Tag Archives: communications

TEDx Talks, Deconstructed for Nonprofits

As mentioned in my last blog post, nonprofits could learn a few things from the way TED and TEDx approach presenting to live audiences. I asked Carlos Montoya, who led speaker development for the 2013 Sacramento event, to describe how TEDx manages to produce such moving presentations, and to provide tips for nonprofits.

1.  As nonprofits consider who tells their story, have you found that there are certain characteristics of people who can make good speakers? Are good speakers made or born?

TEDx talks have a format that is different from what most speakers are used to. Those speakers who are the most successful often share a willingness to learn, explore, and engage in the TEDx format. With regards to whether a speaker is made or born, I have to say it could be either. There are some speakers who are natural on stage and others who are not but are so passionate about their idea that with a little practice they can deliver just as well.

2.  What’s the first step when you begin working with a speaker? They have an idea, you know what format works best for TedX. Then what?

The first step usually starts a little earlier and consists of an initiation email that includes a lot of information such as TED guidelines and process timeline. In this email we request that the speaker send us a one page treatment or outline of their idea. With treatment in hand, an initial conversation is scheduled.

The initial conversation varies and depends on how detailed the treatment is at this point in the process. However, here are three things that I generally try and accomplish during that conversation:

·         Ask the speaker to run through their idea and what they have so far.

·         Listen to every word and try to get a sense of the speaker’s natural delivery style and the structure of their key points from the perspective of an audience.

·         Ask a few questions and provide some speaker specific feedback.

3.  What’s the rest of the process look like, between that initial meeting and standing up in front of TedX?

Many more conversations like the one described above working toward refining the key message and pairing that message with other elements such slides, props, video, or performance. Two weeks prior to the event we request the near final presentation and schedule 2 or 3 rehearsals with the entire TEDx speaker team to provide additional feedback. The day before the event we hold an in-person dress rehearsal at the venue.

4.  (If one comes to mind) What’s the most powerful talk you’ve ever heard given by a nonprofit at TedX? What made it so compelling?

This is an interesting question. A specific talk from a nonprofit doesn’t come to mind immediately. But there is a reason for that, a TEDx talk according to the guidelines should not have a commercial agenda.

“Speakers should not promote their own products, books, or businesses or those of a company which employs them. The only exception is where they have specifically been invited to give a powerful product demo, or to describe the ideas in their book, and here the focus should still be on the technology and/or the ideas.” – TED.com

That said, Ron Finley, Salman Khan, Bill Gates, and Mark Roth have each delivered great TED talks, Melinda Gates delivered a TEDx talk that shares some key lessons for nonprofits. At last year’s TEDx Sacramento, Chris Ategeka delivered a talk that ended in a standing ovation. In my opinion, the power comes not just from the idea but from the story behind the idea that resonates with our own experiences.

5. You’ve probably heard some pitches or presentations by nonprofits. What do you think nonprofits do wrong, or could do better?

The few pitches or presentations by nonprofits that I have heard usually do a great job at presenting information. However, in today’s world, with the abundance of information available at our fingertips, information has become somewhat disposable so we have to look at new ways at extracting meaning from information and make it accessible. I think this is one of the strengths of TEDx talks because the story is as important as the idea. The story is what connects us to the idea and drives the audience to action.

6.  You appear to have some guidelines, like using slides, but emphasizing a limited number and using images intensively rather than words. Throwing in a few humorous lines, etc. What are the guidelines you’ve found work best to grab and inspire an audience.

There are speaker guidelines developed by TED that are sent to each speaker that discusses the format and what has worked best at TED. Here locally, we have found that shorter talks work better. We often work with speakers to cut each talk down to 10 minutes, to focus both the speaker and the talk.  Another guideline is to have the delivery be more conversational rather than a presentation. We also recommend that if using slides that the slide present only one piece of information and not detract the audience from the speaker. Beyond these guidelines, I often borrow from various storytelling devices that I think could enhance the speaker’s ability to share their idea.

7.  So what do you want to do before you die (per the blackboard in the park)?

For me at this point, the list is still too long but one thing would be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and reach the summit on a clear day.

