Social Media for Nonprofits Forum

Hey Everyone!

I felt there was a need for a dialogue to be happening regarding social media and nonprofits, where people can share ideas, connect with each other and chat about the struggles and successes of fundraising.

That's why I've created a Social Media for Nonprofits area at Ning.

Ning is a great social media program that lets you participate in discussion forums, write your own blog posts and notes and chat about what's going on. If you are interested, sign up and we can get chatting about nonprofits!

News Roundup-Feb. 27th

Hello Everyone! Hope there's a great weekend in everyone's future!

Here's a roundup of the news this week:

Calculating Twitter's ROI
Creating a Social Media Roadmap
Reality Check on Twitter
Social Media Marketing
Measuring the Results of Social Media Participation
Social Media Marketing and Web 2.0
Social Media Driven Fundraising

I promise next week to have less Social Media news and more diversity! Stay tuned for a blog post this afternoon!

Client Stories on the Web

I've had the recent opportunity to assess a number of nonprofit websites recently and I have noticed a trend. Whether good or bad, many of these websites have something missing that is glaringly obvious: client stories.

Most impart their mission and vision, talk about the programs they offer but offer up no client stories.

What's so powerful about a client story?

A client story puts a face to your organization. It's often said that organizations don't raise money, people do. I truly believe this. Adding client stories to your website can only enhance your content and encourage donors to give more.

Think about direct mail. Charities will oftentimes use client stories as the anchor point for the intent of their letter. The same can be done with the web.

What about privacy?

It's a good question and one that you have to respect. If the client doesn't wish to have their name used, don't do it. But that doesn't mean you can't still share their story. Ask your clients if they would be willing, and if so, put it out there.

So put your client stories out there for your donors to see! I ensure you, you will receive more donations and more donors.

More Stuff: To sign up for the monthly marketing newsletter, full of tips and tricks, send an email here.

The Ups and Downs of Email Campaigns

Yesterday, as part of a launch of my business, Synthesis Communications, I sent out an email campaign. The email went out to several thousand email addresses and was pulled off with (almost) nary a hitch. It got me thinking about the ups and downs of launching email campaigns and what you can do to avoid mistakes.

1.Take Your Time
The email is done. The data's been collected. You are all ready to start mail merging and get this email out there. It's important to put aside that excitement and take your time in sending out the email. One little mistake can cause lots of problems.

2. Focus
How many times have you done mail merge before? Regardless of the number, I like to go through the process like I've never done it before. It allows me to focus on every step. This is imperative to insure that you don't miss something.

3. Avoid the Lull
I had about 25 files that I had to merge yesterday. It took longer than I thought I and found myself not checking the steps as thoroughly as I did when I first started. Avoiding the lull that any menial task comes with, will allow you to make less, or even no, mistakes.

4. Double and Triple Check
Sometimes when you've been looking at things for a long time, your brain glazes over and it looks as if everything is fine. Take the time to double check that your information and graphics are all in the right place before you start the merge. And then check it throughout the merging process as well. For example, I found a grevious error part way through my mail merge yesterday that was not there when I did my check at the beginning.

5. Be Prepared for Non-Deliverables
As my email campaign was sending, my inbox was being flooded with emails that were marked undeliverable.Make sure that your inbox can handle these messages. Also, don't get concerned when you see them all pile in. Take time later to note the ones that didn't work and update your records.

Email campaigns can be a lot of work, but are worth it in the end! Have you had good or bad experiences with email campaigns (or mail merge in general)? Share below!

Are e-newsletters a waste of time?

I recently read this interesting article that commented on how Obama's strategist believes the e-newsletter is dead. Instead, short personalized emails are the answer.

I'm not sure if I'm in complete agreement with this. Whereas I think personalized emails are a great idea, many organizations don't have the time for such a venture. An e-newsletter is better than nothing at all. It's important to keep in contact with your donors. As well, an e-newsletter can highlight the most recent news, stories you want to share, and more.

Does your organization have an e-newsletter? Do you find it effective or a waste of time? Leave your comments below and answer the poll on the main page.

