Beth's Blog

Has the Ice Bucket Challenge Spawned A New Fundraising Technique Called Charity Jacking?

The amount of money raised for ALS research through the IceBucket Challenge is almost $100 million and the other impacts are just as impressive.    Scores of nonprofit fundraising staffers report being called on to replicate the challenge.    Jeremiah Owyang has provided the easy recipe and I’ve provided an analysis of what can and cannot be reproduced.   So, now we are seeing an emerging practice that for lack of a better phrase, I’m calling “Charity Jacking.”

Charity Jacking is similar to news jacking, defined by David Meerman Scott as the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your organization. It creates a level playing field—literally anyone can newsjack—but, that new level favors players who are observant, quick to react, and skilled at communicating. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to throw an opponent or simply draft off the news momentum to further your own ends. Charity Jacking is imitating a successful fundraising campaign theme or idea that has become popular and instead of encouraging donations to the original charity, redirecting donations to another cause.

Charity Jacking goes one step beyond “Social Media Meme Morphing.”    A social media meme is an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet.  It typically evolves over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, tweaks, or parodies.    While other nonprofits have incorporate popular Internet or Social Network memes into their fundraising or advocacy campaigns,  the Ice Bucket has become a social media meme itself and successful because it related to the common person who doesn’t know –or necessarily care –what ALS is.  The meme was entertaining and challenged peers — and in the process learn about ALS and donate.

Let’s trace the how the cold water fundraiser morphed itself into a social media meme and how other nonprofit causes and charities are attempting to replicate it.

Phase 1:  Personal Challenges with Cold Water to Raise Money

Personal challenges involving cold water and raising money for a charity have been around for a while.   In the early days of social fundraising in 2008, Erin Ennis who took a winter dip in Vermont’s Lake Champlain as part of a personal challenge to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont. Before taking the plunge, he setup a group fundraising page at FirstGiving. His page features a famous clip of Seinfeld’s George Castanza shouting “I was in the pool, I was in the pool.” People who donated enjoyed the opportunity for innuendo in the comments. While a modest amount raised, Erin surpassed his fundraising goal by 50%.   The organization has also hosted the “Polar Bear Plunge” fundraiser that raised $20 million in 2012.

Phase 2: The Ice Bucket Challenge: From Fundraiser to Social Media Meme

It started as a way just to challenge friends to donate to a charity.  Some reports say it started to make the rounds in early summer, but not dedicated to any specific charity.   It did not spread until Pete Frates, the former captain of Boston College’s baseball team, repurposed the meme by challenging Steve Gleason to throw a bucket of ice over his head to raise awareness for ALS.  Frates has help from Corey Griffen, a management consultant who organized the fundraiser that set this viral meme into motion in late July, early August.   Sadly, Griffen, died in a drowning accident on August 16th.

If you watch the video at 4:25, it illustrates how this fundraiser went viral, from Frates teammates, to other athletes to other sports teams to celebrities.  This network map illustrates how the challenge spread from celebrity to celebrity by who they tagged.  The data from Facebook illustrates how the campaign started in Massachusetts (where Frates is from) and spread across the country.

The Ice Bucket Challenge morphed into a social media meme and like a worm penetrated other popular Internet memes like Star Wars.  There was even a “vote for your favorite Ice Bucket Video” challenge.
It has also become a global phenomenon arriving in Scotland and even Bollywood film stars dumped cold water on their heads.

Phase 3: Water Morphs Into Vodka and Chocolate

As the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, some participants didn’t dump water on their heads, but switched to another liquid more meaningful to them – whether chocolate or vodka (drinking it instead)

Phase 4:  Call to Donate Morphs

People started doing the challenge but asking their friends to donate to ALS and other charities.   Nancy White was the first one on my feed to bend call to donate rules.   She also donated $100 to ALS, but also sent a donation to Doctors Without Borders because right now there are many West African countries who are so short of medical providers given The Ebola Crisis.  She challenged her friends to donate to ALS and to match their donation to another cause saying “Let’s spread good intentions, but wisely.”

Another alternative is the #noicebucket challenge:  Don’t dump cold water on your head; just donate to ALS or other charity; and encourage your friends to do the same.  Paull Young did something similar, donated to ALS and to charity:water and used the opportunity to talk about their clean water work.   Casey Niestat made a humorous video involving several dumps of water to raise awareness to several charities he supports. There was also a crowdfunding effort to fund ALS research.

Phase 5:  Charity Jacking

Matt Damon’s version of the challenge is an example of charity:jacking.  He dumped toilet water on his head while talking encouraging donations to, a charity he co-founded.

Here’s some more examples – some are just advocacy oriented, others fundraisers but they are redirecting attention from ALS to another issue or cause.

And nonprofits are not the only ones that “charity jacking,”  marketers are seizing a promotional opportunity as well.


