Getting Started with Social MediaShould you get a twitter account? Who will manage it? Should you create a Facebook fan page? Who will set it up and who owns it’s success? With your staff and other resources pretty well tapped out how can you stay up-to-date and generate more interest in your organization? These are all great questions to be asking, but you should NOT let them paralyze you.


Hit something!

Remember, there are people “out there” who are interested in your organization or what you’re doing to help the world. They just need you to meet them where they are. 

Pick one social networking site to focus on for now. Baby-step your way into the pool so you feel comfortable and equipped! I’d suggest you begin with Facebook for one reason. It was recently determined that 2X more people are heading to Facebook over Google in the workplace. Based on those stats alone, it’s pretty simple to see that there’s a LOT of people on Facebook every day. While someone is on their lunch/coffee break they could be looking for you. 

If you have 5 minutes, go right now and set up a Facebook fan page for your organization:

  1. Go to and login or set up your personal account

  2. Read this great tutorial on setting up a fan page

  3. Shoot an invite to your contacts on Facebook inviting them to your new page


That’s it! 

The goal of this post isn’t to over simplify the role of social media for nonprofits but rather to show you that the tools are easier than you think to get started with. Once you get started and begin to see success, swim out into deeper waters!


There, you just hit something. Agree? Keep coming back to the blog here and we’ll keep giving you more information on how to make strides in your social media efforts. 

Photo by Gekko93


Also see 11 Quick Tips to Enhance Your Facebook Fan Page


The “Idol Gives Back” special television event airs tomorrow – Wednesday, April 21st at 8/7c on FOX – but you don’t have to wait until then to give back!

American IdolOne of the many ways fans are contributing is through the “Help Me Give Back” program using Blackbaud’s Friends Asking Friends® and Charity Dynamics Boundless Fundraising™ for Facebook. The “Help Me Give Back” program was designed to empower individuals and teams to raise money for “Idol Gives Back” at in support of this year’s beneficiaries, including The Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children, and United Nations Foundation. Fans have a choice of joining a team, or starting their own individual or team fundraising page.

And, in true American Idol form, the fans have shown up:

  • Five-year-old Kyleigh Buelow has raised $2105 in support of Idol Gives Back. Her reason? “I found a way that I can help make the difference in the lives of children even though I am a child myself. I am trying to raise money for American Idol Gives Back by donating my hair (at least 10”) to Locks of Love.”

  • Gina Sutherlin, a gifted education teacher at West Wortham School on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, launched a fundraising effort to coincide with a class project on music through the decades, but had an even deeper reason for participating. “After Katrina, American Idol along with so many others opened up their hearts and wallets to help the people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast rebuild their lives. It is my hope that this experience will not only provide our students with a life lesson, but also present an opportunity for our communities to give back as well.”

  •  Adam Fans Give Back is leading the race for the team pages at $9350 raised and Team Bon Bon Gives Back has already surpassed its goal in honor of Season 9 contestant Siobhan Magnus.

On tomorrow’s show, the leading individual fundraisers and the leading teams will be spotlighted and some may even find themselves being invited to a future American Idol. Even though the “Help Me Give Back” program ends tonight, during tomorrow’s broadcast, viewers will be able to make donations via toll-free lines, text messages and online to support the Idol Gives Back Foundation ("IGBF") and its beneficiaries.

So, how are you harnessing the power of your fans?


Read more about Idol Gives Back:


Because the web continues to evolve and social sites like Facebook continue to dominate (400 M users and more popular than Google).

Check out the video to hear more from Chris on the topic.

Now that you've watched the video here's how to get started:

  1. First, build your presence on the web by putting up an "about you" page that has pictures and info about YOU. Make sure it's enough to give those who've never met you an idea of who you are. It's a first impression of sorts.

  2. Next, head over to all the social networking sites you use frequently and fill out the profile information completely. Make sure to add a real photo of yourself and include a brief bio that tells others you're a real person doing good work. Folks are much more likely to engage with you if you look like a real person online.

  3. Then start learning how to listen for the conversations happening online by "growing bigger ears" (check out ... Set up Your Social Media Listening Dashboard in 30 Minutes or Less and I’m Listening, Now What? 5 Tips to Make Your Listening Worth It as well).

  4. Lastly, don't forget to check out the Trust Agents book if you haven't yet.

I'd love to hear from YOU in the comments. What examples do you have of living Nonprofit Trust Agents? Where can others find them to see how this is playing out in real life?


Chris has some great insight. Make sure to take a few minutes to watch …


Based on what you heard in that video what questions do you have? Make sure to give Chris a few hard ones.



Getting Started with Social MediaTo answer the first question, ask yourself:

  1. Do your constituents and organizational partners use social media?

  2. Do you want to build better relationships with your constituents and organizational partners?

  3. Do you want to increase your organization’s brand or name recognition?

  4. Do you want to increase the number of people who know about your cause and organization’s mission?

  5. Do you want to increase the number of your organization’s prospects, volunteers and donors?

If you answered yes to 2 more of these questions, then your answer is also, yes!—you should be using social media! In fact, where as a website became an organizational necessity in the 90’s, I would suggest a social media strategy is quickly becoming the necessity of today. 


So let’s get started with the “how” you can best do that in 10 easy steps:

Step 1 – Sign-Up!

Even if you’re not ready to use each social network, it’s a good idea to register your organization’s name or acronym before someone else does—at least with the major networks, Facebook (Pages) and Twitter, and also consider some of the additional 250+ social networks. Even if you’re not immediately putting it to use, it’s also a good idea to register your organization’s name upon hearing about a rising social network. And, don’t forget to maintain a list of these.

Step 2 – Prioritize & Goal Setting

Choose one or two social networks to get started with, most likely Facebook and/or Twitter. You’ll need to determine where your constituents are active. You can do this by researching demographics, checking website statistics for traffic, asking your most engaged volunteers or even conducting a poll or survey for constituents. This is also a great time to determine what exactly your organization’s social media goals are. Use the questions at the beginning of this blog post to get started, and prioritize three.

Step 3 – You Need a Leader

Determine who will be updating your account. Many organizations may not have the staff to dedicate one person, so consider having a few people with access to update. Of course, who has experience and is comfortable with the social network(s) you are prioritizing is also a consideration.

Step 4 – Create a Plan

How often will you update? Will you focus on announcements or conversations? How will you measure success? How will relate your new social media strategy to your organization’s larger communication’s strategy? The answers to these questions will vary for each organization, but are best determined by internal conversations with key stakeholders, the resources you have available, your social media goals

Step 5 – Getting Started

Of course, the two most important reasons for using social media are to better engage your constituents and gain new constituents. Start doing this by asking your existing constituents to get involved. Create announcements, add icons on your homepage, add to both print and email newsletters, add to the staff email signatures and voicemail greetings, and ask your most engaged volunteers, donors and constituents to help spread the word by asking their friends! In addition, some social networks have tools to help you find people your organization already has a relationship with, such as importing an email list.

Step 6 – Integrate Social Media Online

Ensure your website has tools to more easily promote social media usage among your constituents. A simple tool such as AddThis can allow your website visits to quickly share website pages to their social networks. And by creating a free account with AddThis you can customize the website widget to promote the social networks you most want, customize the integration (such as ensuring Twitter includes a mention to your org’s Twitter account), and also gain valuable analytics reporting regarding usage and return clicks.

Step 7 – Track Statistics

Keep track of weekly or monthly statistics on the number of updates, followers/fans, mentions, AddThis usage and significant actions you took during each timeframe.

Step 8 – Build a Social Media Strategy

Good news is, you’ve already started with Steps 1-7. Next, review your organization’s communications plan and ensure tie-in’s everywhere appropriate, such as issuing press releases, highlighting new resources, articles or blog posts, responding to news, action alerts and current events.

Step 9 – Engage Your Constituents

Regularly watch, search for and respond to mentions about your organization and mission. Ask constituents and partners, especially your most engaged, to share important messages with their networks, and add you to their lists. 

Step 10 – Commit to Learn, Track & Test!

There is no exact science to social media strategy, or else everyone would be doing it. Different constituents act and use the internet differently, social n networks rise and fall (who remembers Friendster?) and the internet is forever changing—and so must we.   The best way to ensure success is to dedicate 30-60 minutes a month to studying statistics, testing different strategies and learning more about social media.


Last, but not least, share what you’ve learned and network with others using social media. In fact, now is the perfect chance for you to get started! How about adding a comment below to what you like or would add to this post and even use the AddThis tool above to share this article to your existing social network.

Photo by jorbasa


Measuring Matters in Social MediaAs you read this you’re probably thinking about some of the things you currently measure to determine if you’re being successful in your area of focus. Let's look at a few of the big ones for nonprofits.

Direct Mail

A tried and true way of communication and fundraising. Direct mail has been around since the invention of the modern address from what I can tell and it’s a huge part of most nonprofit fundraising programs. There are countless nonprofits, consultants and companies who know how to create a successful direct mail program.

We are sophisticated enough to know what metrics to measure, what tactics to deploy and how to apply many different “formulas” to the data (see something like RFM: A Formula for Greater Direct Mail Success by Blackbaud). This allows nonprofits to look at the data in a way similar to the below ...

“If you have 1 million names in your mailing list and a variable mailing cost of 50 cents per piece. You typically get a respectable 1.6 percent response rate and a $32 average gift. So each time you mail, you spend $500,000 and bring in $512,000, for net revenue of $12,000.”

That’s measurable.



Email marketing is also fairly “baked” in that it’s been around since the 80‘s. The nonprofit space sees the value and has figure out what to measure and how to take appropriate action based on the metrics being captured.

We’ve tinkered enough to know that our list size and the number of emails we send  matter. We also know that we should be tracking the number of people emailed and measuring the number of bounce backs, unsubscribes, opens, click throughs and response rates (i.e. donations).

There’s reports like the NTEN 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study that help us track industry trends over the past few years. (p.s Their 2010 version hits the web near you on April 29th. Check for more details.)

Again, that’s measurable.

Social Media

Next, insert social media as a communication and fundraising channel. Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and others are fairly new, but they are powerful. They are changing the game.

Social networking now accounts for 11 percent of all time spent online in the US. A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009. Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day. Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up from 13.8% a year before.” (Wikipedia social media stats)

As with any new medium, nonprofit organizations are in the early stages of figuring out how to use the new tools effectively, measure the right things and determine what success looks like.

Questions like “How do I figure out who’s active on Facebook and exists on my direct mail or email list?” or “How do I capture social networking data about my donors?” come to mind. (see Do You Know Your Supporters?)?

We’re in the stage of the game where tools matter. Measuring is tough to do because there are dozens of prominent social web sites and the tools are always changing. Not to mention the fact that the tools are even less mature than the social sites which make capturing and mining the data that much more difficult. Social media is like the online version of the wild wild west.

To that end we’ve started capturing and measuring for our customer. It’s early, but we’re seeing some interesting and exciting results. Check out Making Event Participants More Successful with Social Media Tools.

What questions do you have? What type of measuring tools are you using to figure out if your efforts with social media and social networking are paying off?


Photo by Tom M. Schenkenberg



George Durney, member of the Meals On Wheels Board since 2007


4 Rules of Successful Online Video


1) Bring the face of your organization to life

Video is a fantastic way to bring your organization and cause to life for those viewing. You can use a board member like Meals on Wheels did here or you could have a staff member, volunteer or donor take the spotlight. How ever you do it video has the ability to portray the human side of your work like no other medium.


2) Share your compelling story

If you notice, George shares how he and his family is personally connected to the Meals  on Wheels cause. In this case it’s a board member. In another case it could have been one of the seniors being served. How ever it’s done video help tell the story like nothing else.


3) Make known your intentions

Notice how George points out the goals of the campaign - to end senior hunger in America by 2020 through raising funds, awareness and volunteerism. They even went on to show visuals from their web site an other sources to drive home the point. Make sure your approaching video in a similar way - keep your point simple and clear.


4) Ensure there is a simple and clear call to action

See the big blue button right under the video player controls? They couldn’t have made it simpler to see or act on. It’s important for you as a nonprofit to make it simple for the people interacting with you online to help you when they feel motivated to. This is a great example of making the call to action simple and clear. Check out more on how you as a nonprofit can utilize YouTube.


Bonus: YouTube is the second larges search engine in the world. Putting your videos there is a no brainer these days. You immediately have the opportunity to see you videos go “viral” or be viewed by audiences who you never thought would see it.


Now, this list of four things is by no means comprehensive. What else can nonprofits do with video to make an impact? I want to hear from you.


Do You Know Your Supporters?This isn’t a new challenge by any means, but it is one that’s becoming more complicated to solve. It’s sort of like going from basic math to solving Trigonometric Theorems. Remember Ptolemy's Theorem? Yea, me neither.

You might be asking you self, why? Why does it matter if I know whether or not a donor is active on Facebook or Twitter? Or you may be thinking that your organization doesn’t use social media or any social networking sites. You could event be thinking that this is all too overwhelming and that you don’t have the time to figure out which of your supporters is using a particular social networking site. That’s understandable, but I’d ask that you keep reading. I’ve got a few ideas that you should consider and a great tool to help you solve this problem.

Targeted Communication

Knowing if one of your nonprofits supporters is active on a social network like Twitter gives you the opportunity to tailor your communication.  It’s like segmenting you email list to target you message to people that live in San Diego California versus Charleston South Carolina.

I’d suggest you think long and hard about how you communicate with people using social networks. Folks who use social networking tools are growing increasingly used to consuming smaller bits of information – The longer your message the greater your risk of them not paying attention or getting distracted with other things.

These supporters might also prefer to be communicated to on Facebook or Twitter versus email. It’s the same as when people prefer email versus direct mail. Same issue, different communication channels. Knowing how people want to be talked to is key to your communications strategy.

Action Step
: Find out where your supporters hang out online and make sure to capture that information in your CRM system.


Deeper Engagement

Social networks give you a unique and exciting opportunity. A low cost ability to engage with your supporters on a regular basis. This ability to regularly chat with people about everyday life, things that matter to them, how they’re supporting your organization and how you can support them is huge! Email doesn’t give you the chance to do this. People don’t use the tool that way and don’t expect you to either. Direct mail cost too much. These mediums were not intended to be used for this level of engagement, but social networking and social media were.

If you know someone is actively using Facebook wouldn’t you want to go spend some time with them there? Wouldn’t spending time with them like that deepen your relationship with them and in turn make them feel more connected to your organization?

Action Step
: Find out where your supporters hang out online and start regularly talking to them there.


The Power of the Network

Facebook has shown us that their average user has about 150 “friends”. I’m not sure if that’s the average across all social networks, but let’s imagine that it is.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter make is extremely simple for your supporters to share things with their personal network of friends. If one of your supporters makes a donation to you or participates in an event and shares that information with their networks you indirectly benefit from that action because all of a sudden 150 potential new supporters heard from one of their trusted friends.

The power of one becomes increasingly important because the ability to spread the word has moved from the small local neighborhood to the huge World Wide Web! Think about that for a second.

Action Step
: Make it simple for your supporters to spread the word about how they are engaging with your organization online.


Solutions ...

You might be thinking to yourself, how on earth do I find out what social networking site my supporters use. There are a few ways you could go about solving this problem.

  1. Send an email out to your current list and ask your supporters to tell you what social networking sites they participate on and if they’d like to hear from you there. Make sure you’ve got a way to capture this information in your CRM system. Ideally you’d have a link in the email that takes them back to your web site where you ask them to fill out a simple form.

  2. Use a tool like Flowtown. You can import your email list and the tool will go find social networking information about the people on your list. Pretty cool, eh?! Once you’ve got this info. make sure to bring it back into your core CRM system so that you can continue building the complete view of your supporters.


Ok, you’ve heard enough from me for now. What are you thinking? How does knowing which social networks your supporters use help you build deeper relationships with them?

Photo by masepack


Nonprofit Consulting

Blackbaud “ExpertEase” consulting sessions at the NTC Science Fair — kicking off on Thursday, April 8 at 3 p.m. and featuring Blackbaud’s technology and online fundraising experts.

Educational Sessions by Blackbaud Nonprofit Experts

  • Thursday, April 8 (multiple sessions); We Are Media Podcasting Workshop — As part of the We Are Media Project, Chad Norman, Blackbaud’s Internet marketing manager and host of The Baudcast, will co-present two workshops on podcasting basics for nonprofit. Pre-registration required
  • Friday, April 9, 3:30 p.m., Chestnut Room; Blackbaud Enterprise CRM™ — Facilitating the Constituent Journey — Blackbaud’s Richard Geiger will highlight how Blackbaud Enterprise CRM is helping nonprofits transform their view of the donor into the holistic constituent view and how the platform, combined with CRM strategy, are converging to deliver this experience.
  • Saturday, April 10, 10:30 a.m., Chestnut Room; Blackbaud’s Online Event Fundraising Solution — Friends Asking Friends® and the American Heart Association Start! Heart Walk — Blackbaud’s Mark Davis will highlight continued advances to Blackbaud’s online event fundraising solution, Friends Asking Friends, by showcasing a recently completed project with the American Heart Association.
  • Saturday, April 10, 1:30 p.m., Room Dogwood A; Online Fundraising Benchmarks and Metrics — This session, led by Blackbaud’s Steve MacLaughlin, will explore common benchmarks for how nonprofit organizations should be performing compared to other organizations when it comes to online fundraising. This session will cover common online fundraising metrics, benchmarks, and how to set goals to improve future performance.

Book signing with Blackbaud’s Steve MacLaughlin

Check out the book signing with Steve MacLaughlin, co-editor of Internet Management for Nonprofits. Part of The AFP Fund Development Series, this new book featuring 27 expert authors offers practical, easy-to-follow tips on the ROI of social media, managing your organization using online tools, improving board leadership through online technology, staying on top of developing technology, understanding hits, clicks, and errors, the key to social networking success, and fundraising internationally. Saturday, April 10, 10:00 a.m.

Evening Reception

Sponsored by Blackbaud, the party is on Saturday, April 10, 5 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom

For more information on Blackbaud at 2010 NTC and to see the recorded sessions following the event, visit Also, be sure to follow Blackbaud on Twitter for details about the NTC Tweetaway!

Leave us a comment and tell us why you're excited about NTC...


To add Photos you would click on the photo tab and create an album. Useful to have a variety of photos for your pages and try to keep them organised so that people can see what they are looking for and not have to navigate around lots of unspecific pics. When you have a few albums and a number of photos up there it’s time to decide which of these is going to be the focal point of the site. This might be an image of the charity logo or may be something compelling about your mission. In the case of the house it was an image of the house boarded up and looking miserable as it does today.

In order to make the photo your main image open the photo up and below the image on the right hand side you should see, beside the tag photo info, a link which says ‘Make Profile picture for page’ – Click here and it’ll become the main photo on the top left of your fan page.

The photos area is a useful place to enter into discussion with people so make sure it’s an area that you keep an eye when engaging with your audience. If the photos are compelling then they will naturally encourage participation and sometimes this needs just a little nudge from the administrators to keep the conversation going.

As well as the main photos area within Facebook there are other apps that can be added as well. Flickr is very useful here for nice looking photo galleries and slide shows.

To add an additional app follow these instructions:

  1. Got to main profile page of the site and on the left click on the ‘Edit Page’ option which is directly below the main pic. This will take you to the back end page settings.
  2. There are lots of options in here for standard settings but to add Facebook apps click under ‘More Applications’ on the ‘Browse More’ option.
  3. You should now see a catalogue of apps that can be used.
  4. Search for your app – So for example click into the search area and type ‘Flickr’ – Make sure to browse around as the top app is not always the best one.
  5. When you pick which one you want to add to your page click on the top left hnd nav bar where is says ‘Add to my Page’
  6. Your application should now be available on the ‘Edit Page’ area. You can go and configure from there to how you want it to look.
  7. To decide where it goes on the page go back to the home page and on the top bar you should be able to scroll along to ‘boxes’ (see below) – From here your new app will be shown. You can do all sorts with it in here including (if appropriate) add it to your main wall menu. The main wall menu is the menu on the left hand side of the wall which has links to your images or details of your fans.

Check out more of my "Building a Facebook Fanpage" series:

What have you learned from setting up Facebook fanpages? Let me know in the comments!



They have three main areas of programming:

  1. Online community – This is where they allow nonprofit folks to communicate, share and learn with one another. Make sure to Connect!
  2. Offline community – They’ve built a network that encourages monthly face-to-face meetups for social innovators in 50+ cities around the globe. Net2 Local is focused on building local community to support and inspire one another to make change in the world.
  3. Open innovation Challenges – The NetSquared Challenge is focused on mining, profiling, and accelerating innovative projects using Web and mobile-based technologies. Check out the Global Project Gallery to get an idea of what’s going on here.


Learn more by watching the view below …


Social Media for Social Change

Being that SXSWi is a place where social media and networking run wild I though it only appropriate to see what Amy thought about the impact social media is having on the nonprofit space. Amy touched on three key areas:

  1. It’s ubiquitous – Amy points out that social media tools are so pervasive on the internet that nonprofits can now use them to make an impact.
  2. It enhances program and services delivery – Social media and its tools are now mature enough to help nonprofits with things like volunteer recruitment, outreach and educational program delivery.
  3. It’s free (but takes time) – As we all know sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all free, but achieving success using these tools takes time just like anything else.

Make sure to check out Amy on her blog.


I’m interested in what you think here. How is social media affecting the nonprofit landscape online?


Clicking once again into the Edit settings area of the page will present you with a list of areas, one of  which is the Wall settings area. This part will give you the ability to change what the default page is for Fans and for new prospective fans. In this area you also have the ability to set some security on the page.  In case you don’t want to post photos or videos etc.  It's important that you have members of your group kept up to date with general goings on's so perhaps the Wall or Notes area should be their section and that non members know what you are about so keeping that section as Info is also a useful technique.

Wall Settings

The other part to look out for here is how you arrange the tabs on the page.  The tabs across the top such as Wall, Info, notes etc can be moved and changed.  Try not to leave any tabs up there which have absolutely no info on them.  By clicking on the tab you will see a small pencil chaped icon appear – clicking on this gives you the ability to remove that tab.  Note : The Info and the Wall tabs cannot be removed.

So this step is about giving people an experience and letting them see what is going on with that group.  Make it clear, make it concise and don’t expect someone to read copious pages of info – no matter how strongly you may feel about it!

Check out more of my "Building a Facebook Fanpage" series:

What have you learned from setting up Facebook fanpages? Let me know in the comments!


Facebook reached a significant milestone for the week ending March 13, 2010 by surpassing Google in the US to become the most visited website for the week. This is big news as Google has been the reigning champion for longer than we can remember.

There are more than 400 million active users on Facebook and 50% of those active users log on to Facebook in any given day (more stats). That makes Facebook amazingly “sticky” – a place where millions of people return more frequently than pretty much any other site on the web.

Facebook Growth

With Facebook growing so rapidly over the past few years nonprofit organizations are becoming more and more interested in using the tool successfully to help promote their work, raise funds and spread their message.

If you are just getting started or are in the initial stages of building up your Facebook presence Randi has some advice for you. Here’s the abbreviated version. Make sure to watch the short video below to hear more!!

1)   Start a Facebook Page not a Group

Pages offer much more flexibility and a broader set of functionality. Make sure to check out 4 Facebook Tips for Nonprofit Success to learn more.

2)   Share Pictures

As we all know a picture is work a thousand words. This holds true on the web and definitely within Facebook. People love to see photos (of themselves if possible). Fans of your Facebook page are much more likely to interact or share photos than they would be with just plain text.

3)   Share Video

YouTube isn’t the second largest search engine in the world for no reason. Simply stated, people like to watch video. Arguably more than they like to look at pictures. If you can produce and/or share great videos on your Facebook fan page you’re likely going to have much higher fan engagement. Use video as much as you can!

4)   Use the Causes Application

This application helps you raise money on Facebook. Simple as that.

5)   Learn from Insights

Think analytics. Facebook Insights are like Google analytics for your Facebook fan page. You wouldn’t operate your nonprofit web site without good analytics would you now? Start thinking the same way when it comes to your Facebook fan page. Insights give you info on the content you’re sharing. Start getting familiar with the stats Facebook Insights give you. Then start thinking about what actions you can take based on what you’re learning from the data. Check out point four in 4 Facebook Tips for Nonprofit Success to learn more.

Ok, on to the interview with Randi!


5 Tips for getting started with Facebook by Randi Zuckerberg



More Facebook Tips for Nonprofits:


Social media rock star Gary Vaynerchuk crushed it for a cause when he championed Mark Horvath & Invisible People as part of the SXSW Pepsi Fresh Challenge resulting in a $50,000 donation to the organization.

Although it wasn’t as heavily promoted, many of us contributed to another campaign without even knowing it with our incessant and addictive “checking in” to sessions, lines, restaurants, you name it! Through the “Check in for Charity” campaign, PayPal and Microsoft donated $15,000 total, or 25 cents/piece for Austin Foursquare check-ins and #sxswHaiti tweets.

Outside of all of the sponsored philanthropic efforts, there were some really meaningful — and dare I say — “interactive” discussions going on throughout the event. One that I thought was particularly innovative was the Causelab – a 30-day campaign to create new ideas for ending hunger in America using technology and media. There’s still time to lend your idea at (Open until April 15.)

In addition, there were some great nonprofit-focused panels including Crowdsourcing for Innovative Social Change, and Debunking the Myth of Social Media Fundraising, among others.

Although there seemed to be a lot of do-gooding and networking going on, Chris Brogan made a good point – we could do so much more.

So, that brings me to my takeaway from SXSW Interactive: never before have we been so well positioned to use technology for social good. As social media and interactive technology continue to expand beyond the digerati and become more mainstream, there is an immense opportunity to harness its power to unite uncommon people with a common goal to create change.

I asked some fellow attendees to share their thoughts on SXSWi too:

Amy Sample Ward, Netsquared, @amyrsward
My ah-ha moment came not in one sudden flash but culminating after many discussions. It seems people are really embracing the message many of us have been advocating for a long time: it isn't about the tools but about how you use them. There seemed to be many more conversations this year that focused on the why and how instead of just the tools that were cool and popular (read: shiny). It was really inspiring and I'm excited for how much more innovation and impact organizations can make when they approach social media from a strategic direction.

Noland Hoshino, [B]cause Media, @nolandhoshino; @HeiferPortland
Crowdsourcing is the key to a nonprofit’s survival. Donors and volunteers want end-to-end feedback from the nonprofit organizations they support – transparency, trust, impact. Donors and volunteers want to know, “How am I making a difference?” “Where is the money going?” “What’s the impact of my service?” Nonprofits bear the responsibility of providing that feedback or else they will struggle to survive in a translucent world.

Holly Ross, NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, @ntenhross
Every session I attended had some sort of "open" aspect to it. Open data, transparency, collaboration. It was all about sharing freely. Now we just have to start living that value more!

Chad Norman, Blackbaud, @chadnorman
Inspiration is everywhere! Whether it’s sitting in the most amazing session you’ve ever been too, talking to Pete Cashmore and @Ev within an hour, getting a peak from a random dude about his Canon 5D Mark II, or walking around the exhibit hall with your mouth on the floor, there is no better place to get inspired than SXSW. I mean, I probably wrote 25 blog posts in my head, came up with 5 book ideas, and thought of 10 things I needed to do as soon as I got back to work – all on the first day. It’s almost too much! My advice: Go to SXSW, get inspired, get active, repeat.

Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog and Zoetica, @kanter
Crowdsourcing for innovative social change is in the early stages - we're experimenting, we're getting clearer with frameworks.

Allison Van Diest, Blackbaud, @allisonvandiest
When Scott Rosenberg gave me the freedom to use blog posts as a way to decide what I think (versus having to have every thought pre-baked before I write) – wow, what a rush!!! The moment I was able to truly understand why crowdsourcing is so much more than opinion gathering, survey taking, and voting. Eureka!

Donna Wilkins, Charity Dynamics, @charitydynamics
So often we’re at conferences that are purely focused on non-profit organizations. It was great to be at a conference with a broader audience and see so many people interest in non-profit and social entrepreneurship issues.

Did you attend SXSW? Add your comments (and Twitter handles) below.

What is the one “a-ha” moment or profound thought/trend that stood out from SXSWi that you would like to share with the nonprofit community?

Scott Henderson of CauseShift spent some time with us while at SXSW. He's the lead organizer of the We Can End This effort. Check out what he's got to share by watching the video below.


Spotlight on We Can End This with Scott Henderson


Cause Lab

An exciting part of the We Can End this initiative is the Cause Lab. CauseShift has this to say about the Cause Lab – “From March 15–April 15, we’ inviting disrupters and innovators to lend their talents to solve three main challenges facing our movement: 1) How do we design the hunger-free community? 2) How do we humanize hunger using data? 3) How do we accelerate local action?”

The Cause Lab kicked off on Monday, March 15, during an in-person event as part of SXSW in Austin, TX. Participants not at SXSW were able to follow along and participate online that day. People still have a chance to participate as the initiative continues on through April 15. Make sure to visit for more information. Participants will use Goodzuma to create and capture their ideas. After the brainstorm ends, the We Can End This charity partners will review all the ideas and use the money raised thru to implement the best ones.


I hope you took a few minutes to watch the video and check out the web site. I want you to see how they are using new media to enhance their efforts.


What did you learn? How can you take some ideas from We Can End This and implement them in your next initiative?


I also liking hearing how others made a difference to the nonprofit. The first place I look for this is on your website. Are you posting about the success of a volunteer outing online? Or how about what the donations from the last month went towards? Your supporters are looking for this and are using this information to make an informed decision on what their next action will be.

I’ve come across great examples of using success to promote what sets an organization apart as well as giving added reason why people should support for the first time (or again!)

Feed My Starving Children
You can find their response to the disaster in Haiti one click off of their homepage. As a supporter, it’s powerful to see they delivered over 3 million meals on the day the earthquake hit Haiti and in total have delivered more than 6 million meals. While this is impressive – FMSC lets the reader know they need more help. Volunteers are needed at their branch offices and of course more monetary donations are needed. As a donor, seeing the success they’ve already had, I’d be more apt to give.

Accion International
Similarly, on Accion’s homepage, you can read about all they’ve done to help support the Haitian people. They’re transparent with where the money has gone and needing more. They’re focus has been to help the Haitian people rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Whether I am a new supporter to Accion International or not – I could easily tell from their homepage that they’re taking action but need more help. Pretty motivating to get involved if you ask me.

Do you taut your success as an organization online often?

Building on its success from last year, Beaconfire Consulting will again be sponsoring The Beacon: Lounge with a Conscience. One of three lounges at SXSW, The Beacon is the place to hang if you're representing the nonprofit sector. You can stop by for SoapBox lunches each day, where you can turn your donation to a worthy cause into a tasty lunch. Each afternoon, The Beacon Stage will feature an acoustic performance to benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. I'm really excited that Blackbaud is sponsoring the stage this year, and can't wait to hear some of the great artists.

When you find yourself leaving The Lounge, there are plenty of great sessions to attend. Blackbaud's Frank Barry will be moderating Debunking the Myth of Social Media Fundraising. Along with friends from Tweetsgiving (Epic Change), The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Charity Dynamics, and The American Heart Association, real examples of how nonprofits can use social marketing to raise money will be discussed.

Here are the sessions that caught my eye and made it onto my messy schedule (in order of appearance):

Besides attending the sessions above and hanging at The Beacon, there are a few other activities you should pencil into your schedule. The Convio Nonprofit Technology Bash is on Tuesday evening, and is a perfect place to meetup and get ready for all the closing night parties. Also, be sure to check out CauseLab, which is launching on March 15 in the Hilton. They are inviting disrupters and innovators from all disciplines to solve three main challenges to ending hunger in America, and will be holding brainstorming sessions throughout this year's SXSW.

That's all for now. Please let me know what I missed, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all later this week!

We’re going to use a fan page that I recently set up as an example of how to set up a page.

So stage one – Register and make it clear what you are about.

Kicking off point for new fan page

  1. Login to facebook – The new interface has a link to Ads and Pages on the left hand side of the Home page or you can find any other fan page and click on the create page for my business link. This will then ask you for some basic information about the business and contact details etc.
  2. Make sure your name is something clear – vague will only confuse folks and whilst it may feel quirky it won’t win as many fans as a clear message.  The message for the page we’re looking at here was clear – Save and Preserve Cumbernauld House.
  3. Enter website information – You can have more than one website listed here.
  4. Company overview – Do you have a company overview or is this simply cause related.  As this was just a cause and not related to a company we left this piece blank
  5. Mission – Important for cause related – What are you trying to achieve.  What’s the purpose.  Get your call to action in here.  What do you want people to do with your fan page!
  6. Products – Do you have any products?  We didn’t have any so this area was blank.

At this stage in the process the page is not live and until you hit the publish button it will just be somewhere for you to work and complete.

After that there is an information box on the left hand side of your page which will have text saying no information has been set up.  Click in here and using the on screen editing explain who you are.  It’s useful to get this piece correct and to take some time over this as it is important because it defines your page and is a very important piece of real estate.


Also at this stage you must decide who has access to your site and who can do what (below).  Useful at this point to navigate around the options to see what you want to offer people.  There are many options in there.  At this stage the Cumbernauld House page had no fans whatsoever as we were not live yet.

On the Cumbernauld site we found adding historic photos* was very successful as well as more recent photos of areas that have changed but that evoke nostalgia.  The photos were a great way to bring folks to the site to have a look around and then pledge their support.

More to follow over the next few days on building the page. Also, be sure to check out Building a Facebook Fanpage – Part 0 – The prelude.

Lessons Learned from Haiti Web Seminar Series

Series Description: Blackbaud is offering a free web seminar series to help nonprofits build strategies for mobilizing, soliciting, and stewarding supporters during and after times of disaster. Blackbaud experts and partners developed the seminars based off of their work with nonprofit customers who responded to the Haiti earthquake. The series, entitled “Lessons Learned from Haiti,” includes five seminars that will take place March through May.

Part 1: Lessons Learned from Haiti: Online Rapid Response Strategies
This session will explore how online fundraising, email communication, and social media played an important role in nonprofit relief efforts for the Haiti earthquake.
Participants will learn how to develop a rapid response plan, be prepared online for emergencies, and implement best practices from across the nonprofit sector.

When: March 11, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Who: Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions, Blackbaud, Inc.
Where: Register for the free web seminar at

Part 2: Lessons Learned from Haiti: The Mobile Giving Revolution
During this session, the presenters will explore mobile advocacy trends and examine the unprecedented response to mobile donation appeals after the Haiti earthquake. Participants will learn how to acquire, retain, and cultivate mobile donors.
When: March 24, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Who: C.B. Barthlow, Director of Marketing and Client Services, mGive
Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions, Blackbaud
Where: Register for the free web seminar at

Getting the Most Bang for Your Social Media Buck

Event Description: In this web seminar, nonprofit professionals can learn how to successfully integrate social media into event fundraising. Join the hosts as they discuss their research on social media and its impact on special events. Donna Wilkins, president of Charity Dynamics, and Mark Davis, technical solutions director at Blackbaud, will explore smart strategies for using social media in fundraising events. Elizabeth Marceau will provide real-world examples of social media in action by discussing American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk.

When: March 31, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Who: Donna Wilkins, President, Charity Dynamics
Mark Davis, Technical Solutions Director, Blackbaud, Inc.
Elizabeth Marceau, American Heart Association
Where: Register for the free web seminar at

In addition to these topical web seminars, Blackbaud offers a wide variety of daily web seminars featuring Blackbaud products and services and tips and tricks to help nonprofits be more effective. All web seminars are free, last approximately one hour, and can be accessed at

In my conversations with nonprofits over the past ten years, the single most important need isn’t simply more money or more staff (although those are always helpful)…it’s continued learning.  Education is absolutely essential to the millions of nonprofit organizations doing good work in the United States and abroad.

Opportunity Knocks suggests that, “The value of any nonprofit is determined by the value of its people.  And if people are the greatest asset to an organization, investing in them is critical.”  So, continuing education for nonprofit staff is vital to attracting and retaining effective employees.”

Here are four ideas for optimizing your “human capital” through training and continuing education.  Some ideas are free; like online resources, while others such as degree granting programs/ training programs might cost your organization.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a place to get you started.

  1. The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA(SM)
    The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBAis a non-degree granting program for anyone who wants to learn more about the competencies necessary to lead a nonprofit.  The program covers strategic planning, marketing, media relations and public relations, fundraising, operations, program design and volunteer/ board management.  Even if you don’t go through the entire program, you can learn more about the parts that interest you.

  2. Training Modules from Seattle University’s MNPL Program
    Seattle University’s Executive Master of Nonprofit Leadership program provides these free, high-level training modules to nonprofits interested in improving their board of directors, identifying core values, getting started with advocacy, strategic planning and outcome based evaluation.  I have personally gone through these modules and found them incredibly detailed and easy to use.

  3. NTEN Webinars 
    NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) offers their tech-focused webinars to anyone interested in learning more about online fundraising, IT security, social media, online marketing, constituent relationship management software and more.  Some webinars are free, while others cost $75 for members (you really should join NTEN) or $150 for non-members.

  4. Blackbaud Learn
    I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention Blackbaud Learn, our subscription-based, instructor-led and self-paced training program that will help you learn how to be more efficient and effective with online marketing, email, and peer-to-peer fundraising using your Blackbaud® NetCommunity™ and Blackbaud Sphere™ Internet solutions. You can learn more about your Blackbaud The Raiser’s Edge®, The Financial Edge™, and The Education Edge™ software. Plus, every Blackbaud Learn program we offer is founded in providing a revolving curriculum of nonprofit strategies and best practices.

So what do you think? Do you have any nonprofit continuing education links you’d like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

I went to visit a local (to me) historic site recently, Cumbernauld House.  This house has been sitting since 1731 and is on the site of a castle which goes back centuries before that.  When I went along I realised the house had fallen on hard times.  A builders firm had purchased it a few years ago from the local council and had then gone into liquidation and the house had lain empty.

Afterwards I resolved to do something about it – or at least make sure someone was doing something about it.  My first step to getting more info on the house was a trip to Wikipedia – where it had no entry.  I then checked other areas and could find very little about this historic building.  So my quest to raise awareness online started there.

I thought about a Facebook fan page for the house and then found that one had already been set up!  Great start I thought and went in and added links and sent out info to my facebook friends asking them to join.  After flying in blind and giving my support to this site I subsequently found that the administrator had abandoned the page!!

This meant I had no way of effectively managing the page or even getting useful info up there.  I tried contacting others who were fans (at this point the fan count was around 70) but no-one had any idea who the elusive administrator was.  After much chatting on-line we decided that despite the fact the site had grown hugely once we started to publicised (and it had more than doubled in size to over 150 by this point) we needed to start again with a new Fan page with clear admins and clear goal and calls to action.

Over the next few posts on this blog I’m going to use this Fanpage as a case study on how to set up a fan page and how to get the most out of a fan page once it has been set up.

To note that this fanpage managed to get to 700 fans in the first 2.5 weeks and is still growing!


I did some research to look back at previous major events and the volume of online giving that took place. Blackbaud has online giving data going back to 1999 and that allows us to look at some historical trends. USA Today referenced some of these trends in their recent "More go online or text to donate for Haiti's quake victims" article.

Online Giving for Haiti Earthquake

The graph to the left shows the volume of online giving for the first five days immediately following each major event. This was based on approximately 3,300 nonprofit organizations that had online giving data for these time periods.

Online giving following the Haiti earthquake was 19% greater than response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami and 109% greater than Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The tsunami data begins on December 26, 2004, following the earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Katrina data begins on August 29, 2005 when the hurricane made its second landfall in Louisiana. Online giving during the first give days following September 11, 2001 was less than 1% of what was given towards Haiti relief.

All of these events have a very long tail of online giving, but the purpose here was to look at the first few days when online giving serves a key role in raising money for relief.  It should also be noted that there's a pareto distribution on the organizations receiving most of the donations. For each event, about 80% of the donations were received by 20% of the organizations.

A year-over-year comparison of organizations not specifically raising money for Haiti relief did not have any unusual difference in online giving in January 2010. Giving to organizations directly involved in Haiti relief were simply off the charts compared to previous time periods and other events in the analysis.

There are a few important points to make from all of this. First, nonprofits that had a plan in place to quickly respond online through web content, focused online giving, and email communication performed better than organizations that didn't. You cannot react fast enough to just be a fast follower. Things move too quickly, in particular how soon various media outlets begin referencing where people can donate online. If your nonprofit is involved in programs and services often related to disaster relief, then you better have a plan and resources in a staging mode. And every organization should have some kind of emergency communication plan that involves the use of the web.

Second, the response to these kinds of unfortunate events will only increase in the future. We are well beyond the tipping point of whether people will give online and that is now true for mobile giving in North America too. Several organizations reported system outages from other vendors and tools being used. Now would be a good time to ask about whether your system can handle even larger volumes. This is a situation where poorly built multi-tenant systems can knock down anyone using them, including those organizations not directly involved in relief efforts.

Finally, this might be the end of internal obstructionists that question the importance of online communication and giving. Remind them that it is a multi-channel world, even if your nonprofit serves other parts of the sector. And it may prompt some more serious discussions about how prepared organizations are for the future.


I did find however a fantastic tool to really emphasise the importance of Social Media by Gary Hayes

Gary has captured the essence of why we are doing this stuff.  Who are you getting through to?  What is the strength of this?  How much of this stuff is out there? This shows us this in real time.  For details of where these numbers are coming from click here.


So, why are you using social media?  Let us know in the comments below.



The research team analyzed data from nearly 30,000 donors and 4,000 individual fundraisers who organized or participated in independent fundraising events on behalf of leading nonprofits including Alzheimer’s Association, Autism Speaks, Canadian Cancer Society’s BC and Yukon Division, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Lance Armstrong Foundation, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Based on a Blackbaud assessment, there was an estimated $300 million raised in 2008 in the United States from these types of events, indicating that organizations should find better ways to cultivate these fundraisers and provide the solutions they need to succeed.

The analysis showed that online registrations, donations and fundraising per participant are increasing, and that IFEs represent a growing revenue source, especially online, for many organizations. The research also uncovered how third-party events can dramatically reduce the overall cost of fundraising compared to other methods.

A survey of the independent fundraisers found that 64% of all respondents were first-time fundraisers for the organization through the IFE program. The top three responses for how the online tools impacted their fundraising were "Made it easier to communicate my efforts," "Made it easier to coordinate my efforts," and "More funds raised." When asked what most likely motivated their supporters to donate, 59% of event participants claimed it was to support their individual efforts, while only 28% claimed it was to support the organization’s cause. 56% of participants were connected to the cause through a family member/close friend while 16% were directly affected.

Attend the free web seminar Raising More Money Online from Independent Fundraising Events to learn more about taking a programmatic approach to independent fundraising and to hear from Canadian Cancer Society about their successful independent fundraising event program.



Join advocacy and fundraising consultant Steve Daigneault, former Internet Director for Amnesty International, and Blackbaud’s Mark Davis for a free, 1-hour webinar on Tuesday, January 26th about optimizing online advocacy to boost fundraising results. The moderator will be Justin Perkins, Director of Nonprofit Services at Care2, the 12 million member online social network of “do-gooders” used successfully by hundreds of nonprofit organizations to recruit loyal donors and advocacy supporters.

 Get real world examples of dos and don’ts and learn:

  • Key benchmarks and trends for online advocacy and fundraising campaigns;
  • The data and psychology of connecting advocacy and fundraising;
  • New strategies to turn activists into donors in 2010;
  • And more…. 

Connecting Advocacy to Fundraising

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 2 pm EST.

We have a limited amount of webinar lines, so please take a moment to sign up now. It's free.

About Our Presenters:
Mark Davis:
Mark is the Director of Technical Solutions at Blackbaud. He has worked directly with many of the largest nonprofits in the industry, such as American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and Arthritis Foundation, helping to deploy online fundraising solutions. As one of the original architects of Friends Asking Friends technology, he has actively participated in the development of the Blackbaud Sphere™ product. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Duke University and a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University.


Steve Daigneault: Steve is Vice President of eCampaigns at M+R Strategic Services. He uses his 15 years of experience as a grassroots organizer, communications specialist and online strategist to work for M+R clients including the Save Darfur Coalition, the American Cancer Society and U.S. Fund for UNICEF.  Before coming to M+R, Steve served as Managing Director for Internet Communications at Amnesty International USA, where he developed an email strategy that nearly tripled Amnesty’s list in less than three years; launched award-winning campaign micro-sites; and helped grow Amnesty’s online fundraising program, even amid the September 2008 stock market crash.  Steve has also worked as a consultant and strategist for the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Aspen Institute, Audubon Society,, Opportunity Agenda and the United Nations Association.


Justin Perkins (Moderator): Since 2006, Justin has worked with Care2 to help over 120 nonprofits and socially responsible brands customize strategic campaigns to reach Care2's audience of 12 million members and to leverage Care2's audience to reach other networks. He also develops new tools to help nonprofits with marketing and fundraising, and frequently speaks at nonprofit conferences about social media strategy and online marketing. Justin launched the popular nonprofit blog,, for Care2 in 2006 as a way to share cutting edge case studies and best practices for nonprofit online marketing.


I immediately went to various websites looking for two things: volunteer opportunities and in kind donations. I may not have money to donate now but I sure can donate my time and household items that I no longer need.

Volunteer opportunities turned out to be the easier of my tasks. Organizations have getting good at providing opportunities to get involved and making it easy to get signed up. The in kind wish list ended up being the hard part. I was surprised at the number of nonprofit organizations that aren’t letting their supporters know of items they need. This is such a simple way to get people involved and in turn help them with their spring cleaning!

An example of an organization doing a great job is Room to Read. With two clicks off their navigation I can find a list with their up to date needs. They list everything from picture books, storybooks & educational books. I know I have some of these around my house that I can easily part with. I would have never been able to help Room to Read without this list. It may be a small donation for me but what if everyone  who supports your organization was able to make one small in kind gift. That would really start to add up!

Take a moment today to see if you have your list online. If you don’t, ask why not? Such a small change online can make a big difference!




The geek in me couldn't help notice how technology is helping the recovery efforts. Online donation systems are collecting funds at a feverish pace, while Twitter is buzzing with live reports, celebrity fundraising appeals, and is seamlessly integrated into live Google searches. Millions have been raised effortlessly via mobile devices, showing just how powerful SMS fundraising has become. I was able to follow the story around the clock thanks to the web, checking out before-and-after Google Maps and watching live footage of cameras peering into the rubble. At times like this, it's so obvious how important these web-based channels have become.

That's why I was stoked, and I mean STOKED, when Blackbaud announced they were giving $50,000 to, one of the webbiest organizations out there. They specialize in building communication networks in developing countries, and connectivity is critical in disaster recovery situations. NetHope is collecting funds to help get humanitarian organizations the communications infrastructure they need to get the job done. In fact, they're working nonstop to provide access for nonprofit organizations on the ground in Haiti - that's just webtastic!

Cheers to the good folks at NetHope - your focus on restoring communication is making a huge impact on many lives. If you're into webby things like I am, consider giving them a donation that will directly help the recovery efforts. You can also follow their progress on Twitter.


Make it VisibleCheck out what the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County is doing. Mickey Gomez is creating new ways for her organization to engage online.

Have a look at what the National Association of Dental Plans has been up to. Jeff Hurt is using the social web to build something special.

Study how LIVESTRONG is making an impact. Brooke McMillan is building, nurturing and promoting a powerful network.


Each of these organizations is using social media to make impact, but they’re all making it visible in slightly different ways. The trick is in figuring out how to utilize the web and the social tools available to create the type if impact your looking for.


How can you make what you’re doing visible?

Tell your story, put a face on your organization and connect people

Nonprofits have an incredible opportunity to tell their story through different online mediums. Blogging, Video (YouTube), Pictures (Flickr), Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter), etc…  

It’s important to understand that there are numerous services (i.e. Facebook) and millions of people using these services daily. Your job is to figure out which services make most sense to use and how to tap into the networks of people living in these places. 


What can you do today? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking …

  • Start a blog (or use the one you already have) where you share a weekly story of how you’re making an impact. Make sure to humanize it. Check out some of what 12for12k did on their blog for ideas.

  • Post a monthly video where your staff highlights one of the projects/initiatives you are putting on and how it’s making a difference. Make sure to incorporate the people whose lives you are touching. I know you hear stories like these daily!

  • Show people how you are changing lives through posting pictures to Flickr on a daily basis. Have your staff or volunteers (or supporters in attendance) take pictures at every single activity you put on. Then show those taking pictures how to post them to Flickr with a common tag.

  • Have the people whose lives you are changing start using Facebook or Twitter (if it’s possible). Then tell all your supporters, donors and volunteers who they are. Make this connection so the cause comes that much closer and more personal for everyone involved. EpicChange did a fabulous job in this area. Check out Kids of Tanzania.

  • Introduce your supporters to each other. This one is simple. If you know two people who are supporting your cause or organization are participating on Twitter make an introduction. Network building! LIVESTRONG does a great job of this on their Facebook page.


I’m sure there are numerous other ways to make what your doing visible. What’s happening out there?


It is for this very reason that Blackbaud Sphere provides a variety of form building capabilities that cater to different user skill levels and provide greater flexibility of form layout and design.

Form Designer

The form designer is the “go to” answer for easily publishing online donation forms for specific campaigns or capturing online registrations for events. The form designer has a simple point and click interface that provides extensive capabilities to customize a form for donations or registrations.

The Form Designer also contains reports that display data from each time the form is filled out. If you have that created a form you like, you can easily duplicate the form to use for future campaigns or events.

User Skill Level

Helpful Recommendations

Major Capabilities

Business User


Recommended Sphere Training:


  • Utilize the “Duplicate” function to copy existing forms for new campaigns or events


  • Publish Online Form
  • Create Friendly URL
  • Process online donations or registrations
  • Select Form Fields
  • Reports
  • Match Existing Website Look & Feel*

*Requires knowledge of HTML

Forms in CMS

Any form that you create in the Form Designer can be pulled into a Sphere CMS website. Once the form is linked to your website Sphere will automatically apply the look and feel of your website to the form, with no HTML knowledge required.   You can also easily control the placement of the form within your website using CMS. CMS can also authenticate constituents via username and password allowing forms in CMS to be auto populated with constituent information that already exists in Sphere. Not only is this convenient for constituents but it also provides the opportunity for the constituent to correct any information you have on record.  For donation forms that will be live for an extended period of time, it is worth the effort to additionally customize the online confirmation that is displayed to website visitors after the forms are submitted. 

User Skill Level

Helpful Recommendations

Major Capabilities

Business User


Recommended Sphere Training:


  • Use the Form tools in CMS to pull your forms into CMS
  • Setup an advanced online confirmation in CMS
  • Everything within Form Designer and
  • Custom Confirmation Page
  • Match Existing Website Look & Feel


Custom Forms in CMS

Custom forms in CMS provide the capability for users to completely customize the HTML, CSS, & JavaScript of the form. This allows for ultimate control over the form layout & design. This will allow forms to be separated into multiple columns or steps.

Take a peek at what some customers have done with their online forms using Custom Forms in CMS:

User Skill Level

Helpful Recommendations

Major Capabilities

Web Developer

  • HTML and
  • CSS and
  • JavaScript (ideally)


People that can help:


  • Use the Custom Donation Form tool in CMS
  • Deactivate the WYSIWYG editor so you can code directly in HTML, switching back to WYSIWYG editor may “clean” your HTML code with undesirable results
  • Everything within Forms in CMS
  • Ultimate control over form layout & design


Form API

Some people just don’t like limits. For those people Sphere comes equipped with an API that is specialized for building online forms. There is a token based security model for authentication to limit the number of calls required to initially draw the form. Additionally, you can pass any event id to return all the fields that have been activated for that form in Sphere. You can even retrieve the donation form customization options that you have configured for the form in Sphere. Cool stuff!

User Skill Level

Helpful tips

Major Capabilities


  • HTML and
  • CSS and
  • JavaScript (ideally) and
  • PHP or .Net


Technical documentation:

People that can help:

  • Everything within Custom Forms in CMS
  • You are only limited by your own imagination and your ability to develop code. Sky is the limit…



I hope Part I has provided you with insights about all the great things you can do with your online forms in Sphere. The Blackbaud Sphere product team is going to be making some great enhancements to Sphere’s form capabilities in 2010 (Google Analytics Integration, Google AdWords Integration, and a new Form Designer, just to name a few…) so stay tuned for Part II.



There are several organizations accepting online donations to support their relief efforts in Haiti:

Sadly, these kinds of disasters also cause an increase in attempted credit card fraud by hackers and forgers. Nonprofit organizations should monitor suspicious transactions. Donor forms that accept $1 gifts or don't require a Card Security Code are most at risk.

I am thankful that so many organizations are having a meaningful impact during this tragedy.



Twitter for NonprofitsThe trick is figuring out how to find something that’s valuable to you from within all the information that’s being shared by millions of people daily.

Simply posting “Going to lunch at Subway” isn’t valuable to anyone except your mother. Or maybe Subway.

Reading “tweets” about what people had for lunch isn’t valuable either, unless you have some sort of obsession with a celebrity (there’s a lot of them around on Twitter).

No one would use the service if this was the extent of the information being shared. There’s got to be more to it, right?

