Tue, August 19 2014
Way back when, when social media was newish—let’s say 2007—I used this classic baseball analogy to illustrate how social media fit into the communications universe.
- Your website is your nonprofit’s online home base, with email as pitcher (no hits without the pitcher).
- Core social media platforms (now Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) as inside bases.
- Other social media platforms as the outfield.
Then, for many organizations, social media platforms took precedence—capturing our imaginations and anxieties, if not the impact—over more traditional online and offline marketing.
In fact, social media—or at least the dream of what social media could be—eclipsed websites and email for quite a while in terms of focus and excitement. Alas, resources were seldom part of the picture. But by now, for many of us, the role of social media has moved back to the infield, with your website sticking hard at home base.
That’s because your website remains, even after all these years, the central hub for actions—giving, registering, signing a petition, and more. Social media and, yes, even email are designed to drive people to your site to act (although mobile actions are quickly growing more common).
Here are a few reasons websites live on and remain strong. When done right, your nonprofit’s website:
- Delivers in-depth coverage of your organization’s history, work, and impact. (Multiple pages can showcase a single organization or campaign, with content that exists for the (relatively) long term vs. more ephemeral social media content.)
- Provides access to the rich, multidimensional story of your organization.
- Engages a significant yet diverse audience, which continues to grow as use of the mobile Web surges. Your website is now a see-anytime-anywhere platform.
- Generates insights into visitor behavior and campaign effectiveness via well-tested, low-cost usage analytic tools.
If you needed a reason to refocus on your organization’s website, you now have several. Your website could be your organization’s killer app!
Want some tips for making your nonprofit website even better?
Join this upcoming webinar to learn how to make strategic improvements to your website that will help you better communicate with donors and raise more. You could even get a quick review of your nonprofit’s home page or donation page from the Network for Good experts.
Free Webinar: Speed Consulting! Nonprofit Websites
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1pm EDT
Fri, August 15 2014
Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers: dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same.
How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.
So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)
It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.
It’s personal. There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.
It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one: give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.
It’s slightly irrational. Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.
It’s direct. Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.
It’s consistent. Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.
It’s different. Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!
With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.
What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!
Tue, August 12 2014
Each year, our Digital Giving Index shows that the online donation experience matters. Donors are more likely to give (and more likely to give larger donations) when they are presented with a donation page that keeps them in the moment of giving. In this video, Annika Pettitt from Network for Good’s Customer Success Team shares three key elements that will make your online donation page more effective and help you reach your fundraising goals.
For expert guidance on creating a donation page that inspires donors to give more, register for the free Ultimate Donation Page Course.
Mon, August 11 2014
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
Music has been one of the most powerful ways causes, celebrities, and communities can connect to raise money for serious issues. We recently caught up with Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, who shared his insight on why these events can be so successful for nonprofits of all sizes.
Legacy of Aid: August is the Anniversary of the Benefit Concert
For over forty years, the benefit concert has served as one of the most popular, easily recognizable forms of aid for charitable organizations.
It all started back in August 1971 when George Harrison called a few friends—Ringo, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, to name a few—to play at the world’s first benefit concert. The Concert for Bangladesh played from Madison Square Garden with ticket and recording sales helping to raise $18 million. These stars likely didn’t realize they were forever changing charitable giving in time of a disaster. Concerts are now a popular vehicle for causes around the world to raise visibility and funds—often targeting a younger crowd or introducing their campaign to an audience not yet familiar with it.
“Music is a universal pleasure that cuts across cultures and backgrounds,” says H. Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Music is a unifying experience—it’s a natural choice for charities to turn to benefit concerts as a means to raise funds.”
Star power can play a big role but doesn’t always spell success. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti, came under scrutiny about its finances. This controversy underscores the importance for charities to make sure they are fully transparent and accountable before implementing a benefit concert which can attract a lot of media attention.
And star power isn’t the only way to go. Charities across the country have seen great success with smaller scale benefit concerts ranging from high school bands to regional bands. The principles and watch-outs apply regardless of your headliner.
7 Do’s and Don’ts when planning a benefit concert for your organization:
1. Know your partners.
If you are co-hosting the benefit concert with another charity, take a moment to investigate them by pulling their report at Give.org. Don’t assume it is well managed just because it has a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt status.
2. Pay attention to regulations.
Make sure any state regulatory requirements have been met, including verifying your ability to solicit.
3. Check tax deductibility disclosures.
If the benefit concert tickets are sold in a charitable fundraising context, seek out a tax advisor to find out about tax deductibility disclosures that may need to be made.
