How Self Got it Wrong: A Case Study in PR

Every so often I see things in the media which baffle me. Today it's about handling a PR situation that has now turned into something bigger.

Let me explain:

Self magazine is a health and fitness magazine that is aimed towards women looking to have a healthier, more active lifestyle. It has many subscribers and I am one of them. Recently, the magazine came under attack for having airbrushed the cover of Kelly Clarkson. If this had ended here, then that would be the end of this story. You see, magazines airbrush all the time and in the end, it's no big deal. Everyone knows that the people you see on the cover isn't exactly them. In fitness magazines, you often see more well-defined abs then the person actually has.

Self magazine's editor Lucy Danziger decided to respond to the comments made about 'photoshopping' the picture by making a comment on her blog, which is featured on

Now in any negative PR situation, it is a good idea to respond to the comments being thrown at you. Making a clear and concise statement can often alleviate some of the damage. But it's all about HOW you write/speak your statement. If it has a defensive tone then you are more likely to be attacked.

It's also good to remember not only who you are defending yourself against, but your clients as well. If you admit to things, will they respond in a negative or positive way? What if you attempt to cover things up? Would that be worse or better?

In this situation, it made everything worse. By responding to the criticisms on her blog, she left herself open to criticisms from her clients, many of whom stated that they would not purchase another magazine.

In her blog, Lucy mentions that they only altered the photo to make Kelly look like her personal best, however the accompanying video makes it look more than that. Many of the blog comments state that this must mean that staying true to yourself means to be slimmed down or 'photoshopped'. However the point isn't what was done, but how the situation was handled. Self got on the defensive and now they are making themselves look bad in front of their clients.

Not only that, Lucy states: 'When I ran the marathon five years ago, I was so proud of myself for completing it in under five hours and not walking a single step. But my hips looked big in some of the photos (I was heavier then), so when I wanted to put one of them on the editor's letter in SELF, I asked the art department to shave off a little.'

Rather than coming off as endearing, this comes off as needy and lacking in self-esteem, the very thing Self promotes. She does, however go on to say that today she would run the photo untouched.

Her response to the photoshopping inquiries is actually generating even more news coverage which is impacting the Self brand negatively.

It will be interesting to see if there is any actual fallout from this or if this is just a blip on their radar. I wonder if the subject will continue to be addressed via the blog or in the magazine itself.

What would you do in this situation? Have you ever made a PR incident worse (or better!)?

Writing for the Web-Getting Started

I'm back with a vengeance! Sorry for the lack of posts recently. But don't fear, a steady stream is coming your way! Tomorrow I'm presenting a webinar about writing for the web and wanted to talk briefly about getting started with web writing.

Writing for the web is easier said than done. It’s easy to extol the virtues of great copy, but that much harder to get right down to business. See, writing is something that everyone knows how to do, but everyone doesn’t know how to do it well. So what are some first steps for sitting down and getting it done?

1. Know your Limitations

If you are in charge of writing the web copy, ask yourself this: Are you up to the task? It’s nothing shameful if you aren’t. It’s more important to assess your writing capabilities and determine they aren’t up to snuff then not and go ahead with the writing anyway. Maybe you are good at one type of writing but not the other. Perhaps you can write the technical side of the issue, but not the emotional side? Whatever the case, know your limitations.

2. Secure your Environment

By this I mean, determine which is the ideal environment for creative juices to flow and make sure you have it. If you don’t wish to be disturbed, shut your office door or go somewhere else entirely. If you are interrupted during writing it can break your whole train of thought and leave you frustrated. Then assess what you do as you write. For me, I like to stand up and pace, running my thoughts through my head before I write them on the page. Some people like to listen to music, others like complete silence. Some like to eat as they write, others don’t. Whatever your perfect environment is for writing, try to replicate it.

3. Spit it Out

Staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen can be daunting. It’s important to get words, any words at all down on paper/computer just to start you off. It doesn’t matter if its gibberish, you just need to start writing to get into the flow. And then the real words will come. I promise!

4. Get an Editor

Get an editor. A good one. One that will show no mercy on your copy. Yes, sometimes it can sting when you receive back a piece of writing with track changes or red lines all over it, but ultimately this will help you create a better piece of content. It’s important to put your ego aside and at least consider the editor’s suggestions, even if you don’t accept them all.
So there are a few tips for getting started. And remember, writing good copy takes time so don’t frustrated if it doesn’t come to you in the first minute. Or hour. Or even day.

Personal Versus Professional

When it comes to social media, a bit of personality goes a long way. When you reveal some details about your life, it allows your audience to be drawn in. However how much is too much?

Balance is the key. Only sharing news/advertising etc doesn't show off your personality or your organization's personality. People give to people not to organizations. So share some news about your personal life or what's going on in the office.


Too much personal information can definitely be a bad thing. I've seen people do things on social media that instantly change my opinion about who they are, from drunken pictures on Facebook to snarky remarks on Twitter.

Remember, that if something is on the 'net, it will remain there for a long time. Perhaps even forever. Let's say you post something but then decide to take it down. What if someone captured a screenshot of that post? Then it's around permanently.

Also, remember that with most social media, everyone can see what you are doing. Yes, there may be privacy measures in place, but don't use them as a crutch. If you don't think it should be posted, don't post it.

Here's an example of a good thing your organization can post:

Had another b-day celebration in the office. Happy 40th to @fakename! She definitely liked all the gag gifts we got her.

And an example of a bad thing:

Just had a bad quarter and lost money. Might have to cut programs now.

Okay, so that is an obvious example of something you don't want to post but there are more subtle versions of this which find its way into social media all the time.

Just like the adage 'Think Before You Speak" you should "Think Before You Type."

Social Media Policies

I presented a webinar last week on Social Media and Donor Engagement and found myself talking alot about social media policies.

I think it's very important to have a social media policy in place, whether it's one page or twenty. A social media policy really helps you define how you are going to engage people on the web. Many nonprofits are afraid of getting on social media because it means that you are no longer in control of the message.

Maybe you aren't, but at least a good set of guidelines will ensure that you can direct the message to where you want it to be.

For example, rather than having to react in surprise to negative comments or views of your organization, guidelines help you handle any negative situation that arises. Since a situation on social media can change by the minute, it's important to have a plan so you can react in an appropriate way.

Some things to add to your policy:
  • Who's speaking on behalf of you? Are they able to respond to crises in a professional and speedy manner?
  • What is your position on certain issues?
  • How do you deal with comment moderation?
  • How much control do you have over someone's personal pages?

A good social media policy in place will ensure that any problems you have in the future can be addressed swiftly and correctly.

The Merging of Design and Content

I've been working on website proposals for several days now and have come to a conclusion. Many people think that design and content are two seperate things and that comes to light on their webpages.

Let me explain.

I believe for a website to properly function, content and design have to work together, not fight against each other. They are the ying and yang, two sizes of a whole and yet I see so many websites where the content appears secondary. It always baffles me during a redesign process when people forget about the content.

How does this appear on a website?

One of the ways it does is through lack of white space. When the design starts to crowd into the content, then there is a problem. There should be enough room for the design AND the content.

Another way is by overdesign. Overdesign is when you have a really great design of a site that overshadows the content. Examples of this include excessive use of flash and more.

Not that content is blame-free either. When you have so much content that it's pushing the design to the edges, then you have a problem. You need to ensure that content and design work together to make the website perfect.

