How Razoo Became a Mobile Platform


The following is a narrative version of my 15 minute speech at the 2012 Innogive Conference today.

Last Spring those of us at Razoo began analyzing mobile web solutions. There was a big debate because traffic was in the low single digits, but partly as a result of reading Chuck Martin’s Third Screen, we decided to offer a web based mobile version of the web site and donation platform, and an iPhone app for fundraisers.

The Third Screen showed that almost every company or organization that goes mobile sees a surge in mobile traffic usually above 10%. This 10% rule was illustrated over and over again with case studies. We launched mobile at the end of 3Q, 2011, and just as the book indicated, the results have been amazing:
Continue reading

1,886,434 Ways the Long Tail Beat Klout

Last Wednesday’s Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington netted $2,034,434, including 17,838 donations totaling $1,886,434. The online giving contest benefited 1200 nonprofits. As the general manager of the event, this kind of impact makes me profoundly grateful, and many thanks have already been sent to the donors, nonprofits and partners involved. Give to the Max Day also provided yet another example of how big social media names don’t necessarily translate into great social performance.

On the contrary, the majority of winners in Give to the Max Day Grand Awards were not the big nonprofit brands with sizable influencers locally. It was the little guys, the Little Lights Urban Ministries (Klout Score: 10) and For Love of Children, Inc. (Klout Score: 37) that won most donors and most donations, respectively.

If people were betting on popular nonprofit brands and influencers with big Klout scores to win the day, they would have lost a lot of money. While some participated and performed well, they didn’t take the grand prizes. In the end it was the long tail of small voices that drove the event’s leaderboards, and overall donation flow.

That’s not to say that big brands and influencers can’t succeed. As revealed in the PayPal Research paper, Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers, the secret formula for success in social media is not the most “influence” or size of account, rather it is engaged community, authenticity and a willingness to work. Any online brand can demonstrate that kind of investment and energy.

Frank Warren Book Signing

Two award winners were big influencers, and showed that kind of passion. The first was PostSecret‘s Frank Warren (Klout Score: 69), who won the Care2 Individual Fundraiser Award with his IMAlive fundraiser, which in turn triggered a third place finish for Most Donors for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. Frank was very engaged in the weeks leading up to the event, asking questions about how to do well. Further, he is authentically passionate about this cause with a long history of fundraising and personal reasons to be engaged.

The second influential example is the fine performance of the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Though you couldn’t necessarily tell by a Klout Score of 49, the Corcoran is one of Washington’s premier institutions in the Arts Community. The Corcoran went all out with its ArtReach campaign, using a matching grant, emails and social media to invigorate its core. The result? A total of 438 donors and $55,189 in donations, good enough for third place in most dollars raised, and fourth place for most donors.

In the end, it’s not Klout or some other social media ranking that creates a success. It’s the passion and drive of the voices behind the effort.

Congratulations to all of the nonprofits who experimented, and learned more about online fundraising this past Wednesday (and the months leading up to it). Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was a fun contest, and it’s an enjoyable exercise to break down what made a winning campaign. But the real winners in this day were you, the almost 18,000 citizens who supported you, and the region as a whole.

Mark Horvath on Punish Geoff Fundraiser Impact

Mark Horvath sent this video last night to thank all of the people who donated to and shared The Punish Geoff Fundraiser. Thank you to the 30 donors who have made $2055, and a significant impact on InvisiblePeople‘s drive across the country. Every dollar counts against a matching grant offered by the Pierce Family Foundation.

BUT WAIT. We’re not done yet.

There’s still two days left, and one punishment left to accomplish… Making me walk in front of Congress wearing a sandwich board that says “I wrote two social media books, PLEASE hire me!” We’re roughly $1100 away, less than what you collectively contributed Thursday and Friday of last week.

There are three things you can do:

1) Please Donate

2) Realize Your Impact

If you want to see’s work, simply watch this movie trailer (coming out in 2012). It is incredible how Mark is raising the visibility of homelessness. You can help continue this fantastic project!

3) Have Fun

The Geoff Punishments will be metered out next week. We’ll have a lot of fun with it, promise! Stay tuned for details.

