Tag Archives: Charity

YouTube’s Nonprofit Program now Available in Canada

February 22, 2010 may go down as a game-changing date for media savvy nonprofits in Canada. Today the popular video-sharing platform YouTube announced that its Nonprofit Program is now available to organizations operating north of the 49th parallel.

This is really huge news. YouTube is the industry leader in online video, and the premier destination for watching and sharing videos with family, friends, and co-workers. In 2005, its first year of operation, YouTube had approximately 2.8 million viewers; a year later it had 72 million viewers. Today, there are a more than 100 million viewers around the world. There are other very good video sharing platforms (Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc.), but none of them match YouTube’s reach.

What is the value of YouTube for Nonprofits?

Nonprofit organizations work very hard to get people to join their emails lists, to attend events, to volunteer their time, to sign petitions, and to become donors. Video can be a great way of engaging people, but organizations need to think carefully about the plan and purpose of their video, and then develop a distribution strategy from there. I have seen so many compelling videos by nonprofit organizations that go nowhere – and it’s not because the videos are no good; it’s just that the strategy is either wrong or non-existent.

In 2007 YouTube launched its Nonprofit Program to assist charities and other voluntary organizations with outreach and fundraising. The international development NGO Charity:Water reports that it raised $10,000 in the first day of its campaign. That’s a remarkable achievement.

The major benefits of participating in the YouTube Nonprofit Program include:

1. A “Donate Now” button allows organizations to solicit donations directly from its YouTube video link

2. Enhanced uploading capacity

3. An ability to network with media professionals who may be able to help your organization through the YouTube Video Volunteers Program

4. The ability to overlay your video with a call-to-action and other annotations that will drive traffic to your website and help amplify your broader advocacy, fundraising and capacity building activities

See3 Communications is a Chicago-based communication consultancy that specializes in the nonprofit sector. It is recognized as one of the world’s top video strategy agencies for nonprofits and NGOs, with an impressive client list, including Amnesty International, The Center for American Progress, The Sierra Club and the American Cancer Society. Its CEO, Michael Hoffman, is a passionate and engaged advocate of video in service of social change. Listen to him explain the real value of this program for nonprofit organizations.

Until today the YouTube Nonprofit Program was available only to organizations in the U.S. and Britain. Kudos to Google Inc. and the folks at YouTube, particularly those involved in its Nonprofit Program, for expanding the benefits to the nonprofit sector in Canada.

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Social Media and Nonprofits: Some Preliminary Research on Use and Evaluation

The most common question I hear from organizations that are considering whether social media is right for them is, “what does the research tell us?”  It’s a question I love, not only because I believe in the importance of evidence-based practice, but because it also suggests that the organization asking the question is thinking critically and strategically.

For all organizations (nonprofit, corporate, government) it’s important to think about the value and payoff in developing a social media strategy. In a social media workshop I delivered to Ottawa-area nonprofits last weekend, I wanted to go beyond just a “show and tell” about the latest “shiny new objects” in media technology: my hope was to stimulate some reflection and to generate a discussion about what exactly is ‘new’ in the new media environment while noting the importance of staying ahead of the curve. There is no question that the nonprofit sector will be transformed by changes in media technology and the new forms of social organization they engender–it’s equally true that these technologies will continue to change as nonprofits and other organizations demonstrate their full potential. The real issue is about the tension between capacity and timing.

Getting back to the question of the “evidence base” for social media, the answer is simply that it’s too early to know because we are dealing with very new technology for which there isn’t enough research. However, two recent surveys of social media adoption in the nonprofit sector may shed some light on the emerging evidence.

The first study is by the global PR firm Weber Shandwick — the results are from a phone survey of 200 nonprofit and foundation executives and senior communication officers. A key finding is that a clear majority (89%) of nonprofit organizations are already experimenting with social media, yet only half of them (51%) self-describe as “active users”. The major impediments to taking fuller advantage of social media appear to be lack of capacity and uncertainty about payoff. Here is the slide deck for a fuller account of the findings and their implications.

The second study, by Philanthropy Action, focuses on mid-sized nonprofits and raises important questions about evaluation metrics for fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Although it supports the findings of the Weber Shandwick survey which point to widespread experimentation in social media use, it is less sanguine about the known benefits, especially for mid-sized nonprofits. The study reports that there is a “mismatch between perceptions, motivations, results and investment,” and concludes that despite the potential and promise of social media, the outcomes to date have been disappointing. A majority of respondents (70%) indicated that they either raised very little money or had no idea how much money their social media site helped them raise. The figures for attracting volunteers were about the same. Nevertheless, the survey also reported that “despite the lack of results, most respondents indicated they planned to increase their investment in social networking over the coming year.” In other words, the survey participants recognize that social media will be important to their organization’s work moving forward–they just haven’t figured out how it can best be used and measured.

