Nonprofit

5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

 5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


 Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



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 Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For September, Lauren Dawson will be talking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Lauren is a former intern from a previous job, and we recently reconnected because I was researching diversity and inclusion for a client project. I came across this awesome report from LinkedIn, and after digging a little deeper, realized that Lauren actually works in that department for the business networking giant.

So, I thought this could be a fantastic topic to address here on the blog as hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners. As expected, Lauren has some excellent information and advice for your nonprofit or social enterprise!

 Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Q: What are the latest trends for diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

A. Some may actually say that diversity and inclusion is the trend of the year, and I’m hoping the attention will continue until it's obsolete. In the era of social media justice, campaigns like #blacklivesmatter and #metoo are the norm, and we're seeing that shift for diversity and inclusion as well.

Customers, employees, and other stakeholders are flexing in powerful ways to influence company decision-making. Where diversity and inclusion may have been restricted to messages of tolerance and team trainings before, it has now expanded to include products, customers, policy work, and more. As a result, employee resource groups are evolving their advocacy to align with business strategy and, by extension, receiving more opportunities to develop and be recognized for their leadership skills.

The latest trend in the tech world as it pertains to diversity and inclusion is the idea of belonging along with the emphasis on inclusion. Because of the laser focus on workforce representation of under-represented groups in tech, some companies had invested in their hiring activities with little movement in the overall representation numbers.

Now, in addition to hiring, investments are being made to increase retention by influencing how people make each other feel and help each other grow in the workplace: inclusion and belonging. With that being said, representation matters and the focus on representation metrics has been a powerful tool to motivate action and attract attention to this important issue.

Q. What's the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to diversity and Inclusion?

A. I think it’s a big mistake to create separate processes and responsibilities for “diversity activities." For example, the diversity team should not be responsible for “diversity hiring,” in my opinion. It should be responsible for designing and implementing strategies to enable the talent acquisition teams and hiring managers to get more diverse candidates in the hiring process and make them more successful.

In general, diversity and inclusion teams should be responsible for folding diversity, inclusion, and belonging into existing activities rather than creating new ones. In some cases, it is necessary to temporarily create a new role or process to manage the change or to pilot a new idea. However, the long-term goal should always be to empower, educate, and equip all employees and teams to infuse diversity, inclusion, and belonging into all business activities.

 

Q. What's your best piece of advice for people interested in diversity and inclusion?

A. In general, my best piece of advice is for people to embrace what they don’t know and proactively seek differing opinions and viewpoints.

Many studies over the years have proven that diverse teams win. In fact, McKinsey’s Why Diversity Matters 2018 report asserts that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their respective industry medians.

I believe it’s a competitive advantage, especially considering the increasing demographic changes and global mobility of people and commerce. Every individual can more authentically and sustainably develop their own capacity for teamwork when they align with the principles of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. For people leading these initiatives, patience is key because sustained change takes time to build, and fast change can often be counterproductive given the complexity of what we’re trying to do.

 

Q. What's one thing readers can do this week to improve their own efforts?

A. Lean in to your own ability to build relationships with people who are different from you, inside and outside of the office. Start a conversation with a colleague that you’re not as comfortable connecting with by asking them what inspired them to work at the organization.

Not only does this help create deeper connections and working relationships, but it also helps you develop cross-cultural competency. Learn more about this approach to connection on Charles Vogl’s website.

 

Q. Do you have any resources to share that might be helpful for people wanting to learn more about diversity and inclusion?

A. I recommend subscribing to Fortune’s RaceAhead newsletter for business and societal news related to diversity.


 Lauren Dawson, LinkedIn

Lauren Dawson is an HR Specialist on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging team at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. She loves karaoke and brunch, and when she’s not in San Francisco, you can usually find her with friends and family in her hometown of Atlanta, GA.

Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn



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  Hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners, and few topics are bigger these days than diversity and inclusion. So, I asked Lauren Dawson of LinkedIn to provide some insights on the trends and best practices for nonprofits and social enterprises.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

If you stumbled upon this post looking for the latest event planning tips and tricks, you might be a little disappointed. But, hang with me, I think you'll still learn a really valuable lesson, especially if you're a beginner to the event planning world.

