Apr 302010

Greetings from the 2010 Social Enterprise Summit in San Francisco, Calif.!  You’d be hard pressed to find a better place in the U.S. to host a conference on social enterprise than San Francisco, a city that’s pulsing with social entrepreneurial energy and brimming with the spirit of change.

Ah yes, change…it’s been the undercurrent of every conversation here at the first day of sessions and speakers.  How do you get the government to change its policy around social enterprise? How do you keep up with (or better yet harness) changes in technology to further your mission?  How can you change the way you think about the problems so that solutions are easier to find? And finally, is change really as hard as everyone thinks it is, or is it just a matter of thinking about it like a stubborn elephant and an over-analytical rider?

Far and away, the highlight of the day was the morning panel on disruptive philanthropy, featuring a lineup of thinkers from some of the most innovative online platforms operating in the giving space–Universal Giving, The Extraordinaries, DonorsChoose, OpenAction, Change.org, Social Actions and Citizen Effect.

Ironically, the wireless in the ballrooms of the SF Hyatt is nonexistent, which seriously hampered our abilities to converse and share via Twitter.  Here are some of the things I would have Tweeted:

Dan Morrison of @citizeneffect: A donation does not equal philanthropy.  A true philanthropist brings a network together and follows through on long-term impact. #socent10

Ben R. of @change: Money raised thru social media is a pittance. It’s about using the tools to create an amazing user experience and teaching the joy of giving. #socent10

Dan M: If 1-5% of your donor base is given the right tools and opportunity, they’ll go out and raise $5K for you. This is the difference between donating and fundraising. #socent10

@donorchoose: For 67% of online donors, it’s their first time giving.  Again, teaching the joy of giving. $1 donor gets same experience as $1K donor. #socent10

The themes that emerged from the lively discussion can be summarized as the 4 E’s of disruptive philanthropy:

Equality–Organizations have the ability to give every donor access to things that used to be reserved solely for big spenders (exclusive tours, connections with the populations they serve, etc.) via online tools.  The question is, if everyone is getting the same access now, what motivates someone to give a little extra?

Experience–The biggest benefit of social networking is not the tools themselves, panelists said.  “The tools are commodities now,” Ben from Change.org said.  “Everyone has Twitter and Facebook.”  It’s about what you do with the tools to provide a rich, engaging experience for your donors and allow them to connect with your organization.  Later in the day, keynote speaker Chip Heath talked about the need to ‘motivate the elephant’ to drive change, and this depends on creating an emotional connection.

Empowerment–Another benefit of these tools is their ability to turn your followers and supporters into your biggest advocates.  Give them the rich content and the unique user experiences, and empower them to spread the message through their networks.  It may not seem like much when a person ‘shares this’ about your organization or ‘thumbs up’ a status update on Facebook (slacktivism, anyone?) but the net result of these small actions is an increase in awareness and, 10 years down the road, a bigger philanthropic pie, said the panelists.

Elevation–The result of an empowered donor who has been given a unique experience and opportunity to connect with your organization is hopefully that he or she will be elevated to being a true philanthropist–someone who opens networks, builds bridges and maintains a long-term relationship with your organization.

Later in the day, keynote Chip Heath shared some insights from his new book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  One of the highlights that seemed to result in a lot of “aha!” moments in the room was when Heath talked about the tendency to over-analyze the negatives when trying to find a solution to a large issue.  It’s easiest to bring about change, he said, when instead you focus on the bright spots–the things that are going right–and replicate these wherever possible.

Looking forward to a terrific Day 2 of content here at the Summit!

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