10 year milestones are mushrooming

Another exciting 10-year milestone came last week: Network for Good turned 10.  My friend Katya has many credits to her name (Network for Good’s COO, the author of Robin Hood Marketing, and she writes the fabulous, must-read Nonprofit Marketing Blog) but I know her as the person who, with a simple question and a smile, made Generosity Day happen in the first place by making me realize that action was so much more important than getting the plan just right.  A huge lesson.

In Katya’s words: “Network for Good turns ten on Saturday and to celebrate, we created what else – an infographic!” Joy in an infographic = a great thing.

Some things that struck me from the graphic: in 10 years, more than half a billion dollars has been given through Network for Good ($140 million last year alone), and online giving, especially for disaster relief, is clearly going mainstream.  It’s clear that this is a trend that will continue and it’s a call to attention for all nonprofits to really understand this trend.

What I think we all need to figure out in the next 10 year is how online can transition from being a funding channel to an interactive experience that increases connection to nonprofits and accountability and transparency from nonprofits.  Obviously that is beginning to happen and it will be exciting to see where the next decade takes us.

(there’s a postscript after the infographic)

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p.s. Since my wife is the only person in the world who will get the oblique reference in the blog title, here’s the story: years ago we had a small rental in a big Victorian house in Massachusetts, with a shared, shaded driveway that was iced over from December to May.  We had a friendly, ex-hippie neighbor with a beat-up old white car that swapped spots with us in that one-lane driveway.

The car was covered in bumper stickers, my favorite of which was: “Mycology is Mushrooming.”  I’m embarrassed to say that one still makes me laugh.

Wanted: open-hearted troublemakers

Katya posted here and here about a call for co-conspirators in creating Generosity Day 2012.  For newer readers, we launched Generosity Day 2011 as a reboot of Valentine’s Day, a chance to create a day about genuine love, openness and connection with everyone.  Katya’s post has the full scoop.

The first time we did it, it was a flash-mob of an idea created and executed in 72 hours over a weekend.  With no budget or plan, we created a mini-phenomenon, validating our hunch that there’s a hunger out there for permission to act differently.

Let’s make it bigger, bolder, better in 2012.

Here’s the sign-up form for any role you want to play, big or small (enthusiastic support from the sidelines; committing to spread the word; being part of the core planning team; etc.)

The day only happens if you’re part of it.  Sign up here. (No downside, no spam, we promise).  You can even click just to tell us you like the idea.

Generosity Day 2012 – the visual

Had a great planning meeting this week for Generosity Day 2012.  We had our original group that hatched the plan (Katya Andresen, Scott Case, Ellen McGirt) plus a few new friends who you’ll get to know soon enough.

I won’t go into too much now, except to share the Wordle of the principles that we feel underpin Generosity Day, and to say that, YES we’re doing it again in 2012.

This is just a first draft.  Ideas welcome.

The fragility of generosity

I was talking to Katya Andresen about our preliminary plans for Generosity Day 2012, and she made a profound observation.  “Generosity” is a fragile thing: it’s impossible to talk about generosity without being vulnerable, impossible to be truly generous without opening yourself up.

It’s so easy for me to live in a safe place, to plan and to analyze and to do things that make a difference and that don’t expose me, that don’t run the risk of making me look silly.  The easiest way to cut down Generosity Day is to ask, “Yeah, but you work at a nonprofit that’s all about accountability.  I don’t get it,” or to be snarky about the soft-headedness of the whole undertaking.

The fact that Generosity Day (and my whole generosity experiment) cut against all of my analytical instincts was and is exactly the point.  It is a personal exploration of letting go in the face of wanting to hang on; of abundance in the face of scarcity; of connection in the face of separation.  Generosity Day doesn’t “make sense” any more than a work of art or a smile or something surprising and delightful make sense.  It’s not designed to withstand analytical rigor or flowcharts.  It can’t – I don’t think – be overplanned or over-designed or over-managed because it belongs to no one, because it is nothing more and nothing less than the expression of an idea whose time has come.  It is permission for people to act in a way they want to act.

With that in mind, what would you like to see happen on Generosity Day 2012?  Comments below are welcome or just email me here.

Better yet, in the spirit of the #Trust30 initiative, what are you ready to commit to for Generosity Day 2012?

Generosity Day – first reflections

I’m still trying to process everything that’s happened over the last 72 hours, but I’m pretty sure we did it: we created Generosity Day!

It’s too early to dissect all the lessons learned from this experience since in many ways we’re still in the middle of it, but here are a few thoughts from the eye of the storm.

