15 conversation starters for rebooting charity

I’ve been invited to give a keynote at the Third Sector Social Media Convention in June. I wanted to frame some of what I will talk about by asking a few open questions. Quite a few, actually. Here goes…

  1. You are now pretty good at using digital marketing techniques to push your charity’s own content tactically, but what are you doing to bridge the social divide between digital marketing and something that looks more genuinely like a commitment to meaningfully participate in the networks that are already out there?
  2. More charities are finding they can reach more people to talk about what they do. But by the same measure, more people are also discovering they can make a difference without you. So how can you address this using social media when people have less attention than ever?
  3. Social media provides a platform for you to earn trust by telling specific and impactful stories that are shared in the moment through online and offline networks to fuel action. The deeper value lies right there. Do you agree?
  4. Be prepared and engage your detractors. Not all of them, but where this is merited; Remember, a networked world is not always fun. Is your organisation engaging at this deeper level?
  5. The world is changing faster than we can reorganise. How comfortable is your culture with stopping trying to get all its ducks in a row and embracing the messiness of the social web – and does this matter to you?
  6. Don’t build thicker walls between career silos. We all ‘communicate’. We all have it within us to be fundraisers. Especially those not on the payroll. Is a new kind of volunteering on the horizon that can recognise and reward good people wherever they are?
  7. People mistake the fundraising potential of the web with the sea-change it is bringing to peoples’ expectations of relationships and communication. But charities are still structured for ‘transactions’ rather than for participation – yet less than 1 per cent of time online is spent transacting. How does this fit in with your charity’s operating plan?
  8. I am not at all sure that in the future, people will share the same affinity and allegiance to big charity ‘brands’ as my generation has shown with sustained loyalty. Our focus now should be on finding alternatives that tap the power of networks such as ‘crowd-funding’, which not only bring in money, but it also power community. Will this have implications for charities as we know them today?
  9. ‘Donors’ can only give of their money. New online tools are offering people the ability to mobilise their social networks around peer-to-peer portfolio lending and other forms of contribution. I can foresee how groups of people will engage around a portfolio of small, tangible, impactful interests rather than direct debits. What could this spell out for the way charities do things?
  10. What does your campaign celebrate? Are you setting up a culture that celebrates sharing, collaboration, collective action and trust? Or are you celebrating donations, staff size, media attention and individual credit? What are your metrics?
  11. The tools are not useful unless people adopt the social behaviours to go with them. Is there evidence that social media is changing the language and tone of your communications to accelerate the delivery of your mission? How much should communications be geared to incoming communication, as well as measuring column inches? And how might this affect the shape of your communications department?
  12. Breakthroughs in giving are now just as likely to evolve from multi-layered gaming technology as from within your fundraising department. If the charity sector is truly innovating – why aren’t we seeing roles being created that couldn’t have existed five or ten years ago? Are you ready to reallocate resources and budgets, and grow people into new roles?
  13. How much can we avoid silos? We need to accept that it’s OK to make a noise about the work you do, to use your own networks to reach out and make connections with anyone, anywhere, and uncover people who may be looking for an opportunity and who share the same goals. Just as we must break down silos within charities (and re-organise into smaller units), we must also link arms across ‘sectors’.
  14. Do you hang your passion up with your coat every morning? What can charities do to foster passion in their cause socially?
  15. What are the barriers? What’s holding you back? Take the initiative. Today. You will get pushed back, but find the guts to do what you need to do. Are you ready to shape the future of your organisation… or is it going to be down to someone else to do it?

What do you think?

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5 Responses to 15 conversation starters for rebooting charity

  1. Hi steve, these are very good and very critical questions. You clearly feel organisations are using media too opportunistically. I wonder how organisations can move away from this? Especially from the point of view of communication departments this seem rather logical..

  2. Ron Mader says:

    All good questions and conversation starters, Steve! I hope your keynote is webcast live. I’ll be watching.

    I’d add or consider embedding one of the topics we discussed during the recent meet-up in London. How do charities continue the momentum they build up using social media during specific campaigns? As it stands, campaigns are often one-off and leave many supporters stranded when the organizational interest comes to an end.

    Likewise, I think we should turn this on its head and ask what support could be given to the individuals who keep the momentum moving forward within and exterior to the organizations.

  3. Ron Mader says:

    When is your presentation?

  4. Steve Bridger says:

    Keynote is on Monday, Ron… June 13th.

    The point you made above is an excellent one. It happens too often. Ideas don’t necessarily have to be born within the institutional ‘walls’ to be good. Orgs should amplify the good ones.

  5. Pingback: Are you part of the charity industrial complex? | Steve Bridger

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