Archive for January, 2012

Charity Draws Bigger Donations With Redesigned Web Site

Posted on January 31, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

It seems a lot of nonprofits realise that their websites are not as effective as they could be but when they look into the cost of redesign or redevelopment of the site thye just can’t justify the expense. However, this article is a good example which shows what Compassion International has been missing out on by sticking with it’s outdated site.

It is important to understand the opportunity cost of having an ineffective site, and to weigh this up against the short-term cost and long term gain of committing to redevelopment. In this age of technology, organisations who don’t keep up will be left behind. They will be unable to sustain their supporter base as other organisations who are using technology to great effect take over market share.

Food for thought…

Kathie van

Charity Draws Bigger Donations With Redesigned Web Site

Until this summer, Compassion International had a Web site in need of a makeover. The Christian aid charity hadn’t redesigned the site since 2003, and in the world of online communications, eight years is a long time.

As a result, the organization faced a series of limitations that are common among groups using outdated Web tools. Staff members had little control over the site’s content. And its system for collecting online donations was dated, which meant the organization was missing opportunities to raise money from viewers.

“We always had a lot of ideas, but our content-management system at the time really limited us in what we could do,” said Dustin Hardage, the charity’s Web and interactive director.

But thanks to an update in June, the number of visits to the site has grown by 25 percent, traffic from search engines has risen 28 percent, and page views have increased 9 percent. The number of people who visit every section of the site has increased as much as 350 percent on some pages, Mr. Hardage said.

And the new site is also helping the organization raise more money online.

While the number of total donations has decreased slightly since the charity went public with its new site, the average donation made by each visitor has increased by 55 percent. The group attributes this jump in part to a new “shopping cart” donation system that allows people to donate to the charity and pay for a “child sponsorship” in one transaction.

Here are some of the features Mr. Hardage looked for in a new system, and what that meant for the charity. The new system:

Gives employees more control. The redesign allows the charity’s Internet marketing staff to handle tasks that it previously needed the group’s technology department to handle. With the new site, the marketing team can change layouts and add code for measurement and testing.

Adds testing capabilities. The staff can now test two versions of the same page to see which performs better. Within two weeks, the organization recognized patterns that allowed it to make better decisions about how to display information.

“We already changed the landing page for one of our products because we saw an increase in our conversion rates, and that has just continued,” Mr. Hardage said.

Attracts search engines. The new site has allowed the organization to win more attention from Google and other search engines, Mr. Hardage said. “We were really able to personalize that to an extreme.”

The new content-management system—which runs on a platform called Tridion by the company SDL—also includes a tool that tracks what similar sites are doing to attract search engines and visitors to make sure Compassion is competitive online.

Source: Charity Draws Bigger Donations With Redesigned Web Site –
Author:  Cody Switzer

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How I Found Out What Our Supporters Really Want to See on Our Facebook Page

Posted on January 26, 2012. Filed under: Social Media Marketing | Tags: , , , |

I like this article by Kate Antoniades, it is a really down-to-earth example of how she made the most of the feedback she was receiving from her supporters. This process took Kate a few months, but her insights can be implemented by you straight away.

Thanks for sharing, Kate!

Kathie van

How I Found Out What Our Supporters Really Want to See on Our Facebook PageKate Antoniades

Earlier this year, after a couple of years of keeping my Facebook and Twitter plans for Lollypop Farm in my head or scribbled on Post-its stuck to my monitor, I created a social media calendar in Google Docs. It’s become a very useful tool for planning ahead and for keeping track of what I’ve posted.

Soon after I started using the calendar, I began tracking the feedback rate for each Facebook post—the percentage that indicates the comments and “likes” per impression. (Each time a post appears in someone’s news feed, on the page itself, or in a page badge, Facebook calls that an impression.)

With about two months of data, I decided to use the feedback rate to find out exactly which posts made the greatest and least impact. Other factors, like the time of day or day of the week that something is posted, may affect feedback, but that was beyond the scope of what I wanted to examine.

I found that the majority of the 20 posts that fell below a .05% feedback rating could be placed into three categories: mentions of various events and classes (those that were unrelated to pet adoption), notices of holiday closings, and news of job and volunteer opportunities. We feel that these are important messages, but they don’t seem to grab the attention of our supporters as much as we’d like.

