Tue, August 19 2014

Seeking the Killer App? You Already Have It—Your Website

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Websites and web usability •

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
Register now.

 

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Fri, August 15 2014

Why the #IceBucketChallenge works

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials • Social Media •

Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.

Ethel Kennedy Ice Bucket challenge

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!

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Mon, August 11 2014

How the Benefit Concert is Shaping Philanthropy

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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

Benefit Concerts

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.

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Tue, August 05 2014

6 Simple Steps for Successful Campaign Planning

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Whether you’re you looking to win support for an issue, impact policy, or inspire donors to take action and give, a campaign rarely succeeds without a solid, thoughtful plan. At Network for Good, we’ve always been big fans of Spitfire Strategies’ original Just Enough Planning Guide as a primer for doing just that, and have featured the Spitfire team in our Nonprofit 911 webinar series. We’re happy to announce that the folks at Spitfire are back with an interactive road map to successful campaign planning with their Planning to Win: The Just Enough Guide for Campaigners™. The new Planning to Win toolkit builds on the original concept and provides nonprofit changemakers and campaign organizers with a nice set of resources to create an effective strategy.

Planning to Win

Inspired by the new guide, here are six key steps to putting your campaign plan together:

1. Define the Victory
It’s important that everyone agrees on the core goal or goals of your campaign. You also need to make sure the definition of your campaign’s success is specific and actionable. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How will you know that you’ve hit your goal?

2. Evaluate the Campaign Climate
Once you clearly define your campaign win, it’s time to evaluate the climate in which you’ll deploy your outreach. When you understand what’s going on around your issue or audience, you can plan to maximize the positives and strengthen any weaknesses. Identify what’s already working in your favor and what obstacles might cause your message to get lost or be misunderstood. Some questions to help you evaluate your issue’s climate:

  • Is your issue hot on the agenda or stuck in limbo?
  • What is the current conversation around your issue?
  • Who is the opposition and what is their agenda?
  • Who else is working on this issue?
  • What current events or opportunities can you use to your advantage?


3. Chart the Course
Lay out the series of milestones that you must hit on your way to reach your goal. Ideally, these steps should build off each other and indicate that your campaign is gaining momentum. Focus these milestones on the desired outcomes, rather than the tactics themselves. For example, if your campaign will reach out to local businesses to gain sponsors, your milestone should not be pitching these business owners. Rather, it should be that you reach your desired number of confirmed business partners for your cause. 

4. Choose Your Influence Strategy
Along with each step, understand the decision makers who will determine your success. These may be voters, business partners, or public officials. Then, find out who will have the most influence on these decision makers. These are the people you want to reach and activate to help your initiative gain momentum. Warning: avoid naming broad groups such as “the general public,” “voters” or “women.” Just as you did with your campaign goal, get very specific about your influencers so you have clear picture of the kind of person you need to reach to achieve victory.

5. Message for Impact
All campaigns benefit from a message platform that provides everyone in your organization with a consistent positioning statement. Keep in mind that a message platform doesn’t need to be rigid, nor does it need to be memorized, but it should provide the core concepts and talking points to serve as a guide for your spokespeople. A good message platform includes the following four points:

  • explain the problem/need that currently exists or the situation that you are working to change
  • specify what your campaign is working to accomplish
  • describe how you recommend addressing the need or problem, along with the with specific actions that decision makers need to take
  • explain the result that a campaign victory will have and how it solves the problem you noted at the start


6. Manage Your Campaign
Once you outline the main tactics to achieve your goals, you still need to plan the day-to-day details to get it done. Each assignment should have a deadline/timeline, owner, metrics including outcomes, and a budget. When it comes to metrics, it’s important to think of ones that lead to outcomes. Once your campaign is underway, don’t forget to celebrate the small victories with your team to keep everyone motivated.

For a step-by-step guide to building your campaign strategy, check out Planning to Win: The Just Enough Guide for Campaigners™.

How are you applying these steps to your campaigns? Share your current efforts in the comments below and add in your tips for fellow campaigners.

 

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Wed, July 30 2014

Simple, Timeless Social Media Tips

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Social Media •

As of September 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites. If your nonprofit isn’t active on at least one social network, now is the time to get moving! A quick Google search will provide you with tons of best practices and tips for using social media but in this video, you’ll find that I stuck to actionable tips that go beyond the latest fad or algorithm to help your nonprofit excel (and have fun) with social media.

 

Take your social media outreach to the next level. Download our free guide, 101 Social Media Posts, for content ideas that you can use for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

 

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