Category Archives: Marketing

State of Nonprofits

Economic data on major sectors of the economy are regularly collected and reported in the media and in industry-specific reports. For example, data about the real estate and financial markets are regularly published and available for use in decision-making by sector leaders, government officials, investors, and consumers.

Nonprofit sector leaders do not typically have the same access to timely, sector-specific information. In fact, data regarding the nonprofit sector is usually derived from the IRS Form 990 and, consequently, has a lag time of at least a year or more.

To address this lack of timely data, the Caster Center at the University of San Diego developed in 2011 the State of Nonprofits Quarterly Index (SoNP). Published quarterly, the SoNP reports on six distinct indicators that have a direct impact on the economic health of San Diego’s nonprofit sector: public confidence, individual giving, volunteering, demand for services, nonprofit employment, and overall unemployment.

In June 2014, the Caster Center released its 2nd SoNP annual report, presenting and analyzing findings from 11 quarters worth of data.

I have been privileged not only to work on the State of Nonprofits Index but also to report the findings for the Nonprofit Quarterly.  For more information or to read the report, please click on the links below.


International Volunteering

As you may know, I’ve had significant experience as an international volunteer. In some situations my presence was helpful to those with whom I worked. For example, the preschool I helped start in 2002 – 2004 in a rural town in the Dominican Republic has grown significantly over the years and, most importantly, is run entirely by Dominicans.

In other situations, my presence wasn’t as helpful. I remember volunteering in a favela in Rio de Janeiro in 2001, trying to learn Excel . . . in Portuguese. It was a painful experience for both me and the nonprofit. In fact, I probably learned more on the weekly bus rides to the nonprofit than the staff learned from me in all of the time I spent there.

Still, international volunteering can be a valuable experience, and it has grown in popularity over the years.

My latest Nonprofit Quarterly newswire offers food for thought to potential volunteers as they begin their journey.

Social Media Policies – NPQ Newswire

Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, a thirty-four-year-old predominantly gay group with more than 200 performers, are using social media platforms like Facebook to voice their frustrations about the organization and its social media policies. The Chorale is not alone in its struggles to perfect a social media policy; many nonprofits are wondering how to write these short but complicated documents.

Social media policies are supposed to protect both the organization and the employees (or, in this case, dues-paying volunteers). When written well, social media policies provide the necessary balance of common sense rules (such as no profanity), organization specific protocol (don’t share confidential information), and overall guidance (be transparent). When written poorly, social media policies can lead to confusion and the perception—correct or incorrect—that individual rights are being curtailed. There are several websites which offer sample social media policies but few which provide accurate guidance as to what works and what does not.

Read the more about the case of the Turtle Creek Chorale and social media policies on the Nonprofit Quarterly website.

#Trends in #Online #Giving

The internet has changed the way we do many things. It has changed the way we shop, the way we bank, the way we teach. It has even changed philanthropy. eBay Deals and eBay Giving Works recently came out with an Infographic listing sixteen stories they believe prove the “internet has a heart.”  These stories do prove that online giving is alive and well. They also illustrate three potential trends or “hot spots” in online giving: disaster response, inspiring stories, and the few nonprofits savvy enough to channel the power of viral philanthropy.

Trend #1: Disaster Giving
Online giving is particularly effective in times of natural disaster. We saw this following the earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross raised millions of dollars in a very short time frame using methods that are still largely untapped by many nonprofits: Twitter and mobile phones. The immediacy of disaster-based needs and the visual images of damages shown on TV are powerful motivators for philanthropy. The Infographic indicates that the eBay Giving Works program drive raised more than half a million dollars in support of relief for victims of the 2013 tornado in Oklahoma; and that GoFundMe has raised more than $3.3 million for victims of the bombing at the recent Boston Marathon.

Trend #2: Inspiring Stories
The internet loves a good story. You may have seen on Facebook or Twitter the compelling story of Billy Ray Harris, a homeless man from Kansas City who returned a diamond ring. That story went viral and more than $191,760 in donations poured in for Mr. Harris through In a similarly touching story, a man from Nairobi inspired more than $80,000 in donations in less than twenty-four hours after being slashed in the face trying to defend his orphanage. These stories have the power to capture the hearts and open the pocketbooks of many.

Trend #3: Savvy Nonprofits
In other cases, it seems that nonprofits that are savvy about online giving can actively participate in creating the “perfect storm” for online giving. For example, more than $1.4 million was raised via Charity: Water when soon to be nine-year-old Rachel Bechwith asked that in lieu of gifts, friends and family helped bring clean drinking water to developing nations. Her wish was fulfilled after her passing. In another case, more than $200 thousand dollars was raised for Doctors Without Borders by a FirstGiving campaign sponsored by Reddit/Atheism. The Infographic does not tell the story of how the online campaigns were created or executed, but the focus on a nonprofit’s mission as opposed to an individual such as Mr. Harris is key.

Nonprofits should take note. Not all nonprofits work in the area of disaster relief but most can tell a compelling story. These stories, besides being potentially viral online giving opportunities, are touching and speak to our common humanity. They are a motivating factor in giving.

The money given to the man in Nairobi and to Mr. Harris will change a few individual lives but will not affect the lives of the many other homeless men nor will it improve the safety of other orphanages. However, nonprofits who educate themselves about online giving have the potential to channel the viral impact of these stories by raising money for the organizations and programs that will make a lasting change.


Note: part of this blog ran as a newswire report for the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Does Impact Investment Signal a Paradigm Shift?

There is a fundamental shift in how some are approaching business and philanthropy. Whether you call it impact investing, philanthrocapitalism, or social business, these emerging practices have the potential to be a paradigm shift in our economic landscape. Or do they?

Amy Bell, Executive Director and Head of Principal Investments for JPMorgan’s Social Finance business unit, writes that “impact investing is the deployment of capital with an expectation of financial return, where the success of the investment is also contingent upon achieving a stated social or environmental goal.”

Massive amounts of capital are being “deployed” as Bell describes it. JPMorgan Chase alone has allocated more than $50 million. Goldman Sachs invested $10 million for the US’s first social impact bond. The list goes on.

Is this just a continuation and expansion of corporate social responsibility or is this a deeper change? For decades (if not centuries) nonprofits have encouraged the corporate sector to give back. Nonprofits argue that corporations themselves are economically sustained in many ways because of nonprofits: low-wage workers access discounted healthcare at community clinics and pay reduced-rate tuition at their children’s preschool; higher paid workers are recruited with promises of an area’s operas, cultural life, private schools, and hospitals; and any employee can access a community’s religious services, clean beaches, summer camps, and more.

Eventually, corporations began to catch on and, in large numbers, began partnering with nonprofits through sponsorships, grants and, eventually, cause marketing. Corporations realized that cause marketing could increase sales, increase employee engagement, and could have a positive impact on the community as well. Well-crafted relationships between corporations and nonprofits can lead to very good things for all involved.

But impact investment seems to go a step further. By investing capital in projects through organizations – many of which are for-profit – that create social good and at the same time provide a financial return on investment, impact investing has the potential to fundamentally change the donor’s experience. It completely shakes our business vs. philanthropy mindset. Impact investing says, “We can do both at the same time.” And the underlying assumption is that if we can do both, we should.

But can we do both? In some cases yes. Bell offers the example of Wilmar Flowers. JPMorgan Chase has invested capital in this African-based business with the expectations that Wilmar will grow from purchasing from 3,000 to more than 5,000 African-based small farms, affecting more than 250,000 households. It’s not clear how this arrangement differs from a typical business loan except that, in this case, the business might have previously been considered too high risk. Given Africa’s shaky economic performance, investments like this could be a very positive move towards economic development.

Bell writes that at JPMorgan Chase, “We have increasingly sought to bring the full resources of the firm to bear on these issues over the last several years.” She later writes, “By marrying the expertise within our traditional banking businesses with the financial and philanthropic tools we have available, we are excited about the potential to increase our positive impact and to redefine how we all think about returns.”

There is a delicate balance between maximizing social good and maximizing profit. Imagine walking a tightrope with a barbell in your hand. If one side drops too low, the whole act could fall. If the profit weight is too heavy, the social good is compromised. If the social good weight is too heavy, the lack of financial return may scare future investors. Both goals must be held at equilibrium.

And in some case, we cannot and should not do both. In the wake of 9-11, hundreds of thousands of people were stranded on Manhattan Island. Fear and panic was everywhere. Local fishermen and those with boats self-organized to give people rides to the mainland. 500,000 civilians were rescued in less than nine hours. It was the largest sea evacuation in history. This voluntary organization was completely spontaneous. There was a tremendous return on investment for those who contributed their time and resources, but it was not a financial return.

Is impact investing an emerging paradigm shift? Probably. In fact, there may come a time when the public expects all businesses to operate with a social mission. That day may come sooner rather than later. But the 9-11 boat lift teaches us that the opposite is not necessarily true. Not all social missions can offer financial ROI.

Nonprofit or For-profit? – NPQ Newswire

I’m intrigued by the social enterprise movement, if we dare call it that. In my recent Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire I look at the choice one social entrepreneur had to make.

As ThinkImpact grew, its founder, Saul Garlick, had to make a tough decision: remain a nonprofit, or change to a for-profit model? To do so, he had to consider some key elements: ownership, transparency, and profits.

Read my Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire by clicking here.

More Media Now: 4 Tips for Nonprofits

I’m often asked how a nonprofit can get more exposure in the media, especially when there is no money to pay additional staff.  It’s not as hard as it sounds. Just remember to be consistent, be friendly, and be flexible. Oh, and don’t forget to say thank you.

1) Be consistent. Set up and stick to a regular schedule for media pitches. Make sure that the media knows who you are and is reminded regularly that you are around. It’s like branding – you want to be top of mind.

Now, that being said, you don’t want to bombard them with stories they are not interested in writing. For example, a story on your new staff break room is not newsworthy. A client testimony on an issue of national concern (obesity, job development, etc.) is noteworthy.  Be strategic.

2) Be friendly. Get to know the reporters that cover your geographical area and the topics your nonprofit deals with. For example, if you deal with gang issues then you should get to know the crime reporter. If you deal with education, get to know the education/schools reporter. You can invite them over to tour your facility and meet a couple of clients. Then, when you send a press release to them or email a story idea, they have a personal experience with your mission.

3) Be flexible. Remember, reporters have a job too. They need to please their editor and their readers. They also have deadlines. You may get a call on Friday afternoon at 4pm asking if you have a client they can interview or if they can use your site for a picture for a story. Say yes. Helping out a reporter when they are in a jam is a sure-fire way to make friends.

4) Say thank you. Gratitude goes a long way. Always email or call to say thank you to a reporter who has covered your nonprofit. And, at the same time, you can ask a board member or donor write in as a citizen (and reader) to express their appreciation for the great story. Then, send these stories out via social media. This increases the publicity for your nonprofit and for the reporter (whose boss, more than likely, looks at the number of pageviews each story gets).

Additionally, if the reporter covers your mission (but not your organization), it is still appropriate to say thank you for highlighting these important issues. This simple act encourages future stories and develops your relatinship with the reporter.

These are simple hints but, in my experience, they go a long way. And most nonprofits don’t follow them.

What are your favorite media tips?

My Brain on Fiction

Let’s face it. There is a lot to do. And most if it won’t ever get done. Take the dishes, for example. Or the dust that settles behind the door in my office.DAYDM

We have to prioritize. I have to prioritize.

Lately I’ve been prioritizing nothing. Literally. Nothing. I’m scheduling time do nothing into my calendar. Before the hullabaloo of the week begins — and it always begins — I mark time in my calendar to do nothing.

Sometimes it’s in the morning. In fact, that’s a part of how I start most mornings. Sometimes it’s a lazy Friday afternoon (like this one). Other times it’s just a longer breakfast or lunch, looking out onto my herb/veggie/rose garden. It’s only about 5 foot by 3 feet but each day the green of the plants greet me and I’m happy.

Our brains need a break. They need to daydream. They need to think about something that is really interesting and, at the same time, doesn’t matter at all.

Fiction is a great brain break. Lately I’ve been trying to squeeze in just 15 minutes of non-research reading a day. I find that, like exercise, my brain does better on fiction.  I’m happier, more relaxed, and can think more clearly.

Last month I read A School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and am now (slowly) working on The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. In January I read the Journal of Best Practices by David Finch. That one made me laugh out loud. Often. In public.

Three books. It’s already April and I’ve already read three books. I think that might be three more than I read last year. Which is too bad, really. I’m a reader. While I was in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps Volunteer I read more than 130 books.

Reading, especially fiction, is deeply generative. It helps us to:

  • Make sense of the world
  • Connect with others’ perspectives
  • Step away from our own (petty? first world?) concerns
  • Rejuvenate the brain
  • Relax before going to bed

It’s kind of like singing in the shower. The best ideas come to me when I’m singing reading.

