Posts in the Fundraising Category at Socialbrite Social media for nonprofits Mon, 30 Jul 2018 21:35:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Attract & Keep Donors Using Text Messaging Tue, 17 Oct 2017 14:35:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


For many nonprofits, text messaging as a communications and fundraising tool can feel daunting. I’ve worked with nonprofits who grapple with understanding if text messaging is even right for them.

Below is a graphic shared with me by TextMagic that can help you better understand what an SMS campaign could look like and if it’s right for your nonprofit.

What do you think? Had your nonprofit worked on an SMS campaign? What were the results? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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Your Donor Sweetheart + My Nonprofit Comms Edit Fri, 02 Jun 2017 13:18:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


Today is my 10 year wedding anniversary and it got me thinking about how we value and place importance on anniversaries. That the action of acknowledgement is important. It recognizes a significant commitment and bond. It communicates that through the years, I continue to choose you. Pretty big stuff.

It then got me thinking about how we, as nonprofit communicators and fundraisers, celebrate our donor anniversaries. Do we do it? Is it a choice we make to not do it, if we’re not doing it? And what would that anniversary “love letter” look like?

Here are some thoughts on how I might approach the messaging of that “love letter”:

  • Congratulations on your first donation anniversary! We know that first donation took some faith in us and we acknowledge and appreciate that.
  • Today’s anniversary date is important. On this day, we started a very important relationship. One we value tremendously.
  • Here are three ways in which your continued support of us has made lives better this year.
  • Your commitment to us through the years is never taken for granted, and we’re so happy you’re here with us today.

Do you know any organizations that send out great anniversary emails or outreach? Please let me know in the comments section below!


I manage a great learning and resource sharing Facebook Group called Nonprofit Communications Professionals. Come join us!


Still pouring through Mary Meeker’s essential 2017 Internet Trends report. HERE are the highlights.


Digital Credit: Can it really alleviate poverty? And how do we protect borrowers better?


Should Your Nonprofit Livestream Events? As more and more nonprofits dip their toes into livestreaming galas and other events, how do we decide what gets streamed and what doesn’t?


Why are so many of us in a rush to create new nonprofits and social enterprises and less resolute to collaborate or join forces with existing organizations doing the same or similar work? What can we do about this phenomenon and how can we be better together? This really thorough piece from SSIR tackles an issue we think about a lot.


These are pretty great and funny: 30 Creative Museum 404 Pages. From our friends at Hyperallergic.


Happy Friday!



Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Mallorca, Spain

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The Friday Edit – Links I’m Loving Fri, 19 May 2017 12:55:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

shutterstock_629367821 FINALfotomica/Shutterstock / Park Guell, Barcelona

It’s the Friday Edit, aka, things I’ve been reading or watching around the web that I found interesting, useful, or downright funny. I hope you enjoy them, too.

I have to start with the funny because, well, it’s needed this week! I saw this movie trailer for NGO – Nothing Going On from Poverty to Power and it seems both hilarious, cringe-worthy, and painfully true in parts. Give it a watch below to see what I mean.

The current global cyber attack, built on ransomware, could wreck your communications impact and a lot more. Here’s a great, short post from the Getting Attention blog by Nancy Schwartz on how to protect yourself.


A great recap on the State of Digital Diplomacy by Nancy Groves – Head of #socialUN @UN Dept of Public Info


Here’s a quick two-minute recap on the takeaways from the World Economic Forum on Africa by Devex:


Here’s four creative summertime fundraising projects to focus on over the ‘lazy’ days of summer. ;)


This made me laugh: A guided meditation for nonprofit professionals. Also, Nonprofit AF is both an informative, often thought-provoking, AND hilarious blog. Recommended reading for us nonprofit unicorns.


Have a great weekend!




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4 Creative Summertime Fundraising Projects Mon, 15 May 2017 14:59:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]>



In June, everyone shifts into summertime mode. The kids are done with school. Summer camps and vacations are anticipated.And for many nonprofit marketers, work slows down or takes on a different pace.

