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SXSWi: Top Three Takeaways for Nonprofits

Now that I’ve had a chance to travel back home and decompress, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at my week at the SXSW Interactive Conference.

There were several topics that kept appearing on the schedule in one form or another and I had the fortune to attend sessions that delved into these topics and gave me some new insights. After much thought, below are the three topics that I believe matter most with some links to relevant resources.

  • Digital Storytelling: After spending a number of weeks working on the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge, it was nice to see so much interest in the topic. Why does digital storytelling matter and why should organizations care? The staggering amount of photo and video content on the Internet competing for attention has reinforced the idea that stories matter. It’s not about posting photos and videos for the sake of it – it’s about telling stories that resonate with audiences. There are some production techniques that organizations should keep in mind that help but the fact remains that it’s all about the story.
  • Visualization: We underestimate the importance of using visual language in everyday life – dismissing it over verbal language. As I learned in “Shut Up and Draw: A Non-Artist Way to Think Visually,” the human brain is naturally inclined to embrace visual thinking and is more active when confronted with visuals. Those that don’t believe this should consider the popularity of infographics and the rapid growth of Pinterest. The amount of information now available to us is immense and employing visual language helps us distill and get a grasp of what matters most.
  • Community: Community matters and using social media is about building community – not about your brand. It’s unfortunate but it happens – organizations forget that their followers support the cause first and the organization second (see Susan G. Komen). Organizations also forget that communities are composed of individuals with varying levels of commitment to their shared cause. Opportunities should be created with varying levels of engagement in mind to make it easy for the casual supporter and the super fan. Ideally, by creating multiple means to support a cause, every community members feels they can contribute and it matters. However, organizations should bear in mind that not everyone will engage deeply and this does not constitute failure.


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