5 Questions for Geoff Livingston | npENGAGE

5 Questions for Geoff Livingston

By on Jun 2, 2011


This is a continuing series of 5 Questions for experts from across the nonprofit sector:

5 Questions for Geoff Livingston
Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica, a social enterprise that provides superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change. He has worked as a public relations strategist in the Washington, D.C. region for more than 17 years. Geoff’s new book is Welcome to the Fifth Estate: How to Create and Sustain a Winning Social Media Strategy.

1. What is your new book all about?
In a nutshell, creating a social media strategy that can stand the test of time. That moves from media theory all the way through to measurement and sustainability. It gets into some real finite looks at strategy, too, and types of approaches that work, including participation, serving great content, top down influencer approaches and empowerment techniques like crowdsourcing.

2. What is the biggest change you’ve seen over the past 3 years in the nonprofit sector?
The big nonprofits have come to play. Now more than ever I hear about big nonprofits, organizations like the American Cancer Society, that didn’t get it with big social media initiatives. Are they doing it well? For the most part, no, but neither are the small ones. I think we’ve reached a level of parity in that sense. It’s normal good and bad in this particular area. Just like you would see in media relations or email outreach. Social has become a part of the mix.

3. What is one thing you’re see a lot more of recently that you haven’t seen happening before?
Mobile initiatives, like the Human Society of the United States hiring a mobile manager. Or nonprofits demanding mobile texting (shiny object?) in their social media strategies.

4. How do you avoid the “echo chamber” problem of seeing the same people talking about the same things?
You are what you eat goes the old adage. That means find new food. I don’t read, follow or listen to a vast majority the top tier of marketing communications bloggers anymore. I throw out voices that get repetitive or too self focused. It just has little value to me. We’re talking the big names at every social media conference, and they have very little new to say over the past few years (with the exception of my colleague Beth Kanter who is always exploring new methods and approaches).

Instead I seek out newer voices on the edge, as well as a few international blogs. I’m eternally hungry and thirsty for new viewpoints, new angles, new approaches and I have no problem cannibalizing for-profit approaches in the cause space. Creativity and innovation demands unique twists and turns and methods. The same old is safe but rarely leads to great things.

5. 5 years from now we’re all going to look back and say ___________?
Social was just a feature set, a part of the bigger mix of revolutionized distributed content. We got over-fixated because it was hard to accept that people can talk back now.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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