Monthly Archives: July 2013

Make a Difference with Social Media: Start Here


A professional colleague called me last week for advice about social media. Her nonprofit has decided they need to boost their digital presence, and her boss has asked her to lead that effort (in addition to her other responsibilities). She has a Facebook page and uses LinkedIn, but she hasn’t used social media channels professionally — and she didn’t know where to start.

My answer was easy. I told her to start with the Case Foundation’s Social Media 101.

I was fortunate to lead communications for the Case Foundation at a time when Jean and Steve Case were ramping up their efforts to leverage technology to make philanthropy and civic engagement more accessible and efficient for nonprofits and individuals. There was no better place and no better time to learn about the potential for technology to make a greater social impact — and keep up with trends that continue to shape social activism.

In my first week working there in 2005, I learned that my top priority would be to leading the development of the foundation’s first website. It was both exciting and intimidating to be asked to develop a plan and launch a site within a few months — for the founder of AOL, nonetheless. But what I learned over those months, and over the entire time I worked there, was that the Case Foundation was the ideal place to apply my experience while constantly learning new things and developing new skills.

The Case Foundation was (and is) a think-tank for changing the world in new and innovative ways. It’s a culture that expects, demands, and rewards big thinking and “swinging for the fences” (one of Steve’s favorite metaphors). As an employee, you’re surrounded by talented people who are passionate about making a difference, and all staff at all levels have a chance to contribute.

By the way, the website we launched nearly eight years ago — a robust journalistic site about philanthropy and civic engagement — looked nothing like the Case Foundation’s site today. Always looking to leverage new tools and capabilities, the foundation ‘s site is now a real-time hub for blogs, videos, and social media feeds.

Which brings me back to where I started this post. Whether you’re new to social media or are ready to take the next step, “Social Media 101” offers carefully selected articles and videos to help you “harness social media tools and platforms for good.” You’ll get helpful tips for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Foursquare, mobile, blogging, video, photography, and more.

The Case Foundation’s website also has videos, publications, and other resources on philanthropy, social activism, and corporate responsibility. And if you’re trying to convince your boss, board members, or others about the value of social media for nonprofits, show them this video:

What resources would you recommend for someone getting started in nonprofit social media?

Google’s New Android App Encourages Social-Giving: A Solution to Apple’s Ban on Donation Applications

Apple’s got to catch up with what people are asking for. Just as consumers want to be able to shop through an app, they want easy and safe ways to support causes they care about. Good for Google for supporting socially minded businesses and nonprofits (and the people who support them) this way.

Millennials and the Future of Your Nonprofit: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann

If you’re not paying attention to the influence and power of Millennials (people born in 1980 and later), you’re not paying attention to the future of your nonprofit and your cause(s). The 2013 Millennial Impact Report details how Millennials give, connect, and involve themselves with causes — and contains specific tips about how to engage young people.

I recently caught up with Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve and the head of research for the Millennial Engagement Survey, and asked him about what his research means for old people like me.

Q: Many organizations like mine have an established donor base of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. If non-Millennials make up the majority of current donors, how do you recommend that nonprofits balance the needs of Millennials with the more traditional needs of older donors?

A: I think the needs of older donors and Millennials are merging. For instance, the movement for more transparency in fundraising is not specific to Millennials but becoming a trend across all generations. Millennials are helping our causes understand how to better communicate the direct impact of gifts, how to report information on the cause issue, and how to create better relationships. This is how philanthropy is changing and in time, other generations will not only ask for these type of relationships but demand them.

Q: How can nonprofit professionals make a case for engaging Millennials, when their bosses see that most fundraising dollars are coming from other age groups?

A: I always say that if your organization is strapped for cash, you have other things to worry about — i.e., your business model and how to generate dollars for programs. For those not in that position, the case is simple and it stretches beyond giving. Millennials are the best marketers for the organization. In terms of outreach, a Millennial, within their own words, can spread an idea better and faster than any other demographic. Use this talent and skill to share the most relevant information about the cause. In addition, Millennials spend discretionary dollars on things that matter to them. Take this opportunity to engage a first time donors in micro ways in order to generate brand ambassadors for the organization.

Q: As you talk to people about your research, what are the biggest misperceptions about Millennials?

A: Millennials don’t give. It is not true. They give in micro ways — time and dollars — and it tends to be impulsive at times but giving is occurring. Another common misperceptions is around the workplace. Millennials demonstrate work life blending and at times this can be confused as work life imbalance or even disengagement. Millennials merge their professional and social lives and for some that is a challenge when their generation was focused on work life balance.

