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Guest Post: Rebecca Arno
This time of year in Denver, gardeners know that deep freezes and spring snow are behind us and it’s finally safe to plant. It’s also when the residents of the Whittier neighborhood will begin putting in their community garden – on a site formerly used by gangs to hide drugs and guns. They’ll need to recruit volunteers, but that shouldn’t be a problem, because they’ve already started telling their story and connecting their neighbors to the vision, through a new tool called Floodlight.
Floodlight is a partnership of The Piton Foundation, a private operating foundation created by energy entrepreneur and philanthropist Sam Gary, and The Denver Foundation, the oldest and largest community foundation in the Rockies, with generous support through the Knight Community Information Challenge. Both Piton and The Denver Foundation have longstanding commitments to helping people in low-income communities make change by using the power of data and storytelling.
Guest Post: Liz Banse
A few years ago, I had a light bulb moment when talking with a branding expert about how the images that companies use – more than anything else – influenced how their products were perceived by their customers. The light bulb moment was not, however, the idea that good ads – in all their well-executed glory – get us to buy stuff we never thought we needed. Heck, even kids know that!
The a-ha moment came instead in thinking about whether the nonprofit community was adopting best practices from Madison Avenue and applying them to cause communications. Were there Mad Men amongst us? I compared notes with my colleagues. Our conclusion was that most nonprofits start their persuasion efforts in the opposite fashion from corporations – with words. Oh, my, we sweat over every word choice. But then we spend only a fraction of that time on finding a picture to go with our narrative, almost as an afterthought. This is the exact opposite way that our brains process information – the visual first, the verbal second.
The following is a modified version of a post that appeared earlier on the James Irvine Foundation’s blog.
Guest Post: Kevin Rafter
As others have posted about on this blog, the meeting last week at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided an opportunity for a group of foundation staff, evaluation professionals and social media experts to talk about measurement and evaluation of social media. As someone who thinks about evaluating my foundation’s communications efforts and putting those evaluations in the context of our broader organizational goals, I found the meeting quite productive and helpful.
Also, because I’m an evaluator and not a communications professional, it’s rare that I get to offer my thoughts on communications outside of my own foundation. So I’m grateful for this opportunity to share some observations — both from an evaluator’s point of view and as someone who believes communications are important to effective philanthropy — with a pretty big and important audience of communicators who work in philanthropy.
Guest Post: Ryan Reynolds
When it comes to delivering great user experiences online, it’s ironic that one of the hottest new approaches to web design is inspired by a concept that is thousands of years old. But perhaps that is just a testament to the durability of great ideas.
Way back when, if you wanted to write something important down, you generally had two choices: cave drawings or stone tablets. Permanent, yes, but also impractical. Eventually, scrolls were invented, providing the first continuous, editable medium. Ancient Egyptians used scrolls for record-keeping, while Judeans were the first to adapt the format to literature with their all-time best seller, the Torah. It wasn’t until the first century AD that the bound book came about, and it would be almost two thousand more years before the genesis of the modern medium—the digital screen.
The most interesting aspect of this evolution is how the medium continues to shape the message, and vice versa. Caves and tablets were condusive to artistic depictions and decorative narratives with limited written copy. Scrolls were just the opposite: well-suited to long, linear narratives, but with limited decoration. Bound books physically segmented scrolls’ continuous medium into individual pages, which in turn spawned content structures such as parts, sections and chapters.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is one the four winners of this year’s Wilmer Shields Rich Awards, a partnership between the Communications Network and the Council on Foundations. In the following post, which originally appeared on the Council’s Re: Philanthropy blog, Regan Gruber Moffitt, senior associate for public policy at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, discusses how using communications can help philanthropic organizations achieve the outcomes they seek.
Guest Post: Regan Gruber Moffitt
At the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF), we aspire to “go viral.” Whether this sounds good to you may depend on your generation—or how recently you have battled a cold. I will put your mind at ease by saying that we aim to share messages rather than multiply germs. Similar to powerful examples such as the Arab Spring, and less powerful but more fun examples, like the viral video of a kid in a car seat dancing, we strive to engage people through communications. By doing so, we believe we can help our foundation fulfill its value around transparency and reach its mission. We believe that communications of any kind—from convenings, newletters, and annual reports, to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—can help philanthropy achieve the outcomes it seeks.
So why should foundations communicate? Below are three reasons that drive WRF and that we believe should drive philanthropy to prioritize communications as a strategy to effect change.