Four New Year’s Resolutions for Non-Profits and Associations

New Year’s resolutions are often like elephants playing Twister; no matter how well-intentioned they are, it just doesn’t work out.

People often start pursuing their goals with vigor and enthusiasm. As the year goes on, the initial excitement turns into excuses and dread amid mounting priorities elsewhere. If you ever need proof of this, compare how busy the local gym is in January to how empty it is in September.

But when it comes to social media, consistency, engagement and creativity are the keys to success. Making new goals and striving to achieve them can build up your organization to new heights. However, a drop-off in the middle of the year will do worse than just stop the growth of followers; it may lead to a diminished reputation among the community, both online and off.

So here are four New Year’s resolutions for non-profits on social media and tips on how to stick to the path of success.

Resolution #1- Ask Questions

Sharing links, tweeting about news and blogging about the latest trends in the industry are all great things, but it is important to remember that social media is about having conversations. Asking questions is one of the best ways to initiate a conversation.

Asking questions allows members, donors, sponsors, volunteers, etc., to have a voice and feel like a part of an organization. It also helps the individuals of your online community grow, network, learn and have fun. Last, but not least, the answers to these questions can provide new insights and perspectives that can improve your organization.

How to Stick to it: Don’t be discouraged if engagement is slow at first. You might receive very little or no response the first two, three or even 10 times you ask a question. But keep asking. Once people begin to reply, others usually follow suit.

Focus on asking at least one or two relevant and/or interesting questions a week.

Sit down for 10-15 min at the beginning of the month and brainstorm questions for the next 30 days. Talk to staff, board members, volunteers, etc., about questions they might have and include these in your bank of questions.

Resolution #2- Post More Photos

We’ve mentioned it a few times (okay more than a few); photos are a great way to engage people and increase awareness of your organization. Pictures can convey things that words cannot, like emotion, humor, dedication and information. Post more pictures to your social media networks in the New Year and watch how far it can take you.

How to Stick to it: Carry a camera wherever you go and take pictures. This can happen at the office, events, networking dinners, volunteer orientations, etc.

Set aside an hour or two every week to go through your photos, chose the best ones and develop a plan as to how you will share them.

Make coming up with captions a contest for your followers/subscribers or a fun game with staff. This will make the sometimes tedious task of tagging and describing photos exciting again.

Resolution #3- Create a Social Media Tutorial

Social media is one of the most useful and efficient tools your organization can use to communicate with people. Social media gets the job done fast, whether it relaying important information to members after a natural disaster or updating volunteers about an event.

However, some members of your organization or the community may be hesitant to start on any platform because they perceive themselves as not being tech-savvy enough. Be a guide to those people and show them that the world of social media is not as complicated as it may seem while highlighting the benefits. Conduct a how-to session through YouTube, your website or at a conference to get people started.

How to Stick to it: Don’t do it alone. Creating a whole tutorial may may seem like a daunting task, but enlist the help of staff, volunteers and outside experts to share the load.

Do it in steps. You don’t need to do a tutorial all at once. Break it into segments and post them weekly. Make sure to have all the segments easily accessible. This will keep the task from seeming overwhelming and taking too much time from other important tasks.

Resolution #4- Have a Guest Blogger

Blogging is a great way to provide analysis, opinion and information in your own voice. This has many advantages, but it also pays off to change it up once in a while. By having a guest blogger, i.e. someone else in your organization or industry, it provides readers with a new style and new insights. A fresh face is always exciting and can lead to increased engagement.

How to Stick to it: Do your research. Take a few weeks or a month to find out which industry professionals are already blogging frequently. Make a list of those people you would like to have write a guest blog and send out a few emails. Ask around at meetings and networking events for those who may be interested in writing a blog post. Assemble ideas you can propose to people who may want to write, but do not have a subject in mind.

Take all these lists and bank them away so you can hit a goal of one guest post for every one or two months. The more work you do earlier on, when the resolution is still fresh in your mind, means less work later when you might be swamped in other duties.

