Tag Archives: communications

The new PR for non-profits: an emerging model

What will PR look like when it emerges?

Yesterday I posted about changes in the media landscape and suggested that PR is still a viable and important activity for non-profits wishing to build their image and reputation… but it is not PR as we’ve loved and known it.  Taking a page from the strategic planning toolkit, I thought it might be useful to contrast features of traditional PR with emerging PR approaches with a “to” and “from” chart.  Caution:  I may revert to using the phrase “paradigm shift” again (JK)!  And forgive me for not creating and embedding a Powerpoint slide (I tend to agree with an quote from an Atlantic Monthly article, “Before there was Powerpoint, there were conversations).

The “to/from” chart below isn’t meant to be definitive.  It’s intended to provoke your thinking about your choice of tactics, what skills you hire for, and how you measure progress and success.

FROM — > — > TO

PR pros’ value based on: reporter relationships — >knowledge of channels for distributing messages

A big win with the boss would look like:  positive newspaper feature — > audience exposure across traditional and online channels, comments, sharing, response

Communication direction:  mostly one-way — >two-way (not broadcasting, but conversing)

Channel size:  big audience conduits  — > communicating to smaller audiences, even individuals

Message control:  controlling the message  — > adapting the message, sometimes watching the adaptation

Approvals:  clear top-down sign offs  — > more flexible guidelines and autonomy

Spokespersons:  clear, controlled messengers  — > collaboration with constituents who have relationships

Materials:  one statement or release  — > story adapted and pushed across many channels

Medium:  written (narrative)  — > shorter texts, even fragments; video, photos

So, PR and non-profit friends, what do you think?  How will PR need to evolve?  Throw in some attributes of your own!

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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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Mirror, mirror: here’s how I use social media

Whats in your mirror?  Courtesy:  Lamerie/Flickr

What's in your mirror? Courtesy: Lamerie/Flickr

(A blog post in which I ask and answer the new-age questions about why I use social media the way I do, and why my teenage son uses it the way he does.)

If I had one of those now unemployed Ernst & Young business process consultants sitting next to me, watching how I use social media, here’s what they’d observe:

  • I receive frequent Facebook status updates by email, which are cryptic enough to make me go on the page and try to figure out what they were in reference to, e.g. “I know what you mean!  LOL!”  I noticed about two weeks ago that I STOPPED getting updates from my son.  Yup, he de-friended me.  Fortunately, one of his friends invited me to be her friend, so maybe I can vicariously keep a finger on the pulse that way.  (My son writes a lot of songs that he posts on Facebook, which I really miss seeing.  But he took the advice of a friend that maybe it isn’t such a hot idea to give your mother complete visibility on your life during your senior year in high school.)
  • LinkedIn status updates, which come every few days, are generally boring.  I really don’t care who people are connecting to.  I swear, there’s one former colleague who connects to four or five people a day.  In my head, I hear his voice in an echo chamber, exclaiming like Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin, “I’m the most powerful genie in the WORLD!”  I like to use LinkedIn for purely professional contacts, and I like having access to info about what my professional friends are doing these days.
  • Because I have been crazy busy the past few weeks, I turned off my mobile tweets that used to come through every few SECONDS (dial 40404 and then type ‘off’).  I plunge in every few days, always find good stuff right away, do a few tweets and jump back out of the Twitter ocean.  I also get the occasional DM (direct message), like one from @sacramentopress asking me if I could take some pics of the wild chickens in my neighborhood.  One of my son’s friends follows me on Twitter, although to be honest, I’m not sure she knows it’s me since I tweet as @philanthrophile.
  • I haven’t logged back in to my Google Reader yet, which makes me re-log in every two weeks.  I know if I start reading posts, I’ll want to blog and I haven’t had time this week.
  • And, obviously, I haven’t blogged for about two weeks.  I don’t let myself blog until after I’ve done the important project stuff.  It’s my treat to myself.  Really.  Silent running, of course, has had a predictably negative effect on traffic.  My blog traffic climbed to 1,640 views per month in July.  Strangely, traffic was up early this week but it’s in the dumper again after being silent for so long.
  • My number one tool for communication?  Email.  I am a monster on email.  For me, it is social.  I’m not a big fan of talking on the phone although I text a lot.