It's definitely easier said then done but it's possible!

Should You Be On Social Media?

At the My Charity Connects conference last week, a lot of the chatter surrounded social media and nonprofits. And the question I got asked the most, especially by small nonprofits, was do I need to be on Twitter/Facebook etc?

Well others suggest jumping into the deep end, I completely disagree.

Yes, Twitter and Facebook et al are great tools, especially for small nonprofits. They allow you to converse with your donors and get your message out to a wider audience.


You need to truly assess whether social media is right for you. Do you have time to be utilizing social media tools everyday? Because if you don't, then it's not worth it.

I'd rather see someone not use Twitter at all rather than be on there for two weeks and then things die off. This gives off a negative impression of your organization, just like old content on a website.

You need to determine whether your audience will respond with these types of tools, and most importantly develop your goals.

If you don't have the time or the audience, look into other communications tools. Just because everyone is on Facebook, doesn't mean you have to be. Pick and choose what social media tools work for you, put together a plan and go for it!

And remember, just because social media is (mostly) free doesn't mean it won't cost your time.

Learn more here: Ten Things a Nonprofit Should Do Before Setting Up Social Media

Budgeting for Social Media

Writing for the Web Presentation

I presented at the My Charity Connects conference yesterday on the topic of Writing for the Web. Here is the powerpoint of my presentation. Audio hopefully will be following:

Maintaining Online Volunteers

I posting a while back about finding and engaging volunteers through social media. But while you may gain volunteers online, is it possible to maintain them online?

I think so. But this has to be done in conjunction with offline connection as well. How do we keep volunteers interested online? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Send a thank you email. A thank you email is nice and personal. You can be specific about what that person achieved. But keep it short so there's a greater chance they will read the whole thing.

2. Give them a shout out. People love recognition and it doesn't take much. Use Twitter or Facebook to say thanks or share what your volunteers have done. This gives them great exposure as well as your organization as well.

3. Create a volunteers group. Use Ning, Facebook, or Yahoo groups to allow volunteers to interact with each other, no matter where they are.

4. Give them a reference on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great business tool and having a good reference from someone can make all the different. Give them a good quote that they can share with future employers.

5. Post volunteer opportunities online. Use your website and social media tools to spread the word about what opportunities you have available. This way, your volunteers will know what's coming up.

Maintaining volunteers online just takes a few simple things.

Keep them updated,
Share their sucesses
and Say thank you!

Technical Difficulties

Sorry for the lack of blog posts, I've had technical difficulties this week. New blog posts will start on Monday!

Spring Cleaning: Brochure

Time to talk about your brochure. A brochure is easy to forget. You design it once, create lots of copies and then hand them out at events or send them to prospects. But right now I want you to pick up that brochure and really look at it.

Here are some questions to answer:

1.How old is it?
2. Is the information still relevant?
3. Is the information still fresh?
4. Should anything be changed?

If your brochure is older than a year, I would definitely recommend changing it. Why? Because even with a brochure you want to keep the content fresh.

Here's an example: Let's say you are at an event. Prospect #1 visits your booth and takes a brochure. Maybe he looks at your display and chats you up for a bit and then leaves. He takes the brochure with him, reads it but puts it aside and ends up not donating.

Year two of the event rolls around and Prospect #1 visits again, only to be handed the exact same information. With different information, perhaps he would have turned into a donor. With the same information, he will likely get bored and move on.

You can still keep your old brochures. They make excellent supplement materials. But change it up every once in a while.

Tips For Improving Your Brochure

  • Keep everything as timeless as possible. Don't make your brochure go out of date in a month.
  • Be clear and concise. Don't try to cram all your info onto that tiny brochure. Instead, pick the one or two main points you are trying to make and focus on those.
  • Use bullet points to break up the formatting.
  • Use quotes from clients, board members, staff and donors.
  • Include a call to action on the donation form. There isn't usually alot of room, but try to make it work.

What about you? How often do you update your brochure? Answer the poll here: or below.

Spring Cleaning: Newsletters

Your newsletter is a great communications tool for your organization. But is it really making an impact? How can you be sure that people aren't just throwing it away without reading it? And how can you make it better?

1. Ask the Donors
This is the time to survey your donors. Make it short and simple, but ask them what they think of the newsletter. Don't be vague with your questions, but instead ask very precise, direct questions that will garner a good response.

2. Change it Up
Sometimes people have a format and a style of a newsletter and they keep it that way for years. Consider changing it around, both from a design perspective and a content perspective. Do you always write about the same things? Do you always write in the same way? (ie. technical, colloquial, etc). Mix it up and see if that sparks interest.

2. Add Stories
If your newsletter doesn't have stories from your clients, please add them! They are a great way to make that connection between donor and client and encourage donors to give a bit more.

3. Add Interviews
Interview your board and staff and share those interviews in the newsletter. People give to people, not to organizations and this is your chance to showcase that!

4. Give Donors a Voice
Consider including a survey or a comment card that would allow donors to express what they are feeling, whether it's about this particular issue of the newsletter or your organization in general.

5. Fix Formatting
Don't try to squeeze as much content as you can into the pages. This makes it very hard to read and bulky. Instead, adjust your story lengths to fit the page. If you have a story that is just too good but you can't fit it, put the full story up on your website and tell people to read more there.

6. Be Critical
Don't just glance at your newsletter once and say it's fine. Take the time to look at it from the donor's perspective and see what needs to be changed or updated. If you make it fresh, the donors will be more engaged and interested.

7. Get Outside Opinions
You may pass it around to everyone if your office who can look at it and think it's fine, but someone with no connection to your organization may have a different view. Getting an outside opinion will give you a new perspective. So grab that friend who doesn't know that much about your organization and give her the newsletter.

Have fun Spring Cleaning and good luck!

Stay tuned tomorrow: Spring Cleaning your Brochure

Spring Cleaning

This week is going to feature a series of posts on spring cleaning your content, from newsletters, and brochures to websites and direct mail. It's time to throw out your stale content and create something new that will spark your donor's interest and keep them coming back for more!

So how do you start with spring cleaning?

1. Assess

In order to create something new, you need to look at your current materials. Determine what is useable and what you want to create from scratch. Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to, but at the same time don't rest on your laurels.

2. Determine Goals

Write down your goals for this communication piece. If it's a brochure, what do you want it to do? Setting out your goals from the beginning will help you shape the piece the way you want it. It will be clear and concise, rather than all over the place.

3. Develop Voice

Every nonprofit has a voice. What is your voice? Are you fun, serious, caring, warm, all of the above? Whatever the answer, make sure you know before you begin, This will help you when it comes to rewriting the piece.

4. Create Main Message

What is your main message? Look at your goals and develop one message that is the same through out every communication piece. Consistency only drives home your message more.

What makes a spring cleaning successful?

  • Being critical

  • Hearing from others

  • Brainstorming

  • Thinking outside the box

So dust off your brochure, re-examine your website and and get cleaning!

*Need a little guidance with your spring cleaning? Take the Communications Checkup today!

How to Have a Rewarding Conversation With A Donor

Do you want to have a conversation with a donor that's more then just a pitch? Donors want to feel as if they mean something to your organization. Take time out of your busy schedule and try giving a donor a call. Not to pitch them but rather to get to know them better.

1. Small Talk
The power of small talk is great. You can glean little bits of information from the conversation which you can use as lead-ins later. Plus, it's a great way to make both of you comfortable.

