Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays

Given the statistics, it appears you guys very much like posts about new apps and tools that you can use to further your social outreach, so I'll keep that in mind as we move into 2013.

This year has been very dramatic - I won't recount the events, since there are plenty of comics, pundits, and magazine/news shows that will do a better job - but this has been one of the toughest years for people in general that I can remember.

For me, this December has been a reminder of some large personal losses that significantly changed how I live my life; losses that I have seen reflected too often lately in the lives of others I know. It's part of the human condition, but knowing that doesn't keep it from sucking.

Anyway, this is my last post of 2012. I'm going to try to devote some time to the holiday season; something I haven't done for the last five or six years. And I'm also seriously considering going offline for a week or so to spend some time in retreat to think about new goals.

I wish you all an enjoyable time with your families, clarity of thought and purpose, rationality, compassion, an awareness of yourself as part of a larger whole, and the love of those you care for (including fur kids).

As always, if you have ideas, apps, or tools you'd like me to cover, just drop a comment into the little box.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blended Storytelling With Branded Content

Artist Unknown

nce upon a time, there was a small nonprofit that wanted to infuse some extra pizzazz into its social communications. Big Data left them confused and social media marketers were now telling them that engagement was so Social Media 1.0. Storytelling continued to be one of the best ways to connect with their community, but how to do it in a fresh way?


Although curation is another content buzzword that seems to have lost its cachet, it's actually a viable content strategy. To curate, in social media terms, is to find articles, videos, slideshows, etc. that would be of interest to your audience. In the past, this has usually meant pretty much re-posting or creating a 'round-up' list of items.

But curation can go beyond simply presenting another point of view, it can show side by side with your own editorial content about why you find the piece interesting and how you think the information has a bearing on what you do and why it might be interesting to others. For example, if your nonprofit distributes books in areas where books are scarce, you might include a newsfeed with items related to books and book distribution. Include content by brands well known and respected in your community. Spread your net a little wider than you may have been doing and encourage your audience to get involved by allowing comments.

Telling a Story With Others

Rather than only providing your own stories, how about teaming up with other groups to create stories with a bearing on your mission? Going back to the book distribution example, you could work with an education group to create stories about their students and even include stories from participants themselves. Rather than hearing from you about what your work does for your constituents, why not let the constituents tell their story in their own way with help from you?

Knowing Your Audience

Finally, remember that your audience is probably composed of at least three types of participants in various combinations:

  • People who like happy stories
  • People who like statistics and infographics
  • People who like to know how their donations are being used
Consider designing your site with those people in mind so that they can find what they're looking for easily. And vary up your posts on social platforms to target those segments individually.

Provide breadth and depth in your storytelling by curating content, partnering up to tell more and better stories, and vary your approach in publicizing via social media while keeping the comment door wide open. Increased audience and participation could be your happy ending.

Related Articles:

How Jenn-Air Used Data Beyond Ads
How Designing With, Instead of For, Promotes Understanding
Why Branded Content is Beating Editorial

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Have You Zeen It?

Last week was a post on influence and I was going to write a post following up on that, but if my stats are any indication, you all are sick of hearing about influencers*. So, let's talk about Zeen.

What Is Zeen?

Zeen is a platform for creating a digital magazine. You can add your original content, pictures, videos, etc. or link to content on the web. It's a quick way to curate content that has relevance to your small nonprofit and get it out to your community via social communications.

You could put together photos from an event with stories and video on one page, then on another page, use infographics related to a program. You could create a magazine that highlights some special volunteers or partners and includes links to their pages or YouTube channels. Text, photos, video, and links can all be added either by uploading or from a link.

For Example?

For example, you know how round-ups work, right? A blog finds several good pieces of content and displays them in list format. Zeen allows you to do something like that, only better. Let's say I wanted to put together some writing tips. I decide I want to highlight some information on communicating, avoiding Tom Swifty style adverbs, dealing with rhythm and flow, so I find some blog posts and video on those subjects. But instead of publishing a bulleted list with links, I log into Zeen and start a new digital magazine:

Currently, they offer nine themes (seen at the far right of the screen). You can also select from a fair number of typefaces for the titles and the paragraph text.

You begin with the cover and add pages as you need to.

For each page, you can add as little or as much content as you like. Each piece of content is handled as a module and each module can be edited separately from the others as well as have its order on the page changed or the pages themselves can be reordered.

The Table of Contents is created automatically, and is revised whenever you change page titles or page positions. Zeen also automatically saves your work as you progress.

Right now, Zeen doesn't allow sound except through video and the stats are limited to Zeen views, which includes any viewing by you when you edit. Also, there's no way to embed the Zeen - it must be viewed at the Zeen site.

The Finished Product

When you're ready, you click Publish and your magazine is saved to your account. You then have the option of posting a Facebook update, making a Tweet or updating to Google+.  Your published Zeen has its own URL which you can copy and paste into emails or use in other ways. (To see my finished experiment, visit my Zeen page.)

Zeen is in beta right now, but it's not closed - all you have to do to use it is sign up. Take a look and see how a digital magazine might fit into your social communication plan. If you're already using Zeen, drop the URL in the comments - I'd love to see what you're doing with it.

* Let me know in the comments if you would like a post on getting to know influencers and their followers.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slacktivists are Influencers

Reddit alien
Reddit alien (Photo credit: Teuobk)

I've never been a fan of the term 'slacktivist' which implies the person is interested in your nonprofit cause but too lazy or poor to do more than click 'Like' or upvote your link on Reddit.

