Tag: Mobile

There is a plethora of research out there indicating that your nonprofit will raise more money with an SMS (short message service, aka texting) donation service in your fundraising mix than it will without one. Offering SMS donations to your donors increases the number of opportunities your organization has to collect donations from your prospects.

Consider these statistics:

The data indicates that SMS donations can increase your overall reach, giving you new audiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. As younger audiences have begun to move away from traditional giving and towards mobile giving, adding this technology to your fundraising mix means your nonprofit will be better positioned to meet prospective donors where they are.

Two Main Types of Text Giving Services

Basically, there are two types of text-to-donate services. One is text-to-give: Donors text a keyword to your short code, and later their mobile carrier charges them $5 or $10 extra on their bill. Once donors pays their bill, the mobile carrier sends you the donation.

The second type is a service whereby donors make a pledge by text message. It works the same as the other, except that the donor’s phone bill is not billed. Instead, the donor is sent a payment link (like Paypal) to complete the donation.

Is Donating By Text Effective?

Absolutely. People carry their cell phones everywhere nowadays: on the beach, in the delivery room, in the movie theater—there is almost nowhere people go where they do not take their phones. Texting is one of the most ubiquitous, effective forms of communication ever invented.

Texting is fast, simple and easy. And it’s built in by default into every phone manufactured. No app to download, you don’t even need a data plan or WiFi in many cases. With text to donate services like Gnosis, you can reach prospective donors wherever they are, and know with 97% certainty they will read your message—because they initiated the conversation.

So the moral is: If you’re not taking advantage of texting for fundraising, you could be missing out on an essential component of your fundraising marketing mix.

It’s the mantra of cause marketers everywhere: the key to success is reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message – one that will motivate immediate, positive action from your intended respondent.

For advocates, this “holy grail” of marketing campaigns is even tougher than for brand marketers in the for-profit world. Advocacy outreach is already complex, and exacerbated by the fact that the “right audience” can vary from those who could most benefit from their services or those of their preferred industry, to those most able and willing to support their activity. Sometimes these audiences are so different that even the advocate’s core messaging has to change to accommodate them.

Such a dichotomy is often tough to pull off in social media, where each online “persona” is relentlessly tested for authenticity. But there is one medium that has become at once so pervasive, and yet so personal, that it can uniquely deliver relevant messages that inspire immediate action: targeted mobile advertising.

Mobile Outreach – by the Numbers

Last month, Nielsen reported figures from Q3 of 2016 showing that the number of monthly users of apps and web via smartphone for adults 18 and over outstripped the number of people accessing the internet via desktop or laptop. (Tablets – another mobile device that can be targeted with video and rich-media messaging – are the digital device of choice for U.S. children.)

Moreover, more adults viewed video via smartphone than on their computers. Some 90% of those 18-24 watch video via smartphone or tablet; 86% of those 25-34 do, and 79% of those 35-49 do. Even more than half of adults 50-59 watch video via smartphone or tablet. The connection between a millennial audience and mobile media is undeniable:
• 95% watch video on mobile at least once a week
• 48% ONLY watch videos on their mobile devices (the so-called “unplugged” you’ve heard so much about.)
• 58% watch video on mobile as their sole activity (compared with 28% for TV)
• 80% find video helpful during initial research for a purchasing decision.

In its January report, US Time Spent with Mobile: A Deep Dive into Mobile App and Web Time, eMarketer reported that mobile video viewing time skews more heavily toward apps, with U.S. adults spending 20 minutes daily in apps vs. 11 minutes per day via mobile websites.

Mobile App Indicators: Persuasion’s Secret Sauce

Not all mobile video is created equal, and finding a willing audience where the “exit” is just a thumb-swipe away, is critical to the success of mobile ad campaigns. There is a “secret sauce” to those that have been able to leverage this technology to best effect, and it goes back to the holy grail scenario cited above. Those most persuadable to your point of view probably share common characteristics and interests besides their age, gender, income, and even location. Sometimes, what people DO on their most personal of information device – specifically via the apps they download and use every day – says as much about them and their potential affinity for your cause or your campaign as where they live or their demographics.

 

To be fair, many of the same targeting techniques that can be used in mobile advertising can be applied to online and social ads as well. But using the apps on users’ phones to “crack the code” of audience psychographics has proven remarkably powerful for us in targeting both branding and political campaigns.

We like to say “you are what you app,” which means that the app ecosystem on each person’s phone can be a roadmap to their personality, preferences and passions. Some of these indications are simple: you may be an in-market car buyer if you have Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book or Car Checker. You can spot a mom with small children by their K-12 educational apps combined with apps on great 30-minute meals. I’m a hockey fan, so of course I’ve downloaded the app from the Washington Caps (something you wouldn’t guess by my demographic, and I’ll leave it at that!)