2. Learn
Learn about their interests outside of the organization. What do they like to do? Also, determine their type of personality. Are they serious or fun? Do they want to talk or they can't be bothered?

3. Why They Belong
You may choose during your conversation to suss out why they belong to your organization. Don't make it a pitch, but rather be geniunely interested in why they donate. Maybe they have a personal connection to the organization that you didn't know about.

4. Take Notes
The information you receive is important so try to take as many notes as you can. If you can't concentrate on the conversation while taking notes, then immediately after jot down what you remember.

5. Keep It Short
It's important to gauge how you think the conversation is going and whether the donor doesn't have time for you. If there's time, include all of the elements listed. If note, even a brief hello and a 'have a good day' can do wonders.

6. Follow Up
Follow up in ways that are personal to the donor. If they said they liked movies and you happen to know there's a movie festival this weekend, drop them a quick email. If you know of a event in your organization that would be perfect for them to attend, give them another call.

Personal attention lets your donors become more involved in the organization. It also puts a voice to the organization and makes it more personal.

Facebook: A Prospect Research Tool?

I haven't seen that many discussions on Facebook being used as a prospect research tool. Facebook is a great way to seek out new prospects from not only your Friends but theirs as well.

1. There is no 'No".
When you ask someone if they know anyone who is able to donate to your cause, the knee jerk reaction is to say no. Even when racking their brain, it can become difficult to think of someone who might want to donate. With Facebook, this is easier. The average Facebook user has 150 to 200 friends. It's quite likely that someone in there would be interested in donating to your cause.

2. You can learn valuable information.
Facebook is a great way to learn about donors and prospects. Seeing photos, quiz results and status updates lend an idea of the type of person they are. Even if it seems superficial, this information can be useful in striking up a conversation with a prospect.

3. You can stay connected easily.
One of the things that is great about Facebook is the ability to stay connected with someone even if you don't talk to them as often as you'd like. This provides an in the next time you are interested in striking up a prospect relationship with them.

So try using Facebook not only for donating money but as a prospect research tool as well and see how many new donors you can achieve.

Dealing with Negative Comments

Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and more are great tools for nonprofits to use to connect with donors. The great thing about social media is that you really put yourself out there. But with this openness, problems can occur. But how do you deal with negative feedback?

  • Create A Policy-Before you start having comments available whether it's through a blog or a Twitter conversation, make sure you clearly outline the organization's policy on commenting. I know it sounds excessive, but having some guidelines in place will ensure that you won't be caught off guard.

  • Don't Lash Out-It's easy to respond quickly when someone makes you mad. The best thing to do however is keep your cool, no matter what the situation. You will come off as the better person for it.

  • Respond Publicly-If someone makes a negative comment, respond publicly to let others know how you've handled the situation. Maybe others were wondering the same thing, but didn't want to ask. Being able to handle the situation shows that you (and the organization) is in control.

  • Respond Privately-This may seem the opposite to the point above, but let me explain. While some situations require a public response, others do not. If you are being harrassed, you may not want the situation to play out over the blog. Also, if a negative situation is going back and forth many times, you should move that to a private conversation as to not interfere with your other posts/comments.

  • Respond in a Timely Manner-If you take too long to reply, people may think that silence is your answer. Try to respond as quickly as you can, even if just to say that you will be able to provide an answer/opinion shortly. That way people know that you are involved.

  • Be Clear and Concise-Nobody's going to read a response that's many paragraphs long. Keep your answers clear and concise and you will get your point across.

Follow these guidelines and you should be able to handle negative situations. Remember that every situation is different so it's important to adapt and handle it in the best way possible.

Five Things To Do With Your Nonprofit Blog

With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and all these other fun and shiny new social media tools, sometimes it's easy to forget about the blog. After all, the blog takes up much more time. However, a blog can be a useful tool for a nonprofit. It lets you share information in a more involved way then Twitter and Facebook.

If you decide to start a nonprofit blog, what can you really do with it?

1. Share News
Yes, you can share news on Twitter and Facebook. But on your blog you can be much more indepth. Perhaps you decide to share the news on your website and write a companion piece on your blog. That way the news is getting double exposure.

2. Showcase Staff
The staff are what makes a nonprofit organization work. Use your blog to highlight their sucesses within your organization. After all, people give to people, not to organizations. If they can feel a connection with the staff, then they might be encouraged to be more involved.

3. Tell Client Stories
Your blog can be intimate in a way that your website may not be. Share client stories that are personal and touching. The comments section allows donors to make a connection with that client.

4. Inform About Mailings
If you've got a mailing coming up, blog about it! Your donors will know it's coming and be less likely to bypass it. You can also use this chance to share the many ways they can give and provide links to your online giving.

5. Ask Opinions
What's a great way to get your donors involved in your organization? Ask their opinion. You can use the blog to get a feel for how your donors feel about certain campaigns, how they are being asked to give and more.

Your nonprofit blog can go a long way to ensuring a greater connection with donors and perhaps increase your donations as well.

How to Have A Good Brainstorming Session

If there's one thing I love to do, it's brainstorm. I think sharing ideas and thoughts always cull more great ideas. But brainstorming sessions can get way out of hand. So how do you make sure you get everything you need?

1. Set a Goal
If your goal is to develop new content for a website, don't let the brainstorming veer off into what colours the site should be. Keep everyone on track.

2. Be Strategic
Don't brainstorm with just anybody. Select people who have diverging opinions from you but can stay on task. Look for a mix of big picture people versus detail-oriented ones.

3. Create an Agenda
Brainstorming doesn't necessarily mean a free for all. Creating an outline will keep you on task and help you focus on specific sections.

4. Develop Questions
A bad brainstorming session starts like this: We are developing new content for the website. Got any ideas? Instead, creat leading questions that tackle each section. One of my favourites is asking people to describe the current content in three words or less. Then that gives you an idea of where you want to head.

5. Encourage Chatter from Everyone
It's likely that you will encounter people who are not so apt to speak up as others. Draw them into the conversation, ask them to share their opinions and ensure that everyone has an equal shot at getting their voice heard.

6. Determine Data Collection
Are you writing everything down on a flip chart? Are people taking their own notes? However you decide, ensure that there is an easy way for the information to be gathered.

7. Set a Time Limit
Brainstorming sessions can go on for hours but eventually the well will run dry and the same idea will keep recycling themselves. I would suggest no more than one to two hours.

A brainstorming session can revitilize a project, inspire new ideas and get you excited about what you are working on.
Good luck and Happy Brainstorming!

Follow Friday

Happy Friday to All!

I hope everyone is enjoying the nice weather!

Follow Friday is something on Twitter that happens every Friday. People list the names of people they follow that they enjoy so others may enjoy them as well.

I always love to converse with as many nonprofits as I can and I feel that building a solid online community only helps us. So list your website/blog/twitter below so that everyone will have the opportunity to learn from each other.

Here's mine: @lindseypatten

And here's who I would recommend: @canadahelps

Now it's your turn! Share below!

Social Media and Its Donations

I believe that social media has the potential to help nonprofits improve their brand, gather more donors and raise money.

But with the advent of the 'Facebook Causes' article, people are starting to wonder whether social media is as good as you think it is. Can social media be used long term to raise donations?

The answer is in the question. I believe it does but the key is long term. Fundraising is long term, and each fundraising venture builds on its predecessor. Social media is a great way to put those connections in place to be able to solicit gifts later.

