One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Posts Tagged ‘marketing

Caregiving, Empathy, and Storytelling

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Whether I am caregiving for my mother, working as a professional writer and consultant, or as a New Pulp author, one of the statements I frequently hear is some variation of “storytelling is an engine of empathy”. Regardless of my roles as caregiver/ marketing professional/or writer, I find myself dismayed that storytelling (especially digital storytelling) often gets misused as a buzzword. In the spirit of National Family Caregiver Month, I thought I would write about caregiving and storytelling.

Stories matter, both in how we identify with ourselves and each other. As caregivers, we deal with a wide variety of tragedies and triumphs while (hopefully) managing some semblance of stability. Every opportunity to share our experiences with other caregivers to find connection and understanding. However, like many organizations who have adopted “storytelling” as a buzzword, there is one key concept that often gets misunderstood:

Effective storytelling comes from a place of authenticity as well as empathy.

It is easy to use storytelling as a way to foster an ideal image, to suggest that we want to hit “key messages” with the listener or reader. Hiding behind a facade of “everything’s all right” can be easy for someone caregiving for a family member or loved one. Yet there’s something seemingly “off” when someone shares from that facade. Not sharing every negative or painful aspect of experience out of a sense of propriety is one thing; engaging in “happy talk” or expressing caregiver issues through a rose-colored view is another. As human beings, we sense when something is inauthentic, choosing to “tune out” and dismiss the narrative. We know something’s “off” and we find ourselves emotionally distancing from the storyteller. (Or worse, offering inappropriate advice and feedback to a caregiver)

Storytelling from a more authentic place allows the listener/reader to feel greater connections. One of the reasons many caregivers (including myself) avoid sharing our total stories is that reactions can often be unnecessarily dismissive. Despite the number of caregivers increasing in our country, there is still some sense of shame and feeling that something has been “lost.” For many caregivers, finding some room for adequate self-care can be difficult when dealing with extreme situations. Those stories, however, need to be heard. They’re not necessarily pleasant or optimistic, but can be a lifeline for those who need it. Sharing from that space is difficult, but can mean the world when someone feels truly heard as a result.

One example: pre-COVID, I had attended one of AARP Illinois’ caregiver gatherings. Like many other gatherings, there were people new to caregiving and confused about where to start. It was like many other AARP caregiver gatherings: small group conversation followed by sharing and open questions. During the open discussion and sharing, many caregivers discussed how they considered self-care as “pampering”. At one point, a caregiver disclosed that she never had any issues because “she turned her troubles over to God.”

Ironically, no one had bothered to offer the newcomers any advice…until it became my turn to speak. I had limited time (the woman with no caregiving issues dominated a large amount of time), but I simply spoke from the heart. This isn’t an exact transcript, but comes close to it:

“When I started caregiving for Mom, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, we worked with the social worker at her hospital to help her get a home care aide and supportive services. One of the things that helped us was contacting the Departmentsof Aging for Chicago as well as Illinois. But caregiving isn’t easy and can be overwhelming, and nobody expects us to get it perfectly. There’s going to be a lot thrown at you, but the only way to handle it is one at a time. For caregivers, self-care is a strategy and not an indulgence, and taking care of yourself is vital. I’ve learned to find comfort in my friends, but there are other resources like counseling and community groups. It’s not easy, but you will make it.”

Unfortunately, I never made it back to another session before COVID hit. But it was a good reminder for me about the power of storytelling. Professionally, I sometimes have to advise against focusing on selling a positive image to drive that mysterious quality called “engagement”. (Simply put, I avoid selling the sizzle at the expense of the steak). But the only way I have found to do that is through authenticity: seeing oneself for who one actually is and not some internal ideal. For caregivers, this is a challenge given the overwhelming nature of caregiving. It can be done, and sometimes, the reminder is very welcome.

