Blog Archives

Is your agency like Goldilocks when it comes to online content?


goldilocksI’ve been blogging regularly since May 2011, which makes DonorDreams blog three years old next month. As with everything in life, there have been ups and there have been downs with things such as readership, content, and tech issues. I’m sure those of you who know me well, won’t be surprised to read that I tend to obsess over questions such as:

  • Is the post is too long or too short? Will people read it?
  • Is the headline going to capture readers’ attention and result in a click-through?
  • Is the email subject line going to result in a higher open rate?
  • Is the tweet too long or too short? Will it result in a RT?
  • Are my sentences too long? What about my paragraphs?

I know some of you are rolling your eyes and chalking these questions up to my obsessive personality. While this reaction is well deserved, the reality is that there is a science to how you compose your non-profit organization’s emails, tweets, blog posts, etc. And since you’re not emailing, tweeting and blogging just for the heck of it, I think it is important to understand the science behind these things, especially if you want people to read your stuff.

internet content infographicLast week, an old friend of mine from high school poked me on Facebook and posted an article from Kevan Lee at the Buffer blog. He does an awesome job of untangling the facts and figures while sharing some really great charts and graphs on this subject.

If you want your donors to read your Facebook posts, tweets, website and blog content, then this link is worth the click. Kevan even developed a wonderful little infographic to help you remember and use the content in his post. I’ve included it in this post for your review.

When it comes to evaluation strategies for DonorDreams blog, I have not been very fancy because I don’t have any money budgeted for those types of activities. The blog is just a labor of love. So, when I’ve wanted to know something (e.g. whether or not the theme formatting of the blog is attractive, etc), I’ve simply asked readers and friends for feedback. How did I do this? I went on Facebook and Twitter and asked.

Does your agency evaluate and play with content, length of content, and promotion strategies? If so, what have you found? What measurement strategies did you use? What did you do with what you learned? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-profit social media strategy? Quality not quantity!


Social Media Madness

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1For those that have seen the movie Julia & Julia, Julie Powell takes on the challenge of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s first cookbook and blogs about it. I too will take on a challenge to read, “The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools & Strategies for Business Success,” by Lon Safko and blog about the things that I find.

With the challenge in mind, I cracked Safko’s book opened to chapter 1, “What is Social Media?”

Safko quickly defines Social Media by splitting out the two words:

“The first part of the terminology, social, refers to the instinctual needs we humans have to connect with other humans. . . . The second part of that term refers to the media we use with which we make those connections with other humans.”

Well how logical, I thought. But was I using that logic when I was posting Facebook posts for my non-profit? Other questions started whirling in my head.

  • When I make a post, am I trying to engage my audience?
  • Do I know the people that have “Liked” our page?
  • Are they clicking through on to our website?
  • Am I just trying to get posts in without being strategic about message?

I realize that each of these questions seem to haunt many of us.

I was excited to recently attend a local celebration for Philanthropy Day coordinated by the Fox West Philanthropic Network. During this wonderful event, I attended a roundtable focused on Social Media.

One of the first questions the facilitator asked was what types of social media we took part in for our non-profits.

We went around and rattled them off — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, etc, etc. Without a doubt, there was a sense of burden in each person’s voice.

Yes, burden!

I could identify it because I too have felt it.

With the laundry list of things on our to-do list along with countless other projects, how could we focus on keeping relevant posts going up on Facebook, or ensure we are on LinkedIn?

As the conversation continued, the questions for the expert facilitator began about the most popular social media site that we all used, which of course is Facebook.

  • How often should we be on Facebook?
  • What day and time of day is best to post?
  • How much staff time should we spend with Facebook?
  • What should we be posting?

The facilitator summed it all up with the following simple piece of advice:

Quality not Quantity

Safko also uses a very logical analogy to make a similar point and makes a distinction between conventional marketing approaches and the new marketing approach being used on social networks.

rose2Safko explains that social media marketing is like going to a networking event, a party, a trade show, church, or anywhere large groups of people gather.

Using a conventional marketing approach, you walk into the group, interrupt everyone, and start announcing your name, and telling everyone what you do for a living, what you sell and that they should buy it from you!

In real life, what do you suppose would happen if you did that?

Now consider the new marketing approach. You enter the room, choose a group, walk up to them and say nothing. You listen first. You understand what has already been said; you consider how you could add value to the conversation, wait for a break and politely share your ideas. You now become part of the group, the network, and you have credibility and trust.