Q: Are Millennials unique in their attitudes and behaviors, or do they simply reflect the changing world around them? In terms of their social activism, how do they differ from other generations?

A: It goes back to the blending concept we have been talking about. Millennials are blending their interests in social activism in everything that they do — especially in consumer spending. Millennials seek to understand how products are produced and how they have an impact on the world. This is a unique characteristic we see in Millennials.

Q: Your research shows that a pet peeve of Millennials is getting too much email. How does a nonprofit know how much is too much?

A: We have watched international development and environmental causes send emails once a week and their Millennial followings enjoy the content and continue to subscribe. Why? Because the content is brand new each time. It is relevant, contains images, personal, and draws you in as a reader. The complaints about too much email comes from Millennials who receive the same content every other week from an organization. Frequency should be based on your organization’s ability to produce content about your cause — not your organization. Information about what is happening related to the work – not about your organization doing the work. In the examples I gave, the organizations that send information every week have something to report on the issue and Millennials enjoy reading the content.

Q: The Millennial Impact Report has lots of specific recommendations for nonprofits that want to connect with Millennials, in terms of calls to action, websites, social media, and volunteer opportunities. But nonprofit professionals have so many competing priorities. If they want to improve their engagement with Millennials, where should they start?

A: First, ensure you are not turning Millennials away. Organizations should examine the way they present themselves to external audiences. How they use human voice and show the people they help. Redevelop communications that speak to the manner in which Millennials like to receive such messages. Second, create micro volunteer opportunities. Develop small bursts of volunteer engagement for Millennials to perform anywhere. Third, talk with Millennials in social media. Seek out those that care about the issue and talk with them. Do not post — talk and describe something new every day that they may not know about.

Q. I know you’re optimistic about how Millennials will help shape philanthropy and social activism. What are some specific ways this generation will change social activism and the way nonprofits operate?

A: I addressed that question in a recent piece I wrote for the Case Foundation blog, “The Future of Your Nonprofit Organization and Why You Need to Join This Conversation.” In it I said I care about Millennials getting involved in causes, but I care more about the state of the organizations that are trying to make a difference in our communities. I worry they are not prepared to engage Millennials who want to be involved and have not adapted to the growing business changes this generation and others are demanding, such as transparency, real-time reporting, digital connectedness, and collaborative leadership. Rather than perpetuate the ongoing development of more organizations, why not find better ways to get Millennials and organizations working together?

What it’s going to take is getting organizations interested in operating differently — more openly, creating more collaborative work and constituent environments, and refining how external audiences can communicate with, involve, and give so it is easier, faster, and more trustworthy.

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Derrick is also co-author (with Kari Dunn Saratovsky) of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement, which I highly recommend. For more information, download the 2013 Millennial Impact Report and follow Derrick and Kari on Twitter.

Facebook is the Suburbs, while Twitter is the City

A good analysis that explains why I find both Facebook and Twitter valuable, both personally and professionally.

I Scream, You Scream…Will Your Donors Scream for Ice Cream?

Imagephoto by brianjmatis

I’d like to thank Michael Rosen for his post,”6 Ways to Run Your Fundraising Efforts Like an Ice-Cream Parlor.” Not only is mid-July the best time to blog about ice cream, but he emphasizes a point that too many nonprofits ignore — giving should be fun. And it’s up to nonprofit communicators and fundraisers to make it fun. But how? Michael has six ideas:

1. Give people what they want.

2. Provide options.

3. Be friendly.

4. Be customer-focused.

5. Deliver a high-quality product/service.

6. Wow them.

Read his post to understand how well this analogy works. And follow his blog “Michael Rosen Says…” for more tips about fundraising, communications, and donor relations.

At 7 Years Old, Twitter is Still Addictive, Immediate, and Flawed (in a Good Way)

Imagephoto by Cobalt123

Twitter launched publicly seven years ago today, as documented in this blog post from July 15, 2006, “Silicon Valley’s All Twttr,” by Om Malik (@om). Read his short post to see why Malik, the founder of GigaOM, called “Twttr” both “addictive” and “annoying.”

I felt like I was late to the party when I started my first Twitter account on Feb. 26, 2008. Over the years, I’ve managed three accounts — for myself (@mmiller20910), my work at Children’s National Medical Center (@childrenshealth), and a charity I support, the American Special Hockey Association (@specialhockey). At different times, I’ve found Twitter valuable for educating, learning, fundraising, being entertained, following breaking news, and keeping up with industry trends. I’ve been a passive lurker, a compulsive poster, a stalker (in an innocent way), an eavesdropper, a researcher, and a time-killer. That’s the thing that stands out to me about Twitter. It serves so many purposes for so many people, and you can choose for yourself how and when to use it. As I said in my post on the second birthday of G+, the immediacy of Twitter makes it stand out among social media platforms — there’s no better place for instantaneous news, reaction, and emotion.

