Archive for September, 2011

7 Things Nonprofits Can Talk About on Facebook Besides Themselves

Posted on September 30, 2011. Filed under: Social Media Marketing, Tips and Ideas | Tags: , , , |

I came across this article the other day and thought it was a good one to share. There are some great ideas to get the creative juices flowing and to ensure your Facebook posts never get stale. There’s one extra point I’d like to add to the list: Tell a Story – share a heartfelt story of one of your supporters’, members’ or beneficiaries’ experiences with your organisation.

Happy posting…

Kathie van

7 Things Nonprofits Can Talk About on Facebook Besides Themselves

Non-profits on FacebookRecently I met with a client who was sensitive about what they posted on Facebook, because they not only had privacy issues to be concerned with of their constituents, but they didn’t think that the other things they do would be applicable to their fans on Facebook. In other words they didn’t think that their fans on Facebook cared about what their organization was doing other than fundraising.

But there are other things besides press opportunities and fundraising or awareness events that your fans are interested in learning more about. As I’ve talked about before, social media is about being social, so when you talk only about yourself or your organization, it gets old quickly. Spice it up. Here’s a list of 7 things a nonprofit can talk about on Facebook besides themselves:

  1. Industry news on your topic – Don’t just regurgitate the news for them, they can set up a Google e-alert for that, but rather, aggregate the news in a way that is engaging by asking them what they think. Don’t just post a link to a news article, read it and ask a question about their opinion.
  2. Newsletters – almost all e-newsletters have an option where you can view the newsletter online in a browser. Copy and paste that link into a Facebook post. See tomorrow’s post on how to do an effective engaging newsletter.
  3. Share pictures – Facebook folks love pictures and it’s the perfect place to showcase the people who make the organization run or people that you impact. Don’t take yourselves so seriously. It’s a social network so have some fun with it (i.e. Goofy Face Friday)
  4. Comment on current news – even if it’s not completely related to your organization, showing that there is a human behind the Facebook wall goes a long way with your constituents. And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, always respond to comments to acknowledge that you hear them.Re-purpose content (photos/videos – not text) – I imagine that you probably have some great content out there of video or photos from past events, share them! You can have fun with it by calling it, “Friday from the Archives” or “Spring cleaning and look what we found…”
  5. Public opinion – ask your fans what they think about decisions you are struggling with internally. Trying to decide on what date to have something, throw up a poll.
  6. Trying to decide on a new template for your newsletter – throw them both up and ask them what they think. They want to help. People like to be heard.
  7. Be shameless – Facebook fans of nonprofit organizations like to help out online. They like to be given calls-to-action where they can make immediate impact. So, ask them to help spread the word to 2 or 3 people in their network. Maybe give away a $25 gift card to all of those who participated.Now you’ll notice that I didn’t list quotes. Quotes get a bad rap because they’ve been overused on Twitter and on individual’s Facebook fan pages. However, quotes are good every once in a while by a nonprofit, especially if they are something inspiring or hopeful. But don’t be putting quotes out there every day or too frequently to fill up space unless you are a religious organization.So there are definitely things you can talk about on Facebook that are not about you or that are more engaging than you just shouting out your update. Have you tried any of these techniques already? Do you have any others you’d like to add to the conversation? If so, post a comment below.

Source: 7 Things Nonprofits Can Talk About on Facebook BesidesThemselves –


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Using Technology for Mission: Ontario 211 and NTEN Hear From the Arthritis Society

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: Using Technology | Tags: , , |

Reading this Q&A with The Arthritis Society, it certainly strikes a chord and I think many nonprofits are experiencing a similar set of circumstances.

What I find most encouraging about how The Arthritis Society is handling the situation is that they are clearly aware of the changes in the technological landscape and are making moves to bring their organisation into the 21st century in terms of their implementation of the technologies available.

I also find it heartening to hear that they have identified the need to employ a dedicated Social Media Manager, which indicates how seriously they are taking this shift to online communications.

Congratulations to The Arthritis Society – I am sure you will see great benefit from your new strategies!

Kathie van 

Using Technology for Mission: Ontario 211 and NTEN Hear From the Arthritis Society

[Editor’s note: Ontario 211 and NTEN asked Ontario nonprofits about how they were using technology – and how they’d like to be using technology – for their work. We’ll share what they told us in this series of blog posts. If you’d like to share your stories, click here.]