The 10 posts that topped a 0.75% feedback rating (ranging from 0.78% to 3.21%) were all one of two types. Many shared news of pets being adopted (either a single animal or many animals during a successful adoption event). Here’s one example of responses to an adopt-a-thon that found homes for a record number of cats and kittens:

The other posts that had a lot of impact—including the single most popular post of the two months I reviewed—were related to an online contest for animal shelters that awarded five platform dog beds. Our supporters got really excited about this contest because it offered them an easy way to help the dogs in our care. With just a couple of mouse clicks, they could vote and encourage their Facebook friends to vote, too.

We ended up winning the contest, and Facebook was certainly a major factor. These were some of our supporters’ reactions to the good news:

The conclusions I can draw from this close look at feedback rates aren’t earthshattering, but they serve as good reminders: Our supporters want to hear good news, specifically about pets being placed in new homes, and they want to know easy ways they can help.

Looking at these numbers has prompted me to share more of our “happy endings” and not let them fall through the cracks when I’m trying to encourage people to register for class Y or attend event Z.

The “easy ways to help” posts might be a little tougher to find—since the assistance we most often need involves adopting a pet, making a donation, or volunteering time—but perhaps I’ll suggest that our supporters search the web using GoodSearch or do their online shopping through iGive, both of which can send small sums of money our way.

Fortunately, I’ll get a good idea of how these posts are received—simply by checking the feedback rating.

Source: How I Found Out What Our Supporters Really Want to See on Our Facebook Page –
Author: Kate Antoniades, Communications and Social Media Coordinator at Lollypop Farm, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester

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How to use microsites to better tell your nonprofit’s story

Posted on January 24, 2012. Filed under: Effective Website Design, Storytelling | Tags: , , |

This insight into how microsites have been implemented by 3 organisations gives good examples of how you may be able to implement similar microsites for your specific topics or causes to help cut through the clutter and get to the heart of your message, aiming the microsites at specific segments of your target audience.

This article is a very worthwhile read, thank you for sharing Carla!

Kathie van Vugt –

How to use microsites to better tell your nonprofit’s storyHow to use microsites to better tell your nonprofit’s story

Microsites can be a powerful tool for online fundraising and marketing

Let’s face it: Nonprofit websites often suffer from multiple personality disorder.There’s the “program” side that wants to tell you all the amazing ways your programs help save homeless pets, feed the hungry, find cures, protect our children, or empower women. There’s the “events” side that must sell tickets. And don’t forget the “communications” side, whose press releases and news items help raise awareness. While often a complicated web of messaging, it’s a necessary evil when many departments must relay information using a single corporate website.

So as fundraisers, how can we tell the real story – expose the true heart of an organization – when our messaging is only one part of a huge multi-dimensional website? The answer is simple: Create a microsite that allows you to focus on a particular topic, present specific calls to action and, with the help of social media, reach large numbers of people much more quickly than a traditional website.When done correctly, a microsite can be one of the most powerful storytelling tools available to fundraisers. But don’t take my word for it, here are some examples of wonderful and highly effective microsites.

3 examples of successful nonprofit microsites

Abolish Child Trafficking
Abolish Child Trafficking
1 Covenant House is the largest privately funded agency in the Americas providing food, shelter, crisis care and essential services to homeless and at-risk kids. In an effort to mobilize their existing activists and acquire new ones, Covenant House developed a microsite that digs deep into the issue of domestic child trafficking.

Through the stories of four young victims, the A.C.T. microsite raises awareness of a crisis that affects thousands of American kids each year and issues an urgent call to action. Clear, concise information, bold statistics and striking graphics help further engage the audience and dispel the misconception that human trafficking is a trend confined to foreign soil.

While the content makes a strong case for giving, the main goal of this campaign is to use the broad reach of Facebook, Twitter, email and free infographics to help raise awareness. There is a valuable lesson to be learned in this strategy. Microsites do not have to be used solely for fundraising. Even though microsites cost money to develop, there are times when building a solid warm-prospect list is a legitimate goal that deserves the investment.

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
2 Problem: How do you educate people about racism in the post-Obama era? For the Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), America’s first and foremost civil rights legal organization, the solution had to be educational, factually accurate and, most importantly, compelling enough to remind people that the fight for equality is not over.

LDF decided to tell the story of minority Americans – in 38 states across the country – who still face obstacles at the voting booth. Their microsite revealed documented, widespread threats to voting rights in America and effectively weaved localized challenges into a broad picture of the problem.

Any one of these local challenges may be too small to spark a national call to action, but when combined, they serve to rally a renewed commitment from LDF’s constituency.

This microsite allowed LDF to take a complex issue like voting rights and break it down into small, easy-to-understand pieces. The site also enabled the Legal Defense and Education Fund to break out of its normal website messaging mode and dig deeper, providing more detail, substance and emotion. The Voting Rights microsite shows that often the greatest impact is made with a singularly focused story.