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20 questions from CSUS Graphic Design students

CSUS professor Gwen Amos’ “Visual Image” students have a tough assignment:  research and understand the scope of poverty in Sacramento, and develop a print piece, poster and campaign to assist a worthy nonprofit.  Today I met with four students — Biz Lemma, Charmian Mendoza, Jessica Ripley and Kevin Swaim — to discuss their preliminary ideas to benefit Women’s Empowerment, an organization that they see has having a vital mission and approach to helping homeless women. (Note: their work is not sponsored by Women’s Empowerment but they selected the organization and are busily working on ideas to advance its cause.)

They also came with a laundry list of questions – 20, to be exact!  More than a dozen were of general interest so I’ll do my best to answer them here.  Readers, do you disagree with me? Please comment.  I know the students would appreciate the input.

How can we, as designers, use social marketing strategies to influence the behaviors of the public?

How can’t you?  I know that’s not what you asked. Social marketing literally means influencing attitudes and behaviors to accomplish a public good. All causes have to “map” how they will get people from point “A” to point “B.”  They may have to create awareness first before getting people to take steps that will accomplish the good they envision. Or it may be that people are already aware of the issue and just need to know how they can get involved, usually starting with low-risk baby steps and progressing to higher involvement. Social media, which we discussed today, offers an important set of tools to get people to engage.

What methods have been used in “call to action” campaigns that would work on a local scale?

We discussed a variety of examples when we met, but I’ll share one here.  Some of the most successful campaigns address a problem that people immediately grasp, make it easy to support the effort, and have a short-term sense of urgency.  “Give to the Max Day” in Minnesota is an effort by that state’s nonprofits to come together and get people to give locally.  Last year, the effort raised more than $10 million from 42,000 donors in 24 hours.

What levels of interactivity do we need to reach in order to make an impact? How important is it for the audience to be able to interact with an advertisement as opposed to simply read information on a flyer?

I know from our conversation that you’re wondering whether a poster or flyer (which requires no interaction) is better or worse that some kind of communications tool that makes you take an action (like a tear-off pad).  Old school direct mail advertising used to favor pieces where you had to apply a sticker and send in for the free offer.  Asking people to do something yielded higher returns than just a plain old mail appeal.  But today, it’s important to remember that people have short attention spans.  Something tactile might work if it’s clever enough and makes sense, or it might get ignored.  Spend time thinking about where people are now in their decision process about involvement.  Do you need to spend time raising awareness as a “drip irrigation” method: delivering a steady stream of short messages through passive media like billboards?  Or do people already ‘get it’ and just need an easy way to act – like click a button on a website?  When it comes to interactivity, I’d think less about print, which has a substantial up front cost and may be risky in terms of return. Think more about online tactics.

For a cause like helping to alleviate poverty, is a magazine the right way to present the information we have?

It could be a way to present it.  First you have to reach an audience that wants to know more. Magazines have the luxury of multiple pages to tell the story, and the ability to present compelling visuals.  They might be a great tool for major donor prospects.  Another approach might be a video.

Do you think that social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is more successful currently than traditional billboards, print ads, mailers, etc.?

The metric for success here is return on investment.  For every dollar you spend, what do you get back?  Because social media are cheap or free, it’s hard to beat the return.  Plus you can experiment rapidly.  On the other hand, the jury is out in terms of social media’s ability to generate substantial donations.  As pointed out recently by John Kenyon at the Nonprofit Resource Center conference, email and even “snail mail” still play an important role in generating donations.  (Here’s an old presentation of his that explains the role of email in fundraising.)  Online donors frequently become snail mail donors.

Is there any gain in having volunteer organizations on Yelp?

Yelp is definitely a social medium, but people tend to go there for reviews.  It can be a good place to create events to attract new friends and followers.

Do you feel that QR codes are a fad?  Are these marketable to older crowds as well?  Are people more likely o get involved with an organization, or at least visit their websites, if there is a QR in the ad?

Old like me 🙂 ? I think they’ll be useful eventually but right now they’re mostly sizzle and no steak for nonprofits.  On the other hand, there is a small set of people who love new tech toys, and those people might follow a QR to a website.  If you’re trying to recruit programmers to work with disadvantaged kids near Silicon Valley, a QR code on ads might work well.  Think about your target audience first.  Do they have smart phones and use a QR reader app?

What is a good way to advertise for volunteers as opposed to donations?

