Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Frost/Nixon Review

I wouldn't normally care to write a review of any movie, but an interesting thing has been happening to me since I started to both blog and microblog. I have a strong compulsion to share and review and rank just about every new or unique experience I find myself in.

My wife went out with her friends. I just put the kids to bed. I had two movie options from a free month of Blockbuster's answer to NetFlix. I checked in on twitter and facebook real quick and posed a quick question and asked for my friends to decide which movie. I got 8 responses on twitter and 7 on facebook. Frost/Nixon won with the immediate responses. Andy Stuart, Matthew Slay, and Jason Mitchell came in with late votes for Milk, making the overall race much closer. But the responding crowd had spoken! Joshua Quiring asked for a review so I am compelled to oblige as thanks for his part in the conversation.

Frost/Nixon was great.
Moving, emotional, full of soul and questions, human.
Great piece of casting, especially in the role of Nixon. Frank Langella made me forget that I wasn't watching Nixon himself.

I was born the same year Nixon resigned, so I don't have any personal recollection of watergate, the impending impeachment, or the press coverage following the resignation. This one one of those portrayals that makes you want to go read some history about the subject matter. Here is the youtube clip you want to see after watching the movie.

What I love about the story that was portrayed in this film was that Nixon struggled, and hid, and dodged his own soul, and finally found redemption in the truth. What a great theme.
The stuff of many great stories.

Unfortunately, the satisfaction you get as a viewer of this story didn't actually happened that way for Nixon. The text that scrolls the screen at the end of the movie gives you a hint of what the truth was. If Nixon did find personal redemption, he never let that be seen in the public eye. He avoided the general dignitary public appearances of all other expresidents. I wonder if he was as forthcoming in the actual interview, he may have found the kind of redemption he brushed in the movie portrayal.

Either way, the movie is well worth your time.
And for those of you who voted Milk (most of which were friends from San Francisco that I grew up with) I will definitely make time to watch it as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My New Favorite Podcast of all Time (for now)

As a rule, I don't choose favorites.
I avoid them.
I hide from them on purpose.
Every once in a while, they find me.

In the world of podcast listening pleasures, I have several weekly regulars.
Sound of Young America. - love
This American Life. - double love
Radio Lab. - quad love
All three of these are easily searchable and accessible by itunes.

My new favorite podcast found me over the weekend. I've been hiding under my three regulars.

People who care...I introduce to you...The Age of Persuasion. Terry O'Reilly is seasoned ad man and a professor of his profession. He cut his teeth on writing radio spots and he knows the ins and outs and history of his business. For three seasons now he has been taking his classroom to the public through the Canadian Broadcast Company's microphone (Canada's sister to America's NPR).

I went looking for it on itunes and it is not there. Tech Hermit got stretched for a digital scavenger hunt. Never fear, you can find an optional feed (that opens in itunes) right here. When the prompt comes up asking what you want to open the feed with, choose itunes (or whatever you use) and begin adopting this as your own new favorite.

In this day and age, we are all marketing experts. Some are more expert-er than others, Jason Mitchell, Kerri Urbanski and Bev Hutney, so settle down. We see enough images a day to be keenly aware of what is effective and what is not. I think this is one reason that hooked so many of us into Mad Men. (you know you love it) So listen to Terry's radio class and become a little more of an expert. It will give us some credibility as we are shooting our mouths off.

One final quote for Bob Roman and the rest of the Citgo Syndicate. Terry O'Reilly loves the godfather of ad men David Ogilvy. Check out what this bastion of modern advertising said in his 1963 autobiography.
I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bikes, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?

iPhone(mullinex), meet Age of Persuasion.
Age of Persuasion meet the six people who read my blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Newspapers are Ineffective: A Response to the Washington Post Facebook Cause Article

The Washington Post article, To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn't So Green, published online Wednesday, April 22 by Washington Post Staff Writers, Kim Hart and Megan Greenwell.

I wrote a response and had conversation emerge from it. I felt my own sense of correction in the way I responded from folks like...
a kind email exchange from Amy Sample Ward
a fantastic post by Allison Fine
from my post
fromLateef and others on twitter and blogs all over the web.

I told Amy I'd have to apologize to the Cause App by redeeming my criticism of it. I begrudgingly thanked Amy for the extra work she assigned me. (that I didn't need!) Grrr...thanks again, Amy.

In my attempt to gather some research for my revision/apology, I decided to reach out to the writers of the original Washington Post story. There is no place to leave comments on articles anywhere on the Washington Post's site (not even a newsvine seed link) so I clicked on the link that let me send them an email. I wrote...


