Looking Back At the Year That Was: Trends and Topics for Non-profits and Social Media

We past a pretty cool milestone last week; our blog celebrated its 50th-post birthday!

If our blog was a person, it might entering into a mid-life crisis. Fortunately, we don’t think our much-loved platform will suddenly start buying sports cars or quit its job and move off the grid.

But we did think it would be a perfect opportunity to take some time and reflect on the last 50 weeks. We put together five lessons we’ve learned from 350 days of writing on non-profits, associations and a little thing we like to all social media.

1. Social Media is the Next Step in Education

Education is a vital part of any professional association’s mandate. A large part of the allure for members is getting access to cutting edge lessons from experts in the field so they can grow in their careers and collectively thrive as an industry.

Social media is a new frontier in education that can help your organization’s members to learn every single day and connect them to the information that matters to them. Setting up a live blog at your next conference will allow your attendees to get the most out of the event. Twitter chats give your members a chance to learn from each other in a very engaging way, while other social media tools make these lessons accessible to all members, regardless of tech abilities.

Social media and educational events go together like peanut butter and jelly and can even encourage face-to-face networking at conferences. But social platforms open up whole new opportunities for your members to learn their way; when they want and how they want.

2. Urban Legends Don’t Hold Any Weight

There’s no doubt about it; social media can look scary from the outside. There are plenty of reasons to convince yourself that social media isn’t right for your non-profit, but many of them just aren’t valid in a world that is constantly becoming more and more connected online.

Criticism can be handled in a way that actually turns a frown into a smile. Social media ROI is a slippery animal to snare, but it’s not impossible, nor is it all about the numbers. You also shouldn’t count out a social media platform just because it’s changed, just as no one should bet against your organization‘s ability to do good (and use social media to achieve it). And forget what people are saying about non-profit’s these days; your unique and your social media accounts should be too!

3. A Little Recognition Goes A Long Way

Everyone likes a little time in the spotlight once in a while, especially those members of your non-profit community who work tirelessly to strengthen the organization. Social media has proven again and again that it is the tool for the job.

Sponsors are key to any non-profit’s operation so a Big Ask is important. But a Big Thanks, facilitated by social media, is also a critical step to continued support.

Recognizing each and every member of your community is important as well and that’s why giving them access to the latest news and trends that fit each person’s interest is important. And then there are those who many disregard as posers in the non-profit world, but with a little patience, a bit of care and a pinch of social media love, they can be some of the most active members of your organization.

Giving a face to the Twitter name can help connect members of your community and rewarding great ideas through social media can be the start of a long and happy relationship between members and your non-profit.

4. Consistency is Key

You know consistency is key in everything your organization does; from event planning to processing member dues to the services you provide. Well, same goes for social media.

Social media is a conversation that requires frequent follow-up. Creating a buzz is great, but you need to sustain it. A great conversation generates a great brand, which comes from connecting with the right people on a regular basis. Maintaining consistency doesn’t always follow a stable schedule and things may happen that are out of your control. This is when social media can really help with a solid plan B. And always remember, you may be using technology, but you’re engaging with humans, so a consistent, human voice helps a lot.

If you want some examples of how putting in daily effort can take your organization to a whole new level, take a lesson from the Sochi Olympics or the social media giant Facebook.

5. Images Are Powerful

A picture is worth 1000 words; the saying that has spawned a million spin-offs, puns and quotable lines. But in the midst of all the cliches and corniness there lies a load of truth. Images can be an amazing way to connect with an audience and encourage them to invest in your non-profit or association. Social media makes this easier than ever.

The photo is a critical ingredient to any part of success on social media. We even made it a New Year’s Resolution for non-profits looking to grow and succeed in the online world.

Facebook, for instance, gives you a platform to share photos and harness the power of images. Pinterest is not only the fastest growing social media site, but is full of potential for non-profits to show off their services and success. And last, but not least, YouTube allows your organization to show its human side, to capture the passion of staff and connect the world to your amazing members

 

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It’s been a great year of innovation, insight and ideas. Thank you to everyone who joined us on that journey and we are looking forward to continuing it, starting next week with another great post!