How can you make the most of your summertime mode?Here are a few creative summertime fundraising projects to get you inspired:


Tip 1: Get Into The Summertime Spirit

Where is your audience during the summertime? How do conversations change during the summertime? For example, are your supporters sharing more vacation pictures?

Summertime Fundraising Projects - YSummerMatters

Consider these summertime themed campaigns:

  • Flip flop drive for the homeless
  • Pack a Summer picnic for underprivileged youth
  • YMCA Example: Send a kid to camp #YSummerMatters (shown above)
  • Take advantage of summertime selfies on Facebook and Instagram

Tip 2: Engage Core Supporters

Attention spans are limited in the summer. Focus on your core – your truly committed supporters. How can you make them feel valued and special?

Focus on those who give frequently:

  • Convert one-time donors to sustainers
  • Up the ante with current sustainers
  • Focus on donor appreciation

Tip 3: Pick a Summertime Cleanup Project

If you’re like most nonprofits, you’re busy. Sometimes important projects get put on hold. What’s the best way to finally focus on the things you’ve been putting off?

  • Clean up your data. For example, that data de-duping project you’ve been putting off.
  • Clean up your metrics. For example, set up Google Analytics for better reporting (goals are a must).
  • Tighten up your website. Take a look at your conversion pages and see how you can convert more supporters.

Tip 4: Get a Jump on September

Summer will be over in the blink of an eye. Once September rolls around, your immediate focus will be year-end fundraising! Use any downtime during the summer to prepare for year-end.

Plan your content calendar for September – December

  • Gather stories and write content
  • Create a content surplus
  • Schedule and queue up content

Bonus: Coffee

Attend my weekly Hump Day Coffee Breaks (sign up here for weekly invites). Coffee not included.

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The Friday Edit – Links I’m Loving Fri, 12 May 2017 12:56:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
souvenirs at grand bazaar, istanbul; eladora/shutterstock

souvenirs at grand bazaar, istanbul; eladora/shutterstock

As we get ready to wind down for the weekend, I wanted to share some links from around the web that have inspired me, taught me something new, or given me a hearty laugh. Hope they do the same for you. Happy Friday!

The buildOn Instagram account is endlessly inspiring to me. A great one to follow.

+Acumen just launched some amazing free online courses. From ‘Business Models for Social Impact’ to ‘Financial Modeling for the Social Sector’ and more – it’s worth a peek.

I’m living in this T-shirt right now. I call it #empowermentchic. ;)

NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) is producing two conferences this fall—in New Mexico and Oregon—and both are designed to help you develop and refresh your digital strategy. Highly recommended.

It’s so important to allow ourselves the space and time to do things differently. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. How do I let other sectors inspire me to look at my work differently? I enjoyed reading about how Beth Kanter is working on Design Thinking with nonprofits in her blog post, Different Ways Nonprofits Are Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems and Achieve Impact

I found this post from CauseVox to be a super-detailed and informative read on peer-to-peer fundraising. A great primer to get you going.

Totally old Buzzfeed post on ’25 Situations Only Nonprofit People Can Understand’but still makes me laugh every time I come across it.

Have a great weekend!

Caroline Avakian Headshot final

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3 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression with First-Time Donors Mon, 01 Aug 2016 15:24:19 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


john-haydonAccording to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, most first-time donors never come back to make a second gift.

Nonprofits as a whole are losing 57% of their donors every single year. And 71% of first-time donors never return!1

Any fundraising professional will tell you that retaining existing donors costs less than acquiring new donors. The quickest and surest way to a positive net revenue is to focus on retention.

What makes donors stick around for the long haul?

The factors that influence donor retention have been well researched and documented. In his amazing book on Retention Fundraising, Roger Craver shares 7 reasons donors keep giving after that first gift:

  1. Donor perceives your organization to be effective in trying to achieve its mission.
  2. Donor knows what to expect from your organization with each interaction.
  3. The donor receives a timely thank you.
  4. Donor has opportunities to make her views known.
  5. The donor is given the feeling that she is part of an important cause.
  6. Donor feels her involvement is appreciated.
  7. Donor receives information showing who is being helped.

