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Share Small Moment Stories Using Digital Stortytelling Tools

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Instagram post from the Next Up Foundation

On Tuesday, I offered a workshop at the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s annual conference on Digital Storytelling Tools, subtitled “The One and Only Storytelling/Digital Tools/Speed Dating Mashup.” The workshop had four goals: leave with a solid “small moment story” idea, have an idea of how to use stories to reach organizational goals, develop at least two approaches and tools for sharing your small moment story digitally, and have FUN developing your story ideas. (Ideally facilitated with “speed dating-style” conversations where you switch partners every six minutes.)

My approach in designing the workshop was to offer just enough resources and information to inspire learning conversations, and to allocate most of the time for learning conversations. This approach was highly influenced by both Beth Kanter’s recent blog post on designing trainings, and my own experience offering a version 1.0 of this workshop with colleague Zan McCulloch-Lussier at NTEN’s conference last year. Overall, this was one of the most successful workshops I’ve delivered. The conversations enriched the content, promoting real-time, interactive learning experiences.

In the first half of the training, we focused on finding the “small moment stories” already known to the organization. I offered a few examples, and reviewed the “four types of stories you have right now.” (The latter modified from Nancy Schwartz’s two-part series on organizational stories here and here.) Then I asked folks to pair up, share their organizations’ small moment stories, and offer constructive story design feedback.

The second half of the training built upon the small moment stories, by focusing on selecting a digital media that would amplify the story and share it effectively through the organization’s digital footprint. The universe of digital storytelling tools can be segmented into four categories, and the presentation (bottom of this blog post) displays examples of how nonprofits are using many of them. They are segmented as such:

  • Static photo storytelling tools (such as Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, PicMonkey, Tag Galaxy)
  • Data visualization storytelling tools (such as Google Earth and mapping tools, ThingLink,, Dipity, mind mapping tools)
  • Video storytelling tools (such as Instagram video, Vine, YouTube, Vimeo, Animoto)
  • Curated storytelling tools (such as, Kontribune, Storify,

Then came the speed dating part! Participants lined up their chairs in facing rows, and had a six minutes between them to jointly consider how each of their small moment stories might be best expressed — through data visualization, video, photos, or curation, and possibly think about which tools within these categories might be a good fit. Six minutes later, shift to the left and begin again with another partner. Everyone did this three times.

Here’s a Vine of the speed dating segment:


The training pushed participants to develop their own small moment stories in learning pairs, and brainstorm digital tools to amplify and share those stories. Each interactive workshop segment was designed to pull the participant’s story along through interactive, iterative story development. At the end of the day, a strong digital story is a perfect match of a good story and the right tools for highest impact. You may view the presentation from the workshop, below.


torres21 via Compfight cc

Mind Mapping Social Strategy and Everything Else

I’m a big fan of using the mind mapping technique to map out a social media strategy, and until three weeks ago, I hadn’t considered using it for other applications. Now I’m a complete convert to using the mind mapping technique for all of my planning.

For me, a mind map works best when I have a single goal (on the map, I place the goal in the middle), and branch my thinking out from there. I have heard from some colleagues that mind mapping isn’t an ideal tool for free association, and I can see the validity in that because a branched mind map sorts and orders thinking. On the other hand, I find that having the center goal frees up my mind to think, albeit linearly.

In the case of a strategy, I begin by centering on a primary strategy goal (be it increased engagement, or growing an activist list, for example) and use that to literally and figuratively center the mind map. From there, I consider how each social channel could be used to meet that goal. Campaigns are mapped out on a separate mind map, for they have a different goal than an overall strategy. Below is a partial mind map I drafted a few years ago with a client as we were thinking about how to create a real community of engaged mothers around (who might also buy a type of book). You’ll see that I placed the goals in the middle, and then thought about how each channel could support that goal. In a mind map, I also literally connect some ideas and channels with arrows.

Book mindmap partial screen shot

What I love about working with mind maps is that they enable my brain to sketch out possibilities, connect the dots between ideas, and endlessly branch. In fact, these mind maps often lead me to drafting a strategy mind map that is too ambitious for execution. For my purposes, that is just fine, because when I review the mind map with the client, we can talk through the ambitious implementation plan as a totality and then whittle down and prioritize the map in real-time during discussion.

Two weeks ago, I sat in front of a notepad, pen in hand, trying to wrap my head around all the content and ideas I’d wish to share in a three-hour leadership workshop. The workshop is for the Meals on Wheels annual conference, and it is about becoming a networked nonprofit offline, including a community mapping exercise. I could not, for the life of me, get a grasp on all of the different ways I could choose to facilitate the workshop or order the content I wanted to present. Then it occurred to me: MIND MAP. Any why not?