Discerning differences in today’s party-hopping, populist era might be a bit tougher, but you might be a Democrat if you get your political news from Atlantic Monthly, NYT.com and Mother Jones. You might, conversely, vote Republican if you sport an NRA app and stream Fox News.

What does this look like in real life? When SONY Pictures wanted to herald the release on DVD of a movie about the transformative power of prayer at WalMart, we targeted mobile users when they were within a few miles of a WalMart that also had either Bible or church apps on their phones. The resulting synergy between messaging and target audience drove one of the highest sales days among the retailer’s movie releases.

On the political front, we mobile voters in Georgia who had an NRA app with a 30-second video endorsement by the NRA of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) for his recent re-election campaign. And, we didn’t stop there. We also targeted a different, 15-second ad spot talking about how Isakson was the “most effective” legislator in Congress to people whose apps resembled those of NRA members. (In digital marketing, we call this a “look-alike” campaign.) Both ads were charged on a “cost per completed view” basis, meaning the senator’s campaign only paid when someone watched the ad to its completion. Because the ad was so relevant to users to whom it was delivered, the video completion ratio was greater than 80%.

Only as Good as the Gardener

Like any tool in the shed, mobile targeting may not be for everyone. Advocacy marketing funds are always limited because organizations want to use the maximum amount of resources in driving the kind of change for which they were created – not just in ad campaigns. When the money does become available, non-profits either want to “go big” – grab the highest number of eyeballs possible via broadcast TV – or spend the least amount of money possible, perhaps by building out a social profile and trying to activate the organization’s own users.

The first step in figuring out whether a targeted mobile ad campaign could help your organization could be to conduct a “super-user” survey to find out their media habits. Do your most supportive followers cite mobile media as a key activity? Does commonly available media research tell you the same thing? Consult your website stats; most analytic programs will tell you how many of your web visits are from users on their mobile devices.

Start small, and learn fast. If you can instantly think of apps that would be commonly used by your potential constituents, if you have a cultural target that is hard to discern in other ways, if your target falls strictly within a specific geographic area (high-income ZIP codes, or voters within a single state or other locale), or if your audience is overwhelmingly millennial or younger, then it’s probably worth a test. Posit a demographic, geographic and psychographic “bullseye” for a test campaign, then – when it succeeds – stretch its boundaries as far as practical so long as your goals are met.

Be realistic. It is possible to over-target in terms of the specific audience characteristics of the people you think might join your bandwagon, and targeting can’t make up for missing the mark on poor media choices generally. As with all technological advances, nonprofits may lag their brand marketer peers in adoption, but Sabio is committed to both inclusion in the political process and supporting nonprofits as much as humanly possible.

Telling a story from the perspective of those people that advocates are trying to help, or communicating surprising truths to the uninitiated, still requires creative skill. Don’t hesitate to try out your messaging in social video first and let the audience weigh in on its effectiveness before delivering it to a wider audience. Just don’t assume that the people you’d most like to influence will necessarily find it without some help.

 

Even in today’s digitally-saturated age, nonprofit organizations have typically been more sluggish than in other industries to implement technologies that help them solve their business challenges. And this is true for good reason—traditionally, nonprofits are understaffed, overworked, and underfunded. In fact, the organizations that don’t have the resources for tech innovation are indeed usually the ones who need it most.

However, the lack of time, financing, and resources don’t belie the need for effective tech tools that help save time and money, simplify processes, and streamline operations that all speak to every nonprofit’s bottom line: reach more people, make the world a better place.

Luckily, this digitally-saturated age comes with a few upsides. As technology continues to innovate, access to it becomes cheaper and broader. And along with this expansion has come the advent of do-it-yourself technology.

DIY tech development platforms are perfect for those looking for rich solutions without the matching investment. Need a website but don’t know code? Google will yield no shortage of platforms to try. Need to accept payments but don’t have a brick and mortar storefront? There is a multitude of digital payment systems you can use to garner financial support.

What about if your organization needs mobile apps to accomplish its mission in more efficient ways? Self-serve, custom mobile app builders can help you do it—in fact many nonprofits are already doing it.

At-Risk Seattle Youth Grow Job Skills Through Urban Farming…and a DIY Mobile App

The Seattle Youth Garden Works program empowers homeless and underserved youth through urban farm-based education, job skills training, and employment.