Will the success of the ice bucket challenge create a culture of giving that is not strategic and not directed to where the greatest needs are?

Do you think “charity jacking” is as rare as the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or could it become a common practice as fundraisers show the potential to go viral?

Now that everyone has their hand out do you think our wallets will run dry?   Will there be complaints about too much fundraising “noise” or do you think this will encourage more generosity, especially from those who may new to giving?


Personal Health Data: It’s Amazing Potential and Privacy Perils

This is a graph of aggregate data from Jawbone,a wristband that people wear that tracks their steps throughout the day and their sleep patterns during the night. (h/t Robert Scoble)   This aggregate data shows exactly when and how many people in the San Francisco were bolted awake by the recent Napa Valley earthquake.   This is one of the first reports using “Personal Health Data” in aggregate, using data points around sleep tracking to look at a natural disaster.    As Jacob Harold mused on Twitter, “In such a moment of something so powerful and scary as an earthquake, technology can only observe.”

The Jawbone has  previously put out aggregate data reports around sleep habits of those that wear its device.  For example,  this report that ranked  most sleep-deprived cities around the world.   The data that is being collected from the Jawbone device and other similar devices such as the fitbit is being called “Personal Health Data.”   If you’re asking yourself how Jawbone has got access to all of this user data:  The users opt in to the anonymous data-mining when they sign up for the app.  That’s also the scary part because there are no clear policies protecting people’s privacy of their individual data.  It opens up the question:  Who owns our data?


Personal Health Data goes beyond collecting sleep metrics.   In addition to tracking data points like heart rate or blood pressure, these tools also enable individuals to record and analyze their behavior such as physical activity and diet, and sleep habits as in the example above.   The value to an individual is that they are able to track their health and can change their behavior to a healthier lifestyle.     Now, researchers are interested in using this data to better inform public health research, but there are some thorny issues to navigate to make this a reality.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting Health Data Exploration that is looking at a path towards responsible health data research.   Data ethics, data ownership and privacy are big concerns that are being examined.  This a big topic in the open data and nonprofit big data field.

Data scholar Lucy Bernholz wrote this great primer on The Why of Data Ethics that lays out the big questions to be addressed at an upcoming conference at Stanford on the topic.

  • How data are being used to frame the issues on which nonprofits and voluntary associations work and what civil society can do about it;
  • The realities of association and expression in a digital age and what these changes mean for civil society
  • How scholarship is changing in a digital environment;
  • The rights of those being served by nonprofits and civil society;
  • Ethical dilemmas for civil society organizations using digital data and how to work through them;
  • Ethical ways civil society and industry sources of digital data can work together

@p2173 @NoelDickover @kanter It’s nice when friends connect. No data use is fully knowable w/o clearer rules/structures around storage/use.

— Capture the Ocean (@CapturetheOcean) August 26, 2014

When I tweeted this graphic and link to the article, a Twitter discussion ensued.   A few unanswered questions:

  • Sensors providing “anonymous” data w/user consent (or not) most likely will be pervasive, many uses of which are unknowable
  • Opendata question is also critical – how do you know whether data you release will be dangerous in future mashups?
  • How long will this data be stored?

This lead me to a project called “Capture the Ocean,”    a research project designed to help identify and understand the laws regulate the collection, use, and storage of data.   The partners include a mix of researchers and practitioners, including DoSomething.Org and DataKind.


I am huge fan of fitness devices and I personally have gotten a lot of benefit from being able to track my personal health metrics. I have even shared and exchanged screen shots of my step counts with colleagues to keep us motivated to keep walking and reach our fitness goals.

@louisgray impressive! 10k more than my wed!

— Beth Kanter (@kanter) August 24, 2014

However,  one can’t help to wonder the consequences of giving your data over to a private company without a clearly defined policies that protects us. Does this mean that I will get unsolicited emails from sportswear, sports nutrition companies and companies that sell shoes? Will adds for those types of products follow me all over the Internet and Facebook? Can or will the company that makes the device I wear sell my individual data to companies that could market products to me? Will an insurance company be more likely to approve my life insurance because they have data that shows I have a healthy lifestyle?

What you think?

Ice Bucket Challenge: Can Other Nonprofits Reproduce It?

Is success of the Ice Bucket Challenge a happy accident for ALS  and the people who suffer from the disease or is the first example of the power of crowd charity?    Can other nonprofits reproduce it?   My answer: yes and no.

The Ice Bucket  Challenge has raised over $88.5 Million Dollars to fight the horrible disease, according to the ALS Association web site.    Just one week ago, donations totaled $22.6 million.  In just seven days, donations have skyrocketed by an average of $9 million per day, now totaling $88.5 million.    And critics, with a scarcity mindset, talk about slacktivism (“Not everyone who did the challenge donated or even mentioned ALS”) and fundraising cannibalism (“People won’t donate to other charities because they will be tapped out”).  Nonprofit insiders are watching and debating how ALS will use the money and the donor retention strategy.    And, of course the valid concern of wasting water in a drought.

