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To those of you who just aren't getting it right

Posted by Cheryl Black at May 20, 2011 11:09 AM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, NPtech, Social Media

Guest blog alert: In my past life as a staffer for a Girl Scout of the USA affiliate, I met Suneil Singh, the then Chief Communications Officer for Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (for those of you with limited Michigan geography like me, think Detroit). When he told me about their wildly successful Facebook page launch, my jaw dropped. Now he's sharing the story, strategy and why he thinks some organizations aren't having the social media success they want.

This is all very simple. If you think it isn't, you're just making life harder for yourself.

  • In the summer of 2009, I joined the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) as their Chief Communications Officer. At that time, there were more than 300 separate Girl Scout pages on Facebook. GSSEM was not one of them. We had no Facebook presence whatsoever.
  • Three months into my gig, I created, launched, and marketed GSSEM's first Facebook Page. It was very simple. No videos, apps, or flash.
  • Within one month of launch, GSSEM's Page had garnered 1,500+ members. Within two months, we were the second largest Girl Scout Facebook page in the world. Our members posted, commented, and interacted at higher levels than any other Girl Scout page out there.

Convio recently contacted me to write about my social media successes, particularly within the realms of online engagement. I think they were hoping I'd reach into my nonprofit toolbox and pull out a couple of my top-secret formulas to Web 2.0 success. You know, dole out a few tips, a few tricks. Viola!

GSSEMThe truth is the entire time I crafted GSSEM's social media strategies, I didn't do one thing out of the ordinary. Nothing special, nothing unique. When it came to GSSEM's Facebook Page, all I did was follow the Online Relationship Building 101 rulebook. You know, the one you've heard countless times before.

I researched all my target audiences for GSSEM's Page. I found out what they wanted and needed. 

I then crafted the Page, giving it the appropriate format and environment which fostered those wants/needs.

When it came to marketing GSSEM's Page, I promoted it in places where I knew my audiences would be.

It was that simple. No secret formulas, no ingenious tips. I just educated myself on the set of e-strategies that had worked for others in the past...and then I applied them to my job.

I say all this to emphasize two facts:

First, it's not 2005 anymore. Social medias might be ever-evolving, but they're far from new. There are plenty of resources out there, all of them pretty much saying the same exact things on how to craft a successful online campaign. These frameworks have been crammed down your throat at nearly every nonprofit conference or seminar you've attended. Really. Online engagement is not difficult anymore. If you understand it, it's almost like painting by numbers.

Second, it's 2011. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if your nonprofit doesn't understand how to successfully engage your audiences online by now, it's probably time to admit to yourselves that you're messing up an easy deal.

When dealing with achievable pursuits, organizational failure occurs because either a company doesn't understand the task at hand or they simply don't care. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. When it comes to online engagement, there are only two reasons why you're not obtaining the obtainable. Either your nonprofit doesn't understand how to engage their audiences online or it doesn't want their attention bad enough.

The solutions are simple though.

If you don't understand how to create a successful social media platform, then ask for help from someone who does. That sometimes means paying a professional to come and teach you how to do it. (And no, that doesn't mean having them DO the work for you. It means having a consultant help you UNDERSTAND how to do it yourself.) 

If you personally don't care about spending the time to understand online social engagement, that's fine too. Just find the staff in your organization who do care about it. And then give them your full support. Let them run free with their knowledge and expertise. You'll be surprised how much more productive your online campaigns will be when you give them to someone who actually feels passionate about social media.

Now this is the point in the blog where you all heavily roll your eyes and say "Gosh, this is all so elementary. You're telling me stuff I already know."

Are you sure? Do you really know it?

Let me make this as clear as possible. Online engagement isn't rocket science. It's easy and uncomplicated...and like everything else in life, you're either going to succeed or fail at it. If you're succeeding, then good for you! This blog post wasn't written for you. 

But to all of you who missing the mark and just don't know why? Well, this isn't about some strange, newfangled medium that's just too mysterious or allusive for your nonprofit to conquer. This is about your organization not coming to terms with the fact that it doesn't know - or want to know - how to follow directions.