As you can see, the first experience a donor has with your nonprofit is key. Is their first impression glorious or lackluster?

The first donation is a test

First-time donors often want to see how you treat them before making a bigger gift. Will you merely send a tax receipt? Or will you surprise and delight them with a hand-written note?

Either way, the first experience is critical. Will they be part of the 71% and never come back? Or will they keep coming back for more?

Like this scene in Office Space, it’s up to you if you want to just to the bare minimum:

You can be like Joanna and do the bare minimum, or you can be like Brian and dazzle your donors.

3 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression with First-Time Donors

Here are three specific strategies to make a lasting impression with first-time donors:

1. Express heartfelt and sincere thanks

There’s a reason your mother pounded this into your head. Gratitude is the glue of all successful and happy relationships – including your relationship with donors.

Expressing gratitude makes your organization more relatable, and more human. And according to all the fundraising research, thanking donors also boosts retention.

A few key tips for thanking donors:

  • Thank quickly (within 48 hours) – According to fundraising master, Tom Ahern, hand-written thank you cards that are sent within 48 hours increase the likelihood of a second gift by 400%!
  • Say it better with video – Video conveys feelings more powerfully than pictures.
  • On the thank you page – Say thanks immediately on the thank you page.
  • In your welcome email series – Say thanks again in your donor welcome series. Make sure your welcome series includes:
    • A warm and friendly introduction
    • A summary of what to expect
    • A personalized message of thanks from the ED

2. Reinforce the impact THEY made

Donors don’t want to give money to nonprofits. They want to make an impact. They want to change the world.

Smart nonprofits embrace the humble role of agent:

  • Remove your org from the narrative. Again, it’s not about your nonprofit is, it’s about the donor.
  • Connect their gift to the outcome. Tell them how their donation will “give clean water”, “build a school”, “support local families”, etc. All of these call-to-actions put the donor in the role of protagonist.
  • Make them the hero – Don’t say “help our nonprofit feed hungry children.” Say “you can feed hungry children”.

3. Differentiate your org by going old school

According to Roger Craver, thank-you phone calls will boost first-year retention by 30%! Check out Pamela Grow’s tips for effective thank you phone calls.

Sending hand-written thank you notes also has a huge impact on retention. Yes, they take more time – but it’s time well spent.

How are you dazzling first-time donors?

Leave a comment with your brilliant idea.

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How to Double Online Giving in Six Months Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:41:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Blog post pic

By Darian Rodriguez Heyman

More and more nonprofit donations take place in today’s digital landscape, but how can causes ensure their online storefront is not only open for business, but optimized?

As I explored this critical issue in my new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, I interviewed Roderick Campbell, the CEO of nonprofit fundraising platform CommitChange. He shared a few takeaways from their efforts to maximize digital donations for Mercy House, a $3.8M nonprofit that has provided housing and support to California’s homeless since 1989.

This simple formula helped Mercy House double online giving in just six months, and I believe it can do the same for your nonprofit, too:

  1. Break it Down: CommitChange helped Mercy House break the donation process down into four steps: recurring versus one-time; amount; info; and payment. Instead of asking for the information all at once, they simplified the process, which is especially helpful for digital donors contributing on their mobile device. Another great example of what this looks like is charity: water, also profiled in the book.

Whatever your process, be sure to look closely at recurring giving, as this creates valuable ongoing funding for your cause, increases gifts since people are more likely to donate $10 a month versus $120 now, and simple tweaking here can yield tremendous results: by leading with the recurring gift option, Mercy House increased the number of donors signing up as sustaining members by 400%!

  1. Stay Consistent: The data proves what we all know in our guts: nobody likes to feel like they’re leaving your website once they hit that donate button. So be sure to keep the look and feel of your donate page consistent with your website and other communication materials and ensure your logo remains visible throughout the giving experience. This simple change helped Mercy House convert more of the people who clicked “donate” to actual supporters, while simultaneously increasing average gift size.
  1. Streamline Donations: Less is more, and once someone clicks “donate,” your job is to make the giving process as simple as possible. In fact, CommitChange discovered that every field eliminated from the donation experience increases conversion by 2%. They further optimized conversion rates by adding some simple programming, so when Mercy House website visitors click the donate button, a new tab opens up exclusively dedicated to the donation process, ensuring a closed environment free of distractions.

