If you’re new to nonprofit communicatons, fundraising or technology , here are 10 top resources you should know about:
Nonprofit Technology Network (NTen) - As a long term member, I’ve learned through webinars, local 501 tech meetings, attending the annual conference and participating in a wonderful , supportive community
Idealware - Wondering what software is best for your needs? Laura Quinn’s Idealware offers impartial reports and low priced webinars to help you decide.
Beth’s Blog – Beth Kanter taught us how important social media was before it became mainstream. Her insights are always insightful.
Does your nonprofit struggle to measure the impact of your work? Is the main reason you collect data to satisfy grant requirements? Do you have data but then not take the time to use it when making spending/budgeting or program decisions? According to The State of Nonprofit Data (an Nten Report prepared by Idealware), you’re not alone. This report is well worth your time. (Aso, see Beth Kanter’s take.)
And if you think Nten is just for techies, think again. Many of our ongoing webinars, reports and sessions at our annual Nonprofit Technology Conference are focused on fundraising and how to communicate effectively with your constituents. We also learn from from sharing each other’s successes and failures. And, by the way, you won’t find friendlier people than my colleagues in the Nten community.
Hope you will consider joining Nten. It’s's a great buy to learn from others’ success (and failures), build your network and to learn how to be more effective at your nonprofit.
You will get the best results from your email marketing campaigns if you segment your recipients, rather than sending the same messages to everyone. Start simply here. It’s also helpful to use audience personas to understand who you are communicating with.
This week, a friend of mine was invited for a group interview for a prospective job, but not simply to meet many staff members but where multiple candidates would be interviewed together. While this seemed unusual, my guess is that the organization wanted to find out how well she would work with others – not only whether she had the skills to do the job.
Also this week, See3 Communications and Darim Online announced plans to merge, as detailed here. Mergers aren’t that unusual, but I was intrigued by how Darim explained how it had consistently collaborated with other great nonprofit organizations such as Big Duck and Idealware to enable its supporters to succeed in digital communications before deciding to join with See3.
Most of us have been in the situation of having a job fail not because we couldn’t do it, but because we didn’t work well with the existing team. (This is why it’s so important to meet as many people as you can during the interview process.) For nonprofits, it’s equally important to work together with other organizations with compatible missions. After all, it’s really about serving our clients and furthering our cause; that’s why we’re in nonprofit.
While my friend’s ‘group interview’ is a bit unorthodox, I hope she uses it as an opportunity to show how well she can ‘play with others.’ And good luck to Darim & See3! I know people at both organizations and they’ve done great work for our community.
According to the recently released 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, the nonprofits that have been most successful have a clear strategy for social media, management support and have dedicated social media staff. The average size of an organization’s Facebook (8,317) and Twitter (3,290) communities continues to grow yet few nonprofits are raising funds from social media. Download your free copy.
(To kick start fundraising results, it will be interesting to see if development departments start to play a larger part in managing social networks – currently it’s usually marketing / communication that’s in charge.)
If you decide to go outside your organization for social media help, ask these 7 questions to anyone you’re considering hiring. (My take – it’s always preferable to assign this work to a staff person who is more familiar with your nonprofit.) And here are 10 things you may be doing wrong with social media.
Have you noticed the larger photos on Facebook’s mobile application? Wonder where they got this idea (see new kid on the blockPinterest).
Blackbaud’s webinar series today included an important reminder that work on your website doesn’t stop after the redesign. Websites must continue to evolve and most importantly,.must always have fresh content to keep your constituents coming back. Need ideas? Here are 58 ways to create great content.
If you weren’t able to attend last week’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco, below are my top seven takeaways from the sessions I attended. I’ll also be discussing this topic at next week’s monthly 501 Tech Club NYC meeting – please join us.
Matt Koltermann described a ‘blended’ approach in Building and Supporting Drupal Websites: In-House, Outhouse or Both? Even if you outsource, Matt stressed the importance of involving in-house staff in development so they can maintain and support the application later (I completely agree). He also suggested using a tool like Optimizely for AB testing (easier to use than Google Website Analyzer). Using Drupal involves the combination of many add-on modules; be careful before doing updates (as you are always prompted to do when new releases come out). Make sure you include a contingency in your cost estimate. BTW, it’s time to move to the latest version, Drupal 7.
Do you have the right organization structure for online success? In Digital Team Structure – The Underlying Foundation for Innovation, John Mogus and Michael Silberman discussed different models for where your digital staff should work. Not surprisingly, there is no perfect solution, but the ‘hybrid’ option – which places online resources in a dedicated digital group and in other departments seems to offer the most promise. But to implement this successfully, an organization needs to work out reporting structure (i.e. who reports to who?) and how online strategy is planned. Take a look at the innovative Mobilisation Lab, implemented at Greenpeace for an innovative approach. No matter what structure you use, it’s a must to have a culture where departments regularly talk and work with each other, esp. marketing / communications and fundraising. Also see my blog post on this topic last year.
Probably one of the hardest decisions we all face is when to outsource, covered by Gabriel Nichols and Pam Kingpetcharat in the session When to Call in the Consultants: When to Leave Them Out. As Matt explained in his Drupal session, a hybrid solution is usually best. An interesting take: when an ‘expert’ gives a time estimate for a project, add 50%. For internal staff, triple the estimate. Some more things to consider:
does in-house staff have necessary expertise (and do they have time to learn?)
will skills gained be used in future by staff
is there a fixed time deadline? (using outside resources will speed implementation)
what will be loss to organization if deadline slips?
how well will internal stakeholders accept project setbacks?
