Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are All Donors Major Donors? In Social Medialand, Yes!

Image via Advisor to Superheroes
Over at A Small Change, Jason Dick had an interesting idea: how about treating every donor as a major donor? You're probably already thinking about your response. A lot of other people had responses, too - and they were all thoughtful and well worth reading.

What's the lowest donation amount your small nonprofit has received? In a general way, would you say that person and the number of other persons like that one receive the same acknowledgment as the ones who make the really substantial donations? Do you have tiers? Special events and premiums that donors in one donation bracket get that others don't?

Probably. And at least one of Jason Dick's responders felt that was the way of things and it would be naive to think otherwise. You should definitely read the post and the attending comments.

Social Media as a Leveler

One thing I really love about social media is that it's pretty much the same for everyone. There are no brackets and no set of events that some can attend and others can't. I think it's probably more likely to find your engagement is more often with donors of small amounts than with major donors. So social media is one place where you really can get to know the bread and butter donors, because cultivating donors is all about relationships and that is what social media is all about as well.

Once a year, you throw a party for the major donors and a show-and-tell that is a highlight reel of your accomplishments using their funding. But you have an opportunity every day to communicate with people who may only send you $100 a year or less, but for whom that is a generous slice of their budget.

Newsletters and emails are informative and can be somewhat interactive with links and polls, but on FB or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, you can not only post about what you are working to accomplish, but get almost immediate feedback on how well you are communicating that effort. Then you can follow-up and keep the conversation going.

Some areas of fund-raising are still stratified and that's probably not going to change. But there are plenty of avenues for cultivating smaller donors as though they were bigger donors, and they're right at your fingertips.

Resource of the Week: Let It Ripple - Mobile films for global change.

These folks have some really nice films they have put together and they're offering your small nonprofit customized branding so you can make use of these wonderful films for to the benefit of your mission. These are the films available for customization:
Here's a sample - A Declaration of Interdependence.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Always Ask - Even When You Don't

ask you
ask you (Photo credit: Victor Bezrukov)
Pamela Grow has two great sites (one focused on grants and fundraising and one focused on one-person development departments) with loads of terrific information. In a 2013 post I recently read, she challenged some assertions made by another nonprofit blogger and finished up by saying:
Remember, too, that every communication from your organization shouldn’t be an “ask.”  You’ve heard it before: your donors aren’t ATM machines.
Very true. But though your donors may not be ATM machines, I still think you should ask - just not always for money.

Other Things to Ask For Besides Money
  • Time (volunteering for the NGO)
  • Expertise (lending experience in a field the NGO has no staffer for)
  • Sharing (spreading the word via social media)
  • Information (completing questionnaires or polls and surveys)
  • Endorsement (signing a petition, writing a letter or email, or making a phone call)

Via Woody's World on Flickr
The nature of engagement implies reciprocity - not tit for tat - but give and take. Even though you are posting or emailing, you are participating in a conversation. Though it takes place on a social media platform in the public eye, it must always be a one-on-one communication.

And even if you do not ask directly for any of the above or for money, your communication must always have the essence of an ask within it; the content should be such that the reader can't help but react. When you tweet a link, the 120 characters you use to preface that link is your ask. When you pin a picture on Pinterest, the board name on which you place that picture and the description that accompanies its posting are your ask.

Ask Yourself First

Via Gary Thompson on Flickr
All of your communications are asks, though you may not be aware of it. But in order for you to get the most out of those asks, you have to ask mindfully. When you put together a communication, ask yourself what action you want the reader to take. If you keep that in mind while crafting the post or writing the description and title, you will find it easier to shape that ask within the content, making it a seamless and logical proposition.

I'm not talking about definite asks - a short email with URGENT to ask for last-minute contributions should be very up-front about what you are asking for. Instead, I'm talking about those interactions you have with your community that are about your mission, that share information, that are touchstones to keep your small nonprofit visible and alive in their minds. Like the birthday card you send a distant friend, they are ways of saying you are thinking about them and, in an unstated way, ask them to remember you as well.

