How Google Communities Can Help Your Nonprofit Bring People Together

Today was a hard day for me to decide what to write about. I originally was going to focus on how social media covered and reacted to the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy this weekend. While this is a sad moment in our history, there are many other outlets covering that information. I’d like to point you in the direction of our friends at They put together a nice collection of sites people can go to help. Instead, I decided to use today to talk about Google Communities, the newest feature to Google Plus, with hopes that it might help your nonprofit’s 2013 social media strategy.

Now, I know I talk a lot about Google here on DonorDreams. That’s because in my opinion they provide quality free services, individuals and small businesses can use to get their message out there and be productive. The newest addition to the Google toolbox is G+ Communities06b3a9436b7121a0b81e3a243747358f

When Google Plus first came out everyone flocked to it to see what it was. Then its popularity fizzled a bit as it did not actually kill Facebook as predicted by some. Recently however, I personally have been turning to Google Plus more and more for conversations about different topics over sharing personal updates with friends. G+ Communities does a great job setting up an environment for that to happen.

When you set up a Google Plus Community, you can decide if it is public or private. Besides naming your group, this is an important decision as it cannot be undone. Depending on the purpose, your nonprofit might want to create both a public and a private community. The public community can be used to share news about your nonprofit and discuss topics with the public that are related to your mission. The private community can be used to give employees or volunteers a place to get information about your nonprofit that others cannot see. Information posted in public communities is also indexed by Google Search and will show up in search results.

One thing I really like about Google Communities is that they can act as a forum. Posts can be posted in different topics to keep things organized. This is different than Facebook Groups where all information is put together in one large ever going stream that people have to scroll through to see what’s going on. If a person just wants to read up about special events associated with your nonprofit – they can with Google+ Communities.

In addition, Google Communities come with all of the other features of Google+, such as photo sharing, event invitations and Google Hangouts. In fact, last Friday, Google Plus just announced 24 new features to their product. I suggest you check them out.

One other important note about sharing information on Google. At the moment, they are not charging people to make sure that people see updates by people, businesses or nonprofits. While over at Facebook, news feeds aren’t receiving all of the information each page a person likes publishes. Getting involved with Google+ might be an over all social media strategy your agency might want to consider for 2013 just for this reason – more exposure without having to pay for it.


As with any online community your nonprofit sets up, it is important to assign someone to keep her eyes on what is going on in that online space. This person should be posting important updates and reading all of the comments left by community members. You want to create a safe space where people can share ideas and want to come back and visit. Because it is a community/forum space, it will require more direction and monitoring that a twitter feed.

I hope that this post served as a great introduction to Google Communities for you and your nonprofit. If you do not think that setting up a G+ Community is right for your organization, I encourage you to at least join some for yourself. Since they have launched I have joined quite a few and been happy with the level of conversation and the resources being shared out there.

What do you think? Are Google Communities a good fit for your agency? Do you use another community focused site already that you’d like to share with the group? Leave a message in comments! I’d love to discuss this further.

Marissa sig

Top Ten Mondays with Marissa Posts – Part Two

Happy Monday, DonorDreams Readers! Today we going to take a look at the second half of the Top Ten Mondays with Marissa posts as 2012 draws to a close. As we look back I will try to update you on the popular topics of the year.

#5 Choosing the Right Donor Database is like Buying a Car
The donor database is the heart of any development team. In this post I go through the process it takes to figure out the right database for the job. Since I wrote this post, the writers at wrote an interesting article on the Ten Common Mistakes in Selecting a Donor Datebase which might also help your make your decision.

SOPA Resistance Day!

#4 How Can SOPA/PIPA Affect Nonprofits?
At the start of the year, two pieces of legislation threatened to change the internet as we know it. Both SOPA and PIPA would have limited an organizations visibility in search results as well as limit your ability to collect donations online if you were accused of infringing on copyrights.

