Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Take a Social Media Leaf From Vine Advice


Over at Digiday, Seth Weisfeld - a former Ad Agency creative who is now working for Vine - gives advice for how to make your Vine videos better. In list form, his advice* is:
  • Less is More
  • Tell a Story
  • Be Useful 
  • Experiment
When I read this article, it meshed up in my mind with a couple of examples of other social media posts and I realized that the advice applies just as much to any other kind of offering as it does to video.

Example No. 1: Staples

Staples is offering a grammar test. In terms of less is more, you get a very simple test (the trickiest part for many is who vs. whom). It tells a story in the sense that you know the interwebs is a hotbed of scary grammar and spelling and the test taker gets to learn - in an easy and fun way - how to improve their own writing. Each question tells you what percentage of people who have taken the test got the questions wrong and tells you why, making it a useful tool. And, although quizzes are not experimental on their own, it's kind of refreshing to see one on a site that sells business supplies. It's a slightly different approach because it doesn't reference Staples's business at all - no ads in the middle of the 16 questions, or cutesy references to specific products, and the quiz doesn't have a branded look, but a rather old-fashioned one that pokes a little fun at grammar sticklers. Still, while you're enjoying it, you're on Staples's website - might as well look around while you're there, right?

Example No. 2: Tide

These are Vine videos, but they could just as well be print ads, and they have proven quite, quite popular. They mesh pop culture horror references with the product to make us laugh. For example, a Tide bottle dressed up as the mother from Psycho with the tagline: #Mother gets a little #Psycho about dirty laundry. #Halloween #ScaredStainless With the tie-in to Halloween, this campaign is just about perfect in terms of Seth Weisfeld's advice. By using six seconds of video, they're definitely doing more with less. Each video tells a complete story by filling in the blanks with pop culture references. Each video is useful because it reminds you that candy-eating can be a dirty job requiring a stain remover, and it's obviously an experiment in video and humor that has gone very right.

What we can see is that your social media communications don't have to be elaborate, and experiments can pay off big. Still, whatever you choose to put out there, you should know who you're talking to so you can tell them a story they'll find interesting and highlight information they will consider useful. This isn't to say that a four-item list can make social communication easy - even simple can be complicated to put together - but with these points in mind, it might be easier to tell if you're on the right track, or rather, picking the right leaves.

*To learn how he fleshes out this list, read the article.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's Not Working - Mobile Apps and Your Small Nonprofit

Via WebMapSolutions
I've been known to encourage the integration of mobile into your social media communications strategy. I really believe this is becoming the future. You may always need a website, but more people will end up visiting it via their smartphone (or just plain 'phone', since eventually all phones will be smart) or tablet than any other way. But what's involved in setting up a mobile application? How do you go about getting what you want?

  • Define & Design
  • Test
  • Deploy

Define & Design

As a former software project manager, I see these as part of each other: Functional Requirements. What you want the app to do will affect the design and vice-versa. I am talking about the mechanics of the design - not the colours and typefaces (although that's part of it). What pieces of information are the most important? Where, on the screen, should they display? What's the logical progression of steps the user will walk through?

Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Why do you want the app? What will you get out of it? Next, be clear on how you want the app to reach that goal: what information must it get and what information must it return? In other words, what will its users expect of it?

Finally, what will it look like? Usually, you don't get a graphic designer and application builder in one person, but you can get a designer who has worked with mobile application builders and an application developer who has worked well with designers.

Try to start all of the thinking work way, way ahead of when you want the app. Having more time may result in a little of what we call 'scope creep' (you know, when stuff keeps getting added in), but that may be preferable to not having enough time to adequately design and test the product before it has to be deployed. As with any project, always build in time to deal with the inevitable mixups, mistakes, and miscommunications between you and your team.

Make sure you check in with each other on a regular basis - have milestones or deliverables to evaluate progress against. And, if possible, test each module.


Your contract with your application developer should include a section on who, how, and when the application should be tested. As far as I'm concerned, it's incumbent on the software developer to ensure his/her code works as expected, which means testing it. If their proposal or bid doesn't include this information, and you still want to work with them, you need to ask about it.

In addition, test it yourself. As both a project manager and a technical writer, I always tested the software. Quality Assurance had its test scripts and I had mine, which usually involved trying to break the application by doing things like entering alpha characters where numbers were expected or bizarre dates or clicking on the wrong button. These actions not only told me whether the software was working as expected, but what kind of error messages I got and how easy or hard it was to get back on track once I'd done something wrong. The developer may think it's idiot proof, but idiots like me will find a way to prove them wrong.

You'll likely have one app for iOS and one for Android; be sure to test them both.


