Is your agency like Goldilocks when it comes to online content?
I’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.
Last 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!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Evaluating your non-profit board volunteer prospects’ social reach and network
I 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!
For 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.
However, 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!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Top Ten Mondays with Marissa Posts – Part One
It has been my pleasure to write for DonorDreams each Monday in 2012. A lot of exciting things have happened in the social media world and I have enjoyed discussing a variety of topics with you. As the year comes to a close, I thought it would be a great idea to look back on some of the most popular “Mondays with Marissa” posts here on DonorDreams and see if there are any updates to share. Today, we are going to look at #10 – #6 on the most popular posts list.
#10 – Have You Googled Yourself Lately? You’d Be Amazed at What You Find
In this post, I talked about the importance of doing periodic searches on yourself and your organization on Google to see what comes up. It’s a good habit to get into so you can see what people see when they search for you. Remember that your goal is to make sure your site is the first search result that comes up. In the post, I also point out how to make sure Google has all of the information it needs to make this happen.
Beyond actually going to google.com and searching for your organization, you can set up a Google Alert that will email you whenever your organization is mentioned elsewhere on the internet. I find this useful to keep my eye on all corners of the cyberspace.
Besides looking yourself up on Google, I suggest searching for yourself and your organization on Bing and Yahoo as well. Not everyone uses Google as their search engine of choice.
#9 – How Nonprofits Can Use Tumblr
Tumblr is quickly growing into a force in the social media world. I think of it as a combination between Facebook and Twitter. In “How Nonprofits Can Use Tumblr,” I explain the best way you can use Tumblr for your agency and how to write a successful Tumblr post. The audience of Tumblr is a bit younger than those on other social networks. So, it might be the best way for you to gain supporters with the younger generation.
Since the writing of this post, I watched how the Obama campaign used Tumblr to share what supporters were writing about the election as it was happening. I also saw how Tumblr users raised funds for those effected by Hurricane Sandy. The moral of the story? Don’t leave Tumblr out of your social media plan. It’s quickly picking up steam and becoming a source to find supporters.
#8 – How Can Nonprofit Organizations Use Google Hangouts Effectively?
To me, Google Hangouts are one of the most interesting things to come out of social media this year. Growing up, video chatting with someone on your computer seemed decades away, but today you can have a chat with multiple people at the same time using free software over the internet. It’s amazing if you stop to think about it. In this post, I highlight how non-profits can use Google Hangouts to hold meetings or broadcast special events over the internet.
I have seen Google Hangouts become home to many podcasts that I listen to as an alternative to using Skype to call guests. I have also seen game shows hosted using this platform. I suspect Google Hangouts is something that will just continue to grow into 2013, and I will be watching to see how it does.
#7 – Lessons Learned from The Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Use of Social Media
When the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to stop funding mammogram screenings for Planned Parenthood earlier this year, news feeds and timelines everywhere were filled with voices on the subject. Looking beyond the politic, what happened between these two organizations still provides vital lessons when it comes to how non-profits should use social media.
Months later . . . the Susan G. Komen Foundation is still recovering. As recent as September, the founder and CEO, Liz Thompson stepped down from the organization. The big take away is that what happens in social media can have a real impact on the structure of your organization.
#6 – How Google’s Recent Changes Affect You and Your Nonprofit Organization
At the start of 2012, Google started to shake things up when it comes to delivering search results. They introduced something known as “Search + Your World”. This changed how results show up when you search for something. If a person in your network “+1”’d something, it would show up before other search results. Also, Google made one large Terms of Service to umbrella all of their services where each product used to have on of their own.
There haven’t been many major changes since that time. Your real name is still used when you sign into your Google account. Most recently, this has spread to YouTube in an attempt to bring more continuity between Google products. The internet used to be a place for anonymity, and it is increasingly becoming more and more public. I predict this is a trend that we will see continue in 2013.
We’ve talked about a lot of things in “Mondays with Marissa” posts this year, and this is just the first half of the list! Do you have any updates on the topics shared above? Have you used the any of the products or services since I first wrote about them? I’d love to hear from you in comments. Stay tuned for Part Two!
