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While your nonprofit should be showing gratitude to your supporters throughout the year, holidays like Christmas are a special time. Get into the spirit of the season by putting some extra thought and effort into the ways you thank others for their donations.

The following tips add a festive touch to the ways you acknowledge others for their contributions to your organisation.

Celebrate Recurring Donors

Reward your donors’ loyalty to your organisation by sending a personalised thank you note that recognises the anniversary of their support. For example, if a supporter has sent you a contribution every year for the past ten years, be sure to thank them for supporting your NFP over the last decade. Talk about the impact that has been made due to their support, and recount some of the progress that your organisation has made during that time.

Remember Their Name, and Use It

Nonprofits collect a lot of demographic information about their supporters. Use this information to make your donors feel appreciated. Always personalise your notes of gratitude by using your donor’s name.

Include handwritten notes inside your Christmas cards and other communications. Continue reaching out through the entire year. For example, if you collect donors’ date of birth, reach out on their birthday with a note or phone call congratulating them and wishing them all the best!

Customised Stocking Stuffers

A number of novelty gift shops and speciality printers make it easy, and budget-friendly, to give customised items like mugs, calendars and more at a reasonable cost. While you could personalise these items with your NFP’s logo and tagline, consider going the extra mile for your VIPs and include your donor’s name on the gift item as well!

Give Sweets and Other Treats

If you have some skilled bakers on your team, recruit them to make smaller versions of holiday cakes and breads that you will wrap and send to supporters. Include a handwritten card or note thanking them for their contributions. If no one has time for cooking, you could also send out some attractive chocolate bars, or other prepackaged, but delicious, holiday candies or cookies. Wrap them up in a festive bow or package them in a holiday-themed tin.

Videos and Highlight Reels

Because of the hard work of your volunteers, staff and donors, your organisation has accomplished a lot this year. Make a video to send to your donors and other supporters that thanks them for their efforts and visually shows the impact created by their work.

Ideally, this video should include several candid snapshots along with short snippets of footage you’ve shot during many of your NFP’s service projects and events. Include parts of testimonials from some of your beneficiaries, board, staff, volunteers and, your donors. Gather together some of the folks connected with your organisation and ask them to hold up signs or letters that spell out the words thank you in the closing moments of your video.

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If you want to build authentic relationships that lead to increased loyalty and participation, then you need to be present in the same place as your supporters, and, be a part of their conversations. Blogging is an easy way to accomplish this task.

According to statistics provided by blogging.org, there were nearly seven million blogs in 2016. Blogger, one of the most popular blog creation sites, has over 47 million unique visitors to its blogs each month. It’s also been shown that organisations that blog generate 67% more leads, and views, than those who do not have a blog and fail to post regularly.  

This data perfect illustrates exactly why blogging is the perfect platform for nonprofits to engage with others. It’s the one online location where many of your potential supporters already happen to be!

Nonprofits that blog regularly benefit from the following advantages.

Build Trust in Your NFP’s Brand

When you share your knowledge with others through your blog posts, you quickly become a reliable source of information for those that share your values and are interested in the issues your cause is trying to address.

Establishing trust is essential, because, when others view you as trustworthy, they are more likely to become supporters and take action to help. This is true whether that action is jumping on board as a volunteer or advocate, or making a financial contribution that enables you to continue our work.

Once someone makes the conversion from being just another visitor to the site to becoming an actual supporter, they are also more likely to share your posts with others and help spread the message about the issues and the change that you are trying to create.

Keep Your Supporters Updated

What’s the best way to get the word out about important information that supports your nonprofit and its supporters? The answer really does depend on what you are trying to say.

For example, Twitter tweets are a great way to send out a reminder, or a quick alert about an upcoming event. Instagram is an ideal way to illustrate your nonprofit’s impact visually, and Facebook is awesome to share posts that ultimately increase traffic to your site and generate discussions about your latest happenings.

