The Intersection of Social Media and Fundraising

Sure, your nonprofit organization has 5,489 “Likes” on Facebook and 1,710 followers on Twitter. Do these supporters give financially? How can you better engage them in giving?

I was fortunate to sit down with the NC Triangle Project LIFT community yesterday to hear a presentation by fabulous social media and marketing consultant Dawn Crawford of BC DC Ideas about this confounding topic. I’m grateful to Dawn for sharing her expertise with us for the #npintersect workshop.

Dawn Crawford of BC DC Ideas

The gist of the conversation was that most nonprofit organizations are still experimenting with social media and should continue to do so, closely analyzing the data and responses in order to build a customized strategy. No one-size-fits-all strategy exists, as various nonprofit supporter groups interact differently with social media, just as no one-size-fits-all development plan exists.

Dawn shared an instance in which a client built an engaged supporter base on Facebook, enabling the client to post multiple fundraising appeals a week to their Facebook page, a practice she doesn’t usually recommend.

Below, I’ve captured some of Dawn’s best practices:

Tools and Tips

Strategy through data analysis: Familiarize yourself with Hootsuite Pro ($5 per month) and Google Analytics (free) to track and analyze your data — number of click-thrus, donations resulted, loss of “likes”, etc.– in order to begin identifying where your social media “sweet spots” are and how your supporter base responds to various appeals and applications.

[Extra juicy tip:] Dawn strongly suggests utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising platform CauseVox — engage your supporters to ask their networks for donations on your behalf!

Converse; provide value: Don’t be afraid to ask for money from your supporter base via social media once you have dedicated time and resources to providing valuable information and conversation about a cause you both believe in.

Engage often: Find ways to further engage your most active users. Publicly acknowledge them, send them updates or exclusive information before it is released, or simply ask for a retweet or a repost. Consider transitioning to a face-to-face connection: invite them to coffee or a brown bag lunch to talk about their interests and involvement.

[Extra juicy tip:] Ask supporters and bloggers to write a blog post about your cause or next event to build momentum and drive visits to your site.

Diversify: Consider looking beyond Facebook and Twitter. Dawn shared that some organizations have seen a 20% increase in giving upon supplementing the existing appeal with video media. Youtube may be the next frontier in online fundraising. Additional applications to check out: Foursquare, blogging, Philanthroper.

Build a Campaign

Set your plan: Use your data analysis to build a time-limited (30 days maximum) campaign plan utilizing your social media avenues that is integrated with your existing communications. Start small and replicate successful aspects of your campaign.

General content: Consider the frequency of your posts. Dawn shared that a general practice is posting several Twitter updates per day and posting one Facebook update per day, though again, this varies. Use a cohesive creative theme to integrate various media into your content. For Facebook: personal, less-formal, visual-oriented material (photos, videos); for Twitter: information-sharing content about your cause.

Fundraising content: Include a clear call to action. Consider the ratio of fundraising appeals to other content posted on your social media . One best practice is a 20-to-1 ratio of regular content to fundraising content. Use your “laundry list” of donation returns to show impact (i.e. a Facebook post that reads: $20 buys three meals for homeless folks in our city. Donate here). Also, don’t ask for $500 on Facebook! Social media donation amounts tend be be in the range of $5 to $50.

[Extra juicy tip:] During the course of your social media fundraising campaign, you will see a spike at the beginning, a lull in the middle and another spike toward the end. Consider ways to generate interest and response toward the middle. Dawn shared an example of offering a contest during the mid-campaign lull in which every supporter who retweets or re-posts a portion of the appeal wins a free T-shirt.


See Dawn’s collection of case studies and follow the BC DC Ideas blog for tips. If you’re lucky, catch another of Dawn’s presentations!

See Beth Kanter’s social media best practices for nonprofits and case studies

Contemporary Art Engages the Community at the Newly-Opened Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh

I pushed open the inverted refrigerator door tucked into a crevice of the 20-foot high swooning inflatable white plastic-tentacled sculpture-creature and stepped into a whimsical bubble of exploration. Sound  ridiculous and a bit mind-blowing? It was! Welcome to the inaugural exhibition at the newly-opened Contemporary Museum of Art (CAM) in downtown Raleigh.