New Year’s resolutions may get harder to stick to as the year goes on, but those in the non-profit and association sector are no strangers to perseverance and determination. The above are just a few goals that your organization can strive for on social media to make next year even more successful than the last for staff, members and the entire community.

Do you have other resolutions in mind for 2014? Let us know what they are and how you plan to achieve them! And Happy New Year!

The Power of YouTube and Highlighting Your Non-Profit’s Staff

Passion is probably the first word that comes to mind when you think of reasons why someone would want to be part of a non-profit or association. But while this love for a cause or industry gets people interested, there are often other factors that make them turn this passion into action. One of these factors is how the community views the staff of an organization.

Highlighting your staff, and the work they do, raises your organization above the rest on many levels. Showcasing your staff can be done in many ways. Social media platforms are great tools for this and one of the best in the bunch is YouTube.

Here are a few suggestions for using YouTube videos to get the word out about your hard-working, enthusiastic staff.

1. Staff Interviews/Profiles

Your staff are there for a reason; let that reason shine through in a video.

The people who work every day to make your organization run and improve the lives of others do so because they are passionate about providing these services. Talk to your staff about why they enjoy working at your organization and the value they see in it. Then do it again on camera.

A video can capture the tone and look of your staff as they talk about why they are passionate about their jobs. The explanations are often different than your mission statement, but are equally as powerful. When someone watches this video, they can relate to how the staff member feels and make a personal connection with both the person on camera and your organization.

2. A Day in the Life 

People often only see the end product of all the hard work your organization does. All the hours of planning, phone calls, strategizing, etc., that goes into an event or a new policy or an initiative are often hidden.

One way to flip this problem around is to make video showing the day in the life of your office. Showing the work your staff does, and the character of those staff members, can turn a faceless entity into a living, breathing collection of people with the same goals. It can also increase the value people put onto the organization when they see how money, time or membership is shaped into something that benefits others.

3. Staff Greetings or Messages

Here’s another way a video can connect the community with your organization in a more personal way.

Staff greetings can take many forms and be done in many styles. During holiday seasons, a short, humorous video wishing members or the community well is a chance to show off your creativity and raise the spirits of all who watch.

Welcoming new members, volunteers or donors with a video adds a personal touch. This type of video also shows your staff care about welcoming new people into the fold and can, once again, show your creativity and shed awareness on your mission.

 

Videos are a great way to go beyond the buzzwords that inundate websites, blogs and other social media platforms and show the world why your organization does what it does. Building relationships with members, donors, volunteers or supporters starts when they make a personal connection with your organization. Getting to know your organization’s staff with a video can forge this bond. Videos can be a window into your organization and the people who help make it strong; give users a good view!

A How-to Guide to Hosting Your Organization’s Own Twitter Chat

Last week we talked about a few of the Twitter chats that are out there for non-profit and association professionals and their benefits. Your organization can also get some great feedback and engagement by running its own Twitter chat.

Your association can have a great impact on members by creating networking opportunities and getting the word out about the value your organization provides. Setting up a Twitter chat can be an easy and interactive way of reaching this goal. It also allows the wider community to learn a little more about your organization’s industry and the great people who make up the profession.

For other non-profits, Twitter chats are a great way to relay information about a cause, suggest ideas for volunteering, offer way to make a difference and gather ideas and opinions on creating awareness and improving services.

Twitter chats are the ultimate way to have online conversations with your members, volunteers, donors and the wider community. Here are a few tips for starting and conducting a Twitter chat for your organization in three handy stages

Stage #1- The Preparation

  • Let your Twitter followers know in advance that you will be putting on a chat and tweet reminders. A few days to a week before will usually do the trick. Let them know the day, time and topics.
  • Come up with a hashtag for the chat so attendees can follow along and participate. Tweet this hashtag as part of your advanced notices.
  • Do your research. Prepare questions and potential answers to questions and comments. The flow of the conversation may lead elsewhere, but you should be able to moderate and guide the chat to be informative and interesting.
  • Let your followers know you will be starting a chat the day of. This will explain why they might see a few more tweets than usual from your account.

