Blog Archives

Using online interpersonal tools to engage your agency’s stakeholders

What interpersonal tools is your agency using to engage people?

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1For several months, I have been excited to share a weekly post with you all. I have been going chapter by chapter through Lon Safko’s book, The Social Media Bible and applying his thoughts to the non-profit sector in a blog on Monday mornings. We have reached chapter 21 — “Let the Conversation Begin (Interpersonal)” of Lon Safko’s book The Social Media Bible. This is the last chapter in part 1 of the book, and it is the final chapter in my guest blogging series.

Our entire journey over the last five months has focused on building relationships and deepening relationships with donors, supporters, volunteers and the public. This chapter offers a great recap of this concept with a focus on “interpersonal.”

Interpersonal refers to all the different ways in the social media ecosphere lets us communicate and interact. Sakfo believes that choosing an interpersonal tool starts with the following two questions:

  1. What do you want to communicate?
  2. With whom do you want to communicate it?

Safko points out a great benefit to utilizing some of these tools, beyond the benefit of building on the relationship. Often, many of these tools can help reduce costs in long-distance telephone calls and travel expenses.  I will highlight a few of these today.

Video Conferencing

gotomeetingThere is no doubt that as the recession hit many organizations began to cut costs. One of the first areas cut was staff development (e.g. conferences, travel expenses, etc). These expenditured became more of a luxury as donations declined and funding became more uncertain.

However, the recession opened new doors. For example, video conferencing and things like webinars have became increasingly popular. These tools allow for face-to-face engagement, while not incurring travel costs.

Sharing Applications

Other popular ways to increase efficiency are applications like GoToMeeting and Doodle.

GoToMeeting is a web conferencing service that allows up to 15 users to engage in an online meeting. This includes sharing the screen, webcams and documents. This site is secure with passwords, and if a larger audience needs to be reached, there is a GoToWebinar option.

doodleDoodle is one of my favorites. As an Executive Director I would constantly have to convene meetings between groups of people. It was more than frustrating to go back and forth in e-mails trying to figure out a time when people could meet.

Doodle allows you to send out a meeting request with date/time options. The person simply enters their name, clicks what works for them and voilà! You can choose the best option and increase participation by placing your meeting on a day that works best for everyone.

These are just a few of the many great tools that can increase efficiency in today’s busy world.

I am interested to learn more about your experiences with these tools, or others. Please share examples of other interactive social media and internet-based tools that you use at your non-profit organization in the comment box below.
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What is your non-profit agency doing in virtual environments like Second Life?

To Infinity and Beyond: Non-Profits setting up shop in Second Life

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1Happy Monday and welcome back to our weekly blog series! As we dig deeper into Lon Safko’s book, “The Social Media Bible,” we explore more unique forms of social media. In chapter fifteen, “Virtual Worlds- Real Impact,” cracks open a unique and impactful way to engage supporters, volunteers and build community.

First, to understand the basics, a virtual world is an Internet-based simulated environment. Second Life, founded by Philip Rosedale, launched on June 23, 2003. This virtual world includes avatars and was designed to encourage personal, one-on-one communication. The NonProfit Commons project (NPC), managed by TechSoup Global, is a virtual community of practice for non-profits to explore the opportunities and benefits of Second Life.

This chapter was beyond challenging for me.

Virtual worlds are beyond my normal realm. Despite this challenge, in my exploration, I found some cool ways virtual worlds are being utilized by our non-profit sector.

American Cancer Society Relay for Life

Second City has hosted the American Cancer Society Relay for Life since 2005 and has raised over $650,000. Supporters can choose an avatar and complete the race. This community also has engaged more than 100 cancer survivors.

WeeWorld: Partnership for a Drug Free America

The Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) has just announced the successful completion of its WeeWorld campaign to educate young people about substance abuse prevention and the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. With over 55 million registered users, the showpiece of this initiative was the real-life recovering teen JT whose WeeMee avatar reached 20,000 friends by the end of the campaign.

These are just a few examples! Explore more at Second City and share some of your experiences.

Here are a few additional links you may want to explore:

How have you seen virtual worlds utilized n the non-profit sector? How could virtual worlds be utilized to engage donors or volunteers?
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Engaging others with webinars and online radio

Trainings, virtual meetings, advocacy!

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

So, in the first 13 chapters of Lon Safko’s book — The Social Media Bible — he establishes that social media is about so much more than just Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  Safko continues expanding our understanding in chapter 14 when he writes about webinars and online radio.

Of course, webinars are seminars and trainings conducted over the internet; whereas, online radio is an audio program (or music) transmitted over the internet.

One of the pillars of a good board development / board governance plan is a training program. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier said than done.

When I was an executive director, I tried really hard to get board members to attend conferences. I brought trainers to town, and I even tried to integrate small training nuggets into our board meetings. The reality is that board volunteers are busy people and breaking away is always difficult.

