Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Impressions from the Web Summit. How tech start-ups can be more useful in creating social good.



When I learned that Web Summit 2016, a.k.a Davos for Geeks, anticipated more than 50,000 participants, I didn't know what to expect. I wished I could clone myself during my time in Lisbon in order to partake in other exciting sessions on fintech, healthtech, AI, IoT, SaaS, UX, etc. This year there was also a constellation of star speakers from all walks of life, such as actor Joseph Gordon Levitt (hitRECord), José Manuel Barroso (former president of the European Commission), Gary Vaynerchuk (VaynerMedia) and Salil Shetty (Secretary General of Amnesty International). As someone who is working on the nexus of technology and fundraising, I decided to focus my time on VR/AR and philanthropy and social good tracks. Here are some of my thoughts, questions and inspirations from the 'tech Glastonbury':

Tech bubble?
After the first four minutes inside a massive expo arena showcasing all sorts of innovations and start-ups I realized that the future has arrived...it is just not evenly distributed. After four days at the summit I understood why. 

For example, let's take tech community's desire to get involved with humanitarian issues, which makes sense given the scale of the refugee crisis and the perils of climate change. However, instead of thinking which app to invent or start-up to start, it would have been more effective if entrepreneurs went to the "field" and first understood what are the needs of refugees, NGOs, individual donors or beneficiaries. 

While talking to many different social impact start-ups at the summit I encountered that they began with the technology in mind and without an in-depth understanding how the end-user living in a conflict zone would use it. Although relationship and trust building may be perceived by developers as a cost-center, but it does pay off to be user-centered. Therefore, I think better linkages and even co-creation opportunities should be forged between local NGOs and start-uppers who wish to solve certain problems, as they could complement each other with their skills and experience. 

In addition, start-ups working on promoting online giving to non-profits should also make donations to a cause they care about, learn from experienced fundraisers about the art and science of fundraising and understand how NGOs work. I have yet to meet a donor who wakes up in the morning and thinks "I need to donate my hard-earned cash today, because I really liked that new shiny online platform with a long list of NGOs changing our world" :)


A real virtuality
One of the tech giants present at the Web Summit that can certainly speed up the proliferation of 'future' is Facebook,  whose CTO, Mike Schroepfer, pronounced his pledge to make VR accessible to everyone asap. Facebook, which invested heavily in Oculus and other platforms, is working hard to deliver social VR and a new wireless product, currently called "Standalone". This is a much welcome move, as VR products and platforms, which don't provide high resolution, six degrees of freedom, interactivity and are too expensive won't help to advance the VR market in 2017.




We are only starting to build a true sense of immersion in VR, but there are already some curious examples creating positive change. Mike showed a demo of a virtual world to some volunteers, where they had to walk up to the end of the building in VR...and they refused to step forward. Although in their rational brain they knew they were not on the rooftop but in the conference room, VR has become powerful enough to give them a sense of presence in another place. This is why 'Clouds Over Sidra' and 'You Are There: On the Road to Making Polio History' are such great examples of how UNICEF's donors can see the impact of their support as if they are present ‘in the field’. I too believe that ability to connect people who are far away, promote empathy and tolerance will help us to build a more inclusive and generous future. 


Friday, November 18, 2016

Watch UNICEF's new VR video and join Ewan McGregor on a 360 journey to end polio forever

Meet a 9-year old Job, one of the last children in Kenya to contract polio. Spend just 5 minutes of your time to step into another world and discover what life is like for children suffering from this paralyzing disease. Get inspired by tireless efforts of a female vaccinator, Sabina, who will do whatever it takes to stop polio. Finally, get motivated to act, as encouraged by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor, who narrated the VR film.

I've been lucky to work on this innovative project and the VR fundraising campaign with an amazing team of colleagues. It was challenging and rewarding to translate technical language and programmatic concepts into a simple and appealing story. While technology creates an impression of presence "in the field", the story remains an integral element in providing an exceptional viewing experience. Coupled with intimate moments and unique locations, ‘You are there: On the Road to Making Polio History’ invites you on a visceral journey of polio eradication. Hope you too will join us in ending polio now and making history today!



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What I learned when shooting 360 videos

Virtual reality is certainly one of the most exciting technology trends today with promising applications in different spheres of life, including for non-profit fundraising. 360-degree video, which allows you to look around and be 'teleported' to the field, requires you to forget all the old video rules and develop new techniques.

