Tag Archives: marketing capability

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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Filed under fundraising, Messaging, Uncategorized

Don’t wait: evaluate

You don't have to brag like a pro wrestler! (rmwhittaker1012000/flickr under CC license)

I haven’t fallen off the grid, but I’ve been very busy helping organizations wrap up their holiday campaigns, take stock and prepare to improve their marketing, fundraising and communications programs in 2010*.

Even if the executive director or Board isn’t asking for it, everyone who leads one or all of these functions for a non-profit should document their evaluation of their 2009 program.  (Look for a suggested evaluation process outline in tomorrow’s post.)

Here are some comments I’ve received when I suggest doing such an evaluation:

  • I don’t have time
  • They’re not asking for it
  • Wouldn’t that be bragging if I’m a department of one?

I’ll come back to comment #1 and #2 in a moment, but I thought I’d share with you my response to #3, which I received by email on Friday from a capable staffer who is about a year into a new position with a small but thriving non-profit:

Don’t be sheepish about reporting how you did on performance metrics that were visible to the board.  You are evaluating the function, or, alternatively, the plan.  Even if you are a department of one, it’s important to show the Board that you are a good steward of the organization’s limited resources.  It shows that the function continues to learn and adapt.

Internally, it’s important for the chief executive to scrutinize and evaluate every major aspect of the operation.  Especially when a function is relatively new, it’s important to shape the conversation about how it should be evaluated.  Start with the details and work backwards to the information that is “board worthy” in your situation.  For example, your one or two page executive summary for the Board should report results for metrics that rise to the level of a dashboard, key measures that are directly related to the organization’s health.  But it’s also wise to capture major conclusions from new things that you tried this year.

Your executive summary is an opportunity to continue to educate the Board – bring them along with what you’re learning.  Although you don’t seem to face this challenge, it’s pretty common for Board members to ask management to “do an ad” or implement some kind of marketing tactic that is not well founded in strategy (at best) or harebrained (at worst).  Finally, if the Board had a responsibility for implementing some of the tactics, it’s also good to hold the mirror up so that they can have a conversation about their own follow through.

As for comment #1, make time.  An evaluation helps you figure out where time and money are being wasted.

And as for comment #2, that’s code for “if they can’t pin me down, I can’t look bad.”  Two of the main drivers of any non-profit’s success are fundraising and communications/image.  Begin to lead the dialogue about how the Board should keep its finger on the pulse.

*Of the three organizations that I’ve been intensely involved with this year, two raised 20% more than year prior and one came out about even, which isn’t bad for a difficult year.  Woo hoo!

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Filed under Planning and evaluation, Uncategorized

What I’ve learned about blogging in 9 months and 100 posts

My WordPress dashboard for the first 27 weeks of this year

My WordPress dashboard for the first 27 weeks of this year

Though I am slightly stunned from attending the midnight premiere of the new Harry Potter movie last night, I don’t want to fail to mark this little milestone:  my 100th post.  In my work helping small non-profits to build marketing capability, I found myself proselytizing about the importance of things like websites and the value of blogs.  Problem was, I’d never blogged.  But, as a surgeon once told me, “Brain surgery isn’t that hard.  See one, do one.”

It took me about 4 hours to set up a template on WordPress, and I wrote my first post last October.  While I know this blog meets my personal goals, I’d consider it fairly successful as an example of a professional blog that isn’t actively promoted or optimized for key search terms.  In this post, allow me to share the stats, the stupidest things I did, what’s worked best, and what I could do better.  I’ll also share a link to my personal favorite post and a link to the most searched-for post.

