Monday, July 19, 2010

Want to Build Community Online? Become a Bridge Builder.

This magnificent photograph is from Giorgo's photostream on Flickr.

In her new book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause, Kivi Leroux Miller asserts that in the "Connected Age" marketers have to learn to become community managers vs. mass marketers. 
"The nonprofits that are best at building supportive communities around their causes that they can tap into over time -- not just for money, but for everything from favors that open the right door to got-your-back moral support -- will ultimately be more successful in achieving their missions than those who forgo community in favor of the traditional mailing list approach to managing relationships."
 I agree!  In fact, I've been thinking about this a lot.

Marketing online, in particular, is much more than putting up a static website to announce your gala or ask people to volunteer.  It's about having a CONVERSATION with people who care about your work and can help you reach your goals.

OK, you've heard this before.  But the real question is, HOW do you become a community manager and/or how do you find the right person for the job?  What is the skill set you should be looking for?

According to Fever Bee - The Online Community Guide, there are 5 roles you need to fill when building an online community team and/or hiring an online community manager.  Note: It may be hard to find all these roles in one person.  I've lifted this list directly from their site.
  1. The friend: engages people individually. (S)He participates in an online community, he messages lots of people to get them involved, he takes the time to cultivate loosely interested members into regulars.
  2. The recruiter: persuades people to join the online community. (S)He finds people that have something to contribute and builds relationships with them to join and invite others to do the same. He ensures steady supply of members to replace those that leave.
  3. The enforcer: The enforcer keeps things clean. (S)He removes the naughty posts, scolds the bad members and ensures nothing gets in the way of members participating in the online community.
  4. The editor: Implements much of the community strategy. (S)He solicits content, decides who/what matters. He has the power to shine a spotlight on members of the community and reward positive actions. Whenever you want the community to do something, he motivates them to do it.
  5. The entrepreneur: is to an online community what a business development manager is to a business. He looks for opportunities to add value to the community. Creates alliances, advocates on behalf of the community and generates the income.
I would add a sixth role to the list - the bridge builder.

The bridge builder: is a person with a large and diverse network, who is adept at connecting with people across "borders."  (S)he seeks out people with different cultural experiences, ethnic identities, worries, competencies, and concerns and revels in engaging with people who have different identities and points of view.

Why do we need more bridge builders?  We live in a DIVERSE world!

For example, the Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the U.S. be a "majority-minority" nation.  In fact, in four states - California, New Mexico, Texas and Hawaii - "minorities" already comprise a majority of the population.  And, in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Mississippi, the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents has fallen below 60%.

Being responsive to the changing demographics of our communities and our nation can only serve to enhance our work by helping us:
  • design programs that work for more people;
  • make our communications resonate;
  • raise more money; and
  • win more advocacy battles.
In short, it's good for the "bottom line(s)." 

So, here are some questions for you.  I'd sincerely appreciate any insight you have re: bridge building at your nonprofit.  Please leave your feedback in the comments!
  • How are you reaching out to diverse constituents online?
  • Do you know key demographics (i.e, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, age, etc.) of the people you serve and the people who give to your organization?  If so, how did you discover this information?
  • Does your staff, particularly your key leadership, reflect the community that you serve? If so, how have you been successful at recruiting and retaining a diverse staff?

Friday, July 16, 2010

No (Social Media) Soup for You!

I had the privilege of talking with about twenty grassroots nonprofits last week.  The topic?  Social media.

I presented an overview of social media.  What it is.  What it isn't.  Why anyone should care.  Then I talked about developing a social media strategy before diving in.

I've given this presentation about a dozen times and the more I give it, the more I realize that most small nonprofits are NOT READY for social media. (There - I said it!)

In order to do social media well it has to be INTEGRATED with other channels like your website and email.  You also have to have a writer on staff, i.e. someone who can create interesting, relevant content that people will want to read, comment on, and share.

Most small nonprofits simply do not have the technological infrastructure (a functional Content Management System, Email Services Provider or Donation Processing Tool) in place to do online communications well.  They're also lacking the staff capacity and talent to create compelling content.

Instead of alleviating their communications problems, a foray into social media land (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), just makes matters worse. Small organizations simply ensure that their limited resources will be spread even THINNNNNNNER.

Here's my advice:

1. Build an email list
2. Fix your website
3. Learn to write

Nail the basics first.  Then you can have some soup!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Are You a Relationship Wrecker?

This is an excerpt from my July column in Fundraising Success. Check it out!

There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of relationship building for successful fundraising, marketing and communications — especially in the online world.

But what if you're a terrible relationship builder? What if you're actually better at alienating prospects and supporters than you are at drawing them into your orbit? Here are seven signs that you're a relationship wrecker.

1. You're slow to respond online
We're all overwhelmed by the sheer volume of messages in our Twitter streams, fan pages and inboxes. But that doesn't mean we should ignore online correspondence. Like it or not, responding quickly is part of the culture of online media and ultimately helps build trust. Completely overwhelmed by online messaging? Create an auto-responder to let folks know that you'll e-mail them within 24 hours. Create an editorial calendar to get your content publishing schedule under control. Get more people in your organization blogging, tweeting and updating your Facebook page to share the workload.

2. You take more than you give
Relationships are a quid pro quo. While I'm not suggesting that you keep a scorecard after each event, meeting or phone call with a new partner, be sure to give at least as much as you take. For example, if a colleague offers to retweet an article on your behalf, be sure to reciprocate with a link or comment on her blog next week.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Art and Science of Fundraising Online

The art and science of fundraising online
View more presentations from JocelynCHarmon.

I had a lot fun today doing this presentation for the Association Foundation Group with my frolleague (friend and colleague) Allyson Kapin, Founder of Women Who Tech and Partner at Rad Campaign.

Our Takeaways?

You need 4 things to raise lots of money online:

1. A great (and GROWING) list
2. Killer landing pages
3. Non-crappy content
4. A mind for measurement!

Bonus:  You also need to break out of your organizational silos and get everyone working as a team so that you can maximize your efforts and STOP arguing about what goes on the homepage!