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7 Steps to Passionate Volunteer Messengers

You face an uphill battle to recruit volunteers and retain them at ever higher and more effective levels of engagement. For those of you with small or all-volunteer organizations, there’s absolutely nothing more important. And, as time and budgets get tighter, and reliance on volunteers increases, it’s harder than ever.

There’s a proven yet seldom-used method to boost success in both dimensions AND extend your organization’s reach and impact without adding budget or hires: Building your team of passionate volunteer messengers.

The value of launching your volunteer messengers is huge; a real win-win doable with limited time and expense. Take these seven steps to launch your team of passionate volunteer messengers. I’ll follow up with posts on each step, starting with the most productive pilot program I know:

1) Assess potential barriers to success

What’s likely to be in your volunteers’ way? ASK if you don’t know

  • Lack of confidence or skill
  • Don’t see it as part of their role
  • No or limited access to target audiences
  • Not interested.

2) Get success factors in place

  • Staff trust and respect for volunteers
  • Internal support for program
  • Active, visible volunteer modelers

3) Recruit your first team of messengers (Pilot)

  • ASK for help; don’t assume!
  • ID best opportunities: Specific campaign works best, with a clear goal and deadline. Ideal to select a campaign that is related to your messengers’ volunteer work.
  • Select a small team most likely to act or have the greatest influence: Evaluate volunteers’ roles, networks, talents, communications skills, personality, and passion level.
  • Get to know your messengers: What motivates them? What do their days look like?

4) Develop the right systems & tools

  • Design policies and guidelines: Best practices, do’s, don’ts for conversations and social media.
  • Develop tools and templates to increase your volunteer messengers’ ease, participation, and confidence.

5) Provide training & ongoing support

  • Provide practice-based training: Reinforce value and rewards; introduce scenarios; review messages, policies, templates, and tools; getting help. Practice and more practice.
  • Support messengers: How can you boost success via ongoing supports—coaches, FAQs, private Facebook group, training the trainers? How will messengers get immediate help?

6) Launch, thank, & reward

  • Thank your volunteer messengers with verbal appreciation and recognition.

7) Assess, analyze & revise or expand

  • Assess pilot program impact via anecdotes and messenger feedback
  • Analyze impact vs. what it takes to deliver the program and ROI of other approaches
  • Revise program as indicated and/or
  • Build out your program by adding volunteers to your messenger team or launching a team for another goal.

Keep posted for my recommendation on what to launch with and case studies that show you how it’s done!

Nonprofit Facebook ROI—Yay or Nay? (w/John Haydon)

Get ready for a roaring point vs. counterpoint, thanks to Facebook for Nonprofits expert John Haydon, who shares his Yay below.

I’ll be following up with mini case studies and links to research supporting my recommendation. Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

NAY, IN MOST CASES
You’ve probably noticed the raging discussion about the value (or not) of Facebook for all organizations (profiteers too)—it even made the most mainstream ever Time magazine.

There are two main reasons Facebook use is in question:

  1. Long-time ugh: Facebook constantly changes its algorithm (a.k.a. formula) for what’s fed to your org page “likers” on their own pages and its page design, without advance notice or how-tos. That means for those of us with limited resources, it’s an enormous expenditure of time (and the related ) to learn how to adapt, and to do it.
  2. Most recent ugh: Pay to play with a huge decline in organic reach of your content. Now the frequency with which your posts are placed on “likers'” own pages relates to the level of Facebook ad buy by your organization.

What’s clear is that Facebook isn’t free— plan to pay to have your messages delivered.

My recommendation: Use Facebook ONLY if

  1. You’ve selected Facebook as your social media channel of choice because your priority people ARE on Facebook, and you have a good way to drive them to your page and keep them there. Few organizations can effectively utilize more than one social media channel, at least to start.
  2. You use Facebook as a complementary channel to direct marketing (online and offline), your website and the other places where you have a track record of motivating the actions you want (giving, registering, etc.). Content and look and feel are consistent, tone varies depending on channel and the segment of folks you’re reaching out to in each channel and/or each campaign.
  3. You set concrete goals for whatever is measurable on your page (much isn’t) and try to link actions taken on other channels back to Facebook (and other influences)
  4. You are willing to invest a lot of time, expertise in your Facebook presence, AND a lot of cash for ad buys (your nonprofit will be competing against Zappos and Proctor & Gamble—what are your chances?).

