20 July 2008

Blogging the AMA Conference: Are You a Movement?

Bill Toliver, Executive Director of the Matale Line, led an amazing session on movement building on Tuesday, July 15.

What a movement is NOT:
  • Slapping your logo on a bunch of stupid crap.
  • Campaign of the week/season/year.
  • Augmenting your list (of members, of donors, of constituents, of activists).
  • Presenting a service.
  • Asking for a donation.
Movements create social change. Political leaders don't. Campaigns don't. One-off donations or volunteer opportunities don't. Corporate contributions don't.

Toliver took nonprofits to task for being too tactical, too focused on statistics and data, too willing to accept a response rate increase of .05% as a measure of success, and too afraid of taking risks. As he pointed out, every major influential company has a Research & Development department. Why don't we?

A movement, according to Toliver, happens when somebody motivates a critical mass of the right people to commit to changing the world.

So how do you create a movement? Once you figure out who the right people are, how many of them you need, and what you're trying to get them to commit to, you have to put yourself in their shoes and answer the following questions:
  • Is it worth my time?
  • Is there a solution to this problem?
  • Should I trust that your organization has the solution, and trust you to implement it?
  • What will you do with my money?
Only if you have solid answers from the perspective of your desired constituents should you move forward. And remember - this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need partners to complete it.

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