Please comment below with your thoughts, or join the conversation on our Facebook group. If you want to reach out privately, please use this email contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

November 10, 2021 at 5:22 am

Five Lessons I Learned Finding Remote Work

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Recently, I experience a major change in my COVID-19/caregiving lifestyle: I was hired for remote work. Job seeking during the pandemic has been challenging, but the transition back into remote working has been much easier than I would expect. My experience freelancing and caregiving helped me develop my skills, but my transition into remote work helped me learn five key lessons:

  1. LinkedIn is A Very Powerful Professional Development Tool – Although many people use LinkedIn as a professional networking tool, it has also been a great tool for professional development. By researching companies and organizations, pursuing leads (which led me to my current situation), and catching up on professional news helped me stay current. In talking with other writers on Facebook (I am also a New Pulp author, many of my colleagues wondered why they were still on LinkedIn. I believe that any social media channel works as long as you regularly engage. LinkedIn has always been a powerful tool for me, even now while I’m homebound. Speaking of networking…
  2. Networking And Professional Development Still Matters – Much of my time spent in lockdown was not only spend caring for my mother but also networking via a variety of channels. Thanks to Eventbrite’s search, I found many networking events and training via Zoom. Engaging with my peers via Twitter and Facebook helped me stay connected. Taking advantage of free classes and training from organizations like Free Code Camp and General Assembly, provided new skill sets to bring to the table.
  3. Doing Small-Scale Work to Keep Your Skills Sharp Is Not a Bad Thing: During the lockdown, even though this blog was minimal except for the occasional story (like this recent post about ChicagoMutualAid.net), I managed to find some small-scale, low-paying digital research/remote work positions. Sites like Remotive.io and We Work Remotely were invaluable in providing some great leads. (It also helped that I had worked as a contractor with Cultivate Now, who consults around remote work issues. However, some remote work situations aren’t that positive, and my next lesson was…
  4. Know When To Leave A Situation That Doesn’t Work For You – Perfect example: I had been hired by a company that was looking for “academic writers”. Given my background, I thought it meant either proofing academic papers or research journal articles. Their payment scheme was unusual (you had to wait a period after completing a piece), but I thought it would be fine. It turned out…I was doing other people’s homework. People would submit money to this site and have people write their papers, do other homework assignments, etc. After working for a few weeks and having my pay withheld because my work didn’t mean their standards (although it meant the clients), I realized there was no way to win…but I had some payback with both a strongly worded Glassdoor review and better-paying work from reputable companies from that point forward. And finally…
  5. Taking Small Steps Lead to Big Rewards – During my time of inactivity, I made the effort to engage in small, positive changes getting new business cards, renewing domains, turning over some small scale volunteer efforts. Although I don’t think there is a one-to-one-correlation, taking care of smaller, less important tasks allowed me to prepare mentally for remote work. Feeling ready in the short term helped me feel more confident. That confidence helped me through several job interviews which led to my current work situation

Finding any work in current times is challenging; finding and starting new work is an exceptional accomplishment. I refuse to take my new situation for granted, but with more employers relying on remote work and remote workers, I think I managed to hit the curve at the right time.

Thanks for reading! Please leave any comments below or join us on Facebook.

Written by gordondym

June 17, 2020 at 8:55 am

Mission Driven Culture: A Conversation With Teddy Heidt of Gauge Collective

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(Special thanks to Teddy Heidt of the Gauge Collective for his time and insight) 

Chicago has a healthy, thriving community of mission-driven businesses working to drive profit as well as social impact. Mission-driven businesses operate from a key set of values, focus on benefiting stakeholders as well as stockholders, and work on driving community collaboration. My recent conversation with Teddy Heidt, founder of the Gauge Collective, provides insight into how a mission-driven business integrates its values into every aspect of its culture.

The Gauge Collective was founded by Teddy Heidt, a brand digital marketing specialist who specializes in building, strengthening, and implementing digital strategies. As a freelancer, Heidt discovered that many social media agencies hired to help brands often provided work product with low quality and little insight into the essence of the brand. Inspired to take positive action, Teddy Heidt founded the Gauge Collective, a community of collaboration-minded social, digital, and creative freelancers, which assists a wide variety of organizations (from start-ups to larger businesses) in crafting and executing efficient and effective social media outreach strategies. Their onboarding process allows the Gauge Collective to immerse themselves into how a brand “ticks”, providing ample opportunities to foster a sense of collaboration as well as provide a brand-specific outreach strategy.

