Socialbrite http://www.socialbrite.org Social media for nonprofits Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Write Your Best Fundraising Emails http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/03/25/how-to-write-your-best-fundraising-emails/ Mon, 25 Mar 2019 12:00:19 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24490 Continue reading ]]>

Whether face-to-face, by email, or with trained carrier pigeons, how you ask for donations makes or breaks your fundraising campaign (note: carrier pigeons are a guaranteed attention-getter).

Your message, and how it makes your potential donor feel is mission-critical. If they feel nothing, they will give nothing.

But let’s face it, writing effective fundraising emails is not easy. But it can be done, if you follow a process to develop your own email messages. And if you’re patient.

8 Steps to Writing The Best Fundraising Emails for Your Nonprofit

Here are eight steps you can follow to write or even rewrite fundraising emails for your next campaign:

STEP 1: Tell a good story

best fundraising emails - charitywater

A good story is the foundation of any effective fundraising appeal.

Begin your fundraising appeal with a story that pulls at the reader’s heartstrings. Talk about a real person who benefited from your work.

Make the donor the hero, not your organization.

For example, charity:water talks about a woman who fell down into a well with her baby. And she was stuck in the well for over 2 days! See? Doesn’t that grab your attention?

STEP 2: Make it about them

best fundraising emails - momsrising

Fundraising works best when it’s one to one, between to people who share a common passion.

E-mail is always one-to-one (no one gathers their friends around a computer to read their e-mails). View your fundraising email as a unique opportunity to develop a relationship with someone who wants to receive your emails, and is possibly open to making a donation.

Start by imagining a specific supporter that you’ve met a few times. Write your e-mail as if you’re writing a personal appeal this person.

Tell them why their support is invaluable. Connect their support to the outcome. Use their first name, And write the e-mail in second person narrative (use the word “you”instead of “we” or “I”).

STEP 3: Talk about the money

best fundraising emails - gristGain the trust of potential donors by being transparent about your funding gap (the gap between funds that cover admin costs, and what is needed to pay for specific programs). NPR are masters at this with their on-air fundraisers, which I’m sure you’ve heard.

Their asks usually go something like this: ”Sponsors and grants cover administrative costs, but we need your support to make sure programs like Science Friday continues to reach people like you”.

This approach communicates transparency and responsibility – making donors feel confident about how their dollars will be spent.

STEP 4: Tell them what their money will do

best fundraising emails - jane goodall$50 will not save all the chimpanzees. But it will help, and it is doable. Tell potential donors exactly how the money will be used, and what outcome will result from their $50. This approach helps donors connect the dots between their donation and the outcome they seek.

Another great example is from No Kid Hungry, In their “Build a Breakfast” campaign, they tell potential donors: “For just $40, you can connect a classroom of 20 children with a healthy school breakfast for an entire month”.

best fundraising emails - no kid hungryThis ask is very specific, immediate, and doable! This gives the donor a sense of realistic, personal impact.

STEP 5: Keep it short

No one has time read a long fundraising email. In fact, most people will just skim it first, then either delete it or keep reading. Here are four tips:

    1. Limit paragraphs to 2-3 sentences.
    2. Limit the overall email to 2-3 paragraphs.
    3. Break up the text with headlines.
    4. Enter your email copy into this readability tester.

STEP 6: Ask three times

best fundraising emails - su2cDon’t forget about the call to action! In fact, make sure you ask three times in your fundraising appeal. But don’t just repeat the same phrase over and over.

Ask different ways. For example, at the beginning of the e-mail you can say “you can make a difference”, linking to your donation page. In the second and third paragraph you can ask again: “Join others like yourself to make a difference”. Also, try asking once in between two paragraphs, in bold text.

STEP 7: Tell them they can say no

A good friend, who’s also fundraising consultant, told me her secret to success: People will often give bigger donations when they feel their personal free will is respected.

According to a recent fundraising study, giving people the choice of NOT donating almost doubles the likelihood that they will donate!

