Archives for April 2011

Apr 27

Changing the Appeal

Adrienne Caruso

Tactical Philanthropy had an interesting post this week on the trend of rebranding philanthropy – essentially, turning the focus on giving from an obligation/”should” to an added value/”want.” The post references a recent article in Fast Company on the rebranding of baby carrots as junk food – turning the traditional health-food marketing tactic on its head. (If you haven’t read the piece, do so  – I thought it was fascinating).

Coming up with creative ways to position philanthropy is something we as communicators focused on social impact are challenged with every day. In an ideal world, organizations would create compelling cases for donation or engagement to appeal to their community, creating a sense of urgency while avoiding over-soliciting (donors’ No. 1 complaint, according to Cygnus Applied Research’s 2010 Donor Survey).

Should more organizations be thinking about shifting their appeal from a “should” to a “want,” like Tactical Philanthropy explores?

Consider the ASPCA, well-known for their tear-jerker PSA campaigns that make anyone with a heart feel like they are obligated to save an animal’s life. Would it be more effective, for example, to feature happy pet owners walking their dogs in the park, touting the benefits of adoption and how their pets have positively influenced their lives?

Some organizations have their donation appeals down to a science, but many continue to search for the right way to encourage donations or volunteering without overloading their network.  So what’s the middle ground? Is there an effective model for philanthropy that frames giving as something people will want to do, rather than something they should?

Baby carrots may have something to teach us — sales increased 10 to 12 percent following the junk food campaign.

Apr 15

Collaboration in the Face of Recession

Jennifer Hendrickson

Corporations strongly encourage collaboration. Foundations do too. In the face of recession and pressure from multiple funding sources, will nonprofits learn to work together? Will they have a choice?

These tough questions arose during multiple sessions at the National Conference on Corporate Community Investment (CCI), most often in response to audience questions about how the recession has impacted corporate social responsibility initiatives. Representatives from corporations said that, increasingly, they want to see nonprofits work together to maximize their impact. Doing so makes them much more attractive to potential funders, they explained.

Foundations have similar expectations of their nonprofit partners. Just last week, the Lodestar Foundation awarded its 2011 Collaboration Prize to a nonprofit organization chosen from more than 800 applicants. The best practices gleaned from these applicants are memorialized in the Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Collaboration Database.

 The Database organizes best practices into three categories of collaboration:

•    Administrative Consolidation
•    Joint Programming
•    Mergers

Unsurprisingly, there are three or four times as many examples of Joint Programming as there are examples of Administrative Consolidation and Mergers. It’s easier for nonprofits to work together on a project or program basis than to become a new or integrated organization – but the latter is achievable. The winner of this year’s Collaboration Prize is a shining example. Five different child-serving agencies merged to form the Adoption Coalition of Texas, pooling their resources and more than doubling adoptions in the state.

While the challenges of collaboration are many, Jon Bennett of TXU Energy reassured CCI attendees that the benefits will outweigh them in time. “As a company that has been through multiple mergers and acquisitions, and that has been bought out, we understand the problems. But it needs to happen.”

Do you agree that nonprofit collaboration is the way of the future – and that participating organizations will be awarded more funding?


Apr 14

PoliPulse Nominated for Webby


It’s not likely anyone from this office will ever have the opportunity to be nominated for an Oscar. Of course, we’ll never say never, but who needs an Oscar when you’re up for a Webby Award?

PoliPulse, a project created by our D.C. colleagues at Powell Tate (a division of Weber Shandwick), has been nominated for the 15th Annual Webby Awards in the “politics” category for a website. The award was established in 1996 during the Web's infancy and is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Past winners include, Google, BBC News, Twitter and Wikipedia.

We’re extremely excited about this award as no other public affairs or communication firm made it this far in this category and we for one think PoliPulse is a worthy addition to our fellow Politics nominees from The New York Times, Politico, NPR, and

Over the past few months, we’ve used PoliPulse, our unique data visualization tool that presents a daily graphic summary of the topics driving online conversation to spot trends around concerns of a potential government shutdown, the debate around whether college athletes should be paid and consumer opinions of the AOL-Huffington Post merger.

Here’s the best part about The Webbys: The winners - at least in part - are up to you. While the official Webby Award is decided by the Members of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, The People’s Voice Award is decided by you - the online community.  We encourage you to vote.  