Entering artist Dan Steinhilber’s fascinating white industrial plastic creature through a refrigerator door creates the illusion of stepping through C.S. Lewis’ magical wardrobe into a whimsical Walmart stockroom–an explosion of colored plastic bag shreds and industrial plastic sheeting. See an image of the sculpture here.

There is a lot to like–other than the first exhibitions–about CAM. A “museum in progress,”  CAM was born of a partnership between the NCSU College of Design and Contemporary Art Foundation. Located in the Warehouse district, the building is a charming reused space: a former produce warehouse with impressive architectural features.

CAM has already hosted a number of lectures and community events–and I mean interesting, lively events rather than the stuffy, cloistered museum kind. The staff incorporated participatory art activities for CAM’s inaugural First Friday reception during which attendees (more than 900, according to the CAM website) created their own versions of Steinhilber’s winged mobile-like paper wire hanger sculptures, currently hanging in the Museum alongside the infamous sculpture-creature.

If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then check this out: CAM’s docent team is comprised of seventh graders! The ambitious middle schoolers attend a series of after-school interactive training sessions. In fact, several staff members and gallery assistants told me the docents have more insights into contemporary art than they have. Clearly, CAM aims to inject the conversation about contemporary art (often authoritarian-tinged or yawn-inducing lectures) with new thinking.

The CAM website reflects this thinking. The home page reads: “The world is always changing. Shouldn’t the museum experience be always changing too?” CAM helps to demystify the making of contemporary art by sharing a rare behind-the-scenes look at the installation–be sure to check out the time-lapsed video of installation of the current exhibition in the gallery.

On any given afternoon, chatty CAM gallery assistants are peppered throughout the not-too-large space, waiting enthusiastically to engage museum goers. (Thank you, Lorie, for an excellent discussion about museum experience, CAM background and contemporary arts culture in the Triangle!) I wasn’t surprised–though still delighted–to find that CAM’s three part mission encompasses the objective to generate a sense of community.

I was impressed by one particular detail which demonstrates CAM’s interest in engaging the community in the contemporary art experience: interactive prompts embedded throughout the exhibition leaflets that provoke new insights and thinking among Museum goers. One prompt reads: “Steinhilber chooses not to title his works so he does not impress his ideas upon the viewer. If you were to title his work, what would you call each?”

The innagural exhibitions–Steinhilber’s Hold On, Loosely and Naoko Ito’s Urban Nature–both respond to the history of the angular, lofty building with industrial materials and themes. Steinhilber’s neutral, playful presentation of industrial materials often associated with mass production and mass consumption is light, fresh and unique. Ito’s installations are a thoughtful, though less neutral look at the connection or disconnection between nature and development.

So, has CAM succeeded in creating a museum in progress? From what I’ve seen so far, I’d say yes. I’m impressed by CAM’s initial surge of innovative programming and creative tactics to engage Museum goers and the larger community. I anticipate CAM’s continued evolution in the coming months and years.

Check out a podcast featuring perspectives on the building of CAM and the inaugural exhibitions.

Have you been to visit CAM yet? What did you think? Introduce yourself below, subscribe to my RSS feed and say Hi on Twitter.

Six Blogging Young Nonprofit Professionals From NC to Check Out

I am delighted to have met a number of talented and passionate young nonprofit professionals in my home state of North Carolina. Even better, several of them maintain informative and insightful blogs — check them out!

Amber Melanie Smith

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Amber in person, I am inspired by her experiences and insights. Amber Melanie Smith, self proclaimed “volunteer whisperer and nonprofit ninja,” is co-founder of ME³, an organization that connects volunteers with organizations in the Triangle and Masters in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management student at NCSU.

Check out: Amber’s insightful post entitled Adventures in Founder’s Syndrome about her transitioning role with ME³.