Suneil Singh
Chief Executive Officer
Community Network Services Fund


Cheryl again - Suneil gives great suggestions about research, promotion, resources, etc but he ends on an interesting point: when we do poorly at something is it because we don't know how to do it or because we really don't want to? I'll be honest, I do terribly every time I "train for a 5k" partially because I'm disinterested. When an organization isn't succeeding in a particular area, like social media, is it because it's an area they aren't as interested or invested in? Or is it something else? What do you think?



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NTEN's Google Analytics Webinar: The Cliff Notes Version

Posted by Cheryl Black at May 19, 2011 08:37 AM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, NPtech

Last week’s NTEN webinar on Google Analytics reached capacity FAST. Great for NTEN (they really know what the hot topics are huh) but a bummer for the people who didn’t get to register.

But have no fear! You can check out the recorded version and/or get the cliff notes version here.

The first thing to know is that the updates made to Google Analytics aren’t in its function. They deal with the user interface and overall organization (which means the great tips for understanding the data that you've been getting from Alissa are still relevant).

You can check out the upgrades very simply. When you are logged in to Google Analytics, up in the top right corner you’ll see “new version.” Just click there to take it for a test drive.

Now for the biggest, and in some ways, coolest changes.

  • Settings: Instead of clicking on the website profile’s name to adjust your settings, you now click on the little gear up in the top right. These settings include things like your goals and alerts.
  • Tabs: Along the top of the page are four tabs to help you quickly navigate between commonly used functions. Specifically, dashboard, my site, my conversions and custom reports.
  • Browser & OS: In the old version, these were two different reports. Now they are one combined report.
  • Keywords: “Keywords” is no longer an option in the navigation (but don’t worry! You can still get the data!). It is now under Traffic Sources, Search. You can see three reports: overview, organic and paid. In any of those just click “keyword” underneath the line graph.
  • Ad Words: Now includes new tracking features like bounce rates.
  • Navigation: In the old version when you left a category in the navigation, its whole submenu closed. Now you can have multiple navigation menus open at once. So much faster to toggle.
  • Timeline: This is probably my personal favorite. In addition to setting custom timelines (like April 4-April 11) there are now some quick links to common timelines like “last month” or “last week.” When on the first of the month I’m looking at reports for the month prior, I’m definitely going to be pleased to just click “last month” instead of resetting my custom timeline. I know; lazy.
Calendar feature I'm in love with

And finally what is being called the most important change of all: multichannel funnel.

The multichannel funnel function (under the My Conversions tab from the account home) helps you understand all the different components that played a part in achieving a conversion. Why is this so important? Let’s use a basketball analogy. Sure, one guy makes the basket and he’s valuable. But the guy who gets the rebound, dribbles the ball down the court and passes it to him is a valuable assisting player. The multichannel funnel function helps you more easily figure out who your valuable assisting players are online. And in turn this helps you direct your energy and genius not just to the webpage that sends people to your donation form, but to the page that gets them to that one.

OK that's it for the cliff notes version of the Google Analytics upgrades. Remember if you want all the details from the webinar, you can listen to the recorded version.

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Congress: Do they hear you now?

Posted by at May 18, 2011 10:28 AM CDT
Categories: Advocacy

system adminA few weeks ago, my colleague, Emily Goodstein, introduced me to her friend, Boris* who works as a sysadmin for a US Senator’s office.  Over the course of our conversation, Boris shared some easy to understand reasons why some online advocacy tactics should be encouraged over others.   So, I bring to you this article on the DOs and DON’Ts of conducting online advocacy campaigns. 

DO: Encourage your constituents to tell their own stories.  This best practice is confirmed by the Partnership for a More Perfect Union’s research on what will help sway an undecided decision maker.  By getting your constituents to personalize their message, their opinion will carry more weight.  Plus, although non-profit advocacy campaigns are now viewed as completely legitimate activities, there is still a not-so-healthy degree of skepticism about campaigns that generate oodles of identical form messages.

