Tag Archives: cause marketing

Finally! Online Community Giving Blitz Comes to Sacramento


In 2011, I wrote about Washington DC’s “Give to the Max” online fundraising blitz, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for something like that to come to Sacramento. This Monday, April 29, that moment arrives as Give Local Now, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, For Arts’ Sake, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Nonprofit Resource Center bring us the Arts Day of Giving. As happy as I am for the arts organizations that will benefit, I’m even more excited about what it potentially means for all local nonprofits. I caught up with Susan Frazier of Give Local Now to learn more about the event — and the progress of Give Local Now’s efforts to energize local giving.

Let’s start with the basics: what do you want people to do on April 29?

We want them to go onto givelocalnow.com, where they will be redirected to a special giving page. The page will be up over the weekend but they won’t be able to donate until 4:29 a.m. on Monday, April 29. It’s very simple and quick to get to a list of nonprofits and pick the one you want to donate to. The page can handle 10,000 transactions a minute so it’s not going to slow down. Check out the tutorial about a minute in:

You can also help by spreading the word. Local arts organizations stand to win prizes including $1,000 for the organization that generates the most posts on Facebook and Twitter during the 24-hour-period, but posts must be public and use the hashtag #artsdayofgiving.

Is this the first 24-hour online giving event in the area that benefits a group of nonprofits?

It is. You have to have sophisticated technology in place, which we now have, thanks to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. The next online giving event will benefit the full sector of nonprofits, in May of next year.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been terrific. The amount of labor and investment that they’ve taken on has been stunning. It’s a real gift to the region. They both funded and staffed the development of the technology.

Technology is more and more important to nonprofits. What technology was required to make this online giving event possible?

We integrated two pieces of existing technology: a database and an ecommerce/campaign tool. The database comes from Guidestar; they branded it as DonorEdge but we renamed it GivingEdge. The secure ecommerce/campaign tool provides the landing page for the day, which will instantly track and display each donation and all kinds of statistics as the day goes along. You’ll be able to tell which nonprofits are getting what and how we’re doing against our goal.

The database allows donors to see really robust information about a nonprofit’s programs, financials, management and governance. We only have the arts organizations profiles now but by fall we hope to have good representation of all sectors of the local nonprofit community. While Guidestar includes all IRS-registered nonprofits, those organizations will have to choose to complete a profile for GivingEdge. The database shines a lot of light and transparency on organizations.

What do you hope will be raised for the arts?

We hope to raise as much as $500,000. We have $100,000 in matching donations from a variety of corporate sponsors and businesses and restaurants that are offering discounts or freebies to contributors who show a receipt for their donation via print out or on their smart phone. And this was just added: Bistro 33 locations are offering a 20% discount to donors and Harv’s Car Wash will provide a free wash. We’re deeply grateful for the support of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Western Health Advantage, Wells Fargo Bank, Barry and Lynda Keller, Enlow and Mel Ose Endowment for the Arts, Safe Credit Union, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and the Jean Runyon Endowment for the Arts Fund, which will give a cash prize of $1,767 to the arts organization that raises the most overall during the event.

Why the particular focus on the arts?

The original initiative idea came from “For Arts’ Sake,” through Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office. They thought it would be a great use of their initiative and they knew they couldn’t do it alone.

What are you hearing from local nonprofits about their fundraising success as the local economy begins to slowly improve?

I’m hearing about a slight uptick, but there’s also a lot of concern among donors. As one donor said to me, “Darn, I thought this economic downturn would get rid of some of these nonprofits.” What’s behind that is some skepticism about whether the sector has too much duplication. Nonprofits are really frustrated with that, that they may not be able to attract donors, often because of a misperception. That’s something that this database can help with. It may show that they fill a need that other nonprofits do not, or suggest opportunities for collaboration.

What’s next for Give Local Now?

We’re gearing up with a bunch of different strategies. One of them is the nonprofit capacity piece, working through the Nonprofit Resource Center to build fundraising skills of nonprofits and their Boards through training, and to make them better stewards of the resources they have. We can help them with their message about why they’re worthy to invest in, as opposed to “help us because we’re desperate.” We’ve written a grant for a series of training sessions that will bring executive directors and Boards together to help them understand fund development better – their different roles and responsibilities as well as best practice strategies.

Another focus is measurement. In September 2011, we announced three ambitious goals: to increase the regional average of households that give to charities; increase the average household contribution of households that give; and increase the share of giving that stays here in the area vs. benefiting national or international charities. To help us track progress, we’re developing a set of measures using nonprofit partners’ results as the data source. But first, we need to get local nonprofits on the GivingEdge tool.

The third thing we’re doing is developing a whole suite of new tools that will help local nonprofits connect with donors. We are changing out the website to have a lot more donor tools on it, and to enable donors to get a lot more information about local nonprofits.