Introducing Synthesis Communications

I am pleased to introduce Synthesis Communications, the brainchild of my business partner and I. Synthesis Communications is dedicated to helping small businesses and non-profit organizations to enhance brand recognition and achieve success.

This has been several months in the making and we are truly excited to share this venture with everyone.

Features of our website include:

About Us



and a Communications Checkup where you can receive a free analysis about your communications materials.

Feel free to drop us a note on the Contact page to share your thoughts and sign up for the mailing list, where you will receive media tips and tricks, free articles and more.

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The Conversation Prism

As I was looking through my notes from Podcamp, I came across a scribble to check out the conversation prism by Brian Solis. When I googled it, I found an incredible resource for social media. The Conversation Prism breaks down all the social media tools available and places them in seperate categories. It's definitely helpful in sorting out what social media tools you should explore.

Here's what it looks like: (Click on the image to see a larger version)
It can seem overwhelming at first, but what it essentially does is give you options beyond the usual social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc).

So consider checking out some of these tools and see if they work for you.

5 Things I Learned From Podcamp

I attended a free conference this weekend called Podcamp. I had heard about it through Twitter and thought I would give it a shot. While I thought it was going to be an interesting conference, (or unconference as it's called), I didn't realize how inspiring and motivating it would be. I came away re-energized and focused about social media, nonprofits and my own business.

5 Things I Learned:

1. Nonprofits and Social Media are made for each other
As I talked through the day on Saturday about what I do for a living and how I believe nonprofits and social media are a good fit, I became more and more assured of the fact. I truly believe that nonprofits, especially small nonprofits, can leverage social media to increase donations, connect with prospects and most importantly, build a community.
2. Everything you do on the 'net can be tracked
I attended a great session by Sean Power (@seanpower) entitled Stalking Your Audience for Fun & Profit. It was incredible the amount of things you can discover about people by tracking them through the internet. Ireceived tons of great links and ideas.
3. It's important to think about the ethics of social media
When I walked into the Ethics and Social Media session by Dave Fleet (@davefleet), I was never expecting to have a hearty discussion about the consquences of ghost blogging. As a writer, I've done ghost blogging for several companies. It was interesting to hear the points from the other side. I think it's a topic that you can debate forever, but it opened up my mind to other ethical issues with social media and how they should be handled.
4. Ideas come from everywhere
One of the best things about a conference like this, is that even if you are hearing information you've heard before, it may spur something new. I spent several sessions jotting down ideas for my business and this blog. I recommend attending as many conferences as you can. It can help you jump start your brain and make you think of things you've never thought of before.
5.It's all about the people
Networking has such an ominous tone to me. It sounds too serious and a little intimidating. What I did instead was meet a ton of people from a variety of backgrounds and businesses. Some potential clients, others colleagues and mentors. Everyone I met was friendly and open to discussion.
Podcamp was a breather from the work, a chance to connect and a way to lasso those mythical beasts; creativity and inspiration.

Connecting With Your Donors

A non-profit organization is a busy place. There's always so many things to do and never enough time to deal with them. My nonprofit experience has been primarily with small organizations.

At the organization where I worked, I was the fundraiser and the administrator. That meant donations processing, tax receipts and various other administrative duties. It was during my work there that I forgot the primary reason for my being there: the donors.

It was so easy to get caught up in the work of the organization and forget who allowed you to be there.

Donors, like the staff and board, make up an organization. They are an integral part of it and yet many donors don't hear from their charitable organizations enough.

Think of your donors like you would close family or friends. Would you only contact them once a year? Would you just spout the news or would you really share what was going on?

Now, I'm not saying to share everything with the donors, but rather share the important things.

Here's some tips:

1. Connect Your Donors with Your Clients

I believe that every piece of communications that a nonprofit produces should have the aim of connecting their donors with their clients in some way or another. Whether it's a direct mail campaign, newsletter or blog, donors want to know who they are donating to.

2. Share News, Even When It's Not Perfect

This one's tricky. Clearly you don't want to report to your donors that you are failing at your mission, however I believe that it's also important to share with your donors that you aren't perfect. This is an organization, not a robot, and things are bound to go wrong. Sharing that you haven't reached your fundraising goal may spur on donations. It's all about the way you spin the information.