At the beginning and end of the program, participants are asked to fill out a paper survey aimed at collecting information about what the youth are getting out of the program and tracking how they progress with greater life goals. The data also helps the organization better hone its services and provide potential contributors with program efficacy information they need to decide whether to provide donations—the kind of valuable information every organization needs to present to its funding base.

One enterprising employee used a self-serve, code-free app builder to turn these surveys into mobile apps. Now, participants fill out the forms through the mobile app via iPads on the farm. They are able to do this even without an internet connection.

The app also carries compelling implications for the future of the program. In addition to saving time and reducing errors, the automatic data collection greatly simplifies the organization’s grant writing and expense reporting processes. The app helps the team provide potential contributors with detailed information about the program’s effectiveness, which demonstrates its success and helps garner more financial support.

This kind of data is invaluable to an organization like Seattle Youth Garden Works. Like almost any nonprofit, it needs to prove its efficacy and impact on the community in order to continue receiving the support it requires to operate. Because the old system meant carrying around vast swaths of papers and manually transcribing the information later, time lapse and potential human error presented significant barriers to that goal.

The mobile app the team was able to build with low financial and time investment allowed them to innovate on their outdated procedures, creating new avenues to collect, analyze, and present data to key stakeholders.

Harnessing the DIY Revolution

DIY mobile apps are just one of the technology tools resource-challenged organizations can harness to achieve greater effectiveness. Here at AppSheet, we’re not trying to convince potential new users that we’re better than other self-serve app platforms out there. We’re still working to convince individuals they can build their own mobile apps in the first place. Most of our would-be customers don’t even know that yet. The same goes for nonprofit organizations that know they need more sophisticated tools, but don’t know they have access to them now.

Before embarking upon an DIY app/website/logo-building marathon, it’s wise to first ask yourself a few questions about the goals your organization is trying to accomplish—not just the underlying goals, but the actions that contribute to meeting those objectives, and whether the processes in place to accomplish them are making the cut.

You can do this by breaking down a few of your organization’s overarching goals, then the actions that help you reach them, the procedures you’re utilizing to complete those actions, and the potential problems those procedures present.

Here is how Seattle Youth Garden Works, for example, might have tackled this exercise:

In order to achieve the goal of garnering financial support, we need to collect, analyze, and disseminate data organization-wide to our donors and potential donors.

  • How are we collecting data? Paper forms/surveys
  • Where are we collecting data? On the farm
    • Problem: Manual transcription doubles workload and contributes to human error
    • Problem: Paper forms are cumbersome to tote around offsite and can get lost. The location is not ideal for manual handwriting, and there is low privacy for sensitive data

In this case, it would be a simple conclusion to draw that a mobile app is a great option for an organization that needs to collect large amounts of private data at an external worksite. Luckily, Seattle Youth Garden Works knew a mobile app was within their reach—via DIY app development.

The challenge now only lies in helping other organizations discover the existence of powerful self-serve solutions they can customize themselves, that don’t drain their resources, and that ultimately, give them more time to dedicate to causes in need.

Imagine you are the Executive Director of an amazing nonprofit. You are standing on stage at your annual gala, staring out into a warm and excited crowd of your supporters. You smile as you begin your speech.

I was at a great gala last week. There were over 800 people in the room, there was great food, great speakers, a wonderful auction, and craft beer.

Could you imagine the potential of filling a room with 800 of your strongest supporters? These are people who are coming out to support your organization and all the wonderful things you are doing, many of whom come year after year. These people are your core supporters. Your champions. Your peeps.

This group of 800 people could sustain your organization (and many others!) for years. They will volunteer, take action, and donate. Imagine if each of them gave your organization $100 a year; $200 a year; $500 a year.

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Your challenge is to activate them. What if, within 5 minutes, you had the mobile cell numbers, names, and email addresses of everyone in the audience? They are already excited about your work, and now you can connect with them directly.

You Sold Out Your Event, But Do You Have Mobile Numbers?

If you are operating like tons of other nonprofits, chances are that you have likely used a tool like Eventbrite to sell tickets online. People registered, bought their tickets, and were added to your lists of RSVPs. They may have supplied a phone number; they might have added additional people; they might have added donations on top of their ticket price.

By the time you are launching into your speech, chances are a ton of people will have exchanged tickets, or not shown up at all. This means that, in the best case scenario, you might have 50% of the mobile phone numbers of the people in the room. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to contact everyone at your event directly and immediately?

Can I Bring a Friend? 

When I was the Executive Director of Pivot Legal Society, we used lots of sign-up sheets at events— at our annual general meeting, at parties, and at fundraisers. And you don’t need me to tell you, paper is the worst.

