Twitter: not really social media?

By Nick Geisinger, Communications Director

The editor of PCMag.com argues that Twitter is less of a social network, and more like “the New CNN”:

“On Facebook, we have to friend each other to really engage. On Twitter, people will follow you if you’re interesting and they get something out of it, even if you never follow them back.”

Of course, many folks do interact socially on Twitter, but I agree that it’s useful to think of Twitter as a news site and of yourself as a reporter.

As a grantmaker, you fund things, do things, and learn things. If you tweet the highlights, people who are interested in what you do can benefit.

Name 10 experts in your field that you respect and admire. Would you like to know what they’re thinking about today? Follow them (i.e., subscribe to them) on Twitter. Voila: today’s news, written by experts, relevant to you.

Maybe that’s not news to anyone reading this. But as the communications guy for a grantmaker association, I can say that there are certain grantmakers that I know a lot about, and other grantmakers that I know very little about.

So… anyone care to tweet?

- If you are a WG member that should be on our member organization list or our member staff list, please comment and let me know!)

- Click to follow WG on Twitter

Case Foundation and White House host public-private strategy session

Today the Case Foundation is partnering with the White House for a day-long strategy session: “Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking” (WaPo, 4/30). It’s about competitive crowd-sourcing in the pursuit of innovation.

You can tune in and watch—they’re streaming the session on their “Case Soup” hub.

We heard about the event because we are among the Case Foundation’s 328,557 (and counting) Twitter followers.

“We want to expand this discussion to as many people as possible,” explained Case VP of Social Innovation Michael Smith in a blog post earlier this week.

You never have to guess what the Case Foundation is doing, or why they’re doing it. Just this morning, CEO Jean Case posted her thoughts on today’s event in the context of the foundation’s ongoing effort to “engage citizens in public sector efforts.”

The Case Foundation is not a particularly large foundation in terms of assets. But they’re serious about making new connections, building strong partnerships, communicating their work, and engaging the public.

Grantmakers that take a Beyond Dollars approach don’t need a big endowment to make a big impact.

Text donations—a surprisingly slow way to give

After I gave $10 to the Red Cross by texting HAITI to 90999, something occurred to me: I haven’t paid my phone bill yet. And after it arrives, I’ll have a window in which to pay it. So when does the Red Cross get the money? Answer: in 90 days. I feel like I’ve done something given instantly but my $10 actually arrives in April.

Mobile giving is a great way to reach a new generation of philanthropists and I fully support this effort. And if it means the difference between giving and not giving, by all means text away! But if you have a choice, perhaps “old-fashioned” online giving is the way to go, at least until the mobile giving industry figures out a way to shrink that 90-day window.
-Nick

Related:
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Haiti relief effort—information for grantmakers/donors

It’s time to stop talking about Twitter (and start tweeting)

By Nick Geisinger, Communications Director, Washington Grantmakers

Allison Fine (@afine) spoke at our meeting last week about social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, listserves) and social change. It’s a big topic that we could discuss endlessly, but it’s far more fun to just dive in. That’s what Allison suggests and that’s what we did with Twitter here a couple of months ago, and with Facebook a few months before that.

Today let’s talk Twitter. You can find us here: @WGrantmakers. Angel Belardinelli does most of our tweeting. We’re working things out on the fly.

And why not? As Allison pointed out, people will talk about you whether you’re there or not. The only choice is whether to participate. Signing up is free and fast. If you want, you can just follow people initially without posting anything yourself, and get a feel for things.

The Community Foundation’s Terri Freeman mentioned that she tweets as a way of getting input from people, and that she appreciates the 140 character limit. Me too. In a world of unlimited information, limits are wonderful. Three cheers for brevity!

This week Angel set up some Twitter lists, which collect tweets from WG member organizations and individual members. Click those links to see what some of your colleagues are thinking about. (Here are actual lists of the WG organizations and individuals we’re following on Twitter. Did we miss you? Let Angel know. In fact, email her if you have questions about any aspect of this!)

In short, it seems like we’ve all done enough talking about social networks. It’s time to start networking!

> WG members can watch Allison Fine’s presentation in full on WGTV.

Real-time grants data and the greater good

By Nick Geisinger, Director of Communications

“What nonprofits are my colleagues supporting?” and “How much is being given for [X issue] around the region?” are two great questions, which we hear a lot, and which we can’t answer in any comprehensive way. But we do hear you: You (grantmakers) need grant information that’s more recent than what’s available on 990s.

Related to that need, two things:

grantsfire_logo21) This recent announcement from Grantsfire offers one solution. The Grantsfire database is compiled in real-time from information published by grantmakers. Basically, you post it and they index it; you make it “indexable” by adding a few html tags that are invisible to site visitors. If you happen to have a web person, please forward them these instructions.

2) Washington Grantmakers has been exploring possibilities for more real-time grants data, beginning last year with our CYF mapping project and Northern Virginia Grants IndexCurrently, we are working with Foundation Center to pilot a WG Grants Index, which, if successful, could be replicated nationally. WG’s Katy Moore is taking the lead on this and we’ll have more to tell you soon.