STEP 8: Don’t ask for money in the first email

No one likes to be asked to make a donation if they haven’t heard from you in a while. If that’s the case with your nonprofit, your first e-mail should encourage your potential donor to learn more about the campaign.

For example, charitywater often asks supporters to watch a video or read an article, before asking them to raise money.

Leading off with a powerful story says that you’re not all about asking for money, which helps builds trust. It also helps you connect with your potential donor on an emotional level – where fundraising happens.

What’s your tip?

John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then connect up: Contact John by email, see his profile page, visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.


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Why Organizations Should Tell More Stories http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/02/25/why-organizations-should-tell-more-stories/ Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:34:25 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24480 Continue reading ]]>

Child under the rain in Mali by Riccardo Mayer

Storytelling is an ancient practice that’s been passed down the generations, from before the
written word to our current digitally-driven platforms.

How can this ancient practice serve nonprofits whose survival depends on the actions of others, whether they be funders or volunteers? For one, it puts a face on the issue and shows that you’re talking about real humans. While data is important for showing reach and impact, studies tell us people don’t identify with numbers – they don’t donate, petition, volunteer, or sign up for a newsletter because they saw a big number. Human emotions – what drives people’s behaviors – are triggered by stories.

Numerous books and studies have come out over the years about the importance of telling
stories. Wired for Story is a bible for many communicators charged with driving behavior
change among constituents. The Storytelling Animal is another. As Bruce Wydick, author and
economist, wrote, “…In the battle for hearts and minds of human beings, narrative will
consistently outperform data in its ability to influence human thinking and motivate human
action.”

Take this example: If you read about how a college success organization helped 3,000 students get into college you might have a positive thought, then move on. But if that statistic is coupled with a story about a young individual (let’s call her Jasmine) who survived multiple foster homes, poverty and abuse, and detailed how she overcame the odds with the help of the organization, you’re likely to pause. You may even consider volunteering or making a donation to support the organization’s mission of helping kids like Jasmine create better lives for themselves.

Stories trigger connection and humanity. Painting a clear picture of the effect an organization
has, it becomes clear to potential supporters why it’s important to invest in that organization.

While many nonprofits know the importance of telling stories, many don’t have the time or staff
to vet, collect, write and promote their stories. With the intent to make your life a little easier,
here are a few steps that may help you tell the amazing stories of how you’re helping the people or cause you serve.

 

Step 1: Research your audiences’ motivations
Figure out what your priority audiences care about and use that to determine what stories to tell.
If you’re trying to reach partners, zero in on what’s most important to them, like partnering with
organizations that have skills they don’t. If you want to reach funders, they want to see impact
and how their investments will help you reach more people.

 

Step 2: Choose your story
Once you figure out each audience’s motivating factor, find the best stories within your
organization to support your claims. To reach partners, illustrate how your organization works
with partners and has helped them meet their goals. If you want to secure funds for child health, tell the story of how a child’s life was changed because of your work.

 

Step 3: Create your story structure
Now that you have your story picked out, create an outline for how you’d like your story to flow. If you’d like to interview the story subject, craft interview questions that get to the heart of how your organization has helped that person.
 

Step 4: Write your story
It’s easier than it sounds. You don’t have to be a master writer. Remember that you have
everything you need. You know better than anyone why you do what you do. Write the story
through that lens.

 

As they say, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Don’t get too caught up in the
editing process – it can last an eternity. Decide what’s good enough for your organization, and
get those stories out there.

After you’ve had a chance to test these steps, I’d love to hear how the process is working for you! Message me: @jesscadron

Jessica Scadron founded Social Harmony, a social impact firm that provides communications strategy and implementation to organizations changing the world. Find her on LinkedInTwitter and email.Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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5 ways to create a living nonprofit brand http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/02/12/5-ways-to-create-a-living-nonprofit-brand/ Tue, 12 Feb 2019 21:11:04 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24442 Continue reading ]]>

When we think of nonprofit branding, what generally comes to mind for nonprofit professionals is a process, often conducted by an outside agency to work on improving an organization’s brand. Many of the products that can come out of that creative process are a new logo, a competitive analysis, branding/style guide, a new website, all assets that can really generate a lot of excitement for your nonprofit and help align your mission, goals, and communication.