If possible, close to the release date when everything looks like it's done, test that your deployment plan works. Try to download the app and install it, then use it. Have other people on other types of devices do it.

Have a backup plan.

What will you do if the app store is down? What if, despite all your work, the app doesn't work properly?

Have a contingency plan for dealing with these or other things that could possibly go wrong and share it with both your team and your nonprofit. Then you won't be caught having to think on your feet in a panic.

This may seem scarily involved and it can be - but it doesn't have to be. If you have a good set of Functional Requirements, have clear expectations and goals, stay on top of your communications with your designer and developer, and plan for contingencies, the road to your own mobile app may be a lot smoother than you think.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Fund Your Nonprofit Video

We've had two of three articles on why your small nonprofit should invest in creating a video. This week, I'm sharing an article by another video production company which addresses how you go about funding that video. It's longer than I might usually post here, but there's a lot of ground to cover in funding a video production. 

Our guest blogger John Scaletta is the co-owner of Motion Source, a video production company based in Chicago. John has worked extensively with nonprofits throughout his long career to help create, produce and fund much needed video solutions.

There's no doubt that every nonprofit organization should be utilizing video as part of their marketing and outreach efforts. Video offers a host of benefits, not the least of which is educating interested parties, engaging the emotions of the audience, and inspiring an increase in donations to the organization. However, I understand entirely that non profits often do not possess the marketing spend requisite to have a powerfully effective video professionally produced.

Due to this, many organizations turn to their smartphones, or similar devices, in an earnest attempt to harness the power of video; but, this often results in a production so poorly produced that the end product is more of a detriment than an advantage: poorly produced video will, unequivocally, give the impression that your organization is unprofessional and lacks credibility.

Additionally, your expertise is not in video production, and every hard earned best practice, tip, trick, and technique that goes into creating an emotionally stirring piece. Just as you wouldn’t cut your own hair, you probably shouldn’t produce your own video. The difference between a bad video and a bad haircut is that, at least with a bad haircut, you can still wear a hat to hide the damage.

So with all of this being said, how do you pay for a professionally produced video when your nonprofit’s piggy bank is verging near empty?

Well, we’re going to give you a few ideas...


When you break the cost of a video down to reasonable, and affordable donations, the situation doesn’t seem so bleak.

In example, let’s say that the video is going to cost you $3,000; all you will need is 30 people to pledge $100 toward the project--a very reasonable number and rate. If this still seems daunting, then revise your terms: 60 people at $50 per pledge. These numbers are probably far smaller than you are used to dealing with in a fundraising push, and might just present an easier target. This is precisely the sort of task that a well-orchestrated social media campaign is perfectly suited to.

Now, let’s take this hypothetical one step further; let’s get a bit more creative. For instance, if the video you are seeking to produce will be used to further the mission of your animal rescue, why not let each donor send in a photo of their pet, which can then be included at the end of the video in a quick tribute to their kind contributions? People love seeing their dog or cat pictured, and when your video ends with a montage of furry family members with the words “this video brought to you by these four legged friends… and one cat with 3 legs,” they’ll wish they were a part of it too.

If, as another example, the video is seeking to inspire donations for cancer research, you could do something very similar at the conclusion whereby donors send in a picture of a loved one to be included: “this video was created in the memory of our family member and friend.” Heck, you might even discover that one specific contributor is willing to cover the expense of the entire video as a tribute to a well missed loved one.

Everyday people are looking for ways in which to do something positive in the name of someone they love, so why not give them the opportunity for this, while simultaneously making the world a better place as a whole? How many times have you walked down a path and noticed that each brick has a name inscribed on it? I love those walkways, and guess how much those paver bricks cost the landowner?


If you aren’t already familiar with the concept of crowd funding, it is the practice by which you gain support for your project from people all across the globe. Most of these people find out about what you are doing via dedicated crowd funding websites, and most likely have never come into contact with your organization in the past. This means you are not only receiving donations for the project at hand, but you are integrating a whole new set of interested individuals into your mission.

At the moment, the most well trafficked crowd funding site out there is Kickstarter. If you haven’t been there already, check it out at Kickstarter offers crowd funding opportunities to all sorts of inventors, artists, and organizations. And while, per Kickstarter’s guidelines, “Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it's the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for "fund my life" projects, like tuition or bills,” this doesn't mean that it cannot be utilized to fund micro-documentary on who your organization is and what they do (translate as “a video”).

Additionally, many organizations set-up crowd funding projects just to gain exposure: even if the project isn’t funded, they now have hundreds of people that know who they are and what they do. Many of these people will become supporters of the nonprofit in some way, shape, or form, as their interest has now been captured. Therefore, funded or not, a crowd funding initiative can be very beneficial to a nonprofit.

