nonprofit social media
In this month’s Social Velocity blog interview, we’re talking with David Neff, the creator and CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. Neff is a Senior Consultant at Ant’s Eye View, and the co-founder of Internet start up HelpAttack! In 2009, he was named the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Social Media Marketer of the year and one of the top 20 Social Media people in the state of Texas.
You can read past interviews in our Social Innovation Interview Series here.
Nell: Your book, The Future of Nonprofits, came out almost a year ago. Has anything changed in your view of what the future holds for the nonprofit sector?
David: Not yet. I think if anything in the past year we are seeing the rise of more and more tools (Gowalla dying off, Pinterest interest rising) but nonprofits are still too obsessed with the tools and not the higher level tactics behind them. Much less concentrating on the objectives and goals that go above the strategy. I hope that starts to change in 2012.
Nell: SXSW Interactive just wrapped up, what is on the cutting edge of technology innovation for social change? What got you really excited?
David: To be honest what got me excited was the privacy push we saw at SXSW. The rise of the informed public as to what brand and nonprofits are doing with their data, who they are sharing it with and how’s it being used. For too long I think the average nonprofit constituent has just written a check or donated online and then not worried about what’s happened with their data. Hopefully more and more nonprofits will re-think their privacy policies just as Google and Pinterest have done.
Nell: Innovation has become quite a buzz word in the nonprofit sector lately. What does it mean to you and what makes an “innovative” nonprofit?
David: Most nonprofits think of themselves as innovative when they simply add a new program or tool to their arsenal. This is the same as when GM calls a new car “innovative” because it has a new cup holder. KONY2012 was not innovative. It was a great cause-driven film that had a clear message to 1) help spread the word about Kony 2) to drive revenue and sales of the awareness items for invisible children. Innovative nonprofits are those out there trying new ideas that go beyond advertising or new programs. When I think innovative I think of the ground breaking campaigns that Stacey Monk at Epic Change is creating.
Nell: You spent 9 years at the American Cancer Society working on their online initiatives. Often it is difficult to bring innovation and new technology to the largest nonprofits. How were you able to innovate within such an organization? And what tips do you have for other “intrapreneurs” working to bring innovations to large nonprofits?
David: Luckily the American Cancer Society had an innovation system in place. One that helped foster new ideas, kill bad ones, and re-direct mediocre ones. We called this the Future and Innovation Center and I was lucky enough to twice receive a grant to create and build new ideas out of this center. Randal Moss (my co-author) was at the helm of leading this center within the American Cancer Society and did an amazing job at funneling new and good ideas into real world products. My tip for other “intrapreneurs” is create the system for them to work in. Take what you learn from our book and create your own internal innovation center at your brand or nonprofit. It’s not hard. We promise. And we are here to help you!
Nell: You’ve recently moved over to the for-profit world, helping companies to employ smart social media strategies. How did you decide to move to the private sector and how do you stay engaged with social change efforts?
David: Good question. I was recruited away from running my own consulting business by the amazing folks at Ant’s Eye View. And was offered a position and challenge that I couldn’t pass up being a sherpa for large companies in their own social and customer experience journeys. It was a no-brainer for me to come and work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known in this space. I still keep my head in the game of social change by being the CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., which is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to encouraging other nonprofit and cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. We do this through our education and volunteer match programs, screenings and an annual film festival.
I am far from a social media expert, but I have grown to love some social media tools. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have been my favorites, while I still haven’t seen the value of Google+ (although if someone wants to convince me, I’m all ears). But the newest social media darling, Pinterest is fast becoming my favorite. And I think it holds an enormous opportunity for nonprofits.
Pinterest is a social media network based on images. If you find a recipe, a blog post, a pair of pants, a livingroom set, you can “pin” it to a board and share it with your followers. Similarly, if you see something someone else has “pinned” you can “repin” it to your board. Picture an enormous blank wall with individual bulletin boards organized by your interests.