I like my brain on fiction. The next few years will be very busy for me. I’m sure you’re life is no different. I’m going to try to remember that just 15 minutes a day makes a huge difference. What about you?

Got any great book recommendations?


Social Enterprise Meets Flipping Boston?!

Unable to sleep this week, I’ve taken to watching Flipping Boston and Flipping Vegas. These shows chronicle the process of entrepreneurs who flip distressed houses. Over the course of a few weeks, the houses transform from dilapidated shacks to pristine palace-like homes. And, of course, the entrepreneurs make a nice profit.

As I watch this, I have to ask. . . Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

In a nutshell, the criteria for social enterprise are:

  1. Profit motive
  2. Social mission
  3. Results/impact oriented

Technically, “House Flippers” would qualify. They have a profit motive (cha-ching!). They offer a social good (improved home prices, neighborhood beautification). And they have clear, measurable results (increased value of house and neighborhood).

But if we consider them social entrepreneurs, shouldn’t we consider all business as such? After all, the addition of any job to the economy is a welcome — and much needed — social benefit.

Yet many might take offense to thinking of “House Flippers” as social entrepreneurs. In some ways, so would I.

Something is clearly missing in our definition of social enterprise and it has to do with #2: Social Mission.

In the case of my late night TV shows, the social good is there. The neighborhood looks better. Property values increase for all residents.  The construction provides job opportunities. However, the social good is a byproduct of the profit motive. The entrepreneurs don’t (presumably) start out with the goal in mind to add value to anything other than their own pocket books.

I think we hold (or at least want to hold) social enterprise and social entrepreneurs to a higher standard. But how do we do this?

  • Should the social mission be more, less, or equally important to the profit motive?
  • Should the intended beneficiaries be consulted?
  • Should the entrepreneurs do market research regarding the need they attempt to fulfill?
  • Should the entrepreneurs do market research into other organizations attempting to meet the need both locally and across the country?

These are the kinds of questions I ask myself every day.

Our current definition of social enterprise needs to stretch enough to encompass the moral and ethical implications of doing good. Yet stretching the definition is not as easy as it looks.

We need more nonprofits like we need more restaurants

A great restaurant is a community gem. So is a great nonprofit. The problem is, most restaurants fail. And many nonprofits should fail.

A small business owner I met while consulting to a nonprofit in South America.

A small business owner I met while consulting to a nonprofit in South America.

And yet, people start nonprofits (and restaurants) every day. I once consulted for an organization that does fabulous sustainability work with indigenous communities along the Amazon River. The founder started the organization with the best of intentions. She had lived in-country for many years. She had a board of directors in the U.S. and in South America. But she didn’t have enough support, education, or resources to adequately fundraise. Neither did her board. As a result, she lost most of her life savings and the organization is going bankrupt. She is passionate about her cause but, unfortunately, passion isn’t enough.

The Huffington Post recently posted an article entitled: Passionate about a Cause? Start a Nonprofit. The author shared 5 tips for starting a nonprofit which came from Wasil Nilan, founder of the Get In Touch Foundation. Paraphrased, her five tips were:

  • It’s hard work.
  • Hire the right people.
  • The Girl Scouts of America’s Bylaws are “perfect.”
  • Use a strategic plan.
  • Think big.

In many ways, she’s absolutely right.  However, the reality of starting a nonprofit is not as rosey as it may sound. I have a few more tips to add to the list.

Reasons to Start a Nonprofit
First, just because someone is passionate about a cause does not mean they should start a nonprofit. There are a lot of things people don’t often think about like: fundraising laws, filing annual tax forms, organizing and training a board, liability insurance for volunteers, and so much more.

Some of best reasons to start a nonprofit are:

  • There is a documented need.
  • There are no other organizations already fulfilling that need.
  • There are no other organizations interested in partnering with you or starting a new program.
  • There are funding opportunities which either exist or can be developed to help you meet that need.
  • The founder(s) understand the legal, fiduciary, and long-term requirements.
  • The founder(s) are at a place in their lives where they can dedicate the time and resources needed to the task.
  • The goal is to fulfill the mission, not to be a founder

Writing Bylaws
Second, nonprofits are not a “one-size-fits-all” type of organization. The Girl Scouts bylaws may be perfect for them. That does not mean that they will be perfect for your organization. Bylaws should be written specifically with your mission and your organizational structure in mind. The bylaws for a Temple will be different from the bylaws for an animal rights organization which will be different from a human service organization.

Templates don’t work. They may be an easy way to get things going but as soon as the organization hits rough waters (which all do), templates fail miserably.  The bylaws, articles of incorporation, major policies and procedures, and all other founding documents should be written individually for each nonprofit.

Other Options
If you are passionate about a cause, it is important to help. Starting a nonprofit might be a good idea. More than likely, it would be better to find other ways to participate such as:

  • Volunteer
  • Donate money
  • Join a board
  • Start a new program at an existing nonprofit
  • Help a nonprofit friendraise to gather support
  • Talk to your elected officials about any laws affecting the cause

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. The annual giving and annual volunteer rate of the US and of various cities doesn’t change much over time. This means that as more nonprofits are added, more nonprofits are competing for the same amount of resources. Rather than add to the feeding frenzy of nonprofit startups, I would encourage you to first strengthen one of the many wonderful organizations that already exist. Volunteer. Donate. Join a Board. Then, once your feet are wet, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not to start a nonprofit.

Electronic Health Records and Smaller Nonprofits

If any of you are interested in the transition to Electronic Health Records, I had the opportunity to write a guest blog on the subject for Idealware. You can link to the post by clicking here. I didn’t mention this in the Idealware blog but I had the opportunity a few years ago to observe the EHR transition process when I worked at a large community clinic.  It can be a massive  undertaking but the benefits are truly astonishing.

If you don’t already know, Idealware is a nonprofit organization that provides technology related support and information for nonprofits. They have webinars, reports, a blog and more. They are definitely worth checking out, if you haven’t already heard of them.


I’ll have cookies, granola, and some greater good, please

Examples of social enterprise: Girl Scout cookies and "Your Choice Brands" Granola

Examples of social enterprise: Girl Scout cookies and “Your Choice Brands” Granola

Social enterprise is one of the hot new buzz words these days. Other buzz words include social entrepreneur, impact investing, philanthrocapitalism, and social innovation. These words sound really exciting, maybe a bit foreign.

Don’t panic. Social enterprise is less confusing or foreign than it sounds. In fact, we see it almost every day. . . After all, it is Girl Scout cookie season.

Girl Scout cookies are a prime example of social enterprise:

  • There is a profit created by the sale of cookies.
  • There is a social good realized when the girls learn entrepreneurship and when the money from the sales provides funding for the overall program.

Not so scary anymore, huh?

Now, let’s talk about practice. There are two primary ways in which a nonprofit can be or have a social enterprise:

1) Earned Income: nonprofits engage in social enterprise activity when they create earned income. These business-like activities create a profit for the agency which then is reinvested to further the mission. For example:

  • A nonprofit theater company charges for a ticket to a performance.
  • A nonprofit hospital charges patients for services.
  • A disaster preparedness agency sells earthquake kits.

2) Creating a for-profit company: nonprofits can actually create and own a for-profit company.The for-profit provides a revenue stream for the nonprofit corporation.

There are lots of other types of social enterprise which I’ll discuss in further detail in other posts. These include cause marketing, L3C corporations, Benefit Corporations, and cross-sectoral partnerships.

In case you’re curious, the granola pictured in this post is from a for-profit social enterprise (L3) called “Your Choice Brands.” Consumer can log onto a website and donate a portion of the proceeds from the purchase to the nonprofit of their choice. . . I’ll tell you more about these types of social enterprises another day.

The bottom line though is that social enterprise is not rocket science and you don’t have to be Gandi-like to be a social entrepreneur.

Hug Your Development Director

Underdeveloped, a recent nationwide study by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services confirms what we already know: it is hard to find and keep a good development director. If you have one, beware: in organizations under $1 million, more than 57% of the development directors anticipate leaving the organization within two years. Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t much better for larger organizations.

The report offers a few key points:
1) Development directors have high turnover.
2) Positions often go unfilled for a long time.
3) It’s difficult to find high quality candidates for the position.
4) Nonprofits aren’t investing in the development and marketing activities overall.

Of course, for those of us working in the sector, we aren’t surprised. The development and marketing programs are usually the last funded, the first cut, and the least respected. . . Unless of course you have a good development director.

A good development director can make all the difference. They alleviate pressure on the CEO to raise funds, they attract supporters to the agency, and they can teach the staff be mini-marketing and development agents (also known as brand agents).

A good development director is hard to find. According to the report, “One in four executive directors (24%) say their development directors have no experience or are novice at ‘current and prospective donor research.'”

What makes a good development director? In my mind, there are a few essential elements.

  • Ability to raise money (a given, right?).
  • Ability to translate the mission into something tangible for each donor.
  • Ability to challenge others to think more deeply about their role in philanthropy and our human experience.
  • Ability to align the fundraising activities with the goals of program staff.
  • Ability to help staff of all positions see their role as brand agents.
  • Ability to keep track of, acknowledge, and report on just about everything and everyone under the sun.
  • A strong sense of internal ethics and integrity (not as much of a given as you’d hope, unfortunately).

I’ve met some amazing development directors and I’ve met some very shady ones. The worst thing I ever heard one say to a board was, “If you don’t have a personal story with one of our clients, just make one up. The donors won’t know anyways.”

A good development director is also in high demand. S/he is probably being recruited by larger organizations that can pay more.

So what should nonprofits with a good development director do? Hug them! We can ‘hug’ them by providing the tools they need.

Hug your development director:

  • Engage board members in development
  • Allow them to hire staff or at the very least recruit interns
  • Invest in software and training
  • Pay decent wages
  • Say thank you

This is critical. As the report says, “If nonprofit leaders don’t adopt this major shift in thinking and come to embrace fund development as a central and valuable part of their work, rather than an unpleasant distraction, fundraising success will continue to elude too many organizations.”

How do you hug your development director?



Sunday Musings on the Nonprofit Governance Conference

I had the opportunity on Friday and Saturday to speak at USD’s annual Nonprofit Governance Institute. This two-day conference – for those of you who might not live in San Diego – draws hundreds of board members and senior leadership staff members at nonprofits throughout Southern California together to talk about one thing: governance.

As always, the energy was high throughout the weekend and the conversations were stimulating. It’s such a joy to be around people who are trying to make the world a better place . . . and being smart about it!

I was privileged to speak at two different sessions.

The first was a panel on Nonprofits and Civil Society. I shared about a book I had recently read and reviewed for an academic publication. The book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, provides a wonderful roadmap to nonprofits looking to measure their impact on social media.  I highly recommend it.

The second topic I addressed was — drumroll here — social media policies. The session focused on tips for how to create policies that are generative rather than overly rigid or controlling. It’s not easy to do, trust me. What I loved about this session was the second half: small group discussions.

Use or Lose

The attendees gathered together in small groups to discuss sample policies. Each group had a different policy which I had selected from a online database.  They played a game I call “Use or Lose.” After each reading the policies separately, they had to decide what they could potentially “use” from that policy to write their own and what they would “lose.”

The key lessons from this exercise are:
1) Social media policies are NOT one-size-fits-all,
2) Virtually no company has a “perfect” policy,
2) We can learn from a wide variety of companies, including Nordstrom.

More than 50 people showed up to learn about social media policies and I’m thrilled. We’ve been talking about social media for a long time. Now it’s time to also talk about generative governance.




SEO Strategies for Writers

I recently caught up with Teresa Krauss, Senior Editor at Springer, at a quaint little restaurant in Siena, Italy. We were both in town for the ISTR conference and serendipitously stopped at the same café to enjoy a bite of Italian cuisine.  As we talked, I realized that Teresa had some great tips about publishing academic articles that would be rather handy for everyone, including nonacademics like nonprofits and bloggers.

Essentially, Teresa believes that every author – even those publishing exclusively in print – needs to be SEO savvy.   Even if it’s print, it’s being sold and searched for online.

SEO, as you may know, stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s what an author needs to do with their article, book or book chapter to be found at the top of the results of a search done in search engine like Google or Google Scholar. If someone searches for your name or the topics you write about, will they find you? In today’s web-based world, let’s hope they do.

There are simple strategies that can help your article to be found easily through Google and other online searches.

Here are a few tips I learned from Teresa:

1)      Be careful with your titles. It is best to write a short title which explicitly states what the article includes. Don’t be cutesy. Be concise and clear. For example: “Nonprofit Management Strategies” is far more SEO friendly than “Planning for the long term.”