But what happens after the branding agency has been paid and you have a spiffy new website, logo, and some persuasive new messaging? How do we get our staff and directors on board with messaging and concepts that have emerged from this creative process? What can we do in the day-to-day of our work and routines as an organization to integrate that new brand into our work and ensure that it aligns and supports our values every day?

Below are five ways that you can keep your nonprofit brand alive and thriving from the inside and out.

Feedback

1Creative branding processes can be exciting and a bit controversial, causing apprehension on the side of some staff members and directors. Is it too different than what we had? Will it confuse program partners? Does it feel authentic? These are some of the questions that may arise along the way. That’s why it’s important to check in with them not only during the creative branding process but also afterward.

When the dust has settled and we’ve got our plans and new branding assets uploaded to the shared drive, how are they feeling about it now? Has anything changed now that we’re in the implementation stage?

You’ll have a better experience integrating your new messaging if your staff and directors are continually on board and feel confident moving forward with it. Does anyone feel uncomfortable proceeding and integrating any parts of the new branding or messaging? If so, why? Asking these questions is key to continual improvements on the living brand and also key to staff buy-in. It can also unearth a lot of useful information that can actually help you move forward.

Training

2There has to be more than the distribution of a style guide and messaging points to really get staff to learn how they can integrate the new branding into their daily work. Consider having a communications training on the new branding guidelines.

Discuss what parts of programmatic and donor messaging need to change and what areas don’t.

How do we integrate our new messaging in a way that feels authentic for everyone?

What parts of our boilerplate and core messaging has changed now and can we all agree to move forward in the way we speak about the organization, so there is consistency across all departments in the nonprofit?

Messaging Toolkit

3While you may have a new style guide, logo, and messaging, perhaps it’s time to revise or create an internal messaging toolkit that will make it much easier for staff members to access the new messages when staff members are writing a grant proposal or program update. Ask program staff how they think they’ll need help integrating the new messaging into their existing work. Ask your fundraising folks what they think will change when they meet with new donors now? Have them write out a few scenarios and include them in the toolkit. In this way, people feel armed, included in the process, and confident that they have a tool to help them move forward.

Accessibility

4I know this seems like a no-brainer, and for many, it will be, but can all staff members and directors access the new branding and toolkit easily? Is the shared drive a safe place for all or is it a messy, terrifying document vortex? I joke but in all seriousness, make sure your new branding assets aren’t located in a shared drive, in a communications folder within an agency folder, within a branding folder. At least for now, give it a prominent place, front and center, maybe even a colorful tag so that we all know where to go to find it.

Feedback

5I have “Feedback” on this list twice because once is never enough and I’ve found the internal continuous checking in of a nonprofit brand, is what makes the brand alive, hence a living brand. Like other alive things, it gets checked on periodically, we tweak as we go, we test, we ask questions if we feel something sounds clunky or isn’t getting the response we seek.

Have we asked our partners or trusted donors for feedback on the new brand yet – is it working for them? Outside checks with trusted partner organizations can lead to some great insights along the way.

Does it still feel core to who we are? If so, why? If not, why not?

Has your organization worked on “living the brand” and doing brand checkups periodically? If so, have you found value in it? Let me know in the comments!

Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.


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Want Action? Tell Positive Visual Stories http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/01/23/want-action-tell-positive-visual-stories/ Wed, 23 Jan 2019 15:14:53 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24430 Continue reading ]]>

Photo Courtesy of Gaia Visual

Some methods of storytelling are more fruitful than others. And non-profits rely heavily on being able to tell their story really well.

 

For instance, studies into online donor activity reveal that video is currently the hot ticket to accessing hearts and minds: with a 64% higher response rate to ‘Calls To Action’ after watching, as opposed to other formats.

