Can You Make A Campaign Go Viral?

Let me cut to the chase: You can't make campaigns go viral. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create awesome campaigns that are compelling, sharable, and focused on building a ladder of engagement with your community and network. This is one of the key concepts that I discuss in my book Social Change Anytime Everywhere, co-written with Amy Sample Ward of NTEN.

Last week, Ann Marie van den Hurk at interviewed me about the Ice Bucket Challenge. She asked if I thought other nonprofits were going to try to duplicate its success. I know  many organizations will want to attempt this, and if you are one of these organizations, you need to continue reading.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was an incredible success. The ALS Association raised over $94M in less than a month for a disease that most Americans aren’t very familiar with. 5,600 new people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS yearly. Now, many Americans understand how devastating this disease is and how finding a cure for ALS could lead to cures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. 

However, the reality is that very few campaigns go viral. And going viral should NEVER be your goal. Why? Because the allure of going viral is a distraction to your organization and your mission

As I mentioned to Ann at, to raise money and be successful in advocacy campaigns, organizations should invest their energy in creating compelling and sharable content that focuses on:

  • Fostering your community and network
  • Motivating your target audiences to take action through targeted engagement
  • Defining measurable goals connected to specific outcomes
  • Being prepared for successes and learning quickly from failures

There are no short cuts to creating social change. You need a mobilized base of supporters who believe in your mission and who are consistently engaged across multiple channels.

Jeremiah Owyang, of Crowd Companies came up with the checklist Ten Simple Steps to Replicate The Ice Bucket Challenge.” My favorite suggestion is “find a four leaf clover.” You are going to need that four leaf clover if your nonprofit expects to replicate the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.  


Online Advocacy Drives List Growth

Online advocacy as a tool for list growth and new donor acquisition is hotter than ever. Actions such as petitions and pledges serve to engage cause-minded individuals and convert them into valuable supporters. has been at the forefront of online acquisition for over 15 years. It has an online community of over 26 million civically active members all working to make the world a better place, and they are looking to engage with your organization! This infographic tells the story of Care2’s members, their passions and their donating philanthropic behavior.

Here are some highlights:

  • 75% of our members female
  • 56% of members give to organizations they see on Care2

Check it out:

Tap into the power of Care2’s members, we would love to hear from you.





Kickstarter’s Founder Launches Nonprofit “Dollar A Day”

Kickstarter’s founder Perry Chen, who resigned from his position at the crowdfunding platform, recently launched the nonprofit Dollar A Day to raise money for charities. Chen helped spark a movement that raised over $1 billion dollars for individual projects that has led to startups, social change initiatives, etc. via Kickstarter. Can he replicate this for nonprofits?

Chen told the media that one of the inspirations behind Dollar A Day was to make it easy for people to discover nonprofits that they might not be familiar with.

Here’s How It Works.

Every member who joins Dollar A Day, commits to donating $1 each day, which goes to a different nonprofit that gets featured daily on the site. Members sign up by providing their credit card numbers and are billed $30 a month. They can cancel their donation subscription at any time.

Members receive follow up emails about featured nonprofits so that they can learn more about the organizations that their donations are supporting. To date about 800 people have signed up via the Dollar A Day website. This translates into over $800 being donated to a featured charity daily. While $800 may not be buckets of money, could this be a new venue for nonprofits to reach new audiences, especially if Chen and team use their savvy marketing skills to expand the website’s reach? Sure, but only if Chen’s new platform provides an easy way for donors to opt-in to nonprofits email list.

Unfortunately, “donations are processed anonymously by Network For Good. Your name, address, and email are NOT shared with nonprofits. [People] can always sign up for more info on any nonprofit’s website,” according to the Dollar a Day Website.

Dollar A Day says this policy protects donors privacy and prevents their members from getting bombarded by emails from several charities. However, by not empowering donors to quickly opt-in to share their information with charities they are interested in supporting, it prevents donors from building long lasting relationships with nonprofits. This is also quite problematic as donors are the lifeblood of nonprofits.

