by Shannon Aronin on October 29th, 2010

I can't believe it's been 6 hectic week since Jon Stewart made his epic announcement about the Rally To Restore Sanity in DC. What a ride it has been! Our tag line has been Everything's Bigger in Texas, But We're Willing to Take it Down a Notch. Considering how big this thing has gotten, I'm not sure we achieved taking it down a notch. Forgive us, we're just so darn excited about people being nice!

On the eve of our rally here in Austin, we (Team Sanity) have worked day and night to bring this all together. I love my fellow volunteers for pouring their hearts and souls into this, and have to give major props to our team captains, Shelley Culbertson and Toula Skiadas. I have met the most amazing people through this process, and although a few of us knew each other from one group or another, most of us were people who heard the announcement on Comedy Central and wanted badly to be a part of this.

We will have a jumbotron to link us to the main rally in DC. We have had over 6,000 people on Facebook say they are attending. We've partnered with Rock the Vote, and their administrative support has been enormously helpful. We will have a bunch of vendors directly across the street from the South steps of the Texas state capitol, including our own booth to sell commemorative Austin Rally tee shirts. Other vendors include The Kubik House (kolaches), Karma Tacos & Fired Up Kitchen (pizza) to feed the crowd.

Local speakers include Hon. Lloyd Doggett, Mary Gordon Spence, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, & candidates for the TX state senate Kirk Watson (D) & Mary Lou Serafine (R). The event will be emceed by the funny and quirky Alamo Drafthouse Chief Creative Officer Henri Mazza. Musical entertainment will be provided by DJ Digg, DJ Hobo D, Natomi Austin, The Belleville Outfit, The Longhorn Singers Alumni, Dave Madden, and Sticks & Stones.

We will also have some fun surprise activities for guests to participate in, some nonprofits to check out, security and first aid.

We've promoted our behinds off, and have so far already received tons of media coverage, including The Dallas Morning News, KXAN, The Statesman's Austin 360, AV Club Austin, Politico, The Quorum Report, The Texas Tribune & News 8 Austin.

Some of the other rallies around the country (see if there's one near you here: have gotten more 'likes' than us, but we appear to have the most actual RSVPs. We believe we will be the biggest satellite rally in the country! That is super exciting. We send our best wishes to the other satellite rallies across the globe, and especially our friends in LA, St. Louis, Chicago, Honolulu, and Seattle.

Since they didn't have much time for us as they were planning their own rally which clearly exceeded expectations (their initial DC Mall park permit was for 25,000 people), maybe The Daily Show will show us a little love post rally. Hint: Jon, Shelley & Toula would make great guests if you wanted to fly them up to NY for an interview! We hope that your DC rally is almost as successful as our Austin event ;-)

I am so proud of all that we've accomplished. We've had some stressful moments along the way, but we've all kept our cool as speakers and entertainers and emcees have been on again/off again. When you show up tomorrow, you will see what happens when a bunch of people say "we can totally do this," thinking of a couple hundred people in a bar, it goes viral, and the next thing you know we're forming an organization, talking to lawyers, buying insurance, designing and re-designing logos, working with multiple groups and people to secure the capitol as our venue... our task list has been seemingly endless. Until now. Now we basically have to go to sleep, get there early and put on a great show. I hope you'll join us, and I hope you're as excited as I am about Sanity Day! But remember to bring your inside voices, and check the spelling on your signs please!

by Shannon Aronin on October 2nd, 2010

I've been busy working on the Austin Satllite Rally To Restore Sanity. We have secured our venue. The Rally will be on October 30th, 2010 on the South Steps of the State Capitol. There is a lot to think about in running a rally of this size, things like audio/visual, security, insurance and how are we going to process payments. We'll have a website up soon, and our Twitter account is getting some attention. Please follow us @Rally4SanityATX We have over nearly 3,000 yes RSVPs to the Facebook Event, and by that standard, appear to be the biggest satellite rally in the country. We are finalizing the budget, but estimate that we will need to raise $20,000 - $30,000. If you can help, either with an individual donation or your business would like to be a sponsor, please tell me. We should have an official sponsorship proposal together very soon.

