What non-profits can learn from a man skydiving at 128,000 feet

This week’s “Mondays with Marissa” post is going to be a little different. Something happened yesterday. Did you see it? Follow it? Of course, I am referring to a man by the named of Felix Baumgartner who jumped out of a capsule attached to a balloon 128,000 feet above Earth. Take a moment to think about that.

Beyond the pure awesomeness of this feat, what I want to draw your attention to today is:

  1. the social media that supported the mission, and
  2. some ways that non-profits learn from the coverage of this event.

For those of you unfamiliar with what Felix did yesterday, here’s a brief overview:

  • Sponsored by Red Bull, this mission had a goal of studying the effects of acceleration on the human body in order to produce better spacesuits for space professionals and eventually space tourists.
  • Beyond that, Felix Baumgartner became the first human who wasn’t attached to an aircraft to break the sound barrier .

NASA’s evolving mission has led to  private companies such as Red Bull stepping in to provide financing to make these types of missions possible. When the day came millions of people around the world tuned in to watch the live stream of the Red Bull Stratos leaving the Earth and eventually see Baumgartner jump out of it. You can read more about the story here.

Looking beyond the scientific significance of this event, let’s look at it through the eyes of a non-profit special events planner. When it comes down to it, that’s what it was, right? This was an event run at a specific time and for a specific cause.


This space mission was funded by Red Bull and everyone knew it. Finding a corporate sponsor, especially a title sponsor, to cover the costs of your agency’s special event means profitability and ensures that donations from attendees will likely go directly to support programming. Similarly, finding a corporate partner that will match donations helps in the same way.

Word of Mouth

People knew about this event for months. If you have a once in a lifetime special event in your organization’s future (e.g. celebrating a milestone anniversary, etc), letting people know about it early and often only helps your cause. You can and should use social media to do this. How?

  • Create an event on Facebook.
  • Create an event on Google Plus.
  • Post about the progress being made during the preparation of the event.

Give the Event Its Own Website

Depending on the size of the event, it might warrant its own website. Doing so will make it easy for people seeking details about your event to find those facts easily online.

Take a look at the website for the Red Bull Stratos. Everything you need to know about that event is there. Make sure that you include the social media sharing buttons on the website to allow people to share what they find with others.


One of the great things that Red Bull did during the preparation for this event was to post videos about the progress leading up to yesterday. If it makes sense to do so for your event, videos are a great way to update people. Make them short and sweet, little clips and people will share them with others. If you can’t post videos as often, photos can work in the same capacity as well.

In addition to posting video to promote your event, you can also post clips of the actual event if you were lucky enough to secure a celebrity to speak or the event was particularly noteworthy. Click here to view a YouTube video of Felix Baumgartner’s historic jump.

Live Stream It

Again, this depends on your event and the legality surrounding it, but if it makes sense then you may want to consider live streaming it.

For example, if you are holding a competition such as a race, live streaming can help spread the word about what is happening and allow people to donate on the web during the event.

Sites such as YouTube and UStream allow users to set up their own channels to share with others. The videos from these channels can be embedded on your own site so you don’t have to send viewers somewhere else. Also, all of the live streams can be saved for future viewing as well.


While we were watching Felix jump out of his capsule at 128,000 feet above the Earth, many of us were participating in a social conversation on Twitter about what we are seeing as it happened. Creating a hashtag for your event can allow people to share news from your event in real-time. What’s great is that you can also use it to go back and easily see what people were saying after the event is over. For example, take a look at #livejump from yesterday.

Events like yesterday’s only come around once in a while. It is important to step back and see what we can learn from them when they do. I hope today’s post might have highlighted some new techniques for you when it comes to running special events.

Have you used any of the tools mentioned in today’s post? I’d love to hear about it in comments!

Non-profit lessons from the Middle East

On Tuesday, I joined the Fox West Philanthropic Network and attended my first meeting in Geneva, Illinois. The program that day focused on social media and the value it brings to non-profit organizations as a marketing tool. While no one openly expressed doubts about the premise of the presentation, I could almost hear some of the more “old school fundraising professionals”  questioning the effectiveness of “this social media thing“.

