Communications: Uniquely You, and From the Heart

I recently came across this post by Andrew Simonet, the founder of Artist U, which offers simple but incredibly sound advice about how to communicate with your friends and supporters. I recommend it highly.

#INTERVIEW: Paul Jolly of Jump Start Growth Helps Us Plan for the 2013 ‘Ask’

Our interview with Paul Jolly
Paul Jolly, President of Jump Start Growth, Inc.

This past December, Paul Jolly, President of Jump Start Growth, Inc., talked about the spiritual side of fundraising, and how he works with nonprofits to help them appreciate the motives and desires of big donors. Paul’s company has many years of experience to bring to organizations that are trying to improve their success rates with big donors.

Today we are excited to bring you part two of our interview with Paul. We shift directions just a bit in this conversation to talk about the near future of fundraising. What seems to be the lay-of-the-land for 2013? What technological/communications developments should we keep our eye on? What is developing on the Jump Start Growth website for the new year?

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#FUNDRAISING: Paul Jolly of Jumpstart Growth Explores The Spiritual Side Of Donors

Paul Jolly's fundraising organization
The soul of fundraising

Raising money for a nonprofit or charity is tough work. With the focus of the organization on fundraising, it is not surprising that outreach tends to focus on the numbers (the thousands who benefit from the nonprofit’s work, the millions required to keep such work going, the hundreds of people asked to give…). In this first part of our video interview with Paul Jolly, Founder and President of Jump Start Growth Incorporated, we learn that the numbers really should be the last concern of a nonprofit or charity, not the first. For Paul and Jump Start Growth, the first concern is the personal, the spiritual, connection between the donor and the cause she or he wants to support. Where is your organization’s focus?

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: How To Promote Facebook Posts & Why You Might Not Want To

From a personal blog's experment with Promotions
CecilyK on ‘MomCrunch’ blog says ‘No’

This past summer Facebook launched the opportunity to purchase ‘Promoted Posts’ that − for at least a $5 fee − would be promoted across the Facebookiverse. The more you paid, the more broadly the algorithms (aka ‘magic’) circulated the post. It was hailed by many for- and non-profit organizations as an opportunity to push through the background noise endemic in most people’s timelines to get your words and images out to a larger but (broadly) targeted audience.

We want to show you how to promote a post if you are unfamiliar with the easy process, but we also want to call attention to the fact that many power users are not finding the return on investment that Facebook claims. Is it a case of false advertising, or is Facebook still working out the kinks?

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#COMMUNICATION: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Conversing With Both Audience & Each Other?

Silos of information can damage communicationAs social networks and social marketing have matured over the last two or three years, a debate continues as to how effective social media is to inspire action (be it making a purchase, donating to a cause, or risking one’s life in a revolution). But it seems to me that the argument is both older than modern social media (read any Marshall McLuhan lately?) and more complicated than trying to argue cause-and-effect. Social networks offer wonderfully inexpensive means to expand and magnify conversations, but they also create stunning amounts of ‘noise’ that readers have to learn to tune out without getting distracted (no easy task). But how can a nonprofit leverage the powers of social media to inspire action while also striving not to distort the outreach with too much talk?

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Can Niche Online Networks Outperform Your Nonprofit’s Facebook Page?

Focus on niche social networks
Have you defined your organization’s niche?

Our participation in online social networks seems well beyond the status of a ‘fad.’ In some parts of the world, people risk censure − if not their lives − to post important information on such platforms as Facebook and Twitter. These social networks are the current heavy hitters, of course. But what about developing people’s interests in your nonprofit’s causes? Or engaging a peer group already predisposed to support your charity’s fund drive? The hard fact is, the best-known social platforms might just be too big for that kind of conversation. And we might just be witnessing the start of a tidal shift away from the bigger-is-better mantra of social outreach toward niche conversations among like minds. Could these more concentrated communities really be worth the effort of building a presence on yet another social network?

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: 4th-Annual Social Media Week Will Educate & Inspire Worldwide

Social Media Week, 24-28 September 2010
Attendance is just a few clicks away.

The first Social Media Week went live in 2008, as Twitter was just hitting the mainstream and Lehman Brothers announced it was going bankrupt and would take down the economy with it. For better and worse, much has change. And Social Media Week continues to expand. It started to stress connectivity across continents last year, and this year the list of host cities already includes Barcelona, Bogotá, Doha, Hong Kong, Jeddah, LA, Shanghai, and Turin (among others). Individuals can register at any point for this year’s program, and organizations can prepare submissions to offer sessions for next year.  What will the 2012 week bring?

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#SOCIALMEDIA: How Young Is Too Old To Have Communications Expertise?

Committee draws up social media strategy
Would you hire any of these people for your social-media outreach?

