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  • GW Engagement Benchmarking Survey: Intro and Section One Intro to our DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey and section one of

    Ever wondered exactly what it takes to be an engaging organization? Or wish someone would come into your organization, give you the once-over, and tell you in layman's terms where you're excelling and where you need work? 

    If this has ever been a dream of yours, we've got some good news for you. Several years ago, we developed the Groundwire Engagement Benchmarking Survey tool to help the organizations we work with determine where they should be investing their (limited) resources. We've used it enough to believe that it actually provides useful, actionable diagnostic information, and decided to make a DIY version that anyone could use. You, maybe.

    There are ten questions in our survey. Over the next ten months, we'll present one section of our survey and related resources to help you improve your engagement foundation. You can take the survey now (or anytime in the future), and get a printable report that you can share with your team, board, partners, etc. The survey is 100% anonymous, but you will get an invitation to join an online community of practice around engagement. Which will be awesome -- but if you're not interested, feel free to skip the invitation. You can still download your survey results as a PDF or printed copy.

    We'll be publishing and posting resources every month related to a specific question, so once you take the survey (or even if you don't), you can look forward to additional support and advice over the next year. Served up in digestible chunks.

    Take Groundwire's DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey.

    DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey, Section One: Theory of Change

    To start off, we're tackling the most basic, most important question for social change organizations -- What is your theory of change?  All of the ways that you work to engage your supporters are a big waste of time if what you're asking them to do doesn't actually have a strong chance of resulting in the outcome that you all want.  Interested in learning more? Here are the theory of change basics:

    What is it?
    A theory of change is a roadmap, or logic model, which outlines a chain of events starting with your campaign activities or program work that leads, plausibly, to your desired goal.

    It has to be believable.

    It has to be achievable.

    It has to be testable.

    Why do you need one?
    A theory of change helps you to most efficiently use your resources -- money, staff, political capital, etc. -- to reach your goal. 

    It allows you to evaluate your assumptions and related strategies and tactics, so you can shift away from what’s not working and focus on or expand what is working. 

    It ensures that staff and campaign/program partners are on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish and how.

    What are the risks of working without a theory of change?
    Without a theory of change you can actually do harm to your cause. It’s like traveling somewhere without a map.  Even though you know where you want to end up, if you don’t know the path and end up pointed in the wrong direction, going faster only puts you further from your goal. 

    When you spend your limited social and political capital asking supporters to fund or work on the wrong tactics, you not only waste their money and time, you waste their passion and you lose credibility. You may never get another shot at the resources you’ve misspent.

    Resources: Section One

    No publisherKaren UffelmanContent is KingEngagement StrategyRelationship BuildingEmail & Social Media2011-09-22T23:40:00ZBlog Entry
    G+: So much harder to stalk Google’s new social media space, Google +, is getting a test drive with a limited launch, but will soon be up and ready for everyone to start socializing. But will it take over Facebook?Oh my gawd!

    Google’s new social media space, Google +, is getting a test drive right now with a limited launch, stirring up the usual frenzy.

    G + is focusing on individuals for now and working on profile pages for organizations and businesses to launch later, although of course nonprofits and businesses are already getting around this in the limited launch and setting up “Circles” with their supporters.

    G+ is basically a slicker and better integrated Facebook-type community, with a user experience featuring drag and drop ease, where uploading videos and photos is faster and simpler, where you can group text with your circle of friends on your phone (Huddle), video chat (Hangouts) and featuring a recommendation engine just for you (Sparks).

    But what people will probably find most intriguing is the way this social network is setup with Circles, which allows you to easily segregate your work friends, your school friends, your boyfriends, your family (mom!), etc.

    Which IMHO really sort of defeats the purpose of social media. One of the reasons Facebook is so popular is its passive-aggressive tendencies. If you really wanted to keep something private, you would send a private email, right? But by posting status updates for all to see, or liking something cool that shows up for all to see in your feed, or writing on someone’s wall for everyone to see (showing off your relationship with that person), we get to brag and show our interests and show off attractive photos of ourselves and drop hints to our work friends without looking like we are doing it on purpose.

    If we segregate into “Circles” on G +, we then have to purposely plan who gets to see which update and photo, etc. Part of the fun of Facebook is the overshare-to-everyone-default factor. How boring is it going to be if you get put in someone's biking group circle and only get biking photos with no access to your new biking friend's complete profile! So much harder to stalk. 

    And also, what if you put Friend A in your "Best Friends" circle and Friend B in your "Second-Tier Friends" circle and then you post a cool video for just "Best Friends" circle to see and then you are out to drinks with both friends and Friend A is like, "OMG I loved that video you posted on Goggle +!" and then Friend B is like,"What video?" and then figures out she is not in your favorite Google + Circle - this circle thing could really hurt some feelings. Don't get me started on Top Friends on Facebook.

    And as far as keeping your boss out of your world, LinkedIn is seeing a renaissance right now as people are looking for a completely separate social space for work altogether. Maybe Facebook and LinkedIn will be enough to keep the worlds separate without resorting to Google Circles?

    Okay, but enough about me and my personality problems. Why is this important to your nonprofit? Because you want to keep your eye on Google +, but remember a social media network is only successful if individuals are loving it up. People don't like change, they have social media fatigue, they don't want to build a whole new community and they don't really hate Facebook as much as they like to say they do. As Jumo can tell you, it’s almost impossible to get people to move over to a new social space when they are already deeply invested. Google has had trouble with this in the past (Wave, Buzz) but Google does have a cool factor people love (if you are still using Hotmail for your email you are immediately being judged, just know that).

    Here’s what Social Media for Nonprofits guru Beth Kanter has to say about the possibilities of Google +: “Many who work in health, education, social services and other sensitive areas have found it cumbersome and sometimes impossible to erect professional firewalls to keep patients, students and clients out. Google gives users more control on who can join.”

    Read what other people are saying about Google +:

    Security and Control: Early Thoughts on Google+, Amy Sample Ward

    What is your plan for Google+ experimentation and exploration? Beth Kanter

    Google +: First Impressions, Mashable

    Nonprofits Adopt Google + Social Network Early, Huff Po

    Google Rebrands Blogger and Picassa to make way for Google +, Read Write Web

    Five Fatal Flaws of Google +, Thomas Moradapour

    No publisherSara FreedmanRelationship BuildingEmail & Social Media2011-07-07T21:35:00ZBlog Entry
    50 Donors in 50 Days: KAHEA With a clear value proposition expressed to an audience already well-cultivated, a specific, transparent campaign goal, and best practices for their online appeal -- the Hawaiian-environmental alliance KAHEA raised 300% more in year-end giving from individual donors in 2010 than they did for the same appeal in 2009.I love Hawaii. Love. I love the weather, I love the culture, I love the natural environment. Which means I also love KAHEA, a small but mighty organization that works to protect Hawaii’s cultural and natural resources.

