Sometimes we find gratitude in places where we least expect it. I love Wendy Mogul’s book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.” In this book, Mogul says that parents should allow their children to experience the world in its entirety, including the difficult, sad, and disappointing stuff.  The consequences of their own decisions teach children better than anything else could. Little did I know, that there are actual blessings from actual skinned knees. Even for grown ups.

Tonight, I had a little mishap while riding my bike. A young boy, probably 10 or 11, cut me off and his bike and my bike collided. I went flying across the bike path, praying the entire time that I wouldn’t fall really hard or seriously hurt anything. Once on the ground, I saw my left leg bleeding with a serious case of road rash.

My knee is skinned.

Finding the blessings of my skinned knee

I was covered with sand (It was the lake path, after all) and my bike was on top of me. The boy ran over, clearly feeling terrible, and pulled my bike off of me. At this point, I was annoyed and in pain. I barked a little at the boy about not cutting people off and barked a little more to get him to move my bike out of the way. I was ready for a pity party because clearly, my injuries were a big deal. And I was in my 50’s! Even more reason to pity me.

I did decide to finish my ride, which meant continuing forward a few more miles before turning around and riding home. Once I got to my turn around point at Navy Pier, I took a little break. And as I stood there at the drinking fountain, scrubbing my hands to get the grease off, what happened next completely reframed my thinking. A young man saw my leg and expressed concern. He was so kind and warm and encouraging. I eventually told him, “If this had happened to one of my kids, I would have said, ‘You are fine! Buck up!'” So he looked at me with an impish grin and said, “Well, then. Buck up!” He was right. I needed to end the pity party and get over it.

The entire bike ride home I found myself reviewing what had happened after I had fallen, and realized that I had many more things to be thankful for than angry about. So, in that spirit, here is my list of observations that have inspired gratitude in me and given me a new understanding about “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.”

  1. I had just bought a new pair of biking capris and was considering wearing them on this ride. Had I worn them, they would have been torn.
  2. To continue on the clothing front, I have a little blood on my shorts and perhaps some grease, but essentially, no clothing was ruined in the making of this skinned knee.
  3. When I fell, a really nice guy came over to me and understood that standing up was going to be a challenge. So he put out his hands and actually pulled me up. Not an easy job, for sure. But it was easier for him than it would have been 50+ pounds ago.
  4. Once I was standing, I lost count of how many people stopped to ask me if I was ok. This happened right after I fell too. They came over to me, stopped, looked me in the face and asked me if I was ok or if I needed anything. Humans can be ok sometimes.
  5. I checked Facebook after I was standing for a minute. (Of course I did!) The first thing I noticed was that one of my sons had liked a note I wrote in 2009 that was something like 25 things about me. I reread it when I saw that he had liked it and was really proud of what I wrote. It included statements like, “I really, genuinely like my kids” and “West Wing is a really cool show.”
  6. There was no major damage to my bike and I was able to fix my bike myself. And I was able to get most of the grease off of my hands with only water and a few pieces of tissue.
  7. Sometimes we all need a guy like the one I met at the halfway point who told me to buck up.
  8. When I stopped at the halfway point, I also met a mom with her 3 young kids. Her youngest daughter was named Sofia. Like my Sophia. That always makes me happy.
  9. I always knew I was pretty strong and pretty tough. However, tonight will provide me with some reinforcement should I ever forget. I finished my damn ride. The whole thing. I didn’t wimp out and cut it short.
  10. I bet that young boy with whom I collided is going to be a little bit more careful on future bike rides.

By normal standards, tonight was not my best bike ride. I fell off my bike, have some nasty road rash, swallowed one bug, and got another in my eye. And in a few minutes, I will go in the shower and wince at least a little bit as I clean up my injury. What I have learned, however, is that I move perhaps a little too quickly in difficult experiences to anger and thinking negatively. I am going to challenge myself to reframe my thinking during these moments. Because, as I discovered tonight, there is generally much more that is positive in most experiences (certainly with some exceptions) than negative. And when I focus on that, I am a much happier person.

 

ImageI just received an email from Illinois PIRG, (Public Interest Research Group) a consumer interest group. They do some great work and serve as terrific consumer advocates. So I was excited by this email that suggested we all band together and flood Bank of America’s Cayman Islands P.O.Box with postcards today, April 15, tax day. It is a brilliant idea to connect millions of Americans paying taxes with large corporations dodging taxes with offshore accounts.

However, once I clicked on the link to participate, I saw that I had to make a donation to Illinois PIRG to do so. Sadly, they have this all wrong. If I don’t contribute, they lose me as a willing participant in this great idea. But by participating, they increase their numbers, and thus, the credibility of the initiative. And, large numbers of us who would participate would also post that we did so on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. I have a large network, so there is great value in having me do that.

