Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving Reasons for Giving

Helping others should be a reward in itself, right? Somewhat. Incentives are a way to induce those who would normally not give to do so and to inspire those that already help out to help out even more.

Promo items, as they are sometimes called, can be given to the public for any number of reasons: amount of money raised/donated, hours worked (for "free" of course), gifts to potential givers. This is a smart way to build relationships with current patrons and raise awareness in the community because the organization's logo frequently appears on the promo item. If the website address is on it, then people have a way to gather information about the non-profit(from the source) at their leisure.

My favorite promo items are pens and shirts because:
a. You can never have too many pens.
b. That's an article of clothing I don't have to buy.
c. People often ask about the organization on the promos and then I can tell them about it.

Unfortunately, items like the above cost money. They may not be expensive, though, because businesses will sometimes charge only a minimal fee above what actual materials cost. If you're a team leader not afraid of a little "adventure" then offering your team of fund raisers another type of incentive might work. I've known places where male team leaders dressed in full drag if their team met the goal. I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or cry because I was laughing so hard, but hey--it worked.

Seriously, incentives can be powerful motivators. They can be used for profit oriented businesses or for charitable, non-profit organizations. I'm pretty sure a Lexus isn't on most non-profits' freebie list, but simple and inexpensive (sometimes free) items and solutions work too. Regardless of the amount you shell out, you'll strengthen relationships with patrons by allowing them to showcase their pride publicly with either a physical item or by word of mouth. That is if they can stop laughing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New High Society

Traditionally, high society are those with the most money, seen with the right people and in the right places, and who do the "right things", and have all the latest stuff. All that has changed with the internet, of course. The original hierarchy is still there, but a new "social order" has emerged and it is worth cultivating their patronage as well as the others.

By now, most of us are aware of social sites and the power they have. If you're reading this then you've at least started to try to understand how they work. Bloggers, as mentioned in an earlier post, are very influential. The whole #motrinmoms thing is testament to the power of not only individuals, but of groups that take their voice to the net.

If you can gain "friends" or at least people who think it's worth it to listen to your opinion, then spreading the word about a cause is so much easier and cheaper than traditional media. Instead of forcing people to hear what you have to say (advertising) they will instead listen to your message. That message could range from a simple "Hey, check this out." to "We need your help. Can you share your blessings?". This self proclaimed twaddict has noticed an upswing in internet socialites using their influence to drive traffic and donations for worthy causes. I must say I am impressed. Unless I am much mistaken the twitterverse helped fill a food pantry truck in under 2 hours. Lately, they've launched the Trick or Tweet campaign and Tweetsgiving as a way to help the non-profit world.

The new "social" order is here to stay whether we like it or not. I'm not saying ignore the old one. That would be crazy. Instead, let's try to understand both and cultivate both. Each has its drawbacks as well as its charms, and it would be wise to pay attention to it all. After all, everyone--no matter who they are--can help.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Not Who You Know. It's Who's Willing to Mention You.

The internet has been considered by many to be the second most important invention next to the printing press. Its world wide reach and instant multi-media publishing capabilities are no doubt two of the major reasons why the web is fast replacing “traditional” media as the news source of choice. A web log or blog is basically self publishing at its best. It's cheap—even free and instantly available at the click of a button. No wonder many make use of them.

If you're good at it, maintaining a blog can bring you fame and wealth. Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and (from the other end of the spectrum) Perez Hilton are just a few people who have "made" it in the blogosphere.
Chris Brogan Robert Scoble Perez Hilton
Getting mentioned by one of them is huge. You can go from nobody knowing your name to thousands of people knowing your life.

So imagine what that can do for your organization. Exposure. It's undeniably needed if you are to maintain the interest of your peers, volunteers, and donors. It's also crucial to developing new contacts. Sometimes new contacts come from unexpected places if the right person takes an interest. However, never leave it to someone else to make it happen. I agree with Beth Kanter. FYI: She's super smart and great at her job (social media for non-profits--twitter profile). I asked her about some advice for this entry and she replied with "you know--that's just one strategy. Building relationships with your community gives a better return."
Beth Kanter

So get your organization's name and message out there. Don't forget, though, the right person can help you get the word out, too. And possibly to more people.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not My Typical Post, but It's Important

Please...forward this link to anyone you know. Found out about this situation on twitter and just had to put it anywhere it would be seen.

Amber Alert Missing 14 yr old girl

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wow! Websites Work.

OK...I know the title is a little lame. It has a purpose, though. WWW. I know--lame tie in. Anyway, I got to looking around the web at different non-profit websites and thought "Hmm. What is it about this one I like better than that one? What is making me linger on this one or making me want to make a donation?" The answer should have been clear to me from the beginning. It's not the cause (although it was the original reason I looked for the site) but the site itself.