I currently have a poll up that asks How Many Times Per Week Should a Nonprofit Ask for Donations via Twitter/Facebook?

60% say that nonprofits should ask only once, with 30% saying two to five times per week. 10% believe no donations should be asked at all.

The question remains, how long should you wait for results? I believe that depends entirely on your organization and your goals for social media.

What do you think? Does social media have the potential to raise money for organizations or is it just for raising awareness? How many times do you ask your donors on Twitter/Facebook for donations?

Related Articles
Facebook Causes: Good or Bad?

Twitter Case Study: War Child Part Two

In this blog post, I posted the first part of an interview with Dr. Samantha Nutt from War Child. The second part follows:

3. For those who perhaps did not follow your tweets, explain a bit more what your experience was like in Darfur and why you were there.
It is always a compelling experience to touch down in a war zone. The extent of the trauma and the suffering is staggering, but I am always astounded by people's resilience and determination. You expect to meet people who have given up. Instead, you meet people who remind you every single day why we get up and do what we do at War Child.

4. Some of the Tweets seemed to indicate that you were very close to danger. How much of that was a concern for you?
Security is always a major concern in many of the countries in which we operate. You must be aware of the dangers and the risks. Sometimes that can be quite intimidating and almost paralyzing - you are always looking over your shoulder, always wondering what will be around the next corner - but it is better to have an acute awareness of the insecurity and take precautions than to be caught unaware. I was more concerned about my security on this particular assessment mission than I have been for a very long time. It reminded me of the experience of working in Somalia in the mid 90s. But security is a huge problem for Sudanese nationals as well. Anyone who is perceived to have either an income or access to valuables (e.g. a vehicle, a sat phone) is at risk.

5. What does War Child hope to gain from Twittering about events/trips like these?
It's not so much what we can gain but what value this type of first hand reporting brings to our network of supporters. The feedback I received suggests that people found it engaging and an eye opener and the increase in people following the journey means it must have been having some kind of positive effect! I think the fact that I could talk to a woman who has seen her family killed in front of her and 30 seconds later post her story, gave the people following it a much more visceral and immediate experience than they would have had reading a news report, for example. There is also something to be said for posting what you are experiencing it as you experience it. It's raw; unfiltered. Sometimes when you have a chance to think about it for a while you end up over-rationalizing or over-interpreting the experience and it loses some of its authenticity.
The success of this, in retrospect, was in its honesty and simplicity - there was neither the time, nor the space (at under 140 characters) to be lofty about any of it.

You may think your cause not as compelling as Darfur, but if you share your client stories in a interesting and engaging way, people will respond. Twitter is one way to do that. Remember that people give to people, not organizations or websites.

Do you share client stories on Twitter? Share your twitter username below and tell us why it works for you.

*UPDATE: You can follow Dr. Nutt at NuttsAtWarChild

Related Articles
Twitter Case Study: War Child Part One
Client Stories on the Web

Twitter Case Study: War Child

There are many nonprofit organizations on Twitter and many are using Twitter in a variety of different ways. One of the best organizations I've seen use Twitter is War Child. War Child is a great organization that provides assistance to war stricken children all over the world.

Recently the Executive Director, Dr. Samantha Nutt traveled to Darfur and twittered the whole way there. Some tweets are amusing, others alarming and even more so are downright scary. She not only told stories of her surroundings but of the people that she met.

Some sample tweets:

Each of the above connects with you in a different way. I've never donated to War Child but now I find myself intrigued. And that indicates a job well done. A connection has been made and that is ultimately what social media strives to do.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Samantha Nutt about War Child's use of Twitter as well as her recent trip. Part One is listed below:

1. Why did you choose to Tweet about your experience?
We wanted to give people a more direct connection with our programs and the experiences of the people we work with. It was an experiment, really. There was no guarantee that the technology would work. When I touched down in Darfur and checked my blackberry I couldn't believe I could still access Twitter. In fact, the only place it didn't work on the whole trip was Beirut airport on the way home! Twitter was one way though ­ I could send but I couldn't see what response it was getting, which was frustrating. That's why we're doing a Live Chat
next week to give people a chance to have some of their questions answered.

2. Has War Child had success garnering donations from Twitter or do you use it primarily for awareness?

We have received around $8000 in donations through Twitter initiatives since January. But we don't use it as a place to ask directly for money. It is a place to build relationships and through that a network of friends who will act, to some extent, as ambassadors for our work. Engaging with people on social media platforms - and especially Twitter ­ humanizes the organization.

Stay Tuned for Part Two tomorrow in which Dr. Nutt discusses her time in Darfur as well as why Twitter works for their organization.

*UPDATE: You can follow Dr. Nutt at NuttsAtWarChild

Micro Volunteering

Happy Volunteering Week Everyone!

In honour of Volunteering Week, I wanted to post about something that has caught my eye. And that is, micro-volunteering. Micro-volunteering is the concept of having volunteers help your organization out, one bit at a time. Rather than looking for someone who can make a year long committment, break down the tasks into chunks and assign those.
If you need someone to design a brochure, then they can do that without having to make a long committment. You can get more specialized volunteers. I'm volunteering currently as a web writer for a United Way agency in Toronto.

One site that is taking micro-volunteering to the web is Urbantastic. Located in Vancouver, Urbantastic was created to help busy people help out a cause they believe in.

Says founder Ben Johnson "It's inspired by the collaboration models of projects like Wikipedia and Open Source Software. We believe there is a pool of young, talented people who are not actively donating time to causes they believe in. There is a desire, but the avenues of engagement are inadequate. We are in the process of correcting this using the tools of that generation."

What the site does is showcase the current volunteer opportunities and gives volunteers a place to show off their skills and experience.

It will be interesting to see if micro-volunteering takes off. I think it offers up a chance for nonprofits to lower volunteer costs and use more skilled people.

How does your organization utilize volunteers? And do you find them on the web or elsewhere? Tell us below!

Facebook Causes: Good or Bad?

An interesting article came out in the Washington Post that said that Facebook Causes wasn't really helping nonprofits at all and that online giving still represented a small amount of donations for nonprofits.

The debate about Facebook Causes is an interesting one. I never saw Facebook as a way to viably raise money but rather as a way to promote your brand and prospect for more donors. Facebook is about creating a connection rather than raising dollars.

The question then becomes, how do you translate this connection into dollars?

Is it by collecting everyone's email addresses and sending out an email blast? By inviting people to an event?

My question to the writers of this article is that of the many nonprofits on Facebook Causes, how many are using it to their advantage? And how many put together a strategy before hand that determined whether this is something that their donors would be interested in or not?

Like any communication tool, you need to assess whether it is right for you or not. Survey your donors, ask questions and determine if it's worth your time and energy to make it happen. If it is, then go for it. But don't do it just because everyone else is.

So my question to you is this: Do you have a Facebook Causes page? Is it working for you? And did you survey your donors ahead of time?

Pitching a Web Redesign To Your Board

So you've decided it's time for your website to be overhauled and you want to take it to the board to present it. How do you do this in a way that ensures success?

Board members come in various shapes and sizes and it's important to address what potential issues they would have before your presentation. But pitching a web redesign can be tricky for a variety of reasons.

The board may be against the redesign because:

  • They don't know what the website does for the organization
  • They don't know the terminology
  • They can't see the end results
  • There are budget and time concerns

So how do you get your board on board so to speak?