The Arthritis Society

How would you compare your organization with other nonprofits, in general, when it comes to using technology effectively (from databases to social media) to achieve your mission?

Having recently attended a social media conference and through contact with individuals in other organizations, I would say that The Arthritis Society is in the middle of the pack. We are actually in the process of updating our archaic website, we’ve recently upgraded our database, and are actively participating in social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc), but we are not currently engaging in some of the newer, “hotter” technologies, such as cloud computing.

Where do you think your organization is particularly strong (a leader) when it comes to using technology effectively?

We are open to new ideas and technologies, but we certainly aren’t leading the way (yet).

Where do you think your organization is potentially lagging behind other nonprofits when it comes to using technology effectively?

I think our primary concern is our website, which is currently in the process of being updated. While I don’t think we’re a leader, I certainly wouldn’t say we are “lagging behind” in any capacity. We are slowly but surely trucking along trying to find the best ways to use technology in order to help us further our mission.

What’s the biggest technology change you’ve implemented in your organization in the last few years?

Updating the database and website (in process). We’ve also hired a Social Media manager, which is a new position for us.

Thinking about your answer to the previous question, or other recent changes that involved technology, please explain how this has impacted your organization? Your mission?

All of our changes have allowed us to better interact with our supporters and allies. We are using social media to connect to our longtime supporters, as well as attract new people into our community. Through better technology we are able to disseminte important and helpful information more quickly, and connect with our community members in ways we couldn’t before.

What are the driving factors or needs in your organization when it comes to technology?

Like any organization, we need technology that is easy to use and accessible. We need technology that allows us to be organized and effective in our communications, and in all aspects of fulfilling our mission.

Are there any innovative projects that you’ve seen other Ontario nonprofits implement that you admire?

I’ve seen some fantastic fundraising efforts through social media and SMS that I’d love to emulate.

If budget weren’t an obstacle, what’s the one technology project you’d like to launch to help you achieve your mission?

App development.


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Fostering Innovation and Enterprise: Thoughts on supporting the sector from #giveandtech

Posted on September 26, 2011. Filed under: Using Technology | Tags: , , , , , , |

Amy Sample Ward  has again highlighted some important insights into the use of technology by the nonprofit sector. There are a number of points in her article that resonate with me:

1. A long-term view is essential. Technology is a fast-paced world but NFPs and NGOs need to use technology with a view to the long term connection between the organisation and the community.

2. Amy’s comment about funding projects and not just products is spot-on. It is not about the product, it is about the business model you build around the product and unless you have a long-term business strategy the product will sit on a shelf and gather dust.

3. IT is no longer solely the domain of the IT Department, that is true. Cross-training staff to use the technology available and leverage the astonishing amount of information that can be gathered will become a dviding factor between nonprofits who succeed in future and organisations that go the way of the dinosaur.

4. Technology abounds to assist businesses to analyse the impact their online communications are having, it is important to use this abilty to analyse effectively to make good long-term strategic decisions.

5.’s mission is to provide a catalyst in the form of smart, efficient technology that enables community organisations to generate support. Our aim is to provide nonprofits with the tools to enable them to succeed in telling their stories.

Here is what Amy has to say…

Kathie van

Fostering Innovation and Enterprise: Thoughts on supporting the sector from #giveandtech

Fostering Innovation and EnterpriseI’m quite excited to participate in The Power of Information: New Technologies for Philanthropy and Development Conference in London, UK, put on by Indigo Trust, Institute for Philanthropy and the Omidyar Network. I have the pleasure to participate on a panel with some smart, experienced folks: Chris Locke (GSMA), Jon Gosier (HiveColab), and Bosun Tijani (Co-creation hub). The other panelists spoke about the projects they’ve been a part of, things they’ve developed and things they’ve helped produce. To compliment, I shared some of the core beliefs I’ve developed in my experiences working in technology, innovation and community engagement. My five points are summed up below – I’d love to hear what additional truths you’ve learned and witnessed in this field!


In the innovation marketplace, adoption is the only currency that matters.