One thing you will need to keep in mind is that when supporters fund your project, they must receive “incentives” in return. You will need to weigh the cost of supplying these incentives against the budget that you are seeking to reach, and commit to a dollar amount that can cater to both. However, while some of these incentives surely will entail a cost on your end (e.g. a shirt with the organization’s logo on it), there are others the expense of which is solely time and effort. An incentive at a low dollar amount could be a simple thank you in your newsletter; while a higher level could be the inclusion of a photograph of the supporter’s choice at the end of the video (refer “Ask And You Shall Receive” above for more info on this idea).

Crowd funding is changing the entire landscape of creatively driven innovation. We recently had a dear friend whose first feature film was funded almost entirely via donations on Kickstarter. For a particularly stunning example, check out the story of Studio Neat, whose entire rise is founded upon their initial offerings via the website. These sorts of successes highlight how truly valuable a crowd funding campaign can be to your mission.


Corporations are known to sponsor nonprofit fundraising events, such as golf outings. However, putting a sign up on the 9th hole, only allows them exposure for a single day to a limited audience.  Corporate sponsorship of your organization’s video can serve as valuable advertising for the company involved, as well as a moral boost for their professional image; and, these benefits are active for as long as the video is. Additionally, generally all that is required on the nonprofit’s end is that they include a thanks to the sponsor in question, as well as their logo, at the end of the video.

However, if you take some time to think outside of the box, you may be able to dream up ways to get prospective corporate sponsors further involved in ways that could serve to more successfully solidify their commitment. Perhaps you offer the prospective sponsor not only the inclusion of their name and logo, but an opportunity to plug who they are and what they do.

Take, for example, a video that we worked on for the Rush Hospital Woman’s Board. This video featured a prominent Chicago hair-stylist, and his Michigan Avenue location, for all of the ladies, and gentlemen, in attendance at the event to see. We were able to weave this segment into the video in a fun and creative way that did not take away from the overall message, but rather added a sense of greater community and professional involvement. Now the wheels are probably beginning to turn in your head as you consider all of the corporations, and even local businesses, that would want to take a supporting role in your video. Share the spotlight, and share the cost of the video for a win-win arrangement. As long as the videos meets your goals, and stays true to your mission, there is no shame in the involvement of business.


Professional auctioneers know how to work an audience and inspire donations. Many professional auctioneers will attest that a well produced, emotionally driven video can be their greatest ally in accomplishing this mission.

As the old adage goes you get what you pay for: when you hire a proven pro, and have a good size audience for that pro to engage with, there is an excellent chance that you are going to bring in some big bucks. And, any auctioneer worth their salt is going to direct you to have a professional video to assist them in raising money for your cause. But, here’s where the catch 22 kicks in: you know that you need a video to raise money, but you can’t afford having the video produced in the first place. What’s a nonprofit to do?

Why not ask the auctioneer himself to fund the video? At first blush this might sound absurd, but let’s take a deeper look at this proposition. Let’s say, for instance, that the auctioneer is agreed to take 20% of the proceeds of the auction for their payment; why not inquire as to whether or not they might be interested in taking 30%, while making a larger investment upfront: namely, funding the video. The auctioneer should be keenly aware that a powerful video is going to tug at the audience’s heartstrings, and, equally aware that this increased investment at the initial stages is going to yield a greater financial benefit for them at the end of the day.

If this sounds to you like you’re taking advantage of the donations raised, remember that every nonprofit has their expenses, and if these expenses are not tended to there is absolutely no way that the organization can continue to function with assisting those it serves. The reality is that only a percentage of all donations ever go to the non profit itself, because to secure these donations involves cost. And, the good news is that if you go down this road with having a professionally produced video, said video will last you 2-5 years before it needs to be updated. Think about how many other fundraising events will occur in that timeframe: each being an additional time that you can utilize the video without having to supply the auctioneer with more than the standard rate.


These are just a few ideas for a nonprofit to get a video funded when they don’t have the immediate budget for one. If you take some time to think about all of the organizations and individuals affiliated with your mission, there is an excellent chance that you will dream up a whole collection of additional avenues for funding. For example, if you supply donations to a specific hospital in funding cancer research, why not discuss with them the possibility of funding your video, especially considering that this small investment will yield a much more impressive return? The possibilities go on and on.

Have you ever used a method to fund a video that was not discussed in this article? If so, we would absolutely love to hear about it in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mobile Glitch Proves Nonprofit a Winner

Here in Santa Cruz, it's Open Studios Art Tour season. The first three weekends of every October are given over to the visual arts as about 300 artists open their studios and share their processes with the public.