The fourth strategy is just an awareness and outreach strategy, with an underlying idea of building regional pride. If information about the cool things that are happening here were more broadly known, there would be a greater sense of pride in philanthropy.

What are some of the cool things you’re seeing?

One example is “Reason to Party,” which organizes events benefiting a cause they select as a way for 20-somethings to have fun and donate. It’s pretty inspiring. Another is the El Dorado Giving Circle, a group of several hundred women in the foothills who contribute individually and pool their donations to make an impact on a cause they select together. The Metro Chamber’s Project Inspire is another innovative way approach to philanthropy, where anyone who donates $250 or more can participate in supporting an exciting project benefiting the Sacramento area community.

Any parting words?

There’s nothing static about Give Local Now. New ideas come in everyday. I really see it as a snowball rolling down hill that’s picking up pieces as it goes. It’s a catalyst. We’re starting to attract people that can see this as a vehicle for change.

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@goodlaura explains it all to us: Sacramento Charity Daily

In yesterday’s blog post, I shared my recent discovery of Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity Daily, which Sacramento non-profits should consider as they work to engage more people in supporting their missions.  To take advantage of Sacramento Charity Daily, non-profits have to tweet and include links to longer articles they post in blogs or on their websites.

Laura Good, a.k.a. @goodlaura, was kind enough to respond to the questions I sent her.  If you don’t know Laura, you should.  The woman has 6,819 people following her on Twitter and has sent 47,830 tweets – a number that will no doubt increase by the time you read this (no wonder the first line of her Twitter profile is “Twitter Junkie”).

Here’s a key bit of advice worth reading, as well as her full responses to my questions, below (and waaaay at the bottom some links you should check out):

My advice is that charities invest time in establishing a Facebook Page and a Twitter account, if they don’t already have one.   And once those are established, that they try to post content at least once a day during “prime time” – about 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (anecdotal—this is my own observation) Monday through Friday.  Weekends are the absolute worst time to post content as activity on both Facebook and Twitter drops way off.  Posting time is a little less important on Facebook but it is absolutely critical on Twitter.

1)      When did you launch Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity Daily to the public?

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was several months ago—maybe October or November.

2)  Your Twitter profile says you’re a program director with SARTA.org.  SARTA has a very nice website that does a great job of feeding news relevant to the organization’s technology focus.  Is that how you became interested in the potential of aggregating and feeding relevant content via the Internet?

I don’t think that what I do for SARTA influenced my decision—I was actually very passionate about the power of social media before I started working for SARTA in September of 2008.  I’ve applied my passion to SARTA’s website and social media presence as well as to my volunteer role with the Sacramento Social Media Club.  I post much of the social media content for Sacramento Social Media Club and for 2011, I am the volunteer Executive Director.  Back to the question… my primary interest area in social media is in connecting the community/building community.  I follow/friend people and organizations in the Sacramento region and promote causes and events I think would be of interest to those in the region via Facebook and Twitter.  I have a particular heart for philanthropic organizations* and try to use my social media influence to help promote them.  This is why I created the sac-charity Twitter list and the Sacramento Charity Daily.

(*Laura later clarified that she loves animals and animal-related causes fall within her definition.)

3)      Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity Daily appear to be running on a platform called paper.li developed by SmallRivers.  (Nice looking, by the way.)  Did you reach out and find SmallRivers or did they reach out to you?

I found out about paper.li through a tweet from someone I follow on Twitter and then did a little research on my own about the application.  I started the Sacramento Daily News first, as I had already cultivated a pretty good list of local media on Twitter and then began cultivating the Sacramento Charity list with the idea of promoting them via the paper.li app.  A lot of the “papers” created are a bit worthless in my opinion – for example you can create one that aggregates information from everyone you follow on Twitter.  I want my papers to have a real focus and be of value to those who take the time to click on the promo tweet and then read them. This is why I’ve only created paper.li papers from my cultivated lists.  I also have one called “Sac Family Fun Daily.”  The goal for that paper is to promote activities in the Sacramento region that families might enjoy.

4)      Why did you decide to create Sacramento Charity Daily as a separate online news channel, vs. making it a component of Sacramento News Daily?

Sacramento News Daily only includes those who are professional journalists and/or news media organizations like News10, The Sacramento Bee, etc.  I review the paper from time to time to make sure that those I’ve included on the list really are tweeting news. If they are using their twitter account for more personal reasons, I may decide to take them off the sac-media list.  Not that there is anything wrong with personal tweets—most of mine are of that nature.  I just want to make sure the “paper” really is news. I created a separate paper for Sacramento Charity Daily because I didn’t want to bury news about Sacramento Charities in the Sacramento News Daily paper.  I have 163 accounts on my sac-media list and only 48 (so far!) on my sac-charity list.  I think that each of the papers may appeal to a different audience.  People who don’t really care to see a summary of Sacramento news from Twitter may care quite a bit about what local charities are doing.