The same E&Y process consultant would observe the following re: my son:

  • His phone is an appendage, but not so much for talking.  It buzzes with new texts almost constantly.  During dinner last night, one friend – the same friend – texted him in three minute intervals.  “Okay,” I said finally, “you can respond to Glenn!”  When he answers a ring (the ring tone changes every few days – last night it was Rocky Horror picture show), the greeting is always the same, “Hey, what’s up?”  The conversation is always less than two minutes.  It is usually followed by a succession of other short calls or text messages to coordinate whatever’s happening.  He has moved past the grunting stage of teen communication but doesn’t really enjoy the phone.  Especially Skype calls.  Just ask his sister.
  • His next best electronic friend is Facebook.  It beats out his ipod and gaming.  If he goes to a concert, he posts photos within an hour.  He literally cannot go to bed without doing this.  He is almost immediately embraced by friends who ‘like’ his photo or make comments.  He uses Facebook to coordinate group activities.  Tuesday has become drive-in movie night this summer, so he uses his status update to find out who’s in.
  • He thinks it’s a little strange that I have adopted Twitter, when he hasn’t.  (We parents are not supposed to lead when it comes to electronic adoption.)  But then, only one of his friends is on Twitter, and I’m not sure he even knows that.
  • He checks email only under duress.  Seriously, he hates it.  He has a teacher that communicates that way and he knows colleges use it, but it’s like taking out the garbage – you have to be reminded.

This week, Mashable (the central repository for all things social media) has been talking about why teenagers don’t tweet, in response to Neilson data that teens represent only about a quarter of Twitter traffic (although it doesn’t count those doing it on mobile, so it under-represents them).  So I’ve been turning an anthropologist’s mirror on my own social media usage and that of my 17-year-old son’s, thinking about why we have the patterns that we do.  I don’t think it’s that complicated:

Facebook is really, really satisfying.  He was pulled into Facebook by his college-aged sister, but quickly preferred the cleaner interface and smaller amount of junk.  He doesn’t have to think about a 140 character limit.  The status bar is long enough to accomodate whatever he usually wants to say.

His Facebook traffic is limited to his friends (which do not include me as of two weeks ago).  You can be followed by anyone on Twitter.  Sure, you can actively block people – I block the X-rated types that regularly offer me naughty videos – but that takes effort.  He would rather more actively friend people or accept a friend invitation (or not).

Additional groups – via fan pages – are easy to engage with.  Friends send you a status report that they’re a member of, say, their high school’s fan group.  All you have to do is press connect and it’s linked to your Facebook page.  Your causes and fan pages become a part of your identity on Facebook.  That’s less true with Twitter twibes and LinkedIn groups, plus there are an irritating number of people in those groups who are essentially advertising themselves or their services.

Facebook handles media uploads really easily.  My son recorded a song in memory of our dog’s unexpected death via Facebook.  He didn’t even Flip video record it or record it on Garage Band, his built-in Mac Book tool.

Facebook turns him on to stuff on the Internet, like youtube videos.  He doesn’t spend much time surfing on the Internet.  I don’t know of any sites he checks regularly, other than, perhaps, Fandango.  But friends find stuff and post links as part of a status update.  Voila!  Internet finds thanks to Facebook.

Facebook is so much a part of his life he can’t imagine going on vacation without it.  I know how Michelle Obama feels.

Bottomline:  Facebook is a great product for his needs.  Until something better comes along, AND his friends migrate, he’s not going anywhere.

Unlike my son, I do not like to be electronically tethered when I’m on vaca  (see?  it feels like a tether to me and a lifeline to him… hmm…) … so don’t expect to see a post until on or about August 20th!  Off to meet my daughter in Europe!

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An incomplete taxonomy of social media for communicators

An incomplete taxonomy of social media:  comments welcomed!

An incomplete taxonomy of social media: comments welcomed!

We amateur cartographers have been trying to map the changing landscape of social media.  While lots of smart people have put together some visually interesting taxonomies (including this nebula-like graphic just about Twitter, created by Brian Solis as shared by Beth Kanter), I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around how to classify and organize these things in my head.  When there are 19 Twitter clients, and counting, it can be daunting (maybe even impossible) to try to keep up with every new entrant in this rapidly changing arena.  Any list or directory that you create is out of date in about a day.