Blogs, by design, are really the best place to post your lengthy content. Create posts that give the details about the progress you are making, or that offers an insider’s view of the work performed by your volunteers and other supporters. It can even be a superb way to increase transparency when you discuss the actions your NFP is taking to create solutions or your success in obtaining funding for specific projects.

Raise Awareness

Blogging will also generate interest in your cause because it’s an organic way to find new supporters. Not only will your website rank higher in search engine results, but, when your blog has been created directly within your NFP’s website, every time someone shares one of your blog posts, they are sending their friends to a direct gateway to your NFP. Once they arrive at your site, it’s then easier to direct them to even more content where they can learn more about your cause and what they need to do to help!

With the exception of time, blogging requires very few resources. However, it can offer great rewards to those who put in the effort to create interesting content that is relevant to your visitors and encourages them to directly interact with your nonprofit!

2017 is coming to a close, and in a few short weeks, it will be time to ring in the New Year. This transition is more than a simple date on the calendar, however, it’s also the perfect time to take stock of your strategic plans and prepare for the changes that 2018 is expected to bring.

To help you start the year off on the right foot, we’ve created a list of the top social media trends for 2018.

Twitter

Nearly a month before year’s end, Twitter surprised users with the announcement that it has doubled the character limit for posts, from 140 to 280 characters. This change should give nonprofits and other users the ability to add more depth to their Tweets. Just be careful and don’t use the expansion as an excuse to add unnecessary words and fillers to your posts. The eloquent shortness of a Tweet was a major factor in the platform’s appeal.

Live Videos

Over the past few years, we’ve seen nonprofits begin to jump on the video content wagon as one of the new and exciting ways to vary their storytelling to expand the reach of their messages and raise awareness about their cause. In 2018, NFPs need to be aware that a growing number of users are showing a distinct preference for live streams over pre-recorded videos that are downloaded and watched.

Look for ways to take advantage of the popularity of this trend, and increase support for your nonprofit, by making live-video of auctions, fundraisers, ceremonies, and other events available and easily accessible.

Augmented Reality

A number of platforms and businesses are using augmented reality to blur the line between reality and fantasy. Companies like Ikea are using AR to create digital overlays over the physical world and make it easy for their customers to see how specific items of furniture and accessories will look in their homes.

Various online games are using it to create more interactive experiences for their consumers. Snapchat has been using AR face filters to make chatting with connections more fun, thereby increasing the amount of time users spend on the platform with others.

AR is still in its infancy as a technology, so folks haven’t even really begun to fully think about and conceptualise what can be done with it. From an industry standpoint, don’t be surprised to see enterprising nonprofits start to adopt the technology. It will make it easier for donors to really “see” the full impact of donations at specific levels, or use it in other ways to make it easier, and entertaining, to connect with their supporters in real time.

Virtual Reality is somewhat related to tech, in that it allows users to fully immerse themselves into a digital experience. Facebook Spaces is one of many soon-to-be-released social media tools that will allow users to create a virtual reality where they can interact with others.

Nonprofits should watch out for ways to use both AR and VR to enhance their storytelling and interact with supporters in new and exciting ways.

The Power of Influencers is Increasing

Obvious marketing and advertising ploys have become very unpopular with the public in recent years. The challenge of for-profit organisations is to convince others to support their brand without making it evident that they are selling something.

To achieve this, commercial enterprises have increasingly been turning to endorsements from celebrities and trendsetters to tap into the popularity of these personalities to increase appeal for their brands.

To increase their support and build their own brands, nonprofits should look for ways to attract the support of key influencers. Endorsements from celebrities and other thought leaders can help raise awareness about an NFP’s cause, encourage greater giving as well as help with the recruiting of top talent to become members of staff and volunteers.

Short Lived Content

Snapchat popularised this concept, but an increasing number of social media channels are making it easier for users to create specialised ad campaigns and other content that will disappear rapidly. Even though the content is only visible for less than 24 hours, it helps to generate a sense of urgency in viewers and encourages them to take action. Both for-profit and nonprofits are expected to take advantage of this new type of content that is also known as ephemeral, or disappearing, content.