By making these three simple changes, Mercy House was able to improve online giving by 110% in just six months, and it didn’t stop there. They continued to enjoy the fruits of their labor and saw an additional 73% increase in the six months after that. The point is, if you take the time to build a solid foundation for the house that is your online giving experience, the sky is the limit to what becomes possible.



Darian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His work “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation, after which he edited the best-selling book, Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (Wiley & Sons) and co-founded the global conference series, Social Media for Nonprofits and Sparrow: Mobile for All. His new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, is the first truly comprehensive yet practical guide to all aspects of fundraising for your cause, and chapters 15 – 18 are dedicated to online giving. Heyman is also an in-demand fundraising consultant and a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe.

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Is Giving Tuesday a Waste of Time? Tue, 14 Jun 2016 18:17:04 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


By Edgar Rodriguez

Is Giving Tuesday a waste of time? Good question, right?

First of all, the data says it’s been hugely successful in the past. Over 15,000 nonprofits participated last year, raising over $45 million.

Yes, some nonprofits probably raised very little money. But Giving Tuesday is NOT just a 24-hour fundraising campaign. It’s a movement that your supporters are embracing, more and more each year.

How did your nonprofit do last year?

If you participated in Giving Tuesday before, you can look at several metrics to judge your past success.

Depending on your goals, you can look at:

  • Total donations ($)
  • Number of new donors acquired
  • Number of current donors who gave
  • Number of new emails acquired
  • Number of people who engaged with campaign (clicks, conversions, shares)
  • Engagement with follow up messages (email, social, etc)
  • You get the idea

So should you participate? I asked a few peers this exact question:

why give tuesday is not a waste of your time

The comments I received are valuable recommendations and pearls of wisdom about Giving Tuesday, broken out into: CONS, PROS, PEARLS OF WISDOM.


Giving Tuesday CONS (WARNINGS)

Mary Cahalane

The one-off, or even one day a year, habit is bad for developing relationships between donors and organizations. If you can’t keep donors’ attention with good communications, a giving day isn’t likely to successfully fill that void, anyway.

I suspect strong organizations, with good fundraising programs already in place, could do well with Giving Tuesday as an addition. They’re ready with a strong message. They’ve got the staff to devote to that one day. And they’ve got systems in place to build on the relationships started with the one day.

Smaller organizations? Unless there’s a strong community-wide awareness of and participation in Giving Tuesday, I wouldn’t recommend putting a year-long program aside in order to participate. It’s a tool, and not every tool is right for every organization.

I’d ask:

  • Do you have time for a bootcamp? What will get put aside while you’re doing it?
  • What will the results of making that time be? Will they be lasting results?

Dennis Fischman

I wrote about ten reasons a nonprofit should not be on Facebook, and it all boiled down to what your nonprofit can and should do first. (

I feel the same way about Giving Tuesday. IF you already take care of your donors as if they were your best friends, and you want to invite them to a party that you and other nonprofits are throwing, then great! But how many nonprofits are really showing the #donorlove that way?



Caroline Avakian

I think one of the best parts of GivingTuesday are the collaborations and partnerships that are forged because of it. I was working at Trickle Up, a global poverty alleviation organization, when GivingTuesday started and we got to publish a few pieces in the Huffington Post based on HuffPo’s partnership with the GivingTuesday campaign and the NGO alliance group, InterAction. It gives smaller NGOs a chance to be a part of something bigger than them. We also forged partnerships with other orgs we were on GivingTuesday coordination calls with. It’s a win-win all around. @CarolineAvakian

Rob Wu

At CauseVox, we have seen the sheer growth of GivingTuesday as the motivating factor to nonprofits trying online fundraising for the first time. By taking part in GivingTuesday, nonprofits learn, in a very short amount of time, how to set impact-based fundraising goals, tell a compelling story, and use social media.