Thanks to the magic of social media (and specifically webinars and online radio), non-profit professionals now have additional tools in their toolbox to engage board volunteers and other stakeholder groups.


webinarAt my previous agency, their national office made tremendous investments in webinars (aka distance learning). The following are just a few of the training titles I saw them offering:

  • Creating a Committee Work Plan
  • Holiday Mailings
  • Implementing a Resource Development Plan
  • Managing Donor Relationships: Using a Donor Database
  • Board Development 101
  • How to Create a Board Development Plan

If you really wanted, there is nothing stopping you from designing your own trainings and using webinar services to facilitate those distance learning events.

In addition to trainings, I also see some agencies use tools like GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect combined with conference call technology to host virtual meetings.

In my experience, there are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to webinars:

  1. Participants have many distractions from the home and office (e.g. email, phone calls, interruptions), and it is easy to lose your audience if your presentation isn’t highly interactive with lots of questions, polls and surveys. Ask questions of participants in advance of the webinar and answer them during the webinar.
  2. Distance learning is not the same as in-person trainings and meetings. Keep these sessions short and sweet (e.g. 30 to 45 minutes).
  3. Participants need to be reminded to show up because (for whatever reason) these virtual events are easier to not show up for compared to real-time events.

If you are looking for FREE webinars or pre-recorded webinars to use with your board members and fundraising volunteers, check out some of these resources:

Online radio

online radioMany people have discovered Slacker radio, but online radio isn’t just about streaming music while you workout.

Many decades ago, radio was a mainstay in our grandparent’s living rooms (before the advent of television). Once television squeezed radios out of the picture, many of us just listened in our cars as we drove from place-to-place.

Online radio has liberated radio from our cars and enables music and talk shows to be heard on our work and home computers. This, of course, opens up lots of possibilities for non-profit organizations.

The most obvious possibility was already cover by Erik Anderson on October 21, 2013 right here on the DonorDreams blog in a post titled “Have you discovered non-profit radio yet?“. In that post, Erik introduced us to the Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.

If you haven’t checked out Tony’s online radio show about the non-profit sector yet, it is definitely worth it.

Of course, your non-profit organization can start its own online radio station. Why? Because it is another opportunity to get your message out there. It is marketing. It is prospect cultivation. It is donor stewardship. It can even be something you integrate into your agency’s programming with clients.

If you want to learn more, I suggest you go pick-up a copy of Lon Safko’s book — The Social Media Bible.

The Houston Chronicle also published an online article with a number of excellent links relevant to this topic. Click here to check it out.

How is your agency using webinars and online radio? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
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Online videos offer endless opportunities to non-profits

Mission in Motion

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1It was years into my role as Executive Director at a youth serving agency that it became crystal clear to me that helping people see could help them believe. Hands down, I encouraged board members to bring people in for tours, which often ended in an ask for an investment in our mission.

There is no argument that a story rich in description — sharing colors, smells, and sights — is gripping and engaging. There are countless opportunities for our beloved elevator speeches, and organization overviews, but there is no doubt, when you can provide someone the first hand look at the mission in motion, your sales pitch gets much easier.

This is the concept of Chapter 10 — “Got Video? (Video Sharing)” — in Lon Safko’s book, The Social Media Bible.

It is very easy nowadays to capture your “Mission in Motion” through various strategies. Consider utilizing some of these:

  • Client Testimonials
  • Board Member Orientation & Engagement
  • Donor Highlights
  • Organization Overview

It is sometimes difficult to get prospects for a tour or even to an event. So, why not utilize a short video via e-mail to share your mission and introduce them to your services? One of my favorite stories is a video that was made especially for a donor that highlighted a youth of the program thanking them for their investments.

How impactful!

Another great one was another youth agency that featured youth inviting guests to attend a benefit event through a short video invite.

Another great way to stand out to supporters!

Of course, the most simple online video is the simple case for support message like the one you see in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) video about stopping the ivory trade and supporting their efforts to save the elephant population. Click here or on the video below to check-out this example.

In addition to reading Lon Safko’s book, here are a few additional links you might find helpful in developing your agency’s “picture” to share with prospects and donors:

So how can you capture your mission to share your story best? How have you used video to engage donors or volunteers?
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Why your non-profit agency should be blogging

Non-profit blogging: What’s In It For Me?

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1Last Monday, we explored chapter 5 of Lon Safko’s book “The Social Media Bible” and talked about how online forums might be helpful to your non-profit organization’s fundraising program. This week, we explore chapter 6 where Safko unpacks the history and power of blogs.

A little history

As we discovered last week, online forums or communities became public in the 1990’s. Using various online communities, people posted to bulletin board systems and forums. People started posting online diaries or journals that documented their personal activities to these sites, and they often included pictures and video. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, blogging began to move from personal diaries to include other topics.

If you are reading this- you can check “reading a blog” off your bucket list!

The very first guest blog that I posted on the DonorDreams platform addressed the key issue that all readers address every time they open an email, visit a website or visit a blog. Of course, it is the question of What’s in it for me?” (aka WIIFM). What’s cool about today’s post is that we’re going to discuss WIIFM with regards to both reading a blog and writing a blog.

WIIFM? – Reading Blogs

We all know there is only so much time in the day, and while we work to fulfill our day-to-day job duties, it remains challenging to also fit in personal development and staying up-to-date on industry trends. Who has time for trainings and conferences?