In this simple analogy, it is clear that there is so much more I could be doing to maximize my agency’s Facebook and social media presence. By focusing on quality of posts, not quantity, I am able to think strategically at how to engage those that have trusted us enough to “Like” us.

What does this analogy stir in your experience?

Are you currently scrambling to post quantity in your social media outlets?

Share your approach to social media marketing using the comment box below.

Oh yeah, you can also visit Lon Safko’s website to learn more about social media.

Stay tuned. Next Monday I’ll read a little more of The Social Media Bible, try it out and let you know what I learned from a non-profit perspective.

(Disclaimer: I am not getting paid by anyone to promote this book, and I am not profiting from these blog posts. I encourage everyone to buy a copy of this book and start the hard work of improving your agency’s social media presence.)
rose draft sig

Using a multi-channel approach for fundraising? Don’t forget ‘old school’ strategies!


multichannel1Have you ever intended to do something, but “life happened” and you dropped the ball? Well, this is what happened to me last week when I intended to write a post for the March Nonprofit Blog Carnival weaving together social media, fundraising and a multi-channel approach. While I missed the submission deadline, I’m pressing forward with the post because I think we can all learn something from the Community Crisis Center and their 2009 “Crisis Overnight” campaign.

In my hometown of Elgin, Illinois, our domestic violence shelter was experiencing a crisis of its own in 2009 because the nearly bankrupt State of Illinois kept falling behind on its accounts payable to non-profit organizations that it had contracted with to provide services (e.g. running a domestic violence program). In 2009, it was so bad that Community Crisis Center was owed $400,000 and cash flow management was becoming a challenge.

Years earlier, a staff person had written an article for The Courier-News newspaper focused on providing readers with a 24 hour look at what happens at Community Crisis Center. Looking a mountain of red ink, the executive director, Gretchen Vapnar, decided that a similar approach was warranted in order to generate public awareness about the center’s situation.

multichannel2The only difference this time around was that it was a different world. Newspaper readership was down. Internet usage was exploding. It was a brave new world, and social media experts like Ruth Munson and Sarah Evans advised the center to take their concept online. Here is what this campaign end up looking like:

  • Sarah Evans spent an evening at the center. She witnessed the impact that the center makes in the lives of everyday people, and she blogged and tweeted about her experience. (e.g. #crisisovernight)
  • In addition to bearing witness, she communicated a powerful case for support using a number of different online and social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, blog, Facebook, and YouTube).
  • Other non-tech channels were used by the center. For example, volunteers set-up camp outside the center and donors were invited to “drive by” and drop off donations. Staff also attempted to integrate a pre-existing direct mail campaign into the “crisis overnight” campaign.
  • The initial goal was to raise $150,000 in three weeks. Unfortunately, they didn’t achieve this goal, but they kept plugging away to get the campaign to go viral.
  • While they didn’t achieve their original goal, they did raise $161,000 in six weeks.
  • In the end, there were 756 online donors and the average size gift was less than $100/donor. There also was one sizable $40,000 gift from a local foundation.

If you want to learn more about this campaign, you can do a Google search on “crisis overnight.” You can also click here to view a SlideShare presentation by Sarah Evans.

The most interesting thing to me about this entire campaign was what the executive director had to say more than three years later when looking back on the entire experience.

First, Gretchen marveled at how “everything always comes down to the same things.”  What she is referring to is how the keys to success for this online campaign are many of the same best practices that work for traditional fundraising activities. She gave the following three examples to illustrate her point:

  1. Donors need to connected. (e.g. your agency needs to be visible to the donor or your mission needs to touch/connect with them).
  2. The “who” is still key. The person asking for the donation correlates greatly to your campaign’s success.
  3. There is a “trust factor.” Donors need to trust the organization will follow through and do what they said they’d do with the donor’s investment. If they don’t know the agency well, then the volunteer solicitor is leveraging their relationship with the donor to create that level of trust.

Old fashion fundraising strategies and best practices
plus

Online tactics (e.g. website, email, social media, etc)

equals

Success

There was also one other interesting lesson that Gretchen shared with me. She said that sustained success requires that non-profit organizations put someone in charge of their ePhilanthropy strategy (e.g. hire an online community manager).

