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A Monster List of Social Changemakers on Twitter

social change monster listToday is Halloween, which means it’s time for another monster list. In keeping with my Halloween tradition on the blog, today I’d like to add to past monster lists (of social change blogs, conferences, books, and resources) with a monster list of social changemakers to follow on Twitter.

I know, I know, Twitter is struggling.  Maybe it will never become the profit powerhouse that Facebook is, but Twitter has become a unique and powerful social change tool, through hashtag movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ArabSpring and its ability to connect like-minded people.

In my mind, Twitter is infinitely more thought-provoking and gamechanging than other social networks. So I hope it finds its way and continues to play an important role in the social change space.

Below is my monster list (in no particular order) of interesting social change people to follow on Twitter. These are people who have fascinating things to say about the world of social change. They are nonprofit, philanthropic, government leaders; journalists; thought leaders and more who use Twitter as a way to spark conversation, spread ideas and make social change a reality.

I have let them describe themselves via their Twitter “Bio”:

  • @knightfdn The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.
  • @pndblog Opinion and commentary on the changing world of philanthropy. Brought to you by Philanthropy News Digest and the Foundation Center.
  • @vppartners Venture Philanthropy Partners brings people together to support children and youth.
  • @RockefellerFdn The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission—unchanged since 1913—is to improve the well-being of humanity throughout the world.
  • @carolinefiennes Director of Giving Evidence: encouraging /enabling charitable *giving* based on sound *evidence*. Wrote acclaimed book, It Ain’t What You Give. FT columnist.
  • @ClaraGMiller President, F. B. Heron Foundation
  • @MarketsForGood #Information to drive #socimp. Movement seeking ways to increase the social sector’s capacity to generate, share & use #data to improve decision making.
  • @Cingib Strategist/writer for foundations/NPs on civic engagement, capacity-building, democracy, philanthropy, nonprofit sector, and education
  • @kanter Let’s talk about networks, data, self-care, & social media for nonprofit learning & impact. #nptech Instructional designer, trainer, walker, & magic markers!
  • @ajscholz Chief Everything Officer @SphaeraInc / Learning to collaborate to survive the 21st century / We now have the technological, legal and financial tools for it!
  • @Philanthropy News, resources, advice, and commentary about the nonprofit world from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  • @KateSBarr Believes that working at & leading nonprofits calls upon the best in people. Executive director at @NAFund
  • @NTENorg Serving our members in the nonprofit community to better use technology to further their mission. We promote nonprofit tech (#nptech) & training (#NTENlearn).
  • @Daniel_Stid Skeptical optimist, Madisonian, partisan of representative democracy, fan of Sparty and the Flying Dutchmen.
  • @IUPhilanthropy Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy—Improving Philanthropy to Improve the World.
  •  President/CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Committed to helping our sector exceed expectations.
  •  Director for Effective Philanthropy at the Hewlett Foundation.
  •  Phil Buchanan is president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
  • @CEPData The Center for Effective Philanthropy focuses on the development of comparative data to enable higher-performing funders.
  •  BUILD Director at the Ford Foundation. Passionate about the social sector, addressing inequality in all its forms, & Jane Austen.
  •  We make millions of dollars in loans to nonprofits and push for fundamental improvement in how money is given and used in the sector.
  •  The National Council of Nonprofits is a trusted resource and advocate for America’s charitable nonprofits.
  • Crusader for at in and beyond. Especially fond of rhymes.
  • @PackardOE We’re the Packard Foundation Organizational Effectiveness Team. We’re here to share and learn about organizational effectiveness, philanthropy and supporting the social sector.
  •  Founder of /. Now leading to further reveal the power of food, community & social enterprise. No Waste!! Opinions are mine.
  •  Reporter at The Chronicle of Philanthropy ~ I cover nonprofit innovation, social enterprise, data, and technology. (I am so not the political pundit.)

I know I have missed many thought-provoking social changemakers. So, who would you add to the list?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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The Critical Alignment Discussion

I’m back from Spring break, which came right as the flurry of discussion about my blog post The Critical Alignment of Mission, Money and Competence was winding down.  I really appreciate the great comments and discussion from Sean Stannard-Stockton (of the Tactical Philanthropy blog), Nathaniel Whittemore (of’s Social Entrepreneurship blog), Kjerstin Erickson (founder of FORGE) and Sasha Dichter (Director of Business Development for Acumen Fund), among others.

