Giving back is the future of capitalism, according to Biz Stone. That's why as Twitter's co-founder, he hired a CSR officer before any sales people, and is now focused on his own foundation. He also seeks new ways to use technology to help society. Here he offers advice on how non-profits can use technology to put themselves at the center of conversations, spread their message to thousands on a shoestring, and use metrics to bolster their mission.

Written by
D’Arcy Doran
December 2012


Non-Profits: Think Like For-Profits

Non-profits should behave as if they are for-profit, but be smarter about it. You might not have a marketing budget, but there are a lot of free things you can do that are hugely impactful.

Listening, for example, is one of the biggest things any organization can do. Don't plow right in based on a hunch. Search the name of your organization, or what you care about, and start listening and looking for patterns in how people are already engaging. Then get on that boat and figure out how to enhance it.

The most important thing you can do is make it easy for people to engage with your product, or service, or cause. Nowadays, individuals can reach thousands of people, but if even a dozen get the same idea, it quickly becomes contagious, which makes it more likely for that idea to become an action.

For-Profits: Think Like Non-Profits

The future of marketing is storytelling and philanthropy. People are attracted to meaning, so they'll choose products and services that they feel are more meaningful. As a result, you need to develop a story for your product, or service, or even the people who work at your company.

It's really smart business to weave doing good into the core of your philosophy. If you get a reputation for doing good by doing well, smarter people will want to work with you.

It's really smart business to weave doing good into the core of your philosophy.

Content Drives Conversation

A lot of the discussions that happen across social platforms require traditional content of some kind to get started. A three-minute video on YouTube that's well produced, or a thoughtful article, or an interview with someone important--these are the things that get passed around and discussed. There isn't usually a spontaneous piece of information that everyone's discussing that originated on social media. It's usually something more traditional.

Look at Charity: Water, an organization that is incredibly good at marketing. They create well-produced videos that communicate what they do and visually show the impact donors have. They cut through a lot of the noise by creating an original piece of media that is worth talking about and passing around. Charity: Water is taking advantage of the amount of people looking at videos everyday and leveraging that to create awareness.

Measure Everything

One of the lessons we learned running Twitter is "measure everything to know what to do next." So in running our personal foundation we wanted to have eyes on exactly what we were doing. The same things that work for a lot of companies also work for non-profits. For example, Donors Choose does a wonderful job of creating a feedback loop between the donor and the people who receive the donations.

It's really compelling: You get third-graders writing incredibly heartfelt thank you notes. When you get them, you can't wait to donate again. Organizations that are savvy are creating feedback loops to create a higher retention rate of repeat donors. That's really, really important.

Look at your consumers, treat them as "user accounting:" We get this many people per week, or month, or year, donating. How many of them are repeat donors? How many stop? How many don't make it to the deal button? What can we do to move them back in? Any fraction of a percent gained now will end up having a massive impact over the course of a year. That's as true for non-profits as it is for profits.

Don't Wait

All altruism has compound interest: The earlier you get started, the more impact you have over time. So many people think that you wait until you're "comfortable" before you start thinking about local and global problems and how you can help, but that's wrong. In reality, you can do something right now. Young entrepreneurs are creating services that millions of people are freely accessing--you have such an opportunity to affect some sort of new mindset.