Always ask. Even when you don't.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Six Points for Good Content Leading to Engagement

Engagement comes from content. And the most often given advice about content? Make it good. But what, exactly does that mean? What is good content?
  • Relevancy, Timeliness
  • Informative, Funny, or Touching
  • Presentation
  • Visual/Audial
  • Inviting Comment or Elaboration

Relevancy, Timeliness

Via Media Republic/Global Voices
What you're posting about has to be something meaningful to your audience. If your NGO works with others to stop human trafficking, then it's likely your audience has come to you for information with relevance to that. And if it ties-in to something that is currently in the news or viral, all the better. This doesn't mean you can't post content that has little or nothing to do with your mission - you can come at your subject obliquely or even not mention it, if your content is something you know your community shares an interest in. With the right caption, even an LOL Cat can communicate some of the difficulties of the hopeful, yet often frustrating work you do. Be aware of what memes are and which ones are trending (being shared a lot) and use them when you can do so appropriately.

Informative, Funny, or Touching

Informative could be describing what your NGO buys with donations or how data is being used to find the people who need your help the most. You can switch this up with content that addresses something similar but does it with an emphasis on finding the humor in problematic situations or making the struggles involved more real and therefore able to be empathized with. Keep the mix going so that your community can find something in their stream from you that appeals to them.


Be sparing with your words, even if the platform allows you to use as many as you like. With text, make your first sentence something that will get their attention. Be careful with grammar and punctuation. If you're using a platform that allows hashtags, use them, but keep them separate from the text - a post becomes harder to read when each word in the title or description has # in front of it (e.g., #lonely #dogs #need #homes #now).

Available on Zazzle


If selfies have taught us anything, it's that people love visuals. And platforms like Twitter have made them easier to share than before. Audial pieces are catching on as well, although the preponderance of people are more visual than hearing oriented. Still, an occasional inclusion of something to listen to will provide variety to your content stream. Podcasts, animated gifs, slideshares or graphs with voiceover, and video are all different ways to engage with your community and freshen up your messages. There's even a new service for audial posts:

Inviting Comment or Elaboration

Whenever your posting, design/write your post with the idea of inviting comment, elaboration, or collaboration. Questions such as 'would you do this?' or 'how would you manage it?' have always been good, but you can even use hashtags which can take the shape of an informal comment or even a punchline:

Plus, as the example above indicates, using hashtags to express emotion can lead to engagement because it's our emotions that get us involved and talking.

Good content starts with a good idea - you already have that in your small nonprofit. What you seek to do is translate your mission into easily understood conversation. And just as you wouldn't check your feelings at the door when talking with a friend, you should keep them in your social communications.

The Sixth Point

If you've been counting, you know I've only covered five points. The sixth is not something you can include in content. It's Response. Too often we focus on what we can say instead of listening. To really promote engagement in your social media accounts, pay attention to what is in them. And respond. Even if you don't say anything more profound than "Love that" or "LOL" you are connecting with someone and that will encourage them to re-connect.

Good Information

Nonprofit Tech for Good has some nice info about current trends in nonprofit infographics here.
Data can lie - here's how visual representations of big data can be misused on purpose (article by Ravi Parikh).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Facebook - Stay or Go?

More and more folks appear to be waking up to the change in their reach on Facebook - seeing a lot more posts wondering whether they should stay or go. And since FB hasn't said anything about whether they'd cut the nonprofits any slack, that's a question that's going to remain a while. So what to do?
I think this is a good time to experiment. Patricia Redsicker cites recent research indicating that social media platforms that play to peoples' visual senses do better than other platforms. Facebook is number one on that list, but that may be partially due to it's being around the longest. And one study at Princeton has them losing 80% of their base within the next three years. Also in the running are Tumblr and Pinterest.