5)      Do you find all of the content you post from tweets? Or do you use other sources besides Twitter?

Paper.li allows me to create the twitter list that the ‘paper” will pull content from. There is no way for me to add other content to what is reported each day, other than creating an editorial note (which I have not yet done).

6)      And now for advice. Most nonprofits post news on their websites.  How do they let you know when they’ve posted something interesting?  And, pragmatically, is the link to the organization website good enough, even though there will likely be other stuff on the page?

As you see from my answer to Question 4 there isn’t a way for me to add info from outside of what an organization tweets.  If they have a twitter account (and are based in the Sacramento region) they should let me know so I can follow them and add them to my sac-charity list. Then, they should tweet at least daily including links (paper.li only includes tweets with links to web content).  I don’t include all regional non-profits on my sac-charity list. I am primarily looking to promote philanthropic organizations that help individuals.  Originally, my list was broader than that but I’m working to fine tune it.  I have added some national charities that were “nominated” by Sacramentans to be included on the list but as more Sacramento based charities are added, I may remove them. For now, I also have non-profits that support the arts in Sacramento on the list.

Sacramento is Number 4 in the nation for  business use of Twitter. It makes sense for charities in this region to have a presence on Twitter because our community is so engaged on Twitter.  My advice is that charities invest time in establishing a Facebook Page and a Twitter account, if they don’t already have one.   And once those are established, that they try to post content at least once a day during “prime time” – about 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (anecdotal—this is my own observation) Monday through Friday.  Weekends are the absolute worst time to post content as activity on both Facebook and Twitter drops way off.  Posting time is a little less important on Facebook but it is absolutely critical on Twitter.

7)      Are you the editorial decision maker?  Or is the process automated?

The process is automatic on paper.li. The only editorial decisions I make is who is on my sac-charity list and what time the paper is produced/broadcast via twitter each day.  I don’t even decide which twitter users from within the list will be featured in the daily tweet.  The good news about this limitation is that I can spread the word about charities with very little effort on my part, other than cultivating a good Twitter list.  I can add an editorial comment to the paper but I’ve never done that.  There is also an option to create a paper using different criteria than a twitter list – #tags for instance.  And there is a more advanced feature I have yet to try that lets you specify who to include and to filter on key words.

8)      What kind of content are you looking for?

It’s my hope that charitable organizations within the region will tweet about their cause and include links to web content that further explains their cause, activities, fund raising campaigns, events, etc.

9)      What length should news items be to be most compatible with re-posting on your daily news sites?

I don’t think this matters in what paper.li decides to include.  The key is that it is web content and a link to the content is tweeted.

10)      What do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t?

A lot of charitable organizations have limited resources – both people and funding. Social media is a low cost way to both share the message and to engage with those who care about your cause.  You don’t have to be an expert to create a Facebook page or a Twitter account—nor do you have to pay an expert to do it for you. If you’d like some advice, there are many low cost and even free seminars that provide tips on how to create an effective Facebook Page or Twitter account.  The Sacramento Social Media Club has monthly events and quarterly workshops that do just this.  There is a lot of great content on the internet on how non-profits can effectively use social media.  I also recommend that non-profits look at how other non-profits are successfully using social media and learn from them.  And  a final tip – if a charitable organization has a Facebook Page or Twitter Account, it should be featured on the home page of their website with a link to “Like” or “Follow.”

Additional info:

My Twitter account:


Sacramento Social Media Club

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/SMCSac

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/SMCSAC

Links to My Twitter Lists mentioned in this article:




Links to my Paper.li “papers”




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Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity News


I’m always on the hunt for local communication channels that nonprofits can use to inform and build relationships with target audiences, especially as traditional news resources have dried up.  I found a new one (new to me at least), and I wanted you to know about it.  It’s Sacramento News Daily.


I dusted off my Twitter account yesterday, and lo and behold, saw this tweet from @goodlaura:


I checked it out and, at first blush, it didn’t look that different than outside.in and some of the other Internet-based news aggregators.  So I asked Laura to explain how it added value.

She tweeted back: The information is gathered from those on my sac-media twitter list. It’s a daily summary of Sacramento region news.

And then: Not everyone will find value in it but a number of people have advised me that they enjoy reading it.

And then:  I also have a paper.li “paper” for my sac-charity list. Because I have a lot of Sac followers, it helps spread their msg [She later sent the link to it.]

She also told me, via direct message: I want to start coaching the charities on my list to tweet relevant links daily so they will be included but haven’t yet.

Check back here for a post of an email interview with Laura.  Inquiring minds want to know a little about the back story and more about how to jump aboard:

1) When did you launch Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity Daily to the public?

