Thursday, March 24, 2011

Persuasion in Three Questions

Image via NRC.nl


Ross Guberman writes books to help lawyers get past the heretofore and whereas in their writing, making it “punchier.” In this interview with Nell Minow on BNet, he discusses some of these techniques, many of which have made it into blog posts here. But once piece of advice, cited at the end of the article, really caught my eye. Guberman says, “’What three things do I want the reader to do, believe, or understand by the end of this letter or document?’ Then list those three things up front.”

It’s All Persuasive

All of the writing you do for your small nonprofit – regardless of vehicle (print or social media, blog or brochure) is for the purpose of persuasion.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned that you should always have your goal in mind – the action you want the reader to take – when putting your written piece (and editing it) together. But Guberman’s idea of listing the three things you want the reader to do, believe or understand goes me one better. All of these things are important when you are communicating for the purpose of persuading people to support your mission.

In order to effect an action, readers must understand what you are trying to do and come to believe that your choice of action is a good one and then support that choice with an action (donating, volunteering, petitioning, etc.).

Let’s See It

Next post we’ll take a look at an actual letter I’ve received and see how it:
  • Helps us understand the situation/problem
  • Asks us to believe in the choice of action
  • Requests us to take the action


Social Media Tool of the Week: Google Tools for NonProfits

By now, most of you are aware that a nonprofit can save money by doing some or most of its office work “in the cloud” (using applications available through the internet rather than on the nonprofit’s own computer system). In many cases, those tools and applications will be powered by Google (gmail, google docs, etc.). You're probably using some of these already. But did you know that Google has a small number of offerings that are exclusive to nonprofits? And do you know how to take advantage of that or some of the lesser-known cloud applications available to the public?

The Influential Marketing Blog provides some helpful information about Google’s apps for nonprofits in this article.

And you can learn about all of Google’s offerings to Nonprofits from Google itself here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How To Manage Your Small Nonprofit Website

Image via ProceedInnovative.com
One of your first acquisitions - maybe before you get your 501(c)(3) even - is a website. It's possible that some people may think that in these days of social media networks, a website is less important than before. *BZZZ* Wrong. It's still the place people will go to find out more about your organization and its mission. Social networks are all about what's happening now while your website should be about your immediate past accomplishments, history, details. They are both forms of engagement, though the former is more dynamic than the latter.

This morning I read an interesting post from Big Duck about how they managed a website makeover. They had a lot of content and a lot of resources and much of that part of the post won't appear to apply to very small or micro nonprofits, but there was some good information in there for you, too!

Making Sure Your Website Has Clear and Compelling Content

I hear or read the phrase "clear and compelling content" a lot, but most times there's no definition for what it means. So I'm defining it here as:

  • stuff on your website that doesn't make people wonder what you're talking about, and
  • stuff that causes an emotional reaction (i.e., helps people feel connected to the cause and your agency), and
  • stuff that, all together, compels people to want to help further the mission
Big Duck obviously understands that, because they worked very hard to ensure there was flow between the pages; yes, another word to be defined. Flow on a website means (to me):

  • the pages follow a consistent design plan - if you can't afford your own hosted website, you're probably using something like WordPress.com, which means a template and so design flow is built in for you*
  • the tone and style of the writing on each page is consistent (if you don't know what tone and style are, Google them); if you're informal and playful on one page and serious and formal on another, your visitors could get confused about who you are
Managing the Process of Updating Content

The other thing I thought would be useful is how Big Duck managed their site remodel. You can take what they did and use it as part of your process for keeping your website up-to-date while maintaining flow and consistency:

  • Know what your strategy is e.g., cleaner look, better links, etc.
  • Define clearly (and in detail) what is going to change on each page
  • Assign tasks with timeline attached (even if the only person doing the work is you)
  • Create structure for the changes - specific places for drafts with the versions clearly indicated so you don't mistake yesterday morning's version of the Press page for this morning's version
  • Use check-lists to make sure you do all the little things, remembering that changes on one page may ripple through the entire site
  • An archive where you keep the things that you don't think you need anymore, just in case you need them after all
  • A back-up (not stored in the same place), just in case you need to put things back the way they were
  • A reader not involved in the process to go through the site when it's updated, click on links and provide feedback about whether or not you met your strategic goals, how easy it is to navigate
And, for heaven's sake, don't neglect opportunities to connect the site in every way possible to what you're doing using social media networks!

If you're a small or micro nonprofit which has gone through the process of a website re-do, I'd love to hear your advice - what you learned both good and bad about it.

Social Media Tool of the Week: Charity How-To

This site has some great free webinars that can give you insight into how to use Facebook or mobile apps to the advantage of your small nonprofit, and you don't have to extract the information because it's already oriented towards you. Check it out here.

* Note: I'm not in favor of new small nonprofits going out and getting a site designed for them. For one thing, sites need to change and what you think you need at the beginning will not be what you discover you need at the end of your first year. If you've contracted with a developer, you'll have to go back many, many times, which could cost you. If you've got a volunteer helping you, you may burn him  or her out or end up waiting until they have time to get to your requests, or both. Since both your time and scope are going to be limited as you get your nonprofit established, you're better off using one of the free and easy-to-use site building resources on the internet such as WordPress.com or Webs.com or any number of others.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Singing the Infrastructure Blues at Your Small Nonprofit

Image by Escher
Trying to grow a small nonprofit is a tough job and in this economy, it's probably wise to focus on sustainability while having some strategies in mind for when growth becomes more feasible. But no matter whether your eyes are on maintaining a basic level of services or expanding your offerings, it's tough to balance the needs of your infrastructure (how you do things and manage your small nonprofit) while working to keep your mission fresh and lively.

Trying to get a handle on everything you need to do - especially when your staff may be counted on the fingers of one hand (or even on one finger) - can result in relying too much on the way you've got the system set up. In other words, letting the system take over, and losing the energy and creative spark that got you going in the first place.

One of the things I advocate, especially in these days of social media where information exchange and interaction in a community is easier than ever, is that very small and small nonprofits stop thinking of themselves as alone in the world or in competition with other organizations. It's only common sense to work with others in the same situation and help each other get through the bad times. Sure, it's not possible to always cooperate one hundred percent; you will probably not be compatible with other agencies in all areas and in some you definitely will be in competition. But you can agree to work together in areas that have mutual benefit: sharing information, referring contacts when you can, even sharing some resources (projectors, graphic designers, printing, etc.). You may find that even when times are better, this cooperation becomes a resource that is too valuable to let go of.

Should You Form a Cooperative?

It's possible. For a thought-provoking look at non-traditional models for taking care of business without losing your creativity or spark, take a look at this article by Corbett Barklie at The Nonprofit Quarterly. The language is more lecture room than conversation, but it's worth the extra time.

Social Media Tool of the week: Xobni

It's a mail enhancement (ha ha) tool used exclusively in Outlook and I recently had to do without it to help manage my inbox when my hard drive committed suicide. I reinstalled it recently and was reminded how valuable it is when trying to keep track of conversational threads or find a particular email or remind yourself of how you know your correspondent. Check it out here.