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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.

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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.

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You may have spotted more than a smattering of hashtags on social media and perhaps thought they didn’t apply to you or your NFP. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are not using your hashtags on social media to your advantage, then it is time to make a change.

Hashtags are easily created by adding the sign ‘#’ before a word or group of words to enhance your marketing. Your hashtag creations can then be used freely across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It is a great way to group all of your relevant posts together. They can be particularly beneficial for fundraisers and events and can bring individuals together on one topic all through the use of a well-selected hashtag.

The posts can be viewed independently on your social media feeds or all together on your specific hashtag feed. So just to clarify, if you have created a hashtag called #FridayFundraise as an example, then you click on the hashtag and see all the posts which are connected through the use of that hashtag.

So how do you know which hashtags to use? Well, it must be relevant to you. While piggy backing on other trends will get you noticed, it is more beneficial to start your own hashtags. Keyhole can be a useful tool for research purposes.

If you consider the nature of your business, here are some suggestions. If you use these alongside your own personalised hashtags, you will increase your reach.

  • #donate
  • #causes
  • #volunteer
  • #change
  • #philanthropy
  • #nonprofit
  • #charity
  • #fundraising

Have a play around with them and see which ones bring the most appeal. Don’t be scared to add a handful to each post to get you started. This will add real meaning to your posts.

Once you get the hang of it, then you will be more confident to create your own. Use clever words or phrases such as #dogood or #spotlightonvolunteers or specific locations such as #yourcity. There is no right or wrong way to use them, except if you fail to use them at all. While you don’t have to use hashtags in every post, sprinkling them in every two or three posts will help you spread your message and keep up with current trends. #goodluck

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We see it time and time again. Costly PR campaigns are created and fail to gain an emotional connection with their viewers.

If you want to increase your donor funds and gain more supporters, it is imperative you tell a story that connects with your readers. Simple facts, while interesting, are just not good enough for today’s modern donors.

It doesn’t matter which way you turn; you will be undoubtedly bombarded with marketing. Magazine ads, newspaper ads, billboards, bus station advertising, television advertising, radio advertising – all of these ads are fighting for your attention. Which campaigns are you likely to remember? The one that tells a story – the one that has something to say – the one that isn’t trying to sell you a product but rather an experience.

Using storytelling to represent your brand allows your audience to see behind the scenes. It takes them past the desks of the marketers and into the lives of the volunteers making a real difference in society. You can be more than just a name or a brand – you can show your human side to draw them in and elicit an emotion. This is a wonderful way to gain customer loyalty, especially in the long term. Your audience is after an authentic story that resonates with them – they want to be part of an organisation that really makes a difference.

As you define your brand through clever storytelling, you can also give it a personality. This personality should, of course, be representative of your overall mission and values. It is through your storytelling that you can develop and build on a relationship with your target audience. Those that feel a bond with your brand will not only give; they will in all likelihood be wonderful advocates for your NFP and share your information with friends and family.

Stories also stick in our memories the most. Remember all those fairy tales and nursery rhymes with moral messages at the end? Of course you do – stories stay with us, over and above everything else.

So go out there and tell your story. Creativity above everything else is a must in your next PR or marketing campaign. The power of words can be truly magical.

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social mediaNearly 7% of all of the donations that nonprofits receive comes from online sources, but harnessing the power of the Internet and Social Media tends to be less about collecting money and more about increasing interest in your NFP.

While social media is a great way to share stories about your nonprofit and strengthen supporters’ connection to your cause, there are downfalls to using the platform. The following is a list of some common pitfalls that nonprofit’s experience when they rely too heavily on social media channels to spread their message.

It’s Expensive

Advertising on social media isn’t free, and even though Facebook and other social media platforms sometimes offer discounts, click-thru ads, sponsored posts and other marketing campaigns, it can be still extremely expensive.

NFPs must control costs by using tools that allow them to test messages, manage start and kill dates for ads, and set budgets to keep an eye on ad costs to make social media campaigns worthwhile.

Many Social Media Channels Offer Low ROI

It would be easier to justify expensive advertising on social media if these campaigns at least generated high returns on this investment. But, the truth of the matter is that they simply don’t. Facebook offers the ability to connect, like and share with nonprofits, as well as the capacity to donate directly, and yet only provides a 3% increase in reach.

Other social media platforms, such as Instagram, make it easy to like photos and gain followers, who seldom, if ever, react to direct calls to action made on the platform. Snapchat’s ROI is even worse, as it doesn’t allow online donations directly from its app and nonprofits can’t even share a link to their website.

Despite the low returns on the time and money invested in social media, it’s still a great way to increase awareness about the good work that nonprofit accomplish. You can start conversations with others about the difference specific nonprofits are making in their communities, as an example.

