Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

I've turned off my brain for a few days as I prepare for my new job at The International Rescue Committee. Have a wonderful and happy new year - I'll be posting again soon!

PS - If you haven't yet read "The World is Flat" - it's a terrific read. I'm about halfway through the boook. If you have kids, you'll learn that instead of telling them to clean their plates because there are starving children in India and China you should be telling them to finish their homework. There are children in India and China who are starving for their jobs.

Happy new year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Alzheimer's Exhibit in Second Life

I just got back from visiting the new exhibit in Second Life put up by the Alzheimer's organization in Ontario. Like Camp Darfur, there is a lot going on here - this is a wonderful example of how you can build a "cross-border" (those borders being the real and the virtual) exhibit.

Alzheimer's Exhibit in Second Life - Entrance

The entrance is what you'd normally see in the real world - a physical building with a doorway. It's interesting to me that most everything we've seen so far in SL is a direct copy of the real world. The oddest of those is classrooms/seminar areas that have seats... why would my avatar need to sit? In any case, once you go into the exhibit, you'll learn about the organization and read some very sad stories of those affected by the disease.

Alzheimer's Exhibit in Second Life - Intro

The builder's did a good job in building displays that are engaging by having wonderful photos (all of them have attached notecards for more information).

Alzheimer's Exhibit in Second Life - Game

I think however, what I loved the most was "The Memory Board" game. There's nothing special about the game itself - what I loved was that it existed as part of this exhibit. It would have been too easy to throw up some photos and info and call it a day... but they went that extra step to build interactivity in. It's a huge bonus that the game ties so nicely into the message/mission. I'm only mad that I didn't get the high score!

Given all the recent yay/nay sayers floating around (Clay Shirkey's piece started a firestorm of blog posts and comments here, here, here and here) I think that this exhibit gives us a very small glimpse into the vast potential of virtual worlds.

For the record, I'm a huge proponent and believer in virtual worlds - but am just as curious to see if Linden Labs can survive being a pioneer as there seems to be some new players on the scene.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Speaking Opportunity For You!

Here's a great chance to raise your visibility and participate in a terrific conference... I'm leading two sessions at the upcoming NTEN conference (Washington D.C. April 4-6, 2007) and need help!

I've already got initial commitments from several super smart non-profit marketers and consultants to help me out but I need a few more to round things out... in particular if you are are a NPO marketer (not agency or consultant since I've got a few of these already) I'd be happy to invite you participate with us.

The speaking gig pays nothing and you'll pay to get into the conference, but if you want a chance to stand up in front of your peers, this is it! Email me directly at msirkin(at) and we can chat... in your email, let me know which one of the two sessions you are interested in:

1. Not Your Mother's Online Fundraising Campaign

Email is SO yesterday. Well, it'll probably be around for a few more years, but in terms of online fundraising, there are literally dozens of new strategies you can use to reach your stakeholders. In this session we'll highlight some of the latest technologies and the circumstances under which they are most successful. We'll bring up blogs, video appeals, keywords, text messaging and more.

  1. An tour of the newest tools and strategies for online fundraising
  2. Tips and tricks for implementing these strategies
  3. Case studies from the sector

2. Selecting an Online Fundraising Technology: Larger Organizations

Many times an organization quickly jumps into the question of which technology to choose without first defining what they need and what the organization will need to do in order to achiee the benefits of the technology. This session will review how to define your organization's technology needs, what changes your organization will need to make, and how to review available solutions. An organization that has recently made a technology solution decision will discuss the approach they used, lessons learned, and their satisfaction with the outcome.

  1. Translating your business processes into a needs document
  2. Tools for evaluating the options
  3. Resources for implementation.
Let me know as soon as you can!



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Second Life - Too Good To Be True

This terrific post by Clay Shirky summarizes much of what my subconcious has been telling me for a few months now... the hype is overwhelming the reality of Second Life.

As I've demonstrated through this blog, I'm big on experimenting with new stuff like Squidoo, Tagging and Second Life. I've been thinking about SL for almost a year now, and still haven't come to any solid conclusions - and will continue to experiment.

However, the post from Shirky is a worthwhile read simply because how it debunks the media hype so effectively and jars you back to something more grounded in reality (as opposed to virtual reality).

I've had my own issues with SL, including how difficult is is to congregate with large crowds (everything suddenly moves very slowly), how unregulated it is, and how high the technical barrier is to participating (both in hardware requirements AND in the tech/geek mindset).

I'm appreciative of the skepticism because frankly, the positive media hype makes it feel too good to be true.

