Change the World by Working in a Virtual One: Interview with Evonne Heyning

first_imgHow does your organization use Second Life?Amoration is a nonprofit studio developing ManorMeta, a futuristic TV/DVD series and interactive online network for families around the globe. ManorMeta’s growing architecture has quickly taken over our free time. ManorMeta premiered in early 2006 and quickly became a destination for world-changers and innovators in design, education, sustainability, artificial intelligence, and the arts. Our goal has been to produce a family media series built on a very fantastic new technological age.ManorTV is kid-friendly edutainment now in early production. Our virtual home has six foster kids, three adults, numerous animal and computer-generated characters, and is filled with music, humor, and technological magic. (Think: next-generation “Sesame Street.”)Amoration, our 501(c)3 organization, has produced media and developed new concepts for programming in the virtual world since December 2005. We have provided support on nonprofit projects such as Camp Darfur, producing crossover print and video machinima from our builds to compliment real world awareness events. The ZeroOne art show (a festival of art and digital culture that took place in San Jose, California in August 2006) increased demand for our rare designs and we opened two ManorMeta Mineral Matrix education shops to build a growing business in the virtual world.Why did you decide to do something in Second Life? After a fun job interview in the virtual world in the Summer of 2005 and encouragement from Sue Stonebender and friends from the Omidyar Network (a mission-based investment group committed to fostering individual self-empowerment on a global scale), I gave Second Life a test run in January of 2006. With the pilot for the ManorMeta series nearly finished, we needed a dynamic, collaborative building space that would help us develop our ideas on interactivity in real and virtual spaces. Second Life became a tremendous tool for set and character development and storyboarding – now, story ideas emerge from our Second dramas! We’ve successfully turned our early-adopter audience into active participants by starting our process in the virtual world.How was the project planned? What expertise was needed? We have had mostly positive results in presentations with potential partners, Amoration Advisors, and volunteers. The world is intriguing enough to gather interest, but few find they have enough juice and bandwidth to sign up for Second Life and join us in the virtual world on a regular basis. Those who meet us there and play often get very involved in like-minded projects! Some who cannot join us in Second Life still spread the meme through the Web; we provide them with a natural spotlight space with links and interactive content at no cost.Our first development award came from a key Linden partner so we did not worry that our investment in the platform would be considered wasteful. We found our virtual world meeting enhanced our work with Omidyar Network and other leaders from many different disciplines. We host some advisor meetings in-world (in Second Life) as a way to stay connected and integrated with our virtual space.The learning curve has been steep and it has taken us every bit of nine months to learn building, scripting, event hosting, and media production in-world. We have tried to do this without investing extra money into Second Life; instead of hiring scriptwriters and machinima producers, we learned how to do it ourselves.How did the project unfold? What were some of the challenges? What worked well? As a development platform, Second Life is an excellent tool. It works well for archiving drawings, ideas, storyboards, and movement directions. Of course, if you write about hackers and digital access, you’re bound to get hacked and “griefed” (the Second Life term for virtual harassment). As a networking device, it is clever and very sticky; it has tremendous potential as our computers and bandwidth catch up with the technology. Some of our primary mentors and advisors are unable to run Second Life smoothly on their primary work computers due to software and hardware restrictions, so we are not yet able to integrate them with our virtual-development process.How much time and money did you spend? To date we have spent less than $20 in Second Life. Our goal is to keep this project as sustainable as possible while providing financial stipends for the volunteer artists who have been working on this project for the last year. Amoration is a young 501(c)3 sponsored by the International Humanities Center; our staff has been working as volunteers for our arts education endeavors since 2004. We have approximately two dozen AMO Advisors who have given time and talent to help this project grow.How did you explain the project to organizational leaders or constituents? As an independent studio, we hold true to our organizational mission. We seek partners and projects that enhance a better world vision and we have made many new friends through the ManorMeta experiments.What are the benefits to your organization? The largest benefit to our organization is the interactivity, feedback, collaboration, and creative capital that we have exchanged in fun and captivating ways. There is so much potential as we build and bridge these new frontiers for kids around the world.What advice would you give to other nonprofits who might be interested? Write to us now at [email protected] We have found many tremendous pieces in this puzzle and we’d like to hear how you think they should fit together. If you have helpful leads for product and production partners for AMO Studio, please drop a line or introduce yourself in-world to In Kenzo, Common Cure, or any avatar from the ManorMeta group. We’ve been meeting tons of actors, stunt leads, musicians, and other talent and our team for this project is growing every week. We consider this to be a family and we invite people who want to create a culture of conscious compassion to tell us what you love to do.Copyright: CompuMentorSource: read more