    KAHEA was started about ten years ago by a group of activists  concerned about Hawaii’s systematic loss of species, sensitive shorelines, and unique cultural sites, as well as increasing threats to public health, rights and access – and they called for change.

    The name KAHEA is an acronym for Ka (the) Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, and the word Kāhea translates from Hawaiian as "the call.”  Which is cool. And makes me love them even more.

    Actually, lots of folks love KAHEA, which is grassroots-oriented and good at community mobilization. More than 10,000 people, spread across all of the Hawaiian Islands (and beyond) have signed up for KAHEA’s email list, taken action on their campaigns, or attended KAHEA events. Not that many of them are donors, however, because KAHEA has historically been funded by foundations and hasn’t spent much energy converting action supporters to financial supporters. But it has both opportunities and aspirations that exceed local foundation funding resources, and a strong desire to diversify its funding base.

    So, at the end of last year, staff members launched a campaign to convert some of their activist love to individual contributions. With a practically non-existent individual donor program, they decided to start with baby steps, and opted for a plan and theme that felt achievable to both staff and board. “50 Donors in 50 Days” was the name of their campaign challenge.

    KAHEA staff built on an annual tradition of sending Makahiki cards at the end of the year (which had historically contained contribution envelopes but a very passive ask) by adding a series of three email appeals, two from members of their board and the final one from Executive Director Miwa Tamanaha.

    The email appeals spoke to what a donor’s contribution would fund, what the organization had accomplished over the past year, and why each writer was personally passionate about KAHEA’s work. They were short and sweet and inspiring, starting with the subject line 50 Days…And Counting and ending with 48 Hours Left in the 50 Donors, 50 Days Challenge.

    There was no rocket science involved. No expensive viral videos or fancy apps. What they did have was a clear value proposition expressed to an audience that was already well-cultivated through KAHEA’s on-the-ground relationship-building practices. So when they incorporated a specific, transparent campaign goal, added an additional channel to their fundraising campaign and followed best practices for their online appeal, the results far exceeded their expectations. 190 donors, nearly four times their original goal, made contributions.  Even though many of their new donors gave smaller gifts than previous donors had, KAHEA raised 300% more in year-end giving from individual donors than they did for the same appeal the previous year.

    This success is encouraging KAHEA board and staff to increase investment in their individual donor and monthly giving programs, and they have smart cultivation and follow up planned for these first-time givers and ascenders of their engagement pyramid. Next time you visit the amazing Hawaiian Islands, take some time to appreciate the efforts of KAHEA  (visible everywhere, from Monk Seal protection to the Natural Area Reserves to supporting local food production), and – who knows – you might want to become donor 191. Aloha!

    No publisherKaren Uffelmansuccess-storiesRelationship BuildingFundraisingEmail & Social Media2011-03-22T00:30:00ZBlog Entry
    The Engagement Pyramid: Beefing-Up the Middle A healthy middle of the pyramid is critically important for the long-term health and impact of your organization. It's where people begin taking on a more meaningful role in your organization and begin personally investing in your work. Here are four ways your organization can beef up the middle of your pyramid.The Engagement Pyramid is a simple and powerful framework for modeling an organization's relationships with its constituents. The vertical dimension of the pyramid indicates the intensity of engagement, with low-intensity, light-weight engagement at the bottom and high-intensity, deep engagement at the top.

    In general, the breadth of the pyramid indicates the number of people -- as you move up the pyramid, your organization is managing deeper, more personal relationships with fewer and fewer people.

    Online-savvy nonprofits are really good at the bottom of the pyramid -- getting people in the door with easy, low-commitment actions that demonstrate their ideological affinity. You know, opportunities to "make your voice heard" with just a mouse click.

    In general, we also do pretty well at the top of the pyramid -- there are always a small number of good people who care deeply about our missions and quickly make their way to the top of the pyramid to join the board or become a major donor.

    But what about the middle?

    The middle of the pyramid is where people begin taking on a more meaningful role in your organization and begin personally investing in your work. It’s the “contribute” stage, where people start committing significant time, energy, and resources to your cause. For an advocacy organization, “contributors” might be doing things like calling legislators, testifying at hearings, making monthly donations, and organizing other members. Because there are (at least in theory) more people in the middle of the pyramid than at the top, this is where the bulk of your meaningful actions will be coming from.

    The middle is also where you start building real relationships with your members. It’s where personal conversations start to happen, and where you discover the knowledge, experience, and resources people have to offer. This is where you start to hear the personal stories that motivate people to get involved -- stories that can become the foundation of your organizing efforts.

    A healthy middle of the pyramid is critically important for the long-term health and impact of your organization. But too often, we find that organizations are seriously under-investing in the organizing work that’s required for a healthy middle. In many organizations, organizing budgets have declined as online budgets have grown, but the opposite should be happening -- organizing budgets should be growing to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the big lists we’ve gotten so good at building.

    How to give yourself a healthier middle

    Make it a focus. Think about the qualities you are looking for in effective advocates for your organization. In an advocacy organization, for example, you might look for people with relationships to key legislators, members in certain districts, experts who can testify on your issue, or spokespeople with compelling personal stories. Once you have your list, make sure you have a way to track this information (in your database, not in your head). Then design outreach campaigns with the goal of identifying individuals with these qualities and cultivating relationships with them. 

    Start conversations wherever you can. Good organizers do this intuitively in face-to-face situations, but sometimes we forget to do it online. One easy step: put a real “reply-to” address on your email blasts. Yes, I mean the actual email address of an actual person. Getting an actual reply from an actual person is called a “conversation.” It’s how you start learning about your members and identifying those you should invest more time in.

    Give your staff time and space to be creative and get results. Organizing is hard work. Identifying the right people and cultivating relationships takes a lot of time, and unless you have unlimited resources, it’s time that’s going to come from some other aspect of your work. So you may have to ease off on your list growth goals a bit. List size, click-through rates and action rates are list-building metrics, not organizing metrics. 

    We're better than ever at leveraging the power of the internet to find new sympathizers and build bigger lists. Now, we need to invest in the next step -- building the personal relationships that are required for real, sustainable impact.