I’ve been using this Powerpoint chart (handily available on SlideShare) as a means of charting the territory that communications professionals really need to understand.  We need to know how people are communicating with one another, finding people with like interests, and sharing interesting content.  We also need management tools.   We need convenient ways of scanning social media, finding people of interest, listing ourselves in directories, organizing our stuff and so on.  And, of course, we need ways of monitoring communications and measuring the impact of campaigns.  Understanding the range of social media tools and tactics can help us do a better job of efficiently and effectively implementing strategy.

My taxonomy is an attempt to think about social media and tools in terms of how they function and what we do with them.  As the web – and particularly mobile – technologies evolve, there will be new functions.  So many of the buckets on this Powerpoint chart arose in response to problems people encountered in their social media experience.  For example, at one point I said something like, “Ack!  I’m overwhelmed with the blogs I’m reading through my email!  What do I do?”  I started using an RSS reader.  As soon as you hear someone complaining about something, like more SPAM coming through Twitter, you can bet someone’s developing a new tool that solves that problem.  Maybe someday there will be something that doesn’t feel soldered on.

Any PR agency or corporate communications department should have someone who is familiar with and actively using at least one channel or tool in every single bucket depicted on this taxonomy.  There’s simply no excuse to be unfamiliar with these capabilities.  They’re too important.

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Philanthrophile’s been tweeted about!

Was adding a subscription into my RSS feeder and noticed that you could just use the name of the blog and Google Reader would fetch up matches – easier than looking up the URL.  Furthermore it told me how many people Reader counts as subscribing to that blog.  Hmm… I wondered… could I find Philanthrophile?   I did, and in the search results, I saw that impactmax had sent out the following tweet on March 17th:

Fab Philanthrophile post on 5 emerging opportunities for nonprofits from changes in mass media

And sure enough, the link took me to my post.  Oh, pshaw!  It’s my first “fab” notice!  Had to share.  Moment of fame now over…

Impactmax, by the way, has more than 200 followers on Twitter.  It – she – is a Minneapolis-based communications consultant.

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Introducing “Cave Man Listening”: a guide to low-tech “listening” for small non-profits

Some large non-profit organizations have both staff and technology to support an increasingly important activity:  listening to what’s being said over the Internet about one’s organization, cause and category.  If large and sophisticated non-profits are already in the Space Age by virtue of the technological tools they’re using, it’s still the Stone Age for small, resource-strained ones.  Hence, this is my first stab at a “how to” guide to social media listening, especially for small non-profits.

 

If, after reading this, you conclude that even “Cave Man Listening” is beyond the reach of your organization, at least encourage your staff and volunteers to establish LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter accounts and tell you when they come across conversations of interest to your cause or organization.  And get out there and comment!

 

1.                  Get your objective(s) straight

 

Think about your organization’s situation and strategy.  What are its most important aims?  To raise awareness of an issue?  To recruit volunteers?  To attract friends and donors?  As a starting point, choose your MOST IMPORTANT need and focus on that.  You can broaden out your listening efforts once you’ve figured out a basic approach that works for you.

 

2.                  Google your organization, your competitors, and the best keywords you can think of for your cause.  As a place to begin, include your geographic identifier, e.g. Sacramento.  (Experimenting with keywords and noting the number of Google results will tell you something about the most popular keywords.)

 

You’re not doing one search.  You’re doing several that relate to your organization and your cause.

 

3.                  Dig through the results – really dig, down to the 20th page or so.

 

The deeper you dig, the more you will begin to uncover the informal networks of people who are involved in your cause in some way.  You may find individuals who are blogging about events they’re sponsoring for a competitor.  You may find favorable, or not so favorable, comments about your services on yelp.  You may find people who are talking about your cause in more general terms, who may not know who you are and what you do.

 

If you can’t spend that much time – don’t worry about it.  Do what you can do, even if that’s just the 6th page of results.

 

Notice where the conversations are happening.  Are they on yelp?  Community boards?  Blogs?  Twitter?  LinkedIn?

 

As a place to begin, pick three venues that you want to track more regularly.

 

4.                  Recruit helpers if you can.  (If you can’t, skip to #6)

 

Once you’ve identified the priority “places” to listen, divide and conquer.  Who can help?  How about a new Board member who’s eager to get involved, especially one who is younger and uses social networking already?   A volunteer who’s a communications professional and wants to stay current with social networking trends?  Remember that they should participate as individuals, with (at least) an avatar to differentiate themselves from individuals and organizations that shamelessly use the ‘net for self-promotion; ideally, your helpers will feel comfortable identifying themselves with a screen name and potentially a photo.