Well, thankfully, these two bills did not pass and were never made into law. However censorship on the internet is still hot topic of conversation. Nonprofits need to be aware of what is going on when it comes to changes to the internet because it is such a helpful tool for getting much of your work done. Places you can stay up to date on the latest include: Ars Technica, This Week in Tech, and All Things Digital. Checking in on these sites from time to time can only help you know what’s next around the corner. And of course, we will update you here on DonorDreams if there are any big changes in the tech world.


#3 Can Your Nonprofit Raise $1,000,000 in 24 Hours Using a Crowdfunding Site?
In mid-February, a site named Kickstarter made waves when a video game developer raised over a million dollars in 24 short hours. This got me thinking about how nonprofits could do the same. I highlighted two microdonation sites, FirstGiving and Helpers Unite that provide a way for nonprofits to collect funds for specific projects.

Just this past month, Giving Tuesday started as a movement on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to turn the nations attention to charitable giving instead of Christmas Shopping. With movements like this, along with the growth of Kickstarter, I can only see microdonations taking off in a big way. This is something to keep in mind when deciding your strategies for 2013.

#2 Some Insights on Facebook Pages Insights
Facebook has had a lot of changes throughout 2012. The timeline was introduced and Facebook Pages took off. Along with Pages, Facebook also allowed page owners to look behind the scenes to see what posts were the most popular with their followers by using a tool they call Facebook Insights. In my post I go through and explain how to read them and what to do with the information you gain from them.

Not much has changed with Facebook Insights itself, but the numbers reflected in Insights might look a bit different than they did at the start of the year. Recently, Facebook made changes to how posts show up in a viewer’s News Feed. This directly affects the success of a status update or photo posted by your organization. (I wrote about those changes here.) Facebook is going to continue to change so staying on top of those changes in 2013 is important to ensure your nonprofit is as visible as possible.

Obama taking donations via Square mobile payme...

#1 It’s Hip to be Square: Accepting Donations From Your Phone
I’m not surprised that this is the most popular Mondays with Marissa post of 2012. Accepting donations on your phone can come in handy – even the Obama campaign used Square on the campaign trail. This post outlines the pros and cons of using Square to accept donations.

Since writing this post Square has expanded its services to now include gift card management on phones. Also, PayPal came out with a competiative service that links to a users PayPal account. Google Wallet also has started to be seen in some places to take payments using a person’s phone instead of a credit card. I can only imagine that the way we pay for things will continue to change which will only change how nonprofits can collect money. For the time being, I still think that Square is a great option for many nonprofits.

Well everyone, that wraps it up. I still have a few more posts to write in 2012, but let me just say how much I have enjoyed covering stories in social media and technology for nonprofits. If you have any updates or comments on the topics listed above please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Marissa sig

Social Media and Election 2012: Strategies Your Nonprofit Can Use

Each year, a campaign’s online role becomes more and more valuable. The number of supporters each candidate has online is almost as important as the returns coming in from the daily polls. The election of 2012 was no different. Both candidates were on all social media platforms and they were using them to make sure their message was broadcast loud and clear before Election Day. Let’s take a look at how they did it.

Tried and true, email is still a viable means of communicating with supporters. Getting people to sign up for your email list might be difficult, but once they are it is easy to update them on the major happenings with your organization. One thing I noticed, by being on the email list for one Presidential Candidate is that it’s all in how the email is sent that makes the difference.

Make it personable. Each message I received during election season, was addressed to me or even had my name in the subject line. I can receive up to 100 emails a day in my personal email box so it can be pretty easy for me to miss a few. However, when I see my name, I automatically give that message my attention. This doesn’t mean that I opened every email that was sent to me, but I did open my fair share. By using my name in the subject line and with in the message, the campaign was creating a rapport with me as a supporter where I felt familiar with them and could trust them. This is a simple tactic that can be used by organizations when sending out emails.

