5 Things I’d Do if I Started Today

Post by Frank Barry - 8.31.2010 - Follow me on Twitter

I was talking to a friend who’s looking to start using the web and social media more effectively to reach a specific group of people. It got me thinking about the basics - the things that are, in most cases, mission critical when it comes to finding success in a digital world.

Getting Started OnlineI came up with five things I’d do if I started today. As a nonprofit, in your mind, what are the baseline elements you need to have in place to succeed online?

1. Create a Blog

Blogs give you a simple and easy way to publish content to the web. Most nonprofits have a website, but there are plenty who don’t incorporate a true blog into that website. How do you know it’s not a true blog? Check for comments. The key element of a blog is discussion in the comments. It’s not static. It’s conversational.

There are 5 key elements to a nonprofit blog.

  • Content - Without great content no one will come. This isn’t a new idea by any means, but I couldn’t go without mentioning it. Your blog should be updated at least weekly with fresh content that speaks to the needs of your target audience.

  • Commenting - Every blog has comments, but by using the DISQUS Commenting Plugin you can add sharing functionality and extend the reach of your content while also making it more likely that people will comment because DISQUS is widely used across the web.

  • RSS or Really Simple Syndication - Essentially this is a way to let people opt-in to get your content sent to them when you publish it. I use Feedburner as an RSS subscription manager. It lets people sign up to receive your content via RSS or directly to their email inbox. It also gives you statistics on how many people are receiving your content and what content is most viewed.

  • Sharing - As we all know social media and social networking are here to stay. People want to share what they like with their friends and family online so you need to make sure your blog makes that process simple. Use the ShareThis Social Sharing Widget and the Facebook “Like” Button Widget. They make sharing your content simple and give you statistics on what your readers are enjoying the most.

  • Stats and Reporting - This is website 101 now day’s, but I couldn’t leave it out. Make sure to get Google Analytics set up on your blog. There’s a lot of value in the data you can gather.

Here’s a couple resources to help you think more about nonprofit blogging.

2.   Set up an eMail Newsletter

Email is still the number one way most people consume digital communication both on their computers as well as on their mobile phones. Make sure you have a prominent area on your website where users can subscribe to receive your eNewsletter and make sure to have an eNewsletter management system that allows you to manage opt-ins, reporting, conversion tracking, unsubscribes, blacklisting and all the other stuff that comes along with doing eNewsletter management right.

3. Get on Twitter

I mentioned RSS earlier in this post. It’s a way that people can opt-in to receive your content. Twitter can be used in very much the same way. You can push out short “tweets” with links back to your blog to alert your Twitter followers. Just remember that the Twitter community is just that ... a community. People expect you to talk to them, interact with them, engage with them and listen to them. Here are a few resources for you to learn more about why Twitter matters and how to get started.

  1. Why Twitter Matters
  2. Getting Started with Twitter
  3. Twitter 101 for Nonprofits

4. Build a Facebook Presence

Facebook has over 500 Million active users! It’s also a platform that makes building online community cheap and simple. For those looking to get started, it’s, in most cases, a good place to begin. As with Twitter, engagement matters to people who connect with you on Facebook, so make sure you are not simply cross promoting your content. Make sure to not only post your content, but ask questions, provide information, talk with people, promote others, etc. Here are a few resources that should get you moving in the right direction.

5. Integrate Online Fundraising

Having the ability to take donations online just makes sense in the highly connected world we live in. Online giving trends also seem to be on the rise according the the Blackbaud Index of Online Giving. Find a way to get an online donation form on your website. Then, use your Blog, your eNewsletter, Twitter and Facebook to make people aware of your mission, your cause, your programs, your events and your needs. And don’t forget to include a call to action in every communication you put out.

A couple other items I’d be evaluating soon after I had the above 5 things in place.

6. Think about Video (YouTube)

Video is one of the most engaging ways to connect with people, and YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Now, video isn’t for everyone, nor is it always the right fit; but in every case, I’d explore the possibilities because video has a way of making things more personal and engaging. Couple that with the fact that YouTube has a nonprofit program and it’s a no brainer.

7. Think about a house social network

Some nonprofits need to go beyond public social networking platforms like Facebook for privacy or legal reasons. That’s certainly the case with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Once I had the first five things in place, I’d evaluate my constituency to see if a more private or house social network made sense.

Obviously there is no one-size-fits all approach to succeeding online. If that were the case every nonprofit in the world would be doing it (as would every for-profit).

What do you think about the outline above? Would it work? Why or why not? What would you add?

Photo by Jon_Marshall


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