For example, I currently have 12 “boards”. Some are not work-related like “Home” and “Healthy Recipes.” But the rest are directly related to Social Velocity and my passion for social innovation and the nonprofit sector, like “Nonprofit/Social Change Books,” “Nonprofit Campaigns,” “Cool Infographics,” and “Nonprofit Media.” That last board is actually a shared board among 40+ people and organizations where we can all add to and edit the board.
There are several things about Pinterest that I love. For fun last Saturday night I spent a couple of hours there just scanning and pinning (sad, huh?).
There have been many articles about the potential of Pinterest for companies. People can pin images of particular products and encourage their friends and followers to purchase. What a boon to business!
But I think Pinterest is a particularly powerful opportunity for nonprofits for several reasons:
- Nonprofits are naturally image-based. The every day work that nonprofits are involved in lends itself to compelling images: a child laughing while reading a good book, a hug from a case worker to their client, a new home, a beautiful piece of land conserved, an endangered animal. Include a compelling picture in every story you create about your nonprofit and pin it on Pinterest. You can also pin images from other places that relate to your passion and your mission.
- Nonprofits easily connect to passion. I don’t care how much you love that new vacuum cleaner, you cannot be as passionate about it as you are about the child you are tutoring. People launch nonprofits or donate to nonprofits because an issue really hits them at the core. They may have had a loved one die of a terrible disease, or they may absolutely love border collies. What the social change sector has in spades is passion. Pinterest is a natural place to share that passion and convince others of its worth.
- Female donors are a large and growing force. If you want to attract more of this increasingly influential philanthropic force you better find them where they are, and right now that’s Pinterest. 68% of Pinterest users are female. And they spend a lot of time there. You want to be part of that.
- Nonprofits are all about good story-telling. Pinterest is a natural place for storytelling. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has put together a great gallery of ways nonprofits tell their stories through data visualizations. Although the gallery isn’t on Pinterest, all of these images should be and probably will be soon. Images tell such a better story than words, and nonprofits have so many great stories to tell. Use Pinterest to do it.
If you want a quick guide to getting started on Pinterest, check out this great HubSpot post, although it’s focused on businesses, it definitely applies to nonprofits.
Get out there and give Pinterest a try. I think you’ll like it.
Photo Credit: Mashable
February was the month to learn from other’s mistakes — from Komen to Hull House there was some great analysis about what went wrong and what can be learned. The other thing emerging in February was new social media darling, Pinterest, as an opportunity for nonprofits to tell their story visually.
Below are my ten picks of the best reads in social innovation in February, but as always, please add what I missed in the comments. And if you want to see other things that caught my eye, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
- The biggest news in February was Susan G. Komen Foundation’s repeated strategy and PR blunders when they pulled funding from Planned Parenthood, then reinstated the funding. Kivi Leroux Miller offered tips to recover from a PR scandal. Nancy Schwartz broke down Komen’s “busted nonprofit brand” and Beth Kanter described the 5 stages of a social media PR disaster. And when things finally settled down a bit, Komen stumbled again with their attempt to reassure donors.
- Always a great resource, the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog provides 50 Fun, Useful, and Totally Random Resources for Nonprofits
- “As modern businesses search for a soul, who better than Millenials to help find one?” This month there were two articles about how the Millennial generation approaches work and ultimately how it will change how we all work: 13 Ways The Recession Has Changed How Millennials View Work and The Crisis of Meaning in the Millennial Workforce.
- Tom Watson launched a new column in Forbes focused on social entrepreneurship, and his inaugural post took an interesting spin on the endless “what is social entrepreneurship” conversation by finding parallels between Steve Jobs and Occupy Wall Street.
- Sometimes Dan Pallotta gets it really right, and that is especially true with his post arguing that a huge missed opportunity for philanthropist is to invest in the fundraising capacity of nonprofits.
- In the Harvard Business Review blog Nilofer Merchant argued that technology is fundamentally changing how organizations operate. This applies to nonprofits as well, and we should all take note.