Five things you can do to immediately find a use for Twitter

  1. Follow me: (@franswaa) ... you knew that was coming, right?

  2. Learn how to use Twitter Lists and follow the two below (just got to the page and look for the “follow list” button on the top left. These will then show up in your right column when you are logged in to (Twitter lists will be pulled in by Seesmic Desktop).

  3. Learn how to use Twitter search (look in the right column when you are logged into Here are some nonprofit Twitter search examples to get you started. Once you have a good search save it so you can come back to it easily (The save button is at the top right of your search results when searching on

  4. Install Seesmic desktop and Seesmic mobile. All your saved searches and Twitter lists will be pulled in so you can access this info from where ever you are in the world (as long as you have access to the interwebs).

  5. Start sharing interesting resources that you’re finding online. Make sure to use a URL shortening services like (You can integrate your account into Seesmic).

  6. Bonus: Spend 15 mins a day interacting with people.

    • Thank folks if you find something they shared useful (i.e. you click on a link they tweeted/shared)
    • ReTweet a Tweet that you found interesting to help spread the word

Check John Haydon's Twitter Resources or the Twitter for beginners guide (.pdf) for even more info.


Twitter 101 for Nonprofits

You can also check out this set of slides for more insight into Twitter and what you can do with the services.



How’s Twitter helping you and/or your nonprofit?


Tomorrow’s MindStart Webisode will feature Blackbaud’s director of Internet solutions, Steve MacLaughlin, who will take a look back at 2009 online giving trends and share his thoughts on what 2010 has in store. This 15-minute webisode will be held tomorrow at 1 pm EST and is free, so register today. If you can’t make it tomorrow, the webisode will be archived on CauseMinded’s Facebook Page.


Then, on Tuesday, January 26, at 2 pm EST, join advocacy and fundraising consultant Steve Daigneault, former Internet Director for Amnesty International, and Blackbaud’s Mark Davis for “Connecting Advocacy to Fundraising – for Maximum Impact,” a free, one-hour Care2 web seminar about optimizing online advocacy to boost fundraising results. The moderator will be Justin Perkins, Director of Nonprofit Services at Care2, the 12 million member online social network of “do-gooders” used successfully by hundreds of nonprofit organizations to recruit loyal donors and advocacy supporters.


Get real world examples of dos and don’ts and learn about key benchmarks and trends for online advocacy and fundraising campaigns; the data and psychology of connecting advocacy and fundraising; new strategies to turn activists into donors in 2010, and more. Register here.



The Power of OneThat means it's possible for folks on facebook to effectively stay connected with their friends and family,

Word spreads fast online where you have a tightly connected and highly engaged network.


1 highly connected constituent can share with their 150 friends. 100 highly connected supporters can share with their 15,000 friends. 1000 highly connected donors can share with their 150,000 friends. Etc. Seth Godin points out that you only need 1000 truly engaged fans (See First, organize 1,000) to make it.


With that in mind, how should you be engaging with people online?


Email Communication in 2010But …

The way we consume content continues to morph. It’s shorter and faster.


Two quick tips for you as you go into 2010 … 


1) Make it short

In the world of Facebook status updates and 140 character messages on Twitter people are being trained to read and react to shorter messaging every day. This type of quick communication continues to take root which means you need to think about your email messaging. Shorten your copy and be more succinct – you don’t need paragraphs to communicate.


Brevity and value are key. Too long means people stop reading. No value means no readers.


2) Make it sharable

Social media is continuing to grow with no clear end in sight. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and others are becoming part of our culture to varying degrees. You can’t ignore this phenomenon any more. It means you need to start thinking about how your email content is crafted so it can be shared by subscribers in a simple way. Adding links to your social presences is a start, but thinking about making it easy for readers to share with their friends with one click is the where the real value is.


Oh, your emails need to be worthy of sharing. That’s step 1.


I’m I on track? What’s the best email communication you’ve seen recently?


Audience Analysis

Before we began any detailed analysis of the website design, layout and navigation, we needed to take a step back and first understand who the target audiences were. Along with identifying the audience segments, we knew that we also had to bridge the gap between what Broadway Cares needed their audience to do and what the audience expected of Broadway Cares.

During our review of audience segmentations, we initially identified more than ten segments that Broadway Cares needed to cater to. After several rounds of reviews, the focus was narrowed down to the top five segments:

  • Supporters
  • Event Participants & Consumers
  • Grantees
  • Prospects
  • Young Adults

Broadway Cares then went out and recruited actual constituents that represented this audience segmentation and invited them to volunteer and participate in a 2-day interactive workshop with us!

Card Sorting

Donna Spencer describes card sorting as “a quick, inexpensive, and reliable method, which serves as input into your information design process. Card sorting generates an overall structure for your information, as well as suggestions for navigation, menus, and possible taxonomies.”

Well put, Donna :) - Our card sorting sessions with Broadway Cares lasted about a day. During this session, not only did we learn a lot about how their audiences look at information about Broadway Cares but it was also a huge eye-opener for Broadway Cares themselves. Like many nonprofits, this was the first time Broadway Cares participated in a card sorting exercise and it allowed them to see first hand how their website, the navigation and information is perceived by their audiences.

We developed card sets representing key pages from Broadway Cares then-current website along with blank cards to give the audience an opportunity to recommend information they would like to see on the website.

During the first round, we handed the card decks to the volunteers and asked each of them to independently organize the cards based on how they perceive information about Broadway Cares and their website. This method of analysis is known as an Open Card Sort. We diligently went around the room and recorded the final orientations of the cards for each volunteer.

Next up, we asked all the volunteers to form one group and organize just a single set of cards and agree upon the final orientation. This round of card sorting allowed for open interaction between the different audience segments where the importance of information for each segment was discussed. The conversations taking place really gave us precious insight into how Broadway Cares’ audiences prioritize and consume information. After a couple of hours, the collective group agreed on the final card sort, which we used as a basis for our recommendations along with the individual card set data and best practices.

At this point, we had valuable insight into how the audience see the information presented by Broadway Cares complete with their recommendations for new areas of interest as well!

Usability Testing

Along with a (much needed) card sorting session with our group of volunteers, we also decided to test the usability of the previous Broadway Cares website. After all, the best way to get to our destination is to get a deeper understanding of where we are today!

We spent an entire day with each of our volunteers and asked them to perform simple tasks on the website. The tasks were customized based on the audience segment the volunteer belonged to. All the clicks, comments and facial reactions were captured via video for further analysis back at our headquarters.

As expected, we learned a lot from this exercise – and most importantly, this process gave the Broadway Cares staff a completely new perspective on how their navigation was being used, how the page titles play an important role and the importance of a good site architecture.

At the end of the day, we had collected more than 16 hours of video from actual constituents telling us what they liked about the Broadway Cares website as well as sharing ideas about how certain areas could be improved – Exciting!!!

Information Architecture

At this point we had the most of the ingredients needed to develop a scalable information architecture that addressed the needs of their top constituents.

The proposed architecture took into account that there really are three major tasks that the organization and its constituents are involved with:

  • What we do – This area communicates what Broadway Cares does on a day to day basis as an organization
  • What you do – This area communicates what the audience can do to make a difference
  • What we do together – This area combines the efforts on both ends and outlines the results and achievements of Broadway Cares AND their constituents!

This underlying philosophy was the basis to develop a final navigation system and act as a guiding light for the visual site redesign.

My next post will conclude the Broadway Cares case study where I will be sharing some insights from our design discovery process along with wireframes and the final design… Stay tuned!

Have any comments or similar experiences while redesigning your website? Share your comments with us!


Foursquare.comYou just “check in” to a restaurant, gas station, movie theatre, etc. and your friends can see (and be notified) of what you’re up to. Sounds simple I know, but it’s so much more – You just have to dig.


Co-founder Dennis Crowley puts it this way:

Foursquare tries to reward you for doing things in the real world…  discovering new places, doing interesting things, meeting new friends… they all unlock points and badges.”

"I think Foursquare found some kind of sweet spot between the intersection of social utility (Hey, I know where my friends are), sharing/oversharing (I log everywhere I go/everything I do) and gaming/rewards (every check-in gives you a little piece of candy)."


Foursquare has an addictive quality to it – Making it sticky, but the real draw for nonprofits is in the location and preference information being gathered on your constituents (or potential constituents).

We’ve discussed Using the Social Web to Make Local Impact, but Foursquare takes this to another level. Think about making hyper-local impact by using the web to help drive the engagement you are looking for.  


Here are some ideas for you … 

8 Ideas for Nonprofits using Foursquare

  1. Take advantage of the game built into Foursquare by creating a custom badge that’s branded for your organization

  2. Give points/badges to people for specific types of check-in’s (e.g. If I were an organization like the American Heart Association I could come up with a way to give points to people for checking into locations that were “heart healthy”)

  3. Integrate with Foursquare by pulling their data into your primary database of record – building an even more holistic view of your constituents by adding the location and preference data from Foursquare

  4. Build an application using the Foursquare API (e.g. A Google maps, Twitter and Foursquare mashup that show’s where your event participants are checking in on a map and what they’re  talking about)

  5. Create a custom “leader board” to display on site at an event you are holding (e.g. A 3 day walk)

  6. Partner with local venues (restaurants, sports bars, coffee shops, athletic stores, gym’s, yoga studios, etc…) and incentivizing your event participants to check-in to those establishments. Checking in XX times to a business that supports your cause could earn the supporter a discount or special office (Joe Waters has some great thoughts about using Foursquare for Cause Marketing)

  7. Track volunteering efforts. A person could check in at a local foodbank and you could have that data pushed back to your CRM which could then be used to track volunteer engagement (e.g. Joe Smith checked into foodbank Y 27 times for a total of 27 hours served)

  8. Create a custom mobile phone app for the iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc… using their API (Mobile is where the future is in case you’re trying to figure out what to invest in)


To get a better idea of what this new app is all about check out their overview page.




What do you think? Is using Foursquare worth it? Is there any value in the ideas presented above? Do you have any additional thoughts? Or examples of what you’ve seen being done already?


Everything I'm about to tell you about has been tested in one form or another by me, and has been successful. NOTHING I'm about to tell you is a silver bullet or a simple recipe. You still need to do all the heavy lifting. Instead, let's consider this some guidelines from the kitchen table of an experimenter. 



In raising money, social media gives you some powerful ways to improve this effort. From both the technology side as well as the social sharing side, you've got many new options. 

If you haven't tried out ChipIn (, do so. It's the simplest way to raise money in any amount quickly. I've used this tool repeatedly and found great success with it. It's a simple widget technology that requires no more skill than copy/paste, and a PayPal account on the back end to collect the money. Just using this tech will give you some incremental gains compared to several of the competing technologies. 

Another consideration: link social sharing to your cause. For instance, putting up an "event" page in Facebook gives people the chance to "Share" the event with their friends lists, meaning you'll get the chance to spread the cause effort further. This means more chances to raise some money. 

Want another example? Check out I've been experimenting with it for months. They have social sharing built into the site, such that it posts a little message showing how much one's shared, plus a message. Though making overt donations isn't always a great way to encourage sharing (it makes people feel cheap if they give too little), there is a game mechanic involved where you can encourage people to give as a team.



Social tools like Twitter and Ning have made building volunteerism up a lot simpler. Twitter is a great tool for sharing information in a one-to-many method. By building Twitter Lists of your volunteers, encouraging them to recruit gently via Twitter, and using a common "hash tag" (a piece of metadata that is represented on services like twitter in a format like this: #hashtag), you'll see a lot of ways to share information faster. is a white label social network that you can set up for free/cheap. It gives you many of the features your users would be used to in a service like Facebook, including forums, blogging software, the ability to post video, profile building, and much more. If you feel your community is robust and looking for a "home," this might be a good free/cheap alternative. 

In the land of social media, the trick to building volunteers is creating simple, brief, compelling media that might better tell the story of why you need volunteers, what they'll do, how they can engage, and where to go next, and then spreading that message along rather simply through the various social networks. You might find similar success on services like LinkedIn (the new groups are much better than the old), and even in something as simple as a Yahoogroup list. 



There are many considerations for how to use social tools to spread the word. On Twitter, for instance, a message that's not VERY brief isn't easy to spread. Consider crafting your messages so that there are as many as 20 extra characters left over (out of the 140 you're allowed to type) so that others may share it (they call it "retweeting") easily. Learning syntax tricks like this can make all the difference. 

Also, now that some of these networks are taking prominence, don't forget the alternative or older networks. Craigslist is alive and well. Yahoogroups is alive and well. Don't forget sites like and for event sharing. Make sure to bring your message to multiple methods of distribution. For instance, though I'm considered quite established in the world of social networking, I use an email newsletter so that my message will get out past the "inner fishbowl" and into the bigger sea of people who haven't yet dug into social networking.

A call to action without a URL is a waste at this point. If you're encouraging action, make the action very simple to take, and make it easy to take via the web. 

Create media. Use Flip video cameras and other inexpensive tools to cover your live events, your physical gatherings, and everything else that needs coverage. Make simple, short videos that promote what you're doing. Share in multiple methods. 



Design with the mobile web in mind. More and more people are using phones and other mobile devices to view your content. If you're looking to build membership, don't forget to consider a mobile alternative (even if it's just a differently formatted version of your current web pages) for moving your efforts along. (With that in mind, also check out what FourSquare is doing in the mobile "game" space. Squint and you'll see an interesting way to rally people to causes.)

As I said earlier, your mileage may vary, but these are some of the ways I've been successful in helping out nonprofits using social media tools and techniques. I hope you find some value in these. 


Chris Brogan is co-author of Trust Agents, and blogs at


Part Two: The Solution

  1. Design – while design is extremely important, it’s only part of the picture. A good-looking website will only get you so far. Consider the following when reviewing design options:
    • Marketing – Many websites are based in flash and other pretty, design-friendly language. However, these designs do not always bode well with search engines, and you may be missing the boat with your overall goals. Sites should be designed with search engines AND actual constituents in mind, not just the ooh and ahh of the visual.
    • Layout – Site navigation is critical to the usability of your site. A constituent needs to find what they’re looking for quickly and/or understand what you want them to do next in order for them to be engaged in the website. A marriage of Call to actions, easy searching and a useable flow are just as important as overall look and feel.
    • Stickiness – What tools, benefits and ideas are you offering your constituents to keep them on your site? Or to keep them coming back? Engagement comes from dynamic content and community feel – not from information presented on a page.
  2. Platform Compatibility – Consider the hardware structure do you already own and wish to take advantage of.  Who maintains this setup? Do you need a provider to host your website for you or can you handle it in house? How will it connect to your other offline systems (or will it)? What will this integration actually look like from a workflow perspective? 
  3. Content Management System – Not all content management systems are created equally. Who can edit, manage and create is only part of the picture. Learn more about what CMS options are out there to know what you should ask when reviewing the bigger web solution picture.
  4. Solution Fit  – A website discussion should really be a total solution discussion (or how it will fit into the offline solution you already have in place). What departments will need to talk about the information gathered and transactions that occur on the website? For example, if a donation is made, does it flow into the appropriate database for the development team? Or will there need to be data handoff? Understanding how the website affects the offline world is key to meeting actual goals, not just creating a disparate online environment for your organization.
  5. A holistic view - what will you do with the information you learn? Web metrics allow you to make strategic layout and architecture decisions, which are very important. However, integrating with other used systems (constituent relationship databases, credit card processors, social networking sites, etc.) is just as important as metrics you gather. Allowing you to USE information you collect online makes a website project worth the money you spend on it…and helps provide ROI for future development.

I hope this information will help you think strategically about your website selection process. I know how emotional this type of purchase can feel – we all get caught up in the beauty and creative side of a new website. However, I would encourage you to think more big-picture in your review process. If you choose a website solution that helps you accomplish actual goals, it will put you in a better position for future growth and furthering your mission – much more so than a pretty picture.


10+ Years of Online Giving

Back in 1999, Blackbaud released NetSolutions. It was the first integrated online fundraising and email messaging tool developed specifically for nonprofits. I took a look back at the statistics and there were 39 nonprofits using the donation functionality in 2000 with an average gift amount of $85.29. Since then thousands of nonprofits have processed millions of online donations using Blackbaud. We've come a long way since those early days.

Grow on the Go

We introduced the Blackbaud NetCommunity Grow offering early in 2009 and it turned out to be very successful. BBNC Grow bundled our very popular online solution into a prescriptive implementation with ongoing help all at an affordable price. It was great to see how quickly we could get a client up and running on the solution. Later in the year we unveiled Blackbaud Sphere Grow for nonprofits looking to reach new supporters. These clients are already getting very solid online results.

Metrics, Metrics, and More Metrics

The beginning of the year started with a project to look at online giving trends. This resulted in several blog posts and presentations (2008 Online Giving Trends 2009 Online Giving Trends - Q1 2009 Online Giving Trends - Q2 2009 Online Giving Trends - Q3) on the subject. The research work also led to us publishing that approximately 5% of all giving in the US in 2008 was done online. It was great to see this estimate being used across the sector. More online giving metrics are coming in 2010.


To Infinity and Beyond!

Behind the scenes there was a lot of development working going on our Internet solutions. Having the largest development team serving the nonprofit sector allowed us to really make a lot of progress this year. Client involvement in the design process has also gone to a new level. In early 2010, we'll release Internet functionality that is native on Blackbaud's Infinity platform. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon and a ton of hard work was done this year to make it possible.


Write, Read, and Edit

I started working on a new book this year as a follow-up to People to People Fundraising. Many long hours were spent writing a chapter about online metrics and editing several other chapters for the book. I am really excited that Internet Management for Nonprofits will be coming out in 2010. Thanks to the editing team of Ted, Jim, and Philip, and all of our authors for making it all happen.


Full Speed Ahead

Another year ends and a new one begins. 2010 should include more thrills and chills – and many many miles on the road. I am especially looking forward to another year working with NTEN and NTC 2010 in Atlanta. Plus some new research work, product announcements, and stories from across the nonprofit sector. Oh...and more blogging too!


Part One: The Partnership

  1. Company History – What is the track record of the companies you’re reviewing? Are they committed to research, development and future web growth? Company history will show you how much faith you can have in the commitment of future growth and client care, which are the most important considerations with any technology partnership in today’s volatile market.
  2. Relationship - Technology is constantly changing. Choosing a vendor based on functionality alone is a death sentence. You must trust that the company you partner with not only has a good product for your day one implementation, but also a solid plan for future development. Flexibility in changing environments is key, Don’t get pigeon-holed! If you built a web community on the integration with MySpace, for example, you’re kicking yourself in the wake of its steady decline in certain markets.  
  3. Parting Ways - What happens if/when you and your technology vendor decide to part ways? Many design firms, for example, keep designs they create as intellectual property. Who owns design, content, data and what is the migration path should be considerations. 
  4. Clearly-Stated Process – Do you understand the company’s implementation process and how/where you fit in? You should not only understand your time and resource commitment, but you should also know who to go to for what part of a project. 
  5. Cost – “Getting a new website” means different things to everyone. In a solution review process, make sure you understand what your needs are and that you’re comparing apples to apples once needs are determined. 
    • Web Design – Design firms often offer only creative work – the “site wrapper”. They design your website in order to use on an existing CMS you have in house or a suggested mass market CMS. 
    • Web Development – Web development firms often implement a design created by a design firm (or by the client themselves) into a content management system – either proprietary or third party CMS – and build in content placeholders, templates, pages, etc. Typically, web development firms train clients on using the CMS so they can add to their website when needed (the ease of this varies greatly).
    • Total Website Solution – total website solutions will typically work with a client from design, through web development, through content migration and/or training to edit content, to integrating it with other systems. If you don’t work with a total website solution company, but are looking for a full website (or portion of a website), chances are you’ll have to partner with multiple companies to get what you’re looking for.

Tune in next week for Part Two of the series in choosing a website vendor: The Solution!


Wrong! You’ve only just begun. The real  fun now begins. You’re hopefully acquiring new donors as I type and now have to decide how best to cultivate them in the new year.

Do you:

  • Immediately add donors to your online or offline distribution list?
  • Plan strategic asks based on a donor's location or giving level?
  • Ask donors how’d they’d like to further be involved with your organization? Volunteer? Event attendee? Advocate?


Start your new year with fresh ideas on how to cultivate your new and lapsed donors. If you’re looking for ideas, we’ve done some great posts on NetWits over the past year with plenty of tips and tricks for you! Some of my favorites are:


How to Leverage your Newsletter Subscriber List to Solicit Online Donations

The Answer to Nearly Every Online Fundraising Question Is…

5 Mistakes Nonprofit Websites Make


Good luck with year end and Happy Holidays!



Our aim for Broadway Cares' was to inject their DNA and reputation that they have successfully developed in the offline world over the last couple of decades into their website. Here is a look at the Broadway Cares' redesign process and how they made a difference by taking an Audience Centric approach to design!

The starting point

Here is the snapshot of Broadway Cares' previous website:

Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS - Old Web Design


Broadway Cares’ old website was over three years old and lacked adequate tools to take advantage of emerging internet technologies as well as an intuitive visual design approach which not only made the website difficult to use, but did not leave a lasting impression. Here are some high level goals that we had to achieve with the new design:

  • Reach, excite & engage supporters
  • Improve usability and overall site navigation
  • Ability to target customized information for different groups of supporters
  • Increase constituency base
  • Market events, merchandise and auctions in a prominent way but not appear to be too sales oriented
  • Thank supporters for their assistance in fulfilling their mission
  • Raise awareness for HIV/AIDS issues

The Approach

Now that we had our goals in front of us, we needed a sure fire way to ensure that their top audiences were identified and their needs were represented online along with an elegant user interface design that takes their online experience on this website to the next level.

We collaborated with Broadway Cares’ core project team and dove right in with some key strategic sessions and our design process:

  • Information Architecture
  • Usability Testing
  • Visual Design Discovery
  • Design Development

In the upcoming posts, I will be taking a deeper dive into each session and share some insights and outputs! Stay tuned!



At Blackbaud, we have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing clients who understand the importance of the strategic approach to design. I will be showcasing a selection of our experiences and results with you in my new series of blog posts called “The Science Behind the Art”.

We will take a visual journey through some recent projects and share our process, findings and results. As always, please do share your feedback with us on what you think about our approach and even chime in with your experiences when you redesigned your website!

Stay tuned!


@fatcyclist himselfBut, wouldn't you know it, Bruyneel did see it! What transpired from there is pretty incredible. Bruyneel offered a friendly challenge – on Twitter and on his blog.

If @fatcyclist (pic left) raised $10K for World Bicycle Relief (WBR) and $10K for Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) @johanbruyneel would fly @fatcyclist to Cycling Camp on Dec. 13. And, if he raised $25K in a week, Trek would give him a sweet road bike (a $10K value). Pretty amazing stuff, eh? The story only gets better from here.

In 3 days @fatcyclist raised about $50K. In 5 days he raised over $100K. He used social media (blogging/Twitter) and Blackbaud’s personal fundraising tools (Friends Asking Friends) to pull off this incredible achievement. Without the ability to quickly connect and mobilize his his network to give this wouldn't have been possible.


The challenge is continuing to grow. You can follow the story at, or you can just go join the people making it happen by donating here or here.

By this time (12/11/2009 2:23 pm pst) he's raised over $135K. It's only been 8 days! Check out this video from Johan Bruyneel



What can Nonprofits can learn from this? 5 Takeaways

  1. Create a challenge or competition that inspires people to compete
  2. Come up with cool prizes that motivate people to engage in fundraising efforts
  3. Be active in social media channels and help your supporters spread their message
  4. Make it easy and exciting for your supporters to communicate with their networks
  5. Give your supporters, donors, volunteers and advocates an easy way to fundraise on your behalf


A bit more on how the story unfolds ... what else can we learn?

A Cycling Blogger @fatcyclist sent the Manager of Lance Armstrong’s racing team @johanbruyneel a resume (joking) as if he were applying for a job.

Manager of Lance Armstrong’s racing team @johanbruyneel responds to @fatcyclist with a challenge.


Fatcyclist Fundraising Tweets



The Challenge: Raise $10K for World Bicycle Relief and $10K for LAF in ONE week and I'll fly you to camp!




@fatcyclist sees that Johan Bruyneel has challenged him and starts to take action! Read


Fat Cyclist comes back with two Fundraising sites: (Both using Blackbaud Friends Asking Friends technology)




Lance tells his 2.2 million followers about it …


Lance Armstrong Tweets about Fatcyclist fundraising challenge



Three days into the challenge Bruyneel congratulations @fatcyclist for his huge accomplishment



LIVESTRONG Chimes in on the FatCyclist fundraising challenge



And the story continues...

ups the challenge to @fatcyclist ... By Friday December 11, 12:00 PM US Mountain Standard/Tucson, AZ Time you must have met the following criteria - Raise $50K for World Bicycle Relief and $50K for for LIVESTRONG. If those two criteria are met by the stated deadline, Trek Travel will donate one 2010 Paris Finishing Package to witness the finale of the Tour de France!!  And yes, airfare will be taken care of.


Johan Bruyneel increases the challenge!



And, well, as expected at this point ... @fatcyclist responds ... or should I say the friends, family, supporters, network of @fatcyclist respond.


@fatcyclist raises over 100K to meet the challenge



$135K and counting has been raised as of Friday December 11th, 2009 at 2:27 pm pst.

Amazing, right?! What other insights can you gain from this?


An estimated 135 million people participated in the Black Friday shopping rush in 2007 according to Reuters. By offering discounted merchandise, consumers are willing to stand in long lines waiting for get into the store.   Many of the larger corporate chains offer unheard of deals and many customers camp outside to take part in “door buster” deals.

The same type of motivation that is driving consumers to go shopping and purchase goods at discounted prices is the same type of drive that I am proposing the nonprofit world create for their supporters. There is no dispute that the shoppers that stay up all night and go to outlet malls or wait outside of electronic stores, are price driven shoppers looking for a deal and or discount. If consumers are looking for a deal then that’s what we should give them.  If  millions of consumers were willing to go shopping on a specific day at unheard of hours, why can’t nonprofits create the same demand for consumers to contribute to your cause during an entire month called “Black December?” 

Food for Thought:

  • What deals or incentives can you offer your donors to make a donation during the month of December?
  • Have you offered a matching gift campaign? 
  • How about providing your donor a premium for making a donation in a certain amount? Offer movie tickets with a donation above a certain amount?
  • Have you thought of creating incentives for your supporters to donate and get something back in return?
  • How about offering a specific product that might be difficult for the consumer to obtain during this holiday shopping time but everyone wants one? Purchase in bulk and offer the product back to your donors during a shopping window.

What are you doing to create more demand in your supporter base this month?  Let us know!


1. Start with an effective website


Barack Obama’s website was redesigned twice during the course of his campaign. From the very beginning, it was a huge priority, and a lot of time, research and effort went into its development. By the second time around, the result was a clean, streamlined design that was visually appealing and featured a simple navigation that inspires action. It wasn’t too text-heavy; but rather concise content that is clear and to the point, and always fresh. There was even a mobile version of the site to launched increase access to campaign information on the go.

The results:

  • The website had more unique visitors than any other candidate
  • Peaked to almost 9M in the weeks before and after the election


Obama tips for an effective website:

  • Consider a redesign – If you can’t remember the last time your website was redesigned, then it’s been too long!
  • Restructure your navigation – Navigation moves the audience…it should be easy to understand and easy to use.
  • Clean up your content – Use bulleted lists and short, concise content to communicate your point.
  • Start monitoring web traffic – Find out what areas of your website are valuable (or more importantly, NOT valuable) to visitors.
  • Optimize your website for search engines – What good is your website, if no one can find it?


2. Leverage the power of multimedia

Barack Obama’s campaign literally embraced every form of multimedia available. There was BarackTV (a library of video clips of Obama and his supporters), a YouTube channel, and Podcast on iTunes. The campaign regularly sent out text messages to supporters and even offered “Obama Ringtones” for download. The emphasis of these elements as part of the web strategy allowed the campaign to take advantage of the viral nature of multimedia material (remember “Obama Girl”?) and as a result, made a huge impact.


The results:

  • Collected more than a million cell phone numbers
  • Had over 1,821 videos on his YouTube channel over the course of 2 years
  • More than18.4 million views and 115,000 subscribers by November 4th
  • Famous speech during the campaign, “A More Perfect Union”, had over 6 million views

Obama tips for leveraging multimedia:

  • Try using multimedia instead in addition to text to tell your story – Images, audio, and video can captivate an audience and tell your story like words never could.
  • Leverage free resources available – Services like Vimeo, YouTube, and are free resources that can be embedded into your website
  • Solicit the help of your supporters – Try holding contests allowing your supporters to take on the production of video or other multimedia
  • Start small – Don’t have the resources for video? Start with still images or audio files and build from there.
  • Make your multimedia viral – Offer tools that allow your supporters to “tell a friend” or post to their websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. Allow viewers to easily share videos with others (i.e. YouTube).


3. Make email marketing work for you


During 2008 alone, I must have received hundreds of emails from Barack Obama’s campaign…and so did millions of others. The Obama team made an effort to collect emails at every opportunity. Over the course of the campaign, more than 1 billion emails were sent, about 7,000 different messages targeted to specific audiences. These emails were short and sweet, timely, relevant, and always included some sort of call to action. What really stood out about these messages was the fact that they were so personal and conversational; some of even them incorporated stories. They all made me feel like Obama himself took the time out to personally send an email just to me.


The results:

  • More than 13 million email addresses captured during the campaign
  • Two-thirds of the money they raised online is in direct response to an email solicitation

Obama tips for “small” fundraising:

  • Start with a plan – Create a year-long ecommunications calendar that compliments your offline communications
  • Give your subscribers a choice – Allow them to choose things like what topics they are interested in and how often they want to receive communication
  • Make your e-communications personal – Do this by targeting emails to specific audiences and including details that respect the recipient’s history.
  • Keep email content short and sweet – People are too busy these days to read through long emails. Get to the point and get to it fast.
  • Test and measure results – Testing and measuring results is the only way you will be able to know if your email marketing strategy is making an impact at all.


4. Ask for smaller donations and get a big impact



President Obama used email as a primary way to solicit first-time supporters. Most email solicitations asked supporters for $25 or less. Many solicitations featured deadlines asking for “just $5 more”. Often, supporters were asked to contribute multiple times.

The results:

  • Of the 6.5 million online donations, 6 million were $100 or less
  • Average online donation given of $80
  • The average online donor gave more than once during the course of the campaign

Obama tips for “small” fundraising:

  • Leverage low-cost solicitation methods – Email is a great way to
  • Ask new donors for smaller amounts – Asking for smaller donation amounts is a great way to get people on the hook for their first donation, without scaring them off.
  • Make donors feel like every dollar counts – Who says a dollar or five dollars can’t make a difference? Make sure your supporters know even a little bit can make an impact.
  • Inform supporters of deadlines and fundraising goals – Deadlines and goals are a great way to let supporters know that for just a small amount, they can help push your efforts over the edge.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask again – Since you are asking so such smaller amounts, why not ask more often than you would typically?


5. Embrace Virtual Fundraising



We have all heard of the traditional walk-a-thon model of fundraising. Taking a page out of the nonprofit fundraising handbook, the Obama team created “virtual” fundraising campaigns, or the “non-walk-a-thon”. Thousands of his supporters were able to raise millions of dollars without ever having to walk an inch. They created personal fundraising pages on the website, set a fundraising goal, and then sent emails to their family and friends asking them to support their efforts.


The results:

  • More than 70,000 people created fundraising pages
  • 30 million dollars was raised through viral fundraising alone


Obama tips for viral fundraising:

  • Educate your supporters – Let people know that this is even an option. They may be more willing to embrace the idea than you think
  • Make it easy – Provide resources, best practices, or even online tools to help your supporters in their fundraising efforts. The easier you make it, the more successful they will be.
  • Make it interesting – Encourage the spirit of competition by allowing your supporters to create teams.
  • Add a personal touch – Allow participants celebrate a milestone like a birthday or graduation or pay tribute to a loved one
  • Monitor progress and reward success – Let’s face it, people love being rewarded. Milestones, contests and prizes for dollars raised are all good ways to keep them encouraged.

Want more? Stay tuned for my next post on the things President Obama is doing now to keep his supporters engaged and continue the momentum.



Confused? Well, let’s “bounce” right into it. Foursquare is a location-based social networking tool. The purpose of the tool is to allow you to find places of interest (restaurants, museums, bars, etc) near your current or future location. Once you reach your destination, you can “check-in” and can create a “tip” with your iPhone or Android. Foursquare then pushes out this information to your friends on Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook. For example, when I go to restaurant I can use Foursquare to check-in and create a tip about their delicious mac-n-cheese. This tip can be viewed by my friends along with other people who are in the area or curious about the restaurant.

Sharing location and providing tips is not all that Foursquare has to offer. It encourages users to get out there (physically) and explore new places by adding incentives. For each check-in, users receive points and badges. If you bring a friend, you get extra points! To promote loyalty, Foursquare appoints you mayor of a venue if you have been there more than any other user. If the title of mayor is not enough, a lot of these locations are now providing discounts (free drinks, % off, free admission, etc.) for Foursquare mayors.

So how can nonprofits use this to further their mission? Missouri Botanical Garden and the Vancouver Police Museum, have done a great job using Foursquare to encourage patrons to visit regularly.

Missouri Botanical Garden is promising the top 5 Foursquare users free tickets.




Vancouver Police Museum offers the mayor a 25% discount in the gift shop and free admission for themselves and a guest! 






As you can see, Foursquare can help spread the word about your organization and get people excited about visiting (and revisiting). So get out there and start playing!


Can you think of another way to implement Foursquare in your nonprofit?  Leave a comment below and let us know!









Here are some things they’ve done well recently:

  1. They update their Fan Page at least once per week; often more. As a “fan” and volunteer I know and look forward to this update.
  2. Staff update their Fan Page with pictures. As an animal organization, they know the importance of using images to promote their cause and energizing their volunteers.
  3. Charleston Animal Society recently moved into a brand new building and use video to show the animals playing the hallways, with the staff, and interacting with volunteers.
  4. Their Volunteer Coordinator announces volunteer opportunities and gatherings directly on their Fan Page. It makes us volunteers that are ‘fans’ feel like we’re the first to know!
  5. They translate their mission into every day events. As an example, they advertised “Black Friday” on their Fan Page and announced that black cats were ½ the price. What a great reason to draw a prospective family in to find their forever friend!


Hopefully the Charleston Animal Society can inspire you to be more proactive on your Facebook Fan Page.

Please leave a comment and let us know your creative ideas for using Facebook effectively.



The NetWits Know-How on Event Fundraising series will include the following seminars:

  • Know-How on Converting Offline Participation to Online Participation – Dec. 15 at 2 pm ET Exploring cross-channel recruitment strategies, email collection efforts, offline data management, using online tools, and developing better online event communities
  • Know-How on Designing an Event Email Marketing Strategy – Dec. 16 at 2 pm ET Covering topics including email timing, frequency, and design
  • Know-How on Analyzing Event Results – Dec. 17 at 2 pm ET Focusing on best practices for performing detailed analyses of event data and translating results into donor acquisition and cultivation strategies
  • Know-How on Using Twitter®, Facebook®, and YouTube® to Enhance Your Event’s Impact – Dec. 18 at 2 pm ET Participants will learn how to leverage the power of social media to efficiently extend their reach

Nonprofit professionals can sign up for these free web seminars at and also access archives of previous seminars on social media and online fundraising.


Tweetsgiving 2009 


Using social media

EpicChangeHere are a few things they are doing to tell their story, engage with people, fundraise, and connect people around the world. If you’re not already involved I suggest you check it out to see the groundswell first hand!


The key to success

What makes all this work? Passion - The passion of those running the campaign and their active participation in social media channels. They’re telling their story. They’re supper engaged. They don’t rely on automation. They rely on making real connections with highly connected people who help spread their message of thanks around the world.


6 Key takeaways for you


  • Know what your story is and use the appropriate social media channels to tell it.
  • Make it simple to participate in many different ways. Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, Youtubing, meetups, etc…
  • Make it simple to give online and offline. You don’t need to 30 field donation form.
  • Make sure people can see how their money is making a difference and use the real time nature of the web to do it quickly.
  • Make sure to incorporate an element of competition. For some reason there are people who want to see their name on the top fundraisers list. Make sure that’s possible.
  • Don’t automate. Be a real person who interacts with other real people in authentic ways.



What say you? How do you see this type of social media use working for your nonprofit organization?


Obstacle #1: Missing (or unclear) information about your organization.

It might sound like a no-brainer but the very biggest obstacle to people giving online is if they don’t have a clear understanding of what your organization is all about. According to the study by the Nielsen Norman group, 58 Design Guidelines for Improving the Donation Process and the Usability of Essential Information on Charity and Non-Profit Websites, 83% of surveyed donors were simply not comfortable making a donation to a cause until they understood the mission, goals, objectives, and work of the charity.

Obstacle #2: Lack of (or confusing) explanation of how donations are used.

Once a prospective donor understands ‘what you do’, they will want to know ‘how you do it’ and what positive impact their gifts can make. If financial accountability and information is nowhere to be found, potential donors may be wary of how dollars are allocated and spent. If there is a lack of success stories or compelling cases about results from prior donations potential donors may doubt tangible results from their gifts. And finally if program names are vague, for example ‘community campaign’ or ‘annual giving opportunity’ potential donors may not become engaged.

Obstacle #3: Poor visual design and/or bad user interface.

As web users’ experience in general evolves and familiarity of retail and social networking sites increases, their expectations for a high quality website experience from non-profit organizations have grown. Your website’s overall presentation can immediately impact the impression visitors have of your brand’s reputation and legitimacy. The old adage of ‘you never have a second chance to make a first impression’ applies here.  For example, if a user can’t easily find where to donate, they may not give and even worse may seek out another more user-friendly place to do so. Another big warning sign to look out for is design inconsistency between the appeal page or your home page and the actual donation form. In other words, if the donation form has different branding, or copy that doesn’t match the original call to action, you may lose potential donors.

Obstacle #4: Technical difficulties! (&^%$*#!).

If your donation form includes unnecessary steps and suffers from TMIG (too much information gathering) users may suffer from ‘form fatigue’. If extra steps such as a registration or login are required to donate it may discourage those who are only interested in giving a one-time gift. This can also be the case if you use a 3rd party application such as Paypal™ or Amazon®, which require an existing account or additional steps to process a payment. Also look out for insecure page warnings, while not always a sign that the donation process itself is insecure (it may be an image or script that is causing the error) users who are newer to online giving may be concerned. If an error does occur, such as a required field wasn’t filled out, and there is no indication of what needs to be fixed, a donor may not have the patience to review the form to see what happened and correct it.


Obstacle #5: Absence of or inconsistent acknowledgement, appreciation or recognition.

Let’s suppose a visitor has decided to give a donation to your organization, has gone to the effort of getting out their credit card, filling out the form and clicking submit and … nothing. If there is no confirmation page or email, how would they know it actually worked? They wouldn’t. Not only would there be a sense of uncertainty but the opportunity to provide them with an immediate sense of gratification is lost. If you do say ‘Thank you’ is it the same for a $5.00 gift as it is for a $10,000 gift? And with subsequent gifts if there is no recognition of prior activity, a donor may not be as motivated to give again and they may not feel valued or recognized.


That sums up five roadblocks to look out for. In Part II we’ll cover what specific steps you can take to remove them and get on your way!


Twitter Search Samples for NonprofitsOf course this all requires people are using Twitter and sharing this type of information, but twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world so your chances are getting better by the day. Just think about the possibilities for your nonprofit!

Learning how to use Twitter search is the key to finding the type of information you are looking for. The below searches can all be built using Twitters advanced search page. I hope the examples give you some vision and ideas that you can put into practice today. Make sure to use these and begin to replace my words/searches that make sense for your organization. 


People talking about you specifically


People talking about and linking to your website or blog: (See Results)

This one is simple. You want to know who’s talking about you on Twitter? This search will let you see who is linking or sharing information about you and/or your web site. Just replace the search terms I’ve listed below with the name of your organization, website and blog. Remove the "filter:links" part on the end of you want to open up the search to tweets that don't have links in them.

netwitsthinktank OR netwits OR "netwits thinktank" OR "netwits think tank" filter:links 


People talking about your executive director: (See Results)

You’d be surprised who’s talking about you already. You could replace your executive director’s name with the name of your nonprofit or the name of an event you run. These people could be saying good or bad things about you. Wouldn’t you want to know and have the ability to respond?

"holly ross" -to:ntenhross -from:ntenhross -@ntenhross


People talking about things your focused on


People talking about fighting hunger and sharing web resources: (See Results)

Think about this for a minute. If you’re an organization whose mission is to fight hunger these are people who you want to connect with. They are active online and talking about your issue. They are also sharing links to resources (see: filter:links)  Go connect with them. 

"fight hunger" -rt -via filter:links 


People using a hashtag (#) that you’ve started or that is of interest to your organization: (See Results)
A hashtag (Example: #TED and #nptech) is a way to group tweets by a word or topic. It’s very easy to do and people use them for all sorts of things.



Location based Twitter search


People talking about volunteering around San Diego: (See Results)

If you are a nonprofit in the San Diego area looking for volunteers to help with an upcoming event this is the perfect search for you. Maybe you’re a nonprofit who’s mission is to connect volunteers with other nonprofits in need like Volunteer Center Serving Howard County. If you are like them you could use this type of search for all kinds of different areas to find people looking to serve.

“volunteering” near:"san diego" within:50mi


People talking about things related to nonprofits in San Diego: (See Results)

This one is pretty simple. If you are a nonprofit looking for people who are interested in nonprofits in your area then this search is for you. Anyone that is located in San Diego (remember you can switch out San Diego with your city or state) who uses the word “nonprofit” or “nonprofits” one of their Tweets will be found.

nonprofit OR nonprofits near:"san diego"


People talking about breast cancer in San Diego: (See Results)

Very similar to the above search except this time we’re looking for people talking about a specific topic in my local area.

"Breast Cancer" near:"san diego"


People talking about breast cancer in San Diego and sharing links to pictures: (See Results)

This search combines a few things to find people who are located in San Diego, talking about breast cancer and sharing links to pictures. This search could be perfect for an organization like The American Heart Association or LIVESTRONG. When they put on their big walkathon type events they could easily find people participating and sharing pictures. They could then reach out to them and share their pictures on their websites. Awesome!

"Breast Cancer" near:"san diego" twitpic OR yfrog OR OR twitgoo OR pikchur filter:links


Social Media for Nonprofits


People talking about social media for nonprofits and sharing web resources: (See Results)

"socialmedia" OR "social media" "nonprofit" OR "nonprofits" -rt filter:links


People talking about social media strategy for nonprofits and sharing web resources: (See Results)

"socialmedia" OR "social media" "nonprofit" OR "nonprofits" "strategy" -rt filter:links


People talking about social media being used for fundraising and sharing web resources: (See Results)

"socialmedia" OR "social media" fundraising filter:links -rt


People talking about social media being used for philanthropy and sharing web resources: (See Results) 

"socialmedia" OR "social media" philanthropy filter:links -rt -to:Philanthropy -from:Philanthropy -@Philanthropy


Technology for Nonprofits


People talking about nonprofit technology and sharing web resources: (See Results)

"nptech" OR "nonprofit tech" OR "nonprofit technology" filter:links –rt



A few definitions that will further help you understand the above search strings: 

Additional Twitter search operators here

Photo by andercismo 


What other Twitter Searches can you think of? Do you have any that are working well for you yet? Oh, and I’d love to help if you have questions?



The idea behind the session was to provide tactics and tools nonprofits can use to meet their social media objectives. The presentation is full of examples that can easily (and sometimes not so easily) be implemented once you have a social media plan. I've been to so many sessions in the last couple years that focus on high level social media strategy, discuss why these networks are important, or cover how organizations can begin a social media program. 50 Social Media Tactics assumes you already have a plan, and are simply looking for tactics to plug into that plan that can help meet its objectives.

Below is the Slideshare of our presentation...I hope you're find it useful. What other tactics does your organization use? What important tactics are missing from our list? What social media tactic have you used sucsessfully? Let me know in the comments. 



The article goes into a quick analysis of how online activities for nonprofit organizations fall into one of three segments:

  • No online presence
  • Limited online presence
  • Dynamic online presence

And then explores eleven (yes, I know... the 11th one is a bonus!) areas that will help your organization become more successful with online fundraising:

  1. Consistent online branding
  2. Information architecture and navigation
  3. Call to actions
  4. Design and user interface
  5. Audience Centric Design
  6. Search engine optimization
  7. Content management
  8. Effective email communication
  9. Active participation
  10. Integration with system of record
  11. (Bonus) Make it interactive!

Check out the complete article in all its glory is here on

Do you have advice about how websites can be made more fundraising friendly? Share your comments with us!


So I've taken part in a Challenge event or two in my time and you'll see from the video clip below (See me at the beginning of the video...looking breathless) but I've also worried that we could have raised more with better tools at our disposal and have spent the last year since climbing Ben Nevis looking at different ways that we could get more from it.  Have a look at my earlier post on Challenge Event fundraising as a whole.

Click here to view the Ben Nevis Challenge Video.

So here are my ten top tips, in no order, for successful challenge eventing.

No 1 - Let People tell their story

Give your eventers the correct tools to explain what they are doing, why they are doing it and let them keep their donors and friends up to date.  Great tools for this are blogs, videos, twitter, facebook etc.

No 2 - Learn from other people's successes and failures

If you have previous challenge eventers then give them a voice.  Let them pass on tips and hints and especially contacts.  Don't have your eventers constantly reinvent the wheel but don't let this stifle innovation.  Your previous eventers gave a lot when they took part in their event and hopefully they've built an affinity with you - take advantage of that fact.

No 3 - Constant updates keeps folk interested

Static info on a web page is boring.  Encourage your eventers to give regular updates.  Let them share the pain of the late nights training in the pouring rain.  This encourages repeat giving where someone may give a gift but then see how much effort your eventers are putting in and give a little more.

No 4 - Video Helps

Video is a very powerful tool.  The above video gave huge amounts of publicity for the event and if you search on You tube for 'Ben Nevis Challenge' you'll find loads more from various media agencies.  You Tube has some great tools for Not for Profit orgs to use.  Check out a fabulous article by Frank Barry on the NetwitsThinktank on this subject.

No 5 - Competition is important







Give people a goal that is not just financial.  Get them competing against each other.  Create hierarchies so that companies, families, friends etc can compete against each other.  Create league tables.  Have a look at this great example from Oxfam Ireland.  They actually exhibit a number of these tips right on this page.  Have a look at some examples of a typical hierarchy you can build (above).

No 6 - Family can get involved

Never under estimate sibling rivalry but also don't under estimate the fact that if one family member is fundraising for you, especially if it's in tribute to someone, then another may as well.  Give people the ability to create sub pages from a main fundraising page so that a son can have their own page where they can fundraising for their parents.  This is a great way of building a family unit which will fundraise for you.

No 7 - SMS is a powerful tool

Use SMS to speak with your eventers but also to help them fundraise.  MS Society used the Blackbaud SMS tool to great effect during last years London Marathon.  The SMS feels like a far more personal tool and is less likely to be ignored as spam.

No 8 - Make sure you thank the right people

Offer thanks to everyone who takes part.  Thanks should go from the organisation as well as the individual.  Learn about the donors.  Find out if they are giving because it's an event or giving because they feel an affinity for the cause.  Ask questions of them - Your friend did it?  Why don't you?

No 9 - Social Media is very importantBrian Solis - The Conversation

This is vitally important nowadays.  Offer your eventers the chance to twitter their achievements.  Offer some instruction on this.  Can you offer video?  Do your bloggers know each other and actively encourage traffic?  Get people talking...and keep them talking.  Brian Solis' fabulous image - The Conversation is great for looking at the different platforms you could be using.



No 10 - Are you helping them achieve their physical goals?

Helping and nudging them with training plans and recommended training techniques really does help.  There are plenty of sites dedicated to achieving physical goals and if you look at the Oxfam site again they have some excellent training tips as well as route maps etc.  Encourage people to work together to achieve these goals and create a network.  Some free tools like SportsTracker are excellent for building a network around this stuff and it keeps everyone motivated.

Using these tips can really help to build a great online strategy for challenge eventing and helps to encourage fundraising, networking and builds the profile of your event.

I'd love to hear if anyone else has other tips for this type of thing?  Please leave a comment below!



The Volunteer Center serving Howard CountyTheir mission is connecting people directly with nonprofits. One of their largest ongoing challenges is developing a community around the VCSHC. Inset social media! Social media helps them build community and connect with people in ways they’ve not been able to before.  

Mickey shares some of her insights with us below …


Why did you decide to start using social media?

Community outreach and engagement are essential components of the VCSHC’s mission. In the fall of 2008, I started researching social media for the purpose of broadening our outreach efforts. Given our limited resources, I was seeking an alternative means of outreach that would allow us to expand and enhance ongoing efforts. Also, based on previous constituent surveys, I wanted to create a place to connect with our audience, a place where they would participate in ongoing conversations about their volunteer needs and experiences.


How did you come up with your current social media strategy?

By jumping in! I started a personal blog (first in Blogger, later switched to Wordpress) to track my experiences with different types of social media. I joined Facebook and Twitter. I created accounts on Slide Share, LinkedIn and YouTube. The more I learned as an individual using these services, the easier it was for me to see the potential benefits and pitfalls for our agency. From that, I was able to select a handful to start with (it would have been overwhelming otherwise) that appeared to be a good fit for our goals. Additionally, I knew that there were members of our target audience already using the selected services.

I also wanted our agency to use social media in order to model behavior for our partner agencies. Once I began to feel comfortable with various aspects of social media, I was able to start sharing tips, insights and resources with other nonprofit and community groups.


What obstacles did you have to overcome in “selling” social media to internal stakeholders?

The first obstacle was overcoming the fear of the unknown, followed closely by lack of technical knowledge. There was also concern about limited resources - how long would it take to manage these services?


What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve had to overcome?

When I first started, I couldn’t get my mind around the concept of promoting information that wasn’t about my nonprofit (or me!). It was counterintuitive and contrary to everything I’d been taught about marketing. It felt like I wasn’t using my time wisely, and with limited resources it felt wasteful. I quickly realized that I needed to forget everything I thought I knew about marketing (mind you, I’m not a marketing professional) and adapt to new methods of sharing information and connecting. 

I also struggled with balancing my personal identity with that of our brand, and of instilling an appropriate personality behind VCSHC posts and updates. In most cases I established two distinct presences in order to give myself the freedom I needed to share information effectively without compromising the integrity of our nonprofit’s brand. I keep our mission in mind when representing the VCSHC via social media and strive to share information that appeals to our audience. I also focus on interaction and relationship building by showing that there is a person behind the keyboard. 


What social media sites/tools are you using?

In early 2009, we added two blogs to our website – one targeted towards volunteers, one towards agencies. We added them to a community blog feed to maximize our exposure. We switched our website to a WordPress blog during the summer of 2009 in order to make it easier to manage and update. 

A student created a Facebook page for us in 2008, but we didn’t really begin to use it effectively until early 2009.  Many community members were already on Facebook, so it made sense for us to start actively promoting our page. Now we share information that I discover in feeds from friends, other pages, and via Twitter in addition to promoting our own programs and resources.

I have to admit, I didn’t understand the value of Twitter when I first started. It was simply good fortune that one of the first people I connected with was John Haydon, who quickly introduced me to a variety of talented folks promoting nonprofit best practices and resources. I searched for local community members on Twitter and followed them. 

SlideShare made sense as a platform from which to share our presentations because it’s so easy to upload content. As a result of sharing information this way, our 7 hosted presentations have received an excess of 4,500 combined views. They’ve been downloaded, embedded in other sites and favorited by a diverse range of individuals, spreading the VCSHC brand as far away as the UK and Europe.

We have an excellent local Ning called HoCoMoJo (Howard County Mobile Journalism) where we post information about events, trainings, awards, and programs. We need to use it more often – it’s a great resource!


How much time do you spend supporting your social media efforts?

I am the only staff member supporting social media at this point. Typically, when I’m in the office, I’ll have Tweetdeck open in the background. When I reach a break in my workflow, I’ll check both Twitter and Facebook to see if there is information I’d like to share from followers, fans, or friends. I limit the time I spend on each, and sometimes I’ll check again when I get home in the evening. I’d estimate I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each day monitoring and maintaining these efforts.


What’s been the biggest surprise, good or bad?

The incredible people I’ve met, both the ones here in my own community as well as those from across the country and around the world. I feel more connected with local colleagues and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know professional acquaintances better, so much so that many have turned into friends. 

Example: I met Gabe O’Neill from Kids Are Heroes via Twitter (thanks to John Haydon), and was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was local (based in a neighboring county). I learned more about his inspiring organization and was thrilled to include a presentation by Kids Are Heroes in our summer program, Camp Make a Difference.



Mickey GomezThanks for spending some time with us Mickey. It’s great to hear from real life nonprofits of your size. I’m sure others will gain some valuable insight from what you’ve shared!










