Thursday, August 27, 2009

Should Small Nonprofits Use Facebook as a Total CRM Solution?

I was talking to my friend Evan Parker, Manager, Digital Membership for The Nature Conservancy yesterday and he raised an interesting question.

Should very small nonprofits, i.e. orgs with staffs of 1 -2 people and/or mostly volunteer-led use Facebook as their CRM?

In case you don't know this tech lingo, a CRM is a Customer Relationship Management system. For example, Salesforce is a CRM. So are Convio and Sphere. A CRM is a super-charged database. With a CRM you can manage your contacts, send email and raise money. Every organization needs one at some point.

Fact is you can do all these things right now via Facebook for FREE. Well, the technology and applications are free, the management of the tool is not.

Here's how it would work:

1. Your Facebook Page would serve as the home page of your website.
2. Facebook would also serve as your email services provider (ESP) since you can email your fans directly via your Page.
3. Causes would serve as your "Donate Now" button.

I've generally been opposed to this idea. You can read more here. My thinking is that there is a logical progression you should follow when wading in online - especially if your goal is to raise money - and moving into "social" is 3rd not 1st on the list. However, Evan reminded me that not everyone's goal is to raise money. You may be more interested in using your web presence to do programming and or raise awareness of your issue.

What do you think? Are you using Facebook as a total CRM solution for your organization? Would you? If not, why not?


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Musing on Metaphors

"You are the light of my life."

"I have a coffee headache."

"Don't try to pull a Dick Cheney on me."

"It's raining men."
Metaphors. They are the stuff of life.

Use them to enhance your writing. Use them to connect emotionally with your audience. Use them to connect with yourself.
"Metaphor - that is, understanding one thing in terms of something else... is central to reason... it also helps us to understand others... Metaphorical imagination is essential in forging empathic conversations and communicating experiences that others do not share."

- A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink.
Metaphors are also the lifeblood of good writing. You can give me facts and statistics but I won't remember them. Besides I can look them up on Google. Instead, paint a picture of your programs. Tell me a story about what you do. Help me feel the significance of your work.

Metaphors come in words and phrases. They also come in pictures. See above. What do these metaphors say to you?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Having a Hammer Doesn't Make You a Carpenter and Other Truths About Social Media

This photo is by Waplu.

I received this great post today from Beth Harte, Writer, Marketing Profs. It's called 19 Things Social Media Consultants or Agencies Can't Teach You. Go ahead. Read it and then come back.

Here is what jumped out at me.

1. Social media is about being (well) social!

2. Being social has nada to do with the tools you use. (That's why lots of companies and nonprofits who are not using social media are still making lots of money.)

3. Being social has everything to do with having a social culture.

Think about it. Just like having a hammer doesn't make you a carpenter, using Twitter doesn't make you a social media expert. While tools may amplify your marketing communications effort making it easier, faster, maybe even more fun to get your job done. How you put the tools to use is what really matters and how is not always up to you.

Here's my suggestion. If you want your organization to "go social" work on your core values first. For example (and following Beth's guidance) be sure that you are:
  • Committed to transparent communications - Here is what this means in practice. Telling your grant officer that you need an extension on your funding because you haven't achieved your stated program goals not because you delayed the roll out of your program.
  • Trust your employees, channel partners or customers - Here is what this means in practice. Encouraging employees to share their views of your work in an objective manner in live meetings.
  • Want to remove internal politics - Here is what this means in practice. Encouraging people from different departments in the organization to collaborate on projects and creating an incentive package which facilitates this behavior.
Part of the excitement around social media is driven by "shiny new object syndrome." It's also driven by the fact that some people understand that social media provide us with an opportunity to get real with each other. Transparent, honest, open conversation excites people! (It's also the only type of communication that people trust.)

But this style of communicating doesn't exist in a vacuum. It only exists in organizations that truly embody these values.

"If I had a hammer..."