Volunteering and donating are both behaviors.  As we talked about today, friends are a more influential source of information than paid advertising.  Think about how you can mobilize people to bring their friends into a cause, whether it’s as a volunteer or donor.  You might think of those as alternative paths for giving.  Some people might have more time or talent, while others have more financial resources.  Nonprofits need both.

What is a good length for a YouTube video campaign?  Would these be effective for groups such as Women’s Empowerment so that the target audience can put a face to the cause?

Watch TV news and you’ll get a pretty good idea about the optimal length of a video.  Keep remembering: we all have short attention spans!  I haven’t seen data about optimal length but I’d guess 2-3 minutes would be the maximum before you start to lose people.  Videos do need a story arc: something that engages you, depicts a struggle or a challenge, and releases tension by providing information about what you can do.  Video is ideal for organizations like Women’s Empowerment, much harder for organizations that have “colorless” visuals – e.g. free tax preparation assistance. [Update:  The Give Minnesota folks are also running a nonprofit video contest called “Does this make my heart look big?” The second flash image that comes up once you land on the site asks for votes on the most compelling video.  Check them out and see what you think about length and impact.]

What sort of information would an organization trying to raise community involvement need to include on a Facebook page?  In trying to up the number of volunteers, would Facebook be more successful than traditional print ads or flyers?

What works best – always – is an integrated media campaign across multiple channels, but nonprofits rarely have the money for that.  Websites and Facebook are very cost effective channels for engaging people.  The beauty of Facebook is engagement and interaction; it’s a conversation rather than a one-way channel.  Spend time looking around on Facebook fan pages to see what kind of content (and messages) seem to be working for nonprofits that have similar appeals.  Draft a one-page “message and voice” guideline with your ideas about what the nonprofit needs to convey (prioritized) and what its personality should be.  The idea is to get other people to post on your page and on their own page.  Above is an example from today on River City Food Bank‘s Facebook page – 2 people who cared enough to post.

How many campaigns should an organization have per year?

Whatever number is effective!  It would depend on the organization and what it’s asking through the campaigns.  The big thing is that the organization should map out a strategy for the year.  For example, it might start the year with a personal outreach campaign to major donors, then promote an event, then focus on a membership drive, then do a holiday push and “it’s not too late” New Year’s reminder.

Parting words

Start with the end in mind (outcome).  What is the problem the client — in this case, the nonprofit — is struggling with that marketing and design can help solve?

Conceptualize a strategy that goes from awareness of a problem or cause through the behavior that the nonprofit wants to encourage.  You will undoubtedly have a limited budget so pick just one step on the long ladder from awareness to behavior as a place to begin.

Test it on your mother.  Can you explain what you want your Mom to do in 140 characters or less so that she gets it and wants to help?

Think in terms of a short campaign – or at least a fairly short experiment.  So many of the “old reliable” marketing techniques have fallen by the wayside with splintered audiences.  Now everything is test and learn, keep building on what works and stop doing what doesn’t.  What can you do that’s not too expensive and gets a response in 6 weeks or less?

Good luck.  And thanks.  The nonprofit world needs young people like you who care, and have talent to share.

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How should local nonprofits respond to Facebook changes?

Last week, I posted about the recent bevy of changes to Facebook and shared four thoughts about the implications.  Today I suggest what nonprofits should do in response – along with some suggested do’s and don’t’s based on a recent “small N” survey of Sacramento-based nonprofit pages.*


1.  Right now, make sure that your Facebook “like” button is prominent on your website. Not a small share button somewhere at the bottom of the page but sizable and somewhere “above the fold.”  In the example below, the Child Abuse Prevention Center does a nice job of putting it in the context of “how you can help.”

2.  Ask people to help you reach the next milestone in friends by posting the request on their wall, which will distribute it to their friends’ walls.

Research suggests that direct requests to “like” you work.  I noticed two nonprofits that have done this recently.  WIND Youth Services posted an “ask” on August 12 to help them hit 300 friends; they hit that number on August 16 and were at 366 friends as of last week.  I’m not sure Effie Yeaw’s “ask” is going to work because it’s not direct enough and too distant from where they are: at 621 friends, they say they are “slowly inching their way to 1,000 likes.”

3.  Cross promote.  Although there is some evidence of audience interest decline (and despite SPAM filters that are making life ever-more difficult to reach people), your e-newsletter should link back to your website and promote your Facebook page… any printed materials should include the Facebook like button logo and your URL… if sales are a part of your business model you should distribute flyers at the cash register and/or put a message on the bottom of the sales receipt (as Nordstrom does).  And so on.  (Though not discussed in this post, Twitter has a powerful cross-promotional effect across platforms; it’s time to consider it as part of the mix – but do it right!)

