Perception and Reality

Nonprofits constantly face a challenge of perception versus reality.  This challenge makes it hard for nonprofits to innovate or change because they get caught up in doing what they think is the right thing to do.  I saw this chart and it really got me thinking; is our perception actually our reality?

Perception Versus Reality

Perception Versus Reality

In this chart, consumers rated receiving a discount as the #1 reason they visit companies via social media.  Companies rated discounts as the last reason why consumers visited their social properties.  Pretty compelling!

So, what do we do with that information?  We test!  We make it a part of what we do every day, and we work to actually determine what our donors/constituents/customers need vs. what we think they need.

Lets get tactical:

  1. Survey: Launch a survey in Survey Monkey, Constant Contact, or whatever you are currently using to communicate.  Ask: How can we improve?  How can we better serve you?
  2. Listen:  Really take time to understand what your audience is saying in the survey.  What are they asking for?
  3. Take Action: Make a change (or three) based on the results of the survey.

Take-away: Start testing perception vs. reality in your nonprofit.

Social Media 101

Last week I held a social media session for Habitat For Humanity Central Texas.  What an amazing group of people.  I promised I would share all of the social media tools I have collected.  One of the participants recommended I blog them because as she put it; there are a lot of people who could really use them.

Here are some of my favorite social media tools:

1. Social Media 101: A great presentation introducing social media.

2. From my favorite Social Media Guru, the Marketing Savant a ton of valuable resources can be found here.

3. 50 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits

4. How the Top 50 Nonprofits Do Social Media


Take-away: Get online and start connecting, your donors are in the social sphere and you should probably be there too!

Should I be investing time in Facebook for my nonprofit?

What is Facebook today?

Today Facebook is a controlled way for people to connect with existing friends. Most users simply use Facebook to engage with people they already know.  Facebook is a relationship tool, it is not an advertising platform (today anyway). So if you are in the nonprofit space it is a great tool for you to use to spend time building connections and relationships.

So should you be investing time and effort in Facebook?

To truly determine how much time, if any, to invest in Facebook, you will need to know your donors/constituents. Do they use Facebook? How often? Do they use another social network more often? Has your nonprofit seen any benefits from being on Facebook? Look at your marketing strategy to see if your time and resources could be spent more effectively somewhere else.

To determine what your organization should do, you will need to determine what your goals are.  Do you want to build Facebook as a primary engagement tool or do you just want people to be able to find you if they look?

If you decide that your organization can benefit from Facebook, the following are some keys to making your efforts more efficient:

  • If you decide to invest in Facebook also invest in a measurement tool.  I recommend Sprout Social because it is easy to use and affordable.
  • Using your measurement tool, determine what information your donors love to see, read, and share!  For us, people love to hear about anniversaries.  The tool is truly about relationships, and that shows in our results.
  • Make it worth the visit; reward people for visiting your Facebook page.  This will make them want to visit more often.
  • Make certain resources only available on Facebook to encourage users to keep an eye on you.  For nonprofits, think about a special event for Facebook friends only.
  • Pictures, videos and articles are highly popular on Facebook. If possible, make sure every update includes an image or video.  Be sure and upload pictures during events and following events.  At your event make sure you announce that the photos taken will be on your Facebook page following the event.  Check out the Color Me Rad page for a great example.
  • Do not post every day. As a small nonprofit, you may only need to post once or twice a week.  Quality or quantity is the rule for sure.
  • Post when people are on Facebook. According to the Huffington Post, the best times to post are weekends by far, followed by evenings and early mornings.
  • Use the Promote button for your most important posts to push them to the top of the news feed. This does cost money, with the exact rate depending on your geographic location and how many users you wish to reach, but it can be worth it for advertising posts.

Take-away: For those nonprofits in the business of building relationships, Facebook is a great way to truly build engagement.

This post was modified from the original post for the nonprofit audience:

Looking to 2013


This is the time of year that many individuals donate to nonprofit organizations, but will that be enough? A new survey report entitled Non-Profit 2013 Financial Outlook, Reporting, & Systems reveals the top priorities and challenges facing nonprofits in 2013. According to Shereen Mahoney, CEO of Brittenford Systems “2013 will likely require non-profits to rethink revenue model and income strategies, while improving strategic planning and program results.”

There are a number of aspects affecting the challenges nonprofits are facing including, reduced government funds, a drop in charitable donations, consolidations, increased competition, increased demand for services, and the list goes on and on.