Why don’t you all fade away, and don’t try to dig what we all say
I’m not trying to cause a big sensation, I’m just talkin’ ’bout my generation

The Who, “My Generation,” My Generation (1965)

Well, I’ve already dated myself. But I’m going to press on with this post anyway. Catherine Sloan, a recent graduate from the University of Iowa who already has byline credit with USAToday, posted an opinion blog at with the title “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25“. It has caused something of a ruckus − a sensation, if you will − and commentators and flamers have been debating her post for the last 10 days. Now that some of the heat has dissipated, we wanted to see if she cast any light on the generational and communications experiences of Millennials.

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Break The Sound Barrier To Encourage A Conversation

Break the sound barrier to enjoy conversation with your donorsWe welcome back Paul Jolly, Director of Jump Start Growth, Inc., a nonprofit fundraising and consulting firm in Washington DC. Today, Paul tells about the importance of breaking the sound barrier.

Back in 1947, US Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket/plane. Fighter jets break the barrier with ease nowadays, but it’s not the only sound barrier that must be broken. The sound barrier that a fund raiser hopes to break through is the sound of his or her own voice. More times than I care to remember, I have sat in the living room or office of a donor, hauling newsletters and annual reports out of my briefcase, talking about programs, accomplishments, plans.  Blah, blah, blah. I am waiting for a signal from the person across the coffee table or desk, and he or she is waiting for me to stop talking.

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Is Your Organization Moving At The Speed Of Mobile?

Text messages are read within 15 minutes on smart phonesWith the rise of the smartphone and its ability to be the computer for millions of people around the world, mobile technology is becoming more powerful and less expensive every few months. And with those technological changes come changes of habit and expectation. One of the changes we and many others have commented on is the rise of text messaging as a medium not only to spread-the-word but also to raise funds for nonprofits and charities. The response to the American Red Cross’s texting campaign to deal with the horrors of the Haitian earthquake of 2010 is usually seen as the watershed event.

How has the nexus between cell-phone use and fundraising been strengthening over the last couple of years?

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Twitter Continues To Expand Through Mobile Devices

Mobile phones and Twitter go great togetherThe Pew Internet and American Life Project has brought us valuable statistics and reported notable trends in internet use over the years, and a recent report focused on the growing use of Twitter as a means of social networking. Twitter could be described as a social networking platform that punches above its weight class. Twitter turned six this past March, and by its own accounts has some 140 million users sending some 340 million tweets a day. For the sake of comparison, Facebook has over 900 million.

Yet Twitter’s political and cultural impact is almost equivalent, even if it has only 15.5% as many users. Note the ‘Arab Spring’ as a ‘Twitter Revolution.’ How does Twitter have such an oversized geopolitical impact? The same reason local nonprofits should be developing a presence on the social network.

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Facebook Stocks Being Sold Off & Facebook Accounts Not Expanding

Facebook's stocks continue to retreat
Should nonprofits worry?

The saga that is the Facebook IPO continues. Wall Street took a break from claiming to be the US Economy yesterday, but as of lunchtime this Tuesday, stock in the uber-social network fell below $30 for the first time. The brouhaha surrounding the IPO has largely concerned possible fraud or withholding of information from public investors, but some are wondering if the real issue is simply the product itself. If it is, what should nonprofits and charities be doing with their Facebook accounts as the company deals with this shakeout?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: The Number One Way To Gain Site Or Blog Readership Is…

Though a Supergenius, W.E. Coyote rarely simplified his plansIf your nonprofit or your charity has any online presence at all, you want readers to engage your content, click through the link(s), visit the site, and get involved with money and/or time. If you are a blog writer, you want pretty much the same, though gifts might also/instead mean advertising dollars because so many people come to your site. And, of course, no reason a nonprofit can’t have a blog that carries those ambitions for the blog and the site that hosts it.

The million-dollar question is: “How do I get people to move from scanning the headline to clicking on it and getting engaged?”

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#ADVOCACY: When A Clever Concept Just Misses, It Misses By A Lot

'Almost a homerun' usually means 'you're out!'
Sometimes being close really means missing by quite a bit

Sometimes a nonprofit’s campaign can include a fine idea that, alas, doesn’t quite get it right. Like a long fly ball to the 385-foot alley of a ball park that falls in to be caught at 382 feet, the charity can be excited at what seems to be about to happen, only to trudge back to the dugout (or in our cases today ‘back to the glitzy communications agencies’) lamenting about what could have been.

Let’s return this Monday to a theme we led off with last Monday on high-concept advocacy plans that did not quite live up to expectations. The good folks at the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (SOFII) provide us all with food-for-thought when it comes to campaigns that might have looked good in the pristine world of the conference room, but came up just short in the real world. And ‘just short’ can mean real human tragedy where the fight against hunger is concerned.