Image

I understand the need to fundraise. I also think associating fundraising with this idea is not all bad. But Illinois PIRG should have done it as an add on after I participate, not as a requirement. It is a lost opportunity for them and for me. And instead of singing their praises, I am frustrated with them and publicly venting about my frustration.

C’mon organizations. We really can do better than this!

This post is part the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on “Social Media for Social Good,” in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how people are using social media to raise money, awareness, communicate with volunteers and otherwise further their cause and grow their organization.

People who know me know I love social media. As a connector, the allure of being able to interact with unlimited numbers of people is irresistible.  Twitter used to be my “drug” of choice. However, since the creation of groups on Facebook, I find myself almost ignoring Twitter. Facebook groups are where I spend the vast majority of my time on social media. Last spring, I created a group for nonprofit professionals in Chicago. I have been networking  and working with that crowd for years and was frustrated that there was no one place where I could share information and connect people who would benefit from knowing each other. I started the group with 40 Facebook friends who were nonprofit professionals in Chicago. It quickly grew and we are now approaching 200 members.

In this group, people post requests for help, nonprofit job openings, articles they’ve read, great tools they have discovered, and upcoming events in Chicago. Group members have met and connected with others who they very likely never would have encountered, and have had great things happen because of those connections.

Obviously, not every tool is a good fit for every organization. But I do believe, based on my personal experiences in the group I created, that there can be some real benefit for nonprofits that utilize Facebook groups. For those who decide to create a group, there are a few tips and some explanations that will help:

1. When you create a group, you decide whether to make the group open, closed, or secret. Here’s what each of those terms mean:

  • Open: Everyone can see the group, who is in the group, and the conversations that take place.
  • Closed: Everyone can see the group and who is in the group, but only members can view the conversations in the group.
  • Secret: The group, its members, and conversations can only be seen by those in the group.

2. At the top of the group you are able to add a photo of your choosing. The default setting displays photos of group members who most recently participated in group conversations.

Photos are of recent participants.

This is the top of a Facebook group.

3. Groups search can be utilized to find conversations by members or topics that have been discussed. Search is the magnifying glass on the far right.

These are where you access the tools in Facebook groups, right under the group photo.

These are where you access the tools in Facebook groups, right under the group photo.

4. Files can be created in the group. These files can keep the group conversation clean and even eliminate self-promotional posts by members. They are created by clicking on the word “Files” as shown in the photo above. Once you click it, the screen below will appear.

This is what happens when you click "Files" in a Facebook group

Adding Files In Facebook Groups

In our group, as soon as someone is added, I create a welcome post. In that post, I refer them to a file on group rules and regulations and request that they add their contact information to our members contact information file.

5. Events for group members can be created via the tab near the Files tab in the group. The event is displayed the same as other Facebook events, but everyone in the group is automatically included and event updates show up in the group conversation.

6. Important posts in the group can be pinned to the top so that, regardless of other conversations, those posts remain the top item visible to members when they enter the group. Hovering over the right corner of a post and then clicking the arrow reveals the option to pin that post.

7. Although the location may vary in each group, the words, “Seen by,” followed by a number, indicates how many have seen the post. By hovering over those words, the names of the individuals who have seen the post appear.

"Seen by," in the lower right corner, reveals how many people have seen a post.

“Seen by,” in the lower right corner, reveals how many people have seen a post.

For me, this is one of my favorite features of groups. Even if a post has not received any comments at all, I am still able to see that people have read it. Group members don’t always have time to share and respond or may feel as though they don’t have anything of value to add to the conversation. But as long as folks continue to check in to what is being discussed in the group, participating when they have time, the group has value.

Have you participated in groups on Facebook? What kind of value have those groups added for you? Could you envision a group assisting your nonprofit in its work? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

This post is part of the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on social media for social good. Check out other views about what’s working and not working to make change by checking out posts below from community managers, board members, connectors and leaders in the social good community. To continue the conversation please join us in a Twitter Chat with the hashtag #Marketinghop on Tuesday, March 19 at 1 pm CST.

Christa Beall Diefenbach (@axelsoncenter):  3 Essential Steps to Social Fundraising Sucess

Alexandra Bezdikian (@alebez):  How nonprofits are using Vine to tell their stories

Sophia Madana (@smadana): To Be Seen and Heard: Cultivating a Social Education

And on the Lightspan Digital blog: Raising Funds and Building Community With Social Media, with these 2 posts: Michelle Laing (@M_Laing): Raising Funds Through Twitter Targeting and Myles Dannhausen (@mylespulse): Bringing a Community Together

 

My mom

My mother, Grace Ketroser

This post is dedicated to my mother, Grace Ketroser, who died in October, 1985, from lung cancer, and who understood the value of community better than anyone I know. Between extensive volunteering and inviting every person in Minneapolis over for a home cooked meal, she was an advocate for being an active and giving member of the community. I still miss her every day.