Confronted with these findings, how should organizations proceed?

My advice is to keep in mind the principle of relentless incrementalism: don’t replace, change or transform your current communication activities overnight, especially if they are delivering at least modest results (if they are totally ineffective, then be more experimental). The answer is not to pretend the world around your organization isn’t changing but to figure out how it is changing, what its implications will be for the work your organization does, to monitor the research environment, and to sort out how you can manage the challenge of of committing enough resources to effectively produce meaningful results without going radically off in all directions.

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Silence in Canada as International Charities Feel Market Crunch

In June 2008, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), a London, UK-based international development charity, issued a media statement urging City employees to “swap their six figure salaries” for voluntary work in the developing world. Citing looming prospects about labour market uncertainty, VSO argued that volunteering in the poorest parts of the world will deliver more than just a meaningful experience and personal reward – it will also enhance professional development and one’s marketability to prospective employers. With several years of economic downturn predicted, the organization has been encouraging the upwardly mobile to take a two year sabbatical overseas and return after market conditions improve.

The Times Online reports today that job market fears and mortgage pressures have combined to produce a perfect storm in which VSO now finds itself scrambling to fill several hundred positions in the next five months. VSO volunteers typically help developing countries to build their education and health systems and the capacity of community organizations in areas such as human rights and income generation. A sign of the volatile times, VSO states that 55 people with backgrounds in teaching, law and management recently withdrew from its recruitment process because they feared they would not be able to find a job after returning from their time abroad.

It’s unclear what impact the global credit crunch will have on international development organizations based in Canada. Throughout the current federal election campaign Prime Minister Harper has been arguing that the economic fundamentals in Canada remain strong, despite indications of a recession in the U.S. and shaky markets overseas. Earlier in the year his finance minister Jim Flaherty stated much of the same in a speech to the Economic Club of Toronto, and he argued that the Conservatives had created “a tremendous stimulus for charitable giving in Canada.”  These rather more positive assessments stand in marked contrast to statements coming out of the business and finance sectors. Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, argues that the country’s leading politicians appear to be in denial about the financial crisis. “It’s clear that something profound is happening,” he is quoted as saying in a CBC report, “yet the politicians up to now have wanted to talk about everything else.” Doug Porter, with BMO Capital Markets, is even more dire in his assessment: “At this point, if this kind of volatility keeps up, I think we’re looking at a much more serious downturn than a mild recession that most of us are talking about.”  

Yet what is clear is that despite indications the economy may be veering toward a recession, leaders in Canada’s development and charitable sectors have been silent. VSO Canada, which recently announced a merger with Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) to become the largest volunteer-based international cooperation agency in Canada, has been quiet on the matter. CIDA, Canada’s lead government agency for development assistance, has not issued a single statement about the impacts that the slowing economy will have on its capacity to continue delivering aid overseas. And while the Charities Aid Foundation in Britain has been regularly issuing updates on the economic implications of the market meltdown for the voluntary sector, Imagine Canada has been mute by comparison. Not a single report has been published or broadcast on any of Canada’s major news outlets. Even the news page of Charity Village, “Canada’s supersite for the nonprofit sector,” reports nothing about how the global economic slowdown will impact charitable giving. 

The failure of leading development agencies, nonprofit organizations and media organizations in Canada to discuss publicly the impacts that the global market slowdown will have on the voluntary sector is a cause for concern. Individuals who will be feeling the sharpest edges of the economic crisis will be increasingly reliant on charity to survive. The Association of Chief Executive of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) in Britain reports that demand in that country for charitable services has increased by 72% in the last year alone, while donations have dropped by almost a third in the same period. Social enterprises are also feeling the pinch. As reported by Charity Finance, a poll of nearly 1,000 social entrepreneurs and small business owners found that nearly four out of ten say they have experienced cashflow difficulties in the past few months. Around 70 per cent of those who had recently applied for a business loan or credit card had been turned down, while over a third had been forced to resort to personal loans and credit cards.

Charity organizations everywhere are already or will very soon be facing difficult choices in the foreseeable future between reducing services or running deficits to maintain existing programs. And when these factors combine with the steady rise in costs of energy, fuel and food, the most vulnerable citizens – whether they are in Zambia, Liverpool, Buenos Aires or Toronto – will be hardest hit. 

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