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How Nonprofits Can Make a Dent in the Real World

Most of my days are about my public service and philanthropy initiatives, while steady on my commitment to craigslist customer service (though, I haven't been in craigslist management since 2000, and here's why...).

dentSpecifically, I've transitioned most of my time to philanthropic initiatives to support organizations that are really effective in areas including:

  • veterans and military families
  • women in tech
  • trustworthy journalism
  • effective voting rights
  • grassroots funding for good efforts

I've learned a few things about the state of the nonprofit industry during this time. There are many folks who are doing good work, but there's also a bunch of nonprofit scams that donors need to be careful about.

My lens is a bit overly focused on communications, mostly via public engagement using social media; that's what seems to be lacking in many cases. (Yes, when a nerd like myself obsesses about communications, maybe a sign of the End Of Times.)

For the nonprofit industry to make a real dent, nonprofits need to:

  • Focus more on engagement. I still see too many nonprofits who aren't using basic social media like Facebook and Twitter to talk about their work with their communities. Medium can also be a great tool for longer form posts and a good way to connect with influencers. Nonprofit Executive Directors should also try using LinkedIn (LI) to blog about their work, which can quickly get amplified among their LI network and beyond.
  • Focus on getting their boards, friends, supporters, and members to amplify social media-based engagement. The org should send folks links to tweets and Facebook posts to RT and Share. That means a lot of people can engage their networks with a coupla clicks at zero cost. This should be opt-in, no spamming.
  • Storytelling is good, but it needs to be backed up by actual impact. As a donor, I want to see real results and that the nonprofit the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund's supporting is making an actual difference. One organization that's doing a good job at this is DonorsChoose, which works with their community to help fund classroom projects. They've funded over 600,000 classroom projects and you can track all of this through their website.Another org who's creating real impact is the Crisis Text Line, which offers free 24/7 support via texting for those in crisis. They've been doing a great job training volunteers, and when they reached almost 10 million text messages they immediately let me know. Impressive stuff.
  • Educate staff about tech (or work with folks who can help out) and adapt tech that can help your organization scale. The nonprofit sector can be very slow or resistant to adapting new technologies that can help them grow.
  • Seriously, keep an eye out for bogus nonprofits. If they're really good at telling an emotionally manipulative story, that's a sign to look further. If they publish numbers, check out their sources; turns out some really bad actors have been caught this way. See if they actually get anything done beyond a few cherry-picked cases.

This is all to say that you should talk with people about your good efforts, and ask your supporters to spread the word.

Prepare to do so relentlessly, prepare to make this a daily commitment.

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