Has your agency tied to undertake similar online fundraising campaigns? If so, what were the results? What did you learn? Please share your experiences in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Nonprofit


We live in an age where information can be shared in less than a blink of an eye. Social media has made it possible to share photos, videos, and updates from anywhere. While this can be an exciting time and social networking can be fun, it is social-media-policy-examplesimportant to make sure there are guidelines in place for your nonprofit when it comes to participation in social media. Today we are going to take a look at questions to ask yourself when forming your social media policy for your organization.

There are two parts to forming a social media policy:

  1. Managing your organization’s social media presence
  2. Guidelines for employees’ personal use of social media and its reflection on your agency

When it comes to writing the first part of your social media policy, keep in mind the following questions:

  • Who on your staff is allowed to update social networks on behalf of your organization? Is it just one person? Is it a team of people? What skills should the person/people responsible for social media updates have?
  • In which social networks should your organization participate? Every network might not be right for your organization. Take some time to do some research and find out which networks are the most important in which to be involved. If your agency is already established on certain social media sites already reflect on if the community is active on this site and if it is worth maintaining. If in your agency doesn’t participate in a site is important to claim a log in on the network to so that no one else claims your organization’s voice on that network.
  • What type of updates are allowed? Nonprofit information can be highly sensitive. Deciding what information can and cannot be shared is critical. This includes deciding who can be included in photos and videos.
  • When can information be shared? Beyond what information can be shared, when it can be shared is also important to think about as well. For example, when can you announce an upcoming special event? Or announce a staff change?
  • What email should be used to set up accounts? You may want to consider creating a social@yourorganziation.org type email address to use by staff when creating new social media profiles for your organizations. This will maintain consistency even if the staff responsible for updating the network changes.
    SMpolicylines1
  • Do updates need to be approved before posting? If so, creating a content calendar might be helpful to help plan out updates to get approved.

When creating a social media personal use policy for your organizations staff, keep these questions in mind:

  • If an employee is listed as working for your organization anywhere online are there certain things about your organization that this employee can or cannot say? It is important for the employee to understand that they are a reflection on the organization and if they are caught saying certain things will there be consequences?
  • Are your employees allowed to use their own personal social media profiles on behalf of the organization and interact with supporters? If so, are there guidelines?
  • Can employees share photos from events or from within the office on their personal social media sites? If so, are there any restrictions?

These are just a few questions to keep in mind when forming a social media policy. As you can imagine it can be quite a project to undertake, but once you have one in place, your nonprofit’s social media presence can thrive under the guidelines you put in place. It is important to note that policies like this might have to be approved by a Board of Directors or overseen by an attorney. Also as a disclaimer, I am not an attorney, so please just take my questions as suggestions and a starting point when forming a social media policy. If you are looking for examples of social media policies, you can check out this site.

Have you put together a social media policy for your organization? What were some best practices you can share with DonorDreams readers? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

Marissa sig

Facebook Graph Search will impact your non-profit social media strategy


graph search1Last week, Mark Zuckerburg and friends held a press conference announcing a new feature for Facebook. No one had any real idea of what it was going to be. Were they changing privacy setting again? Did they buy another social media network? Was Facebook finally going to make a Facebook phone? It turns out that none of those questions were the topic for the press conference and what they announced was a change in “Facebook Search” with something called Graph Search. Today, we are going to take a look at what Graph Search is and how it will impact the social media strategy of your nonprofit.

What is Graph Search?

Facebook has tons of information on every user. Just think about it. Not only does Facebook have your name, but it knows where you live, what school you attended, what music you listen to and even in some cases what toothpaste you prefer. What is Facebook going to do with all of this information? Make it searchable.

Graph Search will change how people use Facebook for searching for information. It has been said that Mark Zuckerburg wants people to use Facebook as their internet and never leave the page. Instituting Graph Search will make that possible.

Currently, if you try to use Facebook Search to find a name of a company or a person, it isn’t very helpful to you. It is easier to go use a search engine like Google to find the information you need.

With Graph Search you can search for topics such as – people who give to charity – and it will bring up a list of your friends or people who live in your area that give to charity. The search results will be based on who you know and where you are located. Because of this, it is important to note that two people could search for the same topic and get different results.

How Will Graph Search Impact Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Strategy?

graph search2Before answering that question, let’s think about how Facebook has changed in the past few months. At the end of 2012, Facebook began to limit the amount of times a post from your brand page (not your personal page) would show up in your supporters News Feed. To get around this, they introduced Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts causing people to pay money to get their message across.

