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!

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