I decided to learn first-hand by filming my wedding ceremony and subsequent adventures during a one month-long honeymoon trip to Peru. Here is what I learned while shooting our journey with a user-friendly Kodak PixPro SP360 4K.



Convenience vs Quality
Even if the camera's name says 360, not all cameras provide this viewing range. In my case using a Kodak PixPro, one needs to combine two cameras together (dual pack pro) to achieve the full 360 degree spherical range. Obviously, the higher the price of a camera the better the quality, bringing you closer to a full stereoscopic 3D video vs mono 360 footage. Therefore, prices for 360 cameras can range from $350 for Samsung Gear VR camera  to $60,000 for an eight-lens Nokia Ozo with the latter delivering a broadcast quality immersive experience. However, everything depends on your objectives: lower res but without post-production video stitching or high res for professional purposes. 

Location matters
Instead of shooting several clips, selecting the best shots and editing them together, try to shoot one single clip of action that is good on its own. From a storytelling perspective, this means it is easier to focus on one character than editing together different stories from a journey.

While traveling in Peru, my husband and I shot 360 clips hiking the Colca Canyon, the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu, and surfing in Mancora in Northern Peru. Unlike filming with your phone, it is not as easy to take spontaneous shots with a 360 camera. You need to prepare it, position correctly, make sure there is enough light, change batteries, etc.

Llama wanted to be in our 360 video too! :)


Less Control
When shooting in 360, everything is in plain sight of your camera, but be mindful of a stitching point. The stitching point is where the video from one lens meets the other. With the Kodak camera I used a mobile app to preview the shot, which was useful. Since the action is taking place all around the camera, you or your subject need to be immersed into the scene and let the story unfold all around you. Be aware of your facial expressions while the camera is recording ;)

Lower the Ground
For users of the Kodak 360, or other semi-hemispherical fisheye cameras in order to capture all the action taking place around the camera, it is better to position it lower than usual shoulder or chest-height. It is useful to bring it to the knee- or even ankle-level, because the bottom of the camera creates a floor (black circle) of the video. For other cameras, the rule of thumb is to 'be the eyes of your viewers', so that when viewing they feel like they are naturally part of the scene.

For example, during our wedding ceremony we placed our VR camera inside the wedding bouquet. Our florist did a great job by constructing a holder for the camera that would not crush the flowers, at the same time being disguised among them. While I walked up the aisle with my father on my right arm and a digital wedding bouquet in my hands, the images  came out very close to our chins :) Since not much was happening at ground level and we were in a castle above the city, it worked out quite well. However, for capturing as much of the scenery as possible it is worth experimenting with different camera positions.

3D sound
In my experience, lots of people when watching VR videos look all around in the 360-degree environment instead of following the main character. In order to keep viewers focused in this new medium, sound quality should be high. Great stereo and 3D sound design helps to nudge people and make them turn their focus where you want them to look. Thus, sound can make all the difference between an amazing VR experience and an OK one.


Good luck and join me in exploring the new frontiers of virtuous VR!


Friday, April 3, 2015

Buyer-centricity = donor-centric fundraising

Is charity fundraising totally different from commercial marketing? 

The key main difference is that donors do not get to experience the product, like they would after purchasing it from a commercial brand. People who gave to charity derive the most satisfaction from the act of giving and then possibly when they receive a thank-you letter and a report, reassuring that their donation was put to a good cause. 

Most of the promise relies on emotional connection. Therefore, wouldn’t charities be masters of establishing and nurturing emotional connections? Nevertheless it is still a challenge for many NGOs to develop donor journeys that have relevant and personal content.



At the same time businesses tackle the same issue by investing into an effective content marketing, which focuses on what customer wants. According to P&G CMO Jim Stengel, brands that focus on connecting with their consumers on an emotional level have a growth rate triple that of their competitors. 

NewsCred agency quotes Erin Provey, Service Director at SiriusDecisions, who follows customer-centricity by observing these three rules:

1) Isolate the audience. Simply make the conscious decision to choose a buyer.
2) Really get to know them.
3) Understand the environment in which they’re operating.

 “Buyer-centricity is a philosophy. Buyer-specificity is a best practice.” – Erin Provey.