An organization's website is key in today's internet based world. It is often the first place a potential donor will get any real information about your cause and get a "feel" for how your charity works and its "culture." Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. (Where have I heard that before?)

I began narrowing the field down to a few essentials after sifting through a lot of information. Then, I thought, "Hey. These look cool and useful and added those to the list.

1. Home Page: Please...make it relevant to your cause. A Christian website should not have Marilyn Manson music playing or images that might be offensive to your audience. On the other hand, a boring page won't do you any favors.
2. About Us: Telling people what you are about is key to building a relationship with your public. Make sure you are telling people what you want them to know in a way that is consistent with the image you want to portray.
3. Donate: You want people to donate, right? Making it as easy as a mouse click helps.
4. Members: A place for people to sign up for website/organization membership gives you an automatic way to update your database for newsletters and the like.
5. Up to Date: Another big one. Nothing is more annoying than taking an interest in a cause and then finding out the organization isn't interested enough to keep the website current!
6. Gadgets: Admittedly my favorite part of the websites. Having the right gadgets greatly increases the involvement of people looking at your site.

On that note, I'm going to share my favorite gadget. It's Google Earth. I simply love how non-profits are using it to make a visual impact. It's one thing to tell people about what you want to do and quite another to show them what it entails.

Crisis in Darfur

Gombe Gorillas

It is essential that an organization make their online presence or "face" relevant, easy to navigate, interesting, and keep it up to date. First impressions, right? Still, let's keep them coming back for a second, third, fourth......

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Virtual Volunteering

As we all know, non-profits compete with each other for several resources including volunteers. It is therefore essential that organizations try new ways to recruit and manage them.

Much like time was defined by the growth of factories as the Industrial Age or the repression of information as the Dark Ages, today's world is defined by the ubiquity of the internet. It's everywhere. It should be; it's the World Wide Web. We have progessed from the Stone Age to the Information Age, and it is essential that organizations make the transition also.

This is not to say that charities are blind to the internet and its usefulness. It just means that they're not using it to its fullest potential. We'll go back to the volunteering issue. It is, after all, what this post is about. In addition to soliciting help at a job fair setting or through regular mail, non-profits could be using sites such as which have over 60,000 member organizations people can volunteer with. (I give full credit to fellow classmate Andrea for giving me the idea to reference the site. You rock!) Sites such as this foster a sense of community in a world that is increasingly disconnected from itself.

Another use for the web includes the management of volunteers. Because these rather helpful people can do a host of non-labor intensive tasks from anywhere in the world--tasks such as research and making phone calls--it would be useful to be able to coordinate everyone's efforts via website, e-mail, social networking sites, etc. These new fangled contraptions shouldn't be forced upon anyone, though. They should not be a condition of their volunteering. More "conventional" methods of contact should still be utilized. Let's not forget--a computer can not really replace the type of interaction a person can get through actual human contact. Some profit centered businesses are building advertising strategies based on that concept.
Cable One commercial

Relationships with volunteers are just like any other relationship in life. They require compromise. It is almost a requirement to use the internet in any number of industries, but one must never forget that that use is still a choice. An organization must maintain a balance of the old and new, traditional and cutting edge--you get the idea.

*references also include and The Virtual Volunteering Project

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Profit for non-profits (and other benefits)

Non-profits or charities face the challenges of fund-raising everyday. Traditional means are still useful, but are giving way to other methods.

For example, corporate partnerships are an incredibly effective way to boost a charity's bottom line.,0,w
Instead of relying on patrons to send in donations directly to their main office, many non-profits are allowing donations to go through companies like Wal-Mart or General Mills. This is a way for the non-profit to get and keep their message and name out there without absorbing the full cost of marketing. This not only benefits, say, the Red Cross; it also gives their corporate partners a boost.

Let's face it. If a company is not socially responsible, or even worse--socially irresponsible, than the chances of them rising to the top drops. If given a choice between two companies selling the same thing at the same price, most would choose the one acting in the best interests of the community. Social irresponsibility makes good relationships with the public a struggle, at the very least. Remember the Exxon/Valdez catastropohe, anyone?

Beyond that is still the issue of money. As mentioned earlier, mailed in donations are decreasing. Therefore, other methods must be on the rise. Online donations directly through non-profit websites as well as links from their corporate partners' sites are increasing.
Race for the Cure
Other ways to raise money through corporate sponsors are employee donations (perhaps through paycheck deductions) and donations for every kind of a certain product sold.

In the end, the partnership between charities and for profit businesses is a winning situation for all involved.