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April 2013 (6 posts)

Glasspockets Find: Knight Foundation Takes the Measure of Social Media
April 25, 2013

The John S. and James L. Knight FoundationThe John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is among a growing number of foundations taking a hard look at how to measure the effect of social media and how it "can be used to increase foundation responsiveness and transparency, bring greater awareness to its programs and lead to broader action."

On April 25, 2013, Knight participated in roundtable discussion on Advancing Social Media Measurement hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose staff has blogged about social media here at Transparency Talk.

Writing on the Knight Foundation's blog, Mayur Patel, Knight's vice president for strategy and assessment, emphasized social media's ability to enhance:

  • Transparency: Improving the transparency and responsiveness of our work and the openness of our strategy and grantmaking.
  • Information Dissemination: Sharing lessons learned and helping shape best practices.
  • Network Strength: Diversifying and growing our network to find new talent and sources of innovative ideas.

Read the Knight Foundation blog»

Glasspockets Find: Looking Inside the Global Philanthropy Forum
April 24, 2013

The Global Philanthropy Forum’s (GPF) conference– an annual meeting of philanthropists and investors who seek to advance individual opportunity and to improve the quality of life through strategic giving and investing – wrapped up last week in Redwood City. The 2013 conference focused on the theme "The Future We Make: Outrage, Opportunity and Choice in the Digital Age."

A number of the sessions touched on issues relating to philanthropic transparency in a digital age, such as:

The Future We Make: Development in a Digital Age
 

Philanthropic Decision-Making: Open or Closed, An Art or a Science?

While attendance at the conference is by invitation, GPF provided a live-stream of all sessions during the conference while also recording each session in order to provide archival access later. As a GPF partner, Glasspockets is proud to host the conference recordings on our web site. You can find them all on Glasspockets.

Watch the videos»

Social Media, So What? RWJF Tackles How to Answer the Social Media, So What Question
April 17, 2013

Debra Joy Perez (@djoyperez) is currently serving as Interim Vice President of Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Perez-100Last year, after Steve Downs shared an overview of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) social media strategy, we hosted a series of interviews with RWJF staff members about how social media, and more broadly, the transparency and participation they offer, are adding new and critical dimensions to their work. The first case study on social networking as a learning tool is available here. The second on experimenting with different social mediums to serve as a catalyst for collaboration is available here. The third on leveraging social media to expand networks is available here.

The latest post offers perspective on how the use of these tools—which have become essential to our communication efforts—can be measured to reflect the impact of our work and rooted in a context of achieving social change goals.

Q: Let’s start with a glimpse into a day in the life of your work at the Foundation in light of all these new technologies. Why are metrics important to RWJF?
A: RWJF has a 40 year history of developing evidence-based programming. We are known for our research and evaluation work nationally and internationally. Yet, as new ways to advance our goals in health and health care become more reliant on technology, we struggle with measuring success and accountability.

Since 2009, RWJF has been incorporating Web 2.0 technology in our everyday work. That is what people who visit our website  can see since our September redesign, as we have more social sharing facilitation tools across the site. We also invite conversation about how to advance health and health care on Twitter, Facebook, and produce content that can serve the needs of various online communities.

We can clearly see and have made projections about the future value of social media. Social media can help us create social change and build movements around the causes that we care deeply about. We have learned many key lessons from initiating this work guided by our principles of openness, participation, and decentralization. Specific lessons include:

  • Personal outreach matters;
  • Responsiveness to requests for engagement is important;
  • Criticism can lead to healthy dialogue;
  • Make engagement easy and simple; and
  • Engagement takes work and dedicated resources.

These take homes suggest that each of these principles requires concerted efforts and conversations about policies and processes for achieving the intended goals. With each social media campaign, we must be explicit about expectations. Social media metrics is an essential part of our efforts at RWJF. We need measurement to help us achieve those expectations. Measurement also helps us continually improve our use of social media to achieve our broader social change goals.

Social media is another tool to achieve larger goals. While it can be a very powerful tool, it should not be mistaken for an end in itself.

Q: What does an effective and efficient social media campaign look like?
A: So where do you start: well, you might start first with acknowledging what you are already doing in social media and celebrating that. Do you have a Facebook page, an organizational presence on Twitter, operations on Tumblr? Conduct an inventory of what you are doing as an organization, as well as the engagement by individuals. Do staff leverage social media for their job, how have they been able to extend their reach, do we regularly appear on relevant blogs?

As you do this, you might start to recognize how much you don’t know. BUT don’t let the “not-knowing” stop you.

  • Have an explicit dialogue about your goals, what are you trying to accomplish with your social media efforts, e.g. what is the purpose of tweeting something, what is the action you want an individual to take? Although click-through is not itself an outcome, in my view, it is a process measure. 
  • Identify your networks. You probably already have more of a network than you recognize (see The Networked Nonprofit  by Kanter).
  • Schedule a formal discussion about value proposition in-house. Talk to who does it now and who doesn’t. Don’t expect everyone to Tweet. Some are better long-form writers and therefore might be better suited for blogging.
  • Establish data points for measuring impact of what you do.
  • Provide unique URLs for product releases and then test URL placements against each other (AB testing) to see which one is more effective.

Ultimately, discuss to what end are you using social media. Social media is another tool to achieve larger goals. While it can be a very powerful tool, it should not be mistaken for an end in itself.

