America's Charities Consolidated Annual Report - page 16

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In any previous year of the past eight or so, social
networks and media would certainly have dominated
much of the conversation. Discussions of user-
generated content, contests, video, Facebook and
Twitter tactics would have been the order of the day.
Yet in the foggy early morning of a Tyson’s Corner fall
Thursday, social media was secondary.
Why?
In my view, it’s about the ascendance of strategy over
tactics – the mark of maturity in any sector – and we’ve
seen this shift before. Twenty years ago this summer,
the Netscape IPO essentially brought the commercial
Web into being and companies, organizations,
governments and individuals began to migrate their
lives to the Internet. It was all trial and error – tactics
and uploading. There was a real estate race on: if
you didn’t have a Web site, you didn’t exist. And then
the question shifted to “how do we use the Web for
business or changing the world.” That spawned even
greater bouts of trial and error, and more tactics (some
of which worked).
And, of course, the Web itself changed. By the time
the race had simmered down, and enterprises could
consider the strategic big picture, the digital world
was already shifting to a new model – one that valued
networks. And that model required a new question:
what does “engagement” really mean?
Sitting with a nice group of super-charged corporate
community involvement folks, it seemed like our group
of experts at the front of the room was as comfortable
talking strategy as they might have been at any time
since social media began its sweeping rise.
“Unquestionably, the existence of
vast instantly connected networks
– and a younger workforce entirely
comfortable with both huge amounts
of data and those connections – has
been responsible for that shift, in many
ways.”
As Steve Greenhalgh pointed out, the value in telling
authentic stories that convey the real mission of
nonprofits and causes – and mixing both data and the
emotional side – has never been more important. That
point was echoed by Debra Snider, whose organization
provides one of the largest databases of nonprofit and
cause information – and yet it still is looking for better
ways to use that data, and tell better stories. And Emily
Simone emphasized just how important authenticity
is for a company like Lockheed, which listened to
employees about the causes they’d like to support and
then got involved. The days of “writing a check and
walking away are over,” she said.
I’ve been thinking about the shifting ethic of corporate
giving – its evolution in about 15 years from “corporate
philanthropy” to “corporate community involvement”
and “corporate social responsibility.” Unquestionably,
the existence of vast instantly connected networks –
and a younger workforce entirely comfortable with both
huge amounts of data and those connections – has
been responsible for that shift, in many ways.
I think the America’s Charities report does an excellent
job of providing an overview of that shift. Corporate
giving programs are changing; the shift toward
signature programs aligned with both the CEO’s vision
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