One has to step back and marvel at  the most successful networked fundraising campaigns in the history of social or crowd fundraising.  The numbers speak for themselves.

When  Allison Fine and I wrote the Networked Nonprofit we were talking about how nonprofits needed to work less like isolated institutions and more like networks, considering the “crowds,”  people inside and outside their organizations and other similar nonprofits as valuable to their work.     We are in the collaborative economy or sharing economy – and we now have “crowd companies.”   Why not “crowd nonprofits” that share program delivery, administration, and fundraising. The question on my mind is:  Is the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge a happy accident for ALS fundraising and the people who suffer from the disease or is the first example of the power of crowd charity?

Let’s look at the possible factors that caused philanthropy to run wild and capture the attention of so many people, inspire them to participate, and donate to stop the disease.  What can or cannot be reproduced?

(1) Downer News Cycle: Last week, in an interview with NPR, I pointed to the long cycle of bad news we had experienced over the summer as one possible reason the Ice Bucket Challenge had so much appeal.   In deck above, you will see a graph that shows that the Ice Bucket Challenge had more search volume than other news such as Ferguson and Iraq during the last few weeks.      This shows the importance of timing and playing off current events. It goes beyond what is  known as “newsjacking,” to analyze public reaction and also have the agility to strike while the iron is hot.


(2) Playing on Memes: The campaign took advantage of social media narcissism for a good cause.  But unlike other campaigns where the idea to incorporate a meme was part of a campaign organized by an organization or central entity (for example, Giving Tuesday’s “UnSelfie Campaign“), the fundraiser itself was a meme that went viral, not only as a fundraiser, but its own Internet meme (see this Star Wars version and others).  The ice bucket challenge has been going on for a while now among golfers and many others donating to the charity of their choice but did not really spread until Pete Frates, the former captain of Boston College’s baseball team, re-purposed the meme by challenging Steve Gleason to throw a bucket of ice over his head to raise awareness for ALS. (You can see how it spread from Massachusetts to the rest of the country via this Facebook data)

(3) Influencers: Pete Frates was one of the early “influencers” or what Allison Fine and called “Free Agents,”  people who have large and passionate networks that they can leverage for a good cause.  But he had help from another free agent, Corey Griffen, a management consultant who organized the fundraiser.   Sadly, Griffen, died in a drowning accident on August 16th.  Reaching out to and cultivating people with large networks who are passionate about your cause is something your nonprofit can reproduce and should do.      But the fundraiser meme went beyond the sports world, when hundreds of celebrities (or their PR agents) picked up on the idea.   Celebrities and fundraisers are nothing new and even having a critical mass of celebrities join forces for a good cause is not new (think Bob Geldof and LiveAid).   But, there was not a central coordinating organization or purpose for this celebrity participation, it was self-organizing.  So, just because your nonprofit may get one celebrity to join your fundraiser, it won’t create a cascade of sand of others joining in without even being asked.

(4)  PhilanthroKids and Philanthropy Education: We are seeing the rise of PhilanthroKids, as GenZ starts to use the technologies for good causes.    As more kids are heading back to school,  teachers and whole schools are embracing the challenge and teaching some important lessons about philanthropy.   Vickie Davis, CoolCatTeacher Blog, let her students dump water on her and then taught them a lesson on fundraising for a good cause and about ALS.    Involving younger people in your organization’s campaigns, as champions, perhaps as part of a lesson on philanthropy is definitely something that can be replicated in other campaigns.

(5)  Whacky, Goofy, and Fun: “Stunt Philanthropy” has been around for years.  It is a combination of public dare combined with something outrageous.   In the early days of social fundraising, individuals challenge their networks to donate and they would do something crazy in response – like shave their head, sing a Beyonce song, or dress up like giant tomato and walk down 42nd street.  I chronicled some of these back in 2008.   But the top wild fundraisers by organizations have raised only a small percentage of what the ALS  Ice Bucket Challenge has raised so far – so if your nonprofit embraces stunts, be sure to adjust your expectations and take advantage of social proofing.   Also, make sure your stunt won’t cause a backlash and is appropriate to the timing of your campaign.  Ice Bucket Challenge in winter time would not have worked.

(6)  Social Proofing the Call To Action: Another reason is the social proofing element or social validation, where friends tag their friends on social network. Social proof is peer pressure in a positive way, the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that something too.    Social proofing or tagging your call to donate is something that be replicated.