Traditionally, people who don't donate much in the way of cash don't get the personal outreach that big ticket donors do, and in these days of social communications, that's a bad move.

What's Valuable - Influence

At a small nonprofit I worked at, forty or fifty small checks came in a day. I'd say the average donation contained in the envelope was around $5. Not much alone, but added together, they helped a lot. Influence is like that. If you're talking with people online, responding to their comments and questions and asking questions of your own, posting great content as well as pictures and video, you'll gather a following of people whose influence mightily exceeds their cache of disposable funds.

When these people forward your links, "Like" your content, post your logo, they are endorsing your mission and values. And their followers, family, and friends are paying attention. Before social media, how many of your direct mailings do you think got passed from friend to friend? How many phone calls home to Mom included the phrase, "By the way, I just donated to this great cause - you should check it out"? It's easy and fast to promote your fave causes now and to take advantage of it requires only that you ask.

Call To Action

When you send out your emails, direct mail, post content, and write your blog, it's not enough to make share buttons readily available - ask your reader/viewer to share the idea. Get in the habit of asking and not only will the word get around about your small nonprofit, but maybe the volunteers and the checks will come in as well.

By The Way

Some influencers have bigger followings than others and it's a good idea to try to cultivate them. I'll be doing a post on that next week. Also, if you liked this article, please share it! Thanks.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First World Problems

First World Problems (image from FunnyJunk)
It's Thanksgiving time again here in the U.S. For some, it's an opportunity to gather with family or friends and eat roast turkey and maybe watch - or play- a little football. Most people will give up social communication for the day in favor of face-to-face communication with those they love.

For others, Thursday the 22nd will be just another day of working or maybe trying to find a job. In farther places, people will be trying to find clean water or something to eat. Some will be trying avoid death squads or modern day slavers. They will be glad to have made it through the day, if they do. And there will be some of those closer to home than there should be.

Those of you who work in small nonprofits are trying to help. Maybe your work doesn't involve  rescuing people from drought or flood. Or performing surgery in far-off places with little to no medical service. Perhaps it deals with library books or good nutrition in the land of junk food, or maybe you stage a festival every year.

At times like these, while we are grateful for our own health, the very richness and abundance of our lives, we may feel some guilt as we remember those who do not share our bounty. And that's not a bad thing. We should remember them, be mindful of them, because - except for the accident of birth - we might be them.

We can also be thankful for the work we do and that it is useful work in our society. We can be grateful to those who do the work we cannot do and commend them. We can renew our desire and effort for another year to continue to contribute towards making the whole world a better place for everyone to live. And we can do that - as Theodore Roosevelt once instructed - by doing the best we can, where we are, with what we have.

THANK YOU for the work you do. Never doubt its value.

Happy Thanksgiving.

By The Way

Consider a family project volunteering outside your own nonprofit area. You can be the difference by checking out the opportunities available in your community through your local volunteer center.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Emotionally Intensify Your Social Communications

Calligraphy by Positype
For many of us, 'palliative care' probably brings to mind images of people in hospital beds at home, surrounded by anxious family and friends - a gathering which is, well... waiting. In some places, though, palliative care means a few hours with others in the same situation; talking, laughing, and doing arts and crafts.

Taking Their Measure

An evaluation of this social daycare in the UK was recently presented and a secondary analysis made of the impact on the patients as determined through their use of metaphor and other descriptions for it. (The study is here, if you are interested.) The study referred to these descriptions as emotional intensifiers, which provide:
"...a measure of the impact of the effect of illness, the effect of the day services on users and carers and the intensity of feeling during the time of transition."
In electronic social communications, your posts have to be pretty pithy, since you may be restricted in the number of characters you can use (Twitter) or the type of post you can make (Instagram). Too often, this causes emotional intensifiers to be left out in the service of making sure the facts get in.

It's a Conversation, Not a News Bulletin

I think, the shorter your communication, or the more limited, the more you should probably strive to imbue it with emotion. It's the human story that makes the connection - the happy story or the sad story - and the hope your small nonprofit embodies for creating more happy or alleviating the sad. Your programs represent hope, like a lit candle in the window on a dark night for those sad stories or the candles on a birthday cake for the happy ones. That hope is underscored by the facts and figures, which demonstrate the need for your work.

Whenever you post, remember that you're not limited to one post. Since the idea is to begin a dialog with people interested in the work you do, there is no need to craft 'the perfect' post. You're having a conversation which doesn't begin and end with every tweet. It's ongoing and lives across all of your social communications platforms.

Your Parts of Speech

Use description, metaphor, and simile to lend humanity to your posts; not just to give your reader a mental image, but to engage them emotionally. Please note I'm not saying you should leave out the facts, only temper their use. Make the full case on your blog. Use microblogging to highlight and direct. And it's okay to make one post all emotional appeal and another all facts - your audience differs from person to person and no one approach will fit all. For example, on Wednesday you might post: She was crying from hunger, but you dried her tears. On Friday you might post: Thanks to you, 512 kids got a hot meal.

Just don't forget the power of descriptives - when Elizabeth Browning said "How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways" she didn't enumerate them spreadsheet style. Rather, she wrote:
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Descriptives can measure in emotional terms, the impact your programs have on your community and the impact your community has on you. The keyword is impact - important in all its shades of meaning.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Radical Openness

This was a rough election. There's lots I could say about it, but very little of that would be germane to a discussion of social media and small nonprofits. One of the things I found most memorable, though, was Mitt Romney giving his concession speech. I'll remember it for a good while, I think, because it was the first time I thought I was seeing the real man. The speech was straightforward and unadorned - not one that will be held up as an example of oratory - but because it was so simple and so short, it impressed me as his true feelings. I wished that this had been the candidate I had seen all along. To me, this was representative of a form of what @JasonSilva has called radical openness.

