Amber and Emily gave us Five Tips and then Five More Tips for election year planning efforts. I'm scampering onto the bandwagon to continue the conversation with a look specifically about making sure your organization can stay relevant between now and Election Day.
An election year in the USA - especially a Presidential election year - always takes up a lot of bandwidth. On TV, in the mail, on the phones, in the inbox, not to mention in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. And people actually speaking to each other - aka word of mouth. That means your organization is competing for attention, and you’ll have to work even harder to make sure your messages are relevant and engaging. The goal is to be heard above the noise.
Of course, while the entire USA is affected by election seasons and their outcomes, the actual election itself will impact some organizations more than others. Depending on the type of organization you are, your activities will necessarily take one direction or another. Here's a brief list of the most common types of nonprofit organizations:
A good resource for more information about the different types of nonprofits is the Alliance for Justice, an organization that works with nonprofits to provide guidance about electoral and lobbying laws.
In general election cycles are becoming longer and longer, and that means the most creative and engaging content delivered at the right time is key to grabbing people's attention. If your issues are front and center and the candidates are talking about them, then you have additional opportunity to engage your constituents. That means you need to be ready to engage in rapid response.
So not only do you need to have engaging and relevant content, but you also need to be able to deploy quickly. Online channels, including email, text messaging and social media, are the best way to respond rapidly to the 24-hour news cycle. Allow me to mix some metaphors: look before you leap, then grab the bull by the horns and strike while the iron is hot.
How does your organization make sure you're heard above the noise? Tell us in the comments!
E-books and e-readers are a growing part of the attention ecosystem. Long-form journalism is finding new legs through social recommendation (#longform, #longreads) and time-shifting apps. Nonprofits struggling to communicate complex issues in 140 characters can benefit from deploying e-books and other long-form content as part of a thoughtful mobile and social media strategy.
Who is reading?
Owners of e-reading devices have similar profiles to audiences most nonprofits are trying to reach for fundraising. According to a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life report, The Rise of E-Reading:
Compared with all Americans 16 and older, “e-reading device owners” are more likely to live in high income households and have more educational experience, and are also much more likely to be more tech-savvy in general… more likely to read in general, and to read a book on a typical day… more avid readers of newspapers and magazines than other Americans, and are more likely to read long-form content of any kind for pleasure. (emphasis mine)
29% of Americans age 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading – either a tablet or an e-book reader.
Also, it bears stating the obvious: smartphones are also e-readers. Don't think of e-books as being read exclusively by owners of dedicated e-readers like the Kindle or Nook, but instead think of any mobile screen. The audience for an e-book may be larger than you thought.
What content makes sense?
As chronicled in Forbes.com and elsewhere, long-form writing on the web is making a comeback. Many readers are using time-shifting apps to collect web content and read it later. In addition to purposefully written longer articles on your website, e-books are an opportunity to reach your audience with long-form content. Examples of content that could be produced in e-book format or targeted to long-form readers include:
Depending on the organization, other opportunities may present themselves. For example, distributing an exclusive work (or excerpt) by a well-known author in e-book format may be a way to generate donations or signups. Furthermore, new outlets for long-form journalism (Atavist, Longform.org, Longreads, Matter, PostDesk (UK), among others), should be part of your media planning.
TheNextWeb.com blogger Alex Wilhelm writes that "Long-form content is headed back to the business model of the pamphlet, with short works selling at low price points and in large quantity." According to Wilhelm, the key success factors for e-books are: locational convenience, formatting, and curation.
"By locational convenience I mean that people [with e-readers] often use them where they lack an Internet connection (the train). Therefore, to have something downloaded and ready to go is a real value. In regards to formatting, most ereading devices have browsing capabilities, but that doesn’t mean that they render pages well, or quickly. A well formatted ebook has none of those issues. Finally, curation means that things are assembled in a very specific way to give a cohesive and user-friendly experience."
An example of this kind of content curation is veteran nonprofit blogger Colin Delany's recent e-book, How Campaigns Can Use the Internet to Win in 2012, available in Kindle-optimized format via Amazon.com, and as a free PDF.
