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Let’s face it; every day we use our smartphones and mobile technology to get through daily and simple tasks, from finding information, to exercise, to learning new languages, even finding the nearest grocery store. The majority of mobile application software we use today has been “gamified,” and the same ideas are starting to enter the social sector.
Global 2000 businesses have recognized gamification as a powerful tool to engage consumers and motivate them to purchase more products. Yet not all organizations in the social sector have gained this knowledge, and some continue to fail when integrating gamification into their operations.
In some cases, fundraisers become casino nights or raffles drive donors to purchase family vacations for two to three times more than their standard price, all just to support a charity. Fundraising is a way that gamification can be utilized, but it’s not the bottom line for the social sector. When thinking about gamification, nonprofits have to start thinking outside of the box if they truly want to engage the masses into more positive social behaviors.
Simple tasks that would normally cost a nonprofit time and money can be delegated through one mobile application and can create a friendly environment for the user. Pop-up messages as reminders, rewarding users for their engagement, badges, progress bars, and even weekly challenges drive a little competition to keep users on their toes. When a well-designed mobile application is published, staying connected creates an endless amount of possibilities and the exciting part for nonprofits is to keep the content new and fresh.
Every marketer understands the challenge of competing for attention among a sea of content with limited resources. The problem is even more acute for nonprofits, which typically experience stricter budgets and more mission-related limits on what they can do when they market.
Nevertheless, great marketing is possible for nonprofits. These are techniques even smaller organizations can implement every day to improve their marketing efforts, see more impressive results, and gain even more loyalty from their communities.
Influencer marketing is the latest craze in marketing, for good reason. It means getting organic, word-of-mouth buzz about products from people who others listen to. It's also shockingly economical and far more effective than traditional marketing techniques. In the nonprofit context, this means reaching out to members of your community.
Every nonprofit needs to sign new people up for the email list, and entice new people to join the community. Each organization also needs to keep community members loyal and active. The way we can do this is the same way traditional marketers do it: by creating value that attracts people, making sure we maintain it, and reminding community members about how much value we're offering.
The Great Recession and its aftermath have forced nonprofits to seek out new and different ways to address their challenges. In order to make change that is sustainable and scalable, additional funding sources need to be considered to help nonprofits achieve their core missions. Charity and government support remain crucial but are insufficient to address the magnitude of the task at hand. Solving basic social problems requires a level of sustainable investment that donors and government cannot provide alone. Social enterprise models may well offer an answer.
Nonprofit organizations are vital to the nation’s economic well-being and have nearly doubled in the last 30 years (National Center for Charitable Statistics, 2015). More than a million tax-exempt organizations exist in the United States, including public charities, private foundations, and civic organizations—not counting the 220,000 religious congregations that are also registered. However, the traditional reliance of nonprofits on governmental and charitable funding is increasingly unsustainable. Shrinking government budgets and greater competition for ever-fewer dollars are reducing the scale and effectiveness of nonprofits in meeting the nation’s growing challenges and intractable problems. It may be time to rethink how these important social organizations are funded.
Should nonprofits become more aggressive in adopting new business models that can add needed revenue? Could this ease nonprofits’ dependence on government and charity and better position them to fulfill their missions? What are the downsides and dangers in pursuing new models?
“Proposition 22: The normal expectation ought to be that success will be very difficult to achieve in cross-sector collaborations.”
- John Bryson, et al., "The Design and Implementation of Cross-Sector Collaborations"
Collaboration is emerging as a popular vehicle to solve complicated problems that our communities face. So much, in fact, that organizations are boarding the train without a map, a travel bag, and even a destination. Worse yet, they have not considered the repercussions of boarding the collaboration train. Collaborations require a high level of understanding and resource investment. There are resources, frameworks, and institutes dedicated to study of cross-sector collaboration, but all collaborators heed the proposition above, “success will be very difficult.”
You may ask, “Why worry?”
It is as likely that a “wrong” collaboration can lead to detrimental reverberations through all sectors, as that the “right” collaboration can lead to positive system-wide change.
Regardless of the player considering cross-sector collaboration - CEO, government official, or nonprofit CEO/board executive - the goal is that each sector understands that there are strengths, weaknesses, and skills that should be collectively leveraged to engineer an integrative solution aimed at their community target. So what are the problems?
Today’s world is an IT world, and nonprofits that do not recognize and accept the inevitability of this fact may find themselves fading into the background of the public’s consciousness. IT provides nonprofits with a host of tools for building capacity, thereby exponentially increasing the potential for mission fulfillment. However, Gordon (1998) notes the existence of a wide gap between available IT capabilities and nonprofits’ current usage, and he suggests that bridging that gap will improve capacity building. For example, of 165 nonprofits examined in October 2015, only 58% provided links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts from their websites and vice versa (Koenig). Even when nonprofits have websites and social media site (SMS) accounts, they demonstrate a disturbing propensity for failing to respond to direct questions from the public. The life-blood of nonprofits flows through the veins of an interested community, which makes monitoring SMS and responding to posts an essential element of nonprofits’ effective capacity building.
The causal relationship between IT usage and capacity building correlates to the definition of capacity building – “the ability of nonprofit organizations to fulfill their missions in an effective manner” DeVita and Fleming (2001). This requirement for efficacy demands that nonprofits begin thinking of the adoption of IT as a strategic investment rather than an operational expense. Only when the strategic planning process fixes its determined gaze on the capabilities of IT will the practical and fully-accepted utilization of IT become a reality within nonprofits.