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#INTERVIEW: Craig Lefebvre, Ph.D., Designer of Public Health & Social Change Programs, Discusses Social Marketing

Craig Lefebvre PhotoR. Craig Lefebvre, Ph.D., is an internationally known designer of public health and social change programs. He is chief maven of socialShift, a consulting practice, and is a Research Professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. His blog, On Social Marketing and Social Change,” has been ongoing since 2005. He is the author of On Social Marketing and Social Change: Selected Readings 2005-2009 and a forthcoming textbook on Social Marketing (Jossey-Bass, 2013). The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of Nonprofit Marketing 360 and a frequent contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.

NPM360: You got into blogging back in 2005. You must have been one of the first ones.

CRAIG: I was in there pretty early.

NPM360: Does the blog get much response? Is there a conversation going on?

CRAIG: I would say there are periodic conversations going on. In the neighborhood of 4,000 people a day are coming on to it. It’s a long way from six years ago, when we were getting readers by the ones and twos!
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#FUNDRAISING: Maximizing Your Organization’s Return on Fundraising Events

Susan Emfinger, Fundraiser at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

We are pleased to welcome back Susan Emfinger of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For her previous posts on institutional fundraising, please click here.

In today’s post, I ask readers to imagine a world in which fundraising staff and programmatic work closely together with a variety of “programmatic” events in order to expose the organization to those very individuals who have the financial capacity to enhance and/or to ensure the organizations’ future. My prediction: your fundraising results will surprise you.

Given how much time, energy and effort tends to go into organizing fundraising events, I thought we might start with one question: Just what is a “fundraising” event?

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#ADVOCACY: Make Sure Pitch Has Call To Action, Not Just High Concept

Money can thwart nonprofit outreachWhat happens when you get corporate assistance to launch a new campaign, or pro bono development from a commercial ad agency? You can get some fabulous ideas and some valuable insights on establishing your brand. You can get your materials into some of the best publication and on some of the most visited sites on the web.

But as some of our colleagues at have discovered, you can also get a good deal of expensive nothing. The commercial backer or ad agency might not be sensitive to the constituents who want to be involved with various types of nonprofits. They might encourage outreach through channels that are quite unlikely to reach the people your charity traditionally reaches. They might give you a fabulous product on the design board (Indeed, I think it’s safe to say that they certainly will give you a fabulous design.) that falls flat in the real world. Let’s look at a couple of examples from Sofii.

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#ADVOCACY: Kony 2012 Sequel Not Going Viral, Nor Ending Debate

Invisible Children's latest video encourages responsible coverage of their message
Too little too late?

Last Thursday, Invisible Children released their tepidly anticipated sequel to the stunningly viral video Kony 2012 (over 100 million views). The sequel, “Kony Part II – Beyond Famous,” was almost destined not to make as big a splash in the nonprofit/video/social-media ocean because the impact of the message had already been made, and those millions who responded − positively or negatively − probably don’t need to see a sequel to be re-convinced. Since the first video came out, just over a month ago, the ‘media packages’ people were asked to purchase to support the campaign were quickly sold out and the video’s director/narrator, Jason Russell, was arrested and committed to hospital for mental and emotional fatigue.

We still await the climactic ‘Cover The Night’ campaign of 20 April, but what all this has done to bring Kony to justice remains to be seen. What we want to focus on today, though, is how social networks inspired the explosion of interest around the original, and how those same networks might be dampening the responses to the sequel.

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#HOWTO: Tumblr’s Advanced Features Won’t Overwhelm Ease Of Outreach

Tumblr encourages easy multi-media sharing for nonprofitsWe have been working our way through Tumblr now for a few weeks in the hopes of inspiring you and your colleagues to consider creation of a Tumblr presence for your nonprofit. Tumblr got going in 2007, and really took off a couple of years later as twenty-somethings found in the platform a sweet spot of posting stories longer than those allowed by Twitter but short and quick enough to make sharing a breeze. Since then, organizations − especially those who want to present a lighter and strikingly visual face to their followers − have also gotten on board. See, for examples, Doctors Without Borders and Good Neighbors USA (whose Tumblr page is featured above). Both charities do critical work in the areas of health and economic support around the world, and yet their Tumblr sites put the visceral joy of such work front-and-center.

To develop your organization’s site, you might want to explore some of the more advanced features of Tumblr that offer all kinds of customization of look and behavior. We want to introduce a couple of those features here.

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#SM4NP: Kony 2012 Will Get A Sequel & More Context Today

Invisible Children announce a sequel of Kony 2012
Today is the day. Probably.