Making AIDS History
Making AIDS History
3 Dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic, American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) has invested nearly $325 million in innovative research and awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams since 1985. It has increased the world’s understanding of HIV and helped lay the groundwork for major advances in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

While finding a cure for AIDS is the driving force behind amfAR’s work, their motivation comes from the sum of 50 million personal stories of heartache, courage and triumph over adversity. To help mark the 25th anniversary of their founding, amfAR decided to share a handful of these stories on the Making AIDS History microsite. With compelling video and a simple call to action – a $25 gift in recognition of amfAR’s 25 years – this microsite encourages a renewed, collective commitment to the organization.

Making AIDS History is an example of how a microsite can complement its parent site and act as a powerful fundraising tool at the same time. While the main website establishes amfAR as a world leader in HIV/AIDS research, their microsite connects donors to the people who have benefited from the research.

Is a microsite right for your organization?

There is no question that microsites allow you to effectively tell the story of a single compelling issue – one that is important to your organization and the people you serve. They can easily take off, gathering new supporters for your cause and generating many types of action. They are also just as effective for mobilizing your existing base and serve as a starting point for engaging people in social media conversations.

But don’t jump on the microsite bandwagon just because other nonprofits are doing it – make sure you put some careful planning in before deciding if a microsite is right for your organization. Only use microsites when you have something urgent to say, when you feel a specific topic or area deserves specialized attention and when you’re willing to set aside or reduce your core messaging. It’s true that microsites allow you the freedom to break away from your normal brand – but remember, you have to give a microsite as much attention to detail as you would a flagship site. You need to create a good design, you need to do keyword research and SEO, you need functional/practical on-site navigation and ultimately you need to have a compelling story to tell.

We are all looking for innovative ways to reactivate our existing audiences and cultivate new ones. The more we can provide constituents with interactive ways to connect with us, the better we will be in growing our communities. While microsites are an investment, they are a powerful tool in the new age of online fundraising and marketing.

Source: How to use microsites to better tell your nonprofit’s story –
Author: Carla Chadwick, Creative director, SankyNet
Image: Microsite built for The Center for Reproductive Rights by SankyNet.

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Is social media helping you meet your mission? It can!

Posted on January 19, 2012. Filed under: Social Media Marketing | Tags: , , , , |

Amy Sample Ward has such a clear way of explaining how your social media data can be used in a strategic way. So many nonprofits become bamboozled with the data they have at their disposal and this article is a great example of how to break it down and apply it in a helpful manner.

Thank you Amy!

Kathie van

Is social media helping you meet your mission? It can!Is social media helping you meet your mission? It can!

Last week, I had the opportunity to run a webinar on Nonprofit Webinars. I had thought to myself that there wouldn’t be anyone registered because it wasn’t a very buzzy topic. I was presenting on the way we can identify metrics in social media that help us reach our mission and how to use those metrics strategically. No “make money on social media” or “top 5 Twitter tips”. I was so thrilled, then, to see a couple hundred registered! Thank you to everyone who participated and recognized the value in being strategic with our use of social media!

Strategic Data

I have done a few webinars and presentations about social media tracking and metrics and frequently used the phrase “actionable data.” After one of these presentations, a participant came up to me and pushed back a little on what I’d said, explaining that data was for evaluation and that seemed very passive. I responded that data, without action, isn’t worth our effort to track it. That’s what actionable means.

But then I realized, the reason people didn’t see action tied to their data was because they didn’t see how the data, or even the actions that data could indicate, were strategic. Data we don’t want to take action about is even worse. We need strategic data. And, as it turns out, that doesn’t just mean data from your programs and services, but from your social engagement, too.

Step 1: Linking Strategy to Goals

Most of us on this call probably have an elevator speech or even a few that we use to explain what it is we do as an organization, what our role in the organization is; maybe even why people would want to get involved or donate. That’s where we start. We can use that general or generic even mission statement to start putting our social media use into a strategic place.

If your organization has a strategic plan or even a Theory of Change, you are already equipped with even more deliberate language that can help you get started. Most strategic plans include program area or service area specifics and you can use those to help frame why you use social media.

Step 2: Linking Goals to Social

Now that we have identified some areas where social media fits with the overall purpose of the organization, we can start putting certain aspects of social engagement into goal areas. We want to be specific here about the why and less specific about the what. For example, our goals with social media should identify the influence or impact we want to make, but not necessarily say we will do it on facebook. You may, actually use facebook for part of your social media activity, but you want to form your goals so that they are impact-specific, and open to either multiple or changing platform use.