Let us know what you though the social media highlights were of the past year in the comments. And remember, stay social!

Creating an Online Newspaper for your Non-Profit: Who’s Going to Read it and Why They’ll Love It

There’s enough news about your non-profit’s industry or cause to fill an entire newspaper. So why don’t you give it one?

Paper.li is a platform that allows organizations to curate and present a customized online “newspaper.” The site gives you the chance to bring together all sorts of content on chosen subjects, industries and causes in one place. The process involves adding keywords, influential Twitter users and relevant hashtags in order to capture content being tweeted out. If it’s done well, the resulting “newspaper”, created on a daily or weekly basis (depending on your preference) gives readers a snapshot of interesting and important news and insight for a particular industry or cause. The link can be tweeted out, posted to Facebook and added to a blog post or Pinterest board. The automated tweet feature also includes mentions of some key contributors.

Incline Weekly Example 1

There are other areas of your paper that be customized in order to appeal to your audience and promote the content. For example, the name of the publication can be changed to be engaging and informative and a Twitter widget can be added. It is also possible to view stats on how many visitors your account had and how many have subscribed.

Incline Weekly Tweet

The value of the paper.li platform isn’t contained to a few members or sections of your association or non-profit’s community. The benefit that a paper brings extends to every group that is vital to making your organization thrive. The following are a list of key elements to your non-profit and why they’ll be reading your online “newspaper,”:

The Sponsor

Sponsors are integral parts of any initiative your association or other non-profit wants to follow through with. They help provide needed resources to make events, services, publications, etc., a success. However, it’s no secret that sponsors want something out of the deal as well. They want your members to recognize them, understand their value and invest in them.

Having an online newspaper allows sponsors to see the trends in the industry and understand the issues and updates that your organization’s community talks the most about. Providing sponsors with this information in one easy-to-access place allows them to see that your members will value their services and helps them plan with your non-profit to sponsor smarter, making it a win-win for both parties.

The Member/Donor/Volunteer

These are the people that make your organization’s world go round. You give them valuable services and they provide your non-profit/association with member dues, financial resources and a purpose. One of the services that an organization can give to this group that is extremely valuable is information. Education and information makes your community members’ lives better by giving them access to strategies that advance their career or passion.

A paper.li newspaper is one of the best ways to bring together the information that is relevant to members on a platform that is accessible to all. Members, donors and volunteers are able to see what is being said and by who. There can be a blog about a new app that is helping those in your industry or an article from a magazine about new ways to support a cause. And this is just the tip of the educational iceberg on paper.li. This is a very effective and efficient way for your community to learn, network and continue to grow in their careers or lives.

The Staff

It’s great for your staff to be tied into all the latest news and trends in the industry in order to promote your cause and generate new ideas to grow your organization. Unfortunately, this is not always a possibility, especially as content is pushed through social media platforms at an astonishing rate these days. However, paper.li can help a non-profit’s staff keep up-to-date with the industry/cause more easily.

A paper.li account can also help staff in a brainstorming new ways to better serve your association/non-profit community. The event staff can prepare more relevant education sessions at conferences or create engaging fundraising event by monitoring the issues people are talking about on your online newspaper. Member relations staff can develop new and better services and tweak older ones to be more relevant.

The Media

Members of the media are often your organization’s link between your industry/cause and the general public. Media may jump into a story without too much prior knowledge of the environment or people that your organization deals with or what it is trying to achieve. An online newspaper can help bridge this gap in knowledge for members of the media and can help direct to influential people in the industry who are well-spoken and well-respected.

An online newspaper also situates your organization as its own media outlet. Having this available to the general public helps to relay a message to people while cutting down on industry jargon and other barriers to access. It is a medium you control and can be changed to fit the changing time your organization may encounter. This ensures that your organization stays relevant in the long-term and established the association/non-profit as a go-to resource for information and expertise.

