An early look at nonprofit social networking site Jumo

Many technologically savvy nonprofits and nonprofit social media marketers have been anticipating the launch of Jumo, a social networking site for nonprofits and causes. Yesterday, the Beta version officially launched.

The project was started by Chris Hughes, one of the Facebook founders and the chief digital organizer for Obama’s presidential campaign. This fact, and the $3.5 million in money raised for the start up, helped garner some significant buzz. But it also set expectations tremendously high.

I tried to log on yesterday morning, but got many “page-not-found” errors. It was a bit better by night time. The site doesn’t seem solid quite yet. Although it is in Beta, it sure is not a very good first impression (remember, Gmail only came out of Beta in 2009!).

Via the Huffington Post, Chris Hughes spoke about Jumo:

Most every site that’s out there focuses on donations. And, don’t get me wrong, donating to organizations, especially right now, is really important. But Jumo is taking a very different approach. It’s not just about how much money are donating to this or that group. It’s about what kind of relationship you are building with that organization…

When I finally got to snoop around a bit, I didn’t find it immediately exciting. Although the site claims to be a place where nonprofits can engage, it seems to follow a fairly strict template. I didn’t immediately see much room for creativity and out-of-the-box campaigning.

There seem to be two key elements on an organization’s profile, with most emphasis on “Top News.” The only way to engage with this news is to “like” it (similar to Facebook). You cannot comment underneath these news items. The place to comment sits next to these news items in a place called “Talk,” but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to support any kind of threaded conversation.

In other words, these elements seem much more focused on the traditional broadcasting rather than relationship building. Of course, over the years Facebook implemented changes to their design and functionality to make it more social and keep people on the site longer, and I hope this might happen to Jumo as well. As of yet, I don’t quite see beyond the fact that Jumo seems to be adding to the noise, rather than setting it apart.

Screenshot of a nonprofit profile page on Jumo

And despite Hughes’ comments, donations will be very important to nonprofits. As the former chief digital organizer for Obama, Hughes should know that. Not all organizations display a donate button. When I found some that did, the donation process seemed very simple. And simple is good.

A one-page form is clearly laid out with some predetermined monetary suggestions or a blank box to fill out your own amount and with a credit card payment option (Visa, Mastercard, and American Express). Unfortunately, there are no Paypal or other payment options. I know Europeans don’t have credit cards in masses as is the case in the United States, so this might limit international donations.

But the biggest worry in the donation form is the standard “optional 15% donation” that is included in your amount. In other words, you have to opt-out if you do not want it. Best practices dictate you should never have to opt-out. I realize Jumo needs to be viable and sustainable, but “tipping” the company should really be an opt-in scenario. This is also in addition to the 4.75% the Network for Good takes for processing the donation. There’s nothing wrong with a processing fee, but this is a combined 20% cut of the donation, albeit optional. That’s hefty.

Donation options for Jumo

Seeing the high expectations, it sure doesn’t seem off to a very good start, but I’d be willing to cut it some slack over the next few months to see how it pans out. You would think that the forces behind it seem capable of pulling it off after all.

What do others think? Beth Kanter hosts an interesting guest post by Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud, on the launch. Amy Sample Ward has some first reflections, and I find the comments underneath her post very informative too.

What about arts organizations?

Of course I’m mostly interested to see how arts organizations are using the site. As soon as I started searching for classical music organizations last night, I started receiving 500 Errors and it doesn’t seem any better this morning. But before it completely shut down on me, I did manage to see some organizations in the search function, although I did not get to see their actual profiles. Classical music organizations on Jumo include:

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Ravinia Festival Association, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Chicago Opera Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, Pocket Opera, Miami Lyric Opera.

I will monitor Jumo over the next few months and see how these organizations are using the site. Will classical music fans follow these organizations to Jumo? The few arts organizations I did manage to see had very few followers compared to some of the social justice and environmental issues organizations. There were also many more of the latter organizations already present on Jumo. Does this mean Jumo is more suited for social activism, rather than the performing arts? Or does this simply mean those organizations adopt these new technologies earlier?

There are many more questions than answers at this stage and unfortunately, Jumo currently makes it hard, if not impossible, to try to answer the questions due to its spotty performance. Underwhelming seems to be the word going around right now and that’s unfortunate for Jumo. Let’s hope they can soon get their act together and really put that $3.5 million to work.