  • Branding Your Nonprofit Online - This session is based on case studies, and will help you realize the impact branding has on online communication. Social media rock star Danielle Brigida (National Wildlife Federation) will be co-presenting and providing some great insights from NWF. 
  • Making Event Participants More Successful with Social Media Tools - If you are rocking Blackbaud Sphere, this is the session for you! Mark Davis (Blackbaud), Donna Wilkins (Charity Dynamics) and Jodie Kolkowski (American Heart Association) are going to cover how to incorporate Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube into your online events.
  • Online Metrics Demystified: Understanding Your Hits, Clicks, and Errors - If online metrics really freak you out, be sure to check out Steve MacLaughlin's session to soothe your soul. He covers all the metrics you should be looking at, and will help you understand why they are important.
  • Tools and Techniques to Make Your Web Content More Interactive and Shareable - Frank Barry (Blackbaud) is a genius, and this session will explore all the third-party tools you can use to make your web content dynamic and sharable. Don't miss this!
  • Live and Interactive: Does Your Website Meet Your Organizational Objectives? - If you're wondering if your website is meeting your mission, be sure to attend Raheel Gauba's session. He'll be doing live, 10-minute brainstorms on the actual sites of attendees - maybe yours! 

I'll also be talking about webby things throughout the event, so come find me! My sessions include:

  • 50 Social Media Tactics You Can Use Today - I'll be presenting this rapid-fire session with Melanie Mathos (Blackbaud), and it will cover 50 things you do using social media. We're assuming you have a strategy and goals already, so we're hoping this session will give you the ideas to push ahead.
  • Social Media Workshop - This 40-seat workshop will allow attendees to actually do some of the things we discussed in the 50 Social Media Tactics session. We'll setup a Google Dashboard, add a blog to a Facebook profile, and find some good people to follow in Twitter.
  • New Frontiers in Marketing and Fundraising - This is a cool panel discussion that is focused on emerging technologies. We'll be covering how video, SMS, and podcasting can be using to enhance your engagement and fundraising. 

There you have it. Be sure to check out all the Conference sessions - there's a lot of great stuff to see. Follow @BBCon on Twitter for updates and I'll see you in Charleston!



SONI 2009 attracted over 648 completed survey entries from fundraising organisations in the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, France and Italy. The results provide an overview to help not-for-profits benchmark their operations across five key areas:

  1. General operations (staffing levels, budgets, service delivery requirements and organisational challenges)
  2. Fundraising (top methods in terms of income and investment, increase or decrease for each fundraising method against the previous year and predictions for the next 12 months, and methods most commonly used to communicate with donors)
  3. Technology and Internet Usage (use of new media techniques and social networking, and database requirements)
  4. Accountability and Stewardship (looking at transparency of expenditure)
  5. Demographics

Key findings from SONI 2009 include:

  • Charities in France are most optimistic about income growth for this year against last year with 59% of charities in France expecting to see an increase in individual donations and 51% anticipating growth in total income
  • Charities in Germany reported the highest anticipated decrease in total income (44%) and charitable donations (36%)
  • Charities across the board are seeing the biggest decrease over the past year in investments (followed by corporate giving), with the UK reporting the most significant fall at 61% and only 10% reporting an increase.
  • All nations report an increased demand for services, with three quarters (73%) of UK charities and two thirds of respondents in France (66%) and Italy (65%) reporting this.
  • Major donor fundraising is the top driver for fundraising contributions in all nations except the Netherlands, where it is direct mail.
  • 86% of charities in France expect income from major giving to stay the same or increase this year, against last year
  • More than 40% of charities in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands don’t yet raise funds through email.
  • Charities in France (45%) and Italy (46%) are investing more heavily this year in fundraising staff, and in outsourcing, reporting 52% and 51% increase respectively in consultancy services..
  • Meanwhile, around twice as many charities in Germany expect to see a decrease in investment in direct mail and telemarketing as other nations at 13% and 14% (compared to a range of 2-10%)
  • Charities in France aren’t investing in their websites, 7% don’t have an online strategy or see it as a major income driver.
  • 56% of charities in Italy report increased demand for donations to be restricted (47% in Germany).
  • There is some optimism for income growth in 2010 with more than half of charities in the UK, France and Italy expecting an increase.
  • Charities in France are far and above the most optimistic nation for charitable donations growth, with 80% expecting an increase (against just 40% for UK and Germany).

A complete version of the 2009 State of the Not-For-Profit Industry survey will be posted online shortly.


The Audience

I recently received an email appeal from Chicago Foundation for Women asking me to donate online to support women and girls in the Chicago metropolitan area. For more than a year now, I have on the subscriber list of Chicago Foundation for Women’s monthly (formerly weekly) Tuesday Blast e-newsletter. I enjoy every issue, reading about their “Tuesday Stars”, highlighting women who have helped make a difference. From time to time, I may get invited to events like their annual luncheon or asked to participate in a 5K race, but not once did they ever directly ask me for a donation…until a few months ago. Imagine my surprise when I received an appeal for support in my inbox.

The Message

The subject line was simple: “Give Change- Get Change”. It certainly got my attention, considering that every other email that I got from the foundation was a newsletter or invitation to an event. This one was different though, it stood out. I opened it right away.

Already intrigued, I opened the email to see that it was addressed specifically to me (also something I hadn’t seen from them before, even though I had provided my name during the newsletter signup process years ago) directly from Kelly White, the executive director. Her plea was short and sweet: “Can you lend me $5? I'll pay you back: If you can spare some change, I promise to make change!”

The email goes on to explain all of the different ways that I can expect to see my donation come back full circle. Ways that it might benefit me personally, like getting paid sick days off or ending gender-based violence, both of which are core missions of two of their grantees. How could I argue with this? It would be the best gift I’ve ever given for myself.  

The Ask Amount

What was most interesting to me about the approach that Chicago Foundation for Women took with this email campaign was that they were only asking for a small amount. With a simple gift of $5, I could make a difference in the lives of the women they serve. I thought this was a great way to motivate non-donors like myself to become first-time supporters, without intimidating them. After all, what’s $5? I spend more than that on lunch.

This was a tactic often used by Barack Obama during his campaign for president. In fact, most of the emails sent to me during Obama’s campaign asked for a simple donation of $5 or more. Of the 750 million dollars total raised during the 21 month period of Obama's campaign, nearly half of his money came from donors of $200 or less. Chicago Foundation for Women must have learned a thing or two from their former senator.

Needless to say, I was sold. It literally only took less than a minute of consideration and I clicked the “Donate Now” button and was instantly launched onto a donation page on their website.

Landing Page

This wasn’t just a re-direct to their standard giving form, however. Instead, I was taken to a targeted landing page designed specifically for this email. This was extremely comforting to me as a donor. I didn’t feel like I was being shipped off to some foreign website; the overall branding was consistent with the original email and the message on the donation page was just as compelling…and right there was my $5 option. Being a first-time supporter of Chicago Foundation for Women, I knew that it was unlikely that I would opt to donate at one of the higher giving levels like $100 or $250, but at the very least, I did give the $5 that they asked for.

The Acknowledgement

After completing my donation, I received an automatic acknowledgement email within minutes. It was sent directly from Kelly White again, thanking me for investing in their vision and reassuring me once again that my modest contribution had in fact made a difference. And with that, I was satisfied. I never thought that $5 could be so fulfilling.

The Follow Up

Since making my first donation of $5 to Chicago Foundation for Women, I continue to receive my regular email updates, but I have since contributed in other ways, like making a donation for their 24th Annual Luncheon since I will be unable to attend. In retrospect, it makes so much sense that I would support this organization. After all, I was already a captive audience being a newsletter subscriber, I knew a lot about the great work they did, and being a woman myself, I could definitely relate to their mission. Online giving was an obvious choice for me because it was so convenient and I’m already used to communicating with CFW online. But honestly, had they never had the guts to ask, I may not have ever made any contribution at all.

The Moral 

So as a donor, my humble advice to nonprofit organizations is simple: Don’t leave your newsletter subscribers out…give them an opportunity to contribute…and just ask!

Are you asking your newsletter subscribers to support your mission?  How is it working for your organization?  Leave us a comment and let us know!



Let’s hop right into the interview …


Cause Marketing in General


What is cause marketing?

I define cause marketing as a partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit. The benefits for both entities are money, visibility and branding, although not necessarily in that order.

Cause marketing generally takes three forms:

  • Point-of-sale – Traditionally an “ask” at the register for customer support that goes to the charity
  • Percentage-of-sale – A portion of the sale from a product or service that goes to the charity
  • Licensing – A company pays the nonprofit a fee to use its logo or to have them endorse its product


Can you give us a quick example of cause marketing to help it stick?

A very well known cause marketing program right now is the partnership between Starbucks and Product RED. When you buy a coffee from Starbucks, 5 cents goes to RED to help fight AIDS in Africa. It’s a classic percentage-of-sale program.


Cause Marketing at BMC


How do you use cause marketing to make local impact?

For BMC, cause marketing is mainly point-of-sale, which involves retailers selling pinups at checkouts for a buck or more. What’s different about our cause marketing efforts is that we’ve integrated them with our events and with social media. The benefit is that we have a lot more to offer our corporate sponsors than just a simple pinup program!


Who are your corporate sponsors?

When we started our cause marketing program five years ago, we only had two existing partnerships in place. One with iParty, a 50-store party supply chain based mainly in New England. The other was with Ocean State Job Lots an 80-store discount retailer also in New England and New York. We started with these two partnerships and grew the program one partner at a time. Building off the successes of past partnerships to land new accounts was key. Last year, we worked with close to 50 corporate sponsors. The list includes Fuddruckers, Staples, Valvoline Instant Oil Change and National Amusements to name a few. Many are locally based here in New England because that’s our target market.


How successful has it been?

If you restrict our cause marketing to just the pinups/point-of-sale programs we do, we raise an additional half-million from it. This doesn’t include all the money we raise from events, which sometimes have a cause marketing component. All total, my five person team is active in over $3 million of fundraising for Boston Medical Center.


What type of impact has been made?

We knew going into it that cause marketing was not the best way to raise money. But we also knew that there were few better ways to build a nonprofit brand than cause marketing. It’s given us a tool to educate consumers about us and to tell our story. It’s also a great way to build corporate relationships. In the beginning these relationship are are very transactional, but over time they become very meaningful. So cause marketing represents an important “in”. I also think cause marketing is a toolbox necessity for nonprofits these days. Causes leave it out at their own peril. But those that wield it well are building better relationships.


Social Media and Cause Marketing


How is Boston Medical Center using social media as part of your overall cause marketing strategy?

Social media is a complement, an enhancer to our cause marketing strategy. It makes our cause marketing packages more compelling and unique because it’s what companies want to hear about today. They like the fact that we’re in to the next “new thing.” I also think that adding offline cause marketing strategies to online social media tactics strengthen both offerings, especially social media, which has a ways to go as a fundraising tool.


Why did you decide to start using social media? 

We started using social media because I was using it personally on as well as on Twitter and Facebook. I wanted to extend the benefits of these platforms to my workplace. I also wanted to maintain our tradition of firsts here in Boston. First at doing local cause marketing better than anyone else (Read: Halloween Town ‘09 by the Numbers). First at using social media for cause marketing better than any other nonprofit.


What challenges have you overcome in ‘selling’ social media to stakeholders?

They don’t use it! It’s funny, Frank, because guys like you and me are on this stuff all the time and we think everyone is using it. But they’re not! If they were it would be an easier sell. So the biggest thing I’ve been doing is getting people to try some of these tools so they can see for themselves what the hoopla is about. Two other things. First, I’m fortunate that I have a track record and good relationship with my boss and he trusts me. Second, a lot of these services are free and that’s huge! If social media was costing more than staff time I wouldn’t be on it as much, for sure.


What are your social media goals/objectives? How did you come up with them?

My goal is simple, Frank: tear down the walls of what I call “Fortress BMC”. I call it that because as a public hospital very few donors, or potential donors, see what’s going on inside because it’s a hospital for the poor and needy. In short, most of the people who give to us, or could give us, get there care at another Boston hospital. Social media is a way of letting people in to see what’s happening in New England’s busiest, biggest best emergency department, for instance. Or for them to learn more about the only prescriptive food pantry within a hospital in this country that fed 70,000 people last year. To knock down walls to open eyes to what’s going on at a hospital people know very little about but has a million people pass through its doors every year.


Where would you suggest nonprofits new to social media start?

Joe WatersThe most common thing I hear from nonprofits is “I don’t understand.” And they don’t understand social media because they don’t use it! They can read it about it all they all want, but the best way to learn to use Twitter and Facebook and Delicious and the rest are to try them. Among the different social media platforms I think Twitter is a great place to learn.

I’ve learned so much from people like you, @jeffhurt, @johnhaydon, @jeffwiedner, @therichbrooks, @michael_hoffman @askdebra, etc. These people have a lot to offer if you will only listen and learn and ask good questions


Big thanks to Joe for spending some time with us! Make sure to check out Joe’s blog on cause marketing at You can also listen to an interview on How non-profits can use cause marketing by John Haydon.


For a next read check out: Cause Marketing for Small Nonprofits: Jake’s Ride



What thoughts do you have on Cause Marketing and Social Media? Questions for Joe or any additional nuggets of wisdom you’d like to share with folks to build out the story?

Way to go!! Right? Well, not totally.


With that said, schools are still at all different levels of embracing this change, even though we all know where we should be headed. Below, I’ve outlined some concrete steps you can take or at least consider to help you get your efforts on track towards this common goal of a centralized voice.

In other words, here are 10 ways you can make this newly-embraced philosophy “change you can believe in…” (That’s overused now, isn’t it?)


1. Segment your audience.

You do it in the offline world – setup events for prospective families, target parents for donations, encourage alumni to attend events and volunteer. Be sure to use what you know and have carefully gathered about your constituents to segment and personalize your online message as well. You know the obvious segments (students, parents, teachers, alumni, etc), but you should also consider segmenting based on interests, participation level, event involvement, etc. to further engage with your constituents.


2. Launch marketing efforts.

Generate excitement about your online community via multiple marketing channels including traditional methods such as email and direct mail as well as new mediums such as Facebook®, Twitter® and other social networking avenues. Know how your audience responds to each medium so that you can begin to segment (see #1) based on what’s successful with each group.


3. Educate your audience.

Don’t assume your constituents know what an online community is, how use an interactive website or where to find it. Once an interactive site is established, be sure to print your web address on all external mailings with instructions on how to access useable tools on the site.   Follow up with targeted emails outlining the benefits of joining the community (student portal, alumni virtual community, board members only document/downloads).


4. Utilize targeted content.

This is the best way to speak directly to each unique constituent. In an in-person meeting, you’d certainly discuss topics with personal relevance, right? Online is no different. Not only will personalizing their online experience help them feel more connected to your school, it’s also proven to increase involvement.


5. Analyze your web traffic.

Knowing where your audience is spending time on your site allows you to message to them effectively. It also helps you make strategic decisions about how to communicate more efficiently and effectively with different constituent groups that you serve (i.e. include headmaster blog or urgent school news on the top 5 pages visited by viewers).


6. Solicit feedback.

Don’t assume you know what your constituents want. Use polls, surveys, and preferences to really understand how to interact with all of your school community. Combine these with what you already know and have learned about them in your offline efforts to develop personas, create like-minded groups and get more bang for your communication buck.


7. Encourage participation.

You want your constituents to participate in every way – events, volunteer, mentorships, recruitment, etc. Online is an unlimited way to allow for virtual communities to form! Give users the ability to share their own stories, comments and needs that other community members can respond to. This could include anything from class notes, message boards, blogs, photos, etc which encourages others to participate and visit the site more frequently. 


8. Promote stewardship.

Share successes, ideas and thoughts to help communicate what you’re doing to further your mission. Doing this in a targeted, efficient way both online and off will create the sense of ownership with your constituents, and will help them understand all the wonderful and helpful things you’re doing for them and their school daily.


9. Stimulate the senses.

When in-person is simply not an option, consider using multimedia to enhance your site and make it visually appealing – videos, photos, podcasts, etc are a great way to share your school’s culture and make an online connection feel as close to in-person contact as possible.


10. Keep content fresh.

A stale site results in fewer return visitors.  Keep it simple and up to date with new content daily to encourage repeat visits and increased participation. 


Creating an online/offline communication strategy is just part of the picture. Making that strategy a reality takes planning, effort and short term and long term goals. Hopefully, the tips above will provide a few items of consideration to allow your school to taking concrete steps toward this growing goal.


Do you have an online/offline experience you want to share or a comment about this post? Please share below!


Charlene Li and  Josh Bernoff's book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies outlines a great strategy that nonprofit organizations can use. Josh was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Target User Forum. You can read an interview and write-up of his presentation on this blog.

In the book, Charlene and Josh recommend using the P.O.S.T. method for putting together your social networking strategy. P.O.S.T. stands for People, Objectives, Strategies, Technologies. And they are meant to be done in precisely that order.

People: Who are you trying to engage? Be specific and prioritize them. The answer can't be everyone.
Objectives: What are you trying to achieve? Is it about listening, talking, or energizing? How will you measure it?
Strategies: What will it look like when you're done? Start with the end in mind and how relationships will change. 
Technologies: What are the tools you plan to use? Don't pick the tools first.

It sounds simple, but it works. Give it a try. Resist the temptation to jump right to the tools. Make sure you understand why you're doing this, how you plan to measure success, and identify your internal champions before you take advice from one of the 857 social media experts out there.

Social media and social networks are fundamentally a communications and relationship building channel. It's just on such a mass scale and full of plenty of sound, fury, and hype that we momentarily think the normal rules don't apply. They still do.

One of the first things that I recommend to nonprofits, after working through a quick P.O.S.T. exercise, is to establish your listening post. Before you dive into the conversation it's a good idea to know what people are talking about. Doing this also helps to acclimatize the people in your organization to how much is already going one in the social media ecosystem.

There may or may not be a lot of chatter about your organization, but there will certainly be activity related to your mission, cause, purpose, etc. It is important to tap into this because people are more interested in what you're actually doing instead of reading your mission statement. Read Frank Barry's blog posts "Set up Your Social Media Listening Dashboard in 30 Minutes or Less" and "I’m Listening, Now What? 5 Tips to Make Your Listening Worth It" to get started listening.

Use your listening posts to help guide your P.O.S.T. strategy. You are very likely to find insights into what topics, trends, and sites are closely aligned with your organization. As you work through developing your P.O.S.T. approach to using social media and networks you're likely to find a few scenarios that bring into question your strategy. Don't panic! There are always exceptions and special cases that come up.

Part 2 of Creating a Social Networking Strategy will cover a very popular question: How many staff members does this all take? Look for that post in the near future.

According to a study performed early this year on a group of about 2,000 nonprofit organizations using Blackbaud’s Internet Solutions, clients saw an average online gift amount of more than $170 during the fourth quarter of 2008- compared to an average of $120-$130 in previous quarters of that same year. Blackbaud has seen this increase in online giving towards the end of the year consistently over the last 3 years. In 2008, December alone accounted for about 48% of the total dollars raised. The average online gift for the month of December increased to just over $248 for the nonprofits in the study.

This year, I've seen organizations leverage the power of eCards to boost online giving during other holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and even Valentine’s Day.  With the plethora of end of the year holidays on the horizon, why not stretch your year-end online giving with eCards?

What is an eCard?

According to the great folks at Wikipedia, an eCard is similar to a postcard or greeting card, with the primary difference being that it is created using digital media instead of paper or other traditional materials. What’s great about eCards is that they offer multiple benefits all in one neat little package:

  • Offers an interesting alternative to traditional online giving channels
  • Provides an instant benefit to your donors that encourages continued support
  • Spreads the word about your organization to those who would normally be out of your reach

The Life Cycle of an eCard

Using one of my favorite organizations, Alley Cat Allies, as an example, let’s walk through their Mother’s Day campaign and how it was able to help make May one of their biggest months in online fundraising this year.  

  • First, about a week before Mother’s Day, they sent an email to all newsletter subscribers asking them to send a “Mother and Kitten” eCard to their mom for Mother’s Day
  • Then, 4 days later, they sent out a “Last Chance” email reminder about the eCard offer. This was only sent to those that had not yet responded to the first email.
  • The donor, once they took action, was able to choose a giving level, select an eCard they preferred and include a personal message to their mother.
  • Once the eCard was purchased, not only did each donor get an automatic confirmation and acknowledgement, but they also received a copy of the eCard that was sent to their mom.

To see the Alley Cat Allies Mother’s Day eCard campaign in action, check out their Mother’s Day eCard Donation Form.

Creating an “eCard Store”

Charity: Water took the “online store” approach with the eCards option on their website. They post cards for any occasion, from birthdays to weddings and anniversaries. Charity:Water actually chose to require a donation of at least $20 gift for each eCard, and they do a great job of equating the donation to the value it has for them, reminding the donor that “each $20 card can give a person clean water for 20 years”.   Medical Teams International also does this via their online “Gift Catalog”. This option allows the donor to have almost a “shopping cart” experience. There is something to be said for allowing your donors to choose their own online giving experience and support you on their own terms.

Incorporating eCards as Standard Part of Your Donation Form

McCormick Foundation does this with their "Welcome Back Veterans" campaign, which is an initiative to raise funds to help support programs and services addressing the mental health and employment needs of America’s returning veterans and their families. In McCormick’s standard online donation form, they feature a simple option that allows donors to tell someone they love that they have contributed to the campaign. Consider adding an eCard as a standard part of your online donation form as a free benefit to donors and way to raise awareness about your organization. Who knows, it may even encourage repeat donations.

Linking eCards to Tribute

This may be the most compelling use of eCards. Tribute giving has certainly been a standard part of nonprofit fundraising for ages, but FINCA International does a really good job of incorporating tribute giving into their online contribution channels as well. In promoting Memorial and Tribute Gifts for their Village Banking Campaign, they added an extra touch by letting the donor also send an eCard acknowledgement for their tribute gift.

I did something similar earlier in the year with Catholic Charities USA. I’d been receiving regular e-communications from this organization regarding action alerts, news, and events for about a year, but they never once asked for a monetary contribution until about two weeks before Father’s Day. Their request was incredibly timely too, since I had just received a birthday present from a family friend and I was trying not to forget to send him a Thank You/ Happy Father’s Day card in the mail. When I got the email from Catholic Charities, however, it was perfect because I was able to act immediately. I enjoyed how personal it was for me as a donor. I choose the eCard that was most appropriate to me, customized the message, and scheduled it to be sent out exactly on Father’s Day. I especially liked getting a copy of the eCard sent to my inbox, because it allowed me to see the finished product. To see what I did, view my Father’s Day eCard on the Catholic Charities USA website.

Tips for boosting the value of your eCards

I wanted to leave you with some ways that you can increase the effectiveness of your eCards. After all, offering an eCard option is only one part of successful campaign:

  • Let the donor know how else they can make a difference. Turn your eCard donors into loyal supporters by encouraging them to get involved in other, more meaningful ways, like attending events, volunteering, or even making additional donations in the future.
  • Educate the eCard recipient about how they too can join the fight.  You have their attention, make the most of it! Each recipient is going to be pleasantly surprised to see an eCard from a loved one in their Inbox. Take advantage of a golden opportunity by providing links at the bottom of your eCards educating them on how they too can be a part of your mission.
  • Encourage your supporters to “spread the word”. Make it easy for by providing “tell-a-friend” links that allow them to email their family and friends about your eCards or post your eCard option on their Facebook page or other social networking sites.

How are you using eCards to increase visibility and raise more money for your organization?  Leave a comment and let us know!


The State of Online Fundraising webinar will be free for NTEN members. You can learn more and register by visting the NTEN website. Blackbaud customers can also attend the webinar for free. Please look for registration details in the October issue of the NetWits Think Tank enewsletter and The Connector enewsletter.

This webinar is a 90-minute session based on the NTEN Connect e-newsletter article I wrote called "The State of Online Fundraising" that recaps trends, research, and other useful information about online giving. I will also be covering information from across online giving research we've been doing for a while now.

If you're not already an NTEN member...join. Individual memberships start as low as $85 per year and there is certainly more value in just this session than the cost of an annual membership.


Full disclosure: I am member of the NTEN Board of Directors.


To Control or Not to Control….That is the Question

Social media makes it easier than ever to spread your word. However, any publicity is not necessarily good publicity. Understand the following rules to help make sure you’re embracing the right technology at the right time – and make it work for you, not against your organization:


1. Encourage social networking

Relinquish some control, BUT trust your instincts. In the ever-changing world of Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to understand that you will not have complete control over your online presence. You must release the firm grasp your marketing team may want on your brand in order to harness the power social media allows. 

By trusting your instincts, you will stay true to your brand – remember, any publicity is not always good publicity. While it’s important to give up some control to gain exposure, it’s also crucial to go with your gut. If something feels wrong, don’t do it!


2. Branding is PERSONAL

Word of mouth will do more for you in a single day than thousands of direct mailers, web content pages, emails, etc.

Viral marketing is king in today’s economy. Even in up times, a nonprofit’s staff wears many hats, and doesn’t have time to do all of the work necessary to share their missions and raise money. It’s key to allow your constituents to do some of the work for you.


3. Encourage staff members to join social media sites and use these mediums for outreach

“Those who represent the brand are just as important as the brand itself, so it’s good to trust employees and let them speak to the quality of your work” Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation (


4. Assign one or two “brand managers” to monitor social media site messaging

This allows some control over what’s out there – or at least the ability to report activity to the board. Monitoring can dissipate issues before they become detrimental to the organization and brand.


Case Study: National Parks Conservation Association


National Parks Conservation Association is a powerful brand that strives to protect and enhance America’s National Parks for present and future generations. They communicate their cause and raise money offline, through their website and even via social networking sites. One Facebook user has done an outstanding job raising money for NPCA…under the wrong brand. They use the National Park Service brand on their Facebook application to raise money for NPCA – two highly successful and relevant, but COMPLETELY SEPARATE organizations. 

NPCA has chosen to run with this mistake because of the support and wonderful exposure they receive via this Facebook site. 

Not all organizations would make this decision, but it’s important to understand that in the World Wide Web, these things can and may happen, and it’s important to have not only a policy, but a plan. To reference my previous branding blog, successful branding in today’s social media world is all about flexibility.


Well-branded NPCA Facebook Cause (run by staff member):


Poorly-branded Facebook presence (run by constituent not affiliated with NPCA – logo for National Park Service used to raise money for NPCA):


Is your organization going through a branding process?  Do you have any tips or insights to make it easier for others?  Leave a comment and let us know!




Something that is often overlooked is accessibility of information within a website. We spend time and money to create primary, secondary, and sometime tertiary levels of navigation, but how long will it take the site visitor to get to those pages? A growing trend for site visitors is to search for a keyword or phrase that meets their needs. Google has trained us very well in using their search engine. 





Given the limited resources of nonprofits, Google Search is provided at no cost. The real purpose of this discussion is to see how your organization will utilize this tool. 




Application Highlights:


  • You can harness the power of Google to create a customized search experience for your own website.
  • Code provided to plug into template
  • Include one or more websites, or specific webpages
  • Host the search box and results on your own website
  • Customize the look and feel of the results to match your site


So, how will you use Google Search for your organization? If you are currently using this application, I would love to hear from you.  Leave a comment and let us know!


This week at the Blackbaud's 2009 Relationship Management Conference here in London the topic of generations came up once again. I had the chance to sit down with some people from Sponge, our mobile messaging partner in the UK, to talk to them about what they are seeing in the sector. Roger Jones from The Good Agency also brought up the topic in a discussion we had about charities and social media.

Right now a lot of nonprofits are trying to understand how to engage Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y supporters. A lot of time and attention is being spent on how social media and mobile can be used to build relationships with Gen Y or Millennials. And there's another group to add to the mix: Generation Thumb

Now, before I dive into Generation Thumb it's probably helpful to do a quick recap on the different generation groups. There is some debate on exactly when these generations start and end. I won't wade into that academic debate, but I use this chart in presentations to help explain the general age ranges and sizes of Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y.

		    Born     	     Age	      Size
Baby Boomers:  1945 – 1960   49 – 64      78 million
Generation X:   1960 – 1980    29 – 49       51 million
Generation Y:   1980 – 1995    14 – 29       75 million

There is a lot of research into how each of these groups think, act, and engage differently. The biggest change to the nonprofit sector is that both Gen Xers and Gen Yers do not share the same giving attitudes as the Baby Boomers. While Boomers are more likely to view giving as part of a civic responsibility, the younger generations place a much higher emphasis on peer-to-peer and direct impact-based giving. This in part explains the growth of friends asking friends event fundraising, alternative giving options like Heifer International's gift catalog, and websites like and

Nonprofits need to balance how different generations have preferences to give their time, talent, and treasure based on where they are in their lives. It has certainly been well documented how Gen Y has been a positive source of volunteers for many nonprofit organizations. Blackbaud often does an age segmentation exercise with clients to get them to start thinking about how their constituents are spread across the different generations.

This leads us back to Generation Thumb. This group was born mostly after 1995 and their primary communication is mainly done on mobile devices. This means they spend a lot of time using their thumbs to type and navigate. It also accounts for the explosion of acronyms and abbreviations used to decrease typing time. An article in the Telegraph earlier this year noted that children get their first mobile phone at the average age of eight.

We don't know what they think about nonprofits just yet, but the commercial world is doing a lot of research to try and understand them. As you continue to plan around inspiring and engaging Gen X and Gen Y then also begin to put Generation Thumb on your radar screen. This is a distant early warning that they are an even more unique audience.


These guys are avid social media users and Jeff is the mastermind behind it all. OK, maybe not the single mastermind, but he’s doing some great things with his team! Thanks for sharing with us here at NetWits Think Tank!

Let’s jump in …


Why did you decide to start using Social media?

Jeff HurtI’ve been using elements of social media such as live streaming, satellite training, webinars with text chat functions and blogs for many years in my nonprofit work, but not until the past few years did I begin using more trendy platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like.

In 2007, we had a keynote presenter that wanted to project to encourage audience participation with SMS and Twitter texting from both mobile phones and laptops during his presentation. Now, we’d used audience response systems in the past but nothing from personal mobile devices. At this point I saw the power of the social web like never before so I immersed myself in the social media phenomenon. Needless to say we went full force into using Twitter for all future events.

In 2008, our members began to ask us if there was a way they could easily share information with each other online and ask each other questions. They wanted the ability to network and connect with each other beyond emails. I recognized that they were asking for a private, velvet rope eCommunity so we started one in April 2008.


What are your goals or reasons for using social media?

Today, our staff is very intentional about our social media use. We’re so intentional that we include it in our annual association strategic plans.

Four of our main goals are:

  • Communication with our overall audience
  • Building a vibrant community eco-system and allowing members to Network with each other
  • Creating touch points with our members that allow us to extend our face-to-face reach
  • Listening to the industry and the general public


How’d you come up with your current social media strategy?

We started small and have held to the motto “Fast, Friendly and Flexible.”

From there our strategy has grown organically. Over the years as different team members become champions for different social spaces and platforms we expand on what we do based on the experience we gain. We’ve also figured out that isolating our social media efforts into specific department silos doesn’t work for us. Instead we look at it as a way to listen, communicate and engage with our members, prospective members and the public.

We’ve grown in our efforts to the point where each year, our staff integrates social media into our regular strategic and annual plans so it’s part of our daily efforts. For example, our annual marketing plan automatically includes all of our social media marketing efforts and in some cases, we’ve dropped our print marketing efforts completely in favor of eMarketing and social media marketing.

Lastly it should be known that I have a background in professional education and adult learning so I use some of that education philosophy in our nonprofit programming. I believe in integrating our education, content and community experience so that each effort it is not a stand-alone one-time shot in the dark. Social media helps us to cross pollinate and use different mediums for different people as well as different purposes.


What obstacles/challenges did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to your internal stakeholders?

We didn’t sell it to others as “social media.” Instead we sold it as new communication channels and tools to help us do what we were already doing. We identified them as the new 21st century tools just like the TV, telephone, fax and email once were.

We felt it was important for our members to know the technology trends that could impact their business and the new ways for them to connect with their customers. We’ve been providing content and education about social media and Web 2.0 since 2007.

One of the most important things we did was to hire professional speakers that would teach our members about Web 2.0 and social media. These speakers would present the facts and build the case for why social media was necessary in today’s world. Our members and stakeholders didn’t argue much with outsiders and were more open-minded to their content.

Unlike some nonprofits, we didn’t survey our members to find out what platform each of our members preferred or were using. We realized there would be sectors of our membership using each social media platform. So, as staff members voiced passion for specific social platforms, we empowered them to set up listening and community posts there.


What advice would you give others trying to get started?

Don’t despise small beginnings! Start somewhere with something. It’s ok to start small and test the waters. The social space is very forgiving and welcoming to new endeavors.

Also, don’t think you must have a detailed strategic plan when starting. It could be as simple as, “We want to begin to communicate and engage our audience in Facebook.” The most important question you can ask yourself is “Why do you want to use social media?” If it’s to reach your market, your members, your audience, then jump in, the water’s fine.

Lastly, be human, act like a human, talk like a human. Engage in conversations. It’s no different from your staff having phone calls with your audience or members. It’s all about connecting.


What social media sites/tools are you using?

  • Animoto Videos (free or low-cost video creation)
  • Blogtalkradio (interview members, speakers, board candidates, etc.)
  • EventCenter & EventPartner Webinar Platforms (which include webinar microsite, registration process, podcast recording features, text chatting)
  • Hootsuite (to schedule our daily tweets)
  • iCohere eCommunity (velvet rope eCommunity for members only)
  • Facebook Fan Page (for conferences and events)
  • Google Alerts & Twitter Search (for NADP as well as specific industry key words)
  • LinkedIn Group
  • Ning groups (for our own professional learning)
  • Social Collective Conference eCommunity (which also includes event registration, marketing and crowdsourcing features.)
  • Tinychat – to engage in conversations with general public about dental benefits
  • Tweetdeck (to monitor chatter on specific association keywords as well as government initiatives)
  • Twitter
  • Vovici for our research and surveys
  • WordPress Blogs (conference blog, public outreach blog, advocacy issues regarding healthcare reform)
  • YouTube


Why did you choose the tools that you listed above?

Some were natural extensions of our education and event endeavors. Others came about from member requests, our own needs or staff experience. All staff is constantly looking for new tools to integrate into our plans.


How are you integrating all your social media efforts to maximize your time?

We see ourselves as the catalysts and facilitators of their connections as well as the conduits to their knowledge sharing so in many cases, we’ve educated our members on how to use these tools and equipped them to be our customer evangelists or “help desk.” Our members like to contribute and empowering them to answer questions in various platforms made a lot of sense. They tend to police each other.

We also use various alerts, Twitter search, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to monitor the social space. One person monitors the Internet chatter all day and lets others know of opportunities to engage in conversations as needed.


How much time does your collective staff spend supporting your social media efforts on a daily basis?

That’s a hard one to quantify for us because we use online social tools in so many different ways. Here’s how it works out for us. Maybe seeing how we do it will give you some ideas about how you can staff in a similar way.

  • I manage our webinars, eCommunity, conference eCommunity and registration.
  • Joe Flowers, our resident Gen Y Geek, manages our blogs, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter communications, Tinychat and website. Joe also keeps up with the majority of our alerts. Both Joe and I manage our YouTube videos as needed.
  • Rene Chapin manages our LinkedIn Group and communications. She drives most of the content for our eNews and eMarketing.
  • Jerry Berggren manages our research endeavors and uses Vovici as well as our own internal data collection system. He is also a LinkedIn evangelist.
  • Kris Hathaway manages our government relations and keeps tabs on all federal and state regulations for the industry.
  • Tim Brown facilitates our blogtalkradio interviews, industry electronic data initiatives and manages several groups within the eCommunity..
  • Our CEO, Evelyn Ireland, stays abreast of alerts, press initiatives, and government relations.
  • All team members, with the exception of Joe, are liaisons to various volunteer groups and manage the communications with those members in our eCommunity. We use our eCommunity to drive our committee structures and communication.
  • Several staff have their own personal blogs for specific areas of expertise.


As you can see Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt on Twitter) and the National Association of Dental Plans use social media in numerous ways to help achieve their goals.


What stands out to you about what these guys are doing? Did you see anything that you might think about doing?



I checked out NCM’s site today as well as their blog, which is packed with tips, tricks and strategies to make your search for a nonprofit career more successful, help dispel common myths about working in nonprofits and allow currently aspiring nonprofit professionals to share expertise.


To me, one of the most important factors I can think of for nonprofits looking for new employees is their familiarity with Internet tools. New nonprofit professionals must know how to use Internet-based tools to engage digital natives and help achieve their organization’s mission. I thought I would share (what I think are) the top four Internet competencies for a successful career in the nonprofit sector:

Encourage Conversation and Communication

  • Know how to engage supporters and donors via social media channels such as Twitter®, Facebook®, Flickr®, YouTube®, blogs and other online communities by discussing, listening and inquiring and responding.
  • Maintain relationships with supporters through newsletters and email marketing campaigns that highlight donors, not your organization.

Be a Community Builder

  • Use social media channels to share news, advocacy initiatives and to recruit new employees and volunteers.
  • Gather feedback, opinions and criticism about your nonprofit or your programming and make changes based on that feedback.
  • Understand that people come together around causes they believe in and engagement in your mission, not simply because you build a website or online community.

Understand the Importance of Relationship Management Tools

  • Know how to track donors through Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Blackbaud Sphere™ or Blackbaud NetCommunity™.
  • Be familiar with Content Management Systems (CMS) to help increase website efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Understand event management software such as Friends Asking Friends® and how to use it to engage event participants.

Use Data Effectively

  • Analyze and report on gathered business intelligence to determine the worth and merit of programs, products or campaigns.
  • Use analytics to measure website effectiveness, optimize your websites for search engines and use adwords to drive traffic to your site to boost pageviews.
  • Report to donors and supporters about your efforts

Real World Example:

Many nonprofits are excelling in these competencies, but if I had to choose one for the purpose of an example, I would point you to the Lance Armstrong Foundation who is doing a stellar job with these competencies.  Let's break it out:

  1. Encourage Conversation and Communication:
  2. Be a Community Builder
    • Lance Armstong, Doug Ulman and many more LAF staff use social media channels to spread breaking news, talk about events, share links and gather feedback about the organization which they use to make the organization better.  Their visibility on these channels brings people together and drives traffic back to the LIVESTRONG website. 
  3. Understand the Inportance of Realtionship Management Tools
    • LAF uses Blackbaud tools to manage their web properties, email marketing campaigns, and to manage event participants for their LIVESTRONG Challenge events.
  4. Use Data Effectively
    • LAF does a great job pulling data from all of their tools to produce reports that engage and inspire donors.  See an example of LAF's 2008 Annual report.

So what do you think? Is this a pretty good list? Is there anything I’m missing? What do you think are critical Internet competencies for new nonprofit professionals? Leave a comment and let me know!


This is a term that I throw out quite a bit, and sometimes I wonder if people really get what I mean.  Too often I see nonprofit organizations with websites that, although informative, are filled with pages and pages of text that honestly, most website visitors don’t have the time or patience to read. Not to say that it isn’t important to educate the public about your mission and what you do, but with the short attention span of website visitors nowadays, captivating your audience is more important than ever, and you only have seconds to make a long-lasting impression.

So why is it important to captivate your audience? According to an article published by the Nonprofit Times last year, almost half your supporters are checking your organization out online before they decide to make a gift. So the obvious conclusion one could draw is this: The more your audience is captivated and engaged when they visit your website, the more likely they are to lend their support.


I thought I would call out one organization that seems to be doing a great job of educating their audience in a way that is both informative and captivating. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is an organization that I worked with closely during the launch of their new website as well one whose mission is close to my heart.  Earlier in the summer, Twin Cities Habitat launched its Housing Matters microsite, which was created to help educate the public about housing issues in the community and to provide opportunities for people to become part of the solution.  It was through this initiative that Twin Cities Habitat


The “Fast Facts”

Okay, so this is really simple, but one example of how Twin Cities Habitat is providing valuable information on their website in an interesting way is through their “Fast Facts”.  This is a constantly changing dynamic display of miscellaneous facts about the need for the services that Habitat for Humanity provides and the great work that they do. This information could have easily been displayed in a long list of bulleted points on a static web page, but displaying it dynamically grabs your attention right away.


The “Green House Demo”

The Green House Demo is an interactive house featured on Twin Cities Habitat’s Green Building website intended to teach the public about their green building practices. With the click of each mouse, the visitor can learn something new about what steps Twin Cities Habitat is taking to create homes that are not only affordable, but energy efficient and eco-friendly.

The “Memory Game”

The Memory Game is the first game launched in the Online Activity Center section of the Twin Cities Habitat Housing Matters website. The game allows the user to click on two squares in the grid until they find matching homes. The trick is remembering where they were once they disappear! This game not only tests your memory, but when you finally win by finding a match, you learn something new about what it takes to find a solution to the broken housing market.  Within minutes of trying it myself, I emailed a link to several of my colleagues and friends, if for nothing else to let them test to see if their memory was as awful as mine. Whatever the motivation, I learned something about the housing crisis that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and perhaps so did a few of my friends.












The “Action Wheel”

The Action Wheel is by far the most interactive example that we see on the Twin Cities Habitat website. It may not be quite as fun as the memory game, but it does do two very important things quite well: 1) provide an interesting way to demonstrate how any website visitor can help and 2) demonstrates the impact and creates a path for action. The other games were cool, but they didn’t really answer the question “now what?” as well as this one does. I particularly like the “Donate” option on the wheel, which quickly takes you to the secure online donation form. After “spinning the wheel” on the Housing Matters site, I made my first donation to support Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.




Want to see other examples of nonprofits educating the public in interesting ways? Below are a few of my favorites, each with its own creative way of informing website visitors about their organization while keeping their attention at the same time.

  1. Lance Armstrong Foundation Video Mixer. This mixer allows visitors to create their own music video with photos, songs, and even personal images you upload yourself. You can even send the video to your family and friends when you’re done.  See the video mixer live in action.
  2. Americans for UNFPA Women’s Issue Quiz. A simple quiz, but when you take it, you’re compelled to get involved and “make a declaration” for women’s rights around the world. Take their online quiz today…you may surprised how little you know about women’s issues!
  3. PlayPumps International’s KnowH2O Water Games. This is a really neat quiz that features sound and eye-catching imagery. It’s really fun, and best of all, once you take the quiz, you can add a PlayPumps badge to your profile.  See if you knowH2O today.



The next email I sent out had the following subject line: “Can you spare $5 today?” I also changed my opening message to the following: “As you might know, I am involved with a fantastic organization called Room to Read. I'm reaching out to you to ask for $5. Can you spare one less latte this week? How about brown bagging it one extra day? If you can, you would be helping to add a chair or desk to a much needed library for children. “ I left the background information on Room to Read and the good work they do the exact same.


Within 10 minutes I had received my first donation from this new email. My friend, who had received the first blank ask email, gave me $5. I was so excited! I called her immediately to find out if it was just a coincidence that she gave to this email or if the $5 message resonated with her. She confirmed that the $5 message made the donation more palatable.


I tell you this story not to encourage you to ask for $5 – that’s just what I felt comfortable with asking my friends for. I more tell you this to encourage your supporters who are fundraising for your organization to great creative! And don’t assume that they’ll know how to do this on their own. Think about making an online fundraising kit for them to be able to access with tips and tricks to fundraising.


Let us know if you’ve done creative fundraising on behalf of a nonprofit or if you’ve inspired your fundraisers to get creative themselves!





Strategic Role

How would a blog fit within your online communications strategy? What about your overall online strategy? What about your offline strategy? Blogging can tie into each of these areas and more so think about where it fits for you before you start.


What will you accomplish with a blog? What are your current online objectives and how will blogging fit into those? Will blogging introduce new objectives or goals?


Who are you targeting with your blog outreach? Consumers, bloggers, media, decision makers, donors, volunteers? Think about it. Write down who you’re looking to reach and focus your content on these people.


What’s your personality, tone, voice and writing style going to be like? Remember, blogging is usually more casual, human and conversational.


How will you brand your blog? What name will you give it? What’s the overall design going to look like? Should it follow your overall organizational brand or stray a bit in order to target a specific group of people or speak to a specific type of person?


Content is KING so this is likely in the top three most important things to think about. Will you create an editorial calendar to follow? What subjects, topics or categories will you write about? When will you stray from the guidelines you put in place?


How often will you post? Daily, weekly, monthly? The key to this is consistency. Once you pick a frequency don’t let it slip. Being consistent keeps readers coming back.


Who will author, edit, approve and post?


What is the process for writing, editing, approving and posting to the blog? What is the emergency process?


Who will moderate and manage comments to your blog? Who replies? What is the process for escalating issues?


How will you measure success? What can you actually measure automatically? What are your goals? What tools will you use to get the statistics you need? Here are a few tools that give you some stats and analytics – Google Blog search, Technorati, Google Analytics, Feedburner, AddThis, Lijit, Tweetmeme, PostRank.


What reports do you need? Who will review the reports? How will you use the data you are gathering to make decisions and changes as well as improvements? Blogging is dynamic in nature so using the date you gather to improve your blog by posting content that appeals to your readers is mission critical.

Marketing Plan

How will you promote the blog? Channels? Messaging? Other bloggers?

Executive Buy-in

Are you starting first and getting buy-in later? Do budgets need to be allocated? Is there political coverage for your work? How do you escalate issues?

Corporate Policy

Should employees participate in the blog? Comment on the blog? When? What type of content? With what objectives? How will you communicate the policy to your employees? What are the privacy and terms of use for the blog?


Blogs can lead to legal issues – copyright, liability, non-disclosure, indemnity, exclusions and limitations. Solicit advice from legal council. Establish guidelines that keep you out of trouble.


This is meant to get you thinking. Thoughts? What have I missed?


I love taking photos and I love sharing the photos I take. When I first started blogging I have found that Flickr is the easiest way to manage my photos, sharing them and embed them into my blog posts. I can easily search for photos using tags. You can create groups and pools to create collections of themed photos. It helps me as a photographer to challenge my skills and see things through a lens in different ways. What was so interesting about Birch Aquarium's approach to using Flickr is that they found a way for their visitors to stay invested, they found a way to save money on photography and they are developing community of followers in a new form of social media.


Birch Aquarium at Scripps flickr pool

Nonprofits who have events would benefit from using Flickr pools. For example, Friends of Maddie's March of Dimes March for Maddie has over 600 photos in their Flickr pool. They get to see their event from a participant's eye. They can embed a slideshow of the pool photos easily into a content page on their website. Participants who were at the event might be able to find a photo of themselves they could use on their personal online donation page. So, dive in to the Flickr pool and enjoy your events though your participants' eyes.


Are you using Flickr in your nonprofit to help develop community ?  Leave us a comment and let us know how you're using the tool!



Grassroots Fundraising is designed for individuals, groups, businesses, schools and clubs (anyone who is interested in raising funds for the LAF) to host their own fundraising events. Due to the success of this program and others like it (e.g., Heifer’s Team Heifer and Michael J. Fox’s Team Fox), many other organizations have begun to use Friends Asking Friends to manage their own “Independent Fundraising Event” or IFE programs. Recently I wrote an article to in September/October 2009 edition of Advancing Philanthropy. Feel free to download that article and read more about LAF’s program and how organizations can benefit from cultivating their independent fundraisers.


As a quick summary of that article, I found that by building on-line tools to support independent fundraising event programs, organizations can:


1. Attract more independent events. From 2006 to 2008, Lance Armstrong Foundation’s independent fundraisers raised approximately $8 million. In 2008, the organization accepted 1,078 event applications to be a part of the program. By July 2009, with LIVESTRONG Day three months away, they already had over 1,200 approved event applications. Much of the growth in the number of events benefiting the organization has come directly through the use of online tools, like Friends Asking Friends®.


2. Raise more money through independent fundraisers.  The average LIVESTRONG Challenge (their signature annual fundraising event) supporter raised about $500 in 2008. The average independent fundraiser raised over $3200.


3. Receive instant gift and donor information. Before they had access to online tools, most event organizers simply wrote a single check after the event and sent that check to the organization. With online donation processing, the funds are deposited electronically and data from each donor is available immediately. The average event organizer collects over 16 donors during the course of the event.


Wanna learn more? Come join me at the 2009 Blackbaud Conference for Nonprofits in Charleston to hear my session on “Raising More Money Online with Independent Fundraising Events”.


Suspect one is Text. Could we “lighten up” our pages by lowering the total amount of text on a page? Suspect two is Media – including primarily images, but encompassing video and audio as well.

A Text vs. Media Data-Size Comparison

Let’s look at the data-transfer needs to send both across an Internet connection:

  • On the left column of the table below, are the opening paragraphs from “Walden” by Henry David Thorough (Note: You don’t have to read it, of course, but it’s pretty awesome.)
  • On the right is the following image of “Skeeter” – one of the dogs from (shameless “triple-plug” coming…) one of Blackbaud’s newest NetCommunity Grow clients, The SPCA of Tampa Bay.
  • This image is about 9,500 bytes, or almost 5 times the size of the “Walden” intro text above. So it’s important to note, that this image is only 200 x 189 pixels, and only at 72 dpi.
  • However – to get it to be the same data-size as the “Walden” paragraphs – it has been resized to the image on the right column of the table below.


Comparison of 2K of Text vs. a 2K image



Opening Paragraphs of Walden

2048 Bytes or 2 Kilo-Bytes Exactly1.



JPEG Image of “Skeeter”

Resized to 2 Kilo-Bytes - Approximately



WHEN I WROTE the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.


I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.





1. This is just amazing. I randomly picked out “Walden” because it was a joke opening for my blog in an email I sent a couple months ago. Completely by chance – I copy-pasted it into Microsoft Word from the Internet, deleted a trailing space at the end of it, and Holy Cow – by freak coincidence, it was exactly 2048 characters – meaning 2048 bytes, meaning exactly 2 Kilobytes. Making it very easy for the rest of this example! The geek in me is so easily entertained, and I love it when a plan comes together.


So that told us something, eh? That tiny little image was only 50 x 47 pixels; 0.3% percent of the area of the minimum-sized computer-screen, and it took up as much data as ALL that text! 


“Show Your Work:”

Image: 50 x 47 = 2350 pixels

Minimum Computer Screen: 1024 x 768 = 786,432 pixels

2350 / 786,432 = .0029881



And furthermore, a JPEG is an image compression format – so in terms of data-size, it’s already as small as it can get!


So what does that means to us? Well, in terms of performance, optimizing text is a distant priority to optimizing images and other media. If delivery speed was a High School Track Meet, images would get LAPPED by text in the 800m !!!


So we know we should focus on images to increase the speed of our pages – is there anything else? In the hopes that you now trust me, I’ll spare you a similar buildup as the above and just tell you: SSL Secured WebPages are another area where there is considerable overhead to send data. Encrypting all that data before it’s sent over the internet causes only about 67% of the throughput in one study (pdf).


What can you EASILY do?

First off, and I mean FIRST, be sure to resize your images to their display size before you upload them. This is an extra step, I know, but it is the BIGGEST contributor to a slow page. Why? Take a look at this example


And another “inside” note: In between writing the above two sentences, I looked at my phone messages and saw that my parents, who are traveling out west – just sent me a fantastic picture they took of the ocean. I immediately forwarded to my Blackbaud email, and here it is below for the example. Wow, the luck I’m hitting in stride for this blog…



600x450 px image RESIZED to 200x150 px

63,077 Bytes






200x150 px image displayed without resizing

8,369 Bytes



Can you believe that? To send the image on the left takes almost 8 times the bandwidth, but to the user they visually look exactly the same. Page load times are unnecessarily slower, and bandwidth is wasted for no gain to your constituents.


And once again – this is only a relatively small picture. Most of the time, that 200x150 pixel picture is uploaded straight from a 5.2 mega-pixel camera, taking the image at 1600x1200 pixels!!! The bandwidth needed to download the image is exponentially larger.


“But wait”, you say… “We never resize our camera-images before we upload them, and our pages load fast every time!”


I know it seems that way, my new blog-reading amigo, but you are being tricked by a common performance enhancement of your web browser called a cache. Put simply: The first time an image is downloaded from a website – your web browser stores the image away on your hard drive, and checks the hard drive for a copy of the image before each page request thereafter. But trust me on this – your online constituents are getting to your site, and on their first visit – they are waiting for several precious additional seconds…


So this is a big one: Resize your images to their display size before you upload them.


Typically, when working on a web page image – I use a fake or “placeholder” image and resize it until it flows with the text the way I want it to. Then I resize the actual image before uploading it, and replace the place holder.


True, it is an extra couple steps, but IT IS WORTH IT!!


There are a lot of image-editing programs I use to resize an image. But the one of the best in terms quick, easy, and free is probably PixResizer.


So, that’s the best thing you can do for now. Next month, we’ll look a few slightly more advanced techniques for optimizing your pages and improving performance. These might be a little more complex, but it shouldn’t be too tough once you get them started. 


Until next time – keep doing good work :-)


There are lots of forms of business intelligence within the nonprofit space such as, donor giving histories, prospect research, online marketing and communications and organization-wide reporting. Business intelligence is all about helping nonprofits understand the data they collect and how to make more informed decisions with that data to help achieve their mission. Recently, The Nonprofit Times ran a feature entitled BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE Donor management software changing the way nonprofits coordinate efforts” where they talked about the importance of nonprofits using the data they collect more strategically. This is a definite “must read”.