4.  Don’t forget the basics: Make sure you have customized your Facebook URL to make your page easy to find, and take advantage of landing pages so that you convert those who check you out.  Try this test: have friends use the Facebook’s search function to find your organization’s page.  Did it come up in the list of options?  If you don’t have many friends and you’re not easily found via FB search, consider renaming or starting over.

5.  Now more than ever: customize your landing page (use a free tool like Pagemodo).  I checked out one nonprofit Facebook page last week that had me land on a flat-out request to donate.  Hey, we’re not even dating yet and you’re asking me to get married!  On the other hand, WEAVE has the perfect handshake:

6.  Post more photos!  If you really chart which of your posts get the most impressions and engagement using Facebook’s administrative Insights tool, you’ll probably find that photos are among your top performers.  But now when your cursor hovers over any of the Ticker features at the right of the page, you’ll see that photos really pop. Instead of a thumbnail, the photos are several inches wide.  They have a “wow” effect that they didn’t before… and photos are a great way for most nonprofits to tell their stories. (The same hovering action also shows you comments related to the photo, so you really feel like you’re interacting in a community.)

7.  If you post a link to an article, make sure you include at least a sentence of introduction.  Your recommendation is valuable to your followers, and if you include some keywords, it will improve the search position of the item – which, on an organization page, is public.

8.  You may need to reassure people about how much of their private information is public when they “like” you.  In an op-ed titled “Facebook Murders Privacy” on Mashable, Ben Parr comments, Everything can, and eventually will, get posted. Facebook has done something nobody has ever been able to do at scale: It has enabled passive sharing.

Not long after the Children’s Receiving Home created its Independent Living Program page in April, it felt it needed to post the following message.  I thought it was a little crazy and that it might have raised more questions than it answered.  In the new context of everything-is-public, however, people may have questions about how much of their content becomes public when they “like” your page (a person’s profile operates differently than an organization’s page):

I just want to remind you all that “liking” this page will NOT make your profile visible to the world. Only the administrators can see who has “liked” the page, unless you post a comment or “like” a someone else’s post. Even then,( unless your privacy settings are set to “public”), they will only see your name and picture. Also, if you are “friends” with other people who have “liked” the page, they will see you. :0)


1.  Resist the temptation to splinter your audience with more than one FB page. 

In my small survey this week, I found three nonprofits who had started additional pages.  If an event has a following, for example, should it have its own page separate from an event page that you create?  Or if a nonprofit has a retail location, should that location have its own page?  None of the three examples I found were accruing big numbers.  Having all of the content in one place — even event or retail promotion — may make the content more interesting for your entire audience.  Unless a nonprofit has the resources to promote more than one brand (and I don’t know of any that do), you’re increasing the work and diffusing your impact.

*I’ve been keeping an informal tally of local nonprofits’ Facebook growth since March 2010.  This week I enhanced that effort by using United Way’s certified nonprofit partners list as a starting point, checked about three dozen websites, and threw in some nonprofits of interest to me.  I’m now watching 42 organizations.  Among other things, I was surprised at some large nonprofits that have very poor websites and no Facebook presence (not necessarily the same organizations, by the way).  We have work to do, Sacramento nonprofits!

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Facebook changes: opportunity or threat for local nonprofits?

Everybody and their mother has written about Facebook changes this week (here’s an overview from Mashable) but I feel compelled to jump into the fray with a few thoughts about the implications for local nonprofits with limited resources.  Are the current changes good or bad for local nonprofits trying to build a channel for engagement and communications?