Most organizations I know DON’T FIT THIS PROFILE. So for most of your organizations, Facebook is NOT worth the investment, even if your CEO or board chair is pushing it hard.

Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

Now over to John…
YAY, IF DONE RIGHT (from John Haydon)

Nancy: What is the value in nurturing a brand page/community for orgs on Facebook?

John: Every marketing plan—whether it’s for a brand or a nonprofit—should include word of mouth elements. You want to create opportunities for your community to tell their friends about you.

The fact is, people talk with their friends on Facebook about what’s important to themmovies, weekend activities, family milestones, and causes.

Nurturing your community on Facebook increases the likelihood that they’ll talk about your nonprofit with their friends. In fact, according to one study, Facebook is the most powerful word-of-mouth social media channel.

Nancy: Are there a few criteria a nonprofit can assess to clarify if and/or they should invest (or continue to invest) in its Facebook brand page?

John: It isn’t reason enough for you to simply have a Facebook Page. If your nonprofit depends on fundraisers and volunteers to exist, Facebook should be an important communications channel. Most of the people in your database probably use Facebook already.

If you want to see how many people in your community use Facebook, you can upload your email list as a custom audience and see how many Facebook users are in your email list. Just follow the instructions in this video.

Nancy: What should orgs change strategy wise, with this new algorithm?

John: The purpose of the News Feed algorithm is to display the most interesting content to each Facebook. This way, they will continue to to use Facebook as an important way to connect with friends.

Because Facebook is a friend network, using your nonprofit’s “brand voice” will not work. For example, if all you talk about is your 50th anniversary fundraiser gala, you will bore people and therefore get zero visibility in the News Feed.

The solution is igniting your nonprofit’s “friend” voice (your community sharing your content with their friends).

Nonprofits can start with these questions:

  • What does out community get passionate about?
  • What’s truly useful and interesting to them?
  • What needs are not being met by competing organizations?
  • What are specific ways you can become indispensable in their lives?

– again, getting your current true fans talking about you with their friends on Facebook.

Nancy: How should nonprofit communicators start advertising on Facebook, if they fit the criteria I shared?

John: There are four things to keep in mind when using Facebook ads:

1. Have a plan. As with any type of ad investment, be really clear about why you are using ads in the first place. Do you want more website traffic? Do you want more engaged fans? Do you want more likes?

2. Target wisely. If a breast Cancer foundation targets all women in north America, they will be wasting money on Facebook ads.

For example, it’s better to target only women who have expressed an interest in breast cancer (liking breast cancer related Facebook pages). Additionally, use your Facebook page Insights to determine what demographic is most likely to like your page, and engage with your posts. Targeting Facebook adds wisely will not only save you money, it will increase conversion rates for those ads.

3. Only promote awesome. If you are using Facebook ads to promote page posts, make sure you’re only selecting posts that have performed well. This way when people do see the post as a result of an ad, they will be more likely to engage with it as others have done before.

4. Avoid smelly fish. Facebook ads are like relatives and fish – they go bad after about 5 days. Always make an effort to push fresh posts with ads, instead of letting an ad run for 30 days.

Nancy: What can we expect next from Facebook?

John: You can expect more competition in the newsfeed from brands, friends, and competing nonprofits. Your only solution is to become likable in the real world, not just on Facebook.

Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

Asana—Streamline the Work Behind Your Work (Nonprofit Blog Carnival)

Guest blogger, Leili Khalessi is the Marketing and Communications Manager for RedRover, a national animal welfare organization. She’s also on the board for The Yoga Seed Collective and couldn’t help but make a few yoga-related puns below.

Thanks to Leili for contributing this stirring post  to this month’s blog carnival—The Work Behind Your Work . There’s still time for yours—Deadline Friday April 25.