That being said, your business intelligence is only as good as the tools you use to collect data and whether those systems work well together. The wonderfully intelligent peeps over at NTEN see it as a “nonprofit data ecosystem”:


“The nonprofit ecosystem is a way of thinking about how data is shared by and flows across the different departments and activities in your organization. So, we'd like to take a look how your systems work together (if they do at all) with our first Data Ecosystem Survey. Our hope is that this will be a help to you, as well, giving you a place to start to evaluate the systems your organization uses and how they connect.”


I encourage you to take 10 or 15 minutes to take part in this important survey. All you need to know are the names of the software you’re currently using so you can evaluate it properly. Other than that, you won’t need any technical knowledge to complete the survey. The best part of all is that NTEN plans to share a copy of the final report with you just for completing the survey.


Artist: Alejandro Zorrilal Cruz



Using the Social Web

LIVESTRONG - Using the Social WebFor some going to a local event or activity is a perfect fit. For others it’s not possible for one reason or another. No need to worry if you’re one of those who can’t make it to a local event. LIVESTRONG has done a fabulous job using the social web to encourage participation and interaction in ways that don’t require you to physically attend anything. We'll talk more about the specifics below.


Encouraging Local Participation

LIVESTRONG - Encourage Local Participation1st, you can find a LIVESTRONG Day event near you with their interactive online map. It’s easy to use and gives you an idea of how many events are going on around the world (There are more than 1,100 events taking place to raise awareness about cancer all over the world.). If you can attend an event, great! If you can’t attend an event the map makes it easy for you to share information with your friends and family so they can attend.

Note to LIVESTRONG (just an idea): It would be really cool if you did a Google Maps Mashup that maps all the events that were put on with all the photos, videos and tweets. It would be awesome if people could search the map to find an event that took place near them and then see all the Flickr photos and YouTube videos that we’re associated with that particular event.


Communicating on the LIVESTRONG Blog

LIVESTRONG - The LIVESTRONG BlogNew blog post: "A LIVESTRONG Day Message from Lance"

LIVESTRONG uses their blog to engage with their readers on a regular basis. They made sure to get out information on the LIVESTRONG Day early and often to their blog subscribers. I imagine Brooke McMillan is already thinking about how to do a post LIVESTRONG Day summary of all the activity that went on around the world.


Participating on Twitter

LIVESTRONG - Participating on TwitterAs you can see I’ve used tweets (all screen captures from @livestrong Twitter account) from @livestrong throughout this post to show you how LIVESTRONG is using Twitter to communicate and spread the word. They’re sharing information about the day while also promoting what their supporters and fans are doing.

Check out what’s going on for your self by using Twitter search ( Just search for #LIVESTRONG and you’ll be able to see most everything that’s being said about the event.

Check out @livestrong, @livestrongceo and @lancearmstrong


Building Community with Facebook

LIVESTRONG - Build Community with FacebookThe folks at LIVESTRONG want to hear from you on Facebook – it’s one of their most active and engaged online communities. They have thousands of fans all sharing and talking daily. What can you do there?

  • You can view photos in their Facebook album "LIVESTRONG Day 2009".
  • You can post video, photos, and links of your local event on the LIVESTRONG fan page for others to see and interact with.
  • You can update your Facebook status in support of LIVESTRONG to show all your friends what you’re supporting.

Remember, everything you do on Facebook is shared with your friends through the activity/news feed. It all helps LIVESTRONG build awareness through the social web.


Bring Events to life with Flickr and YouTube

LIVESTRONG - Use Flickr and YouTube to Bring your Events to LifeUpload your photos to Flickr and videos to YouTube. Make sure to tag them as LIVESTRONG so they can be found by the LIVESTRONG team and the thousands of people who will be looking to participate virtually. Using Flick and YouTube helps bring the local event to life for those participating online.  


Final Thoughts and Future Moves

I can see this exact model working for event based fundraising. Think about how the American Heart Associations Heart Walks could be enhanced by a social media and online strategy that encourages participation virtually.

I’m sure there are tons of ways you can think to incorporate these types of activities into your online efforts. What do you think? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or ask questions that the community can help you with.


Oh, Mashable has some ideas on how you can participate as well: LIVESTRONG Day: 5 Ways to Get Involved


I suggest you watch this quick commercial and think about how you could use the same strategies to accomplish your goal whether it is to gather more donations, acquire more members, or simply spread the word about your mission.




This might be a stretch, but these are a few ideas I gleaned from the commercial:

  1. Send out a direct mailing or display an add on a billboard
  2. Email, tweet, and text message
  3. Use images and video to add emphasis
  4. Use Facebook and other social networking sites

Have you created any campaigns that combine traditional media with social media? If so, what kind of results did you see?


I would like to extend my heartfelt and sincere congratulations to the incredible team at New England Province of Jesuits  as well as our internet solutions team here at Blackbaud for maintaining the highest possible standards in visual design, usability and website production.


New England Province of Jesuits Management Team:

Director of Communications: Alice M. Poltorick
Executive Director of Advancement: Grace Cotter Regan
IT & Communications Services: Fr. Richard H. Roos, SJ
Provincial: Fr. Thomas J. Regan, SJ
Back-end IT Integration: Mindshift

Blackbaud Internet Solutions Team:

Interactive Designer - Visual Design: Jono Young
Interactive Designer - Production: Josh Skidmore
Project Manager: Doreen Swanson
Creative Director: Raheel Gauba




This just goes to show how a successful partnership results in websites that move audiences!

Entries for the 2009 Web Award were judged based on user interface design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use.


Key Highlights:

One of the challenges that the client came to us with was how to create an optimal UI that is easy to use and manage that allows their audience to easily get to the most important information on the website. Jono Young, the Sr. Interactive Designer at Blackbaud Internet Solutions worked closely with New England Province of Jesuits to develop an innovative navigation system and design that helps establish their brand as well as an easy to use interface to connect the content with the user. Some key highlights include:

  • The navigation system neatly anchors the homepage and guides the user by distinguishing key areas in large color coded blocks that capture attention
  • These navigation blocks also serve as the basis for a scalable navigation system with drop down menus
  • Keyword and context driven menu sections that allow for better search engine placement
  • Designed and built strategically for easy site management within Blackbaud NetCommunity
  • Homepage layout designed to communicate the most important information above the fold and a graceful flow of information beyond the fold
  • Collaborative information architecture sessions to ensure the website's content is relevant to the audience
  • Smart use of a functional footer to keep the audience engaged and provide calls to actions and additional resources

About Web Marketing Association:

Since 1997, the Web Marketing Association’s annual WebAward Competition has been setting the standard of excellence for Website development. Independent expert judges from around the world review sites in 96 industries. The best are recognized with a WebAward which helps interactive professionals promote themselves, their companies, and their best work to the outside world. The WebAward Competition is the premier award recognition program for Web developers and marketers worldwide.


Join us in congratulating New England Province of Jesuits!


Index of National Fundraising Performance

The index findings include giving data from direct mail, online, telemarketing, events, and other fundraising channels. You can get a complete summary of the latest index findings here.

Revenue and Donor Trends

Index revenue declined a median 7.7% from Q2 2008 year-to-date to Q2 2009 year-to-date. This continues declines that were reported at the end of 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009. Revenue declines were widespread across the index with only 18% of the organizations in the index had positive revenue growth over the period.

Donor numbers in the index fell a median 3.5% from Q2 2008 YTD to Q2 2009 YTD. Donors have been declining consistently for the past three years; the index has not experienced positive year-to-year donor growth since the 2005 U.S. Gulf Coast hurricanes. 34% of the organizations in the index had positive donor growth from Q2 2008 YTD to Q2 2009 YTD.

Donor declines are, again, due primarily to declines in new donor numbers, which fell 7.6% from the first half of 2008 to the first half of 2009. Fewer than 32% of the organizations in the index had positive new donor growth over the period. For most organizations, overall donor declines continue to be caused mainly by declines in new donor acquisition.

Over the past five years, from the twelve months ending Q2 2004 to the twelve months ending Q2 2009, new donor numbers have fallen a cumulative median 9.7%. This is an effective annual rate of decline of 1.9% per year. New donor declines have been particularly steep since the start of the recession. New donor numbers fell a cumulative median 10.9% from the twelve months ending Q4 2007, when the recession began, to the twelve months ending Q2 2009.

Trends Across Different Organizations

The societal benefit sector had flat donor growth this quarter while all other sectors saw declines. As with revenue, the religion and animal welfare sectors had the smallest donor declines. The relief sector had the largest revenue and donor declines in the index in the first half of 2009. This may be in part a rebound from strong disaster giving in 2008.

New donor acquisition was down from the first half of 2008 to the first half of 2009 for almost all sectors in the index. This was the primary cause of overall donor declines in the index. Religious organizations were the only ones to see any positive growth in new donor acquisition in the first half of 2009. Environmental and relief organizations had the largest new donor declines over this period.

Click here to get a complete copy of the latest Index of National Fundraising Performance.


Facebook for NonprofitsJeff Patrick and I had a chance to speak to over 350 nonprofits recently. We shared a Facebook 101 for Nonprofits type of presentation that was focused on highlighting what a few nonprofits are doing really well in order to help others see the possibilities.





Below are 11 tips to get you started or help you enhance what you’re already doing with Facebook. You’ll learn from the best through real world examples.


1) Brand your page for success

You want people to know that it’s your page when they arrive. Simple as that. Facebook allows you to do a few things to brand your page. Make sure to take advantage of them all.          


Check out Children’s Hospital of LA to see what they are doing.


2) Allow fans to communicate, interact and engage

Facebook allows you to set your page up the way you like it. Although security and the ever dreaded “user generated content” is something that needs to be taken into consideration don’t let that make you lock down you page. Allow your fans to post on your wall and interact with each other via commenting and liking wall posts. If you don’t allow this type of interaction your efforts will be in vein.


Check out LIVESTRONG to see what they are doing.


3) Use Video, Photos, Links and more to keep your page fresh

Content is still king so don’t be fooled into the “build it and they will come” mentality. Putting up a Facebook Fan Page isn’t enough by itself. You’ve got to continue to put up fresh content on a regular basis in order to nurture your community.


Check out ChildFund to see what they are doing.


4) Engage

Engagement is the name of the game. This might be the most time consuming part of the whole equation. Without it you risk having a stale Facebook Fan Page – One that doesn’t make people feel closer to your organization or create strong ties between fellow supporters. Make sure you take time to interact with your Facebook Fans on a regular basis. Use the platform to deepen relationships. Don’t just push your agenda.


Check out LIVESTRONG to see what they are doing.


5) Share news, stories and other important information

Now, I said you need to engage with people. That’s not going away, but you can also share your information, news and stories. Do it in a human way though. Don’t recycle your press releases. Don’t put up stale, old, boring content. Think about how you can take your content and Humanize it so that people want to interact with you.  Think conversational. Think helpful. Think useful.


Check out the American Red Cross to see what they are doing.


6) Make it easy for people to support your efforts

Fundraising is important for most nonprofits. Facebook can help with that, but you’ve got to make it easy for your fans and others to support you. Causes is a great little Facebook application that you can quickly get up and running. You can also look into more robust and fully featured applications that integrate more closely with your Facebook Fan Page and what your other online applications.


Check out the American Heart Association to see what they are doing.


7) Use common tools

Facebook has some simple applications that you can easily turn on for your Fan Page. Look through their application directory and find some that help you enhance your page. A few commonly used applications are:            


8) Share your blog content

Your blog should already be written in a human or less corporate voice. If that’s the case then the content you are publishing should be shared on Facebook as well. The Social RSS Facebook application makes it easy to do this. A few clicks and you are set.


Check out Kiva to see what they are doing.


9) Connect your social worlds

YouTube, TwitterFlickr and other social media sites have applications that allow you to integrate your efforts on these sites into your Facebook Fan Page. Don’t keep your individual social media efforts in silos. Bring them all together on Facebook so that your Facebook Fans benefit from your efforts all over the web.


Check out Athletes for a Cure to see what they are doing.


10) Create a custom experience

Facebook lets you add custom tabs to your Facebook Fan Page. This type of feature helps you create a more tailored experience for your Fans. Think about how you can make this work for you – Ask your Fans to take a specific action. Tell your Fans about a new campaign you’re running. Give Fans information on how their efforts are helping make an impact through Facebook.


Check out the ONE Campaign to see what they are doing.


11) Leverage the social map

By doing the above nine things you increase the chance of your message being spread through your Facebook Fans social map. By this I mean you’ll be taking advantage of the numerous relationships your supporters have on Facebook. Each time they post on your wall in some format (link, photo, comment, like, video, etc..) that also updates their wall and their news feed. This then makes it possible for all their friends to see what they are doing and who they are interacting with.



What’s your Facebook story? How are you using the platform to further your mission and cause? What have you found to be successful? We’d love to hear your tips.





Lots and Lots of Questions

How many different ask amounts should we have on our donation form? Is having a minimum gift amount a good idea? Should we let donors enter any gift amount? Should we use reCAPTCHA? Is it a good idea to put single gifts, recurring gifts, and pledges all on a single donation form? Should we put different kinds of giving options on different pages? Should we ask donors to opt-in to our enewsletter on the donation form? What are the best segments to use for an email campaign? Does a one step or multi-step form work better? Should we only put unrestricted gift designations on the web? How many different landing pages should we use during a campaign? What should we put in an email acknowledgment for our online gifts? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? — "The world may never know."

A Little Secret about Best Practices

Here's a little secret about the inner workings of the nonprofit consulting world: All those best practice recommendations all come from first-hand experience with clients. And at some point along the way each one of those "best practices" was a "best guess" that has been validated with a certain number of clients over time — through testing. We didn't instantly know it would work until we tried it out. And when you've been doing this kind of work for many many years the amount of things-tested-that-work can be pretty sizable.The other secret is that all the other things we tell nonprofits not to do comes from things that were tested and didn't work — or things nonprofits were already trying that weren't getting results.

Anyone interested in a blog post about running a test session to make your own best practices? Just let me know...


On April 7, Maddie passed away unexpectedly leaving the Spohrs and the online community in shock. Days following their tragic loss their blogs were flooded with comments from their family, friends, bloggers, and people who heard about their daughter's death. Bloggers who knew Maddie put up posts on their own sites sharing memories and photos. They received generous donations to help offset the funeral costs along with hundreds of cards, emails, and gifts.

I heard about Maddie's death on Twitter only hours after it had happened. By the next day people on Twitter had started to turn their profile avatars purple to show support in Maddie's honor. By the day of the funeral almost my entire Twitter page had purple avatars, including myself. Knowing first hand the financial strain families go through when having a premature baby the Spohrs asked people to donate to the March of Dimes in Maddie's name. Since the April 14th memorial service people have donated tens of thousands of dollars directly to the March of Dimes. The Los Angeles March for Maddie on April 25, 2009 raised over $65,000 for the March of Dimes. March for Dimes teams nationwide have raised over $100,000 in Maddie's honor.

"It still chokes me up to think about it. There are hundreds of photos of people I've never met wearing shirts with Madeline's face on it. It's so amazing to think about how many people Maddie inspired to help others." ~ Heather Spohr
MoD Walk for Maddie

In July, Heather and Mike launched the nonprofit Friends of Maddie at the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago which had an attendance of over 1,400 women bloggers. Donations to FOM go towards supporting the families of critically ill babies by easing the transition into NICU life and providing an ally until the end of their child’s hospital stay. In their first week the they raised over $8,000 with help from the blogging community writing posts on their site, tweeting requests for donations and sending out emails.


"It's been a LOT of work, but so far extremely rewarding ... it's been wonderful, a fantastic way to honor Maddie every day and make sure she lives on." ~ Heather Spohr


Heather and Mike still receive hundreds of comments on their blogs and emails daily. The FOM Twibbon is now on almost 500 Twitter avatars that were once purple. The FOM buttons are showing up in the side columns of blogs. Their daughter brought a virtual community together to increase awareness on the difficult situation many families find themselves in. This virtual community gave Heather and Mike the additional support they needed to turn their painful loss into a good cause.



So here's what I propose.  I'm going to look at different areas of this stuff over a series of blog posts and see what we come up with at the end?  I've started today by embedding a video in my blog for the first time.  I think this is an incredibly powerful set of stats brought together by Erik Qualman who is promoting his new book Socialnomics.  Some of the stats in here are incredibly interesting - how quickly the social media phenomenon took off and when the barriers to entry are lowered (Such as letting people join up for free) how much quicker people will sign up.




A few choice stats from in here -

  • 96% of Gen Y have a social media account
  • Facebook gained 100,000,000 users in 9 months
  • Qzone in China has over 300,000,000 users
  • The fastest growing demographic area on Facebook is 55-65 year old women.
  • Currently there are over 200,000,000 blogs (and rising every day)
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions on brands on their blogs
  • 78% of people trust peer to peer recommendations.

So let's look at that again.  If 34% of the 200,000,000 blogs post opinions on brands - is someone posting about you?  Do you know who they are?  Do you know what they are saying about you?  78% of people trust peer to peer so if they are saying something nice then it's good...but what if they are not?  What if they are saying your charity is doing a bad job and you don't know about it?

Given these numbers can 49% really afford not to measure their online success or otherwise?  I'd say that's a 'no' right?

This is just one area of how to measure success and we have lots more to cover but hopefully that's enough for today and it's whetted your appetite for future posts.

What are you doing to measure your success in social media?  Let us know in the comments!


Now, it’s not really a battle of Kanter and The Chronicle against Godin, but it is a good debate that we can learn from. I’d love to hear from you. What do you think?

Here’s a bit more for you to chew on …

The Buzz

Seth GodinThere’s definitely some buzz going around now that Godin has used his online celebrity to shed light on the topic of nonprofits resistance to change.  He is pretty direct and challenges the entire nonprofit space.

I’ve pulled out a few choice morsels from Godin’s blog post for you to chew on and think about. Make sure to read the entire post to ensure you get full context.


“The problem facing your group (nonprofits), ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change.”

“Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you're doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I'm betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change?”

“Of course, some folks, like charity: Water are stepping into the void and raising millions of dollars as a result. They're not necessarily a better cause, they're just more passionate about making change.”

“Please don't tell me it's about a lack of resources. The opportunities online are basically free, and if you don't have a ton of volunteers happy to help you, then you're not working on something important enough.”

“If your non-profit isn't acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you're failing in your duty to make change.”

“The marketing world has changed completely. So has the environment for philanthropic giving. So have the attitudes of a new generation of philanthropists. But if you look at the biggest charities in the country, you couldn't tell. Because they're 'non' first, change second.”


A Few Counter Points

A post by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Followers and Friends Not the Only Measure of Nonprofit Success Online”, points out that Nonprofits are well ahead of businesses when it come to using social media. Here’s an excerpt, but make sure to read the whole thing.

“In fact, a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research shows nonprofit groups are actually well ahead of businesses in their use of social-media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.”


Beth Kanter points out in her post, “Seth Godin's Non Post About Nonprofits: Deers in the Headlights?”, that there are many examples of nonprofits  embracing social media.

“Change is hard for people and for people who work in nonprofits.  Seth's painted a untrue picture of nonprofits as deer frozen in the headlights, and while there are many examples of nonprofits embracing social media and getting results with only a fraction of Ashton Kutcher's Twitter followers - there are still organizations are not engaging and still frozen in the headlights.”


Tom from CausWired points out in his post, "Why Seth Godin is Wrong", that Godin's comparisons to the business and technology worlds are not good comparisons.

Twitter followers? Digg counts? Pitching Silicon Valley VC’s? It doesn’t ring true. Sure, passion and the willingness to take risks matter – but I don’t think a simplistic techno-capitalist argument can be spread across the vastness of 501c3-land.


Nonprofits Using Social Media

Now that you've got a handle on the issue at hand let me point out a few nonprofits that are changing and using social media to affect change in the world.


Closing Thoughts

I appreciate the fact that Godin is calling attention to the nonprofit world. He's done a lot to change the way marketing works. He's written some very thought provoking books and he's helped numerous organizations change the way they do business for the better. You can't just dismiss what he's got to say. People are talking and reacting on either side of the argument. This is the type of behavior that has the potential to lead to real evaluation and change - That's the point of it all if you ask me. Some nonprofits are doing it right. Others need to embrace change, get online and start learning how to leverage the web to affect change in our world. 


Make sure to read each of these to get all the details.


What’s you take on this? Are nonprofits resistant to change? Are they slow to adopt new ways of doing fundraising, volunteer recruitment, etc…? Do nonprofits see the tremendous opportunities given them through the online channel?

Chime in!


Project Background

Plan Canada RedesignPlan Canada just relaunched their website following an extensive redesign. The previous design and architecture of the website was last redesigned about 3 years ago. Plan Canada went live with Blackbaud NetCommunity in September 2007 and decided to migrate their existing site design and content as part of a phased implementation. It is worth noting that most organizations redesign their websites every three to four years, but this rate of change has accelerated recently.



Inside the Redesign

Plan Canada started their website redesign project with several goals including the need to present a new clean design that was easy to update and was donor centric, rather than organization centric. Mark Banbury noted some other design and usability goals of the site including:


  • We wanted a home page that would allow us to put a select number of important items front and center and allow the donors to drill down for more.
  • We wanted to make sure that the site was friendly for social media, and that we were able to showcase many of the great images our photographers around the world capture about the work we do to change the lives of children.
  • We have been working on custom parts that will launch soon to capture donor information right on the site and use the existing BBNC integration to transfer that data into The Raiser's Edge

As part of the new redesign, Plan Canada spent about three months working intensively on the project. Plan Canada worked with a design originally developed by their international colleagues and adapted it to meet the needs of the Canadian market. This included reviewing and rewriting almost all of the content on their website. It's also important to note that Plan Canada did all of the implementation work internally using their own team members.

Plan Canada also redesigned their Gifts of Hope microsite. This is the organization's ethical giving program and is similar to Heifer International's popular Online Gift Catalog. Plan Canada has made a lot of innovative changes to the site to improve the overall giving experience. This type of online giving option continues to gain popularity across the nonprofit sector.


First Impresssions

I've had some time to review the Plan Canada website redesign. Here are some initial thoughts and comments about what they've done that other nonprofits can learn from:


  • They didn't just build a donor centric website — it's action centric too. You can tell that by the careful word selection across the site. Lots of call to action items and interactive goodness.
  • The design is clean, simple, and still remains modern. It has very good use of negative space that draws your eyes to the photos, text, and links.
  • The navigation, sub-navigation, breadcrumbs, and search placement are solid and follow many best practices. And notice the color contrast of the "Donate now" button on each page. Visitors to the website will too.
  • The use of social media is an elemental part of the website — not just some bolted on afterthought. This is a sign of a nonprofit that "gets it" instead of just playing buzzword bingo.
  • The redesigned Gift of Hope area works well as both a linked section and a microsite — no small feat. The presentation of the giving experience is user friendly and you can tell they did their homework on this one. Having gift categories like "Top 5 gifts" and "Ten great gifts under $45" is very smart.

Plan Canada's new website balances form and function to make an engaging online presence. While a lot of the focus in this blog post has been about the design and usability aspects, there are some functional areas worth giving a look too.


“One Mississippi”

“Two Mississippi”


Did you say it out loud? If not, go back and really take the time to say those two lines out loud…


OK, depending on how much coffee you’ve had this morning, and if you have a “Southern Drawl,” the time it took to say that is roughly two seconds. Other than being asked three times to do it – the actual two seconds it took to say that probably didn’t seem too annoying.


Now – LITERALLY take the time to speak, out loud, the following eight lines:


“One Mississippi”

“Two Mississippi”

“Three Mississippi”

“Four Mississippi”

“Five Mississippi”

“Six Mississippi”

“Seven Mississippi”

“Eight Mississippi”


I’m sorry, but I have to ask: Did you really read it out loud?!! If not, go back and read it…. (I’m waiting)….


Everyone is impatient!


If you did it, you’ll probably come to a very sobering conclusion about yourself, and the nature of people. We as a society are all impatient. And if you’re like anyone else, once you got around the “Six Mississippi,” line, you started to think about the amount of time this little verbal test-task was taking (and wasting!).


People don’t like anything that wastes their time. As a software developer – we were told that a screen should either take less than two seconds to load or we need to somehow update the user on the status of the process with a progress bar, clock, percentage complete, etc.


However – this “Two Second Screen” rule has been mostly unenforced and lost on the Internet as most people accepted that they just didn’t understand the reason why page loads were so slow, so they resolved to just sit there and be annoyed by them.


No matter how great your website is, if it’s slow, it’s annoying


If a web page takes more than two seconds to load, it’s no longer perceived as “instantaneous”. The clock is ticking before your users either get annoyed or start thinking about something else; and if they’re on YOUR website, you don’t want them doing either!


So imagine all the time you’ve put into making your website look fantastic. I can humbly advise you that once your visually impressed online constituent has waited 8 seconds for a page to load for the 3rd or 4th time in a row – they’re sick of it, and they don’t want to be on your website anymore.


It auto-terms: You have a smooth looking sports car that goes from 0-60 mph in about 35 seconds. (Try counting the “Mississippi’s on that!) It’s just frustrating just to go to the grocery store!


And what about offering great functionality on your site? Nice… but now you’ve just added cruise-control, GPS maps, auto-parallel parking, and that cool little beeping signal that sounds off when you’re backing up… onto a car that goes from 0-60 mph in about 35 seconds - and it’s STILL frustrating just going to the grocery store.


What Can You Do?


So what can you do? Well, there are many way to make your pages load faster from a website hosting perspective:


  • Better Hardware
  • Better Network / Application Configuration
  • Better Internet Connection


But unfortunately, these all cost a sum of money ranging from moderate to large!


But here’s one that doesn’t cost anything more than a “mindful” consideration during page building: Optimizing your content.


This method is the best of all, because, first off, it’s free, and next; it improves the performance of all other enhancements to performance by making the web page easier to send – not by trying to push it faster.


Next Month we’ll start lining up some suspects of a bloated webpage and smoke-out the one, most important thing you can do to put your site on a bandwidth-diet.


Until next time – keep doing good work :-)


Twitter 101 for Nonprofits 

A few of the things we talked about in the webinar …


What is Twitter?

Twitter describes itself as, “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

But you will soon learn that the service is much much more. Think about Microblogging (huh?), Outbound Communication, Listening/research, Conversation, Community building, Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Fundraising and more …


How does Twitter work?

The best thing you can do right now is watch Twitter in plain English and Twitter search in plain English by Common Craft. If you don’t know how Twitter works after watching those check out:


How big is the Twitter base?

This graph pretty much tells the story if you ask me. There were 21 mil US visitors in July of 2009. That’s twenty seven (27) fold growth in one (1) year! A couple things you should also see: 

  • 35-54 year old individuals make up the largest segment of users. It’s not just for high school kids.
  • 12-17 & 18-24 year old individuals make up the group that is growing the fastest in recent months. High school kids are catching on.

Twitter Growth


Twitter Tips and Best Practices

Step one is to fill out your entire profile.

  • Use a human picture
  • Write a short bio and link to your website/blog
  • Speak in a human voice

Step two requires checking your motives. Twitter is not just another way to tell people about you or your organization. It’s not just another megaphone to yell at people with. It’s a place to interact, participate, talk, respond, and listen.

Step three is about strategy. You should begin thinking about how Twitter fits into your overall online/offline strategy.

  • Is Twitter something you should be using at all?
  • Answer the question “Why am I on Twitter?”
  • Identify staff participants
  • Identify your audience
  • Find people to follow (Twitter searchWeFollow and Twellow will help you here)
  • Determine how often you will participate
  • Know your tone, identity, language, interests, and relationship
  • Be a person and an organization
  • Present the personal angle to organizational topics/issues
  • Sincerity, transparency, and democracy 

Step four is all about participation. Remember this is social media. It’s a world where people expect to be treated as human beings, respected, interacted with and heard.

  • Listen to what’s being said about your, your org, your staff, etc…
  • Participate regularly
  • Engage with your followers and fellow tweeters
  • Be ready to learn from your followers
  • Retweet, respond, ask, and follow

Check out our recent info on Social Media for Nonprofits if you’re looking for more info and examples of what nonprofits are doing.

Step five … we’ll we don’t go that far on this one, but we will in the future.


Check out the slides or the webinar to get all the information.


Let us know what questions and/or comments you have. We’d LOVE to hear about how you’re using Twitter as a nonprofit.


1. What brand are you TRYING to portray? 

2. What brand are you ACTUALLY portraying?


These answers are not easily found, and discovering the answers takes time, resources and research. However, I’ve included a few tips to help facilitate this process and take ownership of your brand.

What brand are you trying to portray? 

To answer this question, it’s important to first look at your bandwidth – do you have staff, expertise to evaluate your organization objectively? If not, you may want to consider hiring a marketing firm to do the strategic direction portion for you.

Once the route is established, take the following steps to help you understand what your brand is portraying:

1.       Set Goals

2.       Determine strengths and weaknesses

3.       Create a plan – both online and offline mediums reaching for the same goals

4.       Research and Define Target constituent groups

5.       Create Written Guidelines

6.       Rollout and Educate – internal audiences, stakeholders, other constituent groups. 


Every touchpoint in your organization should be well-versed on your brand and the image you hope to portray. Word of Mouth will do more for you in a single day than weeks of direct mailers, web content pages and emails.

So, now that you know how you aspire to be viewed in the marketplace, it’s time to determine if that vision matches reality:

What brand are you ACTUALLY portraying?

In reviewing your brand, it’s important to stay focused and open-minded. Tunnel vision can occur when you make assumptions, so it’s best to avoid filling in the gaps of knowledge with your own opinions and interpretations. Take raw feedback from the source and analyze the information gathered as objectively as you can.

Brand reviewers are unbiased volunteers whose job is to monitor your presence in the market – what are people saying on social media sites, PR, etc?  What is the word on the street – via word of mouth or formal survey methods?

Understanding that change is inevitable and being flexible is key during this process. Remember, your brand is the entire face of your organization, being objective and making decisions based on facts vs. feelings will only help you build a stronger brand.

What is the impact of your actions?

While all mediums are important to share your story and build your image, the internet is the primary vehicle for marketing your brand, ahead of word-of-mouth (2008 State of Nonprofit Survey).


Satisfaction is predictive of future behaviors important to nonprofits.  How well the website reflects the organization’s image and brand is one of the two most important satisfaction drivers…more impactful than content, navigation options, or look and feel.


A highly satisfied visitor to a nonprofit website is:

49% more likely to donate

38% more likely to volunteer

57% more likely to have a favorable overall impression of the organization

65% more likely to recommend the site to others

55% more likely to return to the site

So, your assessment is now complete, and you understand the impact of a strong, well laid-out, well communicated brand. 


To Control or Not to Control your brand…that is the question. 

How does social media’s impact on today’s marketplace help make or break your brand? Tune in for part two later this month to find out…and to learn tips on how you can best manage your image in this unpredictable and ever-changing online environment.




At 1:10pm EDT that same day, I received three pictures of my new niece via email from my brother. I, of course, promptly loaded the pictures to Facebook to announce to all of my friends (and his friends and my mom’s friends… you get my point) that she had arrived. 


While this accomplishment is nothing extraordinary today, it was unimaginable a mere six years ago – before the days of Facebook. Back then, you actually might have to email pictures or even worse, mail them!


You may ask how this applies to technology for nonprofits. If you haven’t noticed lately, whether through your own organization or through solicitations you’ve received from others, nonprofits are furiously trying to establish their presence on Facebook. And they should! What a fantastic, not to mention free, way to get your organization visible to 250 million folks. If your organization can tap into even 1% of Facebook users, you’ve potentially upped your constituent database by 2.5 million “opportunities for giving”. But that means you need to think carefully about your organization’s objectives for Facebook, what message you put out there and who you are really targeting through Facebook.


And while you ponder how you want to use Facebook to your organization’s best advantage, I challenge you to also begin the process of thinking about how you will engage the next generation of donors, my niece’s generation. Think about it…. not so long ago (I can count the years on one hand), Facebook was only popular with twenty-somethings.  That has changed rapidly in the last five years, with Facebook’s fastest growing population now those over thirty-five, with two-thirds of its entire population outside of college age (according to statistics on 


Most nonprofits are jumping on the Facebook bandwagon now and it is absolutely right that they should. But at the same time, it is equally important to note that many people are jumping off that same bandwagon and looking for a new one. Check out some interesting Facebook trends published in August 26th’s New York Times


Will your organization be ready to ride the next bandwagon too?


Two of the strongest tools that can be used by all nonprofit organizations regardless of size are Google Apps and Google Analytics. 


One aspect of Google Apps that I really like is it allows you to easily manage and create email addresses from the organization domain. As the administrator of the account, you can create group distribution lists; manage administrative privileges all from an interface that would be familiar to any Gmail user. 













Google Analytics “allows you to understand how people find and interact with information on your website,” regardless of your website platform. There is more than enough information to keep you occupied with the reports and stats that are generated. The best thing is, setup is minimal and with the statistics that get generated, you can analyze and fix any problems.

















Given the limited resources of nonprofits, Google has provided many of these applications at no cost. The real purpose of this discussion is to see how your organization is utilizing these tools. Below are some of the tools that are available. How have you made these tools work for your organization? 


Powerful Applications for Nonprofits:

  • Google Apps:  Allows NPO’s to setup organization email accounts, share online documents with staff and board members, sites to create an intranet for internal users, and calendar that can be shared internally and made available to constituents.
  • Google Analytics:  Understand how people find and interact with information on your website.
  • Google Grants:  Reach and engage your supporters through free online advertising. If your application is approved, you will be given a $1 per day to purchase advertisements.
  • Google Checkout:  Allows you to collect donations online and process them for free if you were a Google Grants recipient. 
  • YouTube for Nonprofits:  Allows you to share your message and engage millions of potential supporters. 

So, which of the tools that I mentioned above are currently being used by your organization? How do they work for you? Leave a comment and let us know!



“Digital natives using the web to be genuine and to humanize their business (or nonprofit)”

Let’s dig into the 6 characteristics of a nonprofit Trust Agent

Chris Brogan - Trust Agents the Book1) Passionate

Chris and Julien don’t directly talk about passion, but it’s threaded into everything you read. You see, without passion it’s impossible to be a Trust Agent. If you don’t have passion people will see right through you. If you don’t have passion in the nonprofit space people will be less likely to give, volunteer and serve. Remember, your passion rubs off on others and so does your lack of passion. Trust Agent’s are passionate about what they do.


          Example: ChildFund


2) Educated

Education is at the core of what Chris and Julien are doing – they’re teaching people how to be Trust Agents. In the same way you need to be educated and able to educate others as a nonprofit Trust Agent. It’s important to know what your organization is all about, how it’s making an impact, where it’s work is being done and who it’s helping. It’s also important that you be able to help others understand these things through the social web. Each of these goes hand in hand with being a trusted source online. You’ve got to be able to help others know you.


          Example: The Humane Society


3) Connected

Three principals are used to help shape how you think of connection on the social web – Being “One of Us”, Gaining and using “Leverage” and becoming “Agent Zero”. I won’t go into to much detail because you should read the book to get all the dirt, but let me touch briefly on each as it relates to nonprofits.

  • One of us refers to immersing your self in the social web. Having a hang out or regular place where others know who you are, interact with you and see you regularly is an important step in building your online reputation. As a nonprofit it’s important to have an active presence on the web. Make Facebook you home base. Blog regularly. Engage with people on Twitter. Do what ever makes sense for you, but don’t sit around and do nothing. It takes time to earn our trust and respect by become one of us so get on it.

  • Leverage refers to using your success in one area to influence another. If you’re a successful nonprofit with a large brand or following use that to help build your online presence quickly. Leverage the relationships with people who are already online to help you become a trusted source more quickly. You can also think about this from the perspective of empowering your supporters to leverage their networks because of their passion for your case. Beth Kanter demonstrated this live at Gnomedex.

  • Agent Zero refers to being at the center of a network. The one who brings others together. Who connects people…Who shares tirelessly…Who continuously helps. As a nonprofit online it should be your mission to become agent zero for your network. You have supporters who are online. Help them get to know each other and support each other. You have donors online. Thank them. Share good news with them. You have volunteers online. Help them see how their work is making an impact. Connect them with other ways to get involved. In short, be the one who’s building a network of people who can help you change the world!


          Example: Lance Armstrong Foundation


4) Digital Native

Its part of the Trust Agents definition, but what does it really mean? Being a digital native means you’ve grown up with digital and online technologies. You we’re born using a computer, talking on a cell phone and browsing the Internet. You can text with your eyes closed and you wouldn’t know what to do without your iPhone. Nonprofits need people like this because the world is continuing to do more and more online. Having people on staff who have grown up in this type of world is much different than having people who have been adopted into the world through learning things as they’ve come along. For those who grew up in the digital world it’s second nature to interact on the web in a human way – reflexive almost. These types of individuals are the ones who will help you succeed on the social web.


          Example: National Wildlife Foundation


5) Caring

At the heart of a Trust Agent is a longing to keep things human focused and personal. A Trust Agent cares. It’s as simple as that. The nonprofit space is filled with people who care about something. Most wouldn’t be involved if it wasn’t for their desire to see things change out of the care they have for their cause. As a Trust Agent you have to figure out how to demonstrate your care in an online world where human interaction is void.


          Example: Athletes for a Cure


6) Helpful

Trust agents are helpful people. They want to share information freely. They want to help others succeed. They want to be there when someone is in need. They want to help their network of people online feel connected and taken care of. If you’re a nonprofit organization that’s always around to help others, you’ll go a long way with on the social web.


          Example: American Red Cross


The book’s filled with ton’s more great insights and ideas. The six above aren’t even part of the core seven concepts Brogan and Smith discuss. You’ve got a lot to look forward to. Did I mention that it’s a NY Times bestseller?

There are quite a few great reviews written that you can check out to get an even better picture of what the book is all about. Here’s a few to get you started: Christopher S. Penn, Amber Naslund, Jason FallsKivi Leroux Miller & Jay Baer


Disclosure: I don’t know Julien at all. I know Chris a bit from our online interaction. I’m not being paid for writing this. I like what Chris and Julien have to say and think you can learn something from it as a nonprofit. That’s it.


Check these out for more ideas on building trust online:


Can you see these ideas and concepts applying to your work online? How have you seen some of them come to life for you?


1. Must be relevant to the blog content

The title should basically be a snapshot or a summary of the blog content. If the content does not relate to the title, what the reader was initially interested in, they might leave and possibly not trust future posts.

Here’s a great example of a relevant blog title from NetWits:




2. Pique their curiosity

The point of the post title is to encourage the reader to dig in and read the blog.

Great example from NetWits of a title that really piqued my interest:






Yes, I know the title does not follow element number one. Anthony did not, in fact blog about sighting a huge Sasquatch. But, I did say you should follow at least one of these rules to have a successful post title.

3. Ask a question

I am drawn to post titles that pose a question. I try to answer the title question right when I see it. If I don’t know the answer and want to know the answer, I dig in. If I think I know the answer, I still read because I love the feeling of being right!

Great examples from NetWits:











4. Make a cultural reference

People like familiarity. Below is a great example of pulling in well-known brands to make the reader feel comfortable.








What is more familiar than Starbucks (the coffee I am drinking) and Dell (the computer I am typing on)?

5. Keep it short

People read the web differently than reading print- they skim, scan, glance, and move on. Make sure the title is ten characters or less by omitting needless words.

Which title would you be drawn to, number one or number two?

1. Why Twitter Matters

2. Learn about the value of Twitter, tools to manage Twitter, and links to Twitter experts


What are some of the best post titles on your favorite blogs? Have you tested different post titles on your blog?  Leave a comment and let us know!


I received a call from the alumni association of the university that I attended about a chance to donate to a fundraising campaign –here is how the call went:

Caller: Hi, may I speak with Raheel Gauba?
Me: Speaking!
Caller: Hi, I am calling from the <University Name> Alumni and, um… wanted to…um, tell you about the <Library Name> Library.
Me: Ok...Go ahead.
Caller: Oh, um…do you receive our quarterly magazine?
Me: Yes, but I have not seen the last one you sent out since I have been on the road for the last 3-4 months.
Caller: Um, ok, so do you know the <Library Name> Library? You know which library I’m talking about?
Me: Yes, I’m an alum, I know which library you are talking about
Caller: Yea, so, we are, um…upgrading some electronic facilities, you know at the library, so would you like to contribute towards the upgrade?
Me: No, thank you.
Caller: Ok, thank you for your time.

I would have loved to contribute, if I was sold – but, unfortunately, I wasn’t.

What’s interesting to note is that this is not the first time this alumni organization has reached out to me and I have declined to give based on the same reasons. I even went as far as to let the caller know how I felt about the entire phone call experience. I did decide to give, once, just to see how they would change their approach towards me as a prior donor. But nothing changed – Same low energy phone call simply to ask for funds.

It is my opinion that most people on this planet enter a fundraising phone conversation with a default answer of ‘NO’ in their minds.

Here is how my ‘NO’ could have been converted to a ‘YES’:

  • Show enthusiasm about the cause you’re calling about
  • If you are speaking with a donor who has given in the past, thank them for their support and let them know that their contribution is recognized
  • Take some time to explain the details about the initiative, before you ask for money
  • Show how your initiative changes lives of students
  • If possible, try to relate back to how things were different during the alum's time at university
  • Don’t take the first no - especially when you have not explained the cause
  • Make some effort to engage the donor into a conversation

These rules aren't just for phone calls though, you can use these suggestions to your online fundraising strategy to make your appeals more, well...appealing.


The economy is tough on everyone right now– If you make sure you are putting in the appropriate effort into your cause, you will be surprised by the results!  What extra effort are you putting into your campaigns now?  Leave a comment and let us know!


In the session, she highlighted some key points about today's nonprofit supporters as well as laying out some steps to establishing a successful email marketing plan including; planning, list building, segmenting, messaging and tweaking your message.  She also had some ideas for things nonprofits can do right now to strengthen their email marketing efforts.


Fundraising Success covered the session in-depth in their article entitled Tips to Strengthen Your Email Campaigns so I won't spoil it for you.  Head on over to the article and check it out for yourself.


When you're done, come back here, leave a comment and tell us what you thought.  Is your organization using these tips to make their communications better?


Related articles on NetWits Think Tank:

5 Questions Nonprofits Should Ask Before Sending an Email- Steve MacLaughlin

5 Email Sins to Avoid- Steve MacLaughlin


NutShellMail.comThat said, I understand it’s not simple or easy to do. It takes work, time, energy, effort and dedication. No doubt about that. Hopefully you’re learning some things here that will equip you to be successful in your efforts. I believe you can do it.

The things I’ve described in setting up your social media listening dashboard may work for you. Or not. As you begin to work with the tools we’re discussing here think about what works for you. Tinker with them. Try new things. Find new tools. Figure out what works best for you and keep refining your approach. It will pay off. 


On to the new tool …

Something that none of the application we’ve discussed do well is aggregate your social media data and interactions into one place and deliver it via email. You may like email? If that’s the case here’s a suggestion – check out


This would be useful for … 

  • Those that can’t hang out on Facebook or Twitter all day
  • Those who can’t access social networking sites at work
  • Those who don’t like the concept of an online dashboard
  • Those who are not technical enough to set up and online dashboard
  • Those who don’t have the time to set up an online dashboard
  • Those who just want to stick with the tried and true
  • Those who use email so much that anything else is less productive


Here are a few highlights for you …

Sign up for account using one of your existing social networking accounts

 NutShellMail Accounts



Set up your preferred schedule and get your email dashboard on demand.

 NutShellMail Schedule







Set up your social networking accounts

NutShellMail Account Aggregation






Here's what your email digest will look like (just a sample)

NutShellMail eMail Sample














Update, interact, follow, etc… all from within your email client!

That’s right. You can click on one of the links from within the email such as “reply” or “retweet” and it will open up a new email with a very unique TO address. Type in what you want to say in the body of your email then hit send and presto! You have updated Twitter. The same is true for Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Pretty sweet stuff.


The team at NutShellMail is onto something here, but there are a few features that I think need to be added to make this useful for more people. One such feature would be search support. Adding the ability to do searches on or and have them aggregated into your email digest would fill this out nicely from a data perspective. Another feature built on top of the search results would be to show this information in a visually compelling or telling way. Think of how the C-suite would welcome this! NutShellMail could even do some nice visuals with the information they’re pushing out about your interactions on each of the social networks they support.



Would this work for you? How? What problems does it solve? What features would you benefit from that don’t exist?





So, what did the Stern Grove Festival do that nonprofits across the country aren’t doing on a daily basis? Probably nothing earth-shattering, but what they were doing, they were doing very well. I would even say that they adhered to many fundraising best practices. I’d like to break out what they were doing on two levels, on-site and online because they’re doing some great stuff all nonprofits should be considering.





1. Mobile Giving: At the venue, there were opportunities to give as soon as you entered the pathway to the grove. Signs greeted you on the path asking you to give $5 by texting GROVE to 90999. When you got into the venue there was another reminder sign by the stage asking you for a mobile donation. They use mGive’s mobile giving service (mGive is one of Blackbaud’s Application Partners, contact them to get your mobile giving campaign started today)

2. Donation Stations: Once you got to the entrance you had the opportunity to donate at the donation stations at every walkway. You even got a cool, “I Gave at the Grove” sticker to wear on your jacket. 

3. Event Volunteers: Volunteers walked around before the show and during intermission with cashboxes and red balloons saying “Give at the Grove”. The volunteer’s jobs were to talk to every event attendee and get them to donate and give out donation stickers. (You can find volunteers on VolunteerMatch or Idealist)


Once I got home, I checked out the Stern Grove Festival’s website and found many more ways to get engaged with the organization:

1. Social Media: You can follow the Stern Grove Festival on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. You can also listen to Stern Grove Radio on Rhapsody. These are all great ways to steward your supporters and get them involved with your organization.

2. Online Reminders: A supporter can go to their site and sign up for text message alerts and announcements, they can invite a friend or add the event dates to their calendar program like Outlook® or iCal®.

3. Donate Now: Probably the single most important thing nonprofits should have on their websites. Stern Grove Festival’s donate now button was front-and-center on the home page with big, bold letters saying “GIVE TO THE GROVE.

4. Volunteer Information: This was plainly visible on the front page, making it easy to get involved if you wanted to volunteer with them.

5. Ecological Information: The website provided a wealth of knowledge on how to rideshare, take public transit as well as providing directions to ride your bicycle to the festival. Perfect for eco-conscious San Franciscans.


There was obviously a lot of thought put into synchronizing their onsite and online fundraising strategy to make it easier for supporters to give in-person or on their website.  Kudos to Stern Grove Festival for putting on a great show and engaging me as a supporter!


How many of these fundraising and donor engagement strategies are used by your organization? Leave a comment below and let us know!


One month passed, and then another. By the third month they couldn’t believe they didn’t receive a thank you, not to mention a receipt for their donation.

As you can imagine, this left a sour taste in their mouth. This was the largest donation they had ever made and they couldn’t believe the lack of follow up on the nonprofit’s behalf.

The interesting thing about this story is that this couple ended up getting a bit more family money than they expected and because of the experience they had with the first nonprofit, decided to give the extra amount to a different organization that they had previously had interactions with and knew they would be genuinely thanked.

For me, this story isn’t just about thanking your donors for donating their money or time with you, although that is extremely important. It’s about what it says to a donor when you don’t take that action. My friends are concerned that if the organization can’t take the time to thank and receipt them, are they going to take the time to appropriately use those funds?  We all hope the answer is yes, and most likely it is, but it sure does feel better when you get that immediate follow up and can track the effectiveness of an nonprofit organization.


Best practices for donor acknowledgement:

  • Immediately confirm a donor’s online gift through a detailed thank you page.
  • Generate an immediate thank you email for donors.
  • Mail an acknowledgement of the gift within two business days.


Technology can help you easily accomplish a quick and seamless process to thank, receipt, and ultimately cultivate a donor online.  Let me show you…



I gave a donation to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society this morning…


and immediately received a donation confirmation screen…


and a thank you email within two minutes of making that donation.



Talk about efficiency!


How are you acknowledging your donors online or offline? Leave a comment and let us know! 


While talking with the nonprofit we discussed how to manage online communication options, and hopefully decrease the number of people who opt out. The key is abundant options. Give people choices. This may seem simple but it is often overlooked when nonprofits are sending communications. Nonprofit organizations have a lot to say, in a typical week or month there may be several exciting things going on and you want to share all of this information with your constituents. The problem is that all of your constituents do not want to hear about the same thing and by sending them information on everything you may overload your audience.


The solution is to give your constituents several options so they can indicate which types of communications they want to receive from you. People have preferences, some people like peanut M&Ms and others prefer plain. Keeping that in mind, think about various types of messages that you want to share with your constituents and give them the option to choose. Where to start? Think about the topics currently included in your messages or think about various segments in your constituency and tailor a message specifically for them. Why not survey your audience to see what they are interested in and how often they would like to receive these communications.  


Let’s take a look at some nonprofits that are currently giving people options: 


Chicago Foundation for Women allows people to indicate online communication preferences when they sign up for a login to the website.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society asks online donors to share email preferences as a part of the online donation process.

Ocean Institute gives online community members the ability to indicate the types of communications they want to receive before Opting Out, which is an important option to have.



Nonprofits have to provide a communication Opt Out for individuals. If this is the only option you give them, people will choose it. If instead the individual has several communication options to choose between they will think about the options and be less likely to opt out of all communications. As an organization you want to decrease the percentage of constituents that opt out of all communications. You will be able to do this by understanding reasons why people opt out and thinking about offering your constituents abundant options to choose from.


Common reasons people Opt out of email communications

1.       Content is not relevant

2.       They receive too many communications from your organization

3.       Recipient would like to receive communications less frequently


People like choices, so give them abundant options for online communications.


I am curious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment and let me know what you think or how abundant options have worked for you!


Related Blog posts:

5 Email Sins to Avoid by Steve MacLaughlin

Are Your Recipients Tired? Look No Further Than List Fatigue by Ben Jenkins


I'm on TwitterI should also mention that a large part of my learning came from watching the ways others were engaging and using the tool. Seeing real life examples in action helped me see how I could use Twitter and find value in Twitterville.

The Broganator (aka Chris Brogan) recently wrote about how he manages Twitter so I thought I’d share a little about how I manage Twitter and why I think it’s important.

Here’s a glimpse …

The Tools

There are hundreds of useful Twitter tools out there. The trick is finding the ones that make sense for you. These work well for me.


CoTweet – It’s a web application! I like this tool for the basic CRM type features it has. You can schedule tweets, add notes to Twitter followers and assign your self a task to do something. Nice! I use this tool on a daily basis to stay plugged in to Twitterville.

Ubertwitter – Hands down the best app for Blackberry users (we can’t all have an iPhone). I can easily keep up on the go with this app.

Twitpic – Everyone loves pics! This app let’s you easily share photos on Twitter. I mostly share pics when I’m out and about. The added benefit of this tool is that it integrates with Ubertwitter on the Blackberry. Very nice. – Lets me shorten URL’s for easy sharing on Twitter and provides nice click stats with graphs! It also integrates with CoTweet. Love that.

Twitter Search – Great for finding valuable information and/or connecting with people on Twitter. There are too many uses to cover here. Check out Three Twitter Searches You Didn’t Think Were Possible and 7 ‘Secret’ Ways To Use Twitter Search for some ideas on how to get started. 


The Value

The key to any application or tool is to find the value in it for you. At first I didn’t see any real use for Twitter. To me, it seemed silly. I shared the same thought most people had when they began using Twitter – Why would anyone what to hear “what I was doing” every minute of my day? Here’s what I’ve figured out.


1) Learning

As I stated at the beginning of this post – there are a LOT of great people using Twitter. It’s not just a bunch of kids playing around or spammers trying to take advantage of you. It’s not even a place where people waste away their day to pass the time at work. These things happen of course, but if you look you can find so much more. I did.

These people have been good to me and they’re just a few of those that I’ve learned from during my time on Twitter. I’ve learned more about each of the above industries. A lot more! I’ve also learned how to find the information I need and who the trusted sources are.

Find the right people and you’ll begin to learn as well. Check out and to get started. 


2) Sharing

Sharing is one of the main reasons why Twitter is successful (in my opinion). The tool allows people to easily connect and share information. It’s simple to do. You add links in your Tweets to things you find interesting or things you’re using in which you find value. The people following you can then check out what you’re sharing. The flip side is also true. I can share things with those following me. If you’re following the right types of people this becomes a huge human information filter. Powerful.

The added benefit for me as a new blogger has been the ability to share what I’m posting on my blog with people. The community on Twitter has helped me figure some things out quickly. I’m grateful for that.


3) Connecting

Twitter has been the conduit for connecting with the people I mentioned above as well as many others. I know there are lots of other places that this type of relationship building can happen. I also know there is no substitution for in person meeting. But the simple fact that I could easily connect with all of these people is incredible. It’s about the simplicity and the reach. Twitter helped me meet a lot of great people that help me be better at what I do. It’s as simple as that.


Food for thought: Twitter from the pros


These are my top three reasons for using Twitter and the tools I use to manage things daily. There are tons of other reasons to utilize Twitter and hundreds of other tools out there to help you do it.