3. Connect the Donors With You

You are a part of this organization and as the development officer/fundraiser/executive director you play an important part. Try to connect with your donors online or in person so they can put a face to the hard work that you've been doing.

4. Ask Your Donors What They Want

This seems simple enough, yet it can be very tricky and time consuming. Let's say you have 500 donors. Are you really going to ask every single one of them how many times they would like to recieve communications a year or whether they would be interested in online giving? That's alot of work and alot of data to collect. You can segment your list and poll major donors or do a random selection. Try approaching donors at a fundraising event or sending an online survey. They will be appreciative that you asked them for their opinion.

So what ways do you connect with your donors? Share below.

Getting your Board on board with social media Part Two

Welcome to part two of Getting Your Board on board. You can find part one here:

Social Media is an enigma to many. There are so many buzz words and applications that it can be confusing at times. When talking to your board about social media, it's not just about explaining it to them, but involving them as well.
That's the brillance of social media. It's about involving others and creating a community; perfect for nonprofits.

So how do you involve your board?
First, examine what social media applications you want to use. Is it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a Blog? Whatever application, there's opportunities for both your non-profit and it's board to utilize these to reach out to more donors.

1. Facebook
Facebook has alot of potential for nonprofits, not just to broaden the awareness of their cause, but to expand their donors through prospect research. When asked about whether they have any connections that could have an organization, most people respond in the negative. However, this same person could have 100 Facebook friends who may be willing to give the cause. It's an opportunity to see who you board and staff knows and to spread the word.

So when you are setting up the Facebook page for your organization, recommend that each of your board members sign up for Facebook as well and link to the organization. Better yet, try to get them to post on the Facebook page and help keep it active. But even if they just have a profile, that allows you to see who they are connected with.

2. Blog
Does your organization have a blog? When was the last time you had a board member make a post? What's great about blogs is that they give your organization and the people in it a voice. Donors want to hear about your programs but also about your people. Hearing a story from a board member about why they are committed to your organization can only help you. Board members are experts so try getting an article or two out of them regarding the issues your organization is fighting for. Plus, you will get more traffic to your blog when your board members showcase their blog post to family and friends.

3. LinkedIn
Like Facebook, LinkedIn shows you how many 'connections' a person has. However, LinkedIn is more business like, so it's much more likely you will find some serious business contacts on here. These are great for determining new corporate and major gift donors. You can also create a page on LinkedIn for your organization which your board members can showcase to their connections.

These are just a few suggestions to get your board started with social media. Getting them involved will make your case for venturing down the path of social media that much easier.

Good luck!

News Roundup-Feb. 18th, 2009

As a result of a great discussion on, I came away with some interesting links that I wanted to share:

If I Started Today by Chris Brogan This is a great article about assessing your audience and coming up with a strategy.

PEW Report This is a great report that really gets into details about how social media provides a return on investment.

A Brief Guide to Web 2.0 This has a breakdown of the major sites and lingo/buzzwords.

Related Articles: Getting your Board on board with Social Media

Creating a Blogging Strategy

How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Their Advantage

Getting your Board on board with social media

Let's imagine that you are gung ho about social media. You're on Twitter, you love Facebook and you can't get enough of blogging.

You can see the potential that this has for your nonprofit organization, so you present your ideas to your Executive Director/Board only to be on the receiving end of some blank stares.

How do you convince your board that this is a viable fundraising solution?

The first thing I would recommend is to anticipate. When you are putting together your pitch, try to list all of the objections you think they would have and prepare counter arguments. A perfect example: I was working for a nonprofit and was introducing the concept of monthly giving to the organization. I had expected little resistance and went in with an idea in my head about how the conversation would go.

What I had not expected was the board chair to be completely against the idea, calling it manipulative and unnecessary. I was so thrown off course that my arguments were weak and I became flustered. It's important to remember that what you may think is a great idea, others will look upon with disdain.