Step 3: Acting on Strategic Data

And the last part, identifying your metrics to track and really tracking it! When it comes to tracking, there are a few things I recommend:

  • Nothing is finished: if you’re tracking something and the number is the same every single week, that’s an indicator that you should see if you are able to influence that area; if you try and no matter what you do, that number is the same, maybe it isn’t the number you really need to track. Remember, you want this data to be actionable for you!
  • You may not have all the numbers you need: it might take you a couple weeks or months of tracking in this way to realize you really need some other numbers to really tell the full picture of your online impact. So, add them! Don’t feel that all your data has to start on the same day. It’s better than you realize it and add in the new metrics as you go, than never add them in for fear of consistency.
  • Let the numbers tell stories: use the data in your social media tracking to identify the larger stories of your organization’s work or impact. Look for patterns or activity that comes from other actions in the organization (do Facebook comments increase when a staff person attends an offline event? do website visits change depending on comments?), help identify opportunities for coordinated effort.
  • Share it back: Be sure that you don’t just track and store the data, but you report back out to the organization and even community. Be sure you share some of the highlights and trends back to your organization/staff and includes ways they can help influence your numbers and reach goals (do you see certain kinds of stories do better than others? let your staff know so they can keep their eyes out for you!). Don’t just share with your staff, but share back with your community!
  • Context is king: don’t just use social media data! Be sure you’re tracking what happens on your website, newsletter, and others actions like whether staff were mentioned in the news or on a blog, if staff attend or present at an event, etc. 

Get Started

You can use this template to get you started. Be sure to change the blue rows in the document to reflect your goals and align your various metrics underneath. Make a copy of the file for your own use (otherwise anyone on the web will see your data if you put it in my template), or download the file.


Slides & Video

You can review the slides below, or check out Nonprofit Webinars to watch the full recording!

Webinar: Strong Connections; Linking your strategy to goals to data

View more presentations from Amy Sample Ward

Source: Is social media helping you meet your mission? It can! –
Author:  Amy Sample Ward
Photo credit: Flickr myklroventine 

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How non-profits become experts at Social Branding

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: Storytelling | Tags: , , |

This article by Simon Mainwaring is very insightful and I would recommend every nonprofit to take the time to think about this topic in the context of their own branding.

Thank you Simon, you’ve definitely given some food for thought here!

Kathie van Vugt

How non-profits become experts at Social BrandingSimon Mainwaring

There are two elements critical to the success of any branding effort, non-profit or otherwise. The first is compelling brand storytelling, and the second is fluency in social technology. Unfortunately few brands effectively master both, as veteran storytellers struggle to deeply understand social technology, or digital natives rush to emerging technology only to overlook the importance of storytelling. Here’s how a non-profit effectively combines them both.

Brand storytelling, the process by which a company defines and shares its purpose or message, has three parts:

1. You have to make a conscious decision to look inwards and work out what your brand stands for. This is even more difficult for non-profits as often the cause itself can mistakenly serve as a substitute for this important work. A cause is not your brand and this work is important if you hope to define your core values, business strategy and vision for the future.

2. Having done the difficult work of defining your core values and purpose, each non-profit must now frame their story in a community-facing way. Like most marketers today, many non-profits still tell their story in a way that positions themselves as the focus or destination. Instead, every brand must shift from being the celebrity of their community to being its chief celebrant. That means the brand and its story exist to celebrate the success of its donors, field workers or community at large, and in so doing, inspires further fundraising and volunteer efforts on the basis of shared values and a sense of community.

3. Like any product category, every non-profit must also frame its messaging in a way that distinguishes it from competitors within the cause space. This is not being done to beat out “competitors,” but rather to make it very clear to donors as to why they should support your particular non-profit.

The second major element of social branding success is fluency in social technology. The beauty of effective storytelling is that it ensures your brand makes an emotional connection with its audience and that’s when social media works best for you. For what compels a reader to share your cause, event or donation drive with others using social media channels is not the tools themselves but their emotional connection to your brand.

Fluency in social technology is a complex issue but there are three key elements.

1. Fascination: Despite limited resources and time, every non-profit must develop a persistent interest in emerging technology because that is where their customers or donors can be found. This should include a daily diet of blog posts from industry leaders, a study of best practices and case studies, and a curiosity about how for-profit brands are using social media in ways that you can also leverage.

2. Familiarity: Every member of a non-profit should engage in social media themselves to understand the tools and the human dynamics that drive engagement. This takes time and new competencies but the rewards are waiting for those that tap into the scale made possible by these new, relatively inexpensive tools.