On twitter and in the blog world that deals with development and social media, you guys are getting hammered on a couple of points.

1. Old information rehashed. Nothing new here, what prompted you re stirring this year old conversation?

2. You focused on wrong stats. Network for good only works with a 8000 causes that have used causes to also ask for donations. 242,000 causes aren't asking for money, aren't registered with network for good in order to ask for money. You evaluation is off because you confuse causes with intentional fundraising.

3. You blanket sweep the word "ineffective" with donations being your only metric. The development cycle measures effectiveness in very different ways. Some causes are about advocacy, not donations. Some cause are about both, but don't use the cause app to ask for money.

Either way, you are getting dismissed.
If you are having trouble finding where the conversation is dismissing you, let me know, I'll steer you to the most influential of the bloggers who are leading the charge against your analysis.


An hour later, I got a response...

Hi Michael,

We're well aware of the blog chatter out there. We stand by the reporting, obviously, and dispute the alleged factual inaccuracies. While it's true that only 8,000 nonprofts with Causes pages have signed up with Network for Good, it is incorrect to say that those are the only ones who can raise money through the site -- just by having a Causes page, a nonprofit can receive donations through Network for Good without signing up or doing anything special While not all of those nonprofits got into Causes with the goal of raising money (a point we made in the article, quoting the Nature Conservancy), those who DO hope to fundraise through the application have not raised much -- thus our point that it's ineffective as a fundraising mechanism. That doesn't mean it's a worthless operation, just that it hasn't shown a ton of progress on the fundraising part of its mission.

As for the point about it being old news, I don't think that's true except among a small number of social media types. I know similar topics have been undertaken on a number of nonprofit/social media blogs for as long as Causes has existed (we quoted the author of one of those blog posts), but the vast majority of our readers don't follow those blogs, and we thought it was important to bring an analysis to the general readership. Others are free to disagree on that point, but that was my perspective when I decided to crunch some of those numbers.

I hope this is a useful explanation, and I'll say the same thing to anyone who contacts me. We're not in the business of responding to criticism on blogs, but if people are interested enough to contact me directly I am more than willing to have a conversation with them. So thanks for writing!

I put this here to publish their answers, but I'd like to say more about what's going on from a macro level. No wonder newspapers are dying! The discussion is the story! How can they not participate in this!

I wrote back...

Really, you don’t respond or interact with the subsequent conversation that happens around your articles?

Is that an organizational standard or do some journalists make a practice of participating in the ongoing discussion?

I only point this out to you because I suspected you would have answers to the three main points that are being thrown around.
The points you make to me are great, but I don’t think I am a big enough fan of yours to advocate or defend you (not naturally, I might now)
If you knew this is the standard answer you would give. Wouldn’t you want it to be voiced in the place that the conversation is taking place?

Thanks for your time,


No response yet...email is slow...they may have realized that I blog and decided to no longer respond to me?!? :)

So, feel free to keep the discussion going.
What do you think about their response?
And, on an entirely different point, what do you think of their standard operating procedures regarding blogs?

Megan, From the Post, wrote me back Monday afternoon.
She has written an exhaustive response to Allison Fine that I hope she chooses to share. In her response to me, she notes that...
...there is no Post policy against reporters participating on blogs.
...she has a few reasons, she explains to Allison, as to why she doesn't typically practice it.
...she is up for changing her mind.

Either way, I admit that I took this conversation off topic. I do think there is more to discuss on the initial issue that was brought up by the Post. We ought to continue to draw out that discussion, even if it is drawn from email, and leave the other points to a different discussion thread.

Additional insight on Facebook causes and the Post's perspective from Lauren Miller, Beth Kanter, and Lateef.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Washington Post Rehashes Year-Old Facebook Fundraising News

Facebook Cause app is not getting any love from the Washington Post. The article, dated this morning, makes the same points that have been made for more than a year by social web consultants who know their business. I put together a short slideshow on it myself, just last week, after writing this blog post the previous week.

The Post is quoted...
Trouble is, there is no new information in terms of strategy and understanding the way the medium is working. A little bit of new information came out of the interview.
He said Causes raises almost $40,000 a day across its groups, up from $3,000 a day a year ago. "The biggest successes have been tiny nonprofits who don't have the name recognition of the big guys."

But in the majority of cases, that theory hasn't translated into significant dollars. Fewer than 50 of the 179,000 groups on Causes have raised $10,000, and just two -- the Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet -- have cracked the $100,000 mark.

This is great information, however, there is some buzz around the stats not being completely acurate. I would love to know if there is a public report out there that gives us access to the raw numbers related to this topic. It sounds like Allison Fine might have something for us later in the day. Either way, at the end of the day, those numbers are nothing new.