When we started using Eventbrite and then NationBuilder, things got a bit better. We had a list of people who had bought tickets online printed at the door, and volunteers crossed off people as they came in so that we knew who attended. Even though NationBuilder makes it very easy to determine between RSVPs and attendees, we still were missing all the plus-ones and the people who just showed up. Sometimes, if we had a very diligent volunteer, they would write down the name of the plus-ones, but then we were back to paper.

When I walked into the gala last week, I walked up to the registration table and told them my name. They had me down for two tickets. I had brought a friend who had never supported this organization before. I wanted to show him what they were all about. At the registration table, however, he went nameless. All they had on the sign-up sheet was “Peter Wrinch for two,” and in we went.

The Power of Mobile Texting

Let’s be honest, mobile numbers are gold, and the trends are telling. In 2013, the number of households using cell phones in Canada (where I am from) was 83%, up from 78% in 2010; the number of households that are using traditional landlines is down from 66% in 2010 to 56% in 2013. If you want to connect with your supporters, you need to have their cell numbers.

Let’s go back to the moment where you are about to start your speech at your event. What if, right when you finished your speech and after the crowd gave you a standing ovation, you asked everyone in the room to pull out their cell phones and hold them up in the air. You then asked them to text CONNECT to your dedicated local phone number. Once they sent their text, they would be asked to text their name and email address.

Within five minutes, you have the mobile numbers, names, and email addresses of all of your attendees (or at least a huge percentage). They are excited about your work and now you can connect with them directly.

I recently tested this while presenting to a group of 200 politicos, labor leaders, environmentalists, and social justice advocates. I asked the audience to text keywords based on what sector they were working in (e.g., text UNION if you are working in labor). Five minutes later, I had 90% of the mobile numbers in the room and a clear picture of the composition of the audience. 

The Sign-up Sheet Is Dead

Your core supporters are your organizational life blood. Being able to connect with them is the difference between thriving and surviving (or worse). Text messaging allows you to capture the most direct way to contact your supporters. Text messaging tools allow you to scale your efforts, giving you the ability to capture thousands (or 10,000s, or 100,000s) of mobile numbers in minutes.

Imagine inspiring your supporters at your next event and then imagine connecting with them directly the next time you need to engage them. The potential is endless. The next time you are inspiring your people, get them to pull out their cell phones and send you a text!

Epilogue—Paths and Goals

You are inspiring. People have sent you a text. Now what? In September this year, NationBuilder released a major upgrade that included two new features: Paths and Goals. These two features bake ladder of engagement right into your tech infrastructure. So now, when you receive an incoming text, you can automatically set someone on a path, with a number of steps, in service of a larger goal. When I was an Executive Director, we had lots of goals for our supporters, but the main one was to become a donor. However, even though we knew we wanted people to donate, we didn’t really think through the steps to get from attending an event (or sending a text message) to becoming a donor. Getting your supporters to send a text is just the beginning—walk them down the path to your organization’s goals.

Imagine you are the Executive Director of an amazing nonprofit. You are standing on stage at your annual gala, staring out into a warm and excited crowd of your supporters. You smile as you begin your speech.

I was at a great gala last week. There were over 800 people in the room, there was great food, great speakers, a wonderful auction, and craft beer.

Could you imagine the potential of filling a room with 800 of your strongest supporters? These are people who are coming out to support your organization and all the wonderful things you are doing, many of whom come year after year. These people are your core supporters. Your champions. Your peeps.

This group of 800 people could sustain your organization (and many others!) for years. They will volunteer, take action, and donate. Imagine if each of them gave your organization $100 a year; $200 a year; $500 a year.

Get more tips! Subscribe to Connect Monthly to receive more content like this in your inbox.

Subscribe

Your challenge is to activate them. What if, within 5 minutes, you had the mobile cell numbers, names, and email addresses of everyone in the audience? They are already excited about your work, and now you can connect with them directly.

You Sold Out Your Event, But Do You Have Mobile Numbers?

If you are operating like tons of other nonprofits, chances are that you have likely used a tool like Eventbrite to sell tickets online. People registered, bought their tickets, and were added to your lists of RSVPs. They may have supplied a phone number; they might have added additional people; they might have added donations on top of their ticket price.

By the time you are launching into your speech, chances are a ton of people will have exchanged tickets, or not shown up at all. This means that, in the best case scenario, you might have 50% of the mobile phone numbers of the people in the room. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to contact everyone at your event directly and immediately?

Can I Bring a Friend? 

When I was the Executive Director of Pivot Legal Society, we used lots of sign-up sheets at events— at our annual general meeting, at parties, and at fundraisers. And you don’t need me to tell you, paper is the worst.