First, the numbers going in to today:

  • 99 posts (beginning in October 2008)
  • 3,979 views
  • Lowest views/day:  in the teens
  • Busiest day:  246 views
  • Busiest week:  609 views
  • Comments:  57
  • Number of tags I’ve used:  236
  • Average frequency:  3 times a week
  • Sources of traffic:  tweets/re-tweets of links; links from other people’s blogs; occasional link on Mashable; searches – primarily for “communications plan template”

Without hesitation, the stupidest thing I’ve done (so far anyway) was to go completely silent for the month of June.  It was especially stupid because I’d had something of a breakthrough just a month before.  I joined Twitter and joined the active tweetstream at Nonprofit Technology Education Network conference in late April (which was a gas).  When I shared links to blog posts about sessions I attended, traffic on my blog shot up and stayed up.  I didn’t plan to go silent.  I just got overwhelmed with real-life stuff.  One day led to the next, and it got harder and harder to get back to blogging.  I poked fun at myself when I finally resurfaced.

What’s worked best is exchanging information across the range of social media.  I can’t believe how synergistic and intertwined social media are.  Topping the list is Twitter.  I am constantly turned on to great information thanks to tweets.  Quite a few people have stumbled across my posts that way — some through tweets generated by me, and some by others.  I love the fact that the LinkedIn WordPress app automatically posts thumbnails of my posts on my LinkedIn profile, and that I can use SlideShare to share content across platforms.  I use Facebook primarily for personal relationships, but occasionally it makes sense to mention a post there – and the post-a-link function makes it incredibly easy.  It’s easy, free and fun.  That’s a hell of a value equation.  (Drive with strategy and you’ve got a home run.)

I also think I’ve found a more comfortable voice, and a focus on topics of interest to beginners.  Lots of my peers are in my shoes — deep marketing experience but relative newcomers to social media.  I define everything when I write.  I assume that the non-profits who find my posts of interests are beginners and are trying to figure out their first steps.

I started to write a long list of what I could do better, but one of my self-criticisms is that I don’t ask for input enough.  What do YOU think I could do better?  What would you like to see me write more about, or less?

OK, I’ll work on that write-shorter-posts-thing next time (right about when I start using fewer parentheses).  I’m gonna close out with two links:

One of the things I’ve learned from reading other blogs (and there are some bloggers who are real heroes to me) is that most bloggers write because they like to do so.  Something about the experience of learning and thinking out loud is appealing to them.  That is certainly true of me.  Writing is a labor of love as is working with non-profits and causes.  Philanthrophile lets me think out loud about opportunities to have greater impact on the community – especially here in Sacramento, my home town.  Thanks for playing!

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Non-profits are better at social media than corporations

National Wildlife Federation sends frequent Facebook updates about wildlife sightings and legislation affecting wildlife

National Wildlife Federation sends frequent Facebook updates about wildlife sightings and legislation affecting wildlife

I’ve seen two articles this week about non-profits’ adoption of social media.  Writing on the Harvard Business Publishing blog, Alexandra Samuel suggests that non-profits are better at social media because they excel at relationship development.  (She points to some good examples that are worth checking out.)  In the other, Kari Dunn Saratovsky of the Case Foundation riffs on a just-published report from Dartmouth showing how large non-profits have outpaced academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies in their adoption.  Why?  Kari suggests:

“As an active and interested observer of these trends, my hunch is that as we have begun adopting these tools in other parts of our lives, more people are finding that the social web can allow people who work in nonprofits the ability to connect and collaborate informally and across institutional boundaries in a quick and inexpensive manner.  Suddenly nonprofits see value in social media beyond attracting new donors or engaging volunteers, but in crowdsourcing ideas, getting instant and honest feedback, or even in finding new content for programs. “

Having relationships with former colleagues in very large organizations, and now, actively engaged with several very small non-profits, I concur that non-profits are adopting social media more rapidly.  While we could spend all day talking about why (and I’ve got my theories), to paraphrase my old boss, the data would qualify as “interesting” but not really “information” that is useful to decision-making.

So here’s my tip:  whether you’re in commercial enterprise or you’re a small non-profit, track what non-profits like National Wildlife Federation and American Red Cross are doing on their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  Sign up to receive their e-newsletters.  Join their Facebook Causes or Fan pages.  Track down their handles on Twitter.  You can learn a lot from seeing how they use these emerging tools for building engagement and loyalty.