As for how it relates to NPOs - I just don't think it has a big enough footprint yet. From a revenue standpoint, it's time-consuming and difficult to figure out how to make money (when I say money, I'm talking about money in large quantities - depending on what NPO you work with the specific amount will vary!).

The removal of a large revenue opportunity led me to think about how to use SL for awareness and patient services. Given the size of the SL universe it's not clear to me that SL is in fact a viable option awareness either. There just aren't enough people in SL right now for awareness or patient services to be a clear winner. As an experiment it's great... it's just not yet part of a global marketing strategy. This is where Myspace and Facebook seem to excel - there are sufficient numbers on those sites to attempt to do some awareness and patient services work.

One area that I'm very keen on however, is training. The ability to use SL or other virtual platforms to conduct training and development is more controlled, and would have a measurable outcome. As an experiment, I've posted on this topic earlier.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Mia Farrow Didn't Discuss Darfur in Second Life

Is SecondLife going to collapse under the weight of its own hype? Very probably. But just like Web 1.0/2.0 (yuck, hate that term), something else will replace it one day.

Unfortunately, today's live event addressing the situation in Darfur with Mia Farrow didn't happen as planned. After crashing and having a hard time finding the location after teleporting in I found out that there was a fire at the hosting company in Boston. That said, LCMedia built a pretty amazing sim, complete with a powerful slide show and a video from the Holocaust museum.

Whether SL lives or dies, it's evident that virtual worlds are here to stay. I counted at least 30 avatars mulling around, and that was after they told everyone that the event wasn't going to happen. The graphics, interaction and social aspects of meeting in an environment like this are stunning.

If you are interested in marketing at all, I highly recommend that you find some time soon to get an account and check things out.


After leaving the Darfur exhibit, I teleported over to Techsoup for their weekly meeting where I met someone who told me that they were working on a way to connect interaction within SecondLife to the Internet - the ability to sign up for an email newsletter or become an advocate directly from SL is a terrific thing. I can't wait to see how this will work!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My New Gig

Serendipity I guess.

Through a series of oddly connected events and a bit of good luck I've landed a new job at an amazing organization. A very good friend of mine once told me to run towards opportunities and not away from bad situations. In just about every way I can think of this is that opportunity.

I can honestly say that my two years at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has been truly incredible. As a first time "VP" I took my role seriously and tried to not only be strategic in my thinking, but to act as a senior manager should. I tried my best to do the right things for not only the mission and the organization, but for the amazing staff working for me. I hope they learned as much as I did. I'm fortunate that I had the opportunity to contribute and am honored to have had a chance play a small role in the fight against cancer.

I wish I could be at both places at once (no, I'm not interested in being a consultant right now, thanks) and am not so much as leaving here as I am running to an opportunity that is simply too great to pass up.

Starting in January, I'll be cramming myself on a train (Bridgeport to Grand Central) and taking the fight to the world stage. I was very much humbled by the offer to become the new CMO for The International Rescue Committee and have happily accepted.

If you haven't YET heard of "The IRC," it's an incredibly wonderful organization with a rich history and a mission that can only be called "amazing." I can't wait to start! You of course get to hear all about it, assuming you keep reading this blog.

PS - LLS has an open VP eMarketing position - one lucky person will be hired - jump on it now!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Book Notes: Freakonomics

Yes! I finally got around to reading this highly recommended book this weekend. It lives up to the hype and if you haven't yet read it - go now!

Lots and Lots of people have tons to say about this book so I won't go into much detail at all.

In (short) summary here are the two pillars of the book in my mind, and how they play within the context of NPO's.

The first pillar is that "incentives are the cornerstone of modern life". Any self respecting fundraiser inherently knows this. Yes, be careful not to go overboard with incentives. Yes, make sure that your constituents have the option to donate the value of the incentives back to you... but make no mistake here... t-shirts, iPod and gas cards WILL help you raise more money. (Inside reference, ignore this: Right Hege?!)

The second pillar is about conventional wisdom and that it's often wrong. Let me count the ways that this affects NPO marketing... in fact, I thought it would be fun to list some NPO marketing conventional wisdomisms...
  • We shouldn't cross market
  • We can't ask patients for money
  • Our donors are too old, they don't want to donate online
  • We can't let people use our logo online without a legal contract (I'm snickering as I think about how efficient it is to "print screen and paste things)
  • We must control all brand messages
I know there are MANY, MANY MORE... leave some comments or post your own NPO marketing conventional thinking.

You can read more on the Freakonmics blog as well.

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