As the speed at which new ideas can step out on the stage continues to increase, it is less about finding a great idea and pitching it for support. Ultimately, it’s the adoption by the community that matters in the long-run, and now can be proven even in the short-term. The advantage of the technology sector is that even if it is rudimentary or preliminary functionality, you can expose a new idea/tool/app/platform to the community from the very beginning, getting their feedback and support. This can help prove the value and need, as well as begin the iteration and development with the community’s engagement from the beginning.

Look to fund projects, not products.

The infrastructure that supports new innovations and social enterprise requires capacity, just like any other organization. Likewise, what we have as far as a product on Day 1, could and should look different on Day 15 and Day 50 and Day 500. Funding projects instead of just a specific product ensures that organizations or teams can fail quickly and softly while working towards something better, can invest in research and evaluation, and engage the community not just market to them.

Recognize the role of technology across all our work.

Technology is a catalyst for data, analysis, scalability, effectiveness and efficiency. It is not something confined to an “IT department” any more as everyone (if we are looking at a nonprofit, for example, staff use the website, database, email marketing, etc.) can be harnessing technology to improve their work and impact. As such, we need to invest in raising the level of technology education and understanding across the social impact space so that the organizational catalysts, those in a nonprofit that are not in the IT department but would be the ones engaging with the community or program, have enough technological familiarity that they can recognize the value and opportunity for adopting a new application or tool and implementing it in their organization. After all, the potential to scale one entrepreneur or organization’s new application is hugely tied to the numbers of organizations and communities that can adopt it and spread it.

Focus on why, not if, something works.

To work on scale and replication of any tool, we have to understand why it is working now, not just whether it is or isn’t. Once we know why it is working, we can know if it is even able to scale or the success is tied too closely to the specific segment already engaged. We can also look at the why to understand the ecosystem for new or complimentary tools. Supporting analysis and evaluation may not sound as exciting to your board as funding a new tool, but it can be at least as important!

Let the community drive the innovations you want to support.

As it turns out, the community knows far more about itself than you do (unless you are actually part of that community, of course!). So, look for opportunities to be a catalyst, supporting an environment for the community to help itself. As a recent MIT study showed, communities were better able to align aid with those that needed it than objective measures were to assigning that same support, and they felt far better about it. The same has been true in my experience with supporting new technologies.


After the panel remarks, there was some great discussion with questions from participants. One question was raised, and I want to share my response as it is something I’ve been asked by foundations and philanthropists before: what are the biggest mistakes funders can make when supporting tech innovation? I have three key myths to highlight:

“Money is Gold”

For many projects, money is obviously a key ingredient to staying afloat and going forward. But so often, supports (whether financial supporters or other sponsors/partners) overlook the power their endorsement carries. Sometimes what is really needed is a recommendation, or an introduction, or a stamp of approval publicly. When projects are small, involve people that haven’t yet “created something” to get their name out there, a few thousand dollars is important, but so is your support.

“History is Enough”

Just because some person created Facebook, doesn’t mean their next idea will be the “next Facebook.” Obviously that’s an exaggeration. But what I’m really getting at is that the it shouldn’t matter whether someone or some team has created the coolest, shiniest, sexiest application in the past, but whether they can show their new application addresses a real need (and isn’t just another random “solution”) and has community interest. We are all learning from the success and failure of others in this sector, so a first try or a 50th try shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

“New is Better”

If there are funds to give out, they may as well be for something new, right? Not always. Sometimes the funds could actually go much further towards scale and impact by supporting a project that already has a tool but can use your support to fund staff and time to create documentation or clean up code so that it can be released to the open source community, or (as said above) quality investigation can go into the why of it’s success. Looking at deeper or wider can be more exciting than just new.

Source: Fostering Innovation and Enterprise: Thoughts on supporting the sector from #giveandtech –


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Internet is the Fastest-growing Channel for Nonprofits

Posted on September 23, 2011. Filed under: Social Media Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , |

In tough times organisations need to get creative. For NFPs and NGOs, one of the most efficient solutions is to encourage giving through online channels. Zachary Sniderman has posted this Infographic showing the trends in online giving are on the up, now the challenge for Nonprofits is to create good strategy around online communications and social media to drive this trend.