The Rise of the Bots

Chatbots have been around for years, and got their start on message boards and online forums during the Internet’s infancy. Their incorrect use of syntax and language, however, made them rather obvious, and easy to avoid. The technology has progressed to the point, however, that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell a chatbot apart from an actual human. It may be worth investing in a chatbot on Facebook and other social media platforms to help drive engagement during fundraising campaigns and other online events.

Technology is continually changing and evolving. Staying current on the latest trends will help your nonprofit stay ahead of the curve and build your brand’s reputation and strength.

For generations, NFPs have placed their focus on raising funds from individual donations, endowments and grants to finance their operations and the services that they provide. This traditional approach could be holding your nonprofit back from being able to maximise its potential for growth.

Don’t Rely on Fundraising Campaigns Alone to Pay for your Operations and Goals

Fundraising will always be a crucial source of funding, but it shouldn’t be your sole source. The challenges faced by nonprofits today require more funds than what a few donations and grants can provide.

Rather than relying on fundraising campaigns alone to fund their mission, NFPs are better served by looking for a multitude of ways to finance their ability to serve their communities over the long-term. The following ideas can help your nonprofit to expand its sources of funding.

Cost Effective Campaigns

Many NFPs cycle through dozens of fundraising activities throughout the year, with very little downtime in between each fundraising activity or event. Holding several events during the year can literally wear out your staff and volunteers, not to mention your regular donors and other supporters!

When NFPs start to look for new sources of funding, they begin to move away from the mindset of, “What can we do with the amount that we’ve raised from our latest fundraiser?” They begin to see things from the perspective of, “How much must we raise to accomplish our goals, and, what are some different ways that we can secure the funding necessary to accomplish our short and long-term goals?”

Rather than focusing on the number of fundraisers to host in each year, the focus moves to how much net revenue is generated by each fundraiser. If a fundraising activity is costly in terms of time, money and other resources, and produces very little in terms of revenue or other benefits, then it’s discarded for activities that offer a higher net return.

Do Your Supporters Understand Your NFP’s Impact?

When fundraising, nonprofits typically place a great deal of emphasis on messaging, and, understanding the needs and values of core supporters and the intended audience. Targeted messages remain important.

Rather than focusing solely on answering your supporters’ questions and fulfilling their needs, however, NFPs need to do a better job with their messaging and make sure that supporters understand why the mission is important and how they can help your organisation create positive change in the community.

Just Because You’re a Nonprofit Doesn’t Mean that You Should Avoid Generating Revenue

A lot of nonprofits worry that charging for some, or all of their services, will be too complicated to get into, or, will distract them from achieving their overall mission. If your nonprofit lacks the monies that it needs to fund critical infrastructure, such as training and the appropriate software and other tools it needs to be effective, it may be time to rethink this strategy.

Just because your organisation is in the not-for-profit sector does not mean that you shouldn’t seek to raise revenue. Many nonprofits can increase their capacity and encourage greater growth by charging membership and rental fees for items such as equipment and storage. They might also charge for some, or all of their services. Others even sell products to help finance their overall operations as well as specific projects.

To increase the chances of success, nonprofits should look at their overall financial condition before they enter into activities designed to raise money for the cause. They should take steps to ensure that the activity that is generating revenue doesn’t interfere with their ability to provide critical core services while meeting their other financial obligations.

Should Your NFP Borrow to Finance its Goals?

Due to the unpredictability of any given fundraising campaign’s success, most nonprofits avoid debt. Taking on a loan might be a good move for your nonprofit, however, if it allows your NFP to expand its capacity to provide services, fund infrastructure and other capital improvements, and support long-term growth. As an alternative to loans, your NFP might want to consider earmarking funds in the budget specifically for projects and improvements that support long-term growth, as well as hosting specific campaigns to raise money for capital improvements.

A successful fundraising drive can mean the difference between being able to finance service projects that benefit the community and advance the mission forward, and, losing the ability to make an impact for your cause. A growing number of nonprofits now receive a substantial amount of their donations online, but, the results of these campaigns can be hit or miss.