  • Thought #1: Change is good if it helps preserve and protect the “cool, fun” factor of Facebook;
  • Thought #2: For the truly engaged, nonprofits’ updates may receive more attention because of their placement in to top news stories….
  • Thought #3: But visibility may suffer among friends-of-friends as people pick and choose what they want to read more about from the news ticker (at right in image above);
  • Thought #4: Anytime Facebook changes anything, people worry what FB has done to their privacy settings, breeding an environment of distrust about “friending” nonprofits’ FB pages.
As more small nonprofits jump on Facebook, there will certainly be more competition for attention.  If the average person has 130 friends, and they’re involved in one cause or another, then you’re going to see more and more stuff coming through about nonprofits. Eventually people may tune out.
But for now, I believe that Facebook still represents one of the best opportunities that nonprofits have to reach and engage an audience.
Back to thought #1: if people are having more fun on Facebook, or it’s more central to their lives, it will continue to be very important for nonprofits to be good at communicating in that venue.  In fact, I still consider it the second most important tool in a nonprofit’s integrated communications toolbox (with the website being first).
In a world where traditional communications channels have splintered, and people are receiving news and information based on their preferences, Facebook continues to provide an important means to be introduced to new potential supporters through peer networks. People who like Facebook may be just as likely to consult your page on Facebook as they are to pull up a new window to check out your website; it’s easier.  And, although it’s hard to play the SEO (search engine optimization) game on Facebook, your page may well come up in search results.  Facebook matters.

More reason for nonprofits to focus on Facebook:  If you “like” a nonprofit page this week (here, try River City Food Bank), you’ll see that you are prompted to recommend the page to others.  So once someone likes you, there is now an easy, obvious action that friends can take.

Finally, Facebook reported last week that a half a billion people were active on Facebook in a single day.  As I tweeted, half a billion here… half a billion there… and pretty soon you’re talking really big numbers.

Tomorrow: Facebook do’s and don’t’s for nonprofit in the wake of the new changes

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Nonprofits and the power of search

McKinsey has a new report out quantifying the gargantuan value of search worldwide (a free download if you register but not a must-read).  It serves as another reminder to nonprofits to pay attention to how people use the Internet and use search find and create communities of cause.  All of us who communicate about nonprofit organizations need to remember to “think keywords” — those phrases people use to search and find out about issues, ways to get involved, or consider donations.  And beyond the need to keep websites fresh and interesting, we need to remember that much of what we do now is to create content that can be “broadcast” in one-way communications or used to pepper social conversations.

A few tidbits:

  • In 2010, an average Internet user in the United States performed some 1,500 searches.
  • Some 90 percent of online users use search engines, and search represents 10 percent of the time spent by individuals on the Web, totaling about four hours per month. 
  • Some 30 percent of US Internet users now use social networks to find content, and 21 percent use them to find videos. 
  • When people search online, they are signaling information about themselves: what they are looking for, when, and in what context—for example, the Web page they visited before and after the search. Such information can be harnessed by those seeking to deliver more relevant content…

There’s some good stuff in the report about the future of search.  It starts to feel like Carl Sagan’s “billions and billion” (or “billions upon billions” depending on which account you believe)… only it’s about trillions and trillions of gigabytes of data.  How will search remain relevant when there is so much stuff out there — and so many SEO experts chasing your attention?  Will people turn more to aggregated (or vertical) sites that they trust?  What will that mean for nonprofits?

Those questions are out there in the cosmos for nonprofits, at least for now.  But McKinsey’s report is a salient and current reminder: as you choose communications media and messages, bear in mind that search is firmly embedded into most people’s daily rhythms.

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How to make a blog for nonprofits

Choosing what tool to deploy next can feel like this/gsbrown99 under CC

The virtual shopping aisle of digital communication tools is worse than a visit to Best Buy.  Where do you begin when you don’t understand half the features they’re talking about?  Redo your website?  Start with a Facebook page?  Begin with Twitter?  What about that new “plus” thing Google just launched (Google+)?

Each organization is going to have to consider its communications objectives, strategy and resources and then figure out how to begin chipping away.  A blog is a great communications utility to have in the mix (maybe not as fantastic as a universal remote, but worthy of investment).

Why blog?

1.  Blogging is good way to attract traffic to a website. As I’ve mentioned before, websites are still the best place to tell your story and convert the interested into the active.  If you incorporate keywords that people use to search, you have the potential to attract new visitors to your website.  (Click here for SEOmoz’s good beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimization, the technique for identifying and building on keywords – hat tip Mashable.)  Blogs can be embedded right into a website.  Every time you publish a fresh story, voila!  Your website page is updated, too.  (It doesn’t even have to be your blog you embed if it’s relevant to your cause.  All it takes is an RSS feed.)

