ZeroDivide recently released a new report about tech-related grantmaking by foundations: "Survey of Technology-Related Grantmaking: 'Amplifying Social Impact in a Connected Age'" (PDF).
As someone who would love nothing more than to see boatloads of money poured into well-planned, well-managed, and well-executed nonprofit and community programs with strong technology/online components, I was eager to read this report and see what folks were saying about its findings.
We did find an exciting number of under-resourced nonprofits making use of free digital and social media tools — unfunded, just figuring it out on their own. But there are technological and capacity barriers keeping them from making the jump to initiating mobile projects — this despite the fact that more than 90% of their constituents are holding these almost-always-on devices.
Awesome! MobileActive tells us that even a few years ago, mobile penetration was over 80% in the US and smartphone penetration was almost 20%. Ever since the release of VOIP Drupal which allows telephone and SMS interaction with Drupal sites through a VOIP provider like Twilio, I've been anxious to see some new mobile applications in the grassroots e-advocacy space.
Many funders expressed skepticism that tech-related activities such as social media resulted in programmatic impact or were capable of helping nonprofits to mobilize. One funder captured this well, saying, “We may see lots of online traffic and ‘fans’ but it doesn’t mean they’re using this strategically or have moved their mission.”
+1, +1, +1! As time goes by, I'm losing my curmudgeonly cynicism about the capabilities of social media tools to fulfill objectives beyond very basic outreach and awareness. It's probably due to a combination of network effect increasing the tools' effectiveness, as well as my own increased familiarity with them as I have slowly been adopting them into my personal and professional lives. However, I still want to see a lot more facts and figures supporting their strategic use, and on a related note, I'd love to see NPOs planning to adopt these tools have some reasonable expectations based on more research beyond "everyone else is doing it."
Post a comment if there are any discussions of this report that I should check out!