Setting Up A Successful Work from Home Environment for Your Nonprofit
Don’t worry, it’s not really Monday! Erik is busy running a conference this week, so he asked me to fill in one more day this week. So welcome to Tuesday with Marissa!
Working from home is more popular than ever. In a time when salaries might not be able to grow as fast as they used to, offering employees an opportunity to work remotely can be a welcomed perk. While your employee might not be in the office, it is important to ensure that she feels connected to her team. Today we’re going to look at some ways to set up a successful work from home environment.
If your organization has the funds to set up a VPN system, I highly recommend it. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and allows users to log in from anywhere. Upon doing so they would have the same access to the servers and systems they would have if they were working in the office. They can be a bit costly to set up but this set up offers the most flexibility for you and your employee. The employee working from home would have no restrictions on access to the resources they need, allowing them to complete projects no matter where they were located.
VPNs are best set up on agency owned laptops that employees can take anywhere. I recommend upon setting it up that it is tested somewhere outside of your building to make sure everything is set up correctly. It would be the worst to plan your day working from home only to find out that your VPN doesn’t connect.
If VPN doesn’t work for your organization, there are plenty of other options to share files with people working remotely. Services such as Dropbox and Google Drive allows users to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, ect, with anyone who has access to them. However, keep in mind that these files would live in the cloud on third party server. If something happened to that server you would loose your files. Keeping a copy of files shared in the cloud stored on your hard drive is highly recommended.
One of the challenges I find with working from home sometimes is feeling connected to the office. While working from a remote location can help some employees focus, they can miss out on communication that happens around the office. Using a chat client like Gchat or Skype can help fill that void. I had one job where I worked exclusively from and getting a “good morning” from other team members made a world of difference. I didn’t feel as isolated.
Furthermore, it is important for managers of people who work remotely to still manage their employees even if they aren’t in the building. Too often the relationship between manager and employee can fall victim to the “out of mind, out of site” mentality. You can even go beyond chat conversations and have a video call from time to time to check in and see how everything is going or congratulate the employee on a job well done.
While working remotely is becoming more and more a norm these days, I hope these few tips help you and your agency think about the best environment to set up for your employees. Based on your set up, you might be able to work something out for work from home volunteers using cloud computing services and chat clients. What do you think? Do you work from home? What tool do you find to be the most successful in helping you be productive? Let us know in the comments!
How can apps help you and your non-profit get more things done?
In many of my Mondays with Marissa posts, I tend to focus on how non-profits can use social media to spread the word about their mission to build a community of volunteers and donors. This week, I’m looking at how some handy applications can help you better organize your day so that you might have more time to build an awesome website or make the best Facebook page ever.
I remember when Evernote first came out. It blew my mind. The basic idea behind Evernote is that it wants to be your external brain. It is a place to put notes, photos, lists, documents, anything. Anything you put in Evernote can be accessed from anywhere through a variety of applications for the desktop, web and smartphone. All of these notes can be organized into various notebooks that can be public, private or shared with co-workers.
What makes Evernote really remarkable is the fact that it can search text in photographs. So, for example, say you were in a special event planning meeting where your team used a whiteboard to capture ideas. Everything was laid out on the whiteboard, but there wasn’t enough time to capture all of those ideas into an email to be shared with everyone later. You could just take photo of the board and put it in one of Evernote’s collaborative notebooks. Later you could use the search function to look for the words “special event,” and if it was in the white board photo, it would show up in your search results.
Evernote is free to use, but for just $5/month or $45/year you can get more storage and more functionality. I could go on and on about the cool things you could do with Evernote, but you should just check out their website for more information.
Google has really tried hard to replace office standards such as Outlook, Word and Excel. I think they have done a pretty good job. With Google Docs, teams can work together on a document in real-time and not have to email large files back and forth. Google Calendar is a robust replacement for the calendar in Outlook. Additionally, if you use Gmail plug-ins, you can easily customize your email to your liking.