When we started using Eventbrite and then NationBuilder, things got a bit better. We had a list of people who had bought tickets online printed at the door, and volunteers crossed off people as they came in so that we knew who attended. Even though NationBuilder makes it very easy to determine between RSVPs and attendees, we still were missing all the plus-ones and the people who just showed up. Sometimes, if we had a very diligent volunteer, they would write down the name of the plus-ones, but then we were back to paper.

When I walked into the gala last week, I walked up to the registration table and told them my name. They had me down for two tickets. I had brought a friend who had never supported this organization before. I wanted to show him what they were all about. At the registration table, however, he went nameless. All they had on the sign-up sheet was “Peter Wrinch for two,” and in we went.

The Power of Mobile Texting

Let’s be honest, mobile numbers are gold, and the trends are telling. In 2013, the number of households using cell phones in Canada (where I am from) was 83%, up from 78% in 2010; the number of households that are using traditional landlines is down from 66% in 2010 to 56% in 2013. If you want to connect with your supporters, you need to have their cell numbers.

Let’s go back to the moment where you are about to start your speech at your event. What if, right when you finished your speech and after the crowd gave you a standing ovation, you asked everyone in the room to pull out their cell phones and hold them up in the air. You then asked them to text CONNECT to your dedicated local phone number. Once they sent their text, they would be asked to text their name and email address.

Within five minutes, you have the mobile numbers, names, and email addresses of all of your attendees (or at least a huge percentage). They are excited about your work and now you can connect with them directly.

I recently tested this while presenting to a group of 200 politicos, labor leaders, environmentalists, and social justice advocates. I asked the audience to text keywords based on what sector they were working in (e.g., text UNION if you are working in labor). Five minutes later, I had 90% of the mobile numbers in the room and a clear picture of the composition of the audience. 

The Sign-up Sheet Is Dead

Your core supporters are your organizational life blood. Being able to connect with them is the difference between thriving and surviving (or worse). Text messaging allows you to capture the most direct way to contact your supporters. Text messaging tools allow you to scale your efforts, giving you the ability to capture thousands (or 10,000s, or 100,000s) of mobile numbers in minutes.

Imagine inspiring your supporters at your next event and then imagine connecting with them directly the next time you need to engage them. The potential is endless. The next time you are inspiring your people, get them to pull out their cell phones and send you a text!

Native AppsFor this month’s Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

If you work for a nonprofit and are thinking about building an app, you’re already on the right track in many ways: There are many “mobile first” evangelists who believe that the mobile user should be the first and main target when creating any digital experience, in spite of potential drawbacks and missed testing opportunities.

Even though 58 percent of American adults own a smartphone, it is important to consider the purpose of a proposed app before building it. Here are my three considerations before deciding to build an app.

Think about the (mobile) user

Candy Crush I wrote in a mobile marketing post how important it is to have the right mindset and use case before creating any digital experience (mobile apps included). Just because there is an app for everything doesn’t mean there should be. Mobile user scenarios fit into any of the categories below:

  • Repetitive now: these users seek recurring, real-time information. Think: weather apps, checking your email, following stock quotes, catching up on the news.
  • Bored now: users look for a distraction or entertainment to pass the time. Think: podcasts and mobile games, like Candy Crush.
  • Urgent now: these users need reliable, time- or location-sensitive information, and they need to make a snap decision. Think: looking up movie times at a theater or calling a tow truck.

These scenarios are not mutually exclusive — addictive games like Candy Crush satisfy both “repetitive now” and “bored now” scenarios, while a weather app can fulfill “repetitive now” and “urgent now” needs. If the app you’d like to build doesn’t fit these mobile use-case scenarios, it might not need to be an app.

Does it have to be an “app?” (And what kind of app are we talking about?)

Aside from making sure your app fits into any of the mobile user scenarios above, you need to consider what kind of app you should create (if you should create one at all).

Different “app” types

When considering an app build, most people immediately think of native apps (something that you download from an app store, that lives on your phone, and works offline). Native apps can access a mobile phone’s features. Think of Instagram’s app: you can take photos with your smartphone, edit, and post them. If you load your feed while you have service, you can also scroll through photos without Internet access. Unicef Tap Project Web App

However, if the app you’d like to create won’t use a phone’s native features, it may not have to be a native app. Other options for mobile “apps” include mobile web apps and hybrid apps.

Mobile web apps are websites that look and feel like native apps, but aren’t downloaded to your phone and use a smartphone’s features. Unicef’s Tap Project is a good example of a web app: it would not be a useful native app because it doesn’t fulfill a user’s need now. However, it provides an excellent interactive experience that can be promoted online to generate awareness around their goal.

