Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

How do we define and measure social impact?

February 26, 2010

Photo by spettacolopuro

This month’s Nonprofit Millennial Blogging Alliance (NMBA) topic relates to social impact and how we define and measure it.

So, what is social impact? Well, I did what anyone that has access to internet would do, I googled it. It seems there isn’t really a clear, precise definition for it. I couldn’t even find a definition on Wikipedia – the closest I got was Social Impact Assessment or Social Impact Theory. So, I am going to go with a mish-mash of definitions and partial definitions I found:

Social impact = the influences or affects an organization or group can have to impact people’s lives. This influence or affect increases with immediacy and strength, and can have both positive and negative social consequences.

So, to use an easy example: More and more people continue to join Twitter because they know more people who are on Twitter, their close friends are now on Twitter, and everyone seems to be joining Twitter. Hence, one would say the social impact of Twitter is quite large and continues to grow as its strength and immediacy grows.

For nonprofits, this would be used more in the sense of how a nonprofit taking advantage of social change to make a difference in people’s lives.

So, how would one measure social impact?

Well, since social impact is more that just evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention it would make sense that a simple evaluation wouldn’t be enough.

An interesting concept I came across was that one could put together an impact map, which will help organizations to clearly show relationships between inputs (resources) and outputs (activities, outcomes). Basically it helps an organization understand how they create change.

The impact map could be combined with a social impact assessment, which “includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.” This would allow a nonprofit to map the relationships and measure the change that resulted from those relationships.

A more government-type perspective on social impact assessment can be found here. Some may also go as far as measuring the financial return on a social impact using a social return on investment.

Check out some other perspectives on social impact and how to measure it from NMBA bloggers:

What is Social Impact? by Nonprofit Periscope

Measuring Social Impact (wait…what is social impact?) by Onward and Upward


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.

How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter? Part 2

February 26, 2010

Photo by xotoko

As I mentioned yesterday, in “How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter?“, I recently completed a mini-case study to explore how nonprofit organizations use Twitter. Yesterday I mentioned some of things I noticed, and today I wanted post post some of the highlights from the interview, and a link to the Charities Review Council’s Twitter Plan.

For this mini-case study, I interviewed Kelly Rowan, one of the staff members in charge of her organizations Twitter account @SmartGivers at the Charities Review Council.

How does your organization use Twitter, what specifically do you tweet about?
Well we tweet about the organizations that have participated in our review process, so we tweet about the results of those reviews, and then also about other events or services that we’re offering and we try to provide links to good resources both our resources that we provide but also resources provided by others that we think will be valuable to the people who are following us and then we just try to engage in conversations that happen to do with informed giving and nonprofit accountability and transparency and helping really to improve and increase philanthropy.

How did you come to the decision about what specifically you wanted to tweet about?
Well we viewed Twitter as another communication tool for us, so we of course have our marketing and communication plan that we have each year that we implement and then the goals that are inherent in that plan are design to help us pursue our mission and then the goals for the Twitter plan are designed to help us meet those marking and communication goals.

How has using Twitter impacted your organization?
Well the very first day that we launched our account, let’s see what was the topic. Helen had tweeted about an article or something and the very next morning we had a call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal who had seen that tweet and she just never would have, I mean of course there are ways she could have become aware of us, but Twitter was a really direct way for that connection to be made. So, that’s kind of an example, but I think overall we are using it to try to break down barriers in communication and accessing the services that we provide and really helping to mobilize informed donors and accountable nonprofits for the greater good.

Finally, Kelly made a great point near the end of our conversation that I wanted to share “I think a common challenge that we all face is we are trying to figure out how to measure how effective Twitter is in meeting the goals I mentioned earlier. There are some really great conversations happening around that, oftentimes via Twitter.”

How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter?

February 26, 2010

Photo by xotoko

This is the question I sought to explore in a mini-case study I completed for a seminar I was taking on case studies. For the project, I observed six nonprofit organizations use of Twitter:


Additionally, I completed document review and interviewed a nonprofit organization about their use of Twitter. Because of the tiny scale of this mini-study, the results weren’t conclusive (and not all that rigorous), but I was able to gain an interesting look into how some nonprofit organizations have been using Twitter. A few things I noticed:

– Mission and Twitter use don’t always align
Some nonprofit organizations do not include much about their programming in their tweets. They will tweet requests for volunteers, requests for donations, links to studies or articles, but rarely will you see a tweet that gives you insight into what exactly that organization is doing. Project Somos did a good job of tweeting about what exactly the organization was doing, as did Smart Givers. Twitter can be an excellent way to promote programming, and while all an organization’s tweets should not be about the programming, a good amount of them should be.