Now that I’ve gotten the rally planning updates out of the way, I want to talk about why I’m doing this, and why it’s important to me. I am a compulsive Facebook debater. I start political conversations, and I am more verbose than my friends appreciate some of the time. I push them for answers about why they believe what they believe, I call out hyperbole, and whenever possible I cite sources. I evaluate the credibility of other people’s sources. And I spend a lot of time making sure that my socialist friends and my tea party friends don’t kill each other on my wall.

I am not a moderate. I'm angry, but I'm willing to discuss important issues that will directly affect the direction our country is headed in. Teabaggers want to take their country back; I want to take my country forward. I am used to taking some heat when I typically post liberal positions and articles. I'm not pretending to be something I'm not. I want Democrats to win this November. I also want people to debate things using facts, and I am more than willing to listen to conservatives and have been even known to change my mind on an issue occasionally. But I was not prepared for the response I’ve received for participating in this rally.

I am finding friends on the left telling me that this rally is bad because it shows willingness to compromise. I feel like I'm being told I'm a traitor to progressives, which I am clearly a part of. Meanwhile friends on the right seem to think this is some kind of charade and I know I'm wrong. Perhaps they think I have so much time to waste on things I don't believe in. Both sides tell me there is no common ground! But when I push and keep promoting the idea of reasonable debate I find there almost always is. I am feeling really disenfranchised in my personal circles lately, and I’m not sure what it says about me that my friends and family are so diverse. But it's always the same people on both sides debating. Realistically, that’s maybe 3-4% of my 350 Facebook friends. MOST people won't get political at all; it’s just too heavy. They believe what they believe and don’t want to be challenged. We’re even seeing this from candidates refusing to debate their opponents. And we’re supposed to vote for these people? I really want to believe we have more in common than the media tells us we do. And when nearly 200K people sign up for the rally in DC, and almost 3,000 say yes in Austin (and this doesn't include the maybes or the Keep Fear Alive people) I try to remember I am not alone in wanting to find compromises we can all live with. I am determined to keep an open mind and keep talking. I know that I believe the left is more likely to have better solutions most of the time, I am a proud progressive and not hiding or running from that, but we have to be willing to admit we're far from perfect too. If we can come with an open spirit, maybe, just maybe, we'll convert more of the ignorant than say the antics of Beckfest.

All of the anger leads to enthusiasm gaps, leads to people tuning out... they just can't take all the noise. Perhaps it's my nonprofit background that makes me feel that absolutely everything is better when we come at it with a more positive and certainly solutions based outlook. We can get people ramped up with a big tent, a few laughs, and just a saner rally. We can pull a grassroots movement that is off the charts in 6 weeks without 6 months of round the clock coverage & Koch brother funding and tell them where to shove their enthusiasm gap. We need to invite people, especially young people who are less likely to vote, to participate in the democratic process with a far less threatening vehicle than an angry mob.

It has been really astounding to me, and at times a lot to take, how much more backlash I have gotten from every which way for the message of taking it down a notch to work together. I guess when I'm straight up liberal my leftie friends feel “Right On,” and my conservative friends either write me off and or feel challenged. But the idea that none of us are perfect, that we all have to come to some agreements, that has been far more controversial on the whole. If the GOP wins over the Senate, and the Democrats keep the house, what will the next 2 years look like? I see a lot of testimony from Stephen Colbert, Sammy Sosa, and all of Hollywood because not a single thing will get done. And where will that leave all of us in 2012? Not just politically, but the state of our union?

My career has trained me, essentially, to build consensus whenever possible, so I have to get everyone else where I want them to go. This is life in smaller nonprofits, it is life working with social media where success depends on the strength of the relationships, and it is most definitely life with a 3 year old. The process matters as much as the conclusion, because it's all about making friends along the way. You'll need them for the next "process." There is a fine line between no one wanting to take accountability for being wrong and wanting to make a large group work together, and finding solutions everyone can live with.