With the launch of Graph Search, the number of “likes” on your page and the amount of engagement will be more important than ever. These two metrics will determine where you show up in Graph Search search results. Because Facebook has shortened the visibility of a post by a page, your non-profit might want to start thinking about allocating some money for a promoted post every now and then. This can help expand the reach of your message outside of your current supporter base and help you in both the short-term and long-term.

What Can Nonprofits Do Now to Prepare for Graph Search?

Graph Search is still currently in beta, but there a few things that you can do to your Facebook page to make sure it is ready to go when Graph Search launches.

  • Create Engaging Content – Post frequently and use photos to create a community on Facebook where supporters want to comment on or like what is being posted.
  • Fill Out Your About Section – Make sure you have all of the information filled out in your Facebook profile. Don’t forget to include a location as this is one of the main data points for Graph Search.
  • Plan Ahead – Take some time to think about what this change in search will mean for your organization. How will you grow support with more “likes”? What content are you publishing and when? What posts are most successful? For more help on what posts people are responding to, check out your page’s Insights data.

It will be interesting to see how Graph Search pans out and what impact it will have in the land of search engines. I am interested to see how Facebook plans to monetize their search. People take what their friends have to say seriously.  So, a more personal search might be what non-profits need to gain more support.

Hopefully this post helped clear up what Graph Search is and helped you to start thinking about how it will impact your non-profit organization.

What do you think? Will Graph Search make an impact? How are you going to change your organization’s page to prepare for Graph Search Launch? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Marissa sig

Setting your non-profit agency’s 2013 social media goals


new years resolutionsHappy 2013 DonorDreams readers! I hope the year has started off well for you. The beginning of new years are always a time of reflection for me. I like to look at what I did last year and see what I want to accomplish this year. This usually results in me making a number of lists that either get fully or partially completed by the end of the year. I thought, that in the first Mondays with Marissa post for 2013, we could sit down and look at how to do the same for your nonprofit agency’s social media strategy.

Whenever I take the time to look back on the year, I start by asking myself a bunch of questions about the year that just ended. When looking at social media, the same process can be helpful. Here’s a list of questions to ask about the social media success of your organization.

  • On which social networks did you have an account?
  • How many posts did you make on each network?
  • Which networks warranted the most engagement? This includes: likes, retweets, replies, comments, reblogs, ect.
  • What type of posts resulted in the most engagement? Were photos more successful than text? Did you experiment with videos? How did those work?
  • Which days were the most successful for encouraging engagement on each social media site? Are Tuesdays and Fridays your best Facebook days while Wednesdays and Thursdays are your best Twitter days? If you blog regularly, don’t forget to look back and see which days resulted in the most views and comments. Was there a pattern with the posts on those days?

Based on asking these questions, you can use the answers to help form your plan for 2013. These additional questions can help flush out the details.

  • Which social networks were least successful? Are they worth your attention this year?
  • Which social networks were were you not involved in last year? Would you like to try a new one?
  • Have you started a blog for your organization? If not, why? If so, do you have an email subscription service set up?
  • Based on your numbers from last year, what are your goals for 2013?

You may be wondering where you can get all of that data. Well,  Facebook Insights is a great place to start for Facebook. If you were using the application Think Up, you should have an archive of all of your numbers from last year. Twitter just made your history downloadable so that’s a place to start. Even if you aren’t able to get specific numbers as to which posts were the most successful thinking about your social media involvement in this way can help you set up some healthy goals for 2013.

I’d love to hear some of your social media goals in the comments below. Please take a moment to share what you’re most looking forward to accomplishing in the social media space in 2013?
Marissa sig

How Google Communities Can Help Your Nonprofit Bring People Together


Today was a hard day for me to decide what to write about. I originally was going to focus on how social media covered and reacted to the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy this weekend. While this is a sad moment in our history, there are many other outlets covering that information. I’d like to point you in the direction of our friends at about.com. They put together a nice collection of sites people can go to help. Instead, I decided to use today to talk about Google Communities, the newest feature to Google Plus, with hopes that it might help your nonprofit’s 2013 social media strategy.

