Fri, July 18 2014

Reboot with These 6 Summer Camp Strategies

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

Our daughter Charlotte’s world right now is probably familiar to many of you.

She’s in the middle of a blissful summer at a few different day and overnight camps. At the end of every day, her mind and creativity are stimulated, she’s made new friends, and she sleeps soundly with a smile on her face. Charlotte finishes the summer inspired, energized, and smarter than ever.

As a longtime overnight camper myself, I greatly envy her. Finally, this summer I decided to follow her summer camp strategy lead and am doing something completely different from the everyday. I’m taking a two-month sabbatical to refresh and restore—my first-ever break beyond a brief vacation since I rushed out of college to work.

For many, however, a sabbatical isn’t possible, so I wanted to outline effective approaches used by fellow nonprofit staffers and consultants. I became a reboot detective, determined to find what’s working since rebooting is so valuable and so productive in teeing you up for a great fall and beyond.

I did what I typically do when I’m looking for answers—ask my friends and colleagues. Here are some of the fantastic approaches I heard from our peers in the field:

Seek a different point of view. Gillian Ream Gainsley, who works in communications and development at the Ypsilanti District Library in Michigan, does something very surprising.

“My summer camp plan is to go to overnight camp. Literally. I’m on the board of a summer camp and spend a week volunteering there every year. It’s the most rejuvenating part of my year,” Gillian says.

“Mostly, it’s a fantastic break. But I do communications for a youth organization, so it’s a great way to take a deep dive into how kids talk and think and feel. You have a much better sense of what their (and their parents’) needs are after a week of 24-hour interaction at camp.”

 

Get together and get outside. Caroline Avakian, founder of Source Rise, which connects journalists with experts in international development, spends more time outdoors and with her family. “Not only is it necessary, but I find that it fuels my work and creativity, making me much more productive during my work time,” she says.

Make a commitment to doing summer differently. Unless you’re lucky enough to actually go to summer camp, as Gillian does, it can be super hard to pry yourself away from the day-to-day routine, no matter how much you want to. That’s where I often fall.

You’re much more likely to succeed in getting to your own version of summer camp if you formalize your commitment. I did so by telling a few close friends and colleagues about my plan and asking them to keep me honest. My husband is good at policing as well!

I’m not alone here. “I have to consciously cut down on work hours to do that,” admits Caroline. “But it’s worth it since my productivity shoots up when I do get down to business. I tend to goal-set instead of clocking in my hours, so as long as I feel I’ve met my goals, I’m happy. That said, my ‘summer camp’ goals tend to be more focused on strategic priorities and organization. That focus gears me up and preps me for the busy fall season.”

Take a new approach to the same old. Danielle Brigida, senior manager of social strategy and integration for the National Wildlife Federation, is one of the most creative people I know. She brings that creativity to the way she tackles her work, including her own version of summer camp.

Like most of us, a lot of Danielle’s day is spent tackling ongoing challenges. Although the challenges themselves don’t vary wildly, she spices up the way she approaches them: “I break out the sidewalk chalk and the Idea Frisbee in the summer. I grab whomever I’m working with, and I just toss the Frisbee around when we need to think up clever names or ideas around campaigns. We find that moving while we brainstorm really helps.”

Work your body, nourish your soul. Many of the folks I spoke with increase their physical activity when summer comes around or add seasonal treats like biking and waterskiing.

Danielle, for example, goes way beyond the Idea Frisbee. “I went out on a limb and signed up for a marathon in Iceland in late August,” she says. “So I’m mostly training for that and spending as much time outside as I can. I also try to balance the running with yoga.”

Connect with peers in the field to build satisfaction and smarts. Graphic designer Julia Reich uses summer’s slight dip in her firm’s client work to build relationships with other nonprofit marketers and, she hopes, find some strong strategic alliances.

How will you get a little summer camp this summer? Please chime in with your comments to share how you recharge and look at things differently.

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

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Wed, July 16 2014

How to stand out on social media

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters • Social Media •

At this week’s Social Media for Nonprofits conference in Washington, DC, Avi Kaplan, Director of Online Strategy for Rad Campaign, challenged organizations to think about how they can break through the noise on social media when we live in a BuzzFeed world. Avi says the key to standing out is to focus on the right audience in the right context with awesome content. Here are just a few of the tips he shared with the crowd.

Connect with the right people.

Avi Kaplan SM4NP Conference

Keep in mind that your social media universe is comprised of three segments: your die-hard supporters, people who are likely receptive to your message, and those who just aren’t that into you.

Get more from your database. Look at your current donor list, email list, and social media followers. What do they have in common? Seek out “lookalike” populations as you connect with influencers and use this insight to inform paid social promotion.

