Sunday
Jun152014

Web Design Pitfalls to Avoid

If your nonprofit is about to go through a website redesign, this is a major opportunity to completely overhaul your website and the internal processes that can easily ruin your site. Jared Seltzer, co founder of Rad Campaign and I had the opportunity to talk about these issues at 501TechNYC last month.

While there are many ways you can ruin your website that will prevent you from effectively telling your organization’s story, inspiring action, and cultivating donors, here are a couple of web design pitfalls that I want to focus on today. Avoid them at all costs.

Not Showing Restraint
The fastest way to ruin a website redesign is to NOT show restraint while going through the planning and redesign process. I know how exciting it can be to plan a new website. Every stakeholder in the organization has lots of ideas and opinions to share about what the site should look like, what should be featured, the site architecture, etc. Collect those ideas and work with an experienced website vendor or your trusted in-house website team to prioritize them based on the established goals, objectives, and target audiences.

When we go through a website redesign process with nonprofits at Rad Campaign, we also develop a discovery brief. This is a high-level document that clearly outlines the important elements of the website - including objectives, target audiences, like I mentioned above, and how you want these audiences to perceive the organization. I’m also a big fan of vision statements. This is a 3-4 sentence statement for internal stakeholders that describe your organizations inspiration and vision for the new website. I find that these two documents set the stage for the rest of the process and help control scope creep. Since they highlight the primary goals and overall vision of the website, they are a great way to remind everyone to focus and show restraint, which people can often forget several months down the road as they are deep into the weeds of the website build.

Not Doing a Content Audit and Re-Writing Content
If you don’t do a content audit you will waste every penny you invested into your new website. Why? Because the content issues you had on your old site, will follow you on the new site. You can’t mask a bad content strategy with a pretty design. Your audience will see right through it.

Content needs to be carefully curated and presented in a way that people can easily find the information they are looking for. Too often organization’s homepages (and interior pages) look like everyone in the organization had a say on what should go on the homepage and it ends up looking like the kitchen sink.

When doing a content audit and preparing content for the new website, focus on keeping it simple andstreamlining the content. A recent Harvard study found that the more complex a website is, the less appealing the website is to visitors. Here’s an example of a political news site that has shown no restraint with their curated content. They have posted at least 53 articles on different topics on just 1/3 of the homepage. This is the exact opposite of keeping it simple.

Remember your website is not your organization’s personal filing cabinet. The website is not being built to serve your staff’s filing needs so that they can find that resource that they wrote last year. The website is there to serve your audiences needs and the content they need from you. Your target audiences are a different demographic then your internal staff.

Carve out the time to do the content audit and re-write your content based on the goals, objectives, and audiences of your website. You will thank me later.

Saturday
May312014

Is Your Communication Style Engaging Constituents?

We're about halfway through 2014, and it's time to check in about where you are with your goals for the year. Have you accomplished any of your organization's goals yet? Have your communication goals changed? What are your priorities for the rest of the year?

In January, the Nonprofit Marketing Guide released the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trend Report, alongside an infogrpahic to break the data into easily digestible chunks. 2,135 nonprofits responded to this online survey, and at the beginning of this year the top communicaton goals were (in order of priority):

  1. Acquiring new donors.
  2. Engaging the community.
  3. General brand awareness.
  4. Retaining current donors.

If your goals were similar, have you acquired new donors? If not, there's still time, but you'll need to come up with a strategic project roadmap. Remeber planning for year-end fundraising will be here before you know it.

Who is your target audience? How will you reach out to those new donors? Have you invested in an organic and paid recruitment strategy via social action networks like Care2.

Have you been engaging your community? Make sure you're talking with them and not at them when you are using social media. It's important to remember that social media is like a cocktail party. It's a place to be social not like a bot posting press releases. That is the fastest way to bore your community and have them NOT pay attention to you.

If you're acquiring new donors and engaging your community on social media, make sure your email communications tells your donors how their actions and support are generating impact even if it's incrementally like I discussed last week in my article Why Email Still Rules.

Nonprofits believe the six most important modes of communication are:

  1. The website
  2. Email marketing
  3. Social media (other than blogging)
  4. In-person events
  5. Press releases and media relations
  6. Print marketing

If these are your top avenues of communication, how are you tracking their success? It's important to track the success of your communication in an effort to effectively reach your audiences. What works for one audience may not work for another. It's important that you tailor your outreach to meet your constituents where they're at anytime, everywhere (for more on this, check out the book Social Change Anytime Everywhere I co-authored with Amy Sample Ward of NTEN).

Be sure and check out the full infographic below for more about nonprofit 2014 communication trends:

 

Friday
May302014

Disrupting Social Change at Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference 

If nonprofits are going to solve the world's toughest social justice issues and create real world impact, then we need to disrupt the charities and radically change the way they function and are led.