How Philanthropy and Fundraising Professionals Embraced the Ice Bucket Challenge

I enjoyed watching colleagues who are professionals in the nonprofit and philanthropy world share their Ice Bucket Challenges.   They mention why they are doing the challenge, the disease, and their personal connection.  They also tag their friends.      It is a reminder to have some good examples ready for your champions and supporters to emulate.

Kevin Conroy who works for Global Giving created a quiz about ALS to help everyone learn more about
Jasmine Hall Ratliff from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation challenged fellow staff members on the RWJF baseball team

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus challenged other Gay Choruses around the country!

Paull Young from charity:water donated to ALS, but used the opportunity to talk about charity:water and the importance of clean water and his birthday campaign in September.

Getting Asked By Your Board for An Ice Bucket Challenge?

Almost every development professional I spoken with in the last week or so has told me they have been asked for an ice bucket challenge by a board member or their boss.    So, if you are looking for some good reads, I suggest these articles:

1. Ritu Sharma: Can Your Nonprofit Catch Lightening in A Bucket

2. John Haydon:  3 Big Fundraising Lessons from Ice Bucket Challenge

3. Nonprofit Marketing Guide:  Creating Your Nonprofit’s Ice Bucket Challenge


As you can see, some aspects of the Ice Bucket Challenge can’t be replicated.   Most likely, no matter how your nonprofit incorporates some of the best practices, you probably won’t raise $80 million and get hundreds of celebrities to participate on their own.   As my colleague, Geoff Livingston notes, “For every BatKid and Ice Bucket Challenge, there are hundreds of failures.’     But you can certainly incorporate some of the best practices like social proofing, fun call to action, and embracing free agents to get better results.

Why Your Nonprofit Should Invest in Video As Part Its Communications Strategy

Photo Credit: Tristan Hanson

Why Your Nonprofit Should Invest in Video As Part Its Communications Strategy – Guest Post by Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3

It’s obvious to anyone who spends time online that video is taking over the internet. It is the dominant form of content we all engage with – on our desktops, our tablets and now our phones. And when video is paired with a continuous strategy and clear metrics for success, there is overwhelming evidence showing that it is a crucial, important investment for nonprofits.

And so it continues to surprise me that nonprofits invest far too little in video content, as if they are somehow exempt from this general trend.

In the Into Focus report, See3, YouTube and Edelman surveyed nonprofit staff and found that the clear majority recognizes the power of video. In fact,

  • 80% of respondents said video is important to their organization today,
  • 91% believe video will become more important in the next 3 years, and
  • 92% value the investment they have made in video.

So, you would think that budgets would be going up accordingly. Not so.

Fully two-thirds of respondents reported that their budgets for video would be flat or decline!

Finding the ROI

One reason for the disconnect between stated belief in video and video budgets has been the lack of hard data about the return on investment (ROI). Video is cool, but it is also expensive (in time and money). It’s no surprise that a tactic with a cost is high and unclear ROI gets minimal resources.

But we have reached an inflection point. There is enough data today to warrant a major investment in video.

Not A Video but a Video Strategy

From my conversations with organizational leaders, I have found that there is too much focus on one video, rather than a video strategy. If you spend a lot of time and money on one video, and that video has poor results, it is no wonder that you hesitate to do more.

When we say video works, we don’t mean every video works, any more than we mean every email works or every direct mail piece works. To know that your email works you have to be sending email regularly – and developing clear metrics for what success looks like. The same is true with video. To see the impact of video, you have to be using it as an ongoing means of communications, not a one-off project that carries all your hopes and dreams.

An ongoing investment in video starts with strategy. When we create video strategy we answer the questions like what has worked for you, what assets and resources do you have, and what stories are there to tell.

With the big picture in mind, lets look at the recent evidence for a video investment.

Video Stats: How Video Impacts Constituent Behavior

You can see how much video dominates YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. But the evidence that people are watching wasn’t enough to convince most organizational leaders to make significant investments. Now we have evidence that gets directly to the level of user behavior.

These stats were culled from many different reports, most meant for corporate marketers. You can use these stats with your leadership to secure some video resources.

  • When the word video is used in an email subject line, open rates double. (Experian Digital Marketing Report)
  • Click-through rates increase 2-3 times when a video is included in an email. (Digital Sherpa)
  • Companies using video require 37% fewer site visits before a person responds to a call to action. (Aberdeen Group and Brightcove)
  • People who watch video are 85% more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. (Kiosked and Brightcove)
  • If you ever hope to reach a younger audience, you need to be using video. According to a 2013 ComScore study, 83% of 12-17 year olds and 91% of 18-24 year olds are watching online video on a regular basis.

Large companies like Zappos and have impressive case studies showing how video has helped them reach their goals. While nonprofit video case studies are harder to come by, the overwhelming direction of the evidence is that video works.

There aren’t excuses any more. Our nonprofit organizations may not be equipped with the talent or the mindset to use more video, but we have to change. We have to adapt and jump in, or the most valuable currency of all — attention — will be in short supply for the important work we do.

