Archive for the ‘Nonprofit Social Media’ Category

Like sands through the hour glass, so are the tweets of our lives.

“Mike, I sent out a tweet and had no replies, no retweets, no referrals, no donations…nothing happened.”

Statements like that really fire up my hero and author of the recent book UnMarketing (buy it here),  Scott Stratten.  He contends that Twitter is a conversation…”a networking event that requires no travel.”

Twitter is referred to as “microblogging” and with good reason.  It is the perfect platform for people like me that have micro attention spans.  It is true that a tweeting moment can be a fleeting moment.  Peter Shankman shared that 2.7 seconds is the average attention span (he obviously has not seen my daughters in the American Girl Doll store).

Like a networking event, Twitter requires us to be present.  We can’t tweet and run, Stratten also believes that the life of a tweet is about five minutes.  If someone replies, retweets or inquires and we’re not there it can be considered a lost opportunity — kind of like walking away from someone after asking what they do.

1.9 million tweets an hour.
32,000 tweets a minute.

Now that is enviable volume — it takes commitment, quality content and true engagement to establish relationships in the twittersphere.  It takes conversation — without the travel.

It is a big sandbox, but the great thing is all the big kids playing in it are real nice and always willing to share.

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The current economic climate has all businesses and organizations under unprecedented scrutiny.  Nonprofits are not immune to scrutiny, organizations known for doing more with less are now often expected to do much more with much less.  Sure beats being a bank or firm on Wall Street…maybe.

Does it take money to raise money?
Kind of.  There is nothing worse for any business or organization to be referred to as “the best kept secret in town” — ouch!  Building awareness is a key objective of any nonprofit.  I’ve worked with nonprofits that are more well known to those needing their services than to the local philanthropic community — interesting how we can be viral with the community that needs us and not exist to the community that we need.  Awareness campaigns are not easy and they can cost money.

Everyone’s a critic
A well designed marketing or awareness campaign can certainly bring out the critics.  “Such a fancy event, mailer, flier, brochure, etc. that money should go to those in need!”  And don’t dare try to  upgrade your website — “how can you cry poverty (critic-speak for request donations) when spending on such extravagances?!?”  I have seen television ads for banks that received TARP funds, I see ads for bailed out corporations, yet people will quickly criticize and scrutinize a small nonprofit and its efficiencies long before they mouth off to a corporate behemoth.  Bailed out companies can surely have advertising, sales and marketing be 10% or much more of their operating budget, but a nonprofit is expected to keep theirs at 1% or less?

Damned if you do, lost if your don’t?
Building a relationship is a journey, a journey of trust and not to be taken lightly.  Call me arrogant, but if you are unable to bear witness to the impact my organization is having on the families in our community, we probably won’t make good partners (or my message was somehow lost).  I’m looking for shareholders that measure our results by depth of impact, not how we build awareness.  If you’re focused on the quality of a piece of paper I may need to work on my content.

Awareness to relationship
Nonprofits must focus on building relationships with those that embrace their mission and impact.  Relationship building is an art.  We move from casual (we are aware of each other), connected (you’ve donated or attended an event), to committed (you are at the table with us).  Too often we embroil ourselves with our critics and waste precious energy responding to their challenges.  I believe if we dug a little deeper into the mindset of the critic, they are simply justifying their “no” (unfortunately out loud).  Focus on those who are connected, for they will serve as a platform of growth.

I challenge the critics — put your money where your mouth is — underwrite or sponsor design, billboards, ad placements, direct mailings, call campaigns, text giving campaign, website upgrades, online giving programs, and other marketing/awareness activities — display your committed belief in the cause and those in need, THEN come share your thoughts on efficiencies.  Until then, a simple “no” is acceptable, thanks for your consideration.

We must avoid the tendency to plan and execute awareness campaigns based on what the critics may say — it is a recipe for disaster.  It’s not a nonprofit, but when was the last time Apple sought the approval of critics?  Create masterful content that inspires and motivates supporters and prospective supporters to act.

Thoughts?  It’s OK to call me crazy.

My journey home.

I was raised in the small town of Bellingham, Massachusetts (not to be confused with the large town of Bellingham, Washington).  When my parents moved us there it was a town of 4,237 and is now a booming metropolis of 4,530.  For over a decade my Dad owned one of only two drugstores in the town — long before Ritalin, Viagra and Prozac were prescribed like Pez candy.  He also differentiated himself by offering free prescription delivery (imagine that).  Having half the town know your Dad certainly had its perks, but it also had its drawbacks — I had to obey EVERY traffic law and NEVER be at “that party” (really paid to have friends in North Smithfield).  Sadly my Dad died in 1994 after a two year battle, make that an all out war, with cancer.

It takes a lot for me to head back home, my statement in jest is that it takes a wedding or a funeral.  I am not sure why.  I love catching up with family and there are certainly enough weeks of nice weather to squeeze in a visit without rain, clouds or ice.  I’m a lifelong Boston sports fan and can’t get enough of watching the Red Sox (this season not so much).  I guess there are other places in the country my wife and I have really fallen in love with and even more we hope to visit, so our limited vacation time is precious.  Also, it would be a heck of a lot cheaper for us to fly my Mom out for a “granddaughter fix” than it would be to fly the four of us (especially with my 8 year old demanding she fly first class and not “last class”).

This visit was for the 25th reunion of my high school graduation class.  I graduated from Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Rather than fly in and out for the weekend, I actually stayed a week.  It was wonderful to disconnect, decompress, unwind and reconnect.  The reunion was fantastic.  Interesting how after the 25 years, the cliques, acne, and braces seem to have faded away with our angst and anxieties (well at least for the majority of us).

I am so impressed with our class — all achievers and overachievers, we could have launched several class action lawsuits, led a hostile corporate takeover, sold the reunion venue, bought the reunion venue, got a candidate elected, written the next great American novels,  and conducted surgery with the talent at our reunion (and made it all one big nonprofit).  This class that once locked arms and sang We Are The World (the real version) 25 years ago are in positions that change it each and every day.

25 years is a long time, yet it seemed just long enough for me.  Many of us started at “Mount” in the 7th grade — we may have bloomed together, however we blossomed when we were apart.  Time has made me appreciate our connection even more.  The word “reunion” certainly fits, as I feel reunited.

Sometimes you just don’t know the right time to head home.  This trip certainly was the right time.

Family Home

Formerly Dad's Store

Mount Saint Charles Academy

Great Dunkin Donuts on King Street (free WiFi)

RIP Dad (p.s. Sox won Series...twice)

Class of '85