Live By Example.

After examining numerous non profit organizations, I wanted to highlight a NPO that is utilizing social media in incredible ways. Mashable, the Social Media Guide, created the Summer of Social Good which recognized four nonprofits and their efforts in using social media. LIVESTRONG, one of the organizations recognized is a non profit that has taken full advantage of the opportunities to engage their communities through social media and has integrated all of the components of social media into their communications strategy.

            In their efforts to raise awareness about cancer, this organization has completely engaged with the online community through blog, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, and Flickr, and bookmarking. In previous posts, I have mentioned the importance of integrating your social media strategy so that they are consistent, and your followers are constantly receiving updated content and information. LIVESTRONG is a great example of this and I would like to highlight some of their successful social media endeavors.

            An article on Mashable says they use their Twitter to inform the public on different events and information on their website, but LIVESTRONG also teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the American Cancer Society to help promote their fundraiser called the Blame Drew’s Cancer campaign. Even though they were not promoting their own event, the fact that their name was represented increased the reach of their organization even more. Branding is an important aspect within a non profit organization, so anything that can be done to increase your organization’s presence will be beneficial.

            LIVESTRONG also used Flickr as a way to connect with people and engage by asking them to post pictures from various events wearing their LIVESTRONG bracelets, and the campaign was so successful that it received 400 entries in just 3 days. The organization is also heavily represented on sites like Facebook and Myspace, as well as YouTube, where people can share inspirational videos with one another.

            LIVESTRONG has allowed people to engage with them in a variety of ways, and they have encouraged activism through their many campaigns according to Brooke McMillan. She says that it is important to offer the communities ways to create something together, allow the communities to create content for your website, and most of all create opportunities for people to give in different ways and create continuous opportunities for activism.

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iGive.

Connectivity is no longer stationary- we are accessing each other and information wherever our mobile devices will allow. You can’t walk down the street and not see someone texting, talking on their cell phone, or listening to their iPod. It is clear that we like to have access to updated content 24/7, and who is to say that this content can’t be from your nonprofit organization because it looks like social media is going mobile.

            According to Nonprofit Tech 2.0, there are more than 65 million active users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices, and the number is steadily increasing. A majority of the social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have already adopted mobile websites, and two non profits that are leading the way in this technology are the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund. Also, nonprofits are adopting mass text messages that can be sent out about your cause to your followers, which your NPO could use to drive them back to your blog or Twitter for more information.

            Some non profits are also starting to recognize the possibility of getting their message out to the public through an iPhone which has applications and features that can allow their supporters to donate through their phones. According to an article on The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Apple is developing an application called Givabit that would profile a new nonprofit everyday and prompt people to donate to that organization. Although expensive to adopt and implement, this feature could be useful because you can inform your supporters and volunteers on your social media sites about this new technology, which will open one more avenue of communication between you and your audience.

            It is important that with the rapidly changing way we receive our information that your NPO has the capabilities to reach these ever-changing audiences. These new innovations are important to understand because the ability to reach donors and volunteers is changing, which means your social media strategy will need to be altered to accommodate these new methods of communication.

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Donations 2.0

All of this talk dealing with social media and viral fundraising leads you to think, “Well, who exactly is donating online?” Social media has revolutionized the methods in which people receive their information, and it is making it harder for people to find exactly where everyone is. In my past blog posts, I have examined the different tools that non profits are using to get donations, but now it’s time to answer the question of who.

            According to Rebecca Higman and Katya Andresen in an article on the Nonprofit Technology Network, research shows that online donors are growing rapidly and tend to be under 40 with gifts of around $100 dollars, while older generations tend to give offline and more consistently. These donors are the leading source of new revenue for non profits, and even though online giving represents a small segment of the donations an organization receives, this form of giving is steadily on the rise. Sites like Network for Good, a non-profit helping non profit organizations fundraise and get donations, are a prime example of a useful tool when trying to develop an online donation presence.

            A study published in 2008 by Target Analytics says that younger donors will give larger gifts because they have a higher and disposable income than the traditional donors. The retention rate of online donors is lower because their larger gifts occur less frequently, and they are less loyal to giving repeatedly to a non profit. When donors see your cause on social media site though, it is also possible for them to give more frequently, but in lesser amounts. When a donor gives to a non profit’s website, they are more likely to return to the site than giving on a social networking site like the Facebook Causes application, although if they are reached on a social networking site, they will tend to give there.