Follow Amber on Twitter: @ambermelsmith

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford–the “word slinger and a creative sensei” (was there ever a better personal tagline?) brings a background in copywriting and advertising  to his work supporting nonprofits at BC/DC Ideas with his wife, Dawn (see below). Brian is also the author of the blog Amplifying Good, described as “Dirty Jobs meets the nonprofit world.” Though it hasn’t been updated in a few months, I look forward to future posts!

Check out: Brian’s two-part interview with the Executive Director of Seesaw Studios in Durham, Interview with Michelle Gonzales: A Dedicated Life. See alsoPart 2.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @amplifyinggood @BCwritr

Dawn Crawford

Having founded BC/DC Ideas, a creative agency serving nonprofits and small businesses, with her husband, Dawn Crawford maintains an informative and professional blog with helpful leads, particularly about the uses of social media and technology within nonprofits at BC/DC’s funky, attractive site.

Check out: the first post in the “Aha Moments” series about an innovative Social Media Ambassadors program developed by Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Follow Dawn on Twitter: @SocMediaRckStr @dawnacrawford

Dallas Thompson

I was fortunate enough to connect with Dallas via Twitter and, more recently, over coffee. A very bright young nonprofit professional (and also a great conversationalist!), Dallas has (nearly) completed two Americorps VISTA terms in civic engagement and has (surely) completed a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. Lucky for us, she recently launched a blog entitled Deep Gladness which thoughtfully and professionally explores both the personal and the technical sides of life as a young nonprofit professional.


Check out:

Dallas’ first post, Welcome to Deep Gladness, in which she honestly introduces herself, her intentions and insightfully discusses our unique circumstances as GenY nonprofit enthusiasts.

Follow Dallas on Twitter: @dallasbthompson

Kristen Jeffers

Kristen, a good friend, is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Administration at UNCG and is the founder and Executive Director of YNPN NC Triad. Kristen manages a colorful blog on urban design, urban planning and community development issues of relevance to the NC Triad and NC Triangle areas.

Check out: Kristen’s recent post, Saying Goodbye to Borders, a poignant  reflection on a lost community space which mirrors her other reflections about the challenges of suburban decline in Greensboro.

Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KristenEJ, @BlackUrbanist

Nick DiColandrea

Nick DiColandrea, who holds a Masters in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University, is Federal Grants Manager at Communities in Schools of Wake County in Raleigh and has contributed to a number of nonprofit causes including YNPN NC Triangle and Coalition to Unchain Dogs of the Triangle.

Check out: Nick’s encouraging and informative post, Tips for Nonprofit Newbies, on his blog entitled Nonprofit Beginnings.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickdico

Did I miss any? Please share with me other NC young nonprofit professionals who are blogging!

Importance of Intergenerational Exchange in Quest for Social Change

Image courtesty of Flickr Creative Commons

The baby boomers who founded and led our nonprofit organizations in the past decades are retiring. Nonprofit sector leaders are speaking of the “leadership void” the sector faces. In this regard the sector faces two major challenges: recruiting young leadership and retaining young leadership.

Studies show young people are drawn more than ever to community service but the sector’s notorious low pay and underemployment often render nonprofit work irrelevant when young people graduate with an average of $21,000 in student loan debt.

Young people that do work with nonprofits often face intergenerational conflicts and tension. The Millennial generation’s trademarks–ambition, confidence and informality–often look to the baby boomer generation like cockiness, narcissism and disrespect. Thus, the sector must find creative ways to harness the talents of both generations and foster an exchange maximizes both the younger generation’s digital media and tech expertise and the older generation’s institutional wisdom and connectedness.

Chesapeake Bay Trust appears to have figured it out. A recent article published in the Washington Post, Training the next generation to care for the Chesapeake Bay, highlights the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program, which engages 16 interns in “Maryland’s attempt to seed the next generation of conservationists.” This collaboration between the state, the Trust, local nonprofits and foundations is an excellent example of the innovative programs needed to foster the all-important intergenerational exchange.

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Steve Lopez’s The Soloist: Art & Activism

Sure, it is beautiful, but what does art really do for me, you and this big, flawed world?

Though perhaps an unfair question, this attitude is common in our market-driven left-brained society and, frankly, one I’ve had to reconcile as both an artist and young person interested in social justice. This is why I find the intersection of art and activism so compelling.