    No publisherChris McCulloughNext Generation OrganizingRelationship Building2011-02-16T22:25:00ZBlog Entry
    Teach Your Mom to Copy and Paste in 57 Seconds This is so awesome! Send your parents a TECH SUPPORT CARE PACKAGE. It’s free. It’s from Google. It’s super fun and easy to use. I just sent my mom a 57 sec video on how to copy and paste.This is so awesome! Send your parents a TECH SUPPORT CARE PACKAGE.

    It’s free. It’s from Google. It’s super fun and easy to use.

    I just sent my mom a 57 sec video on how to copy and paste.

    Read this actual transcript from a recent email exchange with my mother and you’ll see why I'm so excited right now. (I admit, my instructions were a little confusing.)

    Mom, thought of you when I read this. Click on the link below to read this article. If you can't click on it, copy and paste the link like I showed you when I was home last.


    My Mom: Sorry--I forgot how to cut and paste.  Can you send it to me another way?

    Me: no. You have to learn to copy and paste. it's the simplest thing on the damn internet.

    open up your internet connection (internet explorer button - you know how.)

    go to top of the page where the there is a long narrow rectangular box. the words in there start with http://

    use your cursor to put your pointer arrow right before the http:// and click your mouse. the whole line will now be highlighted. hit delete. now box is blank

    now come back down here and put your cursor right before the http:// on this line:

    click, hold down, and move your cursor to highlight this whole line.

    after it is highlighted, take your hand off the click. the line above will still be highlighted.

    now click the RIGHT button on your mouse

    it will show you a menu, click on "copy".  the highlighted text will now be copied.

    now, go back up to the box up top in the internet that is blank.

    put cursor in there

    right click on mouse

    find the word "paste" and click on that.

    the link you copied will appear.

    hit return

    it will take you to the page i sent you.



    My Mom: I can't get it to work! When I put in internet explorer your email goes away. Dad couldn't get it either. Plus then he messed up my reply--we finally got it back. Going out, will call you later.


    Now, she can just click on this:


    Thanks Google! ]]>
    No publisherSara FreedmanRelationship Building2010-12-16T01:55:00ZBlog Entry
    Event Registration Made Easy and Useful With the Eventbrite Connector for Salesforce, you can manage your event with Eventbrite and then seamlessly capture all of that critical supporter information in Salesforce.Partnerships for good

    Many of you know that here at Groundwire we do social change strategy for environmental organizations, along with building websites and databases. Another big thing we do that you might not know about is form partnerships with other awesome online services (Eventbrite!) and other awesome developers (eFactory!) that help the groups we work with do their work even better.

    Eventbrite is a great online events site where groups can set up event registration for fundraisers, house parties, work parties, classes, you name it.  Eventbrite manages the event online including registration, confirmation email, directions, and secure payment. It’s easy for groups to set up an event and easy for participants to register for events using the site. (Did we say "easy?" It's just all real easy.)

    We wanted to make sure all of that important information being put into Eventbrite was being captured in our groups’ databases. Every single day we wax on in some form or another about the Engagement Pyramid, and one of the essential principles of the Pyramid is that groups must collect and track each and every communication with their supporters for better relationship building.

    Eventbrite Connector for Salesforce

    We looked around and turns out a company called eFactory had already developed a free application to connect Eventbrite and, called (oddly enough) Eventbrite Connector.  W00t! The first version of Eventbrite Connector only imported names, though, and we wanted it to do a lot more.

    We contacted eFactory and offered to fund an enhancement to the Eventbrite Connector tool. They were excited about it and eFactory developers worked with the Groundwire Labs team to come up with a new version that works much better for the nonprofits we work with.

    So for example, we are hosting our 15th Anniversary Celebration on October 14. Our Director of Development set up an event page for the celebration on Eventbrite, and as people RSVP, all this good information about our favorite people gets sucked into a Campaign set up for the event. Our Director of Development can use to get a detailed historical view of each attendee, how much they have paid, and she can run reports to help her plan the event.

    Lots of things to do:

    No publisherSara FreedmanRelationship BuildingGroundwire LabsDatabase2010-09-22T15:00:00ZBlog Entry
    Use Social Media Data to Connect with Your Fans and Followers How can you bridge the divide between your organization's social media efforts and your database? An easy and affordable way to start is by purchasing social media data from a company like Rapleaf.For many of you, there is a deep, dark chasm between your organization's social media efforts and your database. Someone on your field team may be interacting with a supporter on Facebook regularly, but those conversations are not in the database where development staff can see it. One of your biggest contributors might have a thousand followers on Twitter, but your campaign organizers have no idea.
    How can you bridge the divide? An easy and affordable way to start is by purchasing social media data from a company like Rapleaf.

    Here’s how it works: you send Rapleaf a file with the email addresses from your database. For just a few cents per email, Rapleaf will return the file with a vast collection of data appended, including:
    • Name
    • Age, Gender, Location
    • Colleges, Jobs
    • Social site memberships and number of friends: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter
    • Twitter stats: following, followers, # of updates, last tweet date
    • Facebook fan pages, MySpace interests, and Amazon Wishlist
    • Social site memberships: bebo, Care2, Cyworld, Digg, Flickr, Flixster, FriendFeed, Friendster, Hi5, iLike, LiveJournal, MySpace, Playlist, Tagged
    • Commercial site memberships: Amazon, Wishlist, Bebo, Cafemom, Care2, Costco, DailyMotion, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, Hi5,, Hyves, The L.A. Times, LiveJournal, Metroflog, Multiply, MySpace, MyYearbook, Nba, Nytimes, Pandora, Perfspot, Photobucket, Plaxo, Playlist, Sevenload, Stumbleupon, Tagged, Tiger Direct, Vox, The Washington Post, Wordpress, Youku, Zimbio

    Of course, you won't get all of this information for everyone – not everyone on your list will have a Facebook account, and those that do may not have it associated with the email address you have for them (you may have their work address, while they used a personal address for Facebook, for example). But you can expect to get some data for a majority of the people in your database.

    What to do with all of this beautiful data? As always, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, but here’s a few ideas to try:

    Better target your mass communications

    Top of our list is using social data to send more targeted and segmented email.  For example, you may want to send an email to Twitter users asking them to follow you on Twitter – something you probably don't want to send to your whole list. You can split up a campaign based on age or gender and tailor your message accordingly. If you’re willing to do a little analysis of people’s likes on Facebook, you can segment people based on interests or affiliations – for example, tailoring a different message for likely conservatives and likely liberals.

    Targeting influentials

    Let’s say you have an important advocacy campaign you’re launching, and you want it to spread like wildfire.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which of your members has the biggest online following? You could put together a list of all your supporters with more than a thousand online fans and call them personally to ask for their help.  