2)      Get serious about key words. The key words are an important flag that directs potential readers to your article rather than the thousands of others out there. If you’re thoughtful and specific about your key words, you will increase the likelihood of being found. For ideas on what key words to use, Teresa suggests checking the articles of topics similar to yours. What words did those authors use? That might be a good starting point.

3)      Talk to your editor about other languages. Ask the journal editor if you can submit an abstract in a language other than English (presumably one you’re fluent in). If at all possible, Teresa highly recommends doing so. Not everybody is doing their searches in English –especially if you research is being done in a country where that language is spoken – having this other abstract would be ideal.

4)      Get online. Seriously. If you aren’t on social media by now, you’re missing out. Twitter and Facebook isn’t just about Perez Hilton gossip.  There are fabulous intellectual discussions happening on social media and YOU should be part of it, as should your research and/or message. There is wonderful networking amongst professional colleagues. There are tremendous opportunities to share your knowledge, ideas, passion with the world. And, there is the potential for generative connections. So get online. We’ll see you there!

Teresa talks about publishing in academic journals and books but you can see that the tips she shared apply to bloggers and nonprofit organizations.

For example, on this blog I think that I do a good job of using key word tags but I should probably take her advice on writing more concise titles. You can see from my blog list that I tend to go for cutesy. For example, my favorite titles are ones like: “social media policies as beach reading” . . . Fun title but not SEO optimized.

One quick note for nonprofits in regards to tip #3: You may be thinking, “I don’t write abstracts so this doesn’t apply to me.” To you I would offer a thought: – you may not have abstracts, but you do have websites. It’s important to think about what language you are using for your website. I know many nonprofits that have an English website but say they don’t have enough money for a website in the language their clients speak. That’s okay – you don’t need a whole new website. You can just add a couple of pages to the website you do have (using the language of your clients) and make sure that the key terms that describe your services are included on those pages. If those pages are in another language, it may increase the number of clients that can find you online.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought. Now that I’m back in the states, I know there are things I’ll be doing differently as the result of this information.


Moving Millennials to Donate: Easier than You Think

A few months ago I wrote about the Chains of Habit many nonprofits are forming by reaching out to and stewarding the millennial generations. These chains of habit begin by establishing awareness about the mission and then move through increasingly higher asks:

1) volunteering
2) small donations
3) encouraging peers to become involved/donate
4) larger donations

This process, which mirrors any donor stewardship process, is undergirded by the emerging forms of electronic communication: enewsletters, social media, and more.

The internet is now the flour that thickens and binds the sauce.

Many CEOs feel unsure of how to proceed but, today, we have updated information to guide our approach. The 2011 Millennial Donor Survey results have been released and they are worth paying attention to.

Here are a few of my key take-aways from the report.

1) 70% of millennial have raised funds.
Wow! Think about our nonprofit boards. How many of you have 70% of your board members raising funds? Not many, I’d be willing to wager. However, this next generation appears to be more comfortable with fundraising than their predecessors. This makes sense. Partially because of (and partially evidenced by) social media, the millennial generation is a very connected group. They want to engage with one another and with others who share common interests. When they’re passionate about something — your mission?!? — they happily share.

Nonprofits can harness this fundraising might by encouraging millennial to join boards and by creating low price-point opportunities for donating/fundraising.

2)  70% said they would share cool events on Facebook.
This is in comparison to the 30% who would share that they had donated or the 34% who would share they had made an impact. They don’t want to brag. They don’t want a plaque on the wall. They want to engage. . . and it has to be cool.

Nonprofits should take note. Rubber chicken dinners and standard forms of donor recognition aren’t enough. It’s time to get real and get creative.

3) 90% had never donated through Facebook.
This is shocking to me, especially given the fact that most of them preferred to give online. Does this mean that nonprofits are not effectively asking through Facebook? Or, instead, does it mean that nonprofits are effectively engaging through Facebook AND getting the donors to click-through and donate via their website. I don’t know but I hope it’s the latter.

Either way, nonprofits can look at ways to improve the numbers of millennial s (and others) donating through Facebook. The survey mentioned safety concerns as one of the reasons only 10% were donating through Facebook. Don’t let that stop you. You can make the ask via Facebook but offer links so that the actual donations come via your website.

The millennial generation is here to stay as is this new fangled internet thing. Thanks to the Millennial Donors Survey, we have more information about how we can reach this increasingly powerful population. I’ve offered a few key facts here but there are many more included in this report. It’s definitely worth a read.

If you’ve had success reaching out to the millennial generations, I’d love to hear about it. Please post your comments here or share them on




Learning to Listen

I am learning to listen.

This lesson is coming through many forms, most recently via a lecture I attended by Otto Scharmer of MIT entitled Leadership and Mindful Transformation of Capitalism: from Ego-System to Eco-System Economies.

Otto asked the audience two core questions:

  • Where do you experience a world that is ending/dying?
  • Where do you experience a world that is beginning/waiting to be born?

In thinking about these questions, only one answer came to my mind. The world that I experience to be ending/dying is the world that believes that problems are external.

In my work with nonprofits, I have come to learn that problems are—at their core—thinking problems. This means problems must be resolved internally first, then externally. What do I mean by this?

  • Problems with the environment are, at their core, a problem about how we conceptualize our relationship to the earth.
  • Problems with poverty are, at their core, problems about how we structure our economy and how we conceptualize our relationship to fellow man.

I did not always believe this. I used to think that “poor people” needed help. To that end, I spent many years in many countries in direct service. What I have learned is that direct service is powerful (there is tremendous power in any act of service to another human being), but it isn’t enough. If the core of the problem is a thinking problem, our work must also be on a different plane.

In thinking about this new work, I am compelled to listen more deeply. But how?

Otto described four levels of listening:

  • Downloading: is taking the information you receive and applying old opinions and judgments to that information.
  • Factual listening: is taking the information we received and acknowledging any data which disconfirms what we thought we knew.
  • Empathic listening: is seeing through another person’s eyes and thereby establishing an emotional connection.
  • Generative listening: is opening our awareness to that which exists and to that which might exist. We allow our attention to connect to an emerging future, waiting for that which wants to be born.

According to Otto, as we move towards generative listening, we let go of the voices of judgment, cynicism, and fear. Instead, we move to a position of openness, engagement, and, eventually, embodiment.

While all this sounds beautiful, I have not yet answered Otto’s second question. Where do I experience a world that is beginning/waiting to be born?

I don’t know, but I’m listening.

What do you think?

For more information about Otto Scharmer and his work on Theory U, visit:

Carrying the Flag: A Patriotic Lesson in Volunteer Management

I was fortunate to be on the field for opening day at Angels’ Stadium this past week for what turned out to be a patriotic lesson in volunteer management.  I was one of 350 enthusiastic volunteers who carried a 150×300 foot American flag weighing more than 1,100 pounds.  As I watched the volunteer coordinator—herself a volunteer, serving in honor of her friend—and the three staff people in charge of the flag, I realized that despite my years of volunteer administration, I still had a lot to learn from the rookies.

For pictures of the flag, click here.  I’m at the top in the center, the cute one.

Lesson #1:  Give clear directions

Many of this year’s 350 volunteers had never before participated in this event. Like I, they had to learn how to assemble, carry, and display the large flag. However, because of the event coordinators’ clear instructions, our lack of experience did not yield any handicap.

Before the event, we were emailed very simple, unmistakable instructions: show up by a certain time; wear tan pants and a red shirt with no writing on the back; and sign a waiver. During the event, the instructions were equally easy to understand. Through a bullhorn, a staff member told the volunteers what do and how to do it. These instructions were delivered in less than 15 minutes plus time for practice.

I’ve seen volunteer administrators get bogged down in a myriad of policies, procedures, what-if scenarios to the extent that volunteers get turned away. I can remember one nonprofit that instituted a new volunteer application so complex many volunteers stopped participating.

While policies and procedures are important, they are no substitute for clear, easy-to-understand directions.

Lesson #2: Expect the best but prepare for the worst

We’re human. We fall down while running backward carrying the massive weight of the flag. We get excited about being near star players like Weaver, Pujols and Trumbo. We try to take unauthorized photos. All of this is natural. It’s also against the rules. The volunteers were given clear directions about what to do if we fell down (don’t  get up and ruin the flag!) or the consequences of taking a camera onto the field (something about the sharks around Alcatraz). These boundaries were clearly articulated and, as a result, I didn’t see a single person deviate. We didn’t dare.

Volunteers, like children, need boundaries. Volunteers are coming into our territory. Much of what we take for granted (look, it’s Weaver!), they are seeing for the first time.

It’s okay to give very specific instructions to avoid a worst-case scenario.

Lesson #3: Remember why we’re here

One reason our simple instructions were sufficient is because the reason all 350 of us were volunteering was readily apparent: a giant American flag was right there at our feet while we awaited the pre-game show. Plus, as an added reminder, once we were out on the field a C-17 cruised dramatically overhead. (At least, I’m told it did. I was probably the only person of the 44,000+ in attendance who didn’t see the fly-by. My excuse? I was too busy concentrating on waving the flag.)

In my experience with volunteers, they are usually there because they want to be. There are exceptions (don’t you love court appointed volunteers?!), but overall, volunteers are already ‘sold’.

Regardless, it is important to find ways to remind them of value they bring to the experience.

For many years I coordinated teams of volunteers who provided free surgeries to children with physical deformities. Most volunteers had an opportunity to interact with patients and see firsthand the dramatic difference their service made. However, there was one volunteer position which wasn’t so glamorous: taking out the OR trash. These volunteers, mostly college students, would remove the trash from the operating rooms in between surgeries. They did not enter the OR during surgeries and rarely had an opportunity to interact with patients.

However, I found that if I was able to take the time and share with these volunteers the victories of the day (a new lip for a child with cleft lip, a redefined lip line for a child with a facial birthmark), the volunteers would return eagerly and sign up for the next opportunity.

The benefits of volunteering don’t have to be as dramatic as a C-17 fly-by, but we do need to help volunteers remember why they’re here.

Lesson #4: Don’t forget the cookies

In between our flag-carrying practice run and the time we went out onto the field, cookies and water were made available. This simple snack gave the volunteers enough energy to carry the 1,100lbs out onto the field and hold it for about 15 minutes during the pre-game opening ceremony.

I’ve worked with enough volunteers to know that no matter how much pre-event preparation you do, no matter how many details go perfectly, without food, the day will be a complete disaster. In fact, some of the most challenging volunteer administration experiences I’ve had involved issues with food access.

Whatever you do, do not forget the cookies!

An unexpected lesson

I showed up at the field last week expecting a patriotic ballpark experience. I did not expect to receive a lesson in volunteer administration.

Volunteer management is one of my absolute favorite aspects of nonprofit administration. It requires a comprehensive skill set: human resources, event management, public relations, program management, finance, and more. I’m a huge advocate of nonprofit Master’s programs and other forms of training. However, as my flag-carrying experience showed me, it all comes down to a few key  points: give clear directions, expect the best but prepare for the worst, remember why we’re here, and don’t forget the cookies. My hat is off to those who made this lesson possible.

What is your best tip in volunteer administration? Share it here!

P.S. I’m sitting in a Starbucks across from Angel’s stadium right now. The staff are talking about the fly-over by the C-17 which I missed. . . I guess it really did happen.

5 Quick & Effective Nonprofit Communication Ideas

It’s a simple recipe. Nonprofits start “cooking” when they establish a mission. Then, in order to achieve that mission, they add healthy servings of potential donors, volunteers, and community members.   These stakeholders are what make the dish come alive. They are essential in the same way flour is essential baking bread. But, we need more. We have the ingredients but we need a space where the two—the mission and the stakeholders—can come together. This “space” is usually called a kitchen. In the nonprofit world, I call it the Communications Plan.

The Communications Plan tells us what, how, and when we will share our message with the larger community. It answers core questions such as:

  • Who are we trying to reach? (also known as your target audience)
  • What is the core problem we are solving and how do we want to frame the issue?
  • What are our key messages?
  • When/how do we interact with the media? Who is responsible?
  • What communication tools (social media, newsletters, etc.) do we use and how often?
  • Who is responsible for interfacing with the public?

For a quick template, click here.

Communication and PR strategies can make a big difference.  Even when there isn’t much in the budget for communication strategies, nonprofits can still have an impact.

5 Quick & Effective Ideas:

1)      Teach board and staff how to speak about your agency. The people that are close to the organization—staff and board—are already talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? If not, then share with them your key messages. Write out those messages and offer a training where everyone can practice. Make sure to ask them to add their own personal flavor. They can share a story that touched their heart or share about the aspect of the mission which is especially important to them. It’s much more powerful to hear someone when it’s obviously they really care.