As nonprofit communicators, we all know what it’s like to try to find balance in our work despite competing priorities, multiple teams and never-ending deadlines. Never have I felt so “at home” professionally than at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#14NTC), where I attended a session on “The Work Behind The Work” with Sarah Durham (founder of Big Duck), Stephanie Bowen (most recently with KaBOOM) and Nancy Schwartz. Across the room full of do-gooder marketers, it was clear that while we’d all happily bend over backward for the organizations we support, we were eager to learn from each other’s ways to zen.

I shared my favorite (free!*) tool for project management: Asana (www.asana.com). Asana is a web-based task manager designed to enable individuals and teams to plan and manage projects without email.

Yoga practitioners will recognize the word “asana” as referring to yoga postures – so it’s no surprise that this flexible app keeps RedRover’s communications work meditatively calm yet groovin’ in the flow. Here’s why we use it:

  • Project manager’s paradise: For me, lists = bliss. Asana gives me a place to lay out tactical plans with due dates and assignees for each task. The app structures the organization into teams, then projects, then tasks and subtasks. You can drag to re-order your tasks to customize your workflow by timeline or priority. As a manager, using Asana has only made it easier to communicate priorities downward, dog.
  • A process for every project: Creating our own templates in Asana enabled us to take the guesswork out of the work. Our editorial process, steps for creating an e-newsletter, and marketing campaign planners are all examples of project templates that live in Asana. Yes, live – all team members are encouraged to constantly refine and update our processes within Asana so that we’re always improving.
  • Less email: Yes, thank goodness! Project participants can leave comments on tasks, tag other team members and even attach documents from Dropbox and Google Drive. No more wading through long threads of messages – our project communications are much more direct through Asana.

*Asana is free for teams of up to 15 members, with unlimited projects and tasks. It’s worth trying out, even as an individual if you don’t want to involve other team members.

Start by putting your to-do list into Asana, or try setting up a routine project into the app to get a feel for how it works.

Reactivate Your Email List (Case Study)

Since 1996, Karla Capers has been working for advocacy organizations, figuring out ways to use the internet to raise visibility for progressive issues, engage people in campaigns, and try to make the world a better place.

Note from Nancy: I came upon Karla’s terrific guidance for re-engaging folks on the Progressive Exchange list serv, and got her permission to repost here.

I’m Online Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and we were faced with a real challenge—how to re-engage the many folks who were not reading or acting on our emails.

Here’s our three-part reactivation method:

We Segmented Our Inactives
We defined “inactive” as anyone who’s never given the organization a donation (online or off) and hadn’t opened, clicked, or taken any action online in the last year.

Then, in February, we started to segment out the “inactive” people on our list and excluding them from all outgoing messages. That “inactive” segment turned out to be about 25% of our deliverable email file.

Then Sent Our Campaign
Next, we set up a three-part series of emails to try to re-engage those inactive people:

1. Initial email

  • Goes out when someone first falls into the “inactive” file.
  • Subject line: “We miss you [first name]”
  • Asks them to click on a link to let us know they still want to receive emails from UCS.
  • The landing page that click gets them to says something like “Thanks and welcome back….” and automatically adds them back into the “Active” file.

2. Second email (if recipient doesn’t click on first email)

  • Goes out one week later.
  • Subject line: “Science still needs you [firstname]”
  • Tries to re-engage people with an action alert, talks about recent attacks on science and asks the person to sign a generic pledge to “stand with science”.

3. Third email (if recipient doesn’t click on second email)

  • Goes out one week later.
  • Subject line: “thanks and goodbye”
  • Informs the person that since we haven’t heard from them in a long time we are going to unsubscribe them and offers one last chance to click to still receive emails from us.
  • The landing page is a survey where they can update their email subscriptions by issue topic and type of message and give us feedback on why they have been out of touch.

Our Results—Good But Want to Do Better
Since February, we have re-engaged almost 5% of our inactive file. That’s a value of about $13,000 if we were paying for those names so that seems worth it to me.

Of the three emails, the third email performed the best re-engaging 3.17% of the inactive file. Email one re-engaged 1.56% and email two only 0.88%.

