#ADVOCACY: Google Does Harm To Privacy & Suffers An Hour’s Income For Infractions

Google as a gateway spying agency?
Google as a gateway spying agency?

What you think about Google’s (and Facebook’s. And Twitter’s…) efforts to collect personal information of its users probably says quite a bit about what you think about human nature: If you don’t mind a database of your online activities being used by social networks and search engines, then you are likely comfortable with the fact that Google might know quite a bit about you but will not use that information to do any one harm. If you wonder if that flatscreen TV is looking back at you, then you might see in Google’s inadvertent collection of personal data while collecting its street maps over the last few years as the foundation of our Orwellian fate.

Google was recent fined for its ‘accidental’ collection of information across open Wi-Fi networks while filming its Street Views for Google Maps (And by ‘accidental’, I do not mean to use the term ironically. Google executives, once called on it by the federal government, immediately apologized and said it would accept the fine.). The fine was for $7 million − about what Google Inc. collects per hour from its various advertising and business interests. How might we understand these latest infractions into our privacy?

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#FUNDRAISING: Crowdfunding Response To Boston Bombing Raises Hope & Caution

Crowdfunders HandsOne of the wonderful qualities of Americans is the way we respond with our time and our money when a terrible shock or natural disaster hits our fellow countrypeople. The bombings in Boston on the 15th were certainly ‘terrible shocks’ and as homemade and smartphone videos make clear, volunteers and fellow marathon watchers ran in to help before the smoke cleared. And since then Americans all over the country have been raising money online and via a sprouting group of crowdfunding sites. But along with over $2 million being raised to help survivors recover, warnings are also being raised about cases of fraud. How do legitimate crowdfunding organizations separate themselves from the occasional fraudsters?

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#VIDEO: Ken Sterns’s Book Offers Tough Love To Nonprofit Economy

Ken Sterns, former CEO of NPR, challenges the nonprofit sector
Ken Sterns, former CEO of NPR, challenges the nonprofit sector

Ken Sterns has served as CEO of National Public Radio, arguably one of the best-known nonprofits in the country. He supports The American Red Cross, and has served on the boards of a number of charities. So when his book, And Charity for All argues that the nonprofit sector is a huge part of the American economy, yet the least productive sector as well, people listen. And they should.

Mr. Sterns was recently interviewed at The Huffington Post, as he joined a roundtable (‘multiscreen’) discussion that included Alexander Berger at GiveWell; Dr. John Brothers, founder of Quidoo Consulting; and Rigo Sabarino, President and CEO of St. Barnabas Senior Services. The interview begins with him throwing down the gauntlet, wondering if the nonprofit community is even worth preserving.

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What Worked for Obama’s Email Fundraising Machine

Two key members of the Obama campaign’s online fundraising team recently offered surprising insights on what worked and what didn’t to their former colleagues at M+R Research Labs. Their bottom line: Keep testing, because what works one week might not the next. The campaign had the staffing, the technical chops and the money to try anything that would get fundraising results.

Here are highlights of what they discovered:

  • The only segmentation that made a difference was on donor behavior. Action talks…etc.
  • New approaches worked – until they didn’t.
  • Even the experts couldn’t predict the approaches that performed best. Test and test again.
  • Appeals that worked best also had the highest unsubscribe rates – but it was still worth it.
  • Length of email didn’t make a difference, until the very end of the campaign when short messages did better.


#FUNDRAISING: Register for Maryland Governor’s Grants Conference

Plenary Speaker of Governor's Grants ConferenceAs the calendar year unfolds and the fiscal year 2013-2014 appears over the horizon, so too does registration begin for the Maryland Governor’s Grants Conference. This year’s conference will be held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus on Thursday, February 21st. The one-day conference − sponsored by such organizations as the National Grant Management Association, the Grant Professionals Association, and Deloitte − offers plenary talks by leaders in the grant-providing and grant-winning fields, as well as breakout sessions allowing networking and specific assistance for your organization’s needs.

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Postal Service Rates To Rise on 27 January

US Postal Service Stamp
Forever stamps still good after the 27th.

We have managed to put off the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ for a couple of months, but we can’t avoid the changes in postal rates coming in a couple of weeks. Thanks to our fine business partners at Ecoprint in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the heads-up! The US Postal Service (USPS) has been on hard times over the last 5-7 years due to the overwhelming presence of email, social networks, and e-fax services. Moreover, the semi-private/ public service is carrying a striking burden of compensation packages for its executives that, frankly, seem to outweigh the performance of the venerable institution. Be that as it may, be prepared for upticks to many of the services. What’s coming at the end of the month?