2)      Tell stories. Stories are a powerful currency in the market of donor engagement. They can motivate us to give, to act, to share. By capturing and sharing the stories of your organization—the client success stories, the volunteer’s inspirational stories, the donor’s generosity stories—we can engage the community in a visceral way. Ask your staff to write down and collect clients’ stories. Keep these in a safe space so they can be used in enewsletters, appeal letters, media pitches, donor recognition letters, and so much more.

3)      Use a variety of the tools available. There are many new tools available through the internet which can make communication cheaper, easier, quicker, and more engaging. These tools can and should be used in combination with each other. Here are just a few:

  1. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (for great examples, look at Mama’s Kitchen, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Opera)
  2. Nonprofit Blogs (for a great example, see San Diego Coastkeeper’s blog)
  3. Enewsletters (there are many inexpensive platforms such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, and VirtualResponse)

4)      Enlist your funders. Is one of your donors a large corporation with many staff? Perhaps they can help. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ask if your staff can participate in their company trainings. This is free capacity-building for your staff.
  2. If they would share your information in their company newsletter (assuming the content is useful to their employees).
  3. Ask if they would share about you on their corporate social media accounts.
  4.  And so much more. . . be creative!

5)      Make friends with the media. Media is a great source of free exposure; however, nonprofits are sometimes afraid to reach out to the media. Their media outreach efforts may rely solely a press release during major events. This is good but not good enough. A better strategy is to establish a relationship with the media. Meet the reporters that cover your area and begin a long-term conversation. It’s a win/win: over time you provide them with awesome story ideas, they in turn offer your agency excellent exposure. For an example, look at what Voices for Children accomplished with their recent Op/Eds…. The bottom line is this: don’t just think in terms of press releases, think about an ongoing relationship.

Nonprofit communication strategies are not hard but they do require some thought.  When sitting down to map out your communication strategy, you can use some of these five easy-to-implement, inexpensive ideas to ensure your message is heard.

What are your ideas? Share them below or on

Do you know a nonprofit that does a great job at PR/Communication? If so, share their links here so we can all learn.

When Funders Listen: Making a Difference, Long-Term

In a national report on philanthropic practices entitled “Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?,” GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) shared some interesting findings. These findings will hopefully spark the interest of funders and, at the same time, warm the hearts of nonprofit executives. However, they leave me with a question: should funders listen more?

When looking at long term sustainability, the GEO has learned that there are three types of funding support which are most associated with nonprofit success.

3 Critical Types of Support:

1)     General operating support (unrestricted support)
2)     Multiyear support
3)     Capacity-building support

Why are these types of support so valuable?
In a similar report also funded by GEO, Nancy Burd argues that when funders focus only on short-term programs, nonprofits have an incentive to focus on the short-term and therefore may miss opportunities to work on both the organization and the mission long-term. Basically, they focus on the day-to-day and miss the internal and external opportunities which help them survive and thrive.

What does this look like?
More than 60% of nonprofits have less than 90 days cash. This means that most nonprofits are especially vulnerable to lows in funding cycles, economic downturns, and other external factors.  We’ve seen this. After the 2008 economic crash, many smaller and/or unprepared nonprofits folded. The hand-to-mouth business model doesn’t work for for-profits and we shouldn’t try to make it work for nonprofits.

Funders must listen to nonprofits.
A core message from GEO’s report is this: when funders listen to nonprofits, their funding is more closely alighted with long-term success because their funding more closely mirrors the three core types above.

Specifically, the GEO has found that:

  • When funders used grant reports to foster learning, they increased multiyear support.
  • When funders sought input from grantees and the community, they increased operating support.
  • When funders solicited advice from a grantee advisory committee, they increased capacity-building support.
  • When funders listened to grantees and the community, they increased capacity-building support.

This is great. It means that when funders listen to grantees and the community, funding more closely aligns with long-term success.

My Question: Why is this news?
I struggle with this information. From my perspective, I believe most nonprofit executives see multiyear, operating, and capacity-building support as key to long-term success. . . We’ve been talking about and asking for it for years. Nonprofits’ budgets need to account for the electricity bill, the administrative costs which undergird the sexy programs, and building the capacity of our staff, bolstering quality of programs and preventing turnover. These cold facts are usually not the ‘stuff’ that sells donors on a nonprofit; however, they are the ‘stuff’ that makes achieving the mission a possibility.

Yet, if we as practitioners know this, why don’t funders? I know many, many funders who do listen and who do understand the inner workings of nonprofits; however, this data clearly shows there is more work to be done. . .

How can we foster deeper understandings between nonprofits and funders which, hopefully, will increase the kind of support that makes a long-term impact?

Share your ideas here or at

6 Steps to Take Before You Start an Enewsletter

Many nonprofits start an enewsletter and then think through how they are going to manage it day-to-day. Like most things, this is not the optimal way. Here are 6 crucial steps to take before you start an enewsletter.

 1) Chart your course.
Before you start an enewsletter, ask some questions:
-who is my audience(s)?
-what do I want from them?
-what do they want from me?
-how often will they want it?
-what resources (staff time, money, etc.) can I devote to this?

2) Choose a platform.
There are many enewsletter platform providers you can use. Popular ones include Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response. I use MailChimp because it is easy to use, inexpensive, and comes with great technical support. They also have a sense of humor which helps when dealing with the (sometimes) technologically challenged people like myself.

3) Design a template.
The major platform providers are all set up to allow the average user to design their own template. You can customize it with your colors, logos, etc. or you can use a standard template they’ve created. Some agencies prefer to have their enewsletter look like their print newsletter or website. If you want that level of customization, ask a graphic designer to help. I’ve used The Design Stylist many times and the results are astonishing.

When building your template, think about what you want to share and how often. For example,
-how many stories or notices will your enewsletter include?
-will there be a special section for events? For resources?

4) Create an editorial calendar.
Create a 3-6 month calendar outlining what you might write about for each of the stories in your Enewsletters. This isn’t set in stone but will give you a framework with which to work. It will also help you see if you have enough content for the enewsletter. When deciding on topics, keep it relevant. If appropriate, incorporate seasonal items, holiday references, and even the odd, “International day of chocolate covered insects” references. You can also see how your enewsletter content will cross-pollinate your other marketing such as social media, press outreach, and more.

5) Build your enewsletter subscriber list.
It is critical that your subscriber list opt-in. This means that you have their explicit permission to contact them. The best open rate success stories I’ve had with clients have come when two things happen: a) subscribers opt-in and b) content is customized to meet the audiences’ needs. This is to say: don’t buy a list. Take the time to build your own.

Here are a few pointers on building a strong subscriber base:
-put a ‘subscribe now’ link in your email signature line and on your website.
-check and see if your platform provider will set up an app on your Facebook page for fans to opt-in. MailChimp does.
-offer a goodie (like an ebook or a ticket for an opportunity drawing) for subscribers

6) Keep up the good work.
If you’ve done steps 1-5, you are well on your way. Don’t lose momentum! Consistency is as important to success as is content.

What is your best tip for a stellar enewsletter? Share it here or on Facebook.

Was this helpful? Sign up for my enewsletter and receive more tips, trainings and special discounts. Just click “Follow” in the box on the right at the top of this post.


Chains of Habit: Online Giving and the Millennial Generation

Online giving is a pivotal way to attract and retain the next generation of donors. According to the Millennial Donor Survey, 49% of Millennials of gave online.  This survey included responses from nearly 3,000 people between the ages of 25 and 35. It provides valuable insights for nonprofits wishing to use online philanthropy to create chains of habit.

Communicating with Millennials
Millennials expect to give and prefer to give online.  According to the survey, the top 2 preferred methods of communication are via the web and email. They also expect nonprofits to use electronic means of communicating – social media, websites, enewsletters – to keep in touch. For this generation, the print newsletter is a dinosaur.

Soliciting gifts from Millennials
According to the survey, the top 2 preferred methods of being solicited for a donation are via a personal request and online.

Online giving allows for easy peer-to-peer asks which result in larger giving circles. It is ideal for capturing the attention of this generation and it is ideal for nonprofits who want to increase their donor pool.

Of the Millennials who gave online, about half gave $150 or below. The Millennial generation is the least financially established of all the generations. Their gifts are often small; however, they are making the commitment to give to social causes. They are forming chains of habit.

Chains of habit
We know that past behavior is a predictor to future behavior. What we do today, we are likely to do tomorrow. When we graciously (and creatively!) solicit and accept smaller donations online, we are paving the road to long term donor relationships.

“Chains of habit are generally

too small to be felt until they are

too strong to be broken.”

~Samuel Johnson


What are YOU doing to create the chains of habit?
In order to help nonprofits maximize online philanthropy and create ‘chains of habit, I’ve created Online Giving 2012: Your Best Year Ever. This yearlong webinar course will help you master the core competencies of online philanthropy – online relationship building, enewsletters, social media strategy, online giving campaigns, branding, and more.

You will:

  • Create your 2012 Online Giving Road Map
  • Develop an engaged social media community
  • Deliver an enewsletter donors wait for
  • Raise funds via a successful online giving campaign

Monthly Course Webinars include:*

Jan: Online Giving ~ Are you Ready? (30 min – free)
Feb: Creating Your Roadmap for Online Giving
Mar: Leaving Your Mark ~ Branding, SEO, & the Web
April: You’ve Got My Ear ~ Donors and Enewsletters
May: Online Cultivation ~ Donors and Social Media
June: The Anatomy of an Ask ~ Designing Your Online Fundraising Campaign
July: Testing the Waters ~ Warming Your Audience with Small Online Asks
Aug: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic
Sept: PowerHour ~ Review and provide feedback on classmates’ campaigns
Oct: It’s You, Online ~ Using Your Personal Brand to Maximize Fundraising Nov: Final Push ~ Harnessing the best fundraising month of the year
Dec: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic

Save $225!
Purchase the yearlong series for $275 by January 31st and save $225! That is a $75 savings off of the full price of the year ($350) plus two FREE 30 minute coaching sessions valued at $150.  What a deal!

Click here to Register for the full year

Are you ready to harness the power of online giving?
Receive two free 30 minute coaching sessions when you register now for Online Giving 2012: Your Best Year Ever!  These coaching sessions can be used at any time throughout the year.

Want more information? The first webinar is free! This webinar Online Giving: Are You Ready will articulate the core competencies needed for a successful online giving campaign. It will lay out the road map for the course and show you exactly what you can do to make 2012 your best year ever.

Click here Register for the first webinar

If you have questions about the course, please ask me on Facebook or send me an email at

Online Giving 2012: Your Best Year EVER

Did you know that 1/3 of online giving occurs in December and 22% occurs December 30th and 31st? However, don’t wait until December to think about online giving. . . Relationships need to be cultivated. This is true offline as well as online.

We must develop all web-based competencies – including enewsletters, social media, branding, and search engine optimization – in order to succeed in any online campaign and to truly maximize the December giving push.

I’ve created Online Giving 2011: Your Best Year Ever to help nonprofits harness the power of online philanthropy. Over the course of the year, you’ll master the core competencies needed for success.  Course materials and resources will be provided to help you make 2012 your best online fundraising year ever!

During this year-long web-based course you will:

  • Create your 2012 Online Giving Road Map
  • Develop an engaged social media community
  • Deliver an enewsletter donors wait for
  • Raise funds via a successful online giving campaign

This course is GUARANTEED to increase your online giving in 2012!

Monthly Course Webinars include:*
Jan: Online Giving ~ Are you Ready? (30 min – free)
Feb: Creating Your Roadmap for Online Giving
Mar: Leaving Your Mark ~ Branding, Blogging, & the Web
April: You’ve Got My Ear ~ Donors and Enewsletters
May: Online Cultivation ~ Donors and Social Media
June: The Anatomy of an Ask ~ Designing Your Online Fundraising Campaign
July: Testing the Waters ~ Warming Your Audience with Small Online Asks
Aug: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic
Sept: PowerHour ~ Review and provide feedback on classmates’ campaigns
Oct: It’s You, Online ~ Using Your Personal Brand to Maximize Fundraising Nov: Final Push ~ Harnessing the best fundraising month of the year
Dec: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic

*Each webinar is one hour long. Dates are scheduled 2-4 weeks in advance. Don’t worry if you cannot make the date. All webinars will be recorded and emailed to course registrants to review. You won’t miss a thing!

Save $225! Purchase the yearlong series for $275 by January 31st and save $225! That is a $75 savings off of the full price of the year ($350) plus two FREE 30 minute coaching sessions valued at $150.  What a deal!

Click here to register and save $225!

Want more information? The January webinar is free! This webinar will articulate the core competencies needed for a successful online giving campaign. It will lay out the road map for the course and show you exactly what you can do to make 2012 your best year ever.

Click here Register for the January webinar

Class materials: (You won’t find these anywhere else!)

  • Online Giving Roadmap Template
  • Enewsletter Rescue Plan
  • Social Media Strategy Guide
  • Social Media Policy eBook
  • Resources for online giving, enewsletters, social media, and more
  • Access to recorded versions of the webinars
  • And more!