Apr 13

Shared Sustainability

Jennifer Hendrickson

Today marked the start of the 2011 National Conference on Corporate Community Investment. The event, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), kicked off with the presentation of the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards.

The City of Raleigh earned recognition in the midsize community category. It was honored for its vision to be a “21st Century City of Innovation.” In his acceptance speech, the Assistant City Manager set the tone for the rest of the conference. He conceded, “We are on the right path, but we are just beginning.”

The Sustainable Community Award winners, like most communities across the country, are making greater investments in sustainability initiatives. But, there’s no clear or quick path forward. Communities can only utilize the resources at their disposal – and look to their peers for inspiration.

In an earlier session, Katherine Gajewski of the City of Philadelphia told attendees that she has incorporated best practices from New York and Chicago into her community’s sustainability initiatives. This type of sharing represents the clearest and quickest path to long-term social and economic development. It comes in many forms:

  • Shared Ideas: To make its vision a reality, Raleigh established a multi-agency Economic Development Group. Philadelphia did the same. Communities must keep the lines of communication open, so that each learns about and implements best practices.
  • Shared Leadership: In an earlier session, Matthew McKenna of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., said that businesses often take the lead on sustainability efforts and involve his organization as an issue expert. Shared leadership will ensure the best ideas and resources are brought to bear.
  • Shared Goals: Communities are sharing ideas – and, within them, entities are sharing leadership – because they have a common goal to improve the quality of life of future generations.

I’ll share more insights from the conference as the week goes on. In the meantime, let me know how your community or organization is applying best practices to its sustainability initiatives.

Apr 8

Distractions No More: The digital classroom evovles

Lauren Klein

It wasn’t that long ago when cell phones, computers and pretty much all things digital were viewed as pure distractions in the classroom.

The table seems to be turning, however, and some educators increasingly see these tools as platforms to increase student engagement, develop key skills for employment and even help build a brand for the class, the teacher and the school itself.

At the Social Learning Summit hosted by the American University Social Media Club last week, teachers and students gathered to discuss what was - and wasn’t - working in creating an integrated digital classroom.

Some of the examples that speakers and attendees highlighted included:

  • Twitter streams coinciding with in classroom debate
  • Dedicated class hashtags that serve current, potential students as well as alum
  • Sharing updates about class news via Facebook
  • Creating homework assignments in which students must not only share news or information relating to the class topic, but pithy comments on why they agree or disagree when sharing a link.

Though success of this integration includes chances for alum, and professional thought leaders to contribute to the conversation, as well as an opportunity for quieter students to engage more effectively, many of these forays into a digital classroom are trial and error. The challenges are as abundant as the opportunities.

There is clearly more work to be done in order to use these platforms as tools that don’t just promote sharing, but foster real dialogue and debate.

Ultimately, when incorporated effectively social media platforms can add to a robust classroom experience. So students, professors and alum: whip out that cell phone, open those browsers and try it out. Just a few ideas to bear in mind:

  • Brainstorm and Strategize: Students and teachers should collaborate on class goals and needs when incorporating social media for the classroom experience
  • No one tool can do it all: Blackboard has been a traditional tool schools have authorized to post classroom assignments and news. But depending on class goals, size and dynamics, incorporating multiple platforms ensures all students can participate in the online conversation and not be forced into one platform. This is a classic rule of “meet them where they are.
  • Monitor & Measure:  This is a new phase, so understanding your objectives and evaluating them after each semester is crucial to improving on the ecosystem you’ve created.
Apr 5

Androids and iPhones

David Leavitt

Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Yukata Tsutano

It’s a fact: more people have Android-based smartphones than iPhones.
Overall, about 75 percent of the smartphones sold today are not iPhones (and are instead Blackberrys, Androids, Windows or Palm phones). For that reason, creating only iPhone-optimized content isn’t ideal for marketers trying to reach the masses.
So why does the iPhone get so much attention?
The answer has little to do with market share and more to do with who iPhone users are.
iPhone users are more likely to have high incomes and more likely to pay for digital content. About 40 percent of iPhone users earn over $100,000 per year, compared to 28 percent of Android users, according to Nielsen.
That’s what makes the iPhone an ideal platform for marketers trying to reach an elite audience that is often in the purchasing mood.


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