Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Guest Post: Developing a brand through an online presence

February 26, 2010


Photo by theonlyone

By Alexia Harris at Project Learn of Summit County (@alexiaharris)

It is imperative that nonprofits understand the significance of developing a brand. Whether your mission is to support cancer research or provide services to adults in need of literacy skills that mission needs to be communicated not only in person, but also online.

In June 2009, it was announced that the YMCA of the USA’s brand is worth almost $6.4 billion, making it the nation’s most valuable nonprofit brand, according to research conducted by Cone and Intangible Business. The study also revealed that The American Cancer Society stood out with the strongest brand image, which can be credited to its standing as the single most relevant nonprofit organization among consumers. This study showed the correlation between an organization’s mission, brand and value. It also proved the importance of nurturing the public’s awareness and opinion of the organization.

As the community relations manager for Project Learn of Summit County, one of my responsibilities is managing the agency’s online presence with strategies that support business, marketing and communication objectives (among other things).

My goal is to make sure that Project Learn is properly represented on the Internet.

To reach my goal, I had to do three things:

1. Revamp Project Learn’s web site to make it helpful, user-friendly and visually appealing.

2. Implement search engine optimization tactics to improving our web site’s availability to search engines and social media networks.

3. Monitor and participate in social media to gain insight to topics that are related to literacy and adult education.

This is not a “do it and leave it alone” type of job. You must update, monitor and participate in all types of communication activities on a regular basis. Communicating your mission and maintaining your brand must be done with care, as well as convey the same message. Nowadays, when a person wants more information about an organization, the first thing they do is conduct an online search, which is why an organization’s online brand is so critical.

However, it is important to remember that when implementing your strategies and tactics, that your mission be integrated seamlessly so that it is able to become synonymous with the brand. By taking the correct steps to establish your brand and communicate your mission, you will create a very useful means to generate needed funds and prove your worth to supporters and volunteers.

*Do you want to see how Project Learn does it? Browse our Facebook page, Twitter profile and blog for suggestions on communicating your brand and mission online.


Social media isn’t as prevalent as we all think it is

February 26, 2010

Photo by Matt Hamm

The 2009 Massachusetts Non-profit Social Media Report was recently released by Talance, a web design and development company that focuses on helping organizations understand technology better. While the report focuses on Massachusetts, I would bet that it’s findings could be generalizable to many if not most states. Here are some highlights:

  • The most popular form (26%) of social media that organizations used was social networking (facebook, linked in, etc), while the least popular was microblogs (3%)
  • 80% were unfamiliar with microblogs (like Twitter)
  • Not everyone thinks social media is important for donor engagement, 48% said it wasn’t important
  • No one (79%) has an internet marketing plan

Monique Cuvelier, CEO of Talance took a few minutes to answer a few questions I had about the report and social media.

1. A very small percentage (0 – 5%) received individual gifts through online solicitation, why do you think that is and how can nonprofits change that?

This question about online solicitation was designed to uncover if respondents had any kind of formal programs designed around social media, and we chose fund development because it’s comparatively easy and accessible to set up an online campaign. The fact so few are accepting online donations is a very clear indication that non-profits aren’t quite sure what to do with social media. They’re not thinking in terms of application: creating a Facebook Cause to raise funds, sending out Twitter alerts for blood drives. There are many programs and services out there that make accepting online donations easy and affordable – it really doesn’t have to be any more sophisticated than making a big red button that says “DONATE” and linking it to a PayPal account. Of course there are more sophisticated tools out there, but this would be a solid first step.

2. If a nonprofit only has time to do one thing online, to only use one form of social media, which would you recommend and why?

You have to be where people are looking. If you sell mattresses, you want to be listed in the local yellow pages. If you have a young constituency, then you probably want to be on Facebook. It’s very hard to think of a one-size-fits-all solution, but if a non-profit is willing to make the time investment, a blog is the way to go. Good bang for the buck. It’s a way to deliver messages, open up communication and increase online presence.

3. What was the most interesting thing your report found? What was the most shocking?

The most interesting thing we found was the dichotomy between how valuable people believe social media is and how little they use for real programs. For instance, 80% consider social media either very important or somewhat important for peer-to-peer networking. By contrast 31% find social media unimportant to their business and marketing strategy. Without a doubt the most shocking thing was how 79% of the respondents said they had no Internet marketing plan at all. They’ve got to start thinking about using the Internet as a way to communicate with the public.