The great discussion happened and was then picked up by others (such as the Social Capital Markets blog, and the Nonprofit Assistance Fund blog) and taken further by others (Sasha kept going) because of our good friend, Twitter.   For all the jokes and rolled eyes, Twitter has a tremendous amount of value.  The discussion itself didn’t happen on Twitter, 140 characters can only do so much.  But rather, it created a space for a thoughtful discussion about a topic that seems to be of interest to many in the social innovation space, among people who otherwise would not have connected, let alone been able to have a conversation of such depth.

I’m a fairly recent convert to Twitter (aren’t we all?) and at times it can feel like an albatross (one more thing on my very long list of things to keep up with), but if you can keep up with it, even just marginally, it can hold tremendous value. (You can follow me on Twitter @nedgington).

But what came out of this great discussion?  What were the takeaways?  I’m sure the battle rages on, but for me, the key points were:

  1. Although mission, money and core competencies must be in equal alignment in a nonprofit organization, funding must mold to mission, not vice versa.
  2. A sustainable revenue stream is one that is sustainable not because it is based on sale of goods or services (“earned income” is often used interchangeably with “sustainable revenue stream”, which I, like Sasha, really disagree with) but because it is based on a funding mix (whatever that may be) that can be counted on for years down the road.
  3. Finding a sustainable revenue engine is often about creating a context or a “market” for your work.
  4. Nonprofits have to be more analytical about their funding sources and how sustainable, and aligned with their mission and core competencies, they are and will continue to be.
  5. The funding community is best positioned to help with revenue misalignments.

I’m sure nothing was changed by this discussion. But the more that these kinds of discussions happen and the more that some of the assumptions of nonprofit operation and finance are challenged the more apt we are to restructure how nonprofits work so that great missions with great delivery can become sustainable.

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Monday, March 23rd, 2009 Financing, Fundraising, Nonprofits No Comments

The Fundraising Payback of Social Media

There’s much talk lately about social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, etc.).  In fact it can at times feel like the beginning of a cult.  And there is increasing pressure on nonprofits, in the midst of an increasingly difficult fundraising climate, to jump on the social media bandwagon.  Blogs and journals are riddled with articles about how to dip your nonprofit foot into the social media space.  And there are some good tips.  But the bottom line of all of them is just to try something, jump on Twitter, set up a Facebook page, start a blog.  You don’t need to do it all, just pick something.

But in the middle of everything else a nonprofit staff is working on, with tapped out resources, an increase in demand for their services, and doubled efforts in fundraising it can seem that social media is just something for which there is no time or resources.  And what is the payoff anyway?

Well, Roger Craver, a fundraising consultant with The Agitator, has done some pretty interesting calculations on what the fundraising payoff to experimenting with social media could be.  For an organization with 100,000 donors, a social media fundraising campaign, asking donors to reach out to their networks and fundraise for you, could raise over $500,000.  The nonprofit provides a social media tool, for example a Facebook, Twitter or other tool that their donors can use to encourage their friends and family to contribute.

Craver has some interesting math, but basically the idea is that 2.5% of a donor base could raise $210 each.  So, for an organization with 100,000 donors that translates to $525,000 per campaign.  He doesn’t extrapolate this to smaller organizations and really all of this is projection anyway, but what if?  Take an organization with a donor base of 10,000 people.  2.5% of those people raising $210 each would be $52,500.  This is for one campaign that probably cost the organization nothing, beyond minimal staff time.  That’s pretty impressive.  That could replace the revenue from a time-intensive and expensive gala.

But how does an organization get started?  There are two simple solutions that have been generated here in Austin.  First, Charity Dynamics created a Facebook application that allows nonprofits to do this very thing.  And Kimbia helps you create a very easy online fundraising widget that people can send out to their networks.  There are also some Twitter applications, like Twitpay that allows people to donate to organizations via a PayPal-like extension of Twitter.  Donors simply Tweet their donation amount to their intended recipient, in any amount under $50.  And new applications are being developed every day.

So don’t be afraid.  Just get out there and try it.  Despite the many social media “experts” out there, this space is new for all of us.  All of it is an experiment.  There’s no such thing as failure.

