Politics, Geography, and Technology | npENGAGE

Politics, Geography, and Technology

By on May 12, 2008


The response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar continues to be the focus of efforts for many nonprofits. Up until this morning, Google gave main page attention to giving to UNICEF and Direct Relief International. (It was replaced with a voting contest for logo doodles.)

Other organizations like Save the Children, World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières are also actively involved in the relief efforts. We have seen a steady climb in online giving to our international relief clients over the past few weeks, but it is not as large as what was seen during the 2004 Asian Tsunami

Clearly there are some political and socio-economic factors at play here beyond the control of any of the organizations. I can't help but think about how much the situation is beginning to look like Darfur, the Bam Earthquake or other disasters where people get caught in the middle of the political maelstrom.

There is also a geography lesson here as people might have heard of Burma, but not Myanmar. (And few could find it on the map.) Myanmar was also impacted by the Asian Tsunami, but certainly nothing like the scale we are hearing about from the cyclone. To understand a problem, you first have to know where the problem is relative to you and the rest of the world.

And unlike the Tsunami, you don't have the same amount of mobile phone video captures coming in to help show the severity of the situation. No first-hand eyewitness reports or blogging to any major degree outside of what reporters or media have been able to do. There's no seaside resort being consumed by a giant wave. No vacationing celebrities in distress. Just people caught between nature and nations.

Technology only goes so far sometimes when it's met by the firewall of politics and geography. Thankfully the work these organizations are doing does make a measurable difference, and when disasters like this happen they are the first to answer the call. You can't blockade the innate human instinct that wants to make things better.


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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