Earlier this week, I posted my review of Amy Sample Ward and Allyson Kapin’s new book, Social Change Anytime Everywhere. After reading the book, I sent Amy and Allyson six questions about the book, following up on some of the concepts and examples presented in the book. In the following Q&A, Amy and Allyson share their thoughts on what inspired them to write the book, how real-time web and mobile has changed how we do business internally and externally, which nonprofits are successful at building online community, what assets an organization should have in place before launching a multichannel campaign, and the investment needed to raise money online.
1. What inspired you to write Social Change Anytime Everywhere?
ASW: So many organizations that I talked to were looking for which tool they could focus on to get the most impact, and the most bang for the buck. The answer isn’t just one tool but is instead how you’re integrating the tools and content to create the best constituent experience. I was interested in writing this book so I could help show how organizers can use a multichannel approach in their work, and do it for many organizations at once.
AK: I wanted to show organizations how they could build a ladder of engagement with their constituents across multiple online channels ranging from their websites to social media. Most nonprofits are really good at utilizing one or two channels well, but very few are using several channels effectively to support campaign goals in order to reach people wherever they are. This concept is what inspired the name of the book Social Change Anytime Everywhere.
2. If you were to say that there is one overarching theme in the book, what is it?
AK: The real-time web and mobile has changed the way we do business both internally and externally. You need to reach your supporters and target audiences wherever they are and how they prefer to communicate with you – whether that be through your blog, email, direct mail, social media, texting, etc. This is why it’s so important that nonprofits focus on having integrated teams and not silo departments who aren’t coordinating multichannel campaign efforts.
ASW: That multichannel strategies aren’t difficult and organizations of all sizes are using this way of operating to be more effective in their work – you can, too!
3. What type of online assets should an organization have in place before planning a multichannel campaign?
ASW: We discuss this in the book, of course! As far as the technology goes, if say organizations need ways to communicate, this could mean websites, email marketing, social media, and mobile text messaging. Organizations then need a way to store their constituent data in a system that will track and segment the list. When those pieces are in place, it’s time to talk about the process or people-focused systems. These are things like standing meetings that bring people from across the organization together to review data and communications, planning processes that involve staff from all related departments, etc.
AK: In addition to having systems and processes in place to make multichannel campaigns successful, you also need good stories to tell to humanize the issues you are working on and to demonstrate impact. For example, how did one person’s donation make a difference in your campaign? How did their advocacy action have an impact on the campaign goal you identified in your campaign plan (which we outline in the book). If you can’t demonstrate this you need to go back and re-examine your campaign goals and objectives.
4. You identify five principles integral to a structurally sound campaign or movement. If you were to pick one of the five, which would be the most important, and why?
ASW: I would say the first, because this is something I see happen all the time and will fundamentally impress your organization’s success: Knowing Your Community. A terrific campaign that has great content but is using language that doesn’t connect with the community and is focused on a call to action by those not on your community will ultimately stay as a very beautiful but unsuccessful campaign. It’s crucial to invest time first in understanding who is already in your database, who already comes to your events, who retweets your posts before you can engage them in advocacy, community building, poor fundraising.
AK: One of the ways to really get to know your community and learn how to connect with them is to understand their pain points around the issues you organize on or even within your organization. If you take the time to listen to their frustrations, you can adapt your strategies, messaging, and sometimes even your advocacy targets to make your multichannel campaigns better resonate with your community.
5. When you write about raising money online through social media, you note that it is “not an overnight process, and it will take a big investment.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
AK: First, I think it’s important to recognize that right now social media is not the best channel to use to raise money. However, it’s a great space to build relationships with people who can later become donors if you focus on a ladder of engagement, which we discuss in the book.
The majority of money raised by nonprofits still comes in offline. Social media is first and foremost a channel for people and organizations to use to socialize with each other. It’s a channel that should be used to foster community with your current constituents and new people you want to bring into your community. Unless you are in the middle of a massive and urgent campaign like raising money for victims of an earthquake or some other natural disaster or tragedy, social media should not be viewed as a channel to raise a lot of money on in the short term. In fact, according to a couple of the largest nonprofit benchmark studies by NTEN and Blackbaud, most organizations aren’t raising a dime on this channel.
ASW: Raising money through social media requires an established relationship and trust. That doesn’t happen overnight.
6. The book emphasizes community-building throughout, particularly in Chapter five. What organizations have been consistently successful at building community online, and why?
ASW: One that we profile in the book is Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America. I think they do a great job of building community online especially because of their multichannel approach, using multiple tools the same way their community does, pushing Instagram photos to Facebook and focusing on a streamlined online putrescence through their website. And, they always make it clear how you can join their work, which is crucial.
AK: One of my favorite case studies in this chapter is the rapid response multichannel campaign that the National Wildlife Federation did after the oil spill. As Senior Manager for Online Integration, Kristin Johnson has said, there was no handbook written for how to launch a multichannel campaign when an oil rig explodes in the Gulf. But they organized quickly and got key people from different departments collaborating on a rapid response. They used several channels such as their website, social media, and their blog to post facts and resources on the oil spill and its impact on wildlife. They also used all of these channels plus text-to-give via mobile to raise money for wildlife rescues. In addition, they used video and Flickr to visually document the impact that the oil spill was immediately having on wildlife. And it wasn’t just NWF staff contributing content, it was volunteers on the ground. NWF did a great job vetting and repurposing content to keep the information flowing across all of these channels and to give their community the information and resources they were looking to NWF for.
Allyson Kapin has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech by Fast Company, is a Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, founder of Women Who Tech, and Blogger-in-Chief for Care2’s blog Frogloop. She tweets @womenwhotech.
Amy Sample Ward is an author, facilitator, and trainer focused on leveraging social technologies for social change. She is the Membership Director of the Nonprofit Technology Network, co-author and facilitator of Social by Social, and former community organizer of NetSquared groups through Tech Soup. She is also a regular contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. She tweets @amyrsward.