Thursday, April 27, 2006

Invisible Children

I'm going to be presenting for WOMMA in early May on how The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society word of mouth marketing to achieve our goals. In thinking about this and looking back what we've been doing and trying I started doing some research and came across this blog post.

I thought that my organization was pushing ahead of the curve but I've (as usual), been put in my proper place. What is going on here is truely remarkable - not because of the technology but because it is a part of a collection of defining moment that smart charities should be looking at closely - the grassroots nature of charities and the grassroots nature of the Internet have completely merged.

I'm so completely blown away by The Global Night Commute and what these folks are doing!

However, don't get me wrong - the big NPO's will always be big, raising more money and garnering more attention than anything a Viral NPO can muster. That said, the really interesting stuff is happening in places that you aren't looking closely enough at... Second Life, and in places you just don't expect.

Traditionalists are being blinded by the past by focusing on how to improve Direct Mail response rates by .1% or complaining how their open rate on their 500,000 name email list are dropping. They're ignoring the present by not taking all their assets and leveraging them in new places like iTunes, YouTube, Google Video, Squidoo and and much, much more...

No, there's no ROI (yet). No, your boss doesn't understand what the hell you are talking about... it doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing it though. Push the envelope NPO marketers.. the future is here!

Last night - my 6 year old daughter broke open her piggy bank and pulled out $17 and change and told me that tomorrow she was doing "Pennies" - a program sponsored by my organization... I hadn't asked her to do this, or even talked w/her about what we do. While she didn't really capture the details the same way that the 12 year old in the blog post I referenced did, she said a mouthful.

"The class who raises the most money gets to go to the book faire - but that's not important. I just want to help the people."

I hadn't been thinking about The Global Night Commute at that point - but clearly there is something going on with today's youth. Kids today are empowered by not only the Internet, but their own filters and authenticity. They have the power to move mountains and to affect real change in our world.

Update - my wife Tivo'd Oprah and by chance, it was the show that featured both the Invisible Children story and George Clooney talking about Darfur. Oprah did an amazing job tying all the pieces together - it was really interesting to see how polished it all felt on Orpah against the rawness of the videos and the Invisible Children's site itself.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rogue Leader!

I'm about to rant a bit... please excuse this post for what it is...

Rogue web sites. Hell on earth.

At least once a month I'm finding out about chapters who've taken it upon themselves to develop, build and launch unauthorized web sites for local special events. How fun!

Here's a typical scenario in chronological order:
  1. Chapter is planning an event (golf, black tie, mud wrestling, whatever)
  2. Chapter puts together committee
  3. Committee deems National Web site "not sufficient" or doesn't think to ask for help
  4. Committee member knows "web designer" who builds registers a domain, donates free hosting and designs a web site
  5. National HQ marketing stiff finds out about committee designed web site through random chance (the most likely way to find out about such rogue sites as it turns out) and unfortunately, decides to click the link to check out the site...
  6. Site is usually terrible, incorrectly branded and incorrect
  7. National HQ marketing stiff is put in awkward position (i.e. Now what? Shut it down, build a new site for the event, scream and yell, etc...)
I've thought long and hard about policies to control this, but as anyone working in a large NPO with chapters knows - they're gonna do what they're gonna do if there aren't any severe consequences. In the absence of any strong enforcement, we've tried to build out a robust tech platform using a CMS and external services to process event registrations and online fundraising. We've also staffed up to help "consult" with chapters - but over and over again, they go to outside sources and break branding rules, develop ugly sites and then are offended when we try to help the get things right.

We've also put out policies about URL/domain registration (not allowed locally), online marketing (not without prior approval from Headquarters), e-mail marketing (use our centralized service or get a baseball bat wrapped around your head) and utilization of donation/registration services.

Is there anyone out there fighting (or going with the flow) of rogue web sites? I need some references to help me make some decisions here!

I can't decide to be honest with you how to proceed. I'm torn between locking down things centrally (but have no staff) or going with the chaos theory for local special event sites (i.e. let them go for it). I'm sure ultimately the solution is a compromise, it usually is.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Change the World

I found this post on Boing Boing: "Invisible Children is a non-profit that has been fighting to end a horrifying 20 year war in Northern Uganda. They've organized a national protest event for April 29th. They just released this insane & amazing music video to help promote the event. Definitely worth checking out and definitely an organization worth supporting."

The video is a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and High School Musical, and maybe a little Fame tossed in for good measure... I think this video (whether you like it or not personally) is a good example of a NPO really going for it by trying to focus on a specific set of constituents and having some fun. I'm also guessing that this video is off the wall and campy in a way that I'm too old to fully appreciate.

April 29th is soon - check out the video and help change the world.

Watch the Video Here

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Corporate Philanthropy, Sponsorships and Cause Marketing

This morning, I listened to a wonderful podcast from IT Conversations today on Corporate Philanthropy featuring execs from, Timberland and Mcafee.

The history lesson on corporate giving alone is worth the time to listen, but the real gem comes when Steve Wright talks about how approaches partnerships. It strikes me that corporate partnerships with non-profits is a very bi-directional thing -both sides need to be very clear and honest about what they are looking for in a relationhship, and to help each other achieve their explicit goals.

Far too often I've been in meetings with corporations who do not care at all about the non-profit's goals - while the non-profit feels the same way about the partner. That's not a partnership - it's a waste of time.

From the non-profit perspective, I've felt at times that the non-profit get up on a high horse about how corporate partners care too much about profits and sales. While there are limits (like for example, doing a cause promotion with Coors or a tobacco company), and there are gray areas (like a health charity doing a cause promotion with Taco Bell or Oreo cookies), the thing to strive for is synergy. I have no problem helping company x sell more widgets, if in return they are helping to raise more money for us to cure problem y.

There is another terrific podcast from IT conversation with Darrell Hammond from Kaboom that touches on many of these points and more.