    On an ongoing basis, you could make a point of following all of your biggest Twitterers and Facebook fans online and looking for opportunities to build your relationships with them, or establish an online VIP program.

    Better personalize one-on-one communications

    It’s easy to forget that your database is not just a collection of names, but a collection of real people.  Appending social data to your records can help bring them to life and make one-on-one contacts, like fundraising calls, much easier. You can add photos, see what the individual’s interests are, what they do for a living, where they went to school, and, with quick links to their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, who else they have relationships with.

    Make sure you’re spending your time on the right social media

    By looking at the number of members you have on various social networking sites, you can see if there are any gaps in your social media strategy.  Who knows, maybe you have a ton of members on Friendster you've been ignoring.

    Don't be creepy

    While we know you’ll only use this information for good, it might still make your constituents uncomfortable that you’ve added personal information about them to your database. That’s especially true for information people might not realize is publicly available.  Amazon Wish List, we’re looking at you.

    Our advice?  Don’t be creepy. If your sense of creepy is not finely developed, ask other people for their reaction. In general, we recommend not using personal info explicitly. So don’t offer to mail me that back scratcher I just added to my Amazon Wish List if I make a $100 contribution. That would definitely be creepy.

    No publisherChris McCulloughRelationship BuildingEmail & Social Media2010-08-12T17:00:00ZBlog Entry
    Give Them a Planet to Use Smartly and Love Dearly The climate bill is dead. But that's not stopping our groups, friends, and partners from taking the earth into their own hands.The climate bill is dead. But that's not stopping our groups, friends, and partners from taking the earth into their own hands.

    Hey. Don’t let the haters get to you. You know that more people than ever, EVER, believe in climate change and want the government to do something about it. More people than ever are freaked out about demolishing our oceans and forests. More people than ever are worried about harmful crap in their food and on their babies and in their hand lotion and are on that first level of engagement, ready to be moved up when you reach out to them.

    You need a little positive news, a little inspiration.Here are six stories from the past month to help you pull yourself up off the floor and get back into your letter-writing, phone-calling, house-partying, water and wildlife clean-up, green living ways.

    • Conservation Northwest: One of the most remarkable stories this past month comes from Northeast Washington, where loggers, enviros, ranchers and recreation-lovers are sitting down together to figure out how they’re going to manage all that great land up there so everyone is reasonably satisfied. Hmm, so that’s how adults work together, weird.
    • Washington Toxics Coalition has been featured in three magazines recently:. Mothering, Parents, and ParentMap. Keeping those babies safe!
    • If you haven't heard, buy a Roasted Turkey and Cherry Chutney wrap at Burgerville and Oregon Environmental Council gets a cut. We love this partnership!
    • Our friends at The Story of Stuff released their fourth film on July 21, The Story of Cosmetics. Look for The Story of Electronics next.  Millions of people are watching these movies. Millions.
    • Alliance for Climate Education's converted school bus, the Biobus, runs entirely on recycled cooking oil. They've been on a road trip up and down the West Coast, getting kids to DOT (do one thing) for the environment. And, they were recently on NPR.
    • What do we do now? Check out these great pieces from our movement leaders, researchers, and reporters:

    Worldchanging's Alex Steffen: The Next US Climate Strategy: Celebrate the EPA

    Grist's David Roberts: Is cap-and-trade to blame for the death of the climate bill? 

    (Includes video of David Roberts!)

    Sightline Institute's Eric de Place: The "Audacity" of "Pragmatism"

    Van Jones's keynote address to Netroots Nation: Love Harder.



    No publisherSara FreedmanListen to Your Mother (Earth)Relationship Building2010-08-12T14:00:00ZBlog Entry
    Coming Soon: New Volunteer Management Tool for Salesforce Groundwire Labs, our innovation engine for engagement technology, is honored to receive a $20,000 grant from the Salesforce foundation to build a volunteer management module.Oh, those sweet, sweet volunteers – making those calls and doing those mailings and surveying those birds and holding those signs and meeting with those legislators and soliciting those donors and guiding those boards – they are the heart and soul of any nonprofit organization and as any volunteer manager knows: caretaking these special relationships is key to moving your mission forward.
    Can you feel a Salesforce solution coming on? Groundwire Labs, our innovation engine for engagement technology, is honored to receive a $20,000 grant from the Salesforce Foundation to build a volunteer management module. Volunteer managers will soon be able to track volunteer activities and tasks in Salesforce and not in separate systems or spreadsheets. Volunteers can then be stewarded up the engagement pyramid as event organizers, individual donors, board members, and so on. Central location for integrated information, that’s how we roll.
    More to come on this exciting project; we’ll need some beta testers so if this sounds interesting to you, keep an eye out and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for testing. We hope to have this new volunteer management tool completed by early 2011.

    Special thanks to the Salesforce Foundation for this generous gift and their continued investment in our work. ]]>
    No publisherSara FreedmanNext Generation OrganizingRelationship BuildingGroundwire LabsDatabase2010-07-27T20:25:00ZBlog Entry
    I Drink Your Milkshake We like to talk about engagement superpowers around here, those special powers that help you build relationships, make people prioritize your cause, and better engage them in your work. Oregon Environmental Council, notoriously good at flexing their superpowers, is at it again: Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of: Eco-Healthy Homes Checkup Kit! Form of: Roasted Turkey and Cherry Chutney wrap!We like to talk about engagement superpowers around here, those special powers that help you build relationships, make people prioritize your cause, and better engage them in your work.

    The Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), notoriously good at flexing their superpowers, is at it again:  Wonder Twins powers, activate! Form of: Eco-Healthy Homes Checkup Kit!  Form of: Roasted Turkey and Cherry Chutney wrap!
    • Eco-Healthy Homes Checkup Kit: OEC is offering residents of Oregon a free copy of their Eco-Healthy Homes Checkup Kit, which includes a room-by-room checklist you can use to give your home an eco-healthy once-over. The kit also includes suggestions for easy, low-cost changes along with bigger investments you can make to get your home, yard, and garden detoxified and eco-friendly. It's free to Oregon residents, $2.50 for nonresidents.
    • Roasted Turkey and Cherry Chutney Wrap. So this is very cool: OEC’s Program Director of Healthy Food & Farms, Allison Hensey, is the latest “Burgerville Community Champion.” Burgerville, known for sourcing local foods (Country Natural Beef burgers, Walla Walla Sweets onion rings, Marionberry and Strawberry shakes), worked with Allison to create a Roasted Turkey and Cherry Chutney Wrap made from local cherries. For every wrap sold between July 6 and August 16, a portion of the proceeds go to OEC! Good for local farms, good for OEC, and good food for you!
    • Finally, this is a *great* time to become a member of OEC with a gift of $35 or more because you get a sweet It's Your Oregon T-shirt AND a coupon for a free Burgerville milkshake or smoothie (coupon good for when you purchase the above OEC wrap).