2) Your Twitter profile says you’re a program director with SARTA.org.  SARTA has a very nice website that does a great job of feeding news relevant to the organization’s technology focus.  Is that how you became interested in the potential of aggregating and feeding relevant content via the Internet?

3)  Sacramento News Daily and Sacramento Charity Daily appear to be running on a platform called paper.li developed by SmallRivers.  (Nice looking, by the way.)  Did you reach out and find SmallRivers or did they reach out to you?

4)  Why did you decide to create Sacramento Charity Daily as a separate online news channel, vs. making it a component of Sacramento News Daily?

5)  Do you find all of the content you post from tweets? Or do you use other sources besides Twitter?

6)  And now for advice. Most nonprofits post news on their websites.  How do they let you know when they’ve posted something interesting?  And, pragmatically, is the link to the organization website good enough, even though there will likely be other stuff on the page?

7)  Are you the editorial decision maker?  Or is the process automated?

8)  What kind of content are you looking for?

9)  What length should news items be to be most compatible with re-posting on your daily news sites?

10)  What do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t?



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9 things I’ll be adding to my social media taxonomy

Does the social media world feel like a food fight to anyone else?

Almost a year ago, I blogged about a social media taxonomy chart I created to sort through the cacophony of noise about social media.

I found it useful on a couple of fronts.  First, it helped me to understand more clearly what were tools for using social media, and what were the actual channels where two-way (or every-which-way) communication was taking place.  Secondly, it gave communicators and marketers a birds-eye view of the huge range of stuff in the social media bucket so that they could identify aspects they needed to check out and understand.

It proved to be useful during a conversation last week — or, it would have been if it had been up to date.  Things have changed!

As I begin working on the updated taxonomy, I’m turning to one of my favorite (and most prolific) sources:  Beth’s Blog.  Beth Kanter’s material is always provocative and current.  Search for tagged content, and you’re bound to find posts that will be informative and helpful.  But she writes so much and so consistently that her blog is actually a great research source.

Besides thinking about specific tools or media that I might add to the taxonomy, it struck me that several forces are driving change in the evolution of social media:

Technology innovation:  Geo-locational technology is starting to have an effect on communications, community-building and fundraising.  The adoption of mobile devices such as iphones and ipads also opens up possibilities to connect, converse and fundraise.

Social changes: It would take a sociologist or anthropologist to tell us why, but, despite the recession, there is a group of people who have been activated to try to make a difference in a very personal way.  Terms like “citizen philanthropy,” “peer-to-peer fundraising,” “individually-based fundraising,” “fundraising communities,” “charity chains,” are some of the labels that are being used for this phenomenon.  Closely related is “crowd sourcing,” efforts that encourage people to find and share stories.  And, in a tactic that may be rooted in the social appetite for celebrity as well as competitive spirit, “vote for me” or “vote for my cause” contests have provided the impetus for millions of people to reach out to their network of friends and ask them to get involved.  Lastly, some people speculate that social expectations of charities is undergoing change.  Beth Kanter, in a nod to Peter Dietz, founder of SocialActions, commented:  donors in an age of social media, will come to your organization with the expectation of being full partners in your work, not just an ATM machine to be tapped when cash is needed.

Business model changes: We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but many social media enterprises have lacked a means of raising adequate revenue to cover expenses.  Ning, a tool for creating like-minded groups, ended its free lunch earlier this year, affecting many schools and non-profits who had relied upon it as a platform for community-building.  Some new social media approaches involve a trade that solves the business model problem: you give me something valuable (like your shopping data), and I’ll do something you value (like give money to a charitable cause).

I’ll be revisiting my social media taxonomy to figure out where these specific tools or examples fit:

FoursquareI like what Beth Kanter had to say about itThink of it as a social network where your status up(date) is not what you’re doing, but where you are.  Think about how dogs update their location. At the Self-Directed Learning Circle meeting last week, David Lowe of KVIE declared himself mayor of building where the Nonprofit Resource Center has its office.  In the same vein as Foursquare, Gowalla.

Green Map marries crowd sourcing with mapping technology and lets eco-minded folks co-create a map of eco-friendly spots.  (Sacramento Tree Foundation, be thinking about this!)

CauseWorld uses geo-location technology to arrange an exchange between merchants and cause-minded shoppers; karma points are earned by shoppers when they walk into stores, which the merchant converts into donations to a cause.

The Facebook “like button” that effectively turns any website – any registered URL – into a Facebook fan page.  By “liking” a page that has been registered, the organization publishes right into Facebook update streams.

Zoetica is collecting tons of information about causes and making it available via an itunes app.  If you’re familiar with mashable.com (which I love), it’s kind of like mashable on itunes.  What’s social about it is how people share and comment on the content.