 

A tweet with an image will get around 150% more retweets than one without – imagery is one of the strongest means of storytelling in our world today.[1]

 

And prospective donors tell us this is true – 91% of audiences prefer visual or interactive messaging.[2]

Visuals provoke emotion and reaction in different ways to words. They capture moments that some words cannot. They have been used to tell some of the hardest stories in history, and illustrate horrors and atrocities across borders and languages.

 

Those seeking change have used images show these to the world. However, we are seeing that, over time, this method loses impact. In many cases, it is too easy to avert eyes and ignore the poster, message or advert. Too much, or for too long, and our emotional sponge becomes saturated with other people’s suffering.[3]

 

If someone has heard it before, it can be almost impossible to arouse a high emotional response and stimulate reaction. And statistically, those encouraged to act by guilt are unlikely to reengage. They seek to pay their dues and close the book.[4]

 

Instead, coinciding studies are finding that people want to share the stories & videos with their friends and followers that gave them a happy buzz.

These are positive stories: those with solutions or constructive arguments on world problems. These are the ones most likely to spread outside of normal news feed bubbles.[5]

 

As well, viewers will spend longer in general on stories that are more balanced and optimistic.[6] Brain mapping also shows consumers remember them for longer after viewing, again with the desire to share stories they think their peers will respond to.[7]

 

This all accumulates to mean that solutions-based visual storytelling is in many ways superior for reaching more diverse groups of people.

 

And maybe most importantly for the storyteller: this method leaves people feeling more empowered and incentivised.

 

Vast survey results into this show 12% more motivation and 10% more connectivity to their community after seeing balance and optimism.[8] When people feel involved, and see the payback of efforts others are making and the potential payback of their own actions, they are evidently more motivated to act, than when shown suffering and hardship – especially when served up in the enormous, ever ‘refresh’able soup of disaster headlines and bad news.

 

This is huge, ground-level, online activism. And it’s accessible and actionable by the billions of people online every day.

 

Positivity itself feeds physical and practical action, and this action actually continues to feed a personal positive outlook for an individual. This creates, for them, a powerful loop of positive action and, for the world, a powerful loop of positive change.[9]

 

[1] https://sumo.com/stories/visual-storytelling-marketing

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/04/02/visual-content-the-future-of-storytelling/#4549af4d3a46

[3] Courtney Seiter (2014). The Science of Emotion in Marketing

[4] Natalie Nezhati (2014) Have the public had enough of manipulative charity marketing? New Internationalist Blog

[5] Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

[6] https://www.constructivejournalism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Publishing-the-Positive_MA-thesis-research-2016_Jodie-Jackson.pdf

[7] http://cn.isr.umich.edu/publications.html

[8] http://michellegielan.com/resources/research/

[9] https://www.constructivejournalism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Publishing-the-Positive_MA-thesis-research-2016_Jodie-Jackson.pdf

 

Laura Mahler tells visual stories for and about nonprofits, NGOs, charities – really anyone doing something to make the world a bit better! If you’d like to see how she can tell your story, you can see her work on Instagram @gaiavisual and @filmthechange or visit Gaia Visual website.

 

 


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Connecting our Communications Work to our Mission http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/01/03/connecting-your-communications-work-to-your-mission/ Thu, 03 Jan 2019 16:35:34 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24407 Continue reading ]]>

As many of my nonprofit communications colleagues do this time of year,  I look back on my year and wonder how I will move forward more purposefully and meaningfully in my communications work this new year.

Having been fortunate enough to do this work for over 15 years, I sometimes skip over connecting the bottom-line – the ‘do-gooder’ part – and go straight into the “doing” part of the work.

Now, I’m clear that the work I do contributes to my organization meeting its mission-driven goals. That said, there’s something about the everyday pressures of editorial deadlines, meeting prep, and endless email follow-up, that can turn all that good work into a routine; leaving little time to reflect on how that work actually helps to change people’s lives.

Our communications work can at times feel very removed from the programmatic on-the-ground mission work of our peers. So how can we in the new year, make it a practice to directly tie our work to that good we know we’re doing?