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A paper.li account can be beneficial in many ways to many stakeholders. Take the time to set one up and maintain it and your organization will reap the benefits for a long time to come.

The New Platform That Could Revolutionize The Way Non-profits Do Meetings

Camaraderie is one word often linked to associations and other non-profits. Being in an association means connecting with those who share your passion and working together with those people to strengthen a cause or an industry. It’s not uncommon for members to meet life-long friends or mentors through an organization.

Non-profit events are the place to go to find friendship and togetherness. Some of the best conversation and biggest brainstorms can come when members connect face-to-face. So why not have more meetings, events, conferences, etc.?

This is easier said than done. Events are expensive and take a lot of time and resources to coordinate, especially for non-profits with finite staff members and budget space.

That’s why Meetup is such a great platforms. Meetup is a site that bills itself as “neighbours getting together to learn something, do something, share something.” Basically, it is a platform where you can search for a group of like-minded individuals in your community who meet up, network and talk about their passion. And it has the potential to revolutionize the way non-profits serve their community.

Here are four ways Meetup can help raise your organization up and give your community an opportunity to thrive.

#1. Encourages Board Members to Get Involved

Your Board of Directors may be spread out across the province, state or country. Although they may want to help the organization and its community, sometimes they are limited to monthly or quarterly meetings because of geography.

One of the best features of Meetup is that a meeting can take place anywhere and anyone can plan one. The members of your Board can take advantage of this to coordinate a meeting with your non-profit’s community wherever they are. It’s a great way for the Board members to get involved, get to know the community and put their own mark on the organization.

#2. Empowers Local Chapters/Leaders

Members of national organizations likely share the same problem as Board members; they are spread far afield and chances to connect with others in the community are few and far between. Local chapters and leaders in the community may want to build up the organization, but lack the resources, time and know-how to do so.

Meetup gives these individuals an opportunity to organize a gathering of local members, share stories, take the pulse of the community, gain feedback and increase services. Engaging the local community is important to ensuring the larger organization enjoys a dedicated member-base that will keep coming back again and again. Meetup is a great way to start achieving this goal.

#3. Promotes Your Organization

Organizing a meetup, big or small, can bring more awareness to your non-profit and grow its community. Meetup is one more platform that gets the word out about your organization. Its search function makes it easy for those with an interest in the cause or industry to find a meeting you have planned.

Meetups are also a chance for current members of your organization’s community to show a friend or colleague what your non-profit has to offer. It’s a perfect place to connect with people that share the same interest as you and get to know the benefits of joining an organization full-time without formalities, a hard sell or a rigid schedule.

#4. Gives Members Some Freedom

The conference or event scene isn’t for everyone. Don’t get us wrong, events are amazing. They raise awareness, provide networking and learning opportunities and connect organizations with those in the industry. But sometimes people won’t attend because of limited financial resources, geography or a feeling that the event lacks relevancy for them.

Meetup can change all this by putting event planning in the hands of members. They can meet up, network and find solutions to shared problems in the setting they want, at a time they want. That can mean meeting for lunch every week to hear a professional speaker talk to the group or it can mean a monthly pub night. Organizing a meetup or helping members organize a meetup gives your organization the ability to connect with different demographics in an efficient and cost-effective way because it gives people the choice to network the way they want to network.

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There’s no telling what the future of event planning has in store, especially because each and every organization is different. Meetup offers a great option for non-profits searching for ways to connect its members with each other and the organization itself. Don’t forget to promote any meetups on your other social media platforms and follow up using your various social media channels.

Let us know what you think about Meetup and how you can see your organization using the site. And, as always, stay social!

Operation Event Success: How to Pull Off an Awesome Event with Social Media

Pulling off any great plan comes in stages. Just take a look at any good heist movie and you’ll see that at least half the plot involves the ridiculously good looking, relatable main characters planning the job (including the creation of a catchy name for it, like Operation X, Y or Z) and the other half executing their plan with a slice at the end that sees them enjoying their spoils.