Radical Openness

Granted, when Jason Silva talked about it for TEDGlobal 2012, he was talking about the dissemination - the sharing - of ideas that spurs innovation and evolution. This is something many geeks and nerds mean when they say, "Information should be free." But, can't it also mean when people and organizations are open about themselves to a degree not really seen before?

There is little doubt that smarter people will be interpreting the election results to try to divine the mind of the American voter (as if we were all thinking the same way), but I think I see a trend in politics that's been playing out in social communications for a while now: reputation counts. Honesty counts. Being vulnerable by being open counts.

Welcome To the New Reputation Economy

Imagine a world where your online reputation counts nearly as much as your credit scores. This is what Rachel Botsman posits on WiredUK. And startups are already working on it - a way to capitalize on your online standing and influence. And what this means is that people and organizations who are not online and haven't established a reputation may find themselves in the same position as those trying to get a loan without ever having established credit. The people you want to gather into the fold of your nonprofit won't be satisfied with your Charity Navigator report. They won't be as interested in what happened in your past, but will be looking at your current engagement level; with whom are you engaged, how, how long, and what you are doing now.

Honesty is a Valid Brand Strategy

In his article, Why It's Important to Integrate Honesty Into Your Brand, Daniel Baylis says, "We're weaning ourselves off uninspired corporate messaging. We crave honest brands." I believe he's right about that and also about the idea that we are promoting that concept by what we like and spend our money on, which is often about what we value. This year's election may show that most U.S. citizens value not spending money like water while trying to convince us that a particular candidate's picture is in Wikipedia next to the listing for Satan.

More of us are opting to be - publicly - the change we want to see in the world. And in the case of small nonprofits, this is better than a good thing, it's an opportunity.

No one expects you to be perfect. In fact, they probably would like you less if you appeared so. Being straightforward and sincere about what you're trying to accomplish, your mistakes, areas you need to work on, improving your process, that very vulnerability in the social web are assets.

This Is Your Time

In previous times, your small nonprofit would be struggling to find the money for a printed newsletter or trying to think up a low-cost, yet entertaining fundraiser while bigger organizations were holding black tie parties, telethons with celebrities, high-profile athletic events.

Thanks to the internet and modern technology, you have tools you didn't have, and thanks to social networks your investment in honest and sincere online relationships can return dividends in real life that you may never have expected.

The environment for small nonprofits has never been more charitable. Do your best.

By The Way

This article at NPQ by Steve Boland helps you think about writing your web pieces and responses from a slightly different viewpoint than what may be usual for you. It's worth your time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pheed me, Seymour - with Popcorn?

Seymour & Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, 1986
Just when you thought it was safe to get comfortable in the social media pool, here comes another start-up.

Pheed Me

What makes Pheed different from other social networks is that you get all the regular content you can add (pictures, video, audio, etc.), and in addition, you can add voice notes, audio clips, and live broadcasting. This means you can create your own annotated director's cut of videos or have your own digital live talkshow. Pretty cool, yes?

Pheed is getting some press because it offers subscribers an opportunity to better control who sees what and monetize their content more easily, so celebrities are exploring it. If I had to guess, I'd say the model is like when Louis C.K. decided to allow people to buy one of his comedy specials online for the el cheapo price of $5, which included multiple viewings or downloads.

You can choose to put your content behind a paywall with subscriptions or do pay-per-view. Or free, of course. You decide whether or not to charge and what to charge. Whatever you decide to charge, Pheed gets 50% of the gross.

They have an FAQ on their HELP page which explains their thinking:

Mozilla Popcorn

I got the email about Pheed the same day I got an email about Mozilla Popcorn and I found it interesting because they both provide ways to provide more interactive richness into your content. Popcorn consists of three different pieces:

  • Popcorn.js - a javascript framework for developers using HTML5
  • Learn Popcorn - a community of people using Popcorn authoring for innovation in web-based storytelling
  • Popcorn Maker - the interactive authoring program for non-coders
I'm assuming most of you will be interested in the latter or maybe Learn Popcorn, if you're interested in documentaries, videos, and filmmaking. Popcorn Maker doesn't launch until next month and the try-it-out stuff on the main page is a little confusing to navigate, so a full rundown on it will have to wait.

In the meantime, you can check out what they've currently got to say at

It's hard to say that either Pheed or Popcorn will be a game changer. What's certain is that the tech world is continuing to evolve with Apple mini-sizing their iPad and Google adding new tech to their mix-and-match products. I'd say the focus remains on mobile, but the menu for delivering content will have more choices on it.

Things continue to be interesting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are You Present On Your Own Account?

Contemporary Terra Cotta Warrior by Yue Minjun
 at the Exhibition, Pete and Repeat
Maybe because I'm an INTP, I hate repeating myself. But I also know that it takes a while for an idea to sink in. More than twenty, maybe thirty repetitions are required to really remember something. Content can get stale, like bread, but there's still a market for a look-alike loaf. How many times can you rephrase that, in social media, one has to be authentic and engaged? I guess as many as it takes, because some people still don't get it.

Are You Present On Your Own Account?

Today I saw a tweet that asked: If you're a big brand & you're not going to respond, what's the point of having a Twitter account? Pretty much no reason because no one will continue to knock on a door that never seems to open.

