December 5, 2011

The Power of Small Changes

Susan Wolf Ditkoff is a partner at the Bridgespan Group and co-leader of its philanthropy practice.

(This post was adapted from the original, which appeared on GEO's Conference Blog.)

By: The Bridgespan Group

How’s the #30DayDonorChallenge going? Overwhelmingly, the reaction has been positive. But like others who are harnessing the power of social media, we’ve also encountered the occasional criticism about feeding into our attention-deficit culture. “You’ve been telling us that philanthropy is hard to do well,” I’ve heard, “so why are you trying to reduce it to sound bites?”

It’s true that much digital ink has been spilled about how much nuance gets lost when communicating complex ideas in 140 characters or less. But for all the criticism of social media’s limited format, not much has been written about the flip side of that question: When we force ourselves to be brief, what do we gain?

It’s not a new question; in fact, you might remember the famous quote “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter,” a saying that has been attributed to Blaise Pascal, Voltaire, Mark Twain, and a number of other great thinkers. This campaign isn’t to replace longer-form content, where we can mull big concepts and delve into their nooks and crannies. But the discipline of trying to distill insights about philanthropy has indeed been bracing. More than anything, it’s forced us to be actionable and identify ideas that can change behavior right away.

When promoting lasting behavioral change, psychologist after psychologist preaches that 30 small actions over the course of a month yields far more lasting results than one big a-ha moment. Think about dietary changes, de-cluttering your life, or even building better relationships with your loved ones. We hope that by sharing actionable, provocative, and even funny ideas, we can help philanthropists remember the best in themselves and their desire to change the world.

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