Kimberlee Roth

Guest blogger Kimberlee Roth, one of our team’s valued writers, has cribbed for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications. She provides writing and editing services to universities, health systems and other nonprofits.

As nonprofits continue to realize the value of storytelling in their print and digital communications, strong interview skills are critical for capturing constituent stories. Interviewing really is an art, as I learned when I first started writing professionally more than a dozen years ago. These eight guidelines can help you conduct better interviews and accurately capture the most compelling stories.

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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.

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We’re thrilled to welcome our newest guest blogger, Kimberlee Roth, one of our valued writers for consulting projects, writer for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications, and author of Surviving a Borderline Parent. Here’s Kim…

They waste paper, money, time; they’re a project management bear; besides, no one reads them anyway. Know what I’m talking about? Yes (cue scary music): Annual Reports.

With budget woes that have touched us all in some way, it’s hard not to think about the resources and energy that go into producing an annual report. (And to wonder, as The Agitator did recently, “Are Annual Reports Dinosaurs?“)

But I assert that there is value in producing an annual report!

As a writer and storyteller specializing in nonprofit marketing and communications, I can’t help but think annual reports have gotten a bum rap. To me, and to most of my clients, they’re less drudgery than opportunity, satisfying even, to produce. Talk about a fantastic chance to convey not only the personality and zeitgeist of an organization, but its impact.

So many annual reports, though, are bo-ring. Donor lists, numbers served, satellite offices opened, equipment purchased. Me, me, me. Statistics and, often, buzzwords that lack enthusiasm, let alone context or a human face. No wonder the report is draining to produce.

Showing impact — through concise but compelling narratives, vibrant photos and interactive features — is what can excite and engage donors, volunteers, partners and clients. That doesn’t mean dozens of  glossy pages with a snazzy (read: expensive) design. What it does mean is authenticity, effective storytelling and a connection to your organizational strategies — in a welcoming tone that conveys both passion and competence.

This year, when “it’s that time again” and thoughts turn to all that goes into your annual report, don’t forget to focus on what you want out of it. Ask yourself, and your team, these questions:

  • What do we want this year’s annual report to accomplish? (Hint: Keep multiple audiences in mind, not only large donors.
  • What are some ways our annual report can advance our strategic marketing and fundraising goals?
  • How can our annual report complement, enhance and reinforce our other marketing tactics?

And, the $64,000 question:

  • How do we execute — within our budget and in ways that reflect our organization’s mission, personality and marketing and strategic plans — so that it delivers?

You already know my vote; what do you say? Drudgery or opportunity? I’d love to hear your thoughts here!

Readers, here are a few high-impact online alternatives to the traditional printed annual report. Worth some thought!

BTW, master fundraiser Tom Ahern is 100% aligned with Kim: “Think of your annual report as a once-a-year golden opportunity to deeply connect with your customers’ (i.e., donors’) feelings, dreams, aspirations, hidden and sometimes even embarrassing needs — like the need to be liked; or the need to do something good in the world, a need as common as the air in our lungs,” he says.

P.S. Get in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit marketing  success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

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