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Guilt alliviation via social strategy sharing

May 10, 2011

As the Social Media Manager for World Vision Australia, I am regularly asked about how to best build a Social Media Strategy for *insert non-profit, small business, artist, government body*. I often feel guilty at the lack of time I have available to help; so to alleviate my guilt I’m putting together a series of blog posts that overview common social media strategy mistakes and how to best overcome them. I will aim to made the advice practical and easy to understand and best of all *free*!

The advice I give will be based on my experiences working in this space over the last 3 years. What I suggest is not social media gospel, but just principles that have worked for me. Please let me know if there are certain topics you want me to cover or if you have any burning questions you would like answers to. No question is too big or too small.

Aside from appeasing my own guilt, I hope that you find this series useful and more importantly, I hope that it mean that you won’t hire a consultant to give you the same advice!


Not okay.

May 1, 2011

As news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed, twitter blew up and became the world #1 news source.

I was incredibly shocked to find that Whatthetrend allowed this offensive, racist description of the “Osama bin Laden” hashtag to feature.

What is their algorithm? Is this one person’s racist imput or is this an agregator of what people are most commonly saying? Both scenarios are heartbreaking

Whatthetrend – please explain

Egyptian Pride

February 25, 2011

The question I am asked the most: “What is your background/nationality/heritage/ethnicity?”

It is not a quick answer.

I was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch Mother and Egyptian Father and immigrated to Australia as a child. I have spent the last 6 years in the USA. I speak Dutch like a 10 year old, can swear in Arabic but I mostly speak English with an Aussie accent (albeit American overtones). I feel like none of these nationalities but a combination of them all.

In the last month, many have asked me my thoughts on the Egyptian uprising. I think people ask me this question because I look more Egyptian than anything else and my name has an “Ibrahim” in it.

It has been difficult to answer. The peoples revolution has made me realise that I know so little about my Egyptian heritage. I find it embarrassing that I don’t have an opinion on Mubarack when I snuck in and spoke at a democratic caucus in Seattle. That I don’t understand the Egyptian government’s history of corruption; when I can explain the epidemiology of Malaria. I am ashamed that I don’t know my Egyptian relatives well enough to know their thoughts and yet I am regularly brought to tears by donor testimonies of their relationship with their sponsored children.

It’s not acceptable. When I have children, I want them to know that their Egyptian heritage gives them more than a tan. I want them to speak to their grandfather in a language I am yet to learn, to know how to make Kofta, to understand why they talk with their hands and why their mum will kiss them in public.

What I do say about the Egyptian revolution is that I have witnessed unity in a way I never expected.

My father is Coptic Orthodox and my experience with the Christian Egyptian community has been (generally) one of hostility toward Muslims. Most of that hostility is based on persecution experienced, especially as many fled Egypt to Australia/Netherlands because of it. I have found this tension difficult because my experience is different. My best friend is Muslim and I have experienced nothing but warmth and kindness from my Muslim brothers and sisters.

When hostility between these two religions in Egypt is all you know it’s easy to cry when you see love and justice uniting a nation. I wept at the continual scenes of unity, especially as differing religions protected each other in prayer.

In Melbourne, Kyle and I walked in support of the Egyptian uprising with both Egyptians and non-Egyptians. As we walked, I felt so honoured to share a heritage with courageous people that are persistently and peacefully fighting for freedom and justice for their country.

Although I have a long way to go in exploring my “Gypo”, I can say that this revolution has made me beamingly proud to be Egyptian. I am going to work on being a better one 🙂

Why fundraisers should read development blogs

December 6, 2010

I have a confession to make: Although I am a fundraiser/marketer/communicator I am also a development groupie. “A what?” you ask. Well… I spend my free time reading the books and blogs of development practitioners, some are experts. Which is why Linda Raftree’s recent post on “Why aid and development workers should be reading blogs” has compelled me to write this post; as the circle of beneficiaries is not limited to development workers alone.

Fundraisers: I know what you’re thinking “I have enough on my plate. Deadlines. Targets. Pressure. Emails… How can I squeeze this in?” I encourage you to make time, even if it means shuffling your facebook time to blogs. It will make you better at your job. Here’s why:

You will better understand your “Product”
Every good marketer understands that to best promote your product you need to understand what you are selling. Although, I hate using these terms (it demeans and simplifies the work and people we partner with), development blogs can teach you an endless amount about your “product”. Eliminating poverty is not easy or fast. It’s not something you will learn in a day/month/year. The context is ever-changing, complex and unpredictable. There is significant theory, applications/case studies to learn from and similar to social media, you need to follow the experts and trends to stay relevant. Even though I have been mentored by aid veterans for years, I learn something new every day that compels me to re-think what I am doing and challenges me.
At World Vision Australia, new staff complete a class entitled “Why is that child poor?” an overview of poverty alleviation through lessons from aid and development experts. It’s an excellent course, but in two days the quantity of information can be overwhelming, especially to a novice. Reading development blogs is a natural extension to a course like this. You continually learn and process information that will help you to best understand your “product” and to keep your strategies relevant to the context you’re raising funds for.