Timing is everything. Also when it came to emails, I would receive emails in real time. Before a debate I would get a – this is what I hope to accomplish in this debate – email. When a debate wa

s finished, I would receive a recap email from the campaign. These emails would come at exactly the right time. By sending things out at specific times, I felt that the emails I was receiving were more like a conversation than the traditional form email. Agencies can do the same thing around special events or during political seasons where votes might impact the success of the mission.

Mix it up. One last note about email. I received emails not only from the campaign, but from the candidate himself and other important campaign officials and supporters. Each email was written in a personal manner that read like a conversation opposed to a formal memorandum. By doing this, I felt like I was part of the campaign community and felt more invested in the outcome of the election. Remember that you can do the same thing within your organization. While you may have one person in charge of sending emails out, that doesn’t mean they have to all be written by the same person. Having a CEO send an email to supporters might be beneficial at specific times of the year. Also, think about having a volunteer write a short “this is why I volunteer” blurb that can be sent out to supporters. Additionally, you can have a donor do the same thing. By mixing up the authors of emails, it keeps email subscribers interested in what is being sent out by your organization.

We’ve talked about the importance of photos in social media before, but during elections season I really noticed how powerful they can be. Besides being more visually stimulating, photos can tell a story more powerfully than words at times. On election night, the Obama Campaign posted a photo of President Obama hugging The First Lady with the caption, “Four More Years”. This became the most “liked” and shared photo ever overnight. What was so special about this photo? It was relatable to so many people – it was a loving couple embracing. Taking photos that tell your story can help your agencies online presence grow.

One last lesson from election season – variety is the spice of social media life. Each candidate was on multiple social media networks and interacting with supporters on each one. While it can be hard to manage so many networks, making sure your message is being shared all over the web can only help your organization. Doing so will ensure it will be you who is controlling the message on that platform, instead of someone else.

Do you have any social media observations from this past Presidential Election? Have you used any of these methods successfully or unsuccessfully already? I’d love to talk about this further with you in the comments!

What to do When the Internet Breaks

Last week, Amazon Web Services, which many companies use for their web hosting service, was down for a day. This effected many major websites such as Reddit and Imgur. It reminded me that while living life in “the cloud” can be a good thing, it is also important to have a backup plan.

Furthermore, as you read this you have probably already read many updates about The East Coast and how they are preparing for Hurricane Sandy. With many businesses (including webhosts) based out of that part of the country, it is important to remember that things might not work as smoothly as you are used to for the next few days. Today, I thought we could spend some time to take a look at what you can do when part of the internet that your agency depends on, day in and day out, breaks.

When websites went down last week, it was easy to know what was happening because of alternate methods of communication. For example, I was able to see what was going on with Reddit because I saw a tweet from them explaining the situation. I even received an email from a company apologizing for any interruption in services due to the Amazon outage.

This highlighted the importance of communication to supporters when technology malfunctions. In order to make sure that people are aware of where to go when looking for news if some thing like your website crashes, it is important to have a strong following on various social networks. We live in an age of instant gratification where the instant is getting shorter and shorter. Making sure that you have a strong community on social networks and keeping communication active on these channels is important.

An overload of communications

Don’t forget about other methods of communication as well. Sending out an email to your mailing list is not a bad idea when your website is down. Also, don’t forget that some people actually still use the telephone, so it might be beneficial depending on the severity of the outage, to update your voicemail message with updates for people who might call.

You don’t want to risk loosing a donor, volunteer or supporter to your agency due to poor communication.

Have a Back Up Plan
Putting all of your eggs in the same basket isn’t always a good idea. Only having one copy of anything isn’t a good idea either. We talked about backing up data many times on DonorDreams before, but I felt it important to bring up again. If your web server ever goes down it is possible that you might not be able to recover your site. Having a local copy can make uploading it to an new server much easier. Always make sure you have things backed up.

Plan Ahead
Outages happen. Planning for them can make them easier to deal with. Sit down with your team and discuss what happens when technology fails. This conversation should go beyond just internet related things. Talk about what happens when the power goes out, the internet service goes down, or hardware breaks. After the meeting make sure that everyone is aware of the procedures discussed during the meeting and update them as things change. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page will minimize the stress if something goes wrong.