Stage #2- The Chat 

  • Tweet out a short welcome, including an explanation of what the chat will include. This will let participants know you have started, give them a chance to join, get settled and invite others.
  • Start off with a more general question. This will get the ball rolling and engage participants. Broader questions open up the floor for people to take the conversation to places that are relevant to them and to respond in various ways, including personal anecdotes, quotes, opinions, links, etc.
  • Walk the participation line. Monitor the conversation, respond to direct mentions and questions and chip in every once in a while, but let others speak and share. Remember, you are only the moderator, not the keynote.
  • Keep the dialogue flowing. If the conversation seems to be slowing down, ask another question, tag participants with comments, invite people in.
  • Keep your eyes peeled. Monitor your hashtag and engage participants. Watch for any inappropriate behaviour and diffuse any escalating situations. It’s okay to let the conversation wonder a bit, but try to steer it back on topic at some point.
  • End the chat by thanking everyone and reminding participants that you will still be available to answer questions or comments.

Stage #3- The Aftermath

  • Continue to monitor your feed and chat hashtag for any additional engagement. Respond promptly and with as much information as possible.
  • Offer a recap of your Twitter chat. There are many tools for this, Storify being the most popular. A blog is also a great way to summarize the chat and carry it forward.
  • Decide if you would like to do the chat again. Depending on the response, you may want to make Twitter chats a weekly or monthly part of your strategy.

The most important goal to have in mind when conducting a Twitter chat is to be as helpful as you can in providing information, answers and conversation starters. Twitter chats are a great way to gather your community together online, newcomers and veterans alike. And when people think of your organization, they can remember the chats and the personal touch it adds, making life-long members out of participants.

If you have any tips, questions or experiences with Twitter chats, please share in the comments!

A Helpful Guide to Twitter Chats for Non-Profit and Association Professionals

Being on Twitter sometimes feels like being on an episode of Hoarders.

Hoarders is the show that profiles pack rats whose obsession with keeping things has them on the verge of losing their loved ones, their health and their sanity. Cameras capture houses made into maze after maze of boxes and keepsakes and the people who live surrounded by this every day.

Twitter can often feel just as cluttered and bogged down. Endless tweets quickly stuff your brain full of personal opinion, content and links. Sometimes it all comes so fast that it is hard to process the information, find the conversations that are relevant to your interests and respond in an engaging manner.

If this sounds a little too familiar for your liking, you may want to start joining in on Twitter chats.

Twitter chats are essentially planned roundtable discussions on Twitter that bring together those that have the same interests, profession, etc. The chats are usually moderated by one or two people who come up with questions on a predetermined subject and respond to comments. Twitter chats are usually formed through hashtags. Clicking a Twitter chat hashtag and tacking it onto your tweets allows you to follow and join in on a chat.

Twitter chats have a clear direction and can provide concise and useful resources on matters that are most relevant to you. They are also a great way to network, make new connections and discover different perspectives, while sharing your own.

There are plenty association and non-profit Twitter chats that happen regularly. Here’s a quick rundown of three of the best.

Association Chat

Association chat (found by searching the hashtag #assnchat) is a forum for association professionals to talk about issues, news, tips and strategies related to the industry. The chat is usually well attended by association professionals from all sectors. The chat generates great discussion about a wide range of topics like engaging retired members and using social media to improve association services. Association chat happens every Tuesday afternoon, usually around 2 pm EST.

AssnChat 1

AssnChat 2

Fund Chat

If you’re passionate about the non-profit world, fund chat (under the hashtag #fundchat) is a great corner of Twitter to go to. Fund chat doesn’t just cover the finer details of fundraising, but also other important and interesting topics and issues you will probably run into during a career as a non-profit professional. There are usually relevant questions, plenty of time to talk and lots of engaging viewpoints. Fund chat usually happens every Wednesday afternoon at noon EST.

