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GuideStar Blog

David Weir

Recent Posts by David Weir:

The Rise of Social Media and the Impact of User Reviews

As the leading provider of user-generated reviews of nonprofit organizations, GreatNonprofits.org (GNP) encourages people to rate more than 1.2 million nonprofits directly on our Web site, or on GuideStar.

By collecting feedback from those who have direct experience with nonprofit groups—clients, volunteers, board members, donors, and partners—GNP is in the process of assembling a comprehensive database of stakeholder perspectives for the entire sector.

There are three main types of benefits from user reviews:

  • Nonprofits can improve their effectiveness through feedback from their stakeholders.
    Until recently, most nonprofits did not have a fast, easy way to collect and aggregate stakeholder feedback. By making it easy for stakeholders to provide reviews of nonprofits in the form of nonprofit reviews, GNP enables nonprofits to see quickly and easily what they excel at, and what areas they can improve upon.

  • Reviews help inspire and inform prospective donors and volunteers.
    GNP reviews help donors and volunteers differentiate between nonprofits, find ones that they trust, and feel more confident in donating time or money. This informed approach leads to a more efficient overall allocation of scarce resources among organizations.

  • Reviews level the playing field.
    Relatively small nonprofits operating on a grassroots level can often provide the most appropriate level of service in their communities. GNP reviews provide a free form of viral marketing that allows these groups to compete in finding new donors and volunteers.

Stakeholder Reviews: The Arts Are "Nourishment for the Mind and Spirit"

Social media are fundamentally changing nonprofit work.

Whether it's via Twitter, Facebook, or another channel, finding ways to engage your community in the work of your organization is increasingly critical to your success.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to gather user reviews.

Over the past year, thousands of such user-generated reviews of nonprofit organizations have been appearing on both the GuideStar and GreatNonprofits Web sites.

Many of them come in during special month-long, interactive campaigns co-sponsored by our organizations. Each campaign focuses attention on a particular segment of the nonprofit community.

Recently, for example, we waged our first-ever "Arts Appreciation Campaign," which we co-sponsored with Intersection for the Arts.

The response was dramatic, triggering the largest outpouring of reviews we have ever logged in one month.

A total of 186 community arts organizations across the country qualified for our Top-Rated Arts Nonprofits List, which consists of groups that attracted 10 or more positive reviews.

Over the course of the campaign, more than 60,000 people visited the GreatNonprofits site, posting more than 4,000 reviews of 472 separate nonprofit organizations.

"This response of the arts community is unprecedented and speaks to the importance of funding and supporting the arts," says Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, "even during periods of economic downturn and in the face of natural disasters."

As one donor to the Colored Pencil Project, which fosters art by poor children, explained, "Poverty stricken communities need many basic necessities—[but] it is easy to forget that children need nourishment not only for the body but also for the mind and spirit."

Reviews like this one not only offer community members a way to support nonprofits but also provide organizations with a meaningful method of gathering feedback.

As Jessica Robinson Love, executive director of CounterPULSE (one of the top-rated charities), put it, "We're used to hearing from our patrons, but it's rarer for us to solicit public feedback from the community we serve—artists! Partnering with GreatNonprofits has given us the opportunity to solicit feedback from our clients about what works and doesn't work for them.

"It's been a great experience to share this feedback with the public, and to demonstrate our impact to our funders and supporters."

Amy Saidman, the executive director of SpeakeasyDC, a small organization with one full-time staff member that gathered 18 glowing reviews in just a few days, stated, "We've never had a good channel for feedback and suggestions before, and the outpouring of enthusiasm and constructive ideas has been priceless. A fringe benefit is that I now have quotes I can use in my next grant proposal."

The results of the arts campaign provide further evidence that the reviews we are hosting on GuideStar and GreatNonprofits make it easier for people to discover the important work that community groups are doing.