These days, a lot of the bigger brands have an account on almost every social media platform there is. But they aren't present. They're not monitoring, they're not responding, they're using robo-posts. To paraphrase Truman Capote, that's not engaging, that's typing.

You Can't Spam Yourself to Success

I got a phone call from a client who asked me to craft a tweet that he could send out to Hollywood celebrities known to be interested in green technologies because he had an idea to sell them. I tried to explain that the kind of tweets he's talking about are considered spam on Twitter. He said he didn't care; he just wanted to get it in front of them or their assistant. I told him that these people get a LOT of tweets with their names on them and it wasn't likely they would see his among all of the others unless he sent them multiple times on a daily basis and that was definitely spam. He ignored that and kept on talking.

I get that he's got a great idea and he's anxious to get it in front of people. But as fast as Twitter moves, getting your bona fides there is still a slow process. It's really kind of ironic, but as quick as communicating on social media can be, gaining the trust of those communities still requires time and effort: authenticity and engagement. In my experience there's no short-cut, unless you're lucky enough to create content that goes viral - something that's worth sharing.

Don't Ask for Favors Before Their Time
My name is [   ] and I am a PR assistant for [  ]
a bilingual NPO based in Japan. We are a website trying to become a place for many social projects, businesses, and individuals to come a connect with each other. We want to be a resource that gives people a chance to help charities through whatever method is available to them, be it partnerships, facebook and twitter shares, money, or even sponsorship We are still young but we are working hard to grow. I am new to working in a non-profit setting, and I am emailing you in hopes that you can help us grow and improve. 
This email went on for three or four more paragraphs and included links to various sites where their founder had been quoted or interviewed, plus there were a couple of PDF attachments. I didn't delete it because I thought I might get around to looking into it more, but I haven't had the time or been motivated to make the time. It's obviously part of a scattergun approach to finding possible connections, nothing personal about it. Maybe if they'd included a pic of this noob looking like a big-eyed puppy I might have taken more of a look.

The Lizard King Said...

...people are strange when you're a stranger and that applies to social communications. But they want to be nice and help if they can. They want to connect. That's why they're there. They just want to know that you see them as people, too.

Be real and be engaging. It's probably worth repeating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Helping Others See What You Mean Through Infographics

Infographics are neat. They can really take data and condense it so that you can actually see what the data means. Note: The one I'm using here is about internet use and was created by looking at the data from a study commissioned by Google.

Who Uses the Internet Best?
Why Infographics?

Because they're visual. When they're used in conjunction with an article, you capture two audiences - the ones who prefer reading for learning and the ones who prefer visuals for learning. And they complement one another by filling in the blanks, so to speak, for both audiences.

Other reasons for using infographics include:

  • They're eye-catching: if someone is looking at your website, an infographic will quickly capture their attention
  • Infographics are often easy to digest, so people in a hurry don't mind looking them over
  • They're portable - put your logo and address on your infographic and they will go where the graphic goes, which can mean more traffic (this can be especially true if you make the code for embedding the graphic available)
  • If your infographic proves popular, it will improve your search rank in Google searches

How Might You Use Infographics?

Use information you've been collecting to:
  • Compare and contrast (as this infographic does under the 2012 Scores)
  • Show growth or slowdown over time
  • Make impossibly large numbers more accessible (like those in space, for example)
  • If the subject is dry (like economics), graphics can minimize the yawn factor
  • Show what you looked at and how you evaluated it to come to a conclusion or decision
Things To Look Out For

  • Know who your audience is
  • Create a flowchart to visualize how the information will flow through
  • Know whether you're using a theme (like sinking ships) or not. These can be powerful, telling your story at a glance, if used well
  • Decide if you're going to use a reference graphic to condense data, add consistency, or to visually stand in for boilerplate (like a thumbs-up for yes/good and a thumbs-down for no/bad)
  • Keep it as simple as possible; don't clutter things up or get carried away with colors
  • Think about the size of the graphic elements in relation to where you expect the viewer's eye to start, or stick to a design based on a grid
  • Use a typeface that's easy to read and comes in italics, bold, condensed, etc. so you can get the most out of it while keeping the look consistent
Biggest advice: start small. Don't try to take on a complicated infographic when you're just starting out. Data to graphics works best at a one-to-one ratio. You can get fancier as you have more experience and gain more confidence. Study what others are doing and be inspired. Pretty soon, others will be seeing what you mean on a regular basis.

Related Sites: - a data visualization showcase
Daily Infographic - a new infographic every day
Mashable - Infographics on Pinterest (did you know that in the UK, Pinterest is used mostly for data visualization?)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brand, Reputation, Authenticity, and Interaction

and Keychain via iTech News Net

Your brand is what makes you recognizable. In the olden days, this was likely a logo like Coca-Cola's. These days, it could be how you personally are known. For example, there's a guy whose current brand is President of the United States. Nice brand. Your reputation is how the world perceives your brand. Wall Street is pretty well known, but their reputation is not too good right now.

Brand, Reputation, and Authenticity

To get your brand known, you have to get out there and make it visible (the subject of many a book and post). Once it's visible, your actions and interactions will determine your reputation. This is where authenticity comes in, as being found authentic can be part of your reputation.

Being authentic is as easy and difficult as being yourself online, though probably with a lot cleaner language (if this isn't you, sorry; I can only judge by myself). I perceive being authentic as:

  • not being a stiff online (i.e., don't use a lot of jargon or refer to your NP or company in the 3rd person).
  • being conversational - you don't talk like a business letter at home, do you? So don't do it online.
  • letting your feelings/opinions show (we've all got 'em, why pretend we don't?), though that doesn't mean being a drama queen or metaphorically shaking your fist at people.
  • being truthful while being considerate of others

This is the enchilada, in my opinion. Without it, your social media involvement will be short of a combination plate.