Next Steps—Before Inaction
One thing I would like to do is add another email to the series to try to re-engage people *before* they fall into the inactive pool–so maybe when they haven’t clicked or acted on anything in 3 months or 6 months. I think if we tried to reconnect with them sooner we might pull even more people back into the active file.

How do you reengage inactive supporters, whether those on your email list who don’t respond or lapsed donors?

6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell:

There’s so much content around on storytelling, lots of its focused on why stories are so effective.

But there’s far less guidance on helping you know what your story possibilities are, and building your skills in shaping and sharing your stories. That’s what most of you said you wanted to know to become 5-star storytellers, and that’s the focus of this article.

Storytelling starts with finding the stories your organization already has. But, most of you tell me you don’t know where to find your stories. Here’s how..
Great news here—there are 6 types of stories you can tell, and you’re likely to find all of them in your organization. So start thinking about what stories you have to tell in each of these categories:
  1. Our Founding: How your organization was created
  2. Our Focus: The core challenge you tackle
  3. Impact Stories: This most-told nonprofit story features the before and after—shows impact of your organization and supporters
  4. Our People: Donor, staff, volunteer, client/participant profiles
  5. Strength Stories: How your particular approach adds value to the services you provide, and moves your mission forward
  6. Our Future: The change you want to make in the world or what your work will lead to.

#1: The Typical Nonprofit Founding Story

Is yours as deadly as this one? Because you have all the ingredients to make it far more effective.

Typical Founding Story

Read more

Piggyback On What’s Top Of Mind— 9 Valentine’s Victories

Email Subject LinesGuest blogger, Kerri Karvetski, owner of Company K Media, helps nonprofits communicate online.

How did nonprofits share the love on Valentine’s Day 2013? Let us count the ways.

But this superstar technique isn’t limited to Valentine’s Day. Get brainstorming now to connect your cause with days coming up—St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day and Earth Day. It’s a proven way to connect with supporters and move them to give, donate, volunteer or spread the word. Here’s how:
Read more

Five Reasons Why Facebook Marketing Seems So Impossible

john-haydon-headshotwebGuest blogger John Haydon  advises nonprofits on new media marketing strategy. John is the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, a contributor to the Huffington Post and an instructor for MarketingProfs University.

It seems that most brands and nonprofits are still trying to get their head around what works on Facebook. What content works best, what time to publish updates and how to use sponsored stories are just a few of the topics discussed among nonprofit marketers.

But these issues are just symptoms of bigger challenges that we all need to better understand.

Here are five reasons why Facebook marketing is presenting new and/or unusual challenges to you and your colleagues:

1. You’re still thinking push

You’d think that social media would have changed the mass-productive push mentality that’s been so pervasive since the Industrial Revolution. But it hasn’t.

Facebook, and most social media for that matter, are still viewed as a free email list to be “targeted” and marketing to. To amp things up on Facebook, you have to flip this mindset 180 degrees and instead think about creating a space for your supporters to share what matters to them.

Start asking:

  • What’s their agenda?
  • What are they already putting out there that’s in synch with your cause?
  • How can you capture that on your Facebook Page?

2. You need to understand people

Google tells you what people are searching for in in the form of words typed into a little search box. It’s literally spelled out for you. Not so with Facebook.

What makes Facebook users share, comment and like is still very much a mystery. Look for patterns in Facebook Insights and make inferences based on those patterns for insights into the emotional drivers of your people!

3. You’re competing with their friends

Think about the last time you opened up Facebook on your laptop or mobile device. Was it to find out what your favorite brands were sharing? Exactly.

It’s the same thing with your supporters. Every time you publish an update in their Newsfeed, you’re competing with birth announcements, political rants, vacation pictures and recommended bands! You’ll never trump someone’s friends, but the more you can come across with a friend-like voice, the better you’ll do.

4. You’re competing for attention

Facebook users are constantly distracted. They might have the best intentions to view an update they were notified about by email, but as soon as they open up Facebook, they see more notifications in the menu and in their friends lists.

They see a dog dressed up as little red riding hood. They also see ads that are also competing for their attention. Capturing and recapturing people’s attention will always be a challenge on Facebook.