A few case studies from CauseXox:

Kivi Leroux Miller

I was hired last year by a handful of community foundations to teach nonprofits basic communications planning and donor stewardship using both Giving Tuesday and Give Local America as hook. It’s a totally new concepts to at least 75% of orgs in training.

From the Nonprofit Marketing Guide: 5 Ways to Harness the Awesome Fundraising Potential of #GivingTuesday

Joe Waters

I think it’s great at getting nonprofits focused on building a real audience – an army! – and communicating with them via social media.

Pamela Grow

If they’re already focused on the right things, especially building a solid email list, go for it. I love what one of my subscribers did last year for Giving Tuesday.

Julia Campbell

GivingTuesday is a national day of giving and it gets a TON of media coverage. People search on the hashtag all day long. People that may never have made a donation online give for the first time on that day.

It is not something your org should overlook, or sneeze at! You may not raise millions, but you may get new eyeballs on your cause, new ambassadors to spread the word and best of all – new donors!

Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz

GivingTuesday has grown such that nonprofits have an opportunity to embrace it, and leverage the day as part of a well-planned, overall yearly communications, outreach and development strategy.

Giving Tuesday: PEARLS OF WISDOM


Noland Hoshino

Giving Tuesday and other giving days force a nonprofit organization to sharpen and fine tune their message while competing with other organizations.

Most nonprofit organizations have campaigns that last days or months. Keeping donors attention for that long can be tiresome. A giving day campaign condenses your tactics to just 24-hours with immediate results.

Farra Trompeter

Giving Tuesday has grown in popularity, recognition, and success to a point where I don’t think nonprofits can afford to ignore it.

The challenge lies in figuring out how to plug it into the rest of your communications, especially if you are implementing a year-end appeal or annual fund campaign at the same time.

Rather than create a separate Giving Tuesday campaign, I think most orgs should integrate it into their overall calendar. If you are worried that it might take away from other efforts, consider testing a single channel ask–such as a 24-hour match promoted on Facebook or a selfie sharing campaign (giving voice over money) on Instagram.

If you are worried that asking for money on this day can hurt other efforts, ask for something else. Use Giving Tuesday to ask for time, passion, activism, and other efforts that might engage your donors beyond giving money.

Ehren Foss

A successful Giving Tuesday campaign depends on:

  • How much the nonprofit has already adopted these kinds of tactics and technologies (how valuable is learning/training?)
  • How well it aligns with their existing strategies and programs.
  • How well they can segment and steward their constituents to make sure to ask the right constituents to join them in GivingTuesday in the right ways.

Practice working together as online communications, online fundraising, and major gifts teams. What happens if a major prospect gives to Giving Tuesday or comments on a post? Does your team know how to work together?

Mickey Gomez

Taking part in a broader effort can bring new attention to your nonprofit, whether through donations, education or simple awareness. The messaging around national, state or regional giving is also quite inspiring, and confirms the power of philanthropy by amplifying giving on a single day to maximize quantifiable impact.

Where the sector needs to focus, in my opinion, is on maintaining the momentum AND further developing ongoing communication strategies that respect how donors would like to receive information after taking part in such an initiative.

The Takeaway


Giving Tuesday, like any campaign, is much more successful if you do your homework.

If you’re community isn’t as engaged as you like, maybe Giving Tuesday can be a catalyst to build a stronger community. Success largely depends on how well you plan, your definition of successful participation, and what investment (and sacrifices) you’ll need to make.

Check out these related articles:

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Using Virtual Reality for Social Change Work Mon, 16 May 2016 12:58:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


By Caroline Avakian

Virtual reality is a newer medium that has the potential to revolutionize the way many global development and human rights organizations communicate their work. It also presents an opportunity to virtually bring supporters, donors, and all others curious about the work being done on the ground, right to the communities and people they would otherwise not have access to.

