Friday, April 24, 2009

Collaboration = Innovation

Image via UserVoice at NextSpace in Santa Cruz, CA

Just a little while ago it was all about making every donated or grant dollar count. These days, it's more about making every penny count.

On FaceBook, in meetings, on Twitter, that's what I'm hearing from the small nonprofits. Most of them are hunkered down so far in their financial bunkers that they've forgotten what daylight looks like. And there in the dark, they are still seeking out ways of wringing every possible last drop of good from the budget.

On solutions, one thing I don't hear to often is about how they are collaborating with other small nonprofits. I always get looks of surprise when I suggest it. "But we are in competition with them for the shrinking donations and grants," they say. "Why and how would we collaborate?"

I've got a couple of examples of how collaboration between "competitors" can work. One comes out of my background. I represented the Cultural Council of SC County every year during the County's Payroll Deduction Campaign. Together with reps from United Way SCC, an environmental umbrella group, and a healthcare umbrella group. People from the umbrella groups were always delighted to work with us (doing as many as 4 presentations a day during October), because the vibe was different than in San Jose or San Francisco. We didn't compete; we supported one another. If someone couldn't make one of the meetings, we made their pitch for them and we made it with heart. We knew that people give from their emotions, what they care about. In the end, whatever they gave to whichever group they gave it to, the community would be the beneficiary, and it was the community we served. We all saw an increase in yearly donations over the years before and I believe it was because of the clear respect and affection we reps gave to one another and to the nonprofits we represented.

The second example is from the for profit sector - technology in Santa Cruz. In this great blog post, Jeremy Neuner of NextSpace talks about the the changes that have happened in Santa Cruz tech business because of a willingness of people to come together and work in support of one another to change the business landscape in the community. I subscribe to SC Geeks Google User Group and every day I see emails from these folks asking for and receiving information, leads, and support for their businesses.

Yes, donated dollars are in short supply. But it doesn't have to be all about competition. Find a complementary nonprofit and split the costs of a large ad. Loan out equipment or make meeting space available, or ask for the loan of equipment or meeting spaces - every NP likely has something another needs and only by talking will you find out what. 

The more you look for ways to collaborate with one another, the more innovative the solutions can become  and the better chance that everyone will come through the lean times. The wider the collaboration, the more chance your small nonprofit has of a smoother ride over the rough spots of the economy, now and in the future. And, of course, it's the community that will benefit the most.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Experienced Help for Your Small Nonprofit Through Social Media

Comic by Mike Bannon

Besides the Wall Street meltdown, one of the biggest news stories of this recession is the high percentage of unemployment. And for over-50 workers, the outlook becomes even more serious

Even if your small nonprofit is not hiring, you can still do these folks a good turn and yourself one at the same time. Many of these people have years of experience in business and a number of them want to remain productive while they're looking for employment. So they're volunteering

How many times have you thought that, with just a little of the right help, your nonprofit could be more productive in the way it serves its mission? But hiring a consultant isn't in the budget. Thanks to the recession, you now have access to people whose skills were previously unavailable. And you can find them using the social media tools they are using to network in their search for employment, like LinkedIn or Twitter. Or you may even find them within your own online community, if you have one. And if you don't, an online community may be one of the things your volunteer consultant can help you with.

Besides providing an opportunity to keep their skills fresh, your nonprofit can give these invaluable volunteers references and work history to add to their resumes. Beyond that, your nonprofit can be a source of comfort, pride, accomplishment and camaraderie.

Economic recovery is going to be a slow process - for all of us. Let's take every opportunity we can to help one another.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Social Media is About Them - Not You

artist unknown

Social Media is about being social. But before you say, "Duh," let me ask you to think about what the term social means to you. 

As a writer, I'm always concerned about defining terms. It's my belief that you can't have a real conversation with someone until you understand the thinking behind the lexicon.

To me, social means give and take - a conversation. On a lot of small nonprofit sites and social media accounts, though, what I see happening is a lot of me, me, me. Information about what the NP is doing, planning to do, hoping to do for the community, but not a lot about what the community itself is doing. Not a lot of interaction except from the viewpoint of the NP.

Posting information doesn't give your community anything to work with. To be engaged, involved, caring, they need a way to talk about your mission, explore your choices with you. Maybe that isn't possible on your website because you just don't have the resources - and it does take time and care to grow and maintain a community - but that doesn't mean you have to give up.

Instead of hoping the community will come to you, you can go out and find them. On Facebook, on Twitter, on Friendfeed, on Ning or on someone's blog. Find out where the conversations related to your mission are happening and interact: respond, encourage, help with tips and links. Add community links to your website and do everything you can to keep the conversations going. And keep at it. Social media is about trust - that your interaction is about the mission being served and not a marketing ploy - it will take time to gain trust, but once you do, the horizon will open up. The encouragement, support, and assistance you provide will come back to you in larger measure than you could have imagined.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Launch of the Nonprofit Marketing Zone

Nonprofit Marketing
In the world of social media, the most important thing you can offer is community and I'm very pleased to announce that I've become part of a new nonprofit marketing and fundraising community with the goal of creating a place for nonprofits to find news and creative thinking to help support their missions. I'm glad to be part of the Nonprofit Marketing Zone, the brainchild of Kivi Leroux MillerKatya AndresenNancy Schwartz and Tony Karrer.

Some of the other blogs that are part of the network are:
To see how it works, visit the Nonprofit Marketing Zone and click a keyword, such as Social Media. You'll see headlines for the latest nonprofit marketing news and posts on ideas and best practices to use in your nonprofit's marketing strategy.

Tony Karrer is behind the technology that makes this hub happen and he'll stay close. He believes the technology behind the Nonprofit Marketing Zone will prove extremely valuable and he's committed to improving the site to increase that value. Please let him know directly how you think the site is helping you or how you'd like it to help.

Beyond providing a place for reading information and getting ideas, I hope that the Nonprofit Marketing Zone will become a springboard for collaborations and continuing conversations on how those of us who are supporters and active advocates of our small nonprofits can use social media (and other avenues) to even better serve the communities for whom those nonprofits were created. Let's all commit to sharing our resources for the benefit of all.