Donors want more
Those compelled to truly make a difference have (mostly) become apathetic to the elevator speech about “simple” solutions to poverty. Donors are hungry for more information and want to know where their dollar a day is going. I have daily conversations with donors on this topic. So far, we have only scratched the surface in explaining sustainable community development and disaster relief. Development blogs are a treasure chest of information that explain both. I saw this in action on the vlogger trip, where one of our info-hungry vloggers used these blogs to help answer complex questions and create compelling new ways of explaining community development. Additionally, our lack of explanations of the complexities of development have driven some donors away from community development (a “hand up”) and toward direct benefits (a “hand out”). Case in point: undesignated funds. Many donors are skeptical and resistant to give to this type of funding because it appears to lack accountability. Many INGOs have completely failed to explain the value, impact and flexibility of this type of funding. Instead, donors give elsewhere because they know exactly where their money is going rather than deciding where it can be used best. And why wouldn’t you!? Use development blogs to better understand the complexities of development. Then, use your marketing brilliance to share these insights with your info-hungry donors.

You’ll stay current in your own field
Many prominent development bloggers cross lines between community development and new media communications. They give commentary on a multitude of marketing campaigns, communication techniques, donor promises and emerging INGOs. I find it far easier to understand what my peers are doing via these blogs than through my own means. It was through these bloggers (and my brilliant boyfriend, a fellow development groupie) that I first heard of “1 million t-shirts” and of Save the Children’s “Lottery of Life” campaign. Even if you don’t agree with some of the commentary, it’s wonderful to have access to consolidated information on the latest marketing campaigns.

There are many more reasons, but these are my top three. If you want more, let me know. Linda’s post gives a long list of prominent bloggers, personally my “go tos” are:

A Humourless lot
Good Intentions Are Not Enough
Tales From The hood
WhyDev (Just found this one, great range of contributors and topics. So proud they are Aussie!)

Disclaimer: expect cynicism. These are not warm, fuzzy blogs. They are more critical toward fundraising efforts than they are praising. Personally, I believe this is because many of the campaigns they critique are ones that trivialize their work and the people they aim to help (“Viral” from Tales from the Hood alludes to this). That said, do not allow their critical stance to discourage you from engaging with the writers directly. I have found all bloggers to be approachable, considerate and affirming. Whenever I have had questions (even ones I thought were stupid) they have been an incredible resource and I value these relationships immensely.

I am a bad blogger

December 4, 2010

My spelling and grammar is horrid and I rarely post, even when people ask me too.

It’s not that I don’t like blogging, I especially like the feedback. It’s just hard to force myself behind a computer when I spend 70+ hours in front of one at work or trying to keep up with Kyle, friends and family online. All I want to do in my non-computer time is be with people and enjoy sunshine, especially after 6 years in Seattle… I have this perpetual fear that the sun is only out for a limited time and I need to make the most of it. I have no idea how Seattle bloggers cope with writing during the summer time!?

However… I am trying a new method. Writing blogs on PAPER while doing fun stuff. Today’s effort – blogging in sunshine with a delicious Aussie Iced Coffee on Lygon st. Bring on the caffeine/sugar buzz and endless people watching…

Sibling <3

August 25, 2010

I don’t think I have known a love richer than my love for my siblings. It is not a romantic love, but emotions I assume that can only be matched by the love one shares with their children. I don’t know how we got so close, it could be because we needed to be or because our mother was often heard saying “Can’t you see how much (insert brother/sister) loves you!” Regardless of the reason, it is hard to draw the depths of my heart without drawing each of their faces.

Many people find our sibling bond unusual, strange or wonderful. It makes some uncomfortable, some envy it and some become adopted (you know who you are!).

I think Zambian children understand this love. Through the communities I have visited, you see children of all ages abundantly loving their younger siblings. No matter how young they are, you see them taking care of someone younger than them.

You see no competition, no comparisons, no fighting. You see play, laughter, sharing. You see love.

A Zambian staff member told me that if you raise your children in Zambia, they are likely to be very relational, person-centred and great at sharing. Isn’t that the way we should all be raised?

As I walk through these communities, I really wish my siblings were here to share it with me. I would enjoy watching them ask a million questions trying to understand World Vision’s work. I know my heart would melt seeing how easily they bond with strangers. Maybe one day we can raise enough money to build a school and visit it together.

Thank you D, Zippy, Ro Ro and Pickle for loving me xo

Lusaka lock down

August 24, 2010

After 5 intense days of travelling and seeing World Vision’s projects we are back in Lusaka putting together vlogs. Everyone has spent the day locked in their rooms … a hot, beautifully sunny day. Vloggers were done by 6pm when World Vision Zambia staff, Pamela came by to view them before they loaded. Pamela was incredibly encouraging and kind, giving the vloggers detailed, insightful feedback. Mind you this was after I cried (twice). It’s safe to say tonight was a love fest. I am so proud.

Unlike the vloggers, I finish at mid-night. For the first time I am trying my hand at editing and it’s been a long process. I feel like I have gained a new understanding and respect for both the vloggers and my incredibly talented videographer boyfriend. Despite contemplating begging Kyle put it together for me (since it would take him about 20mins), I am proud to say that I didn’t get any help, I did it all myself 🙂

So here it is, let me know what you think…