Friday, March 7, 2014

Donor cultivation and stewardship through social media

I can not tell you how many times I have consulted with nonprofit organizations and heard staff say, "online fundraising isn't really effective." True. Unless you are Barack Obama in 2007 or the Red Cross during Katrina, chances are your online fundraiser flopped. That's why this week I'm going to offer up some tips and ideas about online fundraising and donor stewardship.

Firstly, when people talk about "online fundraising" mostly they are not talking about doing the actual raising of dollars through social media platforms. Most donors are not going to arbitrarily give to an organization which they have zero attachment to, with the exception of being faced with major disasters like Katrina or one of the tsunami disasters. Donors give to organizations and causes because they have some sort of emotional attachment to the cause. That's why online fundraising is more about donor prospecting, cultivation, and stewardship.

Simply being online and paying attention to blogs, newsfeeds, groups, Facebook pages, or other social media  platforms where people who care about your organization's cause spend time, one can easily identify and interact with potential future donors. Simply by interacting with supporters online you are establishing a relationship so when your next event, fundraiser, or newsletter comes out they will be more likely to share content or even donate.

For example: there is a farm sanctuary back in Ohio where I am from. I have never been tot he actual sanctuary, nor do I have a personal relationship with any of the staff or owners. I follow them RELIGIOUSLY. I think they create great content and do a great job of interacting with fans online. They don't even know it, but I am already a future donor. Plus one of their cows and I share a birthday.

Anyway, there are some people who are way smarter than I (Barry F., et al. 2010) and created a whole book on this topic already. I will give you some of the main tips and tricks for online donor stewardship.
  •  Having a social media strategy is not enough. Rather, social media strategies should support your existing fundraising plans and objectives.
  • Create great content and "boost" it on Digg, StumbleUpon, Redditt, or Buzzfeed. This will help drive traffic back to your website and potentially back to your development office.
  • The whole point of social media interaction for nonprofit organizations is to raise awareness and drive traffic back to your website. Cross post your content on your social media channels in ways which are most appropriate for each.
  • Be transparent and genuine. People know if you are trying to hustle them and if they don't they will sure be pissed when they finally figure it out. If something goes wrong or there is some hot drama surrounding your organization, don't hide from it.
  • Have a social media policy. All sorts of bad shit could happen and you could find yourself in the middle of a whirling disaster. If you already have a policy in place of how to handle situations like this then you will be prepared when it happens.
  • Just like with other "traditional" forms of fundraising you need to personalize your acknowledgement as much as possible.  
These are just a few key points to get the novice organization started with engagement on social media platforms. I hate to say that this week I don't have any exciting stories to share. It is week ten and I am barely keeping up. In a couple of weeks I will have fun new photos of the wife and I on our trip to Seattle! I promise something great then.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm going to try to make this about social media but really it is about animal rights

I know that previously I have mentioned my position on animal rights, but I have never really discussed it at length. This past week, Idaho decided it would pass a nasty ag-gag law which makes it illegal for undercover investigators to take jobs in factory farms and expose the cruelties that exist there.  This anti-whistleblower law is just one more way for giant corporations to protect themselves from the public finding out about this type of cruelty. While we're at it, they are trying to hide this and this and most recently this as well.

Here is what I need you to know. Animal rights activists are decent, caring, compassionate people the same as everyone else. We just happen to know too much and have not been able to put our blinders back on and ignore the heinous and totally abhorrent cruelties that are such an ingrained part of our society. Let me tell you how it feels to know and see and feel and have everything around you constantly telling you how wrong you are. That because of "tradition" and taste we must perpetuate the merciless suffering of this underclass. It. Is. Crippling...somedays. Other days, amazing things like this happen.

We are painted as extremists because we expect others to be who we know they are, decent, caring, compassionate people. We live on the fringe and are bullied and harassed because we expect people to be able to answer for themselves. To be able to give us good reason why their life is more valuable than another.

Yesterday my soul was full being surrounded by like-minded people who share my values and wish for a world free of cruelty. I have the amazing opportunity to work with organizations who, like me, wish to change the world.  Today, I only see the fight ahead and how steep the hill we all must climb is. Maybe it's the weather, but today I need you to know my truths.

This is where social media comes in to this post. Since this horrible bill has been introduced and passed there have been about 1,000 petitions going around on various social media sites asking for support of a bill veto and to boycott Chobani yogurt who sources almost all their dairy out of Idaho. Chobani had previously asked Idaho Governor Butch Otter to veto the bill and to support transparency in the food industry. Obviously this failed because prosecuting activists for exposing atrocities in the agriculture industries in now law in Idaho. Today, an Idaho Senator is eating his words and Chobani now has to make a choice to either continue sourcing their milk from Idaho and possibly lose a large portion of their customer base OR take their business elsewhere and support more "humane" practices.