Secondly, it's important to quantify. Be detailed about the number of hours it will take and the expected ROI (Return on Investment). This will assuage many fears about this being a viable fundraising option. What if you aren't sure yourself though? It may be hard to get a definite ROI from Social Media, so instead be prepared to showcase how you would track the data to determine if it's being useful.

I would also recommend avoiding using buzz words or industry words, even ones you may think everyone would know. Those who don't have Facebook, don't know the difference between a group or a page, those who don't have Twitter, don't know what a Tweet is.

Pitch it to them successfully and half the battle is done.

Stay tuned for part two of Board and Social Media tomorrow!

Related Articles: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Their Advantage

News RoundUp

As I change the news of the day links, I'm reticent to remove them so instead I decided I would create a post that would list the links every week of the articles that I've found.

Here are this week's:

Why Social Media Works For Nonprofits
Online Campaigners Voice Social Consciousness
7 Ways to Be Worth Following on Twitter
Facebook Stats
Twitter Talk May Come At a Cost
How Do You Measure Sucess on Social Media?
Twitter Raises Thousands of Dollars
Brainstorming: Friend or Foe?
Why Philanthropy Wins in a Web 2.0 Culture

New Features

Hello All! Happy Friday!

Just wanted to share with you a couple of new features that are popping up on the site. The first is the News of the Day section on the left hand side. Featuring the latest marketing and media news of the day, this section is a great way to get all your marketing news in one place. Don't worry about wading through everything that's out there; I'll do it for you.

The other new area is Book Review. In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing marketing and media books for non-profit organizations.

Upcoming Blog Posts include:
Getting your Board on board with Social Media
Email versus Print Newsletters
Setting up an Email Campaign
Glossary of Social Media terms

If there are any topics you are interested in, please let me know and I will discuss!

Also, if you would like to receive my monthly newsletter full of nonprofit marketing tips and tricks, please email:

Guarding Your Communications

This just appeared in the Globe and Mail! (Thanks to J-Source for the tip via Twitter)

The details are these: The Southern Chiefs Association are alleging that racist and hateful comments have been posted on the CBC website in the forum. Now the CBC's forum is moderated, meaning that technically those comments should not have been posted. As the moderator of my own message board, I can see quite easily how messages can be missed.

So how does this affect non-profits? This immediately made me think about blog moderation. If you have a blog that recieves comments, will you choose to moderate them all? If so, have you alloted the time to do so?

It's just another step you have to think of when planning out your blog.

Learning from the mistakes of others

Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are changing communications, however it's important to remember that like any public thing, you should be careful what you say.

A National Post reporter and a marketing professional got into a cat fight on Twitter. Their fight was displayed for all to see and neither of them ended up looking quite professional, in my opinion. This is a perfect example of how widespread information is on the internet.

It's so important to be careful with everything you say and when and how you choose to say it.

If you have a Facebook or Twitter account that is personal, then ensure that you don't mix business in along with it. If you have a business account, keep it that way. That doesn't mean you can't share facts about yourself and your day; just remember who you are writing for.

I've struggled with finding the balance on Twitter between serious business and fun. I would recommend putting together a creative brief or strategy about what tone you want to set and topics you want to comment about. This will serve as a guideline of sorts that you can reference when needed.

Writing The Perfect Email Subject Line

I'm in the midst of developing an email campaign for my business, Synthesis Communications. When it came to developing the email, the message flowed fairly easily. I knew what I wanted to say and communicated it effectively. I was quite proud of myself until I became stumped by the subject line.

The subject line for an email is the first thing a reciever sees, so it's important that it stands out.

Some stats first:

  • According to a study by the American Management Association, U.S.workers spend an average of 1 hour and 47 minutes per day dealing withemail.Eight percent spent more than four hours a day dealing with email.
  • Average attention span for internet users is 9 seconds.
  • There are billions of emails sent every day.

So how do you stand out from the rest? One way is by creating an enticing subject line. There are a few types of subject lines that you can use.

The first is the Direct Subject Line. These subject lines tell you exactly what the email contains, whether it's for you to sign up for something or an annoucement.