Take advantage of online channels and combine your email marketing, SMS campagins and social media engagement in one console, check out CommsConsole – it’s a “nifty piece of kit” in the words of Geoff Collinson!

Kathie van

Internet is the Fastest-growing Channel for Nonprofits

Everyone says it’s hard to measure social good success. Well, non-profit consultancy Convio begs to differ. The firm recently put out an infographic showing that the Internet is the fastest-growing channel for non-profits.

The graphic compares money raised, awareness gained and a variety of other factors across a three-year period. Since 2008, non-profits have cracked the $1 billion mark for online fundraising. In 2010, the average online gift jumped up to $91.94.

There’s clearly a long way to go for online fundraising and social good when compared to the huge sums still collected through traditional fundraising and offline giving, but the upward trend certainly bodes well for digital philanthropy.

How Much Money Do Americans Give Online? [INFOGRAPHIC]


Article by: Zachary Sniderman


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Online Communications Solutions for Nonprofits and NGOs

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: Online Communications | Tags: , , , , , , |

Author: Kathie van Vugt

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
In an article written some months ago by Raymund Flandez entitled: 10 Burning Questions About How Charities Should Use Social Media, there were a number of key questions raised on the subject of Not-for-profit organisations’ use of social media and the success they have seen from various social media and online campaigns.

Raymund’s article was written following a meeting of nonprofit workers at the annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference held in Washington in March 2011, where attendees discussed how to use social media to advance their causes.

I found a number of points in Raymund’s article very interesting and have commented on these below:

* Email marketing campaigns are being used effectively to raise funds

I have heard some commentators saying social media will overtake email marketing as the key communication technique and the reason being because of the potential to be seen as SPAM. I disagree with this sentiment when it comes to the NFP arena. While email marketing is becoming increasingly rocky territory for businesses, I feel that email is a very strong communication technique for organisations that have a particular connection with the people on their email database. So, for NFPs and NGOs there is still strong evidence to suggest that email campaigns can drive significant results…so long as the email is compelling, and that’s where it can get tricky.

The best way to overcome the ‘SPAM effect’ is to ensure each email campaign is targeted to a specific segment of your database and the message communicated in the email is compelling and provides a ‘call to action’ that will appeal directly to the reader. In our experience, the most compelling content involves images or video. And if the email can be used as a ‘call to action’ for a supporter to view your video content and that video content is monetised – voila! Money in the kitty.

* Call-to-action is key to raising funds

 This may be true, but first the NFP must decide what the purpose of the communication is. As Beth Kanter points out in her article ‘Ask What’s the Change, Not the Return!’ “Nonprofits should focus on continuum of value that incorporates both tangible and intangible benefits to integrating social media in communications or program goals” and I couldn’t agree with her more. It is vitally important for Nonprofits to build a foundation of support, if the organisation is constantly issuing a ‘call to action’ without nurturing the emotional connection with supporters people may get sick of the ‘ask’ and stop paying attention.

In my mind, fundraising must be seen as a long-term process that comes from fostering an emotional connection with your audience, and therefore I see it as vitally important that NFP bean counters relax a little and let the storytellers in the organisation loose. Of course, the key to a good story is a well-structured outline but once you’ve got the basic story-board sorted you can take your supporters on a journey with you and have them become part of the solution you are trying to achieve. As Dave Eggers so poetically puts it in his Q&A article posted on Evelyn & Walter Haas Jnr Fund’s Blog: “first-person narratives have a unique immediacy and power. There’s really nothing as direct and electric as hearing one person’s voice describing clearly and powerfully what they’ve seen and done”. Indeed.

Once again, video springs to mind as being the most powerful storytelling medium. Overlay images (either still or moving) with a powerful commentary and your supporters will be in the moment with you. Take it one step further, to appease the Finance Controller, and monetise that content with a message to viewers that by watching this extraordinary story unfold, they are assisting financially with the solution.

* Offering incentives to court more fans or dollars

 I loved the example Raymund gave of Camfed USA, which offers an incentive every time someone joins its e-mail list: It gives 10 pencils to girls in Africa. It just goes to show you don’t have to give away a car or a holiday to offer an effective and appealing incentive.