            The key to online fundraising though is ensuring that your marketing strategies are integrated because in order to have consistency in your donations, all of your publications, branding, and communication strategies should drive people to your website. It is vital to figure out exactly where your donors are coming from and what sites they are on so that your donor traffic can be geared to one central location and one specific method of payment in order to promote long-term giving. It is important to reach your target audience in a variety of ways though because the organizations with the strongest donors integrate their communication channels. In order to maintain the donors, whether online or offline, it is important to interact and cultivate them as a supporter in order to ensure their return and commitment to your mission.

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A Donation Could Be Just One Friend Request Away

Our society is continually seeking new and innovative ways to find information and stay connected. For your non-profit organization, this very fact is why social networking sites can be helpful in your social media strategy. Social networking sites like Facebook allow your NPO to have access to multiple applications that can help achieve your mission.

            Outreach is one of the most important aspects of a non-profit organization because in order to be effective, people need to be aware of your presence as an organization. Facebook has applications such as the event and fan pages, group, and causes applications. These are all great tactics in viral marketing because they are an inexpensive way to promote your cause, and allow your supporters to engage and invite their friends.

             The Causes application is a very popular feature on Facebook for non profits because it utilizes the established relationships of people using the site to spread their message, but according to an article in The Washington Post, the application does not amount to many donations. Research shows that more than 25 million of Facebook’s 200 million worldwide users are supporters of at least one cause, but only 185,000 members have ever donated to the site.

            The median amount of money tends to be around $25 dollars, which is not a lot in comparison to other methods of getting donations, although Causes has raised over $7 million dollars in donations overall. This might not seem like a promising endeavor, but for smaller non profits that are not as widely known and recognizable, this application tends to bring more success. Even though the amount per person may not be hugely significant, this application allows groups to come together and raise money in a fashion that would not otherwise be possible.

            Facebook also has a page that is dedicated solely to non-profit organizations with RSS feeds to helpful webinars and blogs, and an overall mission that seeks to promote non profits, offer advice on how to effectively use Facebook and create a community for people who support non-profit organizations. Regardless of the amount of donations your organization could potentially receive from utilizing Facebook, it is very effective in helping to educate and create awareness about your cause and recruit volunteers because of the sheer number of users and how quickly the platform allows information to spread.

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A Little Thing Called Corporate Social Responsibility

Every year, corporations and their employees donate millions of dollars, their time and their resources to aid non profit organizations in their mission, and they do this because of corporate social responsibility. Corporation’s CSR initiatives usually have a variety of innovative programs, philanthropies, and volunteer opportunities within them because according to an article, “Explicit Donations & Inferred Endorsements,” research shows evidence that suggests a corporation’s social behavior can affect a consumer’s attitudes towards them. These initiatives can help create customer loyalty and trust, positive community relationships, greater perceptions of the corporation and its civic engagement, and “bottom line” benefits to the company. How can this help your non profit organization you might ask? Let me tell you.

            This philosophy serves to include the public welfare, community development, and global impact into a corporation’s decision making process, and this all helps to accomplish their triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit. When consumers are aware of a corporation’s socially responsible actions, this helps to increase their customer support because socially and environmentally oriented consumers tend to support companies that have values that align with their personal beliefs.

            As a NPO, this idea is important to you because if you properly utilize social media, a corporation could take notice to your cause and implement CSR initiatives that can help your organization achieve its’ goals. Corporate Social Responsibility allows a non profit organization, which sometimes may have limited resources, to build relationships with corporations who can assist the organization in gaining recognition, support, donations, and volunteers. You are not only receiving benefits from this partnership, but it is a mutual relationship with the corporation as well because they are getting recognized for their support of your cause. The corporation has the resources to assist your NPO, and provide volunteers, donations, and event sponsorships while also increasing your visibility and reach. In a recent study in 2008, around $1.5 billion dollars was used for CSR initiatives, a growing number from the $125 million spent in 1990.

            For example, the article discusses companies that have implemented charitable involvements, and some include breast cancer event sponsorships such as Race for the Cure by Ford Motor Company and breast cancer awareness by Avon; Coca-Cola assists with the Boys and Girls Club, and Home Depot donates its tools and supplies to Habitat for Humanity.