Examples: Romeo and Juliet Advance Three-Day Seat Sale, Today's WeatherDirect Forecast for Toronto

Another is the Advertising Subject Line. These subject lines are used to entice you to buy. Often they have exclamation points and promise exciting things within the email.

Examples: F-R-E-E!, And the Winner is...Lindsey, It’s not too late to voice your opinion!

The last type is the Question Subject Line. This is when you pose a question in order to get people interested in what you have to say. Creating a question that makes people think gives them all the more reason to click on your email.

Examples: Still waiting to connect?, Is your funding plan recession proof?

Whatever subject line you choose, make sure it fits your email content. Brainstorm with others to get ideas about what it should include. Keep it short and simple and avoid industry-specific words.


The Smartest Brands in Social Media

Got this article of of's Twitter. Very interesting!

Habitat For Humanity Founder Dies

I found this link today and was immediately saddened:

I worked on Habitat builds for several years when I was in university and enjoyed the entire experience. Millard Fuller was example of amazing philanthropy and a great human being.


Twitter is the hot new thing but many non-profits are wondering if it can actually be used for their organizations.

Look no further than Twestival!

According to their website:
On 12 February 2009 175+ cities around the world will be hosting Twestivals which bring together Twitter communities for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water.

Here's the Toronto website, where you can get all the information:

And a great article from one of the organizers about how Twitter can help raise money:

Creating a Blogging Strategy For Your Non-Profit

I am in the middle of creating a blogging strategy for this blog. Why do I need one? Well, it's important when planning out your blog to create a list of possible topics that you are going to blog about. Rather than posting them as you think of them, it's wise to create a blogging strategy.

Here are my steps for creating a good blog strategy:

1. Assess your audience.
Think about who you want to read your blog. If it's donors, what would they want from a blog? What makes a good blog and why should they read it? Brainstorm ideas to make it interesting and new.

2. Create a list of topics.
What do you want to talk about? Write down the top ten categories you want to discuss on your blog.

3. Create a list of blog posts.
Take each one of the topics and brainstorm as many blog post ideas as possible. You don't have to come up with the whole post, but rather just the titles. This will give you a jumping off point to write your posts.

4. Determine what should be posted at what times.
Examine your topics and look at ones that closely tie together. Rather than writing about one topic until you've exhausted it, tackle several topics at once. If you only have a few topics, rotate them so that blog readers get a bit of everything.

5. Make your strategy flexible.
You don't want to have too rigid a schedule that you can't post some news when it comes along or an interesting article you find. Just use it as a guideline as to what should be posted.

A strategy will definitely take the stress away from blog posting and free up time for your other work.
More Stuff: Receive a copy of the monthly newsletter by emailing:

Tech Soup

Tech Soup, a non-profit blog that has good advice about the tech side of fundraising, has now created a Canadian version! Here's the link:

If you click on Learning Centre, there's articles posted about a variety of things including disclaimers, spam and more!

Charities Still Doing Business According to Globe and Mail

I found this article via Imagine Canada's Twitter and found it very interesting. Basically, it states that organizations are still receiving donations, despite the economic crunch.

It raises the question; is the economy in Canada as bad as we think?

And how does this affect smaller, local charities?

I have no doubt this is a debate that will continue to happen throughout the year.

For me, I feel it's more important than ever for charities to present themselves in the best manner possible for donors. This means whether it's your direct mail campaign, newsletter or website, ensure that your donors are getting the most out of your communications.

What Blogs Should You Be Reading?

Happy Monday Everyone!

There's an inordinate number of blogs out there, ready to give you advice on fundraising and marketing. But which ones should you spend your time on?

This weekend I googled for blogs and came up with a list of ones I thought were good:

AFP News Blog: This blog features all the recent charitable news in one place.

A Small Change: With practical fundraising tips, this blog can be very useful.

Wild Apricot: A good technology blog that's geared towards non-profits.

Donor Power Blog: A great blog about looking at things from the donor's perspective.

So there's a few to get you started. I find it interesting though, the lack of Canadian blogs out there that are geared towards non-profits. If anyone knows of Canadian blogs (beside mine), please let me know in the comments below.

The more information out there, the better!

Hope everyone has a great day!

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Most Popular Posts

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