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The Gauge Collective takes an “anti-agency” approach to social media and digital marketing: under Teddy Heidt’s leadership, the Collective supports a group of freelancers from a wide variety of fields (including social media, graphic design, email marketing, and videography). One of the key values that Teddy Hedit has integrated into the working philosophy of the Gauge Collective is diversity: not only does the Gauge Collective desire to support freelancers from marginalized communities, but Teddy Heidt was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ Notable LGTBQ Executives. As Heidt pointed out in our conversation, the Gauge Collective actively seeks and collaborates with brands and a small, community-based group of influencers who are “uniquely themselves” to provide thorough strategies that lead to specific results.

The Gauge Collective’s mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community also extends into their desire to work with nonprofits, other mission-driven businesses, and socially conscious brands. With their immersive onboarding process and ability to provide smaller scale yet more effective services, the Gauge Collective wishes to provide services for nonprofits and other mission-driven businesses who may be unable to hire larger agencies. It speaks to Teddy Heidt’s vision of the Gauge Collective that they can contemplate growth in both their client base and in engaging the greater freelancer population. With a mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community, the Gauge Collective under Teddy Heidt’s leadership provides a great example for other businesses – and even some digital agencies – to emulate.

If you would like to ask a question or leave a comment, please leave them in the space below. We also invite you to follow and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Great Chicago Events This Coming Week

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put_this_on_calendar_clip_art-285x3001Summer usually means one thing: a variety of events geared towards getting out and meeting others. Some Chicago events are focused around social good and social change, and this week, we’re going to be highlighting some upcoming events to add to your calendar.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share below or join our conversation via our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Jeff We Can: Lessons in Mission-Driven Marketing

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C Now - Jeff We CanIt’s one of the little white lies that many of us in the nonprofit/social venture field tell ourselves: if we only had more money/time/resources, we could market our missions more effectively. Mission-driven marketing is always a challenge in a media environment with multiple channels, various worthy causes, and ever-decreasing resources. (Chicago-area nonprofits and social ventures have very particular challenges as well). But when it comes to mission-driven marketing, there’s one example from popular culture that demystifies those “little white lies”, providing some great principles to use….and which is near and dear to my heart.

Recently, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver focused a discussion on the tobacco industry’s efforts to gain market share overseas, urging people to proclaim “#jeffwecan“. (Full Disclosure: In my professional past, I worked as a tobacco control specialist for the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse in St. Louis and had chaired the Tobacco Free Missouri coalition). Rather than recap, let me just go ahead and show you the piece (which has some non work-safe language):

Now, it may seem rather absurd on its face, but much like Stephen Colbert’s efforts around campaign funding, Last Week Tonight’s “Jeff We Can” manages to drive a strong discussion around a little-known issue. (You might want to check out other pieces about beauty pageants & scholarship funding, or even issues around the organization that puts on the World Cup). For both nonprofits and social ventures, mission-driven marketing can seem daunting. (Many agencies and ventures are still seeking the next “Ice Bucket Challenge”) However, there are some great underlying principles behind this piece, and which make for more effective mission-driven marketing.