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Filed under Social media

What non-profits can learn from Dave Mering and celebrity mothers

Turns out that radio audiences are also in decline, the victim of ipods, MP3 file sharing and social media.  Advertising expert Dave Mering of Mering Carson (Sacramento, CA) weighed in on the future of local news via email:  “What makes this future so scary is the loss of readership among young people. Many see no need at all to pick up a newspaper on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, preferring instead to get their news over the internet or by mobile device or through alternative news sources on television. …(V)iewership of local news has declined as well. Whether all four of the major affiliates will continue to maintain news products is in serious doubt, as it becomes more economical at some point to walk away from expensive news programming in a declining viewership environment and replace it with cheaper alternatives such as local talk or syndicated programming.  The real question is who will become the dominant player in local news over the internet and can that business model play out financially.”

These points strengthen my theory that people will have to find what they want through more sources, and they will have to find efficient ways to keep track of it all.  Here are more breadcrumbs for our trail:

  • Last week, Julie Appleby of USA Today announced she is leaving that pub and moving on to be a senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News, a new, foundation-funded news service to provide in-depth coverage of health policy issues.
  • Yahoo is finding some success with online programs aimed at “needs” they have identified.  They find “needs” by mining search queries and traffic data; then they develop niche Web shows like “Spotlight to Nightlight”, a show comprised of short segments about celebrity mothers.  (Ick.  Obviously I am not the target audience.)  These shows are less expensive to produce that TV-style programs, short (for the attention-span challenged) and can be watched at any time according to user convenience.
  • Though it’s reportedly not very useful yet, Twitter is getting around to adding search functionality.  Once there’s an algorithm that distinguishes the junk from the useful, it will make micro-blogs more accessible and useful, even for people who aren’t spending their day following others on Twitter.

So what?  For non-profits, it underscores the importance of figuring out how to reach people through online environments rather than through traditional newspaper, radio and television news.  If Yahoo can find audiences through search queries and traffic data, methinks a few local news corps may be able to figure out how to do the same thing for local programming.  Or, a few national outlets – like the NY Times – will figure out how to use this data to develop locally-appealing niche programs.

It brings to the fore the importance of survival in an online world.  Look at the strategies in the past two posts – online participation, etc.  As a starting point, if your website isn’t in good shape to serve up interesting content to those you attract (which means having both content and some degree of effective optimization for search), better get cracking.

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Filed under Strategy

The “good”: 5 emerging opportunities for non-profits from changes in mass media

My last post appealed to the Eeyore in you.  This one appeals to your inner Tigger.  (I can’t write that without hearing Tigger’s voice:  “T-I-DOUBLE GUH-ER”)

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to imagine the continued collapse of traditional newspapers  (read the Bee’s lament, here – which, tellingly, was a reprint from another publication).  As Sandy (she with the fresh new media graduate degree) pointed out, “The real estate and automotive industries have basically been the only thing supporting the ‘meatspace’ newspapers but as money gets tighter in those industries they also have been moving pretty quickly to the online environment.”

So here’s what I would consider a “good” scenario for news distribution.  And why do I consider it optimistic?  Because change shakes up the hierarchy.  Organizations that don’t “get it” will lose ground with their intended audiences, and organizations – even small ones – will gain ground if they are fast-moving and seize upon emerging opportunities.