The Soloist, written by Steve Lopez, offers a charming and honest look at the power of art and the role of an artist in depicting and solving community problems. In fact, the city of Greensboro spent last month reading this book, awakening our collective conscience while attending book discussions, theater performances and workshops about mental illness and art.

Lopez, a columnist for the LA Times, is transfixed by Nathaniel Ayers, a street-dwelling, grocery cart-toting, sometimes-mumbling man who daily performs the most revered classical masterpieces on his mutilated violin in a tunnel in LA’s Skid Row. As it turns out, Nathaniel was a rising star studying music at Julliard during the 70’s when schizophrenia suddenly unhinged his life. Nathaniel was left vulnerable to the gripping whims of mental illness, which dismantled his ability to function anywhere other than society’s fringes. He has been homeless ever since, wandering the streets of Cleveland and LA, rehearsing and communing with his sacred Beethoven. Herein lies the first triumphant act of art in this story: the healing power of music–the solace and refuge Anthony finds in his moments spent with Beethoven–as he navigates the streets and his own mind. No, art doesn’t get Nathaniel off the streets, but it enlivens and enriches his life within the circumstances.

Upon publishing the story, Lopez finds many others are also drawn to Anthony’s story. He receives a ration of letters and small collection of donations for Anthony, including a brand new cello. Lopez, as artist-writer, witnesses his art become a catalyst in a movement to address the injustices suffered by the mentally ill homeless population and, presumably, “fix” Anthony’s situation (this, of course, is more complicated than originally thought). Thus, art, again, rises to the occasion–as communicator of pain and injustice, instigator of mass concern, response and action.

Still, Lopez is forthright in that he doesn’t necessarily welcome the responsibility he feels for Nathaniel. The remainder of the book finds Lopez puzzling through friendship with Anthony, navigating concerns such as: how he should use the resources he has to cajole Anthony into treatment, how he desires to see change and improvement in Anthony’s life both as friend and as artist, his feeling of obligation as someone with more resources, who is responsible for exposing Anthony’s story, and thus, for protecting him and for helping him.

The Soloist offers a fascinating look at how art and artists–tangibly and intangibly–inspire life’s triumphs, and more so, attend to life’s tangles.

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Hiring Trends & Changing Organizational Structure of Small Nonprofits

“Looking for a Job? Try a Nonprofit?”, reads the subhead of a recent NY Times article. Apparently, the nonprofit sector has recovered and everyone is clamoring for a nonprofit job. According to a 2010 report by Nonprofit HR Solutions, the nonprofit sector employs an average of 61.2 million full-time and part-time employees nationwide.

A look at the report alongside this article, however, reveals a more complicated picture of nonprofit hiring trends–particularly for the small nonprofit, generously defined as those organizations with a budget up to $1M.

Not surprisingly, the greatest staffing challenge for nonprofits this past year was maintaining salary budgets among decreased revenue. Also not surprisingly, medium and large organizations are weathering the economic downturn better than small organizations, 46% of which anticipated their staff size would decrease even as the need for service increase.

This translates, of course, to doing more with less at the small nonprofit. Though the report doesn’t explicitly comment on hiring trends within small nonprofits, I have seen a shift in hiring and employment practices as organizations try to survive and provide services with fewer resources: increased hiring for part-time positions (which often don’t pay benefits) and increased contract, temporary, volunteer work. Read more about my time spend doing independent contract work with nonprofits here.

A nonprofit I’ve worked with for three years has, within the span of a year, transitioned from three full-time staff members to one full-time and two part-time staff members. The organization is frantically trying to maintain services offered among a crippling decrease in human resources and the absence of both an Executive Director and a Development Director. In fact, of the nonprofits I’m familiar with, most rely heavily on part-time, contract or volunteer employees.

Depending upon how small nonprofits respond as the economy recovers, the model of a nonprofit managed by several full-time employees may be gone. In its place may be an organization which draws on a web of individuals to fulfill various part-time positions, contract, freelance or consulting needs and increased volunteer contributions.

If so, what will this mean for organizational performance and development and nonprofit employment in the long term?