  • Make your case plainly – Using humor to reinforce their arguments, Last Week Tonight provides an articulate, well-reasoned argument against Phillip Morris’ efforts. (After all, not every news satire goes through t e trouble of translating a letter originally written in French). Despite focusing on global issues, the segment provides enough intellectual and emotional content that a wider audience – including Chicago-area viewers – can feel greater investment in that mission.
  • Use multiple channels effectively – From creating the hashtag        #jeffwecan, users can spread information via Facebook and Twitter, Releasing segments via YouTube eprovides potential advocates with a way of distributing information. Last Week Tonight’s “Jeff We Can” reaches people where they’re actually conversing online,  driving continuous conversation about tobacco industry misdeeds. By performing some research, many mission-driven organizations can find where people are discussing their particular areas of interest and more effectively engage those potential audiences.
  • Focus on visual media – Although blog content allows someone to make their case in writing, Last Week Tonight works on engaging people on a more deeper level. (Many studies around social media find that visual content drives three to five times more engagement than written media). From the overall segment to the design of Jeff, Last Week Tonight staff crafted a campaign that was well thought out, articulate, and really engages audiences intellectually and emotionally.
  • Provide a very clear call-to-action – Towards the end of the piece, John Oliver provides a solution for the tobacco industry, but also encourages viewers to take action via posting and hashtags. It’s clear what Last Week Tonight is wanting people to do – post and drive conversation around tobacco industry activities (and let’s be honest, #jeffwecan is rather catchy). It has led to a rebuttal from Phillip Morris, but more importantly, it provides a great example for nonprofits and social ventures. Asking people to take positive action is more important in mission-driven marketing than simply “building awareness.”

It’s very rare when popular culture provides some excellent “best practices” for mission-driven marketing. However, Last Week Tonight provided a smart, strategic approach to a public health problem. You may dismiss it through the absurdity of “Jeff, the Diseased Lung With a Cowboy Hat”, but beneath the absurdity is a strong mission: calling the tobacco industry out on its behavior. Many Chicago-area nonprofits and social ventures can learn much from this campaign…and I know that I will be integrated some of these into my own social media engagement.

Because one way to quit those “little white lies” we tell ourselves….is to dive deep into the truth.

So what do you think? Do you feel that Last Week Tonight acted out of line, or did they provide a well-crafted piece of entertainment and advocacy? Feel free to let us know in the comments below, or even join the conversation on our Facebook page. You’re also more than welcome to reach out to me personally – you can find my contact information via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading….and #jeffwecan!

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How To Be a Genius At Hiring NonProfit Consultants

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BTP Adventures in Freelancing 1106Right now, many nonprofits throughout Chicago are entering their heaviest fundraising period….and that may mean hiring nonprofit consultants or freelancers to assist or take on short term tasks. (Social enterprises and social ventures are also constantly seeking marketing and consulting assistance). As a communications consultant, I find myself competing for work for a variety of causes and agencies….and one of the biggest “moments of genius” that I have had is simply this: sometimes, nonprofits don’t know what to look for in a consultant. So today’s post is focusing on precisely that issue: how to think and plan for hiring nonprofit consultants.

(There’s also a great chapter on thinking about hiring consultants in The Mission Myth: Building Nonprofit Momentum Through Better Business. I’ve written about the book previously, and it’s a great resource for a variety of nonprofit administrative functions. It’s also a very good, easy read.)

And so, without further adieu, here are some things to consider:

  • Spend Your Time Defining The Consultant’s Scope of Work – Many consultants are often told that there are two main issues: “fundraising” and “marketing”. Usually, those are catch-alls for very specific problems, such as “we need help with this extensive grant” or “we need assistance in developing a new web site.” Listing out a consultant’s task list – and determining what issues require external help – can be critical in developing an request for proposal (RFP). It is also important to consider budget, for reasons that will soon become apparent.
  • The Consultant’s Main Gifts Are Time and Expertise – When you’re hiring a consultant, please consider that this is not an intern or a volunteer – the consultant is a paid professional with a very specific skill set. Consultants bring a well-rounded focus to their work, but we are focused on one thing – the work. And on that note…
  • Do Your Due Diligence and Check Out Your Consultant – Doing a quick search on their Linked In profile can bring you insight into how they’re presenting themselves. Let me use my profile as an example. And for the consultants who are reading – you can check out agencies via Guidestar and a variety of other sites as well. Both sides want to be sure that there’s a good match. And once there is a match….
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate – Most consultants work on either a project basis or an hourly rate depending on the time required to complete. Many nonprofits lack resources, but there may be other resources that can be shared. Don’t allow sticker shock to throw you…but also keep in mind that consultants trade on their time and effort.
  • Get It In Writing – Contracts are not bad things, and having a written contract with a well thought-out scope of work that outlines every aspect of the business relationship (and yes, nonprofits, this is a “business” relaitonship) benefits both parties. For a better explanation, check out this video (with NSFW language) about contracts – it focuses on design, but many of the prinicples work in nonprofits as well.
  • Establish a Communications/Check-In Plan – Whether your consultant is working remote or working in town, you need to have regular check-ins to determine progress. For remote clients, it may mean conference calls or free services like Skype to keep in touch. (Although e-mail is adequate, having regular “face time” is also important to maintain the relationship, and to also make sure you’re on task and on target)
  • Stick to the Contract – With many nonprofits lacking resources, it may be tempting to “add on” to the consultant’s list. Be sure you talk with the consultant to insure that it falls within scope, and amend the contract if it does. (Some consultants may decline pro bono work, but only because their time is valuable, and adding on tasks may not be in their best interests)
  • Make Sure You End on the Right Foot – If the consultant completes their work well, be sure that they leave on good terms. If, for some reason, the consultant doesn’t work out, you are still responsible for making sure the ending is handled in a professional, responsible manner.