- If you, like most people, struggle with creating content for your blog, this infographic makes it so much easier.
- Writing in the Washington Post, Antony Bugg-Levine, head of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, argued that nonprofits must embrace breakthrough innovations like restructuring their approaches to social problems and using capital to build organizations, “The sooner we confront our new economic reality and support visionary thinking and organizations, the sooner we can begin to rebuild a sustainable safety net.”
- The collapse of one of America’s oldest and most successful nonprofit organizations late last year, Hull House, provides a cautionary tale to other nonprofits that may not be employing good financial management, argued Rick Moyers.
- An interesting debate loomed at the end of the month because of a study by the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University that found nonprofit managers lack key financial knowledge. But Kate Barr and Ruth McCambridge took issue with the study’s methods arguing that the study missed the mark.
Photo Credit: aithom2
After 3+ years of a difficult recession it looks like the economy might be starting to turn around. That’s great news. But for the nonprofit sector, which is always the first hit by and last to rebound from a recession, it might still be awhile until they enjoy the looming economic recovery. But it does no good for nonprofit leaders to throw up their hands and curse the economy. Instead, nonprofits should seize this opportunity to rethink how their organization brings money in the door.
There are some key things nonprofit leaders can do to create a sustainable financial model in the midst of lingering economic uncertainty:
- Take a Step Back. Stop putting your organization in the “fundraising” box and take a big step back. Figure out an overall financial model for your organization that connects with your mission and your organization’s core competencies. Don’t just go through the regular fundraising motions (direct mail, events, grants). Rather, analyze how to create a long-term financial model for your organization.
- Harness Your Board. Your board of directors ideally is a group of people who bring connections and expertise that could help your organization. Tap into that. Educate them on what your organization needs and brainstorm how they can help. Now is not the time to be shy. Be strategic about what your board can do and get them to do it.
- Create a Plan. If your organization doesn’t have a strategic plan and a revenue plan, create them. You raise money by being strategic, first about what your organization is and does, and second about how you are going to create sustainable revenue streams. People give to causes that they care about, and they give even more money to organizations that are strategic about what they do and how. A good strategic plan is an invaluable tool around which you can build investment. And a good revenue plan gives you a step-by-step way to generate money.
- Reallocate Resources. As a nonprofit organization you have limited resources (money, staff, technology, time) with which to raise money. You want to make sure that the effort you put in has the highest return on investment. Calculate the direct and indirect costs of every revenue-generating activity and determine the real net income you generated. Are there better, more effective ways to raise more money for less cost and effort?
- Use Technology. Move your communications with donors and prospects online. You’ll save money and have a better chance of getting more and bigger gifts. Send email newsletters, campaigns, event invites. Survey your donors. Create an online community through social media where people can get to know your organization and become involved. People will become more interested in your work and more invested in the organization.
- Learn from the Best. Now is the time to learn from others, get a fresh perspective, find a mentor or coach for your Development Director. Use social media to find interesting and innovative people and ideas. Talk with your fellow social change leaders locally, nationally and internationally. Attend online conferences and webinars. By getting out and hearing what others have done and how they have innovated you will find new ways to grow revenue.
- Strengthen Your Case. Money is raised around a case for support. It can be tempting when times are tough to fall back on a message of need. “We need to raise $50,000.” But the better way is to clearly connect donors with the change you are creating in the community. If you don’t have a case for support write one. If you have one, revisit it and make sure that it is compelling, clear, concise, inspiring. Invest donors in the change you are creating.
- Clone Your Best Donors. When you are struggling to find new donors, go back to the source. Dig into your database to determine the characteristics (demographics and psychographics) of your best (most years of giving, biggest dollar, greatest upgrade) donors. Then survey them (formally or informally) to find out why they give, what messages resonate with them, what they read, where they get their information. You want to understand how they tick so that you can find others like them.