You see, what I've found over and over again, across many contexts, is that while there are always shiny, new ideas to make your event look awesome, there is one element of event planning that should always get the spotlight.

It's the step that should never get skipped.

So, what is it? Strategy.

I truly believe taking a more strategic approach to planning the 2016 Atlanta Dream Center (ADC) annual benefit gala was key to its financial success.

Here's why.

A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

When I first started as a contractor for the benefit dinner, I was mostly working alongside the development director, who had been in the position less than a year. So, we were both newbies to the event. And even though the dinner was entering its fourth year, I felt like the event was just trying to get off the ground. 

There was no established model to follow. The ADC staff had tried a few different formats, but hadn't really fallen in love with one yet. That gave us a lot of latitude without a tremendous amount of expectations, except for the fact that this was their largest fundraiser of the year. #NoPressure

There were a couple of things we immediately did to start off on the right foot. The first was to get organized. Those who had been in charge of the dinner previously were no longer with the nonprofit, so we had to conduct a treasure hunt for some of the assets because I really wanted to take a look at what had been done before to assess how effective it was, and ways to build on it.

Once we had them collected, my suggestion was that we move everything to Google Drive so all stakeholders would have instant access. This plan worked great, and allowed us to collaborate well. It also solved the problem of keeping everything in a central location should someone else leave in the future.

The other, main thing we did was set up regular planning and check-in meetings leading up to the event, which was about five months away. Some of those were just between the development director and I, and some involved all department heads for the organization that needed to have a say in aspects of the dinner. 

These two choices may seem small or inconsequential, but I promise you that they made a big difference in the tone and feel of the event right from the start. And everyone could feel it.

Never underestimate the power of being organized!

STRATEGY'S ROLE IN EVENT PLANNING

Now, we were ready to start the event planning process. And this is where strategy became the star player.

During one of our early meetings, the entire team was sitting around a table discussing the format, logistics, and what people liked and didn't like from previous years. I also started asking them more questions about who would be in the seats.

This proved to be a key moment because, not only should you ask this question every time you plan an event, but that year was a turning point for the organization. The goals for this dinner were bigger because costs had risen, of course, but they were also gaining a bigger reputation in the area.

Previously, it had been friends, family, and close partners who attended the event. That year, however, they wanted to target new individuals and corporations. Essentially, they were ready to broaden their reach.

So, we had to start looking at everything fresh for that year's dinner. What had worked in the past might not work for a new crowd.

We revamped the sponsorship package, added a lot of cold leads to the potential sponsor list, and changed the format of the event to be more forward-thinking and informative, rather than using "insider" language as they had done before.

This new group of attendees might not be familiar with the different ministries under ADC's umbrella, or know why the work is important, or understand how their donations can effect people and programs all over the state. It was a big opportunity, and we didn't want to miss it.

I also created::

  • Positioning language for the sponsorship package, instead of it just be a list of benefits.
  • A formal sponsorship letter that anyone on the staff could use as a framework to solicit donations.
  • Talking points so that anyone who spoke about the dinner to a potential sponsor or donor could stay "on message," relaying the most important aspects of why the event was being held.
  • The language for the website and email/print newsletters, so that everything was aligned and on point.
  • A marketing plan for them to see the event strategically from start to finish, even if I wasn't around.
  • A press release to get the word out about the event's success after it was over, which could bring more eyes to their work, resulting in even more new supporters, donors, or partners.

The ministry also began working on ways they could highlight their uniqueness, as well as how it relates to the overall mission of the organization. We needed to clearly communicate how everything worked together. And it turned out to be a very cool, experiential element of the evening that they improve each year.

From the initial conversation to the wrap-up meeting, my goal was to bring a new level of professionalism to the event, and a fresh pair of eyes.

Don't get me wrong, their staff is outstanding at what they do, and they are relational to the core. (And a whole lot of fun!) But, like many small nonprofits, they struggled with systems and processes. Strategy wasn't the foundation of the event. 