How Does A Nonprofit Get Selected For Dollar A Day?

According to the website, they select innovative and high impact nonprofits with responsible track records in six key areas: Education, Health, Economic Development, Arts and Culture, Environment, and Human Rights.

The featured nonprofits for the next 60 days can be found here.

If your nonprofit is interested in being a recipient of Dollar A Day, consider setting up a unique landing page that focuses on conversions for these particular donors who are coming to your website via Dollar A Day. Of course your homepage should be optimized for conversions and feature a story about Dollar a Day around the time they highlight your nonprofit to their members.

Chen says, Dollar A Day is “really about trying to finding a way to support and shine a light on nonprofits already doing great work and getting people to directly engage with them.”

I think the platform has potential. But will it raise a significant amount of money for nonprofits and bring in new donors? That will really depend on how the platform evolves especially after hearing feedback from the community.


Is SEO Dying, Or Do You Just Need to Revitalize Your Content?

SEO certainly has its critics. Some call it snake oil. But SEO is critical to your website, online advocacy, and online fundraising.

If your nonprofit is about to embark on a website redesign, a website audit, or even online content planning for year-end fundraising, it's important to come up with a content strategy that is tailored to your specific audiences. This also will benefit your site's SEO.

I'm going to highlight a few of the best content marketing strategies visualized in this infographic:

  • Develop a consistent tone, message, and personality for your brand. It's critical that the entirety of your online presence has consistent branding with the website. Branding social media outposts will provide a more seamless user experience as users move from the website to social media sites and back.

  • Headlines are everything. It's true, a headline can make or break whether someone will click through to read your content. One way to come up with great headlines is to brainstorm several headlines at once. I like to make a list of 10 to 15 potential headlines and circulate them among our team for feedback and suggestions. This may be time consuming, but it's worth it.

  • Don't just post...Engage! I've said it before (in Tips for Writing An Awesome Social Media & Communications Guide), social media is like a cocktail party, it's meant to be social. Don't just sit back and watch the comments roll in, engage and respond. Generate dialogues, encourage questions, and even keep notes about your audience's comments to use for future content.

  • Quality is as important as quantity. Well sort of! While quality is more important than quantity, quantity is also important. If your nonprofit has a blog or a tumblr and you don't have the staffing or resources to keep it updated (even if you've got 1-2 awesome posts), it might not be the thing for you. You don't have to be where everyone else is. You just need to be where your audience is. Your constituents will notice if you don't ever update your content. This is why it's important to create a content calendar that you use to regularly curate quality content. You can even check out these tips to rock your online presence.

What strategies resonate with you?


So you want to get into online advocacy?

It starts with the action!  An engaging action, one that is shareable and appealing to not only your audience, but also friends of your supporters, is the first step in launching your effective online advocacy strategy. 

Once you have created your action:

  • Don’t just rely on email.  Yes, send it to your email list, but also post your action on social media, use “self-serve” channels like the DailyKos, and see if bloggers will display it on their sites.
  • Segment your supporters and target your emails.  Avoid the unsubscribes and worse, the dreaded MARK AS SPAM, by sending your emails to active supporters and those who would be interested in taking your action.
  • Use paid acquisition to get your action in front of an audience.
  • Think about working with another group or organization to amplify the action.

Bottom line, just creating an awesome action is not enough.  Get the full scoop on effective online advocacy from this white paper by PowerThru Consulting and Care2.


Study: Nonprofits Score an "F" in Online Fundraising Scorecard

Dunham and Company released an Online Fundraising Scorecard that looked at 151 nonprofits online fundraising activities. The report either gave a big "F" or a mediocre rating to most of the nonprofits in the report. Out of 151 nonprofits, only 24 of them scored 76% or above. 

The study looked at the flow of donation pages on each of the nonprofits websites as well as email appeals, follow up emails, etc. Here are some of the key findings. 