  • Some newspapers will be left standing but they will become regionals or nationals.  The New York Times is certain to be among them.  With a strong national content delivered both print and online, these stalwarts will be positioned to expand online into large metro markets, a la   www.chicago.nytimes.com.  (Don’t try to follow that if it appears as a link – I’m hypothesizing!)
  • Likewise, there will be at least one strong news-oriented radio station and relatively strong TV news program.  (The economics of radio are more favorable for radio than TV, but I expect at least one TV news program to survive.)
  • The Jon Stewartization of news will continue, merging somewhere along the way with personality-based radio shows.   Just imagine the opportunities associated with juxtaposing info about your favorite cause alongside the banter of morning radio anchors,  such as Mark and Mercedes’ recent discussion about what proportion of people will pee in the shower or use the “farmer’s hankie” (100.5 The Zone, here in Sacramento).
  • On television, look for a similar “View-ization” or “Oprah-ization” of local, personality-based shows that incorporate current issues and events.  In Sacramento, Good Day Sacramento probably is the furthest along in this direction.
  • News outlets are all aggressively trying to incorporate the other mediums for communications, and to prompt dialogue.  The Sacramento Bee now has a small battalion of bloggers that they’ve recruited to blog about everything from sports to technology to non-profits.  (Watch for United Way’s Gabrielle Stephenson’s posts.)  “The Swarm” blog is aimed at letting you “mix it up” with The Bee’s editorial board although it sure looks like more telling than listening to me.   The Bee’s Forum has an online component where the editor moderates discussion each week. CNN is turning the we’ll-tell-you-what-we-think-and-you-comment model on its head with ireport.  CNN is using a website and a Facebook page as a way of collecting ideas for stories directly from the audience and then turning it into a news report.  While the show is on the air, they show comments coming in from these live sources as they speak.  The proverbial tail wags the dog.
  • People who really need to understand something deeply will find good sources.  They’ll find bloggers or publications (online or offline) that they trust.  Or hire consultants to acquire and consolidate good information as a time-saver.  Most likely, they’ll pay — or at least pay more — for the access.
  • They’ll also find sources that cater to their specific interests.  They might subscribe to an online political publication, a car e-newsletter and a local restaurant review blog.  (And they’ll miss the convenient good-old days when they could get most of that in the local paper.)
  • They’ll also turn to people that they trust.  Opinion-leaders will be the people with lots of followers on Twitter, large numbers of readers to their blogs, and so on.  Sure, they’ll be the standard cadre of grass-tops (people who know people in office) but we’ll also be looking for people who just seem to know what the heck is going on with respect to social and demographic trends, technology, the economy, politics and so on.

And I’ll throw in some related trends that may smerge with these media developments:

  • Search(a la Google) will continue to be massively important because people will have to seek and find information.
  • As people get back to basics in a down economy, they will continue to try to support the things they already care about — education, for example.  They may try to give more to offset those who are giving less, or they may volunteer more to make up for what they cannot give.
  • After years of “thinking globally” messages, a “hyper local” trend will emerge.  More than local-vores or buying local, this will be an upsurge in concern about one’s own community as economic threats to local communities become more evident.  One doesn’t need Oprah to notice the shuttered storefronts.
  • The use of “readers” and personalized home pageswill grow.  If you can’t get the information you care about in one convenient cover, or through one news outlet, you’re going to have to find multiple worthwhile sources.  But managing them through your email inbox will quickly become untenable.  Imagine a home page with blocks you create where you can see the headlines from all of the sources you care about.  You’d read it in the morning, like a Kindle, but with customized content.  (And, PS, you’ll be able to use your Kindle or your iphone if you don’t want to sit at your computer screen.)

Here are some strategies that a non-profit might pursue in this new post-newspaper world.  But before I do that, refresh your memory with the list of strategies in the “bad/ugly” scenario post (you should see a line at the top of this post with yesterday’s title and an arrow point to the left).  THOSE STRATEGIES ALL APPLY HERE, TOO.  And here’s that tip again:  you can’t do all of these; choose those you think could differentiate your organization and would deliver the greatest impact for the least amount of time and money.