Many have asked me regarding this rally, why? It’s like art - the meaning is up to YOU! The whole point of the rally for me really is to take it calm down, remember that people who disagree with you are still your fellow Americans, reduce the angry rhetoric, and to say I am not afraid of gay Muslim anchor babies. I expect a lot of signs will say legalize pot. I think the message is about reaching out to people we disagree with, reading outside of our comfort zone, respectful debate, anti-corruption, and pro sanity... It's an intentional kumbaya.

Maybe, just maybe, politics COULD be different. The best metaphor I have comes from the nonprofit world. Your mission is why you are in business (ie, to fight poverty). Your vision is what the world would look like if you successfully achieved your mission and put yourself out of business (poverty is eradicated). My vision is that we can have fact based public policy debate, and that ignorance is not something to be proud of. REAL Americans can be smart. There's something to be said for defining and trying in our own small ways to get to utopia.

by Shannon Aronin on September 25th, 2010

Have you heard about the Rally to Restore Sanity? Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" is one of my favorite celebrities. His award winning satirical take on the news of the day often offers far more insightful context than all of the other major television and newspaper outlets.

On Thursday September 16, he announced that he was going to hold a rally on the Mall in Washington, DC to restore sanity on October 30, 2010. Stephen Colbert, his fellow comedic pundit of "The Colbert Report," announced that he would also be holding a competing rally to Keep Fear Alive. The effort is clearly a poke at Glenn Beck. Their viewers have not taken the call to be reasonable lightly, and so far the response has ben astounding. As of the writing of this post, the Rally to Restore Sanity Facebook event invitation has received just shy of 156,000 people who have RSVP'd that they are coming, and an additional 83,000 maybes. Stephen Colbert's Facebook event invitation has nearly 65,000 yes RSVPs and 26,000 maybes. The event is still more than a month away. The original park permit suggested an expectation of 25,000 people, and this is just the Facebook responses. The online video of the announcement has already received over 1 million views. So far, satellite rallies have been planned in eighty-four cities all over the country in cities big and small. Holy cow! That's a movement.

I'm delighted that Austin is one of those cities! Somehow, being on the Facebook Page at the right time and offering some free advice, I got invited to the planning meeting. It's tomorrow. I don't know the other people involved, but all of this has been organized and I am meeting like-minded people through Facebook. We have a lot of work to do. Right now the Austin event invitation has over 1,500 people who plan to attend, and another 850 maybes. Wow. I hope that tomorrow we can flesh out the vision of the event, but I could not be more excited to be a part of this. Right now we are having some known logistics challenges, namely the starting place for planning any event - venue. The capitol is already reserved by a rally against the death penalty. UT has a football game that day. There are a few locations that we think will work, but we may need some funds to rent an appropriate space. We haven't worked through any of the nitty gritty details yet, but there will undoubtedly be other expenses. And as this thing grows and grows, we could use your support. If you are a business or an individual that would like to support this, please simply pledge and leave me your email in the comments of this post. As of right now I don't have a place to send you to make a donation, but I will follow up with you. I will also be talking over the next month about how we are planning this event, and will continue to report on the success of this movement's social media efforts.

Why is this so important to me? Why, when I really need a job, would I work on this right now? I care very deeply about this cause. Our problems as a nation are too great and too important to continue to allow the far left and the far right control the conversation about real solutions. We have a moral imperative to find common ground and hold politicians responsible for extreme partisan bickering accountable. Many who know me well might say but Shannon, aren't you part of the far left? Yes. I will continue to vote and work for progressive candidates and causes. But I also recognize that while I think my solutions are best, your solutions are equally worthy of my consideration. I know that when we choose to assume the best in the intentions of our fellow citizens, when we seek that common ground, only good can come from it. I feel strongly that frequent, public, respectful and democratic debate is essential to our progress. That does not mean I want to sit down and even try to reason with some people. If you honestly believe Obama is a Muslim that wasn't born in this country, please, as I tell my three year old, walk away. If you are a racist, or you are full of fear and hate, please, walk away. If you think George Bush orchestrated 9/11, please, walk away.