Now, I know I talk a lot about Google here on DonorDreams. That’s because in my opinion they provide quality free services, individuals and small businesses can use to get their message out there and be productive. The newest addition to the Google toolbox is G+ Communities06b3a9436b7121a0b81e3a243747358f

When Google Plus first came out everyone flocked to it to see what it was. Then its popularity fizzled a bit as it did not actually kill Facebook as predicted by some. Recently however, I personally have been turning to Google Plus more and more for conversations about different topics over sharing personal updates with friends. G+ Communities does a great job setting up an environment for that to happen.

When you set up a Google Plus Community, you can decide if it is public or private. Besides naming your group, this is an important decision as it cannot be undone. Depending on the purpose, your nonprofit might want to create both a public and a private community. The public community can be used to share news about your nonprofit and discuss topics with the public that are related to your mission. The private community can be used to give employees or volunteers a place to get information about your nonprofit that others cannot see. Information posted in public communities is also indexed by Google Search and will show up in search results.

One thing I really like about Google Communities is that they can act as a forum. Posts can be posted in different topics to keep things organized. This is different than Facebook Groups where all information is put together in one large ever going stream that people have to scroll through to see what’s going on. If a person just wants to read up about special events associated with your nonprofit – they can with Google+ Communities.

In addition, Google Communities come with all of the other features of Google+, such as photo sharing, event invitations and Google Hangouts. In fact, last Friday, Google Plus just announced 24 new features to their product. I suggest you check them out.

One other important note about sharing information on Google. At the moment, they are not charging people to make sure that people see updates by people, businesses or nonprofits. While over at Facebook, news feeds aren’t receiving all of the information each page a person likes publishes. Getting involved with Google+ might be an over all social media strategy your agency might want to consider for 2013 just for this reason – more exposure without having to pay for it.

GooglePlus-512-Red

As with any online community your nonprofit sets up, it is important to assign someone to keep her eyes on what is going on in that online space. This person should be posting important updates and reading all of the comments left by community members. You want to create a safe space where people can share ideas and want to come back and visit. Because it is a community/forum space, it will require more direction and monitoring that a twitter feed.

I hope that this post served as a great introduction to Google Communities for you and your nonprofit. If you do not think that setting up a G+ Community is right for your organization, I encourage you to at least join some for yourself. Since they have launched I have joined quite a few and been happy with the level of conversation and the resources being shared out there.

What do you think? Are Google Communities a good fit for your agency? Do you use another community focused site already that you’d like to share with the group? Leave a message in comments! I’d love to discuss this further.

Marissa sig

Top Ten Mondays with Marissa Posts – Part Two


Happy Monday, DonorDreams Readers! Today we going to take a look at the second half of the Top Ten Mondays with Marissa posts as 2012 draws to a close. As we look back I will try to update you on the popular topics of the year.

#5 Choosing the Right Donor Database is like Buying a Car
The donor database is the heart of any development team. In this post I go through the process it takes to figure out the right database for the job. Since I wrote this post, the writers at idealware.org wrote an interesting article on the Ten Common Mistakes in Selecting a Donor Datebase which might also help your make your decision.

SOPA Resistance Day!

#4 How Can SOPA/PIPA Affect Nonprofits?
At the start of the year, two pieces of legislation threatened to change the internet as we know it. Both SOPA and PIPA would have limited an organizations visibility in search results as well as limit your ability to collect donations online if you were accused of infringing on copyrights.

Well, thankfully, these two bills did not pass and were never made into law. However censorship on the internet is still hot topic of conversation. Nonprofits need to be aware of what is going on when it comes to changes to the internet because it is such a helpful tool for getting much of your work done. Places you can stay up to date on the latest include: Ars Technica, This Week in Tech, and All Things Digital. Checking in on these sites from time to time can only help you know what’s next around the corner. And of course, we will update you here on DonorDreams if there are any big changes in the tech world.

Donations

#3 Can Your Nonprofit Raise $1,000,000 in 24 Hours Using a Crowdfunding Site?
In mid-February, a site named Kickstarter made waves when a video game developer raised over a million dollars in 24 short hours. This got me thinking about how nonprofits could do the same. I highlighted two microdonation sites, FirstGiving and Helpers Unite that provide a way for nonprofits to collect funds for specific projects.

Just this past month, Giving Tuesday started as a movement on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to turn the nations attention to charitable giving instead of Christmas Shopping. With movements like this, along with the growth of Kickstarter, I can only see microdonations taking off in a big way. This is something to keep in mind when deciding your strategies for 2013.