- Diversify Your Funds. When one revenue stream (or several) are down, you want to be able to draw on other streams. Are there other revenue streams you could launch or strengthen? Have you explored earned income? Could you grow your individual donor base? There are many ways to raise money and always potential for new avenues. Explore whether some of these make sense for your organization.
Things may be looking up, but it’s going to be awhile for the nonprofit sector. Instead of waiting around for a better economy, make some significant changes now to how you raise money. In so doing you’ll be turning this challenge into a tremendous opportunity for your organization.
I think it gets harder and harder every month to narrow down to a list of only 10 great reads in social innovation. October was no exception. Here are my top 10 of the last month (but actually more like 13 if you’re counting). As always, please add what I missed to the comments. And if you want to see the expanded list of what catches my eye, follow me on Twitter @nedgington.
You can also read the lists of Great Reads from previous months here.
- Marketing is a brave new world these days, and so is fundraising. Replace “customer” with “donor” and “We’re All Marketers Now” from McKinsey Quarterly applies to nonprofits as well.
- A new Chronicle of Philanthropy blog launched recently that focuses on innovation in the nonprofit world. One of the first posts is about how the U.S. Army’s practice of using a “devil’s advocate” in their decision-making processes is something that some philanthropists are copying in order to come up with better solutions.
- Occupy Wall Street and the other protests in cities around the country was a big topic this month. Some of the most interesting were Who are the 99 percent? from Ezra Klein in The Washington Post and The Demographics of Occupy Wall Street from Fast Company.
- From the Harvard Business Review blog comes an argument that I completely agree with. Nonprofits that are struggling lack a “strategy for connecting their mission with their ability to deliver.”
- I know infographics are becoming overused, but this one is pretty cool: How the Top 50 Nonprofits Do Social Media.
- And speaking of the top nonprofits, the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 400 is out, all about what the 400 wealthiest nonprofits are up to.
- The Alliance for Children and Families, a membership group for human-service charities, released a new report identifying the emerging trends social service organizations must embrace in order to succeed.
- If you missed the live-streaming from the White House last week on social impact bonds, Pay for Success: Investing in What Works, you can still watch archived recordings, or check out the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s great resources on the topic here.
- As usual, Lucy Bernholz tells it like it is, in her argument that the current debate in American politics about shifting more of the burden of funding for core public services to private philanthropy is undemocratic.
- Jennifer Landres from the Center for High Impact Philanthropy finds some lessons for philanthropy in the movie “Moneyball.”
Photo Credit: JeffersonDavis
Heather Mansfield’s new book, Social Media for Social Good: A How to Guide for Nonprofits does a great job of breaking down the brave new world of social media and making it accessible to any nonprofit manager. Her very tactical book is a nice companion to Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s Networked Nonprofit, which painted the big picture view of a new engaging mindset nonprofits need to adopt in this new social media reality. Mansfield’s book gives a down and dirty, step-by-step approach to becoming a savvy nonprofit in the world of Web 3.0.
Mansfield divides the evolution of social media into three stages:
- Web 1.0: The Static Web – brochure-like, non-interactive websites
- Web 2.0: The Social Web – social media applications, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, that create new communities
- Web 3.0: The Mobile Web – location-based communities, text-messaging, apps
Her argument is that nonprofits have to build their social media engagement in phases. They need to conquer stage 1 before 2, and 2 before 3. And all activities, offline and online, need to be fully integrated as part of a much larger strategic marketing plan. Amen to that.
For Mansfield, there is a real danger for nonprofits that ignore how quickly technology is changing. If they don’t adapt, they risk losing their donors, their relevance, and ultimately their reason for being:
To maintain your online donors’ loyalty, and to recruit new donors, you need to be current and forward-thinking in your online communications and fundraising. Technology moves faster than ever, and to keep up and ensure the long-term sustainability of your nonprofit, you must upgrade your Web 1.0 campaigns or risk becoming obsolete.
