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

 

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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

CommunityConnective

I am a really good connector. Connecting is like my crack cocaine. I see the extraordinary potential of putting the right people together. I want to see it happening on a much larger scale, beyond what I, as one person, am able to do. A few years ago, I had an idea. And now I am ready to plant my flag in the sand to make it happen.

Imagine a space that serves as the central connecting spot for social good in Chicago. The purpose of this space would be to bring together nonprofit organizations that are working on the same issues and help them join efforts. I see three major components to what this space could provide.

1. Community Meeting and Programming Space

If we want nonprofit organizations to work together, we need to have affordable (or free) spaces in which they can meet. They need to learn about each other and will hopefully want to provide exciting community events that they create together.  We would have facilitators to help develop these relationships because getting organizations to understand, let alone embrace, the concept of collaboration, when they want to protect their turf, is no easy task. Years ago, at a volunteer recruitment event, I met people from two west side nonprofits. One provided literacy and tutoring for children and one ran a summer baseball league for children the same age. They didn’t know about each other but they should have. There are unlimited possibilities for those two organizations to work together to inspire baseball players to do better in school. This scenario repeats itself over and over again in Chicago. By introducing organizations to each other and bringing them together on a regular basis, we can begin to form these partnerships that will lead to exciting collaborations.

2. Group Purchasing

Nonprofits use office supplies like paper and ink jet cartridges. They hire professionals like web developers and lawyers. But they are not coordinating these efforts with other organizations to save money. There is power in group purchasing. The vast majority of nonprofit organizations are struggling financially. By bringing organizations together for purchasing, there will be significant financial savings. Additionally, by having a preferred vendor list, we will save time for nonprofits who need to hire professionals or companies for services because they won’t need to spend time finding these vendors. Eventually, this could also lead to discounts for membership in professional organizations or for participation at conferences.

3. Training

Nonprofit professionals need to wear many hats. And there is no one reliable and affordable place to receive additional training. Whether it is how to best utilize social media, learn about the best technology tools for content relationship management (crm) or how to find corporate sponsors, we need more opportunities for our nonprofit professionals to continue to improve their skills. This site could be a provider of those great learning opportunities.

So now, my calls to action for those who want to help:

1. I need to  find a partner-someone who has business skills who can be the anchor.

They don’t need to provide financial backing, but they do need to be able to create strategy, to break large tasks into small digestible pieces, and to know a thing or two about running a business. If you know anyone who might be a good fit to work with me on this in Chicago, send them my way.

2. I am going to set up a weekly meeting for anyone in the nonprofit world who wants to come together to talk.

We may not have a physical site, but we can begin to talk and to meet and to get to know each other. We will be meeting initially at ING Direct Cafe starting Thursday, March 29th from at least 10:00 am until 12:00 noon every week. (Probably most of the day.)  Join me there. And tell other people too. I will be available to chat about anything you are interested in and over time, I will arrange to have some interesting people with different areas of expertise join us.

If you like this idea of a nonprofit connecting space, please share it with others you know. If you want to help me build it, please join in! And if you have any input or feedback, please share that as well. Let’s meet in the comments for more conversation. I am eager to hear what you have to say.

Thanks!

www with screwdriver tool“At the juncture of tech and nonprofits.” That is one of the descriptions I put in my Twitter bio. It is a relatively new place for me. I am not really a highly skilled techie type. However, living in this space has exposed me to a boatload of folks doing all kinds of great tech work for nonprofits. And much of what is available is for free. Yes, you read that right. For free. There are almost an overwhelming number of outstanding tech resources available for nonprofits that are totally free. I have never seen a list of all of these resources. So I decided to create one that includes the best of the best. The folks who run these initiatives are rockstars who you should not only know, but talk to about how they can help your organization. Please share any I missed in the comments. And hurry up and take advantage of all of these great opportunities!

Creative Cares

Connects nonprofits to creatives (photographers, writers, graphic designers, etc.) for pro bono project work.

EPIC

Advertising and design professionals in Chicago work on rallies, (8 week campaigns) to create programs and materials for nonprofits. Limited to organizations that focus on education, children, and families.

FreeGeek Chicago

Provides free recycling of electronic waste (like old computers) and incredibly low priced refurbished computers and other hardware. Their Earn-A-Box training program teaches participants about the workings of computer hardware as well as the environmental impact of e-waste. Graduates of the program can earn a free computer.

Google Apps

Communication, collaboration, and publishing tools, including email, all using your own domain name. If you aren’t a Google Apps shop, why not? It’s easy to use and will elevate your efficiency and productivity as an organization.

HandsonTech Chicago

Founded by Handson Network, Google, and Americorps Vista to help nonprofits deliver their services more effectively through the adoption of new technology. They have chosen 33 nonprofits in the Greater Chicago area for assessment and implementation of technology. They are also doing technology workshops for nonprofits and classes for low income community members.

Mobile Citizen

Cutting edge mobile Internet service for nonprofits and schools, including equipment, service, and access to the Internet. Yearly Internet charge is $120/year. Yes, per year! RUN IMMEDIATELY to sign your nonprofit up for this service.

NetSquared

An initiative of TechSoup Global (see below.) From their site: “Enables social benefit organizations to leverage the tools of the social web.” As an organizer of the local (Chicago) NetSquared meetup, I tell people that we focus on tech, innovation, and social good. If you aren’t attending your local NetSquared meetup, you are missing out on some of the coolest people in your town. They are heavily focused on building community and impacting social good.

NTEN/NTC

Nonprofit Technology Network. Focused on helping people use technology to benefit their nonprofit organizations. They are a membership organization and hold a very large conference each spring, called NTC-Nonprofit Technology Conference.  

Salesforce

This tool is used for customer relationship management (i.e. donors, volunteers, sponsors, etc.) Receive up to 10 free licenses (10 users) for your organization.

Serve.Illinois.Gov

Provides great information on volunteerism, including volunteer opportunities, a volunteer management network, resources on managing volunteers, and more. A highly under-utilized resource. (This is the link for Illinois residents. Check it out for your own state.)

The Analysis Exchange

This unique mentoring program strives to increase the number of people who know how to correctly do web analytics. They provide pro bono analytics for nonprofits. That’s free analytics for your website.

TechSoup Global

A global nonprofit that has created a network of people working to create and share innovative technology solutions. Through TechSoup’s partnerships with large technology companies, nonprofits can receive donated hardware as well as advice about which tools to use.

Volunteer Spot

Online sign up sheets, volunteer scheduling software, and volunteer management software. Loads of folks swear by them and are very satisfied. I love founder Karen Bantuveris. Especially great for schools.

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What did I miss? What are some of the other great free technology resources available to nonprofit organizations? Add them to the comments. And if you have worked with any of the above, let me know how that went.