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Allyson Kapin 10 min read

Blog Roundup: Lessons from Kony 2012 Video Campaign

It’s been close to two weeks since Invisible Children released it’s "Kony 2012" video, which quickly spread across social networks, blogs, and made headlines across major news networks and newspapers like the NYT and the Washington Post. With over 80M views on Youtube, the video is still being shared and talked about.

Last week Frogloop asked readers "Can Viral Videos Really Create Social Change?" And we received some terrific responses. This week we wanted to share some of the most thought-provoking and insightful blog posts from the nonprofit community. Feel free to tell us about your own blog posts about "Kony 2012" in the comments section below.  


KONY, Networked Nonprofits, and Transparency by Beth Kanter

“The campaign prompted discussion online and here in the US about KONY, although hardly anyone in Uganda is talking about him. Africans are talking about the campaign – and you can see a roundup of posts from African bloggers responding to the hype.

The issue is complex.  The KONY video simplified it, but left out important facts.   Is that responsible social change?  For responsible social change, you need transparency.  As my colleague, Shonali Burke, pointed out there was a lack of it in the film. For example, it does not make the timeline/dates very clear – it mixes recent and older footage without date stamps. [If you want the facts about dates, see this post by African blogger, journalist, and researcher, Angelo Op-Aiya Izama from Uganda...

For a nonprofit to be transparent means that it is open, accountable, and honest with its stakeholders and the public.

Has Invisible Children been transparent?   Is this responsible social change?  Or if the campaign is raising awareness about a horrid situation in another place in the world and other NGOs are doing work there, does it matter?”

Read more here.


Why Your Nonprofit Won't Make a KONY 2012 by Jason Mogus

“There's been a lot of ink spilled about the KONY 2012 video, the most successful cause video of all time (and most viral video ever). In my view, most of the larger, more well known NGO's won't produce a communications piece this successful, unless they radically change their structures. Here are 6 reasons why most NGO's will never make a KONY, and some lessons we can take to improve our campaigns for this exciting new world,” says Mogus.

In his blog post, Mogus outlines the six major reasons as:

  1. You've Never Met your Supporters: The founders of the organization have spent the last eight years meeting their supporters and presented at over 3K events a year in schools, etc.
  2. You Don’t Have A Twitter Army: “IC is in a real relationship with its followers, responding to their questions, asking for help, giving them real things to do, and reporting back progress on what matters to them."
  3. You Speak To Too Many Audiences: “IC knew who its audience was, simply, American youth. It speaks in their language, using their cultural heros and influencers.”
  4. Your Policy People Would Never Let This Get Through: “This is of course the #1 criticism of IC's work, that they over-simplified (or manipulated) the issue, lacking nuance on the complexity of the situation. But the fact that they made this video for their audiences, not for their policy specialists, is the secret of their success.”
  5. You Run 18 Campaigns And Your Site Has 35 Calls To Action
  6. Your Organization Isn't Aligned Towards The Social Web

Read more here.


5 Lessons for Nonprofits from Kony 2012 by Shonali Burke

Be prepared for everything to be scrutinized

“IC started out trying to raise awareness; in their own words, to “make Joseph Kony famous.” But now everything about the nonprofit is being scrutinized, from its financials to its motives. To its credit, IC has posted several years’ worth of 990s on its site and clearly reiterated, time and time again, the approximate breakdown of expenses.

Did it anticipate having to do this? Probably. But it probably didn’t anticipate the amount of criticism that would be leveled at it. In fact, yesterday CNN reported that director Jason “Russell said he had been a little surprised by some of the criticism. ‘I didn’t know there was that much tension,’ he said.”

Personally, I find this a little naïve. If you’re dealing with an issue that is emotional at its core, it’s going to create, or reveal, tension. The nonprofit world, while doing a lot of good, has its share of competition and politics; after all, there is only so much attention the rest of us have to direct towards causes, and there is only so much our pocketbooks can take. Of course there’s going to be tension.

So even if you don’t think your mission will generate controversy, prepare as if it will. Be prepared for everything – everything – to be scrutinized. And though your original message might be co-opted or broken down in ways you hadn’t anticipated, at least you will remain part of the conversation.”

Read more here.


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.