Can Online Campaigners Fight Online Harassment?

If you work in social media or online advocacy you are no stranger to trolls and online harassment. We at Rad Campaign along with Lincoln Park Strategies and Craig Newmark of craigconnects recently conducted a national online poll about the rise of online harassment. We found that almost 25% of people reported that were either harassed online or knew someone who had been harassed. Even more alarming was that this figure climbed to 47% for people under the age of 35.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with Ted Fickes at Mobilisation Labs about how harassment in the nonprofit campaigner world. We discussed how online campaigns are built around email lists, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and phone calls and that we are reaching more people with less face to face interaction. However, is the nature of digital campaigning contributing to an environment that makes harassment possible?

I personally think the lack of face to face communications makes it easier for people to lash out and make threats against others, as people can hide behind their screens. It’s easy for someone to disconnect from the face on the other side of the screen, and cultivate a means of dehumanizing someone since they’re “only speaking to a screen.” This is also where the mob mentality comes in, which is more easily formed online than offline.

So how do we create safer campaign spaces online? I think the biggest piece to address is the cultural piece. Creating and sustaining a culture where people respect women and people of different faiths, political beliefs, gender identities, and sexual orientations, etc. is going to take a long time. There are a lot of awful stereotypes that have impacted our culture that need to be dismantled.

However, there are other things that we can explore that are more immediate steps. One of the things that I’m interested in talking with the panel about is what the online gaming community is doing. When League of Legends players faced online harassment, they had people from their own community voluntarily “police” the community to report and address the harassment. People were able to issue email warnings and ban users. When staff audited the community warnings and bans, they found that 80% of the reports were credible. They also focused on working with the game users who were censured or banned to get back into the game. Many said that they did not realize how offensive they were until another user pointed it out. Other online gaming communities have tested creating a code of conduct that people must agree to.

What other ideas do you have for nonprofit campaigners fighting online harassment?


Infographic: Women's Influence Online

Did you know that women make contributions to twice as many charitable organizations as men do? Studies have also shown that women bring in half or more of the income in 55% of U.S. households. And women ages 50 and older control a net worth of $19 trillion. Furthermore, women are expected to soon control 70 percent of all planned giving assets.

If your nonprofit is looking for more reasons to cultivate women donors and advocates, you should know that women also volunteer more than men do. 32% of women compared to 25% of men.

As I was doing some research on cultivating women donors, I came across this useful data by BlogHer: According to their survey, 41% of women used Facebook to contribute to a community, 33% used Twitter, 32% used Pinterest, and 28% used blogs.

Interestingly 36% said that they use blogs to help make purchasing decisions, 21% used Twitter, 18% used Pinterest, and 17% used Facebook. Could women also use these channels similarly to help inform their decisions on what charities to donate money to? 

Check out more data below! 


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.


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:



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

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


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?



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.