2.  Blogging is a great way to capture content, especially stories.  It’s best, of course, if community members share their stories directly, but that doesn’t usually happen right off the bat.  So you’re going to need to listen for and then relate stories.  And content is what you need to feed the every growing appetite of social media.

3.  Shortened blog links make great attachments to Facebook and Twitter posts.  If your message is interesting enough, you’ll get new people to look at what you have to say.  The “sharing” norm of Facebook and Twitter rapidly multiplies the people who are exposed to what you have to say.

How to get started blogging

A blog is dead easy to start, and free if you don’t count staff time.  You can set up a blog in 2-4 hours.  (It’s maintaining the habit that’s hard.)

1.  Choose your platform.  The biggies are WordPress and Blogspot.  Here’s one of the many debates out there about which is better.  Philanthrophile runs on WordPress, as do two other blogs I write.  In the fashionista community, there’s a general belief that Blogspot, because it’s a Google product, is preferred in Google searches.  I recently helped my son set up a blog on Blogspot (not published yet) and found that I preferred WordPress.  But maybe that’s because I’m used to it.

2.  Choose keywords.  In your Internet search bar, type “Google Adwords Tool.”  You may have to create a Google account if you don’t already have one, but this is a free tool you can use without signing up for Adwords.  Think of some phrases you might consider and input them, one per line.  Do NOT click the box “only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”  (The good stuff is the stuff you don’t think of.)  The tool will serve  up 100 results.  Pay attention to the “local monthly searches” column if you’re locally focused.  P.S. the original title of this post was “How – and why – to start a blog.”  I took my own medicine, did a quick Adwords search, and used the phrase “make a blog,” which would not be natural phrasing for me.  See the top 10 results from my Adwords search at the bottom.  P.S. key words are now critical for ANY form of communication that is shared digitally – from tweets, to website posts, to press releases.

3.  Set it up with one of the dozens of handy template options.  It’s easy.  Really.  It’s time for me to update the style of this one – maybe I’ll take my own medicine on that soon (the photo is one I took of clovers in Ireland – kind of a luck o’ the Irish talisman).  Take the time to enable widgets with a click – especially those that relate to sharing and subscribing.  In WordPress, they’re under the menu item “Appearance.”   I enabled the tools for email subscription (which almost no one does these days), RSS feed and social sharing.  It’s now easy to set up your blog to auto-publish to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Also take a minute to look at the tools for ipad and mobile.  I love the way my blog about my Dad looks on ipad (http://thehenrychronicles.com/)!

4.  Choose an idea, write a strong lead, and develop it.  Keep it short – less than 500 words.  (This one’s over 1,000 because it’s a tutorial.) Think what journalists do: give people a reason for continuing in the first 2-3 sentences.  Everyone has A.D.D. these days.  I chose to get into today’s topics with questions, for the same reasons that questions tend to provoke more engagement on Facebook.

5.  Add a photo at the top, which adds interest.  The photo does not have to be yours.  You can search for photos on flickr that are licensed for general use under a Creative Commons license (used the advance search feature to see only these).  They’ve made it a little trickier to find and use the URL, but it’s there under the “share” buttons (grab the link… you may have to fiddle a little.)

6.  Tag it.  Take full advantage of features like the ability to customize your own excerpt and tag your post with key words so that others may find it through organic search.  (I use categories, too, which are like file drawers, whereas tags are like file folder labels or cross-referencing labels.)

7.  Preview it, seriously.  If you don’t have someone to read your posts, then use the gift of time.  Save the draft and come back to it in an hour or two.  Review it with the preview feature before you press “publish.”

8.  Keep blogging.  Don’t think that you have to write the Constitution.  Some of my posts have been very short – literally 5-6 sentences introducing something I found interesting.  Just get in the habit.  Try it, maybe you’ll like it.

If you lose interest for a while, don’t drop it. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t killed my blog when I’ve ignored it for up to six months at a time.  If you’re writing good stuff, people will start to find it and link to it.  External links bring you followers even when you’re ignoring them.  Not that I recommend the practice… I’m just saying don’t give up!

And links to your own earlier blog posts can help your page ranking a little, meaning that you’ll come up higher when someone searches for topics you’ve tagged.