Prioritize. Don’t waste time on audiences that aren’t in your sweet spot. Focus on the people who are already passionate about your cause, interested in your issue, or are supporters of your organization. They will help you reach more like-minded folks and create ripples from your social media efforts.

Understand the return on investment for specific audiences. Some segments of your audience are great sharers and likers, but other segments might be more likely to take actions like making a donation or volunteering. Learn the behaviors of each of your segments and plan your outreach accordingly.

Connect in the right context.

Being timely, relevant, and top of mind means hooking into the bigger picture. What else are your supporters interested in or talking about? Find appropriate ways to capitalize on trends, breaking news, and even memes to tap into the familiar.

Don’t miss your opening. Social media conversations move fast. What may be timely today may be passé tomorrow. If it takes you a few weeks to create, approve, and publish content, you’ve missed the moment. Create a social media system nimble enough to react quickly and find your organization’s share of recent news or trending topics.

Plan ahead.  If you don’t have an editorial calendar to help you plan your content for social media and beyond, it’s time to create one. Avi shared that as part of your content calendar, you also need a “context calendar”—this is a space on your editorial calendar where you’ll plot out holidays, key milestones, seasonal topics,and more. Unlike breaking news or unexpected memes, these are events you can prepare for well in advance.

Optimize timing. Tools like Buffer, Followerwonk, and Tweroid can help you understand the best times to reach your audience and schedule your messages for maximum effect. This is especially important if you have limited time to spend on social media management and content creation. You need to get the most out of the effort you’re putting in.

Connect with awesome content.

Once you’ve zeroed in on your primary audience and understand the power of context, it’s time to think about the content that you’ll share. Go beyond reposting the same pieces again and again and get creative with visuals and topics that are top of mind.

Steal.  Are you down with OPC? Other people’s content, that is. Some of your best social media interactions will come from curating content from other sources, or creating derivative works.  Reach out to collaborate, offer credit, and use discovery tools like crowdtangle to find amazing stuff to share or emulate. (Social media coach Andrea Vahl offers some other ideas for finding compelling content to share.)

Learn what’s working through analytics.  Don’t just mindlessly blast your followers with updates that are boring them out of love for your nonprofit. Measure which channels and topics result in the most engagement and action.

Experiment and take risks.  Put a plan in place to manage your social outreach, but remember these platforms are flexible and forgiving. Since the flow of social is much faster than other channels, you can learn quickly and adapt. Try new things to see what works with *your* supporters.

Need more ideas for social media content? Download our new guide,  101 Social Media Posts, for suggestions that will help your nonprofit connect with supporters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

 

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Mon, July 14 2014

7 Strategies for Mobilizing Millennials

Jamie McDonald's avatar

Chief Giving Officer, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials • Nonprofit leadership •

(Part two in our series on the Millennial Impact Project)

Millennials: A powerful force for change.

Earlier this month, I shared my perspectives on the 2014 Millennial Impact Report and MCON14. Hopefully, that post got you thinking about how Millennials are shaping our culture and social sector in profound new ways.

As a refresher, this is a summary from Derrick Feldmann, President of Achieve, on the growing significance and power of Millennials:

Approximately 80 million Millennials live in the U.S. today. Collectively, they spend about $300 billion annually on consumer discretionary goods. And by the year 2020, they will make up 50% of the workforce.

Soon, Millennials will no longer be the “next generation;” rather, they will be the majority of your co-workers and employees. [And I’d add, the majority of your donors and supporters.]

Millennials are building a culture that knows how it feels to contribute to a cause and attempt to solve social issues…It is not overstating to say that a big part of the nonprofit sector’s future relies on its ability to respond to these young people’s charitable inclinations.

Invite them. Inspire them. Seven steps to get started.

How do you begin to engage Millennials? Here are seven ways you can bring Millennial energy, innovation and advocacy to your organization.

1. Bring Millennials onto your team. Hire Millennials. Invite one or two to join your board. Even if you have a give/get for board members, encourage Millennials to run a race or do a crowdfunding campaign as a way to fulfill their commitment. They’re worth it. With their robust social networks, youthful passion and idealism, they can contribute in ways that are more important than money. Think of Millennial team members as beacons that can shine a light on your organization with huge networks of friends, family and colleagues.

2. Inspire with images and video. Shift your marketing focus from facts and data to people and impact stories. Check out how our client, the United Way of Central Maryland uses a beautiful image and video to present a clear, simple fundraising message. Click here for a guide to using visuals effectively.

3. Enlist with emotion on social channels. Inspire young supporters to share your mission by capturing their attention in your social channels with emotion: empathy, humor, pain, triumph. Investments in photography and video can pay big dividends, as inspiring content is more likely to be shared. The campaign of actress Lauren Luke, Don’t Cover it Up, inspired women, especially Millennials, to confront partner violence, not to “cover it up.”