Creating Compelling Experiences of Persuasion

first_imgThis seminar examines ways – when creating experiences, events or media designed to get our message across and raise funds – in which we can avoid distraction of the audience while delivering our message. In addition, we will lay out certain methods that can be applied to all forms of communication of any scope for agencies of any size or mission.The discussion will explore practical applications of:• Exploration of Assumption• Circumventing Preconception• Comfortable Disorientation• Successive Revelation, and• Subliminal EngagementAbout Our SpeakerKile Ozier has built messaging experience for over 25 years across myriad contexts; from theme parks to academic institutions and non-profit agencies. In academia, he has created campaigns totaling over $3 billion for such institutions as Stanford University, Harvard Law School, Johns Hopkins University and more. Founder of one of the most respected AIDS funding organizations in the US, San Francisco’s Academy of Friends, Ozier has been cited for the quality and efficacy of the experiences he creates by a disparate spectrum of clients, from the United States Navy to the Themed Entertainment Association. He is also a great cook.last_img read more

Listening To the Bad and Using It for Good

first_imgOne of the great things about social technology is that anyone can have a platform for promoting their view of the world – via blog, comments on another person’s blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. That means that sooner or later, people are going to talk about your organization or cause online. That can feel great, if they love you; or it can feel bad, if they say stuff that’s not so nice. But I think the not-nice stuff is even more valuable sometimes, especially when it relates to our communications and customer/donor service. It’s good to know when people aren’t happy, because it can help us do a better job serving them by solving problems we may have been unaware about.Tactical Philanthropy blog asked me my philosophy on this topic after GiveWell blog had some not-so-nice things to say about Network for Good, which I replied to and discussed before eventually settling the matter. I thought I’d share what I said:Good marketing is about listening to the audience, acknowledging their perspective and having a conversation based on that perspective. A good marketing relationship is like any other relationship – it’s based in listening and conversation, and not simply monologue. Now everyone – including donors – has the tools to talk to the world, and that means nonprofits have the opportunity to listen, and sometimes, to start a conversation. I consider the Internet one big focus group – a place to see what donors, nonprofits and others are saying and doing, and a means to engage those audiences in conversations about what they care about. Donors’ blogs are incredibly useful – they are audience research, a feedback loop, a sounding board and a place to start a relationship – all rolled into one.That’s all really easy to say, but hard – even painful – to experience. Blogs allow people the freedom to talk about your issue or organization in their own words, and that means a loss of message control, which can be difficult to embrace. Sometimes what people say online is not especially nice or constructive, or it may not be based in a thorough understanding of any issue. It can be unpleasant – and sometimes, I think it’s best not to respond if what you read is a cheap-shot from someone not very invested in the issue at hand. I’ve stayed out of some conversations for that reason. But often, what a comment or post online may lack in warmth, it more than makes up for in authenticity and passion, and, however much it hurts to read it (and it hurts, especially if you believe in what you do), it’s very useful to know what people are honestly thinking. Those honest thinkers are worth listening to and learning from, and speaking with.In the case of GiveWell, it was very important to know people don’t have a good understanding of our fees, and why. Obviously, we should do a better job explaining them, and we will. I stand by our fees and believe they are incredibly fair considering all that we offer nonprofits, but if folks think they are not worth it, then I need to listen to that opinion – and learn from it, then do a better job as a communicator going forward.If I were working in marketing at United Airlines, I’d spend more time reading thinking about how to improve my company than I would on creating new ad campaigns.We have a serious problem in our sector right now – so bad, we might end up with an of our own. Most donors stop giving to charity because of dissatisfaction with how they were treated by the charity rather than personal constraints like financial problems. Too much mail, no thank-you acknowledgements, and little information on how their money was spent. If they are that mad, we had better listen-and learn.last_img read more