Please share what form(s) of social media your organization uses, and why you think it is important.

Are you on Twitter?

February 26, 2010

Photo by Mykl Roventine

Someone just emailed me today and said “Can you believe back in November no one knew what Twitter was? Now even congress is tweeting.”

That got me thinking. Even though in the past few months Twitter has grown, there are a lot of people out there that still don’t know what Twitter is. I recently telling a friend of mine how great Twitter is, and she was like “What is Twitter?” She had no idea. So, I told her to go home and ask her husband (I assumed that since he was a Director of IT he must know about Twitter), alas, she came to me the next day and said he didn’t know what it was either. That shocked me.

I think many people have recognized the value that social media brings into our personal and professional lives. So, if you know someone out there that isn’t on Twitter, tell them to join! And please, be patient when they tell you they didn’t get it. I was one of those people who didn’t get it either just 5 short months ago.

Here are some of my favorite Twitter resources (feel free to post more in comments):

For beginners, there is the “Twitter: A Translation Guide” by The Fundraising Coach.

For beginners and experienced alike, see “14 Advanced Twitter Tips” at Ocean Grand.

Some great advice on how to use Twitter by Rosetta Thurman in her posts: “Remixing Twitter for Young Nonprofit Professionals“, “Stop Trying to Be Two Different People“, and “Top 10 Young Nonprofit Professionals on Twitter.”

Check your Twitter growth here.

For Twitter facts, widgets, and news click here, here, and here.

And my personal favorite, Darren Rowse’s (@ProBlogger) TwiTip Blog.

Don’t forget to follow me @nonprofitsos on Twitter!

Advertising on nonprofit websites?

February 26, 2010

Photo by aileron

I was recently asked what I thought about nonprofits selling space on their website for advertising. I will tell you what I told them. I think it is a bad idea.

It’s one thing to sell space (typically in the form of a sponsorship) for your nonprofit event’s program, but it is something else entirely to put advertising on your website. There are 2 main reasons why I think it is a bad idea:

  1. Dilutes your mission/compromises your website: By selling ads on your website you may put at risk the integrity of your website and organization (there is a reason nonprofits don’t sell ad space on their websites). Additionally, ads on websites rarely are attractive, plus depending on the ad it can negatively affect your brand. Also, ads on websites can be distracting- and you don’t want people clicking away to check out a book on amazon- you want them clicking to your donation page.
  2. Appearance = reality: It will appear as though your organization is endorsing those that advertise on your website. Nonprofit organizations should not endorse for-profit businesses. Additionally, it would be time-intensive to ensure that every company upholds the mission/ideals of your organization- for example: Sierra Club wouldn’t want to put up X corporation’s ad and then find out they just logged 150 acres for their new company and killed off the local wildlife, it might not look very good to your supporters.

This doesn’t even go into the issue of who would manage the advertising, and the additional time and hassle of worrying about UBIT (unrelated business income tax). Additionally, most (if not 99.9% of) nonprofits do not sell advertising on their website. In fact, after searching and looking at a few hundred sites, I only saw one that did, the AARP, which most people don’t even know is a nonprofit organization.

The same goes for nonprofit blogs, in a short interview in December, Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) said “One thing that I’m pretty sure a nonprofit SHOULDN’T do is run advertising on their blogs. I think blogs are probably more effective to non profits for communicating what they are on about, finding people to support them etc. But if you start selling advertising you distract people from what you’re on about as an organization.”

Now, if you decide to sell it anyway, this post by Social Signal talks you through your options.

I had great difficulty locating nonprofits that sell advertising on their website, so if you know of any that do, please post a link in the comment section.

3 things you should do to start 2009 on the right foot

February 26, 2010

Photo by Leo Reynolds

1. Review your fundraising plan
Since many nonprofits have had to cut staff and focus resources, it is particularly important that nonprofits go over their fundraising plan with a fine tooth comb. It should include taking a good look at who your donors are, particularly at their age. If you have a lot of young donors then you should have things like starting a blog, using more social media, etc. in your plan. If you have older donors, then this is the year to really focus and glean your planned giving operation. It also should be realistic and have numbers to back up projected revenue.