We made a huge amount of progress that year—and it showed. Yes, the final fundraising tally was fantastic, but those who had previously attended their benefit dinners also noted how different everything felt. They had a great time, and were looking forward to the next one. That's definitely what you want to hear!

The staff also said that it was the most relaxed they'd felt at the benefit dinner. Each person knew their role, and were able to connect with sponsors and donors throughout the evening rather than running around putting out fires and pitching in on last-minute logistics. 

One of the other things I suggested to the team was that we not only ask for donations at the end of the event, which was already part of the plan, but we give attendees other ways to stay engaged and build deeper relationships with ADC throughout the year. This was important both for the die-hard fans and the people who were new to the mission.

You don't want to have a great event and captive audience, and then just say you'll see them next year. You want to give them a clear next step, and make it easy to take.

Our answer was to have staffed tables and flyers available in the lobby while people waited in line for valet service. This move gave attendees options for getting more involved with whichever ministry struck a chord with them that night, as well as opportunities to further utilize their time, resources, and funds to support the nonprofit.

DETERMINING SUCCESS

It's absolutely true that sales and donations are important. Those things keep the doors open and the lights on. And it's equally true that people have planned events with far less strategy and still seen great results.

But planning a successful event can be seen so many different ways:

  • Hitting bigger sales and revenue goals
  • Increasing attendance
  • Not driving your staff insane
  • Letting you sleep easier at night
  • Allowing your tribe to take the right, next steps with your organization

That's why I think strategy is the key to making your next event more successful. It certainly worked for Atlanta Dream Center, and I think it will work for you too.

 

“‘Exceed expectations’ is an overused expression with few who can document occasions when they actually did exceed expectations. Kristi Porter is one who can point to the work she did with the Atlanta Dream Center and accurately state that she exceeded all of our expectations. You will be well pleased with the results achieved by bringing Kristi onto your team.” - Mark Northcutt, Atlanta Dream Center

 



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 After working on so many  events  over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Building Better Content: How to Improve on Social Media

We’re continuing our theme of content marketing for the month, and this week we’re focusing on one teensy, tiny thing (joking, it’s huge): social media! Love it or hate, it it’s here to stay! So, we might as well learn our way around it and benefit from it.

Social media marketing is a huge part of content marketing. Why? Because you can quickly and easily use social media platforms to advertise and share content to your target audiences.

Over 70% of Americans are using social media! Not to mention pretty much everywhere else in the world. These platforms are massive and they literally help you reach millions of people. This is where you need to be spreading your message and promoting your business or organization, and you need to do it right.

The content you share on social media has the ability to attract your target audience and turn them into loyal customers or supporters. That’s why this is so important. It’s also the perfect opportunity to interact with your audience, whether it’s answering questions, addressing concerns, or just showing your appreciation!

Listening to your audience and understanding what they like and need will help you create more engaging and effective social media content. In turn, you'll improve your content marketing strategies and grow your nonprofit or social enterprise. But how? Let’s break down social media content marketing and the components you need to maximize your business exposure, easily.

Building Better Content: How to Improve on Social Media

Your first step: conduct a content audit on all of your current social media platforms.

This is your starting point to building a better social media presence. You need to evaluate what you have already done, assess your strengths and your weaknesses, and determine how you can improve. A simple content audit will allow you to see what posts have performed best and what topics your audience likes most, eliminate posts that are outdated or no longer relevant, locate gaps in your content, and generate new ideas. The goal is to create better content and increase traffic.

This doesn’t have to take long, only an hour or so! It depends largely on how long your social history is, and how in-depth you’d like to go. Just sort through your social media profiles and evaluate what you’ve posted. Most social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, also have really helpful post and profile analytics, and data on business pages that you can take advantage of. These usually show you how posts are doing in terms of likes, reach, engagement, etc.

It’s also important to look at how often you are posting. If you have a social media profile linked on your website that you rarely if ever touch, it’s probably a good idea to remove it! You don’t necessarily have to delete it, but you don’t want to promote something if your last post was four months ago….or let’s be honest, four years ago. So, let it go!