3. Failure: Failure implies a willingness to learn new things and to risk mistakes. It demands a decision to be accountable and to apologize. It implies recognition of the fact that online engagement is now a tireless organic, fluid and real time practice.

It’s through the marriage of brand storytelling and social media that non-profits become effective community architects. It also makes them better candidates for for-profit partnerships as the alignment of values, stories and communities becomes far clearer to prospective strategic partners. Ultimately, it is this powerful combination of effective storytelling by non-profits and purposeful branding by for profits that will transform the lives of millions, and ultimately our economy, country and future.

Source: How non-profits become experts at Social Branding –
Author: Simon Mainwaring, Founder/Author WE FIRST 

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How to Create Enough Good Content

Posted on January 12, 2012. Filed under: Creating Content | Tags: , , , |

This article by Holly Ross and Brett Meyer is particularly helpful because it is an actual case study based on their own experience with their own company.

Thank you for sharing Holly and Brett!

Kathie van

How to Create Enough Good Content (Case Study)

As nonprofits have flocked to the e-newsletter as an inexpensive and timely way to communicate with stakeholders, the number of newsletter tips has also proliferated. While subject lines, “from” addresses, and your template design are all important, they aren’t the biggest challenge to putting out a quality newsletter. The most difficult part is creating good content, content your subscribers want to read.

For many organizations, simply getting an e-newsletter out regularly, with enough content — let alone enough good content — is a win. That was certainly true for NTEN a few years ago. But since then, we’ve developed loftier goals for our e-news NTEN Connect, transforming it from a chore we had to cross off the monthly to-do list to a blockbuster driver of traffic to our blog. And we managed to reinforce our values and culture while doing so. Here’s how:

The Chore

NTEN is a small organization. With just a handful of staff members, we felt the pain of the e-news challenge intensely.

Writing enough good, timely content to fill a monthly newsletter was simply not an option for our overburdened staff. Instead, in 2007, we started stocking it with articles written by members of our community.

While we selected the topics and the authors for each issue, producing the newsletter itself became a matter of curation rather than creation. This shift also aligned nicely with one of our core values: providing a platform for our community’s views. And we took one step further to publish our newsletter stories on our blog (on our website). Readers of the newsletter received a teaser for the article – usually the first paragraph or two – and a link to read the entire article on our site.

We very quickly saw a jump in the website metrics we track. Traffic started to rise and we got lots of compliments on the new format. At that point, we knew we had something good on our hands, but knew we could do even better.

The Experiment

We shook up our e-news format again in November 2008. Rather than hand-picking topics and authors, we invited the community to write about anything they wanted. Submissions flowed in, including quite a few we couldn’t use. While we put out an interesting issue, it didn’t drive traffic quite the way we had hoped it would.

Then we added a twist to the experiment in Fall 2009. We had always used the newsletter to “break” stories, publishing all of the new articles at once on our website, on the day we sent out the newsletter. This time, we posted the articles on our website as they were submitted, letting the authors know that the most successful posts — those that generated the greatest usage as measured by page views, time spent on the site, and comments — would be included in the November newsletter.

By this time, of course, social media had burst upon the scene. The NTEN community is generally pretty tech savvy, so we saw them using blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to share news, likes and their own accomplishments. So we tapped the power and reach of the community for the newsletter, leveraging our authors’ social networks to drive traffic to our site and increase newsletter subscriptions.

Our incentive strategy worked! That November, we saw an 80% increase in blog traffic over November 2008. We watched our authors using their social networks to highlight their accomplishment – “Look! I have an article on the NTEN site!” – driving traffic our way. That single month was a huge factor in our 22% increase in blog traffic in 2009.

Unfortunately, blog traffic in every other month (when we curated newsletter content) flatlined.

We continued experimenting with the e-news throughout 2010 to boost site traffic, redesigning the template and removing less-popular features. Nothing helped us reach the boost that the social network November 2009 edition created.

The Leap

So, in September 2010, we moved to our Community Guided Content model. We still ask authors to write about specific topics, but we post new articles to our website almost daily, then use the stats to determine what goes into the actual newsletter. Since this shift, blog traffic is up 37% year-over-year and shows a fairly steady month-to-month growth rate. Plus time spent on web pages on page is up – a modest but welcome increase of three seconds.