Allison Fine put together a great response on her blog. here's an excerpt that will make you want to go read the rest...
There are around 250 thousand causes on the Causes platform. A cause does not have to be associated with a specific nonprofit, and most of these, over 200,00 aren’t. That leaves about 46,000 nonprofits that are connected to a cause. But, of these only 8,000 are using Network for Good, meaning they’ve created an official profile, can use their npo dashboard, and can raise money. Therefore in trying to determine the average size of donations, it is more accurate to use the 8,000 active fundraising efforts for nonprofits rather than the 176,000 used in the Post article. When the universe of causes that includes the Green on Sundays groups is included in the overall cause number, divided by the total amount of dollars given resulting in an itty bitty average gift. This is enormously skewed by the number of inactive causes on FB or the number of causes who never intended to raise money using Causes. So, according to Network for Good’s data, 8,000 causes have actively raised money using Causes for a total of $7.5 million — or an average total of donations to each cause of over $930.

Comments coming out of twitter around this discussion include...

@tactphil...maybe fundraising isn't the point?
@SMacLaughlin...Facebook Causes isn't raising a lot. Really? Duh. Social networking is friend raising not fundraising.
@weinrichc...My $.02: this enhances not replaces other efforts
@iChrisJones...Facebook app does not replace hard work, direct mail., etc... in fundraising(washpost)
@kanter...they just rehashed all the stuff that was written about this last year
@Afine...I'll be using the N4G stats in my blog piece and you'll be able to see them there.
@jeffshuck...(in response to facebook being best used for awareness building)Yes! Agree on both points! My main contention is that too often "awareness" is used after the fact to justify poor fundraising.

The point is, fundraising is hard work. Every aspect of the development cycle is hard work. Technology can build in some efficiencies, but beware building in too many. Automating your communication and solicitation strategy, and giving it over to the cause app (or any automated application)is counter productive to your cultivation and affinity building. In the case of facebook causes, it just comes across (and is ignored)like spam.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twitter Fundraising Strategy for Sunny

Commenter, Sunny, wrote the following comment in the Comprehensive Facebook Fundraising Post a couple of days ago. I though I'd reply to all...

Sunny 2 days ago
Brilliant Mike!! You have inspired us to 'borrow' your approach and aim for $100 000 for our favorite charity: abundantwater.org

Strictly speaking we're entering Hugh Jackman's competition: http://twitter.com/RealHughJackman/status/15198...

We will get a thousand people, around the World, to pledge pictures of themselves holding a banner.

Any chance you could cast an eye over our 'strategy'?

Keep up the inspiration

Hugh Jackman, has limited his announcement to a single update. I have seen no other explanation or expansion on the rules other than the one tweet...

--- "I will donate 100K to one individual's favorite non profit organization.Of course,you must convince me why by using 140 characters or less."

Part of me wants to dive into figuring out what Jackman's judging criteria might be. It looks like we won't get that from him through Twitter.

It looks like you have chosen to get as much attention as you can by challenging 1000 people to pledge a picture.
My guess is that Jackman won't recognize that as a group effort unless the text of the tweet is also the same tweet, written the same way. Part of what I'm guessing is that he won't be clicking on a ton of links as he reviews all the different pitches that he has to sort through. Plus - you could make the case that it is a waste of some of your 140 characters to include a tiny url. The one rule "140 characters or less" might be violated by including a link!?

The picture holding a banner idea is great, but, I think that you might get more attention (in Jackman's feed) by having everyone change their profile picture for you, instead of including a link in your tweet. This way, you also avoid the possibility that a link is something he ignores.

-Suggest common wording in the actual @reply you ask people to send to Jackman
-Suggest commonalities in the way the banner is made. 3x5 card with bright red marker.
- Provide a suggested picture (if people don't want to make their own banner) so your respondents want to just use a picture that you provide.
-Your request, to the people who might take you up on this, needs to be simple enough to consume and understand in 140 characters. But also be easily found in a place where the strategy, case statement and inspiration can be consumed in a long form (blog post)
- Make the strategy easily forwardable, part of your 1000 will come from people who you will never meet.
- Try to get the charity involved (even in a small way) for them to show legitimacy to your campaign.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook Fundraising Tips...the visual version

A couple of posts back I posted some tips and best practices for facebook fundraising. I figure that part of the population would prefer a visual presentation of that information. This slideshare is the result. Feel free to download, remix and use in whatever way it might benefit you.

Does anyone know the standards that facebook operates by to suspend or expel a user's profile?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Man (Ashton Kutcher) takes on The Man (CNN) and is winning!

