Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit communication’

5 tips for increasing your fans on Facebook

March 21, 2010

So, you’ve created a Facebook fan page for your nonprofit and now you’re waiting for the hoards to join. As with all social networking tools, there’s more to building a community of followers than simply creating a profile or, in the case of Facebook, a fan page. Here are my top 5 tips for building a fan base.

  1. Invite your stakeholders – People are not going to search your nonprofit out on Facebook. You need to lead them there. Use every means at your disposal. Put a link to your fan page on your website. If you are on other social media networks, such as Twitter, lead folks to your page using those as well. Write about your fan page in your newsletter, announce it at community or stakeholder meetings, link to it as part of your staff e-mail signatures. Remind people about it. Telling them once isn’t enough.
  2. Change your default landing page – When new visitors come to your page, have them land on your info page (which contains an engaging message about your organization), rather than your page’s wall? Why? Because a fan page wall can look a bit disorganized and hard to sort out to a new visitor. Visitors might also first view fan comments before having a context for your page. Your landing page could influence the visitor’s decision to join.  You can set the landing page from the “edit” link under “wall settings”.
  3. Engage your audience – Don’t treat your fan page as though it is a newsletter. Use the SOCIAL part of social networking to engage your fans. Pose questions to your followers to encourage discussion rather than just post information. Ask for input, post a quiz or survey about your cause or issue.
  4. Remain active – Don’t let your page languish. Try to post something at least every couple of days or so or you risk fan drop off. Also make sure that you are monitoring fan comments/posts to your wall. Respond to them! When a fan takes the step to actually participate, reward them by acknowledging it. This encourages more participation and engagement.
  5. Use a Facebook ad – You can do a lot to promote your page organically but a few shots of Facebook advertising can go a long way to increase your numbers. Facebook advertising is incredibly inexpensive and allows you to target specific demographics. A good starting approach is to target the friends of those who are already fans of your page. Facebook does a pretty good job of  step-by-step instructions for posting an ad so if you haven’t posted an ad before, start here.

Having a Facebook fan page can be an incredible way to build community around your cause or issue. I’d love to hear how your nonprofit uses its fan page and what success you’ve had with it. Anything you’d add to the above list?

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Can language transform your organization?

July 2, 2009

One of my favourite bloggers, Nancy E. Schwartz, recently referred to an outstanding presentation (free for download) by career fundraiser, Tom Suddes. The title, The Language of Change: 20 words and Phrases that Impact Attitudes, Actions and Funding, immediately had me clicking through to read the transcript. Tom’s message struck a chord with me as I’m a big believer that the language we use shapes how we perceive our world.

One of Tom’s first points characterizes the tone and content of his presentation:

The first big insight is the idea of being a not-for-profit. I mean, think about that just a little bit. Is there any reason at all for you to call yourself a not-for-profit, to define yourself in the negative? I believe no. I believe the answer to that is no. You or your staff, your board, nobody wakes up in the morning and shouts, “Yeehaw! We don’t get to make any money today!

So, I want to help change your mindset here. You’ve got to stop defining yourself in the negative. You’ve got to stop begging for money. You’re not a charity. People don’t give to you because you’re tax-exempt. It’s all about an impact – your vision, your message. And that’s where I’m hoping that you’re able to go with this.

We so often use “deficit” language emphasizing need that we overshadow the message of hope and success towards the goal of our cause. So, Tom advocates for cause organizations to move away from “mission statements” and towards communicating the essence of what the organization is all about. What is the impact of your organization and how can people become involved with that?

Other words/terms he takes on include “sustainability” “development officers” and even the word “appointments” when describing meeting with a potential “donor”—another term he urges us to change.

The change in language isn’t just for the purpose of the organization’s audience, it also changes the attitudes of board members, staff and volunteers.

Language evolves, so I don’t expect that organizations will instantly change the terms and words they use to describe their work. But even the act of examining why we use the terms/words we do and how that influences our approach and attitude is a worthwhile exercise.

Much of what Tom puts forth in this presentation challenges the entire culture and orientation of the nonprofit world. Well done!

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Biggest communication mistakes

October 15, 2008

It’s been two years since I left my communications position at a social services agency to start my own consulting practice. In that time, I’ve been fortunate to be invited into a number of nonprofits and businesses. This has given me a new perspective on how organizations function in terms of communications planning and practice.  Big or small, all organizations have their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen a lot of good communications practices but a number of mistakes as well. Here are six that stick out for me.

  1. Thinking of communication as a one way street – Organizations that concentrate only on what they’re saying without listening to what their publics are saying risk sending out the wrong message. Some don’t even have established mechanisms for two-way communication. This means they don’t benefit from valuable feedback about their organizational processes and how to improve goods and services.
  2. Not planning for communication as an organization grows – This seems to be common. Most organizations start out small. Everyone knows what’s going on in the organization because management and staff are in close proximity and formally and informally chat about the business. This changes when organizations grow—particularly when staff begin to work off-site or in satellite offices. Management then gets caught off guard when there is an internal communication problem because they haven’t planned for this area as the organization has grown.
  3. Communication is not an integral part of executive management function – Whenever a decision is made at the management table, the need for communication around that decision should be considered. Ask: Is this something that we need to communicate to staff, shareholders, donors? What’s the best way to do that?  It’s surprising how often this gets overlooked.
  4. Reluctance to look at new tactics/approaches – The influence of social media and Web 2.0 continues to grow and become more mainstream. Organizations ignoring this are going to be left behind. Big players in the corporate and nonprofit world are getting on board but many smaller organizations (who could really benefit from the low cost of these tactics) are lagging behind.
  5. Nonprofits reluctant to invest in communication and good design – There’s no question that many nonprofits have scant resources to address big causes. The priority is to invest in core services and mission. However, the number of nonprofits that undervalue good communication and design practices is remarkable. If you can’t invest a lot of cash in this area, do less but invest something. Getting a friend of so-and-so who designs websites in his spare time to create your nonprofit site is a big mistake. Invest a reasonable amount in professional services. Your donors and other stakeholders will see your organization as more credible and it will result in greater support.
  6. Expecting immediate results from a PR/media relations plan – Public relations and communications planning is a longer term investment. I’ve seen some organizations finally invest in public relations planning only to abandon the strategy when they don’t see immediate results. Not getting that front page news coverage on the first go around does not mean your plan is a failure. Be realistic about your goals and the time lines for them. Public relations planning is a sustained activity with results that are often more solid and lasting than a “big splash” advertising blitz but it requires patience.

What’s your experience as a small to medium sized organization? Do you find it hard to plan for and invest in solid communications practices? What are the challenges? Join the conversation by leaving your comments here.