WaterAid’s The Big Dig Appeal brings supporters closer through Instagram liveblogging world first

Since writing my last post on what makes for great digital fundraising content, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to Malawi with a small team from WaterAid and Misfit Inc, who were training WaterAid field staff in the use of smartphones to live blog from the remote communities they work with. All with the aim of enabling them to create fantastic digital fundraising content for WaterAid’s ‘The Big Dig’ Appeal that launched earlier this week.

The Big Dig (#thebigdig) aims to raise the £1.2m needed to provide safe water and sanitation for over 134,000 people in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi, with all money donated by the public over the three month appeal (to September 18) being matched pound-for-pound by the UK Government.

But WaterAid also wanted to use the appeal as a unique opportunity to bring supporters closer to the real work their donations make possible in Malawi, by enabling them to follow progress day-by-day throughout the three months of hard work that needs to happen before the ultimate highlight of drilling safe water boreholes for the communities in September. To achieve this two WaterAid field officers, Michael Kalawe and Nathan Chiwoko, equipped with Smartphones running the wonderful Instagram photo sharing App, have become the eyes and ears of the appeal – recording the highs and lows of their day-to-day work with the villagers of Kaniche and Bokola, live as they happen.

It’s an incredible fact that while the people in these villages have no access to clean water, instead being reliant on filthy scoop holes in river beds which make them and their children sick, through the wonders of the mobile internet as you stand in their village you can take and upload an Instagram photo in under a minute – and see it shared globally through Facebook and Twitter just minutes later. As I did with this photo of the scoop hole at Bokola.

As far as I know, the use of Instagram in this way by a development non-profit’s field officers to share their day-to-day work with supporters in support of a rolling fundraising appeal is a world first (at least @ajleon from Misfit Inc hasn’t heard of it being done before – and he should know!). However, given the compelling authenticity of the content that results – telling the real story of the need being faced and the impact your donations can have, day-by-day, as it happens – I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For more of a feel for The Big Dig appeal, take a couple of minutes to watch the great appeal promo video below and then click-on down to their website at thebigdig.org (and perhaps even give them a donation? Remember every pound you give is doubled – and it is a great appeal!-)


Then, have a think about how you can come-up with your own innovative fundraising approach using some of the wealth of digital storytelling tools available to us today.

Instagram was used in this case because it proved to be by far the easiest way to share stories from these remote communities, live. We would have loved to use live video, but while the mobile internet there is good – it’s just not that good. So video content like this has to be uploaded separately.

Your cause might not be the same as WaterAid’s and the situations you work in may be very different – all this means is that the tools you can use and the approach you take to bring your supporters closer is likely to be different. But used in the right way, the positive impact on your fundraising should still be the same.

And one last thought. Just incase you think this type of digital storytelling is too much to ask your front-line workers to help you with, I’ll leave the last word to Nathan in Malawi (that’s him liveblogging in my photo at the top of this post). When asked if he was happy to keep-on liveblogging throughout the project he replied “How can I stop? I feel the future development of Kaniche and Bokola is in this phone”.


12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #10 Social Media Fundraising Growing-Up

After several years of amazing growth, data from Hitwise last August suggested that Facebook use was starting to slow here in the UK. Not at all surprising given that there are now around 30.25m UK users – equating to almost half of the whole country’s population signed-up to the site. So it must be approaching saturation point. Hitwise reinforced this observation with data released earlier this month showing Facebook’s share of all UK visits to social network sites falling by 7% December 2010 to December 2011, while YouTube’s share grew by roughly the same amount.

Falling market share or not, in the week that we’re due to see Facebook go public with a $10bn share offering I don’t for a moment foresee that we will see a slowdown in interest in the site any time soon. However, what I do think we will see over the next year is a growth in the maturity with which Facebook, and Social Media in general, is viewed within the fundraising world.

After five years of seemingly ever increasing fundraising expectations, I sense a change in attitude towards the role that Social Media has to play in online fundraising. A change beautifully summed-up in the slide above, from the presentation given by Beate Sørum at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland last October.

Fundraisers are increasingly coming to acknowledge that while Social Media undoubtedly does offer unique benefits that secure it a key role in online fundraising programmes it is not a “magic faucet of free cash”.

With this understanding, they are then freed from a myopic drive to “make Facebook* fundraising work” (*or Twitter, or Google+, or Pinterest, or whatever) and can instead consider where in their donor recruitment, engagement, and retention programme the various flavours of Social Media can best be applied. While at the same time considering where they should focus on improving their use of good old email and effective website design.

