Newest Crush

I was asked recently which nonprofit organization I thought had the best social media. I normally answer with one of the local powerhouses, like SickKids Foundation, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Alexander Neef (yes, he’s an individual, but he presents himself as an extension of the Canadian Opera Company, and in so doing makes the COC accessible and relatable).

But there is a new social media stud on the scene – the Aga Khan Museum.

If you’re curious, the Aga Khan Museum is that intriguing building going up to the west of the Don Valley Parkways just north of Eglinton. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re stuck in soul-crushing DVP traffic.

The Aga Khan Museum isn’t even open yet, but I already feel like I’ve been welcomed in its doors, received a guided tour behind the scenes, and been able to peruse its collection. A picture says a thousand words and it’s no news to any community manager that audiences love imagery. The Aga Khan Museum has been using its Facebook feed almost like an image-based tumblr, posting a high proportion of images showing the construction of its building and some of the artifact they’ll have on display.  Feast your eyes on the kind of posts they share:


Not only are their artifacts beautifully crafted, but I really appreciate the amount and tone of text that accompanies them. Informative without being patronizing.


This place will have a reflecting pool, people.


Oh, no big deal, just an absolutely swoon-worthy geometric screen.

Part of my infatuation with the Aga Khan Museum is that it’s new, yes, but also because it’s dedicated to the “intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities” – of which my knowledge and experience is sorely lacking. I enjoy going to the ROM and the AGO, where I have worked and volunteered, and which exhibit artifacts that I’ve already learned about at some point along my +12 years of art/historical studies. But I am genuinely excited to be exposed to artifacts, whose details and significance are new to me.

I’m chomping at the bit to visit this museum. And I’m relishing the confident ease with which the Aga Khan Museum manages to promote itself before even opening its doors.

Now, how to get myself an invite to its opening…

I’ll turn the question to you — which nonprofit organization do you think has the best social media?


Crabby Thanks

I want to rewind things back to 2011. I wasn’t sure any year would be better than 2011. I was on a roll. In the span of 365 days I completed my MA, MBA, Graduate Diploma, I got a job with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture, I got married, and I bought my first house.

The year ended, and I thought to myself: Ok, that’s it. You’ve peaked. Take it easy. You can’t top this year, so don’t try, because it will only end it tears.

And 2012, by contrast, was far more mellow. No grand life milestones. No new accreditations to hang on my wall.

So it was with absolutely giddiness that I found myself on Paul Nazareth‘s Golden Crab list. (Especially since I remember being super jealous of the indominable Clare McDowall topping his list in past years and wondering how it must feel to be that awesome. True story.)

Why name an award for a crab? Well, as Paul explains: “because it’s a food you can only eat with focus, with people close to you because it’s messy and it’s rare.”

Paul is an absolutely inspiration to me, and to many. I’ve encouraged friends and colleagues to join him at a Starbucks for an early morning meeting, because his advice and energy is as good as gold. When I see them after their chat with him, it’s like I’ve introduced them to Downton Abbey. They weren’t sure what to expect, but Paul, as with Downton Abbey, leaves you feeling energized, warm and fuzzy,* and impatient for your next interaction.

I’m not sure there’s anyone I promote as much as I do Paul. I did just compare him to Downton Abbey, and for me there is no higher accolade. He makes me feel like I can do anything, and reminds me of the value of doing good in this world.

So to be included in his Golden Crab list was absolutely amazing. And to be counted among such amazing people? Even more so.

It goes without saying that you should check out his twitter and blog (and of course his pristine LinkedIn profile).

Paul is all about helping and paying it forward. So here I am. I’ve got skills, and I’m here to help. Let me know how I can.

Who is your inspiration? Who gets the fire in your heart going for your life’s work? And, what can I do to help you this year?

*Certain episodes notwithstanding. You know the ones I mean. Paul would never break your heart like Downton Abbey decides to do every now and then.

ADDENDUM: This was my 100th post! Thanks for reading, liking, commenting, all those great things you do! Without you, this might as well be a diary.

IKEA’s got it

I love IKEA. As a kid it was where my sister and I played in the ballroom and my parents could relax in the restaurant. As a teen it was where I could daydream about my future apartments based on IKEA’s model suites. As a university student it became my go-to for every item of furniture and kitchenware I needed. The first months after I bought my first house were filled with IKEA dinners and trips to the As-Is section.

The IKEA catalogue is bested only by the latest Walrus and Food&Drink magazines in my opinion.

So call me biased if you want, but dang their new catalogue (and catalogue app) are something else.