Strong and engaged communities are hallmarks of successful nonprofit organizations. Whether it is fundraising, promoting events, or recruiting volunteers, a vibrant community makes everything about a nonprofit more effective. But the techniques for building these strong communities eludes many organizations. What do those successful organizations know that could be shared so that more nonprofits could benefit?

Sock Monkey

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer

My friend Jennifer Stauss Windrum just finished a wildly successful campaign for SMAC! (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) on the crowd funding platform, Start Some Good.   The entire back story of how this project came to be (here, here, and here)  is pretty heartwarming. The way that Jennifer went about creating and building this community was truly masterful. And although SMAC! and WTF (Where’s the Funding) Lung Cancer, the parent initiative that spawned the SMAC! campaign, are social good ventures, not nonprofits, the same principles apply.

I met Jennifer through a Facebook group called Punk Views on Social Media (PVSM.)  Jennifer first decided to create SMAC! in the spring/summer of 2011. Her crowd funding campaign was not until November of 2012, but she began planning more than a year in advance. Community building takes time. Jennifer enlisted support by asking questions and soliciting help in the very early stages. She created a private Facebook group, and utilized the collective intellect of the members of that group as well as that of PVSM. Jennifer really listened to what we had to say, incorporating much of our input into the choices she made. By crowd sourcing the development of SMAC!, Jennifer was able to build, in her own words, a “group of ambassadors on Facebook.” Jennifer said, “As a one-man band…I couldn’t possibly tackle all that I wanted to. I needed to build an army.” Jennifer had created a comprehensive PR/Marketing/Social Media strategy. This army helped her implement that strategy beyond what would be possible for just one person. Our involvement in the early stages of development created an emotional investment. We were enthusiastic about helping to bring SMAC! monkeys to life. When Jennifer was ready to consider funding sources for SMAC!, she decided to rely on this community she had created by embarking on a crowd funding campaign.

One of the key components of the SMAC! campaign’s success was Jennifer’s extraordinary ability to tell her mother’s story, particularly through video and blog posts. She openly shared the raw emotion of what it was like for her mother to be fighting lung cancer. We fell in love with her mother’s spirit and courage and felt as though we were building a living legacy to this woman who was losing her battle with lung cancer. This authenticity and transparency was a part of everything Jennifer did. She built our trust because she was very clear on the motivation for this campaign, and on what would happen once the money was raised. This inspired us to become (and remain) involved in the community.

Jennifer also realized that she needed to provide multiple strategies for engagement so that everyone could find a way to help promote the message.  She provided a clear plan with steps we could take to support SMAC! This meant that not all of her efforts were on just one platform or even online. She utilized Twitter and Facebook to reach people. But she also sent out email campaigns, text messages, and did extensive blogger and media outreach. For those not online, she created SMAC-downs, events to promote the cause, and provided instructions to people across the country about how to host their own SMAC-downs. And she live-streamed happenings as well. Her outreach was incredibly comprehensive.

This campaign was not easy for Jennifer. There was a fair amount of stress built into the process already. She was creating something that was, in many ways, completely foreign to her.  Just before the campaign was set to launch, her mother decided to discontinue all but palliative care. No one was sure how long she might have. But with aggressive stage IV lung cancer, her time was certainly limited. There were so many other hurdles and difficult situations along the way. But what impressed so many of us, was Jennifer’s tenacity, even in the face of extraordinary adversity. Regardless of what else was going on, she just kept going.

The most extraordinary part of what made the SMAC! campaign successful was Jennifer’s ability to show gratitude to everyone involved in the process. She thanked people online with Facebook posts and with video. She thanked people personally via email and Facebook messages. She continuously told us that it was our hard work that led to the success of the campaign and never seemed to take credit for her hard work. That great humility made Jennifer irresistible. We couldn’t wait to help her every step of the way because we had fallen in love with her.

I am so grateful to be a part of this truly awesome SMAC! community. Jennifer created an environment in which her journey became our journey and her victory became our victory. And we all felt as though we had been a part of something magical. Imagine if more of our nonprofit organizations became skilled at building communities the way Jennifer built this one. I can only imagine what might be possible if more of those organizations created some of that magic for their communities as well.

(Special thanks to the gang in PVSM, who helped me come up with the content of this post.)