The award-winning, “Clouds Over Sidra” a virtual reality film that was released in January of 2105, was one such film. It follows a twelve year-old girl named Sidra in the Za’atari camp in Jordan — currently home to an estimated 84,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war. The groundbreaking film shot for the United Nations using the Samsung Gear VR 360-degree platform, is the first ever film shot in virtual reality for the UN and is designed to support the UN’s campaign to highlight the plight of vulnerable communities, particularly refugees.

Since the success of “Clouds Over Sidra” there has been some buzz on how nonprofits and global development organizations might be able to leverage virtual reality to build awareness of their causes.

One such organization taking on virtual reality is Trickle Up. Trickle Up is a global poverty alleviation organization that works with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people to help them achieve financial independence and social connection. I spoke with Tyler McClelland, Trickle Up’s Communications Officer, to learn more about what the learnings, challenges, and best practices were for them as a smaller organization, taking on VR for the first time.

What made Trickle Up decide to try VR?

Trickle Up works in some of the poorest and most remote places on earth and for most of our supporters, making the journey to visit our participants and get a feel for their lives just isn’t possible. But when it is possible, the experience is overwhelmingly powerful. This past April, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and visit a group of women living in small communities on the mountains outside of Tamahú. Being steps away while they engaged with customers in shops they’d built—some of which were the first markets in their communities, really imparts a great appreciation for what they’ve accomplished. Being in their space and experiencing their lives, even briefly, made me understand their circumstances in such a visceral way. I was able to form a human connection, and that’s difficult to translate when you’re stuck behind a screen.

When I returned from Guatemala, I was so inspired by the women I’d met and was thinking of ways I could bring what I’d experienced to our wider audience. At the same time, VR was starting to be embraced by humanitarian organizations and the media, like the UN and New York Times. I watched one now-famous example, Clouds Over Sidra, and was surprised by the amount of empathy I felt for Sidra just by being transported into her world through my smartphone and some cardboard. It was eerily similar to the feelings I had when visiting Olivia Chiquin in her shop outside Tamahú. If there was ever a ‘light bulb moment,’ that was it. I knew we had to find a way to transport people into Olivia’s world.

Walk me through Trickle Up’s VR planning process.

Trickle Up holds an annual fundraising gala where we feature videos from the field to showcase our work to some of our biggest supporters. For me, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try doing something like VR, since we’re always trying to think of new ways to bring our work to life for our guests. The first step, and it’s an important one, was to ensure internal buy-in from management and my team. It was critical to have everyone on the same page from the outset and have a clear idea of our objectives and a general outline for the content.

After that, it was a matter of identifying a creative and production team. We have the great privilege of being blown away every year by the talent and generosity of our friends at Bodega Studios, a production company here in New York, who donate their time and energy to create stunning videos for the event. The planning process for the project really started in a creative brainstorm with them. It was critical to have the support of creative and engaged thought partners at that early stage, to both rein us in and encourage us to let our minds wander a bit in terms of the possibilities. Since VR was a bit of an experiment for both of us, we decided to focus on the immersive qualities it offers and create a series of brief experiences where viewers could be dropped into the lives of Victoria and Selvin Tiul, a family in northern Guatemala, and join a savings group meeting with Las Azucenas, one of our longest-standing groups. In February, the crew from Bodega met up with our field team in Guatemala and literally climbed a mountain to capture these experiences on film.

The final piece of the puzzle was deployment: How were we going to distribute the VR pieces? We needed a couple of components to get our VR content out there: a hosting platform and a printer who could print Google Cardboard glasses. There are several companies who host VR content, including YouTube 360, and several companies who print cardboard glasses, which can be found on the Google Cardboard website. We found a company who could actually do both the printing and the hosting, which was ideal. Once we had the glasses printed and the content online, we were ready to deploy. At our gala, we set up a booth with trained staff and volunteers to demonstrate and help guests experience the videos. Having VR at the event generated a lot of curiosity and excitement.

How did you determine your logistical requirements and what vendors to use?

