In this month’s Social Velocity blog interview, we’re talking with David Neff, the creator and CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. Neff is a Senior Consultant at Ant’s Eye View, and the co-founder of Internet start up HelpAttack! In 2009, he was named the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Social Media Marketer of the year and one of the top 20 Social Media people in the state of Texas.
You can read past interviews in our Social Innovation Interview Series here.
Nell: Your book, The Future of Nonprofits, came out almost a year ago. Has anything changed in your view of what the future holds for the nonprofit sector?
David: Not yet. I think if anything in the past year we are seeing the rise of more and more tools (Gowalla dying off, Pinterest interest rising) but nonprofits are still too obsessed with the tools and not the higher level tactics behind them. Much less concentrating on the objectives and goals that go above the strategy. I hope that starts to change in 2012.
Nell: SXSW Interactive just wrapped up, what is on the cutting edge of technology innovation for social change? What got you really excited?
David: To be honest what got me excited was the privacy push we saw at SXSW. The rise of the informed public as to what brand and nonprofits are doing with their data, who they are sharing it with and how’s it being used. For too long I think the average nonprofit constituent has just written a check or donated online and then not worried about what’s happened with their data. Hopefully more and more nonprofits will re-think their privacy policies just as Google and Pinterest have done.
Nell: Innovation has become quite a buzz word in the nonprofit sector lately. What does it mean to you and what makes an “innovative” nonprofit?
David: Most nonprofits think of themselves as innovative when they simply add a new program or tool to their arsenal. This is the same as when GM calls a new car “innovative” because it has a new cup holder. KONY2012 was not innovative. It was a great cause-driven film that had a clear message to 1) help spread the word about Kony 2) to drive revenue and sales of the awareness items for invisible children. Innovative nonprofits are those out there trying new ideas that go beyond advertising or new programs. When I think innovative I think of the ground breaking campaigns that Stacey Monk at Epic Change is creating.
Nell: You spent 9 years at the American Cancer Society working on their online initiatives. Often it is difficult to bring innovation and new technology to the largest nonprofits. How were you able to innovate within such an organization? And what tips do you have for other “intrapreneurs” working to bring innovations to large nonprofits?
David: Luckily the American Cancer Society had an innovation system in place. One that helped foster new ideas, kill bad ones, and re-direct mediocre ones. We called this the Future and Innovation Center and I was lucky enough to twice receive a grant to create and build new ideas out of this center. Randal Moss (my co-author) was at the helm of leading this center within the American Cancer Society and did an amazing job at funneling new and good ideas into real world products. My tip for other “intrapreneurs” is create the system for them to work in. Take what you learn from our book and create your own internal innovation center at your brand or nonprofit. It’s not hard. We promise. And we are here to help you!
Nell: You’ve recently moved over to the for-profit world, helping companies to employ smart social media strategies. How did you decide to move to the private sector and how do you stay engaged with social change efforts?
David: Good question. I was recruited away from running my own consulting business by the amazing folks at Ant’s Eye View. And was offered a position and challenge that I couldn’t pass up being a sherpa for large companies in their own social and customer experience journeys. It was a no-brainer for me to come and work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known in this space. I still keep my head in the game of social change by being the CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., which is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to encouraging other nonprofit and cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. We do this through our education and volunteer match programs, screenings and an annual film festival.
March, perhaps because it included SXSW Interactive, seemed to be largely about the use of new media to tell social change stories. There are an increasing number of ways and examples of how those working to solve social problems can tell their stories and get people motivated to act, from video, to Pinterest, to infographics, to data visualizations and much more.
Below are my ten picks of the best reads in social innovation in March, but as always, please add what I missed in the comments. And if you want to see other things that caught my eye, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
- By necessity, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs are turning to new mediums to tell their story. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has created a showcase of nonprofit infographics and visualizations, and the MediaShift blog profiles the various ways educators are using Pinterest for curation, and finally while at SXSW Interactive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy got 25 nonprofit leaders to film their elevator speeches–it’s fascinating to see the various ways people tell their story quickly.
- Speaking of video storytelling, there was much debate about the Kony 2012 video produced by nonprofit organization Invisible Children. But I think Paul Shoemaker from Seattle SVP had the most reasoned and interesting take on it all when he argued that nonprofits should not be evaluated based on “one-size fits all” metrics.