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 Fundraising, social media 5 Comments

What Creates an Environment for Social Innovation?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Indeed, the very reason I created Social Velocity was to spur, or grow the movement for social innovation here in Austin and the Southwest region.  There is a reason (or reasons) why our region has not yet caught the wave of social innovation that has been sweeping the two coasts of the country in the last 10 years or so.  We certainly have examples of social innovation (earned income enterprises, capacity-building grants) but we don’t have venture philanthropy funds, social investment vehicles, social enterprise incubators, or plentiful growth capital that other cities like San Francisco, Boston, Portland, Seattle, DC and others have.

I recently posed the question to my Tweeps (followers on Twitter).  And the initial response back was that those East and West coast cities that I mentioned all have an encouraging environment for tech startups.  That’s true, but so does Austin.  We are the third largest venture capital city in the country AND the vast majority of that money is invested in tech companies.  Aren’t we dubbed Silicon Hills?  So that’s not the answer.

I posed this question to the many people I’ve met with over the past 18 months as I was envisioning and refining what Social Velocity would later become.  And I got various answers, such as:

  • Austin is basically a middle-class city with no real pressing social needs.  Innovation comes from necessity and without that necessity or deep need, social innovation cannot flourish.
  • Austin’s philanthropy is young.  Other cities have had 70+ years of philanthropy to evolve and begin to look at newer models, like venture philanthropy and social investing.
  • Texas, and Austin by extension, is very independent-minded.  The individual tends to be emphasized over the collective and therefore large investments in community-wide efforts are harder to come by.
  • Our nonprofit sector is more grassroots.  60% of Austin’s nonprofits have a budget of $25K or less.  Some of these new models require a certain level of infrastructure in order to implement them.
  • Austin is a very heterogeneous population in terms of viewpoints.  Coming to consensus on anything (from public transportation to urban development to creating an infrastructure that fosters social innovation) is difficult.

That’s just a sampling of responses I’ve received.  I’m sure there are many more reasons.  But where do we go from here?  How do we foster an environment for social innovation here?  How do we get people excited about investing capital in social enterprises?  How do we encourage social enterprise incubators to form?  How do we create a pool of social investment capital?  How do we pilot social entrepreneurial models and demonstrate and scale their success?

I think the answer lies in infrastructure.  We have to create an ecosystem that encourages and invests in social innovation.  Perhaps a breakdown of that infrastructure can be seen in my colleague Jessica Shortall’s earlier post about what created London’s social innovation environment.  She saw 5 elements:

  • Public sector: A cabinet-level “Minister for the Third Sector” who focuses much of his time on social enterprise.
  • Foundations: Make grants to test out ideas for social change, invest in social innovation-based businesses, talk as a group about innovations in social finance and share deal flow.
  • Social Investors: Innovative funds provide new nonprofit and social enterprise finance tools such as loan guarantees for charities to access debt and quasi-equity deals to social enterprises, as well as providing networks, advice, and entrepreneurial knowledge.
  • Academia: Centers for research on social entrepreneurship at several academic institutions in the area.
  • Big and small ideas: Events, gatherings, workshops, think tanks and other activities that help social entrepreneurship and innovation bubble up.

I would say, broadly, that the infrastructure elements necessary include:  adequate funding, space (incubators), expertise, research, and buy in (both in words and in resources) from all three sectors (government, private, nonprofit).

As Jessica says, it’s the overall environment that creates social innovation:

It’s an ecosystem approach, where things swirl and evolve over time, with different players watching for patterns; making connections; providing physical, social, intellectual capital; and taking risks.

What can we do to create that ecosystem in Austin?

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Social Media for Nonprofits: How and Why

If you are a nonprofit manager struggling with social media (what it is, how to use it, whether its a good idea for your organization or not) read this great post by Amy Southerland, a communications consultant for nonprofits. Social media is Internet and mobile applications for sharing information and ideas.  It includes blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc.  I’ve written about social media and fundraising before.  But Amy gives a great, easily understood overview of what social media is, why nonprofits need to jump in and how they can get started.  She also includes a couple of examples of nonprofits that have really used social media effectively.

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Friday, January 16th, 2009 Nonprofits, social media No Comments


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