On Wednesday morning, I learned (via Twitter) that the United States’ embassies in Egypt and Libya were under siege and American foreign service employees had been killed. This morning protests and violence seem to be spreading. After a quick Google search, I learned from a Washington Post article that the embassy in Yemen had been breached, and protests are now occurring in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Where is this all coming from? Why are so many people angry? According to the Washington Post:

The spreading violence comes as outrage grows over a movie called “Innocence of Muslims” that mocked Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The amateurish video was produced in the U.S. and excerpted on YouTube.”

You read that right . . . a crappy little YouTube video produced in California provoked action (aka mass violence and death) half way around the world.

For those of you who still think that this “social media thing” is a passing fad and holds little to no value for non-profit organization, I direct your attention to the Middle East and ask that you please re-think your position on these very powerful communication tools.

I believe there are a number of lessons to be learned and conclusions to be drawn about social media from recent events emanating from the other side of the planet. The following are just a few revelations I’ve recently had:

  1. Facebook and Twitter were used as powerful tools of revolution that fueled the “Arab Spring”. If these tools can fuel a revolution and overthrow powerful dictators, then these tools can be useful to non-profit organizations who wish to communicate with clients, supporters, volunteers, staff and donors.
  2. YouTube is especially powerful because it visual in nature. If one YouTube video can cause this much action half way around the world, then your agency can figure out how to introduce people to your mission and engage them in doing good.
  3. These new communication technologies are powerful and shouldn’t be misused because the consequences can be huge and unforeseeable. If you don’t know about The Butterfly Effect, then I suggest you read up on it before developing any social media strategy.
  4. Oh yeah . . . you probably should steer clear of anything to do with the Prophet Muhammad when it comes to your social media strategy.

Developing your organization’s social media strategy will not be easy. What works for the agency down the street from you, won’t necessarily work for you. I encourage you be brave and commit to experimenting. Those things that don’t feel right or don’t work . . . don’t do them again. Don’t be reckless (please see observation #4 above), but commit yourself to learning and be prepared to celebrate failure.

The following YouTube video washed into my email inbox just a few weeks ago from a small non-profit agency in Wheaton, Illinois called Senior Home Sharing:


There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently, but you have to applaud this organization for what they are trying to accomplish and message to potential clients, supporters, and donors.

The following are a few resources you may want to investigate if recent Middle East events have changed your mind about your non-profit organization’s approach to social media:

Good luck, and you may want to go back an re-read my list of observations and keep in the back of your mind my fourth observation as you proceed.

How does your agency use YouTube? Has it been effective? How do you know? Do you have a written social media plan? Policies? Are you willing to share those things with other non-profit professionals? Please scroll down to the comment box and take a moment to share your thoughts, experiences, and answers to one or more of these questions. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Is Instagram the Social Network for Your Nonprofit?

Finding the right social network for your organization is important in ensuring that your message is finding the right people. Photos can sometimes communicate more than words can which is why Instagram might be just the place for your organization.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09:  In this photo illust...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

If you are unfamiliar with Instagram, here are the basics. Instagram allows users to take photos and apply different filters on them. A photo of your friends can suddenly look like a Polaroid photo from the 70s in less than a second. These photos are then put into your feed or shared to your preferred social network for your friends to see. Friends can like or comment on your photos. One thing to keep in mind is that photos must be taken on your phone and cannot be uploaded from a computer.

Seems simple, right? That’s just it. It’s so simple that it has become one of the largest social networks around. What makes Instagram a vital player in the social network wars is the the size of their user base and how active the community is. According to their website, there are 80 million plus users, 4 billion photos uploaded, 5 million plus photos uploaded per day, 575 likes per second, and 81 comments per second. That’s a lot of photos and a lot of activity. Seems like a great place for your organization to get involved.

So you’ve created your Instagram account and now are wondering what type of things to share – don’t worry, here are some ideas.

