Thursday, November 29, 2007

Find Your Social Networking Niche


I had lunch today with Justin Perkins, Super Nice Sales Guy and Consultant for Care2. Care2 is a for-profit, niche, social network that helps over 8,000,000 people who "Care2 make a difference - Discover, Share, and Take Action!"

What is a niche social network you ask? Think of it as semi-private party vs. a house party. Unlike a house party (i.e. MySpace), Care2 and other niche social networking sites cater to a specific demographic or issue. By focusing on a specific topic or personality-type, niche social networks become more attractive to marketers who need to reach a specific audience, i.e. women with young children, environmentalists or dog-lovers. (BTW, this IS the demographic on Care2 aka LOHAS - Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.)

Based on Care2's profile, here are three types of nonprofits that might want to join their network.

1. Progressive organizations might introduce their advocacy platforms to Care2 members.
2. Womens' organizations might invite Care2 members to join their Giving Circles.
3. Youth development groups might enlist Care2 volunteers.

You get the point.

Before wading into the social networking space, do some research to find the niche social network for your target audience; this way you're likely to reap better marketing results.

Here is a list of social networks on Wikipedia.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Tools and Rules for Nonprofit Marketing Success



I had a great time talking yesterday at Lipman Hearne - a marketing and communications firm that exclusively serves nonprofits. They are launching a cool, new branding campaign called The True You. Check it out!

They asked me to provide my (humble opinions) on how nonprofits and the consultants that serve them should approach marketing and communications in the "Connected Age," a term I first heard from Alison Fine. Here is what I had to say. It loses some of the translation without my voice but hopefully you'll get the point and find it useful. Cheers!

P.S. Have any of you worked with any great marketing and communications firms lately? Specifically, I'm looking for great advice on messaging for a new product launch. Recommendations?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Love, Love, Love This!

Great presentation by Robert and Maryam Scoble about how to blog well. Found it on Slideshare.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don't Fly Blind


Last Friday, I attended the annual luncheon of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. It's held at the convention center and every year over 1,000 businesses and major associations come together to assess the "state of the state" of DC's economy. This year the key note speaker was John Talmage, President and CEO from Social Compact.

Social Compact is a market research firm which seeks to provide the best information on the state of urban neighborhoods in America. Their goal is to help local governments, private investors and citizens make informed investment and public policy decisions regarding the urban core.

Here's what he said that rang true for me.

"We have to improve the quality of our data about our inner cities in order to make "information-led" decisions about how, where and why to invest in our urban neighborhoods. It's not enough to say 'wouldn't it be great if we could revitalize this place?' No, we need to make the case for why and how investment will work."
This got me thinking about how critical it is to HAVE and USE good data to make business decisions. It's an important marketing and technology issue.

  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are meeting the needs of the people we serve?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are serving the right people?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are properly stewarding our donors' resources?
  • Without the right market research how can we show that our causes are a public policy imperative?
  • Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are not just flying in the dark?

Everyone knows that market research, i.e. large-scale quantitative analyses can be extremely expensive. But thanks to technology there are many ways to do research affordably. Online tools like Zoomerang and Survey Monkey enable even a smallest and poorest organizations to gain valuable and inexpensive feedback across space and time.

Technology aside, the most important tool for gaining market intelligence is LISTENING. Listening to clients, listening to members, listening to donors, etc. Don't just use your list servs, blogs and forums to provide "a networking forum for your members" use these tools to really LISTEN to what your publics need from YOU with a goal to UNDERSTANDING the complex issues we are all trying to address.

Don't fly blind!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Charity Widgets May Increase Holiday Giving

Looking for a way to increase holiday giving? Consider adding widgets to your fundraising mix.

A widget is a piece of content that you can paste on your website, blog or social networking page. Widgets can contain pictures and text. See GlobalGiving's "Give Love" widget at right.

The great thing about widgets is that many sync up with donation platforms like PayPal. By clicking directly on the widget your friends, relatives, co-workers, donors, and volunteers can make an immediate contribution to your cause.

Many individuals are using widgets to raise money for the charities that they care about. Many nonprofits are using widgets as part of their viral marketing/fundraising efforts.

There are several services on the Web where you can create widgets for FREE including SixDegrees.org, Change.org, chip in, and Widgetbox. To learn more about how individuals and nonprofits are using charity widgets to raise money for their cause read this report.

Happy widgetizing!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And the Winner Is...

We had a fantastic time at our annual NPower Greater DC Region Technology Innovation Awards Luncheon on Friday and I'm pleased to say that this year's winner is RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

RAINN won for their innovative use of online chat to create the nation's first secure and confidential Online Hotline for survivors of abuse. They get a "full suite" of technology services valued at $45,000 including a strategic technology plan, Microsoft software, IBM hardware and $2,000 in cash.

We also previewed our new "video" at the event. Hope you like! For more information about what we're up to at NPower read our annual report.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Slowly Does it Every Time


I spent some time last week reading over some of the great advice that we got from this year's Technology Innovation Awards Applicants. You can learn more about our Annual Award and Luncheon here.
This advice came through loud and clear and reminded me of Aesop's famous fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
"It's not important to be on the bleeding edge of technology. It's more important to define your requirements and determine what your users (staff, board members and volunteers) really need and will USE. We didn't change our systems overnight. We took our time doing the research. Now we are reaping the rewards. We know we have the right systems in place because our people are on board."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

If You Build IT They Will Come - NOT!

I came across this interesting report a few weeks ago. It was released this summer by the Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management in San Francisco.

This finding caught my attention and is right on.

"Less successful nonprofits assumed (my emphasis) that the community would use their technology once it was available. For example, one organization established an online discussion forum so people could discuss common issues and recruit volunteers online. The discussion forum was largely unused. While the organization’s staff recognized that they needed to do greater outreach, they failed to consider whether their constituents wanted this technology. Technology is only effective if people have the time and interest to become involved in the issue in the first place." (AMEN!)
Technology, like any tool, should be user-driven but for some reason many of us forget this. We become enamored of the "bells and whistles" of a new tool and fall in love with a solution for its own sake.

We fell prey to this mistake at NPower when we purchased a first-in-class project management system for our consulting and sales team. Turns out we didn't need 1/2 of the functionality that the tool offered and rather than streamline our work, the tool made project management MORE not less onerous.

Don't choose a new technology for your organization based on the credentials of the vendor or the sales pitch alone. Choose a tool based on what your users and constituents NEED to get their jobs done. This may mean, for example, managing donors via an Excel spreadsheet or helping members to communicate via a simple list serv. While I know this will not be sexy for the tech-savvy folks in your organization, if a technology works, it works. And that's the important part.

At the same time, keep your eyes to the future and plan for change and growth. That way you can be sure that your technology will grow along with you.