This new strategy means we’re driving a lot of traffic to overall: We’re up 24% year-over-year in 2011. The blog/newsletter strategy drives most of that, as you can see from the increase in blog traffic as a percentage of total site traffic for the last few years:

2008: 17%
2009: 19%
2010: 22%
2011: 25%

Most importantly, publishing more and more diverse content on the blog gives us a sense of what the NTEN community is most interested in. Then, when we compose NTEN Connect each month, instead of guessing what we should send out to our 30,000 subscribers, we can look at our blog and social media analytics data to learn what our blog readers have already found most engaging.

Looking to the Future

We now have a successful newsletter strategy in place — one that aligns our values and goals, and has significantly expanded our visibility and prominence in the sector. This year alone, our newsletter subscriber base has increased 50%.

Next, we’re hoping to match newsletter content even more closely with our audiences’ wants and interests. We’ve begun experimenting more with segmentation: instead of sending out one issue to our full list, we deliver seven different versions based on job function, so, for example, Executive Directors receive different content than IT staff members.

Going forward, we’ll even be able to tailor newsletter content based on the articles our readers have interacted with over time. Already, we’ve seen the potential for this level of segmentation by including dynamic content based on our subscribers’ membership status and activity levels.

Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll be able to send out a Star Wars edition to all the subscribers we know who have a thing for Han Solo.
The information is there; our community will tell us how to use it.

Source: How to Create Enough Good Content (Case Study) –
Authors: Holly Ross, Executive Director & Brett Meyer, Communications Director, NTEN

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What Skills Should a Communications Team Have?

Posted on January 10, 2012. Filed under: Online Communications | Tags: , , |

Kivi Leroux Miller gives us some great advice in this article and it is well worth a read for any nonprofit wanting to ensure their communications are consistent, professional and on-topic.

Enjoy the read, and thanks again, Kivi!

Kathie van

What Skills Should a Communications Team Have?

Can you help me answer this question?

“My name is Matt Silva, and I work for a nonprofit based in San Francisco called EARN. At EARN, we give low-income working families the power to create prosperity for generations. I’m a member of EARN’s first-ever communications team, and we’re thinking strategically about what roles and functions we’ll need to fill for the coming year.

I was wondering if you’d be willing to share any insights or resources into how best to setup a communications team at a nonprofit. We love the best practices you’ve shared, and are now looking for information related to the actual positions a nonprofit communications team should fill, and what each of those roles should be doing.

Right now, we’re two full-time people with a half-time Director (she shares her time with Development). I think what we’re finding is that, like most organizations, PR, branding, marketing, and online engagement (including social media) will all be important functions for us. Perhaps a better way to frame my question is this: what skill sets do you think a two- to three-person team should have?

Any help would be much appreciated.”

Great question, Matt, and one I know a lot of you have opinions about! Here’s my take . . .

Naturally, the actual structure of a communications team is going to vary based not only on the needs and goals of the organization, but on what actual team members are good at and what they themselves enjoy doing.

Here’s one way to approach your questions. I’ve listed what I consider to be three essential skills/roles for a marketing team for long-term, sustainable success.

I’m not talking about tactical skills/roles (who can best engage supporters on Facebook, who writes the best newsletter headlines), but rather what you as a team need to accomplish.

As you noted, everyone on the team will be responsible for all of these at some basic level, but I believe that each of these items is so important that they demand someone to be assigned as the “lead” staff person. How you mix and match these into specific job descriptions depends on the actual people involved.

Continuously Learning about Your Supporters

Someone should be responsible for actively seeking and capturing information about your target audiences and then regularly sharing the trends with the team. This is absolutely essential to getting your messages right and picking the right communications channels.

This can include everything from what we often call “listening” in social media, to doing surveys and focus groups throughout the year, to making sure that your databases are set up to easily segment your mailing lists, to watching analytics on your website, email marketing, Facebook, etc.

While another team member may be closer to Facebook Insights on a daily basis, for example, the lead for this particular role would be the person who looks for the trends over time, and compares those to data from other sources. Because this person will be putting different pieces of the puzzle together, he or she may also be the best one to identify ways to tap into your social capital (e.g. who are your biggest fans, and how can you better tap into their networks).

Ensuring Your Messaging is Both Consistent and Responsive

While you should decide as a team what your key messages and calls to action are during any given period (e.g. over a campaign or story arc of a few weeks or months), it’s helpful to have someone tasked with keeping the team “on message” but — and equally importantly — watching for good times to redirect your messaging so that you can highly responsive to breaking news or hot conversations in your space.

It’s a delicate balancing act: Communicating consistently over time so that your core messages and calls to action get through, but being flexible enough to respond to what’s happening around you (including newsjacking, which I’ll talk about in a later post). It’s too easy for individuals to stray off message, and to miss real-time opportunities to connect to what people are already talking about, which is why I think it’s best to give someone this responsibility directly.