Michael Hoffman is the CEO of See3 Communications and an authority on developing video strategy for social good.




Summer School: Test Drive: Using #GivingTuesday to Experiment with New Fundraising Strategies


How many of you who work for nonprofits are getting asked to “come up with an icebucket challenge” for your annual fundraising campaign?  Or maybe it’s caught your attention and you are more realistically asking, “What can we learn from the icebucket challenge apply to our year-end giving and integrating social media in fundraising?”

Participating in a local or national giving day may help you work on that second question.   Most giving days also provide lots of toolkits, webinars, and other training – and it is free!   Take for example,  #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back that will take place on Tuesday, December 2, 2014, a day for charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.  GivingTuesday is offers a FREE  complete suite of tools and webinars on how to do online fundraising with social media effectively.

I’m participating in the GivingTuesday Summer School where you find an instructional video from me discussing how to use giving days like Giving Tuesday to experiment and improve your online fundraising with social media.   See you in Summer School!

Basic Facilitation Techniques for Nonprofits

As a trainer and now adjunct professor,  I’m constantly working on and honing these skills sets: assessment, instructional design, curriculum/materials development, presenting, facilitation, and evaluation.    There is a lot of learn and refine in each of these areas.       And that’s why I love teaching and training because it is all about the learning for both you and the participants.  Over the last 25 years I’ve been doing training,  I’ve learned different and applied different methods from either being a “student”  in a training facilitated by someone using a method, being trained in the method, co-designing with others, and designing and facilitating my own sessions.

There are a lot different styles, philosophies, and techniques for facilitating groups of people.    Check out the International Association of Facilitator’s Method database which contains more than 500 entries. There are also nonprofit specific facilitation tool kits like this one for international development projects.    I like to avoid being stuck in the same techniques and am always interested in expanding my toolkit.  That’s why I love looking and testing different methods.

Here’s just a few:

Any many more .  Does it makes your eyes pop out?

One thing I have noticed when co-designing workshops or gatherings with other facilitators, is that some facilitators like to specialize and or have a preference for one method or philosophy.   For example, there are some approaches that lend themselves to having people think about their practice in an area as an individual or within their organization, while techniques encourage collaboration, cross-pollination, or more networked ways of being with each other.    There are facilitators who are steeped in the theoretical frameworks and research and others are experienced in the practical aspects.

No matter what flavor of facilitation you put into your toolkit, there are some facilitator fundamentals and skills that facilitators need.  These skills are useful in all group settings, whether it is a meeting, workshop, or conference.  There is no better resource than “The Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision-Making” by Sam Kaner.   (They also offer workshops).   The book is an extremely practical resource whether you are working on improving your skills or teaching others.   Part 2 offers checklists and reminders for these basic skills.   This includes:

1.  Facilitated Listening Skills

Facilitated listening is made up of a number of techniques described in more detail in the book.   A few of these include.  I know in my own practice have made a conscious effort to go into any workshop with a goal practicing these.

-Paraphrasing: Repeating back in your own words what someone has said, often using phrasing such as “Let me see if I’m understanding you.”   This builds trust and establishes your objectivity.   You end your paraphrase with with “Did I get it?”

-Drawing People Out: After you listen and paraphrase, you ask open-ended questions to draw people out.  ”Tell me more …” is one of several identified in the book.  A simple hmm…. often works

-Mirroring: This is repeating back verbaitem what someone has said using their words.  It lets the speaker hear what they just said and can build trust.  It is used in brainstorming because it speeds up the discussion

-Stacking: This is often called directing traffic.  When more than one more person wants to speak, you acknowledge and give them a order to speak.

-Tracking: This is keeping track of the conversation themes and threads.   The facilitator indicates that they will summarize the discussion and names the themes in play and then invites moving the conversation onward with “any more comments?

-Encouraging: This is encouraging those who haven’t spoken to participate.  A simple “who else has an idea?”

-Intentional Silence: Leaving space for quiet, an essential facilitation skill.  It is basically a pause.  It helps people process complex thoughts.

2.  Scribing

Writing people’s ideas on a flip chart or white board helps with the group memory and knowledge capture.   There is a whole area of visual facilitation called “Graphic Facilitation” developed by David Sibet where the conversation is captured with drawings and words. (David Sibbet’s book, “Visual Meetings” is one of the best resources on techniques and they also offer training.)  In some facilitation methods, the participants do the documentation – for example the World Cafe where participants take notes of the conversation or Open Space Technology where knowledge capture is done by participants throughout.

If you are not using a design where participants do the scribing, you as a facilitator may lead a conversation AND be the chart writer.    Or you may have a co-facilitator where you can split the roles or invite a participant to play this role.   Each of these choices has pros/cons.  For example, if you invite a participant to scribe, they cannot fully participate in the activity.  If you facilitate and scribe, sometimes it can slow down the conversation and this can be problem if you are doing brainstorming.