  • Behind the scenes – people love to feel like they are being let in on secret. Show them what goes on behind the curtain.
  • Event coverage – document the party as it happens!
  • Your mission in action – show how your organization is achieving it’s goals
  • Volunteer spotlight – take a photo of your best volunteer and share it
  • Project updates – are you building a new facility? share with others how things are going.

While you can share any of the photos you take on Instagram, keeping some of them specifically on Instagram will encourage people to follow you.

Also, you can easily create a community on Instagram by getting your followers involved. Interactions on Instagram follow the same format as Twitter where as users can mention others by using @ and users can create hashtags. Say you are having a special event focused on summer. You can ask followers to post photos of what summer means to them and mention you in them or tag them with a specific hashtag.

One more thing, if you use MailChimp for your email newsletter, there is an application called Instachimp that will integrate your Instagram photos into your newsletters.

For more examples on how to best use Instagram for your organization, take a look at this article on Mashable.

I hope that you now have a better idea of how Instagram can help your organization reach out to a wider audience. Are already using Instagram? What do you find successful? Let’s talk about it in comments!

Social media ROI — Non-profits shouldn’t make it difficult

At the end of Tuesday’s post titled “Are non-profits yelling at their donors using social media?” I promised that I’d share a few revelations from a social media conference that Marissa and I attended last week hosted by SkillPath Seminars. Yesterday, I posted “Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits,” and today we’re talking about that thing that for-profit companies are obsessed with and non-profits seem to struggle with . . . RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI).

“43% of current social media marketers haven’t measured ROI.”

This number was shared with Marissa and me by our lovely  SkillPath Seminars trainers at last week’s social media conference. They cited this information from King Fish Media in 2010.

Well, if I were a betting man, I would guess that this number is much, much higher when you just look at non-profit organizations using social media.

Let’s be honest. Most non-profit organizations are stretched too thin. So, asking employees to track a lot of stuff as it relates to your social media presence just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Right?  However, it is important to measure something. Right? After all, resources are tight and you are dedicating time and resources to this thing called social media. If the ROI is very poor, then you probably have 101 ways to better spend those hours and dollars.

Additionally, keeping an eye on certain metrics also helps you evolve your social media presence and approach because when you see that something isn’t working then you stop and when you see something is working you do more of it.

This brings us to the big question . . . “What can non-profits easily measure and how should they do it?”

Looking across the fence at our for-profit cousins, I can tell you that they start by asking “What is most important to the success of the company?” It usually boils down into one of four things: conversion rates, generating sales leads, increased site traffic/number of new customers, and brand awareness.

Once they narrow their focus, they then pay a visit to their social media analytics buffet and look around at all of the yummy things that you can track including:

  • web traffic
  • viral video activity
  • bounce rate
  • page views
  • comments
  • social bookmarks
  • inbound links to your website
  • ratings
  • number of new followers
  • comments / mentions
  • leads generated
  • downloads
  • uploads
  • engagement activity

As we discussed in yesterday’s post — “Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits“–  your organization probably uses different social media platforms to achieve different objectives in your resource development plan (e.g. Facebook = stewardship; Twitter = cultivation; etc). So, it makes sense that what you measure might look a little different for each of the platforms your agency uses.

If I were using Facebook to steward donors and didn’t have enough time or money, then I would simply track: 1) how many Friends does my Facebook page have (and how did that number change in the last year), 2) how many “likes” and comments did my posted content generate, and 3) how many Facebook friends remained a donor to my agency in the last year (e.g. donor database loyalty report cross referenced to Facebook Friends list)?

If I were using Twitter to introduce and cultivate new prospective donors, then I would track: 1) how many Followers does my Twitter account have (and how did that number change in the last year), 2) what is my Klout score and level of online influence with my Twitter followers, and 3) how much traffic back to the agency’s website comes from Twitter (e.g. Google analytics from your website will tell you this number and much more).