#2 Some Insights on Facebook Pages Insights
Facebook has had a lot of changes throughout 2012. The timeline was introduced and Facebook Pages took off. Along with Pages, Facebook also allowed page owners to look behind the scenes to see what posts were the most popular with their followers by using a tool they call Facebook Insights. In my post I go through and explain how to read them and what to do with the information you gain from them.

Not much has changed with Facebook Insights itself, but the numbers reflected in Insights might look a bit different than they did at the start of the year. Recently, Facebook made changes to how posts show up in a viewer’s News Feed. This directly affects the success of a status update or photo posted by your organization. (I wrote about those changes here.) Facebook is going to continue to change so staying on top of those changes in 2013 is important to ensure your nonprofit is as visible as possible.

Obama taking donations via Square mobile payme...

#1 It’s Hip to be Square: Accepting Donations From Your Phone
I’m not surprised that this is the most popular Mondays with Marissa post of 2012. Accepting donations on your phone can come in handy – even the Obama campaign used Square on the campaign trail. This post outlines the pros and cons of using Square to accept donations.

Since writing this post Square has expanded its services to now include gift card management on phones. Also, PayPal came out with a competiative service that links to a users PayPal account. Google Wallet also has started to be seen in some places to take payments using a person’s phone instead of a credit card. I can only imagine that the way we pay for things will continue to change which will only change how nonprofits can collect money. For the time being, I still think that Square is a great option for many nonprofits.

Well everyone, that wraps it up. I still have a few more posts to write in 2012, but let me just say how much I have enjoyed covering stories in social media and technology for nonprofits. If you have any updates or comments on the topics listed above please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Marissa sig

Evaluating your non-profit board volunteer prospects’ social reach and network


social reach1I was recently engaged in an engaging discussion about board development with a great group of non-profit board volunteers. The range of topics in that conversation spanned issues such as prospect identification, evaluation methods, prioritizing prospect lists, cultivating prospects, recruitment process, orientation, recognition, and evaluation.  It was one of those conversations that a facilitator loves because everyone was engaged and actively participating. There was an energetic dynamic in the room, and then someone asked a really tough question:

“How do we evaluate the scope of someone’s social network?”

This question stems from the discussion on the importance of diversity in your boardroom. After talking about the obvious (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity), these discussions always turn to the more difficult subjects including how to assess a prospective board volunteer’s social network and social capital. Of course, this is important because you don’t want a boardroom full of people who all walk in the same social circles.

Moreover, this is important because:

  • Fundraising — The collective network in your boardroom is related to the reach of your fundraising program, its appeals and potential future donors.
  • Board Development — Birds of a feather flock together, and the collective network in your boardroom will give birth to future boards. Board replicate themselves all the time!
  • Group-think — People who are close and come from the same walks of life can sometimes think alike, which can greatly influence board governance and important decisions.

So, what is the answer to the aforementioned question pose by this obviously super smart board volunteer?

Well, it is complicated and simple all at the same time. Ugh!

social reach3For decades (and probably centuries), board development committees have answered this question the old fashion way. They sat down around a table and talked it over. Those committees who were successful had a diversity of people sitting around the table and were able to assess a prospect’s social network in an anecdotal manner. They talked about what they see and hear about the prospect. Here are just some of the things they most likely talked through:

  • Does the prospect sit on other non-profit boards?
  • What church does this prospect belong to? Are they active? Who else belongs to that church?
  • What other groups does this person belong to? (e.g. Rotary, Kiwanis, country club, chamber of commerce, local booster clubs, etc) Who else belongs to those groups?
  • What else do we see this person’s name attached to? (e.g annual reports, donor recognition walls, local newspaper articles, etc)
  • How does this prospect’s network, reach, and social capital compare to what is currently sitting around our boardroom table?

This is what “old school” board development assessment work looks like. It is highly effective. It has a track record of working. It is highly dependent on a diversity of people with a diversity of perspectives engaging in such a conversation.