Where Gladwell goes wrong: substitution vs. integration

Malcolm Gladwell takes social media activism to task in a new article in the New Yorker. In “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” Gladwell argues that the weak personal ties in social media, as opposed to strong ties in real world settings, and a Wikipedia-like network of supporters, as opposed to a hierarchical structure of advocacy organizations, cannot deliver real revolutions.

He has a point, but largely misses the real point. The real point is that it’s not a case of social media activism versus real world activism; it’s a case of social media activism and real world activism. Would we ever advocate for social media marketing to replace direct marketing, advertising and public relations? No. It’s not about replacing, but rather complementing and integrating.

Social media has particular strengths. Even Gladwell admits that “there is strength in weak ties.” But there should be no expectation of online being stronger than offline efforts in every single objective toward your goal.

When I conducted my #floodofsupport experiment, the results could have been construed as somewhat disappointing. But I did not send an appeal to friends and family, I purely relied on my Twitter network. That was the point. Even then, those who donated were definitely contacts with whom I had more in-depth conversations. So yes, if you build a campaign to solely rely on weak ties, it seldom leads to great involvement and thus could be construed as disappointing.

The basis for Gladwell’s article is exactly those kinds of experiments and case studies; examples with a narrow focus on the effectiveness of social media to deliver perfect results in all areas of an overarching goal. But shouldn’t we use social media tools for the particular strengths they have and consequently measure social media in terms of specific objectives, rather than an overall goal?

In Gladwell’s example of Iran, the media is perhaps to blame for calling it a Twitter Revolution while not getting the subtleties. But as Golnaz Esfandiari wrote in Foreign Policy: “Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.”

The key word in that quote is inside. While Twitter might not have had a crucial role in the materialization of the protests, it certainly had a crucial role in bringing the protests to the outside world. Without Twitter, where would the media coverage have been? Without Twitter the impact of the protests on the global stage would have been far less.

I recently wrote about imagined online communities. Taking the perspective from Benedict Anderson’s seminal Imagined Communities, in which he argues that print-capitalism “made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and to relate to others, in profoundly new ways.”

Because of vernacularism, the Church lost its grip to control the message. This print-capitalism and all its impact ultimately, after a century or two, spurred the American and French revolutions. In Iran, the government held a firm grip on what was reported during the protests, but it couldn’t stop the vernacularism of Twitter slipping out to reach the masses.

The Boston Tea Party would have been a hit on Twitter. The storming of the Bastille would have made great YouTube clips. Now Sam Adams might or might not have arranged the dumping of the tea, but he sure publicized the protest afterward. And he was able to publicize it because of print-capitalism. Those are the strengths of social media as well; a small event can find a large public to amplify its impact.

And if you really want to turn all those weak-tie tweets in a broad network into donations or social change, take a look at what a blogger like Fatty is doing. His network of supposed weak ties is organizing in different cities across the country, and working with an organization such as Livestrong. It’s a perfect blend of online and offline, of weak ties and strong ties, of network and hierarchy.

And isn’t that what the real point is? Blending these efforts to come to the most effective road toward social change?

p.s. Malcolm Gladwell will take your questions tomorrow.

A Twitter follower is worth $0.24

The title of this blog post is of course a wildly inaccurate claim. How did I get to the number? In my small-scale “free agent” crowdfunding experiment for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, I ended up with $235 from 1,000 followers by the deadline. That translates to $0.24 per follower.

The goal was $1,000, or one dollar per follower. It was a fairly arbitrary goal and I had no expectations. However, I’m still slightly disappointed I didn’t make the goal. But consider the following:

Networking

  • All communications were strictly limited to my blog, Twitter and Facebook. Since this was an experiment to test social networking, I did not send an appeal to friends and family in the way people do when they raise funds for a run or walk, or want you to vote for a particular contest.

    Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, the authors of The Networked Nonprofit that inspired this experiment, wrote an Assessment and Reflection Report on America’s Giving Challenge 2009. They found that: “Personal solicitations to pre-existing networks of donors and friends through multiple channels were rated as the most effective methods for fundraising. Thirty-five percent of contest participants rated messaging to friends through Facebook as most effective; 32 percent rated personal email to friends, family and colleagues as effective or most effective; and 25 percent rated email to an existing organizational donor base as effective or most effective.” I did not use any of these methods.