If I’m right, then we should see a growing number of integrated campaigns drawing together strong fundraising propositions and storytelling through blogs (and promotion through bloggers), with Facebook and Twitter enabling sharing and conversation, well designed transactional pages capturing donations and donor data, and email being used to keep donors informed when there’s a new chapter to the story they’re interested in – rather than ‘single strand’ Twitter or Facebook campaigns. Time will tell…

This is the tenth of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Back to Website Donation Basics, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #2 Investment in Strategic Blogger Outreach

Over the last few years, charities have increasingly got to grips with establishing a branded social media presence and starting to collect and engage with ‘Followers’ of various types. However there is a significant gap in the majority of non-profit social media strategies, and that involves how fundraisers can effectively engage with some of the most powerful influencers in the online social media world – bloggers.

One reason for this gap may be that Blogger Outreach is managed by the Communications or Media Relations teams in your organisation. If this is the case, then offer to get the relevant person a coffee and book some time with them to talk through just what the Blogger Outreach Strategy is and how well fundraising is integrated into it. More likely, your organisation won’t have a properly developed Blogger Outreach Strategy. In which case work out who should have developed it, get them a coffee, and sit down to help them – ensuring that support for fundraising is baked-in from the outset.

Either way, even if you have to throw-in biscuits with the coffee, make sure you consider investment in strategic blogger outreach as part of your fundraising planning this year. If you don’t then you’re potentially missing some great opportunities to inject new momentum into your online fundraising and campaigning programmes.

One great example of what can be achieved through strategic blogger outreach was shared by A.J.Leon at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland last October. He told the story of his work with Global Hope Network International on a project to fund the provision of clean water for a Kenyan village called Ola Nagele, by getting 100 donors to join the ‘Extended Village’. Sounds like a typical project crowd funding appeal. But, in this case, rather than promote it through traditional online or offline channels, all promotion was by one professional mommy blogger who visited the project personally to share the experience of bringing water to the village with her 250k monthly readers.

You can see more about the project in AJ’s presentation here. But in short, the whole thing was funded before the blogger left the village to head back to the US. The key take-out from the story: As a donor the blogger could be worth $50/mth to the charity. But as a blogger with 250k monthly readers she could offer far more valuable support for its work by sharing the opportunity to donate with her readers in a uniquely compelling way.

Another example comes from Save the Children UK with their 2010 #Blogladesh initiative. This involved taking three of the UK’s leading mummy bloggers out to visit projects in Bangladesh to see for themselves the work the charity is doing and to report-back to their readers in support for the charity’s preparation for the UN MDG summit in New York. The Tweets, videos, photos, and blog posts sent live ‘from the field’ resulted in a 10m reach on Twitter, thousands of blog hits, 63k people signing Save The Children’s ‘Push for Change’ petition, and two meetings with Nick Clegg, the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister.

The charity followed this up in 2011 with #Passiton, where three bloggers followed the journey of a vaccine from a warehouse in the Mozambique capital right to the point it was given to a child in a field clinic. This time aiming to raise awareness and put pressure on the UK Government prior to the Global Vaccination Summit, and again with great results – 27m Twitter reach, over 200k YouTube views, and support from hundreds of bloggers globally. You can read more about it on Liz Scarff’s blog here.

I hope to hear of a lot more such examples over the coming months as fundraisers around the world see the potential of investing in strategic blogger outreach and come-up with ever more creative ways to work with bloggers as a way to engage online audiences with both campaigning and fundraising opportunities.

However, do note I use the term ‘strategic blogger outreach’. By which I mean properly planned outreach to specific bloggers with properly tailored content and engagement opportunities, and specific objectives that you can achieve together with them and their readers. If all you plan to do is email appeals to bloggers and ask them to say nice things about you then for both your and their sakes you’d probably be better off investing your time elsewhere.

Before you do anything blogger-related, for a fun take on how to avoid blogger outreach failure have a read of this post and related comments on Jay Dolan’s The Anti-Social Media blog.

This is the second of 12 posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post on Truly Personalised Video Thanking here.

Advice on Twitter use – based on what top US companies are NOT doing

It’s often the way with things like Twitter that you tend mostly to hear stories about how well people are using them. Which can leave you with something of an inferiority complex about the fact that you haven’t actually had time to begin testing them properly – because you’ve been too busy raising money.

With this in mind, it’s worth taking a quick look at a free report just released by PR Agency Webber Shandwick entitled ‘Do Fortune 100 Companies Need a twittervention?’ – because their research revealed that as much can be learned from what big US companies are doing wrong as from what they are doing right when it comes to Twitter use.

Apparently 73 of the Fortune 100 companies are on Twitter, with 540 Twitter accounts between them. However, half of these accounts have fewer than 500 followers, three-quarters rarely ever tweet, and 81 are inactive – either abandoned after a specific event or simply placeholder accounts protecting against brand-jacking.

The report goes on to consider whether the accounts convey any form of personality or particular tone of voice – with over half registering a FAIL on this. It also examines how the accounts are being used, and then offers a summary of best practice – comprising advice which is as relevant for non-profits considering adding Twitter to their online communications programme as it is for big corporates.