Let’s face it – hiring consultants is probably not one of the “hotter” topics in nonprofit administration. But hiring a nonprofit consultant can be critical in growing a smaller agency, or helping a larger nonprofit maintain its presence. Hopefully, today’s post has helped clarify issues and has provided some insight into the process.

What do you think – have we missed anything? Any other guidelines you can suggest? You’re more than welcome to leave comments below. You can also get updates via our Facebook page, and you can contact me directly via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 6, 2014 at 10:43 am

Your Summer Social Entrepreneurship Reading List

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(Note: complimentary electronic and hard copies of the following books were provided for review purposes. My opinions are my own.)

Chicago-area social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and other social change agents are always seeking resources, information, and guidance in fulfilling their mission. Many books are often recommended as “starter” books, providing some insight. This week, we will look at three books which cover very diverse subjects, but which contain great information about job seeking, marketing, and thinking about entrepreneurship. Consider this a kind of “summer reading list”.

everyday entrepreneurOur first selection focuses on the very idea of entrepreneurship – an idea that is often misunderstood by social change agents as being very business-oriented. Focusing on a series of conversations around entrepreneurship, Fred Dawkin’s Everyday Entrepreneur: Making it Happen provides a strong gateway into thinking about entrepreneurship. Granted, it is focused primarily on starting a business, but many of the thought patterns and challenges can easily be applied to non-profits, small businesses, or any other startup venture.

(And yes, there is an increasing number of individuals dedicated to social change who are looking to adopt more entrepreneurial strategies into their work. It’s not incompatible with non-profit thought: after all, funders are increasingly focused on outcomes, and with increasing numbers of advocates resistant to such efforts….it can be challenging. Thankfully, Dawkin’s book focuses on the entrepreneurial mindset, and that’s what makes it such a terrific read for current and potential social change agents. Claiming to want to make an impact is one thing: acquiring the mindset and doing the work is another).OwnYourFuture

One key still leading to success is adopting an entrepreneurial approach…and for many struggling in this current economy, it can seem rather daunting. Although geared more towards career planning and job seeking, Paul B. Brown’s Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy provides an excellent model for approaching professional matters. Advocating for developing values and goals then taking small steps, Brown provides an easy-to-understand approach around career entrepreneurship. Like Everyday Entrepreneurs, it is an easy read (each volume took one to two days to read on my tablet), and Own Your Future serves as a great introductory guide towards developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

(That’s a particular challenge within social change, especially with funders and financial resources often difficult to locate and utilize. Many non-profit executives and advocates are adopting a “lean startup”-like attitude towards moving their organizations forward, hoping to strike a delicate balance between healthy experimentation and making positive, measurable impacts. With social change organizations adopting a much more business-like approach towards organizational development (for more details, read The Mission Myth), Brown’s book provides some simple tools that cultivate not just a greater sense of mission and values, but also strategy and procedure.)