I hope today’s post has brought to light a few situations that people might not have thought about before. I hope that after reading this post, everyone has a better idea of what to do if part of the internet that their agency depends on doesn’t work. Have you experienced a technological failure that has impacted how your organization does business? How did you deal with it? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

To all of our readers on the East Coast, stay safe out there! We’re thinking of you!


A Guide to Creating a Cell Phone Policy for Your Nonprofit

These days many employers provide cell phones for their employees so that they can be connected at all times. This can be both a blessing and a curse for employees. On one hand, they don’t have to move to far to get the information they need, on the

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

other hand weekends can be interrupted by an email that normally wouldn’t have been seen until Monday. Either way, managing the cell phone usage of your organization can be a full time job. Today I’m going to share some questions you should ask yourself when setting up a cell phone policy for your agency.

Do you really need cell phones?
For some organizations it makes sense for employees to have cell phones provided to them. The work that is being done happens around the clock or from remote locations. For others, it might be more of a matter of connivence. Take a moment to think if providing cell phones is really needed.

If you decide that cell phones are needed, who in the organization needs one?
This is going to be breaking news, but not everyone needs a cell phone. Everyone might want a cell phone, but not all positions within your agency require one to be provided. Be selective about this because it is much easier to give someone something than to take it away.

What type of phone is needed?
It seems like there is a new phone out every day. I advice to get the phone with the least amount of features needed. If this person is only needed to be available by phone, does she really need a smartphone? Also just because a person might need the bells and whistles of a smartphone, doesn’t mean that smartphone needs to be an iPhone 5. Look at all of your options and really think about what the user of the phone really needs.

What plan to go with?
The good news here is that most major cell phone providers will work with nonprofits to set up a contract that work for them. Make sure you shop around and see which company can do the most for you. Don’t rule out the prepaid option either. It might be the best way to go for your organization. Also, keep your eyes out for smaller competitors to the major providers, like Ting. Ting has a flexible plan system that lets you prioritize which features (talking, texting, or data) are most important and you pay accordingly. So if one person on your team doesn’t need to talk on the phone much, but needs to have data access all of the time, Ting allows you to create a plan that provides just that.

Can we use our personal phones?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Employees may want to use their own phones for work. Some organizations provide a stipend to each employee to use toward their cell phone plan. This can be a solution for your agency, but you still need to protect your organization’s data on that phone. I recommend setting up an agreement for the employee to sign. It should included statements that allow your agency to be given access to the device to see the configuration of any application that deals with sensitive data. The employee should also use a lock on their phone to keep that data safe. Also, your agency needs to be ensured that the device will be wiped clean before the employee provides it to another user.

I hope this guide helps you organize your cell phone policy for your organization. Have any tips or best practices to add? Post them in a comment below!

How Podcasts Can Spice Up a Nonprofit’s Social Media Plan

Named after the mp3 player that changed the world – the iPod – podcasts have become a big business when it comes to social media. In fact, there are entire networks dedicated to producing audio and video content for people to enjoy.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this media format, a podcast defined as: A multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

How can podcasts fit into your agencies social media plan? Let’s take a look.

Why Podcasts
What makes podcasting attractive to a person visiting your site is that it is a different type of media to consume. Blogs and photos are good, but sometimes more can be said through and audio interview or short video. People like variety and providing podcasts, gives a website visitor an opportunity to choose how they will receive their information. Furthermore, by consistently publishing podcasts, you can build an audience that follows your organization on a regular basis as opposed to just checking in from time to time.

What to Podcast
Really the topics for podcasts are pretty endless; but choosing the right ones will allow you to use the features of the format in the best way possible. Here are a few ideas of what you can podcast about:

  • Interviewing Board Members – let people know who they are and why they are involved in your organization
  • Special Event Planning – in the weeks before an event, showing people the progress that is being made can help hype up the event
  • Discuss Issues Surrounding Your Mission – remind people why your mission is so important. Discuss things that are happening in the news that impact your progress in fulfilling it.
  • Volunteer Spotlight – interview a select volunteer, highlight their work and show people why volunteering for your organization is worthwhile.