The best advice is to do your research, and be clear about your objectives, needs, and resources. We knew we wanted to deploy our VR at an event, offer it as an incentive for donors, and to promote an upcoming Americas campaign. Like most small nonprofits we don’t have a large communications or marketing staff or budget, and knew we would need to find vendors to tackle various parts of the project including the production of the VR videos, hardware, web hosting, and a distribution platform. And, there were additional considerations because we were launching at an event. We needed staff and volunteers to be trained on the technology so they could show guests how to use it, drum up enthusiasm, and troubleshoot during the night. We decided to rent a number of iPads and iPhones for staff to use to demonstrate during the cocktail hour, and we needed to work with the venue to ensure we could access enough bandwidth to stream the content.

Logistically, our pro bono team at Bodega Studios handled all the creative, shooting, editing and sound, and the VR content can be viewed on a phone, tablet or computer. One of our main objectives was to create an immersive experience, so we decided to print cardboard VR headsets so that viewers would have the feeling of being in Guatemala with Trickle Up participants. The headsets were also a fun take-away and allowed viewers to use their smartphones to view the content anytime, anywhere after the event. Google hosts a website for Google Cardboard which features a number of certified vendors who can print branded headsets. We chose a company to print our cardboard glasses who also offered to host the VR content and provided a direct link to a Trickle Up branded page on their website, which eliminated the need to download an app for viewing. For me, this was the perfect solution because it eliminated a barrier to participation—having to download another app to your smartphone—and solved all of our distribution needs. But there are companies that offer all these services separately, so it’s easy to build a solution that suits your objectives. And one final thing: When you’re on a tight budget, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

In an emerging medium like VR, how did you approach storytelling?

VR is still such a nascent medium, I think most storytellers are still figuring out how to put its unique evocative qualities to use.


Our objective from the beginning was to create immersive experiences as companion pieces to the videos we usually feature at our annual gala


Through the traditional videos, we’re introduced to Victoria and Selvin Tiul, and women from the Las Azucenas savings group, and hear them tell their stories. Then we offered the VR pieces as a way to immerse you in their world. You can visit Victoria in her home, watch Selvin doing chores in their yard, and sit in the middle of a savings group meeting with Las Azucenas. The VR pieces are like little time capsules where you can drop in and experience that moment in time with the women in our program. But as the technology becomes more ubiquitous, storytelling will necessarily become much more central to VR. The possibilities of telling a story to someone in a 360-degree environment is fascinating and challenging. I love it because unlike traditional storytelling, which often relies on a passive audience, it empowers the audience to be actively engaged. That’s something that’s very much in line with Trickle Up’s values.

You launched your VR experience live at an event. What challenges did you face?

Deploying the technology was a big challenge because many people are still unfamiliar with VR. We had to ask ourselves plenty of questions: How can we make the videos as easy to view and accessible as possible? How do we account for the varying levels of comfort with technology of our guests? How can we ensure the experience is safe? How do we build enthusiasm for the content without jeopardizing the other objectives of the evening?

Ultimately, we had to make a few choices: Since the VR content was a companion to the video pieces and because we wanted to give our guests the chance to “opt-out”, we decided not to have a shared moment during the program, which was something we had considered. Instead, we set up a booth at the cocktail hour to generate excitement for the rest of the evening. The cardboard glasses were available to take from the booth, and a few pairs were distributed at each table for guests to use during dinner. We also decided to rent iPhones and iPads for staff and volunteers to demonstrate with, and for guests to use at the booth instead of their own devices. In addition to staff and volunteers being trained to assist guests, a portion of the printed program at every table setting was devoted to instructions for use. We also decided to purchase extra wifi at the venue to support streaming the content. And the greatest challenge was the display and streaming. VR videos are extremely heavy and require advanced graphics cards (think iPad 3s and above—iPad 2s just won’t work, trust me), and a colossal amount of wireless bandwidth to stream simultaneously. So, of course there were a few questions I wish we’d asked ourselves: What technical specifications are necessary to run the content on an iPad or iPhone? How much bandwidth will be necessary to stream VR content? But we didn’t, and had to make a few last minute decisions and call in a few favors to get iPads that could handle the VR and add a little extra to our budget line for wifi. It was certainly a learning moment.

Producing VR can be a significant commitment, how did you ensure it was worth the investment?

