Mon, December 10 2007

Nonprofits—first in social media?!

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

Forget corporate savvy - here’s a case of nonprofit savvy.

According to a new study cited by massnonprofits, we nonprofits are cutting edge when it comes to social media:

Charitable organizations are outpacing the business world in their use of social media, according to a study recently completed by The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research.  According to the study, “America’s largest charities are turning to the Internet in an effort to increase awareness of their missions and to help connect with their constituencies. While these organizations are known for their nonprofit status and their fundraising campaigns, they demonstrate an acute awareness of the importance of Web 2.0 strategies in meeting their objectives.”

Wow, who knew?

Want to get started in social media?  Here are two good places to start:

Network for Good’s new resource on the topic
Expert Beth Kanter, who is the go-to guru on the topic

Hat tip to Erik at Orion for this story.

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Mon, December 10 2007

Open up or else

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Three important things happened recently.  Take note.

1. Sally Beatty of the Wall Street Journal says charities need to be more open and transparent. She says it feels good to give to charity, but “the warm feeling fades when we try to find out about charities’ successes and failures.”  She says it’s very hard to know who is doing effective work. The article makes three recommendations to improve the situation.  Here’s what she tells charities to do: 1) Provide more information online; 2) Adopt high standards of measuring efficiency; and 3) Adhere to those voluntary standards. 

2. The Chronicle of Philanthropy did a story chronicling the work of GiveWell’s Clear Fund project - which aims to rate charities on their effectiveness.  Founder Holden Karnofsky found that to be very hard work, for the reasons Sally Beatty cites.  GiveWell has a new report on charities saving lives in Africa - useful for figuring out who to support this holiday.  Holden and his colleagues went through all the major causes of death and extreme debilitation that affect Africans more than they affect us and recommended the best.  They estimate that their top-ranked charity saves lives for something around $1000 each - 3-4x as cost-effective as their second highest rated.  Find out what charity is so great here.  (Hint: It’s one of my favorites and the one that opens my book!)

3. The Great Nonprofits site is getting nice traction in Pennsyvlania - enabling ratings of local charities.  Yes, welcome to the world of customer reviews of charity - pretty fascinating stuff.  Founder Perla Ni, who is an impressive innovator in our sector, likens it to Zagat’s for charities.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m constantly harping on two things: first, connect with your audiences and what they care about.  Answer the question, “why me?” for them.  Second, for those audiences, answer the question, “what for?”  What will the audience get for their donation? What will change?  What will happen?  (The other questions to always answer, by the way, are why now? and who says?)

I think “what for?” has never been more important.  You must answer this question before, during and after people give.

Skepticism about marketing is at an all-time high.  You can’t just demonstrate need, you have to show results.  If you don’t do it yourself, then GiveWell or Great Nonprofits or Charity Navigator will be doing it anyway.  So you have no choice but to share honest information on where the money goes.  People give money out of emotion, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care where their dollars go after they give.  The number one reason people quit supporting a nonprofit is how they were treated by that nonprofit - as in too many appeals, not enough thanks, and insufficient information on impact of their efforts.  People give because it feels good but if nothing seems to happen, it starts feeling bad.  This is a problem.

Open up or else.  Open up about the difference you make and how you make it.  Or else people may start closing their wallets.

 

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Thu, December 06 2007

Technology isn’t about wires, it’s about bonds

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

There is a curious paradox: the more our lifestyle creates separateness, the more we crave connection. 

We’re always talking about how technology sets us apart from the world around us - iTunes in our ears, Blackberry (Crackberry) in our hand.  But at the same time, we universally tend to use technology to seek connections - in our online communities, our Twittering, our emailing, our Facebooking - it’s all about looking for bonds.

Don’t forget that. 

No matter what you do, what you say, or how you use technology it’s not about the tool or the wires or the bells and whistles.  It’s about the bonds.

Don’t ask, should we blog?  Ask, is blogging a good way to connect with our audience?  Don’t ask, do we need a website redesign?  Ask, can people find what they need when they come to us?  Do they feel closer to us after they’ve come to our site? 

My esteemed colleague Jocelyn Harmon of NPower here in DC recently did a presentation on marketing and communications in the connected age.  You can check it out here.  She reminds us of two things to remember online:

1. Be real.  Speak the truth, in your own voice.
2. Flip the funnel.  (Katya’s note: That’s Seth Godin’s great term for surrendering your lonely megaphone and antiquated sale funnel and letting a thousand messengers bloom, in their own voices, to their own circles of influence)

In other words, be an authentic messenger and don’t be the only messenger.  Be an organization that connects to people on a very human level.  And make it possible for people who love your organization to connect to the people they love to share your story.  This is what it’s all about.

While online tools seem oh-so-new, what makes them work could not be more ancient or old-school.  What’s truly innovative is using the Internet to more quickly and expansively fulfill our unending human need for connection.  Paraphrasing Pasternak, what’s powerful is what’s shared.

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Wed, December 05 2007

The people who matter more than donors

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Nonprofit leadership •

This time of year, I spend too much time thinking about money - spending it, giving it, and getting people to donate it.  Marketing right now in my mind is all about shopping, donating and fundraising. 

But an interesting book called Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most by Sybil Stershic, who was kind enough to give me a copy when I saw her a few weeks ago, reminds me there’s another truly important way to think about marketing other than spending and raising funds.  And that is in terms of motivating and supporting our staff.  They are the “People Who Matter Most.”

Just as audience-focused approaches work magic in marketing and customer relations, they also do with our employees.  In fact, as she writes in Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most, they are all intertwined, with “a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and between customer satisfaction and improved financial performance.”  In other words, if we want money, we need to focus on our staff. 

She likes to say, “Explain, Train and Refrain”—explain how people’s jobs fit into the big picture and their role, train them to do great work and refrain from getting in their way.

Here are some marketing principles I think belong inside our office, not just in our outreach:

-Knowing and listening to our audience (not just donors, but the people we work with.  We want to listen to what they say because it helps us understand how to motivate them—and to make them and us more effective)
-Being authentic: Not just spouting feel-good HR drivel about the value of employees but really valuing them
-Providing incentives: See Sybil’s thought on that below
-Letting go a knee-jerk need to control our message: Just as we need to give our supporters the freedom to spread the word about us in their own language, we need to give employees the freedom to solve problems and serve customers/donors as they see fit.  Look no further than United vs. Southwest or Macy’s vs. Nordstrom for the difference this makes.

So what incentives does Sybil say work but don’t cost money?  Research shows there are three:

-Personal recognition for a job well done
-A written thank-you
-Public praise

So don’t just thank your donors this holiday, thank the people around you.

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Mon, December 03 2007

What should your marketing priorities be?

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •


Read how marketers answer that question in this week’s Carnival.

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