My Guarantee: If you attend every webinar, create and follow your road map for online giving, and you still find that online giving to your nonprofit doesn’t increase by at least 10% in 2012 as compared to 2011, you can choose between 100% of your money back or 3 hours of free coaching.

What “The Help” Can Teach Nonprofits About Social Media

Okay, I’ll admit I’m behind the times. I finally read the Help by Katheryn Stockett. It was as moving and poignant as the hype made it out to be. I cannot help but reflect on how this courageous story might shed some light on nonprofits and social media.

About the Help:
The Help is set in Jackson Mississippi in the 60’s against the backdrop of the nationwide civil rights movement. In the book, an awkward 20-something white woman nick-named Skeeter wants to become a writer. She looks around for a story worth telling and, through conversations with Aibileen, an African American maid, she discovers it: the untold stories of maids working for white families.

Skeeter works in secret to interview and write the stories of twelve maids. Her book is written anonymously because, if anyone discovered the identities of the maids,  there would be disastrous – even deadly – consequences.

As I read this story, I saw a parallel to today’s world: nonprofits and social media. Today nonprofits tell the stories of the most disadvantaged, marginalized members of our societies. We tell the stories of the homeless, the bullied LGBT youth, the victims of domestic violence, the mentally ill. These stories are stories that those of us working in nonprofits hear every day. But unless we tell these stories, the larger community doesn’t know they exist.

The Help offers three lessons for nonprofits today:

1) Let people make their own decisions.
When Skeeter invited people to participate in the project, she told them the facts: they wouldn’t be a lot of money involved, it may be very risky, and she couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be fired or worse. The twelve women who participated in the project made the informed decision to participate. As the project continued, and the danger increased, they continued to make their own decisions.

Skeeter gave the women the dignity of choice. She also gave them a platform to speak their truth. In working with nonprofits, specifically in media relations, I find that many clients are overjoyed with the opportunity to share their story. They want to tell the world what happened to them and how they are turning their world around. When nonprofits let clients make their own decisions, they offer them dignity and a road to empowerment.

2) Be financially (and otherwise) transparent.
The financial arrangement was transparent from day one: any money made from the book would be split evenly thirteen ways. I doubt any of the women participated for the money but knowing that the benefits would be shared equally made a huge difference. They knew what they were working for: the story.

Nonprofits are legally and morally obligated to a higher standard of transparency than for-profits. Those of us who are nonprofit-savvy know how to find financial information about just about any 501(c)3, but a marginalized client might not. By being proactive about financial transparency, nonprofits establish trust. One example of this is when using a client story in online philanthropy. Of course we want to ask for verbal and written permission to use their story in social media; however, we should go a step further. We should allow them to see (and give feedback) on how we tell their story. We should also allow them to celebrate with us the money raised for the organization. Certainly clients wouldn’t be paid, but they can and should be informed.

3) Sign your name.
Skeeter and the maids agreed to be anonymous for safety purposes. As the book they co-authored was published, no one spoke a word about who was involved in the process. But, like in most small towns, the rumors spread.  In perhaps the most moving scene of the book, the African American church of Jackson Mississippi signed their names on the recently published book. This book was presented to Albileen as a gesture of solidarity and gratitude. This act said, “We stand with you.”

Nonprofit organizations are perhaps one of the few vehicles through which the marginalized members of our society can speak. In many ways, we are their voice, their advocate, and their champion. If we don’t sign our names, who will?

Skeeter, Albileen and the 11 others were brave, brave women. The nonprofit organizations I know are also filled with brave people. When we are transparent, give people choices, and are willing to sign our names, the world can change.

Online Fundraising, Social Media, and GIVEBIG San Diego

The giveBig San Diego is over and the results are astonishing:
$2,109,640 was raised through 6,175 gifts in 36 hours. For those of us following along via Facebook, it may have appeared as if the campaign was run on social media; however, a closer look at the top 10 fundraising organizations shows a different story.

The Campaign Overall

Time frame: 36 hours
Dates: Dec. 14th at 7am to Dec. 15th at 7pm
Total raised: $2,109,640
Total  nonprofits: almost 400
Total number of gifts:  6,175
Average gift:  $342

The Top 10:

The top ten nonprofits raised $568,664, approximately 27% of all funds received. The average raised by the top 10 was $56,866. I follow many nonprofits on Facebook and saw that they were active in the campaign. In fact, I saw so many Facebook wall posts about the campaign that by 8am on the day it began I was ready to turn Facebook off.

My assumption was that much of the money was raised through social media; however, that is clearly not the case. The table below demonstrates that only two of the nonprofits tried to actively engage their social media communities in the campaign. Those two – Voices for Children and Just In Time Foster Youth – each posted about the campaign 11 times. This began shortly before the campaign kicked off and ended just afterwards.

Several other nonprofits made a couple of postings  but many made few or no postings. In fact, I have to wonder if their social media staff person even knew it was happening. . . how much more successful would they have been if they had tapped into their online networks. Remember – the average Facebook user has 150 friends. If a nonprofit has 1,000 fans, their extended network is 150,000!

Social Media & the Top 10:

  Organization Received Facebook Fans Campaign Posts Twitter Fans Campaign Tweets


La Jolla Music Society







High Tech High Foundation







YMCA of San Diego County







Voices for Children







San Diego Food Bank Corporation







Monarch School Project







Friends of Chula Vista Nature Center







The Preuss School







Urban Corps of San Diego County







Just In Time Foster Youth






The question is, if social media was not a primary component for most of the top ten . . .  how did they raise all of that money? My guess is that these nonprofits planned ahead.  They probably did one or more of the following:

  • Asked core donors to give during this time frame
  • Asked several major donors to give during this time frame
  • Coordinated the ask with already planned annual fundraising campaigns
  • Sent out an eblast to their supporters
  • Included a link on their website

This does not negate the overall importance of social media to online campaigns, including this one. Here are some of the benefits of social media:

  • Donations from those who many not have given before
  • Donations from friends of friends, asked through social media
  • Larger number of smaller donations
  • Increased awareness – I saw the names of many nonprofits I had never heard from, many of whom came across my news feed from my friends rather than from the nonprofit itself
  • An opporutunity to have a conversation about the work you do and why your followers should support you

Blending Online and Offline Fundraising

Our lives today are a blur between online and offline. . . fundraising is too! You can see from the list above that online fundraising must be combined with traditional fundraising methods and strategies.

Did you follow along with the campaign? What organizations did you see that did a particularly good job of engaging their social media community? Please comment below.

Here are a few I thought did a good job of keeping followers engaged.

Want to learn more about online philanthropy? I’ll be offering a special course on online fundraising beginning in January. Check back for details!

Changes in Online Giving

Believe it or not, the US lags behind other countries – including many developing nations – in the use of online fundraising and mobile technology. But one thing is for sure: online philanthropy is here to stay. Nonprofits are beginning to get on board by developing robust social media communities and by creating many opportunities for online giving.

But . . . many nonprofits still have  questions and concerns about online giving. What is it? How is it done?

Network for Good recently published a useful infographic charting a 10-year evolution of the online donor. This infographic shares some of the key changes in online giving.

Here are some of the trends:

People are more comfortable giving online than ever before. Ten years ago only 4% of people had given online. Today, more than 65% of people have given online. 65% is the majority. This means that a) people are more comfortable giving online now than they were ten years ago and b) that nonprofits are creating more giving opportunities online.

Online giving is great for emergency needs like disaster relief.  While only 1 in 10 gifts in 9/11 were given online, a full 1 in 3 gifts to the recent Japan earthquake relief efforts were given online or through mobile technology. In this way, online giving allows for “impulse giving.” However, do not think online philanthropy is only for spontaneous gifts.  A well-planned online fundraising campaign operates with many of the same strategies as a traditional campaign including: it has a beginning, middle and an end; it has a goal; it engages donors in the celebrating the progress; it may start out with a lead gift to get the ball rolling; and it incorporates donor appreciation as often as possible.

Small gifts add up. According to Network for Good, the average online gift through their system was $226 ten years ago. Today it is $73. One explanation of this, according to Network for Good, is that “Giving has gone mainstream.” This means that everybody – not just the wired wealthy – gives online. Many nonprofits are telling me that the younger generation is giving online. In fact, this generation is giving significantly (with respect to their income levels).  For them, it is all about the relationship. Online giving, largely fueled by social media, is a relationship-centered approach.

Social media is key. According to the Wired Wealthy report, almost 70% of online donors was some sort of relationship from charities; however, they rarely visit the charities’ websites. What does this mean? It means the charities must find to them. One of the best ways to do this is through social media.  By building a strong, engaged online community, nonprofits are setting themselves up for future successful online fundraising.  

What can an nonprofit do to increase online philanthropy? Stay tuned for next week’s blog and an exciting opportunity to increase your online giving in 2012!

P.S. Do you have questions about online fundraising? Ask me on Facebook and I’ll be sure to answer!

5 Tips for A ROCK SOLID Enewsletter

Enewsletters are the bread and butter of online philanthropy.
Yes social media is important – indispensable even – in online fundraising. But remember. . . enewsletters allow you the opportunity to control the message, a luxury social media does not afford.

A great enewsletter can

  • raise funds,
  • encourage in-kind donations,
  • inspire volunteer contributions, and
  • increase overall awareness.

If you are considering starting an enewsletter or if you want to revitalize your current one, read on. . .

5 Tips for A ROCK SOLID Enewsletter

1) Start with a good list. Your mailing list is the ticket to success. Make sure everyone has opted in and that you are following CAN-SPAM laws. These laws are a bit more lenient for nonprofits than for-profits but don’t be fooled: everyone must opt-in. It is more valuable to have a short list of highly motivated readers than a long list of people who think you’re spam.

2) Provide excellent content. Only send out enewsletters as often as you can provide excellent content. As with social media, it is important that enewsletters not be sales pitches. Here are some ideas nonprofits have used:

  • Highlight a donor
  • Give a client testimonial
  • Feature a volunteer
  • Provide an update to a noteworthy program
  • Share how things in the world (economy, politics, etc.) affect your clients or your agency
  • Share your expertise in the form of tips and resources for the reader

3) Be consistent. If you send out the enewsletters sporadically, people will forget they have signed up. If they forget they signed up, they will opt-out. Bad news. Instead, send the newsletters consistently. Once a month is a good place to start. Only if you have a lot of new, valuable content, should you consider doing it more often. If you are wondering what days and times to send the enewsletter, consider mid-week (Tues, Weds, Thurs) either late morning or early afternoon. You can experiment and see what days/times work best for your list.

4) Don’t fuss about open rates. If you are getting an open rate of 20-30%, you’re doing a good job. We can always strive for better but remember this: even if people don’t open the email, they still see your name. That bit of brand recognition goes a long way.

5) Cross pollinate. Share your enewsletter on your social media accounts. Include in your email signature line a link to the web version. Add a link to your website. It’s okay to include some of the same content on all of these accounts. Just make sure that the content is appropriate for the space – no 500 word Facebook posts.

Enewsletters remain one of the best and least expensive ways to communicate with donors, clients, and the larger community.

If you’d like assistance setting up or revitalizing your enewsletters, email me today at

Got ideas? Share your best tips below!

A Note of Thanks

Every two years, my family makes the trek to San Diego for an official “Jones Family Thanksgiving.” As a nuclear family transplanted from England, our holidays are usually small. But a funny thing has happened over the years – our table has grown. As people get married, have babies, and forge life-long friendships, more and more plates are added to the table. This year there will be a record 15 of us.

I am sure you are making similar Thanksgiving preparations, whether it be with family or friends. Before all of the madness begins, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you.

Today, I am especially grateful for:

  • You, my readers
  • My family and friends
  • The incredible new opportunities opening up in 2012
  • The work of those in the US who are raising long overdue discussions
  • My munchkins who have crowned me “Super Aunt” or, on a very good day, “Super Duper Aunt”
  • The opportunity to live, work, and study in San Diego – amazing!
  • The opportunity to study at USD – it is beyond my expectations
  • Twitter and Facebook, which allow me to connect in ways I could not do otherwise

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. After all, the turkey is not yet digested before the holiday sales begin.

Let us pause first and say thank you. Remember:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  ~Meister Eckhart

For wonderful quotes on gratitude, click here.

What are you most grateful for today? Please share below:

4 Key Elements to an Effective Social Media Policy

A well-written social media policy can increase your effectiveness online and save you time and legal fees. A poorly written social media policy will get you one step closer to a lawsuit.*

What makes a social media policy effective?