Developing a simple content plan for your social media profiles will also save you time and stress.

After you conduct your audit, we also recommend starting some sort of spreadsheet for current and future social media posts, if you haven’t already. Or a calendar! Here’s a good example from Curata. This is a more broad, long-term plan setup for content ideas, but it’s still good starting point.

This will help keep you organized and serve as a great reference tool should you ever need to go back and quickly and easily find a post. To go more in depth, I recommend creating a spreadsheet for each platform and then listing the date of the post, the content, and any links or outside sources you included. It doesn’t have to be super complicated, however, you can also add analytics later such as how many people were reached, the number of likes, etc. Knowing any of this information will make future audits easier, too!

Laying all your content out in a spreadsheet will help you see what items, events, holidays, etc., your organization needs to promote at a glance. Then you can fill in any gaps with more day-to-day, behind the scenes, or fun posts that also fit with your brand. Here’s another simple example of an Instagram plan for a service-based business.

To help develop your plan, ask yourself a few questions. What are your goals? Is it to get the viewer to visit your website? Do you want to gain more email subscribers? Do you need more donations, or more sales? What do you want the overall tone of your profile to be? Funny and lighthearted? Serious and issue-oriented? What kind of content does your audience want? Is it mainly photos, text, or videos (I’d definitely recommend using them all.)?

These questions will also help you generate content ideas. Figure out the answers and let that drive your content creation. Brainstorm ideas and get them in writing, then develop them further.

If you’re still stuck on what kind of content to post, here are some ideas:

  • Guest takeovers: Have someone on your staff or that you know talk about a relevant topic to your business/organization, something they are an expert in, or if they are an influencer, they can draw new fans to you with their perspective on your work.
  • How-to posts: Share helpful tips and advice with your audience.
  • Behind-the-scenes: Give your audience a look into the background of your business or nonprofit. This makes you more personable and approachable, too!
  • Do a Q&A session live on Facebook, Twitter, or on an Instagram Story. Be sure to engage with audience!
  • Create visuals like infographics to demonstrate how your business or nonprofit is making a change. Quotes are always popular, too.
  • Video is enormously popular right now, whether it’s live or recorded. Talk about your mission, show off your work, introduce your team, promote your events...the possibilities are endless!
  • Reuse and recycle: Are there previous pieces of content like blogs, videos, interviews, podcasts, etc., that you haven’t promoted in a long time? Or maybe they only lived on your website and never made it to social? See what you already have available that should still the light of day again.
  • Conduct a poll: This is another great way to interact with your audience and get their feedback. Facebook and Instagram Stories offer built-in polls you can use, making it super easy.
  • Show your viewers what a day in the life looks like for you or for another key member of your nonprofit or social enterprise. You can do this via photos, video, or story!
  • Share your favorites: This could include books, podcasts, movies, products, another business...anything you think your audience will like or benefit from! Give some recommendations!

It’s a good idea to mix evergreen and timely content. Evergreen content is content that stays fresh and relevant for a long period of time. Like an evergreen tree, it never dies. Timely content is content revolved around more short-term situations that won’t be relevant in a few months. For example, a holiday, event, fundraiser, promotion, etc., would all be considered timely content.

Both types of content are important. Timely content shows what you are actively doing and evergreen content will always be useful. You can continue to repost and repurpose it. A good rule of thumb here is the 80/20 rule. Eighty of your content is evergreen, 20% is timely.

Speaking of time...

Consistency is key in social media content.

You have to make sure you can stay consistent in developing and putting out content on social media. If you don’t, people will forget you or won’t even bother following you. You have to stay on their minds and in their feeds.

I know this may seem daunting and overwhelming—there are so many platforms to keep up with! However, I think it’s better to consistently keep up with just a few, strong platforms than to try to keep up with all of them, spreading yourself too thin, and then end up neglecting some. So, pick a few that work for you and your audience and make them your babies.

The most used social media sites right now are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. These are the four I would recommend keeping up with and building a presence on. Familiarize yourself with these platforms and what they can do for you and your business. Here’s a quick guide.