As I’ve just done in the last two paragraphs, I suggest you do the same for each of your social media platforms: 1) determine your target audience and main objective for each platform and 2) select a small handful of metrics from your analytics program (e.g. Facebook Insights, Google analytics, etc) that make the most sense for what you’re trying to accomplish.

But wait . . . there’s more!

Measuring data for the sake of measuring data is a waste of time. You need to turn your data into something “actionable“. Here are just a few thoughts:

  • include it an annual performance plan for the employee who is responsible for managing your social media communities
  • build a social media dashboard and share with your marketing or resource development committee every month
  • place it on committee meeting and staff meeting agendas and facilitate conversations around the questions: “What does the data tell you?” and “What should we do differently with our content?”

Here are a few links that you might also want to read on this subject from me, Marissa or others:

Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard. And whatever you do, make sure you use the data.

Does your agency use social media? Are you measuring stuff? What are you measuring? Why are you measuring it? What are you doing with it? Has it made a difference in anything you do online or offline? Please scroll down and share answers to these questions or whatever else is on your mind in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits

At the end of yesterday’s post titled “Are non-profits yelling at their donors using social media?” I promised that I’d share a few revelations from a social media conference that Marissa and I attended last week hosted by SkillPath Seminars. Today, we’re talking about two of the most popular social media questions that I’ve been asked by non-profit organizations:

  1. Which social media platforms should your non-profit organization use to speak to donors and supporters?
  2. How can your agency do a better job at engaging its supporters using social media and gain more traction?

Let me first say that I highly recommend this SkillPath training conference to all non-profit professionals who are responsible for managing their agency’s social media communities. You can find more information at the other end of the link that provided above. (No, I was not paid to say this)

When looking through the conference materials on this subject, they list more than 20 different platforms that companies are using to market their efforts. However, it came as no surprise that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were the top three “networking platforms;” YouTube was the most popular “promotional platform;” and various blogging platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr) were the most popular “sharing platforms”.

Our trainers suggested that a company should give serious consideration to developing a presence on all three platforms and five sites. While that might sound easy enough, it becomes more complicated when you consider that you’ll be saying different things in each of these places. You need to figure out who your target audiences are and which social media platforms are best at communicating with them.

As I sat through many of the sessions, I found myself trying to translate the training curricula into non-profit speak. Assuming that my universal translator is working well, I concluded the following:

  • Facebook looks like a great stewardship tool where you can engage donors and show your “friends” how their contribution is being put to good use.
  • Twitter and its 140 character limitations could be an awesome cultivation tool where you catch the attention of prospects and drive them to a place where they learn more about your mission.
  • LinkedIn is more than a human resource tool. It is a place to build relationships with potential corporate supporters and identify special event sponsors.
  • YouTube can be a multi-purpose resource development tool and used in many different ways. However, it might be best used for raising brand awareness and developing a pool of interested prospects who you are positioning for cultivation activities.
  • Your blog is a friendly online place to engage in conversations with supporters and potential supporters. You can establish yourself as a “thought leader,” advocate and engaged listener.
  • All of these social media tools should be used to drive traffic to your website where there is more information, volunteer forms, donation pages, etc.

Yes, this is a lot of work and at some point you’ll need to frame your agency’s strategy in a written social media plan. While it is easy to think that it might end up on the fundraising department’s plate, I think there is an opportunity for thoughtful organizations to transform their agency into a “social company” and share the workload and transform your workplace culture.

Enough on platforms.

What about building momentum? Gaining traction? Engaging more deeply?

The following are just a few of the suggestions offered by our SkillPath trainers:

  • Write content that is interesting to your reader. (If you don’t know what that is, then go ask them)
  • Host contests
  • Offer coupons
  • Make your content interactive
  • Include links to things that your audience will find interesting and useful

Perhaps, one of the best ideas I heard was that a picture is worth a thousand words. Write less and post more pictures of your mission, your programs, your volunteers, and your donors. This one simple idea that will probably result in increased traffic, more content sharing, and deeper engagement.

