All Articles Marketing Brands & Campaigns Connecting people with nature through technology -- a Q-and-A with NWF's Danielle Brigida

Connecting people with nature through technology — a Q-and-A with NWF’s Danielle Brigida

6 min read

Brands & Campaigns

This Q-and-A is the second part of an edited transcript of my conversation with Danielle Brigida, digital marketing manager at the National Wildlife Federation. If you like this interview, be sure to check out part one, in which we discussed social media goals and monitoring tools for nonprofits.

Some people would argue that all nonprofit communications need to include some sort of call to action — however you want to define that. Do you think that’s true? If so, what form does that take for you?

It depends on what your goal is. I do think that investing and just engaging in people is worth it. But I also think there’s an expectation that when you’re a nonprofit, you’re either fundraising or you’re asking for action — and that makes people feel good too. … I try and recognize that when I update our Facebook and it goes to people’s Facebook feeds, they’re probably up there looking up their friends from high school or something and they don’t always want the heaviest of material that we’re working on. … I think it depends on what you’re going for. The way I approach it is, “Hey, get to know us; get to know what we’re working on” — and then just make sure the pages they’re looking for are accessible.

Environmentalism can be a controversial issue. People may not like what you’re doing because they feel it goes too far or because it doesn’t go far enough. What have you learned about dealing with disagreement in a very public way through social channels?

One of the frustrating and lovable things about the environmental field is that you’ve got these people who are incredibly passionate and incredibly focused and they think it’s either all or nothing. … And that fact is we need those people to push us to the next level, but at the same time we tend to take a very moderate stance on a lot of things. That’s because we know that in order to get a lot done with policy, you have to be realistic and meet people where they are. Whenever someone writes a comments and [says] ‘I hate that you’ve done this,’ I tend to jump in there and be very positive and say, “We need your support and we need you to keep pushing us, but this is where we have to be today.” … They can be shocked by that. I think if their intentions are good and they’re not just saying you’re a terrible organization, if they’re just really concerned and passionate, you have to applaud them for their passion and keep them motivated.

I’ve grown to appreciate people and their different opinions and as long as they’re being respectful, I wouldn’t delete it or anything. … I think comment moderation, in general, is a good thing because it makes people feel safe when they post a very thoughtful comment. But when people are just differing in their opinions and discussing things, that’s what social media can allow you to do. It allows you to see the other side.

What’s your take on Jumo and other networks like it?

I still haven’t made up my mind entirely. I like to keep an open mind. When I joined Twitter in 2007, I really didn’t understand it. I was using it and I was posting stuff, but if you’d asked me, “Will Twitter ever be a big thing?” I’d probably [say] “Eh. I don’t know.”

So I’m still open-minded about Jumo. But I will say that it’s go a lot of competitors. We’ve got Care2 already. We’ve got We’ve got Crowdrise. There are all these sites out there and they’re all trying to do very similar things. [Based on] what Jumo has right now, it’s not going to pique my interest too much. I’ll be keeping an eye on it, of course. But they haven’t actually let me be an admin yet, so I’m frustrated.

Whenever you segment off a nonprofit as its own thing or put a bunch of nonprofits together in a community, I’m always a little skeptical. Because you don’t have the loyalty that you would in [another] setting or in a larger social network where [users] find you, like Facebook or other places. … I don’t know if integration completely is always the best thing. But I do think that Jumo hasn’t differentiated itself enough to make it a valuable component to the nonprofit community. I think whenever you’re in a space and creating a new thing, you have to be meaningful and unique, and I’m not sure Jumo really is.

The National Wildlife Federation has been playing with location-based networks over the past year. What made you say, “this is a space we need to be in?” What are you trying to accomplish there and what have you found?

One of our main priorities for the organization is to help connect people with nature. Any way you can make that easier and make that trackable is fascinating to me. So the location-based networks were interesting to me because the second I signed up for a personal account, I thought, “Oh wow. It would be amazing if we could know how many people went to a park?” And granted, it wouldn’t the total number, but it could be a cool thing to connect people with nature. … We focused on Wildlife Watch, which is one of our programs. It’s a citizen science program and it allows you to say what you’re seen and track it.

The cool thing about Foursquare and other places is that for now, what we are is we’re just a friendly reminder: “Check out these places and check out the wildlife here.” And in very popular places that gives you little facts about wildlife that you get on your phone if you follow us.

What I’d like to be able to do is see how we can use technology and connect people with nature. This is just an experiment, but it’s proving to be pretty interesting. Especially now that you can upload photos and things like that. Any time you can use technology to make interacting with nature something that is fun and entertaining, I think that’s good.

Image credit: BirdImages, via iStockPhoto