Often individuals that are interested in your nonprofit’s work can easily be distracted as they navigate between pages. This is especially true if they are following a link in a social media post to reach your site and donate.

The more clicks that your supporters need to make before they donate makes it all too easy to get sidetracked and click away. No matter how urgent and emotional your call to action may be, it’s just too easy for followers to surf on to something else instead of following through and making a donation.

A Better Fundraising Toolkit

Now, Facebook is offering nonprofits a way to improve their ability to fundraise directly on their site: Facebook Fundraising Tools. In the past, supporters that connect with you on Facebook would need to see and read your post, and click on the correct link, assuming you included one, to reach your site and learn how to donate.

Prominent Donation Buttons Prompt Supporters to Take Action

With these new tools, you can collect donations directly from your Facebook page, and, within your posts. In addition to being able to add a donate button to your page and posts, you can also add one to your live video, and, the ads that you place on Facebook. This allows you to more directly control where supporters go when they click, directing them to the specific web address that you designate.

Tools Allow Supporters to Make Fundraising Personal

Perhaps the best feature is that the new tools allow your supporters to create and share their own fundraising drives on Facebook. This allows your supporters to share just how your nonprofit has made a difference in their life and improved your community. These personal appeals help to raise awareness about your cause, and, maybe more successful than some other types of fundraising since it allows supporters to share your nonprofit’s story with their family and friends.

Allowing your supporters to personalise their fundraising efforts on behalf of your nonprofit adds a genuine human touch to their fundraising appeal, which should increase its chance of success. Their connections can then share the fundraiser on their own social media, which further boosts your reach.

There are some requirements that nonprofits need to meet to qualify, but since the tools are free for nonprofits, and hold the promise of dramatically increasing your fundraising results, they are well worth the few moments it takes to learn more about the eligibility requirements and apply.

What are your non-profit’s board meetings actually like? Do they run smoothly, and does your board get a lot accomplished when they gather? Does your board get easily sidetracked instead, or, perhaps worse, do things get destructive and descend into utter chaos soon after the meeting begins?

Most boards have a great deal of business that they need to discuss and take action on when they meet. With so many personalities and points of view involved, disagreements, misunderstandings and even a simple need to be heard can all cause meetings to drag on much longer than they need to.

Planning and sound design, as well as top facilitation by the chairman or another moderator, are necessary to keep things on track and running smoothly.

The following is a list of suggestions to help your NFP host more organised and efficient board meetings.

The Benefits of Using an Agenda

One way to help your board get through all of the items it needs to discuss is to prepare an outline of what events will occur during the meeting, and what topics will be addressed. This framework, or schedule of events, is typically referred to as the agenda. Ideally, you will create a formal agenda and present it to your board members well in advance of the meeting. In this way, board members can acquaint themselves with what issues they need to familiarise themselves with before they meet.

Once the meeting occurs, when discussions begin to turn lengthy, the chairperson, executive director or another facilitator can refer members back to the Agenda and its remaining items to help them stay organised and working towards a successful conclusion of the meeting.

Help Your Board Members to Prepare Well-Before the Actual Meeting

In addition to giving board members a copy of the agenda well before the meeting, they should also be provided with copies of all reports and other materials that they need to read and study. They especially need materials that relate to the items that will come up for discussion or votes at the next meeting.

By ensuring that your board members have the materials that they need to be informed before the meeting occurs, valuable time is saved that might otherwise be spent discussing information and concerns that are already covered in these materials.

Keep Detailed Minutes

Keeping a detailed record of what occurs at the meeting is an integral part of improving transparency and fulfilling the board’s responsibilities and duties. When minutes of the meeting are kept, if there is any question about what was, and was not discussed at a prior meeting, there is a record of all votes and other actions taken by the board. This can help to resolve disputes and disagreements faster, as well as help to refresh everyone’s memory so that old business that has been concluded need not be brought up again, wasting everyone’s time.

Keeping Members on Topic

Make a point to schedule time for your board members to meet and socialise at least a few minutes before the formal meeting starts so that folks can catch up with one another and not waste valuable meeting time getting reacquainted with one another.

