Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fuhgeddaboudit – SEO and Your Small Nonprofit

Picture from Biblical Archaeology Review
In the search to build a better website for your small nonprofit, you’ve no doubt heard lots about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)and how you need to do certain things to improve your ranking in the search results. Some of the things you might have heard:

  • You need to include meta keywords in your HTML
  • You need to submit your site to the search engines
  • You need to use keywords in your content (and maybe even fill up whole paragraphs with them where they won’t be seen by the reader but will be indexed by the spiders)

Fugeddaboudit.

For one thing, SEO doesn’t work that way, anymore. Google pretty much won the search engine sweepstakes (unless you’ve found a way to still use Lycos or AskJeeves)and the jury is still out on Bing (which may actually be partially using Google search results, anyway – shhhh). Google has changed its formulas so the people who have tried to game the system have a harder time getting their entries into the first page displayed and is even penalizing sites they feel aren't playing fair.

One thing that’s remained true is that a lot of people don’t bother to search past the first page. Not me, of course. Even though I think I’m pretty good at coming up with the keywords that will give me the best return, I’ve found some pretty interesting stuff past page 1*. Still, with more than 10 billion pages indexed by Google, if I haven’t found what I want in the first few pages, I’ll probably revise my search terms.

Anyway, your small nonprofit’s website isn’t where the action is anymore, anyhow.

It’s in optimizing your social networking presence.

In other posts, I’ve talked about how you need to go where the people – your community – are: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon. Yes, I know some of these are arguable; the landscape is always changing and only a short time ago the list of places to be might have included MySpace. What’s important is that you know where your community is and that you be there with them.

Does SEO Not Matter Anymore?

I wouldn’t go that far. But the importance might be more if you’re a company selling a national product than it is if you’re a small nonprofit with a community-based mission. You should have a social media strategy and the way you apply SEO to your social networking presence should be in-line with that strategy.

Brian Solis (a very smart man)wrote a couple of blog posts on this subject last year and you’d be wise to read the second one, especially. The big take-away I got from it is that how you want your small nonprofit to be seen and interacted with should be uppermost in your mind when you’re engaging with your community using social media. Every description of a photo taken at an event, every title of a blog post, every link you include should tie into that strategy. It’s not quite SEO and it’s not likely that, unless you somehow create a viral video or meme, your little nonprofit will rocket through the search results to Numero Uno, but it will hone your focus and provide a consistency and co-hesiveness to your communications. This can only be for the good, strengthening the bonds between you and your community, resulting in growth. And who knows? That growth could lead to a wider community and more growth so that someday that Google Search Results Number One Spot might be yours. But, even if that does happen, I expect you’ll be too busy doing good to notice.

*But then, I read dictionaries, too.

Tool of the Week - Sorry; couldn't find anything I liked enough to recommend a look at.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Annotated Thank You Letter Template



You all have what you need for a great letter, but the organization of the information is sometimes hard to nail down. This week I've put together a template for a thank you letter and commented on what I think each of the sections is meant to accomplish. 

The Template

Dear [name]
Believe or not, the salutation can be a thorny subject. I worked for a Development Director who insisted that we use formal salutations because people went to a lot of trouble to get those PhDs and MDs and liked to have them used. I always thought it sounded too stuffy in these modern times (does anyone still go by "Mrs. John Doe"?), but hopefully you know your community best. I actually like to skip them sometimes and go straight to the -