Seven Steps to Graphing Your Facebook Strategy

first_imgThere is an article on TechCrunch by Dave McClure called “7 steps to Graphing Your Facebook Strategy“.Here are seven major aspects of Facebook you can use to increase the visibility of your startup, business, product or service:1. Set Up Your Graph: Profiles & Privacy2. Make Connections: Networks, Groups & Events3. The Need for Feed: Your [Shared] Social Activity Stream4. Share Your Content: Share & People-Tag Your Stories & Media5. App to the Future: The Facebook Platform, APIs, & Applications6. Pay to Play: Ad Networks, Sponsored Stories, & Paid Distribution7. Show Me The Bunny: Gifts, Points, & Virtual Currency[Editor’s note: For important Facebook demographical information that can be crucial when starting or redesigning your Facebook strategy, view this slideshow posted by Beth Kanter on her blog.]Source: read more

A Few Good Examples of Widgets

first_imgThere are a group of widgets designed to spark conversation or interactivity on your site or blog. These include voice messages, IM widgets, audience polls and others. Audience poll widgets seem to be more widely in use by nonprofits. Some good polling widgets include Vidzu and PollDaddy.You can do a general reader survey, such as the nonprofit tech blogYou can connect it to content in a post such as the Bamboo ProjectOr you can connect to the key goals of your blog, say, Save GuimarisThere are many widgets that allow you take content from one site or location on the Web and easily republish it elsewhere. The best examples are the widgets or badges provided by well-established services such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and others. If you are already using one of those services and want to integrate content onto your blog or website, check on their website first. They might not be calling it a widget. Some refer to them as “badges.” Simply look in the “help” section of your favorite social site.Fundraising is the life’s blood of nonprofits and is another area of active experimentation using strategies called “personal fundraising.” Think citizen donor, citizen philanthropist. Widgets, charity badges, blog fundraising plugins allow your supporters to become messengers for your cause. The shift is now from the organization raising money to the supporters taking on that role/responsibility. The widget just helps people track their commitment and shows progress being made.Sucessfully using widgets to realize outcomes is a matter of experimentation and learning. Above all, the widget needs to be connected with your blog’s or website’s content, readers’ interests, or to amplify conversation. The best way to get started is to pick a few widgets, install them, and track them over a period of a month or so. Figure out if your strategy is bringing in new traffic, generating more comments/activity on your blog, or making visitors take action. If not, don’t be afraid to ditch it.Source: read more

Open up or else

first_imgThree important things happened recently. Take note.1. Sally Beatty of the Wall Street Journal says charities need to be more open and transparent. She says it feels good to give to charity, but “the warm feeling fades when we try to find out about charities’ successes and failures.” She says it’s very hard to know who is doing effective work. The article makes three recommendations to improve the situation. Here’s what she tells charities to do: 1) Provide more information online; 2) Adopt high standards of measuring efficiency; and 3) Adhere to those voluntary standards. 2. The Chronicle of Philanthropy did a story chronicling the work of GiveWell’s Clear Fund project – which aims to rate charities on their effectiveness. Founder Holden Karnofsky found that to be very hard work, for the reasons Sally Beatty cites. GiveWell has a new report on charities saving lives in Africa – useful for figuring out who to support this holiday. Holden and his colleagues went through all the major causes of death and extreme debilitation that affect Africans more than they affect us and recommended the best. They estimate that their top-ranked charity saves lives for something around $1000 each – 3-4x as cost-effective as their second highest rated. Find out what charity is so great here. (Hint: It’s one of my favorites and the one that opens my book!)3. The Great Nonprofits site is getting nice traction in Pennsyvlania – enabling ratings of local charities. Yes, welcome to the world of customer reviews of charity – pretty fascinating stuff. Founder Perla Ni, who is an impressive innovator in our sector, likens it to Zagat’s for charities.If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m constantly harping on two things: first, connect with your audiences and what they care about. Answer the question, “why me?” for them. Second, for those audiences, answer the question, “what for?” What will the audience get for their donation? What will change? What will happen? (The other questions to always answer, by the way, are why now? and who says?)I think “what for?” has never been more important. You must answer this question before, during and after people give.Skepticism about marketing is at an all-time high. You can’t just demonstrate need, you have to show results. If you don’t do it yourself, then GiveWell or Great Nonprofits or Charity Navigator will be doing it anyway. So you have no choice but to share honest information on where the money goes. People give money out of emotion, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care where their dollars go after they give. The number one reason people quit supporting a nonprofit is how they were treated by that nonprofit – as in too many appeals, not enough thanks, and insufficient information on impact of their efforts. People give because it feels good but if nothing seems to happen, it starts feeling bad. This is a problem. Open up or else. Open up about the difference you make and how you make it. Or else people may start closing their wallets.last_img read more