If you are not familiar with the twitter race to one million followers between Ashton Kutcher and CNN, you can get caught up by watching this, this and this.

I don't know why I am in to watching this unfold, but I am. It's emerging technology showing itself (in an odd analogy) of like the anti-John Henry story. One man is beating the steam drill juggernaut that is CNN. The representation of Ashton Kutcher (John Henry) taking on the new (old)establishment (broadcast media). About there the analogy breaks down, but it can be fleshed out better than that if I spent time with it.

For now I just want to show you something.
I'm sitting here hitting refresh on my browser on both the CNN Breaking News twitter profile and the Ashton Kutcher profile.

I started this little experiment and CNN had 953,969 followers while Kutcher had 931,056.
I hit refresh periodically over the next several minutes. Sometimes it was 30 seconds later, sometimes it was a couple of minutes later. The refresh rates were being tracked in a parallel way.

Ashton - moves from 931,056 followers to 931,079 thats +23 followers
in that same time
CNN - moves from 953,969 followers to 953,982 thats +13 followers

periodically over the next several minutes
Ashton - 931,079 - 931,130 +51 followers from previous benchmark (ffpb)
CNN - 953,982 - 954,006 +24 followers from previous benchmark (ffpb)

Ashton - 931,130 - 931,199 that is +69 ffpb
CNN - 954,006 - 954,029 that is +23 ffpb

Ashton - 931,199 - 931,399 that is +200 ffpb
CNN - 954,029 - 954,124 that is +95 ffpb

Ashton - 931,399 - 931,589 that is +190 ffpb
CNN - 954,124 - 954,206 that is +82 ffpb

Ashton - 931,589 - 931,860 that is +271 ffpb
CNN - 954,206 - 954,276 that is +70 ffpb

Ashton - 931,860 - 932,060 that is +200 ffpb
CNN - 954,276 - 954,375 that is +99 ffpb

Do you see the trend? Ashton is adopting followers at a rate more than twice that of CNN. With the gap between where they are and 1,000,000, Ashton will surpass and win this little race.

The overall lesson...
In the social media arena, authenticity will beat out press releases every time. If Ashton starts to use his twitter feed as a press release, he will get dropped by many of those followers. Keep it real, Ashton, and people will continue to follow. CNN can't keep it real.

Hey, Non Profit Organizations, keep it real in the way you use your feed. Cultivate your following audience. Don't press release or solicit them. Until you recognize that "donor loyalty" is about you being loyal to the donor, you won't use social media in it's most effective way.

Interesting news, CNN recently acquired the news feed hosted at twitter.com/cnnbrk from James Cox. James is a random dude from San Francisco who has nurtured the account on his own for the past couple of years. Read the Silicon Alley Insider news story here. Turns out, the race is exposed as John Henry vs. Jon Henri.
It will be an interesting footnote in the overall story.
Now that CNN is operating the account, it is now officially your old steam drill.

LA Times broke this story this morning. Turns out that although CNN didn't "own" the feed. They had contracted with James Cox to maintain it for them since mid 2007. In that sense, one man vs. THE MAN is back on!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tech Hermit is Getting an iphone

This is not something to be excited about, not necessarily.
I am joining the ranks of millions of others.
I know I am late to the game, but hey, it's OK for a hermit.
I am nervous. I really don't want this thing to own me. (I'll keep you posted)

So I think I have a learning curve, but I fiddled around with several of my friends iphones and I am most excited about exploring the app store. Would you mind telling me your favorite free app and your favorite paid app?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Comprehensive Facebook Fundraising Tips Almost Anyone Can Do

I conducted a little experiment last October that was combined with a passion and fund raising cause that I was challenged with. I obviously set the goals on my experiment too low, as you will read.

Community Hunger Day is a yearly event, started by Central Dallas Ministries to raise awareness about the hunger problem in Dallas and raise funds for their food pantry. On a day in October, each year, CDM challenges people to go without food for a day and donate the money they would have spent on food to their food pantry. CDM, in coordination with several partnering food programs, can feed a family of four, for an entire week, for $28.

CDM, three weeks prior to Community Hunger Day, sent me an invitation to become a fundraiser for this day. I said, "yes," and pledged a goal of $1000 dollars. The experiment part came in when I decided I was going to focus my efforts using only the profile page that I set up on the Community Hunger Day website and facebook. No email channel, no face to face asks, no telephone calls...just facebook and a link to a secure, online donation page. I wish I could should you the microsite and profile page I set up for myself on the site, but the site is under construction and redesign in anticipation for the 2009 day in October

Here is the appeal I crafted.