  • 65% required users to go through three or more pages to actually donate. Forcing users to go through multiple steps is one of the fastest ways to lose donors. 
  • 84% of donation pages were not opimized for mobile, which made it hard for mobile users to complete a donation. 
  • 63% offered no action opportunities on their thank you page or emails.
  • 37% of organizations did not engage in any communications with new subscribers within the first 30 days. How welcoming!
  • 79% did not personalize emails with with a name like "Hi Allyson."

The report is troubling because the nonprofit community has been doing online fundraising for years and there are established best practices for optimizing conversions. Here are some tips that I'm re-sharing from another Frogloop blog post from 2010 that are still the gold standard. 

Eight Online Fundraising Strategies You Can Do Right Now

1. Create Killer Landing Pages

Tell people what you want them to do quickly. Be clear how their donation will make a difference. One tactic that has been successful for the nonprofit CARE is to provide their donors with two simple pie charts that illustrate how funds raised are allocated below the credit card donation form.

Also give people several options to contribute money – one time giving, monthly giving, etc.

2. Welcome People
Many organizations have a welcome series to introduce new donors to their email list. This is a great strategy that your organization should consider adapting. If your nonprofits, does not have time to do this right now, just be sure you send them at least one email welcoming them to your community and the different ways that they can get involved. Try to communicate with your list at the very least once a month.  

3. Cut The Wonk
You nonprofit will raise more money by telling compelling stories that resonate with real people. Donors are human beings (not ATM machines) and they need to feel connected to your organization and to your story. Save your press releases for the media, and your “talking points” for policy makers.

4. Build A Great List
You need invested people on your list to fundraise. There are two main ways nonprofits can build lists:

  • Organic Cultivation: via your own website, events, social networking sites, direct mail, etc.

  • Paid Acquisition: Online acquisition (like Care2) Google Ad Words, email appends, chaperoned emails, etc.

5. Cross Promote

The best way to reach your donors is to connect with them wherever they are – which means everywhere. Make sure you cross promote your fundraising campaigns across multiple channels such as your website, email appeals, social networks, direct mail, telemarketing, etc. Also be sure that the content is edited for each channel since each one has its own unique tone and voice.

6. Segment
As I mentioned in Five Fundraising Tips to Add to your Checklist, querying and segmenting your online membership may not be a ton of fun, but it’s vital to the success of your online fundraising program. You need this information to tailor appeals to different segments of your list. Why would you send members of your list who have never donated to your organization the same exact appeal to members who have donated $250 3x in the past 12 months? These two audiences are connected to your nonprofit very differently and therefore should receive different appeals that match their level of engagement.

7. Close The Loop
Don’t forget to thank your donors and tell them if you met your goals. This simple strategy has proven to help build better relationships with donors. Also make sure you include any compelling stories, successes, or photos so donors feel that their donation made a difference.

8. Measure The Results
There are myriad amounts of ways your nonprofit can measure the success of your online fundraising campaigns. Here are a few key ones:

  • Open Rates: What percentage of people opened up an online fundraising appeal.
  • Unique Web Visits: How many unique visits to the landing page.
  • Conversions: What percentage of people who clicked on the donate link, donated money.
  • Click-Through Rates: How many people clicked on a donation link.

Tricks and Tips to Use #Ello (With Screenshots)

Last week I joined Ello, a new social network that is ad-free and allows users to opt out of some data collection and tracking. Last week, Ello said that there were 31K invite requests per hour. Why is Ello sparking so much interest? Ello had great timing. Facebook and Twitter have been hit with different pockets of frustrated users.  For example, in September Facebook implemented a new policy that stated all user profiles had to have their real identity. This presented many issues for the transgender community, mental health providers who don’t want to publish this information, victims of stalking and abuse, etc.

Nonprofits have also become concerned about Facebook’s ever-changing secret algorithm and the pay to play presence it’s been building to strongly encourage all pages (including nonprofits) to start advertising if they want their FB Likers to see their content. Many nonprofits simply can’t afford to do this. But it’s not just FB that nonprofits are concerned about. Twitter has been experimenting with secret algorithms too and testing to see if popular content should be filtered to the top of users Twitter feeds. Pay to play could be way for Twitter to monetize.