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are basically where native apps and web apps meet: They are downloadable in the app store, but are essentially a browser embedded into the app. These tend to be better suited for organizations that want a presence in the app store and don’t need to change the structure of what’s provided on their app from their site.

Running lean? Don’t forget your budget

While apps seem like a cool way to build a modern tool for your organization, it may not be a wise move, especially if you’re on a lean model. Once you consider the costs to build and then market, apps become fairly costly (this Mashable article estimates that building an app costs a bare minimum of $10,000 for one platform). Additional considerations then are:

  1. Does the app need to be built for more than one platform (e.g. iOS and Android)?
  2. Are you prepared to release necessary updates when new updates are made to your users’ devices (e.g. the next iOS)?
  3. Once it’s built, do you have the budget to promote and market the app so that users actually find and download it?

My general rule of thumb is, if you don’t need to build a native or hybrid app, don’t: there are other ways you can make effective, influential mobile experiences that will probably be better for your organization’s goal and budget. You can always decide to build a responsive site or fake an app with a (really cool) mobile web app like Unicef did (video link).

Technology is helping community members have a voice in their community’s growth.

The Saint Consulting Group, a management consulting firm specializing in land use politics, and Five Corners Strategies, a grassroots public affairs firm, are humanizing community involvement in real estate development.

Since its inception in 1983, Saint has ensured that people have a voice in community development. With experience on over 1,800 projects, the firm understands that the impact that development projects have on people and communities is often big. They believe, therefore, that it’s critical that residents in an impacted area have a way to voice their opinions about the projects.

Through utilizing mobile engagement tools, they are now making it easier for community members to get involved.

One project Saint Consulting is involved with is a major development proposal in Oakland, California called Coliseum City. The city is promoting the ambitious project that will create 21,000 jobs over the next 20 years by developing three new sporting venues, an intermodal transit hub, mixed-use developments, and much more.

Saint uses the following tactics, powered by an integrated mobile and web-based software platform, to empower community advocates:

  • Advocates send a text message to learn about the program – in this case, they text “OAKLAND” to 52886
  • Saint replies with a text message that takes advocates to a mobile-friendly action center where they can take action and let their officials know how they feel about a proposal
  • Once the commission receives the message from the advocate, they can respond directly to the supporter, drawing them even further into the civic process
  • The most engaged and committed advocates attend open houses, testify at hearings, and call their officials

By allowing people to voice their opinions through their phones, the firm has seen “overwhelming response from constituents,” said Courtney Graziano, Director of Digital Strategy for Saint Consulting.

In the first few weeks since the campaign became public, thousands have engaged with the tools by sending letters about the project to city planning officials responsible for making decisions on the project.

Saint is getting the word out by passing out flyers at games and giving t-shirts to canvassers at events educating people how they can get involved simply by texting.
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“Oakland residents are passionate about keeping their beloved Oakland teams in Oakland,” Graziano continued. “The tools we are using now make it easy for anyone with a phone to have a say in the future of this city.”

The campaign has also started to go viral. For instance, a popular radio show host was advertising how people can get involved simply by sending a text message on his weekly show.

“One night, we saw that 300 new people joined the campaign – all from listening to a passionate supporter of the project tell people how they can make a difference – just by sending a text message,” Graziano said.

“The future of land use development is about using technology to make it easier to find new ways to reach people in their community, educate them on the projects, and empower them to get involved,” said Graziano.

Another consulting firm that specializes in community engagement to support land use projects is Five Corners Strategies. One of the projects they are working on is a development proposal for Washington, DC’s soccer team, DC United. The team is looking to relocate to a new stadium to be built within the District.

Five Corners has used innovative means to find and identify supporters of the project, including working with DC United to sponsor festivals like FiestaDC, the largest Latino festival in the Eastern United States, with more than 100,000 attendees in 2014.

One successful tactic they used was a live call-to-action at the event. Attendees were invited to text “ESTADIO” to 52886 to register their support for the initiative. Participants got to see their name appear on event’s main projection screen, creating excitement for everyone in attendance.

“Five Corners Strategies uses a combination of the latest mobile engagement tools and old school, tried and true canvassing and door knocking to engage the community on the projects we work on. People want to be involved in their communities – they just don’t always know how they can be. We help fill that gap,” Ben Kelahan, Partner at Five Corners Strategies, said.

These types of projects are leading the way in leveraging digital mobilization tools in land use projects by making it easier for community members to voice their opinions.