What have you found valuable in Twitter? How do you manage Twitter on a daily basis? Share some of your tips with us.



Who is the audience? If the audience is everyone, then you're doing it wrong. Think about the specific segments of constituents that the messages are being targeted towards. Are they alumni, donors, members, volunteers, activists, board members, staff, lapsed donors, event participants, etc.? Don't forget to make sure that you actually have permission to email these individuals.


What type of email are we sending to this audience? Is it an action focused message like a fundraising appeal or an advocacy action alert? Is it a communication focused message like a monthly enewsletter? Is it an acknowledgement focused message like confirming a gift or event registration? Don't forget to keep track of the various types of emails you send as their performance metrics will be different.


Why are we sending this audience this type of message? If there's not a good reason for sending — don't. Is the call to action, the communication style, and the content of the message clear and concise? If it's not clear to you, then it won't be clear to the recipient. Don't forget to make testing email messages a regular part of your routine.


When are you sending this audience this type of message? We're talking down to the day of the week, hour of the day, and time zone overlap kind of stuff. Is the content of the message time sensitive? Should some audience segments get the message sooner than others? Is this email part of a broader campaign or sequence? Don't forget that the majority of your results from an email campaign happen in the first 48 hours.

How Much

How often are you sending this audience any type of message? Do you have a calendar or planning schedule for all online and offline communication? Where are there lots of overlaps? Where are there gaps in the schedule? Don't forget that not emailing enough can be as bad as emailing too much.

Sign up for the "Email Demystified" session at NetWits Summer Camp to learn about more online do's and don'ts.


Active Listening











Take Action

Good listening is key, but if you don’t take the next step by responding, asking questions, providing feedback, giving insights, sharing stories and opening up the folks your trying to learn about and connect with will walk away.

Brian Solis recently shared a post by Michael BritoActive Listening on the Social Web; It’s Overrated”. Here’s a quick quote …

“A lot of organizations today do an excellent job at listening to their customers online. In fact, some very well respected companies and technologies have emerged that address this new trend of listening on the social web (BuzzGain, Radian 6, Visible Technologies). Many of these tools have great reporting functionality; and some even help create feedback workflows for brands. But the work doesn’t stop there.” 


What can we learn from Starbucks and Dell?

The StarbucksMy Starbucks Idea” initiative allows those who register to make suggestions directly to Starbucks.

“You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What's your Starbucks Idea?”

The DellIdeaStorm” web initiative also allows those who register to make suggestions directly to Dell.

“Where Your Ideas Reign”


Starbucks and Dell are doing a nice job building their respective online communities through allowing fans to provide suggestions in a public fashion – Crowdsourcing at its finest. As their fans submit suggestions they allow their communities to vote on each of them. Then they take the top suggestions and implement them! Crazy, I know.

Giving their fans a forum to provide suggestions is not what makes these programs work. The key to it all is the action they take. Without it these programs fail. With it these programs sore.

Starbucks also does a nice job showing how suggestions are shepparded through the process of being submitted, voted on, reviewed, scheduled and launched. This shows great transparency – Another piece of the puzzle that allows the community to thrive.


If I’m a fan of either Dell or Starbucks and I’m engaged enough to submit an idea this type of interaction and commitment gets me excited. I get to see real people being heard by mega corporations. It helps put a face to the organizations and takes it to a slightly more personal level


How can your nonprofit listen like Starbucks and Dell? 

  • Build community – Help your supports connect around the cause(s) they love.
  • Solicit Feedback – Let people share their thoughts with you.
  • Be transparent – Let the community see what others are saying, sharing and suggesting.
  • Respond – Show you care enough to take action on the things they are sharing with you.


Check out a recent report by Charlene Li and Wetpaint if you want to read more about what large for profit brands are doing.


Photo Credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell


What nonprofits have you seen doing these things well? If you're one of them please share your insight with us.


Hidden Donate Button

I sometimes wonder if nonprofits are playing a game of hide and seek with their websites. Where do I click to donate? Is that it? Is it over here? Maybe this is it — Nope! While your nonprofit may not put online fundraising on the top of your list of website goals — it probably isn't at the bottom either. Is it easy to find where and how to give online? Don't get cute with names. Keep it simple and make it visible.

Organization by Org Chart

Many websites resemble complicated structures that look like something from the HR department. This is because many sites are designed by a committee and they often use the hierarchy of the organization as the framework for the website. Doing so might be useful if you actually work at the nonprofit, but it doesn't help your website's visitors. Make sure you include visitor friendly navigation and visual cues. 

Death by Scroll

The content on your website should not read like some epic tome. Eyeballs move fast, attention is short, and patience is in short supply when it comes to your website's visitors. When writing for the Web, think Hemingway, not Faulkner. Keep it short. Keep it focused. Keep it interactive. If you have lengthy content items, then link to them but don't make them the star of the main pages.

The NASCAR Effect

This is what happens when you put so many images, logos, buttons, and widgets on the homepage that it resembles the advertising on the side of a stock car. When everything is competing for attention on the page, then the most important things get lost in the clutter. What are the top three tasks or takeaways you want visitors to have from your homepage? If they aren't obvious in seconds, then you've made a mistake. 

Content Rot

The only thing worse than no content is out of date content. You can use certain tricks like showing only the month instead of the entire date, but eventually the content will start to rot. Build a calendar that outlines your website's publishing schedule and don't let it go too long before adding fresh new items. And at least once a year you should review all the content and clean it up, archive it, or throw it out.


Sign up for the "Websites Demystified" session at NetWits Summer Camp to learn about more online do's and don'ts.


Pictionary teaches us that it is hard to paint a clear picture when we limit the medium of communication. (For those of you that forgot, “No talking” is the most shouted rule in a game of Pictionary).

In the peer to peer fundraising context, how well are event participant’s telling your organization’s story? How well are they telling their personal story? Is there colorful chicken scratch expected from a toddler with a box of crayons, or Sistine Chapel wonders of art? Likely some of each, but most participants fall somewhere in between.


See how some organizations are using video:

· Charity Water has created a masterful piece of cinematography to show how delivering fresh water to impoverished persons in Africa can make an impact.

· United Methodist Church created a library of video stories demonstrating the impact their outreach members make in local communities.

· Lance Armstrong Foundation created a video appeal directly from Lance asking everyone to sign the “World Cancer Declaration.” 


Where Blackbaud is Headed:

Over at Blackbaud, we’ve been creating approaches to make the toddlers more effective at telling stories and providing master artists an entirely new type of canvas. 

We recently released an upgrade to Blackbaud Sphere that allows event participants to display videos directly on their personal page. Previously, personal pages were limited to a static image and text. This change provides an entirely new medium for participants to:

1. Make an emotion-felt, personal ask

2. Better describe the impact of the organization they are supporting,

3. Clearly convey why the cause is important to them

4. Do something “catchy” to make their ask “go viral”


Most folks can clearly see how “master artists” can go crazy with this new medium for peer to peer fundraising. For the less sophisticated peer to peer fundraisers, pre-recorded videos can also be selected from a video library supplied by the organization. This approach allows the organization to distribute a high value web asset via an existing powerful peer to peer network.


Check out YouTube Video, $10,000 Dollars and Your Nonprofit  to learn more about how you can use YouTube with personal fundraising pages.


Have you seen individuals or organizations effectively using video for fundraising or advocacy? If so, don’t be shy! Be sure to share by posting a comment below.




To my surprise the event was held at a local bar arriving just in time for happy hour.  I was warmly greeted by the organizer of the event the moment I arrived and I was escorted to my table.  At first I was a bit hesitant to reach out to the other organizations simply because I didn’t want to reach out to the competition. I very quickly learned that speaking with other organizations simply broadened my perspective about what services are offered. 


After about 30 minutes of table hopping, I returned back to my table anxiously awaiting the crowd of people to come and ask me questions about the organization. I generally regard myself as a pretty good speaker, but I found myself slipping and losing the attention of the person standing in front of me. I realized that I was so passionate about the organization (as many of us are) and I wanted to share every aspect of what we do with them. Some people find that overwhelming and difficult to embrace.  Learning the hard way, I quickly changed my tactics and spoke about one aspect of the organization that I felt the person could relate to. It worked, sometimes less is more.    


I share this information simply because there were many lessons learned. In just two hours, I had the opportunity to speak to 50 people, collect 30 email addresses, and meet a city council person that will be running for office in 2010. Given that there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US (source: National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), establishing partnerships with other organizations and networking at the grassroots level proves to be very valuable.


Food for Thought:


  • Do you currently have established partnerships with other organizations? This is one of the repeated questions that I was asked.
  • Have you considered bartering your services with other NPO’s? This could be mutually beneficial both as a cost saving measure as well as the benefits your constituents receive in a “one stop shop”.
  • How informed are you about what other NPO’s are doing and how they are reaching out?  Why try to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from other on what has worked.
  • Have you considered staff swap for a day? Learning from what others do in similar role could save both organizations time and money.
  • How far is your reach with other NPO’s at the local, state, and national?
  • How often do you reach out to the community and let them know what you are doing?

Things to Consider:


  • Attending resource fairs in the community
  • Explore the events calendar on Craigslist
  • Look at the events pages on Facebook for potential outreach efforts
  • Attend the local neighborhood meeting in the region your organization belongs to


What steps is your organization taking to network and remain connected?  Leave a comment below and let us know!


Photo Credit:


What’s permission marketing?

PermissionBestselling marketing author Seth Godin, in his book Permission Marketing, explains it like this:

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

“A permission asset is the privilege (not the right) to deliver anticipated, personal and relevant ideas to the people who CHOOSE to get them.”

Which means … 

  • You’re building a following.
  • You’re the bulls-eye, not the arrow.
  • You’ve become the selected, not the selector.
  • You’re working in the name accumulation business.
  • You’ve earned the right to market to your customers.
  • You’re worth more next week or next month than you are now.
  • You’re finding products for your customers, instead of customers for your products.
  • You’re accumulating, delivering value TO and maintaining respect FOR a group people who admire and support you and your ideas.

             (Hat tip to Scott for Build a Permission Asset, Part 1)


To give you an idea of what I’m referring to we have …


Post numbers: Over eighty posts by more than ten authors 

Twitter: Seen over 300 ReTweets (RT) according to Tweetmeme

Google Analytics: Grown by about 800 unique visitors every month since we launched


Visitor Growth by Google Analytics












FeedBurner RSS Stats (This is the real permission piece): Slightly over 500 RSS/email subscribers with a pretty consistent growth curve over the past six month 


Feedburner RSS Subscribers





Feedburner RSS Subscriber Use











Why am I sharing all this with you?

First I wanted to thank you for your time and attention. I know they’re precious. Second, I believe permission marketing applies to the way your nonprofit interacts with its supporters and those who you’re trying to reach.

Do you have the permission of your supporters or are you just blasting people? I see the blasting tactic more often than not. If you have their permission are you holding up your end of the bargain by delivering on what you promised them?

You (and me) should always be evaluating how we’re doing in this area. It’s vital to success in the world of multitasking, attention deficit disorder, over-commitment and not enough time in the day to get everything done. People’s time is valuable and limited so don’t waste it or they’ll stop listening.


Our promise to you

We’ll keep delivering content that helps you think about how the web can help nonprofits and how you can make improvements to your web strategy.


What’s your promise and how are you getting permission?


Photo Credit: Tim Parkinson


The event series is an extension of our blog NetWits Think Tank which focuses on technology, fundraising, social media and industry trends. NetWits Summer Camp will provide participants a broad knowledge of critical nonprofit technology concepts and how to best implement those technologies within their organization.

Websites DemystifiedWebsites Demystified
A website is one of the main cornerstones of your online initiatives, but are you making the most of it? This session will cover how your website fits into a nonprofit’s communication, interaction, and engagement efforts. Topics to be covered include website architecture and design, usability, content management, personalization, and how nonprofits can improve their online presence.
Monday, August 24 at 1 p.m. ET — Register Today!  


Email DemystifiedEmail Demystified
A successful email marketing program combined with an effective website form the core of your Internet efforts. This session will focus on the different types of email communication, ways to build your email lists, and best practices for getting the most out of your email marketing program. Topics to be covered include list building, segmentation strategies, design do’s and don’ts, understanding spam, and how to improve your email results.
Tuesday, August 25 at 1 p.m. ET — Register Today!  

Online Fundraising Demystified


Online Fundraising Demystified
The Internet continues to be the fastest growing area for fundraising in the nonprofit sector. Using a website, email, and other channels can help improve overall fundraising results for your organization. This session cover how nonprofits are taking their online fundraising efforts to the next level and beyond the simple “donate now” button. Topics to be covered include online donation form do’s and don’ts, building a targeted online giving campaign, and how peer-to-peer fundraising plays an important role in all of this.
Wednesday, August 26 at 1 p.m. ET — Register Today!  


Social Media DemystifiedSocial Media Demystified
There is a lot of talk about social media these days, but how does it fit into an overall online strategy? This session will focus on how nonprofits are using Web 2.0 tools like Facebook. YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and many more to help engage and communicate with constituents. Topics to be covered include an overview of the social media and networking landscape, examples of nonprofits using these tools, and how to begin developing a social media strategy for your nonprofit.
Thursday, August 27 at 1 p.m. ET — Register Today!  


Online Metrics DemystifiedOnline Metrics Demystified
The combined use of a website, email, online fundraising, and social media brings with it a lot of powerful metrics to measure your results. This session will cover what are the key online metrics to measure, what they mean, and how to manage them on an ongoing basis. Topics to be covered include metrics for the web, email, online fundraising, and social media, industry benchmarks and trends in online metrics, and how to pull them all together to measure your online success.
Friday, August 28 at 1 p.m. ET — Register Today!  

I hope you'll be able to join all or most of these sessions. Space is limited so be sure to sign up soon.


Time is Money  (Time = Money)
Volunteers offer Time (Volunteers = Time)
Donations most often consist of Money (Donations = Money)
Volunteers = Time = Money = Donations
Volunteers = Donations

So how can we use this information? I know, I know; it’s a bit of a stretch, but please just bare with me for a moment and pretend it really is this simple :-)

There are many reasons people give their time and/or money to philanthropy. But we can probably theorize that if someone wants to contribute to your organization, and were appealed to give either their Time OR their Money – there’s a breaking point to when someone might value one over the other. For example: If someone was asked to give a donation of $250, or spend a Saturday afternoon volunteering – which would they choose? And if the economy was bad, wouldn’t they lean more towards giving their time over their money? And so we continue with…


A Challenging Economy = More Volunteers


This is where we may find our “Silver Lining” because there is another reason why people donate: Value! Examples of these might be Golf Outings, VIP events, and Black-Tie dinners. These people, often your major donors, want to help your organization but would like it to be surrounded by an event so they can socialize and celebrate their philanthropy with others. Hosting a fun and interesting charity event will even create “buzz” for your future events. So let’s press our hypothesis and equation a bit further:


  • It takes effort to pull off a great, value-added charity event.
  • A great event will attract higher donations, both in quantity and amount.
  • Increased Effort = Increased Event Donations
  • Effort takes time (Effort = Time)
  • Volunteers Offer Time (Volunteers = Time)
  • Volunteers = Increased Effort = Great Event = Increased Event Donations
  • Volunteers = Increased Event Donations


So without going too overboard with this (I might have already passed that point!), I hope that the majority of the readers have come to this potential conclusion, and, ergo to the “Silver Lining” we’re all looking for:


  • Challenging Economy = More Volunteers
  • Volunteers = Donations AND Volunteers = Increased Event Donations


So we arrive at our conclusion (for nonprofits):


A Challenging Economy = More Donations!


So, if these assumptions are likely or, at the very least, plausible; how can we use this information for the greatest good? I humbly suggest that you take one step back from your standard campaigns and operations, and look for any way that you can place volunteers with the goals of:


  • Increasing Awareness
  • Increasing Retention
  • Decreasing Costs
  • Adding Value to an Event


Try to think of a few creative ideas on your own. In my next post, we’ll talk about a few that we’ve come up with.  Leave a comment with some of your ideas!  Until next time – keep doing good work :-)






The internet presents a great opportunity for contests and this is a very cost-effective way for nonprofit organizations to generate traffic and grow a mailing list. Contests typically involve a test of skill, this can be as simple as answering a trivia question correctly or as complicated as submitting a business plan. The options are endless. One of my favorite ideas is a scavenger hunt that takes place on your website.


Follow these four simple Guidelines for a successful online Contest:


1. Make it easy to enter the contest

Participants can easily get discouraged if there are several entrance requirements. Consider requiring that the person only sign up for your eNewsletter. You gain names and email addresses which will help meet marketing goals.


2. Prizes should be relevant

Gather relevant prizes that will be valuable to your audience. The goal is to have the prize be worth the effort and remind people of your organization’s mission. The prizes should also match the effort that participants put into the contest in order to make the effort worthwhile. You may be able to secure prizes from local businesses or organizations in return for some advertising during the contest.


3. Get the word out – use the contest as a PR tool

The idea is to drive traffic to the website so be sure to publicize the contest before, during and after it is held. 

o   Promote the contest in your eNewsletter. Throughout the contest provide statistics on number of entrants and remind your audience of the available prizes

o   Create a blog entry about the contest

o   Invite contest sponsors to promote the contest on their website

o   Promote the contest on social networking websites or in forums

o   Get the contestants involved in promoting the idea by providing spread the word options such as email a friend, or social networking hooks on the contest page of the website.


4. Allow sufficient time for the contest

Allow enough time for the contest to run without having it last too long. People will respond sooner if there is a need. By limiting the time of the contest you are more likely to get people to respond quickly which will help you meet your goals and satisfy participants desire to see results. One – two months is typically a good time frame for a contest


Here's some examples to get the creative juices flowing;

National Parkinson Foundation is looking for photographs that highlight their mission.
WWF-Canada is opening their contest to members only, giving people a reason to join.
While Habitat for Humanity has created this clever memory game, it is not a contest. However, this is a great example of something that could easily become a contest by asking for some basic information at the end of the game which enters the person into a contest.

Get creative and encourage your constituents to get involved with a contest that supports your cause.  Have you created a contest that got people engaged?  Tell us about it in the comments!


Social Media ParticipationOnce you have some of the fundamentals in place it’s time to think about how to take action or as Mike Manuel puts it get your Conversation Escalation and Participation going.

Before we go too far, I understand there are a lot of things to think about when getting started with social media participation. Beth Kanter points out a few good questions that Amber Naslund talks about on the PowerShift Blog. These questions as well as others should all be considered and thoughtfully planned for before you get too far along.


  • Do we have to respond to EVERY brand mention?
  • How much time does it take each day to do this?
  • What’s the best way to handle negative comments? Ignore or engage?
  • How does one person manage all of that information?
  • How do we keep track of what happens after someone responds?
  • Who should respond to brand mentions? What should they say?
  • How will we know if all of this is making a lick of difference?

It should also be understood that not knowing the answers to each of the above shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. There are some things you can get started with right away. Here are five social media listening action items you can start today.


1. Refine your listening skills

That’s right. Once you get your listening system in place make sure you continue to explore, test, review and refine what you are doing. Here are three things you can try today.  


2. Make it clear you are listening

Once you’re out there listening to what’s being said about you and your organization you should begin to let people know you're there. If you’re spending the time to listen, it makes sense to let your community know you’re there and ready to engage them. Make it known that you are around and that you are listening, absorbing and taking action where needed. Your supporters should know you are there and that you care.


3. Talk with people

Chris Brogan recently published A Brief and Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide that provides a lot of tips about Twitter use. You could probably apply plenty of those tips to social media in general. I gave him one more “Talk with people. Social media is all about being social. People have related the social media environment to many things. Some call it a cocktail party while others relate it to a family reunion. No matter how you look at it, always remember that people want to connect and they want to talk. It’s simple. Treat people well and talk with them. Allow them to share, ask questions, give feedback, etc… and you reciprocate. That alone will go a long way in your quest to connect with current supporters as well as help you acquire new supporters.


4. Promote your followers, friends, supporters, donors

The people you want to connect with and your supporters are involved in social media for a reason. They may not all be there, but those that are probably publish content in various forms. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc… They’re out there on the web doing great things. Share their work freely!


5. Share relevant information

You are using social media for a reason. It’s a great channel to build relationships, connect with people and share about what you have going on. Don’t forget to share your work, but be social about it. Ask for feedback. Answer questions. Reply to comments. Encourage others to use your content. Remember, be social. 


Photo credit: Pedro


That’s only 5 tips to get started. What else can you think of? What have I missed? I know there are a lot of folks out there with some great experience in this department. If you’re one of them please leave some of your valuable insight in the comments.


Let's start with some statistics: 

1. Over 370 events have already started using Facebook and Twitter integrations.

2. The number of participants actively* using Twitter (951) and Facebook (1607) to fundraise continues to grow. * Active users are any participant that has sent at least one message via the channels.

3. Although Facebook has been available for a shorter amount of time than Twitter, it has already surpassed Twitter in number of active users. This is not surprising since the Facebook active user pool is ~10x the Twitter pool.


Number of Gifts

Total $ Raised

Average Gift Amount














4. Event participants have raised nearly 3x as much with Facebook as Twitter. Average gift amounts are slightly higher with Facebook than with Twitter, although it is possible this may change as we continue to gather data.


Potential Impressions**

Total Click Thru

Click Thru Rate


Conversion Rate

Total Raised   

$ Generated per impression























5. Facebook generates more potential impressions that Twitter. Potential impressions = Total messages sent X Average audience for each message (Average of 120 Friends for Facebook & 70 Followers for Twitter).

6. Twitter has a dramatically higher (~5x) Click Thru Rate for messages than Facebook.

7. Twitter and Facebook have extremely similar $ generated per impression.


Have you found similar statistics in utilizing these channels for marketing or fundraising? Please feel free to share any of your findings about how you are using social media or social networks by leaving a comment below.


The incredible people supporting each cause and the passionate teams leading these organizations are at the heart of their success.

Start a Movement!Movements are amazing to watch form. They have an incredible ability to affect change in our world. The organic grass roots nature of movements coupled with their passionate supporters give them the ability to quickly spread around the world one person at a time.

It’s not just about creating campaigns, it’s about creating movements.



An excerpt from Brains On Fire helps drive home why movements are becoming more and more important in today’s highly connected world:

Movements go on as long as kindred spirits are involved.

Movements are part of the evangelist vocabulary. (Evangelize, passion, love…)

Movements are organic and rooted in passion.

Movements rely on word of mouth, where the people are the medium.

Movements are part of the evolutionist theory—whatever we co-create with the fans they can own and run with it, which will evolve over time.


Below you will find some great resources to help you learn more about creating a movement. You should also check out Beth Kanter's "Movement Building" series. She was kind enough to share this post there.


What’s a Movement?

Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals and/or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change. 


Tips on Getting Started:


A Few Examples:


A for-profit example that gives us some good insight:

You should also check out the Building a Movement Project. They help Nonprofits!!


What other examples have you seen emerging due to the new ways people communicate online? How are movements being started and how are they spreading in today’s modern and highly connected world?


Are You Listening?At the most basic level listening on the web is just like listening in the real world. In day to day life we listen for mentions of our name, topics we’re interested in, hobbies we participate in, our company or industry, and friends or family. By listening for these things we give ourselves the opportunity to take action. We can respond, participate in a conversation, build relationships with others, debunk a rumor or correct misinformation, help someone out, and much more.

With the evolution of the social web and the tools available today you’re able to listen much like you can with your ears in real life. You can listen for mentions of your organization, products you sell, your executive director or a figurehead’s name, special events you are running, causes you support, campaigns you are managing, and so on.

This is a necessary skill in today’s fast paced online world (Great piece to further drive this point home: The Influencer’s Dilemma: The Battle For Mindshare Amid Media Turmoil by Louis Gray). Failure is imminent if you don’t learn how to master this skill. I don’t say that to scare you, but to motivate you. Learning takes time, but it’s something that you can start to pick up very quickly and with daily or weekly work you’ll become effective in no time at all.

Here are some steps to get you started listening … 30 minutes or less, I promise.


Step One: Determine what you should be listening for

Here are a few ideas for you: 

  • Keywords you use on your website or in your analytics
  • Mentions of your organization
  • Products you sell
  • Your executive director or a figurehead’s name
  • Special events you’re running
  • Causes you support
  • Campaigns you’re managing
  • Competition or others in your industry


Step Two: Configure the tools

There are more tools out there than you can possibly make use of so I thought I’d make it easy and give you a jump start. These should be at the core of all your listening. You can always add more, but start here and learn to master them for your needs.

  1. Twitter search is your best friend for finding out what’s going on in the real time conversation world of microblogging

  2. Get the Social Media Fire Hose (using Yahoo Pipes). It’s a great catch all that monitors numerous social sites. Just enter your keyword and subscribe via RSS or email

  3. Get set up on Google Alerts to monitor the web at large. If it’s out there Google will probably find it

  4. Have a Google Blog Search and Technorati Blog Search running at all times to see what the Blogosphere has to say

  5. Monitor what’s being bubbled up about you on Digg. The internet’s popularity contest at your fingertips.

RSS Sample LinkEach of the above will let you search for a word or phrase and then get the RSS feed for that search. You’ll want to grab the RSS feed for each of the searches you performed before you move on to the next step in the process(setting up an iGoogle Listening Dashboard). To get the RSS feed URL you’ll want to look for something that looks like what you see to the left. It won’t look the same on every site, but you will see something very similar. The little orange image is a good indicator. Click on the image and/or link then grab the URL from your browser address bar.


A few extras to try out once you have been successfully using the above for some time:

  1. Google Reader will allow you to subscribe to blogs around the web via RSS.
  2. FriendFeed Search is probably one of the most powerful searches you’ll find out there.
  3. SocialMention is an all-in-one social search tool. Lot's of options here. 
  4. TweetBeep is a good backup to capture mentions of your brand on Twitter
  5. Backtype allows you to watch what’s being said in blog comments around the web
  6. BoardTracker searches forums and bulletin boards


Step Three: Bring it all together with an iGoogle all in one Dashboard

Having an easy to access web dashboard is a must. This way you can share it with others internally, access it on the go and get to it no matter what computer you’re using. Once you have RSS feeds for each of the above searches it’s simple to create a listening dashboard. For our purposes we’re going to setup an iGoogle Listening Dashboard. Why? It’s free, web-based and simple to use.

Step one: Go to and login or set up a new account. Once you have an account and are logged-in make sure you’re viewing the iGoogle version (not the classic version).

iGoogle Add This ButtonStep two: When you get to the iGoogle landing page for the first time it should be blank. Click on the “Add stuff button” found in the upper right of the iGoogle landing page (see image to left). This will take you to a new page.


Step three: On the next page look in the lower left. You should see a link for “Add feed or gadget” (look for little orange image). Click on that link. You will then get a little popup where you can enter each of your RSS URL’s. Take the RSS URL’s you got when configuring the various listening tools and add them one by one.

iGoogle Back ButtonStep four: Once you are done with step three click on the “Back to iGoogle Home” link found in the top left above the iGoogle logo (see image to left).



Finish: Now that you have added all your RSS feeds to the listening dashboard you are ready to play with your landing page. iGoogle lets you drag each box around on the page. Just hover over the title on any of the boxes, click (hold) and drag around. You can also click on the little down arrow in the title bar of any of the boxes to “edit settings”. This will let you display more items for easy viewing.

     [ See a sample Listening Dashboard here ]

That’s it. Pretty simple eh? You may have some questions. Please start asking in the comments below. I'll respond to everything as will some of the great readers here. We’ll talk about what to do once you have your social media listening dashboard set up in an upcoming post.


Listening 101 – A few more useful resources:

Photo Credit: Customers Rock


What questions do you have about effective online listening? What tips can you share with us about your listening techniques? Have I left anything out?




Sending an eCard in lieu of flowers or a Hallmark™ card made sense for a number of reasons:


  • we supported an organization we have come to know and love over the past year (read more about some of the great work of Doctors Without Borders)
  • we were able to share this organization and its work with my mom (she loved it, btw)
  • rather than sending a typical card, the eCard and donation were literally a "gift that will help save lives"
  • the entire process took about two minutes - giving us more time to enjoy spending with *our* own daughter this Mother's Day.


What I wanted to write about though, was not the action of sending an eCard, but the overall experience I had with the organization - both as part of sending an eCard, but also afterward. 


  • First off, I received an immediate and professional Acknowledgment Email - this is like apple pie and motherhood, but many organizations skip this important step
  • A few days later, I received a welcome packet in the mail - yes, the actual mail.  What impressed me here was both the speed at which the welcome packet followed the eCard (while I was still engaged from the online transaction), but  the actual package exceeded my expectations - including a fold out map of the areas where MSF works.  This was an unexpected "thank you" from the organization, and a nice reminder of how I had in a very small way helped them fufill their mission.   This is also a great example of how organizations can help convert online donors into offline constituents.
  • About a month later, I received an email announcing their Father's Day eCard offerings (view the web page version of the email).  The appeal is well-written, to the point, and speaks directly to the organization's mission.  While I did not follow up with another eCard at this point, I did feel an immediate, tangible, and memorable connection to the story of another father caring for his young son. 


Individually each of these touchpoints are well-done, but relatively unremarkable.  Together, however, these are a great example of the strategic fit between online marketing, donor stewardship, direct response, and full circle again back to online marketing.  Perhaps more importantly, this was an experience I won't soon forget.


Be sure to read more about Doctors Without Borders and check out their eCards!


Have you had a powerful online experience - one that went beyond a few clicks of the mouse?  Post your own experiences with eCards or other interactive campaigns below. 


Here are some suggestions:

  • Now is the perfect time to evaluate the internal workflow of the organization and see if it really makes sense. 
    • Questions to ask: Why are we doing it this way?  Will it make more sense to modify some steps to become more efficient? Should we automate our manual processes?  
  • Overhead, just like many corporations have scaled back, now might be the time to reach out to your staff and see how the organization can cut costs without reducing the work force.
    • Questions to ask: Can we have a potluck rather than having our office party catered? Can we celebrate birthdays once a month rather individually and ask staff to pitch in a few dollars?  
  • Seek out volunteers, when people can’t give financially, they will give their time to ensure your organizations success.  Place ads on Volunteer Match , Craigslist, and asking for volunteers.  Approximately 26% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for an organization between Sept 2007 and Sept 2008. (Source: Current Population Survey, September 2008)
    • Questions to ask: What aspects of our organization will volunteers have a drive to help? Have we considered seasonal interns with the local universities? How about work-study, offering this as an option will reduce the amount paid by your organization to the staff.  
  • Social media forums, this is not an area to cut corners.  Not just a presence in the social media forms, but a maintained presence.  Your audience is looking for updates to know you are active.  Give them topics for discussion. 
    • Questions to ask: What is the purpose of our social media presence?  Are there people in the organization that can contribute stories? How often are we refreshing the content and sharing stories? How does our audience receive our updates?  
  • Software, will an initial investment in software help reduce future costs in Q4, Q1?
    • Questions to ask: Is there software that we can invest in that will help reduce the amount of time spent and cost of outsourcing? Are we ready for an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Content Management System (CMS)?  
  • Evaluate your organization’s mission
    • Questions to ask: Are you reaching the maximum audience with the level of effort put forth by your staff?  How can you reach a larger audience without compromising quality?  Can you scale back programs that might not have the level of support you were expecting?   


Statistics & Resources to Help: 

Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Asset Size

Charitable Statistics

Volunteering Growth Rate


I welcome your comments and suggestions on what steps your organization is taking to survive during this difficult time. 


I’m sure you will find a few great nuggets of information to help you in your quest to make an impact using social media. Here we go …

ChildFund International

How to Get Started --

Why did you decide to start using social media?

Social media is a direct and easy way to connect and engage with supporters and potential supporters. This new media also allows us to reach an audience that may not be familiar with our work with deprived, excluded and vulnerable children.


What obstacles did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to stakeholders?

We’ve been lucky with the support and are hearing good things from stakeholders. Our leadership and Board of Directors have been very supportive of this effort. Overall they hey have embraced the effort. Our president and CEO even plans to tweet when she is in the field. As we continue to make progress we will be collaborating across divisions, looking at it from both a communications and fundraising approach.  


What role has social media played in your rebranding efforts?

Social media has played a role in our rebranding by providing a means for letting people know about the work we do for children while also increasing our global visibility. When we launched our new name, ChildFund International, we launched new Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a new blog. We’ve been more active in these places and focused on spreading the word about what we do and how ChildFund is helping kids around the world.

We’ve made sure to highlight our presence on these social media websites by linking out from our main web site to our Twitter page, Facebook page and blog frequently. We also built a central area called “Stay Connected” on our site. This allows our supports or new visitors to easily connect with us where ever we’re at.


Where would you suggest I start? What tools should I look at? Where should look for advice? 

We received valuable information in the months leading up to our rebranding through various webinars. We also watched what other people were doing in order to see who was being successful, what tools were being used most and how to properly engage with the community on these sites. That led us to picking one blogging service (WordPress), one micro-blogging service (Twitter) and one networking service (Facebook).

One bit of advice that proved to be helpful for us – Before you dive in at a professional level, be sure to test the waters within your personal social network. It’s a great way to see how things work and get feedback from friends.

What’s the most important thing to remember when using social media?

Information moves quickly and a level of control is ceded. However, if you are responding and posting, you can still share your organization’s messages effectively.


Measuring Success --

What are your social media goals/objectives? 

We want to use social media to engage with our current supporters and donors, as well as gain new supporters. Social media gives us an incredible ability to interact with people and share about the work we do through telling stories, posting photos, publishing video and sharing information.

We also want to empower our supporters to tell us what they want and share information with us. Social media gives them an avenue to communicate with us, ask questions and give feedback. They can share their stories, photos, information with us or point us to other things they think we should be aware of.

Lastly, we want to connect our supporters with each other. Our supporters are passionate about their involvement and how they’re changing kid’s lives. Many want to share their stories – social media allows that to happen immediately. 


How do you measure and demonstrate ROI?

Since this is a new strategy for ChildFund, our ROI is evolving. Our first step was to start the conversation; now we want to engage and provide calls to action. We recently hired a director of ePhilanthropy and Business Intelligence, who will lead our online marketing efforts, including online fundraising and e-mail marketing. We are also hiring a community manager who will keep the conversations going and will offer engagement tools.  


The Tools --

Facebook, Twitter and the ChildFund Blog seem to be your focus. Why did you pick these Three?

We decided early on to pick one blogging service, one networking service and one micro-blogging service. We went with these three in part because they are the most popular right now. However, we are open to expanding the sites we are using and experimenting with new sites that are developed.


We know a Facebook Fan page is the ticket, but what else should we be thinking about?

If a Facebook Fan page is the ticket, engagement is the movie. No matter what tool you choose, you have to engage with your audience. Ask questions; answer questions; respond to all feedback, positive or negative.  Facebook was also desirable because we want to provide causes and fundraising options.


How are you using Facebook Insight tools?

Since our measurements are only a few weeks old, we are looking at these to determine who our audience is and how we can reach the untapped audience. Once we have a few months worth of metrics we can then decide what the next step will be.


Twitter is all the rage, but is it worth the time? How have you used the tool? What makes it worth it?

Twitter is a great tool to spread your message quickly. In the first week of the new Twitter page we received inquiries from people wanting to know more about ChildFund, people wanting to know how they can help and some people just saying they like the work we do. Twitter is a quick and easy way to reach out to people to answer questions and to let them know about the work we’re doing.

Twitter is also a great way to engage with people in different ways. Currently we are using Twitter to help deliver gifts to children and families in countries in Africa. For every 200 followers we gain on Twitter a gift is sent to a country in Africa where the need is the greatest. This initiative helps us increase the number of people we can communicate with as well as change the lives of children in Africa!!

Full details about this initiative can be found on our blog – Follow ChildFund on Twitter and Help Children in Africa and Geoff Livingston’s blog – The ChildFund Twitter Effort.


Outreach --

I noticed you have been reaching out to the blogosphere community. Can you talk about your overall blogging strategy and why reaching this community is important?

The more people are talking about us, the more people know who ChildFund International is and the work we do to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children become leaders of enduring change. For us, our blog serves as a way to let people know about the work we are doing. Down the road you’ll see first hand blogs posts from staff members who visit program areas. Reaching out to others who are talking about us is very important. If they write something that is not true or unclear, we want to clear up that message; if they write something great about us, we want to let them know we’re reading and that we just want to say thanks. Again, it’s about a conversation and engaging in real time. 


David Hylton is currently the public relations specialist for ChildFund International
David Hylton is currently the public relations specialist for ChildFund International. He has nearly 10 years of communications experience, with much of that coming in newspapers. In his spare time, David enjoys spending time with his new son and running half marathons.



Check out our Social Media Strategy Series below.


We’ve been talking a lot about nonprofit social media strategy and use, but I know there is always more to learn. What have we missed? What can you share with us or ChildFund?



The challenge with the real estate based approach is that is difficult to get real estate in Facebook for your event participants! This requires building Facebook applications, which in turn requires technical expertise, application approval, and an ever changing Facebook API. Additionally, FreeCause, Blackbaud’s “go to” Facebook partner has a very feature rich Facebook application to build real estate for event participants. If you have significant Facebook ambitions I highly recommend checking them out.

The “ah-HA!” moment came to us when we realized that for peer to peer fundraising, Facebook isn’t a destination, it is simply a communication channel.   Facebook is the same as sending an email, making a phone call, sending a text, or sending snail mail. It is just another way for your event participants to connect with people they want to cultivate and solicit.

What is FeedRaiser?

Enter FeedRaiser, quite possibly the simplest Facebook application to ever exist. Functionally, FeedRaiser accomplishes a single goal:

  • FeedRaiser allows event participants to send messages to their friends and families in Facebook and it appends a URL back to the participant’s personal page.

Why is FeedRaiser Going to raise more money for your event?

Simplicity is the key:

1. FeedRaiser should take no more than 60 seconds to activate for your event. You need to click 1 checkbox within Participant HQ Settings then click “Update your Event.” That is correct! You can integrate your Thon event with Facebook in 2 clicks. What are you waiting for? Go do it!

2. Once activated, Facebook will appear in your participants Personal Fundraising HQ under the eMail tab. Participants can easily install FeedRaiser into their Facebook page, then send status updates that their friends in Facebook will receive. All the status updates they send will contain a link back to their personal page.



3. FeedRaiser changes the game from requiring you to obtain Facebook real estate to empowering communications between your participants and their friends in Facebook.


Things to keep in mind when activating FeedRaiser (or Twitter)

  1. “Knowing is half the battle…”- When you activate FeedRaiser (or Twitter) in your event make sure to send an email to all your event participants letting them know that Facebook and Twitter are now available as communication channels to support their online fundraising efforts. 
  2. Lead the way- Setup a Twitter account or a Facebook page for your event and try to get your event participants to follow you or fan you. Provide updates about the event, event logistics, and tips/reminders on fundraising best practices. You don’t need to spend hours here, but you should provide ways to facilitate ongoing conversation with event participants.
  3. Leverage team captains & Superstars- You know which teams and participants are really committed because they are the ones raising the most money consistently year after year If you don’t know, PLEASE go run People: All Participants and People: All Teams reports! If you can spare the time, reach out to each of these people individually and let them know about the Twitter and Facebook integration.

Your Turn…

Have any questions or difficulties getting up and running or other ideas that you have used to be successful in rolling out Facebook and Twitter to your participants? Leave a comment so Blackbaud can help or so you can help others…



eBay Giving Works is the program that facilitates nonprofit listings on eBay, and is administered by the licensed nonprofit organization, MissionFish. eBay Giving Works allows eBay sellers to donate a percentage of their sale to nonprofits, allows nonprofits to sell items that were donated to them, and  allows anyone with a PayPal account to make an immediate donation.


MissionFish was launched in 2000 and has been extremely successful. Check out some stats below:

  • 16,000+ registered nonprofits to date
  • $56 is raised for nonprofits every minute
  • Over $90 million raised to date


MissionFish is not only a means to donate your eBay proceeds, but can also raise funds through other creative fundraising techniques. A few ideas I gathered from MissionFish’s website are listed below:

  1. Implement an online auction
  2. Sell in-kind gifts
  3. Receive donations from PayPal users
  4. Hold a virtual yard sale
  5. Create an online thrift store

MissionFish also has a wonderful Resource Center. The resource center includes selling tips, planning spreadsheets, sample emails and email signatures, and many more tips on how to be successful with eBay.

So next time your organization receives an in-kind gift that you don’t know what to with, sell it on eBay and while you’re there, why not bid on some items that will help your favorite charity. Just look for the ribbon beside the posting!  


Is anyone out there using eBay Giving Works to make a little extra money for their favorite nonprofit? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know your feedback.


In doing further research, I started noticing a trend between summer music festivals and nonprofit organizations. For example:


A portion of the ACL ticket, plus the BeGreen Fan Tag money, goes to the Austin Park Foundation.
Lollapalooza, in Chicago Illinois, partners with the Parkways Foundation.

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, in San Francisco CA, partners with San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department.  


Are you noticing a trend?


As I closed out my research, I thought about how all types and sizes of organizations could capitalize on opportunities like the above mentioned environmental organizations. These festivals provide a captive audience, with similar interests, who inadvertently will learn more about the organization because of NPO branding and imagery on the festival websites, swag, venue, etc.


Now I know you may be thinking, “Great for those organizations, Morgan, but we don’t have anything like ACL or Lollapalooza in our town.”  That’s okay! Use what's already happening in your town. For example, every year in Charleston we have a Charleston Fashion Week where a portion of the proceeds benefit Dress for Success. A perfectly matched nonprofit organization with a local event! Don’t be scared to check out your local happenings and see if you can’t get affiliated with an event to raise awareness and money!  


Do you work with any local festivals in your city? Leave a comment and let us know how you started your partnership!


Social Media and SEOTry searching for your favorite nonprofit, business or product to see. Social sites like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and the like are showing up more and more due to the communities these sites empower and the viral nature of the content found in these places.

That that means your content has the ability to be spread further than ever before. If you publish something that the crowd enjoys or finds useful they’ll submit it to Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit or “Tweet” it on Twitter. They’ll comment on it in Facebook or email it to a friend.  This effect has a direct impact on increasing the all-mighty inbound links to your site - Which we all know have a huge impact on your search rankings.

Put simply “Buzz generates citations, citations generate links, links generate rankings, top rankings = good SEO.” (thx Digeratti)

In case you are not intimately aware of what inbound linking is all about. From Google:

“A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support. The PageRank of a page is defined recursively and depends on the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it ("incoming links"). A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself. If there are no links to a web page there is no support for that page.”

There are even new search engines emerging that target the social web. Obviously people like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are becoming aware of the need to search the social and real time web.


Let’s look at a few examples to demonstrate my point.


Life Rolls On (Google Search)

4 entries on 1st page of Google search results are social in nature


Life Rolls On Search Results



Athletes for a Cure (Google search)

3 entries on 1st page of Google search results are social in nature


Athletes for a Cure Search Results



One Campaign (Google search)

4 entries on 1st page of Google search results are social in nature


ONE Campaign Search Results



Will search engines begin to take “social” into account in their algorithms? Mike Grehan provides some excellent thought on this topic -New Signals to Search Engines: Future Proofing Your Search Marketing Strategy.

“Signals from end users who previously couldn’t vote for content via links from web pages are now able to vote for content with their clicks, bookmarks, tags and ratings. These are very strong signals to search engines, and best of all, they don’t rely on the elitism of one web site owner linking to another or the often mediocre crawl of a dumb bot”.


What this all means for you is … you should be paying attention, thinking about the social web with respect to your online strategy, discussing the possibilities with your web and marketing teams and planning for a future where “social” is a dominate force.


A few more things to digest:

Photo Credit: marciookabe


What am I missing in all this? Does my argument hold water? I know it’s an ongoing discussion that many have taken up. What can you add based on your experience?


5. The Purpose of the Website Should Be Obvious Through Intelligent Design

Website audiences make decisions in split seconds - For example, even on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), we click on multiple websites within a few seconds to find the information we are looking for. The website that eventually wins our attention is usually the one that communicates it’s purpose and it’s content in a logical way that is easy to understand and digest right away. Make sure that your mission and purpose is reflected in your branding, imagery, strategically positioned content and navigation.

6. Focus on Moving the Audience

Let’s face it - Your website does not exist as a boutique just to show off information about your organization. Instead, it’s actually a tool that you have employed to mobilize your audience... As such, ensure that your content on the homepage is focused on three key items:


What does your organization do and why it’s doing it


What are the results of your actions 


How can your audience help?

Your audience has to be "sold" on why they should do what you want them to do... so let them know who you are, what you have done and then create a path for them to perform an action!

7. Think Outside the Box while Keeping It Real when it comes to Design

Design is very subjective... It is the first thing that your audience experiences when they come to your website. As mentioned earlier, you only have a few microseconds to impress them. In addition to logically placed content, it is very important to approach design in a sophisticated manner that makes your audience feel comfortable and gain confidence in your organization. As with all things creative, it’s easy for a web designer to get carried away with completely conceptual, avant-garde and non-practical look... Ensure that you maintain the spice of the conceptual domain but balance it with usability for your masses. The key to success is make it easier for your audience to explore your website and understand your mission - This is how both you and your audience win!

8. Maximize your Content Management System's (CMS) Potential

If your website is running on a CMS, congratulations, you have already started to develop your web presence in a dynamic environment that can grow (assuming you made a good decision on the CMS, that is another topic of discussion altogether!). The next step is to ensure that you are putting it to good use by maximizing its potential... How do you do that? By choosing a partner that has a deep understanding of the system you are using. For example, the designers from the Internet Solutions Team at Blackbaud build websites within Sphere and NetCommunity day in and day out... period. That is all they use to develop websites for nonprofits. As such, they have extensive knowledge about how to maximize the tools at your disposal not only from a functional standpoint, but also from a visual user interface perspective as well.

Here are some more examples of websites that demonstrate some, if not all of the principles mentioned above... Do you have more advice to share with your peers? Get involved... leave a comment!


Free the Slaves

Free the Slaves

Fontbonne Academy

Fontbonne Academy

Greater Atlanta Christian

Greater Atlanta Christian

Housing Works

Housing Works

Leadership Florida

Leadership Florida

New York School of Interior Design

New York School of Interior Design

Filed under: design tips, Web Design, Creative Direction, Nonprofits, Client Feature, Inspiration



Internal SEO Efforts

Internal web page structure plays a vital role in positioning a page for search engine relevance. Regarding specialty SEO pages, it's important to remember that no single page can perform well for many keywords/key terms.

To that end, each page will be built around a single key word or term. Continuing with the example "online fundraising" key term from part one of our recipe, following are the structural page elements that need to be in place and revolving around your single keyword or term.

Keyword in the URL

  • Page name: Use the keyword or key term in the URL of the page.  For example "online-fundraising.aspx" or "online-fundraising-events.php".  In Blackbaud NetCommunity, use Friendly URLs, which in this example would look like "/online-fundraising/".  Note: For multiple words, separate with a hyphen (-) and not an underscore (_).

Keyword in the document head (page code)

  • Title tag: This title is displayed at the very top of a browser. It is also displayed as the first line of information in most search results- Keep its length between 60-90 characters (Google only reads 90 characters), include the keyword or term and put that term at or towards the front of your title.
  • Meta Description: This description is displayed in search results as the long description. Summarize the content of the page, keep it under 250 characters, and include the keyword or term.
  • Meta Keywords: The usefulness of the meta keywords is in hot debate among SEO professionals. My opinion is that while they may not have a much benefit, they surely do not have a negative impact, so go ahead and put them in.  Enter your keyword or term as well as synonyms, along with other relevant terms like organization name and geographic location. Keep it under 200 characters. Remember that both plural and singular forms aren't necessary.

Keyword in the page content

  • Headers: Think of your content flow in terms of an outline, using a main page header or title followed by subheaders or subtitles.  In html this is done with headers or Header 1, Header 2, Header 3, etc. (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

    A Header 1 (<H1>) should be at the very top of the content area, telling search engines---and humans alike---what the topic of the following page content is all about. Use your primary keyword or term in the H1 header. NOTE: Use one and only one H1 per page.

    Continue to build out the outline idea above by breaking the content of the page into subsections and giving them each a subheader that also contains the keyword or term, a synonym or related topic term. Just remember where you are in the outline format and be sure to keep the outline logic in place without skipping headers. For example a Header 2 is followed by H3 and not H4. This structure is also significant because it meets Section 508 accessibility guidelines and enables text readers to better deliver information.
  • Copy: Use your keyword or key term in the page copy (content). Consider using each the following formatting styles at least once on each page:
    • Bold (Online Fundraising)
    • Italic (Online Fundraising)
    • Hyperlink (Online Fundraising)
      • to an external, popular, relevant site - do not use "click here" use "keyword" as it appears in the natural flow of a sentence
      • link back to internal pages on your own site
    • Header - covered above
    • Image file name and image alternate text (alt text)


Site maps surface deep content pages

The significance of a site map is to make sure that pages don't get buried deep within the site where search engines assign a lesser value to the page. The idea here is that content that is three (3) or more levels deep from the home page of your site has tertiary or less value.  In search engine algorithm terms, pages one link from the home page lend more weight than one two clicks away. 

In addition to site maps, a common tactic to surface pages and sections of the site is to use footer links on the home page (and every page), making each link just one click or one level away from the root domain.


CAUTION: Write natural and completing content that your warm-blooded audience will want to read.  Work the above recommended SEO tactics into your well-written content so as not to miss out on some of the cold-blooded calculations used by search engines to decipher keyword relevance.

This lack of understanding creates confusion in the market about how to compare different payment processing solutions to choose a payment processor that is the cheapest, most efficient to manage, or ultimately creates the best value for your organization. People responsible for choosing a payment processor typically feel like they are comparing apples to oranges?! Why is this?





Buyer Beware: Credit Card Processing Fees

Let’s take a quick review of fees that are typically assessed by payment processing providers to get a broad understanding of where your cents may be going.


Fee Type

What does this mean?

Credit Card Interchange Fees

Interchange is a fee paid by the Visa or MasterCard member institution that processes the transaction on behalf of the merchant (you, the fee is also passed onto you) to the member institution that issued the card to the consumer (your donor). These rates vary widely based on transaction medium (card present or card not present) and transaction qualification (swiped or hand keyed, settlement timeframe, etc). Here is an example of interchange fees charged by Visa and MasterCard. Complicated, eh?

Assessment Fees

These are fees charged by Visa and MasterCard to you and issuers as part of membership. Currently this fee is fixed at .0925% for Visa and .095% for MasterCard. 

Authorization Fees

This is the amount charged to the merchant (you) every time your software contacts the authorizing network. These fees are for successful donations, refunds, and even for failed transactions.

Settlement Fees or Statement

This is a fee that is charged when your merchant provider deposits settled transactions into your account.

Gateway Fees

This is a fee that is charged in order to access the payment gateway for the merchant provider. Typically there is a "per transaction" fee and a monthly charge.


It is also worth understanding that Payment Processing Providers charge these fees in different methods:


“One Time” or “Setup Fees”

These fees are charged in order to setup or initiate a relationship with a payment processing provider. It is common for payment providers to advertise $0.00 in setup fees. Be aware, sometimes payment processors offer free setup but charge application fees.

Recurring Fixed Fees

These are ongoing fees that are typically charged on a monthly basis. It is common for payment processors to charge a fixed Settlement or Statement fee and Gateway that must be paid every month. 

Recurring Variable Fees

These fees vary based on the amount of volume that you are processing and the types of cards being used. Interchange, Assessment, and Authorization fees fall into this category.



Calculating Your Effective Transaction Rate

With all these fees it is very difficult for purchasers to effectively evaluate which payment processing vendors are the best fit for their organization. Due to the convoluted nature of how the payment processors assess fees, I recommend that you do not rely on what the payment processor tells you they are going to charge you. Instead, calculate your own effective transaction rate. This can be done very easily by taking a monthly statement from your payment providers and doing the following calculation:


Effective transaction rate = Total $ in fees charged by payment processor ÷ Total $ Processed

* Merchants need to include ALL payment processing related fees to see their “effective rate” in doing a “true” apples to apples comparison.


Many people are very surprised to see that their effective transaction rate is between 3.1% - 3.5%, when they were promised a much lower rate. If you are evaluating a new payment processor ask them for the expense statement from a customer with similar volume so you can see the true expenses then calculate your own effective transaction rate.


Additional Expenses: Staff Time

Aside from payment processing fees, you should also be cognizant of the business process and staff time that it takes to maintain the ongoing reconciliation between transactions your online fundraising solution accepts and the money that shows up in your merchant account. For organizations that receive significant volume of online contributions staff can spend hours to days each week reconciling the money received via their merchant accounts.


I recommend that you plan what your business process will be for refunds, chargebacks, and reconciliation and make sure that you have a good handle on who will be responsible for these activities and the time commitment that it will take to manage these processes.


Shameless Blackbaud Plug

Over at Blackbaud, we are committed to making your life simpler and cheaper with regards to payment processing. We have developed a blended rate for payment processing that takes into account ALL the fees listed above. For Sphere we offer 2.59% + .26 cents per transaction. 


Also we have developed a simple process for customers to reconcile the cash they receive once every two weeks, which is currently utilized by over 2,000 nonprofits. We automatically deposit your money in your account and send you a statement that lists all of your transactions and your total expenses. You can export all of your online donors and their gifts directly from Sphere if needed.