  1. Ugh.  (I recoil a bit at this one.)  Start thinking of news-light ways to get your message across.   If you want to reach a younger demographic, how can you create an activity that is quirky, fun or just plain silly enough to warrant people posting about it on their Facebook wall or talking about it on The Zone during the morning hours?  Almost every single news outlet right now is actively looking for “silver lining” or inspirational stories to offset the doom-and-gloom stories that are making their audience tune out.
  2. So the news media wants to start a conversation with us.  Be prepared with spokespersons – some staff, some volunteer – who are familiar with your message and facile in particular formats.  Have your “fun, hip” spokesperson ready for news-light TV and radio.  Have an expert ready for more serious news features.  Have a Spanish-speaking spokesperson prepped for Univision.  Have a left-leaner and a right-leaner (looks like some of those who have given up on newspapers felt they weren’t balanced and were too liberal.)  Have someone else who’s a whiz with blogging tracking and jumping in on news websites (and have them do it often).  Seems to me it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find one or even two spokespersons that are attractive to, and good at, the full range of formats from radio to TV to print and online.
  3. Anticipate that more unauthenticated negative comments will be made about your cause or organization and ramp up your organizational listening.  More self-published reporters mean fewer editors – editors who used to insist on fact-checking.  Come to an internal point of view about when you will correct the record and when you will simply count on short attention spans and let stuff slide (for example, when you are dealing with a blogger who likes to rant – or Rush Limbaugh).
  4. Make your website more of a destination – which means enhancing content.  If you’re a food closet, for example, can your website become a credible source of information about hunger in general?  If you’re United Way, how can you showcase the many causes and organizations in a local community?   Can you recruit citizen journalists to help you develop a stronger voice for a particular group or cause?  Or maybe pay some of those unemployed journalists as freelancers?
  5. Start thinking about who the new local opinion leaders may be, and cultivate a relationship with them (ideally:  a face-to-face one).  Whose emails are often forwarded to you?  Who gets quoted in conversations?  How can you make them knowledgeable about your cause or organization?  (PS one of the best approaches is to ask for their input or feedback.)

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Filed under public relations, Social media, Strategy

The good, bad and ugly of mass media turmoil: first, the ugly

One of the great underutilized strategic planning tools is contingency planning.  In this blog post and the next one, I’ll walk through scenarios about what the endangered future of mass media means for non-profits, ranging from worst case to best case.  Consider this one “the bad and ugly”.  The goal of the exercise is to choose a course of action that will be most “robust” (strategic planners love that word) no matter what happens.  So whether you think there’s a pony in there somewhere* or not, you should read this post.

In the most negative scenario, the doom loop continues, with further erosion of network news audience (local and national) and newspaper circulation, and the flight of advertisers.  Staff cuts, consolidations, and closures ensue.

  • Mass media collapses to the point that it is untenable as an avenue for raising awareness of an issue or organization – particular those that are not visually interesting or endearing.
  • Audience fractures into a thousand splinter online publications, cable channels and radio stations – destroying the cost/benefit of traditional public relations approaches that focus on newspaper and television angles.
  • Cheap programming rules – with TV news formats edging closer to the production value of Wayne’s World.  They won’t have a news photographer to send to your event.

What would be the imperatives for a non-profit that needs to get its message out?  The biggest challenge will be efficiency of reach, and underlying that, the skills of its staff (addressed at bottom).  In the past, non-profit staff with traditional PR skills have been able to devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to pursue media targets with big audience and influence.  In the “bad/ugly” scenario, there just aren’t enough big targets, and there will be fierce competition for the few outlets with decent share.   Special woe to the cause that really needed the depth of a newspaper feature due to confidentiality issues (e.g. children’s mental health) or lack of appealing visuals (e.g. end-of-life issues, HIV/AIDS).