If the meeting will be overly long, schedule breaks and place them on the agenda, and provide light refreshments and snacks to help keep energy levels, and spirits, high.

If some members have a propensity to be long-winded and prone to speech meeting, schedule time for the chair or other facilitator to meet with them before the start of the meeting. This way they will feel that their concerns are heard and they will be less likely to disrupt the actual meeting with a speech or other display.

Understand that Silence Implies Consent

Just as it’s important for the chair or other facilitator to help keep members on track and focused on the business at hand, it is also imperative that you don’t rush through items. Constructive dialogue and thoughtful discussion does have an essential place in meetings.

Facilitators should ask probing questions and encourage others to voice their opinions. If members find that they disagree with the apparent status quo of the majority of board opinion, the chair or facilitator should make it clear that these members have a duty to speak up. Otherwise they run the risk of the question being called and a vote occurring.

Before the meeting adjourns, the facilitator or chair should thank attendees for coming to the meeting. Members should use this time to agree on when the next meeting should occur, as well as create a starting list of items to be carried forward or otherwise discussed at the next meeting.

Is your nonprofit’s website drowning in a sea of obscurity? The following seven tips can help you stand out from the crowd and increase awareness about your cause.

Focus on Creating Shareable Content

While it’s hard to predict which posts will go viral, and therefore dramatically increase interest in your NFP’s mission, creating engaging content that’s fun to consume and easy to share will encourage your supporters to share it with their contacts, thereby raising awareness and interest in your cause. Be sure to include an easy to follow link directly back to your NFP site on all content that you post on social media.

Make Your Website the Destination to Go for the Latest News About Your Cause

If you want more traffic sent to your website, then you have to make it a destination worth travelling to. Are you using your site to tell short, engaging human interest stories that illustrate the impact made by your NFP and connect with viewers on an emotional level? Are you mixing it up when it comes to length and types of posts? Have you customised your content so that it appeals to each segment of your supporters?

Are you including a clear image with each post? Are you sharing breaking news on your site?

What about your site’s overall design and loading times? Is your NFP website easy to access, search, scroll and otherwise use from both stationary and mobile platforms?

If your answer is “no,” to any of the above questions, then it’s past time to update and otherwise refresh your website.

Include a Link to Your NFP Website in Your Branding and Messaging

Include your website address in your brand’s logo and add it to the rest of your messaging so that visitors automatically associate your website address with your nonprofit and its mission! If you have a short, catchy tagline that describes what your NFP is all about, use this brief phrase as your domain address so that everyone can find your website by typing your slogan in the search bar.

Is it Easy for Visitors to Subscribe and Sign Up for Alerts?

Call attention to your RSS feed by placing it above the fold. Use a third party to provide automatic RSS feeds, and signups for email updates and text alerts so that your supporters are automatically notified when you make a new post.

Targeted Ads

Another way to increase awareness about your cause and drive more traffic to your site is by placing targeted ads on Facebook and other social media.

You can also create posts on social media, and tag your volunteers and other supporters to pique the interest of their contacts so that they can click back to your site to learn more about your nonprofit and the good work that you are doing in your community.

The more likes and shares you receive on Facebook and other social media the more likely that your posts will appear in Facebook’s newsfeed or become recommended posts on other social media channels.

#ThePoweroftheHumbleHashtag#

Don’t forget to include hashtags that relate to your nonprofit in all of your social media posts. This makes it easier for folks to find content by keyword or topic, and can bring completely new visitors to your site.

Don’t be Afraid to Reshare Older Content

Reposting older stories can help establish your credibility in the nonprofit space, and remind supporters and their contacts that your NFP is well-established, and has been making an impact in your community for a long time. So, if you have an older story with an emotional appeal that perfectly illustrates the type of great work that your nonprofit is doing, repost it! Not only does this build trust and respect, but it also increases curiosity about what new projects your NFP is currently involved in, which can bump up your traffic numbers as visitors travel to your site to learn more.