Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cause Video: A First-Ever Survey

YouTube, See3 and Edelman just released a first-of-its-kind survey on nonprofit sector use of Cause Video, asking 500 cause leaders and experts how the social good sector is using video stories to make an impact. [The report, Into Focus: Benchmarks for Video and A Guide for Creators can be found here.] Full disclosure: We here at Cause Global were among those experts polled, based on our work to create a cause video curriculum and lab at NYU's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising to help the sector take video-making in-house.]

The survey's big takeaways? First, nearly all of those polled (91%) say video is important and will get more important over the next three years. Second, most nonprofit leaders (87%) say they intend to produce a lot more video. [No surprise so far: Cisco projects that by 2017, just five years from now, two-thirds of the world's global consumer data traffic will be video.]

But here's the rub. This video enthusiasm is not (yet) being reflected in nonprofit spending—and in a big way. Only 6% of the cause leaders queried say they anticipate a significant increase in their video budgets in the coming year, 24% said they expect only a slight increase, and the rest think allocation of funds will remain about the same as it is today, or even slide. "Only about a quarter of those polled expect some increase in their video budget and 70% do not," says Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3 and one of the founders of the survey. "That's a full two-thirds of organizations who won't be spending more than they do now, and maybe even less. There's definitely an underlying discomfort behind all that video enthusiasm."

So what's driving it? There are four top barriers:

* The biggest barrier cited, by far, are budget restrictions. Nonprofits would make more video if their budgets were bigger, 79% of respondents said. [Annual video expenditures for 66% of the organizations surveyed were $10,000 or less.] According to the survey, a full half of the respondents currently outsource what video projects they have to outside studios rather than try in-house projects which can be just as good, if not better. By tapping volunteers with special expertise or turning to lower-cost equipment, such as smartphones and free editing software, a rising number of organizations are starting to make short, high-quality videos themselves at very low cost. "The excuse that we nonprofits don't have the equipment has gone away," Hoffman says. "It's not just you who has a camera in your pocket. Your constituents do, too." Still, about 20% of organizations said they lack the skillsets needed to make their own videos.

* Staff resources aren't ideal. Slightly more than half of those polled (52%) said the staff lacked the time to focus on video production. People are already overworked and are reluctant to take on more, respondents said, especially if they won't be paid for their efforts. "Trouble is," says Hoffman, "video is here to stay. If you want to reach people with your message in this hyper-connected world, you need to incorporate video into your marketing and fundraising plans, and then assign the necessary personnel to take responsibility for producing it and overseeing it." Better yet? Start building internal capacity for video editing and storytelling with your very next hires in all departments. And meanwhile? Ask volunteers to film or photograph your on-the-ground programs as they occur. Sharing your organization's work in simple videos posted on YouTube is a good way to start.

* Internal departments don't collaborate very well. Nonprofit cultures still tend to be more hierarchical than collaborative. Cultural factors, such as a not-invented-here syndrome, and departmental silos, were cited by nearly 40% of respondents. In many organizations, both large and small, each department has its own budget and task list. "In some cases, we found that the communications department would have a video budget but the fundraising department down the hall didn't have access to that," Hoffman said. "Very few nonprofits are doing joint projects internally with shared budgets and goals—yet."

* Nobody knows how to measure the impact of a video. A large number of respondents said they don't know, and have no way of knowing, if a video works or not against nonprofit objectives. They don't have video metrics, and to be sure, most nonprofits are still struggling with measurement issues across the spectrum of their new media efforts. During the Philanthropy 3.0 Speaker Series  we curated and moderated at NYU this spring, both Hoffman and DoSomething.org's top data scientist, Bob Filbin, cited the frustration. "How many views from people does it take to consider a YouTube video a success? Try 1.5 million," Filbin said on one of our NYU panels on the use of Big Data in advocacy. "We got that many views on one of the videos we posted in 2011, and we all thought it was a success, right? But then came the data report. Only eight viewers had signed up to donate equipment, which was what the video was trying to get people to do." So what happened? "We were concerned with the wrong metric," Filbin and colleague Jeff Bladt wrote in the Harvard Business Review on March 13. "...As we learned, there is a difference between numbers and numbers that matter."

Hoffman and other survey founders caution that maybe the sector is looking too hard at conversion rates as a way to measure the impact of a good video. Maybe something is getting overlooked, Hoffman says, suggesting the biggest survey takeaway of all may be this: "Videos provide the emotional framework for the ask," he says. "People respond to a good story more than anything else. Emotion leads to attention leads to support."

Among other survey findings:

* Who's in charge of cause video production at most nonprofits? Not surprisingly, the communications department (58%), followed by digital/social media (32%), fundraising (20%), and volunteers (19%). Outside video producers are contracted for about half of the total videos, though the trend is moving toward more in-house production, says Hoffman.

* Shorter is better. Viewers of all stripes start tuning out after 10-15 seconds. According to Hoffman, if you don't put the ask within the first 15 seconds of your video, you will lose most of your audience.

* 'Thank-you' videos are gaining in popularity, mostly because they can be made in-house, at less expense and by volunteers using their smartphones. These types of short videos can be an important part of your donor relationship management strategy; donors love to see themselves in a video or to be personally and publicly thanked in one. Here's one made by charity:water.org.

