Marc Maxmeister Posts

Social Media: Practicing What we Preach

By Bill Brower (posted on his behalf by Marc):

As I travel around Southeast Asia for GlobalGiving, I’ve been holding workshops on online fundraising, a large portion of which I devote to talking about social media. I think to a lot of people working at NGOs here, many of whom are only hazily familiar with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it can all sound like a lot of fluff. I can sense people thinking, “You really expect me to believe that my organization can make money through the website college kids use to post photos of their drunken escapades?” At first I was backing up my assertion with vague assurances that GlobalGiving sees donations coming in each week from various social media sites. “In one week in December we managed to raise $15,000 off Twitter alone!”

 

I now provide a textbook example of using a coordinated and dedicated social media effort to drive not only wider recognition but significant donations online courtesy of my wonderful colleagues back in D.C.

 

In the workshops, I tell people that the first step is just to get in the relevant conversations online: Alison, our social media guru, has done a great job of that; we have over 13,000 followers on Twitter.

 

Then I tell them to create interesting content: Alison recently riffed off the jokes going around online following Apple’s unveiling of the iPad:

 

“#iPad and #iTampon jokes are funny. But in #Uganda girls leave school for lack of sanitary pads: http://bit.ly/clXetd

 

Our CEO, Dennis Whittle, also posted a blog, which drew off the buzz surrounding the iPad.

 

I tell participants in the workshops that interesting information is easily passed around online: The number of people who had this Tweet pass through their Twitter feeds, either directly or when mentioned by someone else, was on the order of hundreds of thousands. Dennis’s blog was mentioned on another blog on NEWCONNEXTIONS.

 

And I tell people that most givers are motivated by family and friends: GlobalGiving staff posted the iPad message to their personal Facebook pages. It caught their friends’ eyes, they donated and told others that they did on their Facebook page. All told, about 40 people gave over $1,600 to provide sanitary pads to girls in Uganda from our iPad social media messages.

 

[tags social media, twitter, Facebook, fundraising, iPad]


Gathering real-time feedback in haiti can improve disaster response

Judging from some of the comments GlobalGiving donors have made on recent haiti updates, I gather that television news falls short of presenting a multifaceted view of the earthquake recovery effort. There is a mix of ongoing challenges with some successes. Last Friday someone wrote in:

Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 4:36 PM
Project ID: 4559 / IMC provides medical care to Haiti
Project URL: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/haiti/

It gives me a first hand account of what medical relief is taking place as oppose to what’s being transmitted over the airways showing de-humanizing conditions with no relief nor help in sight!! They’ve aired trucks of food being returned to warehouse while Haitians are starving and waiting for FOOD!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! YOU ALL ARE IN MY PRAYERS!! IF I COULD GET THERE, I WOULD!! GOD’S PROTECTION FOR ALL OF YOU AND IMMEDIATE SALVATION FOR THE HAITIANS!!

We currently rely on our partners and their staff to provide eyewitness accounts of the ongoing work. But there’s no reason we couldn’t open it up to any eyewitness. Mobile phone texting may be an easy way for us around the world to get to know each other better. Great innovators like Ken Banks of FrontlineSMS and Erik Hersman of Ushahidi are turning phones into web 2.0 reporting tools. Highlighting this pressing need, Washington Post Writes:

“Much as truth is the first casualty of war, reliable information is one of the early casualties of natural disasters. Until fairly recently, disaster responders relied on their senses, and their common sense, to identify problems. The notion of measuring what you could see was viewed as an academic and slightly effete response to things such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.

The survey this week didn’t ask questions of a random sample of Haitians in the way that a medical trial would. That would have been a huge and time-consuming undertaking. Instead, it sought out individuals expected to know what was happening to the people in their area: mayors, village directors, health officials. The places weren’t chosen randomly either. The designers chose fairly evenly spaced sampling sites, with extra ones in the heavily damaged Port-au-Prince area.”

What they [the CDC] found is that you can gather most of what you need to know to manage a crisis in real time with anybody, going anywhere, asking for feedback using a less formal system. To me, as a neuroscientist, it makes perfect sense. You need rigorous controlled trials to assess medical benefits that are small – like a 10% difference. But when the questions are knock-you-over-the-head obvious, like “who’s dying on this block” or “who’s handing out supplies?” and there’s no ambiguity from one witness to the next, you can do away with conventional sampling.