The chart writer’s role is to captures the groups ideas.    Whenever possible, the chart writer writes down the speaker’s exact words.  Sometimes the person’s statement is too long and complex to be recorded verbatim, so the facilitator assists by paraphrasing or breaking it down so the scribe can write the condensed version.     A good scribe does not try to facilitate the discussion when another facilitator is already playing that role.     That can be hard to remember if you are used to doing both tasks.

3.  Small Group Design

Managing energy in the room is part of a facilitator’s job (and trainer too).    You have either help re-energize a sluggish room or help a hyper vibe in the room to slow down.   The book offers some tips on how to shift group behavior, but it also include a wonderful collection of ideas of how to organize smaller group discussions.  Some formats require everyone to speak, others do not.  Some formats are playful and incorporate informality, movement, and fun.   People can work alone, with a partner or small groups of three or five or larger.  Some formats help people develop deeper relationships and others help with cross pollination of ideas or build trust in the beginning of a workshop or meeting.

Many of the techniques and frameworks in the book can also be used effectively to facilitate productive meetings and used other organizational contexts as well.   I have found the ideas and skills described in the book to be invaluable to training and teaching and appreciate having this “recipe” book.

If you have to facilitate groups of people, what are you favorite resources or techniques?



Is A Downer News Cycle A Factor in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success?

In the last six weeks of summer, turn on any TV news channel, NPR, or read news articles online, and there was depressing news.    The Malaysian Airline tragedy in the Ukraine, the Ebola virus outbreak,  the conflict on the borders of Israel/Palestine, Iraq/ISIS,  Ferguson, and the sad passing of Robin Williams.    These are all very serious and sad world events.   So, maybe it is not too surprising that something that makes us feel good while doing good and a little silly like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went wild on the social networks.    (That’s the response I gave during NPR Morning Edition when asked why it was catching on)

The challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association, with a social media component.   Participants do a video of themselves dumping the water on their heads or donating, and tagging other people in their network to do the same.    This was not a campaign started by the ALS Association, but young people who wanted to support the cause.   Soon celebrities and main stream media joined in the fun as it continues to sweep the nation.   Technology rock stars have also joined the bandwagon, including Bill Gates, Robert Scoble, and Mark Zuckerberg (who was challenged to do this by Chris Christy, Governor of NJ).

I’ve written about the rise of Philanthrokids, those young people otherwise known as Generation Z, who are online social network savvy and can easily use their Smartphones to raise money or awareness for a cause.    I’ve seen colleagues take the challenge with their children, like my colleagues Lisa Colton and Marc Pitman both of whom have a family member who suffered from ALS.

It sounds counter intuitive to ask people to donate $100 to ALS or make this goofy video and share on social.  But according to news reports, it has increased awareness and dollars raised  for ALS research. The association reports $15.6 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.8 million in the same period last year, including 300,000 new donors.  There were over a million videos created according to various reports.

Even my favorite charity and philanthropy cynic, my colleague Tom Watson who writes a regular column for Forbes Magazine, gave the Ice Bucket Challenge a big thumbs up in his recent column, pointing out all the reasons why it was a success beyond the dollars raised.  One reason is that wacky and goofy fundraisers work.  Another reason is the social proofing element, where friends tag their friends on social network. Social proof is peer pressure in a positive way, the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that something too.

Like everything on the Internet, there was a backlash and criticism.   It’s  publicity stunt philanthropy.  It encouraging slacktivism, not long term relationship between the donor and the charity.  It won’t make a difference to those with ALS. And all about social media narcissism — a selfie on steroids and ego philanthropy.      Some suggest it is a just fad and is not really expanding charitable giving:

That would be all right if new donations to ALS added to the total of charitable giving. But the evidence is to the contrary. The concern  of philanthropy experts is that high-profile fundraising campaigns like this end up cannibalizing other donations–those inclined to donate $100 to charity this summer, or this year, will judge that they’ve met their social obligations by spending the money on ALS. (See this piece by MacAskill for an explanation.)

The explosive spread of the ice bucket challenge could even end up hurting ALS fundraising in the long term. The challenge is a fad, and fads by their nature burn out–the brighter they glow, the sooner they disappear.

The hard work of philanthropy always lies in creating a sustainable donor base. But the ice bucket challenge has all the hallmarks of something that will be regarded in 2015 as last year’s thing.

In a discussion with colleagues, I think Nancy White, had the right idea.   She was challenged and honored her friends request, but since wasn’t a fan of video self-promotion, she created a cartoon and also bent the challenge rules.   She also donated $100 to ALS, but also sent a donation to Doctors Without Borders because right now there are many West African countries who are so short of medical providers given The Ebola Crisis.  She challenged her friends to donate to ALS and to match their donation to another cause saying “Let’s spread good intentions, but wisely.”