How do we make it genuinely tangible?

That well-researched blog post. 

That social media strategy that took two months to finalize.

The annual report.

How do we tie all of this work to our own values? 

Here’s a literal back-of-the-envelope example of one way that I remind myself of how my work ties into what I value, into what my organization values. Because when I do this either visually (see below!) or mentally, it energizes me, it keeps me creative and motivates me to find new ways to connect my work to my goals.

Here’s my “holiday card edition” example I made for myself, and now for you. 

Forgive the stick figures.

 

 

How do you connect your communications work to your organization’s mission and your values? Leave me a note in the comments. Curious to hear what you all recommend!

Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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Your 2019 Personal & Professional Strategic Plan http://www.socialbrite.org/2019/01/02/your-2019-personal-professional-strategic-plan/ Wed, 02 Jan 2019 13:56:08 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24379 Continue reading ]]>

 

If you’re anything like me, then that week before New Year’s Day can sometimes throw you for an existential loop.

 

via: @hurrahforgin

 

All those end-of-year memes on social media seem to be true, given the amount of laugh emoji responses from my friends and family that they’ve received. Truth!

 

We all want to begin the New Year feeling full of energy, clarity, and direction, but it’s not always how we start off.

 

One of the ways I try to ground myself for the New Year (while still enjoying all the cheese and champagne), is to fill out my yearly personal strategic planning chart.

 

I spend a lot of my time as a consultant creating strategic plans, so it’s a format I’m familiar with and with a little simplification, readily lends itself to a personal plan.

 

While some people enjoy vision boards (which are awesome!), there’s something about a strategic plan that for me feels more tangible.

 

And I need tangible these days.

 

So below I’m sharing my personal and professional strategic planning process.

 

By the way, I’m still working on mine, so don’t feel like you’re in any way behind. Truth be told, I usually get to finishing mine around mid-January.

 

So we’ll just work on it together! Much more fun that way, anyway.

 

My plan is be focused on five key areas of my life:

Personal – my personal goals, which focus on the intellectual and physical aspects of daily life

Family & Friends – the goals I have for my relationship with my husband, my daughter, my parents, and my close friends

My Business – what realistic and bold goals will I reach with my clients and partners

Leadership – what goals and objectives do I need to set to develop myself as a consultant and servant leader in my field(s)

Community – What are my community-centered goals focused on mentoring, advocacy work, and elementary school volunteering

 

Charting my plan: (DON’T MAKE IT COMPLICATED!) You want to be able to post this up on the fridge if you’d like. 

 

THE PLAN

 

Get the Google Docs version of the chart here!

 

 

As you can see from the chart, I’ve really tried to simplify the plan. The simpler the plan, the more you will look at it, the easier it will be to achieve or at least get closer to your goals.

 

And that’s genuinely the aim. I never really get to doing everything on my plan – especially my personal goals (working on that!), but it’s there for me to guide me back during times I feel I need to get back on my path.

 

Some people like to create a mission and visions statement for themselves before they even start their strategic plan, and that’s great.

 

I’ve found it helpful to wait until after I’ve finished my strategic plan to create my mission and vision statement since a lot of the priorities are already written down for me after filling out the plan.

 

I’m thinking of creating a three-part series this month on personal strategic planning.

 

The next two posts would be about writing your mission and vision statements, and the third and last post would be about how to hold yourself accountable to your goals.

 

If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, let me know in the comments below and I’ll get to work!

 

Happy planning and give me a shout @CarolineAvakian if you have any questions!

Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.


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Top Facebook Blunders That Hurt Year-End Fundraising http://www.socialbrite.org/2018/11/20/top-facebook-blunders-that-hurt-year-end-fundraising/ http://www.socialbrite.org/2018/11/20/top-facebook-blunders-that-hurt-year-end-fundraising/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2018 10:57:09 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24360 Continue reading ]]>

Can you believe it? Summer flew by, and now we’re headed right into year-end fundraising season.