Google also has a tasks list built into both GMail and Google Calendar. I find this extremely helpful because I prefer to put my “To Do List” onto a calendar as opposed to just making separate lists. Once you create a task list, the window can stay minimized at the bottom of your window, which allows for convenient access at all times. If you put a due date on your task list, it will show up in a special tasks calendar next time you open Google Calendar. You can also set it up so that it emails you reminders.
Finally, GChat is something that I think many people overlook. As someone who works remotely, GChat is really convenient. It allows me to have conversations with people without having to be in the same room. Beyond the traditional text-based instant messaging conversations, GChat has a great video chat feature included. You can also make phone calls to landlines or mobile phones using GChat. Some of them might even be free!
Click here for a more comprehensive list of Google product. I suspect you will be surprised at all they are offering!
Remember the Milk
This last App is one of the oldest and fully featured to-do list applications out there. Remember the Milk makes list-making easy. You can create lists for all sorts of projects and sync them over all devices and programs. They even have an Outlook plug-in! Remember the Milk has options “up the wazoo” so if you use an organizational system like GTD you’ll find it easy to make your project lists here. What I like most about Remember the Milk is it’s simple design and usability.
Those are just a few of the numerous applications out there that help organize information, remind you to get things done, and find more time to spend on mission-related things for your non-profit organization.
Do you use any of these Apps or are there others that you prefer? Do you have a favorite? Please scroll down to the comment box and share your experiences!
One final note and commercial interruption . . . I wanted to mention that I wrote a guest article on about.com about where to get started with social media. I invite you to check it out and share it with others. Thanks!
How Can Non-Profit Organizations Use Google Hangouts Effectively?
When Google launched their social network, Google+, people were all excited because it was a real alternative to Facebook. People were even saying that Google+ might be a “Facebook Killer”.
Flash forward to today. Facebook is about to about to go live on the stock market this week and is still one of the most used and growing social media sites. Google+ is still alive and well, but mainly with an active tech focused community.
One of the reasons I think Google+ hasn’t died is because of its interactive feature — Google Hangouts. Put simply, Google Hangouts are video chats with up to 10 people. While participating in a Hangout, people can watch the same YouTube video together and discuss it live. People can share presentations using SlideShare or even share their own computer screens.
Google Hangouts can be a powerful tool for nonprofits in a number of ways.
First of all, meetings can be held from anywhere. If you only need to meet with a few people and everyone’s availability is tight, then a Google Hangout might be a perfect solution for you. As long as each person has a computer with internet access and webcam (all of which are pretty standard when it comes to computers these days), your special event planning meeting can take place within a Google Hangout. It used to be that you had to pay a lot of money to use a video conferencing services, but today all you need is a Google account.
In addition, Google Hangouts can help build a sense of community with staff. If you work at an agency where people work from home or different locations, you can have a Google Hangout water cooler session. People could log in and just chat about the news of the day, or the latest happenings around the office.
Google Hangouts makes team-building in a virtual environment possible. This may seem like a small thing, but as someone who used to work from home, I missed the social interactions that would happen in an office. If I were able to set something like this up, it would have helped me feel more connected to my co-workers.
Finally, and perhaps the most exciting thing about Google Hangouts is that they can now be broadcasted to everyone using Google Hangouts On Air. A few months ago, President Obama participated in a Google On Air Hangout where a few people were live in the Hangout with him, but everyone could watch along via YouTube. This same functionality is now available to everyone.
Using Google Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast your special event to people all over the world. Or if your staff is scattered over a large geographic area and you have an important public announcement to make, why not use a Google Hangout On Air to have a mini staff meeting to share that big news? Are you having a guest speaker at one of your events? You could easily share the speech with people who couldn’t make it.
Oh one more thing, Google Hangouts On Air allows you to record your Hangout, which makes it easy to share with others after it is over.
The roll-out for Google Hangouts On Air will be happening over the next few weeks, so make sure you sign into your Google+ account and check it out. For more information, you can watch this video:
What do you think? Do you think Google Hangouts is a viable solution for your organization when it comes to video conferencing? What are your thoughts about the usability of Google Hangouts On Air? Let’s discuss it using the comment section below!