– Frequency can be lacking
If you or your organization decides to join Twitter, then you need to participate and participate regularly. I’m not saying you need to tweet every hour, but I think at a minimum every day is the ideal. If your organization tweets once a month you aren’t getting what you could be out of Twitter and you are not going to really build a following.

– Some blur personal and professional boundaries
There is a lot of variation among how nonprofits use their Twitter accounts. Some believe that the organization’s Twitter account should never include personal tweets, while others are quite the opposite. While I see nothing wrong with conversations on Twitter (which are obviously between people and not organizations), those in charge of their nonprofit’s Twitter account may want to hold back on the “Watching Transformers” or “Picking up the kids from day care” tweets.

– Some just aren’t quite sure how to use Twitter
This can easily be seen by taking a look at the timelines of many of the nonprofits that use Twitter. At this time, no one has really figured out a way to measure the effectiveness of using Twitter for nonprofit purposes, and there is no “right way” at this time. It is clear that like people, organizations are confused about what the purpose of Twitter is supposed to be.

Check back tomorrow (Tuesday) for links to one of the documents I reviewed, the Charities Review Council’s Twitter plan, along with highlights from the nonprofit interview – How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter? Part 2.

The first 10 people I followed on Twitter

February 26, 2010

Photo by mfilej

A few days ago I realized that I am almost at my 1,000th tweet. I figured that my 1,000th tweet should be something related to Twitter, so when researching potential blog topics I came upon an interesting and fun post by SocialButterfly “A Look Back: My First Twitter 10.” After reading it, I immediately went back and took a look at the first 10 people that I followed. There weren’t really any big surprises, but I thought I would share them with you in no particular order:

1. @thetattooedmama
Jess is the graphic designer that owners the Delicious Design Studio, and the person that did the original design of this blog. It makes sense she was one of the first I followed since she designed the blog that is NonprofitSOS.

2. @problogger
This is a no brainer. Darren is a genius when it comes to blogging and always has unique, thoughtful and well-written posts to help bloggers at ProBlogger. Which is why he was one of the first that I followed.

3. @staceyburns
I worked with Stacey at a nonprofit a few years back. She doesn’t tweet much now, but is an amazing person. I have never worked with someone that is so committed to her work. When I first joined Twitter, I’m sure I searched for those that I knew on Twitter, which is likely how I found Stacy and started following her.

4. @SmartNonprofits
This is the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s Twitter account. In Minnesota, we are very fortunate to have such an awesome state council for nonprofits. For those in the nonprofit sector, they are an obvious pick for someone worthwhile to follow.

5. @Deborah Howard
Deborah is the President and founder of the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS). I’m sure she is one of the first I followed because of her work. I am on the board of an animal rescue, Pet Haven, and animal welfare is a cause I care about deeply.

6. @davemn
Dave Lee was one of the people who inspired me to really get active on Twitter. I remember sitting in the lower level of the capital building while Dave was tweeting about our day on his iphone (he was a presidential elector and I was an alternate). He kept an interesting blog with his take on the electoral college, Citizen Elector.

7. @daniamiwa
I first met Dania when she was working at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits at their annual conference. Dania is a fun, intelligent nonprofit professional that has interesting tweets and this year, just landed a job to help build the capacity for development at the Great Plains Institute. She is a great person to follow.

8. @Philanthropy
This is the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s twitter account. It’s no surprise this was one of the my first follows, they constantly provide links and info for those in the nonprofit sector.

9. @alexeaton01
I met Alex Eaton through my community involvement, he lives in my Senate District (62). He is young and impressive – click on his name to see his investment group. It’s just too bad he doesn’t tweet more!

10. @kellykay30
I first met Kelly last fall, when I was first getting on Twitter. I serve on the finance committee at the Charities Review Council where she works in Development. She impressed me from the start, at small nonprofits with only one development staff, you often find that there isn’t a lot of structure or planning – mainly because they just don’t have time. This was not the case for Kelly at the Charities Review Council, their thoughtfulness, planning and structure was very impressive and really a model for other nonprofits to follow. They have an active finance committee, and a well-thought out development plan. She is a great nonprofit person to follow.

