Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Always Ask - Even When You Don't

ask you
ask you (Photo credit: Victor Bezrukov)
Pamela Grow has two great sites (one focused on grants and fundraising and one focused on one-person development departments) with loads of terrific information. In a 2013 post I recently read, she challenged some assertions made by another nonprofit blogger and finished up by saying:
Remember, too, that every communication from your organization shouldn’t be an “ask.”  You’ve heard it before: your donors aren’t ATM machines.
Very true. But though your donors may not be ATM machines, I still think you should ask - just not always for money.

Other Things to Ask For Besides Money
  • Time (volunteering for the NGO)
  • Expertise (lending experience in a field the NGO has no staffer for)
  • Sharing (spreading the word via social media)
  • Information (completing questionnaires or polls and surveys)
  • Endorsement (signing a petition, writing a letter or email, or making a phone call)

Via Woody's World on Flickr
The nature of engagement implies reciprocity - not tit for tat - but give and take. Even though you are posting or emailing, you are participating in a conversation. Though it takes place on a social media platform in the public eye, it must always be a one-on-one communication.

And even if you do not ask directly for any of the above or for money, your communication must always have the essence of an ask within it; the content should be such that the reader can't help but react. When you tweet a link, the 120 characters you use to preface that link is your ask. When you pin a picture on Pinterest, the board name on which you place that picture and the description that accompanies its posting are your ask.

Ask Yourself First

Via Gary Thompson on Flickr
All of your communications are asks, though you may not be aware of it. But in order for you to get the most out of those asks, you have to ask mindfully. When you put together a communication, ask yourself what action you want the reader to take. If you keep that in mind while crafting the post or writing the description and title, you will find it easier to shape that ask within the content, making it a seamless and logical proposition.

I'm not talking about definite asks - a short email with URGENT to ask for last-minute contributions should be very up-front about what you are asking for. Instead, I'm talking about those interactions you have with your community that are about your mission, that share information, that are touchstones to keep your small nonprofit visible and alive in their minds. Like the birthday card you send a distant friend, they are ways of saying you are thinking about them and, in an unstated way, ask them to remember you as well.

Always ask. Even when you don't.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Six Points for Good Content Leading to Engagement

Engagement comes from content. And the most often given advice about content? Make it good. But what, exactly does that mean? What is good content?
  • Relevancy, Timeliness
  • Informative, Funny, or Touching
  • Presentation
  • Visual/Audial
  • Inviting Comment or Elaboration

Relevancy, Timeliness

Via Media Republic/Global Voices
What you're posting about has to be something meaningful to your audience. If your NGO works with others to stop human trafficking, then it's likely your audience has come to you for information with relevance to that. And if it ties-in to something that is currently in the news or viral, all the better. This doesn't mean you can't post content that has little or nothing to do with your mission - you can come at your subject obliquely or even not mention it, if your content is something you know your community shares an interest in. With the right caption, even an LOL Cat can communicate some of the difficulties of the hopeful, yet often frustrating work you do. Be aware of what memes are and which ones are trending (being shared a lot) and use them when you can do so appropriately.

Informative, Funny, or Touching

Informative could be describing what your NGO buys with donations or how data is being used to find the people who need your help the most. You can switch this up with content that addresses something similar but does it with an emphasis on finding the humor in problematic situations or making the struggles involved more real and therefore able to be empathized with. Keep the mix going so that your community can find something in their stream from you that appeals to them.


Be sparing with your words, even if the platform allows you to use as many as you like. With text, make your first sentence something that will get their attention. Be careful with grammar and punctuation. If you're using a platform that allows hashtags, use them, but keep them separate from the text - a post becomes harder to read when each word in the title or description has # in front of it (e.g., #lonely #dogs #need #homes #now).

Available on Zazzle


If selfies have taught us anything, it's that people love visuals. And platforms like Twitter have made them easier to share than before. Audial pieces are catching on as well, although the preponderance of people are more visual than hearing oriented. Still, an occasional inclusion of something to listen to will provide variety to your content stream. Podcasts, animated gifs, slideshares or graphs with voiceover, and video are all different ways to engage with your community and freshen up your messages. There's even a new service for audial posts:

Inviting Comment or Elaboration

Whenever your posting, design/write your post with the idea of inviting comment, elaboration, or collaboration. Questions such as 'would you do this?' or 'how would you manage it?' have always been good, but you can even use hashtags which can take the shape of an informal comment or even a punchline:

Plus, as the example above indicates, using hashtags to express emotion can lead to engagement because it's our emotions that get us involved and talking.

Good content starts with a good idea - you already have that in your small nonprofit. What you seek to do is translate your mission into easily understood conversation. And just as you wouldn't check your feelings at the door when talking with a friend, you should keep them in your social communications.

The Sixth Point

If you've been counting, you know I've only covered five points. The sixth is not something you can include in content. It's Response. Too often we focus on what we can say instead of listening. To really promote engagement in your social media accounts, pay attention to what is in them. And respond. Even if you don't say anything more profound than "Love that" or "LOL" you are connecting with someone and that will encourage them to re-connect.

Good Information

Nonprofit Tech for Good has some nice info about current trends in nonprofit infographics here.
Data can lie - here's how visual representations of big data can be misused on purpose (article by Ravi Parikh).