If you are a professional fundraiser, try these numbers on for size.

List size - 334
Historic Open rate - unknown
Average Donor Profile - Nondonor
Gift rate - 19.5%
Total Gifts - 65
Total Donations - $1850
Average Gift - $28.46 (right at the requested appeal)

Here's the thing, Non Profit officer, what if you could get 100 of me to do the following simple things. That's nothing to sneeze at. That best way for you to leverage facebook could be to AVOID THE CAUSE APP! If you are active on facebook, you know how many causes and invitations you ignore on a weekly basis. It has become spammy. By the way, you, non profit, cannot leverage facebook. You may only leverage the relationships you have, that is (almost) all that matters in the world of social media.

The following things I did while avoiding the spam channels that most facebook users ignore.

1. Create a video appeal that addresses your facebook network specifically. Use the voice that your facebook friends know. Don't "put on" a fundraiser voice. Be yourself, that's who people will give to.

2. Group your list of friends into groups that facebook calls "friend lists." This might take you a little while, but it will help you manage your follow up much better. So do it prior to uploading your video message. If you have over 300 friends, it might feel difficult to sort through the list.
- Export your friend list with this handy app so you can use excel easily group them into commonalities
- group them into friend lists where those friends know each other. When comments start to spread about your asset, it is easier for community to be built in that comment thread when the commenters already know each other.
- friend lists can only contain 20 people, so you might be titling these lists things like "workfriends1", "workfriends2", "collegebuds1", "randomfacebookies1", "highschool1", etc.
- it is OK to leave some space to grow in each friend group, but keep track in your CSV export who is in what group. Facebook doesn't help you manage your group size at all.

3. Upload your video multiple times. You are able to tag as many as 50 of your friends in each video. You can't tag a video asset with a friend list (that would be great!) but you do want to follow the pattern that you set when you established your friend lists and group the 50 that you tag in any video with the same groups of people who know each other. Tagging your friends in the video not only causes the video to appear in their own notifications, but also sends it to the feeds of all their friends.

4. Place a link to your giving page in both the description of the video and in the first comment under the video. The URL in the comment will be hyperlinked text. The URL in the description will not be hyperlinked text, unfortunately. This is an important part of the donor funnel. If your non profit you are raising money for doesn't have a precise giving form or donor destination, consider opening yourself up a chipin widget or something like it. Community Hunger Day had a very slick, custom sponsorship microsite that was built for them by Pursuant.

5. Cultivate others comments by replying to and engaging with each comment.

6. Do a daily, stewardship, thank you and update. Here is what ours looked like.

These thank you videos should be tagged with the donors names. I had one friend who told me that he gave just so he could hear my kids say his name.

7. Half way through your campaign, and just before the end of your campaign, craft messages (video or note) that gives an update of progress. These updates should be created, uploaded and then "shared" with your friends. You don't need to upload multiple updates as you did with your initial video. Instead, you can send the one asset out using this share button several times. You friends lists show up as you begin typing them into the sent line of the share function. Facebook currently has a limit of sharing an asset with 25 friends at a time. This asset will show up in your friends inboxes instead of their notifications.

8. If you are an active facebook user, I am confident that these tips will help you reach your fundraising goals. If you are a passive facebook user I would recommend you spend three months commenting on friends photos, commenting on friends videos, uploading your own quality photos and videos, involving yourself in conversation around your friends notes and status updates. Without effectively developed relationships on the site, it will not be a quality channel for you to make a solicitation. If you are a non user of facebook...that is a discussion for another post.

Disclaimer -- Having used this precise method several times, I have never run into facebook suspending my account. I know of others who have deviated from this distribution plan and have been temporarily suspended. I don't know what triggers a suspension. Anyone who does know the current, specific triggers for suspension, I'd love to know.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Open Letter to Lance Armstrong and LIVESTRONG

As I was preparing a presentation on the use of social media by non profit fundraising, a case study developed in my head that was mostly prediction and prescription (so, not technically a case study).
I pulled out the slides that addressed the case study and turned it into an open letter to the foundation. Whether they consume the message or not doesn't matter. They are a progressive non profit that is obviously considering these ideas. I'm eager to see how it will actually work, once they decide to do it.

By the way, LIVESTRONG, when a techhermit like me gets on twitter, you know the noise and spam is coming. I would do something sooner than latter. Twitter has a few advantages over email for people who really care about Lance's tweets, but for those who don't follow him intensely, the noise is getting louder on twitter by the day.

I only follow 100 or so, and I'm thinking about eliminating the noise. But that's because I'm a tech hermit and I'm protecting my throat.