I learned, as I was writing this blog post, that Jennifer’s mother, Leslie Lehrman, had lost her battle with lung cancer. May Jennifer find peace and comfort in the living legacy that has been created in this extraordinary woman’s memory.

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Klout Logo

Klout: Don’t Start Here!

Homecoming King and Queen. It seemed so important at the time, but we discover as adults that what leads to winning a popularity contest as a teenager is pretty superficial and doesn’t tell us what is truly important and meaningful about people. Klout, self described as, “the standard measure of online influence,” is in that same category. Having a high Klout score has about as much value and meaning as being voted onto the homecoming court. Sure, it’s great for your ego if you have a high score. However, does it really mean you are influential online, and if so, what is that influence really worth?

A few weeks ago, I attended Social Media for Nonprofits in Chicago. One of the speakers, Justin Ware, spoke about the value of finding influential online ambassadors for nonprofit causes. He referred to Klout as a valuable tool, imperfect, but a good starting place. As soon as he said that, my stomach lurched and I felt a strong desire to scream, “STOP! Don’t you know these are nonprofit professionals? They don’t have time to waste. They are here looking for help with social media.You are throwing smoke and mirrors at them.” When Justin asked for questions and comments, I expressed some of my thoughts about Klout. After Justin’s presentation, he and I continued the conversation and decided to do “dueling blog posts” about Klout. Justin’s post is here.

I have so many concerns about promoting the use of Klout to any audience, but particularly a group of nonprofit professionals. Essentially, Klout utilizes activity level on social media platforms as an indicator of actual influence. But activity is not influence, which is much more complicated and nuanced. Additionally, Twitter is Klout’s starting point, but users can grant Klout access to their profiles on other social platforms. However, those who do not allow access to multiple platforms are not differentiated from those who do. A person may be highly influential on Facebook but not allow Klout access to her profile, and is therefore penalized with a lower Klout score. Furthermore, a person with a high Klout score may be engaging heavily with a particular audience that has no relevance to a nonprofit. Since Klout doesn’t give any indication of who they believe a person is influential with other than a short list of fellow tweeters, it is difficult to determine who this audience might be. A person may be very active in the business community on Twitter. But if a nonprofit is looking to impact low income youth in the city, there is a disconnect.

Another problem is that topic expertise on Klout is so incredibly easy to impact by users. During Justin’s presentation, I mentioned in a Facebook group that I was frustrated by his portrayal of Klout as a worthwhile tool. Before he finished, Hunger Games had been moved into his top three topics of influence. Not by people who had ever met him, or by people who had any particular expertise about Hunger Games. But by four fellow members of the group who happened to have fairly high Klout scores. It is this blind trust of high scores that is so problematic. Justin suggests that there aren’t hordes of people gaming the system. However, the ability of users to determine where expertise lies when they may have no experience on a topic detracts from its reliability.

This blind trust of high Klout scores has made its way into employment hiring. As revealed in a piece on TechCrunch, Salesforce recently posted an open position in which one of the requirements was a Klout score of 35 or above. Even for an established company such as Salesforce,  it is just too tempting to look at someone’s Klout score and not do the additional research that Justin recommends. And in the nonprofit world, where there is always a struggle to keep up in the world of technology, Klout may be seen as a valuable shortcut. Unfortunately, by using this shortcut, people with great skill and expertise, but less time to focus on their personal social media profile, will be passed by.

Measuring online influence is an incredibly complicated task. I’m not sure if we will ever come up with a great tool to help us determine that influence. But I am convinced that Klout is not the right place to start a search for online ambassadors for a cause, for a business, or for anything else.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me or do you think Justin is right that Klout is a good starting point? What have been your experiences with Klout? Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

Special shout out to the Punks, whose input played a big role in the creation of this blog post and in my life every day. You know who you are! xoxoxo

ipad

A very special birthday gift from Twitter

You know all those spam tweets about winning an ipad? Well, I really did win one. Seriously. I created my Twitter profile in 2009 because I kept hearing how great it was. It took me a few months to understand its power and value. However, in the past three years, I have had a wealth of experiences come my way because of the relationships I have built on Twitter.

I have a long list of opportunities that have arisen from my involvement in social media. I was quoted in the New York Times as well as Crain’s Chicago Business, and the journalists who wrote those articles found me, in some way, through my connections on social media. I have traveled to conferences and stayed at homes of people I knew through social media. I have presented at too many conferences to remember them all because of my social media connections. I have certainly found clients and I have worked on some truly extraordinary initiatives that came my way through my Twitter and LinkedIn connections. But the highlight of my experiences in social media was something that happened over one year ago and still makes me grin from ear to ear.