But, without nonprofits so many needs will go unmet. Nonprofits are also job creators. In fact, during the recessions of 1990-1 and 2001-2, nonprofits actually increased their number of employees by 2.38 percent a year while for-profit jobs declined at an annualized rate of 2.2 percent. And, while many people are not aware of it, the nonprofit community is an enormous contributor to the American economy: It provides 5.5% of the nation’s entire GDP or $751 billion worth of output.

So, what can be done?

The key to turning things around for nonprofits is… TECHNOLOGY. Okay, you’re not surprised to hear that from the Marketing Director of a technology company, but, it is true! Technology can help tremendously in three key areas: creating awareness, reducing costs, and increasing donations.

First, creating awareness.  In order to be considered for donations, the public must be aware that your nonprofit even exists.  Awareness can be established through many channels, but for the sake of this post we will focus on the value of technology and social.   As you can see below, the growth continues to increase year over year, and while it may not directly tie to increased revenue.  Social does tie to increased awareness.Edison-research-graph

Second, reducing costs. You have probably already seen your new budgets and my guess is they call for flat expenses or reduced expenses and increased donations.  How are you supposed to do that?  Well, a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system and a proper fund accounting system can help your staff achieve much more with less. Automating financial functions through an integrated accounting system where the donor’s details have to be entered only once and are accessible to all staff makes good business sense.  It can help you with audits, reporting, and even bringing in more donations.

Plus, fundraisers all understand the value of building relationships.   A CRM will allow you to more easily recognize and reward your donors, track the actions of your donors, and even organize the relationship you have with your donors. And the value of all of this is of course; my favorite topic, donor loyalty.

If that is not enough, the cost of quality software as really become more affordable with subscription offerings.  For example, you can get a complete end-to-end solution with Sage starting at $249 a month.  That price point puts technology in the hands of nonprofits that were not able to afford it before.

Finally, increasing donations.  I spoke to nonprofits all year-long and surprisingly the vast majority are still not doing online donations.  It is a must!  I am not a proponent of getting rid of direct mail campaigns; I love direct mail.   I am a proponent of integrating all of your marketing channels to drive to one call to action.  Donate!  And, increasingly, your younger donors expect the convenience of visiting your website or Facebook page and clicking a link that drives them directly to an easy to donate to, fully integrated form.

Plus, online donation technology allows you to create peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, simplify event fundraising, and so much more.  All of which could increase donations, and allow you to find new prospective donors.

Take-away: For the sake of the economy, take a look at technology this year.  If you are already using technology learn something new about it, attend a training class, or get with a peer group.  As with all things technology is unendingly  changing and improving.  Learn more to do more, and have a great 2013.  Happy New Year!

One, two, three…Smile!

Donor photos are one of the most valuable pieces of donor experience content a nonprofit can have.  After doing a recent customer photo shoot, I was thinking about how wonderful it was to connect with our customers and what a huge asset we had in the photos.

I often see nonprofits with the “shiny, happy people” stock photos and shudder.  There is such a huge opportunity for nonprofits to connect with their donors and volunteers through photography.

Use Photos to Increase Web Traffic:

A report from Curata not surprisingly suggests that bringing visual components to website content is key to boosting engagement, and ContentLEAD found that adding images to your pages can result in 47 percent more clicks than pages with text-only articles.  Use images that illustrate your story or further convey your mission, purpose and goals.

If you want to learn more about the value of adding photos and tips to improve your search engine optimization just watch Google’s related Webmaster Central video.

Use Visuals to Tell a Story:

Another form of visual content that has helped web content marketing campaigns is the infographic.

Infographics have become increasingly popular for organizations attempting to differentiate their website from others, or those trying to draw more people to their sites.  I would suggest that nonprofits start thinking about infographics for annual reports.  They are more sharable, easier to digest, and more affordable.

Here is a great example of an infographic for the new Sage Nonprofit Cloud Suite.

Use Photos to Enhance Social Media:

Nonprofit use of social media is growing by leaps and bounds.  You can see just how nonprofits are using social media in Mashable’s infographic. In the study they found that 92% of nonprofits are using at least one social media button.

Using Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other social networks do help nonprofits reach donors, but many NPOs are missing the opportunity to really leverage the networks.  Web Liquid recently found that 37% of users that saw visual content Liked the page, compared to 31% who saw video content, 27% exposed to text updates and 15% shown a link.  Pretty interesting!

Take-away: There are many ways to add visuals/images to your properties here are a few:

1. Add images to text content on your site.

2. Add photos of your employees, volunteers, and even your board members.  (Don’t use bad, grey headshots.)

3. Share images of your events on Facebook, Pintrest, or Google+.

4.Tweet photos from everything you do.

5. Capture photos of your donors and volunteers in action, just like we did!

1Thanks for the valuable info that helped build this post.