This is a call to action. This is me begging for people to take a stand and not let corporations win this time and to stand by their values because I need to believe that change can happen today. So, if you are a yogurt consumer and purchase Chobani yogurt please keep the pressure on them to move their business out of the state because money is all these people understand. Don't purchase any Chobani products until this is resolved because we all have the right to know how our food is sourced.

WEEKLY UPDATE: Below are photos from yesterday while I was at Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary refueling my soul with the good I know exists in certain places. I hung out with cows and goats and the sweetest sheep that followed me around like a puppy named Crackerjack. It is good to be around my people of all species. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about adopting a plant based, animal free diet please comment below via email attached to this blog.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Virtual worlds helping people with disabilities

Disclaimer: I hate video games. No, don't try to talk me into reconsidering and yes, I mean ALL games. Once a year my wife busts out guitar hero and I complain and piss and moan until her impromptu jam session is over. I don't understand them and I have far too short of an attention span to sit for hours essentially twiddling my thumbs. That being said, and maybe I am the last person on earth to learn about this, but there is a virtual reality social "gaming" site called Second Life. Now, I use the term gaming loosely because it is more of a social media platform where people go hang out and chat and create. Still not my cup of tea, but cool for those who enjoy this type of stuff.

I also just learned about the awesome work and research people are doing with this platform with people who experience different levels of ability. In the virtual world many of these people may have been previously isolated because of their disability, they can now log on and hang out, attend support meetings, and many choose to swim/dance/travel in this virtual realm. While their physical world experience may be limited, their virtual world life is limitless.

Poking around on the internet for a bit produced Virtual Ability Inc. as a leader in this work. They have created a collaborative community where people with a wide range of disabilities can find and share information and resources. Many people have even found meaningful ways of providing themselves income in these virtual worlds by designing clothes or homes for other users. This is something to take note of because the Unemployment rate for people with disabilities, age 16 and over is double that of the general US population.

While not diminishing the work of these organizations and what they are offering this vulnerable population, we must also discuss access to these resources. As above mentioned, people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely as people without disabilities to have an annual household income of $15,000 or less.  This means that people with disabilities are also twice as likely to live below the poverty line.

With these type of statistics, these services are only going to be available to a limited population of those living with disabilities. In thinking about it that way, these virtual services are a privilege and are not addressing the larger issues people with disabilities are facing. I have to be honest, while researching this topic I was smacked in the face by my privilege once again. I rely too much on my belief that our society, our government will provide a safety net for our most vulnerable populations.

So what is it that we can do to better serve and support people with disabilities? How can we work to improve the lives of all disabled Americans, regardless of social class? If you have insight on this topic or work in this field, please comment below and drop me some education.

THIS WEEK'S SHOUT OUT: One of my derby wives (I'll explain that in a later post) helped me tremendously with this post. She is a vocational trainer for people who experience disability. She is a kind, gentle, hilarious, slightly twisted lover of all things food and fun and she teaches me something new everyday. Stormy Dawn, thank you for all your help and not just for the research for this post. Stormy also made her first roster and played in her first public bout last night! She has worked so hard and played honorably. Final score: 111-222 us.

Stormy tossin' all that weave.

Friday, February 14, 2014

I love social media

So, I tend to be a bit of a cynic. I know, shocking right? Well today I am going to try and be less cynical since it is Valentine's Day and the eve of my one year wedding anniversary. I am feeling all sentimental and lovey so I decided to write about why social media isn't all that bad. If your lucky, maybe I'll make one of those "top 10 reasons I love...." lists.

Firstly, the internet is hilarious and you can find years worth of useless shit to keep you scrolling. Cat meme's may be my downfall along with videos of cute baby animals and cows. While these things are great, social media, if used properly, can do some really awesome things like advance social movements or create communities of support.

Sometimes social media is used to raise awareness about important issues and I love it when it happens in funny or offensive ways.

It also gives me a voice to spout off and tell whoever is listening what I think and feel and know and need to share. Today I need to share this:

I am keeping this post short, light, and fun because quite honestly I want to get back to spending time with my wife. We both work very hard and we don't get a lot of quality "us time."

WARNING! This is about to get sentimental. I love my wife. She is a total rockstar and a ten on every measurable scale. She is patient and kind and listens to hours of me ranting about social justice issues, all while doing the laundry and caring for our three very needy cats.  Since meeting Joy my life has gotten exponentially better every year. She is the tree I tie my kite to and undeniably my soul mate (whatever that means). For everyone out there, I hope you take the time to recognize, thank, and  appreciate all that your partner/friend/lover/whoever does for you at least on this day.