    Food, milkshakes, T-shirts and free checklists? We’re totally engaged. And when OEC sends us that next action alert, we'll be ready.

    No publisherSara FreedmanFundraisingListen to Your Mother (Earth)Relationship Building2010-07-20T20:00:00ZBlog Entry
    How Foundations Can Engage Online A few smart ways that funders can engage online and have an impact.At Groundwire, we invest most of our skills and resources in strategy and technology projects for environmental advocacy organizations.  This is where we think what we’ve got to offer has the most bang for the buck.  But there are other projects that we take on, projects that we think have real impact, and occasionally one of these projects is for an environmental funder, or funders.

    My colleague Kelley Bevans and I recently attended a conference chock full of environmental funders to show off a new website we built for their network, the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity. This new site will help member funders collaborate and share resources and schedules, and the program officers who took a tour were enthusiastic.

    But many of the foundation staff we talked to also wanted to know what other online tools and strategies they should pay attention to. They were interested in not only getting information to help them evaluate grant proposals from their grantees, but also in understanding how they, themselves, could take advantage of technology and employ online strategies to move the ball down the court for the issues and organizations they care about.

    Here are a few smart ways that funders can engage online and have an impact:
    • Promote your grantees on your website. Your seal of approval gives them increased credibility with both other institutional funders and curious individual donors, and your positive content will show up in internet searches.
    • Link to your grantees on your website.  External links to an organization’s website increase its search engine ranking, so every additional external link gives your grantee higher prominence in a Google search.
    • Tweet about your grantees work.  If your foundation has invested deeply in a region or issue area, and your grantees are doing great work, you can use hash tags to draw attention to that work.  Funding outreach to help communities in the wake of the BP spill?  Send out a quick tweet about that work, with the website address of the grantee doing it, and use the tag #bp. Everyone following the #bp tag (media, in particular, is your target here) will receive your tweet.  Note: Twitter is not for everyone.  If this suggestion fills you with fear and loathing, you’re allowed to skip over it.  If it’s piqued your interest, check out and type in a subject that’s germane to your work to get a sense of the twittersphere conversation.
    • Keep track of your grantees via Facebook and Twitter.  If your grantees have Facebook pages or tweet regularly, this is a quick and easy way to stay current on their activities. 
    • Pull fresh content from your grantees’ websites into your Google Reader or other RSS aggregator.  If your grantees have RSS feeds set up on their websites, you can automate that content to be delivered to you.  Want more info on Google Reader or RSS? Check out this great post on the Northern California Grantmakers website.
    • Contribute to public blog sites and discussions. You’ve got influence, and an interesting perspective (who else knows as much as you do about the nonprofit efforts to protect local watersheds in the Great Lakes region?), so participate in the conversation.  Program officers and other foundation staff have that rare “bird’s eye view” and are sometimes the best-informed people on specific issues. We know it’s not the traditional role of foundations to be out front (and we’re sure you have communications policies to which you must adhere), but don’t hide your light under a bushel.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There are many ways funders can use online tools to track, highlight and amplify the good work of their grantees, as well as add their own expertise to the virtual discussion, and many foundations are already pushing the envelope.  As a new generation of program officers as well as long-time pillars of the foundation world embrace the digital age, there’s so much opportunity. Dig in!

    No publisherKaren UffelmanWebsiteRelationship BuildingFundraisingEmail & Social Media2010-07-08T18:45:00ZBlog Entry
    10 Fun Ways to Reconnect with Your Mother This Summer. 10 Fun Ways to Reconnect with Your Mother This Summer. (And by Mother, we mean Earth. And by Earth, we mean that big round thing that supports your existence. And by Summer, we mean right now.)10 Fun Ways to Reconnect with Your Mother This Summer. (And by Mother, we mean the earth. And by the earth, we mean that big round thing that supports your existence. And by Summer, we mean right now.)

    The groups we work with at Groundwire are an industrious bunch -- always planning this, that, and the other to engage the greatest number of people in protecting and enjoying this gorgeous little planet of ours. Read on for a few of our favorites and please feel free to add to our list.

    10 Fun Ways To Reconnect With Mother Earth

    1. Hike-a-thon! Make those miles count. If you live anywhere near Washington state: get sponsors, hike like crazy in the month of August, and help Washington Trails Association protect the trails we love.

    2. Make an organic pasta that will become your summer staple. For inspiration, check out online recipes from the Idaho Conservation League featuring local meats, cheeses, grains and produce. The Basque chorizo / arugula / feta / red pepper pasta = yes.

    3. Be a tree hugger. For reals. If you live in the Los Angeles area, check out the TreePeople online calendar for opportunities to help weed, prune, and mulch the thousands of trees planted each year by volunteers and staff from TreePeople. They’re working toward one million trees planted all over the city to restore the tree canopy and help combat global warming. Plus, trees are the best.

    4. British Columbia friends! Not here, not ever. Protect your coast from a catastrophic oil spill by making this the summer to get overly-involved with the No Tankers campaign from Dogwood Initiative. Even better, get 20 of your BFFs involved with you!

    5.  Get your faith community involved in the green movement this summer. 6 Steps to Getting Started in Your House of Worship from GreenFaith is a great place to start.

    6. High Country News turns 40 this year (watch this anniversary video, amazing story and we are so proud to be part of it). In honor of their 40th year, they have several photo and essay contests going on this summer – enter them! Also, instead of spending your summer book fund on barely-tolerable summer reads, subscribe to this remarkable news magazine and help keep real, investigative reporting going (Print + Web: $29.95/year; Web only: $24/year)

    7. Head to Portland, Oregon, this Saturday (July 10) and join 2000+ cycling buddies for The Night Ride, a benefit for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Bike around the city in costume with a bunch of other people in costumes and decorated bikes, eat as many doughnuts as you can, follow a glowing, marked course, and participate in “wild nighttime antics."  Keep Portland Weird, baby.

    8.  Hey. Hey you on the couch. Young person. Anywhere in Washington state. Watching Jersey Shore and Yacht Rock Videos and Betty White clips. Kill three birds with one click: Sign up to join The Washington Bus and 1) meet other young people who are cool 2) mom and dad will get off your back 3) you’ll get addicted to making change happen.  