Creating real world impact and disrupting the status quo will be a couple of the central themes at the Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference on June 26th at SEIU headquarters in Washington, DC.

This is an important discussion to be having right now as nonprofits struggle to raise money and find alternative revenue streams in our recovering economy.

The Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference is aimed at nonprofit practitioners and consultants who work in:

  • Online Advocacy and Outreach
  • Grassroots Organizing
  • Social Media
  • Fundraising
  • Communications
  •  Nonprofit Technology
  • Nonprofit Consulting
  •  Public Affairs
  • Programming

The keynotes this year are Majora Carter and Craig Newmark.

Majora Carter is a` MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellow, and one of the biggest activists and disruptors in urban revitalization. Majora will discuss her journey and vision to revitalize communities, like the South Bronx. She'll also talk about the national and international impact urban revitalization's having, and how your organization can utilize similar strategies for the issues you're working on.

Craig Newmark, of craigslist and craigconnects, disrupted the classified business and is known for devoting his life to philanthropy and helping nonprofits. He will discuss how to take advantage of “bottom-up” grassroots action to inspire and implement real social change.

We have a special 20% off registration rate discount for Frogloop readers if you use the discount code nptech. The Unconference is $36 (with the discount) for the entire day and includes continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The keynotes will kickstart the day, and each will feature an open Q&A format to encourage dialogue about the topics that Craig and Majora present.

Their keynotes will be followed by a full-on Unconference in which you will dictate the topics addressed for the rest of the day. Get your tickets now, and you'll be able to:

  • Learn about some of the innovative work happening at other nonprofits.
  • Ask questions you want answered about what your organization is struggling with.
  • Share/present on what you think will be useful to other organizations.
  • Discuss a nonprofit-related project you would like help on, or just want to brainstorm about.

Some topics we envision discussing during the Unconference include:

  • Testing lean startup principals
  • How to disrupt your board and governance
  • Creating a culture of innovation

This is one of the best nonprofit Unconferences with some leading nonprofit strategists from National Wildlife Federation, Sunlight Foundation, YMCA, Causevox, Women's Media Center, Care2, Groundswell, and many others. You can find out more at Nonprofit20.org.

What topics would you like to see discussed at the upcoming Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference this year?

Monday
May192014

Is Your Nonprofit Spending Enough Money On Digital?

Is your nonprofit investing the right amount of money, resources, and strategy into digital? Probably not. Heck, even the NYT admitted in a leaked report that they are struggling with their digital strategy.

To help get your organization thinking about this investment, check out the key findings from the Charity Dynamics' report: How Today's Nonprofits Approach Digital Spending and Why It Matters to You. The goal of the report was to determine how nonprofits are approaching digital investment. 332 individuals responded.

What does anticipated growth look like?

  • Respondents almost unanimously reported that they're seeing enough return to further their investments.
  • 55% expect their budgets to grow in 2014, while 42% expect them to remain static.
  • Only 3% are anticipating a decrease.

What are nonprofit's highest investment priorities?

  • Donation/E-Commerce ranked as the highest priority at 51%.
  • Constituent Engagement and Social Media are the main priorities for 47% of respondents.
  • Respondents from large organizations are paying more attention to mobile, as 29% reported mobile as a high priority investment area.

There's a connection between donations and e-commerce as the the highest priority investment (51%) and an updated website as the most desired addition (34%) for 2014. The more user-friendly and intuitive your website, the more likely people are to engage with your e-commerce.

The report said that "mobile is perhaps the area that would most enhance the top investment areas." This is not to be confused with text messaging and fundraising as most nonprofits have not had a lot of success in the US with this type of fundraising. Remember for fundraising direct mail and email still rules. Mobile and email are inherently connected now though, as more than 50% of emails are read on mobile devices and about 30-50% of web traffic is mobile. It's important to make sure that your nonprofit has a website that's responsive including action and donation pages.

What are your investment goals and wish list items for 2014? And are you using any tools to help you achieve those goals?

 

Tuesday
May132014

Why Email Still Rules!

Social media strategists (ok, not all) love to discount email in favor of, you guessed it - social media. They have deemed email a dying communications channel, which is absurd. Email lists and email marketing continue to grow, especially for the nonprofit sector where list size grew at least 14% in 2013, according to the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark study.