You also need to determine where your specific target audience hangs out the most, though. That may differ from business to business. Try to see where your audience congregates and then make those platforms your top priority.

In terms of how many times a day or week you should post and when, this also varies by platform.

 

According to the Content Marketing Institute, posting on Facebook once or twice a day, monitoring Twitter all day, and spending time each day on LinkedIn is the best.

Studies also show that at a minimum you should post three times a week to Facebook. Once a day is optimal, but you can build. Three times a day on Twitter is the minimum, 15 is optimal, and 30 is maximum. You want to post about three pins a day to Pinterest, twice to once a week on LinkedIn, and post once to three times a day on Instagram. Again, you can always start at the minimum and build up from there once you get the hang of it. Find what works for you!

As far as times of day goes, here is a good article on the best days and times to post to each social media site. I would also highly recommend setting up a social media calendar or using a scheduling tool like Buffer, Smarterqueue, or Hootsuite.

These tools will make your life so much easier. You just write your social media post, add an image or video, schedule a day and time, assign it to a profile, and you’re done! No more worries, it’ll just automatically post to your profile when you scheduled it to. Here’s more on that.

See, social media isn’t so scary anymore, is it? You just have to determine your audience, find what works best for the both of you, and then get organized. Once you start brainstorming and getting the hang of things, you’ll be surprised how quickly ideas flow!

But, again, the point here isn’t to overwhelm you. It’s to help you evaluate what you’ve done so far, make a plan for the future, and start posting great content consistently. Your consistency may be slow right now, and that’s fine. But creating a schedule and plan to follow will help you and your followers.

Social media content marketing: check. Come back next week to learn more about maximizing your blog!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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Building Better Content: How to Improve on Social Media

Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 


Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

Social media is expanding faster than most of us can keep up with it. And just when we feel comfortable with a platform, it seems like we’re presented with a change of some kind. For example, Instagram introduces a new element to their Stories feature every month. And Twitter recently changed its policy and guidelines. Plus, Facebook has already made three, big algorithm changes this year.

Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we maintain an online presence. So, how do we keep up?

Social media allows us to connect with wider audiences, and help us ultimately establish brand awareness and brand loyalty. According the New York Times Business section, “an estimated 81% of Americans have a social media account.” In fact, Facebook is quickly closing in on the two billion (with a B!) user mark. Instagram has 800 million monthly active users, and Twitter has 330 million monthly active users.

These are impressive numbers, but their implications, for our social enterprises and nonprofits especially, should spring us into action! Everyone is looking to connect with something, which is essential to being human. And everyone is also looking for a cause!

 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

You’re cause might just be their life’s calling, but if they’re knocking and you’re not there to answer, how will they connect with you?

It’s intimidating, yet inevitable—to communicate the mission and heartbeat of your organization, you must utilize social media.

Sree Sreenivasan of the New York Times says, “LinkedIn works best when you use it as a career management tool and not just for job hunting.” We have to treat our social media accounts in the same way. They are a year-round tool that builds a community of followers, not just a launching pad for campaign and fundraising season. They are a field that requires cultivation. If we are committed (AHHH! We said the word!) and faithful over time, our use of social media platforms will yield fruit and growth.

So without further ado, let’s dive into some tips that will help your company improve at engaging with social media.

Technical and Practical Advice for Your Social Media

Before we look to specific examples of organizations that utilize social media effectively, let’s think of some practical steps to improve our social media image:

Practice brevity. Keep it simple.

Too much content can overwhelm users. To connect with your audience, be sweet, simple, and to the point with your words. Because posts like this are shorter, it requires more consistency in the amount of times you post weekly, monthly, etc. By having less written content in each individual posts, but posting more frequently over time, you will slowly and steadily build a following and connect your audience to the heart of your mission.

A nice rule of thumb is to keep each post at a one to two sentences max for Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. However, each audience is different, and you can test different lengths to see what your fans like and interact with most.

There are definitely times when longer posts are needed. Or if, for example, your brand revolves around a person, your tribe may be interested in reading longer thoughts.  Instagram allows a lot more text, and people have found success with both short and long posts, so again, experiment! Or at least feel free to vary it as needed, depending on the content.