I want to stress again (and probably again and again) that social media is not about you or your mission (if you've got one). It's about the people you're interacting with. It's not enough to find interesting things to say about what you are doing or how well the event went off. It's not enough to respond to the questions or comments on your website, blog, or FB page. You've got to monitor what people in your community are saying and respond to that.

On Twitter I recently saw a post by a book publisher I follow and have talked with in online chats. She mentioned that she was having a pumpkin spice latte, even though she shouldn't. I could have let it pass, thinking it was just another tweet from someone about their lunch. But I happen to like pumpkin spice lattes and look forward to their seasonal appearance. I was also intrigued by the fact she said she shouldn't have them, so I responded to her tweet; she responded back and we had a micro chat about flavour, caffeine, and seasonal opportunities. Not once did the subject of book publishing come up, though I have a novel I'd love to sell her. But now I know her a little better and she knows me a little better and we both trust each other a little bit more, having found something besides books we have in common.

In my opinion, interaction is about finding commonalities and being interested in one another. People trust someone they know over a stranger, they're more comfortable giving donations to a cause whose public face (or voice) is familiar to them. There are dozens of reasons why showing an interest in the life of another can have benefits for your business, but I don't really care about them. What matters to me is that by reaching out to someone else, I help them know they are visible to me. And if we all become truly visible to one another, it will be harder for one of us to choose to harm another one of us.

Call me quirky, but that's the authentic me.

By The Way

Metrics is something that's always coming up, so I was glad to find these excellent posts on the subject:

And here's good news for those of you who are going mobile with your FB posts:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monthly Social Communications Round-Up

The King is Dead - or Is He?

It's been said that Web 2.0 is over -that the future is all about cloud computing and mobile. That may be true, but that doesn't mean that social communications is going away. It just means that Silicon Valley and other like places will be less focused on it. And that may mean that now you'll have room to breathe a little while you review your social media tools and processes and settle into something approaching a routine without being distracted by change and more change.

Less Innovation, More Integration

Use the breathing room to integrate your social communications and platforms. And always remember - building an online community means being more interested in the community than you are in tooting your own horn or putting your hand out for a donation.

Along those lines, here are some more posts from this week I found useful to think about.

The Eight Word Mission Statement

In this article by Kevin Starr at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, we learn that the best Mission Statement is short and to the point and why that's necessary.

The NonProfit Facebook Guy

We get two good posts from him - one about taking advantage of Facebook Ads to work some birthday magic for your community, and one about using photo tagging to help with data gathering.  You may not be an ichthyologist, but you might be able to think of a way photo tagging could help your mission.

26 Tips for Integrating Social Media Activities

Here, from Debbie Hemley posting at Social Media Examiner is a good list of ways to integrate your social media activities and get your various forms of social communication working together for you. Notice that at least a couple of them refer to mobile. The article is oriented towards business, but don't let recent warnings about not being taken over by the business mindset keep you from mining this list for helpful nuggets for your small nonprofit.

Dark History of Community Thinking

This piece is strictly extra-credit.

When you're dealing with what seems like overwhelming need, do you ever wonder what might be accomplished if your nonprofit tackled the roots of a problem rather than the results? A long time ago, the Rockefeller Foundation and others tried this approach. NPQ describes their efforts in Philanthropy's War on Community, where it went wrong, and how it continues to go wrong.

By The Way

I have donated to several Kickstarter projects in the last couple of months. If you haven't checked out this online fundraising tool, you might want to give it a look. There are other, similar tools for fundraising, but this one, for creative projects, is the model for success.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't Go By the Numbers

From a website you should not visit
I really hate those 'services' that promise to get you hundreds or thousands of followers, likes, or whatever. It's not honest, for one thing. Having lots of followers who are not engaged with you and disinterested in your content can serve only one purpose - to fool other people. Maybe to make them think you're more popular than you are so you can attract more followers or so you can use the inflated numbers to get advertisers or something else that requires a good showing. But those numbers are like expensive furnishings in a structurally unsound building.

Content and Interaction Will Drive the Numbers

As a small nonprofit, your content and the way you interact with people on your website, your Twitter account, your Facebook page, etc., is your best advertising. It's okay to promote yourself, but no one wants to listen to a channel that airs nothing but commercials. And it's smart to highlight some of the things you're doing - events, milestones, your partners. But mix it up a little - even if something doesn't directly have to do with your nonprofit, it could be interesting to your social community. If it catches your eye and gets you excited and thinking about possibilities in your own neighborhood, then chances are it will appeal to your social media friends, too.

Don't be afraid to feature staff as well - it never hurts to put faces to the work you're doing. But don't make it one of those bland profiles - it should be about what that person is doing and the personal touch they bring to the work.

And if someone in your community is doing something interesting, call attention to it.

In the main, whatever picture or story or video that touches on what your small nonprofit is doing or affected by or could find useful can be considered for content.

You may start out with a small audience, but don't focus on that. Focus on communicating, being enthusiastic about what you're doing and what your community is talking about and working on - the numbers will come.


Here's a screenshot from a presentation by Darren Barefoot and Theo Lamb, which speaks to content:

By The Way

Nonprofit Tech 2.0 has good news about numbers - particularly one which seems to be magic.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Way We Role - Modeling Your Small Nonprofit

Via T-Shirt Guru

This week Social Media Birdbrain has a guest blogger, Erin Palmer, with a post on role models and your small nonprofit.

Find Your Nonprofit
Role Model

Where would you be without your role models? From childhood, people start looking to those around them for advice and guidance. These role models help influence decisions, careers and even lives. People will have many role models throughout their lives. Having a role model to look up to can make such a positive difference in your life.

People look for personal and career mentors all of the time, so why not utilize the same principles for a nonprofit? There are so many organizations that do good, and each one represents a learning opportunity.  If you want to be the best nonprofit possible, you should learn from the best nonprofits possible.

Look for special qualities

Nonprofits excel in different things. Some might be masters of organizing events while others always have a lot of success in fundraising. Pay attention to the qualities that other nonprofits have perfected and see how you can incorporate these methods into your own organization.

Even the creative elements of another nonprofit can be a source of inspiration. If a nonprofit creates some particularly powerful messaging, use it as a learning experience. Dissect what makes the ad so powerful. Is it the wording or the imagery? Try to learn about how to create a stronger call to action or finding the right photo to suit the message.

Branch out

It can be beneficial to focus on organizations that are different from your own. Just because two organizations have entirely different focuses doesn’t mean that they can’t teach one another. The leadership of a human rights organization can inspire positive change for an environmental nonprofit. What your mentor nonprofit does isn’t the most important thing. It is how they do it that’s important.

Work together

To really maximize your benefits, don’t just watch another nonprofit from afar. Be proactive and plan some mutually beneficial ways that you can work together. Consider pooling your resources to put on event and splitting the profits. You could rotate your volunteers through both organizations to double recruiting efforts. Working together can spark new ideas and help to get more out of each nonprofit.

Give back

The idea of giving back is familiar territory to anyone working in the nonprofit industry. However, you should aim to give not only to those that your charity aims to help, but to other nonprofits as well. It is wonderful when you can find a nonprofit to serve as a mentor to your organization. It is just as wonderful to take the time to serve as a role model to another nonprofit.

Every nonprofit starts with a dream, a cause and a lot of ambition. However, it can also be a time of questions, red tape and other confusion. Helping out a nonprofit that is just getting started can create a lasting relationship. More importantly, it can help others to make the world a better place. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

About Erin Palmer

 Erin is a writer and editor for the University Alliance where she writes about the sort of nonprofit and public sector topics relevant to a Masters in public administration online program. Erin also covers business subjects found in human resources degree programs.

By The Way

Fractured Atlas is offering legal seminars for nonprofits: Legal Seminars

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Call Me Maybe - Video Hangouts & Your Small Nonprofit

Here's a reason you should be on Google+ - hangouts.

G+ Hangouts allow you to gather together as many as ten people (including you) in a virtual room with video and have a chat.

  • Think of being able to get your team in a room no matter where they are (there's a Google Hangout app for smartphones and tables).
  • Think of being able to get some of your board members in a virtual room for a quick decision or consensus.
  • Think about getting some of your volunteers or community members in a room to talk about issues or direction.
  • Think about increasing interaction with stakeholders and donors, clients, local business people...

And it's completely free except for having to have a G+ account.

Google is also experimenting with filming hangouts. I was recently part of a group filmed in a vegetable gardening segment with Shawna Coronado. And Google is using Hangouts as part of their coverage of the Republican and Democratic Conventions, where experts and folks off the street can have a live say about what's happening. Television and journalists are taking note.

With a little experience, you will probably find other great uses for it.

Learn About Google+ Hangouts:
Two ways to Use Google+ Hangouts
Why Google Hangouts are Television's Next Frontier
About Hangouts (Google Support)

And if you're wondering what I look/sound like on a Hangout, see Shawna's video here

By The Way

My Big Duck newsletter had a great story about an innovative way to use celebrities to raise awareness and cash for Malaria No More and the Global Poverty Project. This is a terrific example about how the internet and social media can help reach out to people who might not necessarily warm to your cause and convince them to donate just the same.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Your Small Nonprofit Getting Too Much Business?

I often cite business tools or processes and systems here, but it's not because I think for-profit does it better. I think nonprofit is in a place now where they would benefit from creating new processes and systems that work for them and I happen to think everything is related to everything else. So when I see a business article about something I think can be ported over to nonprofit use, I mention it.

Is Business Trying to Take You Over?

NPQ thinks nonprofits may be paying too much attention to what for-profits are doing and trying to model themselves after them with bad results.

I agree, but only if the nonprofit is actually making itself over in the likeness of a for-profit. The writer, Simone Joyaux, points to another writer for her conclusion:
As [Jim] Collins writes, “We must reject the idea—well intentioned, but dead wrong—that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.’”
That's true, though I don't think that anyone here is trying to find a quick fix for their nonprofit challenges by becoming converts to 'philanthrocapitalism.'

And I don't think this article really applies to what we usually talk about in this blog, so I'll continue to mention tools and processes in the for-profit world that I think might be of benefit to your nonprofit.

Even so, Joyaux's article is an interesting read and I recommend doing that and not skipping the comments, which are thoughtful.

By The Way

I read somewhere else - can't remember where - that as Baby Boomers retire, many of them may decide to start their own small nonprofits. Yeah, I know you don't need anymore competition. But maybe this is an opportunity. If you are interacting with Boomers already, you're in a good position to convince them to come over to your side of the nonprofit neighborhood. If not, maybe this is your wake-up call.

Other Articles at NPQ I found interesting:

The Participatory Revolution in Nonprofit Management - about how stakeholder participation in governance and decision making is broadening
Nonprofit Management Isn't a Game About game theory management and it's efficacy

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Add It Up For Yourself

There's a whole lotta scorin' goin' on. Ask people to define social media influence and you'll probably come up with a different answer for every person who answers. Obviously, Klout has their measurement and Hubspot has Twitter Grader and there are other sites and other tools like FB's own Insight and Google Analytics.

These Are Not The Metrics You're Looking For

You wanna know how influential you are? Experiment. Tweet something like a giveaway. Tweet it different times throughout the day and see what kind of response you get. Now post it on Facebook directly ('cause we've learned that FB penalizes status updates that are made with 3rd party apps by burying them) and see what kind of response you get. Keep experimenting by changing up the times, the wording, etc. And see what response you get.

Be patient and do this for a while with different content. Don't forget to include comments/views from your blog or YouTube channel (How many? From whom?).

Put together a spreadsheet and keep track what you're doing and what the results were. At the end of a few months, review the results. Compare your results with what Insights and Analytics tell you. Now think about what you've learned and design a new experiment that tests your theory about how your community is responding to your efforts. Rinse and repeat.

Yeah, it's a lot of work.

Finding your influence is a drawn out process because developing influence is a drawn out process. It involves:

  • establishing a presence
  • maintaining that presence actively (engaging with the community)
  • maintaining that presence consistently (staying on message while providing varied content)
  • collecting information about your interactions
  • putting your information together and drawing a conclusion
And all of these steps, except for the first, are continuous.

Advice is Cheap

I get a new admonition about social communications practically every day. The latest one I read told me that companies should never broadcast the same content across all platforms. Well, I'm in violation of that one, and probably will continue to be. When I find something interesting, first thing I do is Tweet, FB, G+ it. And then I may post it to Linked In and Pinterest in slightly different ways. Why? Because my audience is not the same on these platforms. The people I talk to on Twitter are 98% different from those in my G+ circles or in my FB list of Friends. And it's more like 99% on Pinterest. Different platforms appeal to different people. Only nut cases like me will maintain a presence on several platforms at once, and even we have preferences.

So take all social media advice (including mine) with a grain of salt - the only measurements that mean anything are those you arrive at yourself based on your continuing interaction with the people you meet and converse with online.

Related Writings:

Looking Beyond the Numbers by Danny Brown at Jugnoo
Social Scoring by NetLingo

By The Way

I heard recently that a big studio in Hollywood is being sued by some of their interns for not paying them to work. Be aware that, because of the now astronomical costs of student loans, people willing to work for credit are likely to be more scarce than ever, and budget accordingly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NonProfit Pulse Survey

Thought you might be interested in the results of a survey ConstantContact did recently on nonprofits Here's the text:

Constant Contact Nonprofit Pulse Survey:
Attracting New Supporters Keeps Nonprofits Up at Night
Majority of nonprofits see potential of social media marketing to help with engaging supporters

WALTHAM, Mass. – August 7, 2012 – According to new survey data from Constant Contact®, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTCT), the challenge of attracting new supporters is keeping 64% of nonprofits up at night.  While the Constant Contact 2012 Nonprofit Pulse Survey revealed nonprofit concerns related to cash flow and staff levels, it also revealed that 58 percent find social media marketing an effective marketing tool that can be deployed to address these concerns. 

What’s Keeping Nonprofits Up at Night
When it comes to running their organizations effectively, nonprofits are concerned about attracting new supporters and connecting more effectively with existing supporters. When asked what keeps them up at night:
·        64 percent said how to attract new supporters.
·        59 percent said how to connect and better engage with existing supporters.
·        57 percent said getting funding.
Management and measurement of marketing activities were also addressed:
·        34 percent said having a more integrated communication strategy.
·        22 percent said how to make marketing dollars go further.
·        20 percent said how to measure the impact of marketing campaigns.

Marketing “Go Tos”
Nonprofits still rely largely on email marketing, with 86 percent finding it to be an effective marketing tool for their organization.  Other marketing activities found to be effective are: website (80 percent), in-person interactions (73 percent), and events (70 percent). 

Facebook is Preferred Social Media Marketing Activity – Hands Down
Social media marketing is also an important tool for nonprofits, with 58 percent naming social media marketing as an effective marketing tool.  However, Facebook is clearly king of all social media within the nonprofit sector.  Of those nonprofits that find social media marketing to be effective, when asked which tools they find to be most effective:
·        88 percent said Facebook.
·        5 percent said Twitter.
·        3 percent said LinkedIn.
·        1 percent said Google+; 1 percent said YouTube.

Social Media Learning Curve
While social media marketing is valued by a majority of nonprofits, it is also an area where they want guidance.  When asked which marketing activities they need help with:

·        57 percent said social media marketing.
·        36 percent said email marketing.
·        35 percent said website.

Of note, nonprofits think 73 percent of their supporters are likely to recommend their organization to a friend or colleague, a dynamic that could be greatly amplified with the use of social media marketing.

“While more nonprofits understand that social media can help them attract and engage supporters, it’s still a bit of a mystery to them in terms of how to actually use it themselves,” said Alec Stern, vice president, strategic market development, Constant Contact.  “I think there’s a real opportunity here to educate nonprofits on not only the basic ‘how-tos’ of social media but also the longer view benefits of social media sharing.  The ability to share real-time first-person stories and images from charitable recipients, volunteers, and donors, and get a dialog started among all constituents, is a truly compelling way to build an engaged community.”

Nonprofit Outlook
Generally speaking, the health of nonprofits appears stable or growing:
·        67 percent expect membership/funding for the year to be more than last
     year, while 7 percent expect it to be less.   