1. Understand learning styles

I always see the big picture first, before the details fall into place. If you want to sell me something, sell me on the vision. For others, it's the complete opposite. They need to understand the mechanics of it; the nuts and bolts about how things would work.And hard statistics to back it up. When addressing the board, it's important to cover as many bases as possible.

2. Explain the need for a website

Although many nonprofits have websites, not everyone understands what it does and the potential it has. Explain succiently what your website can do in terms of retaining donors, gaining prospects and increasing awareness of your organization.

3. Avoid specific terminology

Once you don't understand something, it's very easy to shut down and avoid listening to the rest. Try to make your presentation as simple as possible, for all to understand. Even if you think everyone will know something, it's quite likely they may not.

4. Avoid design talk

When people think of web redesign, they instantly think of the design portion. Don't encourage design talk or you will get members arguing about colours and layout before you are even at that stage.

5. Be prepared

This of course is a given. Arm yourself with statistics, not only about websites in general, but your own website and how it's doing. Prepare arguments for as many possible scenarios as you can think of.

6. Lay out a plan

Make sure you have all the important questions answered. Is the redesign happening in house or are you using a consultant? How much time and money will it cost to perform these changes? What is the rough timeline for a project like this? Make sure you have a solid plan to present so they can't object.

Pitching to a board can be tricky, especially on an issue like web redesign, which everyone is not familar with. Try to be as clear and concise as possible and sell them on the benefits.

Has anyone else had successes or failures pitching web-related things to the board?

Share your thoughts below!


Welcome to the shiny new Notes for Nonprofits. I felt the blog was in need of a bit of a redesign since the content seemed a little squished in places. I hope everyone likes this better.

Some new features:

Along with the blog, I've included more information about myself and my services. By clicking on each of the buttons, you can read my bio, learn about my services and discover where to contact me if you are interested.

As well, on the right hand side I've added links to my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Please come find me; I'm always up for a chat!

I hope you like the new design!

Twitter: Is the Message Being Lost?

I reacted to the news that Oprah was going to be on Twitter with a sigh. And then a stomp of my foot. Oh yes, celebrities use Twitter, but with Oprah brings a whole other magnitude. So far, she's posted about getting lunch and her dog getting shots. There are millions of inconsquential posts like this on Twitter. And millions more will follow now that everyone will sign up in a wave of excitement.

Twitter is about sparking dialogue and making connections. I fear that the more people who see it as a tool to post about nothing, the more people will forget what it's really about.

However, what's great about Twitter is that you can choose who to follow and who not to. You can still create dialogue with those who are interested.

So what do you think?

Does an influx of new people on Twitter please or annoy you?

How Susan Boyle Can Inspire Great Content

For small nonprofits, it can be worrisome when there isn't the budget to create fancy ads like the bigger nonprofits do. It may be a plain envelope for a direct mail campaign instead of a stylized one or a note on your website rather than a television ad.

It can be a struggle to stand out in the sea of glossiness. But sometimes it is forgotten that the content is as important, if not more than the packaging. Yes, good packaging is important but your message is more so.

Many of you have probably seen the video of Susan Boyle, a contestant on Britain's Got Talent who blew the judges and audience away with her performance. What was so special about her? She wasn't glossy at all. In fact she was an average, older woman who was subject to those laughing at her for her appearance before she opened her mouth.

But when she opened her mouth, they definitely stopped laughing.

Be inspired by this when it comes to your own content. Yes, packaging is important because it gets your donors' and prospects' feet in the door. But make sure your content is as passionate, inspiring and engaging as Susan Boyle was.

Click Here to Watch Susan Boyle:

From the Brain to the Page: How to Create the Best Piece Possible

Sometimes it can be difficult to create the perfect piece. Whether it's a direct mail letter or copy for the website, the words often don't come out the way you want them to.
A Simple Truth:

What you draft out in your brain is always better then what's on the page.

I have always found this to be true. That doesn't mean that what you write on the page isn't good. But it will never be as good as in your head.

One of the first things I learned as a writer was to let that go.

So how do you get what's in your brain on to the page?

When people sit down to write, they can get intimidated by the blank page (or blank computer screen).

That's why I like to brainstorm first. Get a flipchart and start writing down as many words as you can think of to describe what you are trying to say. These can be used as a great jumping off point for what your document will look like.
Then just spit it out there on the page. The first draft may not be good, but some of it at least will encapusulate what you are trying to say. I know writers who like to draft outlines, but for me it's more important to get what you are saying on the page first. Then you can outline and organize your thoughts.

After this, you need to back away. Trying to edit your draft immediately won't help you at all. Work on something else and put it out of your mind.

Once you've had some time away, you can start on draft two. Here's where you organize your thoughts and get your points across. Re-examine the flip chart to see what words and phrases can work with in your document. Take time to really think about what your goal is and see if you are achieving it.

The Best Nonprofit documents include:
  • An Organization Description
  • What the Money Is Used For

  • Client Story
  • Call to Action

Am I missing anything? Sound off below!

Social Media Time Management: Twitter

*This is the first in a series of posts of time management and social media.

Twitter is a great social media tool. But let's be honest, it's also a big distraction. Like constantly checking your email, Twitter can be compulsive. You just have to know what's happening all the time. But actually, you don't. It's important to use Twitter as a tool to help your organization grow and not just distract you from your other work.

So how can you manage your time on Twitter?

A few suggestions:

1. Get Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is a Twitter application which I totally love. The best feature is it's grouping capabilities. You get to put who you follow in categories to make it easier. Currently, my categories include nonprofits, marketing, news, fun and more. Downsides to this feature include the very annoying tweeting noise you get when someone updates.

2. Don't follow everyone who follows you

You may think it is good ettiquette to follow everyone who follows you, but I disagree. Only follow someone if their posts have value for you. Otherwise, you will just be wading through the bad stuff to get to the good. And that is definitely a waste of your time. Don't be afraid to unfollow someone either if they don't live up to your expectations.

3. Don't read every tweet

When I first started on Twitter, I thought I had to read everything that was written. But now that I'm following 174 people I know that is completely unrealistic. Don't worry about what information has been lost, instead just read when you've got time.

4. Don't agonize over what to say

Twitter is supposed to be fast, fun and easy. I do believe as an organization you should stay on message at all times but don't plan out your tweets and stress about what to say. It should flow naturally.

5. Turn it off

When I'm writing for a client, my Tweetdeck is completely off. Distractions like this, especially if you are doing something creative, can throw you off entirely. Remember, you can always come back to it.

Use Twitter to engage in conversations, share news about your organization and increase brand awareness. But be smart about it.

Five Ways to Improve Your Online Giving

Online giving is steadily becoming a major part of any nonprofit's fundraising campaign. But it's not just about slapping a donation button up and calling it a day. What are ways to improve your online giving?

Here are my top five:

1. Improve Your Donations Page
I've seen so many donations pages on nonprofit websites that are hard to navigate and down right confusing. If it's difficult to donate, then people won't go through with it. Having a clear and concise page will make it easier for people to donate.

2. Improve Your Thank You Process
It's important to examine your process with online donors and ensure it's up to snuff. Are you thanking them in a timely manner? Do they get an e-receipt or do you have to mail it to them? Making it quick and easy will encourage people to donate again.