Is your agency using social media? How’s it going? Do you feel like it is working? Why or why not? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

What non-profits can learn from the Olympics: A lesson in social media

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the Olympics. It is a chance for me to see sports that I don’t normally have an opportunity to watch. For instance, have you seen handball?!!? That stuff is crazy!

Sports watching aside, the London 2012 Games have been a little different from the Olympiads before them. They are the most “social” games that we’ve ever experienced. I thought today, since we are smack dab in the middle of The Games, we could take a look at how social media has made an impact and what non-profits can take away from it.


Last week, reporter Guy Adam’s Twitter account, was taken down. This was shocking to hear because Twitter has been social media’s liberation network. Twitter is supportive of free speech . . . just look at their public positions on WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring movement. When reporter Guy Adams tweeted criticism of NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies, Twitter responded by shutting down his account. After media coverage of this censorship, Adams’ account was reactivated.

What can non-profits take away from this?

Just because social media is, in most cases, a free service and covered under the First Amendment, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Twitter, Facebook, et al, are still corporations. They can still regulate your account without your knowledge. As a result, I recommend that all non-profit organizations have their own websites and not solely rely on social media. After all, social media is only one tool that you should use to drive people to your website and share their message with the world.


People will talk. There’s no doubt about that.

However, there are times when people are not only representations of themselves, but they are also representing an organization and something larger than just themselves. So, when USA Women’s Soccer Team member, Hope Solo, tweeted her disdain for the commentary that was being given during her games, her coaches and captains called her in for a meeting. She wasn’t suspended, but since the meeting, her tweets have had a different tone to them.

Similarly, athletes have been suspended from participating in the The Olympic Games due to racist tweets they published.

What is the lesson in all of this for non-profit organizations? The need for a social media policy is stronger than ever.

What is the lesson in all of this for non-profit professionals? Employees and volunteers need to understand what restrictions might exist when it comes to sharing things on their personal accounts as it pertains to your organization.

Finally, this all begs one simple question: “How does your organization know who is saying what about you online?”

I believe that someone at your organization should be assigned the responsibility of monitoring what (if anything) is being said about your organization on the internet. Please don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not suggesting that you break any privacy laws here, but if an employee has a public twitter account, it can be seen by anyone.

One way to set up something without being as much of a stalker is to set up a Google Alert to notify you when the name of your organization or a key word attached your mission is mentioned on the internet.

Share Your Successes

The Olympics are all about results. Who ran the race the fastest? Which country has the most gold medals? Athletes, teams, and news networks constantly updating their feeds with success stories.

People like good news. Non-profit organizations should share their successes, big or small, with their online communities.

Did you recently make a purchase that will improve the work that you do? Tell people about it. Were you recently awarded a grant that will make an impact on furthering your mission? Scream it from the mountaintops of cyberspace.

People will “like” the good news on Facebook and retweet the news on Twitter. This can gain you new followers and supporters.

We still have about a week left of Olympic coverage, and new stories regarding social media are bound to pop up. I encourage you to keep your eyes open and see what happens. After all, in its most basic form, The Olympics are simply one big special event that is runs by an organization. Non-profits run special events, too. What social media stories have caught your eye recently? I’d love to talk about them in the comment section 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.

How to Listen to Your Online Community

Social media does a great job giving you ways to tell things to the world. The moment something happens all of your Facebook and Twitter followers can know about it. While this advancement in broadcasting is great and a marvel of modern technology, as with any relationship, listening is even more important than telling.

Listening can help you figure out what to post on your social media sites, keep you up-to-date with what other organizations are doing, and keep you aware of the latest news. Today, we are going to look at two tools that you can set-up to help you listen to your online community.

Google Alerts

Google has a product for almost everything, but Google Alerts is perhaps the most overlooked. This product will keep a watchful eye on the internet for key words and phases and send you an email whenever one of those words or phrases is mentioned.

For example, if your organization provides after-school programing for children, you can set up a Google Alert with the term “after-school programing” and Google will send you an email mentioning the latest news, blogs, or YouTube videos posted on the subject.