Exactly seven years after his 2006 article, Malik posted again today, this time reflecting on his 32,531 posts and his continuing love of Twitter. He writes that Twitter “is more important to me than any news network or a wire service or any newspaper. Human, flawed, chaotic, raw, ugly, beautiful, wrong, right, emotional, argumentative, frustrating and deeply satisfying — that is what Twitter is. Just like the world it is supposed to mirror.” Read his full post, “Seven Years of Tweeting.”

Google+ at 2: They Grow Up So Fast

Happy birthday, Google Plus! Two years ago today, Google launched its own social platform, hyped as the network that would make Facebook obsolete. That hasn’t happened, and is unlikely to, but G+ has done a lot of things well and is rising in popularity. It’s the second largest social platform (behind Facebook) with 500 million members, and as many as 350 million of them are active monthly. And it’s grown by 27 percent in the past three months.

I’ve been a fan of G+ since the beginning, and I prefer its design and functionality over Facebook and Twitter. When it first launched, I played around with my personal account for a while, and then on the first day company pages were made available, I launched the page for Children’s National Medical Center. Getting an early start and being chosen as a featured nonprofit has allowed Children’s National to attract more than 270,000 followers (compared with 25,000 on Facebook and about 24,000 on Twitter). Of course, it’s not a popularity contest and not just about numbers. We continue to have the greatest engagement and conversions on Facebook, where we have a more loyal (and more local) following. Each of these networks adds value in their own ways. (Read my post from August 2011, “Should Hospitals Add Google+ to their Social Mix?“)

In Ad Age Digital, B.L. Ochman writes, “Google+ Turns Two: You Can’t Ignore It for Another Minute.” One of the big advantages of G+, she writes, is the power and ease of Hangouts On Air. I remember organizing webcasts nearly 10 years ago, before things like GoToMeeting were available. They were expensive, complicated, and you needed technical consultants to pull it off. Today, with Hangouts on Air, you or your organization can broadcast to thousands of people with virtually no sophisticated technical skills and NO COSTS. Of course, you still need to promote your broadcast if you want to have an audience, but the actual execution of a public broadcast is simple and free. Score 1 for Google.

G+ has also paved the way for improvements to other networks, most notably its intuitive organization of circles. What many people didn’t realize then was that you could include or exclude anyone on Facebook too, but it wasn’t as easy or user-friendly. Facebook has made some improvements to make it easier to share with specific people or groups, but even after many rounds of updates, it’s still not as simple as what G+ started with on day one.

On Mashable, Jennifer Warren offers “Google+ at 2 Years: An Assessment.”  I agree with Jennifer that “Google+ is not a ghost town. By the same token, the service doesn’t have the immediacy of a Twitter or the ubiquity of Facebook. Still, for certain types of content and certain groups of users, it’s the best sharing platform on the web.” Two years after its launch, I still say G+ has the highest quality content of the three platforms.

Twitter is instantaneous. Facebook is where most of my friends and family are. But I get more knowledge, insights, and professional value from G+. Unlike Google Buzz and Google Wave, it’s proven that it has staying power, and — have you noticed? — it still has no advertising.

Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest Drive Sales, But Differently

snapFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all directly drive sales of products, both online and in stores, but there are some big differences in how, according to new data from Vision Critical. Most interesting, Facebook and Twitter help drive sales of products that people were already considering buying, but Pinterest is more effective at driving spontaneous sales. Among people who had made purchases based on information from one of these channels, 70 percent of Twitter users and 60 percent of Facebook users said they were at least “vaguely” considering purchasing the item before they saw it online. However, only 49 percent of the Pinterest users said they were thinking of purchasing the item before seeing it there.

Other key findings: 43 percent of social media users have bought a product after sharing it or favoriting it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Nearly 4 in 10 Facebook users say they’ve gone from liking, sharing, or commenting on an item to buying it. And half of all social-driven purchases occur within a week of sharing or commenting on it.

Read “Moving Customers from Pinning to Purchase,” from the Harvard Business Review, and download the full report, “From Social to Sale: 8 Questions to Ask Your Customers,” from Vision Critical.

What products did social purchasers share March-June 2013? Here are some color-coded examples representing purchases influenced by Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest:

Which Metrics Matter?

MetricsWhich metrics matter for websites and social media channels? It depends. Too often nonprofits measure what they’re told they should measure, and what others are measuring. What makes more sense is to measure what matters now for you and your organization — and what data you can act on to improve your outcomes.

