Allison Fine

Martin Luther King inspired me to ask fellow bloggers to join me in the January Nonprofit Blog Carnival, to “pick any dream you have—for your cause, organization or the nonprofit sector—and share it and how you plan to make it real.”

I am inspired and energized by the richness of your contributions. I urge you to digest them to energize yourself and to focus you and your colleagues on the pathways to increased impact and results in 2012:

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Nancy Schwartz on February 1, 2012 in Fresh Takes | 4 comments
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I’m pleased to welcome back guest blogger Kimberlee Roth. Kim usually blogs on annual reports (one of her specialties) or effective writing for nonprofits, but steps outside the norm today to cover this very compelling webinar on social media.

As a writer who often works with nonprofits, I’ve become increasingly interested in how social media can support an organization’s other communications efforts and, on the flip side, how it can detract.

That’s why I was excited to learn about “Using Social Media for Social Good,” a live discussion (a.k.a. online chat) with Allison Fine, presented by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in late March. Fine is co-author of The Networked Nonprofit and she presents a weekly podcast for The Chronicle, called “Social Good.”

What ensued was an informative and lively virtual discussion with participants candidly sharing challenges, advice and experiences.

At the end of the chat, I closed my browser window with a list of takeaway messages worth sharing. My summary doesn’t do the whole event justice, though, so make sure you check out the full transcript here.

  1. When it comes to social media, strategy should trump tools.
  2. Think about social media in terms of your audience(s) and goals–and how it fits into your overall communications plan. You may detract from your org’s overall communications if you’re putting mixed messages out there. (I would add that you’re also undermining your organization’s branding and positioning, something you’ve likely worked extremely hard to establish.)
  3. Content should reflect your organization’s personality; be open and honest.
  4. To translate an engaged social media following into donors, focus on building relationships first. Listen to supporters, learn what they’re interested in, then share information about your org and cause.
  5. Broaden your definition of ‘involvement’ from donations to include participation. Young adults in particular may be enthusiastic about devoting time to your org but unable to make monetary donations.
  6. Think about social media in terms of conversations with individuals. Interact. Be generous. Celebrate others’ successes. Grow your network by deepening existing connections. (Quality over quantity.)
  7. Don’t let fear of losing control of the conversation about your org keep you from using social media. If you encounter negative feedback, admit mistakes. Being open about shortcomings can win you long-term fans.

What has your org learned about using social media to communicate with your target audiences? Please share your experiences here.

Guest Blogger on June 29, 2011 in Social Media | 1 comment
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NTEN‘s 10th Nonprofit Technology Conference (a.k.a. #10NTC). And let me assure you the conference is about much more than technology as the IT folks think of it. That perspective is there too but the 1,500 participants are an unusual amalgam of nonprofit communicators, fundraisers, program staff, some foundation folks and yes, the tech specialists.

The common theme is use of technology tools to do the work more effectively, and efficiently. What’s unique is how the richness of cross-functional participation enables nonprofit communicators to strengthen understanding of other critical points of view within their orgs and better engage colleagues as participants in communications success.

These are some of the most compelling points I heard in NTC sessions, drawn from session leaders as well as participants. When possible I’ve credited the thought, but couldn’t catch many of the sources.

1. Marketing Strategy

  • You have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert — John Kenyon reaffirming my insistence that you have to define goals, key audiences and best ways to meet them before “just doing it.” In our session on integrating social media strategy with communications strategy.
  • When approaching communications–think strategically, act tactfully. — Co-panelist,  Demetrio Maguigad, Community Media Workshop
  • Focus on what you do best, network the rest. — Allison Fine and Beth Kanter
    • What can your org give up?
    • One small step to becoming a networked communicator: Ask your Facebook fans to post your message as their status update. It works!

2. Messaging & Marketing Content

  • Don’t convince supporters of the value of your cause; show them that your cause relates to their wants and values. (From the Marketing/Fundraising meet and greet. Read tweets from this session #10NTC.mktg here.)
  • Online writing needs to be conversational, direct, informal and skimmable. Users read only the 1st sentence then move on.

3. Storytelling

  • Stories (on one person or family) and images make a much stronger immediate impression than stats. The “power of one” (one subject, rather than 500 people) engages and will motivate your network to act.
  • But real storytelling is about your base (those who volunteer with you, you provide services to and others), not about your organization.
  • It’s not the “About Us” content on your website. Keep your org in the background.
  • Good stories are becoming a real differentiator for prospective donors and other supporters: Your website has less than one minute to engage your users.
  • A few good stories are more valuable than many so-so stories.
  • Make sure stories are integrated throughout your communications channels, not just in “stories” section on site. Work well to illustrate value of your programs and services, more so than your description.

4. Email Outreach

  • 11am Tuesday, in recipient’s respective time zones, is THE optimal time to send email campaigns. Make sure your ESP (email service provider) enables you to capture zip codes and sort sends by time zone. — Jordan Dossett, Antharia
  • You have just 8 seconds to capture a recipient’s attention before he clicks away. Here’s how to strengthen your emails.

5. Social Media

  • Trying to control the internet (and its social media content) is like putting a
    wire fence around water
  • 50% of nonprofits plan to increase staff commitment to social media. But only 40% have external budget for this. Disconnect (but not as much as I anticipated).
  • 60% of orgs are now on Twitter, up from 38% from 2009. You should be there personally, to learn the medium, even if not for your org.
  • Your social media policy in one tweet (140 characters): Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic, and represent us well. — Beth Kanter
  • Shorter videos work for new donors, longer format for existing donors who are invested. Repurposing is king!

6. Online Fundraising

  • The hard truth: 1% response rate is typical.
  • Social Survey Results-only 3.5% of organizations have raised 10K or more on Facebook.

More #10NTC “notable quotables” here.

P.S. I hope you can join me next year for #11NTC in Washington, DC, March 17-19, 2011. Subscribe to NTEN’s e-news to ensure you get registration info in the fall. There’s a great early-bird discount.

Photo: Geoff Livingston

Nancy Schwartz on April 15, 2010 in Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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