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Resources: Are You Job Hunting?

  • Social Media: For those whose most immediate marketing problem is marketing themselves to employers, have I got a book for you. It’s The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media, by Mazarine Treyz, who is the Wild Woman. I interviewed Mazarine last year about her fundraising consulting and found her full of wit, insight and charm. Her new book promises to explain how to market yourself (or your business) in 15 minutes a day.
  • Content Management: Idealware, a nonprofit that analyzes software for nonprofits,  has produced a free, downloadable report that reviews and compares 11 content management systems. It also includes a directory of qualified consultants who can help with implementation.
  • Video: a free report by the Jun Group on the impact of online video finds, surprisingly, that the group most likely to act after seeing a video is the 55-and-up cohort.
  • Advocacy: “The Advocacy Gap,” a free downloadable report, refers to the difference between how most advocates talk to Congress and how Congress would prefer to be talked to.

Big Bird Soars to Social Media Victory

Big Bird
Big Bird (Photo credit: LR_PTY)

While we wait for the final vote count, a clear early winner of the 2012 campaign season is Big Bird. When Republican candidate Mitt Romney promised to “fire” the friendly Muppet by cutting off funding to PBS, Twitter exploded with messages of support for the bird. It was a communications crisis – and opportunity – for Sesame Workshop, who played it perfectly and in character with an initial response the following day.

Big Bird: My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?

Sesame Workshops subsequent responses make n excellent case study for successful  “newsjacking.” Blogger Christina Sirabian extracts three lessons for social media marketers.

#COMMUNICATION: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Conversing With Both Audience & Each Other?

Silos of information can damage communicationAs social networks and social marketing have matured over the last two or three years, a debate continues as to how effective social media is to inspire action (be it making a purchase, donating to a cause, or risking one’s life in a revolution). But it seems to me that the argument is both older than modern social media (read any Marshall McLuhan lately?) and more complicated than trying to argue cause-and-effect. Social networks offer wonderfully inexpensive means to expand and magnify conversations, but they also create stunning amounts of ‘noise’ that readers have to learn to tune out without getting distracted (no easy task). But how can a nonprofit leverage the powers of social media to inspire action while also striving not to distort the outreach with too much talk?

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#FUNDRAISING: Presidential Candidates Ramp Up Mobile Giving

ABC News photo of text donationsWith the (delayed) start of the Republican Convention in Tampa earlier this week, the really officially serious campaign season starts. For the next 10-odd weeks, most American start to focus on the candidates, their platforms, and their messages. There has been much talk about the low level of discourse that has driven the campaign thus far, but − unlike Senate debates in the 19th century − no one has been caned.

This is the first post-‘Citizens United’ national election, so the astute political junkies are paying attention to the money flow from corporations and unions that need report their large donations until after the voting has been counted. But what about at the other end of the giving scale? This is also the first national election that offers opportunities for texting donations to candidates. How might that change the fundraising landscape?

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#PROAGING: Olympics & Social Media Suggest Shrinking Digital Divide

The Social Olympics in LondonNBC might have gotten some bad press for giving away results before showing them tape-delayed in the lucrative hours of prime time. These Olympics have both been the ‘first Social Olympics’ and the first to struggle to understand what such instantaneous communication can mean to corporate and sporting interests. And, as it turns out, most of the griping is coming from the world of social networks. According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Americans find the NBC communications conglomerate’s coverage excellent or good.

What are the numbers when age is taken into consideration?

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#SOCIALMEDIA: IOC Struggles To Corral First “Social Olympics” In London

Infomous envisions social media activity around London Olympics
Click on image to visit Infomous.com

The Opening Ceremonies went off without a hitch. Security concerns have been allayed thus far. The weather hasn’t been too bad. For Americans, we’ve had a few sub-par performances in the pool and on the gymnastics apparatuses, but so far, so good.

Unless the issue is how this so-called “First Social Games” is going. The social media events have not gone quite like fans, competitors, or International Olympic Committee members had thought it would − all for different reasons. Indeed, the biggest security dust-up has to do not with fears of terrorists, but fears of unwanted mention of sponsors by athletes and/or their supporters. Is the IOC fairly trying to protect the Olympic ‘brand’ or are its members greedily limiting expression through social media? And does anybody else really care?