Two hours later, I had a working map of how I’d like to present the workshop, the session flow, and objectives for each section laid out clearly. Best of all, I could discuss the map with my conference liaison and receive her feedback before developing a full slide deck and accompanying exercises. I am now a convert to using mind maps for every aspect of client work and presentations.
This is an example of one section of the workshop, with objective and activities laid out. (Primary credit due to The Networked Nonprofit for inspiring this section of the workshop.)

Becoming a Net Non mind map hour one

Mind mapping software

I asked colleagues to recommend mind mapping software that they use and love, and mind map resources. I heard “pen and paper” a lot! Colleague Kivi Leroux Miller said: “Mind map all the time, but find the flow so much better with pen and paper. Sometimes I will put the finished map online as a clean up exercise.”

Colleague Kerri Karvetski painted a wall of her office with Idea Paint, so she has a blank wall ready to jot down ideas.

Several people mentioned how much they love using the MindNode (app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad), including colleagues Rachel Weidinger and Debbie Ferrari. Rachel’s company, Upwell, created this mind map using MindNode to create a map of terms used by ocean acidification stakeholders, the predecessor to our massive conversation monitoring keyword sets.

Ocean Acidification keywords

Ocean Acidification keywords

A few others recommended FreeMind, which is an open source platform written in Java that runs on all platforms.

Personally, I use MindMeister to create my mind maps, but after looking into MindNode, I am tempted to use it as well. MindMeister is great for collaborative and real-time collaborative mind mapping and sharing maps online, and maps can be saved to Google Drive. MindNode, as an app, isn’t set up for that, but it sure has a great UX.

To select the software that works best for your needs, Information Tamers compiled a well-organized wiki outlining the different mind mapping software options that could fit specific mind mapping uses. Educators Technology lists three mind map tools to create and save mind maps right in your Google Drive.  As another resource, Lifehacker recently polled its users about their preferred mind mapping software, and features the best five mind mapping tools.

A few other great resources for thinking about mind mapping

There are a lot of resources for thinking about mind mapping as data visualization. I enjoyed this post by Beth Kanter about how to get insight from data visualization in its totality. She also wrote about facilitation with sticky notes (related to mind mapping) and pointed to a Kindle-only read, Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It (TM) Notes, which I devoured in about one hour. The inventor of mind mapping, Tony Buzan, has his own website and blog, worth checking out whether you are a beginner or advanced mind mapper. Finally, there are a LOT of mind map boards and pins on Pinterest. Using this query, I found a lot of boards on mind mapping practices, software, and examples. That’s where I found this gem; a basic rule-of-thumb for mind mapping:

mind mapping rules

What’s your mind mapping practice?

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Review: Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media (Idealware)

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Idealware has just released its latest report, “Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media” in an attempt to answer the questions “when should an organization use new social media tools and channels, why, and for what use?” That’s quite a tall order to fill, really. I applaud Idealware’s attempt to respond to the question that every digital media consultant is repeatedly asked:

“Which new social media channels and tools are really worth investing our time in?”

The best parts of the report deal with why an organization should use “cutting edge” social media, determining the best time in the life cycle of a social media channel to adopt new tools and channels, and descriptions of some of the newest sites. One note: I’m not a fan of the term “cutting edge,” and from now on I’ll use “new and developing” in its place.

When and why? Idealware suggests that organizations consider new and developing social media if they want to reach a narrow or specialized segment, to share specific types of content (articles only, slide shows only, etc.), and if it is mission-related. Adoption, however, depends on organizational culture. Even the most appropriate new tools and media can be sidelined if the organization culture is slow to adopt new technology.

At what point in the life cycle of a social media channel should an organization adopt it? Great question, and Idealware offers a stellar explanation, based on Gartner’s “hype cycle” of technology (see diagram below). Idealware suggests trying it out either during the early adoption period (ed note: possibly offering early adoption advantage when/if a channel gains a large user base) or after the tool has shown its usefulness. I couldn’t agree more. There is always a lot of hype around a new tool or social media channel, and organizations are understandably wary of investing energy into one, only to see it die (RIP Posterous). Near the beginning of this report, Idealware strongly urges organizations considering adopting new and developing tools to consider both what the audience is likely to use and organizational SMART communication goals.