If you’re like most nonprofits, you will raise most of your money during the last three months of the year, particularly between Thanksgiving and December 31st when the big ball drops.

Now is the time to put all your resources into attracting and retaining as many donors as possible!

Avoid these top five mistakes that could hurt your year-end fundraising on Facebook.

1. Ignoring Facebook altogether

If you’re like most nonprofits, you have at least a minimal presence on Facebook. So does your competition. Not only that but most of your donors are using Facebook.

Facebook isn’t going anywhere, and again, even if you ignored Facebook until November, don’t regret ignoring it during the biggest spike of fundraising you’ll see this year.

2. Bragging about your nonprofit

There’s no doubt that your nonprofit has earned the bragging rights it has. But on Facebook, people want to brag about themselves to their friends. One way they do this is by sharing stories about causes they care about.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to create impact stories that make your supporters look fantastic to their friends.

3. Not thanking your donors

Probably the biggest fundraising mistake you can make is not thanking your donors. In fact, Bloomerang found that 19% of donors won’t come back if you don’t thank them.

Thanking your donors on Facebook makes them feel great and more likely to get again. And it also makes you look great to potential donors.

4. Not using Facebook ads

At this point, if you’re not using Facebook Ads, you’re just not serious about using Facebook to reach your audience.

Facebook ads are so incredibly cheap and effective; there’s just no excuse for not making at least a minimal investment.

You can reach people who recently watched one of your Facebook live videos. You can even reach people who have visited your donation page but didn’t give.

And again, if you haven’t used Facebook ads yet, now is the time to try them given that year-end is upon us.

5. Only using Facebook

Last but not least, if Facebook is your only channel to reach donors, you will have profound regrets at year-end.

Direct mail, phone solicitation, email, and face-to-face fundraising are much more effective when used together.John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then connect up: Contact John by email, see his profile page, visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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Building your Nonprofit Thought Leadership Capacity http://www.socialbrite.org/2018/07/30/building-your-nonprofits-thought-leadership-capacity-2/ Mon, 30 Jul 2018 21:30:50 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24355 Continue reading ]]>

 shutterstock_298674425

Content marketing has risen to the forefront in recent years as an important tool (if not the most important) in the nonprofit communication toolbox. It’s about creating great content on your blog, through social media messaging, email, quarterly and annual reports, case studies, whitepapers, etc.

At its core, content marketing is about communicating wisely with your supporters. The nonprofit, social enterprise or organization is providing value by creating and sharing information, innovative ideas, and insights that makes your supporter smarter and in the know. You become a resource. The result, much of the time, is that you earn the trust and loyalty of your supporters and donors. You no longer interrupt them with “messaging” but invite them into a conversation they find value in, that resonates, that they deem worthy of sharing with others, that makes them come back and ultimately invest in you.

The issue with creating great content is that often change-makers and nonprofit leaders are unsure about how to activate the most powerful resource they have: their intellectual capital. Nonprofits can be treasure troves of insights, experience and expertise, just waiting to be unleashed and shared with the world, but often the best of ideas and expertise lies dormant within the walls of an organization.

The Readiness Dance: Share your insights despite the misgivings

There are many reasons why organizations keep their most valuable thoughts and findings internal. I call it the Readiness Dance. People will say, “Our data isn’t completely ready yet – we’re not 100 percent clear internally on our direction with this project,” or something similar. While I completely advocate for presenting breakthrough insights that are research-based and clearly thought out — in fact, that is the essence of true thought leadership — very often it’s more about that “readiness” variable. It’s less about how analyzed the data is and more about how comfortable and confident we are in sharing our ideas and insights with the world.

Thought leadership is one of the most effective and least expensive ways an organization can build awareness of their cause and influence the communities they need to reach.

When nonprofits hone in on their years of experience, research, collaborations and discoveries, they can advance their mission by using those same valuable thoughts and insights to lead. Many people call this thought leadership, and I’d like to see more organizations build their capacity to lead with their thinking.

