Preparing for our #SXSW conversation: #toolsforgood

Yup, I’m getting all jiggy with the #hashtags. I just figured out that they are preassigned in the SXSWi catalog, so I may as well start using them.

Yesterday, I answered Maria’s questions as we prepared for our panel. Today, she answers mine:

Sorel: If you could give one piece of advice to a non-profit looking to stand out from the crowd, what would it be?

Maria Giudice, Hot Studio

Maria: Do not scrimp on the power of good design to get your message out and stand out from the crowd. Non-profits really struggle to find budget when it comes to spending money for a great brand strategist or social media strategist to use words in a powerful way. Or hire a designer to create compelling online and offline materials. So many non-profits fall prey to “that non-profit” look and feel and tone and voice which causes them to blend into the noise rather than be differentiated in a crowded field of social gooders. non-profit can stand out from the rest by:
Establishing a solid and frequent messaging strategy
Use a clear and distinctive voice and tone
Making sure your visual presence is powerful, unique and clearly stands out from the rest

Sorel: What is most interesting to you right now about the technology landscape for non-profits?
Maria: Technology was been both a boon and the bane for non-profits and many ways, but here are my top two:

The good
The uprise of citizen journalism. Now more than ever before, world events can no longer be hidden from the world. Take the most recent election in Iran. As much as the government attempted to stifle free speech, we got to see the terrible uprising and outcome unfold before our very eyes. Technology has enabled us to record and broadcast images and words as they happen in real time. Helping others or witnessing suffering is now less abstract in someone’s mind and the demand immediately to respond through volunteerism and donations increases exponentially.

The bad
The downside to technology enabling people to see events as they unfold in real time is the fact that people’s patience and attention span has led to a somewhat ADD culture. Some causes become viral and take off in the social sphere. However, as quickly as something can go viral, just as quickly it can be passed by and be forgotten. How do you keep your social causes continually relevant in such an ADD techno world that is full of noise?

Sorel: Going beyond the Facebook page: Is it realistic for small organizations pursue new technologies? Isn’t the flashy stuff just for the big guys? What are some ideas for achieving innovation in tightly budgeted environments?
Maria: That’s a really good question. I’ve always admired Architecture for Humanity’s ability to reach so many people in a really scrappy way. Before we designed the Open Architecture Network where we donated our time along with Sun Microsystems and others, they were using a ton of free social tools, like Meetup for example, to extend their reach and communicate with their chapters and other audiences. There are so many social tools out there like Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook that are free to use. There are lots of downsides with that as well, such as the data from those social sites does not belong to you and it’s difficult to collect in aggregate.

The innovation comes from your energy and ability to attract and maintain a loyal following. If you are active in the social sphere and are communicating often, you will attract followers and they will turn around and tell their friends. When you to reach out to friends of friends, you can extend your reach in an affordable way. And don’t forget about having real face time with your constituents. Get out there and meet people in person. The cost of course becomes your investment of time.


Please join us for this conversation in Austin on Saturday, March 13 at 12:30pm in Room 7. If you can’t make it, feel free to email us or ask questions as comments to this post. You can also follow along on Twitter: Just look for the hashtag #toolsforgood. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this exciting topic!


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