5. You’re dealing with mobile devices

Every other challenge mentioned here happens in a much smaller dimensions on mobile devices. Did you know that each image you post on your Facebook Page takes up the entire screen on an iPhone? There are fewer elements to distract users there’s less space to play with.

Curiosity and Creativity are the key

Most of the challenges here are not insurmountable, but sometimes they feel that way. The best way forward is to have a solid understanding of how to best use Facebook for your organization. Write this plan down, and stay curious!

Practice Makes Progress—Into Focus Nonprofit Video Guide

PracticeSee3 and friends have just released Into Focus, the first-ever benchmark guide to video in the nonprofit sector. It’s a good read based on solid research, with these key takeaways:

  1. Video is important and getting more so
  2. Nonprofit orgs want to make more video, but don’t have the skills, metrics or budget to do so.

The same can be said of social media, marketing planning and other marketing approaches that generate organizational resistance. BUT the data and models in Into Focus have crucial implications for the right-now actions you should take to:

  • Understand and articulate that content strategy (including video) is a must-do method of moving your cause forward
  • Educate and train colleagues to get it, invest in it and participate in it
  • Bring your content to life across channels and formats.

I recently asked See3 founder Michael Hoffman to share his recommendations for nonprofits that want to flee the common can’t-move-forward-due-to-no-resources-or-confidence trap. Here’s the 8-step escape route he suggests:

1) The goal (and challenge) is not just to learn how to use video effectively, but to integrate a new approach into your organization’s culture and operations.

2) The role of video in the content spectrum has changed. Shift your mindset from videos as one-offs or supporting specific projects or campaigns, to a continuous video story (composed of multiple videos.)

3) The time to do more and  better with video is now. The adoption cycle has speeded up big time. Plus video is a superstar format for mobile delivery.

4) Right now, most nonprofits simply sprinkle video into the communications mix. To be video-strong, take a more deliberate approach to building skills, metrics, comfort level and more.

5) The most reliable approach is to make video a regular practice, finding a way to integrate short, simple video into the work you’re already doing.

6) Start with a low-commitment project, focused on building skills, generating productive feedback and building organizational comfort with and understanding of the medium.

Quick-start examples include creating a video issue of your organization’s e-newsletter, thank-you videos for specific donors (post on YouTube then email the link to the donor) or interviewing a beneficiary, colleague or a volunteer on how they got to your org and why they care about your cause.

7) Post your videos on social media channels, framing them as experiments to build momentum and action around your cause in a new way. Share where you are with video, and where you hope to get to.

8) Your initial video projects will help you develop a video production habit, build confidence and create feedback and learning that will guide what’s next (and be strong fodder for your recommendations to your boss and colleagues).

Practice makes progress. Start your practice now, by reading Into Focus.

How have you helped shift your organization’s culture to embrace a new approach?

Name Change Why, When & Hows: Case Study—Part 1

It’s rare to see an organization change its name and that’s a good thing. Name changes are a delicate matter.

Assuming you’ve done a good job of building relationships with supporters, partners and others, your org’s name has equity. Members of your network—donors in particular—have established ways in which they relate to your organization, and your name is the most memorable trigger you have. When you change your organization’s name, you upset the status quo and draw attention to what has been a smooth and productive relationship.

But there are moments in an organization’s life when a name change is appropriate and in fact, may be absolutely necessary. These include:

  • New or expanded scope of work, and/or mission
  • Expanded geography served (if your name includes a location)
  • Change in meaning or popular use of you organizational name.

Green Media Toolshed was launched in 2000 to strengthen communications impact within the environmental movement. But when the organization dramatically changed the type of issue-based organizations it works with, renaming became a must

Green Media Toolshed is now officially Netcentric Campaigns. Our new name reflects our expanding work to help foundations, nonprofit organizations and grassroots leaders mobilize advocacy networks that will achieve change for the greater good.

Netcentric does a great job of explaining its name change, reassuring its community that its strengths and values will remain constant as its focus grows AND reframing the value of the organization’s work! Here’s how they link the past with the present:

When striving to achieve change, sometimes you need to change something about yourself…Although we’ve got a new moniker, we aren’t completely abandoning our roots.