Putting on a successful event is similar, although hopefully it doesn’t involve breaking the law or doing any of your own stunts. A great conference or fundraising event involves planning, execution and follow up. Social media can help you complete this mission and take your event to the next level.

On that note, here are the three phases of putting on a successful event with social media, or what we’ve dubbed Operation Event Success

Phase 1- Approaching the Mark: Before the Event

The planning stage of the mission has a few key steps. These include establishing a hashtag, getting the word (and the details) out about the event, and posting/tweeting/writing about the important elements like how to register and how sponsors can get involved.

Remember to have some fun with it though. Create a video tour of the venue or trade show area and upload it to YouTube. Create a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure infographic for your blog or Pinterest to give attendees a fun way to plan their time at the event. You could even run a small Twitter or Facebook contest that promotes your event and encourages engagement, such as one that gives clues for the theme or location of your event.

Phase 2- The Eagle Has Landed: During the Event

This is the crucial part of your mission. The action is at its peak and all the players are in motion. A truly great event happens, well, at the event. If social media has anything to say about it, the conference, fundraiser, etc., will be a huge hit.

Live tweeting the event helps attendees network, learn, contribute and engage on another level, which is always a great thing. Setting up TV screens in the venue that show your live tweets can help attendees who don’t have Twitter keep track of any updates, information or fun stuff. Arranging a tweet up can also be a fun way for your community to network, collaborate and have some fun at an event.

Recapping the day’s highlights on a blog during a multi-day event can also be helpful, engaging and fun for attendees. Try to get one of your attendees, volunteers, members or organizing committee to write a short post to get a different perspective on the day and the event.

Phase 3- A Clean Getaway: After the Event

The chairs are stacked, the lights are out and the venue is a speck in your rear view mirror. But hold on, you’re not in the clear just yet. Even after the event is finished there is much to do on social media in order to achieve a successful follow up and ensure future events flourish.

Recapping the event with a blog post, a video on YouTube and/or an album on Facebook gives your members a chance to develop their new connections and reminisce about the event while highlighting the benefits of your organization’s efforts. Creating an infographic or photo collage on Pinterest can help show your attendees how their efforts made a difference.

Receiving feedback is an important part of putting together future events. Put a poll on your blog or Facebook page asking what everyone’s favourite moment was at your past event. Making the poll into a contest where participants win a trip to your next event also helps increase engagement and feedback.

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A great event isn’t built in a day, but with thoughtful planning, a well-executed strategy and a devoted follow up, all on social media, having a successful event can be easier and more fun for everyone involved.

What are your social media secrets to a successful event? Let us know in the comments!

 

Three Ways for Non-Profits to Make Social Media Accessible

The world is smaller than it’s ever been and it keeps on shrinking.

Social media has played no small part in bringing the global community closer together. It seems everyone and their uncle is tweeting, posting on Facebook, reading blogs, pinning photos and creating Vines. And for good reason. Learning, networking, giving, sharing, talking, progressing; all are done easier and more engaging on these platforms.

But there are some missing out on this tech revolution. Although it may seem like everyone is signed up and tuned in to social media (and a great many are), there are those who either have no interest in it or do not consider themselves tech-savvy enough to start up an account.

These are the people in your organization, members, donors, volunteers, staff, etc., that are missing out on some of the initiatives your non-profit or association can make happen on social media. So how do you make your efforts accessible to more people and keep your community in the loop? Here are three ways to do just that.

Storify

Storify is a social network that lets the user create archives of conversations had on other social platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. By threading together comments, posts or pictures on a certain topic, Storify enables you to create an informative, interesting and coherent story for those reading it.

Storify doesn’t require a log in or a sign up, so it is easy and requires no set up for those who are social media-adverse. Put together a Storify stream after a Twitter chat or if you’ve documented an event and let your members or community where they can find it. It will allow members who may not have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., to get a recap of important conversations and participate in your organization’s initiatives.

Blog

If your members can access a website, they can read a blog. It’s that easy.

