammer (internal Twitter).” Carrie Lewis, social networking strategist for the Humane Society of the US, observes how their Internet is now working differently. “We have daily 9 minute meetings. Short meetings have helped them be more efficient and effective with every aspect of social media campaigns.”

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