- A new campaign aimed at solving staggering youth unemployment combines technology, crowdfunding and social entrepreneurship. It will be interesting to watch.
- From the Atlantic, the results of a new study that demonstrates that because of technology and the social media environment how Millennials think and process is changing dramatically, so how we educate future generations must change dramatically as well.
- Amy Sample Ward gives a great recap of the social good focused sessions at SXSW Interactive.
- Writing in the New York Times, David Carr, examines “Hashtag Activism,” and whether someone clicking a “Like” button can really change the world.
- As the arts continue to struggle to find funding amid shrinking audiences and competing charitable priorities, crowd-funding may be the answer.
- Beth Kanter hosted a great group of guest bloggers from the GeoFunders National Conference on her blog in March, my favorite of which was Adene Sack’s post describing the 3 myths about scaling nonprofits.
- Writing on the Harvard Business Review blog Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja argue that Millennials take a do-it-yourself approach to solving large social problems, “they rely on a frugal and flexible mindset…and use the tools they have on hand to create a simple but effective solution to a highly complex problem. They are the contemporary MacGyvers.”
- Rich Tafel takes social entrepreneurs to task for “failing to recognize the complex nature of the problems we face [and] engaging in linear, simplistic solutions, when lasting change requires collaborative efforts.”
Photo Credit: kadorin
I am far from a social media expert, but I have grown to love some social media tools. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have been my favorites, while I still haven’t seen the value of Google+ (although if someone wants to convince me, I’m all ears). But the newest social media darling, Pinterest is fast becoming my favorite. And I think it holds an enormous opportunity for nonprofits.
Pinterest is a social media network based on images. If you find a recipe, a blog post, a pair of pants, a livingroom set, you can “pin” it to a board and share it with your followers. Similarly, if you see something someone else has “pinned” you can “repin” it to your board. Picture an enormous blank wall with individual bulletin boards organized by your interests.
For example, I currently have 12 “boards”. Some are not work-related like “Home” and “Healthy Recipes.” But the rest are directly related to Social Velocity and my passion for social innovation and the nonprofit sector, like “Nonprofit/Social Change Books,” “Nonprofit Campaigns,” “Cool Infographics,” and “Nonprofit Media.” That last board is actually a shared board among 40+ people and organizations where we can all add to and edit the board.
There are several things about Pinterest that I love. For fun last Saturday night I spent a couple of hours there just scanning and pinning (sad, huh?).
There have been many articles about the potential of Pinterest for companies. People can pin images of particular products and encourage their friends and followers to purchase. What a boon to business!
But I think Pinterest is a particularly powerful opportunity for nonprofits for several reasons:
- Nonprofits are naturally image-based. The every day work that nonprofits are involved in lends itself to compelling images: a child laughing while reading a good book, a hug from a case worker to their client, a new home, a beautiful piece of land conserved, an endangered animal. Include a compelling picture in every story you create about your nonprofit and pin it on Pinterest. You can also pin images from other places that relate to your passion and your mission.
- Nonprofits easily connect to passion. I don’t care how much you love that new vacuum cleaner, you cannot be as passionate about it as you are about the child you are tutoring. People launch nonprofits or donate to nonprofits because an issue really hits them at the core. They may have had a loved one die of a terrible disease, or they may absolutely love border collies. What the social change sector has in spades is passion. Pinterest is a natural place to share that passion and convince others of its worth.
- Female donors are a large and growing force. If you want to attract more of this increasingly influential philanthropic force you better find them where they are, and right now that’s Pinterest. 68% of Pinterest users are female. And they spend a lot of time there. You want to be part of that.
- Nonprofits are all about good story-telling. Pinterest is a natural place for storytelling. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has put together a great gallery of ways nonprofits tell their stories through data visualizations. Although the gallery isn’t on Pinterest, all of these images should be and probably will be soon. Images tell such a better story than words, and nonprofits have so many great stories to tell. Use Pinterest to do it.
If you want a quick guide to getting started on Pinterest, check out this great HubSpot post, although it’s focused on businesses, it definitely applies to nonprofits.
Get out there and give Pinterest a try. I think you’ll like it.
Photo Credit: Mashable
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