Here are some strategies that a non-profit might pursue to try to tackle the problem of efficient reach (tip:  remember strategy is about making choices, not doing all of these things):

  1. Develop an aggressive online participation strategy.  This is a big fat “duh”.  What it really means is:  a) enhancing websites as core infrastructure – which includes attention to content and searchability, not just a pretty homepage ; b)  developing a presence on social media platforms where target audiences are already, be it Facebook, Twitter, Ning or whatever else comes along; c) using organizational listening and participation as a means of finding people who may be able to take your message to their followers and friends.
  2. Track the near-certain rise of niche audience publicationsin the online and offline world.  As free media content deteriorates in value (e.g. USA Today), business people and influentials will be forced to subscribe to get the news they care about (at least conveniently).  Niche outlets will pop up as dot.org’s (VoiceOfSanDiego.org), dot.com’s and even blogs (some by individuals and some that emulate online dot coms, as in www.californiabeat.wordpress.com).  Some of it will be free (grant-funded or supported by advertising business model), and some of it will cost.  We pay for Zagat’s and Consumer Reports now; why not business and political news?
  3. Develop story pitches that reflect the interests of these niche publications.   This will be no small task; it will take time and thought.  In my previous post, I shared some info from a blogger who talked about the importance of understanding her focus and interests rather than sending a generic news release.   You can imagine that capturing the interest of the ex-newspaper journalists at VoiceOfSanDiego.org would be quite different than attracting the interest of an online personality.  (For more about VoiceOfSanDiego, read this article from the NY Times last November.)
  4. Do most of the work of writers and photographers to support a story idea – from writing it in various lengths/styles to providing great photos that can be used in a news website’s slide show feature.
  5. Invest in database marketing and growing direct communications channels, especially e-newsletters, e-mail and blogs.  And don’t count out podcasting and youtube videos.   (I’d say direct mail but there’s growing evidence that it is declining in efficiency.)
  6. Develop a cadre of brand/cause ambassadors, people with passion about your cause who will plaster it on their backs (e.g. thanks to the cool t-shirt you gave them).  You arm them with talking points and help them understand the impact of what they can do as message carriers.  Think about what’s in it for them and try to give them that (for example, they may be interested in socializing with other like-minded people, in learning more about the cause a la continuing education, or in competing for prizes and recognition).  It won’t work for every cause but it will for some.
  7. Screw non-paid media and start learning about online advertising including pay-per-click.

The biggest challenge you may face in this scenario isn’t money.  It’s staff knowledge and skill.  And perhaps interest.  Sandy, who has a current master’s degree from UW in new media, told me, “I have noticed that at least in my neck of the woords, non-profit workers haven’t caught up with the skill sets they need to be effective in this environment.”

*The old story goes:  A mother and father were concerned about their two boys.  One was a dedicated pessimist, and the other, an optimist.  They decided to take a new approach to Christmas gifts in the hopes of moderating their sons’ extreme personality traits.  They would give the pessimist a treasure trove of the most desired toys, and the optimist, something not even he could find the good in.  On Christmas morning, the pessimist came downstairs to stacks and stacks of gifts.   One by one, he dismissed them, “The toy fire truck will break, the bike will get a flat tire and I’ll never be any good at that video game.”  All the while, the optimist was looking around for his gifts but saw none.  “Yours is out in the garage,” his Dad said.  He ran into the garage and was confronted with the spectre of a six foot pile of horse manure.  Immediately, the boy dived into the manure and began digging furiously.  “What in the word are you doing,” the father asked.  “With all of this shit, there must be a pony in here somewhere,” he exclaimed!

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Filed under public relations, Social media, Strategy

Microsites to promote a cause? Not so fast! (And microsites, explained)

I’ve recently noticed two examples of websites that were established by specific organizations using separate campaign identities (and URLs) rather than the parent organization’s website URL and identity.  Both are really cool campaigns — the Sacramento Tree Foundation has staked out its goal of planting 5 million trees, while CARES has established the ambitious goal of eradicating new HIV infections in 5 years:

Here’s the Sac Tree Foundation campaign, greenprintonline

And here’s the CARES campaign, areyouthedifference

I could think of pros and cons associated with separate websites, but I decided to reach out to Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz.  (My Monday post included an excerpt from one of Rand’s recent posts on SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog.)  Busy as he is, Rand weighed in.