Twitcause says it helps nonprofits get discovered on Twitter.  Beth published an interesting guest post in January that’s worth checking out.

Then there’s a bunch of tools that support peer-to-peer fundraising:  Ammado, firstgiving, SocialAction (and MySocialAction).

Facebook is now the 800-lb. gorilla.  Though it’s not a reality yet, here’s the backlash product I’ve been watching for, Diaspora, a Faceb00k-like tool that puts you in control of the privacy of your data.  An article about it is the headline on mashable.com as I write this.

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So what’s a good benchmark for local nonprofits’ Facebook fan count?

It's time to "cowboy up" on Facebook!

Yesterday I posted about Sutter Health’s remarkable growth in Facebook fans.  A loyal reader commented (via email) that it was hard for him to judge how many fans is good.

This led me to wonder about benchmarks for Facebook fan pages of local nonprofits, and to think about the broader value of Facebook fan counts.

So, what’s a good number for a local nonprofit’s fan base?

Here’s my takeaway:  between 500 and 1,000 is good, even very good.  1,000 is a great goal for a local nonprofit.  Sutter Health’s fan base may not really qualify as local as they have facilities dispersed throughout the region.  But their number of fans, and their growth, is something to be aspired to.

Everything I’ve ever seen published about Facebook fan numbers has focused on national or global organizations, not a lot of help for nonprofits in a much smaller pond.  I asked Steve Heath, President and CEO of United Way of the California Capital Region, for a list of larger local nonprofits.  Then I went spelunking on Facebook.

Below is a report on what I found.  What was most noticeable was the disparity between the fan bases, and the lack of correlation between frequency of posts and fans.  The two nonprofits with the largest fan bases do have campaigns underway that are well known:  the Crocker is doing a big expansion, and it’s a tourist destination.  (Yes, tourists do come to Sacramento.)  And Loaves and Fishes has a gigantic fundraising run in which 28,000 people participate.  So those visible activities may have something to do with their success on Facebook.

#1 Crocker Art Museum:  4,561 fans, posts ~1-2 times/week

#2 Loaves and Fishes:  1,318 fans, posts 2-3 times/week… also has 463 fans on its Run to Feed the Hungry fan page

Susan G. Komen – Sacramento Valley Affiliate:  977 fans, posts ~3 times/week

WEAVE:  645 fans, posts infrequently

American Red Cross – Sacramento Sierra Chapter:  511 fans, posts ~1 time/day

Volunteers of America – Greater Sacramento:  294 fans, posts ~3 times/day

St. John’s Shelter:  231 fans, posts infrequently

Salvation Army – Del Oro Division:  214 fans, posts ~1-2 times/week

The SPCA, which Steve suggested, does not seem to have a Facebook fan page.

What does the number of fans have to do with exposure and engagement?

The real value of Facebook may be its value as an amplifier.  I’ll use myself as an example. I use Facebook selectively, so I only have 124 people that I’ve “friended.”  (Daughter Maddie has 851.)  At any given time, Facebook tells me that about five of my friends are on line.  (They might be in the bathroom, but Facebook thinks they’re updating away).  So instead of reaching just one person when my favorite cause posts, a nonprofit reaches me and any of my friends who are cruising around on my profile to get more skinny or check out my photos.  An organization with 500 fans reaches some subset of active users, and some of their friends.  Theoretically, my friends may be more interested in the cause because they can see it’s something that I believe in.  So even if a cause reaches a smaller number of people through Facebook, its message may have greater influence than an impersonal media outlet.

M+R Strategic Services recently published its annual social benchmarking report, which focused on Facebook and Twitter.  The Facebook findings were based on only five organizations, but there were some interesting tidbits.  M+R looked at how many people looked at the fan page each time the organization posted on Facebook; an average of just over a half percent (0.56%) of fans clicked on the status update and actually looked at the fan page each time the organization posted.  The study also looked at interaction. How many fans “liked” something, or commented (either to an organizational post or another fan’s post)?  On average, 2.5% of an organization’s fans used the Facebook tools to do something (e.g. “like” or comment).

  • The average monthly fan growth rate was 3.75%, which far outstrips national benchmarks for email list growth.
  • The annual “churn” rate – fans who click a button to “remove me from fans” or who hide status updates – averaged out at 24% per year.  That’s greater than national benchmarks for email list churn, but the in-flow still exceeds the out-go by a considerable proportion.
  • Participating organizations posted an average of 6 times/week.

My take

Facebook is valuable now, but I think it will become an increasingly important channel for nonprofits to build relationships with potential supporters.

What’s your experience?