Of course, our 21st Century mindset and perspectives leads us to question old approaches and investigate new tools and approaches, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, I recently opened up my board development toolbox and re-examined some very traditional tools such as:

  • board matrix
  • sample prospective board member information sheet
  • board candidate rating form

In doing that simple review, it occurred to me that there isn’t much substance to those tools from the perspective of assessing someone’s social network, social reach and social capital. The matrix does ask the board development committee to assess  “community connections,” and the information sheet also asks questions about your prospect’s affiliations and other non-profit board service. While these tools nibble around the edges, it wouldn’t be difficult to tweak these tools to more directly address the question posed by our board volunteer at the beginning of this blog post.

social reach2However, there are some “21st Century” tools that your board development committee might want to start using when talking through the issue of a prospect’s network. Consider the following:

  • Do a Google search on your prospective new board members during the evaluation phase of your process. Talk about the results of that search.
  • Look at their online social networks (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). If no one around the table is connected to the prospect in that way, then: 1) that might tell you something in and of itself and 2) you might expand your reach and find someone on the board or among your network who is linked in such a way.
  • Use Guidestar to determine if they are associated with other non-profits in your community.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the “old school approach”. In fact, one simple way that you can tweak this traditional approach is by including your prospective future board volunteers in the process. Asking them to help you answer a few questions about their network and their reach. If done appropriately, it wouldn’t have to feel awkward.

How does your non-profit organization tackle the question posed at the beginning of this blog post as part of its board development process? Please use the comment box to share your best practices. We can all learn from each other and save time by not re-inventing the wheel.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Changes to Facebook’s News Feed and What It Means for Your Non-profit


Earlier in the year, we talked about Facebook Insights, what they mean and how they can help you grow your organization’s online presence. One of the key statistical numbers Facebook gives you within Insights is something called “Reach“. This number represents how many people are viewing your Facebook content. You can measure Reach by how many people see each post on a daily basis. Reach can be a powerful indicator of how healthy your agency’s Facebook is.

Recently, you may have noticed that while your number of likes has been going up, your Reach number has gone down. This change most likely has nothing to do with the content you are posting or the number of posts. Behind the scenes, Facebook has been dialing down the number of people who see your posts and promoting the use of Sponsored Posts and Facebook Ads.

My first reaction to what Facebook is doing was just like any other internet enthusiasts — “why are they monetizing the internet?” But then I stopped and thought about it for a moment. Given the public reaction to Facebook becoming a publicly traded company, they obviously have to find ways to make money. Advertising revenue seems like a great way to do it.

So, now the trick is how to do we work with Facebook’s new game plan?

One thing we can do is make sure that people are aware that they might not be seeing all of your posts. Here are two simple suggestions:

  1. Post an explanation on your Facebook page
  2. Send out an email to your distribution list

Explaining this change to people can help increase your “reach” numbers. Do you need to go into much detail when explaining what is happening? No. Something like what is posted below can do the trick.

Hi everyone! Due to recent changes in the Facebook algorithm that decides what is seen in your News Feed, you may not be getting all of the updates from us. To ensure that you remain up to date, please follow these simple steps:

1) go to the Pastimes Facebook page
2) hover over the box that says “Liked” under our cover photo
3) make sure that “Show in News Feed” is selected

Thanks so much for supporting [Name of Organization]!

However, making sure that people are aware is only half of the battle. Changing up your post types is also helpful. Photos are more engaging than text, so make sure you include a photo with as many status updates as possible. This will hopefully get one of your supporters to “like” the post and then one of their friends will see it as well.

It might not be a bad idea to consider setting aside some money for sponsored posts. The way this works is easy enough:

  • you pay Facebook a certain amount of money,
  • they ensure that a certain amount of people see that specific post.

Of course, you’ll want to be strategic when planning out which posts to sponsor, but sponsoring some and seeing how they work can help you decide if this is something you’d like to continue doing for your organization.

More information about what Facebook calls “Sponsored Stories” can be found here. (Fun Fact — Facebook also changed how many people see your personal status messages as well. Therefore, they have made it possible for those status updates to be sponsored as well . . . just in case you want everyone you know to know something.)

Finally, I’d like to remind you that Facebook (while quite popular) is not the end all be all of social networks. It is important to create a following on as many social media platforms as you possibly can. This will make it easier to adjust when changes like this occur. Don’t be afraid to share content across platforms to let followers on each network know that you are active in other forms of social media.

While these changes to Facebook will impact how you reach your followers, it should not change how you interact with people on Facebook. Just because you are reaching fewer people on a daily basis, doesn’t mean you aren’t reaching anyone. Do not let these changes cause you to be lax in updating or slow in responding to comments. As every nonprofit knows, every supporter counts.

Do you track your agency’s Facebook reach? What have been your experiences and how have you responded? Please share your thoughts and approaches in the comment box below.

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