A blog is an easy, no-fuss way to share lots of quality content with your members. Blogs are versatile and can switch from news bulletins to conference updates and in-depth analyses of issues affecting a cause or an industry.

The best part about blogs is their accessibility. Adding a blog to your organization’s website it simple and makes a big impact. Having a blog on your website drives traffic to other parts of your online HQ and promotes conversation between members. But it also gives members who don’t quite have the hang of social media a chance to keep up to date on your content sharing, keeping them just as engaged as the rest of your organization’s community.

Live-Tweet at Events

Some of your members may not have Twitter, but it doesn’t mean they need to miss out on some great tweets during an event.

Hooking up monitors in the room(s) holding your event and setting it to your Twitter feed will expose all attendees to your updates. This low-maintenance strategy, for both your members and your organization, is eye-catching, info-packed and engaging for all in attendance. It may also encourage those who may not use Twitter to get on board with the platform. Don’t be surprised if your organization’s Twitter account has more than a few new followers the next day.

Social media makes information accessible to your association or non-profit’s members or community. But none of this matters if your social media channels are not accessible to all your members. Using the strategies above will help to ensure your whole community is aware of all your efforts online and build connections with those who make your organization thrive.

What tools do you use to make social media accessible? Let us know in the comments! And remember to stay social!

Coming to You Live!: Live Tweeting and How it Helps Your Cause

It seems like a millennium ago that families would gather around the radio and listen to the great voices of their time read the news or perform their favourite show.

Ah, the intimacy of it all! The excitement! The togetherness!

Yes, radio in its heyday provided it all to the millions that tuned in every week, every day and every hour.

Fast forward to the present and the novelty that radio provided has been upgraded for the 21st century, and made better. It’s called live tweeting.

Live tweeting is the practice of composing up-to-the-minute tweets that give information and insight into a live event.

If you want to see an example of live tweeting in action, take a look at this journalist’s heart-warming and heartbreaking account.

Live tweeting an event has some key advantages for professional associations and non-profit organizations.

Just like the radio, Twitter allows a large group of people to access the information while, at the same time, making it feel like an intimate encounter. You are reaching right into the homes, offices, etc., of people around the world.

When you live tweet, you are not just reaching your members and addressing their interests, needs, concerns, etc., you are also reaching those who may be interested in what your organization has to offer, but are not familiar with your organization.

Live tweeting offers a behind the scenes look at events that many of your followers cannot get elsewhere. If provides members with an inside-the-ropes experience, giving them unique insight and enhancing your value and the value of the event itself.

Live tweeting an event allows members and the public stay up to date and to actively engaged, even if they are not there. This makes it so everyone feels included and makes it easier for people to join in and learn more.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, live tweeting offers an opportunity for your followers to engage with your organization during an event. This can take the form of questions, comments or additional insights that build a relationship with your members or interested parties. Instead of a one-way conversation, Twitter provides a forum for dialogue, making it easier to inform people and get them excited and engaged in your event and therefore your cause.

Here are some important things to keep in mind while live tweeting

  • A good hashtag goes a long way. A hashtag allows Twitter users to track your tweets, see what people are saying about the event and join the conversation. A good event hastag should be to the point, short and easy to remember.
  • Keep your mobile device/laptop at your side and charged. This may seem obvious, but if you aren’t careful, during a long and hectic event you can find yourself without a pulse on your Twitter machine and that means live-tweeting goes belly up.
  • Pace yourself. Tweet too much and risk clogging up people’s Twitter feeds and scaring them away. Tweet too little and you could find your audience losing interest. Striking that balance depends on the pace and length of the event and the amount of interaction you are generating.
  • Attribute, Attribute, Attribute! Mention the people you meet, the venue, the speakers, the guests. This acts as a courtesy and an invitation for people to take their participation to the next level and helps others who could not be at the event to connect with those that are.

Whatever the event, whether it’s a fundraiser, a conference, a seminar, the ground-breaking of a new project or something else, live tweeting can shed light on your organization’s causes and benefits while giving others a chance to follow along and join in on the fun!