Another alternative is the #noicebucket challenge:  Don’t dump cold water on your head; donate to ALS or other charity; and encourage your friends to do the same.   Inspired by Nancy, I’m forgoing the video and the water (we’re in a drought in California) and donating to charity:water, in honor of founder Scott Harrison’s son, Jackson, to welcome him into the world.

While the amazing success of the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t going to be something that every nonprofit will be able to replicate, the ALS challenge will be how they can retain all these new donors.    For other professionals who work at nonprofits who may be asked by their board to cook up viral social media fundraiser, the challenge will be to extract the lessons learned and apply to social media infused fundraising campaigns and be ready to launch during the next negative news cycle.

Free E-Book: NetworkforGood Giving Day Planning Guide

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While it may be the dog days of August,  GivingTuesday 2014 kicks off on December 4th.   After spending a year facilitating a peer learning community of  Knight Foundation grantees hosting giving days, one of the most factors for success  for local no nonprofits participating is having about 6-9 months timeframe to develop a plan.      NetworkforGood to the rescue! They’ve just published this terrific, free e-book with lots of tips and planning templates to help your organization decide whether to participate.

The e-book is written by Jamie McDonald, the Chief Giving Officer of Network for Good and the Founder of GiveCorps. Jamie is an expert in online engagement and giving, inspiring Millennial donors, and the force behind BMore Gives More, the movement to raise $5.7 million in a day on #GivingTuesday 2013.   If you don’t follow her on Twitter,  you should!    The e-book offers an overview of the benefits of participating in GivingDays like #GivingTuesday, followed by a whole lot of wisdom and best practices.

I love the metaphor of a successful GivingDay campaign to a party:

  • Timing is key
  • A unifying theme creates excitement and engagement
  • There are some key people you want in attendance to make the party great
  • It’s got to be fun – games and activities can make a big difference
  • The execution details matter: flow, food, decorations, music
  • Party favors (rewards) can be an unexpected delight
  • Sharing memories – stories, pictures – after the party keeps the good feeling going, and makes everyone want to attend next year

If your nonprofit is not familiar with the Giving Days format or a little bit skeptical about the potential benefits,   the guide includes a great primer in a compact visual format and good discussion starter for your team.     The planning steps begin with the question of timing.    There are a number of GivingDays in local communities as well as #GivingTuesday – so the first question to ask “Is the timing right?”

All good nonprofit strategists know that you have to begin with setting measurable goals.  The guide offers a few examples, and a reminder that  you don’t have to use them all:

  • Dollars to be raised
  • Number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Number of volunteers (if you are including an activity)
  • Increase in engagement of key groups
  • % Participation among key groups – like staff

The guide offers up 11 strategies for your GivingDay Campaign.   Here they are with some added insights from me.

1.  Set a big goal. I’d suggest making it realistic, so think “stretch” not pie in the sky.
2.  Convene A Passionate Team:   This is so important to have both internal (staff/board) and external champions helping you spread the word.   If you are the person tasked with supporting this team, remember you have to model enthusiasm and make it contagious.   Making it easy for your champions to do the work is also important and you’ll find lots of templates and examples that you can remix on the Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook and toolkits on the GivingTuesday site.
3.  Create A Branded Campaign: The guide suggests developing a theme and a visual that is used consistently in all of your Giving Day outreach, plus making use of any assets that are provided by the Giving Day host.   You’ll find lots of creative examples of how organizations have incorporated their branding with Giving Day slogans, taglines, and logos.
4.  Use a Hub and Spoke Model: This advice will help you manage the many champions who will help you, especially if you centralized your toolkits.
5.  Build A Communication Plan for Champions: It is important, especially in an age of media clutter, to encourage your champions to share your messages about the Giving Day.  Having a way to communicate with them regularly is essential, both leading up to the Giving Day and especially during the day itself. Facebook Groups are great for this!
6. Take Advantage of Creative Generosity: This is good community management practice.  Let your champions and supporters roll with adapting and remixing your content or jumping onto fun memes.   Make sure you acknowledge and thank them!    The idea is to escalate engagement.
7.  Get Business Business Support: This is something that a Giving Day host may do as part of the overall marketing and sponsorship of the event
8.  Create Once, Publish Everywhere: This tip is a nod to the need to use multiple channels – email, web site, offline, mobile and social.   The content you create doesn’t have to be from scratch for every channel, you are simply tweaking or optimizing it for the channel.    The skill of writing good headlines is an important one to develop!
9.  Gamify:  The best tip for nonprofits is to identify a donor who might issue a challenge match for your organization.  This can really boost your efforts.
10. Saying Thank You: Find creative ways to say thank you to your donors beyond the generic thank you email from the platform.   Social Media is great for this sort of thing,especially if you can say thank you shortly after they make the gift.   It is also important to say thanks after the event as part of a wrap and lots of folks use videos.
11.  Build A Parking Lot of Ideas:   You will probably get lots of great ideas and see lots of great examples of content generated by your champions and donors.  You want to make sure to capture those.   Of course, you will also have some tactics that didn’t quite work out, the best thing is to keep calm and document as the day unfolds and do a debriefing with staff to generate areas for improvement the following year.