Mansfield’s ultimate argument is that offline and online activities must be fully integrated in a strategic way. She even argues that the “old” methods of online fundraising (email, website) actually have the highest ROI, so the idea is to gather people and drive them there.
Apart from this reasoned and necessary argument about social media as part of the overall marketing puzzle, the real value of this book is the very tactical how tos. Mansfield creates a great to do list for the nonprofit manager to move toward the next level of online integration. She also provides tons of examples of nonprofits that are doing it right.
My only complaint is that she doesn’t prioritize the most critical areas a small nonprofit (one with less than 5 staff members) should be focusing on. In her “Deciding What Social Media Tools to Use” section she helpfully suggests how much time a nonprofit should spend on each social media channel. Although this helps understand the value of one channel (Facebook) over another (Change.org), the total number of hours equates to 1.5 full time people. And that’s only social media activity, not email, mobile or website maintenance. That number of hours is something that only medium to large nonprofits could afford. Although volunteers and interns could supplement, most social media experts agree that you can’t really delegate social media to those who are only tangentially involved with the organization. I would have liked to see her recognize the limitations of smaller nonprofits and give tips for prioritizing the time those organizations have to devote to social media efforts.
But overall, Mansfield offers a great and necessary step-by-step approach to overcoming nonprofit fear of the online world and bringing them up to speed. Because as she warns, “If your nonprofit is still in the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we stage, you are quickly falling behind. It is a Brave New Web, and it’s time to muster the courage and take the leap.”
In part 10 of our ongoing blog series, Financing Not Fundraising, we are discussing moving nonprofits away from “push” fundraising and marketing efforts that force their message on innocent bystanders (like acquisition direct mail appeals) and towards “pull” activities that allow interested prospects to opt in to the organization (like social media, friend-raising events, partnerships). In times of increasing competition for supporters, nonprofits can no longer engage in ineffective, non-strategic efforts to get people in the door. Rather, nonprofits must attract people through engaging content, events and activities that encourage people to raise their hand and become part of the organization.
If you are new to this ongoing series, our Financing Not Fundraising blog series demonstrates that fundraising holds the nonprofit sector back by keeping nonprofits in the starvation cycle of trying to do more and more with less and less. To overcome this, nonprofits have to break out of the narrow view that traditional FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities. Instead, they must create a broader, more strategic approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.
First, let’s define Push versus Pull marketing activities:
- Push efforts are traditional marketing activities where you create marketing or fundraising “messages” and distribute them through various channels and hope that someone sees them and responds to your call to action. Some examples of Push efforts are: direct mail letters to prospective donors, a brochure-like web site where you talk about your work and hope people hit the “donate” button, ads or articles in the local newspaper.
- Pull efforts are when you engage and build relationships outside the organization, join communities and give people reasons to voluntarily draw your organization into their personal experiences. You’re not interrupting them, you’re not controlling the message or the channel. People are getting to know you, liking what they see and opting in to getting to know you and your organization better.
“Push” efforts are controlling and controlled, time and resource-intensive and yield low returns (direct mailings that get a 2% response rate are considered successful). “Pull” efforts are open and inviting and yield much better and longer-term donors because these efforts allow prospects to self-identify.
Key to the whole idea of Pull activities is that you want to find prospective donors who share your values as an organization and believe in the change you are trying to create. So many nonprofit organizations think that they need to mass market their organization. To the contrary, your message will not resonate with the general public. You need to find prospects whose values intersect with a community need that your organization is uniquely positioned (because of your core competencies) to solve, like this:
Pull marketing makes your job easier because you no longer have to look for a needle in a haystack, but rather you simply must be yourself, demonstrate your values and your work and join communities where like-minded people hang out. Introduce yourself and start building relationships. Social media is a fabulous and inexpensive tool for doing just this. And Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book The Networked Nonprofit is an excellent primer on how nonprofits can and should completely rethink how they operate in the community.
