Interviews/Beth Kanter

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Interview with Beth Kanter 17 December, 2009


Hearing more about your background: I’ve been the non-profit space for the last 30 years. In the 1980s I got obsessed with technology and became an early adopter of the Internet. As new technologies came out I learned them and turned around and taught others about them. I’ve been involved in social media since 2003 as a trainer for non-profits on how to use social media most effectively. Worked with all kinds of orgs (focus, type, size, level of development)

What is your experience with Wikipedia? Met SJ Klein through a bloggers group. I was an editor for Global Voices so became familiar with the Global Voices wiki. I am one of those people who uses it as a resources. Even though I am a very proud geek, learning the special language seemed overwhelming. I’ve done a lot of wiki projects and online facilitation and drawing people in, so those aspects aren’t as foreign as learning the language (what about WYSIWIG?)

I would love to hear your thoughts on how sustainable annual giving campaigns are for WMF. What is the full potential of that approach? I actually donated and gave a small amount. I cycled through the banners, and saw the “No contribution is too small.” The only reason I gave a donation is because I met Eugene, and I went to the party, I met Jimmy Wales. If I was a random user on the internet, I wouldn’t want to donate unless I had more of a relationship.

Banners is one way of raising money, but I wonder: What are you doing to build relationships and cultivate donors? Working with the Sharing Foundation: we’ve been experimenting with what’s relationship fundraising and what’s the potential for that? It takes time to build those relationships and figure out how to move people up the ladder if they have the potential to give more.

What about fundraising capacity? How does WMF compare to other orgs? There are some places that have too many people trying to raise money, and it costs them too much for what they get. How are they doing with such a skeleton staff?

I assume that in addition to small gifts from the site that you have a major donor strategy.

There’s for the $1000 plus donations online from older donors (although may print out and send a check through the mail) and the younger donors giving small gifts. But there is a place in the middle that are the younger boomers that can give more and that are comfortable giving online and like the convenience. But that might take some active cultivation through email campaigns and in-person events. You need to figure out who those people are. And you need to assemble the capacity to support that.

Volunteers can do a lot, but there is only so much before you need a paid staff person.

Do you have any sense of fundraising metrics for other places? Maybe Giving USA is a good resource. There is one movement that says low overhead is not good. But then wasn’t there a Bridgespan article that said low overhead could harm you?

You need to look at organizations that have social media in their DNA. Like Mom’s Rising or 350.org. Virtual organizations that have been living and breathing social media. Ushahidi . . .org based in Kenya that is way smaller than Wikimedia Foundation but does crowd-sourced crisis information. American Giving Challenge – I did a reflection paper for their first paper.

Is there anything else? User interface, getting more women involved.