    9.  Have you been to the Steens Mountain Wilderness in southeast Oregon? Seriously, one of the most beautiful places in this country. It’s the nation’s first cow-free wilderness, and while the cattle are now gone, the fences remain. To help the sage grouse and antelope migrate without getting caught in the wire, we humans need to clean it up. Every year, Oregon Natural Desert Association sponsors a five day backpacking/fence pull in August. Traipse around this magnificent desert, working and playing and camping. Great summer adventure! (August 25-August 30.)

    10. Summer is the perfect time to get involved with your local environmental groups working to protect and restore the country’s waterways. If you live in Seattle, there is a People for Puget Sound volunteer orientation this upcoming Wednesday (July 14) from 5-7pm. take a friend or your kids and learn how you can spend the summer conducting monthly waterbird surveys or participating in muddy, rewarding restoration work parties on the Puget Sound.


    No publisherSara FreedmanNext Generation OrganizingListen to Your Mother (Earth)Relationship Building2010-07-07T22:15:00ZBlog Entry
    What Is Your Engagement Superpower? When we talk about value proposition at Groundwire, what we are really asking is, What is your superpower? What is your superpower? This is a favorite question of my colleague, Jon Stahl, and when he asks it, what he’s really talking about is value proposition. And not just some vague value proposition, like, “we protect the environment,” but more along the lines of what can you do for me today? Wonder Woman, for example, fights crime, but her superpowers? Invisible plane, “lasso of truth” and, hello, magic bracelets. I’m on board with the fighting crime part, but more likely to pay attention if I can get a ride in the invisible plane.

    Competing for Time, Attention, and Money

    As nonprofit organizations, we all have missions, we all have expertise related to our mission issue, and we all depend on other people who care about our missions to get the work done.

    In a perfect world we would not have to compete for the time, attention and pocketbooks of those on whom we depend. We’d have all the support we needed and we’d achieve our missions in no time. Comic book villains defeated. Climate change fixed.  Toxics outlawed. Urban sprawl, deforestation, disappearing biodiversity – all of that stuff would be a thing of the past. 
    Unfortunately, the world’s not perfect yet, and all of those good people who care (or would care) about our work have loads of other things on their minds, schedules and budgets.

    You Are Special

    So how do you build relationships with these folks, make them prioritize your cause, better engage them in your work? One excellent way is to use your unique expertise, access, skills – whatever you’re super at – to provide a product, service or experience that really matters to your target audience. Develop an engagement superpower.

    Your engagement superpower shouldn’t distract from your mission-related work. In fact, your superpower should advance your mission, even be integral to it. However, an engagement superpower may be an expansion of or a departure from your historical strategies and tactics. Or something you’re already doing, but not doing much of because you didn’t realize it was a superpower.

    Engagement Superpowers in Action

    Here are a handful of great engagement superpower examples:

    • Conservation Minnesota – These guys have developed a bunch of engagement superpowers, but the one that I really love is the weather service they offer on their website. Weather is something that people want to know about everyday – and really, it’s probably the most common way that people relate to the natural environment. It’s also the starting point for any conversation about climate change. Offering a weather information service on their website has doubled Conservation Minnesota’s web traffic over the last year, and has served as a gateway for really important policy conversations about climate. Awesome engagement superpower.
    • Oregon Environmental Council – The folks at OEC want to build relationships with Oregonians who care about safe, healthy, toxics-free living. One of their superpowers is a tool for finding eco-healthy child care providers. If you have kids and need child care, and are the kind of person that OEC wants to engage, what better service could they offer? This superpower has become so popular that it’s now becoming a national program.
    • Washington Trails Association – WTA is working to preserve, enhance, and promote hiking opportunities in Washington State. Cool, right? They lobby the legislature, they organize volunteers to repair trails, they have hiker education programs.  But their engagement superpower is a hiking trails database that is not only a great resource for hikers looking for trail information with recent updates, it’s also a place for those same hikers to post trail reports – giving back in a way that is both fun and useful. The easier it is find a hike and the more you hike, the more invested you are in the Washington Trails Association. In the last year, over 700,000 unique visitors visited WTA’s website to find or post a hike.
    • Ecology Center – The folks at Ecology Center have developed an incredible superpower and you can check it out at their website. Once there, you can research over 5,000 consumer products, including toys and other children’s items, and find out exactly what’s toxic and what’s not. It’s a great service, behavior changer and action motivator all rolled into one. Nothing will get you more fired up about the sad state of consumer product protections than discovering that the Dora the Explorer activity tote you just bought your niece is chock full of lead, chlorine, arsenic and bromine. Yuck! This is a site that I started visiting all of the time once I found out about it.  I’ve told all of my friends with kids about it, and it has seriously engaged me in the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign.

    Find Your Power

    How do you know if an experience, service or product you offer is actually an engagement superpower? Or if it has the potential to become one, if you just invested a little more?

    • Is there a market for your superpower? Is it something people actually want? Really? Would people pay for it? We're not saying that you should charge for your superpower, but if you're doing something that people would be willing to pay for, that's a pretty good clue that it has superpower appeal. If you have to organize, cajole or guilt people into using or taking advantage of your superpower, well….it’s probably not a superpower.
    • Does your superpower attract people with whom you'd not otherwise be in contact?
    • Does your superpower cause people to identify themselves to you and enter into the beginning of relationship that you can further develop?
    • Is your superpower uniquely excellent? Is it something that your target audience can't readily get from anyone else? 
    • Does your superpower make your mission personally relevant to the lives of the people with whom you're seeking to connect? This is really the key. For the true believers in your mission, they already take your issue personally. But for all of the rest of us who might be volunteering, taking action, contributing or otherwise supporting you, providing value around what’s personally relevant to us related to your issue is the best way to engage and expand your base.

    So what are your organization’s engagement superpowers? What are you doing to serve them up to the people you care about? If you have a great example, let us know!

    How are you using your engagement superpowers to move your supporters up the engagement pyramid? Read our article The Engagement Pyramid: Six Levels of Connecting People and Social Change for even more engagement goodness.


    No publisherKaren UffelmanNext Generation OrganizingRelationship Building2010-05-12T16:00:00ZBlog Entry
    The Engagement Pyramid: Six Levels of Connecting People and Social Change Civic engagement can mean a lot of different things – from the casual forwarding of a friend’s email to deep involvement on a board of directors. The most effective social change organizations understand how to wield their portfolio of engagement tactics in Zen-like fashion; knowing just what kind of touch is called for to influence the outcomes of a particular decision.By Gideon Rosenblatt, Former Groundwire Executive Director

    One of the things we do at Groundwire is help environmental organizations build better strategies for engaging people. You can learn more about why we think civic engagement is so critical to building a sustainable society from our Theory of Change, but the short answer is that it builds power – power that influences decisions that shape society and impact the planet.