DON’T: Personalize your constituent’s messages for them:  whether it’s through functionality that allows you to randomly rotate through multiple flavors of an action alert or some other robo-writing app, this is not in your organization’s best interest.  Almost every congressional office uses a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform to manage inbound constituent communications and those systems are employing available technology to identify all the messages that are part of a single organization’s campaign.  Let’s face it, you’d need to invest a ton of time and energy into creating faux personalized versions of your messages that will succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of congressional staffers.  Unless you are going to hire a PR firm to manage a complex set of faux constituents for you, your time would be better spent on authentic efforts to get your constituents to understand why it’s worth their extra effort to personalize their message. (Note: And hiring a PR firm to do this isn't wise either. In fact, nothing about faux constituents is wise.)

DO: Take the time to categorize your action alert with the right webform mapping code.  Most software, including Convio Advocacy, let you categorize an action alert as being related to health care, animal welfare, national security, or about 50 other topics.  By taking the time to correctly flag your alert, you will make it easier for the Representative’s or Senator’s CRM system to do its job and put it in the right legislative correspondent’s queue. It also doesn’t hurt for you to build strong relationships with the staffers who cover your issues. 

DON’T:  “Help” the staffers out by using a congressional staffer’s email address as the “target” of your action alert campaign.  This is akin to conducting a DoS attack on the staffer’s inbox.  When a staffer gets 1000 identical emails in the course of an hour, they can’t do their job.  And, guess what they do about that?  They ask their sysadmin to make it stop.  In 5 minutes, Boris is able to honor a staffer’s request by blocking any messages coming from folks that aren’t in their contacts list.  And, since these messages weren’t addressed to an elected official, they never get registered as constituent communications.  At best, you are sending your constituent’s messages into the trash – creating zero impact with them. 

DON’T: Disguise your organization’s involvement in the generation of the letters.  Guess what?:  congressional staffers have access to Google.  You know how that professor used Google to look up a paragraph of text from someone’s mid-term and bust him/her for plagiarism?  Well congressional staffers can do the same thing to find the organization’s website where the action alert is hosted.  SEO baby!

DO: brand your organization and letters you send to elected officials.  Unlike 5 years ago, online advocacy is now a respected form of communication—own that! Interact with Hill offices in a respectful way, present cogent arguments for policy change, and mobilize constituents so elected officials will take note when they see your organization’s name on letters.  Before your lobbyist goes to meet with a member’s office on one of your issues, provide them a stack of all the letters that your constituents have sent to him/her on the issue that'll be discussed in the meeting.  We call this the “thud” factor.

DON’T:  Think online advocacy, alone, has the power to win a campaign.  Just as with your fundraising campaigns, multi-channel is where it’s at.   

DO: Approach every legislative campaign with a well-planned and well-executed strategy.  Use all the tools in your toolbox.  Focus your efforts on influencing the fence-sitters and thanking your biggest supporters.  Don’t waste too much time on trying to get your biggest opponents to do a one-eighty.

At the end of the day, effective communications with Congress are all about authenticity.   If you want to lay the groundwork for a winning campaign – this year, next year, and five years from now – it’s in your best interest to be sensitive to the congressional staffers who are receiving, reading, and responding to your constituents' messages.    In the short term, they’ll understand that your organization’s campaigns are legitimate.  In the long term, you’ll have built relationships with staffers who may wind up in positions of higher authority in the future. 

*Name changed to protect identity

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It’s a Win-Win(dow) Situation

Posted by Amber Wobschall at May 17, 2011 03:55 PM CDT

It’s not often that non-profits get recognized for their online work, but there was a great opportunity presented to my client recently and they took full advantage. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was nominated for the Webby awards for this video.

They activated all of their online channels to draw attention to their nomination, voting, and ultimate win.  And to me, this entire campaign was a win-win situation, showcasing their important work to new folks and their existing base.

Even if your organization is not nominated for an award, read on to see a great example of a multichannel apporoach to a campaign. Here’s what I love about what they did:

1. They embraced a multichannel approach. They were tweeting, e-mailing, posting to their website, updating facebook and more to encourage folks to vote.  But most fun of all, they took it to the streets, or windows rather, creating a makeshift billboard from their office windows!