Most importantly, thank you for your support.

Applying Social Storytelling to Strategic Online Fundraising


This is a preview of tomorrow’s Millennial Donors Summit presentation on “Connecting with Social Media” at 11:30. There is still time to register for the telesummit! Join us!

The fundamental skill of social is applying traditional relationship development savoir faire in the media. Meaning, the tools are the tools, but the actual interaction between people should be the focus for those seeking to cultivate donors. Your communication must convey a compelling story and a means for the donor to participate.

From this year’s Millennial Donors report: “Like last year, millennials said they gave most often as a result of personal, traditional giving requests, with popular technologies such as online and email giving coming in at lower percentages. However, the respondents also suggested that they prefer to give primarily through online tools. The message here? They might give more often through personal asks because many organizations have not caught up with technological giving options.”

Here’s another juicy tidbit: “65% want to know how [their dollars] makes a difference.” Further, “84% of millennials said they are most likely to donate when they fully trust an organization, and 90% said they would stop giving if they do not trust an organization.”

Trust is the basic currency of human relationships, and online is no different. Most are worried on how to rock Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr and other tools. Technical proficiency is important, but it comes with practice over a period of weeks. Ironically, the most common mistake nonprofits make with social is to treat it like another medium, and simply publish solicitations and marketing.

Instead focus on how to interact with people and compel them to 1) believe in you and your cause; 2) invest in you (via donation, advocacy or other means); and 3) sustain that relationship so that it has a chance to be more than a transaction. Understanding how your community interacts online will determine the tools. How you use the tools is the issue.

Connecting with Millennial Donors via Social Media

This requires compelling storytelling and interactions within social. As the study says, 85% of millennials pointed to a compelling mission or cause as the primary reason for donating. The report offers some additional insights on how to cultivate trust: “1. Friends or family endorsement 2. Report financial condition 3. Opportunities to meet leadership.” These are intrinsic elements to good storytelling for content and interactions. But there is more.

Compelling storytelling requires a a few story elements. A recent phone conversation with Network for Good’s Katya Andresen crystallized the fundraising “perfect storm:” An authentic tie between the person asking for the donation and the cause; a truly engaged community; and an impassioned ask as opposed to a posted request.

The authenticity angle is critical. You can’t just ask someone to give based on stats and the nonprofit’s mission. Instead, show people why you care, why it is important to you, and why you believe they should care. How has this issue impacted your life? As a nonprofit find a person to tell this story as opposed to communicating from the ivory tower.

With the community, this is the basic blocking and tackling of social. You can’t turn the lights on and simply ask for money. Participation and interaction for months and years prior to fundraising creates a strong community, one that is tied to the personality or organization. When relationships are in place — a result of mutual investment of time and value — the community responds.

Lastly, you can’t just drop a link and ask people to donate. Make it a drive, a series of compelling asks. Show them ways to donate and participate. Try to make them feel like heroes, and their donations are making a difference. Keep them updated on the drive.

As noted in the report, a critical aspect is to sustain the relationship after the donation. Donors want to be informed about how their investment made an impact. These people believed in you, now tell them what you are doing with their investment. One more statistic from the study to back this up: 79% of donors want continued outreach to include updates on programs and services.

Case studies will be included in the Milliennial Donors Summit presentation. A follow up to the Summit will be posted on the Inspiring Generosity blog.

Tonight’s First #ZooGood Chat Featuring @JohnHaydon

zooGooder badge large Never Fear, zooGooders Are Here.png

Tonight is the first #zooGood chat, hosted by Razoo. This weekly chat will be held at 9 ET/6 PT on Twitter in an effort to discuss fundraising best practices.

Given the time of year, nonprofits and free agents are planning their final fundraising drives of 2010. It’s our hope that these conversations will help causes and individuals maximize their efforts, and prepare them for great, fun drives that will also successfully impact the world.