Photo courtesy of deanmeyersnet

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One City One Book: Art Unites Local Community

Via Friends of the Greensboro Public Library

My humble dwelling of Greensboro, NC is hosting a city-wide book club throughout the month of October including discussions, symphony and theater performances, workshops and more.

All activities are drawn from the themes in the book and popular film The Soloist, about LA Times Reporter Steve Lopez’s interaction with Nathanial Ayers, a former Julliard student and still talented musician living out of a shopping cart on Skid Row with mental illness.

Hosted by Friends of the Greensboro Public Library, One City One Book, a month-long community-wide dialogue, explores the book’s compelling themes of the intersection of art and activism and the power of art, specifically of music.

Indeed, Greensboro has been treated to live theater adaptation of the book by a local theater group, open-mic nights, workshops about mental illness and the connection between art and mental health, and dozens of book discussions hosted by local churches, organizations and groups. See the full schedule here.

In fact, One City One Book is a successful nation-wide movement. Cities around the nation unite to read a book (except, apparently, in the case of NYC) and embark on collective discovery and dialogue as a community. The beauty of this unique enterprise–which displays the reach and collaboration of a well established festival but the dynamic feel of a start up movement–is that it unites members from all corners of a city while stimulating literacy and engagement in the community through the timelessness of story, art and literature.

Happy reading and exploring, Greensboro!

Have you been out on the town attending One City One Book events? Tell me about it below!

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Nancy Lublin’s Zilch: What Nonprofits Can Teach Businesses

Nancy Lublin, at the time an unmotivated law student, was in an elevator one dreary day when she decided to allot the $5,000 inheritance she just received to start a nonprofit that empowers women by providing them with professional training and attire.

Naturally, her next step was to consult nuns for advice and promptly invest the money in a CD, disallowing her to withdraw any of the funds for one year. OK, so she still had some learning to do, but I think she’d be the first to celebrate the bold process of creating and growing. Years later, Dress for Success–not to mention Nancy Lublin herself–is a huge success. This story and others are shared in her book, Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business.

Lublin, CEO of and rock star nonprofit thought leader, is visionary for writing a book instructing private sector companies to adopt nonprofit best practices to better their businesses, in contrast to the hundreds of books written from the opposite slant.

The book is tightly wound into 11 chapters, each chapter title beginning “Do More With” including the provocative Do More with Less Cash to Throw at People, a structure which emphasizes the for-profit advice strategy rather than the excellent anecdotes of innovation and success peppered throughout.

I admit I’m not convinced that all of the advice is practical for or relevant to private companies. It would take a superhuman supervisor to motivate the average corporate employee to work the long hours and invest the blood, sweat and tears nonprofit employees invest, a passion for which nonprofit (“not-for-profit” Lublin insists–“not-for-profit is not the same as nonprofit”) employees are known. They serve a cause greater than mere profit–something few private companies are able or willing to provide. Lets face it: its hard to be passionate about increasing your sales by 17 percent of widget number 389-B this quarter. Not surprisingly, Lublin’s segments about corporate social responsibility and its utility are spot on.

As I suggested, the radiance of Lublin’s book is her collection of colorful, stimulating stories of nonprofits excelling, many of the stories her own successes and a number from well-known nonprofits such as Teach for America. (“Do More With Your Story” is also a chapter.)

For instance, take the story of the recent hire, a dedicated and passionate young man who was unable to thrive in two positions at Lublin was smart enough to stick with it, ultimately creating a tech position for him. He poured over manuals, teaching himself the trade from the ground up. Ultimately, won several awards for his work. Who doesn’t dream of working for someone with such leadership, savvy and values? It is this profile of leadership that offers much to private companies and, really, every employee and citizen striving for more impact.

Another of my favorite stories is Lublin’s bold leadership as recently-appointed CEO of DoSomething, which, at the time, was on the decline. A private company stepped in to save the day, offering $600,000 with strings attached that Lublin knew would subtly advance the organization’s drift. She declined the offer with no other prospects on the horizon. The board chair responded, “Did I make a mistake in hiring you?” has flourished and it is obvious that gutsy move–and the direction Lublin then took with the organization–was the right choice.