Especially for smaller to medium-sized nonprofits, thought leadership can be one of the most effective and least expensive ways an organization can build awareness of their cause and support for their ideas and programs, and influence the communities they need to reach, including decision makers, policy makers and donors. By harnessing the power of their collective insights, an organization can shape its thought leadership to inspire and move its supporters to action.

While building a thought leadership program for a nonprofit should be thought of as an organization development exercise and not just a communications/PR job, communications teams often and appropriately lead it.

Below is a short primer to help you get the conversation started with your team. I recommend getting your group together around breakfast (or Google Hangout!) one morning and running them through this little primer. I promise it will get the conversation started and make for an interesting talk about how you approach your work and the insights and ideas that lie just below the surface.

Start with the big idea or revealing insights

Every big idea starts with a vision. It has a strong viewpoint and brings new insights and problem solving to an issue. Ask yourself what original, innovative and valuable perspective you and your organization bring to the table. What do you want to achieve from it?

Overcome culture shock

Effective thought leadership programs are an organizational development function, not just a public relations function. Powerful thought leadership campaigns need to be embedded into the culture of an organization to be truly successful. Teams need to be on board with sharing those ideas and insights with the world. They are your greatest ambassadors. Does your culture support that? If you encounter resistance, ask them what about it makes them uncomfortable?

Tell a great story

Concentrate on telling one focused and clear story and communicate it using channels you know your audience engages with. Social media, online communities, associations, traditional media and speaking events like panels and conferences are all fair game.

Become a resource

People don’t like to be sold things, for the most part — even when what you’re selling is a noble and brilliant cause. That said, they do buy into solutions, expertise and problem solving. Share your insights. Spread your idea. Offer guidance and people will follow.

Inspire action

Powerful thought leadership can inspire people to act. Whatever your idea is, make sure that it is actionable. What do you want people to do? Be brave. Ask for what you want.

What are some of the ways your team is leading the conversation on the issues that drive your cause? I’d love to hear some examples. If you’re not quite there yet, I would love to hear what some of the barriers are that you’ve encountered.

 

Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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5 Ways to Show Progress Toward Your Nonprofit’s Mission http://www.socialbrite.org/2018/05/09/5-ways-to-show-progress-toward-your-nonprofits-mission/ Wed, 09 May 2018 14:03:48 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24329 Continue reading ]]>

Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes on Unsplash.

 

Chances are, your nonprofit has a bold goal, whether it’s eradicating poverty or curing a disease. Your organization helps make progress toward that goal every day, but of course, complex problems have complicated solutions that can take a long time to achieve.

 

Unfortunately, slow progress, even if it’s impactful, doesn’t always make for the most inspiring message for supporters. We put together five strategies that you can use on your nonprofit’s blog, on social media, in email marketing, and other outlets to help maintain momentum as you work to achieve your mission.

Compile a timeline that demonstrates how far you’ve come. When you care deeply about a cause, nothing other than a cure for the disease your loved one lives with, or an end to childhood hunger, feels satisfying. But showing key milestones you’ve hit along the way can help create a sense that your organization is moving closer to your goal. For example, if you’re involved in research, your timeline can begin when the first treatment appeared for the condition and track new therapy options from there. Timelines can help demonstrate that even if progress may feel slow, positive updates have moved your cause forward. Everytown for Gun Safety, for example, has a timeline on their website that combines legislative successes alongside the organization’s history and development. Teach for America shares a timeline of the organization’s history along with the progress they made along the way toward improving educational outcomes for low-income students.

 

Show how patients can make an impact beyond donating. Donation campaigns are important, but sharing other ways community members can get involved is one way to help supporters feel more engaged with your cause, and understand the steps involved in getting closer to your goal. Use your website content and blog to share ways supporters can help your organization move past roadblocks and reach solutions faster. For example, lack of participants in clinical trials slows the research process. JDRF shares information on how to sign up for clinical trials to help move research forward by using Antidote’s clinical trial search tool to help community members find type 1 diabetes trials for which they may qualify.