First, Scott Case is 100% spot on in the theme he chose for the Social Media Week panel that inspired this whole thing: social media successes start and end in the real world.

On the panel, Scott rightly focused more on the “end” part of the equation – to remind us that since we are in the business of social change, a nonprofit’s social media campaign by definition cannot be a success if it doesn’t result in honest-to-goodness social change in the real world.  The rest is just idle (online) chatter.

What I’ve seen since last Friday is how the “start” part of the equation must also be firmly rooted in the real world and in personal connections.  This campaign may have exploded online and in the Twitterverse but it would never have happened if Scott, Katya and I hadn’t spent a day brainstorming together last year with a great group of folks that Jennifer McCrea pulled together (the brainstorm resulted in the creation of the Executive Education course in Exponential Fundraising that Jennifer will be leading at Harvard this year.  I highly recommend it for nonprofit CEOs).

Once Scott, Katya, Ellen and I hatched the idea on Friday morning (4 days ago!) and committed to support it, we each reached out personally to people with whom we have real-life relationships of trust and mutual respect, and we did it quickly.  Within minutes of my first post going up, I was emailing folks like crazy to tell them about the idea; so were other members of the initial brain trust, as was my colleague James Wu (who created the Search for the Obvious site for Acumen, which itself helped inspire Generosity Day) and many others.  As we started to gain momentum over the weekend, we continued to share to let people know about our progress, to give everyone a sense that momentum was building, and to recruit new folks to the cause.

The first slew of bloggers was enough to give the idea critical mass, but that’s just dead weight if you don’t have velocity.  The idea itself –  of rebooting Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day – determined the velocity.  Chip and Dan Heath wrote the book on sticky ideas (and I’m sure they have a mini version of sticky social media ideas in the works), but “Reboot Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day” has a lot of sticky characteristics: simplicity, concreteness, unexpectedness, emotion….  Without an idea that had its own legs and was built to spread, this never would have gotten out of the starting gate.

Taking a step back, and moving beyond lessons about success in social media, I’m left reflecting on some broader themes.  Why has there been so much enthusiasm for Generosity Day – with no marketing budget or PR firm, and virtually no lead time?  It’s not just a social media win, it is a reflection of a particular idea and its power at a particular moment in time.

My take is that Generosity Day was successful because there’s an increasing yearning for genuine connection and a deep desire in all of us to be the people we know we can be.  We’ve been oversold and over-pitched, we’ve bought too many boxes of expensive chocolates and too many pieces of jewelry because there was a holiday that said we should – instead of seeing the perfect thing at the perfect time (a gift, a meal, a thank you) and sharing it right then and there.  There’s nothing wrong with holidays, and certainly nothing wrong with romance, but we’re maxed out on fabricated emotion and are craving things that are genuine.  Generosity Day is a chance to get in touch with what we’re longing for: to be the best version of ourselves, to connect with one another, to help.

My first Generosity Day was absolutely incredible.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Generosity day update

What a long way we’ve traveled since Friday afternoon when we set out to reboot Valentine’s Day and kicked off Generosity Day 2011!

My heartfelt thanks to all of you for spreading the word and for pushing me every day to be better, blog better, do better.

We’ve had more than 3,000 tweets, many thousands of blog views, and some of the people I respect most in the world are spreading the word.  More important still, the #generosityday tweets and posts on www.facebook.com/generosityday are focusing on what people are DOING, which is the whole point.

The list of bloggers who have posted is getting too long to keep track of, but at a minimum you’ll want to check out Jonathan Greenblatt’s post on HuffPo, Alex Goldmark’s post on Good.is, Beth’s Blog, Philanthropy 2173, and the recent post on Time.com.

Brene Brown, who writes at Ordinary Courage has always blown me away with everything she does – and the fact that her “Generosity is my new Valentine” post has 200+ comments speaks to the amazing level of engagement she has created with her readers.  Truly a sight to behold.

Finally, if you haven’t yet, do read the great posts that helped kick this all off: Katya Andresen on The Nonprofit Marketing Blog and Ellen McGirt on FastCompany.com.

As Jonathan Greenblatt said in well in the closing of his HuffPo piece:

I deeply believe that everyone can have an impact — and that, taken together, those small acts can roll up into something truly worldchanging. As we were reminded over the past few weeks in Tahrir Square, every singe person carries the fuse of civic engagement that can ignite our common humanity. Sometimes it just takes a small spark to set it off.

This year, let’s make Generosity Day that spark. I want each of us to repair the world. Lets do it, one small act of kindness at a time.

We ARE doing it, together.  I couldn’t be more excited.