Four key elements:

1)     The team. A social media policy cannot be written by one person alone. It must be unique to your organization and ideally should include input from many different people on staff including: the CEO, development/marketing, volunteer department, program director, digital natives, and a social media savvy lawyer. The team approach ensures that key areas of risk are managed properly and that, because you’ve already established a common goal and values for your social media activity, any challenges that may arise are handled appropriately.

2)     A Dual Focus. Social media policies should have two components. The first component addresses what staff is doing during work time for work-related business. The second component provides direction to staff concerning their personal accounts and should discuss a) what they are allowed/not allowed to do from their personal accounts during work time and b) any guidelines you might have for how they discuss the company on their personal accounts.

3)     The Basics. There are some basic elements a social media policy will need to include; however, it is wise to not add too much detail in a social media policy. The network sites change frequently. If your policy is too specific, they the policies will quickly be out of date.

4)     The Process. A good social media policy will focus on developing processes for social media including: self-evaluation, staff training, and strategy development and review. By focusing on process rather than content, staff is empowered to stay fresh, be creative, and self-monitor the risks.

For sample social media policies as well as helpful tips and hints, click here.

*Note: this is not legal advice. Your “Team” should absolutely include a social media savvy lawyer.

Nonprofit Governance Symposium

Calling all nonprofit board members and executives!

The 8th Annual Nonprofit Governance Symposium, hosted by USD’s Nonprofit Institute for Education and Research, will be held January 6-7, 2012 in San Diego, CA.

This annual event is an opportunity to look at nonprofit governance from a practical, real-world perspective. Participants walk away with information they can implement Monday morning.

I am excited to co-present “Online Fundraising: The Anatomy of an Online Ask” with Donald Stump of North County Lifeline. 

There are many other incredible presentations. For a full listing, click here. All attendees will receive conference materials for all presentations.

This year we’ve actually broken the Symposium out into two themes – one for each day. Friday focuses on practical  board services topics such as meaningful engagement, succession planning and creating positive energy. Saturday focuses on money and how to bring it in, manage it well, keep it legal, and advance your cause.

Click here to register today! Last year the event sold out.

Thanks for all you do to advance San Diego’s nonprofit sector.

The Tightrope Walk of Corporate Philanthropy

“The business of business is business.” This quote by Milton Friedman illustrates a contentious debate in corporate philanthropy which rages to this day.

The US currently ‘allows’ corporations to donate to nonprofits. This wasn’t always the case. It was argued many years ago that the businesses owe it to their shareholders to invest in the company, not in society.

There is a fine line between the interests of business and the interests of society.  Don’t both parties benefit from an educated, well-equipped work force? A robust arts culture? Streets free from graffiti and gang violence? Of course. After all, we’re in this together.

There are many ways for a business to contribute to the nonprofit sector. For example, businesses can donate dollars or product, can co-create social marketing campaigns, can co-market products which increase revenues for both the business and the nonprofits, and they can fund nonprofits which advance political agendas.

In each of these options, business has an opportunity to

1) contribute to society and

2) advance their own self-interest.

Some of the benefits to businesses include increased consumer confidence, brand exposure, and employee engagement.

This is okay. Really. As long as it is done in an appropriate, ethical manner, it’s okay that business benefit.

Many nonprofits will cry that businesses should be supporting the nonprofits without realizing any direct benefits. That is ridiculous. When any one of us donates to a nonprofit, we are fulfilling a self-interest. Whether it is a tax deduction or just a ‘warm glow’ from a good deed well done, we benefit. In fact, if you really look at the nonprofit sector, it is very difficult to separate the gift from self-interest of the donor.  Heck, it is difficult to separate the self-interest of the staff from the self-interest of society. . . We are a very, very muddy sector.

Business is an important part of society. A very important part. Business provides jobs, allows us to purchase the goods we need (and many we don’t need), and business contributes to security nets like Workers Compensation, Social Security, Family Medical Leave, etc. All of this is important.

Business walks a tightrope when donating to nonprofits.  Let’s not make it hard for them to contribute. When corporate philanthropy is done thoughtfully, we all benefit.


What do you think? Comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Nonprofits and Lobbying: The Lobbying Strategy Handbook

“You don’t have to be a Veterinarian to own a pet and you don’t have to be a political expert to lobby,” says Pat Libby, recent author of the Lobbying Strategy Handbook and Director of the Nonprofit Institute for Research and Education.

Many nonprofits avoid lobbying and therefore lose valuable opportunities to advance our missions and our sector. Many think, “Lobbying is what they do, it isn’t what we do.”

Pat disagrees passionately. She argues that lobbying is less complicated than many nonprofits believe. It is 100% legal. And, it’s effective.

Let’s look at the legal concerns. In 1976 the IRS was asked, “How much lobbying are nonprofits allowed to do and still preserve their status as nonprofits?” The answer was, “An insubstantial amount.” But . . what exactly is an insubstantial amount? We don’t know.

However, if nonprofits file a 501(h) election, electing voluntarily to meet an expenditure test, the amount of allowed lobbying is spelled out quite clearly. Lobbying expenditures then are reported annually on the beloved 990, providing the IRS, CEO, and the Board with the peace of mind transparency brings.

Overall, this is great news:
1) If you fill out the form you get concrete answers about what the dollar limits are for nonprofit lobbying. Just remember to put tracking systems into place before you begin.
2) You don’t have to waste a lot of time on the form. In fact, if there was an award for the simplest IRS form ever invented, the 501(h) might win. It’s only two questions.

This means that your time can – and should – be spent on actual lobbying, not on forms. . . but don’t worry.

Lobbying isn’t complicated. Pat’s book offers a 10 step process for effective lobbying. These steps include everything from research, branding, coalition building, media, and – of course – working with elected officials. Most of these steps are skills the average nonprofit CEO already possesses. Pat also encourages nonprofits to ask lawmakers’ and their staff for guidance in the process. If you’re on the same side of the issue, you’re partners.

Lobbying is effective. The book provides a series of real world examples provided by students in Advocacy class taught as a part of a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. Many of her students successfully passed on legislation. Being an alumna of the MA program, I’ve met many of these former students and can vouch that they were surprised at how simple the process was despite in many cases a lack of prior experience.

Why should nonprofits lobby? Pat argues that lobbying is our democratic responsibility. As nonprofits, we have a special responsibility to our constituencies. We also have a special opportunity to mobilize the community. Remember, many organizations can and do lobby effectively. Our world is a better place for it.

This post is a part of our “Stay Tuned” blog series where I interview experts on a variety of topics. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, please add it in the comments below.

Social Media Webinars

Today I am sharing exciting news. As you know, I’ve been working in and consulting for nonprofits for many years. This week I am launching a new service – webinars.

I’m passionate about social media policies. I’ve read so many horror stories about policies that were written badly or weren’t written at all. I hate to see nonprofits get into trouble when it can be avoided.

This webinar series will help. Here are the details:

Webinar #1: Essential Components of a Social Media Policy FREE
Thursday 10/13 from 11am – 11:30am PST
Everyone knows we need a social media policy but few know what to write. This webinar will explain the key elements of a social media policy. It will provide ideas on what to include and what you should absolutely never include (unless you want to be sued). You’ll also receive resources and sample policies.

Webinar#2: Before you Write the Grant: Three Steps to Starting on  ocial Media $35
Thursday 11/3 from 11am – 12pm PST
There are three things you must do before you start on social media. We’ll review these three steps and provide practical tips on how to get your agency started in social media without over committing yourself.  We’ll look at metrics and evaluation. We’ll highlight best practices from agencies local and national.  When you write that grant, you will be confident your program design will get a funder’s attention.

Webinar #3: The 7 Social Media Mistakes Most Nonprofits Make (but you can avoid) $35
Thursday 11/17 from 11am – 12pm PST
This webinar will cover the 7 mistakes most nonprofits make on social media and how you can avoid them. These mistakes can damage your reputation at best and lead to law suits at worst. The good news? You can easily avoid them. The discussion will run the gamut from marketing to fundraising, policy to employee education. We’ll highlight best practices and provide tips you can use right away.

Upcoming Webinars include:

  • The 9 Laws Companies Most Often Break on Social Media
  • Social Media for Execs and Board Members . . .Let’s talk about privacy
  • Online Fundraising: Paving the Way to Success

For more information or to register:
To receive emails about upcoming webinars: Click Here

Please share this information with anyone you think might be interested. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Have an idea for a future topic? Add it to the comments below.

5 Nonprofits to Watch

Here are 5 nonprofits I think are doing great things on social media. Some are well established, others are just getting started. They all have one thing in common: they are doing it right.

What does “doing it right” mean on social media? They are engaging, personable, consistent, and exciting. Take a look.

San Diego Zoo

Click here for – Facebook

Click here for – Twitter

I’ve become an even bigger fan of the San Diego Zoo since joining their Facebook page. It hard to resist commenting on their posts. They are very creative. One day they will post a picture of a unique plant and ask us to guess where it is located. Another day they posted a picture of an animal – a gorilla, I think – with a very strange expression. Facebook fans got to suggest captions for the photo. There is always something new and interesting. Fans are clearly engaged.

Kid Healthy

Click here for – Twitter

Kid Healthy does a great job of taking their specific issue (fighting obesity in low-income communities) and making it relevant to the social media audience. Posts often include tips, ideas, and kudos to others who are making healthy lifestyle choices. What parent or health-conscious person wouldn’t want to subscribe to that Twitter feed?


Click here for – Twitter

Click here for – Facebook

Yes, 1.2 million Facebook fans is pretty amazing. But you really know a nonprofit is doing a good job on social media when you continuously see information about them pop up on your Facebook friends’ wall streams. Peta is one such organization. They contribute unique, compelling content – including photos – which gets people talking.

US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership

Click here for – Facebook

This nonprofit is new to social media and I share them as an example of how to start on the right foot. Well before they sent out their first ‘please like us’ message, the Facebook page was already full of useful, interesting information. As soon as they hit 25 fans, they created a custom Facebook URL.  They organization is posting on a regular basis and the information is relevant to the topic but not overly self-promoting. They are also doing a great job of using photos to capture people’s attention.

Red Cross

Click here for – Facebook

Click here for – Twitter

Check out the Facebook page for the Red Cross. They have applications which allow you to donate and find a chapter, all from Facebook. They make it easy on their followers. It works. It appears they have almost raised $700,000 on Facebook alone!  The Twitter page is especially appropriate for the organization. Twitter is most often used in disasters. The Red Cross has the ability to share important messages instantly in a way that could potentially ‘go viral’ and reach many, many more than the 500,000 followers they currently have.

One of these organizations has 37 fans, another has 1.2 million fans. It doesn’t matter. They are building their constituency by adding value through their pages. I recommend following them in the days, months, years to come.

What organizations do you recommend following?

Free E-Course: Social Media 101

Click here to register for your free e-course: Social Media 101. This free four part e-course will give you a basic understanding of the scope and benefits of social media for business – including nonprofits.

The course will be emailed to you once a week for four weeks. Topics include:

1. Social Media 101 – the Big Picture
2. Social Media 101 – Marketing and ROI
3. Social Media 101 – the Benefits
4. Social Media 101 – Getting Started

This course also includes: some light (optional) homework, lots of resources, and tips you can implement right away.

Who should take this course?
– A CEO who is reluctant to join social media
– Someone trying to convince a CEO
– Anyone wanting to know the basics

Not sure if you should jump on the social media bandwagon?

Check out this video:

Register today for this free e-course.

Questions? Ask me below or on Twitter.


2 Key Lessons from the National Labor Relations Board Report on Social Media Cases

The National Labor Relations Review Board recently released a 24 page report concerning 14 social media related cases. There are 2 key lessons every employer should learn from this report. . . . Read on.

First, some background. For those of you who may not know, The National Labor Relations Act was enacted in 1935 by Congress. It has three primary purposes: protect rights of both employees and employers, encourage collective bargaining, and curtail harmful private sector labor and management practices. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency which ensures these rights are protected. The NLRB is composed of a five member board, each appointed by the president for five-year terms. The board serves as a quasi-judicial body in making case decisions based on administrative hearings.

The term “protected concerted activity” is used to describe the rights of employees to act together on matters which concern the terms and condition of their employment, including the right of one employee to act on behalf of other employees. When the act was written, such activity mostly took place in person during face-to-face conversations. Today, much of “protected, concerted activity” can and does take place online.

It does get tricky. There is a fine line between what is and is not protected, especially where social media is concerned. Just because an employee is ranting online about an employer, does not mean the rant is “protected concerted activity.” Some determining factors include: are other employees involved in the discussion (and how so)?, and is the employee acting on the behalf of other employees?

The report released on 8/18/11 by the NLRB provides some insight for CEOs determining social media policies for their agencies. I highly recommend that any CEO or HR Director make the time to read this document, located on their main website.

