Upping Our Social Media Ante

From donor engagement to public action, social media has permanently disrupted traditional advocacy efforts.  So often I get frustrated by those who “like” something on social media, but do not take action beyond the comfort of their own computer.  I originally thought inaction was attributed to the state of our society, but after a little bit of reading, I’ve learned it is more of a facet of the efforts of the organizations generating the posts.

For organizations with a social media presence, incorporating this platform within their donor engagement models and developing useful metrics around online organizing will cultivate a more robust impact that can eventually move offline.

Social media has permanently disrupted the traditional donor engagement model.  Donor engagement is no longer linear.  There are new entry points to supporters (e.g. online giving and viral video campaigns) and more opportunities for them to not only be influenced, but be influential as well.  Groups need to develop new engagement models that account for peer-to-peer influence and diversify their calls to action.  If supporters are only asked to donate then that will be all that they think they can do.

Organizations are enabling the online “slacktivist” dilemma.  Diversifying calls to action will move online supporters into more active rolls that can eventually be moved offline.

Slacktivism is used to describe easy, “feel good,” actions on an issue that have little to no practical impact beyond personal satisfaction.

Groups should look at “likes” as people raising their hands on an issue.  If all you care about are the number of “likes” you get on a post, then that is all you will accomplish – one-dimensional, surface level progress.  You have to follow up with further action items to really leverage and mobilize this constituency base.  Groups are enabling “slacktivism.”  They are not asking the right questions and are tracking the wrong metrics, which is in turn allowing the slacker tendencies of the public to exist.

I encourage everyone who tries to mobilize and/or fundraise on social media to take a few minutes out of their day to read the following pieces.  I have found them incredibly insightful to the world of online organizing and the role of social media in the once traditional advocacy space.

It’s Food Day!

The happiest day of the year is here!!! Okay that might be a little much.

But today is Food Day – a national day dedicated to celebrating the movement to transform the food system.  In the face of a complex system that comes with a powerhouse of industry support to keep it this way, activists have made progress across the country toward a transformed system.  It might seem at times onerous, but the food victories I see popping up across the country and the foundations and organizations dedicated to this issue remind me that it is possible.

As food activists use today as an opportunity to celebrate their work and raise awareness around food, I wanted to use this space to highlight issues with the food system rhetoric that I look forward to finally putting behind us with a systemic transition.

We continue to hear that  industrial agriculture is needed to feed the world.  That argument could not be any more false, so can we please move on from it?  Those that blast the “feed the world” argument are usually advocates of corn and soy, who are not exactly concerned about hunger in developing countries.

The following Food Mythbuster’s video explores this myth and brings to light the falsities of the industry’s arguments.


With a global population of over 7 billion people, is a systemic change in our current food system really possible?  Relationships will be key to preventing the unintentional re-industrialization of the system.  Within the food movement in the Chesapeake, there is real collective action happening amongst groups to leverage their impact, avoid duplication, and ensure the greatest impact is achieved in the region.  Our current system is depersonalized and distant.  The natural synergies and collective action around food system reform are essential to permanently breaking the current template.

The industry uses the idealized image of small family farms to their advantage.  That is not the reality of our current system.  We can get back to that idealized image, but it will require a systemic shift to a more local and sustainable model.

Take a few minutes and check out food system reform work we are supporting in the Chesapeake.  I know you want to procrastinate a little bit longer.



#GivingTuesday was created last year on the heals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It is a national day to kick off the giving season and is a great opportunity to raise donation support before the end of the year.  New York’s 92nd Street Y catalyzed the first #GivingTuesday last year.  This year #GivingTuesday will take place on December 3rd.

On the first #GivingTuesday more than 2,500 partners in all 50 state participated.  Donations increased by more than 50%.

The 2nd annual #GivingTuesday is less than 60 days away.  Now is the time to state planning if you want to participate in this national day of giving.  The key is to start building an online buzz now and utilize the resources providing on the #GivingTuesday website to develop an effective online presence.

I encourage everyone to participate and bring this national day to their local membership.  Lets bring the #GivingTuesday buzz to Maryland!

Happy Fundraising!

Additional Resources:


Can We Move Past the Voluntary?

I was lucky enough to stumble across an article by Sami Grover on Treehugger on climate change, Eric Holtaus, and the problem with voluntary strategies.  Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who has covered climate for the Wall Street Journal, made a drastic lifestyle change in light of the latest IPCC report.  The IPCC reported that climate change is rapidly becoming irreversible and dismissed many geo-engineering strategies as viable solutions.  Leaving drastic emissions reductions as the only viable option.

Holthaus flies approximately 75,000 miles a year.  He has now made the conscious decision to stay grounded.

When calculating your carbon footprint the areas with the most opportunity for emissions reductions are flying, meat consumption, and electricity use.  Reacting and adapting to climate change requires lifestyle changes.  Your ability to reduce your carbon footprint lies in your current lifestyle and if those areas of your footprint are high it is most likely because you like them or need them.  To these points Grover pointed out the unfortunate reality that “relying on personal, voluntary lifestyle changes is never going to be a winning strategy.

The issue with a voluntary strategy is not just felt with climate change, but Chesapeake Bay restoration as well.  These are not winning strategies, and yet, groups continue to advocate for them.  Look how far the voluntary has really gotten us with the Chesapeake Bay in the last 30 years.  We have made some progress, but was that all we really could have done?

Add to this – our political reality.  Environmental issues are a pawn in the political game.  On top of that, we are in the middle of a government shut down.  How does this impact our restoration and advocacy strategies?  It might not effect the state’s ability to continue implementing WIP efforts, but our whole federal structure is for the most part missing.  We are without important agency staffers who work closely with states to address climate change and Bay pollution.

Grover went on to conclude “…climate doesn’t give a damn about your personal carbon footprint.”  And to that I would add the Chesapeake Bay and the environment as a whole does not give a damn about our politics.  It does not care about our voluntary attempts.  If your child was sick would you take a voluntary approach?  I am pretty sure that answer would be no.  So why is it acceptable now?