Depending on the search term, you might not want a notification every single time it is mentioned, which is why Google Alerts allows you to set contact frequency for daily or weekly.

Google Alerts are also really helpful when monitoring what people are saying about your brand. For example, you can set-up and alert with the name of your organization and know when someone else mentions you on their blog post or in an article.

Twitter Search

While Twitter doesn’t offer an alert function, there is something equally as useful pertaining to “search” functionality that you are able to save.

On the Twitter home page, in the top right corner is a search box. Any term that you searched for can be saved and Twitter will update it with the most recent tweets on the subject. If you click on the gear box on the right corner of the results, you can do an advanced search which allows you to set-up even more search parameters.

What I really like about the Twitter search function is that you can look for tweets by location and include positive or negative tweets in your search as well. Based on your search term, Twitter also suggests new people to follow so that you can expand your community based upon the search you just conducted.

Additionally, some social media managers like Tweet Deck and Hootsuite allow you to save Twitter searches within their program so that you don’t have to go back to the Twitter home page to do it.

Taking a few minutes to set up a Google Alert or two and save some searches in Twitter can save you time when it comes to finding content to post, resources for articles, and figuring out what your online community wants to hear from your non-profit agency.

Other social networking sites like Google+ and LinkedIn also have search functions that you might want to investigate.

However, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to set-up alerts focused on your agency and the names of any other organizations with similar missions as yours. This way you can keep your ear to the ground and know what people are saying in your community.

Do you use Google Alerts or Twitter search already? Are they helpful to you? Do you have other tools that you use to help you achieve the same goal? Let’s talk about it in the comment section below.

Non-Profit Time Management: Scheduling Social Media Updates

The non-profit world moves fast. You walk-in at the start of the day, sit down, check-in, and before you know it the day is over. When time moves this fast, it can be hard to remember to update your social networks. Even if your job is solely dedicated to cultivating an online community, time can sometimes get away from even best time managers.

Today we are going to look at three tools that can help you schedule your social media updates and ensure your online presence is not neglected during the busy times in your life.

Plotting It All Out

When pressed for time, coming up with the perfect status update can be hard work. What do you want to say? Have you said something similar recently? Are you talking about an engaging topic? Planning what to say, when to say it, and where to post it, can save you time and make the whole process go a bit smoother.

DivvyHQ is a great resource when you have multiple people in charge of updating your social networks. It allows you to create a calendar to plan out what type of posts you are going to put up and where you are going to post them. There also is a post approval option if you need that as well.

For example, if there is an upcoming event and you are not the right person to talk about it, then why not ask the person who is? With DivvyHQ you can create a task within the program which will notify them via email. This gives you a place to manage your social media calendar.

DivvyHQ does offer a limited free plan, but their best features are found in the paid options.

If you decide that paying for DivvyHQ is a too expensive, you can still accomplish the same things using tools like Google Calendar and a spreadsheet. Simply create a Google Calendar named “social media” and plan out your posts by creating events for each day. You can even put the time you’re going to post it and create a reminder. If you need help, then you can invite others to that event. A good old fashion Excel spreadsheet can also work much in the same way.

Whichever method you choose, sitting down to plan out your posts can save you lots of time in the long run.

Posting to The Future

After you have planned everything out in advance, you can write posts and schedule them for publication in the future. That’s right . . .  where we’re going, we don’t need roads. What’s nice about taking the time to do this is that your social networks will automatically be updated and you don’t have to freak out about not posting on the correct day if something comes up.

The best thing about scheduling your posts far in advance is that you can actually go on vacation.

One tool that can help you with posting to Facebook is Post Planner. Post Planner is great because for a very low-cost ($4.95/month) you can post to your organization’s facebook page in a very organic way. Going beyond telling it what you want posted and when you want it posted, Post Planner allows you to upload photos to albums you already have on Facebook. You can post videos and links the same way. What’s nice is that it will look like you updating in real-time.

Another option to consider is HootSuite. HootSuite is a popular social media manager that allows you to schedule Facebook and Twitter updates in advance.