On December 25th, 2010, I turned 50. I had plans with some friends to make and deliver bag lunches to homeless people who would be out in the city on a cold winter Christmas afternoon. It seemed like a way to celebrate a milestone birthday at a time when I felt profound gratitude for my life circumstances. We gathered to put the lunches together.  I thought we were getting ready to go deliver the food, but instead I was handed a gift bag. I truly did not expect a present and couldn’t imagine what my friends would have bought me. I took the gift out of the bag and ripped off the wrapping paper. To this day, I still haven’t really recovered from the overwhelming flood of emotions as I saw that ipad. About 25 people who I had met on Twitter had created a secret Facebook group and conspired to buy me this extraordinary gift. They said they appreciated all that I had done for them and for the Chicago community and wanted to show their appreciation. At that time, I didn’t have a smartphone and was lugging my laptop everywhere. They decided an ipad would allow me to travel much lighter as I walked to my many meetings and events each day. I was so moved by their generosity and giving spirit.

Opening the Birthday Gift

Overwhelmed by my gift-Photo Credit to Paul Saini

I have created an annual conference for nonprofit organizations on technology and utilized my Twitter network to find the majority of the speakers. I have helped organize nationwide fundraisers for incredible organizations utilizing social media. I have been able to drive fairly significant traffic to my blog through my social media connections. And I continue to find wonderful events to attend through my online network. But I can’t imagine that anything will ever surpass what I experienced when I received that ipad. Because, as great as social media is, it is ultimately just a tool that facilitates introductions to and conversations with people. The real impact begins by nurturing those relationships beyond just 140 character tweets. That’s when there is real power and value that can be attributed to social media.

(This post is dedicated to Veronica Ludwig and Tim Courtney, who made it all happen.)

It was 10:30 p.m. I had decided to challenge myself with a 12 mile bike ride home from the northernmost Chicago el stop. I was riding in the street because it was far better lit than the sidewalks. Which is a totally legal thing for me to do. I was coaching myself along because riding home late at night was a bit outside of my comfort zone. Out of nowhere, a man shouted, “GET OFF THE ROAD!” I almost fell over. He scared the living daylights out of me.

This was the second time that week that someone had shouted at me as I was innocently biking along. Earlier in the week, a man shouted, “GET ON THE SIDEWALK!” Of course there where no sidewalks. And I told him so when I shouted back. Which I am totally sure he heard. <sarcasm>

Both of these incidents had me wondering what it was in my behavior that inspired these people to be so angry and hostile. Were they just not good at sharing the road? Were they in a hurry and was I slowing them down? In any case, they acted like they did in fact, own the road and I was in their way.

My experiences with these rude drivers were just demonstrations to me that we have become a country of narcissists. So many people believe that everything and everyone around them should accommodate them. That they should not have to be inconvenienced by other people. I have certainly witnessed it often in our far too rich for their own good suburban area.

It’s incredibly annoying to deal with people who think the planets and the sun all revolve around them. But I also think there are larger consequences to this attitude than just being annoying to the rest of us. People who are narcissists don’t believe in being responsible for their behavior, which leads to their not understanding the connection between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior. I believe this lack of understanding has at least some of its roots in parents constantly telling kids how talented and brilliant they are and calling to bail kids out every time they get into trouble. Ultimately, it leads to drivers on the road yelling at bikers like me because they don’t like that I have inconvenienced them.

I remember watching a Saturday Night Live spoof called, You Can Do Anything! Guests come on the show and perform, doing things they have never done, just because. They receive unquestioned support and applause. The guests say ironic and revealing things like, “No one is ever honest with me about how mediocre I am,” and “I tried and therefore no one should criticize me.” We are so eager to protect children now that we limit their ability to function in the world. Self-esteem has become a reason never to tell our kids they have messed up. Once they grow up, these same people don’t have the ability to understand and accept their role when things go badly for them. Sadly, this lack of introspection means that they aren’t using their failures as learning opportunities to change and grow and improve as human beings.

My hope is that, over time, people will get fed up with this behavior and tell people to knock it off. It means we will need to hold people responsible for their actions. Especially our children. We can do this respectfully and kindly, without shaming anyone. But we must do it.

We also must think about our own role in relationships, jobs, and other experiences that don’t go well. Taking some time when we fail at something, to figure out why what we did, didn’t work. Even if we have a horrible boss, we can almost always find ways in which we played a role in getting fired. Working at understanding what that role is will help us with the next job, the next relationship, or any of our next experiences.

Ultimately, if enough people do this, my bike rides will get a little more pleasant. Because after all, it really is all about me. ;-)

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