We’ve all taken our turns mocking QR codes, those ugly squares that pretend they’ll take you somewhere special but mostly direct you to a non-mobile-friendly URL you could just have easily typed in to your browser yourself.

So as I dug in to my $1 breakfast at IKEA and flipped through their latest catalogue, I was intrigued by the little icon on some of their pages. Always curious about new techie things I held my phone over the page and BOOM I was taken directly to a video. No fiddly focusing or trying to get a QR code right in the middle of the cross-hairs of my QR code app. I tried a few other pages. Some took me to extended galleries of the product. One page gave me x-ray vision and allowed me to see through the cabinets, Superman-style.

The catalogue app could be considered gimmicky. I mean, did I really need to watch IKEA videos while reading the IKEA catalogue in the IKEA restaurant? Is creeping on the inside of someone’s cabinets really going to convince me to buy more? That I’m not sure. But as far as introducing a new consumer behaviour and foraying in to augmented/enhanced reality (a main topic at last year’s Untether.Talks conference), IKEA has done a great job.

I’m hoping if as this trend catches on, I can expect more interactivity, or even rewards. Imagined if there was a golden ticket or coupon hidden in the cabinets, revealed only if you scanned the page? Invitations to special events?

I want to commend IKEA on jumping in with this rather sleek approach to digital extras. I’m excited for what their next catalogue will bring, and how eventually this technology (or some version thereof) will be almost everywhere. It’s the future man. And I, for one…

What say you? Is this approach pure gimmick, or will it become the new norm?

Be Good Be Social: Part Deux

The Be Good Be Social Toronto Committee: Frankie ChowMarcie CrosbieClare McDowall, Emma JenkinClaire Kerr, Laura Bradley, and Tara Irwin

Last night was the second annual Be Good Be Social Toronto (check us out on Facebook and Twitter), a free conference about social media for nonprofits.  Be Good Be Social started in Glasgow a few years ago, and it’s starting up in Amsterdam too.

Clare McDowall starts the night off in a packed room for Be Good Be Social Toronto

I was delighted to rejoin the organizing committee of BGBS – a group of incredibly talented individuals from all corners of the nonprofit sector.  The planning of the event over the past few months happened almost exclusively online, and mostly through a private Facebook group. We met once in person to confirm our commitment and divvy up responsibilities, and once closer to the event itself to check in.

Paul Nazareth, nonprofit jack-of-all-trades extraordinaire, has a pretty great Storify up about highlights from the night. For those who couldn’t make it, or weren’t following #BGBS12, here are some of my favourite points from the night:

Many hands make light work
Jason Shim & Shubhagata Sengupta started the night off with a terrific run down of crowdfunding. If Karyn Bosnak can get strangers to giver her money to pay down her $20,000 shopping debt, there is a lot of potential for valuable causes.
(Sidenote: Wikipedia has a page called cyberbegging. Harsh. Let’s stick with crowdfunding, shall we?)
Other great examples included The Oatmeal’s BearLove Good, Cancer Bad (raised $220,000 with a goal of $20,000) and Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum (raised $1,380,000 with a goal of $850,000) and President Barack Obama’s approach to fundraising, going for more smaller donations rather than focusing wholly on the big ticket donors.
But what if you don’t have the profile of The Oatmeal or Obama? The common factor in successful crowdfunding campaigns are two things: they are very very specific (so you know exactly what your dollars are going towards), and they are time-sensitive (to create a sense of urgency).

NFP Confidential
Claire Kerr moderated a panel of Emma Lewzey (The Redwood), Kelly Bergeron (Ontario 211), and Liz Worth (Kids Help Phone) on how service organizations with sensitive information work with social media. Tips for your crisis service organization:

  • Be explicit on all your social media channels about what issues can (and cannot) be dealt with online, and transfer users to channels they can use for help (be in your phone number or shelter)
  • All organizations have different structures for creating content and monitoring social media. Find the one that works best for your users, cause, and resources (e.g. staff). I think The Redwood’s approach of each senior manager taking two-week shifts in the role of “social media manager” is pretty neat.
  • For organizations of all sizes, social media analysis doesn’t always make it to the board level. Find a way of making your information digestible – whether it’s raw data or a pretty one-pager infographic. There’s value in social media, help management understand that.