4. Beware of cheaters.
Take reasonable measures to reduce ticket scalping. Examples might be: limiting the number of tickets sold to a single purchaser and ensuring computer safeguards are in place to avoid someone “snatching” all the tickets as soon as they are made available.
5. Practice your FAQ.
Make sure answers are readily available for reasonable questions about your mission, target amounts to be raised, and how collected funds will be used.
6. Be clear.
If the intention is to collect funds restricted for a specific purpose (i.e., disaster relief) make sure that all charity participants agree to this restriction and are able to carry out this work as soon as possible.
7. Be transparent about finances.
Share information on the total amount collected, the cost to hold the concert, and how much went to the cause. Post this information on the charity’s and concert’s websites.
The Future of Benefit Concerts
“Charity benefit concerts will continue to play a role in generating funds and advocating issues,” says Taylor. “Large events work well in times of major crisis or when a big star has a personal stake in a cause. Smaller, targeted local events can be successful as well.”
Whether packing a large event venue or a local concert hall, organizers should be creative and coordinate effectively to ensure that benefit concerts are a useful tool for raising awareness and charitable dollars.
A benefit with local bands and resources combined with a coordinated effort between multiple nonprofits may be a good option for some charities. Whether large or small, however, the expense and coordination efforts for events can be prohibitive and should be considered carefully in terms of the investment of time and resources. Often charities will measure ROI through funds raised as well as impact to the audience.
For more helpful tips on nonprofit collaboration, including information on accreditation, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org. For advice on planning a successful fundraising event, download Network for Good’s guide to Hosting Your Most Fabulous Fundraising Event Ever.
Fri, August 08 2014
When I asked nonprofit experts in a range of fields, from fundraising to programs, to share their summer reading lists, I had no idea what to expect.
I was thrilled to hear so many passionate stories about books that have made (or are likely to make) a huge difference in these folks’ lives. I’m sure that you’re reading all the time—blogs, Facebook, e-newsletters—but my colleagues told me that, for them, reading a book is something different. The process of immersing oneself in a work that is longer, richer, and typically experienced in a distinct format, be that hard copy or on an e-reader, is a unique experience. This immersion outside the day-to-day is highly engaging, energizing, and refreshing on the creative and intellectual fronts.
With that potential in mind, consider these top picks for your end-of-summer reading list. One of them could change your life:
Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream, Earl Swift
Sally Kirby Hartman, vice president of communications at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, adored this pleasure read about a ’57 Chevy and its various owners. Sally’s a superstar communicator and extracted a valuable marketing insight: “Auto Biography is a great reminder that a good observer can bring any topic to life by writing about real people,” she said.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell
If you know the work of fundraising scribe Tom Ahern, you won’t be surprised by the passion he brings to this recommendation. When Tom likes something, he really likes it. So when he told me that Blink was “blowing his mind,” I had to know why.
“Try this one,” said Tom. “A psychologist administers a test to college students. There are 10 questions. Scattered through the questions are words such as ‘worried,’ ‘Florida,’ ‘old,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘gray,’ ‘bingo,’ and ‘wrinkle.’ When the students arrive to take the test, they act their age. When they leave after taking the test, they act old, walking slowly. What you read when taking the test affected the way you behaved.
“OMG, Nancy,” exclaimed Tom. “The great unknown for copywriters (me) is the human mind and how it actually works, not how we guess it works. That’s why Blink is blowing my mind: it’s all about recent psychological research, as told by a fabulous journalist.”
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal
Nonprofit Web mastermind Seth Giammanco, of ModLab, is digging into Nir Eyal’s model that can be used to help products stand out in a world of constant competition for attention. He outlines that model here. It’s useful guidance and great inspiration for shaping your programs and services and positioning your organization’s fundraising and marketing campaigns for the strongest results.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk
Kevin Martone, technology program manager at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, is just digging into this one now. It’s the latest (maybe greatest?) from social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who shares secrets on connecting strongly with customers—donors and other supporters to us. Sounds worth a read!
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Dan Pink
In his breakthrough book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink broke through traditional perceptions on success drivers, suggesting that right-brain skills are a huge success factor. Celeste Wroblewski, vice president of public relations at Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is eager to read his latest. Celeste, I’ve read To Sell Is Human, and you’re in for a treat.
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington
What’s heading your end-of-summer reading list, or what book tops the list of those you’ve already finished? Share your picks in the comments below!