Your Organization is Not Important!

Another of my “must read” nonprofit bloggers is Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, by Kivi Leroux Miller. Recently, she hosted the August Nonprofit Blog Carnival where the discussion was centered around the usefulness of hard copy and e-newsletters.

There were many good posts filled with different perspectives on how to improve newsletters as well as discussions about where they fit in with all of our other channels, especially social media.

In a related post, Six Ways Social Media Has Affected Nonprofit Newsletters, one of the comments asked in part: “Do we (meaning nonprofits) still need hard copy newsletters?”

It’s Not About You

My response: It’s not the nonprofit’s needs that are important. It’s the needs of those people you want engaging with you. Do your donors, volunteers, and clients want hard copy newsletters? If you’re a non-profit with a local audience with relatively low email usage, then the answer might be yes.

If you’re an NGO helping a third-world client base and you have Millennial and Gen X donors all over the first world, then you probably don’t need a hard-copy newsletter.

For some, if you properly segment your readers, you may find receptive audiences for each.

If You Write It, Will They Come?

It’s not what you need. It’s what your readers want. Survey your audience, ask them what their preferences are. (VolunteerMatch, one of the nonprofits featured in the nonprofit carnival did just that.)

You need to find out what kind of content they want to read (or scan). Ignore what you learned five, ten, or fifteen years ago at college and find out what they want to read now. Your professors never heard of user-generated content when you were in college. The question you want to ask is, “What kind of content must we produce that will compel our audience to read and then engage with us? For most of us, it will be stories by and about people who have helped our organizations make a difference (volunteers and donors) or who have been helped by our organizations (clients).

Think Like Them, Don’t Think Like Us

Our donors, volunteers, and clients are more important than our organizations. They are our organizations’ lifeblood. Their needs trump the needs of our organizations. Always endeavor to put yourself in their shoes and ask what they want or need. We must continually identify their needs, wants, and motivations and determine how and where they intertwine with our missions. That’s called “Outside-In Thinking,” and you can more about that in my post, When Recruiting Volunteers, Think “Outside-In.

Finding that common ground and building upon it helps us create stronger volunteer and donor bases which make it easier for us to reach our business goals and ultimately fulfill our missions.

Does Your Social Media Strategy Include Customer Loyalty?

I’m fond of telling people “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and I’m from somewhere past Pluto.”  Bear that in mind as I discuss a recent post from one of my favorite bloggers, Katya Andresen, who blogs at Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog. Her post, “10 Simple Ideas For Things To Share On Social Media,” gives you just that. Simple ideas.

Those are good ideas, in and of themselves, but they’re very tactical in nature. From where I sit out here past Pluto, I believe a disclaimer needs to be put on the post stating that there’s more to effective social media use than just this list. It  looks to me like it could have been written 20 years ago about a hard copy newsletter.

Regardless of whether your organization is in the business or nonprofit sector, I believe you need a social media strategy designed to increase the loyalty of your customers, volunteers, or donors, not solely to promote your products or events. In order to execute a strategy focused on loyalty, I would have a mix of posts, both tactical and strategic, in nature. Most of Katya’s list would fall under tactical.

Posts that would be considered “strategic” would be those that are more global in scope. Most donors and volunteers, especially Millennials, want to know how their efforts make a difference when they support a nonprofit. They also want to know where the funds are being used. Even large nonprofits need additional marketing of their client programs. Therefore, in addition to posting about our fundraiser this weekend, I would be sure to complement it with other posts that tell the bigger story such as  posts (some with video and photos) that demonstrated how a volunteer made a difference and where the funds go. As William Sturtevant says in his masterful book about major gifts, The Artful Journey, “The more a donor knows about an organization, the more he or she gives to it.”

I would ask myself, “How will today’s posts help increase customer/volunteer/donor loyalty?” There might be a few that are purely designed to promote an event or program, but they would be a small part of the mix. Many of the posts I would publish would be attempts to start conversations, not just a 21st century version of a news release which I frequently see.

I would create a plan to solicit user-generated content from volunteers and those who benefited from the organization’s services. Donors and volunteers respond better when the post comes from people they can identify with, which is not necessarily an organization’s communications director.

I would attempt to use gamification to make supporters want to come back to our social media platforms over and over again where they could be exposed to these posts. I’d create a badge for bloggers to post on their blogs that, when clicked, would take them to our Web site.

I would also attempt to ensure that my posts provided content relevant to our supporters, not just our organization. And I would work hard to create and respond to conversations.

Katya’s list is good as far as it goes. But please don’t think that’s where it ends. There are already too many organizations out there who see social media as just another one-way conversation channel.

By the way, it’s cold out here past Pluto. Could someone send me a venti dark roast, no room, and a heavy coat?

Tell Compelling Stories To Make It Easier to Recruit Volunteers & Raise Funds

In a guest post, Volunteer Recruitment: What Works For Me, on Volunteer Match’s Engaging Volunteers blog, Anni Murray suggests three ways organizations can improve their chances of recruiting volunteers like her.

I’m betting all of our organizations have been guilty of her point about buzzkill. Many of us begin writing posts and articles in the “corporate voice,” rather than a more friendlier one. We all could probably seek out more, better user-generated content as well. Yet we frequently find ourselves on deadline forced to pound out a newsletter article on why we need funds which turns out to be superficial at best. As staff, it allows us to check off a task linked to our performance objectives, but there’s no real attempt to see if it resonates with our target audiences.

Taking the extra step to seek out and find relevant user-generated content can add to your workload in the short term, but pay off big time in the long term as it keeps more readers engaged longer. Let’s say your organization provides client services in your community. Rather than have a staff person write an article for the newsletter, why not solicit a letter from one of your clients and ask her to explain how the program she used made a difference in her life?

Or, do as Anni suggests, and write articles containing specific examples with non-stock item photos. A very good example of this is the newsletter sent out by the Tutwiler Clinic which provides medical assistance to the (way) underserved in Tutwiler, MS. Click on the pdf of their most recent newsletter. You’ll find it written in a friendly informal style as opposed to a “corporate” style. The articles mention how people were helped, and in several cases, their reactions. The photos are obviously not stock, but “home-grown.”

I received this newsletter in the mail the old-fashioned way after my first donation. Because I had only a general idea of what the clinic provided, I opened the newsletter and read it cover to cover–three times in a row without stopping. It’s not that this is a world class newsletter. It’s not. It’s that it spoke to me as a new donor, educating me and captivating me with compelling content that offered specific examples of how they used their donations. A corporate voice could never have done that. I’m now a regular donor.

Don’t just whip out an article. Craft it as the good folks at Tutwiler Clinic do. Better yet, seek out user-generated content from your clients, volunteers, and donors that compels people to support you.