Combine all of the above with the public’s concern over online privacy, and voila you have the perfect timing for a new social network that promises it will remain ad-free, cares about your online privacy and gives users the ability to opt out of some tracking, and has an impressive manifesto many people can get behind. 

I’ve have been on Ello via @womenwhotech for a few days and here’s what I have learned. It’s feels like a combination of Twitter (say hello and share what you are up to), Tumblr (longer form posts, photos, gifs), and Google+ (a bucket for friends and a bucket for noise).  It’s still in beta and run by a small team so it’s glitchy and the UX needs improvement. This is to be expected. Nonetheless, when people first join Ello they have found it frustrating to figure out how to do basic things like reply to comments.  So here are some tips and tricks to get you started (with screenshots).


Setting Up Your Profile

The round circle you see next to your @username will be your profile image. If you are looking to “brand yourself” then be sure this is a photo or image people will recognize. The image I use on Ellow below is the same one I use on Twitter with the @womenwhotech user name. The recommended size is 340 by 340. Note: See screenshot below where I use the red arrow to point to the profile image.


You will also notice a gray background where you can drag and drop or insert a large header/background image. The recommended size is 1800 by 1013. Note, in my screenshot below I have already uploaded a photo I shot of Georgetown University as my header/background.

Note: For both of these images, if you don’t upload the exact sizes I mentioned above, it can crop in weird places that you may find acceptable or not. You will need to play around with it, particularly if you are working with a logo. This came particularly frustrating when I started an Ello account for our web agency @RadCampaign so we could share fun photos and musings related to open source and philanthropy. When I uploaded our logo for the profile image it did not crop right at multiple sizes even 340 by 340. It still does not look perfect but I can live with it.


User Settings and Data Permissions

This was not the most intuitive to find at first. To locate these settings, ook for the small gray gear icon to the right of the black smiley face. In the screenshot below, I used a red arrow to point to the gear, which is also part of a set of 3 icons and the hamburger menu that serves as a toogle toolbar. Once you find the gray gear icon, click on it. It will bring you to your “profile” settings page.  Here you can input your bio info. 

Below the bio section you can change your notifications settings and data tracking settings. When you first sign up to Ello everything is set to YES. In the notifications section you have several options to make your profile viewable to people outside of the Ello network, allow other users to comment on your posts, and allow Ello to gather anonymous information about your visit, which they say helps make Ello better. Learn more. Note: See screenshot below.



How to De-Ello Your Inbox

If you have opted in to receive notifications, your email inbox will fill up fast. 

How to de-Ello your Gmail inbox via @dab

“Click on an email from Ello, click the More dropdown, select Filter messages like these, select Create filter with this search. Then select the last checkbox Categorize as: Social, and check the box Also apply filter to matching conversations.

You have now successfully moved your Ello notifications to your Gmail Social tab.”

If you are on a mac, drag an Ello email to your social tab. (Thanks for the tip @craftyreels).


Finding "Friends"

The "Discover" icon, which is the gray stick figure that is part of the 3 set of icons located to the right of the black smiley face is also supposed to land you on a page with the search tool. However, the search tool does not work at the moment. Note: See screenshot below using the red arrow that shows where the Discover tool is.


You have a few options to find people.

1. Use the Discover tool to find new and interesting people you have never met by scrolling through the list of users. I have done this and met some great people who have been sharing some content that really resonates with me.

2. Tell your community on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter what your username is on Ello with a link. Ask them what their user name and link is so you can follow them too.

3. Once you begin to connect with either new friends or old friends, scroll through their list of friends to either find more of your friends or meet new ones.


Posting Content

On Ello you can basically post a variety of content in the Omnibar that starts with a black rectangle bar that says “Say Ello.” Start typing away and the Omnibar instantly expands across the screen. Besides text, you can post photos, images like jpegs, animated gifs, Youtube, Vimeo, Soundcloud links, etc.