[story paragraph]
This is where you say your small nonprofit solved a problem for someone in particular. But don't take more than a fairly short paragraph to do it. Example:
Mary was at her wit's end. The tornado had destroyed the house, leaving behind little but splintered wood and a half-crumbled chimney. She was able to save her cat "Lacey", but the evacuation shelter she would be staying at for the next couple of weeks didn't allow pets. What would become of Lacey? Mary faced a hard choice: give up on the shelter or give up on her beloved pet. Then an aid worker gave her our number.
[expand on the situation and lead into the specific reasons you are grateful]
But again, don't take more than a fairly short paragraph to do it.
More than 5,000 people lost their homes in this recent disaster, but they didn't lose their best friends. We Save All Animals was able to find temporary shelter for 926 dogs, cats, hamsters and even goats and horses. They have clean and comfortable places to sleep, clean water and nutritious food. They are walked, groomed and comforted by WSAA staff and volunteers and their families no longer have to worry what will become of them. They are safe - and they owe their safety to you.
[Specific reasons for gratitude]
This paragraph describes more specifically what you did with what they gave you. The detail gives a feeling of immediacy and participation:
Because we didn't have to raise funds before heading to the devastated area, we were able to move quickly when time was so important, with stores of blankets, feed, cages and crates. Within hours of being "boots on the ground" we were in vans and in the field. Our ability to be quick no doubt saved lives and we couldn't have done it without your generous foresight. Your donation - and those of others like you - to our 2010 emergency fund campaign gave us the money we needed to make sure these beloved companions will be safely cared for until they can be reunited with their families. 
[Closing/Call to Action]
Literally say 'Thank You.'
Thank you. Your donation really saved lives. And hearts.
We're here for the duration - there are many more animals to be saved and cared for. Please consider adding to the fund so that we can help them and be prepared for the next disaster and the next "Lacey" who needs help.
Even though this has been set up as a template, you can see there's a lot of room here for personalizing. The most important thing is that you tell the story and how the donor fits into it and structure the letter so it moves smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. When that happens, the Ask can seem like the most natural next step. And the best part is, you have the stories and the passion. You only needed an outline. Hope it helps.

Tool of the Week: Charting Impact 

Charting Impact is a framework for helping your (small) nonprofit set goals and develop strategies and define your capabilities for meeting those goals. You can then decide on your metrics for measuring process and determining your success. And it all starts with only 5 questions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Back Next Week

Blogger had some problems this week which prevented me from posting and now I'm up to my eyebrows in projects. Sorry for the blank this week. I'll be back again next Wednesday!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My First Ever Roundup - Social Media for Your Small Nonprofit

Image via The Graphics Fairy
I've fooled around with the idea of doing roundups or carnivals on my blog, but this is the first time I will actually do it. I hope you find the stuff here as interesting as I did/do:

Data and ROI

I'm not a numbers person. I'm so not a numbers person that a HS math teacher once introduced a problem by saying that it had the peculiarity of being more easily solved by people bad at math than good at math. Then she said, "Robyn, this should be easy for you."

But as we all (should) know, the days of wondering if we should get our small nonprofits involved  in social media are gone and we are now more firmly on the path of trying to figure out how to measure results and use the data. One of our favorite data mavens, Beth Kanter, addresses that in her post, Want Social Media Results? Learn How to Use Data For Decisions. In this post, she pulls some great information from Holly Ross at NTEN, and if you don't know about this great resource, you should.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Google and other search engines have caught on to the SEO tricks that black hatters used (?) to use and loading up the html with keywords and metacontent doesn't game the system the way it used to. Still, some SEO is still called for, since we want others to find our content as easily as possible. And if you're a small nonprofit, you may not be able to afford your own designer website so you might be using Blogger or WordPress. In this post, designer WordPress designer Lisa Marie shares a few things you can do if yours is a WordPress site.

Facebook Tabs

If you don't do anything else with social media, you should have a Facebook page to allow you to talk with the others whose interests intersect with your nonprofit. It can be hard going to keep up with the changes that Facebook seems to make so frequently, but there are some great people monitoring them and providing us with the information and the know-how to make use of it. This particular post from Heather Mansfield blogging at Nonprofit Tech 2.0 talks about three ways to create customized tabs (although why they call them tabs when they aren't shown in tab format anymore, is beyond me) for your Facebook page, including what's good and bad about them.

Even if you don't plan to become conversant in HTML or CSS, you should try to learn a little about what it takes to make your social media intersections the best they can be, even if only to be able to understand what your tech advisor's explanations.

Social Media Tool of the Week: Athena 1.0 from the Fractured Atlas.

This isn't really a social media tool and it's oriented towards nonprofits in the cultural arts, but it is just so cool that I had to give it a shout out. The Fractured Atlas is a nonprofit that provides guidance to nonprofits in the arts. They do an incredible job and Athena is one of their biggest projects to date.