3. Cross Promote Online Giving
Just having the page up there isn't going to magically bring in donors. Make sure your promote online giving in your brochures, direct mail campaigns and more.

4. Develop Email Campaigns
Email campaigns are a great way to improve your online giving. Even if it's just a short note to your donors telling them of an event or sharing program news. Linking back to your donations page will help improve your online giving.

5. Invest in Social Media
There's been a lot of buzz about social media and whether it works for nonprofits or not. I think there is potential in social media for nonprofits, but only if they use it to truly connect with their donors. Try raising online funds through Twitter or Facebook. This will improve your web presence and drive traffic to your site.

I doubt direct mail will ever go away, but as more and more people turn to online giving, it's important that you be prepared for them.

Why Backup Blog Content is Important

Confession Time: I broke one of my own cardinal rules when it comes to owning a blog. Have backup content!

If you've noticed by the lack of content this week, I have been unavailable to post. I had a medical situation which occupied most of my time this week.

If you have a blog, this is going to happen to you occasionally. There are even going to be times where you don't feel like writing and you need to pull something out of the hat. Having backup content is a great way to do this.

One of the ways I do this is by writing several blog posts at once. I usually write them in groups of five. Then I'm prepared for the coming week.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to post them right away. If they are not topical, then they can last as long as you need them. Backup blog posts are great for a rainy day.

Keep Blogging and Happy Friday to All!

Read more here:

My Charity Connects Conference

If you are in the Toronto area, you should check out the MyCharity Connects Conference, hosted by It's a two day web conference on June 8th and 9th that focuses on how nonprofits can use the web to diversify their fundraising and get results.

I will be presenting a session on writing for the web.

You can get more information here:

Register now before it's sold out!

Why Your Website Isn't a Brochure: Writing Web Specific Content

Too often I've seen nonprofits take the information from their brochure, slap it up on the website and call it a day. Writing for the web is entirely different then for a brochure/article. It's important to clearly state your mission and purpose as succiently as possible so that it's easy for people to read.

The majority of webpage readers don't actually read the page at all, they skim instead. So your content needs to stand out to be noticed. The look of the content is almost as important as what is written.
So what are the biggest no-nos I see on websites?
  • No Call to Action

According to a study, by the Neilson Norman Group, 43% of sites examined clearly conveyed what they were trying to achieve and only 4% said what they were doing with the money. Have a strong call to action that encourages your donors, not dissuades them.

  • Text Heavy Paragraphs

When a paragraph gets too long, there is a tendency to skim it. Make them concise and easy to read.

  • Confusing Language

It's easy to become guilty of this. Using words that you think everyone else might know, even though they are industry specific. However, confusing words will turn off people and your message will be lost.

  • Lack of Engagement

This is important. If you are not engaging your audience then they will not want to donate/participate/volunteer. Include client and volunteer stories, and show the passion you have for your organization in your words.

  • No Clear Direction

This goes hand in hand with Call to Action. What do you want visitors to your site to do? Click to the next page and read more? Head straight for the donation page? You need to frame your web writing so that it's guiding your readers somewhere.

Here are five tips to improve your web writing:

1. Keep it Simple

2. Use Bullets

3. Use General Language

4. Consider Your Audience

5. Be Engaging

Remember, your website is only as good as its content.

Putting Your Communications In Your Donor's Hands

Sometimes we have a tendency in nonprofit organizations to hold our donors at arm's length. We pat them on the head, thank them for the money and sometimes forget about them. Rarely do we ask their opinion, even more rarely do we let them help.

Yet, donors are a big part of what makes any organization work. So how can we get them more involved?

Give them a voice. Give your donors opportunities to share why they love the organization. What ways can you do this?

  • Feature them in an article or better yet, get them to write one for you.
  • Interview a donor and use their quotes on the donation page on the website.
  • Start up a dialogue with them using social media. Ask them why they donated.
  • Give them opportunities to share their experiences with their friends.

There are many advantages to connecting with your donors in this way. Firstly, they will feel more involved with the organization and may be encouraged to donate more. Secondly, you will recieve a bevy of information that promotes your organization.

I'm not recommending you do this with every donor, but pick a few and see if it works.

How do you treat your donors in your organization? Sound off below.

Ten Best Features of Google Analytics

Analytics are something that every website/blog should have. I have tried several, but have come back to the best, which is Google Analytics. (Bonus: It's also free). But once glance at all the pie charts, squiggly lines and numbers can turn you away. So here's a break down of ten best features of Google Analytics.

The dashboard is great because it gives you an overview of the analytics for your site. If you are unsure about analytics, this front page can give you a sampling of all the information you need from the top content, to the number of visits.

2. Visitors: New versus Returning
Under the visitors tab on the left hand side, there is a list of different information relating to the vistors from your site. New versus returning is great because it lets you know how many people are actually returning to your site. If you have a lot of one time hits, but not alot of returns, it's time to think up ways to get people to return.

3. Visitors: Loyalty
Visitor loyalty expands on this by showing off how many times a user has visited your site and the length of their visit.

4. Visitors: Browser Capabilities
This is a great tool. With so many people using a variety of browsers, it is important that your site is compatible to all.

5. Traffic Sources: Direct Traffic
Direct Traffic means those who came directly to your site, by typing in the name of your website in their browser. This is a great way to gauge how many people know about you.

6. Traffic Sources: Referring Sites
This is important to know as well. If you are posting links to your site on Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, etc, seeing the results of that work will help determine whether you use those tools in the future.

7. Traffic Sources: Search Engines
This is a great way to determine your brand awareness. How many people are searching for your name? Are they getting to your site via other keywords that you hadn't thought of?

8. Traffic Sources: Keywords
This lets you discover what keywords people are using to search for you. You may find ones you expected, but I guarantee you will find some unusual ones as well.

9. Content: Top Content
The top content section lets you know what is most popular. This is great for blogs because it basically gives you audience feedback regarding what they liked and what they didn't.

10. Content: Site Overlay
Site overlay is a neat tool that shows what areas people have been clicking on your website. This is a useful tool to determine what is most popular.

There you have it. Although it may seem confusing, analytics are a great way to really assess what is working and what isn't on your website.

Everyone Needs An Editor

Yesterday, I was quite pleased to discover that a blog post I had written on this website was quoted in someone else's blog. I showed my business partner who immediately pointed out the glaring grammatical error in the quote. As a writer, and even though I am called upon to edit the work of others, I do make some mistakes and this one was quite obvious. I shook my head and lamented the need for better self-editing.

In actual fact, I do not need to self-edit but turn to my editor instead. Having an editor look over your communications is crucial. Once you have written something it is hard to remain objective. Any further personal review will tend to mask errors because you will subconciously make mental corrections and skim content.

So what makes a good editor?
  • They are focused. They shouldn't just glance at it and say it's fine, but take the time to really go through the piece.

  • They don't sugar coat. You need an editor who will tell you the truth, not try to spare your feelings. If the writing is bad, they need to be able to tell you that. So friends and family might not be the best option.

  • They are proficent with grammar/spelling. Don't hand your write up to a colleague that's worse at spelling then you are; make sure you are using the services of someone who's good.

A good editor can save your communications, whether it's a blog post or a direct mail letter.

Finding and Engaging Volunteers Through Social Media

Social Media is great for raising money and building a community but it's also good for another thing: finding volunteers.

Good volunteers are a staple of any organization and can really help your organization succeed. So how can you use social media to find them?