Why is formatting important?
As a consumer (not a standards expert), my experience is that PDF meets only the minimal requirements to be called an e-book, mainly for reasons of usability. While almost every e-reader can display PDFs, the end-user has no control over text size, background color, pagination, and other aspects of the the reading experience that make e-books a compelling medium. This is especially true for smartphones (currently your largest potential e-reader audience), where reading PDFs is possible but very tedious, with each page requiring zooming and scrolling.
How to publish an e-book?
Unfortunately, there isn't one publication standard that works across all e-readers. The major purveyors of e-book platforms (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble) all want to make it easy for you to produce content, and make it sound as easy as uploading HTML or Word Documents. Because Amazon.com has the largest audience of e-readers, many independent publishers with limited time and energy are going the route of publishing in Amazon's Kindle-optimized format. One of the long-form content aggregators mentioned above, Atavist, offers a publication platform that looks promising.
If you are looking for deeper examination of the fragmented state of e-book publication standards, Nick Disabato fires a #longform broadside from A List Apart in two parts: the current state, and a look to the future. Nonprofits with limited resources would certainly benefit from industry adoption of standards as he urges.
Are you already making use of e-books and #longform content? Please let us know in the comments.
So here are five (additional) tips to help get your strategy ready for election season.
6. Get Engaged. Your constituents are beginning to think about how they can be involved in election season. Publicize volunteer opportunities of all shapes and sizes (including some gigs that don’t require leaving one’s house, such as guest blogging or tweeting) so you can cultivate new leaders in your community. Competition for constituents’ time will just increase as we get closer to November, so move this item to the top of your to-do list.
7. Be Subjective. Make sure your email subject lines set your messages apart from all of the other email they’ll be getting in the coming months. Leverage your status as an organization who will be working on important issues before, during, and after the election to help you stand out.
8. Join Up. Many non-profit organizations choose to devote their electoral resources to participation in a coalition. If you haven’t considered the team approach to election season organization, now’s the time! You’ll get great exposure to like minded people and spread the work out a bit as you share the burden with additional staff. Don’t forget to nail down branding and list sharing details before you get started!
9. Back to Basics. If you play your cards right, you will get some new housefile members through your online activities. Make sure your welcome series is set up so you make the most of your new found fans. This is a good opportunity to check out your donation forms and make sure they’re in good shape, too (remove those unnecessary fields!) and ensure that your housefile opt in button is easy to find (above the fold).
10. Say No. This is not directly related to online strategy, but remember to take care of yourself during the next few months. Schedules will get busy and timelines will be short, but as my college advisor used to say, “When you say no to others, say yes to yourself.” The same goes for organizing around an election—take care of yourself!
Home school your way to a more successful Twitter presence. Here’s a baker's dozen of resources that can help you wow the socks off your colleagues. I humbly suggest bookmarking this page right now.
What other great tips, tricks or best practices have you found or started using for Twitter?
Keeping your email list alive and kicking is one of the keys to a successful online marketing program. It's critical to develop a sound strategy for growing and maturing your house file and to always incorporate best practices in your day-to-day management. But attrition is inevitable, so I want to share a few creative tricks to give your list building an extra boost.
Here are three types of campaigns that will not only keep your constituents engaged, but encourage them to generate new supporters from their own network of family and friends.
1. Pledge or Petition Campaign
Constituents and prospects show their support by signing a pledge or petition and then forwarding information about the campaign to their family and friends. To sign the pledge, request that they complete a simple online registration form, providing your organization with contact information and the opportunity to continue the dialog.
2. Social Fundraising
With the integrated social tools now available through modern fundraising solutions such as Convio Common Ground®, your supporters are empowered to tap into their networks to raise awareness for your cause, start conversations, fundraise through sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn and even promote peer-to-peer fundraising events. Donations and sign-ups are automatically captured into your house file.
3. Download Campaigns
An email with a downloadable offer, such as a tip sheet, research report, resource guide or case study, offers the reader something of value in exchange for their contact information.
For more house file tips and best practices, download our Grow Your House File with a List-Building Campaign tip sheet.
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