Four Things I Wish I’d Known about Social Media

first_imgI got asked by Beth Kanter to post on this topic: “What if I could start all my social media and nonprofits work over from scratch? What would I do differently? What lessons have I learned that will stick with me for 2008?”Having Beth Kanter asking me to post on social media is a little like Yo-Yo Ma asking me to play cello for him. Beth is THE maestro on nonprofits and social media (and she could probably accompany Yo-Yo Ma on flute). So read what she says first. Then read what Britt Bravo says. Britt, in addition to having The Name I Wish I Had, is also very wise on the social media front. Then you can read my list, which is below. Four Things I Wish I’d Known from the Start about Social Media:1. It’s not that hard, and I should have gotten over the intimidation factor sooner. Not too long into my job here at Network for Good a few years ago, I kept hearing people reference Web 2.0. I remember, filled with fear of ridicule for my ignorance, asking people what it meant. I’m glad I did, because I realized a lot of people had trouble defining it and were grappling with its meaning just like me. Today, social media to me means the electronic manifestation of the human desire to be heard and seen and part of a community. It’s using technology as a platform for personal expression and as a means to connect to others around things we care about. It’s not hard to learn how to do that online – you don’t need any real technology expertise (I’m living proof of that) as much as social skills – and it’s a lot of fun making new friends which is the real point. No matter how much of a novice you deem yourself, you CAN explore social media and find ways to benefit from it. If you haven’t, make 2008 the year you do.2. It’s about “social,” not “media.” As I said in this post, while social media seems oh-so-new, what makes it hot could not be more ancient or old-school. What’s significant about social media is how it allows us to quickly and expansively fulfill our unending human need for connection. While I myself have fallen into the trap of focusing on my organization’s need to do Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, that’s not the point — what matters whether those are places to strengthen connections with my target audience. If my target audience isn’t there, I’m not going there. 3. Social media cranks WOM up to 11. What excites me most about social media, now that I sort of get it, is its potent potential to amplify word of mouth. Good word of mouth for your good cause is invaluable. People listen to people they know, and if those people recommend something, they listen. If people make recommendations, that good word of mouth spreads faster and farther through their circles of influence. Social media enables people to evangelize in their own way, in their own words, where their peeps congregate. We’re so underfunded and overworked in our sector – how great is it other people can help us spread the word so efficiently?4. Think before you build something new, because we already have overdevelopment in social media. You could build (yet another) new social network. You could create yet another blog. You could make a new video. But if you’re one of those underfunded and overworked people, think twice and first read my Four Laws of Social Networking. You may get further, faster by connecting to existing infrastructure than trying to create it.last_img read more