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One year later: media changes and what it means for non-profit PR

Jordan Blair, Board member, has helped develop RCFB's social media capability

Last year, I wrote a series of posts on the good, the bad and the ugly, referring to the virtual collapse of the news industry and what it means for non-profits that rely on “earned” media for exposure.  As I reflect on the success of yesterday’s Empty Bowls event benefiting River City Food Bank here in Sacramento, I thought I’d pass along some observations about what worked and why.

But first, some trend info.  Two months ago, Vocus*, a program that integrates news monitoring, media targeting/list management and other tools, released a free analysis called “State of the Media.”  A few highlights:

  • 230 newspaper weeklies shut down in 2009 along with 14 dailies
  • TV stations that didn’t close sought ways to cut costs.  They began sharing news footage and cut to skeleton crews.  To retain viewers and fill content holes, Vocus media analysts suggest that stations will gravitate toward a less news-based format
  • Radio stations’ advertising revenue has fallen short, causing stations to reduce local programming and rely more on syndicated shows.  On the other hand, streaming has grown by leaps and bounds.
  • Newspaper, magazines, TV and radio began integrating with social media.  Hard to find a reporter who’s not blogging, tweeting or on Facebook.
  • Online, locally focused news media will continue to crop up – some as non-profit journalism projects like the Bay Area News Project (just launching) or citizen journalism sites like sacramentopress.com.

Despite all of the gloomy news, Empty Bowls continues to gain momentum in terms of news coverage and participation.  Mind you, this isn’t a giant fundraiser backed by a non-profit that’s a household name here.  This is a scrappy fundraiser organized by a scrappy organization.  This year the event expanded and attracted an estimated 1,100 participants and raised $80,000.

Here’s the approach that Susan Bitar, PR chair, Jordan Blair, Board member in charge of PR, and 3Fold Communications (with a little help from yours truly) took, with good success:

  1. The organization made good use of its website, e-newsletter and its network of friends.  E-newsletters about the event achieved open rates ranging from 35-38%, with up to 40% clicking through to the website to do something (like buy tickets).  45% of attendees were first timers, and many said they heard about it from friends, the website and the e-newsletter. By the way, draft email messages were shared with the Board and committee and they were encouraged to send them to their friends.
  2. Most of the PR resources were focused on an event created for purposes of pre-publicity.  The Vocus report notes:  …”you need to be willing to bend over backward to accommodate (journalists) so they can easily meet their constantly impending deadline.”  No kidding.  We were able to get high school students to show up for media activity at 6 a.m..  One got up at 3 a.m. to do homework and get to the school in plenty of time.  (Wow, WAY different than my high school aged son!)  Around here, local news happens early.
  3. 3Fold arranged a collaboration with Yelp, which distributes an e-newsletter to more than 38,000 locals in the area.  Yelp deemed the event a sponsor (and gave it nice positioning in its newsletter) in exchange for placing Yelp logos on the website and writing about it in the e-newsletter.  3Fold also created an event in Yelp, which brought in at least two new people who heard about it that way (according to comment cards collected at the event).  Two attendees wrote glowing reviews about the event on Yelp.  And, of course, Yelp is regularly crawled by Google and Bing – so that content may end up going far afield as people search for related information.
  4. News articles were provided to organizations that are involved in some way with the event, from churches to schools.  Many people also noted that they heard about the event through their child’s school or through their church.
  5. Local celebs were invited to participate.  Not only did KCRA’s Edie Lambert delight the crowd, she brought a news camera and talked about her participation on several news cast.  But you might not have caught this:  she also did a “raw” video that was posted on the website, a wonderfully compelling testimonial.  http://www.kcra.com/video/22789636/index.html.
  6. Of course, the event was pushed through Facebook.  Photos of the event were posted immediately, along with two rough videos taken on an HD Flip Video.  (The fan page administrator just uploads into the “video” tab on the fan page site, and then clicks “share.”)
  7. The event did the basics, too, calendar listings (three months in advance), media advisories, fact sheets, specialized pitches, and so on.

As Vocus acknowledges, it’s harder to develop trusted relationships with reporters.  There are too few of them, and they’re trying to cover too many bases given the news organizations’ limited staffing.  On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to become a “content pusher.”  Find the local outlets like sacramentopress.com.  Release information so it gets picked up by search engines and regional online publications.  Feed video and photos throughout social media.

It takes a lot of leg work, but it can produce results!

*I’m not sure I trust any company that uses “leverage” and “ubiquity” in one sentence, but that’s just me (small jest there)… but here’s a little more about what Vocus says it does (for a price, of course):  “provides the ability to leverage the ubiquity of the internet to interact with the media, publish their news online where it can be found by millions, monitor news and social media conversations from virtually any source and track their results to compare them with key competitors.”

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Evaluating marketing results: a minimum for non-profits

In a small non-profit, every penny (and minute) counts (unomike2/flickr via CC license)

Large organizations typically have highly developed dashboard metrics and formats for evaluating the results of key operating divisions and staff functions.  Small non-profits often have no history of formally documenting results of fundraising and marketing activities, yet you could argue that it is even more important for them to take stock because they can’t afford to waste a dime or a minute.

