Getting the Most Out of a Webinar

I’ve participated in many webinars and have also participated in several online conferences that others have offered, such as this week’s How Online Marketing Can Be Your Fundraising Stimulus Plan During Tough Times, led by HJC. These events are a wonderful way to learn about online strategies, and are usually available at a minimal or no cost.  But I’m always surprised when attendees don’t take advantage of the opportunity to engage with the presenters.  Some tips for getting the most benefit from webinars:

  1. Limit distractions.  It’s easy to check email and do other work while listening to a webinar, especially if it doesn’t offer a stimulating presentation to accompany the conversation.  But the less you pay attention, the less you’ll learn.
  2. Ask questions.  Most webinars offer an online chat.  Except for very large conferences which minimize Q&A, most presenters are usually happy to field questions – especially if they are cover topical issues that will benefit the group
  3. Provide information or resources that will benefit the group.
  4. Get to know the presenters.  Almost all provide contact information so you can submit follow-up questions after the event.  Also use LinkedIn or Facebook to connect.
  5. Share what you learned with colleagues.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to take time out during the work day for a 60 or 90 minute call.
  6. Even if an archive recording is provided, try to participate in the live session if possible so you can fully participate.
  7. Thank the presenters for their time;  many are volunteering their time and expertise with no guarantee of follow up business

A funny thing happened to me at the event I attended this week.  When I started to submit questions, I received quick responses from presenter Mike Johnston.  As it turns out, he has a personal connection with my organization.  We continued to chat during the webinar – and will meet when he visits New York in a few weeks.

Excellent webinars are always available from Nten, Idealware and Network for Good.

Who Handles ePhilanthropy In Your Organization

Last night I attended by web conference a meeting of the Internet Strategy Forum, led by group founder, Steve Gehlen.  Steve summarized highlights from the soon to be released update of the Corporate Internet Strategist Study.  About 10% of survey respondents represented nonprofit organizations.  Some major points:

  1. Marketing is the department most often responsible for Internet strategy (60%)
  2. More companies (19%) are now devoting a separate department to focus on Internet strategy
  3. Web tools / services are most often selected through a collaboration between Marketing and Information Technology
  4. Job titles for those who manage web and online projects are ‘all over the place’
  5. For groups which handle web strategy, social media has become an important component

The main difference between this group and others that target online strategy for nonprofits is the exclusion of a fundraising/development role which, as I’ve said, is as important as that of Marketing and IT.   The full study will be available for download on the Internet Strategy Forum site by month end (information on the 2006 report is now available).   I’ve also asked Steve to filter this data for nonprofits, which I will also share here.

Especially noteworthy is conclusion #2 – the growing trend towards a separate department allows online strategy to function as a cross-department collaboration, where it can be most successful.  I will also discuss this issue at my webinar next week, Getting Started with ePhilanthropy.

Mistakes Nonprofits Can’t Afford to Make

While not specific to ephilanthropy, Stacy Jones recent article in Philanthropy Journal, Mistakes Nonprofits Can’t Afford to Make, highlights many important marketing basics that nonprofits often neglect:

  • focusing only on the mission and not using story-telling to connect emotionally with constituents
  • targeting messaging on how constituents can help rather than on the organization
  • not using a clear call to action to show ways donors or volunteers can help
  • using consistent messaging across all communications
  • not providing enough funding to support marketing efforts

For more ideas on this topic, take a look at Network for Good‘s many nonprofit marketing resources as well as Katya Andresen’s non-profit marketing blog and book Robin Hood Marketing,  Small changes in how we interact with our constituents can make a huge difference in how connected they are with our organizations.

Bridging Divide between Fundraising and Marketing

As I’ve become more involved in development issues, I joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals this year.  I recently received their Advancing Philanthropy bimonthly magazine which featured an article on how fundraising and marketing staff can work together.  Quoting a recent study which examined the relationship of marketing to other NPO departments, not working together can “lead to conflicts that substantially affect a nonprofit’s performance.”  Yet when constituents interact with a nonprofit, “they’re dealing with the organization as a whole.”