Managing the Content Creation and Delivery Process

Everyone on the team will be creating content, and probably delivering the content too (posting to Twitter, setting up bulk email messages, giving in-person presentations). But one person needs to be responsible for the bird’s eye view of the process and the editorial calendar to ensure that the what, when, who, where, how and why of communications makes sense to the people on the receiving end.

Are your supporters or clients getting the right messages at the right times in the right places over weeks and months? Communications teams often get so caught up (and head down) in producing and sending out all the stuff on the day’s or week’s to-do list that they fail to see how it all fits together over time. Providing that focus — and helping other team members adjust as needed — should be someone’s specific responsibility.

These three roles are highly interrelated, which is why I think it’s good to distribute them among different staff. It will force more strategic conversations to take place regularly, as you are feeding each other information and holding each other accountable.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of Matt’s question and my answer? I’m also happy to create a more specific tactical list of job responsibilities if that would be helpful. But I do believe these roles are incredibly important and often overlooked. Failure to address these responsibilities leads to overworked, and under-performing, teams.

Source: What Skills Should a Communications Team Have? –
Author: Kivi Leroux Miller

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7 Tips To Help You Focus In Age of Distraction: Are You Content Fried!

Posted on January 5, 2012. Filed under: Tips and Ideas, Using Technology | Tags: , , |

Beth Kanter provides some very valuable tips on how to manage your focus to cut through the overload of information out there and achieve what you need to each day.

Thanks for the advice Beth!

Kathie van Vugt

7 Tips To Help You Focus In Age of Distraction: Are You Content Fried!
Are You Content Fried!
Mindmap by Jane Genovese

This morning I learned a new word for information overload – “content fried” from a colleague at the Packard Foundation. It resonated. We have so much content in our professional lives. I’m talking about the stuff we consume daily to keep inform of our professional field. It comes speeding at us from our email boxes, social networks, kindles, and even paper and snail mail! We scan, we browse, we try to thoughtfully read the best stuff, and interact through online conversations.

Then there’s the whole other world of organizational content that you need to consume or create to get stuff done! Reading, reviewing, commenting, writing, and editing content.

For those of us who work on social media and networks, “content fried” is an occupational hazard. So, it is important for us to incorporate techniques in daily work life that reduce the chances of this happening.

I’m finding that my learning and online work is a fast forward, swimming in the stream experience. I can’t possibly read everything, but I am using content curation skills to pick out the best stuff to give more attention to. I find I can only do that work at certain times of the day or only for so long. The biggest difficulty I experience is the shifting from this forward flowing process of consuming, curating, and sense-making of content to learn versus to get something done. The latter requires a different type of attention and whole new set of information coping skills.

Howard Rheingold calls this process managing your attention or “Infoattention” and it is what he has been teaching in his courses. I’ve been trying to curate content that offers ideas, tips, and resources to get past that ugly feeling of “content fried.” He curated the above mindmap and when I shared this Google + , I discovered that nonprofit colleagues have the same struggle. I liked this map so much that I printed it out and keep at my desk.

I decided to spend a little bit time reflecting on the diagram and pull out some tips for re-learning focus:

1.) Manage Your Attention, Not Just Your Time: Don’t just create a to do list, lay it out on daily and weekly schedule, breaking down key tasks of the project to chunks. But consider the level of concentration and focus that each type of task or chunk requires – and schedule accordingly. For example, if I have to do some writing – that requires a higher level of attention for me than does scanning Twitter or reading and responding to email. I schedule my writing time during peak concentration hours in the day. (I’ve charted those – so I know when they occur). I also use a timer when I’m doing scanning my networks and time box those activities into 15-20 minute bursts.

2.) Visualize On Paper: Over the past 10 months, I’ve made a return to paper and markers and using mind maps or visualization techniques to reflect, plan my week or day. I use this as a pre-writing exercise as well as a reflection exercise. It’s why felt the need to dive into visual facilitation and thinking techniques as a way to cope with content fried.

3.) Establish Rituals: Rituals in your work life are valuable. The mindmap offers a lot of good suggestions for rituals – from decluttering your workspace to healthy habits like sleep and exercise.

4.) Reflection: Reflection doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time to be effective. I’m taking ten minutes every morning to practice some visual recording skills like drawing to create my “3 Most Important Things for Today List.” At the end of the day, I look at it, reflect on what I did – and plan for tomorrow. The advice is not to go online or check email until you get your three things done, but that is very hard for me – given so much of my work is online. What I do is try to avoid email first thing in the morning.