Of course, Lublin offers succinct and fresh nonprofit best practices, from concretizing your “ask” to increase likelihood of giving to utilizing millennials in the work place. (I appreciate Lublin’s decidedly positive conclusion about millenialls in the work place: “When success is defined for them in advance, they go after the goal like tigers.”)

Lublin’s example of creativity, boldness and innovation–and this visionary idea for a book–is a credit to the nonprofit sector and a valuable offering to the private sector and driven employees everywhere.

Did you read Zilch? What stories of nonprofit success and innovation stood out to you? If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to my RSS feed and find me on Twitter!

Art Works: Impact of Arts & Culture on Communities Panel feat. NEA’s Rocco Landesman in NC Triad

This past Friday afternoon, roughly 200 mildly sweaty arts advocates and “arts enablers” (add that to the repertoire of terms) filed onto UNC School of the Arts activity buses to ride to UNCSA Performance Place Theater to attend Art Works: The Impact of Arts and Culture on Communities, a panel discussion featuring National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman and NC Triad arts leaders.

By the time moderator (and Director of Diggs Gallery at WSSU) Belinda Tate had summarized the themes of the discussion in closing, one thing was certain: both national and local arts leaders have their messaging down. Though no one said anything groundbreaking, arts leaders such as Landesman and Secretary of the NC Department of Cultural Resources Linda Carlisle repeatedly showed their mastery at demonstrating the necessity of the arts on three fronts: economic development, community development and personal enrichment. At a time when funding is so hard to come by or even, at times, maintain, simply nailing the messaging may not be enough but it is certainly doesn’t hurt.

Landesman begun with a short introduction to the Art Works campaign (though seeing first hand the renegade arts leader in his cowboy boots, linen-colored suit and aqua-cobalt blue tie was nearly enough to make my day) including an allusion to the increased rate of civic participation among those involved with the arts as seen in higher voting rates. Carlisle proudly announced that the creative economy makes up 5.5% of NC workers.

When asked to share his understanding of the importance of art, film director Peter Bogdanovich said, “When an audience goes to see one of my films, I hope they come out in better shape than when they came in.” After an excellent Jimmy Stewart reference he concluded, “You’re giving people little tiny pieces of time that they never forget,” adding, “I can’t think of a better definition of art.”

In response to a question about arts education, Landesman responded with a vague reference to school participation (“the arts catch these kids with talent and with idiosyncrasies”) and Carlisle followed with a barrage of statistics about NC’s educational accomplishments and 42 A+ Schools. By the way, did you know that not all states have Departments of Cultural Resources? Carlisle also quoted Daniel Pink, who at Raleigh’s Emerging Issues Forum on Creativity this winter said, “We have to stop thinking of the arts as ornamental, but fundamental.” Carlisle also differentiated between liking the arts and valuing the arts: “You don’t have to like the opera to value the opera.”

I was delighted to find panelists from variety of arts professionals from varying disciplines, traditions and even career stages. Joshua Morgan, co-founder of No Rules Theatre in DC and recent graduate of UNCSA, said to young arts professionals, “there is not time to put your career in other people’s hands.” Create your own opportunities, said Morgan, and you’ll find people to fund you.

When another audience member asked the panelists to speak about the importance of the public dollar for the arts, Landesman said when the arts are defined as essential to neighborhood and community development, the narrative changes. Carlisle discussed the importance of differentiating between the physical infrastructure and the community infrastructure, the latter of which the arts are an important factor. “The arts are not the incing on the cake. In terms of economic development, the arts are the meat and potatoes in the buffet,” said Carlisle.

On the bus back to our cars, a Winston-Salem attorney turned sweaty arts enabler and I reflected on the panel. After decades as a lawyer, he had recently made a career transition into–of all things–landscape design. Cheers to those advocating for and pursuing that avenue of “profound communication” (as UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri refers to it) we call the arts!

Read more about the event and panelists here. Also, here is more about the NEA’s clever concept of  “Art Works” as noun, verb and descriptive statement.