Evaluation doesn’t have to be complicated.  If you did a formal fundraising or marketing plan (good for you!), report out based on the quantitative goals that you established in the plan.  If your organization is more used to using the budget as its primary management tool, you should still create a framework for evaluating what you did and how it worked.

1.  Start with the BIGGIE.  What was the fundraising goal and was it achieved?  How much over or under were you compared to last year in total dollars?  What was the total percent increase or decrease compared to prior year?

2.  Analyze important variances within your program.  For example, you may have had financial goals for five or ten tactical subcategories such as events, direct mail programs and so on.  Did they beat or fall short of expectations?  Did these subcategories grow or decrease from the year prior?

3.  Analyze important variances by segment.  You may also have established particular fundraising goals for categories of donors such as demographic groups (young donors), giving level (major individual gift givers) or organization type (individual vs. business).  Were you over or under goal?  By how much?

4.  If you established leading indicators to help you know whether activity was moving in the right or wrong direction (for example, increase or decrease in mailing list size, friends on Facebook, event attendance, etc.), take a look at where you started and ended the year.  Did things play out the way you expected?  How do your results compare to benchmarks, where they exist?

5.  List and subjectively grade all of the tactics that you spent time or money upon.  Your plan may only have included major new initiatives, but for this purpose, you should give some conscious thought to everything that absorbs staff resources or costs the organization out of pocket for purposes of fund development and communications.  Do you believe they are integral to the success of your program, or are you keeping some tactics around that are no longer adding sufficient value?   One fund development manager recently evaluated all of the tactics she implemented according to this grading system:

In hindsight, was this strategy a good use of our time based on a) return on investment of time, b) return on investment of money, and c) whether it raised awareness with a significant new audience?  An “A” rating means it met all three criteria. “B” means it fell short in one area. “C” means it fell short in two areas. “D” means it was not a good use of time. “F” means we should not repeat this strategy next year.

6.  Lastly, capture lessons learned.  In the current economic environment, there is no such thing as a sure fire approach.  Everything is an experiment.  What worked as well or better than expected?  What didn’t work as well as it has in the past, or as well as you expected?

Being “planful”, as an old colleague of mine used to put it, is an important discipline in any business.  Small non-profits may think that they don’t need to get all caught up in the exercise of evaluation.  But, with finite resources and volunteer good will, I’d argue that evaluation and basic planning is even more important than it is for large organizations.  Your evaluation becomes the impetus for a smarter, better program in the year ahead.

Who should see it?  Small non-profit boards should be asking for an evaluation of the year’s fund development and marketing efforts.  Even if they’re not, providing a 1-2 page executive summary can be an extremely helpful tool to educate the Board and frame the right kind of dialogue.  Like, dear Ms. Board member, how can you personally help introduce us to major donors next year??

P.S. Did you know that Google has over 3 million hits for “marketing evaluation template” but only less than 200,000 hits for “fund development evaluation template” or “fundraising evaluation template”?

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Can non-profits succeed in the post-apocalyptic media era?

Peter Francese of Ogilvy and Mather is making the rounds announcing the death of Joe Six Pack, the average American.  His new white paper, written for Ad Age, is looking ahead to the 2010 census, when the U.S. population is expected to surpass 300 million (yours for a mere $249).  Audiences will splinter, he says, and traditional ways of segmenting consumers – e.g. married with children – will no longer be meaningful.

Bummer.  That’s another nail in the coffin of mass media.

So why am I not depressed?  Because I work with local non-profits, which have the greatest chance of developing and managing personalized relationships to some sort of positive outcome – be it volunteering, advocacy or charitable giving.  Their smaller scale and local focus makes it possible for them to experiment with new forms of outreach.

Here are two examples of wonderful things that have happened for a small non-profit just in the last week:

1.  The organization invited several hundred people to attend an event – for free.  This was a means of expanding their circle of friends.  A number of people came as guests who had never heard about the organization.  The group was decidedly younger, on average, than attendees at past gatherings.  And here’s the kicker.  Unsolicited, the organization received more in donations than the cost of the party.

2.  The organization continues to have steady, moderate growth on Facebook.  More importantly, Facebook is helping the organization to reach a younger, connected constituency (people who will tell their friends about the organization) and they are using the FB fan page to DO something.  One constituent checked out the website at our invitation and sent a suggestion for content.  That’s golden.  Another said she wanted to organize a charitable activity at work.  Even better!

While both the event and the Facebook page are test-and-learn experiments, they were highly strategic.  More in the next post about how marketing planning must change in this brave new world, and after that, implications for technology.