From the beginning we knew the content would need to be evergreen, serving multiple purposes for our external communications and fundraising. We deployed the VR experience at our annual gala, which injected the night with energy and enthusiasm that was well worth the investment—we were able to bring key supporters on one of our most important nights closer to our work than we’ve ever been able to before. Introducing them to Victoria and Selvin Tiul and the women of Las Azucenas in this way was a first for us, and such a memorable experience. In coming months, we will also be offering the Trickle Up Google Cardboard headsets, along with the video and VR content, as a special reward for donors who sign up to make automatic monthly gifts, and to promote a new campaign to grow our impact across the Americas to reach hundreds of thousands of more families like Victoria and Selvin’s.

Last words of advice on what a nonprofit should know before venturing out into the brave new world of VR?

The most important thing you need to start venturing into the world of VR is to do your research. There’s an ever-growing amount of VR content in the world—watch it, get a grasp of the possibilities, and think about how it can best serve your organization’s objectives. And be clear about your objectives. Spend some time researching vendors so you can make an informed decision about who and what combination is right for your objectives and your budget. (And as I mentioned, don’t be afraid to negotiate.) Get internal buy-in from management and your team because having clear expectations from the start is essential to a smooth production process and especially important when taking on a new media form like VR. There will be lots of questions, and thanks to your research, you’ll have (most of) the answers.

To view Trickle Up’s virtual reality films, click here.

To learn more about Trickle Up, visit their website at

*This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

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Should Your Nonprofit Use Snapchat? Wed, 16 Mar 2016 14:02:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

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Snapchat is a mobile app that lets users share photos and videos that are deleted in 24 hours. Snapchat users share snaps (temporary videos and photos) privately with a few friends, or as stories with all their followers.

What people love about Snapchat

You might be wondering why someone would use a social network that deletes everything they share.

If you’re wondering this, you were probably born before the internet. You never had “that talk” with your parents about being safe online. And you never had to worry about a potential employer digging through your Facebook updates. Which is why millennials love Snapchat.

The best thing about Snapchat is that all posts are deleted by default. So snappers don’t need to worry about an everlasting online persona.

Snapchat explains:

Our default is delete. Conversations are ephemeral unlesssomeone chooses to save or screenshot them. And if they do,we do our best to make the sender aware. Just like a face-to-face conversation content stays impermanent unless someone goes out of their way to record it.

Snapchat by the numbers:

  • Launched in 2011
  • 100 million users
  • 6 billion video views every day
  • 86% of Snapchat’s users fall into the 13 – 37 age range
  • $100,000 is the minimum ad spend for brands.

How nonprofits use Snapchat

There aren’t many nonprofits using Snapchat. But the ones that are using it are pretty damned creative.

For example, recently published a series of snaps promoting their Everyday Superheroes campaign1. The campaign, which ends March 31st, encourages participants send a card to someone who makes the world a better place.

Their snap story begins with Ricky looking for a special way to show his appreciation for Puppet Sloth:


Ricky is encouraged to download an Everyday Superheroes card and give it to Puppet Sloth:


Puppet Sloth loves his card:


Everyone is happy:


Finally, Snapchat followers are encouraged to be part of the story by joining the Everyday Superheroes campaign:


How does this campaign benefit the organization?

  • They stay top of mind with followers on their turf (Snapchat).
  • Their followers are reminded that is cool and creative brand.
  • They grow their list (emails and phone numbers) as followers join the campaign.
  • They leverage exclusivity and urgency (snaps are gone in 24 hours).
  • Participants share the campaign with their friends with their own creative snaps.

So should Your Nonprofit use Snapchat?

During a recent Hump Day Coffee Break we discussed three questions you should answer before jumping on the Snapchat bandwagon:

  • Are YOUR people there? Do your supporters, donors, and volunteers use Snapchat? What percentage of your audience is comprised of millennials?
  • Do you have the bandwidth? Do you have the time and resources to manage yet another social network?
  • How will you add value? What will you share that’s useful? What will you share that’s entertaining?

Here’s the recording from the Snapchat training: 

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