Overall, the report concludes that for the majority of Fortune 100 companies Twitter remains a missed opportunity – which will hopefully make any fundraisers with a Twitter inferiority complex feel just a bit better that they’re not so far behind as they might have thought.

There is no doubt that Twitter can form an effective part of your online programme. But its use has matured extremely quickly and with this have come certain specific expectations on the behalf of Twitter users – which can only be met if you understand and follow best practice when you’re using it.

It’s no longer sufficient just to get your organisation a Twitter account and then play about and see what happens. At best that’s likely just to be a waste of your time and at worst could have a negative impact on your brand in the eyes of those online consumers you’re looking to engage with. Over the last couple of years there have been masses of different reports written on what to do and what not to do – so start by learning from other people’s successes, and failures, and then you’ll be in a far better position to capitalise on whatever Twitter-based opportunities might be out there for you.

For more specific guidance on using Twitter for non-profits, here are a couple of guides to start you off:

If anyone has other non-profit specific Twitter guides that they would recommend, then do share details of them by leaving a comment below.



Help with writing your Social Media guidelines – from over 70 different organisations

Social Media Guidelines

The incredibly fast adoption of Social Media over the last couple of years has left many, if not most, organisations in something of a spin – as, in very short order, something that was at first dismissed as the preserve of the young and the geeks has become an unavoidable key component of mainstream communications.

With this recognition has come the need to better understand and manage the use of social media by organisations – including charities and other non-profits – leading to the desire to develop social media guidelines to help ensure that everyone across an organisation works together to get the most from this new technology. However, this is not as easy a task as it might sound. Where do you start when trying to write guidelines for something that is, at its heart, often about engagement through spontaneous, unstructured conversations?

Well, one very handy place to start is Chris Boudreaux’s Social Media Governance website, where he has very helpfully collated links to social media guidelines from over 70 different organisations – including the American Red Cross and Easter Seals, as well as a diverse range of other corporate and public sector organisations.

While the very organisation-specific nature of Social Media usage means that it’s unlikely you’ll find an exact fit for your own guidelines – reading how others have approached the same challenge should certainly help you set off in the right direction.



2009 Hype Cycle report – is Twitter on the slide or headed for enlightenment?

Hype Cycle 2009

Back in May last year I wrote about the ‘Hype Cycle’ devised by technology research company Gartner to illustrate the adoption, maturity, and business application of specific technologies, and I specifically considered where on the cycle various online fundraising initiatives lay.

So with the release of the the 2009 Hype Cycle Report, I was interested to compare where things are now (see the chart above) compared to where they were last year (see the chart below).

Hype Cycle 2008

There are certainly some interesting shifts here from the perspective of the digital fundraiser.

For starters, Microblogging has swept over the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and on towards the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ in just one year – thanks essentially to the phenomenal rise of Twitter. However, this doesn’t mean that all the Twitter nay-sayers have been proved correct – because if Twitter adoption and application continues at this pace then it could just as well whizz up the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ towards the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ by this time next year. It certainly seems to be moving towards mainstream adoption far faster than Gartner predicted in 2008.

Web 2.0 can be seen to have started this migration towards general acceptance already, moving from the ‘Trough’ in 2008 to the start of the ‘Slope’ now. Driven forwards by its increasingly widespread adoption, but at the same time probably held back by the challenge of effectively monitising the massive interest in Web 2.0 applications. Likewise, Corporate Blogging can be seen to have moved on at much the pace predicted by Gartner.

Noticeably lagging behind in the progress stakes are Public Virtual Worlds, like SecondLife, which fell rapidly from an high ‘Peak of Expectations’ back in 2007 (anyone else remember the Pet Shop Boys ‘playing’ at Secondfest?) and now seem stuck down in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ with minimal progress over the last year. I guess that makes last month’s Second Life Relay for Life, raising over $270,000 for the American Cancer Society, an even more notable success.

You can read more about Gartner’s Hype Cycle here.

The List of Change – new ranking of cause-related blogs

List of change

Last week saw the launch of The List of Change, a new ranking of the top English-language change and cause-related blogs – providing a very handy way to find some new sources of news and information of interest to nonprofit marketers and fundraisers.

The ranking is based on each blog’s Technorati Rank, Technorati In-Links, Bloglines Subscribers, Alexa Points, Google PageRank, and Yahoo In-Links, which are combined to give a score out of 100.

Currently the top score of 95 goes to Beths Blog, while at the opposite end of the 127 blog list is The Changebase. Right now this blog – Giving in a Digital World – is hovering mid-table at 66, but things change daily as the various components of the ranking change.

Take a look at the latest full ranking here – and you’re sure to find something of interest amongst the diverse range of blogs listed.