There is an easier way!

I recommend hitting the web and taking a look at some blogs that speak to your profession.

Select a few that you can remain committed to reading. Subscribe to those blogs, and content will be delivered to your email inbox as frequently as the blogger publishes. Some bloggers write a monthly post, others do it weekly, and some (like our friend Erik Anderson at DonorDreams blog, try to post something every day).

My suggestion is to set aside about ten minutes into your schedule at the beginning of your day when you’re powering up your computer. Dedicate those 10 minutes to your professional development by reading a blog or two that you’ve subscribe to and speaks to your professional interests.

If you are not sure where to start you can ask colleagues about some of their favorites. Here is a short list of blogs that I suggest you check out:

For more suggestions, please check out the Blogroll section of the DonorDreams blog. If you have suggestions of other blogs to add to blogroll, please use the comment box to share your suggestion and Erik will add them to our online community.  (Isn’t he always saying something like: “We can all learn from each other?”)

blogWIIFM?—Writing a Blog

This is the first time that I have ever blogged. I did one or two guest spots here on the DonorDreams blog platform, but this is the first ongoing guest spot that I have had.

The first several times that I sat down to write- I ended up:

  • stopping and doing the dishes
  • making a phone call to my mom
  • writing a little . . . erasing it
  • playing a game with my kids
  • finally pushing through to finish

Much like anything, with practice, it becomes less intimidating and each time I sharpened that skill a little more.

Any time you enhance communication with your donors or supporters, you continue to build trust. Depending on how you structure your blog contents, a blog can:

  • engage donors
  • keep them updated on news
  • align your organization with national trends or initiatives
  • demonstrate how your organization is working to meet needs and solve problems.

If your agency is striving to become a donor-centered organization, your blog content should be focused on:

  1. appreciating and expressing gratitude to donors
  2. showing donors that you are using their investments how you said you would during the solicitation visit
  3. illustrating the impact that contributions are having on the lives of your clients and throughout the community

Blogging is a great way to show relevance within your industry. I believe that anytime you can differentiate your organization as an expert in a certain area, you build trust and accountability.

Are you thinking about starting a blog? If so, don’t just jump in and start blogging this afternoon. Ensure you are committed to the time it takes. Make sure your dedication to consistently blogging  is a sustainable commitment. The worst thing to do is start with a bang and fizzle out.

So, now it’s your turn. I would love to hear more about your experience blogging. If you don’t blog, then please tell us the comment box to tell me about your favorite blogs.

Does your organization currently use blogging? If so, who is the target audience? Share your ideas for blogging for your organization. Do you think blogging is worth your investment of time?
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Pre-blog technology might be helpful to your agency’s fundraising program

Internet forums: A valuable fundraising resource

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1Several weeks ago, when I started this blog series, we discussed the idea of opening the lines of communication with donors through social media outlets. In this week’s post, I dive into chapter five of Lon Safko’s “The Social Media Bible” where he talks about a tool that I see as potentially valuable to enhancing your relationship with your donors.

Internet forums were first seen in the 1970s through private Usenet and were seen publicly in 1995. The forum was the precursor to the blog. Since that time, these forums have built strong community ties, loyalty and trust. They are basically online communities that engage people around various topics.

If you are new to forums, you can do what I did . . . explore and click! The book suggested visiting and joining a site called Yuku, which houses a wide variety of forums. As I began to poke around, it was a little bit overwhelming to see the number of options for communities. However, once I sorted through it a bit, I took the first big step by commenting and soon I was part of the community!

Despite this exhilarating experience, the question remains:

What do community forums have to do with donors or your nonprofit?

First, let’s tackle the question of donors.

internet forumsThere are several benefits to engaging your donors in an on-line forum:

  • Donors can feel more engaged, as well as special for being a part of a community
  • You can utilize a forum to give updates on services, strategies or changes
  • You can also utilize a forum to gather feedback from donors

Second, let’s look at how forums can strengthen your non-profit’s resource development program. I found some awesome and unique communities that offer additional resources that you will definitely want to check out.

Giving Library

The Giving Library is a website that connects donors to non-profits through online video interviews. Donors can explore the online archive to locate, study, compare, and engage with hundreds of nonprofit organizations located across the country. The Giving Library also serves non-profits by enhancing donor access through a compelling medium, increasing overall visibility and providing an opportunity to learn about peer organizations. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation covers 100 percent of Giving Library costs for all non-profits selected to participate.

Donors Forum

Donors Forum is a resource for networking and education, information and knowledge, and leadership and advocacy on behalf of philanthropy and nonprofits in Illinois. This online resource provides information for both the donors and the non-profits with listings of workshops, trainings, publications, and best practices

Both of these forums are just two examples of online communities that work at engaging its audience. If you are new to the concept of online communities and forums, take a crash course and poke around at Yuku. Once you feel more comfortable consider hosting a forum or engaging your donors in two-way conversation.

I would love to hear more about your experiences with online forums and communities!

Has your organization every used an online forum to engage donors? What are some questions to pose to donors that could develop conversation? What have been challenges or downsides of this type of communication?rose draft sig

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