 

5.                  Establish a goal and (softly) an accountability.

 

If the work is being divided, it needs to come back together.  And if you’re reading this “Cave Man Listening”, tag, you’re probably “it”.  Ask the helpers to experiment with listening for one month.  Ask them to “listen” at least once a week, and copy and capture what they learn in an email to you.  Very likely they’re helping out of the goodness of their hearts, so don’t make it a command.  Let them know that what they’re doing can really help the cause.

 

If you’re not pushing your luck, create a list of what to capture so that you can analyze the results later (see “Analyze” below).

 

6.                  Add just a little technology; at least sign up for Google Alerts.  As Google Alert Help explains:  Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms. You can also choose to have your alerts delivered via feed to the feedreader of your choice (e.g., Google Reader or add the feed to your iGoogle page). We currently offer alerts with results from News, Web, Blogs, Video and Groups.  Go for the “comprehensive” option if you want alerts re: news, websites and blogs aggregated into a single email.  Amy Sample Ward has a great slideshow she’s posted online that walks you through what Google Alert and other online tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search look like, and how she uses them.  As Amy notes, if you start following certain blogs, you’re quickly going to want a way to aggregate the postings.  Google Reader ranks among the best RSS readers and it’s easy to subscribe.  Remember, if you don’t read posts when they hit your reader, you can always search/scan later… so don’t panic when you start to feel buried by all of the information coming at you.

 

7.                  When you turn up discussions about your cause or organization, carefully consider opportunities for response.

 

Each “hit” is an opportunity, but sometimes no response is the right response.  If the post/message is already favorable about your organization, you may be able to comment with encouragement and let the individual know about your organization’s recent success stories or upcoming opportunities to get more involved.  If the post/message is negative, first consider whether you are likely to get “flamed” by commenting; don’t take the bait if bloggers are into bashing, degrading, satirizing or ranting.  For other negatively leaning posts, follow the rules of good public relations:  acknowledge the individual’s concern/experience, respectfully provide correct information if you think that’s appropriate, and follow-up if needed.  Tone is important and so is taking action to investigate, at the very least.  Network for Good is just one organization that says they have successfully converted nay-sayers into some of their biggest advocates.  If the post/message is just about the cause/issue, and not your organization, offer information about your organization as a way to get involved and make a difference.

 

8.                  Analyze:  what do the results “say”?

 

In a more resourced world, you’d be able to analyze the data several ways with a tool:  according to key words, active individuals, sources (websites, blogs, etc.) and so on.  At the most low-tech end of the spectrum, print out or review the emails you’ve received.  What’s the gestalt?  Do you detect a pattern about where/how groups and individuals are communicating about issues or organizations related to your cause?

 

If you’ve got the time, .xls isn’t a bad way to create a database of entries, with columns for key factors such as:

 

Key words (look for core key words like “hunger” and “hungry” as well as phrases like “feed the hungry” or “fight hunger” – and don’t forget more general key words like “charity” or “volunteer”)

 

Favorable/unfavorable/neutral (overall opinion being expressed)

 

Individual names (e.g. the blogger’s “handle”)

 

Individual organizations (e.g. the organization the individual is promoting or referencing, including information groups or coalitions)

 

Individual or organization blogs, posts etc. at… (many profiles and comments allow individuals to specify whether they have a blog or website)

 

Source (URL if you’ve got it)

 

Mentions of other organizations or collaborators

 

“Ask” (what is the individual asking readers/followers to do?)

 

“Tell” (what critical bits – facts or ideas – is the individual sharing?  This includes complaints, warnings and suggestions.)

 

9.                  Refine.

 

Based on the results, prioritize the best “places” on the Internet for you to continue to listen.  Re-up your volunteer helpers if you can.  Based on results, you may eventually find that acquiring a more sophisticated tool, like Radian6, would be of use to your organization.

 

 

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Highly recommended: two day workshop in S.F. on social media

NTEN, a great organization, and Beth Kanter, one of the great social media minds out there, are presenting a two day workshop in San Francisco on February 12th and 13th.  It’s billed as “The Social Media Starter Kit for Non-Profits“; based on what I’ve seen both NTEN and Beth do, I bet it will be worth every minute and every penny.  I would kill to attend this one but I am hosting an appreciation party for larger donors to a favorite non-profit of mine, River City Community Services.  Someone go and debrief me later!