    Civic engagement can mean a lot of different things though – from the casual forwarding of a friend’s email to deep involvement on a board of directors. Some engagement is lightweight and some is deep, and that’s OK – we can’t expect everyone to have the same degree of interest in our mission. In fact, having a mix of people with varying levels of interest and engagement is actually a good thing. Why? Because being effective at social change means being able to choose from a portfolio of strategies and tactics in a way that best maps to the specific conditions we’re facing at any given moment. Sometimes that’s lightweight communications from lots of people; sometimes is a well-timed phone call from a carefully cultivated relationship with a community leader.

    The most effective social change organizations understand how to wield their portfolio of engagement tactics in Zen-like fashion; knowing just what kind of touch is called for to influence the outcomes of a particular decision. They also know how to meet people where they are at, and craft their calls to action appropriately so as to match the specific level of interest and commitment from each person they ask. These organizations also tend to have good processes for stewarding people toward ever higher levels of engagement in their mission.

    At Groundwire, we use a framework for mapping these different levels of engagement that we call an “Engagement Pyramid.” This framework builds on ideas from the fields of community organizing, relationship marketing and fundraising. Fundraisers will see elements of the ‘donor pyramid’ in what we describe here. We’ve also had plenty of feedback and inspiration from peers as we’ve developed these ideas over the years, including our friend Stephen Legault from Highwater Mark.

    The vertical dimension of our Engagement Pyramid represents the intensity of engagement, with low level, lightweight engagement at the bottom and high intensity, deep engagement at the top. Its horizontal dimension represents the number of people involved. Combine the two and you get a pyramid with lots of mildly engaged people at the base and a small number of deeply engaged people at the top.



    We’ve found it useful to think of the vertical dimension – the intensity of engagement – as a “ladder” that individuals climb as they become more involved in a particular organization or campaign. We call it a “Ladder of Engagement” but really it’s just the vertical rise of the pyramid.

    At the bottom of the Engagement Pyramid, communications and relationships are technology-centric and more automated; at the top, they are more personal and labor-intensive. Using technology to automate interactions at the bottom of the pyramid helps us scale engagement efforts to reach lots of people. Websites, databases, email and social networks are excellent tools to this end.

    The upper levels of our Engagement Pyramid entail a much deeper level of engagement than is typical of most approaches to online activism. That is because automated communications tend to become less effective in engaging people above level three in our ladder, where personal relationships become increasingly critical to success. Websites, email and social networks still play an important role in offloading certain types of more routine communications, but above level three there is no substitute for the human touch. Relationship management databases can help organizations manage engagement across their constituencies; focusing resource-intensive personal interactions on their most important and/or promising people.

    The Engagement Pyramid is an integrated approach to spanning engagement in both the electronic world and the real world. Organizations can use it as a way to think more holistically about the range of engagement strategies and tactics they have at their disposal. It also provides a framework for matching these opportunities with those constituents most likely to succeed in carrying them out.

    Our Ladder of Engagement has six rungs, or levels, which are outlined in detail below. Why six, and not five or seven? Because six is the number of levels that we have found to be meaningfully different in our work with the organizations we serve. Civic engagement is a complex field though, and there is no way a model like this will ever fully capture the nuances and inherent messiness of any one particular on-the-ground campaign. What it can do is serve as a conceptual map; a jumping off point we can use to clarify assumptions and help simplify the complex realities we face, in order to gain perspective and help us navigate the right course.

    Engagement Level 1: “Observing”

    (bottom of the engagement pyramid)
    Primary engagement goals Inspire initial and repeat contact with the organization.
    Mindset of person being engaged Interested in the cause and aware of the organization. Awareness is the major factor. “I care enough about the issue to be aware of your organization’s existence, but you haven’t given me reason or opportunity to investigate you first-hand.”
    Nature of engagement Sporadic, indirect communications.
    Communications Person takes occasional, distracted glances at the organization’s work. These indirect communications may be via word-of-mouth, social media or traditional media. Person may visit the organization’s website but does not provide contact information, so any direct communication is at their initiative. Communications focus on information sharing and awareness-building.
    Action Deciding to visit organization’s website or attend an event.
    Examples Hearing about an organization’s work from a friend via email or a Facebook or Twitter post. Hearing about the work through a newspaper article or blog or by attending an event.
    Engagement metrics Website traffic, polling, media impressions.


    Engagement Level 2: “Following”

    Primary engagement goals Offer value and secure permission to deliver direct, proactive communications.
    Mindset of person being engaged Understands and is interested in the cause and cares somewhat about the organization. Attention is the major factor. “I care enough about your work to open my stream of incoming communications to you, but there’s no guarantee I’ll look at what you send me.”
    Nature of engagement Regular, direct communications.
    Communications Person receives ongoing stream of communications focused on information sharing and piquing interest. These updates keep the organization’s work front-of-mind and build enthusiasm.
    Action Providing contact information. Reading and watching direct communications from organization.
    Examples Subscribing to an email distribution list, print newsletter or an RSS feed. Signing up on a list at an event. Note that Facebook fans and to some degree Twitter followers blur the lines between levels two and three because the public nature of following an organization on a social network is also a mild form of endorsement.
    Engagement metrics Email subscribers; RSS subscribers; Twitter followers; Facebook fans; Attendees of a free event.


    Engagement Level 3: “Endorsing”

    Primary engagement goals Earn enough trust to secure endorsement of the work.
    Mindset of person being engaged Believes in the mission and trusts the organization enough to approve the use of their name to endorse the organization, its programs or a particular campaign. The endorsement may also include a nominal financial contribution. Trust and time are the major factors. “I endorse the work you do, but it is your work and I’m not prepared to invest a significant amount of my time/money in it.”
    Nature of engagement Straightforward, single-step, transactions.
    Communications Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, punctuated by concise, persuasive communications leading to a simple call to action.
    Action Simple, quick acts with little risk or investment of resources; commitments limited enough to be made on impulse rather than through real deliberation.
    Examples Examples of endorsement include: low-level membership pledges, forwarding email, and petition signing.
    Engagement metrics Number of members or other lower-level contributors; public endorsers (such as petition signers); supporters who contact officials, Attendees of a paid event.