Hashtags are okay, but don’t use too many! We recommend two for Twitter, but no more than three on occasion. Use hashtags that highlight your brand, attract your tribe, or direct users specifically to the content they are looking for. For example, if your Tweet is about #fundraising, use that, but feel the freedom for your hashtags to vary with content. You can also identify more hashtags using websites like Hashtagify.me. You may even want to create a list of hashtags that work best, and swap them out regularly. (You'll see that we do that on our Twitter account.)

For Instagram, they’ll let you use up to 30 hashtags! Because there is more “room” on Instagram, you can certainly use more here, which will allow you to attract more people at once. You can now also use and search hashtags in Instagram Stories.

And though you can use hashtags for Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s not necessary.

 

Consistency and Frequency

Day to day and week to week, try to find a consistent time that you can post—and stick to that! It can be useful to post during peak times in social media use. Usually there’s a peak from noon to 1:00 p.m. during lunch hours, and another peak posting time at from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at dinner time. You might look to tools like Hootsuite or SmarterQue to help you schedule postings.

It’s good to find such general rules of time, but they aren’t be-all-end-all guidelines! Have flexibility in your schedule, periodically review it, and be willing to change your patterns to fit your audience. Using business analytics through Google analytics, Facebook analytics and insights, and tools like Hootsuite to track the viewing patterns of your audience. Look at when user activity is the highest, and then cater to those needs.

It can be additionally challenging to discover what frequency should look like for your company—whether that’s twice a week or twice a day find the perfect balance. A quick Google search will give you a lot of answers, but there really is no substitute for experimenting and trial and error. If you’re interacting with Millennials constantly, it might be that more frequent posting is necessary, however, if you targets primarily an older crowd, less postings may be best.

First and foremost, we recommend finding a consistency that you can actually execute, and then building on that along the way. It’s more important to first create the habit rather than getting behind and ditching your plan. For example, a newsletter should go out at least quarterly, a blog post should go up at least monthly, and social media should post at least once per week.

This isn’t ideal, it’s a bare minimum. But if this is all you can do to start—just start. Then form the habit, and create a plan to post more frequently. But if you’re fans, followers, and supporters never hear from you...they will hear from someone else.

Developing an Aesthetic for Your Brand

It may sound cliche, but to ensure that we’re developing a brand image for our social enterprise or nonprofit, it’s necessary that we develop an unchanging and balanced aesthetic. This means that your posts should always look like they came from your organization. It's often helpful to create templates through programs like Canva or Adobe Spark that you can use again and again. (<-- They’re free and easy to use!)

Through the use of similar colors, fonts, and symbols in your graphics, people will start to develop a sense of what is familiar, and yes, even comfortable with your organization.

 

Try Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a website that allows users to create short, trackable links that connect to specific content on your website. (Hint: we use Bit.ly links on social media to track when our blog posts are clicked from other platforms.)

Rather than using super long links that use up half of the real estate on your social media post, use a Bit.ly link—they’re concise and even customizable. Plus, they’re much easier on the eyes! Who wants to look at a social media post that’s mostly a link? Answer: no one.

And not only can you shorten the links to content on your website like blogs, contact pages, social media, you’re also able to track the audience engagement through these links. Tools like Google Analytics are always more reliable, but for quick stats at a glance, this is a simple option.

An Expert Social Media Example

No matter who you are, it’s important to look to examples of companies that are at least one step ahead of you. If you want to get to the place where you're one step ahead as well, surround yourselves with examples of companies more successful than you.

Pastor Andy Stanley, who is widely known for his communication and leadership skills, says, “You are not the smartest person in your organization. You’re just the leader. If you are the smartest person in your organization, you are not a very good leader.” Always look for examples of organizations that seemingly “have it all together” or whom you admire.

And while you may be at a small organization looking to a large or popular organization for inspiration, don’t feel like you have to imitate them exactly. Did TOMS, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Project 7, Warby Parker, or the American Cancer Society come to mind?