How did I find these? I looked at the list of those I am following and clicked “next” until I got to the last page of those that I am following. It seems that Twitter lists both those that you follow and your followers in the order that they follow you, or you follow them. So, by going through those that I am following all the way to the beginning of the list revealed the first ten people that I followed.

Follow NonprofitSOS on twitter.

Social Media Behavior Guidelines for Nonprofit Staff?

February 26, 2010

Photo by Intersection Consulting

I was recently asked by @NCIBrooke whether I have a sample social media/online behavior guidelines or example policy. While I do not have a sample policy, here are a couple tips for nonprofits that want to create a policy for employee social media use:

  • Have separate staff and organizational accounts. Your staff should not be tweeting things like “getting coffee” or “watching Boondock Saints” under the “Girl Scouts” twitter name. The best way to do this is to tell your staff that the organizational account on facebook, twitter, etc is for organization-related information only.
  • Do not have a policy that says your staff can’t use social media. I have had some orgs ask me recently whether they should tell their staff they can’t have twitter accounts. Not only does this restrict their free speech, but they may just make one anyways and tweet about negative things about you.
  • Do have a discussion about what is and is not appropriate for your staff write about via social media. For example, do you really want your Development Director tweeting that she just met with Jane Doe big donor who might give $50,000? This doesn’t have to be a set policy – it is pretty much common sense. If someone wonders whether to write about, don’t. Remember, often perception is more important than reality.

For further information, tips, advice and sample policies from around the web, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Twitter Question: What is that one thing you think nonprofits need, but can’t afford?

February 26, 2010

Photo by Matt Hamm

I posed this question: “What is that one thing you think nonprofits need, but can’t afford?” to the twitter community and received some interesting answers:

philanthropissd: @nonprofitsos my answer to what #nonprofit orgs need – MANAGEMENT TRAINING.

bettina27: @nonprofitsos Vehicles for cross-systems collaborative planning.

smeneguzzo: @nonprofitsos Nps need but don’t think they can afford: integrated technology. Underestimate the cost of using hobbled together systems.

ddtdc: @nonprofitsos a Human Resources professional

mjfrombuffalo: Ditto what philanthropissd said: RT @philanthropissd: @nonprofitsos my answer to what #nonprofit orgs need – MANAGEMENT TRAINING.

urbantastic: @nonprofitsos every np needs in-house online donation capability, but most a)go 3rd party or b)completely miss out.

DCVito: @nonprofitsos I’d say we can’t afford clout.

BBBSHR: @nonprofitsos Current technology (both hardware and software). It’s essential for efficiency, but can be quite costly.

baovie: @nonprofitsos Training and staff development dollars

trina_willard: @nonprofitsos I agree completely – program evaluation. However, what’s the cost of NOT doing it? Potentially significant…

My answer (@nonprofitsos) was program evaluation

Reader Question: Can facebook ever replace the face to face?

February 26, 2010

Photo by robleto

Recently, a student and reader of this blog asked me a few questions about social media, fundraising, and marketing for a class project. I thought this question was a particularly good question, and wanted to share my answer.

Can facebook ever replace the face to face?

It depends. I think facebook can definitely create relationships and connections that are not already there. It also can improve relationships and make them stronger. What I think it cannot do, is replace a face to face ask. Facebook is great for small campaigns, or for having your volunteers/supporters raise money for you. I don’t think it is as good for those large asks. Again, when you are targetting a new large donor, it can open the door to create a connection that may not have already been there (if that person is even on facebook). But, a large donor should not have their only ask for a large gift be via facebook.

Facebook cannot replace that in-person, one on one ask that large donors deserve and in most cases need to make large gifts. Unless you actually know someone on facebook (are actually friends with them or have some relationship in “real life”), they probably aren’t as inclined to give when asked via facebook. This is because people are asked to give all the time. They are asked by door to door people, by phone calls, by mail, by email, and now by social media (facebook, twitter, etc).

In my opinion, facebook will never replace a face to face ask. I think the face to face ask will always have better results. Even as we move forward into a more technologically advanced world, especially with larger donors, a face to face will almost always be necessary.

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!