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#TECH: Look What We Did To Apple! Welcome Back To EPEAT.

Apple computers are back on EPEAT list
Apple bruised by PR cuts over EPEAT

No, MKCREATIVEmedia doesn’t wield that kind of influence over 1 Infinity Loop. Or any influence, really. But about two hours ago we posted a summation of Apple’s withdrawal from the very EPEAT environmental standards the corporation helped establish over a decade ago. Our little contribution to the issue was not technological or particularly environmental, but political: Apple (and any other corporation, bank, investment firm, media conglomerate…) wants to set the rules, follow the rules, and be umpire of those rules (for itself) all at the same time.

Well, difficult to say that Apple called a foul on itself. But retiring Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield, has released a press release at Apple’s website explaining why Apple has decided to return to the EPEAT community!

Here are excerpts of his letter:

We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.

It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever….

For example, Apple led the industry in removing harmful toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We are the only company to comprehensively report greenhouse gas emissions for every product we make, taking into account the entire product lifecycle. And we’ve removed plastics wherever possible, in favor of materials that are more highly recyclable, more durable, more efficient and longer lasting.

Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve. Our team at Apple is dedicated to designing products that everyone can be proud to own and use.

Sure, Apple wants those government contracts back. But what might also be striking about this volte face is Apple is tacitly admitting it didn’t expect much of a public reaction to their leaving the coalition. “I mean, really! Our stuff is greener than most anybody’s anyway. Why all this fuss?” We can see Apple’s decision on its decision as one little victory for the common person and her/his social networking tools.

Of course, we’re complaining about our latest iPads, whereas people are risking their lives on social networks in Syria and Egypt. But let’s take our wins where we can. And no, MKCREATIVEmedia won’t be taking credit for this change of policy.


#CIVICS: Apple’s Billions In Tax Dodges Come Under Scrutiny

Apple's corporate headquarters at 1 Infinity Loop
The corporation is in California, but not its tax liability

Apple Inc. is making it difficult to feel sympathy for Apple Inc. When the blogosphere challenged Apple the business and Steve Jobs the CEO to act like a good corporate citizen by offering some philanthropic goodwill, we took a fairly conciliatory position that Apple’s job is innovative technology and Apple’s innovative technology has been a real boon to the nonprofit world. When the terrible conditions at Foxconn China broke, we followed the story arc with you and stressed Apple’s willingness to engage its supplier − albeit belatedly. Then the story dissolved amid retractions and mea culpas that threatened many careers outside Apple or Foxconn.

But now The New York Times has reported that Apple Inc. has been pipelining profits to subsidiaries and ghost offices both in the US and abroad that has lowered its tax liabilities by over $2 billion in the last year.

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Kony 2012 Covered The Night. Did It Jump The Shark?

Young teens enjoy a night out in London advertising Kony 2012
Youth cover some of the evening

The sensation that is/was ‘Kony 2012’ has been a part of the nonprofit social-media landscape for six-plus weeks now. The hundreds of millions who made the original video a viral sensation in March were not all supporters of the message, though, and challenges to the drive launched by the San Diego nonprofit ‘Invisible Children’ continue to be made. The original and ostensible goal is to have Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) brought to justice by making Kony ‘famous’ enough that world leaders will be inspired or shamed to dedicate the resources to get him. The effort to make him famous has been done and the culmination of the effort was this past weekend’s ‘Cover The Night’ campaign. How well did it go? Whether the night got ‘covered’ probably depends on where you are and what you want ‘covered’ to mean, but Invisible Children have ratcheted up their campaign with, frankly, the oddest video yet.

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#ADVOCACY: Kony 2012 Sequel Not Going Viral, Nor Ending Debate

Invisible Children's latest video encourages responsible coverage of their message
Too little too late?

Last Thursday, Invisible Children released their tepidly anticipated sequel to the stunningly viral video Kony 2012 (over 100 million views). The sequel, “Kony Part II – Beyond Famous,” was almost destined not to make as big a splash in the nonprofit/video/social-media ocean because the impact of the message had already been made, and those millions who responded − positively or negatively − probably don’t need to see a sequel to be re-convinced. Since the first video came out, just over a month ago, the ‘media packages’ people were asked to purchase to support the campaign were quickly sold out and the video’s director/narrator, Jason Russell, was arrested and committed to hospital for mental and emotional fatigue.