            A recent example of corporate social responsibility has been Twitter, and they have teamed up with Room to Read, a non profit organization founded in 2000 that promotes education in the developing world. Beth Kanter does a profile on the collaborative effort of these organizations in creating the Fledgling Initiative, and this is an example of how different organizations can come together and tackle our societal issues and dilemmas together.

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Changing the World. One blog at a time.

            Blogs. They are a powerful tool for communication in our society, as seen by the “Dell Hell” fiasco with prominent blogger and industry leader, Jeff Jarvis. This example, if nothing else proves the capacity blogs have to engage a community of people to come together for a common cause. There is a large community of online users that engage with blogs frequently in order to share information, retrieve updated and current news, and voice their opinions for their followers to hear.

            Blogs are a great, inexpensive tool used for conversation in a NPO’s communication strategy, and Jason Dick’s article, “Reasons Your Organization Should Blog” offers advice on this technology. He says that blogging can help your organization begin a relationship with a new donor, while it also allows you to share your mission, success stories, and important content with people who already follow your cause. The March of Dimes is an example of a blog that was created for families to share their story about dealing with NICU infants, and this is a forum where people from different parts of the world can come together to offer support, advice, and information for one another. This is beneficial for the March of Dimes because this is a personal and unique way for them to communicate with supporters of their mission, and this helps them to create trust and authentic relationships with the individuals who participate on the site.

            He also says that this is a great way to increase your search engine optimization, also known as SEO, because donors that are looking to find non profits that deal with the issues that they believe in will be able to easily locate the keywords that are in your blog. Another blog post titled, “8 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs” by Britt Bravo says that a blog is a great way to share your expertise and educate the public on your mission. Blogs also have the ability for your NPO to share news and information as it is happening, and update it in real time for millions of people to have access. Our society thrives on connectivity and we are constantly seeking new information, so a blog like the American Red Cross is a perfect example of how to utilize this technology. The American Red Cross regularly and consistently updates the public on news around the world, and this is useful for them because it allows them to share photos, breaking stories, and what the Red Cross is doing to help the situation.

            Beth Kanter, a prominent and well-respected blogger in the non profit world, wrote a blog post on Blog Action Day 2009 which caught my attention. This is an opportunity for bloggers across the world, to unite on the same day and start a discussion on their blog dealing with the same topic. The power in this movement is the idea of conversations, which is a fundamental element of social media and one that your NPO can benefit from. If your non profit creates an online presence, bloggers will be able to link to your blog, post their comments, and continually stay engaged with the progress of your cause and your organization’s success, which will prompt them to help you spread the word and reach more people.

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Lights. Camera.YouTube.

Let’s face it. We have received a YouTube clip from our friends or family, and more often than not, we passed it on because of its’ humor, information quality, or touching message. This trend, better known as viral marketing, should not be taken lightly because it is clear that sharing content and information is highly valued and necessary in our society.  Being that YouTube is the world’s largest online video community, it provides a platform to do that and further engage with your supporters, and could be integral in your social media strategy.

            As a non profit, YouTube can be especially beneficial to your organization because it has the capacity to reach millions. The exchange of information that takes place in this medium can be vital in your communications, and will also be easily accessible for all your donors and volunteers.

            Charity: Water is a great example of a non profit organization utilizing the capabilities of YouTube. YouTube has a program implemented specifically for non-profits and it is beneficial because they have created special features to help increase awareness and donations, one of which was used by Charity: Water. NPOs now have the option of adding a Call-to-Action overlay on their videos, so that when users are watching their video, they can click on the screen and it will actually take them to the non profit organization’s website.

            Charity: Water used this strategy, and people clicked to their website, and after just one day, people collectively donated about 10,000 dollars to their cause. Once you click on the overlay, this redirected people to their site which had options and links for them to volunteer, twitter and facebook pages, upcoming events, and an opportunity to donate.

            YouTube is a simple platform to create awareness because people who believe in your cause can pass the video on. It is also helpful because you do not have to implement the technologies to begin a campaign such as this one. The technology is already available, and you are simply allowing people to engage in a voluntary way by recognizing their motivations and behaviors. There is no cost associated with this site, and along with the application to drive more visitors to your website, the Non Profit channel also has special features, tips, and advice for organizations interested in using their site.

                        This new feature has proved quite useful for Charity: Water, so why not give it try? Your next donation or volunteer could be just one view away.

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