Donor-centricity has became a buzzword at all the fundraising conferences. Therefore, the challenge is the same for both sectors and I am positive that we can learn from each other. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top 5 mistakes that charity programs make when creating a fundraising video for institutional donors

1. Forgetting that donor is a hero. The popular erroneous approach is to advertise how successful the program is and this should convince donors to support the program further. The end product looks like self-praising commercial, which only at the very end thanks all its donors and partners for supporting a project. Instead, the video should be showing the need and a role the donor plays in the cause. Perhaps the underlying fear is to admit there are still challenges.

2. No emotional content. The pervasive attitude is that emotions are only necessary to raise $3 pounds a month from individuals. Emotions are also key in persuading major donors as well, because the institutions (foundations and development agencies) are comprised of individuals. The decision makers are human, they are people who respond to messages that target both ‘the heart and the head’.

3. Long and super democratic approval process. For some reason it is not a fundraiser or a comms specialist who has the final word in the concept or storyboarding process, but a program head. There should be trust in fundraisers and belief that the way we communicate is based on more than 50 years of research in direct response and marketing communications.



4. Communicating everything. When we try to say everything, we end of up saying nothing. There should be one key take-away (and one secondary objective, if really pressed) that we want donors to remember. One overarching idea. But perhaps due to point #3 above when we follow an all-inclusive model while trying to please all program leaders, we lose the sight of the big idea. This is why it is hard to get the final clear punch line done.



5. Multi-purposing or trying to create a social media piece with hope there will be donations. What works for fundraising may not work for breaking the internet. In order to be an effective fundraising product, it has to show the need of a certain beneficiary, take viewer on an emotional journey, and offer a specific way they can make a difference, finishing with a clear 'ask'. So called ‘viral’ videos that are popular online are full of surprises, humor and hopeful messages, that make the online user feel differently when shared on their ‘wall’ or with friends, compared to the feeling we want to elicit from the donor.


It takes passion for fundraising, persistence and zen-type of patience to explain these 5 points to your colleagues. What seems simple, is not easy, right?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advocacy and Social Media: how Ukrainians did it

Active social media users from #DigitalMaidan and supporters of an NGO Razom for Ukraine have wielded their power of click to pass the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. At first Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur together with 10 bipartisan colleagues introduced the HR. 5782 the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, the House accompanying bill to S. 2828. The goal of the Act is to provide additional help to Ukraine in humanitarian, energy and defense spheres in order to end the war. The next step was to ensure public support for this bill. Here is how Ukrainian activists did it:

1. Phonathon coordinated via Facebook


2. Tweeted to the representatives


3. Celebrated success online and urged for the final push 


4. Final step:

History is written in Facebook and Twitter these days!

Stay tuned and follow @digitalmaidan @hromadske @razomforukraine for updates on digital diplomacy.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting Social with Major (Institutional) Donors

Is institutional fundraising that much different from fundraising from individuals?

At first glance, governmental donors require lengthy technical proposals and reports, ask for dashboards and value for money. Therefore, the whole grant cycle seems longer and more transactional.

With a closer look, however, principles of fundraising are the same for both. Ask- thank-report. And in good fundraising we should thanks three times more than ask. While most of charities have mastered the first and the third steps, what is often missing is keeping up donors' excitement and confidence their gift.

One of the solutions is to develop a donor journey and track touchpoints with your donors, as well as  develop content editorial calendar. This will help to align and organize program, resource mobilization and communications colleagues for producing materials that convey impact to donors.

Great way to acknowledge a donor


Social media is another sphere where the differences between individual and institutional fundraising blur. It is like B2B finally is about H2H (Human-to-Human) in marketing. 

Tagging your donors in a facebook post is a great way to bring voices from the field

Following yours donors on Twitter and engaging them in the conversation online

Donor is a hero. This is why storytelling is hugely important for institutional donors too. Is helps to unveil what lies behind ambitious goals, like eradicating poverty, and break down the abstract into more tangible and relatable experience e.g. help a child to find a safe home. An emotional video or image will stay with the donor, while providing numbers just satisfies their work quarterly indicator, not the human need to help. Nobody was ever bored into donating.

Photo Essay: CAR's Humanitarian Frontliners

Do you have any experiences trying to "humanize" the message in order to foster a real connection?