So why spend some time on Tumbler or Pinterest, depending on where you think your audience is. Tumblr is where a lot of the younger people are these days; good if you've been wanting to engage with a larger number of young volunteers or donors. Here's what turned up when I did a search for 'nonprofit' on Tumblr:

There are several nonprofits on Tumblr and if you do a search, you'll probably find several groups who can inspire your own Tumblr page. 

I found Tumblr pretty easy to use, but if you'd like some coaching, there are a number of tutorials, including this one on Digital Trend. For more tutorials, just Google how to use Tumblr.


Pinterest is another visual platform. Rather than blogging, you pin pictures to various boards - think of each board as a picture album. Each picture can be associated with a specific link and has a description. Here's a bit of what I got when I searched for 'nonprofit organizations':

You could set up different boards for different programs and the pictures could direct the viewer to a blog, an article, an invitation, a web page - anyplace where the picture is available to be pinned from. Write a good description and add a comment and you can start a conversation.

The audience, according to many social media consultants, is mostly women.

What About Facebook?

No need to give up on it just yet; keep up with posting and engaging. Just make that you don't go on autopilot. Making your content worth looking at is always a goal to write towards and the best way to help make sure it reaches your intended audience. Strive to be fresh and interesting rather than boastful or boring. Include images because they really do help.

Tip: It used to be that people would frown on you for liking your own post, but these days, that like might help get your post seen in the first place instead of seen by less than 6% of your followers and falling quickly off the page soon after.

Finally, make sure you track what kind of engagement you're getting and how much. You will need this information to help you decide whether or not you want to stay or go.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Facebook Blocks the Stream

Via Schenectandy on Panoramio

I touched on this subject in last week's post, but now it's time to look at it from the perspective of what it means to you. To recap: Facebook is continuing its monetizing strategy by restricting what you see in your timeline. While you'll continue to see posts from your friends and family with no problem, you might miss notifications and news from Pages that you've liked, like that of your favorite band or film or your local museum.

You'll still be able to go to Oreo's Page on FB and interact with them there, but the chances of one of their posts just showing up in your news feed as it used to are very slim and Slim is saddling up to ride out of town altogether. Business brands who want to keep the great communities they've built on FB will now have to invest in supporting those communities through paid reach.*

How This Will Affect Your Small Nonprofit

At the moment, you can consider your small nonprofit to be Oreo. Unless you already have a devoted fan base whose members continue to look for, like, and share your posts, your organic reach* is going to suffer a catastrophic fall.

What Are Your Options
  • You can pay to play. Thirty dollars a month in advertising could get your post in front of 4,000 people. But even $30 a month ($360 a year) may be too much for a tiny nonprofit that hasn't budgeted for it.
  • Move to another platform - you can post pictures with light text on Instagram or Pinterest with links back to your website.
  • Continue on FB but work harder at building community by getting people to like and share your posts with their friends and family. Jason Falls (see 2, below) says Share is the new Like. Whenever someone shares your post, it shows up on their timeline as though they had posted it themselves, which means it sidesteps the pay for play FB now has in place for brand pages.
  • Create your own community - you could set up your own community with forums and every community bell and whistle you can afford. This could be the most expensive option of all and many a brand has tried to create community and failed.
It's Not The End of The World

Not by any means. What it does mean is that the social media landscape will continue to change as 'free' platforms seek to return the investments made in them during their start-up phases. Even if you move to another social media platform, the same problem could come up again. This is why it's a good thing to not only stay on top of what is happening on these sites, but to stay on top of your own social media strategy and whether or not you're getting results that truly benefit you and the mission you serve.

* Definitions from FB
  • Organic reach: The number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page, including people who saw it from a story shared by a friend when they liked, commented on or shared your post, answered a question or responded to an event
  • Paid reach: The number of unique people who saw your post through an ad
Note: Viral reach is now counted as part of organic reach.

Related Articles

1. Facebook Organic Reach Plummeting by Tara Urso at Social Media Today
2. The Great Facebook Scam by Jason Falls