Two key lessons from the memo are:

  • Four of the cases reviewed found that the activity was protected by the NLRA. In five cases, activity was not found to be protected by the NLRA.  Bottom line: employers should not make policies which limit (or appear to limit) employees’ right to discuss issues concerning terms and condition of employment with other employees and with the media. . . Be very careful when you tell employees what they can or cannot do on their own time.
  • Five of the cases reviewed in the memo found the employer at fault for overly broad policies. Bottom line: policies should be specific enough to be applicable. . . Is that vague enough for you? For tips on creating policies and for sample policies, visit my Social Media Policies resource page.

I will continue to watch for and pass along to you any important updates from the NLRB.

Food for thought: your best policy for social media may not be your social media policy at all. Perhaps your best policy concerns how you resolve grievances. This is both a written policy (or policies) and an organizational culture.

For more information about creating social media policies, visit my Social Media Policies Page.

A Lesson in Twitter Handles – Learning from the New York Times

Many companies struggle to determine who owns the social media account – the employee or the company? Without clear policies, companies risk losing the fan base they worked so hard to establish. This can be devastating. Just ask the BBC – they lost 60,000 followers.

On Twitter, the biggest concern is determining the best Twitter Handle (or username). We want to increase brand exposure and yet success depends upon personality and genuine connection. How do we be humans online when wearing the mask of a brand or logo?

The New York Times (NYT) manages the balance well. Let’s take a look.

Official New York Times Wellness Twitter Account:
The twitter handle for the official NYT Twitter account is @nytimeswell. This Twitter handle clearly “belongs” to the company; however, when you look at the page, you can see personality right away. Blogger Tara Parker Pope’s photo and name are clearly displayed. You can also see her personal Twitter handle which includes her full name and no reference to the NYT.

Click on the picture below to enlarge.

It is clear that followers are following the company; however, followers are interacting with an individual. This profile builds trust and establishes a relationship.

This profile also protects the NYT. If Ms. Parker-Pope is promoted or leaves the company, the Twitter handle is still useful to the NYT. The company retains the account and its 100,000+ followers (assuming they like the next personality just as much).

If the official Twitter handle were a blend of personal and professional such as @Parker-Pope_NYTWell, the account would be difficult to salvage.  The NYT would have to create a new Twitter account and ask its 100,000+ followers to follow that new account. It is doubtful all followers would transfer; the NYT would lose valuable exposure.

Tara Parker-Pope’s Personal Twitter Account:
Blogger Tara Parker-Pope’s personal Twitter handle is her full name: @taraparkerpope. It does not include the name of her company.  She does indicate in her profile that she is a blogger for the NYT. This allows for maximum exposure for both her and the NYT. Parker-Pope’s followers can also follow the NYT and vice-versa.

Click on the picture below to enlarge.

If Ms. Pope is promoted to a different position or leaves the NYT, she should be able to retain her personal account without concern. She can easily change her profile information to reflect her new status. If her personal Twitter handle were a blend of her name and the company, this change would not be so easy to navigate.

Why is it imporatnt to separate personal from professional?
Rarely do individuals stay in one job for more than a few years; however, social media is here to stay. Companies must think long term.

It is dangerous when a company’s presence online is dependent on an employee’s twitter handle, especially an employee’s twitter handle which includes the compnay name (such as @joe_ABCcompany). There are two major risks here:

  1. First, when the employee is no longer at the company, the Twitter handle is no longer useful to either the employee or the  company. The followers must either chose to follow a different account or be lost completely. This loss is completely avoidable.
  2. Second, it is unclear who owns the Twitter account. Does it belong to Joe or to the company?  These questions are leading to some very interesting (and unfortunate) legal debates.

Social Media Policies
Social media polices are key. Policies should state upfront how decisions are made. A good social media policy will:

  1. Provide guidance as to the naming of company accounts
  2. Provide guidance to employees as to how to avoid the question of ownership of their  personal accounts

The NYT Wellness account is one great exampel of how to balance personal and professional on Twitter. Do you know of other examples  Please share here.

Social Media Policies – 6 Mistakes NOT to Make

We all want to keep our organizations safe online. How? Below are six common mistakes made in regards to social media policies.

1)     Mistake #1: A policy of DON’T. When writing social media policies, it is best to write about what staff can do, rather than focus what they can’t do.  When we focus on what we can do, we are focusing on opportunity and action rather than avoidance and reaction. We want staff to be thinking about possibilities, not paralyzed in fear.

2)     Mistake #2: Not paying attention to the fine print. It seems simple but many organizations don’t read the guidelines for social media sites. As a result, they make decisions which later haunt them. If you’ve ever created a Facebook Profile page for an organization, you might know what I’m talking about.  It’s no fun to work on your site only to have it revoked because you didn’t read the sites’ directions.  Policies are a good place to remind staff to follow all site-specific regulations.

3)     Mistake #3: Going too narrow. The policies should focus on the
big picture. They should include concerns such as privacy, safety, and
values.  They don’t need to mention the nitty-gritty ‘how-to’ instructions on individual sites because sites change frequently. Should staff have ‘how-to’ instructions on individual sites? Sure! Those guidelines are very helpful but don’t need to be a part of your policies.

4)     Mistake #4: Not involving HR. The HR director must be involved in this process. There are so many potential challenges which your organization might confront up to and including potential termination of employees. This is extreme but does happen. Writing polices which avoid these challenges requires that HR be at the table.  If you still aren’t convinced, check out some of the articles on my Social Media Polices Page.

5)     Mistake #5: Not having a social media savvy lawyer review the policies. We aren’t experts in the law and new cases are being decided every day. Don’t give your policies to a tax lawyer to review. Do you research and find a lawyer who understands the issues. It’s worth the money.

6)     Mistake #6: Not having policies. It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand but that won’t help us here. For one thing, the staff engaged in online outreach need direction. I’ve talked with many staff and the one thing I hear over and over is this, “I need guidance. I think I’m doing the right thing but I’m not sure.” When it comes to social media, the field is literally being created before our eyes.  Nobody expects senior leadership to be experts; however, it is important that staff have clear guidance and know what pitfalls to avoid. Together, you make a great team.

What’s your biggest question about social media policies? Let me know below and I’ll address it in an upcoming blog post.

Making the Switch: Marketing in Today’s World

At a business networking event, I met a marketing representative from one of those private fly-by-night schools. I’m not a fan of the institution (hence I’m not naming names), but they were in the middle of a fantastic marketing campaign. I told the woman how impressed I was. Her reaction surprised me. She asked,

 “What do you like about the campaign?”

This is key. I made a comment about her work. She immediately turned the discussion to me and how I, the potential consumer, relate to the brand.  

She engaged me. This is demonstrative of what Social Media is doing for marketing today.

Social Media asks the consumer, “What do you think?” Publically.

In traditional marketing, a company or nonprofit establishes a brand and then representatives spread the espoused message. The message is what the company says it is. No discussion.

Social Media provides a space in which a company must engage their constituency – customers, donors, clients, patients, community members, legislators, etc.  It shifts marketing activity from the “preaching”
of a pre-established message to a public dialogue. Yes, there is still the traditional branding in the sense of a logo and messaging; however, the goal is not to deliver a brand sermon. The goal is to engage in conversation and to be in relationship with your constituents.

Relationships require work. My colleague says, “Relationships are not 50/50 but 100/100.” You have to be willing to hear what the other person has to say. . . . Proceed with caution.

When you invite the public into a relationship on Social Media, you are holding perhaps the most public forum possible. An online discussion is available to the entire world. It is not limited to the number of people that can fit in a gymnasium. It is not limited to the speakers officially on the agenda. It is not bound by the same relationship dynamics we honor when meeting in person (handshakes, meeting agendas, subtle throat coughing, etc.).  It requires an entirely new set of rules.

This can be very unnerving, especially for those trained in marketing many years ago. This definitely isn’t Kansas.

As you can imagine, there are challenges and major risks associated with social media. Here are just a couple:

  • Negative feedback
  • Difficulty starting a discussion
  • Difficulty facilitating a conversation when it turns hostile or deals with difficult subjects
  • Privacy issues for all parties

These challenges aren’t insurmountable. In fact, some are tremendous opportunities.

I said earlier that the consumer was in charge. That isn’t entirely true. Nonprofits and small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to start and shape the discussion. Here are just a few of the tactics used:

  • Sharing a message and asking followers to repost or retweet
  • Creating an event and ask followers to invite others
  • Starting a discussion online
  • Asking for feedback
  • Providing useful information or shocking statistics
  • Hosting a contest where people have to create content such as a video, photo caption or short essay

Traditional marketing worked for many years. It is one of the reasons large companies like CocaCola or nonprofits such as St. Jude’s were able to grow. Today, marketing is different. Consumers want to engage. They want to feel like they are a part-of, and they want to help in the myriad of ways possible via Social Media. Marketing must both allow for and shape that interaction.

It is a relationship and it takes work. Are you ready?

Question for readers: What has been the biggest surprise for you as you begin to use social media for business?

Social Media Policies: Assemble Your Team

Many of your organization’s policies – like HIPAA compliance or donor privacy – can be written by the CEO to top leadership without input from staff. This is not the case with social media policies. If you are the CEO and are tempted to write a policy without including your staff in the process, I beg you – STOP. Do not pass go.

As you will see in this and other posts, I am a big fan of team work when it comes to social media. There are key players in any organization that must be involved
in order to 1) be successful and 2) minimize risk.

If yours is like many organizations, most of your social media activity is completed by program staff. Many of these program staff are from the Gen Y generation or are on the younger side of Gen X. This is great. You need at least one “Digital Native” who is familiar with the tools on your team. However, as I discuss in this and other blogs, the skill sets of your core leadership team are absolutely necessary.

Here is a quick snapshot of who should be on your Social Media Team and what they might contribute:

  • CEO / Executive Director: provides overall leadership
  • HR Director: anticipates and provides guidance on employee related concerns
  • IT Director: provides technical support and anticipates IT and site related concerns
  • Program Director: establishes outcomes and identifies staffing needs; this is critical for nonprofits doing client outreach and/or program participant tracking
  • Development and/or Marketing Director: provides guidance on messaging, branding, and integration with organization’s marketing and outreach activities
  • Social Media program staff: provides insights in social media, researches target populations’ online activities
  • At least one (preferably more) “Digital Native”: ideally one or more of the above categories will include a “Digital Native” (bicultural in the social media world) but if not, invite one to participate
  • Anyone else you might think necessary: for example, a board member or volunteer with particular expertise
  • A social media savvy lawyer: whether it is a volunteer board member or paid counsel, it is imperative that a social media savvy lawyer review your polices before you put them into place and that s/he be available for questions down the road

As you can see, this is a power-house of a team. Their role will
be to:

  1. Set the course for where you want to go
  2. Develop and review policies
  3. Encourage creativity
  4. Stay abreast of new opportunities (including funding!) and challenges
  5. Monitor and (sometimes) participate in social media dialogue
  6. Provide guidance and trouble shoot along the way

You might be successful without creating a core team; however, there are many complex issues involved in social media outreach for nonprofits. To minimize risk and maximize success, you’re best bet is bring the team together early and often.

Stay tuned. In future posts I’ll discuss how to work together to create the right policies for your organization, anticipate opportunities, and dodge challenges.

For resources, visit my Social Media Policies resource page.

Does your organization have a Social Media Team? If so, tell us about your success below.

Managing Information Overload

More than 70% of American professionals are overwhelmed by information and 40% said they were near a ‘breaking point’ according to a 2008 study.

We are pummeled by information all day long. It’s no wonder we often return home at the end of the day tired and with little energy for friends and family.

Information overload is a tremendous brain drain. Research studies indicate that the USA wastes hundreds of billions of dollars in the time people spend processing information rather than creating.

How do we stop the information overload? How do we redevelop our creative energies? Here are some simple yet effective tips.

1)     Focus your energies. Do you know what your professional and
personal goals are? Do you know what strategies you will use to achieve them?
Do you have a timeline? Answering “Yes!” to these three questions will allow
you to focus your activities on creating the life you want. . . . Wait – this sounds counter intuitive. If we’re trying to be creative, why would we write a script?  The answer is simple – once you’ve committed your intentions towards a goal, it is easier to say no to the millions of bytes of information (and funny videos) that don’t get you closer to where you want to be.

2)     Harness technology. Sites like Hootsutie, Social Oomph, Media
Funnl, TweetDeck, and Threadsy can help focus social media energies by
streamlining multiple accounts. . . . But don’t lose track of the important people!
It’s smart to separate friends from acquaintances. This will help ensure you stay
up to date on your friends’ lives and never miss a birthday.

3)     Take a walk. Studies show that when we spend time in nature, our memory improves and we think more effectively. If you find it difficult to fit
exercise into your daily routine, try getting up 20 minutes earlier or taking a
stroll during lunch. The trick is to get exercise – preferably in nature – on your
calendar before the rest of the world places demands upon your precious time. When I am working at a computer all day, a brisk walk every couple of hours is an amazing rejuvenator.