The nice thing about producing podcasts is that there is no standard length requirement. Your podcast can be anywhere from five minutes to more than two hours in length. This can allow you to have a focused podcasts on just one subject or include a variety of topics.

How to Podcast
Well the good news is, you don’t really need much to get started. As your content grows, you may need more sophisticated equipment, but to get things going you really just need a computer and a microphone. There is free software called audacity that

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will record and edit audio recordings. If you are looking to get into video podcasting, you will need a video camera that shoots in high definition and video editing software. Most computers come with a program already included such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

For a more detailed look at how to get started, check out this Digital Trends article.

Sharing Your Podcast
One of the easiest ways to get your podcast seen or heard by the masses is to publish it on iTunes. Lots of people use iTunes as their media manager and it makes finding podcasts easy. Also, by publishing to iTunes, you can use their RSS feed and post it on your website so that people can see the latest episodes there as well. If you decide to make video podcasts, I suggest publishing episodes to your YouTube channel as well.

Podcasts are a different form of media and will take time to develop. However, if you have the resources to create one, it is a great way to offer different content to your organization’s audience. By providing yet another way for people to be informed about what is going on in your agency, you can gain exposure to a whole new group of people.

Has your organization tried podcasting before? Have any tips and tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Keep Social Media Updated While on Vacation

Vacation season is well upon us so I thought in this post, I would focus on some applications that can help you keep the social media train running while you’re away.

In my mind, I see running social media as a customer service position. So it is important that while you are on vacation your community doesn’t feel left behind. Planning out your posts is an important step to make sure that your social media plan doesn’t skip a beat. There are many templates out there that can help you lay out what you are going to post and to which network. It is important that this plan is a detailed as possible and shared with a teammate who might be looking over your social media sites while you’re away.

After you’ve planned everything out you can actually schedule your posts to be posted in the future. This can be done in a couple of ways. First, Facebook recently added scheduling functionality. When you are typing a status update on your organization’s page, you will see a clock in the bottom left corner of the box in which you are typing. Upon clicking on it you will be able to assign a time that you’d like this post to be published. All posts are then accessible through the Activity Log in the page’s admin panel.

Third party applications can also help with the scheduling of posts on Twitter. The most popular application is Hootsuite. Hootsuite can also schedule facebook posts, so it might be the all-in-one solution for your and your team. Other social media sites such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ do not seem to have scheduling functionality at this time. It will be important for you to leave your plan with someone who will have access to updating your sites while you are out of the office.

In addition, if your organization runs a blog, you can have those posts either waiting as drafts to be published or scheduled to be posted using your blog management software. That way, the blog doesn’t look like it has skipped a beat in your absence.

Even though you have taken the time before your vacation to schedule the posts to be published, I would recommend that someone still look over those posts and have the ability to cancel their publication if needed. Part of having a strong social media presence online is being current and sometimes something happens that needs to be posted over a post that you planned out a week ago. If you can, avoid sharing log in information with your team member and either make them an administrator on that site or set them up using a third party application such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Sprout Social.

Outside of planning social media posts, make sure you have your email covered as well. Don’t forget to activate an out of office message to be sent when you get an email while you are on vacation. Don’t forget to give people a place to go if the need an issue attended to in an urgent manner and let them know when they can expect to hear back from you. Out of office messages are able to be set up in both Gmail and Outlook and other email programs.

If your company uses gmail for their email service there is one plug-in that can help you send emails while away from your desk. The service is called Boomerang and using it allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future. This could be helpful service if need to send a reminder to your team while you are on vacation.

Planning to go on vacation can be stressful. This is specially true when you work with social media because being connected is part of the job. I hope these tools can help ease some of that stress. What tools to you use when planning for vacation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.