Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Part 1 of 3 on Social Media for Nonprofits Before You Jump In with Two Feet – Important, Boring, Basic Stuff First

Lately, many of the projects that I have been working on are related to Social Networking for Nonprofits. It is exhilarating to be involved in something new but it can also be overwhelming because there is just so much information available and it seems as though everyday there is more to learn. I have been using LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr for my own business and evaluating how they can be used by nonprofits – especially small ones.

There are many bloggers in the nonprofit world providing the basic primers for social media and I originally thought I would do that too. Instead I am going to provide some links at the end of this post. Here is what I will cover in three related posts:

1. Before You Jump in with Two Feet in Social Media - Important Boring Basic Stuff First
2. Getting Started Ways to Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr
3. How to Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for Advocacy and Fundraising

Once you are using Social Media you will want to drive traffic to your website and blog. So it is very important that before you jump into Web 2.0 that you have your Web 1.0 in order. Here are a few basics steps:
1. Donate Now capability – if you don’t have it get it now. Network for Good provides a low cost getting started option. If you have Donate Now capability, check the process flow. Make a $5 donation and follow it through the entire process of receipt, recording, entry in database, thank you and make sure it processes just as well as when a check comes in the mail. I’m serious about this. Make sure that without your intervention it gets handled as it should.

2. Remove any pictures on your homepage that are old – even if it is of a luminary. You can bury it deeper on the website but not on the homepage. Have upbeat current pictures and current information as your first impression. Christmas party pictures in June don’t cut it.

3. Update all outdated information, staff contact and Board member info; remove registration forms from past events, program descriptions of programs that have been discontinued, etc.

4. Make a commitment to keep your website updated and spiffy and Link! Link! Link! Check out where you are mentioned and ask if it can be a link to your website. Make sure all press releases have your website in the body and noted at end of release.

5. Guidestar – Update your profile. More important all the time.

I learned the importance of Listening from Beth Kanter, Social Media for Nonprofits guru. Start with your own website by using the analytic tools. Google Analytics is a versatile and free tool that will tell you all sorts of information about your web traffic. How many people, what search words they used, where they linked from, what city/state/country they originated from. This is very helpful for establishing your baseline information that you can use to see what is already effective and the growth impact when you later use Social Media. You’ll be able to see how much traffic comes from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. You will see which Social Media outlets are working for your particular organization.

Read nonprofit blogs – and the comments too. Go to the Nonprofit Blog Exchange and Give and Take at the Chronicle of Philanthropy and find lots of nonprofit blogs to read. Start a Twitter account and follow nonprofit twitterers who constantly post links to great articles. If you follow me just check out who I follow and click to follow them and you’ll be listening to great nonprofit stuff nonstop.
Nonprofit Blog Exchange

Start a Blog
A blog is much more conversational and interesting than a website. My blog gets almost 10 times the traffic as my website. My website has the basic information about my consulting business but my blog says so much more about me. You can get an idea of the full breadth of my expertise, philosophy and recommendations I might make and read articles on current research reports. I provide info and links to other great blogs. Being committed to writing a blog has caused me to be continually learning and keeping up to date. It has allowed me entree into a group of people I have sooooo much respect for – fellow nonprofit bloggers. I am so grateful for friends I have made through blogging on nonprofit topics – they are wonderful people and I hope to meet many of them in person one way or another sometime.

You don’t have to blog every day. If three people from your organization blog once a month that’s a great start. I recommend that the Executive Director blog about issues and policy, the development manager about events, fundraising opportunities, etc. and a Program manager about programs. Tag each article and people can go to those types of articles they are most interested in.

Here are some short articles on Social Media by nonprofit bloggers:
Twitter for Nonprofits and Fundraising by Marc Pitman at The Fundraising Coach

Beth's Blog for everything there is to know about Using Social Media for Nonprofits

Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn): What’s the Dif? by Hildy Gottlieb

Wild Apricot Blog by Rebecca Leamon-Great articles for Nonprofits using Social Media

Eight Secrets of Effective Online Networking by Beth Kanter - See Other Techsoup articles too

Getting your video on the web by Michael Hoffman at Idealware

Marion Conway May 2007 Newsletter Shall We Blog? Shall We Blog? Shall We Blog?

May 2007 Newsletter Shall We Blog? Shall We Blog? Shall We Blog?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Strategic Planning in Tough Times – It’s Not Discretionary at All

In the last few months I have been working on strategic planning with several organizations that are very different from each other. What I have found is that the groups I am working with now are more serious and looking more in depth at themselves, their mission and what they are committed to than I have seen before. I believe they are getting much more out of their strategic planning than with groups I have worked with in the past. This new focus is sparking determination and self confidence. Maybe its the Obama “Yes We Can” spirit taking hold on a wider basis. I mentioned this on Twitter and other consultants are saying that they notice the same thing.

Hildy Gottlieb, a noted nonprofit consultant, author and blogger wrote this just last week: “We all have gifts, talents, and resources we can bring to bear to create a future far different from our present or our past. We can create a future that is healthy, vibrant, peaceful, compassionate. If we can envision it, we can create it.” I’ve always known that Hildy is a believer in this but now I am really seeing it in others.
Hildy Gottlieb's Blog

Rather than discretionary, it is more critical than ever to have a plan of how you will deal with this tough economy. Most nonprofits do not have a lot of fat to cut and they are taking some cost cutting steps. However, too many nonprofits think that stepping up fundraising efforts is the way to go. I don’t mean to discourage increased fundraising but the reality is that assets at foundations are off 30% or more, and grantmakers are cutting back not increasing their giving. Go ahead and increase fundraising efforts if you like, but you should also be planning for what you’ll do if your revenues go down instead of up. Here are some ideas to consider in your planning:

Review and Update Your Mission Statement, Programs and Goals
Revisit your mission statement and update it if appropriate. Then assess your programs against the mission statement and make sure you know which ones are 100% aligned with your mission. Make sure that you know what results you want and that you are achieving them....at a reasonable cost. This is essential – to determine the programs which are your priorities and core to your mission. It is a better idea to do a few things very well than scrimping on everything you do so that you are spread too thin. Cost cutting here and there may result in doing too many things less well – not a good plan.

Build on What You’ve Got – Don’t Scrap It
If you have a formal strategic plan, you don’t have to scrap it because of the economy, rather re-visit it and decide which priorities to focus on first and which goals may need to be modified or delayed.

In October I wrote about David LaPiana’s book, The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution. The subtitle says it all - real time strategic planning in a rapid response world - really perfect for today. With David’s approach you can dust off what you have as a starting point, review and update it and then develop a strategy screen and use all this information to ask the Big Questions – maybe just one or it can be more. This approach is an excellent way to drive focus and action to what is most important to your organization and what it will take to do it well. Remember to stay flexible, try different approaches and revisit your choices – your strategic planning needs to be continuous planning.

As with any strategic planning process communications is an essential ingredient to making things happen. Keeping your board, employees and funders current and involved with your plans and planning approach is very important. Funders are making plans and adjustments to how they do business – I wrote about that last month – and they will be interested to see that you are too. Initiate communication with your funders, and find out the direction of their future plans. Boards need to be involved in this decision making and employees are anxious and will also want to know what steps the organization is taking.

It is a difficult time for individuals, business, government and nonprofits. It isn’t the time to take on the victim cloak. It is a time that requires commitment, willingness to make tough decisions, compassion, innovation, leadership, planning and a vision for the future. As Hildy Gottlieb says “Will we be victims or leaders? And then let’s begin creating the future we all want for our world. If we can envision it, we can create it!”