I've been thinking about who we do want though. Jon outlined it pretty well in his original speech, busy people who don't normally go to rallies. People who feel, as one of his signs he has promised to provide attendees so nicely summed up, I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler. Having spent most of my career in nonprofit fundraising, I'm mission driven. And I've been thinking about what can we come together on? What are the beliefs of the middle moderates? Over the next month, I'm going to take a stab here at the things I think we should be able to agree on in this country. I'm going to be listening and reading, and I hope to simply contribute to the conversation about how we can all take it down a notch. I could really use your help though. What do you think are the most important things we should be able to agree on in this country?

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Hi Friends, thanks for stopping by Shannon's Blog. I am a consultant interested in both full time and contract employment. Please check out My Work and Hire Me for more information. This is my professional hub where I plan to continue writing about social media, business and nonprofits.

It’s taken me a while to get a website and blog back up because I’ve been really busy! I've had such exceptional opportunities working with Epic Change on TweetsGiving, theKbuzz (now Likeable Media), MENTOR/The National Mentoring Partnership and Time Warner Cable that it has taken me a while to re-build a site and blog. But here I am.

Not that long ago I had a perfectly good, functioning blog on Wordpress. In November 2009 my previous blog on Wordpress was hacked and decimated. Fortunately, I’ve managed to piece most of it back together. Posts previous to this are cached posts from my old blog just to show a continuity of my writing in addition to the work samples you will find here.

So this post is the christening of Shannon’s Blog. Thanks for stopping by, and please subscribe for future posts. I commit to writing more frequently about what I'm learning and doing.

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on November 30, 2009.

I was watching Top Chef last night, a show I have not previously gotten in to. They were at a late stage in the game and the remaining contestants were given the opportunity to cook for one of the top American chefs and the judges of the American Committee for Bocuse D’or, this international cooking competition. These chefs were quivering. I did not know the names of any of the judges or the competition before the episode, although I really understood how important this was for them to win and rooted on favorite players. I was able to connect with their butterflies at meeting an industry leader, or all of them at once for that matter.

I have often heard a complaint with social media is that it both allows more of and amplifies everyone’s 15 minutes of fame, and that it creates a celebrity culture for folks who are not celebrities. Perhaps folks who are, at heart, just the kind of expert in our field the rest of us aspire to be – exceptionally smart, insightful, and innovative. The first time I met Beth Kanter was at last year’s SXSW. The next time will probably be next year at SXSW. When I introduced myself to her, emboldened by good advice to tell others when you like their work, I told her that she was my “personal blogging hero.” I believe those were in fact my exact words. The gushiness aside I was green enough having just begun what has turned out to be a longer journey than I expected into social media for nonprofits to not have known that she was EVERYONE’S “personal blogging hero,” at least everyone in the nonprofit lounge sponsored by Beaconfire. I hope that instead of making me look like, well a doofus, she was flattered and knew that next year I might be a little more reserved and a little less green, especially if I kept reading her blog. She is so established as a leader I wonder if people tell her how often she is their hero, probably not nearly as often as it is true. (Yes, I am gushing again about Beth Kanter, but c’mon, have you READ her work? Genius!)

The point here is that outside the NP Tech and/or blogging world, most people in the general population are not stuttering at her celebrity as I was. Just as I didn’t know who those chefs were. Critics of our new culture of reality tv and social media say that these new influences have the power to transform ANYONE into a star. Is that a bad thing? It gives every Joe their turn, even the dumb ones. Very democratic and self-esteem boosting I say! But much more importantly and seriously, it does a more thorough job of elevating the very best in our respective professions in life, offering specific role models within our field to respect and aspire to. This is a VERY good thing.

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on November 23, 2009.

Ok Austin, what’s up? We are throwing this fabulous party, and we know a lot of people are planning to come. You’ve told us so, you’ve said so on Facebook. We’ve gotten a ton of publicity from high profile local tweets to Do512, The Statesman’s site Austin 360, The Chronicle, and on Tuesday KEYE. But Austin, you are making us nervous. Please go buy your ticket so we can get an accurate head count. And if you aren’t sure you can make it, go buy a ticket anyway in honor of whatever makes you grateful. It will count towards Austin’s total funds raised for a common cause and show what a generous city we are. We’ve worked really hard to create a fantastic party to celebrate and give thanks, we hope that you are able to join us and spread the word.



Shannon Aronin

Austin TweetsGiving Event Chair

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on October 24, 2009.

“We must work tirelessly to make sure that every boy and girl in America who is up for adoption has a family waiting to reach him or her… This is a season of miracles, and perhaps there is no greater miracle than finding a loving home for a child who needs one.” - 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton and adopted child

November is National Adoption Month. Created by the Children’s Bureau under the Department of Health and Human Services, the stated goal of National Adoption Month is to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care. The theme of this year’s celebration is “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.”

It is important to note that like all national advocacy efforts, the real work of enhancing a cause’s visibility and does the heavy programmatic lifting happens at the local level. In Texas, the Gladney Center is the vehicle for the work that is one of the deepest expressions of human kindness and love. The mission of the Gladney Center is to provide loving homes for children, a caring environment for birth parents, supportive services for Gladney families and adoptees, and assistance to orphans and underserved children throughout the world. For 120 years now Gladney has been been building families, and has facilitated the adoption of 28,000 children! Gladney facilitates domestic as well as international adoptions from 9 different countries including Russia, China, Guatemala, and Mexico. The Center also offers education, social events and life long support to its constituents.

This year, Gladney will be the beneficiary of a benefit concert, Adoption Rocks!, which was inspired by an Austin family that enriched their lives with the adoption of their Ethiopian daughter last year. So they are celebrating as only Austin can, with a concert that rocks out and lives up to our reputation for live music! Here’s the info you need to get involved in supporting this wonderful cause:

Date & Time: November 13th, 2009 with a 7:30 and a 9:30 show

Where: Long Center for the Performing Arts

Who’s Playing: Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, John Pointer, and the Sangra Del Sol Dance Troupe

Contribution: Tickets are $100; $50 of which is tax deductible

Sponsorships: Adoption Rocks is pleased to offer customized sponsorships designed to meet the specific goals of your organization. If you are interested in discussing sponsorship levels and benefits, please contact Mike Chapman at

What else?: Hors d’oeuvres, Silent Auction and Cash Bar

To buy tickets, click on desired show time link below and enter the promotional code “ADOPTIONROCKS” (all caps)

7:30 pm link =

9:30 pm link =

Please, for all the children who need love and stability, pass this on to anyone you know who might consider purchasing tickets, sponsoring the event, or adopting a child.

For the most up-to-date info about this event, please be sure to become a fan on Facebook.

The buzz is already building. Here are some other blogs that have covered this upcoming event:

Austin Social Media Club


Latin IT Marketing

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on July 26, 2009.

If you’re not tweeting on Twitter, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to share news, engage, and drive donations/business. Effective use of Twitter does require that you learn the ropes and become familiar with best tweeting practices. Beth Kanter does a great job here of outlining the basics, including links to “who to follow” lists for nonprofits and marketing experts. If you follow the people on those lists (and you can find other lists for nearly any industry), most will follow you back which will give you a start up base of followers. As time goes on you can grow this follower/following list by adding people other Tweeters suggest, and others will suggest you – if you do it right and engage in a meaningful way.

The other hurdle to understanding and using Twitter well is knowing what applications to use. There are hundreds of Twitter applications that make the free service more useful. Here are some of my personal favorites. I hope you find them useful, and Happy Tweeting!

1. Tweetdeck

Using Twitter directly from the web is great. But you will quickly find it useless if you don’t have a way to filter your tweets. Tweetdeck is a desktop application that updates in real time, allows search functions, will automatically shorten URLs that you post, and allows you to create columns where you can view tweets pertaining to a particular topic or person. It is also a great way to make sure you catch every tweet that mentions you or any brand you are monitoring. There are other similar applications, but Tweetdeck is by far the most widely used and, for now at least, is leaving the others in the dust. If you are not using this program you are simply not getting the full potential benefits of Twitter.

2. Twimailer

I hate getting notifications in my email inbox of new followers. I want to know when someone follows me, but I don’t want to receive a message with no information about the person which requires me to go into their profile to see their bio and last few tweets. Enter Twimailer. This awesome application takes your email, creates a middleman email, and has you change your email with Twitter to the email address they provide. Then Twimailer will send you an email for each new follower that includes their bios, follower/following numbers, and recent tweets. Here’s the best part, the email has links to follow back, report user or report as spam. What a timesaver!

3. Tweetube & TwitPic

TwitPic is the more frequently used and probably the easier application to upload pictures directly from your phone. What I like about Tweetube is the variety of media it handles. Tweetube allows you to tweet short videos from your webcam, pictures, YouTube videos and website links.

4. Twitbacks

Once you have poked around Twitter you will start to notice that many of your tweeps have a pretty, more customized background. Check mine out (and follow me!) to see what I’m talking about.

You can spend countless hours trying to figure out how to do this, even designing your own super cool background. Keep in mind that many twitter users will never see your official twitter page if they access your profile through Tweetdeck or another third party desktop application. But for those that do, wouldn’t you rather your page was a bit more professional? Or just cooler? Twitbacks is the easiest way to create great backgrounds.

5. FutureTweets and Tweet Later

These two applications allow you to schedule tweets at a later time/date. FutureTweets is pretty basic but does everything I need it to. Tweet Later has a host of features in addition to scheduling tweets for later, including autofollow and auto message new followers – a practice I do NOT recommend. How is this useful? It allows you to post away messages, and when you have something important to tell your followers you can schedule updates to be repeated. So long as you don’t do this hourly it’s not annoying. The vast majority of Twitter users do not read every tweet posted by all of their followers, and people tend to be on Twitter in shifts. If you want to promote a new service, a blog post, or get answers to a question from the greatest number of users, when scheduling automated tweets I suggest scheduling tweets anywhere from daily to every 8 hrs. to go out during the hours you think are busiest among your Twitter followers.

6. twtQpon

twtQpon allows you to promote special offers by creating a Twitter coupon. You create a 140 character description, upload an accompanying picture, and this free service creates a web page with a URL you can tweet out. Followers that look up the coupon can redeem through your website, print it out and bring it in person, or have the code sent as a direct message to their phone which they can bring in and show. One of the most useful features is that you can also set the coupon’s expiration date. Nonprofits could also have a use for this if you want to incentivize Twitter following growth by offering discounts to your events for Twitter followers.

7. Mr. Tweet

There are lots of services that will suggest users you should follow, but what I like about Mr. Tweet is that it suggests people that your existing Twitter list follows, mentions and retweets. It also updates daily allowing you to constantly see new suggestions as your Twitter list grows.

8. Your Twitter Karma

This neat application has a great interface for sorting tweeps. It shows you quickly who you follow, who reciprocates and who doesn’t. The list can also be sorted by last updated, alphabetical, or number of followers. Once you check the boxes of all followers/people you follow you can either bulk follow or bulk unfollow.

9. Twellow

There are many Twitter directories, but what is great about Twellow is that it allows very customized searches. You can pull up users that have certain terms in their bio, or by location. For example, Twellow reports that there are 18,801 Twitter users in Austin, TX.

10. TwitterSheep

This is a fun little application that creates a tag cloud of words that are most commonly found in the bios of your Twitter lists and their tweets. At first it just seems kind of cute. In reality though, it can be a sort of gut check to tell whether or not you are following the right people and attracting the right followers. If you are primarily interested in connecting with nonprofits and the biggest word in your tag cloud is “golf,” then you have a problem. For example, my TwitterSheep analysis prominently highlights words like “media,” “entrepreneur,” “social,” “marketing,” and “media.”

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on July 7, 2009.

My expertise as a fundraiser is a foundation and an asset to me in developing creative ideas for nonprofits in the social media space. This new frontier is really not that new and simply requires us to adapt the skill set we’ve always used in nonprofit management and apply it to the use of new tools. We use these new tools because our donors and supporters are using these tools.