About a week before the electronic ink was dry on this Washington Post article, Ushahidi’s Haiti immediate SMS-based crisis response center had already logged hundreds of eyewitness reports from regular people about everything from looting to service delivery. See for yourself at haiti.ushahidi.com .


What do NaNoWriMo and GlobalGiving have in common?

nanowrimoIf you’re not one of the more than 100,000 giddy writers who eagerly looks forward to writing a novel in 30 days, let me explain.  NaNoWriMo means National Novel Writing Month. Each November I (and many others) take a stab at writing a 50,000 word novel – not because I expect to get published – but because the process itself is satisfying. In fact, part of the joy is diving in to the challenge together. My fellow writers and I use the social networking site to monitor our progress against our peers, as well as to converse about sticky points in our manuscripts. This reminded me of GlobalGiving itself. Here are other points of similarity:

  • Both sites are designed to foster competition against oneself, with specific time deadlines. (We use the new project challenge to kick-start new organizations)
  • Writers get weekly  “pep talks” from famous writers. (Granted, we’re not “famous” at GlobalGiving, but we try to give good pep talks!)
  • Writers provide regular updates to their pages on progress, and send “nano mails” to peers. (GlobalGiving helps projects keep donors updated on progress regularly)
  • We chart our own progress towards 50,000 words daily, and follow each other’s chart on profile pages.
  • We do it out of love, with only a handful of writers realizing that it takes money to keep the platform humming along. NaNoWriMo depends on donations, just like GlobalGiving.
  • Everyone can win by writing a NaNoWriMo. On their “about us” page, they say they “value enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft.”
  • Creates a strong “we’re in this together” mentality.

National Novel Writing Month is all about getting people to take their first plunge into writing without risk. I look to them as a model for the sort of friendly environment we hope to foster for the world of nonprofits. GlobalGiving is a safe place to start a relationship with people from a distant country or just down the street, by giving as little as $10 to a cause you share with them. You never know – relationships like these might lead to that great idea for a novel.

There are only about 15 days left to sign up for NaNoWriMo. I’ve already learned a lot about myself through writing. Join Me!

Number of Africans with cell phones now equals population of US

4 billion cell phone usersThe New York Times reports there are now as many Africans with cell phones as there are people in America. This is something that we are very aware of at GlobalGiving. In fact, my biggest project over the next 6 months is to figure out how to make GlobalGiving more SMS-accessible for those 300 million Africans who have cell phones, but not necessarily electricity or running water.

There are over 4 billion people with cell phones in the world today.  Others, like TxtEagle founded by Nathan Eagle, have already started exploring how Africans with basic $20 mobile phones can be put to work. In the US, the Extraordinaries distribute an iphone app with the same goal in mind – crowd-sourcing simple tasks to anyone with 5 minutes of free time and a valuable skill, such as translating text from Swahili.

Why would there be a big demand for swahili translators? Because some day people in Africa might want to send text messages about their lives to others.

I met with the FrontlineSMS guys recently to see if they might help GlobalGiving get those SMS text messages from people in African villages directly onto our GlobalGiving project pages. If you have ideas on how we can do this, or want to help us test various approaches, please let me know by commenting.

Per capita, Pitcairn Island is GlobalGiving’s #1 recipient in the world

As the metrics guy, oddities sometimes appear in the GlobalGiving database. For example, today I learned Pitcairn Island received $158 per resident through GlobalGiving project #996: Boat-Shed Construction at Pitcairn Island. When there are 50 people on one island, $7,301 has a major impact.

Pitcairn Island facts:

  1. These guys are the decendents of the Mutiny on the Bounty crew, and their Tahitian wives
  2. All are Seventh-Day Adventists
  3. They have their own Internet domain, “.pn”
  4. They now have a boat shed, built by GlobalGivers!

If you are interested, the top 6 countries supported through GlobalGiving per capita are:

  1. Pitcairn Islands (pop. 46)
  2. Liberia (pop. 3,317,176)
  3. St. Vincent and the Grenadines (pop. 116,812)
  4. Rwanda (pop. 7,810,056)
  5. Haiti (pop. 7,527,817)
  6. Kenya (pop. 31,639,091)

Sadly, support to the other countries comes to a mere 2 to 7 cents per citizen.