Here’s just a few reasons why email still rules:

  • People who take action on advocacy campaigns via email are 7x more likely to donate money to your organization. 
  • You have the most control of how you engage your audience. For example, who sees and responds to your message is not based on some proprietary social network's secret algorithms and you are not forced to pay a premium to target segments.
  • There are good analytics for action, open, and click rates for email, so you can segment your list and move people up the ladder of engagement based on their level of commitment. With a good CRM you can capture a robust snapshot of your consituents - what are people taking action on, are these the same people signing up for lobby days or donating money? What specific issues are they interested in?
  • You can leverage your email list to drive further action on other platforms. For example, on Facebook, you can use Facebook Custom Audiences to target your email list members and further engage them on your advocacy campaigns. You can test targeting a range of advocates – the most engaged people or try to re-engage those who stopped taking action via email. But you need a strong email list to support that kind of targeted social engagement.
  • Email raises money. Outside of direct mail, email raises a lot more money than social media. Online giving increased 14% in 2013, mainly due to email communications. Monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013.
  • The majority of nonprofits aren’t raising a dime on social media. And the amount of nonprofits that have raised $100K or more on social media is only about .07%.

While email still rules, there are some issues that I’m concerned about, but I think we can tackle them with thoughtful strategy. Battle of the inboxes and social media noise is competing for our constituents' attention. This has had an impact on email response rates, which declined about 25% in the nonprofit sector in 2013. I think that another contributing factor to the decline of email response rates is that  people are getting bored with our messaging and they are not seeing enough impact. This means nonprofits need to spend more time and resources changing things up. Focus on developing messaging that really resonates with your supporters and their values.

What’s the best way to do this? Start by finding out the pain points that people have around the issues you are working on. What are the pain points people have with your organization? You will see common trends that you can address. Then begin testing different content to find out what connects with people more. Measure the response rates to see what worked and what clearly flopped. Many organizations are working on campaigns that will take years to win, so it’s critical to find creative and meaningful ways to keep constituents engaged and show them how their actions and support are generating impact even if it's incrementally.

Monday
May052014

3 Crowdfunding Challenges You Can't Miss

Last week on the Froglooop blog, we highlighted 7 helpful crowdfunding tips. Now it's time to take those tips and put them into practice to raise money for your organization. You can get started right away with three inspiring fundaising challenges launching this month.

Give Local America Challenge, May 6th



Over 7,000 nonprofits, plus celebrities like Kevin Bacon, are expected to participate in the one-day Give Local America charitable, online crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday, May 6th. The 24-hour campaign aims to motivate donors to contribute to their favorite causes.

Organizers hope to transform grassroots philanthropy in the United States by activating a record number of people, including many new donors, to support the hometown charities that make a profound difference in their communities. Be sure and also check out their information-packed infographic.

 

Give Out Day 2014, May 15th



Give OUT Day, which happens on May 15th, is a national initiative that will engage hundreds of organizations and mobilize thousands of people across the country to give in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.

It’s a chance for LGBTQ groups, large and small, to work across the wide range of issues and activities that matter to the LGBTQ communities, ranging from sports to policy change, families to the arts.

 

Veterans Charity Challenge 2, May 22nd



The Veterans Charity Challenge 2 started by Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects is an online fundraising competition where organizations that support America's Heroes, such as veterans, military families, police and firefighters, compete to raise the most money. The top teams will win cash prizes from craigconnects.

Everything launches on Thursday, May 22nd at 12:00pm ET and runs through Thursday, July 3rd at 11:59:59am ET.

  • The team that raises the most during the Challenge wins a $20,000 donation for their charity from craigconnects.
  • Second place gets $10,000.
  • Third gets $5000.

There will also be bonus challenges each week where charities can win extra donations for their cause ranging from $500 to $3000.

Friday
May022014

7 Crowdfunding Tips Demystified

Have you had a chance to check out the stellar infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code, by the Rad Campaign? It concludes with seven traits of a successful nonprofit crowdfunding campaign.

We realize that there’s a lot to unpack, and it might even be intimidating -- your expertise lies in serving people, and all the marketing speak might as well be Greek to you. (Unless, of course, you are fluent in Greek…)

So we’re spelling out those tips for you below to help you raise as much as you can through a crowdfunding campaign of your own!

1. Tell engaging and personal stories to connect people to their fundraiser in an authentic way

Storytelling isn’t just a creative endeavor reserved only for artists, designers, musicians, and writers. Everyone has a story and anything can be used to tell stories -- advertising and marketing professionals do this well to sell products.

Your nonprofit should do likewise -- not necessarily to sell something, but to advocate for your cause. Erica Elmenhurst raised over $11,000 for WorldHelp’s Operation Baby Rescue. On her personal crowdfunding page, she shared her first-hand encounters with young children suffering malnutrition.

Her compelling experience made her a passionate spokesperson for the cause and inspired her friends and family to join her.

By sharing personal and engaging stories, the campaign becomes a bridge to people; fundraising becomes more than just a means to money, but a way to connect deeply with a mission. 

2. Set realistic fundraising goals

When we say “realistic,” we mean SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely. And what’s “SMART” for one organization might not look the same for another. One man raised over $8,000 in twenty-four hours (with plenty of help) for autism research.

As a novice fundraiser, his initial goal was a reasonable $2,000 -- what we’d call a stretch goal: within the realm of possibility. Raising $2,000 in a day wasn’t out of reach, but it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk either for an individual. 