I love love and want to hear your stories. Got a good love story? Comment below and spill your squishy, sentimental guts all over my blog.

Happy Valentine's Day yall and happy first wedding anniversary Joy Marie.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Someone's been naughty...

As I approach the end of my education and am preparing to launch into my big kid career, one of my concerns is my online presence. I know that these days what comes up when our name is Google searched can be as important as what is in our cover letter and resume. So I did it. With great trepidation I typed in my full name to see what would surface.

Full disclosure: I am no a long shot. Those of us who grew up in an era of uncharted social media territories (Prodigy chat rooms and early myspace yo) may have been a little too forthcoming in things we put out there, or not protective enough of what we let others put out there about us. Ya'll can read all my gritty, filthy secrets and stories someday when I publish my memoirs. Until then, I would like to know that something I did in my early 20's (good lawd) isn't going to surface and keep me out of the running for my dream job.

Now I am not the most tech-savvy person out there. Typically when I acquire new technology I immediately hand it over to my wife and let her figure it out and then explain it to me. This is not one of those cases and I must forge ahead on my own. Just today I searched myself and a couple of not-the-worst-pictures-in-the-world-but-I-would-prefer-they-didn't-pop-up photos surfaced. My next thought was "what the hell do I do now to get rid of them?"

Luckily Google was there to help! I searched "how do I remove an image from Google" and this tasty treat popped up Google image removal. This video provides several options for image removal to ensure you flush out all your nastiest indiscretions and don't end up on some twerk team website from 2009 (you know that was a crazy spring break). Next you want to build a shiny new non-twerk related social media profile and this little website offers some great tips for where to start The Ladders.

We are all creating our own personal brand and the main rule to remember is that everything on the internet lives in perpetuity. Think before you post and don't put anything out there that you wouldn't want your (future) boss to see. After today, hopefully all you will find about me through a google search is this adorable photo of my niece Reagan and I. It helps that I also share a name with a famous actress who eats up the first 2 pages of search results. ;)

Good luck in your future internet cleansing endeavors and comment below if you have any additional tricks or tips!
WEEKLY UPDATE: As you all know I play roller derby with the greatest team in the world, the Flat Track Furies. I am just coming off of a long string of injuries (broken toe, bursitis in my knee, hip problems because I'm old) and was just getting back in the groove and feeling confident. Of course things are going too well and I fall and roll my ankle (while not doing anything...seriously I was just standing there) and sprain it. Boo. Suckfest. Great, more time off and more playing catch-up with a bunch of ladies who workout like a million times a day. Well, apparently the Furies are just not meant to skate without me because by some stroke of mother nature luck, the bout this weekend got cancelled due to a freak snow storm (which never happens here in Eugene). This means that by next bout I will be healed and ready to skate! This is a picture of me on the floor after I hurt my ankle.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Freedom to and freedom from

This week in class we had an awesome lecture from Dr. Kyu Youm, the Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon, discussing the first amendment and social media. While the whole conversation was hilarious and interesting, one thing he said in particular struck me.

As Americans, freedom is one of the most important facets of our identities. We LOVE to talk about how free we are and how we are spreading freedom like it is some sort of venereal disease all over the planet and the world will be a better place because of it. Sure. We talk about how free we are to be ourselves and say whatever we want and wear what we want unless you are not wearing shoes or shirt and you need to run into Costco real quick or have something to say about corporate greed and abuse. Anyway, what we (I) don't think about often is freedom FROM certain things and in this context, ( i.e. social media) this is the freedom from the vast amounts of bullshit out there on social media sites.

Under this "protection" we have the right to FREE speech. Not fair speech or true speech...FREE. When we are talking about social media and our freedoms that means that other people have the same right and can basically announce whatever they want about you or your company or a business deal you are working on or or or...or can they? Where is the line exactly when something turns from free speech into defamation? Through scholarly research (Wikipedia) I have this definition and explanation to offer you:

"Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, or traducement—is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. Most jurisdictions allow legal action to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.
Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and have been made to someone other than the person defamed. Some common law jurisdictions also distinguish between spoken defamation, called slander, and defamation in other media such as printed words or images, called libel.
Similar to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. Unlike with libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy. False light laws protect against statements which are not technically false but misleading (Wikipedia-Defamation)."

Firstly, I would like to say that PLENTY of people have defamed me over the years (oh come on, if nobody has nothing bad to say about you I assume you aren't trying hard enough) and not one of them has even gotten into social trouble for doing so, let alone legal. What about if the information is true though?

Full disclosure: I am a vegan animal right activist. There, I said it and now you all know. Out of the cow hugging closet I come. So these sort of laws personally scare me, as well as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Laws like this gag activists from gathering and dispensing any information that damages or impedes upon the operations of animal enterprises. So you know all those undercover videos on factory farms floating around? Yeah, they want to try the people filming them as terrorists for exposing these abuses. Um...

