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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.
Are we finally getting serious and asking important questions about the role social media (or media in any form) can play in helping foundations achieve their goals? Signs seem to be pointing that way.
For instance, last week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) held a day-long conference focused on how foundations can determine if social media is moving their work forward. Over the course of large group and small group discussions and presentations, the questions that kept communications professionals and evaluators engaged were “what do we measure and what will success look like from using social media?”
(A version of this post also appears on The Center For Effective Philanthropy Blog.)
In a perfect world, our ideal audiences would read every one of our tweets, consume every blog post and make sure not a day goes by they don’t check Facebook for our latest updates.
But we know it’s not a perfect world, and for proof we have the results of a Center for Effective Philanthropy survey that examined grantees’ engagement with foundations’ social media. For any tweeting, blogging, or Facebook-using foundation that presumes their grantees are paying routine attention to what they’re writing, posting and featuring through social media channels, this study may surprise, but I don’t think it should disappoint.
When the Communications Network released its survey last summer of foundation communications practices, one of the key findings it trumpeted was the increasing reliance on all forms digital communications, especially social media, for reaching target audiences. Yet, a report just released by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP)–based on a survey of leaders and senior managers at 6,000 nonprofits–may give some foundations pause for thought if they are similarly relying on social media to keep grantees informed about their organizations’ work.
Guest Post: R. Christine Hershey
In an increasingly visual culture, the old ways of communicating lessons learned are startlingly out of touch with how we want and expect to get information. That’s why the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation decided to try a new approach to sharing lessons they were learning from the evaluation of two social impact games. One game, Battlestorm, was a youth-based game to improve hurricane preparation awareness and habits on the Gulf Coast. The other, Macon Money, used an alternative form of local currency to connect residents to each other and to attract and expose people to local businesses in Macon, Georgia. For both evaluations, the foundation wanted to communicate its findings in ways that were just as appealing, interactive, and forward-thinking as the games themselves.