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Study Shares Secret Sauce of Obama for America Online Campaign

It's almost a year since President Obama's election, but there is still a LOT of interest in the staggering success of Obama for America (OFA). In particular, people want to know how the campaign used online tools to raise $500 million and win the presidency!

Did the money come in through Facebook,, email or SMS? More important, what can the average nonprofit learn from this historic campaign and what can never be replicated?

A great new study by M+R Strategic Services, Wilburforce Foundation and The Brainerd Foundation attempts to answer these questions. Specifically, the study outlines the 7 key elements of OFA's success. Interested in creating a kick-ass online program for your nonprofit? Read the full report. Here are the highlights.

1. Have discipline - OFA used a huge swath of media and tools to power the campaign - online and offline advertising, SEO, direct mail, telemarketing, SMS, Facebook, house-parties, a huge field organizing effort, etc. While most campaigns and nonprofits would come apart at the seams in the face of all this promotional activity, the OFA team made an extraordinary effort to align communications and stay on message. And it sounds like they did it through a tight organizational structure and daily team meetings. Are your fundraising, communications, direct mail and membership efforts in alignment? If not, why not?

2. Hire the right people and make it a full time job (italics my emphasis) - If you want to achieve success with online media, at some point you're going to have to INVEST in the human resources to get the job done. Just like any other functional department, new media requires financial and human resources to succeed.

Unlike OFA, you may not be able to draw the top talent in the world to your organization, but you should still try to hire the right people for the job and give them the autonomy and respect they need to get the job done. See page 9 of the report for a job description for your new media lead.

3. Keep the spotlight on your supporters - If there is one thing that OFA did well and that your organization must emulate it's this: focus on your audience(s)! Write this down on a post-it note and put it on your laptop.

Your cause is not about you or your organization!

If you want to be relevant (online or offline), you must focus all your communications on the people you serve and the great things they are accomplishing in this world. Please: No more press releases about the launch of your new website!

4. Be nimble - Online media are so powerful (and dangerous) because they are immediate. OFA used this to it's advantage by timing it's fundraising appeals to coincide with current events. This is a great strategy to emulate. However, if you want to become a "nimble online marketing machine," you've got to put the infrastructure in place NOW to succeed. This means purchasing a good Email Service Provider (ESP), investing in building and cleaning your online list, making your website easy to navigate and interesting to read, etc.

5. Be authentic - I can't say it better than David Plouffe.

"Nothing is more important than authenticity. People have very sensitive

6. Create great content - In my personal opinion this is our Achilles Heel as a sector - writing crappy content. All the best tools in the world can't make up for bad content.

"Tools are a frying pan. If the ingredients (the content) aren't tasty, you're still going to have a horrible dinner." - Scott Goodstein, External Online Director, Obama for America

Bad content is bad content. Period. It won't work online or offline. If you can't afford to hire a copywriter or designer, take some courses to improve your skills. The Goodman Center is a great resource. I'm devoting my September Column in Fundraising Success to providing you with some quick tips for writing better content. I hope you check it out.

7. Use data to drive decisions - According to the report, OFA was religious about testing EVERYTHING in order to optimize return on investment. You can do this too especially with your email-marketing program. Test your subject lines, copy, from lines, message timing and frequency. More important, once you determine what works best, be willing to let the data drive execution.

Bonus: It's interesting to note that the 20 social networking sites and the campaign's own online community (MyBo), which powered OFA did not yield a high return on investment in terms of fundraising.

"From a fundraising perspective, external social networks are not a good use
of time. No one has ever really cracked that code."
- Stephen Geer, Director of Email and Online Fundraising, Obama for America


"The real drivers were old school. They were email. And they were web." - David Plouffe, Campaign Manager, Obama for America

This last point resonates with what folks in the online marketing, communications and fundraising are saying. Social media work for awareness and brand building. But when it comes to bringing in the bacon online, you have to focus on email and your website.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Framing and the Battle for Your Mind

I'm following the national health care debate because I find it astounding that at last census count nearly 50 million Americans were living without health insurance. I'm also following the health care debate because it's a fascinating case study in the power of strategic communications.