    Engagement Level 4: “Contributing”

    Primary engagement goals Deepen commitment to the mission and the work.
    Mindset of person being engaged Contributes significant time, financial or social capital to the organization. Time and money are the major factors. “I’m committed to the work and will pitch in to help, but don’t expect me to assume responsibility.”
    Nature of engagement Multi-step assignments.
    Communications Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by periodic, personal email, phone calls or face-to-face meetings to share information and coordinate on a discrete project or request for funding.
    Action Contributions are not made on impulse – only after due consideration. Habitual contributions may feel like impulse decisions (writing the year-end check or coming into the office regularly to volunteer), but they are part of a larger pattern of behavior indicating a considered investment in the mission. Significant contributions of time and resources become an expression of values and beliefs. The best volunteer jobs are concrete assignments with clearly defined deliverables and good staff oversight.
    Examples Writing or reviewing organizational marketing materials, making personally significant donations, attending public hearings, or joining a committee or task force.
    Engagement metrics Number of regular volunteers; Number of regular activists; number of mid-level donors; number of content contributors or collaborators.


    Engagement Level 5: “Owning”

    Primary engagement goals Instill and develop a sense of responsibility for the mission.
    Mindset of person being engaged Fully invested in the mission and success of the organization, a program or campaign. Mission-relevant knowledge and skills are the major factors. “You can count on me to figure out what needs doing and to be responsible for getting the job done in the way that makes the most sense.”
    Nature of engagement Ongoing, collaborative actions.
    Communications Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by regular personal email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings to collaborate on ongoing projects. Flow of communication is two-way and conversational.
    Action Investments of time, financial and social capital increase, often blurring together. These investments confer a sense of ownership in the organization’s work. Financial support is significant enough that the person feels warranted in their desire to shape the work and understand its impact. Contributions become a creative outlet and expression of passion. People begin using the term “we” instead of “you” when talking about the organization.
    Examples Deep volunteer involvement in a program or board membership; testifying at a public hearing; blogging or otherwise publishing about the organization’s work.
    Engagement metrics Metrics become less quantitative, more subjective, but may include board members, major donors, etc.


    Engagement Level 6: “Leading”

    (top of the engagement pyramid)
    Primary engagement goals Develop leadership skills and opportunities.
    Mindset of person being engaged Leads others in carrying out the organization’s work. Leadership skills are the major factor. “I’m willing to lead us in carrying out this mission.”
    Nature of engagement Ongoing acts of leadership.
    Communications Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by regular personal email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings to support the mission. Communication flow is often initiated by the person, rather than the organization.
    Action The engaged becomes the engager, so deeply committed to the mission they now focus their energy on engaging and leading others in the work. Focus of energy broadens from campaigns and programs to a more holistic mission focus.
    Examples Community organizers who find and development talent in their community; board members who take on real governance and leadership of the organization.
    Engagement metrics Metrics become less quantitative and more subjective -- the people in this level are the most important to your organization.





    No publishergideonrNext Generation OrganizingRelationship Building2010-02-02T00:45:00ZBlog Entry
    The Sustainability Gap While knowledge about the environmental, economic, or social benefits of a product or service is crucial to the topic of sustainability, consumers say that the notion of responsibility symbolizes why it matters. As a value-laden ideal, responsibility provides a more meaningful call to action for all those in society to participate in the greater good. Bridging the Great Divide Between Consumers and Corporations

    By Laurie Demeritt, President, The Hartman Group

    Sustainability has become a multi-headed, industry-driven cause célèbre. Media headlines are far more likely to be laden with news about alternative energy, “socially conscious” products, or the latest efforts to “green” retail, residential and workplace environments, than they are to describe consumer motivations to purchase or participate in various green behaviors, goods or services. The reality is that consumers are not really as preoccupied with sustainability as the media or industry would like to think.

    One of the reasons for this is that as a culture of consumption, we tend to fixate on what are perceived as “tangibles” (products, services and technologies), rather than the driving behaviors behind consumption.

    Sustainability, as a term, has not yet reached everyday, household status. Beyond a hazy awareness for it, sustainability has diverse meanings among consumers. One of the most common associations with the term, for example, is a somewhat literal interpretation, the notion of endurance over time.

    We also find that sustainability is strongly associated with environmental concerns, as the sustainability trend has dovetailed with the even larger “green” trend, whereby consumers are being challenged to develop and express an “eco-consciousness” in their daily habits and purchases. Indeed many individuals, whether or not they have heard of the term sustainability, express a concern and belief that society must preserve and conserve its natural resources if human beings are to sustain their way of life over an indefinite period of time.

    While using “green,” “eco-friendly” or “environmentally conscious” as synonymous with sustainability provides a straightforward definition, herein lay the limitations of the term. As long as the word sustainability only connotes “green,” as it does for some individuals, it falls short as a real-world description for the variety of social, economic and environmental issues that individuals believe are important to sustaining themselves, their communities, and society at large.

    Regardless of whether or not individuals are acquainted with the term “sustainability” or can supply a formal definition for it, we find that they often point to words and phrases that reference the greater good. Recurring terms such as “responsibility” and “doing the right thing” emerge as ways described by consumers to achieve the greater good and link economic, social, and environmental issues important to them.

    The Explanative Power of Responsibility
    Responsibility is value-laden. Consumers do not literally use the term “responsibility” synonymously with “sustainability,” or even mention responsibility when attempting to supply a definition for “sustainability.” Consumers tend to allude to a more literal translation for the word sustainability by alluding to the “ability to last over time.” However, we find that when consumers talk about what’s important to their personal lives and the concerns facing society, the word “responsibility” and similar phrases like “do the right thing” come up time and again as a way to symbolize the underlying values that guide their views about sustainability.

    While knowledge about the environmental, economic, or social benefits of a product or service is crucial to the topic of sustainability, consumers say that the notion of responsibility symbolizes why it matters. As a value-laden ideal, responsibility provides a more meaningful call to action for all those in society – consumers, businesses, and governments alike – to participate in the greater good. As one consumer stated, “You have to acknowledge that what we do here, it affects someone else. Taking responsibility for your actions and choosing to do better so that the world, so that my children’s kids will be able to have a quality of life.”

    Laurie Demeritt is President and COO of The Hartman Group, a leading consulting and consumer insights firm. The Hartman Group specializes in the analysis and interpretation of consumer lifestyles and how these lifestyles affect the purchase and use of health and wellness products and services. Their client base includes a number of Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods companies, pharmaceutical firms, and mass and natural food retailers. She can be reached at


    No publisherSara FreedmanContent is KingListen to Your Mother (Earth)Relationship Building2009-11-24T18:15:00ZBlog Entry