Friday, May 23, 2008

Web tools that can make your life easier

Although getting the maximum use out of online tools can be complicated at first, even daunting to smaller organizations, there are avenues that can be helpful.

Rick Christ, managing partner of NPAdvisors.com in Warrenton, Va., an online marketing consulting firm, suggests several resources that can be helpful to any nonprofit. They are:

  • MySpace.com. If you're looking for free Web page hosting, with blog tools, room for photos, email and newsletter service, get one that comes with about 100 million other users who are online 24 hours a day.
  • Paypal. It is free to set up. It costs about as much per transaction as most donation processing services (and less than many), ant it is a tool of choice for 67 million people whose sole purpose in having it is to transfer money online.
  • Text messaging. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to provide street lamps and the forms necessary to run search operations in post-hurricane New Orleans, relief workers used text messaging to stay in touch with each other and constituents were able to ask questions and provide updates.
  • IM (instant messaging). It is another free way to be "open" for business.
  • ThePetitionSite. Com. This is a site for online advocacy, a place to post a petition and drive advocacy.
  • Yahoo! Groups. This provides file sharing, group email, calendars and other features.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Developing effective newsletters

Although a survey conducted during the 1990s indicated that donors prefer receiving newsletters from the organizations to which they contribute, a subsequent study shows that donors may not be reading the newsletters they profess to crave.

Speaking at a recent national fundraising conference, consultant Tom Ahern offered a few pointers about effective newsletters, including ways to get donors to read and then, as a result, donate.

Ahern offered four ways by which an organization can attract readers through its newsletter. They are:

  • Speak in emotional terms. Gifts are written by the heart. The head is just there to second the nomination.
  • Write in benefits. What’s in it for me? If you speak to people about the benefits and with donors that means about how they are saving the world or could save the world they will respond.
  • Sound conversational, not institutional. Newsletters are very akin to direct mail. They are correspondence between you and your donors, so they should be conversational in tone, if possible.
  • Speak to the four different aspects of donor personality: amiables respond to intimacy and heavy use of the word “you.” Anecdotes are important to them, as are photographs of people whose eyes can be seen.

Expressives want to know about the new, exciting things the organization is doing. Analyticals are skeptical and need reassurance. Give them facts. Bottom-lines want you to tell what your organization does and how they can help. FAQs are good.

7 tips for generating news coverage

Nonprofit organizations have learned that they can help with their mission if they maintain a high profile – which of course means a good image – in the public mind.

This high profile can be maintained via the media, and Sandra L. Beckwith writes in her book Publicity for Nonprofits that organizations can find creative ways to get their names in the news. Beckwith offers suggestions for creating news.

  • Write and distribute a tip sheet. This is a form of news release that offers tips or advice in a bulleted or numbered format. This allows an organization to share specialized knowledge about a topic.
  • Comment on national headline news. Media outlets are looking for a local angle on a national story in their area. This requires an ability to act quickly.
  • Tap into TV story lines. For example, the NBC television show ER reported that two-thirds of the show’s viewers watch for health information. Knowing this, many local affiliates schedule health news updates for the newscast following the show.
  • Do a survey. Newsworthy survey results are sure-fire publicity starters. The survey topic should relate to the organization’s mission.
  • Create a list. Lists are popular with the media. David Letterman’s “Top Ten List” is reprinted in newspapers.
  • Take advantage of newsworthy seasons and holidays. Each predictable seasonal story brings publicity opportunities.
  • Host a contest or competition. Publicity opportunities exist for announcing the competition, conducting the competition and announcing the winners.

Monday, May 19, 2008

5 things NOT to do on an interview

Even the most prepared job candidate inadvertently might say the wrong thing during a job interview. But the risk is even greater for for-profit executives interested in transitioning to the nonprofit sector because there are distinct differences in the language used in the two sectors.

The April issue of “Leadership Matters,” published by Bridgestar, a nonprofit initiative of the Bridgespan Group dedicated to attracting, connecting, and supporting executive leaders for the sector, addresses this topic. The featured article, “Lost in Translation: Common Language Pitfalls for Bridgers” is based on discussions with 11 senior executives at nonprofit organizations, some of whom themselves were bridgers executives who move from for-profit to nonprofit.

The senior nonprofit executives shared the following insights:

  • Avoid referring to the organization as “the company” or similar words such as “corporation.”
  • Don’t use business jargon, such as “ROI” (return on investment), “EBITDA” (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization), “CAGR” (compounded annual growth rate), or “net profits.” Instead of “income statement” or “profit and loss statement,” say “statement of activities.”
  • Be familiar with nonprofit buzzwords, including, “outputs,” “outcomes,” “major donors,” and “development.”
  • Don’t assume that those in the nonprofit sector don’t know business terms. That can be just as bad (and totally condescending) as using jargon blindly without stopping to see if it’s registering with anyone.
  • Research the organization’s website and print materials to see what words they use. Some words that started out in the business world have been embraced by the nonprofit sector.