The verdict:  from a search perspective, go with a subfolder (e.g. www.sactree.com/greenprintonline) rather than a separate microsite (http://greenprintonline).

Rand pointed me to two recent posts on SEOmoz’s blog describing the distinctions between subdomains, subfolders and microsites in this post, and this post.

Here are the pros and cons I saw when thinking about the use of microsites:

Pros

Flexibility – the sponsoring organizations may have limited flexibility to modify their main site; it may be easier to build a functional microsite, with links

Enables a national organization to set up a tool that can be used/modified by a local organization

If the organization has limited brand recognition and appeal, could attract new interest

Possibly could be used as a transition to a new brand

Enables collaborative effort with more than one non-profit (less arguing about who “owns” benefits of halo)

Cons

If you click through a link from the main site, it could take a whole lot of clicks to find the information (wears out patience of user)

Challenge of managing two sites instead of one for resource-constrained organization

Could muddy image of main brand

Split traffic

Some could wonder who the sponsor really is; lacks credible image of established NFP

At breakfast recently, I batted around the idea of a website that could serve as a clearinghouse for information about human service agencies affected by the potentially humongous Sacramento County budget cuts – kind of a virtual coalition.  I’ve thought about the same thing as a way of pooling information about the incidence and effects of hunger in the area.  That still might be a good idea, but I’d recommend against establishing campaign microsites if there is only one sponsoring non-profit.

PS The Sacramento Tree Foundation also includes a subfolder/page on its main website.

I’d be very interested in any experience that you want to report – pro or con – with cause-related microsites.

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How to re-vamp your website

Yesterday’s post trumpeted the importance of a website as a part of an organization’s marketing platform.  Today’s post points you to an online “how to” guide created by the Tactical Technology Collective (part of their free message-in-a-box series), and offers my handy (though unabashedly ugly) 7-page tactical plan for evaluating and revamping your website.  Feel free to share it if it’s useful. 

To get my tactical plan, email me at bstonehome@aol.com

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Why your website matters more than social media

Since starting The Philanthrophile back in October, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, thinking and writing about social media… along with the rest of the world.  Social media is hot, steamy hot.  While I think it’s important and MUST be a part of the tactical mix, it shouldn’t be top priority for a small non-profit.  Presuming that your organization has its mission and strategy figured out (hint:  that comes first), and knows what outcomes it is trying to achieve…

Da da da daaaaah!  (Marine Corps band trumpets here)  Your website should be top priority.

Why?  Social media doesn’t yet compare with the power – and numbers – of search.   We now Google for everything, even the stuff that might just as easily be found in the contacts section of Outlook. 

As Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz posted today on the SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog:

Social media is great for:

  • Connecting with your users (assuming they’re already on social media platforms and talking about you)
  • Building another channel for communication, branding & messaging
  • Appealing to early adopters
  • Wasting time on non-business essential communication 🙂

But it can’t do what search/SEO does:

  • Answer a direct need precisely when it’s requested in a scalable fashion
  • Gain visibility from virtually all Internet users with an interest in your brand/product/sector/content at once

if you’re ignoring other important fundamentals of online marketing, like:

  • Building a website with a unique value proposition
  • Create amazingly useful content that people want to share
  • Conduct effective email marketing
  • Find ways to scalably acquire new users & retain existing ones

A website is home base, the platform for your marketing and communications efforts.   Here’s another blog post worth checking out from the Non-profit Tech Blog that puts websites into a “Maslow’s hierarchy” of needs.  Note that Customer Relationship Management (e.g. database/campaign management) and social media are ranked as less important than websites.  NEXT:  HOW TO TIPS FOR EVALUATING AND POSSIBLY RE-VAMPING YOUR WEBSITE, AND THEN:  ARE MICROSITES A GOOD IDEA FOR NON-PROFITS (AND WHAT ARE THEY, ANYWAY?)

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