Yall may be thinking, "well that doesn't make any sense, why wouldn't the corporations who are committing the crimes be punished instead of the activists?" Yeah...*crickets... This doesn't sound like free speech to me? How is it that these corporations with all their gazillions of dollars are being considered "people" and swaying government to pass laws to put peace loving, bunny hugging, hippie activists behind bars and what can we do to stop it?

Well, as smart as I am I do not have these answers. In this case I will refer yall to some people who might be able to help in case you are ever chained to a truck tire in protest and suddenly find yourself standing in front of a judge.

Below is a list of links to various informational websites or organizations who can help.

First Amendment Center

In Eugene
Civil Liberties Defense Center

Online activism

I would love to hear of other great organizations working on changing the status quo. Please comment and tell me about your favorite activist groups/networks!

UPDATE: I am sorry to say that this week I have nothing especially funny to tell. I am deep in the throws of Winter term and about to be getting my ass handed to me with projects and due dates. Hopefully next week something tragic and hilarious will happen and I will live to tell about it. Until then, please enjoy this photo of my wife and I holding my newborn niece over the Summer when we visited Ohio. My sister kept calling us lesbian baby snatchers but lord knows I wasn't trying to keep the baby.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mindfully minding my mindless technology with mindful tools.

In this week's installment of the Amanda show I want to share with you a lecture series I attended concerning "digital distractions." In this panel discussion was Alex Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction, Neema Moraveji, from Stanford University and the Director of the Stanford Calming Technology Lab, and Lisa Freinkel, an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon whose current work explores the connections between the digital age, the human body, and Zen.

Firstly, let me say how West coast/new agey/hippie/kumbaya/let's all hold hands and chant it out this panel was. Not that I didn't fully appreciate everything they had to say and thought their work was exceptional on myriad levels, but as a former Midwest/kinda East coaster, I must maintain some sort of cynicism or I lose all my street cred, ya dig?

To begin, Lisa led us through a breakdown of what exactly this buzzword "mindful" means. We hear it everywhere and even this morning as I was thinking about putting this post together, in my little burnt out hole of a hometown Youngstown, Ohio, TEDxYoungstown had our beloved Congressman Tim Ryan discussing teaching mindfulness in schools. BUT WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN?! Well, Lisa goes on to explain that it isn't YOLO (whatever the fuck that is) or the "be here now" idea of some long ago decade of acid induced transcendental experiences. Mindfulness is actually a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

You man be thinking, "what the hell does this have to do with technology?" Well, as Alex Pang discussed in his presentation about our increasingly tech-dependent society and escalated distractibility, that we must and can be more mindful about how we engage with ourselves and our communities even with all this technology. I haven't read his book (yet) but it will definitely be on my reading list as I am wildly interested in increased real engagement through technology.

Finally, Neema Moraveji presented his research concerning stress, breathing, and technology. There is no doubt that technology stresses us out in many ways, either through the bazillion emails we each receive and have to deal with, to the panic that sets in when Facebook takes too long to load (don't judge me, you know you get agro too). Apparently, he and a team of other nerdy researcher types have been up in the lab creating apps to help people better connect...some of them were really cool, some were sort of creepy. At the Stanford University Calming Technology Lab  you can read about new tools to positively reinforce your email dealings as well as daily Mad-lib type prompts that help set your intention for the day.

If you would like to learn more about everyday mindfulness practices the internet is a smorgasbord of resources. Some tips I found were:
  •  Practicing mindfulness during everyday activities that you would normally do on autopilot. (brushing teeth, showering...etc.)
  • Practice right when you wake up because it sets the "tone" for your entire day.
  • Keep it short as our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness rather than lengthy sessions. About 20 minutes at a time should do ya right.
  • Practice while you wait. This is where the tech part comes in....while waiting for something to download or before writing that next email...take a few minutes that are only for you.
I also found this list of articles about technology and mindfulness on The Huffington Post. Oh how they make my life easier and less stressful...

AND NOW FOR YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED TMI UPDATE: You will find that moving forward, many of these will surround the topic of cats, my cats in particular. I am a graduate student and don't have much of a life so mostly I just contemplate the lives of my cats and worry about their mental health. One of my many cat obsessions is catching them in the litter box. I find it hilarious because they always seems so embarrassed and stop whatever they are doing. I like to laugh and point and judge them...I'm lucky they still use the damn thing. I also enjoy this so much because I get no private bathroom time which is demonstrated in this photo:

This is a photo of one of my three, Orangello McFluffbutt, mid private time. What sweet sweet revenge!