Instead, it is suggested that brand can act as a common thread that unites separate departments.  “Brand is everything you do, everything you are, everything you say.  Making sure that they are all consistent across different functions is essential.”  While I’ve never seen marketing and fundraising merged into a separate department, it does seem to make sense since “the roles that marketing and fundraising play in crafting a distinctive brand is complimentary,” according to Network for Good‘s CEO Bill Strahmann.

Brand is also critical in differentiating your organization from others that represent the same cause.  Jo Sullivan, who manages both development and communications at the ASPCA, has done especially well in this area.  The ASPCA is also represented on Facebook and MySpace.  (Some organizations are still debating whether or not to devote resources to social networking sites.)

How do you get NPO departments to work together and not in different directions?  At my current organization, we’ve occasionally had lunch meeting where one department will highlight projects it is working on;  judging by comments from other attendees, it’s clear that not everyone is on the same page.  Understanding the complementary objectives of fundraising and marketing is a vital step towards establishing a consistent image to our constituents.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving.  Let’s be grateful for what we have every day of our lives.

Nonprofit Marketing Tips

Attended an Nten Webinar this week on Marketing for Non-Profits, led by Robert Rose of CrownPeak Technology, providers of content management software.

Highlights from the presentation:

  • While it is not a good idea to have a lot of ‘private content’ available only to members or subscribers, it is wise to provide premium content in exchange for site visitors providing their email address and other personal information.  Many constituents will ‘register’ in exchange for a useful study or informative enewsletter
  • If you’re going to use web 2.0 tools such as blogs and podcasts, you have to commit to a regular update schedule.  Building an audience requires quality content and takes time to build.
  • Use a variety of tactics to engage constituents;  I find, for example, that while it’s convenient to get RSS updates, I open my email daily but don’t open my RSS readers as frequently.  In addition, subscribers can signup for RSS feeds without providing any information while email newsletters require, at a minimum, email address.
  • It’s more important to analyze who is visiting your web site than how many.

I asked Robert whether it’s still a practical goal to create custom web content for segments of your audience, as I’ve heard many vendors preach.  The reality – it’s usually enough of a challenge for a nonprofit to keep its content up to date for everyone than to develop targeted content for specific groups.  There are some good reasons to integrate CMS with your CRM database (e.g. so subscribers can access their past donation history online and print receipts) but the ability to customize web content isn’t one of them.

Robert also suggested that it is rarely necessary to build custom software, no matter how ‘specific’ your requirements may seem.  I agree. With so many strong CMS packages available, I don’t think there’s any excuse for any nonprofit not to have an updated web site as the foundation of its communications strategy.

Internet Marketing Strategy Assessment

Whether or not you currently use or intend to use their products, Blackbaud has made available an Internet Marketing Strategy Assessment which will help you evaluate whether your organization is effectively utilizing online marketing.  Some of the questions may seem basic, but are worth reviewing, e.g.

  1. Is your mission statement clearly stated on your web site?
  2. Is your Web site address printed on all of your marketing materials?
  3. Do you allow event participants to solicit sponsors / donations on your behalf through personal web pages?

Take a look and see how your organization rates.

Does this happen in your organization?

While coming back from lunch today, I met a staff member from our finance department in the elevator.  Our office is setup in a way that finance and the president’s office are on one side of the floor and everyone else is on the other side.  I asked her if she liked being apart from most of the other staff members.  At first she said no, but on second thought she said she enjoyed the privacy and being able to focus on her work.

About a year ago, my organization decided to invest in a new accounting package that would be more compatible with our fundraising software.  It was a difficult transition, but now we have data flowing from one system into the other.  Yet at most companies where I’ve worked, the fundraising and finance systems have been totally separate.

During a webinar today, I was reminded of the benefits of integrating traditional direct marketing and online fundraising.  Yet these functions are often handled by different departments that each have their own agenda.  ‘Dual channel’ donors usually give more frequently than those who receive only offline or online marketing.  Yet few organizations have been successful in developing a truly coordinated strategy.

I used to think that doing my work well and pleasing my direct supervisor was enough to succeed.  Now I realize that it is just as important to play well with others.  While it’s good to be friendly with co-workers, it’s also important to work together with those in other departments, since most worthwhile projects require everyone’s contribution.  So for my organization’s finance department staff, being ‘separate’ may be a mixed blessing.