 

For other organizations, political challenges may create significant barriers. Sharing with supporters how to get involved in calling representatives and attending rallies can be another way to engage your community. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, for one, has a section on their website about getting involved in policy issues around CFF, such as medical research funding.

 

Create evergreen content explaining the mechanics of the work you do. Help your community better understand the complexities surrounding your particular mission. For example, if you fund medical research, outline the steps involved in how a new drug is approved for patients, starting with the process of research discovery. You can also detail the work your organization does in support of your larger cause, beyond what your supporters might think of initially. For example, Feeding America notes that the work of foodbanks goes beyond distributing food: they also provide programs for families to help them make healthy choices for their families, maintain a food budget, and other skills to help reduce hunger.

 

Use numbers to show that you’re making progress. Even if you haven’t reached your organization’s most significant goal, highlighting promising statistics, whether in a blog post or in an infographic, can help demonstrate the progress you have made in a concrete way. UNICEF, for example, creates infographics that show promising changes in specific areas related to their cause, such as number of school-aged children currently out of school. The Michael J. Fox Foundation offers a page on new Parkinson’s drugs in the development pipeline that the Foundation has funding, noting how close the treatments are to reaching patients.

 

Share stories from people who can offer a perspective on the progress your organization has made over time. Personal stories are some of the most powerful ways to tell the story of the progress your organization has made along the way. Try to find stories about problems your organization has helped solve for someone. Volunteer stories can work here, too, particularly if they highlight that participating made the volunteer feel more hopeful. Charity Water does a great job of highlighting stories from beneficiaries of their clean water programs who share how having access to water has changed their communities.

 

The path toward your goal may be long, but by sharing milestones and how supporters can get involved along the way, you can keep your community engaged throughout your organization’s journey. If you have other suggestions for keeping supporters engaged when your mission hits a roadblock, please share them in the comments below.

 

Nancy Ryerson is a digital communicator with experience in content, marketing, and social media in the healthcare space. She currently writes for clinical researchers, nonprofits and patients at Antidote, a digital health startup that connects patients to research through an innovative clinical trial search tool. Prior to joining Antidote, she spent three years at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where she communicated research updates and advice on living well with Parkinson’s to the Foundation’s social media community of 750,000+ followers.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nanrye

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyryerson/

 

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New Power: How to Harness the Power of the Connected World http://www.socialbrite.org/2018/04/03/new-power-how-to-harness-the-power-of-the-connected-world/ Tue, 03 Apr 2018 16:13:36 +0000 http://www.socialbrite.org/?p=24315 Continue reading ]]>

Here at Socialbrite, we are thrilled to share the launch of New Power!

We have long admired Henry Timms’ leadership and vision as president and CEO of the 92nd Street Y and co-founder of #GivingTuesday, an international day of philanthropy. Henry Timms and co-author Jeremy Heimans worked on this book for three years. It unpacks the ultimate skill of the 21st century – the ability to harness the power of the connected crowd. From how to spread your ideas, to how to start a movement, to how to transform an organization, it is a practical guide to navigating our chaotic world.

The early response has been amazing. Sir Richard Branson said “If you want to understand how the world is changing…this book could not be coming at a better time.” Alicia Garza called it “…a must-read” Jane Goodall said “This book will inform and inspire all those wanting to make change . . . and achieve a goal against all odds.”

New Power shines fresh light on the cultural phenomena of our day, from #BlackLivesMatter to the Ice Bucket Challenge to Airbnb, uncovering the new power forces that made them huge. Drawing on examples from business, activism, and pop culture, as well as the study of organizations like Lego, NASA, Reddit, and TED, Heimans and Timms explain how to build new power and channel it successfully. They also explore the dark side of these forces: the way ISIS has co-opted new power to monstrous ends, and the rise of the alt-right’s “intensity machine.”

A wonderful read for any activist or nonprofit leader looking to better understand, navigate, and thrive in the world they live and work in.

You can purchase the book here: New Power Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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