Q: What is the expected ROI for social media?
A: We believe social media can have a profound effect on expanding our reach, as more people are building trusted networks of individuals and organizations and engaging online. Appropriate use of social media channels help us provide the right information and the right tools into the hands of our health and health care advocates (also known as message evangelists). You then start to see how making data accessible in new ways, such as interactives, data visualizations, and infographics, enables us to illustrate key points for case-making and building awareness.  

Because social media is a vehicle through which ideas can be generated, tested, built upon, and spread, we believe that this is worth measuring. However, while there is a plethora of ready to use analytical tools crowding the market, the challenge will be to avoid the “low-hanging fruit” trap of measuring activity over action. If we do our job correctly, we will be able to say what works and what doesn’t using social media metrics, as well as distinguishing online from offline impact.

Q: What is the current state of the field for measuring social media? Where do we go from here?
A: The potential power of social is undeniable and we are looking for ways to continue to test our assumptions about what we are producing. For example, by watching others comment on Twitter about our work we not only have a better sense of how we are being understood, it also serves as a kind of content analysis of the impact we are having. By monitoring a recurring Twitter chat, we can hear whether our meaning and intention is influencing the discussion in the way we desire it to.

As the unit responsible for measuring the impact of our work, we regularly ask ourselves: What are we using social media for? Who are our target audiences (segmented, as well as aggregated)? (The ability to diversify our networks is a huge value to RWJF; developing metrics that includes demographics of our audiences is an important part of the measurement effort.) What is the expected action/behavior we wish to see? How do we measure behavior change? How can we best go beyond measuring online activity (page views, unique visitors, tweets, and re-tweets) to measuring offline action and policy change? This is the key challenge for philanthropy today: assessing an effective and efficient social media campaign. As a foundation, accountable to our Board and the public, we must have standards for our investments in social media just as we do for our programmatic investments. We ought to be able to answer the so-what question for investing staff time and talent in social media campaigning. As a sector, we are becoming much more sophisticated in our use of communications to advance our work. Looking at ways to measure social media should fit within the framework of measuring communications broadly. Even as the task of identifying communications indicators is challenging, social media lends itself well to being more precise and thus measurable.

In order to engage the field in a dialogue on social media measurement, RWJF is hosting a national convening of experts in three domains: evaluation, communications, and social media. The April convening will produce a set of indicators on five Foundation-focused outcomes:

1. Our foundation is viewed as a valuable information source.

2. Our foundation is viewed as transparent.

3. Lessons are disseminated, multiplying impact beyond our foundation’s reach.

4. Public knowledge, advocacy, influence, and action is increased in strategic areas

5. Our networks strengthen and diversify.

We invite you to help us advance the field of social media measurement. Please follow hashtag #SM_RE on Twitter for conversations stemming from the social media measurement meeting this month, including a live Twitter chat on April 18, 3 p.m. EDT, as we continue to move the field forward in using data to evaluate and assess impact of our work.

-- Debra Joy Perez

The Global Philanthropy Forum: 2013 Conference
April 15, 2013

A project of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) aims to build a community of donors and social investors committed to international causes, and to inform, enable and enhance the strategic nature of their work. Each year, GPF hosts a conference for individuals who have made a significant commitment to international philanthropy, donors who have established family foundations and executives of corporate, private or public foundations based in the U.S. and overseas.

This year’s conference kicks off today and features a program agenda that includes topics that put transparency, technology, and open data center stage, such as “The Future We Make: Development in the Digital Age,” “Decision-Making in Philanthropy: A Science or an Art?,” and “Building an Information Infrastructure: Unlocking Data for Philanthropy.” Although attendance at the conference is by invitation only, GPF provides access, via live stream, to conference sessions as they happen, and via recorded video, once the programs have concluded. Access this year’s conference here.

Last Chance to Participate in the 2013 Glasspockets User Survey
April 5, 2013

It's your last chance to help us make Glasspockets better. We are conducting a short survey to assess ways to improve the Foundation Center’s Glasspockets web site. As a Glasspockets.org user, we invite you to contribute to our thinking around new directions for our work, and how we can improve the site to better engage and inform our audiences toward the goal of encouraging greater foundation transparency.

We look forward to your feedback.

Take the Survey Now»

-- Janet Camarena

Glasspockets Find: thisisbillgates, Ask Me Anything
April 3, 2013

Logo_gates_200Bill Gates recently hosted an Ask Me Anything (or AMA, for those in the know) over on reddit. During the session, he discussed a wide range of topics including, his favorite band (U2), Microsoft, and of course, his foundation and philanthropy. For those new to reddit, the site frequently hosts AMA sessions featuring notable people whereby reddit members can post questions to the interviewee and receive responses in (pretty much) real time.

The Gates Foundation has been using technology to increase transparency in some very innovative and proactive ways... This latest experiment is another window to the world’s largest private foundation, one that uses technology as a means to humanize the man behind the institution.

For those who know Bill Gates and the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation well, there aren’t too many surprises about the second wealthiest man in the World -- except that he tours power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, and missile Silos (!) with his family during his free time. There are definitely more than a few nuggets of information that would be of interest to potential Gates grantees. Eradicating polio remains a primary concern for the foundation. Other causes discussed throughout the thread include climate change, education, global health, and terrorism.

The Gates Foundation has been using technology to increase transparency in some very innovative and proactive ways. We have featured many of these efforts here on Transparency Talk: The 2011 Grantee Community Call, the Gates Annual Letter, and the Inside the Gates podcast series. This latest experiment is another window to the world’s largest private foundation, one that uses technology as a means to humanize the man behind the institution. The formal conversation is over, but the thread will live forever on the front page of the Internet.

-- Natasha Isajlovic-Terry

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

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