5.) Managing Email and Other Distractions: I’ve turned off notifications that pop up on my computer screen or send me a text message to my mobile phone.

6.) Managing Physical Space: When I see clutter in my physical work spaces, I try to take that as a sign that I need to hit a pause button. Usually it is because I’m doing too much.

7.) Just Say No: Maybe you are going to say no to social media for a day and go to meet with people, take a class, read a book, or talk a walk. When I’m feeling most overwhelmed, I take a break. Even if it is just to get up and walk around my desk.What are your tips to help you focus in an age of distraction? Are there tips not on the mind map? Have you read a helpful article or blog recently that helped get more focused?

Source: Beth’s Blog – 7 Tips To Help You Focus In Age of Distraction: Are You Content Fried!
Author: Beth Kanter 

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Finding Time for Social Media

Posted on January 3, 2012. Filed under: Tips and Ideas, Using Technology | Tags: , , |

This article cites a study that shows using 3rd party tools has been found to decrease engagement on social media by 70%, and you may be wondering why I would post an article that undermines our CommsConsole social media platform? Well, the answer is simple: anyone relying on a machine to do the work for you will undoubtedly miss opportunities to engage, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t employ the assistance of a communications console to help you manage your posts and communications.

It is important for organisations using social media communications to bear in mind that the very nature of social media is that it is social. Regardless of the systems you implement to manage your social media communications, in the end there needs to be human interaction and messages need to be tailored depending on the platform they are being communicated on and the audience you are communicating to.

CommsConsole not only allows you to manage all of your online communications, including social media, blogging, email campaigns and SMS communications, it also enables you to closely monitor the success of each communications piece by providing detailed analytics.

Kathie van

Finding Time for Social MediaFinding Time for Social Media

How do you find the time for social media? Whether you’ve been asked this question or asking it yourself, this post is for you. When looking at our goals and our resources, time – as we all know – is one of our most precious resources.

Managing Social Media

There are tools that can help you more efficiently use social media. However, be aware, that the use of 3rd party tools has been found to decrease engagement on social media by 70%. That said, there are three main tools that will help you get the most out of your social media use:

  1. To Listen… RSS Reader: If you follow a variety of online news sources and blogs, you can create your own online digital library. The most popular tools to use in doing this is creating an RSS reader. Google reader is an easy choice, however, some people also prefer iGoogle, Alltop or Netvibes to create their own custom experience.
  2. To Learn… Bookmarking: Not only can you create your own online library, you can also create your own online database of resources, articles and Web pages that you want to have for reference. Most tools let you tag and categorize your saved content based on your preferences and sorting needs. Some popular tools include Scoop.It,, and diigo.
  3. To Engage… Content Platform: To get the most out of social media, there will come a time where you will want/need your own publishing platform. Whether you create a blog or use your Facebook profile, having a way you can share your voice online will help make a difference. Some content platforms to possibly consider include Tumblr, Posterous or Twitter.

Time Management Tips and Tricks

Once you get in the groove, you’ll find that you’ll want to spend more time using social media than you might actually have. You can help manage this by avoiding the following actions:

  1. Limit the number of blog subscriptions you have. In your RSS reader, create a “must-read” folder where you place the feeds of the blogs you find most interesting and helpful. You can switch which blogs you have in this folder around as time goes on, but this way you have a “go-to” folder when you have time to catch up on some reading.
  2. Know you don’t have to read everything. Train your eyes to scan and organize content to help you do so.
  3. Be choosy. You don’t have to use every social media tool or channel–and you don’t have to join every online community. Choose which one(s) help you be the most effective with your time.
  4. Avoid the auto-message. It’ll be tempting, and you think it’ll save you time and energy. BUT, it could cost you more in the long run. At the very least, balance auto-messaging with real-time updates.
  5. Remember rule 6. The key to remembering rule six, is knowing that there isn’t one and that the best way to use social media is to do what works for you. This will include an element of learning–you don’t need to do it perfectly. And, you don’t have to do it all.

For more information, Beth Kanter recently shared “7 Tips to Help You Focus in an Age of Distraction” for those who are starting to feel information overload.

Consider Opportunity Costs

Perhaps a question to ask now, is not whether or not you have the time–but more along the lines of, “What do I lose if I don’t participate in or utilize social media?” You may miss out on opportunities to connect with individuals who share your mission, knowing about breaking news that impacts your work, identifying local partners and sponsors, and the ability to galvanize and empower advocates.

Source: Inpiring Generosity – Finding Time for Social Media
Author: socialbutterfly
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

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