  • In light of that, I personally met only 4 of the 12 donors (excluding myself). Two donors were former colleagues who also have Twitter accounts. However, most of the donors were definitely social media contacts with whom I have had more in-depth conversations. One donor was a friend of a friend.

Sharing

  • Kicking off the effort was paired with an e-mail to a list of about 30 classical music bloggers. In addition, I created Web banners for those bloggers to use. Four bloggers wrote a post; one blogger used the banner. (Other bloggers, not on the initial list, also wrote a post. All are captured here).

    In the Assessment and Reflection Report, the authors bring other good lessons and note that “Some like Atlas Corps recruited 150 ‘Campaign Captains’ before the contest started. Other organizations broke their efforts down into bite-size pieces for their volunteers by creating templates to use to send messages to their friends, post and comment on blogs, and create their own videos.” Perhaps I should have recruited similar “captains” and created more multimedia in a shareable format.

  • I counted most on Twitter followers to spread the word. There were 44 followers that used the #floodofsupport hash tag or linked to the Crowdrise page or blog post.
  • Spreading the word was not a case of “build it and they will come.” The hash tag spread fairly well in the first couple of days, after which it dropped significantly. Even after I created an incentive to use the hash tag (a ¢5 donation for each mention), it did not pick back up.

Technology

  • The donation process needs to be as simple as possible. I would have preferred to go straight to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s Web site, but after checking in, I decided it would cost them too much in administrative fees and human resources. Remember, I did know how the donations would start coming in; I anticipated more donations, but smaller amounts.
  • Crowdrise was a good tool, but certainly not perfect: it didn’t allow for $1 donations, as I had wished. The payment process went through Amazon, which created an extra step. In addition, seeing that donations came from different countries, there were questions surrounding paying with credit cards and with foreign currency.

The positives

  • Sure, I did not reach my goal. But I would be willing to bet that the particular donors would not have given a gift if it wasn’t for this effort. Nothing is lost and my “free agent” effort didn’t cannibalize the Nashville Symphony’s efforts.
  • The Nashville Symphony Orchestra fulfills a, albeit large, regional function. But don’t let this geographic boundary limit your campaign. I started this campaign in Chicago, having never been to Nashville, and received donations from different countries and states (England, Germany, and several states within the U.S.).
  • This also tells us something about telling stories and increasing awareness of your issue or organization in general.

The lessons for arts organizations

  • Don’t think of social media as a quick fix to raise funds. This was already obvious before the experiment, perhaps, but even though I felt I had a great cause to support, in the end it was the personal connections and more in-depth relationships that resulted in donations.
  • Beyond using and counting on your social network for donations and spreading the word, find ways to activate your network more concretely: create those “campaign captains.” Going about the effort alone is much tougher.
  • Momentum is tremendously important. Even after a monetary incentive to simply retweet a hash tag, I could not retrieve the momentum. Kanter and Fine identified immersion in the effort and the ability to react on the fly as key aspects in fund raising success.
  • Technology and ease of process is very important. That’s why the Red Cross was so successful with their text message donation campaign during the Haiti crisis. It was easy to explain and simple to execute. Make sure your organization’s Web site and your staff can handle a wave of many small donations, and make it a one-click process.
  • Your key performance indicator is of course the money you raised. But it doesn’t stop there. You will likely have gained more relationships, deeper relationships, behavioral information, and increased the organization’s overall awareness and created opportunities to tell your story. Measure those elements as well.

In the end, this entire experiment was all about just that: experimenting. I wasn’t able to fully engage and immerse myself in the project; life on the outside took over. But remember that the experiment was about creating a low-effort, easy to set up campaign, and seeing where 1,000 Twitter followers would lead. Could I have raised more money? Definitely. But that wasn’t the point.

I am still proud of raising $235 for the Nashville Symphony’s flood recovery effort. It’s a $235 they wouldn’t have had without this little experiment.

One more week of #floodofsupport

We have a little less than a week to go for my little crowdfunding experiment #floodofsupport. I have been learning some good lessons already, which–beside doing a good deed–was the point.

Flood of Support

Right now, unfortunately, I’m still ways away from the $1,000 goal. The project started out well, but has been stagnant for the last few days. Perhaps because I’ve been out of town and haven’t paid it the attention it deserves.