Do you have payment processing question that you would like answered by a Blackbaud payment processing expert? Post a comment below…



What are your goals?

[What do you want to achieve]

We all know that having goals are key to success. Without goals you have no idea if your efforts are producing the desired result, no way to know if changes are needed, no way to make the right adjustments and no way to know when to throw a party!  

Here are a few to get you started: 

  • Build awareness
  • Generate buzz
  • Keep people informed
  • Educate general public, local leaders, supporters, donors and volunteers
  • Reach new supporters, donors and volunteers
  • Build loyalty
  • Provide more ways to engage or support
  • Raise more money
  • Tell and show donors how funds are used
  • Demonstrate progress and success of active projects
  • Organic Keyword Marketing (SEO/SEM)

Resources to keep you thinking:


Starter Questions

Before you get going you should think about a few things. You might even consider creating an internal team (small one) that can think through as much as possible up front. Answers to the below questions (and others) will help you solidify your goals overall strategy and the tactics you will use along the way.

  • What do you really want to accomplish?
  • Are your supporters, donors, volunteers online?
  • Are you ready to handle negativity?
  • Who will own the work internally?
  • How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs?
  • Can you hire or make it one person’s sole responsibility?
  • Do you have funds and time to invest in figuring it out?
  • How long are you willing to wait until you see results?
  • What’s your willingness to experiment, take risks, and adjust your plans?
  • How will you measure results?

Resources to keep you thinking:



[How you will go about achieving your goals]

What’s strategy you ask? A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. For each of the goals above there can be many strategies that will help you achieve them. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

  • Build awareness and generate buzz – Write posts that let people into the process you go through to get everything ready for the new event or initiative gives benefits to the early birds. Make it easy for people to share.
  • Educate general public, local leaders, supporters, donors and volunteers – Continuously write about what your nonprofit is doing, how it’s making an impact and how people can help.
  • Reach new supporters, donors and volunteers – Push out quality content without fail and participate in social channels. Use social tools to make it easy to find and learn about you.
  • Build loyalty – Spend time every month writing about and highlighting your donors.
  • Provide ways for people to engage and/or support – Write content that guides people to your other web properties such as a volunteer position sign up form, an even registration page, a forum or your online giving form.
  • Raise more money – Write posts that will guide and encourage people to give. Make it easy for people to give online and offline while also showing people how you are using their money.
  • Tell and show donors how funds are used – Post a monthly digest about current projects, successes, progress and new initiatives.
  • Demonstrate progress and success of projects – Publish posts that are specifically about the projects you have going on.
  • Organic Keyword Marketing (SEO/SEM) – Ensure you are writing content weekly that will help you rank high for keywords/phrases that mean something to you and to people interested in what you do.

Resources to keep you thinking:



[Specific actions you will take]

Here are some specific actions you can take that fit nicely into the strategy outlined above.

  • Build awareness and generate buzz – Write weekly for your blog. Add a or as well as Incorporate these widgets into your blog. Make them easy to spot.
  • Educate general public, local leaders, supporters, donors and volunteers – Create a weekly “spotlight” series that is written in such a way that people leave understanding more about the work you do. Make sure to categorize them together.
  • Reach new supporters, donors and volunteers – Respond to EVERY comment you get on your blog without fail. Set up “outposts” (hat tip Louis Gray) on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Spend an hour a day participating, talking, sharing, linking and engaging with others. Check out Outposts by Chris Brogan as well.
  • Build loyalty –Write a monthly “highlight” piece on volunteer work being done. Make sure to identify specific people and show your appreciation continually. The posts need to be about the work they are doing. Use images of the people and if those you are spotlighting have a web presence make sure to link generously.
  • Provide ways for people to engage and/or support – As often as you have new projects, initiatives, activities or events post about them. Make sure you tell people what you need and how they can help in ever post.
  • Raise more money – Use a tool that makes it simple for people to give online. Make sure it’s in a place that everyone can see no matter where they are on your site. It’s back to call to action 101.
  • Tell and show donors how funds are used – Categorize and tag your posts by project name and type of work. Incorporate these updates into a monthly newsletter that you send to opt-in subscribers (Yes, your blog should also have an eNewsletter).
  • Demonstrate progress and success of projects – Use video. Post it on YouTube and use their nonprofit call to action. Then embed the YouTube video on your blog. Do this as often as possible. Video is a great way to show people what’s happening.
  • Organic Keyword Marketing (SEO/SEM) – Determine what key words are important to you and spend time looking at what other nonprofits in your niche are optimizing for.


If you are still thinking about doing a Blog here is a good starter resource: "NTEN Webinar A Beginner's Guide How to Blog For Your Organization" (Thanks NTEN)


Have you tried any of the above? What’s worked and what has not? I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be added so please keep it going in the comments.



 So, why should you implement a recurring giving program? According to Harvey McKinnon, author of Hidden Gold, there are many benefits to developing a monthly giving program:

  1. Dramatically increase your annual income
  2. Build a better relationship with your donors
  3. Donors will keep giving longer  
  4. Monthly giving revenue is predictable
  5. Lower your fundraising costs
  6. Income will grow over time
  7. Monthly giving is convenient

According to research sponsored by MasterCard International, only 3% of donors report using credit cards to make automatic donations, but 28% say they would probably or definitely consider making recurring donations if it were offered to them by their selected charitable organization.


So, how do you go about putting together a monthly giving program? Hopefully, you already have online donations forms on your website and you can enable the recurring giving option on those forms. 





You also want to ensure that your backend database is equipped to handle these transactions – also known as Electronic Funds Transfer or EFT, which will create a batch for you to process these transactions each week/month/year/etc…


You can spread the word about the program by accentuating it on your website and ensure it’s easy for people to click to, put the URL on all direct mail, educate people at your events, etc…


The bottom line is that this is one of the best low cost/high impact actions an organization can take in this day and age to reach their fundraising goals. Why aren’t you doing it?


Related information on NetWits Think Tank: 

Do you have any stories you’d like to share about starting a recurring gifts program? Do you have any insight for those who’d like to start their own program? Leave a comment below!


Offline - Members Entrance

Online – Member’s Entrance




Members want to feel a sense of community, whether it is entering the museum through a separate line or being able to enter the museum’s website through a member’s login. A “Members Only” area of your website is a great way to build an online sense of community and to provide additional benefits to your members. If you do have the technology in place to create an online community, make sure you are calling out those features and benefits of registering for the community.


 Vancouver Art Gallery does a wonderful job of encouraging their members to signup:



A few other ways to bring offline activities online are to:

  1. Allow members to check their membership status online.
  2. Create online discussions to allow members to communicate with other like-minded members.
  3. Welcome your members by name.
  4. Offer online discounts or coupons to members.
  5. Provide sneak previews of upcoming exhibits for members through Podcasts or videos.


Once your website has the proper tools to provide membership interaction, it can become a thriving member’s community that will establish your organization as an important resource for information and collaboration, drawing new members and growing membership renewals.  


What other ways are you seeing arts and cultural organizations using their websites to grow their memberships? Join the discussion by leaving a comment.

At the same time, there are a lot of assumptions in that statement “We Need Facebook” that I would like to challenge.  Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is the most popular social networking site worldwide, and we can't imagine living without it, but Facebook isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Here’s a short list of alternative social media sites that nonprofits might want to consider:

  1. Building awareness and promoting compelling content might be supplemented by social bookmarking sites like Digg, newsvine, or  
  2. Twitter is going to be a medium of choice for a segment of your constituents (the Nielsen study mentioned above makes note of a 3,700% increase in Twitter usage).  
  3. Organizations uncomfortable with the open nature of Facebook may wish to use Ning, which allows you to create private social networks, or you may wish to have an internal community on your own site, similar to what Blackbaud NetCommunity Wave does right out of the box or the communities our partner ThePort Network creates for Blackbaud Sphere clients. 
  4. Looking for skilled volunteers - try LinkedIn.  Starting up a “Friends of the Library” at your local public branch?  Try drumming up a group on GoodReads…you get the point.

Other factors to consider would be the geography of your audience - the adoption rate of Facebook varies significantly outside of the States.  Orkut is #1 in Brazil and India – both significant emerging markets for nonprofits.  Friendster - yes, for those of you who remember Friendster, it is still alive and kicking - with the vast majority of its users are in the Asia / Pacific region.


And, there are those that believe Facebook has reached its high-water mark or at least has yet to prove itself a viable fundraising channel for nonprofits.


So, will Facebook go the way of Flooz any time soon?   No.  But that doesn't mean there's only one player in this game.


If you're looking for ideas, check out the latest Baudcast on Facebook, or Mashable’s impressive but not-quite-exhaustive list of 350 social sites and services you can use to promote your organization.   Or, better yet, trying looking up your top five or ten major donors, advocates, or volunteers on Facebook, LinkedIn, or your favorite networking site – you may be surprised by what you find.


Related info:


I’d love to hear comments (and even better) examples of your "out of the box" approaches to marketing through social networks.   Leave a comment and join the discussion!

Are you stuck?Let’s get started …

It’s hard to get approval or buy-in from executive staff

This was a common topic of discussion. Leadership thinks that social media/networking sites are useless, that they provide their hospital with no real value and that people will spend all their time “playing around”. Are these real concerns? Sure. What does it take to overcome these? Show them the value, impact and potential through what others are doing. Look at Hospitals, Foundations, nonprofits, for-profits, small organizations and large organizations. Show the success of others and come to them with ideas and plans on how you can be successful as well. 

Is it that simple?

It’s hard to get access due to IT restrictions

I heard this from pretty much everyone that spoke up. IT limits access because they want to keep a tight rein on things and make sure the hospitals network is safe. One suggestion I heard that made a lot of sense was “If people abuse their access fire them”. That may sound extreme, but when you think about it for a while it makes perfect sense. Isn’t it similar to people not doing their job or performing at a less than satisfactory level? Put a policy in place that makes this clear so everyone understands and move on. If accessing these sites is not part of a persons job responsibilities limit their access. Fair?

What am I missing?

There’s a disconnect between hospitals and foundations

This one is tough. No doubt. It seemed that it was a normal occurrence for Hospitals and Foundations to have conflicting priorities and no clear way to unite around online strategies. If you’re a hospital or foundation that has worked through the first two items on this list and your counterpart has not my suggestion is to lead the way. Start deploying your social networking/media and/or online event strategy. If you do it right, demonstrate success and educate your counterpart along the way. My guess is they will soon follow.

What advice do you have to help bridge the gap?

People are not knowledgeable of new/emerging online tools so they are unsure of how to use them to support their current mission, vision and values

A new skill set is emerging with the rise of social media/networking. Look to hire someone or develop someone on staff. There are a lot or resources out there to help you get started. I’d also suggest you go outside of your domain. Watch how nonprofits and for-profits are achieving success. Here are a few examples of organizations blazing the social media trail to get you started: Dell, Comcast, The American Red Cross, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Athletes for a Cure, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, The National Wildlife FoundationThe Humane Society and The United Methodist Church.

How have you developed your staff?

Where to go from here?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. As a matter of fact, many hospitals are already successfully using social media. I’m sure if you asked them they would tell you it took a lot to get where they are, but I’m also sure they’d tell you it was worth all the effort.


A few examples to get you started:

Children’s Hospital of LA
 Web siteYouTubeFacebook | Twitter

Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock, AK
 Web siteYouTubeFacebookTwitter

Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis, MO
 Web siteYouTubeFacebook | Twitter

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitter | Blog

Carilion Clinic, Roanoke, VA
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitter | Blog

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitterBlog


* For further research here is a comprehensive US list of Hospitals using social media by Ed Bennett


People that can help you:

Resources that will keep you going:

Photo Credit: gonzalo_ar


I posed a few questions along the way in this post. Am I crazy? Can this be done?

  1. Credit Card Expiration Dates- Every credit card naturally expires on some date in the not so distant future. When credit cards expire recurring gift payments fail.
  2. Lost or Stolen Credit Cards- When credit cards are lost or stolen, your donors will cancel their existing cards and be re-issued new cards by their credit card company. When cards are canceled recurring gift payments will fail.
  3. Over Credit Card Authorization Limit- Credit cards are meant to be used, but if your donor is over their credit limit when their recurring gift is processed the transaction will fail. In this case future payments will still succeed as long as the donor reduces their credit balance by the next scheduled payment.


Recurring Gifts Facts

There are about 900 Sphere customers currently using recurring gifts.

There are over 40,000 recurring gifts processed by Sphere annually.

There are over 120,000 recurring payments processed by Sphere annually.

Approximately 13.69% of these gifts will fail based on historical data.



Fear not, there are a few easy things that you can consider to more effectively recapture recurring gifts that are failed.

  1. Measure the problem- Before hysteria sets in take a few minutes and understand the scope of the problem for your organization. Run a couple reports to see how many failures you are currently receiving.
  2. Set a game plan- What is the operational process that your organization currently has for expiring recurring gifts? Are you going to proactively contact donors? If donors want to contact you, who should they reach out to?
  3. Implement the plan- Recurring gifts processed should automatically send confirmations for successful payments and notifications for failed payments. Below are a couple things to keep in mind when customizing your communication.
    • Branding- I recommend that you update your failed notification email to match your organization’s branding.  This will make your notification appear more formal and less like a phishing scam, which will increase the likelihood that a donor takes action when they receive the email
    • Workflow- Make sure you are extremely clear about the process you or your donor should engage in to get the gift up and running again. Do you want them to call you? What phone number should they call? Do you want them to go online and donate again? Shouldn’t you include a link directly to the form that you want the donor to use to maximize their convenience? If you want to proactively contact the donor, you can bcc yourself on notifications.  This will allow you to easily reply and start a personal conversation with your donor.
  4. Be more proactive- It is possible that your donor’s email address has changed as well as their credit card. You might want to consider requiring your donor’s phone number on recurring gift donation forms so that you have other methods to contact your donor if Murphy’s Law strikes. If you are concerned with having too many required fields on your donation form, it may be worthwhile to separate single donations and recurring gifts into separate forms. 


Execution Tips for Blackbaud Sphere Customers

Measure the Problem

Use the Activity Summary Report (Control > Reports > People > Activity Summary report) and drill into the “Failed Transaction” category. Here you can quickly see a list of donors that have failed transactions across your entire Sphere Account. 

Measure the Problem

You can use the Pending Scheduled payments area of Bookkeeping, the filter on “All Failed” to see a list of failed payments for a single form.

Implement the Plan

Out of the box Sphere sends a plain, but very informative email to donors whose transactions have failed.

Implement the plan

You can create a custom notifications (Control > Administration > Tools > Confirmation Library) for failed transactions.


With a couple small tweaks you will be well on your way to making sure your recurring gifts keep recurring. What is your plan for when recurring gifts fail? Take a second and share your practice with others by leaving a comment below.






Tell us about the social media campaign you’re doing with Mashable.

The “Summer of Social Good” (SOSG) campaign hosted by our friends at runs from June 1st till August 28th 2009. It’s the first large scale charitable campaign to run for an extended period of time with social media being the driving force. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs and other online media will be used to solicit donations. The campaign benefits LIVESTRONG, The Humane Society, Oxfam America and WWF. 100% of funds raised from the SOSG will be split equally between the organizations. Read more here or get Mashables take here.


You have over 1 Million Twitter followers and over 280 Thousand Facebook fans. What’s the key to success?

Well, Lance (@lancearmstrong) has over a million, but we (@livestrong) have 23k and our CEO Doug Ulman (@livestrongceo) has 135k. We don’t have control over what Lance tweets, but he tweets about the LAF a lot ... which is really cool.

Key to success on Twitter? I have no idea! All I know is that I started in December with 1,500 followers and now have 20 times that ... which I’m really psyched about. We share our twitter account on our blog, Facebook and our main website. I tweet roughly 8 times a day publically, but direct message (DM) much more than that. It’s a fulltime job for me. Attention to people’s needs, help when they need it, asking questions and engaging in conversations – these are at the core of Twitter success in my book.

Facebook has been truly amazing. It’s totally a supportive environment. That’s the part of my job that I’m most proud of. We started out with around 130k fans in December and have 285k now. I hope to “ooch” that up to 500k soon. (Insert insanely short timeline here).


As you can tell LAF is doing some great work in the social media space. Here are some “starter move” thoughts from Brooke McMillan.


How to Get Started


Why did you decide to jump into using social media?

We started full throttle in January 2008 because the trends made it clear that we would be silly not to engage with our supporters in these places. If we have millions of fans participating on the web, why would we not be there? It’s also a very affordable way to spread our message.

Before we went in full throttle we did some planning. Around December 20008 we formulated a real plan that was inline with our overarching objectives to build community by bringing people together. Offline we have the LIVESTRONG Challenge and our peer networks like LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance, Survivorship Centers off Excellence and various grassroots advocacy networks. Social media became another place for us to build community and bring people together to connect.


What obstacles/challenges did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to stakeholders?

We had to sell social media a little because it involved creating a new position at the foundation, but for the most part we had/have an executive level staff that understood the need. They are innovative people.


What’s the most important thing to remember when using social media?

Be true to the foundation’s goals and mission while having fun. People will see that type of authenticity. As the leader of our social media efforts I need to remember that I’m an extension of the foundation and a person – just like the president, just like the person that answers the phone, just like anyone. We’re all here to make a difference together. 


Measuring Success


What are your social media goals/objectives?

Relationship building is the key for us. A relationship with a donor, participant or survivor could take years to cultivate face-to-face since we don’t have branches or satellite offices. Social media and engaging with our supporters online has helped us really break through that barrier and speed up that relationship building.


How do you measure and demonstrate the infamous ROI?

Next question... ugh. We’re still in the process of figuring this out. It’s difficult to quantify social capital and engagement. We’re going to dig deep and do in-depth analysis (evaluate/quantify) after our 2009 events season.


The Tools


Facebook, Twitter and the LAF Blog seem to be your focus. Why did you pick these Three?

Social Media Logos



We have the following accounts: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Blog, Delicious and Twitter. Our focus is on the three you mention, but we active in other places as well. Each of our social media outposts (learn more about outposts here or here) is an extension of the other.


Our blog is out home base, but we pull in our Flickr photo stream, Twitter accounts of those Tweeting for LAF, a twitter hashtag (#livestrong) and our YouTube video channel. We update our blog an average of four times a week, so the content is always new and fresh.


I cross post info to our Facebook page from our blog because Facebook allows people to read and encourages them to discuss, share, participate and connect. That’s where the real power lies.


We use a similar technique on Twitter. Tweeting about blog posts and asking for feedback. Twitter is a great place to connect with highly engaged online users.


I should also point out our use of Delicious. We use it extensively to bookmark information from around the web that we feel our readers will benefit from or find interesting. Our bookmarks are shown on the homepage and we update it 2-3 times a day.


Lastly, I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention how we’re using Flickr. We ran a photo contest a few months ago called “Where has your wristband been?” The goal was to find the coolest place a wristband has traveled to. Check out the winner, Macchu Piccu.


We know a Facebook Fan page is the ticket, but what else should we be thinking about?

USER GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)! I think I need that tattooed someplace. I love it when people upload their photos and video to the wall of Facebook or tag in YouTube or Flickr. We encourage this actively on Facebook by regularly engaging with people, commenting on their posts, liking things and sharing freely with our fans.


How are you using Facebook Insight tools?

How cool are the new insights, huh?! The day the new insights came out I was talking to our programs project manager about how we could use social media to promote our new website - LIVESTRONG en Espanol. Come to find out that of the 250k fans we had at the time, 55k self selected as Spanish speakers. WHOA! It was at that point that I determined we didn’t want another place for these folks. We had to leverage our existing Facebook page and make it more Spanish friendly (still in progress). I also use the Facebook Insight stats as a barometer to make sure our weekly engagement numbers remain steady or go up. If they aren’t then I know its time to shake it up a bit.


Twitter is all the rave, but is it worth the time? How have you used the tool? What makes it worth it?

WAY worth the time. We have over 800 LIVESTRONG Leaders all over the world. Many are very active in social media. I’ve even created a special closed group where they can post info and offer suggestions on how to engage their communities.

We use Twitter to:

  1. Recruit international LIVESTRONG Leaders and advocates that help promote cancer policies in their home countries.

  2. Scan for people facing cancer and then (without being a troll myself) try to offer our support and encouragement.

  3. Give other groups pats on the back and elevate their good info and ideas.

  4. Connect our supporters with each other - if someone wants to get involved in Chicago and we know we have a LIVESTRONG Leader up there then we’ll connect them.

I must mention one quick story. Doug, Twitter and the $25,000 Challenge . Doug Ulman (LAF CEO) was contacted by a donor that made him a lofty bet. If Doug added enough followers on his Twitter account by the end of the week to reach a total of 25,000, then the LAF would receive a donation of $25,000. Check out what happened here.


Advice from a Pro


What advice can you share with us related to using new media for increasing engagement?  

  1. Social media is both Pro and Reactive. Don’t just throw up press releases. Take the info and flip it into a conversation topic. Converse. Pretend you are at a cocktail party. Do you want to hang out with the people that constantly talk about themselves? Probably not.

  2. Let go of some of your control. Social media is not a terribly controlled environment like a press release. You have to be able to take some criticism, ebbs and flows in conversation, deal with trolls and be flexible.


Where would you suggest I start? What tools should I look at? Where should look for advice?

Spend time learning from others. Go to other sites that do it well, befriend them and talk with them. Sit in on some conversations and observe traffic. Go to and read the daily tips and (and NetWits of course) to view how non-profits make it work.


Read more about LAF here or learn how social media can be used effectively in the nonprofit space and how social media tools can be leveraged to improve your web site


How are you using social media as a nonprofit organization? What’s your success story? 


More on Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits:


Posted in: nonprofit, fundraising, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking

  • They want to reach the digital generation of 18 - 34 year old individiuals
  • They want to spread their message and build community online
  • They want a “home base” for it all

ReadWriteWeb has more to say, but we went to the source and asked the communication arm of the Methodist organization to share some things with you all. The goal is to help guide your thoughts as you navigate the world of social media.


Let the interview begin …


10ThousandDoors Home is an integral part of our current Rethink Church (see video here or learn 101) advertising strategy throughout multiple mediums. It is promoted through a national advertising campaign to raise awareness about The United Methodist Church. We are seeking to reach a digital generation, so we have to communicate in a media environment where our audience is comfortable with content that is relevant to their day-to-day experiences and concerns. 

Explain the concept or idea behind the new site?

Our new advertising campaign seeks to redefine the church experience as more of an out-of-church 365-days-a-year experience where people are actively engaged in the world beyond. Key to the concept is that there are thousands of doorways through which to engage with the church and through which the church engages the world —many of them non-traditional.

What are your goals? encourages exploration of the diverse ways United Methodists are making a difference in the world, and invites participation, discussion, and action. The messaging, targeting 18- to 34-year-olds, highlights the many opportunities available through The United Methodist Church to get involved and connect with others.  

How did you communicate to the masses?

As a part of the national advertising campaign strategy, the Web site is promoted in all materials and mediums. We also developed an internal messaging strategy to inform member churches and organizations of the new campaign.

What social media tools/technologies are you using?

We are currently using Blackbaud Sphere, RSS feeds, Podcasts, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, iLike, Google Friend Connect, Google Earth and Yahoo Pipes. We are looking to add social bookmarking and possibly Facebook Connect applications in the future.

We chose several of the technologies because of their current user adoption (Twitter, YouTube). Some of the other technologies were chosen because of ease of implementation or because of feature sets that allowed us to do things (Google Friend Connect, Yahoo Pipes, Google Earth).


Editor’s note: This site is pretty sweet! The entire site is a “Mashup” of social media tools and user generated content from around the web. Remember the site launch. This is done in the same vein. They are pulling together various "outposts" into a central "home base" that acts like a “tag cloud” … it changes based on feeds from various news sources, blogs, Twitter, keyword searches, YouTube videos and more. I think this is pushing the "home base" consept that Chris Brogan talks about to it's limits! So by design, the site is constantly refreshed and always highlighting the most relevant content based current topics relevant to seekers. Don’t believe me? Try going to the site and refreshing the home page every so often – you’ll see what I mean. Here’s some info on the various sections.

10ThousandDoors Home page 2Watch: YouTube Channel for the United Methodist Church

Talk: Google Friend Connect for bringing a community and encouraging dialog, sharing and participation.

Now: Twitter and various content aggregation pulling together a wide range of content and discussion.

Listen: iLike tunes pulled in and integrated with Google Friend Connect to build community around listening and sharing music.

Go/Do: Google Earth Mashup used help people find needs, unite and take action around the world.

What challenges did you overcome to launch a site that aggregates user generated content from around the web?

The most difficult was determining how we would moderate content and finding or developing tools that would allow us to do this easily. Though we have developed a good process for aggregating and moderating both user and news-source content, we still have much to do.

What is your stance on moderating the content and how are you doing it?

We are attacking moderation in many ways. Both feed aggregations and user generated content (UGC) are being shown on the sight. Moderating feed aggregations allows us to select news and current event content that may be more pertinent to our audience as relating to church ministry or to particular themes running throughout our ad campaign. Moderating UGC is a little tougher, but our primary goal is to welcome all thoughts, and just make sure users do not cross the line of harassment and injury to others.

How will you measure impact?

We’ll measure Web analytics as well as other metrics. We are still developing some of the metrics, but will use both online and offline metrics to help us determine if the entire campaign is making an impact. Participation both online and offline through various avenues will be some of our key indicators. This process will take some time so that we can see what the trends are.

What advice can you share related to using social media?

Make sure when using social media, you have a focus and reason to use them. Don’t go out and create a social media site because everyone else has. Select particular social media tools to reach particular audiences and needs. Also, make sure that your organization has a high-level social media strategy, so that your efforts aren’t fragmented.


We love talking about how social media can be used effectively in the nonprofit space and how social media tools can be leveraged to improve your web site.


How are you using social media as a nonprofit organization? What’s your success story?


More on Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits:


Posted in: nonprofit, fundraising, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking

I'd like to share my simplistic approach to effective design with you.

1. Every Pixel has a Purpose

This was a lesson I learned during my gig  before Blackbaud while working with Roald Marth, the CEO of The idea here is to ensure that as a designer, every single pixel on the screen must be accounted for within the design. This does not mean that every single pixel must be colored or manipulated, but rather - think about the positive and the negative space, balance and consistency - the pixels you don't touch are as important as the ones that you do.

2. Design Must be Audience Centric

Your audience is at the center of everything you do online - The design and content flow must cater to THEIR needs while being closely tied with YOUR organizational goals. It's a delicate balance, and not easy to achieve - but this is the difference between websites that do a great job at retaining their audience and ones that don't.

3. Less is Always More - Use Only What’s Necessary - Discard the Rest

Design is subjective. Some like clean and modern, while others prefer traditional and more elaborate approaches to design. Either way, there is always an elegant solution to the design challenge at hand. The way to arrive at this solution is to exercise the principle of 'less is more'. An over-designed, over-effected website turns your users away - Instead, keeping it simple and incorporating only the necessary elements to communicate your goals in a tasteful manner, is a gesture that your audience will truly appreciate!

4. Maintain and Improve Upon your Online Brand Integrity

Every time an organization goes through a redesign effort, careful attention must be paid to how your brand will be perceived with your new design. Is the design evolutionary or revolutionary for your brand? Careful attention must be paid towards elements that defined your brand in the first place and ensure they are being refined rather than redone. Make sure that the new brand and design still conveys the history and the essence of your organization while communicating your mission clearly and effectively.

There you have it - Four principles that you can easily follow (or at least be aware of) while going through your redesign (or rebrand) effort.


Here are some examples of websites that demonstrate some, if not all of the principles mentioned above. Do you have more that you would like to share?  Leave a comment and join the discussion!


Zoo New England

Zoo New England

Austin Film Society

Austin Film Society

Make a Wish Michigan

Make a Wish, Michigan

Meals on Wheels Association of America

Meals on Wheels Association of America

St. Pius X

St. Pius X High School

United Nations Association of the USA

United Nations Association of the USA

Filed under: design tips, Web Design, Creative Direction, Nonprofits, Client Feature, Inspiration

Before we get into the interview I’d like to point out the work that 12for12k is doing this month...

UNICEF Believe In Zeron CampaignThey are supporting the U.S. Fund for UNICEF through the Believe in Zero Campaign in the month of June. The reason for this partnership is simple – No child should ever die from a preventable cause, but 25,000 do every day. 12for12k is partnering with UNICEF to change this.

We love talking about how social media can be used effectively in the nonprofit space and how social media tools can be leveraged to improve your web site.

Special thanks to Danny Brown for taking the time to share with us. He’s a class act. The info he has to share is sure to help nonprofits – from beginners to experts, there’s something to learn. 

Tell us a little bit about the 12for12k project?

12for12k Challenge LogoAt its simplest, the 12for12k project is a social media-led initiative to raise both funds and awareness for 12 different charities throughout 2009. The economy is biting everyone, and charity organizations are among the heaviest sufferers with over 60,000 predicted to fold this year (and that's just in Canada). So I wanted to leverage the power and reach of social media to try and build a community that could offer help in whatever way we could.

What role has social media played in the campaign?

(Twitter, Flickr / photos, YouTube / video, Facebook, Blogging, etc…)

Since 12for12k is purely a social media-led call-to-action, it's played a huge role. We utilize the key social media channels and networks - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging, podcasts, etc. We have a dedicated 12for12k Twitter account (@12for12k), a Facebook group, a YouTube channel, a Twibes community, a community, and a host of official 12for12k blog partners. Then there's also the 12for12k blog itself, as well as the social media channels of our charity partners.

What role has traditional media and communication channels played in the campaign?

(Direct mail, email, Static web site, TV ads, Radio, etc…)

To be honest, traditional media plays very little role in our campaign. When I was speaking with charity partners prior to launching 12for12k this year, the biggest stumbling block seemed to be the traditional channels not getting the message out far enough. Also, the cost involved was often prohibitive, for what could be very little return. We send an email newsletter through AWeber, and we've had features in traditional media such as TV and newspapers, but apart from that, we've been more active in the social media field.

Are you building a ‘house file’ or donor database to further cultivate those people who are supporting the campaign? If so what are your cultivation plans?

We are. One of my personal mantras (and one that I hold high on my personal blog) is that community is everything. Every donation gives us the email address of the donor. We use this for 12for12k information and events, no third-party marketing here! This allows us to gauge how successful we are at 12for12k "brand loyalty" - who's consistently supporting us each month, their level of donations, etc... It also allows us to have thank you emails sent out, either by us or the chosen charity. There will be a special thank you to all supporters at the end of 2009. As we move more into the year, the information we have will also be used to involve our supporters in more of what we do and act as an active feedback forum, about the chosen charities, our work, awareness, etc…

How are you measuring ROI, Impact, Reach, etc…?

The obvious measure is by donations and awareness to each chosen charity. That's what it's all about, after all. One thing we've always said is even if you can't afford to donate, please share the 12for12k message with your friends and family. This has resulted in some charities receiving an increase of 300% in website visitors. Additionally, we use a collection of tracking tools to monitor link clicks to our messages, as well as where these people went next. We monitor the #12for12k hashtag use on Twitter, as well as the activities of our blog partners and who else is writing about what we're trying to do. An example of this is the recent Marketing Profs "Twitter Success Stories" report that featured 12for12k in the charity section - that resulted in a massive amount of interest in what we're doing. Plus, when you have the likes of UNICEF approach you to help in their campaigns, that's a nice statement that you must be doing something right.

What advice/tips can you share with us related to using new media for fundraising?

Pick the strongest tools for the job, as opposed to every one out there. This may seem obvious, but I've often had to tell my own clients the same thing when working with them and realizing they've been told otherwise. Our strongest impact has been both Twitter and our blog partners - Twitter because of the instant reach and reaction, and our blog partners because they can help put their own human voices on the charities. I'd also say be incredibly transparent at all times. While you may have built up trust in your community, when money becomes involved it's a different issue. We use ChipIn for donations as it's a secure payment network that goes direct to the charity's donation account - 12for12k sees no money (and all our time is given for free). We cut out any room for questions and stick to supporting the chosen charities each month. This allows us to do what we set out to do in the first place - be a call-to-action for the chosen charity.

What advice/tips can you share with us related to using new media for increasing supporter/constituent engagement?

Involve the community as much as you can. One of the great things (I feel) about 12for12k is that we ask our supporters to suggest charities to support; it's not just us telling you which charity we'll be supporting. The February, April and May charities were all supporter suggestions, as will be the July charity. Involve everyone with what you're doing as well, and have fun. In March, we held a 12-hour Tweetathon with prizes and in April we also had a virtual pajama party that was streamed live online. So, try and keep things fun and involve both your supporters and sponsors at every turn possible.

If I were new to this where would you suggest I start, what tools should I look at, where should look for advice?

The main thing to decide is how you want to spread your message, and what your aim is - awareness, funds, both, etc… Then decide how much time you can invest and what will be the best tools to use to help you with this time and your aim. I love Twitter, that's no secret - its fast, its community, and it's incredibly sharing with information. A blog is perfect for telling your story as well. Depending on your scale, you may want to look at setting up a Ning community for your supporters. Online media can be great as well - BlogTalk Radio, YouTube, 12 Second TV, etc, are all creative ways to offer a face and voice to your mission.

Make sure you use analytics tools to measure success - I use a mix of Woopra, Quantcast and Google Analytics to measure reach, interest, demographics, etc. For advice, there are some great people online that are usually happy to offer tips - Beth KanterJohn Haydon and Stacey Monk are just three that spring to mind. Of course, just using Google Search will help you find both people and organizations that can help you learn what you need to know.

I won't beat around the bush - it's been a steep learning curve and I've made mistakes along the way. But I know that 12for12k has a great set of partners and supporters that have helped the project learn from mistakes and become better for it. So the key point is to try and surround yourself with good, strong people and listen to their advice all the time. And at the end of the day, as steep and as tough as it can be, it's all for a good cause so any perceived hardship is worth it.


Speak up! What challenges have you faced? What successes have you had? How are you using social media as a nonprofit organization? Please share your story with us here in the comments.


Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits:


Getting Started with Social Media:

A critical piece of information for anyone getting started (or those that are still wondering) - Know and Master Your Social Media Data Flow by Louis Gray


A few more nonprofit interview posts:


Posted in: nonprofit, fundraising, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking

I recently found out from the Malaria No More web site that malaria kills a child every 30 seconds…that’s right every 30 seconds. Who knew that a bed net for 10 dollars can help prevent an entire African family from getting bitten by mosquitoes while they sleep, therefore preventing malaria?  Yes, it makes sense after you know this, but would you have thought that giving 10 dollars could do that? 

I love the idea of giving a bed net to help protect a family against malaria.  I can see it, I can feel it, and I can almost touch it.  Hats off to Malaria No More for making me think, and being great stewards by showing me the exact breakdown of my ten dollar donation.

Giving this mosquito net really engaged me and got me thinking…Am I bored with plain old online giving since I have been doing it for five years?  Did I need something new to spark my interest and get me back into giving online?  Have nonprofits been forced to be more creative because everyone now offers the option of online giving? 

I don’t know, but I think giving a tangible item like a mosquito net, school supplies or a flock of chickens to those in need is brilliant.  For whatever reason this new way to give has arrived, I think more nonprofits should do it.  For some ideas, inspiration, and credit where credit is due here are a few of my favorites (besides




UN Refugee Agency: 

Their asks are specific and thought provoking all at the same time.  Did you know that $12 can provide textbooks, writing exercise books and pencils for a student for an entire year?

Heifer International:

Who doesn’t think that giving a flock of chicks is a good gift idea? A flock of chicks can help families from Cameroon to the Caribbean add nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to their inadequate diets. 

Feed My Starving Children: 

Do you want to feed a child for 6 months for only 30 dollars?  I sure do. 


What is the most interesting tangible item (besides money) you have given in the past six months? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below.

External SEO Efforts

Also known as SEM or search engine marketing, external efforts are essentially the online subset of a traditional marketing campaign, targeting other websites, directories, news sites, social media hubs and the web at large.

These online marketing efforts are specifically geared towards establishing your site as relevant to a topic---in the eyes of search engines---by getting links from related sites to yours. Several examples of search engine marketing efforts include:

  • Press releases written for and distributed to online PR channels – these are specific to online media in that they contain dynamic web content that may not necessarily translate to print.
  • Content contributions to popular, high traffic, relevant websites – an example would be contributing articles to other blogs, where the prominent subject is specific to the choice keyword/key term (i.e. online fundraising) of the collateral.  This transplanted material needs to also contain a link back to a corresponding page on your site that is geared exclusively toward that vary same keyword or term.  …and the link(s) pointing back to your site need to be the keyword/ key terms itself (known as Anchor Text).
  • Utilizing social media outlets like and  (among many others) to funnel traffic to your site from other high traffic channels.

In the content contribution example above, it’s worth point out that care is taken to pair complementary keywords with their target pages, like pairing cheese with wine.  An external site is chosen for a particular piece of content because it is relevant to the topic and keyword that the content is written around. 

At the same time, anchor text---where the keyword(s) is the link i.e. online fundraising---will link back to your site . . . and not to your home page, but to a search engine optimized or keyword optimized page (known as Deep Linking).

Search bots, also known as web crawlers, spiders, worms and ants sound more like fixin’s for a creepy potion.  These friendly little creatures are actually computer programs that browse web sites as part of the search engine indexing process, reading the content and attributes of each page.



Mix your own batch of search engine marketing?

1 part audience segmentation
1 part content development
2 parts persistence and shameless promotion

Step 1: Know your audience.

Now go find where they live and play and nourish themselves out on the web.  Where do they gather to share ideas, relevant to your mission?  Where do they get their news, sympathetic to your cause?

Step 2:  Resolve to write.

Write about your organization’s mission, your passion, your volunteers, your proponents, and even your critics.  Write about upcoming events and write again to recap how things went. Find every opportunity, topic and angle to put your story in text.  Oh, and learn how to write a proper and engaging press release if you don’t have a PR pro doing it for you.  It’s not hard, just specific.

Step 3: Get out there.

Go directly to the destinations that you identified in step one and figure out how you fit in.  If it’s a news site, write the editor directly and hand over one of the compelling press releases that you’ve written.  If it’s a discussion group, become a member and join in on a conversation.  If it’s a social network, start networking.  No matter what you do, stay at it and keep linking back to your site.

Childrens Hospital of LA LogoHere at Blackbaud we work with organizations using social media in various ways to extend their reach – helping them to continue doing incredible things in the world.

Special thanks go out to Deborah Braidic from Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) who spent some time with us and shared a few social media insights for nonprofits. CHLA launched a new site on June 1st where they began integrating a newly designed social media strategy. If you want to know more about Childrens Hospital Los Angeles check them out on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Or let them teach you “FIND OUT HOW TO GET SOCIAL WITH CHLA

Let’s jump right into the interview …

Why did you decide to jump into using Social media?

In our case, we were pretty lucky. Our team was doing early-stage research on social media and we believed that our organization would benefit immensely from helping our supporters in the community spread the word about us on these channels. Right when we were working out a plan for how we might approach this topic with our leadership, we heard that our CEO was interested in knowing more about how we could leverage social networking for the hospital. When we heard the good news, we jumped in with both feet and put a plan together.

What process did you employ to get to your current social media strategy?

Our process ultimately came down to answering the following questions:

  1. Who is our primary audience?
  2. What Social networking outlet is our primary audience using?
  3. What are the popularity levels of each outlet?
  4. Which channels would be most appropriate for leveraging media our organization already produces?
  5. How many outlets can our team realistically manage well?

Can you give others some advice on how to get started?

Everybody always says “just get started,” so it is already becoming a cliché, but in reality this is exactly what our team did. 

Long before we ever proposed our social media plan to our hospital leadership, each of our team members signed up for accounts with Facebook and Twitter and began using them, like it or not, just to see what it was all about and how it worked. 

Using the tools ourselves gave us significantly more credibility, not only did we walk into the room and say, “Hey we know how it works,” but we put together a plan that provided real, concrete strategies for how these channels could be used to engage our supporters.  Had we not used the channels ourselves, there would have been no way for us to see their true value and convey that value convincingly to our leaders.

What obstacles/challenges did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to your internal stakeholders?

Hurdle 1Employees won’t get any work done if we open up Facebook and YouTube to the entire in-house network. 

To overcome this hurdle, our team took responsibility for drafting an internal policy specifically to cover the use of social networking outlets that basically, in so many words, says “we can see you online” and “Google is forever.” Even though the policy was later championed and owned by the Human Resources Department, we partnered with our Manager of Information Security and took responsibility for hashing through what the policy should cover, drafting of the document, and helping to bird-dog it past the right people for review and approval. We also drafted an email for the CEO to send out to the house after our launch that treated this topic humorously but still got the point across that, our first priority is to accomplish our mission, but in your spare time, it would be great if you could be our fans and spread the word online.

Hurdle 2Employees might release proprietary or patient health information online.

The above policy covered this area as well. Now that we have launched our new site and we have notified everyone in the organization about our online presences, our Policy Officer will likely regularly remind people that proprietary and patient information should not be placed on social networking channels.

Hurdle 3Aren’t we going to lose control of our brand?

To overcome this hurdle, we really had to do our research. 

  • First, we overwhelmed them with statistics 
    Jeremiah Owyang’s data on the differences in online channel metrics between the Obama and McCain campaigns is stunning, even to our own team. We paired these stats with a few great quotes from Fraser & Dutta’s book “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom” for good measure.

  • Second, we did our homework
    We scoured social websites to see what people were already saying about us and what we found was pretty awesome. We had 17 Facebook groups already related to us in some way. We had some pretty great posts on Yelp both from employees and from users of our services. We loaded all of this information up as proof that, others already have control of our brand, and they were, by all accounts, doing a pretty good job with it. The best part was that, since it wasn’t “us” saying it, it was even better than what we might say about ourselves.

  • Third, we used peer pressure
    When we looked at what our peers were doing, it turned out that the organizations we aspired to be like were already in the very spaces we were suggesting we enter.

How about some advice on how to sustain?

Right now we are in more of a “listen and learn” mode, so we are excited to see how our fans interact with us. Once we have been out there for a few more months, we’ll have more concrete plans for care and feeding of our fan base.

We anticipate that the key will most likely be in using our existing network of individuals who already feed us content items for our hospital’s website for updates. Once we get responses to our updates, part of our team’s job will be galvanizing others in the organization to respond to and engage with our fans. 

In addition, we are already shifting our own thinking so that, each time we receive a new item for our main website, we ask ourselves how it can be leveraged from a fan perspective.

What’s the most important thing to remember when using social media?

Finding a pace that works well for your organization is critical. Although it’s tempting to go into these spaces like gangbusters and flood people with information, it’s important to start out slow enough that you can listen and learn from your fan base. 

It has been painful for us to watch high-profile organizations using Facebook like its Twitter or treating their Fan Page like a website. These types of activities have been repaid with a complete lack of user participation in the spaces. 

The other thing we are finding is that it takes work to be engaging. An update is of no value if no one participates or “cares” about your update. Taking an extra moment to think about how to shift your message from a broadcast update to an interesting question or a mystery that the user gets to solve by taking some sort of action or clicking a link has turned out to be time well spent. 

We were delighted to see that a member of another health system gave us a public thumbs up on our Facebook page while we were technically in the silent phase of our social media efforts. It wasn’t that our organization was interesting to them, so much as they were impressed by the fact that our fans were engaging with us online and they wanted to know more.

What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve had to overcome?

The question that keeps coming up, oddly enough from the worker bees and not from the hospital leaders, is . . . “But isn’t this just the next big thing and tomorrow it will be gone and something else will be the next big thing?” 

Our advice on this one is . . . see if you can get this question out onto the table as quickly as possible. Once you’ve got this question on the table, you can answer it with a spin that appeals to that person.

For instance, this question came up from a customer service perspective. We were able to respond that, yes, these channels may not last forever . . . but at the end of the day, it’s not the channel that is important . . . it’s the fact that people may be asking for help from us on these channels that is important. If we ignore their questions, we lose. 

How do you measure success with social media, the infamous ROI?

Right now, we are in the earliest possible stage, so success for us is seeing that people actually care . . . that they have joined our fan base (to the tune of 800 fans without active marketing of our Facebook Page), that they are engaging with us on Twitter and retweeting our messages. 

Success is also seeing that others within our organization see the value and want to find out how to get onboard, how to be included, how to be involved. 

I think the tough part will come in the next six months, once we’ve built our base, actively listened to our fans for a few months, and begun testing the waters with some asks for help. We have some big things planned, but until we launch them, we won’t be able to measure our success. In the meantime, we are watching others closely to see what is working well for other organizations like ours. It’s exciting to watch these channels evolve and mature.


Speak up! What challenges have you faced? What successes have you had? How are you using social media as a nonprofit organization? Please share your story with us here in the comments.

Related info:

A critical piece of information for anyone getting started (or those that are still wondering) - Know and Master Your Social Media Data Flow by Louis Gray


A few more nonprofit interview posts:


Posted in: nonprofit, fundraising, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking

No Purpose

Before you hit send — stop and ask yourself: Why am I sending this message? Does the message have a clear purpose? If it doesn't then you're doing more harm than good. Make sure that there's a self-evident purpose for the message. Everything from the subject line to the content of the message and the links in it should reinforce that purpose.

No Segmentation

Sending a blast email message to every single email address that you have is bad. And it's more than likely spam, too. "No communication without segmentation" should be your motto. Focus on your best segments and personalize the message in ways that will reinforce your message and resonate better with those targeted recipients.

No Testing

They practice the coin toss for the Super Bowl. Don't you think you should be testing your emails? The most successful nonprofits test everything from segments and subject lines, the day and time of the message, and variations on the content and landing pages. There is no such thing as luck with email. You need to test, test, and test.

No Call to Action

Email is not where the action is. The action only happens on your website. Never send an email message or enewsletter without a call to action. That action doesn't always have to be a financial transaction or advocacy alert. It could be asking to take a poll, survey, participate in a contest, or help spread the word for your organization.

No Follow-Up

Email campaigns are never one-and-done. You need to have a follow-up plan for those who take action and those who don't to maximize results. This could be as simple as a reminder email for people who registered online for an event. It might be a series of emails to new constituents who aren't yet donors. Following up gets results.


These are just a few common mistakes made with email.  Do you have any others to confess? Let me know and be sure to look for more in the future.


Other Email Articles on NetWits Think Tank:

When you ask your alumni how they want to be contacted, how do they answer? 

Wait, you didn’t ask?  Well, there’s your problem. Alumni are more diverse than ever. The sweep of social networking has further divided the lines between alumni demographics, making them more and more set on how they want to be contacted.


While direct mail (snail mail) has its place in time, many alumni ignore direct mail pieces; what’s worse is that many more get frustrated by it. In fact, not knowing which demographic groups respond better to which type of communication can actually COST you money.


Did you know that young alumni have little interest in the alumni magazines – the same magazines that are the number one way colleges communicate with them? How much are you spending sending those gorgeous, 4-color print jobs out to all alum, not segmenting your correspondence? In fact, not knowing which demographic groups respond better to which type of communication can actually COST you money.

It’s time to get smarter and more efficient. 

  1. Make sure you are tracking how your alumni are responding to your appeals – by email, direct mail, in person or phone. 
  2. Begin segmenting by response rate and demographics. 
  3. Take measures to understand these market divisions. What age groups respond to what types of appeal – both from a delivery and tone perspective?


When you need to cut, cut based on how effective your communication is to each group (e.g. magazines to young alum).


Yes, it saves money. But it might actually do more for you – your alumni will start listening, realizing you’re talking to them how they want you to. Contacting them based on their preference creates less frustration and more engagement.


This is your big chance. Understanding the problem is half the battle. But, don’t just understand it, do something now to turn your alumni participation statistics around. They might be bored, but trust me, they want to be engaged…they want nothing more than to feel connected to you, their alma mater.


Understand their needs and engage them online and you WILL increase their participation and giving. 


How are you engaging your alumni online? Share your secrets with us by commenting below!


Stay tuned for the next installment of engaging your alumni in July!



2008 Voluntary Support of Education Report, CAE 

Inside Higher Ed Newsfeed

Tactical Philanthropy Blog

Project Overview

CCS launched Sphere in 2003 to support online fundraising efforts for 38 of their Relay for Life events. At that time, Sphere was exclusively deployed for national organizations with multiple chapters using a multi-tier account structure (see figure 1). Under this structure, division, region, and local chapter accounts were constructed in a hierarchical structure, but each with their own separate accounts. CCS’s Sphere accounts grew to 70 by 2007 as they rapidly expanded their use of the tools. The downside of this growth is that Sarah found the multi-tier structure difficult to manage – as data was spread across 70 separate accounts.




Figure 1 – Multi-tier Account (Separate accounts for parent and children)



In 2007, CCS embarked on a project to migrate their multi-tier account structure to the newly developed virtual account structure (see figure 2). Sarah worked diligently within her organization to get the appropriate regional and local buy-in for the change, as the project entailed collapsing all of the 70 accounts into a single Sphere account. Access to data would be controlled through virtual permission rights versus physical separation. The users had to “agree” to have all of the information merged into a single database, where CSS would have 100% control over regional and local access to the data.




Figure 2 – Virtual Accounts (Data physically together, but logically separated)











Sarah points to the following tangible results following the migration:

  1. Clean Data – During the migration, CSS let Blackbaud de-dupe all of the data in their accounts, removing 150,000 duplicate records.
  2. Raiser’s Edge Integration – CSS is now 100% self sufficient in exporting data from a single account (versus 70 accounts) to Raiser’s Edge.
  3. Reporting – Sarah has personally saved 80 hours annually in creating Key Indicator Reports, while providing these reports more frequently to staff
  4. E-mail Communications – CSS now produces half of the mailings for the local Relay for Life campaigns, cutting down email preparation time for their local event coordinators.
  5. Customer Support – Having all the data in a single account has made it easier for CSS to push down customer support tasks to local users.
  6. New Opportunities – CSS has expanded the use of Sphere to launch their first E-newsletter, deploy online advocacy efforts, and send general online appeals to all event participants and donors (which have generated $35,000 in new revenue).


More About Multi-Chapter Management

Blackbaud Sphere is deployed in over 85 national or multi-chapter organizations using both multi-tier account and virtual account structures. When we work with organizations, we determine the best approach taking into consideration how national works (or sometimes doesn’t work) with their local chapters. Some organizations find the virtual account structure impossible, as the local chapters will NEVER allow national access to their data.


Over the past six months, I have seen a change in heart and several other organizations have since taken advantage of virtual accounts. The primary reason is the organizations’ desire to help local chapters be more successful online by centralizing efforts. Blackbaud has similar experience with direct response, as our Target team has seen organizations centralize their direct mail efforts for many years. I am glad to see that these same groups are starting to view online fundraising and marketing in the same way, as there is a lot that a national organization can do to support their local chapter online efforts.


So I leave you with one important question… Now that Blackbaud has acquired Kintera, which nickname should we give Sarah – as Sarah “Kintera” will no longer work?

snail mail image for 6 ways to build your email subscriber base with social media postSo what do you do? Focus on email acquisition or focus on “joining the conversation” in social media?

I say, do both because social media and email can play nice together! In fact, they are a great complement to each other. Check out what the benchmarking study had to say with respect to gaining email list subscribers via social media sites:


… it’s not just quantity that these sites (social media sites) are delivering. The email addresses National Wildlife Federation gained from social networking campaigns are high-quality, because they are true opt-ins from highly qualified sources. They have maintained a 35 percent open rate on the weekly e-newsletter.

That’s right … 35% open rate on their weekly email newsletter. To put that into context the average open rate from 2008 was 16%. This is just one example. I bet there are numerous other nonprofits out there who could share similar stories - if they are tracking things?

On to the tips (adapted from study referenced above) …

  1. Build relationships, be social and share valuable information, tools and resources with people on a consistent basis. This type of interaction is going to help you connect with people in a closer and more intimate way. When people feel close to your organization through a personal relationship and are excited about your cause they are more likely to engage with you in other ways.

  2. Be patient. Social media is about having conversations. It’s a long term strategy that will pay off, but you have to work at it, be consistent and engage with people.

  3. Produce great content consistently. Content that is useful, informative and helpful to your supporters. Use social media to share this stuff as part of your conversations so it’s not all about you “blasting” our “yelling” about you. Remember, this isn’t a TV advertisement.

  4. Track your social media efforts with respect to how they drive traffic to your website. Knowing how effective your use of Twitter is, what social media sites are driving the most traffic back to your main web site or how much your content is being spread through the web by social sharing tools like delicious is invaluable to helping you make decisions and adjustments that will help you continue to improve your email acquisition. If your not sure how to do this check out 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Website for some things to think about.

  5. Have a clear call to action on every page/site to which you drive traffic. Capitalize on that traffic by giving them something to do! You should also have a clear call to action on your social media sites where possible. The ONE Campaign did a nice job of this with their Nonprofit Facebook Fan Page.

  6. Segment the folks who subscribe to your newsletter via social networking sites. Make sure you know which networks and which conversations are driving the most traffic and recruits.


Thanks to NTEN and M+R Strategic Services for producing the report. Great information!

