SXSW Preview Day 4: Taking Advantage of Apps and Documentaries

At, we’re highlighting panels at SXSW Interactive from the five-day event. After looking through the schedule it was clear that many of the panels could be helpful for nonprofits. Since SXSW Interactive (aka Geek Spring Break) gets a little bigger every year, we decided to do something similar at Each day this week, we’ll highlight a different day of panels at SXSW and provide an overview of the content.

Getting Started with Social Media

Knowing where to start can be one of the hardest things for nonprofits to do. You can get a helping hand Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. when co -authors Chad Norman (Blackbaud) and Melanie Mathos (Blackbaud) present 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits. The session will focus on their recently published book of the same title.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Why recommend such a basic panel?” my answer: you may be doing great on Twitter and Facebook as an individual, but getting traction in the social web for an organization requires strategy. Expect to hear specific how-tos for nonprofits based on case studies the identify best practices for engaging with supporters and meeting other social objectives.

And don’t worry if you’ve got a really small nonprofit (maybe it’s just you). In a recent interview Mathos highlighted a simple social web strategy for such groups:

For a small organization that is volunteer-run or has one employee wearing multiple hats, a great place to start is getting a Facebook page setup and using it to engage with your supporters while promoting volunteer opportunities, news, and events. The viral nature of Facebook will help your message spread further than you could ever imagine. And, it gives you an opportunity to interact with supporters, answer questions, etc. We also use Twitter as a way to quickly mobilize volunteers, as last-minute opportunities often pop up.

Remember: having accounts on social sites is one thing; understanding how to get the most out of them for your organization is something else.

Making Cause-Focused Documentaries

We know that video can play a huge role in spreading information for your cause. Beyond self-produced video, there may also be the option to partner on something bigger. At 11 a.m., the Branded Documentary: Cause Marketing’s Best Media? session will highlight Procter & Gamble’s venture into cause-focused documentaries.

The panel showcases individuals involved in different levels of the project who will speak to getting support for the film and how they make the film, including David Modigliani (Flow Nonfiction), Lisa Pearson (Bazaarvoice), Sarah Montante (Procter & Gamble), and Stephanie Smirnov (DeVries Public Relations). The documentary in question focuses on the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which donates ponytails to the American Cancer Society for real hair wigs. The goal is to answer the questions of how and why the program has succeeded in doing good.

Driving Donations with Apps

Fundraising is a huge component of nonprofits. With the advent of apps, the opportunities to reach out for financial support have increased, but how can a nonprofit make the most of it? Christi Woodworth (Sonic Drive In) and Erin DeRuggiero (Social Reality) will lead the discussion in and answer your questions in Social Apps and Charitable Giving at 12:30 p.m.

But a big part of maintaining support requires making smart decisions that don’t turn off fans of your cause. Besides reviewing general best practices, the panel will take a look at the dos and don’ts for contests. And if you’re wondering about the future of building engagement through apps Woodworth and DeRuggiero also plan to highlight the forecasted trends in micro-philanthropy.

Being aware of and knowing how to use other fundraising options will be a big plus in 2012 as charitable spending looks likely to plateau:

The survey, which polled nearly 2,500 people in the U.S. and U.K., found that 72% of U.K. respondents and 65% of U.S. respondents say they expect their 2012 giving will remain the same as last year. All respondents in the 2011 Social Good Survey were older than 18 and had given at least $10 to charity in 2011.

Doing More Good without Fear

How many times have you heard some nonprofit use guilt or fear to build support for a cause? Too often. Stacey Monk (Epic Change) and Tom Dawkins ( believe that doesn’t have to be the case as they’ll discuss in the session Positively Inspired Change Campaigns at 5 p.m.

To support such efforts, Dawkins launched Start Some Good in 2011 with the goal to highlight the positive:

We have learned more and more the power of focusing on the positive impact social entrepreneurs are making rather than just talking about the problems we are working on…We’ve really tried to orient our site around this visionary and positive view of change, rather than getting people to think just in terms of problems…If all you’re doing is staring at a problem and thinking of how to fix it—if a problem is -1, and you fix it you get to zero. But we want to get to +1, to a better world for everyone.

You can also expect to hear about recent campaigns by Epic Change and HopeLab that focus on the positive. We do live in a difficult world with serious problems, but it may be worth asking if you can do more by adding some positive perspective.

In case you weren’t able to catch it, here’s SXSW Preview Day 3: Telling Stories and Making a Difference.

Tomorrow marks the final nonprofit preview for the final day of SXSW Interactive. It’s really amazing to think about the variety of information that will be available at SXSW. I hope you’re ready to make the most of it.

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  • Melanie Mathos

    Thanks so much for featuring our chat – looking forward to it!

    • Britt Raybould

      You’re very welcome. From what I can see, it will be a great session for nonprofits struggling with social media. Good luck!