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Amazing!
Julie Silvestri of the Yonge Street Mission was exactly what’s missing from a lot of nonprofit social media conferences. It’s great to hear about how a hospital was able to use QR codes through their city-sanctioned race to raise millions of dollars, but how is an organization with little staff and fewer dollars supposed to replicate that? Julie’s words of encouragements to those handed a stagnant social media presence and tasked with turning it around were simple, but bang on. She also emphasized a visual consistency through all your channels – a gal after my own heart! Though my favourite tip was her sharing her editorial calendar:

Just plan ahead, and learn. It’s how we all get started. And it’s something manageable for the small shop nonprofit.
And like, no big deal, but…

Also, big love to our sponsors Good Works, CharityVillage, and My City Lives, who made Be Good Be Social Toronto 2012 a smashing success!

Were you at BGBS12? What did you think of it? What topics do you think so hot right now for social media and nonprofits?

Emma Jenkin: Hacker

As I’ve said a few times before, I really like Ladies Learning Code.

Saturday morning I joined a packed room of coders-in-training for Hack Day, the first event of its kind by Ladies Learning Code. Rather than a structured workshop on a specific code or program, Hack Day was an opportunity for anyone to bring in their project and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge of tech/coding/hacking mentors. Before my first Ladies Learning Code workshop, I knew only the most basic of HTML (literally: <i>, <b>, and <br>), and less than a year afterwards, I was signing up for a Hack Day.

Throughout the day a hundred of us with different coding levels came to learn new tricks, set up websites, tackle specific coding issues, master WordPress and MailChimp, and anything else we needed to work on. The mentors, tech experts who volunteer their time and know-how were at hand to guide and help us in our work. With one mentor for every two Hack Day attendees, there was plenty of help to go around.

Hack Day marked my third Ladies Learning Code workshop, and I’m mulling over becoming a mentor myself (for Photoshop or Illustrator though, not coding – still status:grasshopper when it comes to coding!).

What really sets Ladies Learning Code apart is its Choose-Your-Own-Adventure structure. You’ve given the tools and the guidance on how to use them, but at the end of each workshop you leave with something different from everyone else in the room, based on your skill sets and interests.

Thanks to the mentors and Hack Day I was able to really clean up my code and finalize the absolute best website I could create. It’s incredible empowering to start with a blank page and code from scratch (no templates here!) an entire website. The mentors even helped me get my head around some jQuery and lightbox functionality!

This is almost too broad a statement to put to type, but tech skills are important to have, and will only become more so in the future. I strongly encourage you to see if there are any Ladies Learning Code sessions that interest you. Chat a big with them on Twitter or Facebook, because their wonderful staff are happy to answer your questions.

And, yes, regardless of the name, men are welcome too. At all the sessions I’ve attended many of the mentors have been men, and there have been men who’ve come to learn. Ladies Learning Code is about creating a welcoming and empowering environment where you can learn new skills at your own pace and comfort level. And they succeed.

Being able to create my own website from scratch, and put to use some pretty neat coding tricks, is such an accomplishment. As my freelance design work has been taking off, I’ve realized I need to have a professional web presence. I wanted complete ownership over the design, and needed to be able to update the content on a whim. I think I’ve come up with something pretty gosh darn slick and snazzy, and would love your input:

Why see just a screenshot when you can enjoy my handcrafted website in its full glory here!

What do you think about the importance of tech skills in the job market? What’s your experience with coding? Have I convinced you to sign up for a Ladies Learning Code workshop?

Heritage is Sporty!

As a member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s young professionals group NextGen, I helped organize a heritage tour of Maple Leaf Gardens. I have fond memories of the building from when the Toronto Rock lacrosse team played there their first years (and the staggering lack of women’s washrooms!)

Scott Weir of E.R.A. Architects, the firm responsible for the heritage adaptive reuse of the Maple Leaf Gardens’ transformation in to the complex it is today, gave a terrific and informative tour. About 30 heritage professional and fans braved the nippy November weather to bask in a historied Toronto landmark.

Of course once inside we rushed to find Centre Ice, now in the middle of a grocery aisle.

Some of the original chairs were used to create a blue maple leaf – in honour of the arena’s namesake team. The diagonal zig-zagging line is a remnant of the original stairs – just one of the many examples whereby the original structure and use of the building was incorporated to the new design.

Maple Leaf Gardens still houses a rink! It’s in the exact spot of the original rink, just raised up a few storeys.

The trusses that support the roof of the building are simply beautiful (and totally Instagrammable).

The tour was a great success. Just a few young and passionate volunteers working out how to make heritage accessible and enjoyable for a wider audience. Keep an eye out for our next event at our Facebook page, and follow @arconserve and #ACONextGen on twitter. Hope to see you at the next event!
Were you on our tour? What did you think? Is there a heritage building in your town you’d like to know more about? Are you interested in hosting a tour? Let us know!