Tag Archives: nonprofits

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?

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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.

Cheers!

 

 

Get your head out of the sand! Write that social media policy!

The benefits of social media are tremendous. Millions of dollars have been raised online and countless acts of advocacy been performed.

It’s exciting. And mindboggling.

Yet, despite the many benefits, social media also comes with significant risks. These risks include employee privacy, employee safety, labor relations and HR issues, brand identity, client confidentiality and so much more. Because of the ever-evolving nature of social media, we don’t even know what some of these risks will be.

It’s a scary situation, one that makes many CEOs want to bury their head in the sand.

Social media polices are one way to provide guidance to staff and ensure we avoid major pitfalls. So. . . it is critical that we get our heads out of the sand and write that social media policy!

Here are three tips to help get you going.

First: Don’t let funders pressure you!
Nonprofits are being encouraged by funders to outreach to clients via social media. For the nonprofits that have not written a social media policy, this can be dangerous. The risks to engaging in social media increase when we engage in direct client outreach. If you begin client outreach without thinking it through properly, you’re asking for trouble.

Before you outreach to clients online, make sure you:

  • Have a social media policy in place;
  • Have trained staff; and
  • Know who will and how to respond to a social media crisis.

Second: Write that social media policy!
Many CEOs aren’t familiar with social media tools and thus are reluctant to provide governance in the form of policies. This is understandable but dangerous. Instead, CEOs should use the staff resources at hand including: HR Director, IT Director, Program Staff, Marketing/Development Director, “digital native” staff, and others. Gather your team together to first identify potential risks and then craft the policy.

When you write a social media policy, be sure to include:

  • A statement of purpose, values, and/or ethics;
  • An outline of who can/cannot officially engage in social media on behalf of the organization;
  • References to any relevant internal and external polices;
  • Any branding requirements;
  • A separate policy for staff engaged in social media as a part of their job and all staff engaged in social media for personal use;
  • A list of staff who should be contacted in case of questions, emergency, policy violation, etc.; and
  • A date for when the policy will be reviewed.

Third: Help your employees understand their three voices.
It is important to help employees understand they have three main voices: official, professional, and personal. Understanding the distinction between these voices can help them to make wise social media decisions at work and in their personal lives.

1)     Official: My official voice is the role I am given by an employer. My job description will indicate what I can and cannot say on behalf of the organization.

2)     Professional: My professional voice is the image I want to portray in the professional world. This might include a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile I create specifically for the purpose of career networking.

3)     Personal: My personal voice is who I am outside of my job. It is who I am with my friends and family. On social media, this might be a Facebook profile I share with friends and family only. Many choose to keep this information on strict privacy settings. If I choose to include my professional contacts on my personal social media pages, I’ll probably be more cautious about what I share.

This isn’t as easy as it looks. The distinction between these three voices may appear clear, but online, the boundaries blur quickly. We can use privacy controls and disclaimers (i.e. “these thoughts are my own and do not represent my employer”) to distinguish between our voices; but, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that professional networks won’t see personal information and vice versa.

The bottom line is this: “What happens in Vegas, stays on Facebook.” . . . We should all proceed with caution.

One final thought. Even if you don’t employ union staff, it important to understand what the National Labor Relations Board is saying in regards to social media. (Link to: http://www.nlrb.gov/)

Now . . . Get your head out of the sand! It’s time to write those policies!

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 www.facebook.com/JennysJunction.

 

 

 

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.

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Protecting Client Privacy on Social Media: 3 Tips to Minimize Risk

In nonprofits, clients are the top priority. They are the reason we exist. Many nonprofits worry about getting into social media, fearing that it will jeopardize client confidentiality. There are many risks but, with careful training and management, these risks can be minimized.

Here are three ways to minimize risk:

1)      Include social media in your general privacy/confidentiality trainings. You may have a basic privacy training or a training specific to legislation such as HIPAA and FERPA.  Either way, it’s time to include social media in the discussion. Remind employees that their responsibilities to privacy/confidentiality are the same online as in the real world.

Wherever possible, include real-life examples of exactly what is and is not appropriate. Examples help make the dangers more tangible. If you don’t have any examples of breaches of confidentiality, consider yourself lucky.

I also suggest reminding staff and board members that what they post on their personal sites is also subject to your confidentiality policies and procedures.

2)      Refer to your internal HIPAA policies in your social media policies. In our social media policies and procedures, it is important to refer back to established internal policies such as privacy/confidentiality. This helps ensure that employees think about their activities in social media with the same mindset as they use in their day-to-day work life.

Again, real life examples are very helpful.

Do you work with youth or at-risk populations? You may have some special concerns when it comes to clients attempting to ‘friend’ staff or posting their own personal information on your social media sites. These kinds of privacy/confidentiality issues should be addressed in your policies.

3)      Create what I call Community Standards. This is a public document usually shared via an organization’s website which outlines the values/standards you will expect/reinforce on your social media sites. You can link to this page on the website from your social media sites.

One of the goals of a Community Standards document is that it sets the tone. It establishes an organization’s desire to maintain a social media site that is __________ (you fill in the blank: respectful, informative, ??). It articulates what types of comments/interactions are unacceptable and will be removed.

This document also protects you. It is an opportunity for you to make it clear that clients are responsible for the information they post. It is an opportunity to remind clients that while you will protect their information according to your P&P, they have a responsibility in regards to what they choose to post on your site. (Youth are a different story – we have added responsibility to protect youth’s personal information even if the youth themselves don’t choose to.)

Not sure what I mean? Here are some examples of Community Standards and Comments Policies. With a quick glance to these, you can see that tone makes a huge difference.

If you are trying to create social media policies for your nonprofit, my website has an entire page of resources you can use. There are several hundred sample policies available through the first two links on the page.

Do you have any questions? Ask them here! I’ll be happy to answer. If your organization has a social media policy, I’d love to see a copy. Email me at jenniferamandajones@gmail.com.

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.