Our first speaker is John Haydon, one of the kindest gentlemen in the business, a fellow who gives his thoughts and time freely. He is the ideal person to co-host the inaugural chat. John will answer a question on the tens, meaning every ten minutes (9:00, 9:10 and 9:20). You can track and participate in the program via the #zooGood Twitter hashtag. Feel free to ask John a question or two!

Successive chats in November and December will be from members of the zooGooder program. In 2011, Razoo will open up the guest hosting of the #zooGood Twitter chat, and recruit new industry leaders to participate.

As a co-organizer, I hope you find these efforts to be useful. And please, please leave your feedback so we can make these weekly chats worth your time.

Post Mortem: Examining CitizenGulf


Per last week’s post, the CitizenGulf Day of Action some good numbers and created a mindful way for people to take action in the face of the oil spill. As the entire process was largely open sourced, I’d like to share my analysis of the marketing experience, too. It is my hope that by sharing this information, other individuals and non-profits that are considering developing events can garner best practices for their own efforts.

The value of participating as a volunteer in #CitizenGulf was threefold:

1) Provide a mindful way for people to respond to BP and the Obama Administration’s collective mishandling of the situation
2) Help fishing families get on their feet and perhaps find a new future via education
3) The experience garnered running a series of concurrent national meet-ups

We met the first two objectives fairly well. By my estimate, we got at least 1000 people to take actions online or in person, and helped at least eight kids get into the After School Assembly program with $10,000 in funds raised (final tallies from Citizen Effect pending).

There are a couple of general themes that are important to note. Initially, we had larger fundraising expectations, but several challenges arose — namely BP’s role in and responsibility for the disaster, and timing — that made it clear this wasn’t going to happen as early as August 4th.

The Issue: As angry as people were, the oil spill was an issue they felt BP should handle, and if not, then the Obama Administration. It was very hard getting people to act and support this issue, especially with the dying media attention, and BP claims that the oil was gone.

Others felt the fishermen didn’t deserve a break. In the Gulf, one event organizer was encouraged not to have an event because it would hurt local tourism business. Add in the horrible disaster that occurred in Pakistan, and this effort became a very tough sell. This effort moved to become much more of an education initiative for the public.

Timing: We put the events together, from beginning to end in five weeks and two days. The actual events opened on August 1, with a 24 day ramp. This shows tremendous activism can occur using social tools in a quick timeline, if need warrants.

In this case with the oil spill rapidly leaving the national media and the minds of U.S. citizens and with the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28th, we felt that the window of action was a limited one.

Timing also worked against us. August is a slow month, and organizers only had weeks to get the word out. I am sure we lost some cities because of this. It also put enormous strain on the national effort. Mistakes happened as a result. I believe in the cause enough to do this and have no regrets, but I will think three times before doing a series of meet-ups with so little time. Six months would be ideal.

Overall It Was a Success

Twitter Activity the Week of CitizenGulf Events

In my mind, the effort was a success, primarily because enough local leaders really ran with this, and so many people took action. The effort succeeded because most of us involved in organizing events kept going no matter what. People showed their true characters, and the success of CitizenGulf was a collective win as a result. To honor those who worked hard, and made a big difference with little steps, I’d like to offer the positives before the challenges.

Positive Lessons

Citizen Philanthropy: This effort was an initiative based in empowering citizens to act, and they did. Given the nature of the oil spill, providing mindful action for concerned citizens was a challenge, and one we felt compelled to offer after our fact finding mission. Clearly, as tough as an issue as it was, others felt the same. The 1000 plus people who took action, and 400 plus who donated are the big winners.

Social Media Works: We had no budget, and no paid staff other than the time that Citizen Effect dedicated to the effort. Everyone else volunteered, and all the tools and design were provided for free. The whole effort was done on a shoe string, and was possible because free social tools empower activism.

Crowdsourcing on a National Level: We took a hands-off approach to local events encouraging people to become creative and make the events their own. The Tar Ball took off in Houston and DC had a date auction. In North Carolina, Rob Blackwell created a song! DC’s Jess3 contributed an EventBrite landing page. Chicago and LA had concerts, and New York featured a movie. It was awesome to see the creativity!