Social Media lets you put the word out. You can post your need for volunteers on Twitter and Facebook. Even if your followers aren't interested, they might know someone who is. I found my recent volunteer post with the United Way through Twitter.

Here's a tip: Use social media to look for specialized volunteers. If you need a graphic designer, or a writer, or a program coordinator, it's likely you can find someone using social media. If you are specific, then your followers will have a better idea of who you are looking for.

So now that you've got your volunteers, how can you engage them through social media?

Why not create a volunteers group on Facebook? A place for your volunteers to post their experiences, learn about new assignments and events and promote the organization to others. If a volunteer posts on their own profile that they love working at your organization, that will inspire others to follow.

Also, give them a shout out on Twitter. Everyone loves to be recognized and Twitter is a great way to do that. A simple note that says what a great job they did, will inspire them to come back again and again.

When volunteers are respected and engaged, they will continue to come back again and again.

Getting Your Board Involved in Communications

Boards are notorious at nonprofit organizations. Some are great, some not so great, but there seems to be a clear division between board and staff. Whether you are the communications officer, fundraiser or both, it's important to have your board involved with your communications. In fact, your board is one of your communications tools in itself.

So what are ways that you can get your board to communicate your message for you?

1. Set Specific Goals

It's important to set specific goals that you want to achieve and share those with your board. Do you want each board member to find five prospects? Invite five people to an event? Get the word out about a specific campaign? Whatever your goals are make them as specific as possible.

2. Set Specific Timeline

What is the timeline for these goals? Don't make it open ended or it will never get completed. Instead, set a reasonable timeline that ensures your goals will be achieved.

3. Define the How

Define how you want the board members to achieve these goals. Is it by making phone calls? Posting on Facebook? Meeting face to face?

4. Determine Total Amount of Time Needed

Let's say your campaign is three weeks. If you mention the time, board members may balk at the total time for the campaign and insist they don't have time. Instead break down the tasks to the time it will take them. If it only takes 15 or 20 mins in total, spread over three weeks, that seems reasonable.

5. Provide Materials

Don't throw your board members off the deep end. Provide them with as many materials as possible. And mix it up, according to each board member. If one board member is uncomfortable talking without a script, provide one.

6. Provide Encouragement

Encourage but don't harass your board members. If you come off sounding pushy, they will lose interest in the project. It should be as much their project as well.

7. Share the End Results

Board members want to know that the efforts they put in were met with success. So don't be hesistant in sharing the results of the campaign, whether good or bad.

What other ways do you encourage your board members to communicate? Do they participate or not at all? Sound off below.

Twitter: Learning from other non-profits

Picture this: You have successfully pitched the idea of social media to the board, everyone responded well and you've signed up for a Twitter account. You sit down and then......what do you write?

Sometimes it can be hard to determine not only what you should write, but the tone of voice you should use on Twitter. Questions immediately become raised such as: How many times should you ask for donations on Twitter? What crosses the line into spamming? What other things should you post?

I offer up the great article 26 Charities and Non-profits That Tweet.

Rather than reinvent the wheel yourself, look at what popular charities are doing. What news are they sharing? How are they conversing with donors? Learning from others can be beneficial, especially with something like Twitter that you may not be too familar with. This way you can get your message out in the best way possible.

*Are you on Twitter? Share your link below for others to find you. You can find me here: @lindseypatten.

Why Twitter Helps You Write Better (But Only if You Don't Use Shortened Words)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when words are shortened or spelled incorrectly. I occasionally make a few spelling mistakes myself, but I cannot abide the new 'text speak' where you're is turned into 'ur' and the like. This is why I cannot text message. Because by the time I write out a full sentence, it takes too long!

I was worried that Twitter would follow the same vein and suddenly, shortened words would replace the real ones and our children would grow up thinking that later was actually spelled l8tr. Instead I find the opposite. Most of the people on Twitter articulate themselves extremely well.

So how does it help you write better?

Twitter has a 140 word character limit in which you must express yourself as succinctly as possible. Several times I've found through my tweets that I've gone on too long and had to reword my sentences.

This rewording has made my sentences clearer and easy to read. It also subconsciously teaches you to be tight and concise with your writing. As a writer, the most common thing I see with nonprofits is the tendency to be wordy. Whether it's a mission statement or website, there's a mentality of 'the more you throw up there, the better'.

Keeping your sentences clear and concise will attract your readers more, especially when it comes to web writing.

Twitter also helps remove a passive tone from your words.


I think this is a great article versus This is a great article.

You removed two words and become more confident.

So take a look at your content, whether it be on your website on in a brochure and assess whether or not it's as concise as it could be. So it's writing exercise time!

Writing exercise: Can you describe your mission statement in 140 characters? Give it a shot below in the comments!

The Great ROI Debate

A comment on the blog yesterday spurred an interesting thought. What is ROI and how is it measured? ROI is a business word, meaning return on investment.

One definition from states: return on investment - (corporate finance) the amount, expressed as a percentage, that is earned on a company's total capital calculated by dividing the total capital into earnings before interest, taxes, or dividends are paid

For me, I see return on investment as something much more than that. It's not entirely the money, but rather the return on investment from a particular program as dependent on that program's goals.

So if one of the program's goals were to meet ten donors, I would consider the return on investment the number of donors actually met.

What do you think? Is ROI specifically a word that is used to describe monetary capital earned or can it be more than that? If it is, is there another word to replace it?

Sound off in the comments below!

What are the first steps for web design?

Are you thinking about sprucing up your website? Before your mind wanders to colours and design, determine what you want and need from your website.

Here's a few steps:

1.Determine ROI

This is extremely important and often the step people miss. What do you want from the website? What sort of goals do you have? Figuring out the specific return on investment needed (whether it be money raised or awareness) is important. In the past, websites were considered to be online brochures, now they need to have much more.

2. Discover your concrete need

This ties in with the first step. What do you need the website to do for you? Do you want x number of donors, are you promoting an event? Perhaps it's multiple reasons. Whatever the need is, figuring it out will make it easier on both you and the web designer.

3. Examine who your audience is

Who will be looking at the site? Is it your client, donors, prospects, or all? Determine what their needs are and how you are going to fulfill them on your site.

4. Figure out what you want your audience to do

This is also extremely important, especially when it comes to the navigation of your site. What do you want your audience to do? If it's donate, then the donate button should be visible on all pages. If it's click on a certain campaign, then that campaign needs to be highlighted.

5. Solidify your message

One of my web pet peeves is people who think that a website is all about design. In fact, the most important part of the website is the content. The design should complement the content, not overpower it. Create a strong message that that will resonate with your audience.

So before you even look at a design or layout, answer these questions!

When was the last time you performed a charitable act?

Today I had an interesting experience, one I haven't had in a while. As I was walking out of Tim Hortons, I encountered an elderly man who I had seen several times before, begging on the sidewalk. We struck up a conversation and I ended up giving him the change in my wallet. It really only amounted to about $2.50 but his smile when he got it was definitely worth it.

And as I reflected, I realized it's been a while since I performed a charitable act. Especially one where I got to see immediate results.

And it just so happened, that today was a good day to achieve some perspective.

Sometimes it's easy to forgive to give, even when you work in the nonprofit industry. I worked at an organization where very few of the staff donated to the cause. Somehow the thought was that by working there, they were contributing enough.

