This article was originally published on npENGAGE.
It’s easy to feel like you’re alone on your mission to do good and create real change in the world. You think you’re making progress only to realize that your work is nowhere near finished. A simple scroll through your newsfeed leaves you thinking that there are people out there who actually want you to give up, for you to be so burnt out that you decide, “Maybe status quo isn’t all that bad after all…”
Then there are those moments—those flickers of light—that remind you that your work matters and you’re not alone in your pursuit for better.
I had about a thousand of those moments at MCON—the place was oozing with positive energy. When you’re surrounded by a sea of innovators and people who’ve made it their life’s mission to do something, you’re quickly reminded that this work is not for the faint of heart. And we’re in it together.
Solving problems of massive scale takes an army of courageous and inspired people, and there’s no time for ‘woe is me’ in this business.
I’m thankful for the MCON wakeup call that served as a re-set, and for people like DeRay Mckesson, Miki Agrawal, Ayesha Barenblat, Chris Temple, Vivien Labaton, Angela Rye, and Meagan Bond, whose stories and journeys reminded me that one person really can make a difference. While I haven’t lived in a Syrian refugee camp, survived on $1 a day in Guatemala, or been awarded an honorary doctorate by the New School for my work as a civil rights activist, I do know one thing: we all play a part.
And I learned a few other things:
Social Media is More than Vanity Metrics
There’s still confusion about what social media can be used for, or its place in a communication strategy, but more and more we’re seeing that social, at its core, allows us to do one thing: connect.
And isn’t that the lifeline of the work we’re all doing? Aren’t our connections with supporters and advocates and influencers integral to how we will continue to move forward, together?
The next generation’s givers, activists, volunteers, and leaders are being raised with a computer in their hands. When they want information, they don’t turn on a TV; they search for the trending video clips. When they’re considering where to purchase something, they don’t trust advertisements; they look to see what their friends and influencers are saying. And all of this is happening on social media—Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Periscope—in the palms of their hands.
And that’s where your mission should be—in the palms of your supporters’ hands. But the success of your mission will require more than just likes and shares and clicks. You must provide clear calls to action. Tell your supporters how they can get involved.
Megan Bond of ONE says:
- Be painfully explicit about how people can join your cause and use their voice for good. Always have a call to action.
- If you want people to join your cause, SHOW what you do. People need to see what you’re doing, not just hear it.
- You are ACTUALLY doing good. Be authentic. Sell your cause as hard as for-profits sell their product.
Doing Good is for Everyone, Not Just Nonprofits
The philanthropic industry is evolving. We’re seeing a growing relationship between the tech sector and social good like never before. Technology is removing barriers and empowering both organizations and individuals to do more—to drive real change. Nonprofits are able to relate in a fuller way to people who have different and new expectations. Individuals are now able to get more directly involved with causes by creating their own campaigns. And companies are empowering employees to be agents of good.
You don’t have to be a nonprofit professional to be a part of the solution. The tools at our disposal allow us to speak up and speak out, start campaigns, join campaigns, volunteer, make smarter purchases, and ask our companies about matching gifts.
Problem Solving Requires Access to Information
We can’t solve problems without a full understanding of what’s actually wrong. When the majority of our news is delivered to us in 30-second soundbites and 140-character tweets, we must do our due diligence to seek out information and understand the full context of the stories being told to us.
Access to data and information will validate our strategies, show us when and where we’re wrong, and help us benchmark our performance. Activating change isn’t about feeling good, it’s about doing good. It’s about understanding the full picture of where we are and where we want to be, and charting our progress along the way.
The Millennial generation is often coined the ‘lazy’ generation, but I think it’s more complex than that. Sure, we want instant gratification and immediate access, but we also want better. We don’t want to wait years for a solution; we want to be part of measurable progress. We want milestones along the way indicating that we’re moving forward. Maybe we’re not lazy, maybe we’re just tired of status quo. We’re just ready for good to take over.
Thank you to the Case Foundation and Achieve for making MCON happen, and for bringing together a room of inspired and driven individuals to remind us all that change is possible, it’s happening, and we all play a role.