As a fundraiser I have had clients want to know about my grants funded rate, which was always something I saw as irrelevant to whether or not I could successfully raise money for their specific organization and program. A well written proposal is only the tipping point and most gifts have a lot more to do with who the funder is, who makes the ask and what are you seeking to fund. So the answer, ultimately, was always ‘it depends.’

Nothing has changed with the use of social networking. What tools should you start with? What should your organization blog about? Should you tweet? ‘It depends.’ Here is an article that does a great job discussing the kinds of questions you should be asking to determine the best strategy for your organization.

There is still much fear about these new methods because there aren’t tried and true best practices. But this is exciting. This is an opportunity for creativity to flourish. This is a time for true innovation and real ‘outside the box’ thinking. There are no guarantees, not in direct mail and not in social media. In defining goals your primary ROI cannot be about fundraising. Especially in the beginning phase of implementing these new marketing approaches, your first goal has to be about building a community around your cause; otherwise any kind of fundraising ask is premature. But what about when you have the community built? What then? How can you convert the good will and connections you have built into donations?

8 Ways to Use Social Media & Mobile Tools for Increasing Donations
1. Corporate Sponsorship: Instead of bringing your corporate partners the same old event sponsorship request with the same old benefits think about asking them to sponsor your Facebook page for a year. (Or your Twitter account, blog, online conference, etc.) With the economy being what it is, corporations are spending less on charity.

However, they recognize the huge value of cause related marketing. But for a lead sponsorship of an event, how far does that really take their message? They are likely to reach the event attendees as a maximum reach, and they might get a mention in a newspaper ad if your city still has a newspaper. But what if you have a thriving community and can let these individuals know that XYZ Corporation is a good corporate citizen and ask them to spread the word, perhaps through a sponsored application that can be passed around from friend to friend, a.k.a. a widget? Ultimately I think corporate sponsorship of online presences is going to be the largest online funding resource.

2. Soliciting Individual Donations Within Your Social Networks: Your organization needs to do a lot of work to get those micro donations. But when you feel frustrated with the work that goes into a $25 gift remember that those donations won Obama the White House. Here’s the thing, just like direct mail, the more contact you have with your donors the more likely they are to give. This is the logic behind the duplication of contacts in various social networks. Ultimately your donors are most likely to actually respond and give to an email request. However your chances of getting that gift via email go up with each additional tool you use to contact them.

3. Email: As referenced above, email is still the most reliable way to garner financial support online. Therefore one goal of all your other social networking should to be to collect an email address. Then you need to write compelling appeals and news. Treat your $25 donors like your $25,000 donors. Keep them in the loop. Make them feel like they are a part of something and they will return to give and give again.

4. Website Donations: Chances are, it’s time to update your website. It needs to look clean but it also needs to be a home base for your online community building which most likely includes an interactive component that allows your supporters to talk to each other. This will be part of the motivation to give, and it will be a toolkit to prepare your supporters to go out on your behalf and make those peer-to-peer asks. You also need a LARGE Donate Now button and it should probably be in the upper right hand corner of your homepage and possibly on all of your main site pages. The size and placement of your Donate Now button will have a significant impact on website donations.

5. Individual Fundraising with Personalized Supporter Pages: This is particularly useful if you host a walk, or some other event where supporters/participants ask for donations from friends and family. Giving them their own page will increase their visibility and sense of ownership and result in higher overall donations.

6. Twitter Events: Twitter is both very fast-paced and community driven. Through Tweetsgiving (created and benefitting Epic Change) and Twestival (benefitting charity: water) have both done this well. It has to inspire a sense of urgency and pitch to twitter users in a way that targets their sense being unified by their use of Twitter and working as a virtual community.

7. Online Advertising: If you are a direct service nonprofit you can apply for and will most likely receive a Google grant. Google has a very simple process allowing nonprofits a monthly AdSense account of over $300 per month in perpetuity, providing the organization is a good steward of the resource. This can, if used well, provide increased website traffic which can lead to donations.

8. Mobile Giving: There are a number of mobile support companies that are charging more reasonable rates than in the past that allow for mobile giving. This can be very useful in an event setting where supporters are motivated by the generosity of others around them to have that $5 or $10 added to their phone bill when you ask them to text GIVE to your 5 digit code.