 (Photo: EGPAF/Laura Fenwick)

2. They kept it fresh and took new angles to “the ask.” For example, they posted a video of their founder’s son explaining why you should vote. And here's a post on Twitter letting folks know.


3. They reported on their progress, letting folks know voting percentages as things progressed. Here's an example of that from Facebook.


4. When they won, they reported back too. They announced it everywhere they could and pulled together a great recap on their blog.

So the next time your non-profit gears up for a campaign, consider an approach like this that keeps it fresh across all the channels you use. Many of your supporters are listening to you in a variety of ways (getting your mail, talking to your canvassers, following you on twitter, subscribing to your e-mail list, reading the bulliten board in the volunteer area, etc). The more opportunities they have to hear a consistent message, the more likely they are to act, donate and support your effort.

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Let’s Chat – Considering if Chatter can help your Organization

Posted by Corey Pudhorodsky at May 16, 2011 08:00 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Productivity

Last month I shared some thoughts about how CRM is becoming (and actually always has been) social. In addition to the ways the Salesforce platform is helping organizations integrate with social data, I pointed to a few other tools that are available for anyone to use. The other side of Social CRM is what is changing inside organizations; how communication between organizational staff is getting more social. Increasingly communication is moving beyond corporate email, in-office meetings, and official documentation.  Employees at your organization are using IM, Skype, social networks, and collaborative file and note sharing tools to communicate and exchange information and do their jobs. There’s a tool from Salesforce called Chatter that allows organizations to pull internal social communication together is a single place. The cool thing about Chatter is that it’s free and you don’t need to be a Salesforce user to take advantage of it for your organization.

Salesforce Chatter
Think of Chatter as an internal social network that is only available to staff who share an organizational email address.  Everyone from the “ABC Foundation” who has an “abcfoundation.org” email address is able to share information and it’s private from anyone outside the org. Comments, files, and links can be shared. Responses are saved in a thread so it’s easy for people to catch up on the chatter if they haven’t logged in for a while. Employees can follow other users who they find very helpful or work with a lot. Users of Common Ground or Salesforce have an added benefit of being able to follow other things like Accounts, Contacts, and donations. This is what differentiates Chatter and integrates it with the CRM functionality – you can follow information in your database as you would a friend or interest in Facebook.
I think there are a lot of ways that nonprofit staff could benefit from using Chatter. A few that I have collected or thought of are:

  • Getting staff comfortable with micro-blogging: Chatter feels very similar to Twitter or Facebook but is safer because it’s internal only. It can be a great way to get staff more comfortable with sharing on social media.
  • Allow collaboration across departments and locations: Smaller organizations may not get as much benefit from Chatter if they are already working together closely. Orgs that are split across teams or geographically could find that Chatter is the virtual water cooler they need.
  • Encourage staff to use the CRM: If you are using Chatter with your CRM, it can be a great way to get people not comfortable with databases to use the system in a less intimidating manner.
  • Create a timeline or history of events and comments: Chatter produces a virtual log of what people are thinking about and working on across your org. This could be valuable to review and reflect on in the future.
  • Identify the influences and hidden talent in your org: By allowing anyone to share and comment on posts, Chatter can equalize the opportunity for junior or more introverted staff to share their wisdom and creativity.

Chatter has been around since late 2009, but it was only early this year that Salesforce made it available to anyone for free. If you already are using Salesforce or Common Ground, your administrator may need to activate the feature. Though it’s exciting and has a lot of potential, a lot of organizations report that the adoption has been slow using it. Like any new tool, I think it will take time for people to understand how it works. As I mentioned before, smaller groups may also find that they exchange the information they need through other channels. As larger nonprofit entities adopt the Salesforce platform, other creative uses of Chatter will pop up. There are also solution providers like Astadia (a Convio Solution Partner) who are developing products like Amplify4Chatter that extends the usefulness of Chatter for organizations.
If you’re interested in learning more, the Salesforce Foundation offers an Intro to Chatter for Nonprofits every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PT. There are also a number of great videos about Chatter on the Salesforce website. I’d be interested in learning if any of you have had successes or challenges using Chatter at your organization. Please share below in the comments of this post!

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