·        49 percent have seen an increase in membership/funding so far this year,
     while 12 percent have seen a decrease.

·        55 percent have adequate cash flow.

This optimism is leveled by some operational challenges they face:
·        46 percent of nonprofits are experiencing increased operating costs.
·        35 percent need additional staff but are unable to hire.
·        51 percent have increased the number of service offerings.

About the Survey
This Constant Contact-sponsored survey was administered in May 2012 to 1000 participants in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council – a research panel of US small businesses and nonprofits recruited from the Constant Contact customer base. This is the first installment of an ongoing study about the state of nonprofits and the ways they connect with, and grow, their audiences.  Results include responses from 307 nonprofit organizations.  Of note, 65 percent of respondents have annual operating budgets below $500,000. 

How does this information jibe with what you've been seeing in your own small nonprofit? Are you with the majority or the minority? Are there other issues that weren't addressed by the study? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does Your Small Nonprofit Have a Disaster Plan - for Social Media?

Detail from a work by Ian Thomas

What do

have in common?

Both of them were caught in a social media crossfire.

The hotel got a little snarky when the bad press came in. The food nonprofit took the objections to their partnership with CFA seriously, but had to compromise to honor their agreement and keep faith with their mission and the people who depend on them. I doubt either the hotel or the nonprofit were entirely happy with the way things worked out.

Putting aside the particular issues, how do you think you would have done in a similar situation? It could happen. An Olympic athlete ended up not going to the Olympics because she made a joke on Twitter.  One joke and something she had been hoping for, working for, and looking forward to for years was put out of her reach. Was the joke racist? Certainly several people thought so, including her own country's Olympic Committee.

Not To Scare You Away

Scaring you away from social media isn't my objective. And it would be simplistic and useless to wag my finger and say, "Watch yourself." You could be ten times as careful as you have been in the past and a social media fire could still happen to you and your small nonprofit. The better you get at using the different platforms, the more you use them, the better the chances that you'll be embroiled in a imbroglio.

What's Your Plan?

Obviously, you can't prepare for details, since the details will change, but you can have a plan in place for how - and how quickly - your small nonprofit will respond to a stream of disconcerting, if not bad, press. Other things to have in the plan:

  • Who will handle/direct the response?
  • Who will handle/direct the response if the first person isn't available?
  • What channels will you use for the response?
  • Who and how will you monitor the continuing flap and how your response is being received?
  • How will you stay on message?
  • How flexible can you be?

Practice, Practice, Practice

Emergency responders have exercises for anticipating and working through crises, like earthquakes, hazmat dangers, disease epidemics. They choose a scenario and then work through it with all agencies and hospitals that would be involved. If your small nonprofit is a food pantry or clinic, you already know this and may have your own disaster plan. Why not do the same for your social media crisis?

Heaven forbid you should ever need it, but if that time ever comes, it's better to be prepared, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's Your Deal, Baby?

Image via Cambridge YMCA

This HuffPost article by Leila de Bruyne got me thinking because there's a lot of good information to be mined from it, like the lesson that when we volunteer in another country we should be mindful that we're not actually doing for free what a resident would be doing for a living.

That would definitely be poor social communication.

Are Overseas Programs Desperate for Volunteers?

I don't know. I've never looked into it because my focus is primarily on my backyard here in California. And here, like many other places, small nonprofits can have problems recruiting volunteers, despite the pool of (sometimes reluctant), court-ordered community service folks.

So, when we get our mitts on a volunteer or intern, we may be so overjoyed at being able to get that one pesky task done at last, or thrilled to be able to off-load that chore and clear our checklist a little, that we may not take that volunteer's interests into account.

Why Are You Here?

I've mentioned before that I believe it's a mistake to put a new volunteer to work without taking the time to interview. Just because you aren't paying them or don't expect them to stick around (your court-ordered community service 'volunteers'), doesn't meant you shouldn't take the time to get to know them beyond their names.

Why did they choose your nonprofit? Does it align with any other goals? What do they hope to achieve for themselves by working here? What expectations might they have about the work they'll be doing?

Naturally, the answers may be a little disappointing. Maybe she picked your nonprofit because she figured the work would be easy. Maybe he doesn't have any goals beyond serving his time or getting the community service box ticked off on his high school list of things-to-do. Perhaps the expectations are for simple tasks, quickly accomplished.

And then, again, maybe the answers will surprise you, and give you a moment's pause to consider what this person should be giving their effort to.

How About An Exit Interview?

Have you ever asked a volunteer if their efforts had caused any change in how they perceive your nonprofit, nonprofits in general, or your mission in particular? Whether they would be likely to volunteer in the future and in what ways?

Each volunteer is important beyond the work they do for you. Each one has the power to encourage you and others, continue to support your work, become a future staffer or long-term donor.

Attitude - Yours and Theirs

Keep that thought in mind as you consider them, particularly if they are younger - many of us who are parents tend to group younger volunteers with our own kids and this is a mistake. Older volunteers are more likely to give time to causes that resonate with them, but knowing they share your vision in general terms doesn't make their viewpoints, goals, and expectations any less worth hearing. They may be just different enough to provide some good perspective. And in any case, it can only help to know how your stakeholders view your work.

There's a lot to be said for taking a turn at volunteer work out of the country, but there's definitely a lot that can be learned right in your own backyard, from your own volunteers.

By The Way

I'm glad to announce my first guest blogger here at Social Media Birdbrain. Her name is Erin Palmer and she works with Villanova University in Florida. I'm looking forward to her post on finding a nonprofit role model.