The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) supports Portland’s arts and writing community and curates North America’s largest zine library, a circulating archive of self-published and otherwise underground and rare publications. Our collection is well-known, diverse, and spans seven decades and over 60 languages.

As glorious as the zine library is, we have developed an enviable problem of scale. When we first started collecting and archiving zines back in 1999, it was simply a small collection of zines in a few milk crates. We had a talented professional librarian who volunteered and catalogued all the zines lovingly by himself. We got just a few dozen zines donated each month, so adding them to the catalogue was a relatively simple process.

Now, however, 20-200 zines and comics are donated each week, and there’s no way to catalog the zines fast enough with our regular volunteers. It became clear that we needed to engage more volunteers to catalog zines. The backlog had grown so unimaginable, though, that it seemed impossible we’d be able to train enough volunteers to catalog zines using our existing database. What’s more, cataloguing zines could only happen at the IPRC by volunteers trained on our database when no other task was being done on our two computers.

Even if two of the most dedicated, magical volunteers could simultaneously catalog 12 hours a day, seven days a week, it would still take nearly six months to work through our entire backlog — and that’s if we didn’t intake a single new zine. Essentially, even if volunteers only catalogued new zines, we’d still be paddling up a creek filled with photocopied pages of punk mixtape track listings and Star Trek fan comics.

I started having fantasies of a marathon of cataloguing: how could we make it fun for volunteers to catalog zines? What if we made it a feat of strength? In a fit of nonprofit overconfidence, Raiders of the Lost Archives was born. Imagined as a 24-hour zine cataloguing marathon, we managed to pull off the work of cataloguing zines. One hundred twenty people showed up. We catalogued over 1000 zines  — the equivalent of the 3 previous years’ worth of volunteer work in less than a day.

I had long thought that cataloguing zines was an introverted activity and that the best volunteer recruitment I could do would be to make it easy for volunteers to take a stack of zines home, read them while cuddling their cat, and bring them back at their leisure. But Raiders of the Lost Archives’ first 24-hour cataloguing event revealed that competitive reading is actually a thing. Librarianship and zinestership fosters a collaborative, friendly environment, and volunteers loved both the bragging rights and getting to show off weird or rare zines to their friends.

This first year, I simply used a very rudimentary Google doc to have volunteers do the data entry. This meant that every couple hours, I sorted the Google doc into columns, counted up each team’s zines, and hand-wrote a “leaderboard” on the IPRC’s fold-up whiteboard. It worked okay, but I had dreams  of a real game with merit badges for cataloguing certain types of zines — 1980’s zines, punk zines, zines about cats, zines made in Oregon, etc.

Once again armed with overconfidence — this time that of someone who’s never built a piece of functional software before, I managed to assemble a team of programmers and sat in on weekly Sunday morning conference calls about the zine library game. Just a week before our second annual Raiders of the Lost Archives, the software was still too buggy to use. It was possible I was going to do another whiteboard leaderboard again this year if the game didn’t get finished. They pulled an all-nighter and delivered a working game just two hours before the event started. As our intrepid Raiders trickled in, ready to start, I got them set up on the game, relying on one of our sleep-deprived and coffee-fueled volunteer programmers to act as tech support for the first several hours of the event. He squashed the last bugs in the first few hours of the Raiders event as volunteers reported problems.

Altogether, the game meant that we could foster friendly competition amongst volunteers. The merit badges were incredible motivating for volunteers and allowed us to prioritize zines that we wanted to catalog — within a few hours of Raiders starting, every single copy of “Whipsaw,” our local soccer team’s fanzine, was catalogued, because there was a merit badge for cataloguing it. Around 3AM, some of our volunteers had acquired every merit badge but the Harry Potter merit badge (turns out Harry Potter fanzines were scarce), so motivated by a “collect ‘em all” attitude, we collaborated on a few Harry Potter fanzines we then immediately catalogued. Talk about volunteer motivation for data entry – volunteers were actually creating more things to data enter!

We ended up cataloging 40% more zines than the previous year; a post-hoc survey found that those that participated both years said they found the game a huge improvement in the overall experience. The game is so usable that now we have a “zine donation station” set up and require people to use the game to catalog their own zine donations at the time they donate them, eliminating the intake bottleneck we were experiencing for donations. The wait time from new donation to “new arrivals” shelf is now less than 11 days — as opposed to the eight months when it was just three volunteers cataloguing zines. Many people use the game to catalog their own zine and have so much fun using the game that they come back to catalog from our backlog.