Is your nonprofit planning to participate in a Giving Day?   What’s your best planning tip?

Planning to Win: A Framework and Free Toolkit for Nonprofit Campaign Planning

Planning to Win is an online guide for nonprofits that are looking to win support for an issue, impact policy, or get a corporation or government body to change its policies.   Spitfire developed this upgraded version of its first campaign planning tool because of the many new factors affecting what it takes to design and run winning campaigns in today’s rapidly changing world.   The site and toolkit was created through a  partnership and support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and input from campaign experts.

Planning to Win framework organizes the process of campaign planning into six stages.  The tool walks you through a series of questions that will help you make effective campaign strategy decisions each step of the way.  It is filled with lots of examples and practical advice.  A successful campaign strategy lays down the basics and then adds more details and nuances. This framework leads you through a logical decision-making chain where each step and decision builds upon the next.

The six simple stages to successful campaign planning are:

  • Define the Victory
  • Evaluate the Campaign Climate
  • Chart the Course
  • Choose Your Influence Strategy
  • Message for Impact
  • Manage the Campaign

You can download the print guide or use it online (after registering at the site.)   The site also includes a robust tool kit, including tip sheets to support each of the steps in the framework.


What leadership skills do nonprofit emerging leaders need to succeed?

Flickr Photo by Flower Factor

Are leadership skills different for emerging “Millennial” leaders than for people from different generations?   This is a question being asked in many nonprofits as they look at how to prepare younger leaders in their organizations to lead and develop their talent.   And from the perspective of younger leaders, who are ambitious but often feel stymied in their career paths because they are often met with the following response:

  1. Be reminded of how young they are and that they need to wait their turn if we want to lead
  2. Ready, set, here’s the deep end – hope you can swim.

Two recent research studies take a pass at answering that questions and the findings should be useful to those mentoring emerging leaders in their organizations and looking for professional development opportunities for them.

The Accelerated Millennial Manager” by Devon Scheef and Diane Thielfoldt of The Learning Café is a summary of a research survey from 2011 through 2013 of 400 millennial managers, their managers, peer managers, team members, HR, and business leaders.  The responses represent the perceptions of all four workplace generations and represent corporations, federal government, not-for-profit, and industry associations.     The research discovered that all groups of co-workers agree that millennials need extra support around establishing sufficient respect and credibility that would allow them to:

  • Lead older team members;
  • Build the fundamental management skills that are conventionally learned in the natural progression of a lengthy career;
  • Understand how to work effectively and at speed, while acknowledging hierarchy, bureaucracy, and status quo;
  • Allow for the necessary patience and time for projects and ideas to mature and gain coalition among a variety of constituents necessary to ensure the success that everyone desires.

The report offers some great tips and advice to those managing emerging leaders on how to mentor them.   There’s an excellent summary by the study’s authors in this post, “Preparing Millennials for Leadership Success,”  the tips include:

1. Constantly double-check your assumptions
2. Raise their visibility internally with specific communication and development initiatives
3. Leverage their eagerness to learn from on-the-spot, on-the-go coaching spurts
4. Bridge the generation gap
5. Encourage innovative thinking, even if it means having to listen to the same ideas that were rejected 15 years ago
6. Revisit your expectations of how and when work best gets done



In this HBR blog post,  The Skills Leaders Need At Every Level, the author shares the results of a research survey of 32,860 bosses, peers, and subordinates to learn the answer to this question:  Are some skills less important for leaders at certain levels of the organization? Or is there a set of skills fundamental to every level? Survey respondents were asked to rank skills have the greatest impact on a their professional success in the position they currently hold.  The most needed skills differed by their level but also by the type of job they held.  The same 6 or 7 competencies (see chart above)  were selected as most important for all levels. These skills are:

  • Inspires and motivates others
  • Displays high integrity and honesty
  • Solves problems and analyzes issues
  • Drives for results
  • Communicates powerfully and prolifically
  • Collaborates and promotes teamwork
  • Builds relationships

What’s interesting about this research that while it shows specific skills for different levels, there are set of important skills needed throughout one’s career.

Is your nonprofit offer professional development for emerging leaderships?  What does it look like?  If you are an “emerging leader,”  what makes a good mentor?    If you are managing an emerging leaders, how do you provide mentorship and support?