digitalbranidngFinally, many organizations are finding themselves moving towards being more digital-marketing savvy, rethinking how they present themselves in the digital realm. Thankfully, Daniel Rowles’ Digital Branding: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Strategy, Tactics and Measurement is a dense, but thorough guide towards understanding how to “brand” an organization online. For many in the digital realm, several of the concepts (like e-mail, web design, and social media) seem like “old hat”, but Rowles provides a great entry point for both veterans and relative newcomers. With equal emphasis on strategy and measurement, Digital Branding provides a relatively easy-to-understand guide towards driving positive outcomes in digital engagement.

Social entrepreneurship is more than just a buzzword – it is becoming an increasingly prevalent mindset, focusing as much on creativity and ingenuity within the non-profit sphere as it is on mission-driven businesses. All three of these books provide some great lessons in easy-to-understand language for people working (or who wish to work) in the field. They are definitely worth purchasing….or at the very least, checking out of the Chicago Public Library.

Do you have any recommendations for reading around social entrepreneurship? Any questions or comments? You’re more than welcome to leave them below. In addition, you are always welcome to pleas visit and join us on Facebook and you can contact me privately and directly – my contact information can be found via this blog’s About page.
And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

July 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Book Review: IT’S NOT THE SIZE OF THE DATA

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C Now - DataReview
NOTE: A complimentary electronic copy was provided for review. My opinions are my own.

Currently, many communities are discussing the impact of “Big Data” – a catchphrase making its way through Chicago-area business and non-profit culture. Learning how to manage and leverage data can have an impact on various non-profit/social venture marketing and fundraising efforts. Knowing how to manage, monitor, and act on data can provide an organization a critical edge in overall social impact. Thankfully, Koen Pauwels’ It’s Not the Size of the Data – It’s How You Use It from AMACOM books – available in hardcover and Kindle – provides a fine introductory read into data management and monitoring.

For many, the initial business tone may be offputting, with Pauwels’ focus on terms like dashboards and KPIs….but this is a book focused on general businesses. However, for non-profits and other social change agents, Pauwels’ provides an extremely thorough explanation into how – and why – to assemble such dashboards. Not The Size of the Data provides a thorough primer into how to take a variety of organizational processes and manage them in a systematic manner. Even if the terminology may be challenging for some organizations, thankfully Pauwels provides a thorough background in how marketing dashboards can assist in driving specific outcomes.

But Chapter Eight, focusing on social media, provides a very thorough understanding in the importance of understanding tracking key data. Pauwels’ provides one of the strongest arguments for looking beyond the superficial. As past blog posts have discussed, Pauwels postulates that volume is not the sole arbiter of success, but that data coming from conversational dynamics is also important for non-profits and social ventures. For Pauwels, organizations that examine how conversations are distributed – as well as the overall sentiment – provide key actionable insights for marketing and fundraising. Despite some reluctance to adopt a data-driven perspective, Pauwels provides strong justification for adopting both a qualitiative and quantitative approach – and approach that can mean the difference between anecdotal success and solid evidence towards a successful strategy.

Even if the organization is small, It’s Not the Size of the Data provides a wealth of information about managing and leveraging data. With an increasing emphasis on outcome-driven efforts, social change agents need strong, valid information to help them navigate data collection and interpretation. With improved efforts to open and utilize city data, improving digital literacy around data becomes even more critical to driving social change. Although focused primarily on business marketing, Koen Pauwels’ It’s Not the Size of the Data – It’s How You Use It provides some great “first steps” towards understanding how non-profits and social ventures can better manage, monitor, and utilize data in their day-to-day operations.

Essential, and a must-read.

How does your organization use data? Are you seeing challenges in adopting a data-driven approach? Please feel free to leave comments below. In addition, you are always welcome to visit and join us on Facebook (it’s small, but we’re looking to grow), and my contact information can be found on this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

April 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Support Chicago Meetups For Social Good

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meetup.com Last weekend, Meetup.com was brought to a standstill due to a variety of attacks on its service. (Slate has a great article outlining exactly what happened). For many groups, Meetup provides valuable assistance and resources for organizers of events. In the past few weeks, two new Meetups – focusing on tech and social good – have been created, and are well worth your time and involvement.