While HootSuite works well for many people as free social media tool, it isn’t something that works well for me because I have a number of photo albums that are updated on a weekly basis, which means all of my pictures go into a HootSuite album. So, I just use HootSuite to automate non-photo tweets and find it extremely helpful.

It should be noted that both Post Planner and HootSuite will email you when your scheduled post is posted.

Taking the time to come up with a calendar of when you post to your social networks will save you time in the long run and allow you to have a more structured social media plan. Using tools like Post Planner or HootSuite can help you schedule your posts so you don’t have to worry about posting at exactly the right time. What tools do you use to plan your social media message? I’d love to talk about it further in the comment section below!

Want access to donor data? Then your non-profit needs a strategy!

This week we’ve been talking about technology and donor data at DonorDreams blog. Tuesday’s post, which was titled “What can’t your donor database do?,” looked at all sorts of interesting functions and features associated with database software packages. Wednesday’s post, which was titled “Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!,” examined various free online tools that can help you capture invaluable data for inclusion in your donor database. If you missed either of those posts, I encourage you fo circle back and check them out!

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). We all agree that these sites possess an unbelievable amount of free personal information about our donors. Yet, I see so many non-profit organizations struggling with social media.

I suspect that non-profit organizations are too thinly stretched and don’t dedicate enough time and resources to developing an effective social media strategy. I believe a little bit of time and lots of thoughtful strategy can go a long way towards getting donors engaged, which gets you closer to that FREE and invaluable donor data.

The following are just a few ideas that even cash strapped non-profit organizations can implement:

Get “friendly” online. You can’t just set-up your Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn presence and expect people to find you and connect. Look over your donor list, identify your top few hundred donors, and actively ask them to connect.

Content is important. I’ve seen too many Facebook pages with little to no content, which begs the questions “Why did I like this page in the first place?” Perhaps, it might be worth your time to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk to 10 of your more active donors. Ask them what kind of information they’d like to see your non-profit post on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. I could rattle off all kinds of ideas today (e.g. pictures of your mission being brought to life, transparent sharing of program outcomes, etc), but none of what I say matters. What matters most is what the people who you want to join your social network want to see.

Engagement is king. Your agency needs to understand the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Social media is not about shouting at the top of your virtual lungs various things about your agency on your social network pages. That was so Web 1.0. If you want your social media strategy to work, then you need to engage your donors in “conversations”. People don’t just cruise over to your Facebook page or Twitter feed to check out what you’re saying and posting. They get there because you’ve drawn them over with a shiny object. I’ve seen some non-profits do the following to build a following and engage donors:

  • Run a contest online. During a certain period of time, anyone who likes your page or follows you gets entered into a raffle and a chance to win something (e.g. iPod, iPhone, iPad, gift card, etc). It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be fun and something people value. It could also focus on submission of something for judging (e.g. picture, essay, etc).
  • Ask for opinions. I’ve seen organizations poll their social media followers on a variety of issues. Those issues could even be operational in nature. For example, ask donors and supporters to help you name something. Or ask their opinions on adding a new program or expanding to a new site. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked their opinion.
  • Become an advocate. How many online petitions being circulated by non-profit organizations have you signed in the last 6 months? I know I have signed at least four. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked to get involved in ways that supplement their financial support. It is an easy way to help a donor feel involved. Besides, you’ll probably end up asking them to consider making an online contribution at the end of the petition process.

The bottom line for me is twofold:

  1. Donors are giving away valuable personal information about themselves online for FREE. It is worth investing a little time to engage them because you’re already trying to do it in other ways as part of your resource development program.
  2. Nothing associated with your social media presence will happen by accident. You need to put together a strategy and execute your plan (regardless of how simple it may be).

If you are looking for more in-depth ideas on Facebook best practices, I suggest you read what the good folks at DIOSA Communications  are suggesting.

What does your agency do to engage donors on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest? What metrics do you use to track your effectiveness in inspiring and engaging participation on your social network platforms? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC