Hey, I'm always excited about technology for social good. My motto for craigconnects is using technology to give the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power. Recently, I invested in GreatNonprofits.org to create a Yelp for nonprofits. I asked Perla Ni, of GreatNonprofits to write a guest blog post about this investment I've made.
Craig Newmark funds API to build user-generated nonprofit reviews into software
GreatNonprofits.org has a robust website with over 170,000 peer-to-peer reviews on over 16,000 nonprofits. GreatNonprofits.org is now building an API to embed these reviews into grants management and employee giving software and other programs so funders and grant makers can look holistically at their portfolios – incorporating the quantitative and qualitative data into decision making. To start, GreatNonprofits.org is partnering with Fluxx – a new grant management software with a lofty goal of bringing all donor management data into one place for better decision-making.
A screenshot of a Fluxx page.
Collaboration, Bi-Directional Knowledge Sharing and Beneficiary Feedback
With more and more CRM tools (like Salesforce) in the market, talk of collaboration and data sharing is rampant. Organizations are increasingly working with more data and more people—hence, the need for better tools. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where grant makers have many data points to manage and consider—from financial to program data and even beneficiary feedback.
While, as humans we are always well intentioned to gather various data points while formulating decisions, the harder it is to gather and analyze this data the less likely we are to incorporate it fully into our analysis. Sadly, this is often the case when it comes to beneficiary feedback in the nonprofit sector. Well, that is about to change with this recent investment.
A New API; A Whole New World
GreatNonprofits – now the largest nonprofit review site of its kind – is building a write-a-review API. This new API will allow third party partners to integrate reviews into their systems in a seamless and automated fashion. One of GreatNonprofits first software partners is Fluxx—an innovative grants management CRM system that allows foundation officers and executive staff to easily make decisions by housing all pertinent data in one place.
“We’re trying to push all information to the program manager in one place. And once that data is available to the program manager, he or she can pivot on the view,” says Jason Ricci, CEO of Fluxx.
So whether you’re at a foundation and need to check the 501(c)3 status prior to writing a check or if you want to understand other charities that fellow foundations have donated to, you can do this all in one place.
The partnership between Fluxx and GreatNonprofits is one of the first of its kind to bring this bi-directional data together in one place. And this is key, because in all the data mining, some times the stories of the beneficiaries served gets lost. But with over 170,000 reviews and growing, plus this new API functionality — these stories will be made available to foundations and corporations all in one place. And this benefits not only the foundation or corporation who is trying to analyze the impact of the investment beyond financial metrics, but also to the nonprofit who needs a little help in demonstrating their impact to the world.
“What I love about GreatNonprofits,” says Ricci, “is that they’re collecting actual reviews from people in the field who know an organization’s work well—and those reviews are starting to tell stories about that organization’s work. So from a grant maker’s perspective, they’re not just looking at an organization’s financials to make decisions on whether to fund them, but they’re looking at real reviews from real people.”
So What’s next?
This is the first of many ventures for Great Nonprofits to extend over 170,000 nonprofit reviews to other sectors. Along with this, GreatNonprofits is looking to partner with employee engagement software providers, so employees of corporations can read and write reviews about the impact they are having on nonprofits, and the corporation can easily collect these stories of impact to marry with other information about their charitable giving programs.
Toward this goal, GreatNonprofits is also in discussion with Benevity, (www.benevity.com), a software social enterprise. Benevity’s award winning employee giving and volunteering solution, Spark!, is used by some of the most notable companies in the world to engage employees around causes. Benevity has committed to embed the GreatNonprofits.org API into its platform to help inspire and inform giving decisions for its end users. The soon to launch partnership with Benevity will help its clients engage their employees and add more information and interaction to their giving activities.
While we wait… (back to Craig)
As an investor, I think it's really important for the next advancement in the nonprofit sector to bring reviews and crowd-sourced information about beneficiary feedback directly to donors, foundations, and nonprofits.
If I believe in a cause enough, it becomes a craigconnects focus, and my team and I locate NPOs who are really good at helping, at "moving the needle," and support them.
Also, I'll support NPOs that are effective and do things that I believe in, with no specific pattern.
The danger with going with my gut is that we've learned, the hard way, that some NPOs are really good at telling a really good, heart-rending story. Turns out that they aren't really good at helping anyone who needs help. Cash sent to them winds up in some briefly attention-getting awareness raising, something normally useful, and in salaries and perks. Usually, an NPO gets attention via getting real results, but the kind I'm talking about, they get attention, and hope that no one checks if they get anything done.
NPOs want help from me in social media, both in consulting mode and in using social media to their benefit. I'm okay with both. Even a nerd can get to be good at all this, though I'll never be good as a natural.
The deal is that the accurate reporting on the standoff is hard to find, but it reflects importantly on the "how do I find news I can trust" issue.
Specifically, this is about "false equivalence," the tendency to fake journalistic objectivity by presenting two sides as equal when the facts compel a different conclusion:
"'Specificity is the way to counter false equivalence,' Adair said.
Reporters covering the shutdown must competently describe how it happened. Using vague throwaway terms is misleading, inaccurate and undermines the core journalistic value of seeking the truth."
The good folks at Poynter point to really good reporting going in depth:
"To suggest that this current government shutdown is an example of Republicans and Democrats simply unable to reconcile their differences is to ignore the facts of how budget appropriation bills are passed.
Dan Froomkin points this out in an opinion piece for Al Jazeera. James Fallows calls it out in The Atlantic. And Greg Mitchell screams about it in the The Nation."
Okay, it's important to include an update from Jon Stewart: "If President Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent mullahs in the world but not with House Republicans, maybe he is not the problem."
Remember, I speak as a news consumer, I don't want to "fix the news," that's up to the professionals.
I say this all the time, I want news I can trust. I know this is not a simple problem. But it starts with journalists using their expertise and authority to accurately describe what is happening, rather than pulling their punches (or mincing their words) in order to appease a political faction.
Hey, I'm working with Poynter to advance their efforts related to journalism ethics in the new digital world, and they've released a new book: The New Ethics of Journalism, that's the direct result of the Digital Ethics Symposium that I sponsored last October.
The book is co-edited by Poynter Senior Faculty Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, Executive Director of the American Press Institute.
"…[the book] provides an evolved set of guidelines and principles for journalists, students, and mass communicators, with chapters contributed by 14 of media’s top thought leaders and practitioners.
The book examines the unique problems of searching for trust and building trust in the 21st century: Vetting and verifying information in the vast arena of social media; the effects of interactive social media on storytelling and news gathering; the contextual meaning of stories and the value of images; and the evolving role of a community of citizen journalists and individual documentarians in the production of news."
"I have long advocated use of the SPJ’s ethics code in crisis management media relations, as leverage to persuade writers and editors to amend their copy or behavior when either appears to violate it. However, that code is a little antiquated. It doesn’t take into consideration the Internet’s immense impact on media relations of all kinds, traditional and social.
McBride and Rosenstiel’s new book finally does that."
Here are the book's "Guiding Principles for Journalists," which in the book are further developed to include specific ethics practices:
Seek truth, and report it as fully as possible.
Engage community as an end, rather than as a means.
Folks, any news outlet that wants to succeed must be trustworthy, that is, accountable. I feel that's required for their survival, and for national survival. More to come…