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The tools! The shiny new tools! Oh yes, there’s a lot of space devoted to the tools. There is also a case study or two in each section highlighting an organization that has used one of these tools successfully. Idealware reviews them by category:

  • Social media that engages youth: Pheed, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram
  • Geolocation and mobile apps: FourSquare, Moveable Feast, Google’s Field Trip
  • Tools that curate content streams: Reddit, StumbleUpon, Pinterest

I personally love that the report also includes a section on that curate content streams, such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest, because finding content “through the noise,” so to speak is a constant challenge for time-strapped social media staffers. A personal favorite of mine for doing just that is I also often use Twitter to listen for great content based on hashtags.

  • Connecting locally: DeHood (for neighborhoods) and blasterous (send local update blasts)
  • Connecting internationally: Qzone (China), NetLog (Europe, young audiences), Orkut (India and Brazil). While some of these are not new and developing tools, they are important for connecting internationally.

At the beginning of the report, Idealware states that these tools are best used for specific uses, like sharing multimedia. To support this, the report devotes a lot of time to photo, video, and audio sharing tools.

The discussion about when to adopt these tools is never-ending, and this report begins to offer a framework for the “why, when, and what” of new and developing social media. You may download the report from Idealware here.

Image courtesy of Kevin Oberhauser, Creative Commons license

Looking Backwards and Forwards: 2012 and 2013 Nonprofit Technology Use

Image courtesy of Kevin Oberhauser, Creative Commons license

Image courtesy of Kevin Oberhauser, Creative Commons license

I love looking back on the year in nonprofit technology and thinking about what it has brought us, and what we can learn from it.

I feel like 2012 was the year when nonprofits working with social media began to realize in large number these ways of thinking and working:

  • Broad acceptance of social media as a required communication tool
  • The need to begin measuring something in social media communication practice
  • The realization that personal and professional boundaries are blurring, have blurred, and in some cases, are best when blurred
  • The necessity to work “In the Cloud” for organizational efficiency, collaboration, and results
  • Experimentation with social media: it’s not just a tool, but a tool to have fun with!
  • The role of social media for amplifying fundraising efforts

I’m sure there are a lot more, and I’d love to hear your additions in the comments.

There were some fabulous reports produced in 2012 as well, that inform and offer data for some of the social media and fundraising activities nonprofits are engaging in, such as those listed above. Here are some of the best reports I read from 2012:

The Nonprofit Social Media Policy Workbook, by Idealware and Balance Interactive and its companion workbook, The Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations by Darim Online. I reviewed the Social Media Policy Workbook earlier this year.

The 2012 Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits, by Idealware. From their website: “The new edition covers nearly 70 types of software, from association management to wikis and everything in between. We tell you what’s available, what it can do for you, how you might use it, who the most common vendors are, and what you can expect to pay.”

The 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, by M & R Research Labs and NTEN.  This annual study is packed with the latest survey data from nonprofits around how they are using online messaging, fundraising, advocacy, mobile communications, and social media. The 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study Extra: Facebook is also jam-packed with Facebook trends, benchmarks and uses, which I highlighted in my summary of the report.

Why Facebook Users Get More Than They Give, by Pew Internet and American Life Project. This analysis of Facebook power users and their role on Facebook was one of the more fascinating studies I read this year.

The 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmarks Report by NTEN benchmarks the size of commercial and in-house social networks, the cost of acquiring a Facebook fan, the types of social networks nonprofits are active in, their perception of effectiveness and ROI. A definite “must read.”

The Online Life in Pictures by the Pew Internet and American Life Project is a first look at the activities of video and photo creators and curators on social networks. I summarized the study and offered my analysis about the explosion of video and photo earlier this year.

Real Time Charitable Giving by the Pew Internet and American Life Project is the first-ever study on mobile donors, with heavy analysis of the “Text to Haiti” campaign.

The 2012 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, by Kivi Leroux Miller, looks at the big six communications tools nonprofits are using, how they are using it, and how they proactively plan for use.

The 2012 Nonprofit Donor Engagement Study, by NTEN and Charity Dynamics. This study offers data about donors’ preferences regarding traditional and digital media for donating, volunteering, and engaging with nonprofits.

The 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, by Michael Stelzner and Social Media Examiner, looks at how marketers and small-to-medium-sized businesses are using social media. The report includes data on weekly time commitment by size of business, how social media is used, which channels, budget, and more.

And finally, what end-of-year blog post wouldn’t be complete without a few prognostications for 2013, based on some of these reports and my experience working with nonprofit organizations in 2012.