We still await the climactic ‘Cover The Night’ campaign of 20 April, but what all this has done to bring Kony to justice remains to be seen. What we want to focus on today, though, is how social networks inspired the explosion of interest around the original, and how those same networks might be dampening the responses to the sequel.

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#SM4NP: Kony 2012 Will Get A Sequel & More Context Today

Invisible Children announce a sequel of Kony 2012
Today is the day. Probably.

As any Hollywood mogul will confirm, when your movie is watched by 100 million people, you need to make a sequel. That market is just too big to pass up. And the renown viral video Kony 2012 has been viewed well over 100 million times. Nevertheless, the reasons the San Diego based firm ‘Invisible Children’ will be releasing a sequel to their 30-minute wunderkind seem not really about tapping a market so much as explaining the phenomenon. It has not been released as of this posting, but one can’t help but wonder if we need the prequel/context-setter any more than we needed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

What do we know about a movie that has not yet appeared?

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#PROAGING: Republican Budget Realigns Medicare But Ignores Long-Term Care

The dollars needed for Health Care rise faster than inflationThe macro-economics of aging over the next 40 years do not look great: the first Baby Boomers reached the age of Social-Security eligibility 15 months ago, but the crest of this so-called ‘Silver Tsunami’ will not come until about 2030. It will not recede for another couple of decades. The issue is not the number of people so much as the economy’s ability/preparation to deal with the number. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “The baseline 2010 Retirement Readiness Rating™ finds that nearly one-half (47.2 percent) of the oldest cohort (Early Baby Boomers) are simulated to be “at risk” of not having sufficient retirement resources to pay for “basic” retirement expenditures and uninsured health care costs. The percentage “at risk” drops for the Late Boomers (to 43.7 percent) but then increases slightly for Generation Xers to 44.5 percent.”

The combination of retiring Boomers with lengthening life expectancies with a general political trend to cut taxes for all while reducing services only to the poor has meant that the costs of long-term care are growing, while the will to adjust expectations or fund federal programs is shrinking. The FY2013 budget proposed by Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) earlier this month has not much quelled fears of how Medicare will deal with the spread between long-living retired  Boomers and the costs they will impose on an already stressed healthcare ‘system’.

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#SocialMedia: Kony 2012 Still Stirs Engagement, Controversy, And Embarrassment

Many doubt the finances and political connections of the Kony 2012 campaign
Director's breakdown raises further questions

The controversy surrounding the viral video ‘Kony 2012’ continues even as its views on YouTube surpass 85.4 million as I write. The director, Jason Russell, had something of a mental breakdown a week ago, when he was arrested for indecent exposure while ranting almost incoherently about support and friendships. As reported by ABC.com late last week, “According to the National Institutes of Health, brief reactive psychosis is triggered by extreme stress, such as a traumatic event or the loss of a loved one. The symptoms, which include delusions, hallucinations and strange speech, can last up to a month, and the person may be completely unaware of them. … Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, said the backlash over Russell’s “Kony 2012″ campaign could have been traumatic enough to trigger the meltdown.”

How might disconcerting behavior of the video’s producer shift the discussion of the video and the appeal by ‘Invisible Children’ to raise awareness of Joseph Kony’s ‘Lord’s Resistance Army‘?

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#TECH: Megauploads Shut Down, Highlighting Concerns Of Cloud Computing

Megauploads was shut down in January 2012
But what about all the legal files on the servers?

The move toward cloud computing has numerous benefits, including a place to back up your organization’s most important files and offering access to such files from any mobile device. Indeed, the growing stability and reliability of cloud-computing technologies has been one of the unsung underpinnings of the success of the iPad/tablet market, for they (thus far?) offer comparatively little storage space. Moreover, if that portable device gets lost, sat-on, or stolen, the donor list and the iTunes library are not lost with the device.

But cloud computing does carry some security risks, especially for organizations that feel compelled to rent space on third-party servers. For example, though upkeep of the network isn’t your concern in such a contract, if that third party gets subpoenaed by law enforcement for what’s on its servers, your organization’s data can be caught in the dragnet. As recent developments in the Megauploads case, getting legal and legitimate files back out of that cloud service can be tricky and time consuming.