So how does Pull vs Push marketing look in a nonprofit’s annual revenue plan:
- Instead of pushing your fundraising appeals out to mass audiences through direct mail campaigns sent to people who have never demonstrated an interest in your nonprofit, start a blog that engages people who share an interest in your work to read, comment and become part of a community engaged in social change.
- Instead of sending out invitations for a big gala to a bunch of people who are more interested in the food and entertainment than your work, start holding smaller, more intimate, mission-focused occasions for current supporters to bring friends to learn about the organization, volunteer and get involved.
- Instead of just posting static articles about your nonprofit on your Facebook page, start asking questions and initiating conversations with your fans. Start getting to know them and start encouraging them to drive content, suggest activities, lead efforts.
- Instead of putting up walls and engaging and collaborating only with a small group of advisors and partners, open your organization up to vast networks, partners, supporters and others who share your values and your work. Constantly seek out opportunities to find new friends and organizations in high and low places.
- Instead of focusing only on what supporters can do for you, get to know them and figure out what you can offer them (opportunities to change the word, meet like-minded friends, engage in a broader community).
- Instead of asking supporters simply to give money and volunteer, encourage and empower them to lead their networks of friends, family, colleagues, neighbors to get engaged with your organization as well. Make it easy and attractive for them to do that by asking them what they need, giving it to them, and then getting out of their way.
Pull activities require a complete shift in mindset. The messages and activities are not up to you anymore. You can’t control the outcome. Rather be yourself, build relationships, join communities and engage people in compelling, inspiring and interesting ways. Pretty soon you’ll have more friends and supporters than you know what to do with.
If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.
Nonprofit leaders sometimes suffer from small, or short-term, thinking. It makes sense that they would. The sector’s funding, structures and standards are set up to encourage, if not reward, small, risk-averse thinking. But small thinking can actually be a bigger risk to an organization and ultimately to the solution it exists to achieve. To really reach solutions, at the scale that we increasingly need, nonprofit leaders must break free from short-term thinking and lead by example into the world of big, long-term, game-changing approaches.
Here are few ways that small thinking actually jeopardizes a nonprofit and the solution it is working towards:
- Not creating a growth plan when there is obvious need for the solution. Someone started a nonprofit for a reason–a need existed. Either the nonprofit is working to significantly get rid of that need, or they are just getting by. I understand that we are in the midst of a recession, but if you don’t have a big vision and big, bold plans to get there, who will be inspired to invest in a big way?
- Not pushing your donors to give much, much more. Connected to creating bigger plans is stretching your donors further. Nonprofits at times seem afraid to upgrade donors. They are happy if a donor simply returns for another year. But with a little research into the capacity of a donor, and a compelling plan for what you would do with an increased investment, the money is sure to follow.
- Not adequately investing in an earned income stream with a demonstrated market. A nonprofit may have done the research and made an attempt at selling a new product or service, but they are afraid of taking the plunge and significantly going after that market. The end result is that a competitor finds the market the nonprofit identified and the opportunity is gone.
- Not hiring, and paying for, the best and brightest staff available. Sometimes nonprofit organizations pay salaries well below the going rate, even within the nonprofit sector. It is no surprise, then, that the staff they do recruit lack the experience, vision or skills to take the organization to the next level. If you want big results, you need to recruit people who have the ability to plan and execute in a big way.
- Not investing in next generation tools for doing your work. So many nonprofit organizations exist on a shoe string, but the advent of free-ware and social media has leveled the playing field immensely. Now you can have a state of the art sales team for very little upfront cost. You can spread your message, garner support, find advocates, track them and customize your communication with them all for the investment of some staff time. Climb on board this new train, experiment and see where it leads.
These are challenging times, to be sure. But the worst thing to do is to lock yourself in a box of your own making. Challenge your donors, your board, your staff, your volunteers to do more, to be more, to achieve more. Paint the big picture, instead of the small one, and see where it leads.
Photo Credit: ilovememphis
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