Ann Griswold Osterman & OS Art Tour Signs
The OS Art Tour here is produced by the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County (a former employer of mine) and the Art Tour itself is managed by my best friend and all-around incredible organizer, Ann Griswold Ostermann. This is her 10th year of managing the Tour and something different always seems to come up. I'm hoping to get Ann to sit still long enough to let me do an interview with her about how the Art Tour has evolved in the last decade, with a particular emphasis on social media, but in this post I'll just describe a recent bump in the road.


The OS Art Tour is like a treasure-hunting adventure: you have a guide with pics of all participating artists' works and their addresses. And you have maps. Our county is small compared to others in California, but there's still a lot of ground to cover and the landscape varies between ocean and redwood covered mountains, farmland, and city.

This is only the second year that OS has made a mobile app available and only the first year that there is both an app for iPhones and one for Android. Plus, this is the first year that Ann worked with the developer for either app.

The big glitch became apparent the first day of the Tour - when an address was not found by Google Maps, a message was supposed to be sent to the developer so the coordinates could be gotten and the address mapped. For several addresses, this did not happen and Google Maps defaulted to the geographical center of the studio's zip code, which led at least one person on a wild goose chase, looking for an artist.

How Ann Handled It

As soon as she knew there was a problem, Ann came up with a solution: she put out the word that anyone who had bought an app would be given a hard copy Guide with maps simply by showing the app on their phone to the docents at the preview gallery. This offer was repeated on the website and in an email to the artists to make sure that everyone was aware of it. No other problems were reported for the opening weekend of the Tour.

For Next Year

The Arts Council of SC was lucky that few people had bought the app, but next year there will probably be an increase and I would be surprised if - in a few years - the sales of the app doesn't outpace that of the Guide.

Next year, Ann will make sure the contract between the Arts Council and the app developer includes Quality Assurance testing and how it will be carried out. They'll start the app process a month earlier and make sure the developer has a list of coordinates for each studio. After that, there will be a weekly check-in for progress and potential changes. She will also have a number to which texts about problems can be sent and again, the hard copy Guides will be available if, for whatever reason, the apps don't work.

The takeaway from the OS Art Tour app difficulty is that now, while your audience is still getting comfortable with using their smart phones for such applications as an art tour, is the time to start working at getting them right. And for coming up with workarounds for when they don't. In the future, small nonprofits, whose staff already fill multiple job needs, will have less time available for the inevitable tech crisis, while the number of persons using that mobile tech will only have increased.

The Open Studios Art Tour in Santa Cruz is coming up on its 30th year, but in terms of mobile technology and social media, it is still learning. And so are the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The 4 Best Examples of Non-Profit Video Storytelling - Guest Post

Here's the second of three guest posts on the subject of storytelling for your nonprofit through videos.
Guest blogger Madeleine Hammond is a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based corporate video production company. 
An oldy but a goody - the storytelling arc is a proven staple to video marketing. When it comes to non-profits, it’s an impossibly effective medium for really conveying the message of your cause. Create a successful story that people can believe in and people will feel compelled to try and help. Here are some of the best examples of non-profit video storytelling…

1. TYO - Islam
A particularly moving story courtesy of Tomorrow's Youth Organization (TYO), an American nonprofit who work with children in the Middle East, enabling young people to realise their potential. This video focuses on the story of Islam. Islam is 8. He is from Askar Refugee Camp, one of the most populated camps in the West Bank. The political situation in this area has lead to a need in early childhood development. It’s a hauntingly real exploration of the situations children of the middle east are dealing with.

2. Rock Out For Equality - What Kind of Planet are we Living on?
LA based charity Rock for Equality is a national event to demand equal Social Security benefits for all LGBT Americans. As part of their 2010 event, they released this video in an attempt to raise awareness of the discrimination facing homosexual citizens. We are introduced to Rita the alien, who - following the death of her partner -  applies for Social Security benefits. Just as it looks like she's going to get help, Rita is denied after telling the administrator her partner was a woman. This is a regrettably accurate situation for many Americans and the use of an alien parody shines a light on the very real obstacles in LGBT equality. 

3. The Children’s Hospital Foundation - 
Thank You for Supporting Kids Like Me
Warning - this one’s a bit of a tearjerker! Those savvy video campaigners at The Children’s Hospital Foundation have gone all out to tug at every heartstring going in this video which documents the experiences of donors and child patients. It’s a well-produced video that appeal to supporters of the organization who want to do more than just hand money over - they want to see the kids they are helping. 

4. Invisible People - Telling the Stories of the Homeless
Video bloggers Invisible People have a collection of videos whereby real people are filmed telling their own very real stories - unedited, uncensored, and raw. Their mission: “to make the invisible visible.” They start at ground zero to teach about a problem, to build awareness, and win your empathy, so ordinary people who may have once turned away will see homelessness in a whole new light.