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YouTube’s Ramya explains it all to you (how NFPs can use videos)

YouTube answers the question, “What kind of content performs best to YouTube” with a brief (<5 minute) video released through Convio (a supplier of technology solutions to non-profits).  It immediately got me thinking about some of the possibilities for several non-profits I work with.  All you need is an idea, a flip video… and perhaps the most important ingredient… a high schooler to edit and post it (probably in about one day). 

P.S. I followed the link to YouTube’s page about their non-profit program, thinking I could pick up Ramya’s video from the original source, but it wasn’t front and center.   On a follow-up “tips” page, they list five campaigns that they consider best practice.  Here’s one I liked.  (Message to Della:  this would apply to your project interest!)

Send me a link to your favorite non-profit videos!

Video promoting Humane Society:  Project for Awesome

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Best communications plan template and “how to” manual I’ve seen…

I’ve followed links to a lot of marketing and communications plan templates that were almost insultingly basic, but I recently stumbled across a link to TechSoup‘s “Communications Toolkit” on Laura’s Notebook.  Although the template was apparently released in 2006, it would be hard to beat this one.  Among other highlights, there’s a great analysis of channels and tactics — their benefits, weaknesses and their implementation requirements — that begins on page 24.  It’s really worth downloading this free guide.  And from my perspective as a long-time marketer, the guide doesn’t just rush to a shotgun approach.  They guide you through some great questions and exercises about priority audiences and messages.

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What can non-profits learn from the campaign?

I started to write a post about title tags (sounds boring, but they actually matter), but I am just too excited to focus on something that granular.

 

Several weeks ago, Lucy Bernholz, who writes Philanthropy 2173, asked:

What can philanthropy learn from political campaigns?

 

Her post is worth reading, but here are three of my take-aways about what the most recent presidential campaign demonstrated:

 

1.     The message matters. 

A powerful message isn’t just dressing up an idea in new clothes.  It comes from understanding underlying values:  what people really want, and what they are concerned about.  Savvy product marketers and advertisers understand this when they sell cars as reflection of personal identity rather than a set of features.  With its message of “saving lives every day,” the American Cancer Society understands that people want hope.  The Humane Society understands that many people care deeply about the animal-human bond.  The Elizabeth Hospice in San Diego, which must talk about death in a culture of youth and invincibility, speaks to the underlying value of comfort that people have found in hospice when facing terminal illness:  “We listen, we care, we comfort.” 

 

I don’t want to pick on any specific philanthropies, but often organizations are too abstract (“expanding horizons through the power of one-on-one friendships”), too focused on describing what they do (“a powerful voice…”) or too focused on the features (“we are the crucial first link in the system that…”).  We fail to move people.

 

2.    The message-carrier matters.

 

One of the first things that a crisis communications expert does is to identify the spokesperson – someone who will be seen as credible, and who at least offers a sympathetic public face.  That’s why nurses are preferred as hospital spokespersons rather than old white guy administrators for many issues.  On more proactive messages, some of the best message carriers are the beneficiaries of the organization’s efforts.  March of Dimes understands the power of personal stories, and has found an innovative way to collect and share them through its “Every Baby Has a Story” interactive story map.  CARE uses videos and testimonials from women around the world as part of its “I am powerful” campaign.  Going in to this election, voter turnout was running less than 60%, in part because many groups felt disengaged or disenfranchised.  Who better than Barack Obama to convince people who felt cynical about the political process that their vote – their one vote – could matter?

 

3.     Finally, the medium matters.

 

Showing a grasp of electronic communication and social networking was crucial to attracting younger voters (even ones not all that young).  And that isn’t just because these voters use and prefer these modes of communication.  It’s that a candidate simply isn’t seen as “with it” if he or she doesn’t demonstrate a level of comfort through their campaign organization.

 

So what can philanthropists learn?  Too often, we restate or spice up mission statements as the basis of our message, rather than identifying and speaking to underlying values with evocative language.  Too often, our executive directors are the voice of the organization, rather than spokespersons who not only carry the message but live the issue or problem.  And too often, websites and social networking are seen as less than critical because we think that our donors are older and aren’t using electronic communications.  Not only do we miss an important part of the communications equation, but in doing so, we’ve just told a whole segment of the market that we aren’t “with it” enough to engage them.

 

What do you think non-profits and causes can learn from the election?  What organizational or cause-related websites convey a powerful message, and demonstrate that they’re “with it”?

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