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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