As any Hollywood mogul will confirm, when your movie is watched by 100 million people, you need to make a sequel. That market is just too big to pass up. And the renown viral video Kony 2012 has been viewed well over 100 million times. Nevertheless, the reasons the San Diego based firm ‘Invisible Children’ will be releasing a sequel to their 30-minute wunderkind seem not really about tapping a market so much as explaining the phenomenon. It has not been released as of this posting, but one can’t help but wonder if we need the prequel/context-setter any more than we needed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

What do we know about a movie that has not yet appeared?

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#SocialMedia: Kony 2012 Still Stirs Engagement, Controversy, And Embarrassment

Many doubt the finances and political connections of the Kony 2012 campaign
Director's breakdown raises further questions

The controversy surrounding the viral video ‘Kony 2012’ continues even as its views on YouTube surpass 85.4 million as I write. The director, Jason Russell, had something of a mental breakdown a week ago, when he was arrested for indecent exposure while ranting almost incoherently about support and friendships. As reported by late last week, “According to the National Institutes of Health, brief reactive psychosis is triggered by extreme stress, such as a traumatic event or the loss of a loved one. The symptoms, which include delusions, hallucinations and strange speech, can last up to a month, and the person may be completely unaware of them. … Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, said the backlash over Russell’s “Kony 2012″ campaign could have been traumatic enough to trigger the meltdown.”

How might disconcerting behavior of the video’s producer shift the discussion of the video and the appeal by ‘Invisible Children’ to raise awareness of Joseph Kony’s ‘Lord’s Resistance Army‘?

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#Advocacy: ‘This American Life’ Retracts Story Of Abuses At Foxconn

Mike Daisey's one-man show is over, but is the story?It has been a rough week for social-consciousness movements whose leaders have produced stories a bit too slick to be true. We wrote last week about the doubts surrounding the viral video ‘Kony 2012’ meant to inspire a public campaign against Joseph Kony’s child army in Uganda − if that army still exists and Kony is indeed in Uganda. Over the weekend, the producer Jason Russell was arrested for public drunkenness and self-satisfaction, casting still further doubt on the veracity of the campaign and on the nonprofit ‘Invisible Children’.

To add to the unnerving series of good stories gone bad, Mike Daisey’s story/one-man-show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” has been discredited for his taking numerous liberties with what he claimed were personal encounters at Apple’s suppliers Foxconn in China. His story – somewhat truncated – was broadcast on the popular ‘This American Life‘ public-radio program this past January, causing quite a stir. And it now has been retracted by producer Ira Glass and Daisey has been reconfiguring his story in light of probing questions into its authenticity.

What might be behind the rise and fall of these stories?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Plan Your Nonprofit’s Story, Then Shoot The Video

A nonprofit video shoot need not be expensiveMaking a video is all the rage in the nonprofit world – and it should be. Videos can engage the eyes and ears and hearts of your audience in ways that can and should complement other means of outreach. Videos can also be presented in a myriad of ways: posting it on YouTube and Vimeo is a given, but with ever faster networks your organization can email them to donors, it can be shown on the big screen of a fundraising gala, and your charity’s website should include a copy as well.

But as video becomes the buzzword-du-jour, remember that it is one tool in the box and the point of all the tools is to expand outreach, interest, donations, and volunteer pools. What will make the video tool successful is not the fancy technology but the careful construction of a meaningful and touching story. Video should be perceived as a chapter of a larger book of outreach, and perhaps not the first chapter.

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#PUBLICPOLICY: Pressure Grows On Apple’s Supplier Foxconn

Protestors challenge labor practices of Apple and Foxconn
These are protestors of, not customers for, the new iPhone

The reputation of a nonprofit can make-or-break its efforts. Note the stunning blowback and reversal of the Susan G. Komen Foundation when it quietly tried to back out of its relationship with Planned Parenthood. For a business, the reputation can perhaps take more of a beating and still survive. Note BP’s expanding presence in the Gulf of Mexico despite the human and environmental costs of the corporation’s oil spill in 2010.

And then there’s Apple: perhaps the only company that can have a serious court case against its flagship product (the iPad in China), a publicity firestorm and protests over its (suppliers’) treatment of workers, and can still surpass the $500 share price. How is its PR responding to the oxymorons?

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Read This and You’ll Think It All Makes Sense

It’s not easy to keep up with the new digital media, much less understand it. But this provocative article in Ad Age, by Doug Levy and Bob Garfield, offers a look at the big picture. In their eyes, we’re living at the dawn of the Relationship Era, and as a result, everything we used to know about marketing is now wrong.

On a similar theme, see for yourself what all the buzz is about regarding the “10 fresh realities of the Digital Age,”  a slide presentation by Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet Project. In fact, have a look at the slide presentation itself.