4. Empower them to get involved, not just to give. Inspire Millennials to volunteer based on their top motivators for getting involved: Passion (79%); Meeting people (56%); Gaining expertise (46%). Get them involved through activism, professional groups, and leadership opportunities. The United Way of Central Maryland has built a passionate base of Millennial supporters with its Emerging Leaders United program, by focusing on these motivations.

5. Focus on your website. Meet Millennials where they are: online (and on their phones). With the rise of social media, many organizations focus their online outreach, updates, and photos on these platforms, often neglecting their core website. Your website is the center of your online universe - the sun to your orbiting social media planets. And leaving out of date or generic information on a website is a major turn-off for Millennials, and everyone else!.

Also, your website has to be mobile-friendly. 87% of Millennials are carrying smartphones everyday. A mobile-friendly online environment will keep mobile users engaged and enable impulsive action from an impulsive generation.

6. Launch a monthly giving program. One of the hottest trends in philanthropy mirrors a trend we see in consumer purchasing: the growth in subscription giving. According to the report, 52% of Millennials are interested in giving monthly. A small monthly gift can really add up over months and years. Here are some recommendations on how to start your monthly giving program.

7. Move them to action by ASKING. You’re changing lives every day. And everyday you need support. Millennials want to be inspired, to inspire others, and to make a big impact with their actions and generosity. Tell them how they can help: start a fundraising page, sign a petition, recruit volunteers, host an event, join your leadership. It starts with an ask.

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Fri, July 11 2014

What is your biggest fundraising challenge?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

We recently asked our nonprofit Learning Center community about their biggest fundraising challenges. These fundraisers and marketers overwhelmingly indicated that acquiring new donors was the biggest challenge, with 61% choosing this as their top issue, followed by diversifying funding sources (16%), donor retention (9%), and increasing demand/staff constraints (both coming in at 7%).

Fundraising Challenges graph

There’s a lot that goes into a successful donor acquisition strategy. Once you have a strong marketing plan in place, it’s important to understand how to effectively tell your nonprofit’s story and make the case for giving to actually convert your target audience into donors. We have two free guides that will help you do just that:

Storytelling for Nonprofits

How to Make the Case for Giving

What’s your biggest fundraising challenge and how are you working to solve it? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll feature selected responses in an upcoming post.

 

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Wed, July 02 2014

8 Ways to Make Social Media Matter

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Social Media •

Pressure.

You feel it. I feel it. Every nonprofit communicator and fundraiser out there feels it. Social media pressure, that is.

Whether the source of this anxiety (Am I keeping up? Do I have a billion Facebook likes or Twitter followers? Is my Instagram strategy driving action?) is your immediate boss, board chair, or colleague in programs, it’s there. The pressure to generate a social media miracle.

Breathe—There Is a Solution

You can boost marketing and fundraising impact, and you can deflate that pressure. Here’s how:

1.  Get to know your people. Research, via online survey or calls, where your current supporters are when it comes to social media.

2.  Use your marketing/fundraising plan to remind yourself exactly who your prospects are (the people who are most likely to take the actions that will drive your marketing or fundraising goals forward). Then, use your supporter research to project where similar prospect groups are on social media.

3.  Assess if and where to invest in social media, even if your organization has been there for years. Probe whether the most-used social media channels are useful in helping you achieve your broader goals. Ask yourself two questions: Does the interaction in that channel mesh with your calls to action and goals? Is your investment in each of the most-used channels likely to be profitable?

4.  Focus your energy and time on the single most-used channel, but only if the return on investment (ROI) seems to be there. Note: It will be far more effective to use one platform well, rather than use multiple platforms in a half-baked way. That’s been proven time and time again.

5.  Invest the time. Block out at least 30 minutes, twice daily, for social media if you are using just one platform. I urge you to get that one channel to work—or realize it’s the wrong one—before you take on another platform.

6.  Create some incremental benchmarks so you get a sense of how your investment is or is not paying off. That might be retweets and followers for Twitter or likes and shares for Facebook. Request that your colleagues ask those who do take action—to give, register, or spread the word—what influences sparked them along the way.

7.  Like or follow five to 10 colleague or competitive organizations on that channel, be it Facebook or Instagram. It’s important to see what folks who are competing for your supporters’ and prospects’ attention and dollars are doing. You can also find some relevant models by watching what organizations similar to yours in approach or issue—but not competing with you—are doing.

8.  Adapt your approach as needed on an ongoing basis. Build into your work plan an ongoing analysis of what is and isn’t working, a review of other organizations’ successes and failures, and a revision of your own approach. Social media, including websites and blogs, is a communications channel that requires ongoing evolution. Otherwise, don’t use it.

Take these steps to make your social media efforts meaningful and measurable for your nonprofit. How are you making social media matter for your cause? Chime in with your ideas below!

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

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