They may seem to have oodles of manpower, limitless resources, and countless hours of experience, but remember that those organizations started with SMALL means and HUGE dreams. It’s probably a better use of your time to look at a successful company that projects a great online and offline reputation, but is just a little bigger than you. What are they doing on social media that you can do?

Charity: Water is constantly growing and recognized in its uncanny ability to utilize social media platforms and effectively connect with its users. Scott Harrison started Charity: Water in 2006, astounded by the fact that 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water.

They may seem like a huge organization, but they don’t actually have an enormous staff. However, they are known for being brilliant online storytellers.

Through creative engagement on social media, Charity: Water has provided 8 million people around the world access to clean water since their launch! According to CNBC, Charity: Water has funded, “30,000 water projects in 26 countries across the world. Over one million people have donated more than $300 million to its cause.”

So then, how did Harrison do it? There’s many moving parts, but arguably Charity: Water has some of the most effective marketing that a company has to offer—and its strategy is simple: present the problem and provide a simple solution.

1. At Charity: Water, all they ask for is a penny.

Let’s be honest—the world has commitment issues. It’s not easy to get people to commit to relationships, and it’s even harder to contribute our hard-earned money toward campaigns we barely know about. However, here’s the beauty in this example: It’s okay to start small!

The Charity: Water website states, “Every single penny will help bring clean water to communities in need.” In a recent #WorldWaterDay campaign, Charity: water asked children to donate their allowance, or savings, of $8.15. Not only was this a small, manageable, and simple amount, but it also allowed for deep interaction and audience participation. It’s communicating the fact that yes even kids can change the world and the world’s water crisis!

 

2. Their audience is involved.

In line with keeping its mission simple, Charity: Water makes sure that its audience is always engaged. However, it goes one step further. They also make sure that the audience is involved.

Involvement is how we generate deep bonds and ties with our tribe, and ultimately how we develop brand loyalty. Charity: Water’s campaigns are designed for the everyman—and that’s incredible. Often it’s hard to feel invested in an organization when it’s goals feel too lofty.

Under it’s fundraising page you’ll find, “Start Your Campaign.” Every campaign at Charity: Water is for and by the people—that’s powerful. Sometimes the best step in our next campaign is to simply ask, “How we can involve our audience?”

By engaging our audiences and providing them with tangible opportunities to participate in our mission and campaigns, we will build a brand that people not only feel like they can connect with, but rather be a part of.

 

3. Charity: Water uses local partners.

They have developed an extensive portfolio of partners. We might overlook the importance of our partners, clients, or business partners (you name it), however, there is power in association.

By associating ourselves with other companies, we can display a history of our work, our credibility, and our accolades. Never undermine the importance of friendships, partnerships, sponsors, and connections. We are all always just one step away from making a connection with a new client, bridging gaps in communication, or introducing someone to our products or services. Rely on close friendships, clients, key stakeholders, and other partners to bridge those gaps. You just never know who knows who!

 

4. They have consistency in social media and brand image.

We mentioned this under a previous section, however, we’ll drill it again here. Charity: Water has developed powerful imagery that beautifully and effectively communicates its mission.

A yellow water jug, common to poor areas for carrying water, symbolizes the mission of the company: clean water. This bright jug and the use of vibrant colors in general are paired with hand-written text and undersaturated hues with an abundance of blues.

People now automatically associate them with that yellow jerrycan (water jug). Sitting at 331,000 likes on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter, we’d say Charity: Water is doing something right!

 

So then, let’s start small with these simple, practical steps. As you work on it, you’ll develop your brand image, frequency, and consistency. It doesn’t have to be perfect to start, but you do need to start somewhere.

Look at where you have capability and resources, and jump in. Evaluate brands that inspire you to improve.

And just remember that the first word is social media is still "social." You need to be interacting and engaging with those who love your organization and your cause. Listen to your fans and see what they like. Ask them questions. Show them the perfect and the imperfection of your brand. But you have to talk to them to understand them. And when you start to do that, things get a whole lot easier.

Have any wins on how you improved your own social media strategy? Tell us in the comments!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



 Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we  maintain an online presence . So, how do we keep up?

Michael Banks

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.