Photo Credit: Today is a good day


What have you seen be effective in building your email subscriber list? Have you had any success in using social media to gain subscribers? Do you track RSS subscribers as well or think about them in the equation at all?

The conversations inevitably get stymied around Twitter - which is no surprise, as every nonprofit is trying to figure out what the tool means for them. A channel for promoting your mission? A monitor for listening to chatter about your cause? A way to connect your org to your community? It's all of those things, but it's also something else: a real-time fundraising tool!

Raising money on Twitter is happening all the time. Beth Kanter stood on stage at Gnomedex and used Twitter to help raise $2,657 in 90 minutes. Last November, Tweetsgiving used Twitter to raise over $10,000 in 48 hours for a school in Tanzania. And just last month, I used Twitter to raise $350 in a couple hours to help send the NTEN staff out for a relaxing excursion. These examples show just some of the ways Twitter can enable real-time fundraising. Clearly it works...but why?

Tara Hunt calls it Whuffie. Chris Brogan calls it the Trust Economy. I call it the Deep Network. Real-time fundraising works because of social capital...because we tend to trust the people in our network. When an org sends an email, the open rate can be low - but when a person sends an email to friends, the open rate is 90%! This is because of trust, and works the same way with Twitter or any other people-based network. When we build up large, diverse networks consisting of supporters, friends, and peers, we are creating a bank of trust to draw upon when needed. When it comes time to ask your network for something, they will not need the time to interpret your motivation - because they know you and your org. And some will be ready to act...right then!

So use Twitter for listening, communicating, and promoting, but don't overlook the platform as a vehicle for real-time action. Build your network around mutual trust, a sense of community, and personal attention. If you've taken the time to cultivate a trusting, loyal, and engaged following, you should be able to turn that social capital into financial capital - and in a hurry if need be. After all, when you're among friends, it's never hard to ask! 


One organization we admire is the Arthritis Foundation. For a little history, the San Diego Jingle Bell Run in 2000 was actually Blackbaud’s first online event (yes, EventId = 1). This past year’s Jingle Bell Run in San Diego was EventId = 279161, still using Friends Asking Friends® to manage their event. 2008 was a particularly impressive year for Arthritis. They have two nationally-based events that were surveyed for the Run Walk Ride 30, the Arthritis Walk and the Jingle Bell Run/Walk (they also have the Joints in Motion campaign). By percentage growth, the Arthritis Walk was the second highest on the list - which is even more impressive considering they actually reduced the number of event sites by 75 (or 23%). In comparison, the event with the highest percent growth, National Philanthropic Trust’s Breast Cancer 3-Day, grew by an amazing 27% that was helped by an increase of 17% in overall number of event locations.


The Run Walk Ride 30 list is filled with national events hosted in multiple locations. But a few singular events made the list proving their considerable fundraising effectiveness while having fewer participants. With only 1,200 participants, the Rodman Ride for Kids raised an amazing $6.3M or $5,250 per participant. In comparison, the largest fundraising event, Relay for Life, raised about $145 per participant. Incredibly, the Ride wasn’t even the highest by this metric of those surveyed; the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge can boast an average of over $8,000 per participant.


A last interesting untold story was the success experienced by Autism Speaks, who in 2007 completed its merger with Cure Autism Now, a family-founded, autism advocacy group based in Los Angeles. The combined organization underwent a merger of staff, technology and events in 2008, while continuing to host the Walk Now for Autism. As everyone who has gone through mergers out there knows (I say with a smile), they are never a trivial exercise. Following the acquisition, the organization emerged with a single platform and a rejuvenated national event fundraising program that expanded revenue by 13.5% in 2008.


I left out a number of other organizations, who should feel proud of their accomplishments on the Run Walk Ride 30. In summary, Blackbaud now supports 11 of Top 30 RunWalkRide events and many chapters from the other events on the list.


If you would like to add praise for any of these organizations or any others, let us know! Just post your comments here.

1. Create a Page not a Group or Cause

Facebook pages give you a ton of great features that Groups and Causes do not. There is a place for each of the Facebook page types, but the generic “Facebook page” is the place to start. Here are a few reasons why:

  • You get a friendly URL like 
  • People can find you via Google. More people can find out about your Nonprofit because your Facebook Page gets indexed and is searchable inside and outside (i.e. Google) of Facebook. Which also means you can boost your search engine rankings (SEO).
  • No limit on the number of people who can express their support for your nonprofit by becoming your fan
  • Pages Have Access to Users’ Feeds - When Facebook users become a “fan” of your nonprofit page, they will be notified of your status updates every time you make one! Then they can comment, share and/or like your wall posts which then shares it with all their friends – now that’s viral.
  • Communicate with your fans regularly just to stay in touch or with special news, offers and information.
  • All the great features of Facebook are available - writing on the Wall, uploading photos, and joining discussion groups.
  • Add applications to your Page and engage your users with videos (YouTube Box), photos (Flickr Box) reviews, flash content, and more.
  • Integrate your blog/web site content via Blog RSS Feed Reader

Examples of Great Nonprofit Facebook Pages:

Excited to get started ... Create a page here


2. Participate and be a community like the Lance Armstrong Foundation

Lance Armstrong Foundation Facebook wallLance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) is doing a great job participating and building community with their Facebook page. If you take a look at their page you’ll notice that there are hundreds if not thousands of people interacting there (I’ve added an image to the right – notice the red box towards the bottom). It’s not just LAF “shouting out” or broadcasting to their fans. As a matter of fact you’ll notice that the LIVESTRONG representative is talking with the people, sharing things, commenting, liking wall posts and more. They are fully interacting.

So what’s that mean for you?

    • Be active daily. Share news, video, photos, stories and what ever else makes sense for your organization.
    • Engage with your fans. Comment on their wall posts. Like things they share. Help people connect with others.


3. Get folks to engage with you in more than one way like the ONE Campaign

ONE Campaign Facebook call to actionCheck out the ONE Campaign Facebook page. Did you see that? They set up their page to go to a custom tab where they show people how to engage with them beyond Facebook. They do this with compelling imagery, a simple form and the ability to get to their main web site. Very nice!

Why is this important? Because we know that email is still a HUGE way people like to be communicated with. According to the “eNonprofit Benchmarks Study” done by NTEN (shout out to Holly Ross) email is still the “killer app” that reaches the most people. Open rates and click-throughs are holding steady.

We also know that having a ‘home base’ is vital to internet longevity. Facebook is an outpost, but your main web site should provide people with added value and ways to connect with your organization.


4. Stats, stats, stats …

Facebook Page StatsFacebook Pages give you stats!! Awesome, I know. Administrators have the ability to see how well their wall posts and content are engaging people through the recently updated “Insight Portal”. You may be thinking “why do stats matter?”

As I discussed in a recent post (see 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Web Site) stats are key to helping you improve your web site or in this case your Facebook page. By understanding your activity and performance, fan response, trends and comparisons, you are better equipped to improve your presence on Facebook. Actually, this data will likely help you improve your overall web efforts! Use the stats to gain valuable insight into what your constituents like, what type of content they interact with the most, what they tend to share with their friends and, maybe most importantly, what they don’t like.

See a sample of what the stats look like here

What is measured you ask? 

  • User exposure- Actions and overall behavior relating to your Facebook Page.
  • Total Interactions - The total interactions metric captures all of the feedback Pages receive from Facebook users. Including media consumption and interactions per post, as well as the number of fans who have hidden you from their stream.
  • This number measures the aggregate count of Wall posts, Likes, Discussion posts and comments on any content such as photos, videos, notes or links in the past 7 days.
  • The goal of the metric is to provide an updated snapshot into how fans are engaging with your Page’s content.
  • Demographic Information - The locale breakdown and demographic information offers you access to detailed data about your fan base in an effective way that isn’t available on any other site.
  • Post Quality Score - One of the most important new metrics to pay attention to is your post quality score. That score measures how engaging your posts have been to users in the last 7 days. Posts that generate a high number of interactions (such as comments or Likes) per fan will improve the post quality score. Posts that do not draw interactions from fans will lower the post quality score.

Facebook offers many more great features, but I believe these are critical for nonprofit success on Facebook. If you don’t get these things right chances are you will have less of an impact on the community of people you are trying to engage and impact.

More Resources (I’d go through them in this order):

More on Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits:


Posted in: nonprofit, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking, analytics, Facebook,

Do you have a Facebook presence? How are you using the tool to be successful? What tips can you share with us here?

I agree with 50% of that statement. The website IS the epicenter of your organization online, however, it is not the ONLY initiative or activity that you must conduct online. Let me explain...

  • Your organization's website is a marketing vehicle that also serves the dual purpose of helping achieve organizational goals via interactive capabilities (donation forms, event registration, new account sign up, etc.)
  • Most organizations use eCampaigns, newsletters, print marketing, adwords /  PPC campaigns and event marketing among other strategies to promote their website and all it has to offer

Let’s think about this for a minute - Not only are some of the above methods limited in terms of a wide audience reach, but they can become pretty expensive as well! An organization may have the best looking website with cutting edge features, but none of it matters if you are not able to reach your audience effectively!

Enter Facebook... here are some facts:

  • Number of users: 200 million + (Highest concentration of target audience at your disposal)
  • 100 million + people log on to Facebook at least once each day (Some people don’t even check their email that often!)
  • More than two thirds of users outside of college (This is no longer a network targeted only at the young)
  • Fastest growing demographic: Age 35+ (See more at Inside Facebook)

Over the last six months or so I’ve observed more and more people using Facebook as their primary means of electronic communication rather than email. With the growth of social networking and "connected" technologies, this trend will only continue to increase. Anyone care to take a guess about what change this will bring to your primary communication vehicle known as email in a few years?

Key take away:

Your audience is moving to a new paradigm of connectivity - Treat social networks as another marketing vehicle to communicate with them and increase awareness of your organization, mission and...your website! The added bonus of $0 cost for software is hard to beat!

Then use the power of many to start a viral growth and increase awareness of your mission.

Some easy steps to start:

  • Create a Facebook group
  • If you have the budget, get in touch with companies like FreeCause to help you build a Facebook app (They have a solution that integrates with Sphere and NetCommunity as well)
  • Start with the inner circle of friends and invite them to join your group (or app) and encourage them to help spread the word on your behalf
  • Communicate with your Facebook fans as often as you communicate with your constituents through other means
  • This, of course, requires that you have an effective communication strategy in the first place
  • Watch your community grow - Make sure you are always directing your users to your website where you have even more information about your cause and mission along with interactive tools to integrate with your system of record
  • Don't be afraid - Not doing anything in this digitally connected age is scarier than experimenting - And when you do, I guarantee that you will become addicted!

If you have completed the above steps, congratulations, you have taken the first step in reaching your audience where they already are - they feel comfortable there and are in complete control of the information they want to consume there - You are now connecting with your audience more effectively... and you are doing so, on their terms - a win-win situation, really!

Facebook statistics source: Facebook


Anyone who knows me knows patience is a virtue I lack. Blackbaud released the standard Twitter and Thon integration 2 weeks ago and I am already prematurely analyzing usage data (thank you SaaS) in an attempt to understand how important Twitter is for Thon participants. 

Finding #1: The Twitter integration is accessible. 

In two weeks the integration has already been activated for 40 Thon events. Based on the rate of adoption for other features that have been added to Sphere, the Twitter integration is being adopted very quickly within the Sphere customer base. I believe this is driven by two primary factors:

  1. SaaS to SaaS product integrations are standardized and make it ridiculously easy for end users to adopt these solutions. Does the Connect partner directory ring a bell?
  2. Twitter is so HOT right now, that they may best the king of “instant information” Google. All of this Twitter attention creates lots of demand for the Twitter Thon integration.

Finding #2: Participants know how to Tweet. 


Over 90 participants have already grabbed the reigns and sent out Tweets to their followers. In a detailed review of the tweet data, I found that 58% of tweets were customized by participants.   Not surprisingly, many participants have only sent one tweet so far. Perhaps adding tweet templates will provide participants more examples of how to engage their followers over time?

Finding #3 Tweets have more “Reach” than email, but are less effective. 

Given the one (speaker) to many (followers) nature of Twitter versus the one to one (or one to a few) nature of email, it is not surprising that Twitter provides vastly more reach for participants than email. 

Think of it this way: when you go to send an email you don’t cc everyone you know. You would be thought of as having poor email etiquette or even worse a “personal spammer.” By choosing recipients of an email message you are forced to be direct and intentional. Twitter tears those constraints down. Any person who chooses to follow you will receive all of your updates and every update you send reaches every one of your followers. That is just the way the world of Twitter works.



The open communication framework of Twitter generates an enormous response to Tweets that are sent out. On average the first Tweet sent by a participant generates over 14 clicks back to their personal page.   As you can also see there is a diminishing return to multiple tweets from the same participant. It is likely that these stats will change based on content, format, and call to action of the tweet. The verdict is still out whether multiple tweets will continue to see diminishing returns.

Interesting facts: the average Twitter user has 70 followers, and the average fundraising participant sends 23.5 emails. Sending one tweet can nearly triple the audience for an average event participant that users Twitter. More work needs to be done to understand if there is significant overlap between email address books and Twitter followers.

Twitter effectiveness for participants to date versus email:


Click Through Rate*

Gift Conversion Rate**

Average Gift Amount










* Click Through Rate = Personal Page Visits/# of Tweets or emails Sent

**Gift Conversion Rate= # of Gifts/# of Tweets or emails Sent

It is also noteworthy that Twitter communications used in tandem with email communications may generate even better responses than Tweets alone, unfortunately I have not controlled for these situations in this analysis.

Finding #4 Twitter Fundraising is Viable.  


As you can see the dataset collected so far is very small, but still demonstrates an important concept. As long as “the ask” is heartfelt and the participant demonstrates the importance of their involvement in the cause, their friends and family will give independent of the communication channel that delivered “the ask” (Twitter, eMail, in person). 

In Summary

Knowing what I know today, if I had to answer the question Is Twitter important for Thon Participants, I would shake up my Magic 8 Ball and the answer would point to: “My Sources Say Yes.” It is worth noting that it is unrealistic to assume Twitter will replace email as the “go to” online personal fundraising solicitation method anytime in the near future.

Special Note

I noticed that some customers don’t have Participant HQ available under their Event Website Creation Checklist. If so, please create a ticket with customer support, this can easily be activated for you. There’s no excuse to not get started today!

Time for you to share:

  • What other communication channels would you like to see in Thon, perhaps Facebook?
  • What do you think the best way is for event participants to show their dedication to your cause?



What exactly is a search engine? 

It’s a database that contains information about individual websites. The top three search engines are Google, Yahoo! And MSN Live Search.


Why is this important?

This is important because these search engines are what your future donors are using to find nonprofits that are meaningful to them. When you do pull up in the search results, are you in the top ten or on page five? A good rule of thumb is this: No one really looks past page two – if your website doesn’t pull up with the keywords the end user has entered, it’s assumed you’re not relevant to their search.


So, how do you get to be on the first page? 

The first thing to know is that there is no single answer to search engine optimization or SEO. Google changes it’s algorithm in a timely manner to accommodate how people are searching on the web and how websites are being built and manipulated. But, there are certainly things you can do to optimize your website


The most important thing is keywords! You use keywords on your web pages so the search engines can find your page, pick it up, and regard it as significant. Keywords are a major part of search engine’s algorithm in determining where your site will show up on the search results page. Your keywords should be relevant to your organization, be local, specialized, and also incorporate spekling mistakes. I went to the Denver Dumb Friends League website and went to “View – Source” in Internet Explorer to see what keywords they use.  They included: animal shelter, dog behavior problems, adopt cat Denver, adopt dog Colorado, etc…and on and on. My suggestion to them in looking over their keywords is to also include Rocky Mountains and possibly add some more phrases with the word “pet”. If you want some additional ideas for keywords, you can use Google’s free keyword generator.


Also, it’s important to make sure your keywords are in the Title and Description tags of your website’s source code as well! Search engines take into account what’s there in their search to bring up the most relevant results for their users.


There’s much more to say about Search Engine Optimization and how you can ensure your website comes up in relevant searches on the internet so stay tuned for more articles on this subject. And don’t let “the google” get you!


Leave a comment and tell us what you'd like to learn about SEO!

Having read a variety of evidence on blogs and discussion groups both supportive and contrarian, I wanted to run a quick study on a subset of events to sample year-over-year results to really see what is happening.  I decided to test the observations set forth in the article by reviewing the online results from a number of fundraising events from 2008 to 2009. The study reviews data from 26 large challenge-based events (i.e., think marathon, triathlon, and bike-a-thon) which typically have large fundraising commitment levels from its participants.


The Study

We selected 26 events using Blackbaud Sphere, featuring Friends Asking Friends®, for our study. These events averaged $175,833 raised online from 334 participants. The data compared mid-event fundraising totals on May 1, 2008 to those same event totals on May 1, 2009. The study incorporates online activities only, as data for offline activity was not readily available. The study determined the following key trends:


  • Of the 26 events in the study, 14 experienced increased online revenues, while 12 experienced decreased online revenues from 2008 to 2009.
  • The events collectively increased overall online revenue by only 4.4 percent from 2008.
    • Online donations increased 2.1 percent.
    • Registrations fees increased 24.2 percent.
  • The number of online donors was up an impressive 26.9 percent, while the average gift was down a disappointing 19.6 percent - a decrease from $105.50 to $84.87.
  • The percentage of participants who actually were fundraising (i.e., collected at least one online gift) decreased from 41 to 37 percent.


Conclusions and Next Steps

At a high level, this information helped me draw a few conclusions on what is going on in the event fundraising marketplace so far this year:

  • On a bad note, it appears that online event revenue growth in 2009 will in fact be much lower than in previous years. Blackbaud Sphere natioanl event customers have averaged 18% growth in the previous three years.
  • On a good note, more participants appear to be signing up for these same events, resulting in more donors.
  • Participants are being faced with lower average gift amounts, as donors reduce their giving levels.
  • Our event customers continue to successfully shift more of their registration and fundraising activities online, resulting in reduced fundraising costs.


As an event fundraiser, I would be looking to further adopt the following key strategies:

  • An increase in number of participants and donors makes communication and stewardship programs more important. It is very important that you take the opportunity to educate your event supporters about other aspects about your organization. This task begins in earnest after your event is completed and continues right up and beyond the next year’s event.
  • Email becomes an even more important tool to deliver timely, segmented messages to motivate your participants and team captains to become more important fundraisers. This will help accelerate your event’s transition to more online revenue.
  • If you haven’t already started, you should enable your participants to use external Social Networking sites to promote their fundraising personal pages. I would suggest:


I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on what else you are doing this year to support your events and counter the recession?


Read more about challenge events at:

Forbes Extreme Fundraising Article 3/25/2009

The Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council


Interested in challenging yourself?

Janus Charity Challenge

Challenged Athletes Foundation

Lance Armstrong Foundation LiveStrong Challenge

Team Fox

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation


Last week on The Baudcast, I assembled an all-star cast of NTC troops to break down the event and share some lessons learned. Anna Richter, the Program Coordinator at NTEN, joined us and was able to share some amazing inside knowledge. Danielle Brigida (NWF) and David Neff (American Cancer Society) broke down a couple of their sessions, and Peter Campbell (Earth Justice) waved the IT flag high. Rounded out by the Blackbaud crew, the show was a fun way to look back at this event. Be sure to check it out (iTunes or direct).

It was podcasting that brought me to NTC in the first place. I had the honor of co-presenting a session with the Nonprofit Podfather himself, Corey Pudhorodsky of the 501c3Cast (his NTC event and session notes are here). The session was packed, with people sitting in the hall to learn more about this fascinating medium. Though it was an A-Z overview of how to get started, I think many people left with specific actionable items they could use to start a podcast. The excitement was definitely there, and I can't wait to see some of these show ideas come to fruition.

Below are the slides to Nonprofit Radio: How to Make Podcasts That Support Your Brand and Engage Supporters. If you have any questions about podcasting, just shoot me an email, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Happy podcasting! 


Athletes for a Cure LogoHuge thanks goes out to Scott Zagarino from Athletes for a Cure who spent some time with us and shared a few of his social media insights for nonprofits and event oriented organizations. If you want to know more about what Athletes for a Cure is all about check them out on their BlogFacebook and Twitter.

Let’s jump right into the interview …

Why did you decide to jump into using Social media?

In late 2007 the handwriting was on the wall. All of those teaser mortgages were coming due, the derivative house of cards was beginning to tumble, and defense spending was spiraling out of control. It didn't take a genius, which I'm not, to see that we were headed toward a 3-hole belt tightening, and the first notch in my opinion was going to be event giving from small donors.

There are two solutions to most financial issues. Either "lower the bridge" by lowering expenses, or "raise the river" by increasing revenue. Since event fundraising is the most expensive money to raise in philanthropy, and the economy was going to actually lower the river, the solution had to be in expenses. This was an opportunity for us at Athletes for a Cure, since our mandate from our humble beginnings two and a half years ago was to create a sustainable event fundraising model in a completely new paradigm.

I've always been an early adopter, and I was spending a lot of time watching the evolution of the social platform. My observation was that if used correctly it would be the perfect avenue to cut communications expenses while providing the key benefit to us of creating an ongoing dialog with our constituency free from the "ask."

What process did you employ to get to your current social media strategy?

The old Yiddish saying comes to mind here, "Measure ten times before you cut instead of the other way around." I spent literally hundreds of hours looking at blogs, Searching Facebook Fan Pages, using a personal Twitter account to watch timelines, and looking at all of the burgeoning technologies and news. What I learned, I learned by watching before building anything. The most important thing I learned in all of that was flexibility. The best analogy is that over the years I've done a lot of work with Special Operations personnel and one of the most outstanding characteristics, which in my opinion runs completely contrary to corporate "think" is that they train and rehearse so rigorously is because the knowledge of how a plan works thoroughly allows for greater efficiency, effectiveness and execution when the plan goes to hell.

Can you give some advice on how to get started?

We give all of our new people the following three (3) rules:

  1. Listen ten (10) times as much as you speak until people know you.
  2. Contribute, never sell.
  3. This is a kind of anarchy that every generation enjoys for only a short while. Have fun, enjoy yourself and don't be afraid to tell on yourself.

What obstacles/challenges did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to your internal stakeholders?

Probably the biggest hurdle was overcoming the how it monetizes itself question, usually spoken as "We're not investing so you can play on Facebook. " My .02 is that if you're going to present this to uniformed decision makers, it's best in the long term to hold your ground on building relationships that result in mutual support, not how to create a strategy that focuses on ways to ask for money.

How about some advice on how to sustain?

That's easy. In philanthropy our job (which sadly is often lost in the din of the cash register) is to be of service. To me that's our highest calling and the most fulfilling thing I do. If I keep my network focused on people we serve, and like-minded people who want to help, sustaining my network becomes the most effective, fulfilling thing I do in my daily life. Conversely, if one were to simply try to accumulate an immense, and impressive number of names in their network, most of whom they wouldn't cross a room to shake hands with, then my advice would be sheer greed or extraordinary discipline.

How would you help another nonprofit harness the potential of social media?

This is my "one floor social elevator speech." My Dad died of cancer a few years ago. My lasting memory of him was when he would enter a crowded room, he would zero in on the most uncomfortable person, walk up to them, put out his hand and say, "My name is Frank Zagarino and I'm glad to know you." If that's your presence no matter what platform suits you, you can't go wrong.

What the number one most important thing to remember when using social media?

Be social. People will always figure out what you do and if you support them, they'll support you.

How do you measure success with social media, the infamous ROI?

I just left a board meeting where I had to do just that. In this economy we are up 192% in fundraising revenue, and 5% under budgeted expenses on this year's budget. The key number to tie to is that we cut 23% from our print budgets and revenue went up. The reciprocal would be to spend a lot of time trying to quantify sources. The question is, back to my Special Ops friends, “What is the objective?”. Do you want less efficient, lower revenue with great process or higher revenue, better relationships and lower cost? Pick the date you start your social program and keep the graph. It's hard to argue with the bottom line.

How has the adoption and use of social media grown internally?

I see a lot more Facebook Wall Posts and tweets with familiar internal names than I did six months ago. The side benefit is that you really get to know who you're working with (laughing).

What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve had to overcome?

Two most common are, "It's a toy," and "It's a sales tool."

Tell us some things not to do?

A much smarter person than me already did this. Read, "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten," by Robert Fulghum.


Scott and his team at Athletes for a Cure are doing a great job leveraging social media to enhance their organizations brand and message. We appreciate you spending some time with us and sharing what you have learned with our readers. This type of insight and sharing is invaluable to other nonprofits out there looking to get their feet wet with social media or improve what they are already doing.


Related info:

A few more nonprofit interview posts:


Posted in: nonprofit, fundraising, nptech, socialmedia, socialnetworking


Speak up! What challenges have you faced? What successes have you had? Please share your story with us here in the comments. We know Athletes for a Cure isn’t the only nonprofit out there doing great work!

Every day I talk to nonprofits about how they can use their websites more effectively but I was sure I'd learn some new tips and tricks from Allan. (I was correct, by the way!)


Here are a few easy and effective tips I recommend (including a few I learned from Allan Pressel) to drive more traffic to your website. 


Consistent branding

This is often underappreciated in the nonprofit space. You, as NPO's, are often in direct "competition" with other NPO's for donor and advocate support. It's imperative that you create consistency in branding, both online and off. Make sure your website reflects your offline and online communications.

Allan gave some great examples to drive this point home. First, in the for-profit space, what do you think of when you see the golden arches? McDonald's right? Switching gears, who do you think is the most recognized brand in the nonprofit space? I went back and forth on this one for a bit but ultimately came out with the right answer – The American Red Cross. Think about everything they do - from mailings, television ads, emails, events - the branding is consistent across every medium.


Publish your URL at every opportunity

You can do this many places such as (but not limited to) your direct mail newsletter, event invitations, volunteer applications, membership renewal notices, and email appeals. It’s a very easy thing to do and a great return on investment.


Have an email acquisition strategy

Allan Pressel called this the “fees and trees” approach. There are four steps to this strategy.

  • First, ASK! Don’t be shy about asking someone for their email at every opportunity.
  • Second, use the “fees” approach. “Mr. Donor, please provide your email address so we can save money on our direct mailing and put that extra money towards our mission.”
  • Third, Allan suggests using the “trees” method. “Ms. Advocate, we’re going green and would like to send 20% less mailing this year via direct mail. Won’t you provide us your email address to help us accomplish our goal?”
  • Finally, provide an easy email list sign up directly on your home page. It isn’t evasive and people often will provide their email address is there is an easy way to do so.  


I’d like to end my blog post today with a statement that Allan Pressel used to start his presentation: “Every non profit should have a website that actually furthers its mission – not just describes it.”


Okay, now it's your turn…what works well for your organization? Do you drive traffic to your website using any other methods?  Leave a comment and join the discussion!

First off, here are some key statistics that position mobile fundraising as the next channel for people to give.

  • The first year in mobile giving outperformed the first year in online fundraising!
  • In June 2008, 84% of total U.S. population had a wireless subscription
  • In 2008, 72 billion text messages were sent
  • Text messages have a 95% read rate

Source: CTIA-The Wireless Association®


Here's a few tips for nonprofits who would like to start mobile fundraising:

  • Research companies that provide the mobile fundraising platform. Transaction rates can get expensive, so do your homework.
  • Every mobile phone number you collect is as valuable as an email address. Treat your texters with respect. Let them know how often they will be receiving messages from you and make sure the messages you send are relevant and concise, you only have 160 characters!
  • Mobile fundraising cannot stand alone. It is important to integrate mobile campaigns into your overall fundraising strategy. Mobile phone users carry their phones everywhere, so broadcast your message on billboards, landing pages, stickers, t-shirts, etc.
  • Provide incentives for individuals to provide their mobile phone number. The ASPCA sends weekly tips about pet poison prevention, health care, foods to avoid and fun pet facts to their mobile subscribers.


Case study:

In 2008 United Way leveraged their partnership with NFL, Blackbaud partner, Mobile Accord and their product mGive, and The Mobile Giving Foundation to promote their “Get Fit” Campaign. During the 2008 and 2009 Super Bowl a ten second commercial was aired to urge viewers to text the word “FIT” to “UNITED”. This tiny advertisement raised $10,000 and has been viewed approximately 26,000 times on YouTube.  Watch the ten second spot below.



Have any of you experimented with mobile fundraising? If yes, what did you think? Were you successful? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Check out these nonprofits that are using the eCard functionality in Blackbaud NetCommunity to deliver Mother’s Day cards that you can personalize, send or print along with making a donation in her name.



Accion International:


Children’s Hospital Boston:


Doctors Without Borders:


Alley Cat Allies:


For all the nonprofit folks that visit NetWits Think Tank, this is a great idea for your next fundraising campaign!  Get started now for Father's Day in June!

Happy Mother's Day!


Before we go too far, let me start by saying, “Content is King.” Without great content, the following tactics and tools are limited at best. Focus on producing great content all the time. Put these tools in place. Then use what you learn from them to grow your site! Off we go.

1) Learn From Your Content

Google Analytics Stats





If you’re not learning you’re getting dumber! Use Google Analytics (GA) to see things like how many unique visitors you’re getting, what content is being viewed the most, what keywords or phrases people are using to find you and where people are coming from when finding you. This information is invaluable to your nonprofit – Giving you the ability become more effective with your online efforts. You may not know exactly what to do with this data all the time, but to be without it is to let opportunities slip through your fingers.

Think about how you could use Google Analytics – learn from the content you’re publishing to promote your nonprofit's fundraising event. What content is being viewed for the longest time? What content is producing the desired action of registering, donating or taking action? How can you optimize, modify and adapt?

This is only a glimpse into what you can do with analytics. For real meat check out some of the below posts by Avinash Kaushik – this dude will make you drool over the possibilities!

Check out:


2) Make Your Content Easy to Consume

Feedburner Stats





Remember, “Content is King” so provide an easy way for readers to subscribe to yours. More and more people are reading content, your content, via RSS through tools like Google Reader so make it easy to find on every page of your site.

Tip: Use Google FeedBurner which will allow people to subscribe via RSS or email. You will also get some great statistics which will help you with number one above.

Another Tip: Not sure how to get RSS from the Blackbaud Sphere CMS. Check out How to Use RSS in Sphere.

Not sure what RSS is? Check out a great video by Common Craft: RSS in Plain English


3) Make Your Content Easy to Share

Add This Sharing LogoUse a social bookmarking plug-in like Add This so people who like your work can easily share with their network. Make sure to put this in an easily seen and easily accessed area of every piece of content. You don’t want to make it hard for your readers to share, do you? As with number one and two above you get additional statistics from Add This which further helps you to evaluate the impact of your web site and how you can continue improving.

Not sure what Social Bookmarking is? Check out a great video by Common Craft: Social Bookmarking in Plain English

Why Add This? See some of the reasons here. or just think about their current usage:

"AddThis buttons can be found on hundreds of thousands of websites, and are currently viewed over 20 billion times a month by users all over the world, in over 20 languages."


4) Make Yourself Easy to Find on the Social Web

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (know about the new nonprofit call to action), LinkedIn and Flickr are becoming exceedingly important to any nonprofits online presence. It’s likely your organization is already using one or more of these social networks to engage with supporters, spread your message or raise money. Chris Brogan likes to call these places “outposts”. Your main website should highlight your presence on these sites so that your readers can connect with you in social ways online – they want to get to know you and they want to see that you are doing creative things in fundraising.

Check out:



Use a URL Shortening Services! URL Shortening LogoNew services such as bit.lytinyurl and budurl are emerging. They allow you to take any URL and shrink it! For example you can take the link to this page which is normally pretty long and shrink it to this A couple great things you will love:

  1. It’s easier for you to pass out in your newsletters, mailings and other printed publications
  2. It’s easier for your readers to share
  3. You get more statistics for analysis! (See #1 above).

From Read Write Web:

"We don't want to argue that is the next Google, but the technology it's brought to market could be very important in the indexing of the social web. shortens links so they are easier to share, like TinyURL. The service creates a redirect from a short link out to a longer link on any web page. Allong the way the service analyzes the page being linked to, pulls out the key concepts discussed on that page, and then provides real-time statistics about where the link is being shared and how many people are clicking on it."

Check out:


These are 5 things that you can implement pretty simply. Don’t put them off. Have questions? Please ask below and I’ll do my best to help out.

What am I missing? I know you have some great tips to share with the community here so please take a minute and help us out.

To get some background information on Twitter, I highly recommend taking 60 seconds and reading the Twitter Wikipedia entry which is very descriptive. You can also check out our own Frank Barry’s “Using Twitter for the First Timepost right here on NetWits Think Tank.


The Twitter integration does the following things:

  1. Allows participants to send a tweet directly from their participant headquarters.
  2. Automatically includes a shortened link back to the participant’s personal page.


 Participant Headquarters with Twitter Integration Activated


The Thon Twitter feature is extremely exciting for the following reasons:

  1. Integration has never been this easy. SaaS to SaaS product integrations make it extremely easy for end users to utilize new functions. One click is all it takes to activate Twitter for all Thon participants in your event.
  2. Multi channel donor outreach works. If you aren’t a believer yet, you might have missed the last DonorCentrics Internet Giving Benchmark Analysis. It’s likely that many of your participants are already using different methods to solicit and steward their friends and family to achieve their fundraising objectives. Things just got easier for participants that use Twitter.
  3. Twitter integration is free. This new feature is included with your purchase of Thon at no extra charge. Additionally, Twitter is free for your participants.


Stay tuned about other exciting changes to the Sphere product by following me on Twitter.

Check out the table below for a quick run down:

New Function

Why it rocks!

Ian’s Utility Rating *



Accepts login and password information and returns the associated Contact Id. 


  • Now any 3rd party application can grab Sphere data about a website visitor simply by prompting for the contacts Sphere login and password.
  • This endpoint builds support for some powerful data portability use cases. Data portability for website visitors is an important dimension of Web 2.0 support. To learn more about data portability check out Steve O’Hear’s post on ZD Net.
  • For example, it is common for Higher Education institutions to only provide access to install a Facebook application to alumni. ContactLogin will allow the institution to easily validate interested Facebookers as authentic alumni.




Accepts two ContactIds and merges records

  • This tool used in conjunction with the existing query method allows partners and developers to build their own custom scripts for resolving duplicate records in Sphere.




Use query method now supports CustomProfileField

  • Yup, the most powerful Connect API method, query, just got stronger. Now you can access custom profile field data directly via query.
  • Build SQL like queries to filter ContactProfiles based on CustomProfileField values.
  • Return CustomProfileField values en mass (up to 100 at a time).
  • It is recommended to structure queries with filters on FieldId or ContactId to optimize performance.



*Ian’s Utility Rating is based on projected frequency of use in developer community


Give us some feedback!  Which of the new endpoints do you think is the most useful?  Why?

Determine a path forward. 

Once you’ve hypothesized and determined potential root causes, you need to determine how you’ll move forward.  Can you segment these inactive subscribers based on what you’ve identified?  Can you build specific content for each segment that provides a more targeted action based on your analysis?  How often will you message to these individuals? 

  • Do some A/B testing to determine the most effective content to reach each segment
  • Look at ways to obtain additional profile information to help build relevancy for future emails sent to these recipients.
  • Create a simple, directed call to action for each email communication. 
  • Don’t try to do too much at once.  You want to re-ignite the relationship and then build the relationship moving forward.


Measure success. 

Are you still on track to reach your goals?  How does this trend across each segment and across the varied content you’ve tested? 

  • Developing a matrix to determine the overall success of different options tested will help you define trends for future fine-tuning
  • You may not initially see a positive ROI given the number of hours you’ve worked upfront to gather data but you’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting already


Fine tune your strategy, rinse and repeat. 

Continually monitor the overall success of this process and make adjustments where needed. 

  • At this point, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you need to do to re-engage non-responders and you should gain quite a bit of knowledge about what additional tweaks you can make to your overall campaigns to keep your recipients engaged thus reducing the non-response rate.  
  • Determine your ROI considering time spent, number of non-responders that are now active again, non-responders as a % of your total subscriber base, etc.


Finding a diamond in the rough will take some work through the development of an executable plan.  With some upfront legwork, you can successfully develop a process to handle these inactive recipients.  You will begin to see trends over time, and although these won’t be 100% accurate, they will help you to determine a manageable path forward.  Who knows? Your biggest acquisition might be from your own database.


Let me know how this process went for you and your organization. I’d love to hear your findings.


If you haven't read Clay's book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, be sure to take a look. It's required reading for anyone working with online communities and social capital, and his talk today took the book's concepts to a new level. I mean, after the debut of NTEN executive director Holly Ross's Beyonce tribute video, I thought it couldn't get any better. It did.

There were a few people Qiking the talk, and I'm pretty sure NTEN recorded it as well, so hopefully you'll have a chance to check out the whole thing soon. In the mean time, here are 15 quotes from this morning that absolutely blew my mind. I realize they are totally out of context, but like a fortune cookie they may bring you valuable insight. Enjoy!

"The loss of control you fear is already in the past."

"We're not good at thinking fast. We are good at feeling fast."

"Tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring."

"Once one person solves the problem once, the problem stays solved for everybody."

"The intention of users has more impact than the intention of the designers."

"Each of us is simultaneously an individual person and a global publisher."

"Start small and good, then make it bigger."

"We spend more time figuring out whether something is a good idea than we would have just trying it."

"Don't hire consultants. Hire your own 23-year-olds."

"Just take our organization and add some Internet."

"It's not just about delivering content to members, it's about the convening power to help members discover each other."

"Fail informatively - Fail like crazy."

"My guess is that the high water mark of Facebook's universality has passed."

"Nothing says dictatorship like arresting people for eating ice cream. The problem wasn't the ice cream, it was the group."

"I was just making things up."

Today, Facebook launched its new API that lets developers access the stream from your profile page - anywhere, on any platform - from mobile phones to websites to desktop apps - while respecting the security and privacy settings for the user. This marks a huge milestone in the way facebook data is shared and opens up a world of possibilities.

You can get a taste for just what this is all about by downloading the Facebook Desktop App for Adobe Air -Now you have a desktop app that shows you your stream in real time without the need to actually go to the facebook website. Facebook has also created a download area where you can experience additional apps that take advantage of the new API.

The next move lies with you - the designers, the developers, the audience, the strategists... to dream up new ways of bringing facebook streams into your online presence and daily activities. For starters, imagine a non-profit organization's facebook stream visible on their homepage to generate interest and invite more audiences to engage!

What would you do with the new access to Facebook's stream? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!


If you are a web designer, developer or a website manager, pay close attention to these new developments and start thinking about how to take advantage of the new features - Of course you might want to think about a social networking strategy first, if you haven't done so already!


Good times!


I know stewardship is important to everyone in the nonprofit space.  I also know there are a thousand other things on your mind so practicing stewardship can’t always be top of mind. The good news for you is there is a vehicle out there working for YOU 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any guesses who or what I’m talking about? (And no, it’s not that poor college intern working with you until May!) 

The answer is…….(drum roll please)


That’s right folks – the Internet. Your organization’s website is here to serve you. A few questions:


  1. Do you know the percentage of a donor’s dollar that goes towards your mission?
  2. Do you show this percentage on your website?
  3. Do you allow a donor to decide where their money is designated to?
  4. Does your online giving page give designation options?
  5. Do you mention stewardship or accountability anywhere on your website?


Here Are Some Examples:

Accountability and Transparency:
Accountability: Acción Email Newsletter
 Donation Designation Options: Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Hopefully these questions and examples got you thinking and start to give you a better idea on how your website can work for you. In today’s economic climate our donors are researching more than ever who they are donating to and where their money goes. I can tell you I’m much more likely to give to an organization advertising that 94% of my gift goes to their programs vs. an organization that doesn’t say anything. Use your website well and show the impact of a dollar or advertise your high Charity Navigator ranking. Small actions really do make a large difference!

Do you have other ideas? Is your organization practicing accountability and stewardship well? Leave a comment and let us know!

Fast forward 18 months…When I saw the latest user statistics for the Connect API, I was extremely impressed. 



About This Dataset:

  • The above chart shows one count for each API call made. A single API call can also return up to 100 results. This means that the total amount of data exchanged with Sphere is likely much higher.
  • There were more API calls in the first 4 months of 2009 than all of 2007 and 2008 combined.
  • These statistics do not include any usage from Sphere’s REST API and are representative of product to product integrations.
  • There are now over 150 customers that activated their Connect API and made webservice calls.


What Does This Increase in Use Mean?

  • Customers are increasingly accessing data in Sphere programmatically
  • Partners are more frequently developing and selling complimentary solutions to Sphere


Examples of Customers Using Connect API

  • Raiser’s Edge Connector: Sphere & Raiser’s Edge Connector recently launched and is now available. (Contact your sales representative to get started, there is no software or license fee, but there is a services package that must be purchased). The Connector makes use of the Sphere Connect API for user authentication and transfer of data. (Click here to see a 5 minute pre-recorded demo of the Connector in action).


  • Integration with Social Networks: FreeCause’s Facebook application uses the Connect API to ensure new supporters acquired on Facebook are instantly added and tracked within Sphere. Check out how Heart & Stroke Association of Canada got 50,000+ supporters on Facebook.


  • Creating Custom Solutions: Customers like Creighton University build their own solutions (and blog about them). In Creighton’s case they are integrating BSR with Sphere.


Learn More About the Connect API

  • The Getting Started Guide is written for partners, but definitely provides great guidance for anyone who wants to use the API.
  • The Connect API documentation is an indispensible resource, especially information under the reference section.
  • Sign up for the developer community and have your questions be answered by your peers and Sphere engineers.


Now it’s your turn, how is your organization using the Connect API or a Partner application? Leave a comment and let us know!

Consider adding these four online tools to your current online strategy:


1. Go viral with YouTube Video

We all know online video is one of the best ways to engage people and one of the easiest mediums to spread through the web. Here are a few really great examples of how you could be using video in your next event:  

    • Use video to show progress to those eager to stay close to your event like charity:water has been doing recently for their well drilling project.
    • Talk to supporters who have donated and/or volunteered like 12for12k has continued to do throughout their twelve month initiative.

These types of projects and/or events coupled with video that engages people will help your message easily go viral around the web. An added bonus – YouTube came out with a new feature for nonprofits – you can now embed a “call to action” in your video which will allow you to drive traffic back to your organizations web site. Learn the basics of creating a nonprofit channel and make sure to tag all your event videos with the same ‘tag’ so people can easily find and share your stuff (i.e. athletes4acure09).


2. Join the Twitter micro-blogging community

It’s one of the fastest growing online social networks so don’t miss out (Nielsen says Twitter grew by 1382% in February of 2009 - whoa! The largest demographic is 35-49yr olds – 41%. No more thinking these types of tools are for kids.

This tool makes it simple for you to communicate and connect with others. It’s also a great tool to help your Tribe connect with each other like never before and let’s face it, connecting your Tribe with each other is where the real power lies. Keep in mind that building a following on Twitter doesn’t happen over night. There are many things to consider when using Twitter, but at the core it’s all about building and engaging your Tribe. Here are a few things you could be using Twitter for:

    • Regularly share information about the event
    • Share information, stories, pictures, videos, etc… about specific participants
    • Help local participants connect with each other before the event even starts
    • Promote discussion and connection between participants of events who’s paths may not otherwise cross
    • Gather feedback from previous event attendees

Here's some tips on getting started with Twitter.


3. Share photos with Flickr

Everyone loves to see pictures. It’s a great way to help your event live on and ensure your supporters, volunteers, participants and staff can easily share with others. Help your event take on a life of it’s own with imagery! A few tips that you have to make sure to follow – Create a group (i.e. The American Heart Associations Go Red for Women flickr page) or a photo stream (i.e. The Team Fox Flickr photo stream) to house all your photos and create a ‘tag’ (i.e.  The teamfox Flickr tag) that everyone posting pictures to Flickr knows. This will allow people to easily find your events pictures.


4. Harness the power of the Facebook community

It’s likely you have many supporters, donors, volunteers and participants actively participating or hanging out inside the Facebook walls. Don’t miss out on the ability to easily connect, listen, engage and communicate with each of them through Facebooks tools for nonprofits. Facebook is probably the social network where you can reach the most people and it’s simple to create a ! If you don’t believe me read about how Facebook reached 2 MILLION 200 MILLION users according to Mark Zuckerberg, check out some demographic stats Ian recently shared and once you are convinced check Mark’s post on how you can combine the power of Facebook and personal page fundraising (aka Friendraising).


3 great examples:

  1. Lance Armstrong Foundation
  2. Stand up 2 Cancer
  3. Prostate Cancer Foundation – Athletes for a Cure

5 quick tips to help your organization get started on Facebook:

  1. Create a user account on Facebook
  2. Set up a “Page” as the external facing presence for your organization.
  3. Invite members to spread the word to friends and family.
  4. Use Page updates to keep them informed about events and programs.
  5. Utilize Events and local groups to organize supporters.


Why these four things you ask? Because you already have a cause, mission and/or a purpose that people are on board with. You likely have a fundraising model with both online and offline channels, active campaigns that occur regularly and tools that support your overall strategy and help you raise money. Wrapped up in all this you also have established ways of communicating with people.

What you are missing is the future of fundraising. These tools or tools like them are changing the face of online fundraising, engagement, community and communication. If you don’t jump in and figure what tools will work for you and how to incorporate them into your current strategy then you’ll fall behind the curve.

Some organizations are already deploying and utilizing these tools with a great strategy behind them. Prostate Cancer Foundations Athletes for a cure comes to mind - Maybe we’ll interview them soon to get a real world example in front of you.


Oh, if all that didn’t make you think at all go check out “Social Media for Social Causes Study: The Results” by Beth Kanter and some others.


Photo credit: Luis Perez

See how Athletes for a Cure is using Social Media [update 5.14.2009] 


What’s your take? Do these tools make sense for your organization? What’s your online cultivation and fundraising strategy? Where am I wrong?


Last week I received an incredible ask letter. What made it so incredible Courtney?  Let me share:







The Letter Was Tailored for Me:

It was not only personalized for my age, but also to the dynamics of my family.  The organization recognized that:

  1. I fall in the bracket of a traditional online donor (under 35); therefore they offered me the appropriate avenue to give. 
  2. I have a two year old, and the letter highlighted an area of the organization that pertained to young children.


The Organization’s Message Was Timely:

I hear from many nonprofits that they are trying to change their messaging based on the economy (aka the recession).  This one actually changed their message.  In the letter, they acknowledged that people may be struggling with finances, and if my family was one of those families, that we could offer “time or talent” to the organization instead of a monetary donation.


There Was a Clear Call-to-Action:

They asked for several calls to action to various outlets, and again gave several ways to respond; in person, at meetings, online or via mail.  The organization included a stamped reply envelope with the letter, to make it easier for me to give if I didn’t want to do it online. 


They Showed Accountability:

This is the #1 thing I look for in a nonprofit appeal.  If you are asking me to donate my hard earned dollars, not only do I want to know that good will come of the donation, I want to know that the organization is responsible enough to handle it.  The nonprofit in this example was transparent with their donations and allocations in 2008 and was very open with not only why they needed money, but they also talked about the impact they could make with the exact dollar amount they asked for.


What have you done right in an appeal?  What have you done really wrong?  Please leave a comment and share your story.  I’ll continue to update as the snail mail, or hopefully emails come in…

 Photo credit: Kevin H.

Every single pixel has a purpose when it comes to web design (a separate post about this coming soon)  - Whether the pixel is colored or not, negative space or not, it must be fully utilized and have a purpose. Why not look at the footer in the same light?

When working on redesigns for our clients, there are some common themes of resistance towards enhancing footers. The most popular one is "Why? This type of footer distracts the audience from the main content."  At first, this sounds like a very valid concern - Why take emphasis away from the main content of the website?

The reality is that the footer is the last element on the page - If your audience has scrolled down and reached the footer, this usually means that:

  1. they have not found what they were looking for in the main content, or
  2. they are simply in 'browse' mode and are scanning the page top to bottom just to get a feel for the type of content you are offering, or
  3. they are looking for specific quick links or contact information about the organization

The real question is, if your audience has already scrolled past everything, and they are now towards the bottom of the page, why not take advantage of the opportunity and present quick and useful information and/or elements that re-enforce your organizational goals and keep them engaged? The success of a website solely depends on securing the interests and satisfaction of the audience, and going the extra mile will only do good!

Today's audience demand more information in less time that is easy to consume - Helping the audience in yet another way to get to compelling content and interactivity on your website aims to fulfill that demand.

Another advantage towards using a "functional footer" that may be hidden from plain sight is that it enhances search engine visibility depending on what type of information you publish.

From a design point of view, especially for those organizations who are very brand conscious (as should all), a functional footer opens up a world of possibilities to do something a little different and unexpected and provides an easy way to re-enforce the organizations brand in creative ways!

Here are some possible elements that could be used when designing a functional footer:

  • Partner logos
  • Key calls to action
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Search
  • Complete sitemap
  • Short blurb describing the organization's purpose
  • Promotional links to podcasts, blogs, etc.
  • Use of social networking/bookmarking icons
  • 'thought of the day', 'Psalm of the day', 'Comment of the day'
  • What we're doing, How you can help (Quick links)
  • Recently updated content
  • Staff or constituent profile teasers
  • Do you have more ideas? Leave a comment and participate!

Here are some examples of creative footers on various non-profit websites:


Bethlehem Baptist Church

Bethlehem Baptist Church


The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

Cavalry Bible Church

Cavalry Bible Church

Church of the Valley - Corvallis

Church of the Valley Corvallis


City of Grace - Mesa

City of Grace - Mesa


Elim International Church

Elim International Church

United Nations Association of the USA

United Nations Association of the USA


Generation Church

Generation Church

Lance Armstrong Foundation

Lance Armstrong Foundation


Memorial Baptist Church - Gettysburg

Memorial Baptist Church - Gettysburg





Oxfam International



Pacific Legal Foundation



Save the Children

Save the Children

St. Pius X High School

St. Pius X High School


The White House

The White House







Do you have more examples of great functional footers? Share them with us!

Well, a recently-released analytics tool from Google called Google Website Optimizer is making it easier for marketers, webmasters and IT folks to answer these difficult questions. Website Optimizer allows businesses to do simple-to-complex A/B testing and multivariate testing to study the effects of different combinations of content on their users. The application can test any element that exists as HTML code on any website which can include: calls to action, fonts, headlines, copy, images, and forms to name a few.


Sounds Great For Businesses, But What Does This Mean For Nonprofits?

A lot really. As a nonprofit, your marketing materials do the same thing for your organization that they do for a for-profit business…they drive people to your website where visitors can request more information about your cause, submit an online donation, become a participant in an event or register to volunteer.


How It Worked For the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

During their A/B testing, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society thought they knew which pages on their Team In Training site would drive more visitors to click through and request more information. Through testing they found out that the original page layout was the most conducive to getting their website visitors converted to supporters.   In future tests, they kept the website format the same as the original and only varied the graphical elements, images and calls to action. Since Website Optimizer is a free service, they can continually test and optimize their homepage to attract new donors and participants.  See the video below for more on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's testing process.




As a nonprofit, can you see the benefit in A/B testing? Have you considered testing your websites for optimization? Are you already using Google’s Website Optimizer? Leave a comment, join the discussion and let us know your thoughts.


Since 2001 with the introduction of Blackbaud’s Friends Asking Friends®, this type of peer-to-peer fundraising has exploded online and allowed organizations like those mentioned above to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Peer-to-peer fundraising continues to grow and make an impact, but as with any technology, things must evolve. The concept of a personal page, as we like to say around here, was “Web 2.0 before there was Web 2.0”, allowing people to build online networks around a fundraising event. Since 2007, the Internet has seen an explosion of other online social networks, with arguably the most successful being Facebook.


Facebook has practically become a household name (humor me if you don’t agree) so having the ability to effectively fundraise within Facebook provides a powerful new way to connect. While its demographics may trend toward the younger generation, most nonprofits have a strong desire to find ways to attract these future donors - even with Obama-styled micro-gifts which are a perfect giving opportunity for event fundraising with average gifts in the range of $50.00.


Blackbaud has partnered with a company called Charity Dynamics who built a Facebook application that integrates with Friends Asking Friends called boundlessFUNDRAISING™.  This application allows an event participant to log into his or her event headquarters (as shown left) and click a button labeled “Fundraise with Facebook”. The application then directs the user to Facebook where he or she can download the application for their profile page.


The resulting ‘widget’ or ‘badge’ (as shown left) allows people to display their fundraising goal, total amount raised and a link back to their event personal fundraising page which increases their outreach efforts by extending their fundraising activities into their social networks.


For you “metrics geeks” out there, here’s a quick assessment of the potential for this new “Facebook-Extended Personal Fundraising Page”. Participants using tools like Friends Asking Friends typically send emails to 22 people from their address book with about 25% of those people converted into supporters. There is not enough data yet to determine conversion rates for Facebook page visitors becoming supporters or the percent of adoption of FAF participants activating their widget. However, the average number of friends is 120 for each Facebook users with a total of 175 million uses. That means that the average Facebook user has nearly six times the number of potential targets as a “traditional” FAF user uploading his or her email address book. So there is HUGE potential!


