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.