RSS for Nonprofits: Web Content On Your Terms

first_imgMarnie Webb is Vice President of Knowledge Services at CompuMentor and author of the blog ext337.Copyright © 2005 CompuMentor. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. RSS makes it easy to read the Web: How many bookmarks do you have in your browser? Does it make you ill to think of clicking through all of them to check for new content? Make RSS do the work for you — subscribe to sites and your reader will collect the new relevant content. My bookmarks no longer scare me. In fact, I rarely use them.RSS makes it easy to find relevant information: Searching the Web can be a chore, and most of us don’t even have the patience to do more than search Google and check the first pages of results. RSS allows you to tap relevant, even mission-critical information by letting you create feeds based on keywords. How this works varies, but there are a variety of tools — PubSub, Technorati, Feedster — that you can use, and many aggregators integrate with them in way that allows you to create searches. Let’s say you work for an organization that is following issues pertaining to same-sex civil unions and marriages. You can set up some keyword searches and then subscribe to those searches. The relevant information comes to you.RSS lets you share the information you get: With RSS, information comes to you in manageable pieces: a NY Times headline with a sentence-long article summary; a blog entry; a teaser for a longer blog entry; the pointer to a newsgroup posting; an e-mail announcement list; events listings. You can push that information out to interested communities — simply send it via e-mail, or put it on your own Web site or blog.RSS helps you participate in conversations relevant to your work: Naturally, if the New York Times or your local paper writes about your organization, you’ll want to be the first to know. But it’s also important to participate in discussions on popular blogs or other online communities. RSS can help you find these conversations, advance your organization’s agenda, and generate attention for your work.RSS makes it easier to control your own subscriptions: Unsubscribing from some e-mail mailing lists and announcements can be a chore. You can’t remember how it is that you elected to receive the information in the first place, and worse, it ends up mixed in with your inbox and distracts you from getting work done. RSS gives you complete control. You can easily segment your feed from your regular e-mail or use an aggregator that bypasses e-mail entirely.RSS allows people to share your content: When you create a newsfeed, you’ve opened the door to content sharing, and others can easily disseminate your good, relevant content.RSS makes it easy for others to lend you a bit of their Web real estate: With RSS, other organizations can display some of your content on their Web sites. This is good. It gets your content out to a variety of audiences, and it can enhance partnerships. The best part? They don’t actually have to talk to you for this to happen. Painless content partnerships — what more could anyone want?It’s easy to avoid being a spammer: Forget opt-in and double opt-in worries. Allowing people to subscribe via RSS puts control into their hands and gets you completely off the spammer hook. Okay, so some e-mail publishers hate that (Bill Pease even asks if e-mail is dead  in a TechSoup community thread). It’s hard to track traffic, they say, and it puts control completely in the hands of the subscriber instead of the publisher. I disagree. If you are creating good content, people will subscribe and they will stay subscribed. That means ultimately, the control is really in your hands. Compelling content is the most important thing. And not being a spammer is more than an ethical and legal issue, it means that your message will get to your intended audience instead of a spam filter.RSS makes it easy to contribute to Web-wide conversations: If you’re using RSS to track what people are saying about important issues and what people are saying about you, so are others. By making your content available via RSS, you’re allowing other people to discover you. And they’ll be commenting on your site, linking to it, and subscribing to your RSS feed. If you’re like most people who use the Internet, chances are you often come across new and interesting sites, but then completely forget to visit them again. Or likely you spend too much time visiting the same sites looking for new information, only to be disappointed. In addition, your e-mail inbox is probably flooded with messages you barely have time to read, including subscriptions to newsletters that tell you about new content available on still more Web sites.And while you’re occupied finding new content, you still want to make sure others can find your organization’s interesting new content without relying on their bookmarks or your e-mail newsletter, which may not make it past their spam filters or get noticed in their crowded inboxes.Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an easy way to have all this information come to you and go to them in a way that was easy to manage, timely, and put the reader in control?The answer is RSS, and not only can it help you manage information you want to find, but it’s also a great way for your nonprofit to ensure that people interested in your mission receive automatic updates from your Web site. What’s more, RSS can help you spread the word through the easiest content syndication model out there.R-S-What?RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, depending on whom you ask. Either way, it’s a simple way to deliver frequently changing Web content — all the new content from favorite sites, or just summaries.By plugging links into something called an RSS feed reader or aggregator, you can retrieve the newest content offerings from Web sites while saving the time it takes to visit each site. Many RSS feed readers are available, and they all allow you to display content for reading at your leisure. (For more details about RSS, read the Digital Divide Network’s “What’s RSS and Why Should I Care About It?” and Fagan Finder’s All About RSS).RSS: Content Aggregation and So Much MoreSo why should your nonprofit use RSS? Frankly, for the same reasons everyone else should. Here are the top 10 reasons you — and your organization — should use the technology.center_img It’s only just beginning: RSS is still in the relatively early stages. The tools are pretty raw, but it pays for nonprofits to get in early on communication technologies. It will better position you to take advantage of them as they mature and additional uses become available. Ultimately, it’s about making your views and your work part of the conversation.Getting Started With RSS(The source for this section of the article is “A Nonprofit Guide to Getting Started with RSS,” also from .)Surely, by now you’re convinced of the benefits of RSS. Getting started is easy.First, you’ll need a feed reader. Choose between a Web-based reader, an e-mail client, or a stand-alone application. A Web-based client, such as Bloglines, is a good option if you work on multiple computers, you’re usually connected to the Internet, you don’t want to download any special software, and you want to be able to access your reader on public-access computers. A mail client, such as Newsgator, might be the best choice for you if you live in your e-mail program, you’d like to easily mail information you find, you store a wide variety of information in your mail folders, you primarily use one dedicated computer, and you want to use an application that’s familiar to you. Consider a stand-alone RSS aggregator — such as Feed Demon for Windows, NetNewsWire for Mac OS X, or Straw for Linux — if the thought of more e-mail makes you sweat, you use the same dedicated computer, you prefer using specialized applications, and you don’t want to add any additional plug-ins to your e-mail program (which can make it harder for your technical staff to support your e-mail application).Once you have a feed reader, the next step is to sign up for feeds that interest you. When you’re on a Web site that updates frequently, check to see if it has a feed that you can add to your reader. Feeds are often indicated by a small icon with the acronyms RSS, XML, or RDF. Just add the RSS feed to the list of feeds that your aggregator checks.Sign up for an account at PubSub, Feedster, and Technorati. Use these accounts to watch for any information related to your organization’s URL, name, key partners, key funders, mission, as well as bills and other legislative efforts relevant to your work.Don’t forget to share the information you find. Consider setting up a blog with a service like Blogger, and turn on the RSS option so the information you find can spread even further. E-mail interesting items to people who will appreciate them. Try this every day for six months, and see if you’ve started interesting new conversations, networked with people who can help your mission, driven more traffic to your site, or learned more about relevant issues than you could before.About the Author:last_img read more

Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software

first_imgDonor management software packages help you manage vital relationships with active and prospective donors by tracking contact information, keeping records of correspondence and donations, managing grant deadlines, and producing detailed reports. If you are considering a donor database, this guide from NPower Seattle can help you choose the right donor management software for your nonprofit.Who is this toolkit for?This toolkit is for any nonprofit employee or manager given the task of selecting software for managing donors. If you use donor management software today, you probably have a long list of things you like and dislike about your current system. The toolkit will help you document and prioritize your needs moving forward. On the other hand, if your organization has no donor management software today, this a great place to start. Whatever your software needs or budget, we believe that the process we suggest for selecting a donor management solution will help you move forward. In some cases, your organization may need additional help from technology professionals in planning for and selecting software; we’ll point out some of the reasons to seek additional help and recommend places to look.How this toolkit will helpWhen planning for new technology, we have seen nonprofits achieve the best outcome when they think in terms of a process – a series of conversations that brings the technical solutions into ever-greater focus – rather than in terms of a single decision. After all, any software selection is as much about the requirements of the buyer as the technology available. What tools do you need to get your work done and meet the organization’s mission? Examining your organization’s plans, people, and processes will help you best understand the hierarchy of technical needs that any new technology must meet. This toolkit has been designed to walk you through that process of discovery. At the end of it, we think that you’ll be ready to choose software that allows you to work the way you want to, rather than adjusting your needs to do what the software allows. Ultimately, we hope you’ll have made a technology decision that helps you better serve your community.last_img read more