2. Get organized and be more efficient with your time
This is extremely important. Don’t let your desk stay cluttered, don’t let your to-do lists grow and grow, don’t let those great new ideas keep moving down on your priorities. Here, here, and here are a few good posts and websites to help you get started get organized and be more efficient with your time.

3. Embrace social media
This year’s presidential campaign has demonstrated the power of social media. Many forms of social media (blogs, twitter, etc) are free. They can help your organization raise money, get new supporters, and raise awareness about your cause. This is the year to make sure your organization takes advantage of social media. To get you started, here are a few tips from ProBlogger on nonprofit blogging, here is a blog that is all about how nonprofits can use social media, and here are 9 Steps to Prioritize Nonprofit Social Media Training and Experimentation.

Nonprofit Blogging Tips from ProBlogger

February 19, 2010

Photo by Ryan Bretag

Darren Rowse is known as the expert when it comes to blogging. He has several highly successful blogs, including one titled ProBlogger, that is dedicated to helping you blog better. He graciously gave me a few minutes of his time to answer two questions about nonprofit blogging:

1. What are your top 3 tips for nonprofits that blog?

I think the biggest challenge for most bloggers is developing a blog that is ‘useful’ to its readers (or potential readers). People tend not to subscribe to blogs unless they enhance their lives in some way or fulfil a need. So the challenge for a non profit blog is to find a need that THEY can fulfill in their potential readers. This might be a bit of a challenge (or at least take a little thinking) because many not for profit organizations are probably more used to thinking about how to appeal to people to offer help or fulfill needs that they (or their clients) have. So my first tip is to think really carefully about how your blog will provide value and be useful to people who you want to read it.

Two other quick tips:

Consistent posting – work out what you want to post about, how often you think you can manage to post, what voice you want to write in and try to stick to it. Most successful blogs develop a rhythm of posting that has a regularity about it. This means as a blogger you can get into the rhythm but it also means your readers know what to expect which can be good.

Get Interactive – one of the reasons blogging took off as a medium is that it’s a highly interactive medium on a number of levels including between blogger and reader (via comments) and between bloggers (linking to one another, building upon what others are writing, commenting on each others blogs etc).

2. What do you think is the best way for nonprofits to make money while blogging?

Tough question – One thing that I’m pretty sure a nonprofit SHOULDN’T do is run advertising on their blogs. I think blogs are probably more effective to non profits for communicating what they are on about, finding people to support them etc. But if you start selling advertising you distract people from what you’re on about as an organization.

The only real way that comes to mind for monetizing non profits would be to use them to direct people back to your other fundraising activities. In a sense the blog then becomes a way of building profile which indirectly helps raise money.

Samples Week- Collateral

February 19, 2010

Sample newsletters here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Sample annual reports here, here, here, here, and here.

Sample promotional pieces (postcards, brochures, etc.) here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Check out all of the other samples discussed this week!

A word about Nonprofit URLs

February 19, 2010

Photo by jef safi

One of the most important things about your organization’s website is having a guessable URL. If your organization is called The Hope Shelter, don’t get a domain (URL) name of Domains are extremely inexpensive ranging from $7-$10 per year from Go Daddy, and they are worth the investment. I recommend not only buying the .org, but also the .com of your URL. It’s much better to buy it now, then to wait a few years to find that someone else has scooped up your domain. There are a lot of cybersquatters out there.

Nonprofit Marketing Resources

February 19, 2010

Photo by laura padgett

Here are a few helpful resources to help marketing at your organization:

Make sure to use a traffic tracker on your website!

February 19, 2010

Photo by splorp

It is important to track your traffic for multiple reasons, here are a few:

  • You can see what your landing page is (what page people start at on your website from search engines).
  • You can see how many people visit your website, what type of browser they use (which informs web design), where they are located and more!
  • You can see the effect of different aspects of outreach and media (if you have an article in the Sunday paper about your event, you can see if traffic increased because of that article), this is particularly important because it enables you to judge the value of what types of media, pr, communications, outreach, etc you do.
  • What keywords people are using to get to your website.

There are many more great things that traffic trackers allow you to do or see. To highlight the traffic tracker that I use, Google Analytics, which in my experience has been the best. It is free (yes it doesn’t cost anything!), very easy to use, and provides A LOT of information. And all you need to do to add it to your website is to add a little bit of html code to each webpage- it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes. So, make sure to take advantage of this great resource!