3. Develop a plan to promote the fundraiser and rally their personal networks via multiple channels.

Successful crowdfunding isn’t like Field of Dreams; you have to do more than just build a fundraising site and expect people simply to come. You’ll have to coach your supporters to success.

Here’s how you can do it:

Guide - Show them how to set up their campaign page; without direction, good intentions lead nowhere. Author Daniel Pink illustrates the need for an “off ramp” to drive people to action. In this study, college students were divided into two groups, each comprised evenly of those least likely to contribute to a food drive and those most likely to donate to the drive. Members of one group each received a personalized letter with explicit, detailed directions on how to donate and a follow-up phone call to remind them; the other received only a generic letter about the food drive. Among the students deemed most likely to donate who were given little guidance, only 8% donated. However, among the students thought least likely to give but given specific directions, 25% contributed to the drive.  

Empower - Give your supporters-turned-fundraisers pre-made content: for their website; social media channels, namely statuses and tweets; an email they can send their friends & family

Coach - Walk them through the campaign: appraise them of the timeline, troubleshoot whenever necessary, and most importantly, remind them of the importance of their role.

4. Demonstrate impact

To play a character as well as possible, actors ask themselves, “What’s my motivation?” Your fundraisers and donors will ask the same; clearly show where the money will go. Why the need to convert currency to results?

As Wired Impact’s David Hartstein wrote for the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

"It’s far more difficult for me, as a donor, to grasp the benefit to my life of making a donation. The feelings associated with making a positive impact in the world are tough to weigh. Even more difficult is predicting the quantity of future warm feelings I’ll have as a result of making a donation today.

As a nonprofit trying to garner donations, it’s your job to make these vague positive feelings as concrete as possible, both immediately and on into the future."

Australian startup nonprofit One Girl understood this well and created donation tiers for their campaign, showing how much impact a certain amount would make: a $10 donation provide a girl a schoolbag, a $250 donation cover’s a student’s tuition for a year. Seeing this encouraged a number of donors to give the latter amount.

5. Keep their community updated on their fundraising progress through email and social media

Communication is key in crowdfunding; if you want engagement, you’ll have to engage by keeping everyone in the loop. We’ve observed that there are three kinds of effective communication during a successful campaign:

Updates on the campaign’s progress. Use social media for succinct, daily updates, and emails and blog posts for meatier, weekly updates. Don’t be afraid to share that the campaign is lagging behind -- it might help spur people to action.

Appreciation for participating in campaign. Thank fundraisers and donors en masse with emails and social media posts; this will happen towards and after the end of the campaign. Thank donors who made major contributions and fundraisers who exceeded expectations on a more personal level - an email just for them, a tweet or status highlighting them individually, a handwritten note, a phone call, or even a brief meeting over coffee.

Encouragement for fundraisers and for donors. This kind of communication happens during the campaign to cheer everyone; most likely halfway through then onward, this kind of communication will happen with increasing frequency. Some of the tweets above are an example of encouragement – notice that there are elements of updating to lend a sense of urgency.

6. Brand their fundraising page

Simply put, to brand something means to mark or to identify it. This means that your fundraisers’ campaign pages should be distinctive in the quality of their design.

Customize the template for the fundraisers’ page so that it blends in with your organization’s online presence. Notice the example from the first tip: the organization, WorldHelp, created a subdomain for their crowdfunding campaign (rescue.worldhelp.net), which integrates seamlessly with their main website (worldhelp.net). Erica’s campaign page matches the look of WorldHelp’s homepage: the logo, the color palette.

Studies show that better design & branding eventually leads to more donations.

7. Stand out by making it fun to grab people’s attention

Your core supporters will probably be the first to dive into crowdfunding – or any chance to promote your mission, really. Volunteer fundraising may be a labor of love, but the best campaigns will make it so effortless and enjoyable that it doesn’t even feel like work.

Some examples include:

You may find that the activity associated with the campaign is a bigger draw for some fundraisers and donors than the cause itself. It’s possible to attract donors or fundraisers who were less likely to donate because they’re into the novelty of the activity.

Wrapping it up

To summarize, a successful crowdfunding campaign hinges on clear and consistent communication with fundraisers and donors about the:

  •      Purpose of the campaign
  •      Intended impact of the campaign
  •      Timeline of the campaign
  •      Progress of the campaign
  •      Actual results of the campaign

A very successful crowdfunding campaign will not only meet your fundraising goals – it would exceed the goals and expand your supporter and donor base.

For a detailed guide on crowdfunding, download our introduction to crowdfunding ebook and planning a crowdfunding campaign ebook.

 

Sara Choe is a Customer Advocate for CauseVox. As a social-good jill-of-all-trades, she enjoys sharing stories of people making the world a better place to live.