* What are the top social media channels used to distribute cause video? YouTube ranked No. 1 with 81% of respondents, followed by Facebook (78%), Twitter (55%), Vimeo (16%), Google+ (10%) Pinterest (8%) and private social networks at 5%.

* What's the best way to get your videos viewed? Send your videos to known supporters of your cause and organization rather than to people who have shown no previous interest in your mission. "It is much more effective to get your video to 100 of your organization's most passionate supporters, who will share, promote, and engage with your content," Hoffman says. "These 100 are most likely to work for you, and their friends are more likely to view something that comes from someone they already know."

How is your organization using video? Are you experimenting with Vine? Our cause video news team here at Cause Global would love to hear from you.

-- Marcia Stepanek

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, June 7, 2013

Funders: R U (Really) There?

When Nancy Lublin's social media team at DoSomething.org began texting teens a couple of years ago to get more of them to focus their extraordinary energy on issues they care passionately about, what Lublin found was surprising. Mixed in with teens' texts about the need to help the homeless and rescue abused animals were many other texts that had nothing, at all, to do with DoSomething's social good campaigns at the time. "We started getting texts like, 'Help, I'm being bullied and I don't know what to do' and texts on eating disorders," Lublin said.

And then, Lublin told those attending today's Personal Democracy Forum, there was one girl who sent in a text that said exactly this: 'He won't stop raping me. It's my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. R U there?'"

It made Lublin, DoSomething's CEO, decide to start work creating a text-only crisis line, the first real-time teen crisis network —and a promising alternative to the thousands of pre-Internet crisis telephone hotlines that Lublin says can "make people wait two hours to get help" and largely fail to communicate with teens in their language, using the medium most common to their generation.

Fast forward two years, and DoSomething's Crisis Text Line, set to launch August 1, will attempt to use social media and text-messaging technologies to create the world's first data-driven text hotline for teens—and all at a level of cross-sector collaboration that Lublin hopes will break new ground in the nonprofit sector, involving unprecedented levels of cooperation among organizations that now compete to tackle teen bullying, rape and incest and sex trafficking. Lublin says DoSomething is still getting a steady stream of texts from a significant portion of kids that are unrelated to its dozens of cause-texting campaigns in any given month: Just last week, she said, during the launch of the group's new Undocumented for a Day text campaign, which simulates for teens what it's like to live in the United States as a teen without U.S. citizenship,  Lublin says up to 15 percent of those texting the nonprofit sent messages about sexual abuse, bullying and eating disorders. For Lublin, Crisis Text Line can't start soon enough. "This will help save more lives than penicillin," she says.

Designed with the help of Mobile Commons and the MIT Media Lab as an always-on, real-time conversation with kids in crisis that can scale nationally, Lublin says the text line should significantly improve DoSomething's ability to support teens. "Texting is a medium that teenagers prefer. It will be private. No one hears you, unlike when you're calling a hotline. It's quiet. You can be bullied at the lunch table at school and be texting for help in that moment. It's fast." But beyond rapid response, Lublin also hopes that Crisis Text Line will become a critical new example of how social media can be used to reinvent and vastly improve the way the nonprofit sector does its work—more effectively, using  only the latest data rather than outdated suppositions to tackle social problems. "In real time, we will have a map," she says. "We will have our finger on the pulse of what is going on in every zip code in the United States with these teen crises." School boards, police, journalists and local communities will now have better data to help drive policy change and reallocate public resources for better impact, Lublin told PDFers, "so politicians can be basing decisions on facts" rather than "just spewing policy based on their own personal convictions."

But Lublin says that creating the text line has been tremendously difficult—and shouldn't have been. "That girl who texted us (about her dad raping her) came to us two years ago," Lublin told her peers in the PDF audience, "so why is it taking us so long to build this thing? ... Why is it so hard for all of us (in this sector) to make something new?"

It's not that Lublin hasn't met big start-up challenges before. In her 20s, she founded Dress for Success, the not-for-profit organization in over 80 cities worldwide that provides interview suits and career development training to women making the transition from welfare to work. At Do Something, Lublin has transformed what had been a small New York City cause mired in red ink to one that now has 45 employees, 1.6 million members worldwide and enabled more than 2.4 million 13- to 25-year-olds to make an impact last year, alone. DoSomething.org's social media and information tech team is the envy of nonprofit tech activists; the organization has become one of the leading examples of smart social media innovation-for-good in the world.

The problem, Lublin says, is that for all of the nonprofit sector's talk about collaboration and the need to support technology innovation in the sector, "we're really, really bad at it." (Lublin said she wanted to deliver her talk today at PDF—an annual gathering of some of the nation's top minds in technology-driven social innovation—because its theme this year is Think Bigger.)

"There are lots of things that traditional foundations are doing to hamper this new disruptive stuff," Lublin said. In part, it's a vision thing. Traditional foundations, she said, tend to be innovation-averse. "So often I'll hear (when fundraising for this project) that this is a great idea, but you don't fit our (funding) bucket," Lublin said. "No shit," she offered as a response to PDFers, who applauded. "It's new."  She also said she wonders if large traditional foundations, like the Ford Foundation (one of PDF's sponsors), have simply become too "comfy" to take big risks funding the kinds of social innovation they say they now want to support.