Our team of 10 is ready for this transition. We know how to build networks that work and we’ve have been doing this work for years, after all…Bigger mission, bigger impact.

Well done! You see, no one really cares if you change your name, or your messages or launch a new website. These changes are news only when 1) you link them to the underlying moment of change (new online service for clients, providing service to new groups, a new leader); and 2) make that connection crystal clear. Netcentric has done a great job of doing so.

Name Creation/Change Guidance: Case Study—Part 2

What are your questions on name and message changes? Please share them here.

More Nonprofit Name Change Case Studies

Name Creation/Change Guidance: Case Study—Part 2

Part 1: Name Change Why, When & Hows

Naming and messaging are so tricky, yet so vital. I saw that again last week with your strong response to the Green Media Toolshed -> Netcentric Campaigns case study. So I reached out to the Netcentric team to learn more about their process and tips on shepherding a name change, or creation, for your organization, program or service.

Thanks so much to Bobbi Russell, Netcentric’s COO, for sharing experiences and tips.

Nancy: How did you kick off the name creation process?

Netcentric:  We had a head start, knowing that we wanted the new name to incorporate Netcentric. We’ve been running projects as a division of Green Media Toolshed called Netcentric
Campaigns for six or seven years, and that name synthesizes what we do and our unique value perfectly—building networks of people to move change forward.

Most importantly, we knew we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do it all ourselves. We’re just too close to our work and history. For example, we couldn’t filter out the less important elements tied to our  history that weren’t critical to carry forward into the new brand (and in fact would have diminished it). We did keep a tie to our green roots by making sure that our logo integrated the color green.

First, we hired Edge Research to do an objective situation analysis of the environment we’re communicating into. They conducted in-depth interviews with past, current and prospective clients to gather feedback about how we are perceived.

Their findings were vital, highlighting the ideal approach and skillset for communications firm we would choose to guide us through the balance of the process. It wasn’t a surprise that we needed more than a new logo and website. But the feedback about our messages, work and kind of help we needed most was a bonus.

So we hired GALEWill to help us fine tune our brand (our personality, voice and tone), mission statement, messages and logo.

Nancy: What was the naming, messaging and design process from there? 

Netcentric: The lengthy process we took from there had been developed and tested by GALEWill with some of their other clients, so we were very secure in that. They started by reviewing a huge range of background materials and interviewing Marty (Martin Kearns, our president) and me at length.

GALEWill used those insights to draft the mission statement, brand architecture and other language. We very much embraced the process of establishing a brand architecture and seeing that much of our other language would flow from that.

At that point, we looped in the full staff and Board.We wanted our full team to be a part of the process and to emerge feeling ownership of our new name and brand.

Then we worked with a separate designer on website design and print collateral.

Nancy: Sounds like a smooth path. Any glitches?

Netcentric: We had to learn, after some tough times, to let go of the small things that were taking up a great deal of time. For example, some of our team members really wanted a snappy tagline but we just couldn’t come up with one that we all loved so much that we were ready to commit to printed collateral or wear it on a fleece!

Instead, we’re piloting a few tagline variations using our email signatures and we’re hosting a launch party later this month during which we’ll all be testing out the messaging in conversation with our Board of Directors and others. We’ll hone our tagline from those insights.

Nancy: How will you support your Board and colleagues in becoming effective messengers of the new brand? That’s the step I see SO many organization leave out of naming and message development.

Netcentric: We want to ensure the entire staff and Board is up to speed in sharing our mission, discussing our new name and model case studies plus able to deliver that 30-second elevator speech.

We’ve asked for their help (this has to be an all-org effort) and will train folks via a series of messaging boot camps.

To smooth the way, we’ve created a style and tone guide for easy reference. And we’ve designated  our content strategy manager to edit most outgoing materials to align to guidelines, as we continue to work with staff to get them up to speed.

We’re on our way, and it’s exciting!

What are your questions, or tips, on name and message changes? Please share them here.

Part 1: Name Change Why, When & Hows

More Nonprofit Name Change Case Studies