You’ll have to wait for the write up of the learned lessons until after the project deadline. But I wanted to highlight the good people who have spread the word so far:

Who has donated?
You can see the list of donors on the project’s page on Crowdrise.

Who has spread the message?
You can see the list of people who tweeted about #floodofsupport here.

The following people have blogged about #floodofsupport

Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Maura Lafferty
Maryann Devine
Drew McManus
Amanda Ameer
Christian Spließ
Birgit Schmidt-Hurtienne (here and here)
Chris Foley (ran one of the banner ads on his Collaborative Piano Blog)

What’s next?
Right now, I’m trying out donating ¢5 for each of the first hundred tweets that mention #floodofsupport. I’ll also be trying to target some tweets to particular people.

Also, there’s still a $20 matching grant from a former Chicago Symphony colleague out there. You should DM him.

Do you have any brilliant ideas on how to advance #floodofsupport? Let me know!

1,000 followers on Twitter: from slacktivism to activism (#floodofsupport)

We all know that Nashville got hit with a terrible flood a few months ago. This terrible flood didn’t spare the Nashville Symphony Orchestra (NSO). The orchestra’s damages were approximately $42 million and after insurance and support from FEMA, the remaining financial gap could be as much as $10 million.

A flood is no fun. I know. In 2008, my neighborhood was hit with flooding from the Chicago River. I saw the whole community suffering, and many still are.

I’m sure, scratch that, I’m hopeful, some wonderful major donors will step up the plate and help rescue the NSO from this disaster. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, for example, graciously donated $25,000 toward the symphony’s recovery.

But why shouldn’t we all try to contribute our own little bit as a classical music community online? Here’s my idea: leverage this network with #floodofsupport

I recently passed the 1,000-follower mark on Twitter. I was curious what that exactly meant, so I asked if people could respond with a simple “hi.” I got 16 responses. I pondered what that means for organizations trying to get more out of people than simply saying hello. I was pointed to the term “slacktivism” by Maura Lafferty.

Now, to properly commemorate these 1,000 followers, I wanted to see if we can get past this slacktivism and get some real activism.

I just finished Beth Kanter and Alison Fine’s The Networked Nonprofit. In this wonderful book, the authors talk about “free agents.” People who care about a cause, but do not work for, or perhaps more importantly, with an organization.

In that spirit, as a free agent, I want to raise a modest $1,000 for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s flood recovery effort. That translates to just one dollar for each of my Twitter followers.

Here’s all the important stuff:

How to support

* #floodofsupport runs until August 1, 2010
* Donate here: http://www.crowdrise.com/floodofsupport/

About Crowdrise
* Crowdrise charges 5% + $1 for donations below $25; and 5% + $2.50 for donations $25 and up.
* If someone donates $1, $0 will go to the NSO
* I checked with the NSO, and for them there are costs (credit card fees, administrative) and valuable human resources associated with many small donations as well. The point is to help them, not to make their lives harder. Crowdrise seemed the best option. If you have questions about your donation, check here: http://www.crowdrise.com/about/faq.

Marc’s mini-matching grant
* The first five donors who leave a comment underneath this post, will see their donation matched up to $5.

How to support even more
* Spread the message to your friends and ask them to donate and spread the message as well
* Start your own mini-matching grant on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, my blog…

Sharing and networking
* I’m relying on my network to donate, but as importantly, to share the message. When you share on Twitter, please use the hash tag #floodofsupport so we can track the spread!
* I have e-mailed many classical music bloggers to ask their support. Please let your favorite bloggers know about this campaign!
* If you have a Web site or a blog, please use the banners I have created below with a link to this blog post (so that they get all the instructions).

Free Agent
* I have no connection to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. In fact, I’ve never even been in Nashville. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care! It’s all about the classical music community on the Internet helping out an organization in need.
* The only contact I have had with the NSO is to ask about any costs associated to donating online. There were, hence the Crowdrise option. Let’s surprise them with a nice big check!

Banners

Link these banners either to http://mcmvanbree.com/dutchperspective/floodofsupport or http://www.crowdrise.com/floodofsupport/

Flood of Support (120 x 240)

Flood of Support (125X125)

Flood of Support (300 x 250)

Flood of Support (468 x 60)