Citizen Journalism: The citizen journalism last June was an incredible success, driving incredible awareness about the plight of the fishing families, prompting people to ask us what was next, and if they could get involved. I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again as a means of open research, sharing knowledge and driving interest.

New Relationships: Whenever you do something like that involves mass action and face-to-face interaction, you create all sorts of new relationships for others as well as yourself. I think anyone who invested serious time in CitizenGulf is already seeing the intangible benefits this week in their online networks.

Believing: Sometimes when something as bad as the oil spill occurs, the lying, the malfeasance, and the inept governance that oversaw the effort, people stop believing. Ironically, Obama’s campaign promise of, “Yes, We Can,” while it may not hold true for his administration, did come true for CitizenGulf. I think most people believe that even with a simple registration or even a tweet they made a difference. And for eight kids they did. It’s important that people see this and know it, because believing your actions matter is the antithesis of the growing lack of empathy we are seeing in society today.


Twitter Activity the Week Prior to CitizenGulf Events

Some of the challenges were external and beyond our control, and some were internal and provide an opportunity for learning. As one of the public leadership points of contact for CitizenGulf, and arguably the most visible, I want to state now that these are my opinions, and also from my standpoint, the internal challenges are my responsibility. I share these simply to offer lessons learned for staging events of this magnitude.

Crowdsourcing on the Executive Level: We put together a dream team of volunteers to lead the effort on the fly. Yet, at times this was hard for all parties.

Because the effort was discussed orally, and expectations were not put in writing so everyone understood their roles, we had some branding and promotion issues that made CitizenGulf less visible than it could have been. Also, this lack of clarity caused our effort to become more complicated than necessary, and I received feedback from local organizers that they did not understand calls-to-action, etc. Again, I see these errors as my fault, and I apologize for any problems this caused.

With a group managed movement like this, Memorandums of Understanding should be deployed so that everything is in writing and roles clearly defined. It also may be worthwhile to have a smaller team, with clearer executive roles.

The Local Cause: Because we picked a charity that only worked within eight parishes of Louisiana and because it was religious, we had some more explaining to do. Our fact finding mission showed that Catholic Charities of New Orleans was doing the most work with fishermen, but I think it was a stretch for some people, and it could have been better explained.

Pepsi Refresh: As part of putting together the dream team, we added a Pepsi Refresh contest to the calls-to-action. But the contest entry did not read like a CitizenGulf effort, and didn’t integrate well. Plus an ensuing controversy the week the contest opened about Pepsi Refresh’s Gulf initiative pretty much submarined this call to action right out of the gates.

Posterous: Posterous was generally a good blogging platform, but had significant DNS attacks the week of the event launch which stymied momentum. Posterous does not currently let you use its code on your own server. If we had made the decision to use WordPress on our own server, we would not have had such an issue. We had 18 business days to market the event and lost roughly two to Posterous issues. As you can see, relying on a platform outside of your control can have its downside.


As you can see there were more positives than negatives, and because of the outstanding way some local leaders took on the crowdsourcing challenge, a successful movement was built in a short period of time. Most importantly, people were provided with and took up mindful actions to build a positive result in the wake of BP and the Obama Administration’s combined mismanagement of the oil spill disaster.

As a whole, I see fundraising via social media as a secondary result, not a primary goal (See May interview where I stated this). For the amount of time spent, there are better primary ways to raise money. Movements like this are better for education, and to empower citizen philanthropists to act. That being said, we still helped out eight to ten children this year, and that’s a very powerful statement.

Personally, I feel like I could easily replicate and improve the citizengulf movement building process. If I had a budget and more lead time, the results would be extremely potent in comparison. The #citizengulf experience was invaluable in that sense.

Finally, I have so much more respect for Amanda Rose and the incredible job she did with Twestival. To do this three times with the level of success she has had is simply astounding.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I think we made the interwebs a better place this Summer with the CitizenGulf initiative and we made a real difference for children who were impacted by this disaster.

Citizen Effect will continue the CitizenGulf Project. You can create your own initiative to benefit Gulf kids, or you can still give if you’d like. Here’s the donation page.