"Do you really need to sit in that $400 million building, Ford Foundation?" Lublin asked. Most of the foundation's massive headquarters near the United Nations, she said, "is not even usable space" and suggested that Ford should sell the New York City landmark and move to a loft space in Brooklyn. Like the smaller, scrappier Blue Ridge Foundation, she said, Ford—which cited $10 billion in assets in 2011—should use more of the money it has tied up in overhead and real estate to support more start-up innovation.

But that's not all, Lublin said. Traditional foundations' insistence on seeing a business model as a prerequisite for funding also is hampering nonprofit innovation. During her fundraising for the text line, Lublin said, "I would keep getting asked, 'Is this sustainable? What is the model for Crisis Text Line? Maybe you should sell that data.'" Lublin said she refused. "No, I'm not selling the data," she said, to applause. "I'm not going to sell the data to some hedge fund or for certain police departments to use. It's going to be open."

Governments fund health care, provide education and build roads in some places "because it's what they think is important for the value system and for a state or the country," Lublin said. "Private industry does things because it thinks it can make money on it. And then there's us," she said, the nonprofit sector, which does its work because it thinks it can help people in need and tackle social problems that others often cannot or won't.

"We matter. We are worth funding," she said. (Click here for the video of her talk.) "Foundations, please don't forget that. This is not a pitch (for funding). Crisis Text Line is launching August 1st. We're doing fine. This is a request for all of us to take this conversation and put it out in the open."

Consider it done.

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration by Andrew Polushkin for istock.com)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Filter Failure

The New York Times book reviewer, Janet Maslin, recently characterized Douglas Rushkoff's new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, as "one of those invaluable books that make sense of what we already half-know."

Agreed. For those of us who sleep with our smartphones within eyeshot—and Pew Internet tells us this is roughly two-thirds of adults who own a smartphonePresent Shock offers some comfort in numbers. The Internet (and social media), Rushkoff says, were supposed to give us more time to get things done, to let us stop punching the clock and work at home in our underwear, in our own time, "on stuff we wanted to do and exchange information with others in our Burning Man, pre-Etsy universe of slack."

But "something happened on our way home from Wired magazine," Rushkoff told the annual Personal Democracy Forum of social and technology innovators yesterday in Manhattan. Instead, "we are overwhelmed by an always-on, livestreamed reality that our human minds and bodies can never truly, fully inhabit." Rather than use our social technologies to create a new digital universe of possibilities, Rushkoff said,  we have—at least for now—turned human time and attention into a new commodity. We are living—live—"in a state of perpetual emergency interruption that used to be only endured by 911 operators and air traffic controllers."

Go ahead, says Rushkoff. Feel it. "Instead of using these new technologies the way they were designed, to time-shift, we strap our devices to our bodies and have them vibrate every time somebody pings us or updates us or Facebooks us or tweets about us, or tweets about something we might have tweeted about," Rushkoff says. "We are unable to really embrace the present ... because we're always trying not to miss what else is supposedly happening now."

Present Shock—which plays off the title of Alvin Toffler's influential 1970 book, Future Shock—not only diminishes everything that isn't happening right now "amid the onslaught of everything that supposedly is," Rushkoff says. Institutionally, present shock forces us into a weird state of crisis management. "Just as the individual is only really dealing with this tweet or that tweet, look at Obama. Look at any leader right now," he says. "It's the same thing. It's not governing. It's not managing. It's just crisis after crisis after crisis. There are no goals. It's all becoming purely tactical."

At PDF Thursday, Rushkoff offered up two recent Internet-aided political movements as examples of how present shock is reshaping politics—the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement. "Tea Partyers," he said, "want everything right now. Right now. Immediate closure. No goals, no policy talks, no weeks of work seeking compromise. Just 'I want it now.'" On the other side of the spectrum, Rushkoff says, is Occupy's "unbearable perpetual quest for an eternal present. ...We are here, we are in the park, we have no goals yet. We are going to sit in the park until we reach complete consensus."

He urged PDF attendees to help the world create better and "more humane filters" against what he calls "digiphrenia"—digitally provoked mental chaos—to help social good advocates and others start focusing their energies and attention spans into building more effective, locally-networked online communities for longer-term social change. "I am much less worried about what technology may be doing to people than what we are choosing to do to one another though technology," Rushkoff writes. To be sure, it's not the technology tools that are driving us to distraction. "Human intelligence made these tools this way because there is a lot of money in reducing people to predictively modeled profiles and algorithmic battlegrounds"—to sell them something or do something, or to vote a certain way, Rushkoff says.

This isn't just a form of shock. It's a new form of exploitation for commercial and political profit, he says, and we're all just starting to wise up as our personal productivity plummets. For Rushkoff, it's time to take back the clock.

For more on Rushkoff's book, see his PDF talk from yesterday, below:

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration: Cloudytronics for istock.com)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,