NFPs should keep their objectives in mind, use targeting and segmentation to make certain that they are reaching the correct audience with their messages and set realistic goals when creating their social media marketing campaigns.

Focusing on Social Media Makes it Easy to Forget about Other Ways to Connect with Supporters

While social media seems to be all the rage these days, direct appeals and calls to action made on a nonprofit’s website, as well as in emails, newsletters and direct mail cost less to create and still generate most of the donations that are received by nonprofits.

NFPs that focus exclusively on social media marketing are likely missing out on ways to connect and raise funds that are less expensive and that offer a much higher return on the cost that is invested.

Trolls and Depressing News can Damage Social Media Marketing Efforts

Not every visitor to your nonprofit’s social media accounts is there to connect and share with you in a positive, meaningful manner. There are individuals who surf the Internet looking to join in on conversations with the deliberate intention to create as much chaos and ill will as possible.

Sometimes in the comments section and elsewhere, visitors may share depressing news or memes that feature disturbing text or images. NFPs must take care to monitor and moderate their social media accounts to protect the reputation of the NFP. Care must also be taken when responding to potentially negative or offensive posts to avoid encouraging or “feeding” trolls.

Social media is a great way to increase awareness about your NFP’s mission. The high cost of social media marketing campaigns, and the low returns that they offer, means that most non-profits should continue to include other more traditional methods of communication and fundraising in their strategic marketing plans in addition to their social media marketing efforts.

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linkedin-400850_640The fifth edition of ‘Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting’ has been released over at CharteredAccountants.com.au.

This is a valuable resource for NFPs, covering best practice guidance in their reporting and recent regulatory changes, including information for ACNC registered charities.

The guide incorporates the current requirements of the ACNC and other state-based regulators. It also places a focus on transparent reporting, which is a big issue with stakeholders and supporters.  As you know, the Admin Bandit software has been designed to encourage and support transparency of accounts.

Over the last three to four years, the sector has seen some significant regulatory changes that impact the nature and extent of NFP financial reporting. The changes in this edition include:

  • the introduction of the Australian Charities and Notfor-profits Commission (ACNC) from 3 December 2012, impacting reporting obligations for charities from 1 July 2013
  • changes to the financial reporting and audit requirements of incorporated associations legislation and regulations in some states and territories, including the anticipated introduction of the new Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (WA) from 1 July 2016
  • the introduction of the new-format audit report for financial years ending on or after 15 December 2016.

These events have been reflected in the guidance provided in this publication to the extent possible.

The guide is free and can be downloaded here.

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hand-895588_640Marketing is, essentially, about getting your brand out there, into the big wide world and getting people to know about you and what it is you do. Ideally, you want to take it to the next step, where people are talking about you and doing your marketing work for you.

This is where a good team with great marketing skills comes in. It needs to be made clear that marketing is NOT sales, although the two can work collaboratively to achieve the same outcome.

A good marketer will have a range of skills, all relevant to knowing not only how to communicate to your target audience, but how to read them, and gauge their reactions. Understanding how the marketing is being understood is as vital to the outcome as is the marketing itself.

Whether a single person or a team, what they must have to be great marketers is:

Ability to communicate across platforms 

This goes beyond being able to whip up a brochure, web page, or video to communicate to the market. Communication is a complete package. If you place an awesome video on a website that is detracting to the market, it is next to pointless.

Communication is not just the video, or the webpage, but how that page is presented, its friendliness and ease of use, and how it works for the visitor.

Understanding the vast differences between the social media is also important. Not only in what you can say or do on them, but also in how the audiences work. They need to be proficient not only in posting, but also in connecting and conversing with followers and likers.

Digitally Skilled 

Following on from above, a good marketing team will have the skills to negotiate the backend of a website. They don’t need to be web designers, or know the ins and outs of HTML, CSS and other coding languages.

They do need to know the basics, and understand how a website is set up and can be altered. This helps with communications to those who are proficient in those areas, as well as enabling them to make any minor changes required.

More than this, it gives them a deeper understanding of how the message will be distributed and received. This can provide an insight that will take your message to that next level.

Data Aware 

Being able to analyse data is essential.

You can gauge the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, to a degree, by the number of comments on a blog post, or shares on Facebook.

This is only tip of the iceberg data. Being able to translate the whole data, from interactions and comments, to views and shares, as well as tracking where and how it is being seen and responded provides a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of the campaign.

Not only this, it also gives you invaluable information on what works and what doesn’t. It means you can step your next campaign or materials up to the next level. You can only improve, and become more well known, by knowing this information.

If your team don’t have these skills, it’s worth investing in some training for them. The don’t need to do a full on web design course, for example, but enrolling in some basic coding courses, Photoshop, social media training, and/or data analysis is vital.

If you have a team, working out the strengths of individuals and giving them that role will benefit. Your whole team having skills in all areas, however, will give you the boost you may need.

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