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Allyson Kapin 7 min read

Openness and Engagement: Key Tactics Embraced at PDF Conference

The 2010 PDF (Personal Democracy Forum) conference was the place to be for nonprofit and political campaigners last week in NYC. With movers and shakers ranging from Clay Shirky to Arianna Huffington, campaigners heard first-hand what strategies they should be focusing on in their online advocacy, fundraising and social media engagement. Couldn’t attend the conference or all the sessions you wanted? Check out some of the key take-aways of PDF by some of our favorite nonprofit experts.


“I loved Eli Pariser's presentation and his main theme that we have to be careful about filtering too much, cutting ourselves off from uncomfortable conversations that are the only possibility that we have for breaking through the echo chambers. Being uncomfortable is not an excuse for ignoring other opinions and people. On the contrary, it is the only way to build the broad coalitions we need for significant policy and social change efforts.” – Allison Fine, Co-Author, The Networked Nonprofit

"The dominant theme weaving its way through this year's PDF conference keynotes and hallway chatter was a refreshing wake up call to political campaigns and NGO's. Campaigners were invited to abandon the numbers game -- the list building arms race, the obsessive counting of Twitter followers -- and start directing that energy into creative solutions for engaging supporters in meaningful activity that solves real-world problems. 

The bar was reset for executive directors and campaigners alike: our fascination with giant email lists has finally begun to wane; we're now more interested in your ability to leverage technology and a community of interested citizens in creative ways to solve problems and make a positive social impact. The best examples of this quality-over-quantity approach come from "networked nonprofits" and "web thinking" organizations that are investing in leadership development programs, building their own technology labs, and inviting supporters to connect with one another online and offline.  

Scott Heiferman of Meetup.com summed it up elegantly when he said that "21st century movements are about enabling followers to lead." That is, we don't serve anyone by applying old media templates to our new media campaigns, by asking people to follow us, join us, contact us, share us. Instead, successful web thinking and movement-leading organizations find ways to encourage individuals in their network to take the work into their own hands and say, "let's brainstorm, let's meet, let's organize."  - Michael Silberman, Echo Ditto

“For online organizing or fundraising - if you give people (members or visitors) too many choices - they will choose nothing.  Make actions clear, direct and easy to do. And, it's important to limit the number of clicks between ask and action.” - Liza Pike, Nonprofit Consultant


“If you really care about moving your issue forward, you need to set aside partisan rhetoric and remove information filters in order to better engage and therefore progress that issue.

The Internet is a tool that we will increasingly rely on to improve politics and we need people across the country to adopt broadband in order to participate in the democratic process.”
- Shana Glickfield, The Bee Keeper Group

"I find it amazing that new technologies, such as NodeXL, a tool for drawing network graphs, exist and have a large following but get lost in the firehose of information we all wade through every day.  I was glad to learn about it, and of the history and success of the Basta Dobbs campaign, whose organizer gave a great presentation of the history and success of the campaign on the first day." - Shabbir Imber Safdar, Consultant


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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.