To Post Images: Beneath the gray Omnibar you will see two squares overlapping each other. Click that icon to upload images. Note: See screenshot below where the red arrow points to the square icon.

Formatting Content:  To bold or link content, select the text and a bar will popup with options to bold or hyperlink content. Note: See screenshot below.

Emoji Cheat Sheet: There are numerous and hysterical emjoi’s you can use on Ello.  Here’s a cheat sheet that @Scottbeale shared. 

When your content looks perfect, here's how you post it to your feed. Beneath the Omnibar, you will see a gray arrow located next to the gray X. Click the arrow and your content will post to your feed. Note: See screenshot below where I point to this.


Editing Content

If you posted content, but need to go back and edit it, no problem. First, go to your comment in your feed that you want to edit. Below the post you will see a few icons including the pencil icon. Click the pencil icon to edit your post. Note: See screenshot below where the red arrow points to the pencil icon.

Click the X (located next to the pencil tool) if you want to delete the post.


Commenting On A Post

Commenting on a post seems to be confusing people the most. It’s definitely been clunky at times. Here’s how it works. Underneath a users post you will see three gray dots. Click on those dots. A box will appear. This is where you enter a comment. It should auto-populate the username of the person you are replying to. Note: See screenshot below where the red arrow points to the three dots.


What Do The Numbers Underneath Each Of Your Posts Mean?

You will see three numbers underneath your post. The first number represents the timestamp - how many minutes/hours/days ago the post was published. The second number with the eye icon represents how many views the post received, and the third number with the three gray dots represents how many comments the post received. Note: See screenshot below with red outline around the three numbers.


Liking And Sharing On Ello:

Right now, you can’t like or re-share content automatically by other Ello users. You have to manually do this. I know it’s annoying, but remember Ello is in beta so they are still building out features. Here’s what I have been doing. Cut and paste the content that you want to share. Make sure you credit the Ello user whose content you are sharing. I have been using ReEllo via @username like you would do on Twitter as a RT. It was the first thing that came to mind when I wanted to share content by another Ello user. It seems Twitter has trained me. :) People are also using H/T for hat tip.

Another option is to click on the time stamp of the post that you want to share. This will give you a permalink. Frame the content you want to share and select the words you want to hyperlink using the permalink. Note: @ccarfi says this only works in the Omnibar and not comments on existing threads.

@Nicolelee on Ello posted on her Ello feed that she spoke with a couple of the co-founders who confirmed that there is a bookmarking feature in development. Here is what they said.

From Paul: Ello Beta has a bookmarking feature in development, which will allow Ello users to bookmark any post they like, with a separate feed so they can browse all the bookmarks they've ever made. This is a way to collect all the posts you like most of over time.

The working title for this feed is called the “Love” (as in, “I Love This”), but may be renamed by the time it is released — we’re just working on it now.

From Todd: This feature is evolving. We want to get it right. It will be two-way. This feature will be primarily focused on the person taking the action and secondarily on the person/entity receiving the attribution. We’re designing an experience less shallow and empty than the typical ‘like’ or ‘favorite’.”


How To See All of Your “Friends” Feeds

Click on the black smiley face.


How To Get Back To Your Own Feed

Go towards the top of the page and click on your profile image or username.


Keyboard Shortcuts

@teno found & shared they great keyboard shortcuts. On your/friends feed, with your Friends/Noise avatars in the left column, hit Shift+1 for a full screen of people. Use Shift+1 to toggle back and forth. You can drag people's avatars into the Friends/Noise boxes. (You can do this when your people are in the default column view also.) Hit the Right Arrow key from your /friends feed to hide your Friends list. This is a super clean view. Then it's nice to use Shift+5 to toggle a grid and list view of the feed. Use the Left Arrow to show your friends list again. If you're looking at your /friends feed, there's probably a bit of notification noise there ("Someone started following you"). Shift+0 will hide or show those.


Need more tips? Once you join Ello people will share all sorts of useful tips and we are al figuring this out together. Be sure and also check out their tips page here

Updated: October 1, 2014

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