* Fund-raising sites that encourage people to raise money from friends

Raymund notes that attendees said not many charities have made these fundraising sites work. Again, I think this may be more about how the message is being communicated rather than the effectiveness of this type of network fundraising. There is enormous potential for network fundraising to work, but the message needs to pull on the emotional trigger and organisations who implement this tactic as part of their strategy need to be mindful not to be always asking without making sure there is a strong connection between the give and the solution.

* How do you persuade people who “like” your group on Facebook or retweet your posts on Twitter to give?

Raymund notes that many didn’t have an answer to this and attendees are trying but not successfully. I think the lack of success in this area is most likely due to the spin on the message being misplaced, I don’t believe you can persuade people to like you just for the sake of it. I strongly believe the key lies is in taking your supporters on a journey through effective storytelling and social engagement. World Vision recently had four young agents of change touring India and submitting Video logs of their journey and the stories of the people they met. This is an inspired concept and enables World Vision to drive home the message that the organisation enters these areas with a long-term view to ensure the communities they support become self-sufficient over time. Once potential followers can see clearly the role they can play in your organisation’s journey, they will respond.

* Cross-training staff members to work in social media

Of course, training can be a costly exercise, however, once you take the plunge and invest in cross-training key staff, the uplift in the employees’ feeling of self-worth and commitment to the organisation is well worth the expense! It’s a win-win situation and there should be no hesitations. The problem is, who can you get to train them? And once they’re trained, what impact will it have on their ability to complete their normal daily tasks? Well, that’s where can help. We not only have the expertise to cross-train your staff, we also have the tools to enable them to effectively manage your organisation’s social media and SMS and email communications campaigns, including reporting and analytics, from one single console.

Or, if it is simply too difficult for your organisation to manage it’s social media campaigns, can take control of your online communications on your behalf. For information contact by email at or visit our website at

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Use Video to Take Supporters on a Journey

Posted on September 19, 2011. Filed under: Power of Video | Tags: , , , |

Akiba - irevenuestream.comCreating relationships through video has been used effectively on some levels but I can’t help but think a key element related to fund raising possibilities has been over looked and under utililised.

Our model is based around giving the individual the power and emotion of being part of direct action.  will be using a video platform to take supporters on a journey to help make genuine long term change by solving whatever needs your Not for Profit or NGO may have. Your supporters want to know how they can directly help your organisation. Video provides a means for you keep them right in the heart of your deepest issues and needs.

A key part of our model is giving supporters the opportunity to pay for the videos they watch which gives them the chance to be part of your solution. We are all less convinced of the desire of our polititians to make genuine long term change at the expense of losing their jobs. Individuals want the power to make a noticeable and tangible difference. Each time they watch one of your videos they will see the direct results of their financial contribution. Information, relationship building and funding in one easy video. ” be part of the solution”

Author: Geoff

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Social Media: Ask What’s the Change, Not the Return!

Posted on September 16, 2011. Filed under: Social Media Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , |

Beth believes that for social media to be effective it must be aligned with organization’s program and communications objectives. For nonprofits, those are not solely money or efficiency for everything that could be measured. By aligning social media to organizational objectives and using measurement, you can answer the question: of all the ways we could be investing our resources, is social media the best choice to see the social change results that we want to see?

Social Media: Ask What’s the Change, Not the Return! –


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Five Recent Upgrades to Facebook Pages Your Nonprofit May Not Know About

Posted on September 12, 2011. Filed under: Social Media Marketing | Tags: , |

Check out these Five Recent Upgrades to Facebook Pages Your Nonprofit May Not Know About –


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Historypin: A New Tool for Digital Storytelling

Posted on September 7, 2011. Filed under: Power of Video | Tags: , , , |

Amy Sample Ward is really excited by tools that enable digital or transmedia storytelling, and we agree with her that there’s huge potential for organizations to use multiple mediums, content, and locations to help document and advocate for the change people want in their communities and around the world. See Amy’s Blog for some great ideas on how to use Historypin to augment your story:

A New Tool for Digital Storytelling –


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Three ways to make your mission come alive on a Monday morning

Posted on September 5, 2011. Filed under: Tips and Ideas | Tags: , |

This is great advice from Katya Andresen: Three ways to make your mission come alive on a Monday morning –


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