Segmentation is a basic principle of effective constituent relationship management, yet few nonprofits do it well. In Data Dive: Practical Segmentation Techniques, Jeff Shuck explained how Excel functionality such as filters, conditional formatting and pivot tables (they’re easier now than in older Excel versions) can help, as well as the free Analysis Toolpak add-in. (Note to Nten – Jeff ended his presentation with an reaffirming message for all of us who work in nonprofit – may be worth a keynote talk next year) A few more tips:
ask donors why they donated – critical data in getting to know your donors
you can ask for more data than you think (this will help you segment)
constituents give because of an affinity to the cause, not necessarily to your organization. This is why you need to always focus on retention.
take a look at Tableau – visual analysis tool – less expensive than SPSS
In Engaging Mobile Design, Beaconfire’s Scott Lenger suggested using Mobify as an easy way to create a mobile website (basic sites free, but some features cost more). Responsive design (same site looks good on different size screens) is great, but is best considered when doing an overall website redesign. Wondering if you really need a mobile site? Check your web statistics bounce rate – if it’s higher for mobile visitors than for desktop users, then you probably do. Make sure your forms work on small screens – here’s a great example from Feeding America. Mobile shouldn’t be an after-thought to your web design, nor should it be handled as a ‘Phase 2′ project.
Congratulations to Holly Ross, Anna Richter, and the entire Nten staff for coordinating such a great conference. It was also great to reconnect in person with many online friends from the nptech community that I exchange online communications with year-round.
My favorite takeaways (mentioned in many of these lists):
Examine how your website and email communications read on mobile phones and tablets. This is how more of your constituents are accessing your content now
You don’t have to recreate the wheel. Our nonprofit colleagues are incredibly generous with their knowledge. Learn from other people (like Beth Kanter or Nancy Schwartz) and organizations (like Nten and Idealware) that offer multiple resources to help your nonprofit succeed online (and off)
Learn more about your supporters by analyzing information you probably already have: website statistics, email analytics, registration forms, polls / surveys – then use this data to better segment your communications
But as Kivi said during her webinar that described her recommendations in detail, it’s not enough to just read or listen to these suggestions. What will you do this month to apply these ideas at your organization?
I’ll be in the office next week, as I suspect many of you will be (especially if you are wrapping up your year-end fundraising campaign). Here’s some ideas to contemplate for for 2012:
Ask some friends (who aren’t familiar with your organization) to critique your nonprofit’s website. Are they able to quickly understand what you do? Is it easy to donate or sign up for your email list?
Analyze your website analytics, Facebook insights data so you know what’s working best with your constituents. And don’t forget to segment your audience. Debra Askanase explains more
Saying thank you to donors is always an good idea, but it’s also crucial to make sure your staff and volunteers feel appreciated for their hard work. As my friend Shana Masterson recently tweeted, “You might not be in a position to reward someone (financially), but u can always acknowledge the work they’ve done.”
To make your meetings your effective, make sure an agenda goes out to participants in advance and a summary is sent shortly afterwards – it’s a simple project management technique that can insure that everyone’s on the same page
Help someone who is in transition. While unemployment figures seem to be dropping a bit, there are still many people who are struggling. Reach out to colleagues who need encouragement and support.
Have a healthy and peaceful holiday and a wonderful new year.
Planning / investing in systems and process to encourage departments to cooperate instead of compete
Remove silos from teams and departments so they naturally collaborate towards mutually developed goals
When I asked why this going multi-channel is so difficult, HJC’s Mike Johnston replied ‘inertia – nonprofits are used to doing things the way they always have.’ Interestingly, smaller organizations may find it easier to create a culture where integration takes place.
My take: start by using an integrated editorial calendar which includes upcoming direct mail solicitations, email marketing campaigns, website updates, social media etc. Beth Kanter offers this way to get started (thanks to Lightbox Collaborative) This will at least avoid the embarrassment of saying different things in different channels. Then, make sure results are measured for an overall campaign instead of by department or by type of outreach. Constituents use many ways to communicate; it’s about time we did the same.
While many of my colleagues in the nonprofit community often share their knowledge and expertise, I’ve found Laura Quinn’s Idealware site especially helpful over the years in providing impartial and comprehensive evaluations of nonprofit software. The just released Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide provides a systematic approach to determine how to best use social media at your organization.
Probably the most important takeaway is the recommendation to first decide what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. Without taking the time to establish your goals, it’s impossible later to evaluate whether social media is a worthwhile use of your staff’s time. Idealware’s report offers several examples of how social media can help to achieve a nonprofit’s typical objectives: fundraising (although social media should NOT be primarily be used for this purpose), advocacy, recruiting / engaging volunteers, supporting events (both before and during) and outreach.
As I’ve said in the past when discussing multi-channel campaigns, social media works best when integrated with other channels. But messaging content and frequency need to be appropriate for each channel; don’t just post the same information everywhere.
If you take the time to apply the ideas from this wonderful resource, you will be able to measure the effectiveness of your social media campaign. Thanks to Idealware, and Balance Interactive, Trellon and New Signature for their support in helping make this report available to our community at no charge.