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#Advocacy: ‘This American Life’ Retracts Story Of Abuses At Foxconn

Mike Daisey's one-man show is over, but is the story?It has been a rough week for social-consciousness movements whose leaders have produced stories a bit too slick to be true. We wrote last week about the doubts surrounding the viral video ‘Kony 2012’ meant to inspire a public campaign against Joseph Kony’s child army in Uganda − if that army still exists and Kony is indeed in Uganda. Over the weekend, the producer Jason Russell was arrested for public drunkenness and self-satisfaction, casting still further doubt on the veracity of the campaign and on the nonprofit ‘Invisible Children’.

To add to the unnerving series of good stories gone bad, Mike Daisey’s story/one-man-show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” has been discredited for his taking numerous liberties with what he claimed were personal encounters at Apple’s suppliers Foxconn in China. His story – somewhat truncated – was broadcast on the popular ‘This American Life‘ public-radio program this past January, causing quite a stir. And it now has been retracted by producer Ira Glass and Daisey has been reconfiguring his story in light of probing questions into its authenticity.

What might be behind the rise and fall of these stories?

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#PUBLICPOLICY: Online Privacy Becomes Concern For Service Providers

Peter Steiner's famous cartoon of internet anonymity
Perhaps the most famous statement of internet privacy from 'The New Yorker' (1993)

Online privacy has been a notable concern for many citizens almost since the inception of the internet, and certainly we have often discussed the issue on our blog over the years. A decade ago, the question of privacy largely was answered with calm warnings to use common sense and with explanations of the averages working against anyone being able to assemble any meaningful aggregate of the real you.

But now not only do companies exist precisely to aggregate your online behavior, millions of us willingly offer our own aggregations via our social-network platforms of choice. Those who strive to ensure some privacy of individuals have been lobbying the federal government to block certain aggregations and pressuring companies to offer ever more powerful privacy controls to customers and members. What seems to be the state of the discussion now?

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#PUBLICPOLICY: Pressure Grows On Apple’s Supplier Foxconn

Protestors challenge labor practices of Apple and Foxconn
These are protestors of, not customers for, the new iPhone

The reputation of a nonprofit can make-or-break its efforts. Note the stunning blowback and reversal of the Susan G. Komen Foundation when it quietly tried to back out of its relationship with Planned Parenthood. For a business, the reputation can perhaps take more of a beating and still survive. Note BP’s expanding presence in the Gulf of Mexico despite the human and environmental costs of the corporation’s oil spill in 2010.

And then there’s Apple: perhaps the only company that can have a serious court case against its flagship product (the iPad in China), a publicity firestorm and protests over its (suppliers’) treatment of workers, and can still surpass the $500 share price. How is its PR responding to the oxymorons?

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#Communications: Postal Rates Raised Last Week – Not For Nonprofits

The US Postal Service is fenced in by long-term imposed costsThe United States Postal Service has been struggling financially for the last few years. The Bush Administration saddled the service with pre-paying its future retiree benefits for a decade (2006-2016), a demand uniquely imposed on the USPS. Bush’s policy meant the service went from profits in the $1.4 billion range in 2005 to one that has laid off thousands of works, closed numerous branches, and still needs to raise postal rates in an effort just to stay open. So what he did to the postal service he did to the country.

This past Monday many postal rates changed. For example, first-class mail went up by a penny and its guaranteed one-day delivery (depending on distance) was removed. Or perhaps you didn’t notice?

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#Communication: SOPA & PIPA Bills Are Dying, But Not Dead

Wikipedia shuts down for a day to protest SOPA and PIPAYesterday, a couple of the most used and best-known websites on the internet willingly shut themselves down: Wikipedia and Reddit. Google, you likely noticed, ‘redacted’ its daily Google Doodle. These efforts were to call attention to and protest against the Congressional debates over the ‘Stop Internet Piracy Act’ (SOPA) in the House and the ‘Protect Internet Protocols Act’ (PIPA) in the Senate. And they seem to have worked, as support for either bill has drained away: “We can find a solution that will protect lawful content. But this bill is flawed & that’s why I’m withdrawing my support. #SOPA #PIPA,” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt wrote on his official Twitter page. (Quote from CNN Tech report earlier this morning).

But the concern over online piracy of entertainment and software remains, and SOPA’s political supporters promise to refine new legislative efforts.

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