Citing a term from a new book, Lean Analytics, The Agitator blog warns: “Fundraisers…Beware of Vanity Metrics.” In the book, authors Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz explain, “If you have a piece of data on which you cannot act, it’s a vanity metric. If all it does is stroke your ego, it won’t help.”

Roger Craver of the Agitator writes, “Part of the problem with ‘vanity metrics’ is that nobody does anything with them. But more importantly, and dangerously, they are often used to drive absolutely bad decisions. For example: ‘If I put more spend into online search advertising, it’s a quick, guaranteed way to drive up the number of website visitors.’ A meaningless strategy. A meaningless result!”

Roger lists some metrics that could be considered “vanity metrics” for fundraisers. They include benchmarking; website hits; page views; visits and unique visitors; “likes,” friends, and followers; and number of email addresses. Another one I would add is “time on site.” There seems to be this impression that the more time people spend on your website, the better. But if a visitor is there to get a certain piece of information or to make a transaction, don’t you want them to be able to do that quickly?

Which leads me to another post that’s making the rounds, from Mashable, titled “6 Digital Metrics You Should Be Watching.” A few key points:

1. Active supporters. It’s better to have a smaller audience of active supporters than a large number of inactive followers. Tracking the number of people who follow you is fine; tracking the number of people who share, comment, and engage is better.

2. Return visitors. It’s great to attract a lot of people to your website, but how many are coming back? And how often? Are they getting what they need?

3. See you later, alligator. We like to pay attention to our new followers, but what about the people who unsubscribe or unfollow? What can you learn from them? Similarly, when and why are people leaving your website? What’s the last page they’re on before they leave, and what does that tell you?

4. Response time. How long does it take your team to respond to an inquiry that comes in from your website or social media channels? How can you shorten that time?

As Mashable points out, these are just some of the things organizations can and should measure. What metrics do you find most (and least) useful?

Why Donors Give, and How Communications Can Help

New research on donor motivations underscores the important role communications can play in helping nonprofits attract and retain donors. Based on interviews with more than 6,200 nonprofit leaders and major donors, CCS Fundraising found that donors are most motivated by:

  • the impact of their gift (84%)
  • their ability to give (66%)
  • religious/moral obligation (54%)
  • their commitment to their community (52%)
  • being asked (47%)
  • the ability to get a tax deduction (22%)

CCS also lists 12 factors that influence donors to give (and how much they give). Collectively, this information provides valuable insights about how nonprofits can improve their communication to better engage and inspire donors and prospects. Here are some tips based on the CCS findings:

1. Give your supporters ways to share your mission and your needs. CCS’s research shows that people give to other people, most often their peers. It takes more than professional fundraisers to attract donors — you’ll be most successful if board members, donors, and recipients of your services spread the word to their friends and colleagues. Peer fundraising is having a major influence on the success of online fundraising, but peer-to-peer communication is key for all levels and all types of giving. Make it easy for your supporters to share content through printed materials, success stories, and easy sharing functionality on your website, emails, and social media channels.

2. Ask. This may sound simplistic, but when asked why they give, many people say “because I was asked.” As obvious as that may sound, nonprofits miss many opportunities to communicate the need to give. I bet you’ve heard of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — and you know they need financial support, right? That’s no accident. St. Jude does a great job of integrating philanthropy messaging into everything they say and do. Do you let people know about the need and opportunity to give on your website’s homepage, in your annual report, in your marketing materials, and at your events? Does your CEO have a compelling way to talk about the need for support in speeches, letters, and conversations?

3. Be specific. Donors like their gifts to support a specific need or project. What are your needs? How do they match up with what is compelling and meaningful to your potential donors? Think about how you can package giving opportunities so people understand where their money will go. In addition to identifying specific needs — like the dollar amount needed for a piece of equipment — you can also offer representative examples. One organization that does this well is charity:water, which brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. At one level, they say, “$20 could provide one person with clean drinking water.” At higher levels, they offer the opportunity to sponsor a drilled well for $10,000 or a school project for $20,000.

4. Show results. Donors respond to successful and beneficial programs. They want to know that their contributions will be used wisely, and that you have a track record for results. Focus on the human impact of your work.

5. Be positive! CCS’s research shows that people are more likely to give to positive, enthusiastic solicitors. That’s not surprising, but it’s not something you find in most studies about fundraising. Are you, your team, and your executives enthusiastic when you talk about your work? Do you share your personal story about how you got involved, and why you care about your organization’s mission?

For more information about what motivates donors, and national trends in giving, download an advance copy of CCS’s “Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape.”