Think of the ways in which you could harness the power of Facebook. Consider the extended networks you could reach. Imagine how something like this could spread through the online community known as Facebook! Think of the impact


What are your thoughts? Is it worth a try? How could it help your organization? What are other ways your organization has used Facebook? Please comment and share!

Q: What is a social media trend you’re seeing in 2009 that’s new or different than in 2008?

Quantitatively, despite the recession, companies are even more interested in participating in social media in 2009 than they were in 2008, and consumer growth in participation is also up. Qualitatively, businesspeople are starting to pay a lot more attention to Twitter and are less interested in blogs. Communities are extremely interesting to all sorts of companies right now.

Q: Many nonprofits are looking for the ROI on social media. Isn’t it more about Return on Engagement? How should they be thinking about the metrics behind all this?

Your metrics and ROI depend on your objectives, as we tried to hammer home in the Groundswell book. Every business investment should have a return, so ROI is important to measure. But if you’re looking to spread awareness, you’ll measure changes in buzz; if you’re looking to energize your biggest backers, you’ll measure how many friends they reach; and if you’re looking to support the people you serve, you might examine the number of participants. The important thing is to measure something that matters to you, not just traffic.

Q: Often times lessons learned in the for-profit world can be applied to the non-profit world. What is a trend or tactic you’ve seen that corporations have learned that nonprofits could benefit from knowing about? Are there any major strategies that might only work in the nonprofit space?

Non-profits have fans, just like other brands. You want to give your fans the chance to spread the word. While this is a great idea for Nike or Coca-Cola, it’s potentially even more valuable for a non-profit. Also, we are slowly driving the fuzzy-headed thinking (“Hey, why don’t we do a blog! It’ll be great for us!”) out of marketers’ heads as they concentrate on getting real work done here. Non-profits that want to succeed should skip the fuzzy-headed part and go right to clear objectives and matching technologies to those objectives.

Josh's keynote was titled "Engaging Donors in a World Transformed by Social Technologies." He started off by noting that while we are in a recession, the same rules of marketing and awareness still apply. Josh talked about the funnel that people go through:  Eyeballs, Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, and Loyalty. The problem in this environment is that there is a black hole between Consideration and Preference right now. And social media is what is influencing people about what they buy and where they give.

If you only focus on the technologies then you'll get "Groundswell Approach-Avoidance Syndrome" and this isn't good. The reason this happens is because people know something big is happening, but they don't understand what is really happening. Using an example from Comcast, he discussed how social media won't fix all your problems, but it will help fix your message.

Josh makes the point that this isn't just about the social networking websites. Search engines love social media content. And that means that your message get spread in lots of ways whether you like it or not. People don't take information from organizations anymore. They are now taking it from each other. The key point is to engage in the conversation. Embrace the groundswell.

He then went through the POST process that's outlined in Groundswell. People | Objectives | Strategies | Technologies. Josh spent some time talking about the different kinds of people that use social media. They aren't all the same. They are Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives. The percentage of these groups keeps changing and the demographic makeup of these groups keep changing as well. "If you don't know anything else about your groups, then knowing their age can tell you a lot," says Bernoff.  And then Josh showed how these groups apply to high net worth individuals, volunteers, and low income individuals. Some patterns in the storm with the numbers he presented. Matching these groups or roles to specific objecitves is the next key step. 

Josh talked about a story from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and what they are doing online to engage cancer patients. It's an example of a very focused community, built with the help of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and it allows these organizations to listen to what patients are saying. What is the problem faced by your donors, volunteers, etc., and how can you help address them in an open way? Josh then talked about the US Campaign for Burma website and how this nonprofit has used social media to drive traffic, attention, and awareness about their cause.

The key is to engage, energize, and provide support for people. One example was from Massachusetts General Hospital and their use of carepages. The most surprising social network that Josh has seen is Homeless Nation from Canada. The Brooklyn Musuem is another example of how nonprofits are using social media to embrace people in new ways. They have built an online community that allows people in interact in very cool ways. Josh closed by noting that while the groundswell might be threatening — it is something that you can turn to your advantage.



Editor’s Note:

This is a wrap-up from Day 2 of the Target User's Forum.  If you'd like to read more about Day 1, you can do so here.

Why should you care about video?

  1. Video allows you to speak to your audience in a way that compels, inspires and motivates unlike traditional web content.

  2. You can now harness the popularity of YouTube to drive traffic to your web site like never before. Let me give you two quick stats to help you see my point (Google Source on YouTube reach):
    • Comscore today revealed that the popular social network YouTube has reached 100 million viewers. In total, internet viewers have viewed 14.8 billion online videos in January 2009 alone.
    • In January 2009, 147 million U.S. internet users watched an average of 101 videos per person.
  3. YouTube is FREE and the new feature is simple to set up. Follow the steps below.
    • Sign up here:
    • When adding a new video go to "Edit Video" and fill out the fields in the section marked "Call to Action Overlay"
    • Save

             Note: For more great ideas on using video check out YouTube and nonprofits by Monica

A powerful example: charity:water

According to the YouTube Blog, the new call to action feature helped charity:water raise over $10,000 in one day. That's enough to build two wells in Central Africa and give over 150 people clean drinking water for twenty years! Watch the charity:water video here or view below.


Program Requirements

Organizations applying for the nonprofit program must meet the following criteria.

  1. Organizations must be U.S.-based nonprofits with IRS 501(c)(3) tax status
  2. May not be religious or political in nature
  3. May not be focused primarily on lobbying for political or policy change
  4. Commercial organizations, credit-counseling services, donation middleman services, fee-based organizations, and nonprofit portals are not eligible for the program

Program Benefits

Tips and Tricks

How are you already using online video to make an impact? Have you started using the new feature for nonprofits from YouTube? Please share your stories below.

Meet Andrea:


Andrea wakes up with her alarm at 6:00 a.m.  Over a cup of Lapsang Souchang tea, she checks her email remotely from home and receives a reminder that her Event Planning MeetUp group is having their monthly meeting that evening.  She answers a couple of pressing emails and heads off to the office as she has a lot to do to prepare for the Gala Auction coming up next month.


At the office Andrea checks her RSS feeds and finds an article on one of her favorite blogs that outlines a new resource for sports memorabilia.  Perfect!  Her supplier just went out of business and she needs merchandise for the silent auction.  She makes her normal vendor calls to confirm the lighting and stage rental, and makes a phone call to the event coordinator at the venue.  Next she submits her event information to the local free weekly newspapers, Craigslist, and this place called Yelp that her friend just told her about.  By 11:00 a.m. she has four people saying “Sounds Cool” and one person saying “I’m In.”  “Maybe this Yelp thing was a good idea after all,” she thinks to herself.  While she’s thinking about it, she also sends out a Tweet on Twitter to let the people who are following her know that the event is shaping up quite nicely.  She has 243 people following her sharing nonprofit event planning tips, tricks, and resources.  Although she's new at this, Andrea's data shows that those who receive a Tweet alnog with her regular event marketing email are 9% more likely to respond as opposed to those who only recieve the email.


After a lunch meeting with the catering company where she gets to try all of the appetizers and main courses for the event, she comes back to the office to find an email from Robin in the marketing department, who just finished editing the video of last year’s auction into a three minute YouTube video.  Andrea jumps on the chance to send the link out to everyone who is currently registered for the event so they can pass it on to their friends.  A great free advertising piece!  She also sends the link to her Nonprofit Professionals network, who meets monthly to discuss nonprofit best practices.


She spends the next few hours working with the budget and makes more vendor calls.  As Andrea is preparing to leave, she checks Sphere and notices that three more people registered today.  Only 27 more to go until capacity!  She sends out another Tweet with the good news.  She heads out the door at 4:45 so she can make it to her MeetUp group and thinks about how cool it is that this free website can bring like-minded people together.  Hmmm, maybe this is an idea for the volunteer director?


Luckily for Andrea she was already familiar with these social media tools and knew the value they held to make her private life easier.  It wasn’t hard for her to make the jump into using these tools alongside her more traditional networks to help her be more productive at her job.  She never sat down and thought about her strategy for using social media, it just came naturally. 


The biggest challenge for you is seeing how all of these seemingly incongruous pieces work together to help you be more efficient at work and provide a good return on the investment of your time.


Photo credit: bhollar


According to a recent article from Inside Facebook, the answers to the above questions are “NO” (well, maybe the young at heart). In fact, the largest active demographic on Facebook is 18 -25 year olds followed by 26 -34 year olds, then by 13-17 year olds, then 35-44 year olds:


Age Group

Users (millions)














Upon further reflection, I suppose the 18-25 age group isn’t too shocking, since Facebook got its start in the college space. The 26-34 age group is also a fairly natural extension of a population made of post-Facebook college grads. I find it extremely intriguing that the 35-44 and 13-17 age groups have very similar sized Facebook populations. Considering individuals in 13-17 age group were basically born with a mouse in hand, it is amazing that the “old people” have nearly the same total members. The story gets even more interesting when you look at the rate of growth for the 13-17 and 35-44 age groups:

Age Group

New Members (last 120 days)

Rate of Growth (last 120 days)








Given the high rate of adoption for the 35-44 age group, it won’t be long until they are the 3rd largest population. How can this be?

I hypothesize that it comes down to total population size. According to the US Census Bureau the total size of the age groups are as follows:

Age Group

Count (Millions)












It is not surprising to find that the 35-44 year olds are the largest population. What do you think is reason behind Facebook’s exploding 35-44 year old demographic? If you use FreeCause’s Facebook App (comes standard with Sphere integration) to acquire new donors or constituents, would you mind sharing their age breakdown?

*Of course I use the term “old people” relatively.

There’s no doubt these are all very important overall campaign metrics that help in developing a more engaged constituent over time but there is one area that is often overlooked. What about those constituents that have been inactive for some time?  List fatigue is a common problem that is often overlooked by email marketers because these metrics aren’t typically presented in the same way that the other more common metrics are often displayed.  You’ll need to do a bit of work to determine those recipients that have not opened or clicked for some time. If they haven’t opted-out and they haven’t reported your email as spam, there must be a reason why they still want to receive your messages.  Analyze the following to see if you can determine a strategy that may work to re-engage the non-responders.

  1. Develop a strategy for handling list fatigue.  What is your definition of an inactive user?  Is an inactive user defined the same regardless of the campaign or should you define different strategies for different subscribers?  What do you want to accomplish with these inactive users?  What is the threshold for inactivity?  What are your objectives and tactics associated with this process? How much time can you spend developing and executing this strategy?
    • Be mindful of your time, you are mining data and this will require time outside of the current campaigns you are managing.
    • Pay specific attention to those recipients that may be a part of more than one subscriber base or campaign.
  1. Evaluate any trends surrounding these recipients.  Are there specific reasons why they may not have opened or clicked on your emails in some time?  Have you been using the same subject line and headings?  Do you adhere to best practices (relevancy, image to text ratio, preferred frequency)?   Is seasonality of events and major initiatives a factor? If they used to open and click on your messages, are there things you used to do that have changed around the time they stopped opening your emails?
    • There are many factors that can contribute to list fatigue, your goal at this stage is to determine those underlying reasons why fatigue set in.
    • Use a small sample size for starters, its better to dive deep into a small number of recipients in the beginning to determine root cause rather than trying to generalize
    • Don’t get caught in the position where you delete inactive addresses without first reviewing your historical communication plan because you might inadvertently remove some individuals that only respond to a specific event or action.
    • This may also provide insight into your overall communications strategy as a whole.  You may find obvious ways to improve your strategy even if not related specifically to list fatigue.

If you follow this basic process, you should have a better understanding of the potential triggers that cause list fatigue within your specific organization.  If you can set aside a few hours, see what you can do to flesh this concept out.  You may find that cultivating inactive subscribers helps you to achieve your goals without spending as much effort and money on acquisition efforts. 

Feel free to share your results once you’ve had a chance to do the initial digging.  I’ll follow-up with another post in the next couple of weeks to help you fine tune how to turn your findings into an actionable re-engagement plan.

Photo credit: Will Lion

1. Twestival

TwestivalIn February 2009, Twestival happened both online and offline in over 180 cities around the world! This amazing event raised over $250K for charity:water – an organization supplying clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Social Media maven, Susan Mernit featured Twestival in Using Social Media for Social Change, a case study about engaging the public through social media.

Beth Kanter wrote a blog post about Amanda Rose, the leader of Twestival, and how she used social media to make a difference.


2. Tweetsgiving

In November 2008, Tweetsgiving mobilized over 330 people and raised over $10K in 48 hours through Twitter and other social media channels to fund a new classroom in Tanzania.

To follow the story of the classroom that Twitter built, and the work of Epic Change, visit


3. Pledge to End Hunger

Pledge to End HungerRecently the Pledge to End Hunger launched a campaign to help raise awareness, money and volunteerism.

“Our main goal was always to help raise awareness for childhood hunger in America,” shared Scott Henderson, campaign manager.

 Social media and The South by Southwest (SXSW) 2009 conference played a big part in spreading awareness about the campaign.

“We are overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm for helping us spread the word about the Pledge to End Hunger,” stated Ed Nicholson from Tyson Foods. “We couldn’t have been successful in breaking through the noise of SXSW 09 without the hard work and effort of everyone who pitched in with their Twitter, Facebook, and personal requests for support.”

Summary after #SXSW

Beth Kanter talks about the pledge to end huger here

Chris Brogan also shares his reason for being involved in the pledge to end hunger here


4. Tweet-a-thon (Four versions to check out)

12 for 12k Challenge

The 12 for 12k ChallengeThe 12 for 12k Challenge just got done with a Tweet-a-thon – On March 19th from 10am – 10pm est 12 for 12k successfully ran a tweet-a-thon raising $14,827.69 to help end child hunger. They are working to raise 12k a month for 12 months straight. Each month will be focused on raising money for a different nonprofit(s). They even got hundreds of people on Twitter to change their avatar to reflect the 12 for 12k logo!


Tweet-a-thon 2009

Tweet-a-thon2009 was sponsored by Joel Comm. The celebrity supported event was streamed live and put on to raise money for Water Is Life, a ministry that provides clean drinking water to villages in Kenya. Joel Comm says $13K was raised.


Dr. Mani Sivasurbramanian

This type of event was first done by Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian in 2008. The money was used to fund life-saving heart surgery for children in India.


A Powerful Noise Live

Another version of the “Tweet-a-thon” was done as recently as March 5th. A Powerful Noise Live - In honor of International Women’s Day each tweet raised 10 cents for CARE – in total $2,800 was raised!


5. Personal fundraising

Armano money raised for Daniells's Apartment FundFirst we have David Armano had a personal cause to raise money for a family he knew. He was only trying to raise 5K, but amazingly he helped raise over $16KArmano reflects a bit here on the entire experience and the power of “Neighborhoods”.

Next we have Laura Fitton who went on a mission to save children’s lives by bringing clean, safe drinking water to villages in need through charity:water. She used her powerful network on Twitter and helped raise $19,753.77 from 671 people! Amazingly this all started by her deciding to make a difference during the Christmas season, but understanding the economy was causing people to “tighten their belts”. She asked her entire Twitter network to donate $2 each.


So what’s the point?

The fundraising landscape continues to evolve and the technologies used to engage supporters online are exploding. A year ago you probably hadn’t heard of Twitter let alone FriendFeed. You were probably just beginning to see how Facebook could be used to engage people beyond family and friends. Now we’re seeing clever and creative uses of these tools to both engage online communities and raise money for worthy causes.

So what is the point? Traditional methods of fundraising still dominate for any nonprofit, but in my opinion you should be doing everything you can to learn about and use these new tools to help your organization continue growing. There’s an amazing new world going on in online communities. Your biggest supporters and fans are there. Why aren’t you?


Where are you taking your fundraising efforts? How are you innovating? Please share with us! And please help us spread the word!

Twitter ruled as did a keen interest in the consolidation of computers and mobile, video and pc’s and all things social. But, you might ask, were there non-profits in attendance? It was the largest group of organizations (over 1000) they’ve ever had and along with nonprofit bloggers and luminaries Beth Kanter, Amy Sample Ward, Danielle Brigida, Holly Ross, Wendy Harman, Carie Lewis, David Neff, Katie Paine and others.

Beacon Non-Profit Lounge

Blackbaud Internet Solutions was a proud sponsor of the non-profit Beacon Lounge at SXSW this year. Mellow music, nice chairs and lighting, free coffee and a place for non-profit attendees to get away from the show crush. Beaconfire Consulting arranged for a different non-profit per day to be featured and Blackbaud kicked off the program with lunch for the Texas Food Bank. Attendees were encouraged to donate what they would have spent on lunch to the foodback – with the result of over $500 donated to the Texas Food Bank.

NTEN was also a Beacon Lounge sponsor and held a great breakfast on Sunday morning with author Holly Ross.

One of the highlights of the show was the much anticipated SXSW Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam

No one can say nonprofits aren’t creative. The SXSW Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam was a hit. Panelists rocked as they put their missions value to verse in the Poetry Slam. Judges and panelists were moderated by the industry famous Beth Kanter.

The Participants were:

  • Wendy Harman of the American Red Cross
  • Daniell Brigida of the National Wildlife Federation
  • David Neff of the American Cancer Society
  • Carie Lewis of the Humane Society

The Judges were:

  • Holly Ross, Executive Director of NTEN
  • Geoff Livingston
  • KD Paine

Enjoy the video of the poetry slam below and we’ll see you all at SXSW next year!


I realize that I may have lost some geek cred by not live blogging the entire event, but that was never part of my plan. I wanted to focus on building relationships with my fellow nonprofit geeks, actually pay attention to some sessions in an effort to learn a thing or two, and keep my Twitter feed updated with nuggets I could use later. After a day in the office, here are some things I liked:

The Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam

Nonprofit Social Media rawk star Beth Kanter moderated the Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam, which brought together experts from around the sector. The four participants included Danielle Brigida from the National Wildlife Federation, David Neff from the American Cancer Society, Carie Lewis from the Humane Society of the US, and Wendy Harman from The American Red Cross - we couldn't have been in better hands. Each person used a poem to tell the story of how social media was used at their nonprofit, and what the results were. The format was a creative way tell stories, but the best info came of of the insightful questions from the judges and audience. Things like: Charity Water did well with the Twestival because they were willing to let go of control, the Humane Society made $650,000 from a $5,000 Facebook app, and you have to know what to do with executive sponsorship once you get it (view all my tweets from this session). We all learned a lot, but everyone recognized that the disconnect between social media and donations is still large, but getting smaller every day. Be sure to check out Beth's reflections on the session, which includes slides, pics, links, and videos.

The Beacon Lounge

People kept telling me that out of the 11,000 attendees at the event, 1,000 were from nonprofits. I was a little shocked at first, but after a few days I realized this presence was real. Michael Cervino and Beaconfire hosted The Beacon Lounge, a place where SXSW attendees could chill out, do some good, and help nonprofits. Organizations like Operation Smile,, and The Capital Foodbank of Texas got a lot of attention from this techie crowd, and we (Blackbaud) were pleased to help out Feeding America by sponsoring lunch on Monday. The lounge also became a rally point for all of us NPTech geeks who often needed a place to read email, get a drink, or just meet some new people. It was a great vibe, and really helped bring awareness to the nonprofit movement at this massive event. I'm excited that Beaconfire will be back next year for more of the same!

Gary Vaynerchuk

OK, I'm not going to beat around the bush - I love Gary Vaynerchuk. I would walk 1000 miles over lava-covered glass shards just to hear him speak. I watch his video blog at WineLibrary.TV, even though I hate wine. I send his short presentation from Web 2.0 Expo NY to friends at least once a month. None of that prepared me for the mind-bending, though-provoking talk he gave at SXSW. Already dubbed this year's unofficial keynote, his presentation blew the room away. Gary put his honesty, energy, and intelligence out there for everyone, which is what he is all about: being yourself and doing what you love. Some of my favorite quotes from the session include: 1) "If you live for the weekends and vacations, your $hlt is broken." 2) "Content is king, but marketing is queen - and the queen rules the house." 3) "I think about legacy over currency every second I breathe." 4) "Delegate everything, except what you love." There's a bunch of great quotes here (someone needs to make "v-shirts" with these quotes on them!), but do yourself a favor and watch/listen to the whole presentation. Get inspired, plan, act, repeat. Watch out for Gary at next year's SXSW, and in the mean time you can follow him on Twitter.

Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh's opening remarks about Zappos' success and company culture is something every HR and Customer Service leader should listen to. Zappos takes a very common sense approach towards dealing with both employees and customers: deliver happiness. Zappos is willing to take a 25% hit on revenue just to provide an amazing customer service experience (24-hour service, free shipping, special treatment, etc.)  They believe that every customer service dollar should be looked at as a marketing expense. When more and more companies are scaling back phone support in lieu of online self-help, Zappos has grown to $1 billion in revenue by taking the opposite approach. And the same goes for their employees, who are offered $2000 during training to walk away - not to get rid of the bad apples, but to make the good apples more engaged because they "turned down the money". Half of the interview is about culture fit, with questions like, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?" Tony advised that companies often hire based on talent rather than fit, which is fine once in a while...but over time it poisons the whole staff, creating a dysfunctional, poor-performing company.

Other sessions really stood out to me, like Tara Hunt's "Making Wuffie".  Be on the look out for her upcoming's going to be good. I also went to a great online community panel and learned things like, "Your community will not grow into the vision you had for have to grow and adapt with it." The rest of the time I spent stumbling into texting walkers, networking at events, searching for food on 6th street, and learning from my friends. It was great being in a bubble-world with others like me, and I'm already looking forward to 2010.

All the rest of my photos are up on Flickr. But if you don't feel like clicking though the photostream, check out the video made from them on See you at next year's SXSW!

Trend Observations from SXSW Interactive:

1. Emergence of a new UI: Twitter

The obvious success of twitter nationally was highlighted at SXSW. Business cards will soon have @twitter addresses if attendees are any indication. It was the exception rather than the rule when an attendee DID NOT have their twitter name on their badge (interesting note is that the conference didn’t have a place for this). Also fascinating was the fact that more than one start-up has taken off by building additional functionality on top of the twitter API.

2. Apple Rocks

Outside of MacWorld at Moscone Center, I don’t think I’ve seen more Mac computers. There isn’t a doubt that at least this group is devoted to their Macbook pro’s and other Apple computers. And for those not lugging thier laptops around, iPhones were ubiquitous. At times I felt old school with my Blackberry and felt the need to sneak into a corner to check email before I was discovered and marked as “not with it”.

3. Mobile Rules

Mobile, as just mentioned above, is heavily dominated by the smart phones. Operation Smile was testing mobile donations at the show, and everywhere people were immersed in twittering, sms messages, emailing, looking at schedules, maps, and flight times on their mobile devices. Non-profits should have a strong mobile story –how do they want to add this new way to interact with their donors?

4. Social video everywhere

The social medium continues to explode. As the domain continues to develop rapidly I got the definite sense at the show that social networks like Facebook and photo-sharing were becoming the “old” standard. Everyone had, and used them – but I often heard statements like. “Yep, I have a facebook account and an email account, but contact me on Twitter.” On the photo side, the community is moving on as well: people were videoing panel discussions, each other, the parties, the signs. Digital still pictures were there, but video has emerged as another wave to be handled.

5. Everyone is a journalist

Interviews on cell phones, interviews with handheld video camera’s, twittering, live blogging, digital pictures were a constant. Everyone was an author, podcaster, internet broadcaster, video editor, producer or star. The impact on traditional media couldn’t have been more on display.


How are these emerging trends effecting your nonprofit and its efforts to stay connected with supporters in a changing world? We’d love to hear from you.

Through these discussions, and aggregating their giving data, an updated picture of integrated fundraising is presented in the new report. The findings represent careful analysis of information from over 9.5 million donors and more than $747 million in donations to the nonprofits in the study.

Key Findings in the Report:

  • Online giving continues to grow rapidly in 2007 and 2008, even in the absence of major disasters which fueled the growth of online giving for relief and animal welfare organizations in previous years.
  • Over the past few years, online giving has become an increasingly significant source of new donor acquisition. These online donors give much larger gifts but have slightly lower retention rates than traditional donors.
  • Online giving is not a strong renewal channel; every year, large numbers of online donors migrate away from online giving and to other channels, primarily direct mail.
  • Donors to direct mail – the primary giving source for most organizations – rarely give online. In the relatively rare cases when mail donors do give online, they tend to give higher average gifts – both before and after their first online gift.
  • Offline donors who have an email address on file, and who have no record of giving online, give far more per year and retain and reactivate at higher rates than those who do not have an email address on file.
  • Donors in the southwest and mountain regions of the United States are disproportionately more likely to give online.

Channel Flipping Continues

The 2006 analysis highlighted the channel switching trend from online to offline, and the 2008 findings continue to show this trend. Online donors switch to offline giving channels, but offline donors rarely switch to online. This reinforces the importance of an integrated approach to managing your donor relationships. This is a trend that plays out over time as 37% of the donors acquired online in 2006 who gave in both 2007 and 2008 never gave online again in either of their subsequent years of giving after their acquisition year. The key is to leverage integrated multi-channel strategies to identify and cultivate these donors over time.

Online-only Donors are Less Loyal

While online giving continues to be a major growth engine for nonprofits there are some concerns around retention and donor loyalty. Over the past three years of analysis, online donors have consistently renewed at rates slightly lower than traditional donors. Online-acquired donors have significantly higher lifetime value in aggregate than mail-acquired donors because their larger initial gifts and greater gifts in later years compensate for their lower levels of loyalty. But online-acquired donors are actually underperforming their mail-acquired giving-level equivalents. By contrast, multi-channel donors have much better retention rates for organizations in the analysis.

Online Giving is Key to Long-Term Success

Online donors in the analysis represent less than 10% of the total donor file, but these organizations have been growing their online giving for several years now. They are embracing new channels and combining them with their existing fundraising practices to maximize their relationships with donors. These organizations understand what a critical role the Internet plays in their current and future fundraising programs.

Learn More

Nonprofits of all sizes can gain key insights from the findings of the 2008 donorCentrics™ Internet Giving Benchmarking Analysis. A webinar will be held on April 16thto review the findings in more detail. You can register online for the webinar here. This is one of many key Internet resources that Blackbaud makes availableto the nonprofit community.

(I’m excluding the 1,000’s of events in Canada, the UK, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand that have used Friends Asking Friends®; that data will make a good future post on international fundraising).

Let me know what factors your organization has identified as critical to online event success. In the mean time, let’s take a look at the benchmark data and see how a good peer-to-peer email campaign can dramatically increase an event’s success.

Email Benchmarking for Online Events

For the benchmark analysis, we are modeling the data to see the impact of several factors on event success, the primary measure being the “Online Amount Raised per Participant.” This measure allows us to benchmark the success of events by how effectively their participants are using the online tools. As an example, we wanted to benchmark the percentage of participants sending emails using Friends Asking Friends. The results (see Figure 1 below) show that the greater the percentage of people using email, the greater the online fundraising success of the event.

Figure 1 – Impact from Percentage of Event Participants Sending Emails


In Figure 2, we evaluated the distribution of events in the study across the range of email activity. To help benchmark organizations against the collective, the average percentage of participants sending emails across all events is 24% (highlighted in Figure 2). [as1] The study showed that 22% of events have little-to-no email usage from their participants. The impact for organizations that reach the average is noteworthy, in that participants will raise nearly three (3) times as much online. The data also show a significant impact to organizations currently “near the average” to train their participants to use the system more effectively. Events that are able to engage around 50% of their participants to send emails raise as much as six (6) times more online. This seems to represent a “critical mass” in terms of online fundraising success.

Figure 2 – Distribution of Events by % of Participants Sending Emails


More Resources

Email isn’t the only factor that helps support event success, but it does look like a very important one. Here are two recent articles where the authors fill out the picture and look at multiple event-success drivers:

"Maximizing the Success of Online Events” from Charity Dynamics

"Making the Most of Your Online Event Fundraising Efforts” from Fundraising Success and yours truly.


Here at Blackbaud we are looking forward to benchmarking other event dimensions and sharing the data with the community so watch this spot!

So what drives the success of your events? We’d love to hear from you.

For a nonprofit, there are many reasons to blog. A major reason is the ‘community’ nature of blogging. It’s no longer a one-way medium where an organization shouts out to anyone listening. It’s a vehicle where your volunteers, donors, customers, prospects, supporters, competition and the like can interact with you, talk to you, tell you what they think, share their opinions, tell you what they like or don’t like and sing your praises. It’s also a place where malicious people can spam you, mislead you (or other readers), post incorrect information, use inappropriate language and a whole host of other negative things.

Therein lies the dilemma, to moderate or not to moderate? Should you remove comments? Should you engage in a flame war with a commenter? There’s a lot of material out there on the Internet. A quick Google search reveals some great information.

Responsibilities of Commenters

Commenters have a responsibility to be a person of integrity and self-respect while also possessing a simple desire to treat others with respect, professionalism and love. Yep, I said love!

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts:

DO: Add value and stick to the topic at hand. The people writing the blog work hard at making it great, so work hard to help contribute and make it better - not tear it down. Enough said.

DO: Be yourself! Don’t pretend to be someone else or hide your identity. That’s what we call a hypocrite.

DO: Provide a link to your blog. If you don’t have a blog leave a link to your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t use LinkedIn how about a Twitter page? Facebook page? Email? Leave something to let us know you are a real person so we can continue to interact and build a relationship with you.

DON’T: Spread rumors or non-factual or misleading information. This one is HUGE! These types of people are the ones that give blogging a bad name.

DON’T: Spam, link to inappropriate material or use inappropriate language.

Responsibilities of Bloggers

The resounding position from the blogging community is to respect freedom of speech and let comments live on. That can be scary. What’s going to be said about you and your organization? How will it look to your readers? How will others perceive what’s being said? There’s a lot to consider as a nonprofit when jumping into blogging. So make sure to have a plan in place, but don’t let it scare you away from taking the leap – its well worth it!

In my opinion, you have every right to delete a comment if a person or organization is not following the five (5) things I laid out above.

If you want to take it a step further think about a commenting policy. Here’s a pretty simple one (see bottom of post)

For those of you already blogging please let me know your thoughts
  • How do you handle comments that are rude, aggressive, inflammatory or misleading? 
  • What is your standard operating procedure for dealing with these comments, etc.? 
  • What are some best practices around managing your blogs comments?

Photo credit: Paul Keleher

Editor’s Note:

NetWits Think Tank’s general policy is to let comments stand. You would have to push well outside the boundaries Frank described above for us to limit the conversation. So be you, add value and join the conversation!

In my mind the new Skittles web site is just that, remarkable (a big fat purple cow). People will talk about the bold move by Skittles. In fact you can see a lot of things being said by checking out the chatter on Twitter.

So what did they do? The built their entire corporate web site in a “Mashup” style – using pretty much all third party web sites to build their main Skittles site. It’s amazing, bold, crazy, daring, and possibly even disastrous. We’ll have to see how it plays out over time. But, one thing you can say about Skittles is that they were willing to be risk takers and put themselves on the line by doing something that no other large corporation has done yet.

And that’s precisely my point. What is YOUR nonprofit doing to be bold, try new things, take risks, and attempt what’s never been done before?

You see, what I’m learning is that the markets have changed (or they are in the process of changing). What people want is something new, creative, and daring! Skittles just pulled off all three.

So what can we learn here?

  1. Be transparent – Skittles used third party sites like Twitter, Facebook, FlickrWikipedia and YouTube. There’s no control over what’s being said about them on those sites. If they are doing a great job serving their customers it will show. The flip side to that is also true. If they do a poor job serving their customers it will show – all over their corporate web site. Talk about a challenge!

    I believe your supporters, donors, members, etc… are looking for the same type of transparency. They want to know what’s going on, be heard and know that you are listening.

  2. Be bold – I’ve never seen an organization do this – large or small. Have you? What Skittles did takes guts. I can imagine the internal conversations happening over the past year or so (maybe more for a company of that size). I’m sure it was no easy task to get a site like this sold to the internal stakeholders let alone approved. In my mind it was a very bold move, but look at it now. Their new site is generating so much buzz and excitement – exactly what they were hoping for I’m sure.

    Your supporters, donors, members, etc… want something to talk about. They want to share their passion with their friends and family. They’re tired of the same old boring stuff. So go out and do something that gives them something to talk about – be bold!

  3. Be a change agent – What Skittles did may change the game. Enough said.

    We all want to see change, progress, impact, etc… right? Recently Obama demonstrated this effect right in front of our eyes. People rallied around him because of the inspiring message and possibility for change.

    All of your supporters, donors, members, etc… want to see your organization make positive and progressive change that furthers the mission, raises more funds and really changes the world!

What do you think of the new More importantly what can your nonprofit learn from what they did? Or maybe you disagree completely? Leave a comment!

Photo credit: Peppysis

I want to thank David Hessekiel, Founder and President of the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council and the Cause Marketing Forum for bringing together 90 event fundraisers from small, medium and large organizations in the U.S., Canada and even Russia for two days of practical information that will help organizations raise more money, cut costs while maintaining quality and manage people and technology better. 


I got a lot of insight into what events fundraisers are worried about for the coming year. The discussion at the conference was overwhelmingly focused on three things;

  1. The economy,
  2. Increasing participant and team recruitment & retention, and
  3. Providing individual participants with the tools necessary to raise more funds. 

Listening to these concerns, I am reminded that continuing to apply best practices in online fundraising is one of the simplest ways to help control the outcome of your events.  Many of those best practices were covered in detail by Mark Davis at the NetWits Live conference in Portland, OR in October of last year. His presentation focused on email solicitation, online registration, and increasing participant and donor retention. You can check out Mark’s article in Fundraising Success Magazine for more information and a great set of tips for successful online event fundraising.  If you're interested in  maximizing your reach and revenue with Blackbaud Sphere Events, you can register for a free web seminar on Thursday, March 12, 2009.


The 2008 Run Walk Ride 30 report unveiled at the conference showed strong growth of 7.6% in participant fundraising, which is a good sign, considering the concerns about the state of the economy. The top 30 event programs, encompassing more than 41,000 events, generated in excess of 1.76 billion in gross revenue for charity last year.  Excuse me for the shameless self-promotion, but as a Blackbaudian, it’s interesting to note that 11 of the top 30 events are using Blackbaud software as their solution of choice to manage their online event fundraising programs.


Six of the top 30 organizations were honored at the conference with the first annual Pacesetter Awards designed to recognize the best work in the growing field of event fundraising. Four of these honorees, National Down Syndrome Society, March of Dimes (who won two awards) and Lance Armstrong Foundation use Blackbaud Internet Solutions software. The six honorees were:


It was great meeting and talking with nonprofit event organizers and fundraisers over the past two days. It is always inspiring to be in the presence of people that are so committed to their causes and it makes me happy to be helping nonprofits achieve their goals.

You can listen to the audio webcast from the program here:


As everyone is acknowledging these days, online donors are going to be a key growth segment for nonprofit organizations this year.  As discussed in the 2007 Target Analytics DonorCentrics Report, the average online donor gives more initially and has a higher lifetime value than a conventional donor.  Therefore, the importance of online giving as a growing revenue stream and website visitors as a target market worth focusing on cannot be underestimated.  To enrich current relationships, establish new relationships, and to encourage all constituents to interact and give online, nonprofits must shift from offering a static, marketing-centric website to a dynamic, interactive, and constituent-centric website.

Fortunately, according to the past three State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) surveys and other research, the majority of nonprofits have already begun evolving their websites from static “brochure-ware” into dynamic “virtual doorways” into their organizations.  The term “virtual doorway” describes a website that welcomes new and returning visitors in from the cold of the worldwide web with relevant, targeted information and a clear path to needed services and desired outcomes.  But while many organizations have taken their first steps, there is still a long way to go.  Whether your organization is cutting edge or a bit behind the curve, optimizing your website to nail online marketing basics is critical, and providing interactive experiences and services for visitors are part of those basics.

So what are the universally accepted basics of website marketing?  According to the nonprofit community, as reported in SONI and validated in other studies, nonprofit website essentials include the following:

  1. Direct or mass email marketing – 78% of nonprofits say they are doing this, although only 58% claim their email address files have grown in the last twelve months, indicating much room for improvement
  2. Online fundraising – 72% of nonprofits provide the ability for a website visitor to make a donation
  3. eNewsletters – 61% of nonprofits send out an electronic newsletter.  Right away there is an obvious opportunity for the organizations who are emailing without sending eNewsletters to better steward supporters by adding a newsletter to the marketing mix
  4. Website usage reports – 52% of nonprofits are utilizing this absolutely essential (and often free!) tool
  5. Online event registration – 49% of nonprofits allow prospective attendees to register for events online.  As 78% of nonprofits send event invitations through direct mail, this wide gap between online and offline is an area that screams for better constituent service

Is your organization implementing a well-thought out strategy in each of these areas, merely checking the box, or not even in the game yet?  Regardless of how well you are doing each, there is more than likely room for improvement in at least one of these five essential categories.

With an intriguing diagram, but no text, the slide egged me on: Can you describe what makes peer to peer (P2P) fundraising work? Can you come up with a model that suggests ways to tune your approach and maximize your results?  After some reflection, I think “Assigned Affinity” could be an important part of such a theory for explaining why peer to peer fundraising is effective and how you can make it better. What I mean by ‘assigned affinity’ is this: If A likes B and B likes C it doesn’t follow that A likes C. (That would be great though! The resulting ‘transitive affinity’ would make peer to peer fundraising go like a brush-fire.) However, there does seem to be something almost as fortuitous at work in P2P fundraising: Some of A’s affinity for B can be ‘assigned’ to C … if B asks nicely?

Looking at P2P fundraising from this perspective:  Assume we can give every event participant an organization-affinity score (1 being highest 0 being lowest) that captures the person’s affinity for the nonprofit organization and its cause.  I imagine that the distribution would look something like this:


The donors, many of whom have low organization-affinity, give because P2P fundraising effectively leverages the high affinity they have for their respective Team Leaders and Superstar Fundraisers who asked them to, in essence, assign some of their personal affinity for them, to the organization.

Here’s another example of ‘Assignable Affinity’ that just came up in my personal life: Car shopping with my wife. The diagram below captures our relative affinities for one-another and each of our affinities for the two finalists in our car buying endeavor:

Based solely on my affinities, I would have purchased a truck (.85 > .70) However, my wife, assigned some of my absolute affinity for her (1.0) to the SUV. Modeling that process with “affinity-multiplication” we see that my assigned SUV affinity is .9 (=1x.9); greater than my direct affinity for purchasing a truck. Needless to say, there is an SUV sitting in my driveway right now.

As I see it, engaged P2P fundraisers intuitively include assignable affinity in their calculations as they decide which of the people in their personal network to solicit; only folks with high enough assigned affinity are expect to donate so the P2P fundraiser focused their efforts on them:

Undoubtedly, additional considerations matter as well. For example, P2P fundraisers probably consider the chances that a given prospect has a direct affinity for the cause and comingle that factor with their expected ability to assign affinity when allocating recruiting effort. Another topic touched off by this discussion is the temporary nature of assigned affinity and the challenge it creates for nonprofits: How do you convert the temporary good-fortune of “assigned affinity” into the lasting value of direct affinity?

But even without further development, the concept of assigned affinity alone yields some interesting suggestions for developing nonprofits’ approach to P2P fundraising:

Direct Affinity Focused Fundraising:

Assigned Affinity Focused Fundraising:

  • Keep your message simple
  • Provide a rich medium for high affinity participants to tell their story
  • Provide convenient opportunities for individuals to increase their involvement
  • Make it easy for high affinity participants to reach people within their network
  • Create an engagement communication plan for new individuals that have shown interest; the plan must tell your story
  • Template your message so it can be sent by high affinity participants and provide opportunities for them to make it their own
  • Use multiple communication channels to further engage people who have demonstrated interest. For example, call individuals who have set high goals.
  • Provide guidance on P2P fundraising best practices and etiquette; a recent survey of more than 2,000 participants suggests 20% of participants desire more of this information*
  • Be transparent about how donors’ investment (time or $) is used and the social impact generated by your organization



Time to Share your Secrets:
What methods have you used successfully or unsuccessfully to increase direct or assigned affinity within your fundraising events?

Most people love to talk (or hear themselves speak) including organizations, but we all know listening is just as important. I’ll even argue that listening is more important than talking. This is true in the ‘real’ world, so what makes the online world any different?

What’s it all mean? … We need to learn the art of listening online.

You need to learn to listen if you want to get closer to your supporters, connect to more people and spread awareness. (Beth Kanter has some good advice here)

In the early days of the web, listening was not very easy to do, but in the web 2.0 & social media (SM) days, listening has become fairly simple. There’s no doubt that it takes some learning, practice and time to become good at it, but at the end of the day it’s well worth the investment!


Let’s look at a quick case study: 



10 tools to help you get started:

You will likely have to spend time researching, playing and educating your self on the below tools, but this should give you a good set of resources.


1. Google reader

A simple RSS aggregator tool. All you have to do is find blogs/sites that are somehow related to your industry and subscribe to them. It’s easy to do in Google reader and a lot of sites even have a link to ‘subscribe’ to their RSS feed in some easily seen location. Using an RSS aggregator makes it much simpler to stay up to date on the new information you need to know in your world.

2. Google alerts

Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms. Google offers alerts with results from News, Websites, Blogs, Video and Groups.

3. Yahoo pipes

Yahoo pipes social media firehose

4. Technorati

5. Google Blog Search

6. Aid RSS

See which of your blog posts are generating the most interest and which are more popular overall


Monitor what is going on in the Twitter world

8. Twitter Search

Search and subscribe via RSS

9. Tweetbeep

Search and subscribe via email

10. Dashboards (You'll need to spend some time configuring these for optimal use)




One thing we should all remember while we’re learning to listen online …

Be an “active listener” - Comment on the blogs where you are being talked to/about or generally have something to do with what your organization is all about. Talking to the folks who are out there talking to or about you will help you learn, retain and make your listening that much better. As you learn to listen you will also learn where your supporters hang out. Once you know this information go hang with them, listen to them and participate in the conversations they are having.


At the end of the day what does this all mean …

People are people and want to be engaged by other people, not by ‘the organization.' The social web makes this so much easier to do these days. Your supporters also want to feel heard. Again, the social web makes this easier and faster than ever before. Being a better listener equips you to respond, engage and support the people who support you.


Other useful resources:


How has listening helped your organization? We’d love to hear your story.


If you liked this please share it on Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg!

But first a few Definitions for terms you will soon come across:


Twitter: Free social networking service that allows its users to send and read other users updates (or Tweets)
Tweet: The terms used when you type something in the 140 character box and hit update
Follower: A person who has chosen to be connected to you – They will see your ‘tweets’
Following: A person who you have chosen to follow – You will see their ‘tweets’
Updates: The total # of ‘tweets’ you send out

You ask ... what are the two major things Twitter can help you do?

  1. Easily raise awareness or spread your message
  2. Quickly inform your supporters of what’s going on

One to the examples …

Inform Supporters

Communicating and keeping your supporters informed with current information is vital for nonprofit success. You could argue that this is vital to any organizations success. If you’re not communicating with your people then you are doing them a disservice. They follow, support, advocate, fundraise & volunteer for you – the more you can cultivate those relationships through real time communication the better!


Red Cross (

3,255 followers (grown from ~700 only 5 months ago) who each also have followers – when Red Cross uses twitter something great happens. Immediately 3,255 (and growing) people are informed who then inform their followers and so on through the social network on Twitter. This makes informing their supports simple and as “real time” as you can get. Not leveraging this would be a shame.


Hurricane Gustav is a prime example of how the Red Cross used Twitter to inform their supporters.

They did three things:

  1. Shared up to date info on Gustav status
  2. Informed people of what was happening in specific areas
  3. Prompted people to help raise money or donate personally for relief efforts

To drive this point home even further it’s worth showing you what Andy Carvin says about using Twitter to get information out quickly about hurricane Gustav.

From NPR’s Andy Carvin on the Role of Social Media in Gustav Coverage

Question: How important has Twitter been to your team?

Carvin: Twitter allowed us to launch and mobilize faster than ever before. During the tsunami and Katrina, much of what we did to pull together was word-of-mouth through email lists and blogs. With Twitter, I w as able to get things started by simply telling my Twitter followers I wanted to pull together and needed volunteers. Immediately I saw my tweets being forwarded from one Twitter user to another. And some of these folks forwarding my tweets have tens of thousands of subscribers, so word spread really fast.

Spread your message | Raise Awareness

Every nonprofit has a message they want to deliver or awareness they want to spread. Twitter makes it easier than ever and get’s as close to real time as possible.

An incredible example of this is ‘Frozen Pea Friday’ - a Breast Cancer Awareness and fundraising day in support of well regarded blogger Susan Reynolds.

The ‘peas for a cause’ movement is all about raising awareness and support through social media. One great idea the fund had was to have everyone they knew change their online profile image (or Avatar) to something “pea themed” (example by Dave Fleet). The word got our and people using TwitterFacebookFlickr showed the love by changing their avatars in support! Awareness was spread, money was raised and support was gained! What more could you ask for?

The word spread so fast and so deep that TechcrunchTwitter themselves posted about it! Check out the First Frozen pea Friday wrap up to get more stats & info on the impact.



I hope you have a bit of a vision now! Twitter makes it incredibly simple to inform your supporters and spread your message. Take some advice from the American Red Cross and the Frozen Pea Fund. Get on Twitter, start learning how to use the tool and find ways to make it useful to your nonprofit!

Still not convinced? Here are 2 articles that should drive the point home even more:

Businessweek: Getting Intimate (with Customers) on Twitter
New York Times: How Twitter Can Help at Work
Coppybloger: How to use Twitter to grow your business (added on 12.31.2008 - very comprehensive!)


Some tips to start:

  1. Get an account (
  2. Listen to what’s going on
  3. Watch others who have successfully been at it for a bit
  4. Engage in conversation

The above two benefits of Twitter are focused on you communicating out to your supporters. There is the flip side to the coin. Look for my next post where I will break down how to ‘listen’ using Twitter and other social media tools to improve your non profits awareness.


Have more ideas, thoughts or experience you think should be shared with everyone here? Please leave a comment … let’s chat.

If you liked this please share it on Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg!

Before we go too far let’s define a few terms so we are on the same page:

  • Twitter: Social networking service that allows users to send and read other users updates
  • Tweet: Terms used when you type something in the 140 character box and hit update
  • Follower: Person who has chosen to be connected to you – They will see your ‘tweets’
  • Following: Person who you have chosen to be connected to – You will see their ‘tweets’
  • Updates: Total # of ‘tweets’ you send out

At first glance here is what I thought:

  1. I was unsure how to use it or what the purpuse was
  2. I thought it was a complete waste of time
  3. I wondered who would really want to listen to what I have to say


What helped me get over the hump:


I read … and read a lot. I looked for people who had similar issues and challenges getting started; learning from their experiences and mistakes. Below are four of the most helpful resources I found while doing research.

        Check out my delicious bookmarks for more good stuff:


I engaged. After filtering through all the info I read and soaking in the experiences of others I jumped into Twitter full force. Full force sounds exciting, but in reality that means I started ‘tweeting’ & ‘following’ other prominent members who were on Twitter. This helped me learn first hand by seeing what was going on in the Twitter world. I didn’t want to just be ‘book smart’ by reading what others had to say – I had to get some street smarts!

Slowly but surely I found those that were ‘talking’ about things that were interesting to me. I decided to ‘follow’ those people. Once I was ‘following’ a good group of people I could see what they were ‘tweeting’ about and join the conversation. The point in which I joined the conversation is when I began to gain ‘followers’ (or better thought of as online friends - i have an aversion to calling people 'followers').


I worked on adding value, which can be a little tricky. Actually it’s the piece that never ends. At the end of the day being on Twitter is both about you adding value to and gaining from the community. Value is subjective - A large part of what you are responsible for is figuring out what is valuable to those that are following and listening to you.

If you are active, engaging, and get to know those that are following you it will undoubtedly lead to you figuring out how to add value. Plus, the fact that people are following you is likely an indicator that you have been doing something right in the first place.

At the end of the day

I have gained a group of ‘followes’ numbering a lofty ~250 people! That may not sound too exciting, but in 2-3 months it’s decent. I also follow around 100 people. This small network gives me the ability to learn, to share and to question in a lightning fast way. So far it’s been most beneficial for learning what is going on in the world of social media and non profits using social media.

So, what is the moral of the story here …

If you do not have an account, go sign up for one here and start getting your feet wet.

If you are one of those that signed up for an account, but didn’t really do anything with it, don’t worry. It’s very common for people to sign up, use it, and quickly fizzle out due to lack of understanding. The end result being our Twitter account left on the shelf gathering dust. If you’re in that boat, take your account off the shelf, dust it off and start using it again.


Look for my next post where I will break down two ways your nonprofit can use twitter to be more successful reaching people.

Have more ideas, thoughts or experience you think should be shared with everyone here? Please leave a comment … let’s chat. Or you could share it on Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg! We'd appreciate the mention.

We offer for your perusal, a ‘Patterson-Gimlin Film’ of our own.  Cup your ear, get your 16mm camera ready and press the ‘play’ button on the video below to inspect a real-life sighting of Sphere seamlessly integrated with the Raiser’s Edge.



Truth or hoax?  You decide.

Before we go any further check out RSS in plain English by Commoncraft if you are looking to gain a better understanding of RSS in general.


Now on to learning how to pull RSS out of the Kintera CMS system.

Once in Kintera CMS - make sure you are in the site structure view then go to New > Tools





Select one of the content listings. In this case, I’ll be selecting a content listing by folder (This tool displays all the content within the folder you point it to. Think of it like a news, article, announcement listing.)









Once you've selected the content listing by folder, fill in the information on the Properties tab. Make the title of this content listing “RSS Test” … this title is only for our practice and to make it simple to find later. Normally you would name it something more meaningful. (For the sake of brevity in this post we’ll assume you already know how to fill out the rest on the properties tab).

Next, go to the ‘Content Index by Folder tab (as seen below). On this tab select the content library folder that contains the content you want to show in your listing. Content must exist in the folder you select for anything to show up in the RSS feed.





Once you have selected the folder and configured the remainder of the required configuration options you will need to publish the content listing. Check the ‘publish immediately’ check box followed by the ‘create button’.



At this point all you need to do is go find the content listing in the site structure. I’ve placed mine in ‘Archive/Hidden’.







Open the tool open the tool and go to the ‘Display Tab’. On this tab, located at the very top, you will find the RSS URL. This is exactly what you need to publish the RSS feed on your web site.





Now that you have this URL you can place it anywhere on your site to allow your visitors to easily subscribe to your content. As stated earlier, this will make it easy for them to know when you publish new content!

Check out RSS in plain English by Commoncraft if you are looking to gain a better understanding of RSS in general.


Question for you

How are you using RSS on your web site now and what suggestions might you have for others reading this?


Well, for some of you, this could mean a foray into fundraising in a virtual world like Second Life (SL). It seems to be working for the American Cancer Society; they found a way to involve hundreds of volunteers holding a variety of events during the Relay for Life in Second Life (RFLinSL.) They raised close to $200,000 in real, U.S. currency over the course of 2008 alone. That’s pretty impressive, because most of it was done at the grassroots level. There’s some great stuff being done in Second Life by nonprofits such as; benefit concerts, donation stations, nonprofit technology workshops and discussion forums centered on advocacy, education, and community outreach. Here are a few examples;

By now you’re probably thinking, “Hey shouldn’t my nonprofit get in on this too? Well, before you rush over to SL to build your avatar and start trying to raise funds, there are three issues that you should consider before diving head-long in to the SL space.

  1. DONOR/ VOLUNTEER FATIGUE: As more nonprofits enter the Second Life space, advocating for their cause, educating the public and asking for donations and volunteers, people will begin to tire of these appeals. Nonprofits will run into the same problems they are facing in the real world around multiple asks, volunteer engagement and event overload.
  2. TECHNOLOGY LIMITATIONS: The technology barrier limits what nonprofits can do in Second Life at the moment. Issues such as heavy requirements of your computer system, problems with synchronous communication, server load and packet collision difficulties make the experience less than stellar. This will obviously change as technology changes, but it is an issue now.
  3. LOW RETURN ON INVESTMENT: According to a 2007 report by the nonprofit group Global Kids, typical one day events (12-14 hours) in Second Life bring in an average of $600- $1000. The amount of volunteer and staff time involved in pulling off an event in Second Life doesn’t begin to help alleviate the cost of event planning, volunteer management and implementation.

Generally, my advice for nonprofits is to forget about SL for the time being unless your primary constituents are the tech-savvy people that you could target by being in SL. For the others, go ahead and get your feet wet with this technology…if it interests you. Spend some time in SL, advocate your cause and spread your message, build community and find like minded people that you could possibly get to volunteer for you in the future. Have some fun; the technology is not where it needs to be to provide good ROI for many nonprofits, YET.

There will be a day sometime soon where synchronous communication will hit its stride and many people will be able to talk at once without a bogging down the server, the issue of how many people can congregate together in SL will be solved paving the way for large magnitude gatherings, and hardware technology will arrive at a point where your computer doesn’t crash while trying to navigate one of these events. You definitely want to be ready for SL when all cylinders are firing but for now, one life is enough.

Have more ideas, thoughts or an experience you think should be shared with everyone here? Please leave a comment … let’s chat.

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