User reviews provide a vivid, emotionally engaging, and authentic perspective on what nonprofit work is all about. After all, every nonprofit has a story to tell—about the clients it's served, policy reforms that it's influenced, and communities where it's made a difference.

Reviews are a great new way to get those stories out, which—in the age of social media—is increasingly vital to your organization's success going forward.

See the entire list of top-rated arts nonprofits

David Weir, GreatNonprofits
© 2010, GreatNonprofits

David Weir is vice president of communications for GreatNonprofits. GreatNonprofits is a Web site where people who have firsthand knowledge of a nonprofit—board members, volunteers, donors, recipients of services—can tell others about their experiences with the organization.


The Long-Term Challenge in Haiti for Nonprofits

Reprinted from GreatNonprofits

The global response to [January's] devastating earthquake in Haiti was unprecedented in a number of ways, including the critical roles played by technologies like mobile phones and social media.

[According to MSNBC,] in the first 10 days following the disaster, Americans used their cell phones to donate over $30 million, which represented roughly 14 percent of all U.S. donations toward relief in the island nation during that period.

Meanwhile, since the earthquake destroyed local infrastructure including traditional communication media, social media like Twitter and Facebook quickly emerged as the primary channels for information flowing into and out of the country.

To their credit, many aid organizations have been quick to recognize the importance of these new tools, which clearly have the potential to transform the way societies can recover from the effects of natural disasters in the future.

“It used to be that information-sharing in disasters was largely looked at as a one-way information transfer from relief groups to affected communities,” Adele Waugaman of the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership told Cristina Romero of the European Journalism Centre. “Increasingly, through, technologies that allow for crowd-sourced information, affected communities themselves are becoming a critical source of information in disaster response.”

In addition to the significant roles played by cell phones and social media, a third tool also largely based in technology is now emerging for addressing the longer-term issue of how to help Haiti rebuild itself after the earthquake.

This is the critical opportunity to evaluate which nonprofits are most effective in managing the challenges on the ground as the Haiti effort emerges from the first-stage disaster relief phase to the much more challenging task that lies ahead—how to help the poorest country in the hemisphere recover and rebuild itself so that it might better survive natural disasters in the future.

This is what GreatNonprofits is all about, of course, providing the platform for donors, staffers, volunteers, and clients to rate the effectiveness of the various groups actively involved in the earthquake recovery effort.

As we learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earliest stages of getting emergency help to victims soon becomes overshadowed by the long-term effort to meet the essential needs of those trying to rebuild their shattered lives.

In areas of great poverty, such as Haiti (but also along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in New Orleans), this work is complex, involving the construction not only on schools, clinics, and highways, but of implementing new strategies for combating the causes of the endemic poverty that condemns so many victims to homelessness, disease, and hunger following the disaster itself.

The opportunity for Haitians and the aid organizations helping them, therefore, is no less than to transform the country into a new society that is better able to resist the devastation of future disasters, via projects such as stronger building codes, better sanitation systems, improved communication infrastructure, and a much deeper commitment to universal education and economic development.

Much of this will involve nonprofits. Many of them, in turn, will be smaller and less well-known than the more prominent organizations that led the first stage of disaster relief, while the eyes of the world were still firmly on the drama unfolding in and around Port-au-Prince.

One of the core goals of GreatNonprofits is to provide the platform for these less-glamorous groups to gain the visibility they need to continue to attract the resources necessary for what will inevitably prove to be a very long, complicated, and expensive period of recovery in Haiti.

Toward that end, we have only just begun. Please visit our Haiti Disaster Action Center to help us develop this new effort into the kind of vital resource that will be so badly needed in the months and years to come.

David Weir
© 2010, GreatNonprofits. Reprinted with permission.

David Weir is vice president of communications for GreatNonprofits. GreatNonprofits is a Web site where people who have firsthand knowledge of a nonprofit—board members, volunteers, donors, recipients of services—can tell others about their experiences with the organization.