Special thanks to Mike Chapman, someone I consider to be a true social media expert (so does the Austin American-Statesman!) and blogger for industry leader fg2 for meeting with me recently and allowing me to pick his brain. Much of this post consists of ideas that came together for me as a result of our conversation. If you would like to follow Mike on twitter his profile is here and his blog for fg2 is here.

by Shannon Aronin on September 4th, 2010

Originally published on May 24, 2009.

Lights. Camera. Help. is a nonprofit film festival coming this summer that will feature the best of the best in the Films for a Cause Category.

Why do we love movies? They reach us, teach us, inspire us, make us laugh, and generally spark various emotional responses. While big budget Hollywood narratives with A List stars certainly have an advantage in doing this, by and large their primary goal is to entertain us for money. Other filmmakers use their art simply to tell a story and connect people. The nonprofit sector is so reliant on connecting people and generating emotional responses. This is a culture that recognizes the value of bringing people together to share experiences, to understand other people, to have empathy, and to appreciate and foster beauty in the world. It’s a natural home for idealistic filmmakers.

A few of those idealists, David J Neff, Aaron Bramley, and Rich Vazquez realized that nonprofit films are an unrecognized genre, one which runs the gamut from “amateur-ish” user generated content to feature length documentaries with celebrity narrators. With ever improving technology and resulting increased access to filmmaking tools, more and more nonprofits are producing videos. A few are even doing it exceptionally well. Lights. Camera. Help. was born from a desire to recognize the best. Taking note of nonprofit films that are doing a good job using this medium will allow them to have greater visibility, benefitting the deserving organization by spreading their message. They will also serve as an example to other organizations, thus improving the field as a whole and establishing benchmarks and standards of what the best look like. It identifies best practices in nonprofit filmmaking. Finally, it is important to keep talented passionate nonprofit filmmakers happy so they don’t give up and start exclusively producing 30-second laundry detergent spots. Many of them are freelancers and so their work, their art, is rarely celebrated beyond a “thanks, nice job” from clients. Until now.

The nonprofit film genre possesses a few broad characteristics.

It must be truthful. Like a documentary, a nonprofit film must illustrate their subjects in a life-like way.
It should be powerful enough to make us care. Nonprofits have limited resources, so everything from local PSAs to feature length documentaries have to get the biggest bang for the buck.
It should tell a story and identify a hero. The “hero” could be a client, a nonprofit organization, a donor, or a volunteer for example.
It is mission driven and is produced with a purpose. A nonprofit video has a goal, or at least it should. That goal can be advocacy, awareness, fundraising, training or behavior modification. Anyone viewing a nonprofit film knows that the film has a purpose, but they will tolerate your “messaging” if you are engaging and interesting.
Lights. Camera. Help. is the world’s only nonprofit film festival. The festival was launched on April 30, 2009 with a submissions opening party “Real to Reality.” Attendees were excited about the submissions so far, but there is a great opportunity to expand the competition. Co-founder David Neff urges nonprofits to consider submitting their films, saying that “not participating is missing a huge opportunity for exposure. And it’s free. Missing out on free exposure plus a chance to recognize underpaid passionate workers is not something most nonprofits can afford to do in this economy.”

Films selected for the festival will be shown at the festival and featured on the Lights. Camera. Help. website. The jury prize winning film – the “Best Picture” – will also receive all net proceeds from the festival.

So, here’s the 411:

WHO: Any 501 (c)(3) nonprofit is welcome to submit a film of any length about their organization.

WHAT: Categories of film entries that will be accepted are PSAs, short documentary, long documentary, short narrative and long narrative. A Film Selection Jury will pre-screen all entries for eligibility.

WHEN: Submissions
 must be at the Lights. Camera. Help office by JUNE 30, 2009. The festival itself will kick-off on July 31, 2009. Stay tuned to the Lights. Camera. Help. website for more details.

HOW: Submission to the film festival is free and only requires that you submit your work on DVD along with the submission form you can find on the Lights. Camera. Help. website here.

And to all the aspiring Spielbergs with a cause, good luck!

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