WordPress apparently understands that the interest of new bloggers may flag (even old bloggers like me).  When I published a post about my Dad this morning, up popped the screen below. Thanks, WordPress, but I don’t think I’ll be writing a post about what I’d do with a magic wand anytime soon… but then again…

Keyword Local Monthly Searches
blogging 368,000
free blog 301,000
how to make a blog 246,000
make a blog 246,000
make blog 246,000
how to do a blog 201,000
how to design a blog 135,000
how to get a blog 135,000
start blog 110,000
how do i start a blog 110,000

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Sacramento Generosity Project: Check out reasons NOT to give

Maybe this is what we're missing: Glamazons for a cause?

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation released the results of its half-million-dollar research study about charitable giving in the four-county area yesterday, as reported in the Sacramento Bee.  Our region was compared with San Jose, Riverside, Kansas City and Indianapolis.  (Full report will be made available at a future date.)

Among the nuggets that came out of the research were several about the reasons people state for NOT giving charitably:  high administrative costs (76%)… and “not sure what charities did with their last gift” (51%).

Another that caught my eye: While 91% of households surveyed agreed that it’s important to give locally, only 63% of donations were made to local organizations.

I don’t believe that Sacramentans are less empathetic about causes that ask for support.  Nor am I convinced that the problem is a lack of habit when it comes to charitable giving and involvement.  Active 20-30 and Junior League, just for two examples, were virtual engines of charitable leadership for a very long time.

I wonder if Sacramento’s charities behave too much like small businesses that are trying to survive by cutting expenses to the bone, which includes funds for marketing.  I see billboards from national organizations asking for gifts; one of them doesn’t even spend collected funds locally – but its marketing is highly effective.

Sacramento’s philanthropies have to find efficient ways to get their messages out, and they have to have effective messages.  It’s inexcusable that people would stop giving because they don’t know how their money was spent.

So while the gist of the article may be “Step up, Sacramento,” my takeaway is this:  “Step up, charitable organizations.”  We all have to do a better job of giving people a compelling reason to care, and enough love to keep them giving.

We just don’t the celebrity star-power to raise money the way they do in Manhattan, or the corporations that can write big ticket checks.

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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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What do nonprofits have in common with vampires?


Attendees saw "A Day in the Life" of North Sacramento photos


We could all take a page from our kids:  there’s nothing quite like a good story.

Here’s what nationally recognized public interest communications expert Andy Goodman bluntly told the audience of approximately 300 nonprofit staff members at the Nonprofit Resource Center Annual Conference today:  We have great stories but we suck the life out of our stories.  We are story-telling vampires.

Having gotten the attention of the audience, Goodman went on to dissect nonprofits’ program and mission statements.  It wasn’t pretty.  Burdened by jargon or mind-numbing numbers, they were dead on arrival.

If you’re not telling stories — consciously, deliberately — then you’ve got to start.  And if you are telling stories, you need to do more, he told the group.

What makes a good story?  They follow a classic pattern.  Act one:  We are introduced to the protagonist and learn something about their world.  Something happens to throw the protagonist’s world out of balance and a story is in motion.  Act two:  The hero encounters an obstacle, something that makes you wonder, “What happens next?”  And act three:  The protagonist overcomes the barriers and the tension is resolved.

Where most nonprofits go wrong is in telling formulaic stories that skip the most important part, the barriers.  We haven’t started to root for the protagonist before we are told how the nonprofit fixed everything.  When we tell stories, too often they are bloodless.  The detail of the barriers — first one, then another — is what rivets our attention.

An organization is best understood as the sum of its stories of the things it has done, and will do, Goodman told the group.  Therefore, organizations should identify its core stories and makes sure everyone — staff, volunteers and board — know them by heart.

Goodman said organizations should have a solid repertoire of six kinds of stories:

  • The “nature of our challenge” story.  Example:  A literacy organization could have a story about how parents couldn’t help their children with their homework.
  • Creation stories.  Example:  Everyone at Sacramento Loaves and Fishes knows the story of how Chris and Dan Delaney founded the organization out of the back of their car when they started delivering sack lunches to homeless people camped near Highway 160.
  • Success stories.  Example:  Women’s Empowerment provided Regina with training and job-seeking assistance to get back on her feet after becoming homeless during the period she cared for her terminally-ill mother.
  • Performance stories.  Example:  Rather than just talking about its evidence-based practices and strength-based approach, River Oak Center for Children explains how it achieves clinical results by sharing stories like this one about Darren.
  • “Striving to improve” stories.  You won’t usually find these on websites, but these are the stories of mistakes and problems, and how organizations recovered from them, learned and got better at what they do.
  • Stories of the future.  This one isn’t in story form yet, but it could be.  Imagine the Sacramento Tree Foundation talking about how life in Sacramento would look for a child born 10 years from today as she walks to her first day of elementary school on a hot fall day under a shaded canopy of trees.  Today they say they’re leading to plant 5 million trees by 2025.