Clay Shirky, writing online for McKinsey Quarterly, pointed out the self-organizing capability of the Internet that is now in everyone’s hands:

Until recently organizations of all stripes were better able to get their messages into the media than any motley groups of individuals. That is no longer true, because two critical organizational advantages—the ability to coordinate group effort and to coordinate group access to the means of publishing—are now ubiquitous, global, and free.

While access to the Internet means that people can self-organize to criticize, it also gives small non-profits unprecedented access to people who might become advocates for or supporters of their cause.

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Holiday philanthropy guides may not be in non-profits’ interests

Blogs are awesome tools for wondering “out loud”.  Last week I was working on a non-profit’s marketing and communications plan and realized they were putting time and energy into lining up businesses to sponsor listings in printed philanthropy guides.  Did they have a positive ROI, I wondered?

Not for most non-profits.  It could even hurt them by diminishing the amount of dollars available for direct contributions from potential corporate sponsors.

How so?  Here in Sacramento, we don’t have a lot of corporate headquarters.  We do have a large number of businesses that are regional operations of national companies.  When they underwrite a listing in a philanthropy guide, they take the money out of their contributions budget, not their advertising budget.  The amount of available money in their budget goes down.

When non-profits approach them for direct contributions or to sponsor events that may result in friendraising or fundraising, the businesses may figure they’ve already done their bit for that organization.  Or they may not have the money left to spend.

It may be good for the business’ reputation to be seen as a community good guy, but better use can be made of the money for the non-profit.  Several non-profits say they have received a donation or two based on the info published in the guide, but they might have gotten a better return if they had worked directly with the business.

P.D.  My Twitter pals were uninterested in my query, but I did get a few responses from friends in the non-profit world whose perspective I value.  I didn’t quote or name them here in case on the off-chance that local publishers wouldn’t take kindly to their skeptical view of these guides.


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8 things I learned about Facebook Causes at NTC 09

Our local United Way just launched its "Live United" campaign on Facebook Causes

Our local United Way just launched its "Live United" campaign on Facebook Causes

With nearly three-quarters of nonprofits having a presence on Facebook, I was curious:  so what’s the big deal?  Susan Gordon, Senior Nonprofit Coordinator for Causes, the free Facebook application, enthusiastically offered best practice tips during the very last time slot of the recent NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco.

But wait (you say)!  Didn’t I just read a big article that Causes is no good for raising moneyShouldn’t I spend my resources on something with a better return?

After the dissing of the article died down (blogs abuzz…), many users of Causes at the NTEN conference spoke to the value of Facebook as a part of their marketing mix.  Look, no nonprofit has a lot of time OR money, so when these fundraisers tell me it’s a critical part of their toolbox, I listen.  Many believe that people learn about them through Causes, begin to care about the cause or organization, and give through other channels.  By the way, Causes takes a fairly hefty cut  (Facebook takes a small cut of donations, and there’s a transaction fee charged by Network for Good, which processes the money) — but you’re likely acquiring new donors that you wouldn’t have reached any other way.  For small donations, it compares fairly well to the administrative cost of mailing appeals, sending thank you’s, etc. (postage and cost adds up for snail mail donor acquisition, too).

But wait (you again?)!  Doesn’t it take too much time to keep up with Causes?  Angela, who maintains the “Save Darfur Coalition” Causes page (along with a lot of other responsibilities), says she only spends 10 minutes a day on Causes — and they have 1 million Facebook friends.  She says she takes a hands-off approach, checks out new users (and thanks them), and does a little moderation of members’ posts.

Without further adieu (now that you’ve stopped interrupting), here are Susan’s best practice suggestions:

  1. Get the name right.  The name should use an active verb and grab attention, like, “Educate girls in Africa,” or “Stand up for hungry children!”
  2. Find the exclamation point key and use it often.  Susan says that part of the culture of Facebook is enthusiasm.  Exclamation points sell!
  3. Turn it into a campaign.  Set an achievable goal – like raising $10,000 — and find a creative way to engage people to invite their friends.  The “Power of Ten” campaign asked 10 people to invite 10 other people to send $10 each.  One of Susan’s co-speakers, Ryan, noted, “Always have a fundraiser up” (not just a generic cause/organization page).
  4. Consider an incentive, like a drawing to attend a conference, a free downloadable CD, etc.
  5. Use the announcements feature and keep followers in close touch.  Susan says you can’t announce too often, but make the content different each time (and short) – oh, and with exclamation points!
  6. Post on the wall.
  7. Activate your offline network.  Tell people what you’re doing by email and at events.
  8. Reach out to the hall of famers — those that recruited the most friends to the cause — and message them on the Care Wall.  Facebook is VERY careful about not allowing you to message people you don’t know, but Causes found a way to allow nonprofits to communicate with followers through the Care Wall.


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