So I pose a question, when was the last time you performed a charitable act? Was it a donation or volunteering? And was the experience good or bad?

Share your thoughts below.

And if it's been awhile, consider making a charitable contribution today.

Charity and Social Media: Does Corporate Make it Crass?

I just read this great blog post, Social Media and Charity: Philanthropy or Crass Opportunism and wanted to comment on it and hear from others.

Well I appreciate the author's point, I think she's commenting more about corporations being involved in social media on behalf of charities rather than charities themselves. There are many other ways charities are involved with social media then just selling t-shirts on the Internet.

But it does raise the question? When does social media for your organization become less about connecting and more about marketing? Or is it intended as a marketing tool only?

Since I'm not every charity I can't answer that question on behalf of them but I do believe that social media can be used as more than just improving a brand. I think it allows the opportunity to connect with donors and raise funds as well.

I have to say, I'm not sure how I feel about this Feed America/Tide partnership. On on hand, a lot of money has been raised for the organization, but on the other, Feed America isn't getting the opportunity to promote themselves. The t-shirt is all about Tide and almost gives off a sense of bragging rights as if they need to shout to the world they are do-gooders.

So what do you think, good idea or misstep?

And what do you use social media for?

What is Effective Design?

Today we have a guest post, the wonderful John Lepp from Idea Design. He so graciously agreed to write a guest post about effective design, especially as it relates to direct mail.

What is Effective Design?
by John Lepp

Thanks to Lindsey for asking me to write a guest post on her blog.

I asked for some ideas on a subject matter, one of which was “What is effective design?” A favourite subject of mine. It’s a favourite because if you asked 100 designers what makes design effective you will likely get 100 different answers.

To me the answer is simple.


I design to get results, not look pretty (although sometimes I hope it is pretty too!)

Let’s look at direct mail.

Once I read over the creative brief and read through the letter, I like to have a chat with the writer and make sure I understand what is the core of their messaging. My job is to create an envelope that will get opened.

As you can imagine, even if the letter inside is from God Himself, if the donor doesn’t open the package – what does it matter? (In which case I would typeset simply – ‘Letter from God inside’ - maybe I would BOLD God.)

I have to get people in that package, and it might be pretty or it might be ugly, but it depends on the subject matter and being appropriate to the audience and the charity.

Being appropriate is a large part of what makes design effective. If your donors are old – do not use 9pt type. If your charity raises money for environmental issues – do not design a package with 5 inserts, an 8 page letter and a bunch of freemiums… I know it seems like a no brainer – but trust me – I’ve seen it – and it is obvious me to the designer (or someone) is not thinking.

I honestly believe that any marketing and communications a charity does needs to push people to do something. It must have a clear call to action. That makes it effective.

And if it effective, it will have the results to prove it.

Budgeting for Social Media Part Two

In a discussion with @alexbono about my last blog post, Budgeting for Social Media, I realized that I missed out on mentioning several important things to budget for, so I'd thought I'd add them here in this post.

When budgeting it's also important to recognize the skill level needed to set up and operate social media tools. While many social media tools seem fairly easy to create, if you want to add a personal touch, it will take certain skills. There are two main areas to examine:

Most social media sites come with a typical design (or if it's a blog, a series of templates). If you want to modify them to include your logo and design, then you will need someone with graphic design/CSS abilities. A perfect example is this blog. While, currently I'm using a template, eventually I will be moving to a design of my choosing. As I don't have the skill for that, I'm relying on my business partner. If you have someone in your office who has the skills to make the changes, then that is great. If not, you will have to outsource. And of course, there are costs associated with that.

Another important issue is content. As mentioned in Ten Things a Nonprofit Should Do Before Setting up Social Media, it's important to determine who's writing the content you put up before you start any social media tool. If this is something you can do internally, remember to weigh out the costs of that person taking the time to write it. Content also doesn't just mean the written word. If you have videos or photos, you need to assess who has the ability to create/post these and what the costs associated with them are.

Putting together a budget for social media will definitely save you some time in the long run and give you a better idea of whether social media tools are viable for your organization.

Budgeting for Social Media

How to do you budget for social media? In fact, do you have to budget for social media? Isn' the majority of it free?

A budget is more than just money and it's important to develop an accurate one to keep on track.

What goes in a Social Media Budget?


This is the most important thing to include in your social media budget. One of the perks of social media tools are that the majority of them are free. But are they really? Once you factor in the time it takes for someone to complete the social media tasks, the cost goes up.

Example: Let's say you have someone posting a blog post every day who gets paid $25 an hour. If it takes them an hour to write a blog post, then:

5 hours a week x $25 an hour = $125 a week

It's important to determine what the true value of your time spent on each social media tool is to better understand whether the tool is a viable option for your organization.

Professional Development

New social media tools pop up everyday. There are also new applications for your existing ones. Setting aside a professional development fund is crucial. Whether the social media user attends a conference, buys a book or just takes time to learn new things, it's money that needs to be allocated.

Future Costs

Although it seems a little unnecessary to plan for costs that aren't actually in your budget, I recommend having some money set aside (if possible) for future costs. What if that great social media tool you've been using suddenly makes people pay for it? Some social media tools, like blogs have the ability to purchase 'premium features' that enhance it.

Another thing to consider is the technology costs. If you look at your current technology and realize that you need to upgrade, costs are going to be incurred. Knowing from the outset whether you need certain technologies for certain social media tools will help you avoid panic down the road.

Budgeting for social media is extremely important and will help sustain any social media program you implement in your organization.

Update: After getting some great ideas about things I missed, I will be posting a part two tomorrow!

Ten Things a Nonprofit Should Do Before Setting Up Social Media

Social Media is definitely an effective tool for nonprofits to use. However, before you jump into the pool, what are the things you need to do first?

1. Determine your message
What are you trying to say? Do you have more than one message? Develop a short paragraph that encapsulates what you want to say and continually reference it as you work on social media tools.

2. Determine who your audience is
Who is your audience? Are they tech savvy? Creating a plan to enter the social media arena is irrelevant if none of your audience will follow you there. Consider surveying your donors to determine how they want to hear from you.

3. Develop goals
What do you want to achieve from social media? Donations? Awareness? Determine your goals and remember to keep them handy as you progress.

4. Determine the exact ROI you are expecting
This goes hand in hand with #3. Get specific about the return on investment you are expecting. If you want donations, what's the amount? If you are looking for new supporters, how many?

5. Research and determine which social media tools work for you
There are multiple social media tools out there. It's important to determine which ones work for you. Signing up for everything isn't going to be the best use of your time.

6. Create a strategy
Developing a strategy for your social media activity is extremely important. You need to determine what content you want to create and where you want to put it.

7. Create the analysis method
What's your method for analysis? It's important to track what you do on social media tools so you can examine whether you are achieving the ROI that you want.

8. Determine the main contributor as well as the sub contributors
Who's writing the content for your social media sites? Is it the same person who's posting them? Are there more than one person contributing? Hashing this out ahead of time will make the process flow much smoother.

9. Develop content ahead of time
Create some of the content you need ahead of time so you aren't scrambling to find something to post/write about everyday.

10. Develop response procedure
What's your procedure if you recieve a negative comment from someone? Or even a positive one? Determine how you handle questions and comments from your audience.

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Ten Things a Nonprofit Should Do Before Setting Up Social Media

The Conversation Prism

Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media Part One & Part Two

Budgeting for Social Media Part One & Part Two