In 2013, I think we’ll see a lot more of the following activities and thinking around nonprofit social media:

  • Widespread adoption and integration of social media policies in the workplace
  • Use of graphic images everywhere. If 2012 was the year of the infographic, 2013 will be the year graphics with text are used to move people to action.
  • Using social media personally on behalf of your organizations. Executive Directors, development officers, and staff will get out from behind their logos.
  • Testing social media ads. Buying Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other advertising to move people to action.
  • Engagement overtaking broadcasting activities. I’ve said it for years now: it’s all about engagement. I’m finally seeing more and more examples of nonprofit organizations trying this out, and experimenting with bringing stakeholders into the convesrations online.
  • Development of organizational social media strategies. 2013 is the year that social media moves from experimentation to planning.
image courtesy of camdiluv, Creative Commons license

Strategies for Succeeding in the Cloud: What’s Stopping You?

image courtesy of camdiluv, Creative Commons license

Last week, Marc Baizman and I offered a workshop at the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s annual conference this week called “Streamlining Nonprofit Organizations: It’s All About the Cloud.” Cloud computing allows you to access software from anywhere via the Internet, instead of your hard drive or local computer network (definition courtesy of TechSoup). Our presentation focuses on cloud adoption barriers, strategies for succeeding in the cloud, two nonprofit case studies, and a survey of cloud tools. In particular, we spent a lot of time talking about the five critical elements for success in the cloud and the nonprofit case studies. As my colleague Marc Baizman notes, “Selecting the technology tools should always come *after* you’ve done the prep work of getting organizational buy-in, management support, and a clear strategy for how to use them.  Only then will you be able to roll these out to your organization. If you don’t do the up-front work, get ready to spend a lot of time and effort setting something up that you will be the only one using.”

In both nonprofit case studies about cloud adoption, the critical elements to success were internal collaboration and management support. 

According to TechSoup’s 2012 Global Cloud Computing report, citing survey data from 10,800 nonprofits and 88 countries, over 90% of the organizations surveyed are using cloud technology. The cloud-based services cited most frequently by respondents were email, social networking/Web 2.0, file storage/sharing, web conferencing, and office productivity. However, using cloud-based services is different from internalizing and optimizing them.

How many organizations have paid for a service, while only one staff person uses it, or no one does? Critical to internal optimization and success using the cloud are collaborative mindset and management support. Abandonment and disuse rates for cloud-based services will be high where the internal culture does not embrace trust, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing. I’ve written about the importance of connected culture for social media to really succeed, and the same connected and collaborative mindset is needed for an organization to really embrace cloud technology. These are not the only key factors to success in the cloud, however, which is why our presentation includes four other elements.

Five critical factors for succeeding in the cloud:

Strategy: Define what problems the cloud-based services should solve, make a requirements list, have a tech plan in place, and understand what cloud services your stakeholders will expect you to use based on industry standards.

Staffing: Ensure that responsibility for these services is in someone’s job description – or else no one is responsible for its success. There’s a great chart in the TechSoup report that shows the number of staff who are using cloud-based services at organizations. (It is on slide 12 of the presentation.) The same is true for social media success: ideally, it is not your part-time volunteer, youngest member of your staff, or temporary staff person who is responsible for technology…or social media…at the organization.

Budgeting: While many cloud-based services are free, free services may not offer robust solutions to meet your needs. Create a tech plan budget to help you figure out where to start (including budgeting for tech planning). Marc offers a great piece of advice in terms of contracts: don’t get locked into a long-term contract! Sign a monthly contract if possible, since both nonprofit needs and software change rapidly.

Support: Think about what support the cloud-based service offers, and then think about your support needs for that service. Is it critical that your donor management service be up 24/7? If so, that’s a consideration. Take your needs into account when entering into both a service contract and pricing out services. Some services charge for each support call, others offer pricing for different types of support, and some offer little to no support at all.

Culture: The organizations that succeed in the cloud have a few cultural features in comment. They are comfortable with some type of experimentation, have executive support for the service, are collaborative in nature, and are not afraid of technology. Additionally, knowledge is shared about why the services are in place, and how to best use them across the organization.

In the presentation, Marc and I also offer a list of cloud tools from a number of categories, including social media measurement, internal communications, content curation, project management, file storage, donor management, and four additional categories. Check out the presentation for the list and some screen shots.

Success comes down to strategy: if you are prepared to succeed, you will.


In addition, on slide 55, you’ll find a page of hyperlinked resources, including the TechSoup Global Cloud Survey 2012, NTEN’s State of the Nonprofit Cloud 2012, Idealware’s Field Guide to Software, and TechSoup’s sample budget program. If there are other great resources you know of, please share them in the comments below.

p.s. if you like what’s here, I also recommend following Marc on Twitter as well!