4)     Invite a friend over for dinner. When we spend large amounts of
time online, our brains’ capacity for reasoning is exercised but important qualities like empathy are left underdeveloped. Literally. This has been proven by neuroscience. Sharing a meal with a friend is a great way to nourish our bodies and our souls.

5)     Take a break. Yohaku literally translated means ‘white space.’ It is a Japanese term which refers to areas intentionally left open as an invitation for the observer to enter.  It is a space of contemplation and of rejuvenation.  According to Diane Dreher, author of the Tao of Womanhood, a Yohaku
break might be just the thing we need to manage information overload. A Yohaku break might include reading a good book under a tree, cooking a healthy meal, allowing plenty of time between meetings, or spending time with a loved one at home and without commitments. It doesn’t matter what constitutes a Yohaku break for you so long as you take one. Regularly.

At our core we are creative beings. If it isn’t harnessed, information overload can jeopardize our creativity. However, when our values are in alignment with our actions, it becomes easier and easier to whittle down the information overload and create the experiences in life we want.

Making Decisions When You Don’t Know the Questions

When organizations venture into social media, it is often with their eyes closed. A forward-thinking Gen X or Gen Y staff member says, “Hey, can I try this?” and off they go. . . Unfortunately, there is something missing: social media for professional use is not the same as media for personal use.

There are a myriad of decisions that need to be made up front and throughout the process. From HR to IT, these decisions require the combined expertise of your entire team. Rarely can they be made by one person alone.

Who should be at the table and what role do they play?

  • Marketing Director – provides input on branding, constituent relationship management, and integrating activities with overall marketing plan
  • IT Director – provides input on computer security, technical support
  • HR Director – monitors employee related issues that may will arise
  • Programs/Sales Director – ensures that activities meet predetermined objectives
  • Staff responsible for online activity – brings new ideas and concerns to the group, helps the team membersbetter understand the “online underworld”

If it is just you and you don’t have a team to assemble, make sure you are thinking through decisions with each of these hats in mind.

How should decisions be made?

Most of the initial decisions about how to brand, how to interact with constituents, establish goals, and manage risk should be made at the group level. Why? Because social media is uncharted territory; there are not many precedent setting court decisions that can guide our decisions. Activities must be both tempered by the experience and prodded by the enthusiasm. It is a delicate balance.

Your team doesn’t have to do this alone. Be a snoop. Take time as a group to look at the sites of other organizations similar to yours. Look at what they are doing well and what they are not doing so well. Look at major brands like Coca-Cola or the Red Cross. They pour marketing dollars into social media. Learn from them (and save your money).

What decisions need to be made?

There are many, many decisions that need to be made should you decide to explore the cyber world. Unfortunately, from a legal and risk management perspective, we don’t yet know all of the questions. We must tread lightly.

Some decisions will need to be made upfront. What follows below are a list of some of those decisions.

  • Why do we want to be online? What do we hope to accomplish? How will we track our success?
  • What resources are we willing to invest?
  • How willing are we to allow the online communities to engage with our brand, thus potentially losing control of our messaging?
  • How will we handle negative comments?
  • How will we safeguard client privacy?
  • How will we safeguard our employees? Intrinsic to this question is how public will the employees themselves be in our activities and, should that employee’s personal accounts eventually be connected to public accounts, what challenges can be expected?

Many more decisions will need to be made on a daily basis by those tasked with maintaining the sites and activity. Some of these decisions will have far reaching consequences. How staff responds to a negative post will impact the trust you have with your online community. Up front, you can establish values and guidelines; however, there may be difficult decisions that need to be made. If the staff responsible for the activity has the expertise of your team available to support him/her, their decisions will be enhanced.

Still other decisions will need to be made in the months and years ahead, as the online world changes, as court decisions come down, and as your organization changes. We don’t yet know what all of those questions are or will be. Keep your original committee close. If they are continuously informed about what is going on, they will be in a better position to help the organization make better decisions down the road.

The old adage applies: “failing to plan is planning to fail.”. . . only in this case, instead of just planning you are safeguarding your organization by “planning how to decide, even when the questions aren’t yet clear.”

Want more information on where to start? Read: Social Media: Start Here.

Social Media: Start Here

Just starting on social media? It is tempting to want to be everywhere. Either everywhere, or nowhere. If we try to be  everywhere, we are quickly overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices and billions of conversations. If we go nowhere, we lose valuable opportunities. Is there a happy medium?

With hundreds of social media sites, no business can afford the time to be on every site. It is important to make sure you are on the right sites for you. Which ones will expand your portfolio? Which will generate new leads?

Here are three simple questions to consider:

1)     Where are your people? If your target audience is on MySpace (even though MySpace is losing clients by the droves), you want to be on MySpace. If they are on YouTube, well, that is the place you’d want to be. How do you find out? You ask. You can ask your constituents in casual conversations or conduct a quick poll on your website or enewsletter. You can conduct a quick focus group or ask your staff. You can also visit the social media sites and investigate. . . . who uses the site? What kinds of conversations do they have?

Of course, question number 1 assumes you can identify your target
audience. If you cannot describe your target audience, you might want to figure that out first. Then come back to social media. We’ll be waiting.

2)     Forget your people, where are most people? Three of
the most popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you want to start somewhere, those three are a safe bet.

Facebook has more than 500 million members and those members are spending more time on the site in 2011 than they did in 2010. Facebook users span the generations.

Twitter has more than 125 million members. This may seem insignificant compared to Facebook, especially when you realize many of those members are not active on their accounts. Don’t be fooled. Chadwick Martin Bailey, a Boston based consumer research group, reported that consumers are 67% more likely to purchase brands they follow brands on Twitter.

LinkedIn has approximately 80 to 90 million users. This group of social media users is arguably more professional oriented compared to other social media sites. It is a great opportunity to map out your personal network and see what connections might be made with people from your friends’ networks.

3)     How do we want to interact with people?  Once you know where the people are, ask yourself, how do I want to interact with them? If you are the kind of company that does not welcome customer engagement and feedback, social media might not be the best place for you. A website would give you a better one-way platform.

If however, you are open to truly engaging with your constituents,
research the sites identified in questions #1 and #2 above. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What kinds of conversations are happening on this site?
  • How do people interact with one another?
  • What kind of maintenance would it require?
  • Where are my competitors and how are they interacting with
  • Do we have the skills necessary? For example, a blog requires
    writing skills. Video sites require video skills.
  • What kinds of challenges might we anticipate with this site?

Once you’ve answered these three questions, should have a good sense of where to start.  Now the fun begins.

5 Minute PR Ideas

 Got 5 minutes to spare? Here are 5 different 5 minute PR ideas to try.

1. Get LinkedIn! Sign on to your LinkedIn account and look for new friends. Comb through your friends’ contacts for potential contacts. While you are there, write a quick recommendation for one or two of them. Hopefully, they will repay the favor.

2. Say thanks! Write a quick thank you note to someone whose relationship is important to your work. If you cannot think of a reason to say thank you, “Thinking of you” is also appropriate.

3. Ask for feedback. Sign on to your Facebook account and ask your fans for questions they have about your company. Later, answer those questions on the Facebook page and in your newsletters. While you are on Facebook, check out what your competitors are doing online.

4. Give kudos to a reporter. Shoot a quick email to your local reporter to congratulate him/her on a story in today’s paper. Reporters may not always open an email with press release but I’ve never seen one ignore an email with the subject line: “great article”.

 5. Check in with your clients. Take a moment to talk with clients or donors. Ask them how they found you and what they like best. Do they have any concerns or ideas you can help with? A quick conversation today can inform your activities tomorrow.

A formal PR strategy is an absolute necessity; however, it’s nice to know that if you only have 5 minutes, you can still make a difference.

Do you have a 5 minute PR Strategy? If so, please share it below.

10 Tweets for Your Back Pocket

 Using social media as a marketing tool does not have to take a lot of time. In another blog, I discuss ways it can be managed in 5 minutes or less per day and still be successful. . . but that doesn’t help you today, does it?

 If are sitting at your desk wondering, “what can I possibly tweet today?”, here are 10 tweets to save in your back pocket.

  1. Share a success. Comb through your monthly reports for ‘tweetable’ material. There is surely something to share.
  2. Tweet a mini-book or article review for whatever you’re reading, preferably related to your business or cause.
  3. Tweet a lesser known fact about your business.
  4. Tweet a quote. If the quote ties into your mission, even better. Try for inspiration.
  5. Tweet a “thank you” to a recent customer or donor. (Note – make sure they would want to be acknowledged publically.)
  6. Tweet a ‘shout out’ to someone you think is doing great work and deserves recognition.
  7. Tweet a reply to someone else’s tweet. See if you can add to the conversation. If not, acknowledge their insights.
  8. Tweet a tweet. Scroll through your Home Page and retweet something you find interesting.
  9. Tweet a ‘Thanks for the retweeet!” to the last person who retweeted you.
  10.  Tweet a request for questions. Let your followers tell you what they want to hear from you.

While it is important to have a social media strategy, it is equally important to respond to the needs of the day. These 10 tweets can be used any day, any time. Tweet away!

6 Easy Steps for CAN-SPAM Compliance

We hate junk mail. It is the last thing we want to see in our inbox and the last thing we want our customers to associate with our product.

 Here are 6 easy steps to help keep your enewsletter in compliance with CAN-SPAM Laws.

1)     Tell the truth. Your “from”, “to”, “reply”, and “subject lines” should all be accurate. Recipients should easily tell which company or person sent the message and what they can expect to read when they open it. Be truthful and transparent. It’s the law and it is good business.

2)     Call a spade a spade. If your email is an advertisement, it must clearly say so.

3)     Don’t hide. Your email must include your physical address which should also be a valid postal address. Post Office Boxes or rented mail boxes are okay. This is nonnegotiable.

4)     Ask permission. Participants should opt-in to your enewsletters.  Double opt-in processes provide an added layer of legal protection to your business.  Opt-in mailing lists take time to build but ultimately are more profitable than the alternative. Why? Recipients who have opted-in actually want to read what you are sending them. They are less likely to unsubscribe or mark you as spam, and possibly more likely to refer you to a friend. . . tell me, isn’t that the kind of list you want?

5)     Let ‘em go. Your message must state how the recipient can opt-out. It should be clearly stated and be easy to find. An opt-out mechanism tied to an e-campaign should be valid for at least 30 days. Requests to opt-out should be honored within 10 days. It is appropriate to let the recipient know their request has been honored.

6)     Don’t pass the buck. Even if you wanted to, the law is clear. Your email marketing is your responsibility and you cannot contract that responsibility away. If you send out spam both you and the company that you hired to send the message may be legally responsible.

CA-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The full name of the bill is: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. It was originally focused on pornography but Senator John McCain added a last-minute amendment which included businesses.

For more information on CAN-SPAM laws, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Website.

6 Essential Components to a Successful Enewsletter

Six. That’s right. Six. There are six components to a successful enewsletter. Here they are:

 1)     A good subject line: the job of a subject line is to get the email opened. It is short and compelling. Don’t write a subject line minutes before sending the email. Wait. Put some thought into it.

 2)     A compelling reason to read: a good enewsletter is about the reader, not your product. If the reader knows that your enewsletters contain something interesting, funny, or useful, they will open it. If it pertains to them or engages their attention, they will open it. If they open it, they will remember you. . . . But if your enewsletters talk only about your product or service, very few people will open it. They may get bored and even unsubscribe.

 3)     A call to action: include a call to action. It can be as simple as, “Have questions about [insert your service]? Call me at 1-858-123-4567.” Or “Please forward this to a friend who might appreciate our services.”

 4)     Consistent branding: how do readers know it’s you? A few seconds may be all the attention they can spare. Make it count! The email should have your logo and photo. The colors and fonts should be consistent with your branding. It should have your contact information in the body of the email. The “from line” in the email should say your name, not your company’s name.  Readers should know in an instant that this enewlsetter is from you.

 5)     A link to connect to you on your website and social media pages: people connect in a variety of ways. Don’t think of enewlsetter clients as only connecting with you via enewsletters. They may also be on Facebook or Twitter.  They may want to search your website to see if you offer additional services. Link. Link. Link. Everywhere.

 6)     Compliance with CAN SPAM laws: this is last because if you’ve set up your enewsletter and your mailing lists properly, you are already in compliance. Plus, you’re offering compelling content (#2) so everyone is opening your email and no one is marking you as spam.

 Enewsletters aren’t rocket science but they do require some thought. When done correctly, they offer your clients content which they appreciate, an opportunity to engage with you through whatever platform works best for them, and a friendly reminder of how much you value their relationship.