Fund Chat 1

Fund Chat 2

Expo Chat

Expo Chat (with the hashtag moniker #expochat) is all about event, conference and trade show talk. Many non-profits and associations have events throughout the year. This Twitter chat gives professionals a chance to discuss challenges, innovations and insights that could help them produce a great affair for members, donors, causes, etc. There are plenty of conversation starters and great answers to questions. Expo chat is usually held every Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm EST.

Expo Chat 1

Expo Chat 2

These are just some of the most popular, regular and well-attended Twitter chats for the non-profit community. Hosting an occasional Twitter chat for your own association and its members is a great idea as well. This gathers the same collection of ideas and structured conversations that more general Twitter chats do.

Twitter chats are a good place to go when you’re feeling like your timeline is overcrowded, but the content underwhelming. Twitter chats for non-profit and association professionals provide a chance for weekly learning, regular networking and some engaging conversation. So don’t hesitate when the time for a Twitter chat rolls around; jump right in and have some fun!

How LinkedIn Can Be a Powerful Tool for Your Non-Profit

LinkedIn is an often forgotten instrument in the social media orchestra, sort of like the xylophone or harp of all platforms. But just like these instruments, LinkedIn can be an important and influential part of the whole. LinkedIn can help organizations increase membership, donations and its volunteer base while improving services to each of these groups.

LinkedIn is first and foremost a place to grow personally and professionally. This is done through networking, promoting skills, joining conversations and reading informative articles.

One of the main goals of a non-profit or association is to improve its members’ quality of life or professional life. Because LinkedIn’s users have the same goal, it makes the platform an almost perfect point from which organizations can start growing and improving.

Here are a few ways your association or non-profit can use LinkedIn to make a greater impact online.

Education

Education is a huge part of what many associations and non-profits provide members. LinkedIn gives a space for organizations to post original content and share interesting articles that can be a crucial element of on-going education for members.

Original content on LinkedIn can differ from a blog post by being more geared to the professional development of an association’s members. This might include an analysis of a study, information on a new law that affects members or tips to handling job interviews in the industry.

With LinkedIn’s promoted posts feature, you can even target specific groups of people so your message reaches the right audience. You’ll have to shell out a few dollars for it, but promoted posts can connect potential members with your organization when they otherwise would never have contact with you.

Giving members, volunteers or donors another source for good information will strengthen the trust and relationship your organization has with the community and further establish your non-profit as the place to go for the most useful resources.

Networking

Offering your members a way to network with others in the industry will give them a huge professional boost. Creating a LinkedIn group is a great way to provide networking for members between events and conferences.

Think about LinkedIn groups as a place to conduct a virtual roundtable. Provide a topic of conversation and members will join, engage and build their connections.

Once the connections are established, members can promote their skills and receive recommendations from others. This further builds their presence in the industry and gives them a great head-start on seeking new opportunities.

Professional Opportunities

Part of LinkedIn’s appeal to users is the chance to build and highlight past job and volunteer experiences. Seeking out people who have noted an interest in volunteering or have experience in your organization’s industry and letting them know about opportunities will draw them to your organization. Helping people out by building them up is a great way to develop a long-lasting relationship and spread great word-of-mouth about your organization.

Keeping group members informed of other jobs or volunteer roles through LinkedIn is similarly beneficial. This will help users build their resume and keep users coming back to your organization’s group.

Connecting

If you have trouble finding the right people to follow on Twitter, Facebook, etc., a LinkedIn search can help you in no time. Entering an industry keyword into the search box will likely turn up a decent group of users that share the same profession or passion as your organization. The next step is finding those same people on other social networking sites and connecting with them. This can help your organization connect with a larger network and provide services to this same, larger network.

LinkedIn has been quietly growing as a more effective way for non-profits and associations to connect with their audiences and provide them useful services. If you haven’t tried LinkedIn as an organization, definitely give it a go and see the kind of power it can give your organization’s community.