Cost concerns are irrelevant in a world with an astounding array of readily available, inexpensive or free IT software programs. Organizational ambivalence remains the primary stumbling block preventing nonprofits from fully embracing IT capabilities.
Boards are the brain trusts of nonprofit organizations, responsible for providing leadership, oversight, expertise, guidance, accountability, vision, fundraising and an invaluable connection to community. But to truly achieve its nonprofit mission, board leadership must be as diverse as the organization’s ever-changing community and clientele – not only in relation to demographics of today but also of tomorrow.
Despite increased awareness of this intrinsic link, as well as some laudable efforts over the last couple of decades, research shows nonprofits are frustratingly far from that goal.
So, how can diversity help nonprofit boards better accomplish their mission? What are nonprofit boards doing wrong in recruitment efforts? And what strategies and tactics can nonprofits employ to successfully diversify board membership?
First, it’s important to understand where nonprofit boards are today in terms of diversity. A first-of-its-kind, comprehensive national survey found that 86 percent of nonprofit board members in the United States are non-Hispanic whites. Also, more than half (51 percent) of nonprofit boards have exclusively non-Hispanic white members.
Perhaps more telling, if not alarming, is that nearly a third (32 percent) of nonprofits whose clientele are 50 percent or more Hispanic have no Hispanic board members. Let that sink in a moment. These are nonprofit organizations with a primary focus on Latinos – the nation’s largest ethnic minority group – with no Latino board members. Furthermore, greater than half of nonprofit boards (52 percent) serving clientele of 25 percent to 49 percent Hispanic also do not have any Latinos board members, according to The Urban Institute study, Nonprofit Governance in the United States: Findings on Performance and Accountability from the First National Representative Study.
Similar disparities exist for blacks, who comprise 13.2 percent of the U.S. population (with 25.8 percent nationally living below the poverty line) but make up only 7 percent of nonprofit board members. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites – at 77.4 percent of the U.S. population – are 84 percent of the nation’s board members.
I am a proud 2010 graduate of The American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center. As such, in January, I was granted the opportunity to apply to attend the second annual American Express Leadership Academy Alumni Summit. I was selected as one of 50 network delegates from around the globe to convene in New York on April 4 and 5 to participate in a variety of workshops and panel discussions designed to enhance alumni relationships and vital leadership skills. Today I am pleased to have the occasion to fulfill my pledge to share my experience and newfound knowledge, further supporting the development of the sector’s leadership pipeline.
What is the number one skill you think 21st century leaders need for social impact? Do you feel Cultural Intelligence (CQ) should be a core competency incorporated in hiring practices? As a graduate of any leadership program, how do you intend to carry forward and/or implement shared ideas, skills developed, resources acquired and lessons learned to benefit your community? Do you feel you have a powerful online network which appropriately reflects your industry? Are you contributing to advancing the sector’s impact on society? This is a mere sample of some of the questions and topics tackled by world class leaders and partnership organizations in our limited time together.
Virtual meetings are part of working in 2016. Especially for smaller businesses and nonprofits, which need to do more with less, meeting virtually is a necessary evil. In order to get more out of your virtual meetings, lead proactively; know the weaknesses of the virtual meeting going in and plan ahead to mitigate their impact.
Problem: No body language means less emotion and memory
How do we know what other people mean and how they're taking what we say? In a face-to-face meeting it's body language that gives us most of this information. In a virtual meeting, we are relying on far less information, and we can't seal those memories with emotion or an understanding of the other person's intent—because we never got that from the meeting.
Bottom line: we remember less.
Solution: Put a face on it
Use video to keep your team connected. This also makes the everyday exchanges about family and health more possible. Not sure that small talk is worth using video? Consider research that shows small talk makes you smarter and creates lasting business connections. And remember that while body language communicates the most when it comes to emotion, the face is next in line for expressing emotion.
Edible school gardens have been popping up like summer squash over the past 20 years––and in recent years with First Lady Michelle Obama cheering them on. The idea goes back to 1995, when Alice Waters, the pioneer of the “slow food” movement and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant, created the first “edible schoolyard” in a vacant lot near the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California.
A nice idea? Of course. But with increased testing and heightened security, and many other demands on schools and teachers today, are gardens just a green frill, or are they a good use of a school’s time and money?
The anecdotal stories are compelling: benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the costs in the usual cherry-picked examples.
Leaders of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, who have helped 30 Tucson schools––mostly public schools in low-income areas––grow gardens through its Farm-to-Child Program, understand that happy stories don’t carry much weight in the budgeting processes of underfunded schools and don’t go far with today’s results-oriented donors. The garden program leaders are therefore collecting deeper data to measure the real impact of the gardens.
Millennials and post-Millennials, Generation Z, live, eat, and likely even sleep, with their phones. The word Millennial has become so overused that it sounds less like a term for a generation and more like fingernails dragging down a chalkboard. Regardless, you can’t ignore the largest generation in American history and the hours they consume media online. Plus, unlike the upcoming Generation Z, Millennials have billions of dollars to spend -- or donate.
Obviously, this makes your video content very important. I constantly hear from nonprofit organizations struggling with how to effectively leverage the attention of this digitally-immersed audience. Below are some of the primary issues I see from nonprofits when trying to tell their stories through online videos:
Your nonprofit sells bracelets made by youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods and 100% of the proceeds go to raise awareness about polluted water for endangered species in third-world countries with evil dictatorships. Huh?!
That’s too complicated. Keep it simple.