Learn more about Andy Goodman or check out his online training workshops at The Goodman Center.  Also be aware that they’ve established a scholarship program for nonprofits.

Thanks, Nonprofit Resource Center for a worthwhile day (and great value)!

(And for the many curious friends and readers who have asked, all is well with me but I have been sucked into working to defeat Measure D, the incorporation proposal, for Arden Arcade here in Sacramento.  If you want to know more about that, ask to receive the e-newsletter:  staysacramento@gmail.com.)

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How did Sutter Health triple its Facebook fans in 6 months?

It’s important for small non-profits to learn from larger organizations, and vice versa.  So I periodically fish around in the Facebook stream to see who’s succeeding and who seems to be floundering.

Sutter Health is doing something right with its Facebook fan page.  Because waaaaay long ago I used to be a Sutter Health employee, some former colleagues who are FB friends told me when they started the page.

Of course, I had to kick the tires and see if they were awake if I asked a question in response to one of their “health question of the week” posts.  And (to my surprise), I got a helpful response within an hour.  I later found out that Kami Lloyd was the name of the person behind the answer.

That was six months ago, when Sutter had 450 fans on Facebook.  I recently noticed that they now have 1,407 fans.  Wow!  How’d that happen, I wondered?  So I reached out to Kami to say congrats and to get the skinny on how they managed that kind of growth, and how she does what she does.

Most of the growth was organic, but their internal “six words” contest (re: how do you make a difference at work)  really got their employee population energized, and fueled the growth on Facebook.

Here’s our email exchange:

1. I notice that you respond really quickly to comments.  Are you on FB all day, or do you have a tool that alerts you to new comments?

Although we don’t use a specific tool to alert our team to Facebook posts, we have a commitment to staying connected to our fans. I typically check our Facebook page several times a day, including weekends, so we can promptly respond to posts.

2.  You also have a consistent friendly but professional voice.  Do you have a guideline that you developed that describes content, tone, etc., or do you just have a natural feel for it?

Great question, and I believe it’s truly a combination of both factors. Sutter Health has a social networking policy that educates all employees about their responsibilities in online communities, and our Communications Department tries to produce viewer-friendly materials. That includes using plain-spoken language. As an individual, this also is my own communication style.

3.  You’re fast enough that I think you aren’t encumbered by some internal approval process, which would be pretty silly on Facebook.  How did you (or someone else) convince someone in management to let you respond without micro-managing your answers?

Through Sutter Health’s social media policy and guidelines, we empower all of our employees to take responsibility for their posts in online communities—including Facebook. I respond to the best of my ability, using the knowledge I have from my position in the organization. If I come across something for which I don’t know the answer, I acknowledge that fact online and then connect with an expert as quickly as possible.

4.  Have you ever had a problem with nasty comments, and if so, how did you handle them?  Remove them from the page?  Let them stand?

Facebook is all about having a conversation with people. I welcome all comments and believe one of the great benefits of Facebook is the opportunity to have open discussions. We do not delete posts unless they contain profanity or other questionable content.

5. How much time do you spend a day (on average) just managing Facebook?

I spend around 30 minutes a day on Facebook for Sutter Health.

6.  Do you have an editorial calendar or do you just periodically dream up new creative approaches for messages or themes?

We don’t have a specific editorial calendar but instead see Facebook as another way we can share news and information with our patients, employees and communities. When we have interesting information to share, we include Facebook in our distribution – as we would a newsletter, email or another method.

You probably figured out from Kami’s response,that she has broader responsibilities than managing Facebook or social media alone.  She says that she works on a variety of projects including traditional and social media relations, strategic communication planning, and dynamic media production (e.g. video and podcast development).

I was also curious how her background prepared her for what she’s doing on Facebook.  She has a broad communications background, having worked formerly at Perry Communications Group in Sacramento, and before that as a news reporter and anchor at KFBK AM radio in Sacramento.

Go, Kami, go!

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