Our grants index will not require tech savvy on your part. The Grantsfire project does–but not much–and the pay-off of all grantmakers publishing data in a common format would be tremendous: e.g., a clear understanding of what peers are funding in real-time; greater collaboration/joint funding efforts; better PR; Google mashups; etc.

If you’re not posting grants information online, this might be a great time to start!

Communications 2.0: Why should we care?


At our recent Web 2.0 event we asked the panel to cover a lot of ground, but perhaps we didn’t dwell long enough on the basic questions, “Why should I care? What’s the point?”

This recent post from Sean at Tactical Philanthropy nails the point:

“The best philanthropist is not the one who makes the best grants… It is the one who most effectively share[s] high quality information.”

That’s because one foundation’s grants are a drop in the bucket of philanthropy. But one foundation’s  information/ideas/knowledge/”lessons learned” can influence where philanthropy empties the bucket.

Nevertheless, foundations are staying away from the interactive internet in droves. A recent Communications Network survey found that “only 25% of private foundations and 16% of community foundations have waded into the area of interactive tools such as blogs and social networks, where the opportunity to build and deepen relationships with grantees and others is greatest.”

The author then adds that “Foundations shouldn’t feel badly about this. The adoption of Web 2.0 tools in the corporate world isn’t too far ahead of where foundations are – even with budgets that are sometimes vastly bigger.”

I’m not so sure about that. 1) Budgets are largely irrelevant when it comes to Web 2.0. It takes some staff time, but most tools can be found for free. 2) Foundations aren’t like corporations. Companies have to worry about their own bottom line, while in philanthropy, as Stannard-Stockton puts it, “all ‘returns’ accrue to the public at large.” In the philanthropic world we have far more and better reasons to communicate.

With that, here’s something else from the Communications Network: Come On In. The Water’s Fine. (“An exploration of Web 2.0 techonology and its emerging impact on foundation communications”). Lots of good stuff here, including these nuggets:

  • whatever is “lost in message control will be more than made up for by the opportunity to engage audiences in new ways, with greater programmatic impact.”
  • All of these steps first require leadership, arguably a new type of leadership, not only at the top but also from the ‘bottom’ up, since many of the people with the requisite skills, attitudes, substantive knowledge and experience are younger, newer employees, and occupy the low-status end of the organizational pyramid, and hence need strong allies at the top.

-Nick Geisinger

Web 2.0 — Build on what you’re already doing


We had a very thought-provoking discussion at today’s Web 2.0 event. I’m a big supporter of Marc Osten’s reference to “easy wins.” This blog exists because on my first day at Washington Grantmakers someone suggested that I scan the paper for philanthropy/member developments each day and email highlights to the rest of the staff. After two days, I thought, hmm, why not throw it online and see who else is interested? Easy win.

Clearly, most of you have different needs than a regional association. But I have a feeling that if you look at the intersection of A) your goals, B) the things your staff already do/say/produce regularly and C) tools like blogs, Facebook, podcasts, then some interesting possibilities will present themselves. By the way, did you know the World Bank Community Outreach Program is Twittering?

Many thanks to today’s presenters, Gavin Clabaugh and Mitch Hurst from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Jillaine Smith from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and Marc Osten of the Summit Collaborative. Below is Marc giving an overview of the presentation he prepared for today. Be sure to visit his blog for more materials relevant to today’s discussion.

ANNOUNCED: “Web 2.0 Explained” (WG event)

> Details and registration (all WG members welcome)

web20What: Web 2.0 Explained
When: Thurs., Feb. 5, 9:30 a.m.
Where: The Cafritz Foundation 1825 K St. NW, Suite 1400

“Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs…Oh, My!”  What do these Web 2.0 tools mean for our foundations? What could they mean? Learn about about philanthropic applications and implications. Presenting will be  Gavin Clabaugh, Chief Information Officer, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Jillaine Smith, Manager of Action Learning, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

Seth Godin: “Make your annual report cheap and boring”


I read Seth’s blog regularly [in a feed reader!]. Many of his posts affect me like a jolt of caffeine–scratch that–like a good nap, after which I feel refreshed and ready to have good ideas. He just finished up an online chat with the Chronicle:

Question from Alison, large education nonprofit:
    Hi – Any suggestions for an Annual Report as a piece of the marketing picture? What’s a must-do? What mistakes to be avoided?

Seth Godin:
    I would make your annual report boring and cheap and post it online. Then I’d create a storytelling document that is aimed at the vernacular of the people you need to read it [emph added]. Turn it into a pdf and a piece that’s easy to share. Test it and make it spread. No need to conflate the two.

Question from Ashley, Large social-service nonprofit:
    Is there anything no one asked, that you’re shocked we didn’t ask? Or that should have been a top question?

Seth Godin:
    I’m not surprised but disappointed that a lot of the questions were “my boss won’t let me” type questions.

The work you’re doing is so important, so vital and so urgent that to let politics get into the way of spreading your message is just a shame.

My best guess is that this is partly the boss’s fault and partly the culture. In other words, if you go do stuff, small stuff, cheap stuff, storytelling stuff and testing stuff, you not only won’t get in trouble, you’ll get rewarded. hurry!

Public Welfare Foundation has a new website

Very nice.

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