On February 28th, the Chicago Broadband Communities Meetup group held its inaugural meeting at Harold Washington Library. Focusing on the impact of broadband internet access for all citizens, this first meeting included presentations by Partnership for a Connected Illinois/Broadband Illinois and the Center for Digital Inclusion (out of Champaign). Although an initial kickoff meeting, the group hoped to get input on how to mobilize around increasing broadband usage, with an emphasis meeting the needs of “broadband deserts”, providing home access for all, and using broadband as a tool for community economic development.
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In short, broadband access is a key component of digital excellence – with several initiatives working toward providing access to underserved communities, having citizens willing to meet, share information, and (most importantly) advocate and act will provide the group energy and motion. Tentative plans are for an April 1st event, and people can receive updates simply by joining their Meetup group.

Another group (of special interest to those working in the non-profit field) is the Chicago Non-Profit Marketing & Communications Professionals group. Their kickoff happened in February with a casual tea/social. Although relatively informal, the group did manage to have a lively discussion about the challenges in working in the non-profit field. (Several of my fellow Meetup attendees shared challenges of both freelance and full-time work with non-profits). Although there is no immediate follow-up scheduled, this is a group that is definitely worth following.

Although Meetup is a great resource for meeting organization, it has seen its share of controversy and challenges, from its handling of this recent service outage to closing its public discussion forums to making changes to its platform without informing its users.  In a field where competitors like Eventbrite are gaining a critical edge, Meetup is at least working to rectify some problems – offering organizers a rebate for lost service will be a financial setback for the service. (Full Disclosure: I run two non-professional groups on Meetup.com). After the public forums closed, the public non-affiliated Discuss Meetup site was created to allow both organizers and members to ask questions and share information about the service.

Chicago has a great variety of events, and Meetup is not the only source….but at the very least, it provides a simple entry point for diving into the world of social good.

Thoughts? Please leave comments below, and you can contact me privately (information available via the About page)

Sign Up for Social Media Week in September!

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Social Media WeekOne area that non-profits, social entrepreneurs, and social change agents have great trouble understanding is the full impact of using social media. Many consultants often promote a basic “you-gotta-be-on-this-channel”  mentality, but rarely understand the impact on organizations, businesses, and individuals. Thankfully, Social Media Week – a global initiative that works towards explaining social, cultural and economic impact of social media – will be held in Chicago from September 23rd to 27th.

Social Media Week’s mission is (according to their web site) is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information. It’s more than just the usual chatter – this is a gathering that helps drive the idea of how social media impacts the social good. Although many of the sessions may have a business focus, the week-long conference (held at a variety of sites and locations) features sessions specifically geared towards social good initiatives.

Social media is a very popular topic, with organizations struggling to deal with adopting the channel as a way to foster their online networking. Mission-driven online marketing drives plenty of content, with consultants discussing how to use social media to drive conversation, build “brand awareness” for a non-profit, and cultivate donors and board members. However, one of the key aspects of social media that gets lost in that conversation is its power to drive collaboration, foster a sense of community, and empower people to take positive action.

One of the buzzwords in social media marketing is engagement – focusing more on how people behave online versus simply counting the number of “likes” or “followers”. Engagement involves reaching people on both an emotional and intellectual level, and influencing them to behave in a particular way. (Influence is also another major buzzword). Social Media Week is an opportunity to learn how strategies to engage and influence offline behavior have a greater impact on social and political structures – in short, it’s more than just simply a cool marketing channel; it’s a gateway to drive social good.

And it’s also free. So please check out http://www.socialmedia.org for more details. And no, I was not reimbursed nor am I receiving any benefits from this post….other than making a great resource available to people.

Comments? Questions? Please leave them in the space below. If you wish to contact me privately, you may do so via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now) or private e-mail.

And as always, thanks for reading!