What’s next for the game? We’re recruiting a volunteer UI designer to pretty up the “game” and make it more game-like. Plans involve a secret zine forest filled with yetis. The hope is that there will be quests that participants can create within the game, and we’ll open up the “merit badges” to be created by the volunteers as they level up. But even if nothing changes in the game, it solved a problem for us that every non-profit struggles with: how do you make data entry rewarding and fun.

If you like this post, heads up: Author Sharon Price is leading a webinar on Work-Life Balance Tools for Tech Leaders in an Over-Connected World on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. You can access the recording even after that date.

I love being on planes because my beloved cell phone gets turned completely off, or put into “airplane mode.” I am rarely more than a foot away from my phone, so there’s something about airplane mode that I find liberating—not “having” to respond to anyone or anything. With my phone off, I can’t obsessively hit the sync button to check for new emails or texts. I feel free. I feel less anxiety. I feel less stress. I feel happier.

As I turned my phone back on after a recent trip, I asked myself, what would life be like with my phone in airplane mode? What if I turned my phone off when I got to work in the morning? What if I chose to leave my phone behind when I went to the grocery store or during my lunch break at work? What would happen if I (gasp!) left my phone at home for an entire day while I walked around the city?

I decided to experiment with being in airplane mode at work for a few weeks when I was feeling particularly stressed and anxious. Every morning as I walked into the office, I put my phone into airplane mode for the first two hours of the day, so I could fully focus and pay attention to whatever challenge or task I had in front of me. I noticed that I got more done, with less stress, and I felt like I had enough time to do everything I needed to accomplish.

How about you? A study last year showed that cell phone users check their phones an average of 150 times per day. When was the last time you intentionally turned off your phone for at least an hour? And sleeping doesn’t count—especially if you sleep with your phone next to your bed and check emails or texts in the middle of the night as they come in (or so I’ve heard).

I want to be clear: I’m not advocating getting rid of cell phones. I love my phone and the support it provides in my work and life. I’m talking about being aware of the cost of becoming so attached and connected to our phones that we forget what’s going on right in front of us. Constantly being “on” all the time can cause us to feel overwhelmed, stressed-out, and anxiety-driven. We can’t change the world if we’re burned out.

My belief is that the antidote to burnout begins with the practice of mindfulness: paying attention—without judgment—to what is happening right now. As the president of the nonprofit I work for recently wrote, “staying present in current time is an essential leadership skill.” One way that we can be more present is to go into airplane mode for at least an hour a day. I’ve outlined how to do this simple practice below. You could try it alone or with your team at work.

Work-Life Balance Tool: Intentional Airplane Mode

Intention: To improve your work-life balance by reducing stress and overwhelm caused by habitually checking your phone.

Duration: Try this practice for one hour every day for at least one week. If you can’t commit to one week, try it at least once and see what happens.

Practice:

  1. Choose a one-hour time period to experiment. It’s best to choose a time when you feel particularly distracted by your phone and drawn to be with it rather than with whomever or whatever else needs your attention.
  2. During the hour, turn your phone completely off, or put it into airplane mode. Commit to this. Do not turn it back on until the hour is over.
  3. Practice mindfulness. Notice what is happening right there in your present moment experience. Don’t judge yourself, just notice: How many times do you reach for your phone out of habit? What feelings or thoughts come up? Devote all of your attention to whatever is in front of you: your work, your partner, your kids, a walk in your neighborhood, dinner with friends, a concert.
  4. At the end of the week, reflect on what you learned. Be gentle with yourself. The point is not perfection; it’s to notice what happens when your attention is free from your phone for one precious hour each day. You could journal about what came up for you, share your experience on Facebook, or talk about it over coffee with a friend or your team. I’d also love to hear about your experience in the comments of this post.What becomes possible with your phone turned off?

Change, June 2014The 14th issue of the NTEN: Change journal is out, and this quarter is all about fundraising.

From Bitcoin, to crowdfunding, to the tricky discussion about overhead – articles cover some of the latest topics in digital fundraising, and opportunities for nonprofits.

This issue is packed with actionable ideas, inspiring interviews, and tips that your organization can use to get ready for the end of the year, if not sooner!

>>Read the June 2014 issue! (online or mobile device)

Here’s a run down of our feature articles:

We also go behind the scenes with KivaGlobalGiving, Urban Ministries of Durham, and FundsforNGOs, and the Surfrider Foundation reveals the key ingredient that’s needed to complement digital tools for effective advocacy and engagement.

Plus, learn how to fundraise year-round with holidays, and the NTEN Voices section: community tweets, examples of good donor stewardship, and we ask Food & Water Watch: How do you practice what you preach?

>>Enjoy, and subscribe! Get this journal free every quarter in your inbox by subscribing today.