The debate is highly polarized. Folks on the right are talking about health care reform as a"government-run system." Their goal is to evoke images of bureaucracy, inefficiency and huge delays in getting to doctors. Not a welcome state of affairs. Folks on the left are framing health care reform as a "public-option." Their goal is to evoke images of inclusivity, democracy and most important - one option among many.

What's interesting about this debate is that neither frame has won - yet. However, like all battles for our minds. The winner will take all.

Regardless of where you currently stand on health care reform, you can be certain that the words we use to talk about this issue will have wide-ranging effects.

  • First, the words we use to talk about health care reform will constrain our ability to generate additional options or solutions.

  • Second, the words we use about health care reform will engender an emotional response. This will stymie our ability to use reason and read the fine print!

If you've ever felt dissonance between your experience of the world and how you are perceived by others, you know what I mean.

As a little black girl growing up with a white mother, I lived in constant state of anxiety about being "too white." According to my classmates and some teachers, my actions and abilities did not align with my skin color. And this constrained me greatly. I dumbed down my speech. I raised my hand less in class. I tried to fit in. It took years of therapy and education to realize that this (racist and ridiculous) definition of "blackness" was subjective. That it was just a frame (albeit a powerful one) for looking at the world. I could create my own version of reality.

If you want to earn a win for your cause, you have to take note of how others are talking about your issue and do your research to understand why certain frames resonate more than others.

You also have to be savvy and brave enough to realize that there is no objective reality, there are just different ways at looking at the same thing. Once you understand this, you can you do the creative and empirical work you need to do to develop a new language for your issue...and then words won't hurt you.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Ode to Blogs

Talk about blogs and the power of blogging has been eclipsed by conversations about newer and shinier tools like Twitter and Facebook. But I agree with Brian Clark, Author of Copyblogger, that blogs can play a key role in marketing communications, especially for groups without access to MSM (mainstream media).
"Blogs are simply the best way to publish new media content. And social media news and networking sites are the ways that content gets exposure. It’s not money and geography that determines if your content spreads… it just has to be deemed good enough to be shared by regular people.

...the fascinating part of social media to me is not just the social networking. It’s the fact that anyone willing to put in the work can become a media producer/personality without speaking a word to anyone in the existing media power centers of Los Angeles, New York, et al."
For nonprofits and small businesses, i.e. folks with limited access to the powers that be, blogging opens up a tremendous opportunity to be part of the global conversation. On a personal note, this is what inspired me to start blogging - a desire to share my point of view on issues I care about. And, I've been very lucky to reap the rewards - speaking opportunities, a bi-monthly magazine column, an enhanced reputation in my industry, etc.

Of course, the catch is you have to be good.
  • You have to know how to write and create compelling content.
  • You have to enjoy creating relationships with other bloggers in your space.
  • You have to be a person who can give and receive.
  • You have to be patient.
  • You have to be vulnerable. This may be the hardest part. Unlike writing for traditional media where you can maintain an aloof and "objective" writing style; blogging requires that you share your unique personality and point of view with an audience and this can be scary.
If this sounds like an ode to blogs, it is! Blogging has changed my life and a la Stephen Colbert - I am a blogger and SO CAN YOU!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nominate a Great Nonprofit Today!

Know a great nonprofit improving the lives of young people in your community?

GreatNonprofits is a website where people can post reviews of nonprofit organizations. This helps nonprofits gain exposure and recognition.

Youth-serving nonprofits with the most positive reviews in their category will receive media coverage and be promoted on Guidestar. A total of 9 awards will be given.

For more information, visit Deadline to apply is September 30.


P.S. Full disclosure: My hubby works for Guidestar.